Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Rasberry Berets of The Revolution

The word genius shouldn't be tossed about as easily as it often is.
 It should come with a burden of proof.
I spent a week listening to nothing but Prince after I heard the news of his passing and I am convinced more than ever that Prince Rogers Nelson was a musical genius .
He produced, composed, band led, sang, danced,could play virtually any instrument, was insanely prolific and his guitar solos were incomparable . For starters.
It's taken a while to process his death and the truth is I don't think any one person is going to be able to unpack and measure the significance of The Purple One in his short but consequential time here.
This wasn't just the passing of a celebrity or a talented popular musician.
Prince was more than that.
If you grew up during Prince's ascendancy you saw someone who played with gender expression the way he played guitar. You heard music that, like Jazz, could only have been born from a black musician refusing to be dictated to, that wrote its own rules, that was emancipation in aural form.
If you paid attention to his argument with his record label, you saw a corporation claim it owned his given birth name-Prince -and you watched him expertly slip free by changing his name to a symbol and every music journalist suddenly needed a special font to write about him. He carved out cultural space to be free for a great many who had little to no space to exist freely and openly as themselves.
He was all that.
And a musical genius.
" I want freedom, the right to self expression , everyone's right to radiant beautiful things" wrote Emma Goldman in her autobiography discussing a moment where some fool had the temerity to tell her it was unbecoming for her or any revolutionary to be seen dancing.
Emma wasn't having that.
Emma would dance.
Emma would understand why Prince's band was called The Revolution .
Prince was anarchism expressed as art.
Self expression. Self determination. Self actualization.
Fuck you to corporate control and heteronormative gender expression.
Advancement of women artists. Unapologetically Black and beautiful and oneself.
A genius that refused to be contained or constrained.
He didn't need to fly a red and black flag.
He was Purple Rain.
A royal colour falling from the skies anointing us all as deserving of radiant beautiful things.
Onward comrades in our Rasberry Berets.
We are gathered here today to get through this thing called Life.


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

It Takes a Village

Miltary School.
Admit it. If you've ever raised or are in the process of raising teens so chronically problematic you have tried everything you can think of and are at your wits and emotions end, you've thought it.
It may have been a look to the skies or to your co-parent or something muttered half in jest, because you know, as a good lefty, that military school or private school are part of and perpetuate oppressive systems but...
Sometimes. Sometimes it's just too much and even though you'd never send your child away to have someone else do the heavy lifting that has exhausted you on so many levels, it's a tempting thought.
You wouldn't and you don't but damn child.
But what if...
What if there was an Anarcho Syndicalist School?
I mean, let's be honest- even if your child is perfectly darling and never a bother, the school system as it exists, while not being military school, is still problematic in a variety of ways and a lot of working class folks not only can't afford private school but can't afford home schooling either. 
So in order to get your kid education you have to put them in a system that is less designed to help students self actualize and more on molding them into cogs in the Big Machine.
But what if there were a place where working class folks could afford to send their kids to live in community and learn not only reading, writing and arithmetic but also to farm and raise food and to cook and learn recipes and engineer and build irrigation and sustainable power?
Think on that for a minute.
Think of visiting your kids on May Day or Labour Day long weekend at their school and eating food that they and their cohort, grew and prepared in community and solidarity. Think of being led around the grounds and shown the fruits of their labours as they beam with pride. Think about your kids learning a people's history of their country and not a conquerors tale. 
Think of your kids learning the history of labour and protest movements passed down through song and arts that they in turn learn to pass on.
Imagine such a place, where the school anthem is This Land is Your Land and every student knows every word of ALL the verses by heart.
Think of a place where teens natural aversion to authority gets to have an education in Anarchist theory and learn about the responsibility that comes with autonomy . How authority must meet a
burden of proof, but if you wish authority over yourself that how for you too. Where kids aren't taught to obey The Rules but to have a moral compass so they know which rules to defy and which to hold fast. A place where children learn about consent and choice. 
Imagine a place where a village of educators and mentors and coaches raise a village of honest to goodness citizens.
Take a moment and think about it.
A place as magical as Hogwarts and way more practical .
Kids would come home at certain times of year and parents would visit, but the children would learn to live in community and solidarity with each other.
Imagine that.
Heck, while we're imagining such things, imagine that the way such a place is affordable to working
people is that the parents contribute skills and labour in trade.That'd not only make it affordable to
more folks it'd mean that you could see your kids while lending your talents to the place.
We live in an age where there are no end of specialty summer camps, and prep schools and of course the cliche military school that some folks sometimes joke about.
But what if enough of the right people came together to create such a place?
A place where a village that we contributed to raised our children into socially conscious and conscientious citizens. 
The next time your teen has you needing to think about your Happy Place so you can calm down, remember you love them and do The Work of raising a decent person who not only isn't harmed by this world but who doesn't harm others as well, think about such a place.
Don't think Miltary School.
Think Anarcho Syndicalist Academy.
Think about what it would take to manifest it.
Start talking with those who you think might be a part of making it happen.
If every time a teen frustrates a parent to distraction that parent takes a moment to contemplate how
we get there we'll get there .
Believe me. This whole idea happened because me and the father of the two children I'll one day be step dad to, had a Miltary School Moment. And in a moment of pause...
Hey. What if...
Because the truth is we love the kids given to us to raise. No matter how tiring the work can be at  times. To raise kids, is to want a better future for them and in raising them we help shape what that
future will be.
Raising kids well is a revolutionary act. Instead of warehousing our kids in any of the available options what a thing it would be if we took home schooling to a community sized level.
I don't pretend to have the whole idea fully formed here.
But I'm putting it out there so folks can think and converse about it.
It takes a village.

Monday, 7 March 2016

More Equal

"If I had understood the situation a bit better I should probably have joined the Anarchists." George Orwell - Collected Essays

The name of this blog and my pen name come from Orwell's Animal Farm. Snowball is one of the pigs who lead the revolution, but who is later purged from the farm by the dogs trained by the pig Napoleon to attack. Napoleon and Snowball both sought to overthrow the farmer but Napoleon wants to center the power around himself and a handful of pigs. Snowball is earnestly trying to forge a place where all animals are equals. We never learn of Snowball's fate. We know the dogs chase him off and maybe he is killed and maybe he isn't . History is rewritten by Napoleon to portray Snowball not as a hero of the revolution and one of the founders of Animal Farm -which he was-but as a vile traitor who needed to go for the good of all. I choose to believe that Snowball got away and never stopped fighting the good fight for all creatures great and small.

Orwell comes to mind a lot lately as I look at the 2016 American Presidential Race. Pundits are often looking at it through lenses that fail to capture the biggest element going on. They talk about the usual demographics but that's like talking about Animal Farm and breaking down how the sheep versus the ducks felt as the point instead of seeing that the bigger point was insurgency and Revolution. Yes, it's important to look at how the various animals acted-but you gotta keep yer eyes on that big issue.

And Insurgency is the big issue in American politics right now. The GOP has all but been completely taken over by a fascist insurgency. And it's not just Trump and his supporters. Cruz is the only candidate that has any hope of catching him as of this writing, and he's simply a theocratic strain of the same . The Republicans have themselves to blame for this. They empowered and mainstreamed their most radical elements hoping it would help their establishment regain power , and it's backfired. The GOP establishment doesn't have its monster on a leash anymore and doesn't know what if anything can be done. 

Meanwhile the Democratic Party faces an insurgency of its own. And pundits are talking about how  
Clinton is doing better with The Black Vote as if it's a monolithic thing. Clinton did well in southern primaries not because of the Black Vote, but because of the black democratic establishment vote in the South. That's a powerful political machine and Clinton as the establishment candidate tapped into it. But to portray that as Sanders failing to connect with black voters misses the mark. 

Angela Davis is a pretty damn Black Vote and she supports Sanders. Killer Mike is a hip hop artist of some note and owns a black barbershop -pretty black vote- and he's a Sanders surrogate. Sanders has the activist vote. And they are a different political entity.  But they are no less Black. The most prominent activist organization in America right now is Black Lives Matter. And when Sanders was confronted by them , he gave them the mic and he listened. When Clinton was confronted by them , she was condescending and dismissive . Telling one young black woman that she'd talk to her later and had her taken away by security. In the other case told the woman " well why don't you go run for something then"

Because Clinton and her camp are establishment . They won't meet with you unless you are part of an establishment political machine. An elected official or someone with access and command of the southern black churches ability to mobilize voters. Sanders was an activist. He not only marched with Dr. King, he chained himself to a black woman protesting segregation. He got arrested. During this time Clinton was a Goldwater Girl. Goldwater wanted to shred the voting rights act.

Poor people, people of colour, indigenous people, queers, the disabled and other marginalized groups are by definition outside the establishment. and because of a gutted voting rights act, voter suppression laws, systemic and institutional barriers to access political power they frequently are left to choose between lip service and crumbs from the establishment or to protest and exercise their constitutional right to petition for
a redress of grievances. The Sanders candidacy is about all those disenfranchised folks finally getting tired of being told " later" or " why don't you go run for something then". They are coming together in solidarity and trying to take control.

The Sanders campaign isn't just about Bernie for President. It's an act of activism.

But the DNC is fighting it. As one would expect the establishment to do. And with better tools and success. But that's a problem.

America is at a place where a fascist could take power at the head of a populist anti establishment insurgency if they ran against someone who comes across as condescending and contemptuous of rank and file citizens who disagree or challenge her sense of entitlement. Hillary could lose to Trump or Cruz. 

That's a real and frightening possibility.

But the hubris of the Democratic Establishment is such that it's not one they are taking seriously. They don't think any Democrat could lose to any GOP candidate, for the same reason there are those in the GOP who think they can stop Trump with a candidate they prefer. They are so used to Power being theirs alone to control, they are at a loss when faced with the power of uprisings that pose real threats. The GOP establishment are stunned that Trump has taken over their party despite having paved the way. The Democratic Party would be equally if not more stunned to lose a general election to a Trump because of their own hubris induced blind spots.

And this is the face of Privilege. Both Democratic and Republican. Let's just keep doing things as we have they say. Maybe make a few adjustments they say. Trust us, they say. But they don't want to be made too uncomfortable. All too often we wanna believe that its only the violent squashing of dissent or protest we need concern ourselves about. Its the Trump rallies that are the obvious concern. But Hillary having security remove someone calling her out on her shit and her supporters galled at a young black woman in America having the temerity to challenge the rich white lady about her words and deeds impact on communities of colour is just more polite racism.
That's what Privilege does. It protects itself. Solidarity sees it's struggle as linked to another's and chains itself to them. Fascism promises that if you go beat up Those People you'll be taken care of.

America isn't just choosing a president this time. It's being given a fundamental choice about its nation's soul and direction. Fascism,Privilege or Solidarity.

Are all animals created equal or are some more equal than others ?