Thursday, December 27, 2012

Depression and Suicide Amongst Radicals and Anarchists

"Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes." — William Gibson.
The Problem of Suicide: You Are Not Alone

As the survivor of an arduous suicide attempt I've subsequently come to contemplate this subject a bit more than most.  Throughout the years I've seen friends, family, and loved-ones take their own lives.  Each time I hear of another suicide I am reminded not only of my own attempt, but also the attempts by those I've known.  To be perfectly honest... my response is probably indicative of some PTSD.  But I'm more than a decade removed from my major depressive episode and I feel that the subject of depression and suicide ought now be addressed.

It should be pointed out that suicide is now a leading cause of death in the United States.  Amongst the young adults it ranks as the second or third leading cause of death (depending upon the specific age range examined).  In other segments of populations around the world  it is also a primary cause of death.  Economic factors seem overtly connected with suicide in many nationsCertain professions have a higher rate of suicide than others.  And, for U.S. soldiers, suicide has proven to be more deadly to them than combat.  This problem of suicide could accurately be described as a public heath crisis or an epidemic.    

While a variety of factors contribute to individual instances of suicide and the overall suicide rate, I believe that progressive radicals, anarchists, and social justice activists have somewhat unique psychological factors that can also come into play.  Although they are probably just as likely to suffer from problems like social isolation or drug dependency,  I believe that those who are informed about the myriad of crises that humanity currently faces are given an extra punctuation in terms of reasons to be dismayed.  So, in addition to any personal problems they may have, they are also aware that the world seems to be going to hell in a proverbial handbasket.  And while I personally believe that's a fairly accurate assessment of things, I don't advocate suicide as a response to this reality. 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Stimulator, host of "It's the End of the World as We know it and I feel FINE," will be doing an AMA Monday.

That's right slaves!  The Stimulator, host of the most rad talk show on the interwebs, "It's the End of the World as We know it and I feel FINE," will be answering your questions in /r/AnarchistNews on the morning of Monday, December 3rd, 2012, at 8am Central Time. 

If you're unfamiliar with the Stimulator's work, you can find episodes of the motherfuckin' show at SUBMEDIA.TV and can you watch his excellent documentary, END:CIV, here

So... get your questions ready now!  YOU KNOW he's got to have an excellent recipe for tacos!  And what's up with the "motherfuckin' tar sands?"  Where does he get all that top-notch riot porn?!  

Here's the link to the announcement on r/AnarchistNews:

Friday, November 16, 2012

What happened to the Long Haul & Slingshot?

A few years back I spent some time in the San Franscisco Bay area and had the privilege of hanging out at the Long Haul infoshop located in Berkeley, California. The infoshop hosted discussions about various radical topics and had a large library and meeting space where meals were occasionally served. Zines, books, and novel t-shirts were sold there to help make ends meet. And, of course, the Slingshot newspaper was published there along with the Slingshot organizer (which is distributed broadly at many other infoshops and independent bookstores). And, I'm sure, many of the things I've described still take place there.

However, it should be noted that the tone, tenor, and direction of the space (and particularly its publication) has undoubtedly fluctuated somewhat over the years. This is to be expected of such a public institution (as the prominent issues of the day change and those involved with the space come and go – bringing and taking various qualities or points of focus). And, when the space was raided in 2008, that undoubtedly shook things up. Since that incident... I imagine a certain hard-core has probably stayed away from the infoshop while undercover operatives have possibly filled the void or, at the very least, continued their presence. In any case, a tamer crowd has probably comprised more of the community since the raid.

With those things in mind, I'd like to make at clear that it is not my intention here to outright condemn the Long Haul. It may still be serving as very valuable resource within the broader anarchist milieu. But I must express my general disappointment with the latest issue of Slingshot (issue #111, Autumn 2012). And, with that disappointment, I must wonder who is hanging out at the Long Haul and what the community surrounding the space is like these days.

Friday, September 28, 2012

GLOBAL EDUCATION STRIKE Oct.18th & Nov.14-22nd, 2012

More information about this can be found here:

Not sure what to make of all this, but it seems to be pretty cut and dry. It also seems to be void of the typical partisan politics associated with many protests. Also... this protest movement seems to have legs -- with many students around the world already actively organizing and protesting around these issues. I suspect that this may grow into a more comprehensive protest against the overall system and could likely lead to an international general strike.

Also, if you are interested in the issues surrounding a growing international student movement, you may appreciate the following article which deals with many of the subjects at hand: Values of a College Education.  Although it focuses particularly on the university system within the United States, those of you in other countries may find it relevant to your situation as well.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sexual Politics: Obfuscated and Dismissed (A Follow-Up)

It turns out that my article about sexuality was not well-received. To some extent this was expected. And I knew it would be criticized by those on all sides with a position about sexuality. I was hoping it would also spur some constructive dialogue, but this wasn't really the case. Instead, the article was criticized for reasons I wouldn't have expected. Both the proponents of “men's rights,” and one apparent feminist, offered criticism that really didn't address the underlying points I was trying to make in the article.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Iran & Occupy Wall Street

The president of Iran, according to a recent report, wants to meet with the proponents of Occupy Wall Street. This meeting will occur as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad goes on a media tour during his visit in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

In a sense this is an understandable political move because such a meeting with American activists will give him an opportunity to highlight discontent within the United States. On the other hand... it seems as if Ahmadinejad may not understand the Occupy movement any better than American politicians. Who exactly would he plan on meeting with? Occupy Wall Street has never had any centralized leadership and having a hundred members of that movement asking him questions or having a dialogue with him would really not be representative of that movement as a whole. This is even assuming the particular occupiers he meets with are not somehow screened in advance for the purpose of political theater.

Occupy Wall Street was largely initiated by anarchists and with anarchistic principles. To a large extent the movement remains anarchistic despite being watered down with milquetoast liberals and Ron Paul fanboys. So what in the world could the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran expect to find in common with such a movement? The corruption of Wall Street and the U.S. government does not at all suggest that the movement is on the same side as, or in favor of, a repressive theocratic government. And let's face reality... if this sort of movement had manifested in Iran it would have been attacked by the government of that land, and it's media, just as the movement was attacked by the U.S. government and it's media. Quite arguably the attacks on such a movement would have been worse in Iran. Also, certainly, the participation of women would have served as extra motivation to crack down on this movement if it had manifested in Iran.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Repressed & Oppressive Sexuality of Modern Society

I try to stay informed about modern feminist theory. And I do actually consider myself a feminist – much to the chagrin of some online acquaintances who consider themselves part of the “men's rights” movement. But I'm not big on the Andrea Dworkin school of thought and I'm quite sure that most feminists don't actually believe that all men are latent rapists who should be castrated at birth. Nor do I believe that everyone in the growing “men's rights” movement is a hate-filled misogynist. Still, it is fairly clear that there are a lot of hateful people who unfortunately identify with both movements.

My goal in writing this isn't optimistic enough to believe that we can somehow repair all of the damaged people who have redirected their pain into the avenues of sexist hate and oppressive practices, but I think this is a subject worthy of attention. And, while I'll try now to offer some frank comments on a complex and difficult subject, I realize that I live in a repressed culture and probably will have some points of contention with other good-willed people who also grew up in a repressed culture. Nevertheless... I do hope that I can offer up some subtle and pertinent points which may often be overlooked in typical discussions about sexuality.

The following critique largely will center around monogamous hetero-normative relationships as they are traditionally perceived. This is not intended to deny or dismiss the existence of other types of relationships, sexual or otherwise, but is rather intended to demonstrate what is commonly presented as “normal” in modern society and how that standardized normality undermines modern society.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Media's Spin On Anarchists

There has recently been a growing and disturbing trend whereby right-wing idealogues, organizations, and terrorists have been presented in the media as being “anti-government” or even anarchists. This effectively serves to confuse the public about the philosophy of anarchism and what anarchists actually stand for. And this practice will, undoubtedly, have negative consequences for actual anarchist communities.

This inaccurate media portrayal of right wing extremists really caught my attention after the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin – when Amy Goodman subsequently interviewed a former DHS analyst on the subject of “right-wing extremists.” In that interview her guest dismissed the idea that Timothy McVeigh was a racist and no mention of his Christian fundamentalism was put forward. He was described primarily as being involved with “anti-government” militias. This despite the fact that McVeigh constantly praised the Turner Diaries (a novel that romanticizes a race war), which he sold below cost at gun shows, and despite the fact that he was associated with the fundamentalist Christian Identity movement. And, actually, McVeigh was not really anti-government. Rather, he was merely opposed to certain aspects of the government currently in charge. So, while I am a frequent member of DemocracyNow's audience, I think Ms.Goodman dropped the ball in this particular interview and should have been a little more challenging with her questions.

More to the point along these lines... a prominent headline in the news recently has been about a supposed “anarchist” cell within the U.S. military which was allegedly planning to carry out political assassinations, blow up dams, and poison Washington state's apple orchards. However, despite numerous headline's referring to them as “anarchists,” when one looked a little deeper it was discovered that these "anarchists" were actually just “true patriots” who were essentially looking to take the country back. Later it was revealed that the alleged ringleader of the group was an usher at the RNC in 2008. Like McVeigh, this group seems to be comprised of fairly typical right-wing militants – who are not really "anti-government" and certainly not anarchists.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The System Currently In Place

The CEO of a prominent group promoting the manifestation of a technological singularity, Luke Muehlhauser from the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, recently came out with a very surprising statement regarding the dangers which would accompany the creation of artificial super-intelligence:

“Unfortunately, the singularity may not be what you're hoping for. By default the singularity (intelligence explosion) will go very badly for humans, because what humans want is a very, very specific set of things in the vast space of possible motivations, and it's very hard to translate what we want into sufficiently precise math, so by default superhuman AIs will end up optimizing the world around us for something other than what we want, and using up all our resources to do so.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the technological singularity... it has to do (generally speaking) with programming a thinking computer that initially has the same cognitive abilities as a human being. Due to computers regularly becoming able to process evermore information faster, in a very short time, after a computer achieved a human level of intellect, it would, conceivably, surpass that level – arguably in the next moment and almost certainly within the next few years. What would start with a computer being able to pass a Turing test (basically being able to fool human observers as to whether or not they were having a dialogue with a human or a computer) would then shortly be followed by a type of self-consciousness machine that would intellectually be capable of manipulating humans and taking human rationality to its furthest degree.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Forsaken By Adbusters (My response to that magazine's recent call for submissions.)

I have a long-standing love-hate relationship with Adbusters. Of course, while I've generally been a promoter and defender of that publication... the editorial staff has only deemed one simple letter worthy of publication out of of the many things I've submitted over the years. Now, I realize that my various submissions may have gotten lost in the shuffle, and I know that my work could sometimes use some refinement and editing. But aside from the instance surrounding that single letter... I've never merited a single word of encouragement from the editors. Hardly a pitiable sob story so far, I know, but please hear me out for just one more paragraph while I elaborate on the subtleties of this relationship as I see it.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Don't Go?! Get Real.

The Mifflin Street Block Party has become a right of passage for many students at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Think what you may of it, it's a persistent event and has proceeded annually on the first Saturday in May since the 1960's. Although attempts have been made by the city and business interests to co-opt it, it will continue to take place with or without sanction.

The party had its origins in the sixties as an anti-war protest against the school's complicity with the military-industrial complex -- particularly in regard to the Dow Chemical corporation which was recruiting students to make napalm and agent orange. Additionally, the event became a dance party in the streets to show solidarity with the rebellion in France in '68. Police responded violently to the party, as is their wont, and the students fought back. This is undoubtedly part of the reason why Madison earned the reputation as being the "Berkeley of the midwest." 

As the party continued to manifest annually, thanks to the rebellious spirit of youthful students, it continued to have political messages tied with it. For example, in 1984, a commemorative t-shirt design was opposed to U.S. involvement with Nicaragua. And, of course, this was fitting for an event such as this one in a progressive city such as Madison. 

However, over the years, the authorities have attempted to co-opt the party. The city has given tenuous approval (of an event it couldn't stop) and businesses have been allowed to set up stages and push corporate booze. It might even be argued that the city and the university has encouraged drunkenness and apolitical revelry at this event. This is effectively what has happened (by design or not).

What A Nightmare!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An Open Letter To Derrick Jensen

Dear DJ,

I hope you don't mind me addressing you by your initials because that has simply become a habit of mine over the years as I've spammed links to your articles and videos all over the internet. Indeed, you have often given voice to certain issues in a way that is very much appreciated. For that, I must thank you.

However... I am inclined to write this letter, and make it public, because I don't feel you adequately address criticism from those of us who share many of your concerns and much of your perspective. I can understand this lack of a response in psychological terms because no one likes to be criticized. Nevertheless, I feel that honestly acknowledging such criticism could be beneficial to expanding the discussion about the issues and ideas you champion. As I don't have much faith in getting a response from you on any public forums, and because my time during any Q & A period would undoubtedly be limited, I've chosen to present my criticism and questions thusly.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Racist Murderers In The United States Of America

The tragedy of Trayvon Martin cannot be understated.  An innocent young man was shot down for, apparently, little reason other than the color of his skin.  This was a terrible sort of event which continues to be repeated in the United States and in other parts of the world.  Race-based violence is, unquestionably, one of the most odious aspects of daily life in many places.  If society is to truly advance in any meaningful way... this is something which must be adequately addressed. 

But there is something about this specific case which strikes me as peculiar.  I find it interesting that the highest elected government officials have joined the chorus in calling for justice regarding this incident.  Of all potential cases to capture the imagination, I find this one to be relatively arbitrary in its uniqueness.  Young men of color are being shot down every day in modern America and, as horribly tragic and unfortunate as this particular instance was, it just personally doesn't shock me any more than many other cases.  What is it about this case that's captured the attention of the media and government officials?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Trust and Relationships

Our willingness to express our hopes and fears is matched by the proportional likelihood that we will be manipulated and exploited accordingly.  This isn't to say specifically how often the latter will happen when we open up, but people are undoubtedly manipulated along these lines by those they've trusted.  The breakdown of the family in modern America suggests a limitation of unconditional love and almost everyone has witnessed basic betrayals of trust.  Many of us have, consequently, become more guarded when establishing relationships.  Our subsequent lack of openness further impedes our ability to form various forms of relationships and this, in turn, creates a negative feedback loop based upon the fact that we know information is being withheld from us -- which causes us to be more suspicious of others and, therefore, emotionally guarded and distant.  
Politically, when the realities of surveillance and opportunistic maliciousness are added, issues of trust and healthy relationships are complicated further.  We have a difficult time simply establishing basic personal relationships, but establishing trusted political alliances can be far more daunting.  It's possible to get lucky in terms of love or affinity groups, but it would be better if luck were less of a necessary factor in these regards.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Folly of Christopher Hedges

Often, when describing the inevitable scenes of major protests in the United States, I evoke the image of a person who has lost a brother in Iraq, a person who has also lost a sister to the trumped up drug war, whose father had his job outsourced, whose mother had her pension gambled away by speculators, whose grandmother lost her home of 50 years because she missed a mortgage payment, and whose grandfather died of industrial poisoning and couldn't afford health care. And make no mistake... variants of such individuals readily exist. So when such a person understandably shows up to protest the corporate oligarchy at a G8 meeting (or the national conventions of the corporate parties), they aren't there to sing kumbaya, march along a permitted path, or have their head cracked by the brutal police. And if they get so angry that they throw a brick through a bank window... I will be the last person to condemn them.

I'm not giving the condescending approval of a social worker who understands some flawed psychology behind such actions... I'm suggesting that such rowdiness is perfectly human, rational, and even inspiring. I'm not suggesting that any particular individual at any particular event engage in such actions, but I fully understand some of the motivation behind such actions and wouldn't condemn an individual engaging in them. And I don't feel that condemnation or further punishment of such individuals is beneficial to society. On the contrary, such individuals may likely prove to be on the cutting edge of actual change in this country.

Enter Chris Hedges and the privileged leftist elite trying to pacify and reign in the righteous indignation of many abused Americans. As in his latest article, they primarily prescribe as a method for social change... accepting more punishment and self-sacrifice. But that's easier to suggest for some than others. And why must they so often be quick to condemn those who aren't willing to take anymore punishment? I'd suggest this reflects a shallow understanding of the true pain already administered to so many people and the sacrifices they've already made.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Politics of Internet Censorship: A Technological Critique

First of all, I just want to point out that the recent protests and other actions in relation to the issue of SOPA/PIPA (bolstered by varying degrees of blackouts on websites like Reddit, Wikipedia, and Google) quite likely amounted to the most politically active day in the history of the world -- in terms of people discussing legislation, issues of free speech, and governmental corruption. Furthermore, we are quite likely to see evermore people championing the cause of free speech (and challenging legal restrictions upon it through loopholes like copyright and trademark). These are very hopeful developments.

However, what I find particularly noteworthy is the kind of information that the government is looking to restrict... namely, access to art. On it's face, there are specious arguments about protecting artists and the profits of the movie and recording industry. These arguments have already been thoroughly dismantled by others -- in terms of artists thriving because of their works being spread and because artists created and thrived before any copyright laws existed. But the underlying issue isn't really about protecting artists -- or even corporatized industries profiting off of them. Rather, I feel, the issue is about the plain censorship of political dissent.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

There is a difference between a declaration of martial law and a draconian crackdown...

I would like to challenge everyone to examine more closely what martial law actually is, and then... consider what has effectively been declared with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 -- especially when taken together with previous legislation like the Patriot Act.  I won't condescend to explain here what the NDAA or the Patriot Act is (follow the links), but I'd really like people to take a moment for consideration about the implications of this growing body of overtly authoritarian, and even totalitarian, legislation.  While most cities and towns don't have tanks rolling through their streets every day, and while curfews are rare, I'd suggest that there are more subtle factors to martial law than these things.  Additionally, while a widespread crackdown and purge of assorted "radicals" hasn't occurred yet, I'd like to point out that the legislation in question allows, and paves the way, for precisely that.  This legislation is, effectively, a declaration of Martial law by the U.S. government.  While arguably few people have been subjected to the worst effects of this legislation, the declaration has been made and many people are, basically and technically, existing in violation of current U.S. law.  If you are living within the borders of the United States of America, you are living under martial law at this very moment. 

Finally, while I don't want to argue too much about definitions... the U.S. has more prisoners per capita (and in total numbers) than any other nation on Earth.  Wiretapping and other broad surveillance measures have been codified by the state.  American citizens can now be arrested by the military, detained, and imprisoned indefinitely without the right to a trial.  All of this amounts to the very definition of a totalitarian police state.