Some Collected Thoughts—”Everywhere All The Time: A Deschooling Reader”

July 29, 2008

Deschooling, the rejection of an economy of educational scarcity, of coercive education, of accreditation and experts, of controlling bureaucracy and the colonial mentality, has much good in it. And, like most things, this good is made clearest, most present, and most pressing outside of the decadence of the privileged.

Deschooling at its best isn’t a nice thing, isn’t a humanitarian thing, isn’t a choice, it is a demand, a freedom, a revolution. In this it is unmediated, a revolution of doing, of living out the world as it can be, centered on the path of passion and struggles against injustice[1].

This book is good insofar as it allows these possibilities to assert itself even as it centers other audiences and ends with the naïve pluralism of a preaching child, and that it presents, again and again the necessity of developing community resources and relationships, that are open, community owned, and that build power as a common good.

If deschooling is to be relevant it needs to be placed within the context of necessity and as such reject this ludicrous, modern, capitalist idea of childhood, which much of deschooling eats up as a counterpoint to its oversimplified rejection of coercion.

With such a rejection, childhood then becomes a realm of freedom outside of the necessities foisted upon us by the world, a paradise where we slowly develop into the challenges of the world, and find our niche within them as opposed to a negotiated enacting of revolution in the world.

How do we account for coercion in a system of necessity? If necessity itself is the enemy, where lies the path to liberation via abundance? What understandings must we have to take this upon ourselves?

There is nothing objectionable about creating a time of relative safety and separation for our young. There is however no justification for the intentional maintenance of ignorance, whether justified in the innocence of children or the self-development of the freed mind.

The ignorance of our schooling—or deschooling, that is living—enacts the legitimated violence of our system, denies our collective responsibility, and fails to get us where we need to be going…


[1] The centrality of the following quote to this entire movement (via Paul Goodman) well demonstrates its essence: “Suppose your side had won, and you had the kind of society you wanted. How would you live, you personally in that society? Start living that way now! Whatever you would do then, do it now. When you run up against obstacles, people or things that won’t let you live that way, then begin to think about how to get over or around or under that obstacle, or how to push it out of the way, and your politics will be concrete and practical”.

Stuff White People Like…a review

April 5, 2008

Check it out: http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com

Hilarious, insightful, and definitely worth checking out! Of course, it is also a study abroad approach to cultural differences: watch out for this, notice that, enjoy it! laugh.

While it therefore provides the ammo to deeply examine the intrusion of power and oppression in daily life (in a real and down-to-earth way), it stops short…a great pity.

Doing so also has the effect of reducing class differences to racial ones, which is well, dumb. Oh well. At least it keeps to specifics. If nothing else a great primer for life in the race politics of corporate America.

Love, db

Save Israel from Those Leading it to Suicide! (A Touch Dramatic But Well…True)

February 15, 2008

lihishtaweel-justice-judaism-israel.pdf

 Hello!

Lihish’ta’weel (http://www.ricardolevinsmorales.com/writings.shtml and attached) is the best, most concise and important text I have read about Israel, and one that both answers and extends the understandings and experiences I gained by visiting Israel this summer as a birthrighter, a lone Jewish traveller, and an activist meeting friends of activists.

It does an incredible job of presentating the REALITY of the situation as it stands at its best and worse, nearly escapes all cliches (love vs. fear manages to be in there) by providing stunning examples and dis-examples from the history of similar situations, and provides a framework for reclaiming Israel, Judaism, and Justice…in one little 50 pages swoop.

This is done by laying out the most important and generally misrepresented historical engine of the conflict, Zionism, (and its commitment to repeat American colonial genocide) and the small, largely military elite that continues to keep this vision in the driver’s seat in Israel in Israel and their unmentined allies (dubious reactionary elements including extremely conservative Jews, the Bush adminstrative, and radically conservative evangelical christians in the US and arms dealers and arms dealing nations across the world including those ‘hostile’ to Israel).

But as I said this is a hopeful vision. By pinpointing and umasking the key engine benefiting from the cycles of violence–a genocidal and suicidal vision to eliminate non-Jews from Israel so as to start from a purity of place, people, and a ‘necessary’ obliteration of history, and its key rhetorical device, inevitable dystopia–Ricardo Levins Morales creates a crucial and imperative counternarrative to those who believe the conflict is natural, inevitable, or hopeless.

This vision of an Arab-free Palestine is killing Israel… and this vision is not realistic but suicidal. Creating everlasting war at all costs, and constantly preventing and in fact disavowing the possibility of real peace (as RLM breathtakingly demonstrates) is suicide. It is suicide for the state of Israel and as such a huge and historic contingent of the Jewish People. It is suicidal for a Judaism based on justice as opposed to war, on ethics as opposed to genocide or appartide. It is suicidal for creating a safer middle east and safer world, and is one of the key facts keeping so many Arabs in bad shape under the shitty Arab regimes that have consistently played along and continued the conflict for their own benefit. 

There is of course, more that could be said on this conflict, more perspectives to be included, more history, more…scholarship. This is not what is needed. What is needed is people to stand up and Save Israel! Save Judaism! Save justice! Save the Palenstinian and Israeli people who are being either starved in Gaza or exposed every day to the horrific logic of their own leaders and the constant war which that logic engenders.

“No war but the clown war!” (a slogan from a radical Israeli clown brigade for peace). Enough of the clowns in power, enough of them spreading suffering down to too many…especially to their own people who have suffered so much and need not suffer this horror any longer.

Spread the word. Get Israel and Judaism off this suicidal path, and this path for suicidal souls. Read this short little book, and then work with your friends and allies in Israel and around the world to make good on a Judaism worth living.

Elections

February 10, 2008

Elections are an ideal way to stop thinking and forget who we are.

Vote if you must but please don’t think too much about it. It matters very little and you matter very much.  

“Everybody I love you!”

December 29, 2007

“Everybody I love you, everybody I do…

   everybody I love you! everybody I do!”

I used to be very good at making people happy, at spreading happiness. Perhaps I will be like that again, quite soon, who knows?

Happy was even a nickname I held for a few years in the later half of grade school, becoming sappy once some section of my peers and me were old enough to feel beyond their own youth…

a compliment to all queers!

The thing I know is that to spread happiness, to channel it, to ‘glow’ with it, one must be happy, otherwise one ends up spreading hangovers—my current vocation———————Hangovers

without hangover meds! Come one come all for hangovers of all types, from head-rock to head-on-a-stick! I don’t even need the alcohol to do it! Only hangovers!

After

all, that is what we need until we get

over it. 

“Everybody I love you.             I wish I had a way of expressing how true that is,

so that people would know,             so that we could,

in whatever constellation of screaming relations, move beyond the worries of caring into its dance, no longer wondering if we will be misunderstood but

being the misunderstanding, the singularities, sliding through it, planting it, gardening it, growing over it in the soil of certain care, smelling its roses, making flags of solidarity out of it, a big white flag with one tiny black star in the center, many “yeses and one no!”

and who knows?

Maybe we’d make face prints and hand prints to mark ourselves, tattooing down two lines to spread our smiles and our tears, to the lines of our hands which touch and feel and hold strong to each other, maybe we’d forget everything and dance, and do all the things we’ve passed previously or would have passed on account of fear or shame or coping or drunkenness.

              Maybe we’d but be sure in our friendships and caring in our tending them, happily beyond the open cow eye wounds—bloody—soft unspoken…   ‘do you like me(s)?’ ‘really do, you?’ ‘I can’t believe it!’ or more often, at the end of the night or in that moment when we’ve lost since we are now haunted by acting out the             ‘I don’t believe, why don’t I believe?’               wondering into the night, full of sadness for our own

silly

emptiness. 

Everybody I do!

(I have, I guess, decided that this blog is a place to put such things.)

The Beauty Myth Gets it Right

December 1, 2007

It is rare that my mind is blown these days. So I was more than pleasantly surprised when my mind was blown reading The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf, a national bestseller way back in the 1991 for Christ’s sake. What is important about this book is not necessarily that it says something new, but that she spells out with great clarity and provides telling historical context to our present obsession with female beauty, making clear that it is based not in sexuality but in the maintenance of male supremacy.

The “beauty myth” is basically summarized in the idea that women are worth their looks, which not only puts another ridiculous burden on women who already work longer and harder for less money than men (or for free, remember house work!), but individualizes experiences of sexism and substitutes bodily excuses for actually causes—if only I had looked right, if only she didn’t wear that, if only I was thinner, etc—and at the same time divides women by creating a constant undercurrent of ‘sexual’, spectacular (i.e. looks-based) competition…which is not really about sex, or sexual pleasure, but about playing in a power game for men that men don’t have to participate in (or at least not really).

And her response to action is remarkably interesting, noting that what is missing from all of this is play: “Can there be a pro-woman definition of beauty? Absolutely. What is missing is play. The beauty myth is harmful and pompous and grave because so much, too much, depends upon it. The pleasure of playfulness is that it doesn’t matter”. She calls for spectacular ‘sexuality’ to be replaced by real sexuality, the one that is pleasurable, and goes on to call for (along with substantive changes that give power to women) the creation of a non-competitive form of beauty. In many ways her reference for this are the homo-social behaviors that exist among men, which among other things combat loneliness, promote self-esteem, provide an outlet for sensuality, and create gender solidarity such that sexual competition is present only in actual competition as opposed to using appearance to pre-judge a woman’s “language, political allegiance, worthiness, or aggression”. Not to mention trying to imagine an “erotics of equality” or of aging.

The incredible thing about this is that it has the potential to completely destroy the core division between feminists today—appearance (!)—and hence allow us to move beyond it to what the beauty myth is all about anyway—power relations. In this way Wolf has transformed the bland liberal ‘everyone should do what works for them’ into a deep wellspring of potential solidarity. And while this in no way eliminates some contentions issues, abortion for instance, or eliminates the need for new (or the revitalization of old) strategies, it provides the basis to move from individual alienation and individual blame to the collective action necessary to build the movement we need, and to do it in a way that is both sexual and serious, playful and political, for as she rightly points out a integrated person is both of these things and letting either side exclude the other is the whole thing we are trying to get away from in the first place…

______________________________________________________________________________

A Masculine Post-Script:

2 Things. 1) This spectacular destruction of collective solidarity is not just a female thing, rather the domination of image-based politics generally is the basis of the weakness of change making efforts in building communities and in changing or creating institutions. 2) I just want to make very clear the importance of these issues for my own (male) sexuality, and that for me, and I imagine many other men as well, the creation of a sexuality of equality, one that does not fall cold into the positions of actor and object, power and submission is both deeply refreshing and well, a turn on.

Of course we haven’t addressed here how the idea that ‘sexuality is the innermost truth of the individual’ has the same, individualizing effects, and enacts both a medicalization of social problems, reducing issues of power and oppression to sexual deviance or need or inadequacy, and its corollary, the Hollywood daydream, after all, if nothing else, we postmoderns are well aware that love doesn’t conquer all…

Radical Citizens Network Idea Outline 1.o

November 30, 2007

We form this network of voluntarily interrelated people and organizations to radically transform this crazy world. What do we mean by “radical”? Part of being radical is not requiring the reduction of all interests to a single unity. Instead it is a commitment to making fruitful our differences as we struggle for deep seated, egalitarian, and people-centered change, fighting to replace helplessness and coping with freedom and its enacted dreams, strengthened by our knowledge of the interconnectedness of all struggles and the determination to support all those who struggle against injustice by means of freedom.

(So, ps, this has a little excessive detail but you need not accept everything, it just made it more interesting for yours truly! db)

How can I join the network?

Prospective members to the network must be invited (and vouched for) by two current network members. Once invited, you are asked to choose a delegate and network buddy and can choose to join the network, either as a radical resource or as a network member.

Radical resources do not pay dues and as such are welcome to participate in all network events, programming, and resources, but do not have access to other member’s contact information or decision-making rights regarding network planning and resource allocation.

Network members have access to the various databases, decision making rights regarding network planning and resource allocation, receive a free network discount card, and must pay monthly dues equal or greater to .5% of their monthly income (so if you make $1000/month you would pay $5/month, with a minimum dues of $3/month for those who have no income). Those who pay dues for certified network organizations may deduct the cost of such dues from their monthly network dues.  

What can I do?

You can…

n         Help grow the network or create a sub-network of radicals by contacting folks who share with you a profession, passion, or location (lawyers, or immigrant lawyers, or immigrant lawyers in MN for instance) within which you can

  • Take leadership! Become a volunteer organizer for the network or sub-network
  • Mentor a student or someone in your own sub-network (or just be a mentor)
  • Be a network contact for your profession, serving as an official contact for those in need of advice, work, or action by those in your field of expertise
  • Be a network moderator for your profession, moderating your professional network’s email-list 
  • Host events in your neighborhood, home, or workplace for radical community members in your subgroup, or for the community as a whole
  • Help people get jobs or internships in your sub-network, particularly to help organizing via the radical-network job hookup
  • Grow the network or sub-network(s) to other Cities through your contacts

n Create spaces to build the radical community by creating or participating in…

  • An EXCO class, learn more about EXCO at www.EXCOtc.org
  • A caucus for a group with which you identify (by race, gender, sexuality, class, nationality, etc)
  • A stress at work discussion circle to radicalize others
  • A Shift circle for those transitioning between jobs or life-phases
  • A story circle to grow memory within the radical community

n        Help create a culture of solidarity…

  • Pay your dues and participate in deciding how they are spent   
  • Organize your workplace
  • Commit to donate or donate property to the Radical Land Trust (or Cooperative Housing/Property Association)
  • Sponsor events and discussions
  • Fly the flag of solidarity, committing to supporting those in need, or wear a solidarity bracelet to indicate that you are willing to talk with others members
  • Take part in the Radical Time Bank
  • Join the skillshare and self-education database to offer up your skills and to find others interested in learning together!
  • Participate in the variety of other events, programming, etc, being offered through the network!
  • List jobs in your workplace, particularly to help organizing via the radical-network job hookup
  • Homestay a young activist, so that they can spend their time building the network of radical projects in your local area and benefit from your experience and keep you informed on recent goings on 
  • Use Indymedia to post your announcements, issues, and stories, and put your upcoming events on their calendar

Related Institutions Needing to Be Created:

n         Radical Citizen’s Network Foundations 

n        Radical Land Trust(s) or Cooperative Housing Association or Network

n  Self-Education Network/Skillshare Database perhaps through…

n  Free Education Networks: EXCO, IWW Work Peoples’ College, etc (existing)

n        Sub-networks/sub-network organizers by profession, passion, and location

n         Stress at work circles to radicalize fellow workers

n         Groups by Identity (some such groups currently being formed)

n         Radical Homestay Network

n         Radical Job Hook-Up

n         Radical Time Bank

n         IndyMedia (existing)

n         Flag/Bracelet of Solidarity

n         Shift Circles for those going through life-phase transitions (a local model exists: SHIFT, primarily targeting professionals, run by U of M prof Jan Hivley)

n        Radical Church? (weekly, family friendly events at the same time/place each week…Sundays at the Bedlam! etc)

Radical Community Plan Draft 1.o

November 30, 2007

We are told that we have always lived in a world of haves and have-nots, a world where some people are powerful and others helpless, the few using their power to steal what is made possible by the work of the many.

Helplessness then is the core enemy of all people and it is only through becoming independent will be free, and only through freedom will we be able to live the lives we want to live and save the humanity of those who currently rule over us.

Why are we helpless? Because we have nothing to sell but our ability to work. Because we have nothing we are forced to accept the conditions we are given in the workplace and in the world. Because we must constantly scrape together our survival we have no time to figure out how we want to live and bring it about. And because we haven’t organized ourselves to be powerful we have nothing and are in no position to change our conditions.

It is time to say enough of this helplessness. It is time to attack it at the root, to build our own power, and to salt the earth in which it grows. And this can be done today, and it is our responsibility to take it on, for our ancestors and their blood, sweat, and tears, that brought us to this day, and for our grandchildren’s grandchildren, whose futures we must always keep in mind.

How do we eliminate helplessness?

  • We attack work and the conditions that force us to work
  • We build and live out the world we want to live in
  • We grow the movement
  • We transform the world

We do this by building assets, building community, building power. And we do this in the right way. If there is one thing we have learned from our bosses, our politicians, our cops, from all the corrupt faces of power, it is that people act in their own self-interest whoever they pretend to stand for. We must take this into account.

Our world then must do away with representation that allows people to speak their interest in the voice of the many, and the centralization that puts the rule of one over the interest of all. In our world all people will be involved in running things in a direct participatory way. In our world there will no be centralization of control, no single group to make uniform our dissenting goals.

No to representation! Only direct democracy is real democracy!

No to centralization! Only we can speak for ourselves!

Work can be attacked by replacing fear with freedom. We attack the current conditions of work by organizing workplaces, creating fair and democratic alternative workplaces through cooperatives and by building the infrastructure and support system to undermine our need to work all together by building community self-sufficiency and a culture of solidarity and mutual aid.

We can build the world we want to live in by replacing fear with freedom. We treat each other with respect and dignity, we talk in person, we intentionally build our relationships to each other, and we speak of each other and our different goals and ability with critical respect. But that is not all. We create our own spaces and cultural institutions, we find and work together with like minded people, we create a welcoming culture of solidarity, friendship, and joy

We grow the movement by replacing fear with freedom. We build relationships and collaborations with our natural and unlikely allies. We make better use of our existing infrastructure. We think seriously about winning, about creating real, non-compromised solutions to every problem, and we target strategic people and institutions accordingly.

We transform the world by making our freedom international, by linking together with and inspiring others all over the world.

Want more details? Keep reading! Also, consider the free online book Getting Free by James Herod, and joining the EXCO class by the same name this February, 2008.

Ideas for the Twin Cities’ Radical Community:

When we think about the pathetic state of affairs and the pathetic attempts to change them we must be confronted by the facts that helplessness is an enemy that can only be overcome by people themselves, and that we are not building a world based on free stuff, we are building a new world. As such, while it is crucial that we take advantage of charitable donations and the variety of other nonprofit mechanisms, at the heart of our plan must be the building of a new, just and sustainable economy, and new assets…new sources of life.

New economies:

  • Cooperatives and cooperative conglomerates.
  • A Radical Timebank where people can trade their labor equally to the benefit of all
  • Property acquisition and sustainable use through a Radical Land Trust
  • A mass-membership radical community foundation and bank

This foundation/bank would support in a variety of ways…

  • Radical Citizens’ Network
  • Strategic education through EXCO and a skillshare database
  • Radical Land Trust
  • Workplace organizing through the Industrial Workers of the World and other radical unionizing efforts
  • Cooperative Conglomerate
  • Repair cooperatives: Open Circuit, Sibley Bike, etc
  • Radical spaces/radical neighborhood groups
  • Collective purchasing operations
  • National and international networking

Jesus says “God is the God of the living!” or Nirvana is Samsara & Samsara is Nirvana

November 30, 2007

The mystery is this: the world is perfect, already and always. In the deepest sense, at the level of religious reality, the reality through which all others pass through, everything is, currently, perfect; everything, all the pain, suffering, and horror…Engels’ makes a similar statement when he says that in the last analysis, even if we can never arrive there, everything is economic, determined by class relations, or if you prefer, in the deepest sense everything is predetermined, by God or fate or geography or causality or necessary illusion—whatever.

Nevertheless, at present, perfection is hidden or fails to be linked or channeled together, and as such, all the transcendent acts of human kindness (or beauty or truth or humanity—) fall dead into earth or lay silent behind a veil…as opposed to flowing ever more brightly together, the not-of-this-world that could be, the mysterious, hidden, kingdom of heaven in your hearts

And if we are to take the shattering of the vessels at its word, how are we to heal the world and heal God? Both need healing and the processes are inseparable! The challenge, as put forth by Jesus is not to appear generous but to be generous, or in middle school talk, not to appear cool but to be cool, not to seem to be changing the world but, really, to be doing it. And so we get the confusion of another world, or of heaven, but as Jesus says, God is the God of the living!

And so we must then go beyond Christian anti-worldism and Buddhist escape to what one could call a world of bodhisattvas, but human ones, human ones in a world lost of the shall-not-morality, and hence of death, (if not of guilt and repair) even what one might call egotistical humans, if by that we mean the seriousness of childhood, and the joy, of living the present as time being spent, history being made.

This presentness, this history making living, this living not coping, this traction is the not-of-this-world that makes real the mystery and is the living out of the perfection that always, already is, the deepest meaning of existence itself…to exist/existing/ex-istence

Of course, the living out of this is not the elimination of self-alienation but the reification, the objective creation of that world, of a new commons, of a ‘non-representational’ public sphere (a public one!) a hope, a cast, a global societal transformation…


 This is from the tradition of Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah. As it has been explained to me, after God cleared some space from himself to create the world, he created vessels, matter, and then proceeded to fill them with himself…but this was too much for the vessels and they shattered, falling apart and trapping inside them pieces of God. And this is the world, the destruction of God’s creation through exposure to perfection, yet imbued with and trapping perfection inside it. Our task within this framework then, along with the Holocaust insight that when we suffer God too suffers, is to heal the world, and in doing so to heal God and in making the world complete, complete God, as well. In realizing perfection at the level of world, we realize perfection at the level of God.

 See Mark 12:27 (also, Matthew 22:23)

 These are those who are capable of reaching nirvana, but, unlike Buddhas who leave the world, they hold on to one desire so as to constantly be reincarnated back, the one desire being the enlightenment of all sentient beings…

 That is, the previous claim—“I make history” or “we make history”—is inherently spectacular, based in representation, of the appearing to be generous; what is crucial is to make good that claim at the level of life itself, everyday life.

Public Schools 2.o Draft1

November 30, 2007

Let’s assume that we currently spend $5,000/year per student in our public schools. And for now (though not for later) let’s ignore the fact that this number is too low, that race and class are key factors in determining how resources are spent, and that students are tracked, again by race and class, into different sectors of our economy, and that our economy is changing such that an ever larger proportion of people will be shat on.

Instead, lets think of a program like Teach for America, or Americorps, where citizens, often recent college graduates, “do good” and make a sacrifice to do it, getting paid shit and, particularly in Teach for America are thrown into awful situations to survive them. In either case both programs are by and large detrimental to making real change in this country because they prevent the analysis necessary to do so and they instill a lasting skepticism about making change in regards to our problems because we fail to be skeptical of the very methods through which we are going about making change. This plan is based on such skepticism.

I am now going to think small scale. What if instead of doing side-jobs paying roughly 12K a year so as to be able to organize I instead had 7 kids who would otherwise go to a school and not be served come to my apartment and have school there. Like many people who are in Teach for America or in Americorps (to which I applied) I have all the skills necessary to ‘succeed’ in our society. What if I was paid 25K a year to teach these seven students with a 5K budget to be divided half and half between me and the students and a 5K budget to support others involved in their education?

We ensure there is internet at the ‘school’. We take field trips to local libraries to get books and local recreation centers to run around…or to schools for that matter. Lets pretend that we get a 1K book and supplies budget? (We might also want say, markers, pens, paper, a digital camera, or a camcorder, etc).

Now, obviously it would be good if I had some common cultural connection to the kids I was teaching. I don’t really. Say the summer before I get a community mentor who will also be my and the kids’ mentor during the school year, and that they get paid say, 1K a year for a one-hour a week commitment year round, arranged as is suited best to teachings needs. What if it is also a requirement that I setup a gathering every week where kids and their parents or whoever best suits that role are invited to come together and say, share a meal, or a snack, or just have a discussion, lets say this costs an additional 2K, maybe we give parents some monetary incentive for coming who knows (1K left plus 5K of teacher/student discretionary spending). 

Of course, there is more to the picture than this. What are we going to do? For starters it seems best to have some common rituals that create respect. A program called Students at the Center (SAC) uses story circles to talk about common experiences and as a basis for writing. Perhaps we do that. The Algebra Project has come up with a sweet and peer-education based model for teaching math. Perhaps we setup a chapter and use that. But most of all, how about we use a model where I am a supporter of students projects, I make sure they are exploring something of interest, that it includes key knowledges and skills, and that we go from there?

I suppose it does depend on the ages of the kids, but if we are just choosing kids in my neighborhood, well, perhaps we’ll have a whole gambit of ages! And might that actually help us? The older kids can learn from, teach, and model for the younger kids. We can have common activities, say writing or reading or story telling, or presenting our projects, but also uncommon ones. What if I’m not good at math? How can I legitimately teach these kids something I’m not good at?

Well…let’s expand the concept. Say we have 4 such groups in my neighborhood. And as desired, we can work together, go to the library or gym or bakery down the street, to each others houses, and so on, or to the print-making collective. And wait! We still have 6K left to bring in other folks just for my 7 students! But first let’s get serious. Someone is going to have to coordinate all these little learning groups. There has to be some administrative cost. Ok, lets reduce our 6K to 3K. Moreover, all the schools in place are still going to be requiring maintenance, unless we sell them off or abandon them. So lets imagine all our schools converted into the seeds of new commons, huge community centers and low-rent office spaces for grassroots organizations, meeting halls, local businesses, community theater, etc.

Ok. So we still have 3K left. If none of the pods nearby can teach math maybe we hire a math tutor to use the Algebra Project curriculum to get us all to learn how to teach each other. Or we get a parent volunteer, or a member of the local community council. Or we join up with pods slightly farther away twice a week, or whatever. We figure it out.

And lets think this through a little more. With all their projects, the best resources for students are often going to be…not in my apartment but somewhere else, at local businesses, at the university, at the old folks home, the nonprofits, etc. So maybe we’ll set up twice a week all day internships for students, that can be a shared job between me and them. And maybe we’ll setup once a week times for students to help each other learn the hard stuff or tutor the younger folks. And maybe we’ll take field trips by stuffing into a shared minivan. Or maybe we’ll spend time watching lectures from Berkeley on a whole variety of college subjects or attending protests or teach-ins on police brutality or attempts to change the expungement policy for felons in MN, or organize or join a cop-watch, or make a zine to share our learning with the community or other school groups.

And if we have 4 such groups in the neighborhood we should probably evaluate each other and ourselves every semester, and maybe reshuffle the kids as best suits the collective desires of the kids, their parents, and us, the teachers. And obviously the us need not be fancy pants college folks. All that matters is they have most of the skills necessary to prepare folks for life, a little organization, and the ability to live at 25K a year. 

Of course, I believe most schools systems actually receive more than 5K per student so if we want to call this arrangement a public charter then we should have a bit more money to through around a perhaps put in pension funds for teachers.

A logistical nightmare? Not if kids live in my neighborhood or by an easily accessible bus-line. Test scores? An open question but I imagine we’d do quite well. And combine it with a little pre-community mapping and the building of an alumni base, well, it makes school into a full blown community building/social change apparatus instead of the opposite…like it is now.

Response to Full Frontal Feminism

November 30, 2007

Dear Jessica Valenti!

I just finished reading your book Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters and though I am actually a young white man, 22 or so, I wanted to respond to your book, as your project and feminism generally are crucial to the struggles we are fighting in this world of ours and because in reading it I was challenges to think about where we need to go as feminists and as progressive change-makers generally. (As a quick about me: I am a ‘radical’ community organizer and at this point my main claim to fame would be a free school for social change project called the Experimental College or EXCO: www.EXCOtc.org).

Your book is at its fantastic best when discussing everyday issues with clarity and flair, particularly when it is happy to be badass about it. “I’m better than you in bed and I’ve got feminism to thank for it”. Badass. Sex should be fun, and safe, women are undervalued, set up to impossible standards, harassed, violated, and worse, and we know it, we see it everyday, and in recognizing this and doing something about it we are happier, cooler, and more powerful—this is what feminism is about. This is what I got as the core message of the book and for me that is right on.

The book is also solid in its recognition of the ways in which feminism has overemphasized the struggles of monied, straight white women. Being upfront about those issues and discussing how oppression is different based on race, class, and sexuality was great, and you did a particularly good job with making sure to include queer issues, a perspective that has had increasing influence on my own work, particularly through drag/gender performance (see below).

That being said, I thought the book was weakest in the action piece, a problem we see across all our movements. What do we do? How do we raise hell again? This, my friends, is the task, the challenge, the fun, the work ahead of us! This is how I would like to have seen your book end, as I think it is important to note that we haven’t really figured out new strategies and tactics that are effective in making change, though certainly you and those you mention are miles ahead of many in terms of hipness and tactics—blogs for one! I also thought the cell-phone-picture snapping of harassers was frigging amazing.

So while perhaps I am unusual in enjoying being challenged to figure out how to raise hell, I do think it is the task at hand. It is this that I would like to address in the rest of this piece, and it is this that I am curious about your thoughts (and the thoughts of whoever else is out there!).

The need to reconsider strategy was made salient to me in your section on voting, where you touch on where many young people feel that it doesn’t matter who wins elections. And while I understand, and in some ways am sympathetic to the approach that “shit! it does matter”, I feel like the problem is that we haven’t successfully created a politics of everyday life, so that politics becomes disempowering representational and representative politics—nonprofits, special interests, elections—and that feminism in this mode remains immensely alienating despite its potential and individual impact as a powerfully liberating identity.

This word, identity, to me is in many ways the crux of the problem. Not because identity is limiting or fragmentary, but because identity as a motive and connection isn’t sufficiently strong to be able to create the power and change that we need everywhere, and to feel in our everyday lives. Identity is an electoral concept, or a consumer concept, while power is based in the ability to do things directly, and is rooted in communities or institutions, and institutions on their own maintain, rather than change, the status quo. As such we need to make feminism, and feminist organizing and struggle into feminist communities, feminist relationships, feminist practices, feminist power.

What do I mean by this? I’m not entirely sure myself but let me give you some examples and inspirations from my own research, ideas I am right now trying to figure out in practice.

  • I know that in Italy in the 60s and well through the 70s, the feminist movement set up a huge number of women’s centers, as safe spaces for women to come together, to build community, to support each other, and to fight together for a variety of things, including abortion rights, and as such served as the heart of community change-making and the alternative to a male-dominated workers’ movement.
  • Drag performance is an interesting venue for me, particularly in that it seems to be designed as precisely a safe space for sexuality, a place where sexual experimentation and expression, gender identities or un-identities, of all types can be played out and celebrated. Just as feminism provides a way of seeing through the bullshit, drag provides a collective space to not only mock it and parade its destruction, but also to experiment with new ways of being, in relation to gender and its intersection with a variety of forms of power and oppression.
  • On a negative note, there has been an increasing professionalization of nonprofits, and as such a increasingly clinical approach to victims of all types of oppression, and as such, people come to nonprofits to be served, not to be supported and join the struggle against the forces that have victimized them. As such, nonprofits have been a mode of coping with disempowerment rather than that of building power and community, and the INCITE! Collective, Women of Color Against Violence have put out an amazing book on the topic called The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Against the Nonprofit Industrial Complex, which has been essential to my attempts to re-think organizing in this crazy globalizing world.

At the core then, I think we need to return to our own histories and draw out not the legislative successes but the things that build the movements that made these successes possible, like self-defense classes, women’s centers, collective daycare, participatory skits on everyday harassment to give men a chance to experience, or witness, what its like in the workplace or in the streets…and to use new things, like gender performance and the internet, for example.

The internet in particular is a power and a risk, in that it allows us to forget the importance of the personal, of relationships, of face to face discussion, local support and community—that which is most important!—even as it allows us to link together, learn from each other, and synchronize action as never before. I am tempted to say that the internet is only really a useful tool only after we have build a community and are in the process of inviting more people in, growing our base and solidarity and projects at the grassroots level. And while this ignores the importance of the internet in getting local people together (something not to be ignored), it is crucial to realize that the trust needed to change our everyday lives cannot be virtual, that the community needed to make the changes we want to see are not sufficiently expressed by a shared identity or value, as anyone who has joined a march and left as lonely and with as many friends as they arrived with can attest.

Lastly, I would challenge us to think economically, to engage directly with what keeps us physically helpless. Not only at the level of yes, lets work so that we can stand on our own, but the fact that we need to work or we will starve, that we are exploited in workplaces, or to say it in another way, that freedom, not love, is the opposite of fear.

Bringing a feminist lens to these problems can make more meaningful an economic movement for worker controlled workplaces and alternative economies, and to make feminism more powerful. Sexual harassment, being paid less, normative maleness in relation to health care and child-care, and the tyrannical structure of workplaces are related, and recognizing and fighting that together has the powerful opportunity to re-articulate some aspects of the feminist project and to convince those who are otherwise alienated from it of its deep relevance for their everyday lives.

The end.

What do you think?

Is it weird that some white dude is writing this? How am I negotiating, successfully or otherwise, the male-feminist category? Do these ideas have the potential I think they do to re-invigorate radical, grassroots, and community based change? Why, why not? What are the key problems, misassumptions, or challenges of such an approach? Am I sufficiently androgynous, masculine, or feminine in my tone?

Love to hear your thoughts and think about who is doing this type of work and how we can build the movement locally, nationally, and around the globe.

All the best,

Yours,

David (Boehnke)

dboehnke(at)gmail.com

Thoughts on Judaism for Birthright Survey

November 30, 2007

I think the blindly pro-Israel, and Israel as Judaism, stance of this organization, and of US religious communities in general, has been incredibly harmful for my generation of jews. If Judaism is not about leading an ethical life then it is without value. While the acting upon this is the hard part, failing to even think about this is lessons learned from the oppressors we have sworn not to be since the destruction of the second temple and puts the memory of the holocaust to shame even as it recognizes our ability to be powerful…we should ask what type of powerful we wish to be, as the writing on the wall attests (the one of concrete and barbed wire).

While I wasn’t exposed to these beliefs due to my lack of synagogue participation and my lack of intentional connection/interaction/participation with other jews (until recently) and as such have my own set of issues, it is heartening to see that those confronted with the realities of the situation–a mess–with an unequal and oppressive power imbalance are organizing, and as impossible as it sounds to many, divesting from Israel may be at the forefront of what Judaism needs to mean, today.

Fear of death does not justify killing or exploiting others when your life is not directly threatened. Perhaps the true believers among the orthodox were right when they bemoaned the arrogance of the Zionists in creating a state in Israel before the Messiah has come. And there are lessons to learn from the deeds of the Zionists, who talked to the Nazis and tried to get them to deport all the Jews to Israel, and perhaps from the silly libertarians who want to take over New Hampshire through non-violent means.

As a people, we have overcome countless tragedies due to the hands of our oppressors, may we have the strength to overcome a tragedy of our own oppression, and the foresight not to destroy millions…of ourselves and others in the process.

Questions for Those In Nonprofits/Maybe You Should Quit?

November 30, 2007

n Foundations are made up of money stolen from taxpayers, i.e. they are tax-monies retained under corporate control because corporations are very rich

n Who are you accountable to?

n Does your organization make more people empowered to do the work your doing? How often, if ever, do the people who enter your community/service/etc end up taking on leadership roles within your organization? How much are they in control of what is offered and what the priorities are?

n Are you doing what you want to do or what you have to do?

n How many hours a week are you working and how close is the problem to being taken care of? How many more people doing what you do would it take to solve the problem your addressing? If you are working too much and the problem is going nowhere you can be pretty sure you should be doing something else

n Are you getting paid to change the world? Who is paying you? Are your goals their goals or are you living a dual existence pretending to be something you’re not to try to do the things you want to do?

n Is it possible to make your organization sustainable and not constantly crazy without another cent? How would you have to organize if your organization could only receive money through individual donations?

n Who is your target community/audience? Do you come together/serve them?

Contemporary Anarchist Theory and Practice: Facing Today

November 26, 2007

I am tempted to say that contemporary anarchist theory has four elements, like hip hop: a) analysis of the multitude, with the work of Paulo Virno as its most impressive and useful writer, b) anarchist anthropology as a method for learning about the possible and understanding, compiling, and experimenting with new practices, as put forward by David Graeber, c) the compilation and enacting of concrete strategies within a larger framework as modeled by James Herod in his excellent and free book Getting Free, and d) the articulating of a hip politics, and attacks putting forth abundance on the level of culture, see Crimethinc for instance.

The brilliance and importance of the above work is however only a springboard for the action that is demanded of us, given our present situation in the world, the near nonexistence of substantive organizing channels and the coming shift in the global order. Whether this shift is Virno’s ‘new 17th century’, the collapse of the global ecosystem and a new dark ages, or at the very least the destruction of the US as the world’s sole superpower, we are entering very interesting times indeed. Times where terms like sovereignty, the central state, legitimate/legal, the social pact, and so on are losing coherence, and when the two existing options for a declining superpower seem to be expansionist war and externally enforced structural adjustment in the world bank model…

If we consider the last transition from one superpower and one model of global capitalism to another we certainly find a bleak picture ahead, dreams of WWI and WWII…is it useful to ask who are the new Germanys? Or should we rather expect a broadening and war in earnest of what some are calling the 4th World War, the war against corporate globalization?

Regardless how are we to build the sites/practices/culture to support/enact/generate resistance and new, transnational, mobile(?) societies? How are we to rearrange/create/escape the current push/pulls of the current economic and political forces and build a new world to attract immigrants, to partake in exodus/exit and to ever grow its scope, assets and culture? Here do we use an anarchist anthropological lens? Do we grow the commons considered as a frontier as a chance not a border? How do we build the online resources, the local assets, and the culture of solidarity to escape work, to escaping the constant enemies that have plagued our humanity since the beginning of civilization: the haves vs. the have nots, intergenerational struggle, cultural and biological reproduction, and through all of this the entrenchment of the privileged?

Are we right in our idealism that the elimination of dependence means the elimination not inequality of humanity? A basis from which allows us to live in freedom? And if so is this even possible? Do we have the bear by the throat or are we diving into a concrete wall of nature?