February 2007

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Art, Poetry, and Changing the World…

Well, I just got back from an amazing youth poetry slam and on my way home I was crafting a post about it. I was going to write about how, for me, poetry is the closest I feel to a revolutionary spirituality, a kind of deep, whole sharing of ourselves, our subjectivities, within a shared context. We are all there, and we get to watch as the center is shifted from person to person, with new stories and perspectives and ways of connecting us to something powerful through language, and intonation, and movement.

So, that was what I was going to write about…but then I read my friend Andrew’s blog and he, amazingly, has said much of what I was going to say. That is a neat bit of serendipity. It kind of made my day. Please read that entry, and then keep reading his blog, because he’s a sharp and dedicated fellow.

In other news, Seymour Hersh was on Democracy Now! today, that was interesting.

Venezuela’s Vice President gave a great speech at the anniversary of the “Caracazo”, the anti-globalization uprising in 1989 that arguably kicked off the current revolutionary process. Once again, he talked about how the communal councils will become the new form of government of Venezuela, a communal socialist government. He also talked specifically about how if the government tries too hard to direct or manage the “explosion of popular power” it will only kill popular power; and about how the government needs to get out of the offices and into the streets. This is a good sign, but of course time will tell.

I’m searching daily for more news about Rigoberta Menchu, but right now the Guatemalan media is more focused on the brutal killing of 3 Salvadoran congress people by Guatemalan police officers. Clearly it’s a really big deal, whether it is related to organized crime, or the state, or whatever.

Maybe someday I will write a poem and post it here. I did write poetry in high school. Even did some slams and had a show downtown. But then I just stopped, and for some reason it feels hard to start again. But that’s how it felt to write in this blog, too.

Random Things…

It’s really interesting to me how the entire flavor and texture of life can change simply by changing the ways in which we engage ourselves in it.  Just by writing in this blog again I feel so many parts of myself are opening up in other parts of my life, and I feel like my mind and senses are getting sharpened.

I’ve started working alot in the garden of my 6-person collective house.  We’ve been tearing up weeds and digging some paths and then laying down bricks and gravel to make them pretty.  Yesterday I helped install a low fence made out of old bicycle wheels dug halfway into the ground.  I’m also renovating our greywater system, which recycles shower water through  series of sand filters, into a small bathtub pond which then filters the water more, until it is ready to go through a hose and water the garden.  It’s neat.  Also I’m talking with my housemates more, eating better, being better with email correspondence (including writing to some old friends).  I’m applying to grad school to get my master’s in teaching (maybe).  I’m more focused at work (sometimes).  And I’m more present with my friends, family, housemates, and partner.  This blog is some kind of amazing medicine for me.  And it’s an addiction.  I come home from work and I just want to write in it, but then I stop myself because I realize that I would just be writing about work all the time.  So it’s better to pause, think, and wait before I just write whatever.

So, now for some random things I learned today:

-Just read Seymour Hersh’s new article (look, I can do links now, thanks Dave!) in the New Yorker about the administrations shifting foreign policy in the Middle East.  Damn.  So it looks like we’re covertly siding with Sunnis in order to contain the Shiites, to the point of financing radical Sunnis (like Al Quaeda allies???) to attack Hezbollah, etc…all of this running without congressional knowledge through the Vice Presidents office? Wow!  Now that’s sinister!

-Today the socialist president of Ecuador,  Rafael Correa (remember, I like this guy), ordered the military to make itself useful by providing for the public good, in an emergency order to build and repair the highway system, using the money that was slated to be used to pay the foreign debt.  This is important for two reasons: 1) Because Correa is making good on his promise to prioritize the “social debt” of the country over the foreign debt, and 2) Because Correa is playing like Chavez in trying to integrate the military into a protagonistic, civil role in the transformational process.  Very, very smart.  Arbenz and Allende fell not solely for lack of military support, but it was part of it, so this is good stuff.  By the way, Correa also has insisted on having a woman as the defense minister.  Even after the first one was killed in a plane crash, he made sure that her replacement would be a woman.  ALSO, he refused to allow anyone call his wife the first lady (primera dama), because he says it is sexist.

-There is an article here about Chavez and his environmental projects.  It’s a bit propagandistic, though I tend to like Eva Golinger’s writing.  This is a bit much, considering that there are still major critiques to be made of the Venezuelan governments oil projects, industrial projects, and ambitious pipeline projects.  Some more perspective, please, Eva.

-Didn’t play any Star Chamber today.  I was too tired from work to concentrate.  Plus it’s more fun to read the news on the internet.

-Watched the Oscar-winning Melissa Ethridge song on you tube…and I just started crying all over the place.  That would be a longer blog post to explain why (the last post can give you an idea, I think).  This world is just so, so beautiful and we deserve so, so much better.  Does global social transformation really need to be so hard?
Darn you power elite for always being such sticks in the mud!

I have nothing particularly profound to say tonight, but I had a hard day that has only gotten harder as it has progressed. And the thing is that all of it has involved watching other people who I care about who are hurting.

Don’t want to be naive guy here, but why are so many people hurting? Why are so many people so lonely, or self-doubting, or, just tired of living?

Sometimes I just sit here, in my bed, and I just look up at the ceiling and I think about how seriously, deeply fucked up our society really is. I try to allow the enormity of it pass over me. I don’t care what cynical folks say, or post-oppression folks, or folks who make themselves feel smart by being dismissive of rage and sadness at the world…I don’t care what they say because I, even with all of my happy times and great privileges, can see just how totally senseless this place is. Not the world, because the WORLD is beautiful. But our SOCIETY…

Senseless. Without fucking sense.

And it’s amazing how many people there are who get paid, who get degrees, who build status and careers all trying to explain this mess, to package it as THE way, trying to argue how it’s good for us, that this is the best of all possible worlds. Well, perhaps so, but it still sucks…and it could be a whole lot better.

To all of you who I know or who know me and who are in pain, I love you. I love you from the core of me, from my baby self through my wide-eyed toddler self and beyond. You may not believe me and that’s part of the problem, huh? And I am sorry. And if I’m a part of the pain then I hope you really know that I’m sorry.

When I was little I just wanted to cuddle up with the Snuggles Detergent bear. I just wanted to lay in those soft warm towels with that cute little bear. Boy, have I seen alot since then.

The 5 Motors of the Venezuelan Revolution…

Right now, the Venezuelan government is using some really consistant messaging regarding its objectives and plans in its “march toward socialism,” framing much of their current work in terms of “5 motors” that will speed Venezuela like a locomotive towards their socialist future.

These motors are (and you can see an interesting graphic in Spanish here: http://www.minci.gob.ve/motores/62/11852 ):

1) The enabling law: “The direct route to socialism.” This is the law that will allow Chavez to pass certain laws without congressional approval for 18 months. The argument is that there are many people in the National Assembly who claim to be Chavistas (the whole assembly is filled with Chavez supporters, since the oppisition backed out of the last elections in a bid to discredit the process…and because they knew they were going to lose anyway) but who will hold back and sabotage the process, and so Chavez says he needs this so that the people don’t have to wait any longer for the changes they are demanding…this is the argument, anyway.

2) Constitutional reform: “A socialist state of law.” Chavez has called for the election of a new constitutional assembly to change the constitution to make it more in-line with a socialist nation…that is, stronger labor rights, and especially they are talking about highlighting “social property” rights over private property rights. The new constitution will have to be approved through a national referendum.

3) Morals and enlightment: “Education with socialist values.” Chavez’ brother Adan seems to be in charge of this one, and it’s a massive educational project to push the country in a socialist direction culturally and ideologically. It will affect the public school system as well as the universities and I also imagine that it will involve “promoters” or trained organizers who will be pushing for socialist ethics in their communities and workplaces…it’s essentially training to create a socialist mass base.

4) The new geometry of power: “The socialist reordering of the geopolitics of the nation.” This is about transforming government infrastructure (as well as foreign policy relationships) to get rid of old structures and bureaucracies that ostensibly are slowing the process down, and to form basically a new Venezuelan state that is in line with their notion of “21st century socialism.”

5) Explosion of communal power: “Protagonistic democracy, revolutionary and socialist!” This is what I was talking about earlier…transforming the state by basing it much more strongly in local, grassroots communal power through communal councils. The vice president has been talking alot about this lately, telling the communal councils more or less to get ready to become the new government.

Now let me be clear that most of these both excite me and scare me. They excite me because they are a new discussion of socialism that is consciously post-Soviet, in that they consistantly and explictly declare that they don’t want to be like Russia, China, or Cuba…and that they don’t want to have Bolshevik or Stalinist structures (Chavez himself speaks very well about these historic lessons). They excite me because 2 years ago Chavez had just barely mentioned socialism in a World Social Forum speech, and now it’s plastered all over the government websites…that is, they are rapidly speeding up and radicalizing. But they scare me because it is a massive, powerful state with a strong figurehead, and so many of these “motors” can easily just be methods for indoctrination and solidification of state control. What is socialist education? Because of US cold war brainwashing, it seems almost inherently totalitarian…but really it’s also what I really would like to see. It all depends on the actual content of what these motors are. What kinds of laws will Chavez fast-track? How will the new constitution be different? What are socialist values? On the values question, I’ve seen Adan Chavez speak on youtube and stuff and it seems like they are trying to challenge notions like competition, speculation, profit-seeking, egoism…maybe even machismo and racism. This could be powerful education…or it could just be indoctrination into patriotism and loyalty to the state. We have to wait and see.

But this brings me back to why I’m most excited: because of that 5th motor. The explosion of popular power is the final motor because the government sees it is the most important and final step…the transition from a top-down statist past (and process) towards a new Venezuela based in grassroots popular power. That’s not me projecting my anarchist wishes…that is how these folks actually talk. The discourse is about popular power, the 5th motor is the goal. And if that really is true, if that desire is authentic, then I believe that grassroots energies can keep Chavez’ ego in check and keep the state in check so that the revolution doesn’t get diverted into yet another form of state domination. This is what’s interesting about the Venezuelan process: that their strategy is so based in activating and inspiring the grassroots base to take up more space and initiate more projects (they support grassroots indymedia, Chavez has called on workers to take over their factories, etc…). Now I’ve read so often that this kind of thing is common in the early years of revolutions, then the state gets scared of the people and clamps down, so I’m still waiting and watching for that other shoe to drop.

And in many ways it already has. The Venezuelan process is also really gross in many ways, beyond the cult of personality. The oil politics create a lot of contradictions with ecological values. Indigenous rights are not respected as much as is claimed, especially regarding industry and land use. Abortion is still illegal (although hopefully not for long). Anarchist critics of the state are harassed and lumped together with the right-wing opposition…and many times criticism of Chavez is treated as a no-no. I have heard from a number of people that Chavez is quite a womanizer (he’s separated from his wife…his second wife). The government is spending billions on new weapons (perhaps justified but the military presence really is strong down there), etc.

I am an excited yet critical supporter of this whole thing. History tells us that this great experiment can only end badly, as all other experiments with state-driven revolution have. But not all revolutions end in dictatorship…so even if the powers that be do settle in and slow down the Venezuelan process before it truly bares fruit…at least the people might get some new schools and hospitals out of it. But imagine, just imagine, if they actually manage to form an entirely new kind of country out of it. New forms of decision-making and participation. New forms of economic production, consumption, and exchange….

Oil money and modern online tools for information-sharing and democratic decision-making might make it possible. I hope, I hope, I hope!

Hooray, the Right Wing is Divided!

Just read an article on the front page of today’s New York Times, which talks about this shady conservative group called the Council for National Policy (it includes such right-wing heroes as Tim LaHaye, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Paul Weyrich…real good guys), who are typically a major Republican power…but at their latest meeting they left feeling frustrated because they don’t trust any of the major candidates for the Republican nomination. McCain, Guiliani, and Romney aren’t authentically conservative for them.
In other words, the Right wing is divided. They don’t have a unity candidate like W any more, and so the infighting is likely to be a lot more brutal this time around. And hopefully this means that they lose in ’08, but we’ll see.

More Nerd Stuff…

Umm, pretty much the nerdiest stuff of all:

-The Nintendo Wii.  My brother has one.  He got up at 5 in the morning and waited in line for it.  It is one of the funnest toys I’ve ever played with.  Even my mom enjoys it.  I played Zelda for like 2 days straight.  Then I played Wii sports tennis for like 3 hours…and now my brother and I play Madden football on the Wii every weekend or so.  It’s simply really, really fun.  Of course, all critiques of consumerism, etc. apply.  But still it’s hella fun.  And I avoid the really offensive and violent games, naturally.

-The Nintendo DS.  Really almost more fun than the Wii.  I’ve been playing this musical rhythm game called “Elite Beat Agents” and I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun playing a video game.  It’s very, very addictive.

What’s wrong with me, playing so many video games?  Don’t know, but now I’ve imposed a new limit on myself of no more than 2 hours of TV or video games a day.

There is just way more important stuff to do in the world…

The good thing is I don’t spend any money on this stuff…it’s all been gifts or borrowing or whatever.  I’m actually pretty much only spending money on food these days.  Everything else towards savings and debt and international phone cards.

This is What Inspiration Looks Like…

I would like to thank Alisa, Andrew, and Dave for showing me that you’ve been reading this site lately…for making me want to reach out to you and write more…share more of myself with you.

I also want to thank Glendi, Lambert, and Briana for what y’all are doing to make me feel inspired again.

I just wrote a whole flurry of blog posts in one sitting, because something has clicked in me and I feel inspired again.

It’s okay to have typos and it’s okay to make personal and political mistakes…but it’s not okay for me to just go through each day silently when I have so much that I want to share and experience with the people who I love.  I don’t want my fears to be that powerful in my life.

I Love You, Venezuela…

When I was 14, I kind of decided that I wanted to be a revolutionary.

That decision transformed my life.

Being who I am, with all of the privileges associated with a white, male, middle-class identity, I have always just been sure that I will see global revolution in my lifetime…just like other kids of my identity were sure that they could become doctors and politicians and businessmen. The mythology of our culture is, after all, that we can do anything we put our minds to…I just applied that to global social transformation. And that has always made me one of the most optimistic radicals that I know.

Well recently I’ve been talking with old radical friends and we get to talking about we’ve grown and changed and settled and compromised…and we get to talking about hope, and I say, “yeah, I feel like I have more hope for revolution now than I’ve ever had before.”

…and they just kind of stare at me. Or can’t believe it.

And really, to respond, I only need one word: Venezuela.

There is something magical happening in Venezuela. It is the magic that happens when the energies and aspirations and minds of millions of ordinary people are awakened into social movements. There is a genuine revolution happening there. And it is speeding up so fast that I don’t think the English translators have caught up yet.

It’s not all about Hugo Chavez. Yes, he is the leader, the icon, the figurehead…yes he has tons of power (and now more with the “enabling law” which allows him to fast-track new laws without approval from congress)…and yes there is a gross cult of personality around him (seriously, it’s really gross). But it really isn’t all about him. What he symbolizes, what he talks about, and what he is trying to create is not all about him…it is literally about giving power to the people. I know that sounds weird…especially coming from an anarchist. But it’s the truth.

From the beginning, Chavez has said that to end poverty power must be given to the poor, and since the beginning he and his people have been transforming Venezuelan infrastructure to open up more spaces for popular participation and organization.

Down there, the discourse is very lively around democracy. WAY more lively than here. Unlike supporting Hillary or Obama or McCain or whatever, down there supporting Chavez implies wanted to actually be A PART of the process. They are very critical of representative democracy down there. They talk a lot more about participatory and DIRECT democracy.

And institutionally, these new forms of democracy are blossoming. The Venezuelan state is massively funding new Communal Councils…which are directly elected and recallable councils that represent 200-400 families only…and they are being given state funds to improve their own communities…also there is more and more talk about workers councils…about democracy in schools…about participatory budgets. The discussion of economic democracy and Socialism is now mainstream in Venezuela. The movement toward democratic socialism is now a mainstream debate…and it is a fiery one.

What I see in Venezuela is millions of people engaged in a very messy process that a lot of people outside of Venezuela don’t really understand (and I KNOW that I don’t fully understand it…but I’m reading about it, in Spanish, every day). It is a process that my radical friends and I have only been dreaming about…but down there they are building it. And soon, too, in Ecuador, in Bolivia…maybe in Cuba someday. Maybe in Nicaragua…maybe even in Guatemala.

So yeah…I still consider myself a revolutionary. And I still believe that we can do it. Venezuela can’t show us the way…because the US is much too different. But it should definitely be lighting a fire under our asses.

My god (who doesn’t exist)!

I didn’t expect it, but it’s happening…Guatemala, of all places, might be joining the leftward trend in Latin America.

Rigoberta Menchu, indigenous leftist winner of the Nobel Peace Prize has entered into this September’s presidential race in an alliance with her new indigenous movement, Winaq (which is a Mayan word meaning the whole integrity of a person…or something close), and the center-left Encuentro Por Guatemala, which is headed by Nineth Montenegro, another famous activist, and I believe one of the founders of GAM (mutual aid group…a group of families of the disappeared). The press in Guatemala is all over the place in their comments about Rigoberta (an indigenous leftist woman running for president!), and most seem to think that she won’t win but that she might come in 2nd or third…but no one really knows.

The problem is that the front-runner is Alvaro Colom, a social democrat (center-left, more or less) who is something like 12 points ahead of second place Otto Perez Molina…who is a hard right ex-General (from the genocide days of the civil war) who’s campaign slogan is simply “firm hand.” Now with Rigoberta in, she’s going to be taking votes from Colom…which might end up just strengthening the ex-general to win in the second-round of voting. Boy I hope not.

My partner, Glendi, and I (that’s a long and beautiful story that I’ll tell you all soon enough!) actually saw Colom speak back in August of 2006. He wasn’t bad. But he’s not all that good either. She’s rooting for Colom. But I’m rooting for Rigoberta. Because if she wins, she’ll probably sign on to ALBA alongside Evo Morales, Carlos Ortega, Chavez, Castro, etc…and then Guatemala will get cheap oil, doctors, reading programs, etc…and those alliances are so important.

If Colom wins, maybe he’ll pursue similar alliances, but I’m not sure, because the right wing is already attacking him as a “Chavista” and he’s vigorously denying it.

This will be an interesting 6 months in Guatemala.

Nerd Stuff…

Need to bring some other parts of myself to this blog.  So with that, some nerd stuff:

-I have been spending about two hours a day lately playing a game called Star Chamber online.  (www.starchamber.net) It’s like a cross between a collectible card game (like Magic) and a board game…with a Star-Treky sci-fi theme.  It’s basically one of the greatest games I’ve ever played and I’m a total addict.  I’d love to play my friends on it, so maybe you should look into it.  It does cost a bit of money to get cards…but there is a strong player community that’ll give you tons of free cards.  They’ve given me hundreds.

-Recently read the sci-fi/woo-woo-fiction novel “The Fifth Sacred Thing,” and even with witchraft and magic and stuff I absolutely loved it.  It reminded me once again of the spirituality of my politics…and how so much of what I believe is rooted in a simple love for life and people and animals, even if I end up getting distracted by big-word theory sometimes.

-I love youtube.com  and I really have gotten into the fake tech-show called “infinite solutions.”  See if you like it.

-I also am a sucker for Saturday Night Live’s digital shorts…I love the newer “laser cats” ones.  When I was 8, my brother and I made a homemade “Aliens 3” that was almost exactly like those videos.

-I tell my friends that the movie “Children of Men” was a movie for people like us.  It’s the best movie I’ve paid $9 for in awhile.  Also Dreamgirls…loved it.  And I laughed more than I’ll admit at “Music and Lyrics” with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore (saw it with my parents, okay!)

There’s much more nerd stuff that I keep inside.  Maybe another day.

I think I’ve become so entranced with what has happened in Latin American electoral politics (that is, social movment oriented politicians actually winning power and making real changes…not always but sometimes…watch Ecuador…I like Correa way more than Chavez…he actually talks about sexism) that I fooled myself into thinking it could happen here anytime soon.  It won’t happen here, and certainly not with Obama…it seems that he’s mostly still bought into same old elite electoral system–read this:

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11936
(By the way, can someone contact me and tell me how to more elegantly add links in these posts?  I forget)

So, basically I will of course vote for him when the time comes, but I’m not going to get excited about him…at least not for now.

And I should probably cancel my registration and blog on my.barackobama.com

Seriously, what was I thinking.

So, Barack Obama…

I’m a sucker for people who talk about hope and cynicism, and for people who talk about transforming not just politics but the ways we do politics…and so, I’m sad to say that this anarchist, with all my critiques and understandings of the bankruptcy of U.S. politics, the ways that elites work to choose and exclude candidates, etc…with all that I’m still finding myself buying into the Barack Obama hype.

I go to the bookstore sometimes and find a quiet corner and skim through his book…not willing to commit the money to buy it so I just read bits and pieces. And, frankly, his politics aren’t that impressive, but his style is engaging. And that’s scary to me.

But his Iraq stance is good. He wants some kind of universal health care…but still in the end he’s just a politician, a liberal, etc.

Now, of course, there are all of the other analyses to be made regarding identity, and context, and history. The possible brutality of a national discourse in which a white woman will be pitted against a man of color, all of this stuff about whether Obama can claim blackness, etc. This shit is real, and it will be an essential part of the coming campaigns, even though it seems like Obama doesn’t want to talk about it. Other people will, and are. And over on Hillary’s side, she’s talking all of the time about her womanhood. But obviously the dynamics of sexism in this country play out very differently than the dynamics of racism.

Something about Obama, though, is that he’s not all fluff. This speech is what made me buy-in…

http://obama.senate.gov/podcast/060628-call_to_renewal_keynote/index.html

So we’ll see where all of this goes. I think it will end up being very ugly. Especially if Bush attacks Iran, then I think all of the discourse changes, since it seems all the democrats want to get tough with Iran, but when it ends up being a total disaster, I just think U.S. politics will get really ugly.

There is much more to say and explore, but some other time. I’d like to talk about Edwards and Obama and their supposed interest in the grassroots. I want to talk about the amazing change in mainstream media discourse in just two years, and the hope that brings to the left…and I want to talk about politics and presidencies outside of the U.S. Jose Bové running in France…Rigoberta Menchú running for president in Guatemala (wow!). Chávez in Venezuela. Correa in Ecuador. Evo in Bolivia…and Lopez Obrador claiming to be the legitimate president of Mexico. These are very, very interesting times.

More later…if I don’t get caught up once again in the self-doubt.

Yeah, so it’s been awhile and the funny thing is that the last time I wrote I said that I wanted to write more. But I didn’t end up doing it.

Why?

Well, basically because, as much as I want to write and express myself and explore ideas, etc, I’m just scared. I’m scared to write, and I always have been, for as long as I can remember.

For some reason, when I first started this blog while I was in Guatemala, I could write and write and write, and I didn’t really want to stop. But as soon as I got home, when I actually had MORE access to the internet and more free time, that is when everything froze.

What happened? Why did it take a LACK of access to the internet to get me to write, to actually share something of myself…and then when I’m in my normal life I clam up. I procrastinate. I just have so much anxiety and fear about so many things.

I think partly its because when I was away, I was distant from all of the forces in my life that keep me quiet. The people who I fear will judge me. The pressures that I feel on my time, etc.

I think also it is the affect of living the kind of consumerist lifestyle that I live. I am surrounded by distractions. I have so many other things to do besides be creative and expressive, and it seems that at nearly every opportunity, I choose to do those other things.

This makes me so sad, because really there is always so much interesting and beautiful stuff going on in my head that I would love to explore, and even share with whoever reads this, but it just doesn’t get out. But that’s also a part of it, as well. I get so overwhelmed by all of the things that I want to do, all at the same time, that I end up not doing anything.

I want this to change. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll do something or not. I guess we’ll all see, depening on future entries.

…And really, there is SO much that I want to be saying to all of you, to myself, right now.

Maybe someday.

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi