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Achieving Self-Governance

By Seth Sandronsky
Earth Island Journal
Spring 2017


We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States by Thomas Linzey and Anneke Campbell reveals what is at stake in governance struggles playing out across the country. Who are those taking on the corporate entities seeking dominance over people and nature? And how are they doing it?

Answers unfold in seven crisp chapters as the authors delve into the growing community rights movement in the United States. They draw powerful portraits of communities that have faced threats from environmentally destructive corporate projects and responded by passing local legislation to ban them. As I see it, the community activists featured in the book prefigure the water protectors opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock in North Dakota. Like the water protectors, they are coalescing around issues that affect their daily lives to push for policies and politics that advance human and environmental well-being rather than corporate profits.

The under-reported stories in the volume flesh out how a fledgling democracy movement is shaping up. Linzey and Campbell deliver a David versus Goliath narrative of a clash between people and corporations. The latter are “persons” under the law, legal fictions with the “right” to destroy nature. The current climate emergency is a leading example of the results. Thanks ExxonMobil!

Much is at stake in this movement to change that current arrangement and replace it with self-governance. From Pennsylvania to Oregon and points in between, the authors introduce us to ordinary people organizing and confronting the “complex layering of laws” that removes the rights of nature and living human beings and allows corporate entities to do business in enviornmentally damaging activites like hydraulic fracking, mining, waste-dumping, and factory farming. These communities have recognized that the law has “legalized” the damaging actions of corporations, while providing no recourse against harm. So now they are fashioning a new system that makes local control legal.

We meet activist Cathy Miorelli, a nurse and elected official in Pennsylvania’s Tamaqua borough, who, along with her community allies, faces lawsuits from companies that spew pollutants from coal burning power plants as she works for home-rule to replace corporate rule.

In Pittsburgh, activists joined forces to pass an ordinance banning natural gas drilling and elevating the rights of ecosystems and nature, becoming the first major American municipality to achieve that. To wit, “The Pittsburgh law contains provisions that eliminate corporate ‘personhood’ rights within the city for corporations seeking to drill,” the authors write.
This growing community-rights movement is more than a temporary mobilization to vote for a candidate or a ballot measure. In fact, the stirring stories of citizens organizing and mobilizing suggest the rise of a systemic, dare I say, revolutionary, movement to achieve popular sovereignty over quality of life and public health issues such as clean air, land, and water.

The grassroots process of humanizing what author Noam Chomsky calls our “corporate-run and propaganda managed democracy” is an arduous task. It involves people learning to develop structures of self-governance that weaken the prevailing economics and politics of the bottom line. Witnessing what happens when people depart their comfort zones to say “no!” to predatory businesses, when working families fend off attacks on their community from corporate actors and their political cronies, can be incredibly inspiring.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, run by Linzey, plays a central role in the book. Its Democracy School aids citizens in city halls, town meetings, public hearings, and courtrooms. Workshops attract groups such as Black Lives Matter and the United Auto Workers. The fruits of this shared labor, which features community charters and ordinances of self-government, take up an appendix. This is the real deal, folks.

Make no mistake. We the People details a class conflict over the definition of democracy, with elected officials representing the interests of corporate entities against people striving for a system of self-government. It’s an uphill battle, but a winnable one.


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Romantic Rationalist: A William Godwin Reader: A Review

By Christopher Scott Thompson
Gods & Radicals: A Site of Beautiful Resistance
February 23rd, 2017

Romantic Rationalist: A William Godwin Reader, edited and introduced by Peter Marshall, is a brief but wide-ranging introduction to the writings of a man who is often considered the founder of anarchism. William Godwin (1756–1836) was the first major philosopher to propose a decentralized directly-democratic society made up of small self-governing communities, and he also anticipated several of the major arguments of later radicals such as Marx and Kropotkin on issues such as private property and the labor theory of value.

If you’re interested in the classical anarchist philosophers but you don’t know where to start, you could definitely do worse than this collection of short passages drawn from Godwin’s works. Unlike Bakunin and Kropotkin, who can be difficult to read because of their frequent references to events and conditions that are no longer current, Godwin expressed himself in general principles. This gives his ideas a clarity and directness often lacking in other works. Here’s his argument against the benefits of government:

The most desirable condition of the human species is a state of society.
The injustice and violence of men in a state of society produced the demand for government.
Government, as it was forced upon mankind by their vices, so has it commonly been the creature of their ignorance and mistake.
Government was intended to suppress injustice, but it offers new occasions and temptations for the commission of it.
By concentrating the force of the community, it gives occasion to wild projects of calamity, to oppression, despotism, war and conquest.
By perpetuating and aggravating the inequality of property, it fosters many injurious passions, and excites men to the practice of robbery and fraud.
Government was intended to suppress injustice, but its effect has been to embody and perpetuate it. (Pages 48-49)
Despite his radical philosophy, Godwin was not a revolutionary like Bakunin or Kropotkin. He believed that society would steadily improve through rational discussion and calm debate, eventually leading to the abolition of the State without revolutionary violence. Many anarchists will see this as a flaw in his analysis, because Godwin’s approach would force millions and millions of people to suffer patiently for generations under tyrannical rule in the naïve hope that reason must eventually prevail. Despite this flaw, I find Godwin’s calm approach much more accessible and humane than Bakunin’s fiery apocalyptic pronouncements. Godwin may also have more to offer pagan anarchists, because major elements of his philosophy are drawn from the ancient pagan thinkers.

Bakunin was not only an atheist, but a militant materialist and anti-theist. Godwin was officially an atheist too, but in a much more nuanced way. He was an “immaterialist” or idealist, believing matter to be a function of mind rather than the other way around. This unusual viewpoint is most often found among Platonists, and it tends to lead to the vague non-anthropomorphic theism which Godwin apparently adopted in later life. He was also fascinated with the occult, and wrote a Lives of the Necromancers which has probably not been read by very many anarchists.

The influence of pagan philosophy on Godwin is less obvious, but anyone familiar with Epicurus and Epictetus will easily recognize the ideas of these bitterly opposed ancient thinkers in Godwin’s writings. For example, Godwin tells us:

The true object of moral and political disquisition, is pleasure or happiness.
The primary, or earliest, class of human pleasures is the pleasures of the external senses.
In addition to these, man is susceptible of certain secondary pleasures, as the pleasures of intellectual feeling, the pleasures of sympathy, and the pleasures of self-approbation.
The secondary pleasures are probably more exquisite than the primary… (Romantic Rationalist, page 48) 

This is nothing other than the core doctrine of ancient Epicureanism. The Stoics, enemies of the Epicureans, accused them of decadence and hedonism because they based their ethics on human pleasure. The Epicureans countered that the highest pleasures were friendship and stimulating conversation, and therefore the true Epicurean was not so much a hedonist as a person who knew how to throw a really great dinner party.

Godwin also tells us:

Justice requires that I should put myself in the place of an impartial spectator of human concerns, and divest myself of retrospect to my own predilections… Duty is that mode of action which constitutes the best application of the capacity of the individual to the general advantage… The voluntary actions of men are under the direction of their feelings.
Reason is not an independent principle, and has no tendency to excite us to action; in a practical view, it is merely a comparison and balancing of different feelings.
Reason, though it cannot excite us to action, is calculated to regulate our conduct, according to the comparative worth it ascribes to different excitements.
It is to the improvement of reason therefore that we are to look for the improvement of our social condition. (Romantic Rationalist, pages 49-50)  

Godwin’s claim that reason is “a comparison and balancing of different feelings” is an original contribution (and a convincing one). Everything else in this argument is simply a paraphrase of the core argument of ancient Stoicism: justice is the highest good; reason is the uniquely human capacity to choose between rival claims on our judgment; we can best improve society by making our reason the cornerstone of all our decision-making.

The Stoics would defy authority rather than obey an unjust order, but in practice they tended to be politically conservative. The Epicureans were also a lot more likely to be found hosting dinner parties than putting up barricades. Yet Godwin somehow synthesized these opposing philosophies from the ancient pagan world to produce modern anarchism. If the whole point of society is to improve and increase human happiness and if this is best achieved when we allow our reason to regulate all our actions, then the greatest mistake any society can make is to interfere with the free exercise of our autonomous judgment and thus interfere with the general happiness. Thus, all systems of government are both oppressive and inefficient. Godwin may well have been overly optimistic about the power of reason, but his synthesis of pagan philosophies produced a vision that remains inspiring: a society of equality, dignity and autonomy.

Romantic Rationalist
includes passages from Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice as well as his novels and other writings. The passages are organized into chapters (such as “Ethics,” and “Politics”) and themes (such as “Duty” and “Rights”) to make it easier to find Godwin’s thoughts on any particular topic. Editor Peter Marshall is the author of Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, which is a comprehensive if not massive work. At under 200 pages, Romantic Rationalist is a less intimidating way to dip your toes in the deep waters of anarchist thought.

Christopher Scott Thompson

Christopher Scott Thompson became a pagan at age 12, inspired by books of mythology and the experience of homesteading in rural Maine. A devotee of the Celtic goddesses Brighid and Macha, Thompson has been active in the pagan and polytheist communities as an author, activist and founding member of Clann Bhride (The Children of Brighid). Thompson was active in Occupy Minnesota and is currently a member of the Workers’ Solidarity Alliance, an anarcho-syndicalist organization. He is also the founder of the Cateran Society, an organization that studies the historical martial art of the Highland broadsword.

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Demanding the Impossible: A Review

Ground Control  Magazine
I Wanna Be Literated #144
February 22nd, 2017

Demanding the Impossible has been on my to-read list ever since I saw its cover with a Noam Chomsky quote on the book racks at Powell’s. However, this is one hefty book and I didn’t want to tackle it until I knew I was mentally prepared. I’m glad I braced myself because Demanding the Impossible is thorough to say the least.

I’ve read a good amount of anarchist literature and have been interested in its history and theories over the years. I still can’t quite decide whether I should have read this book at the beginning of this journey because Demanding the Impossible does an impeccable job of summarizing the history of anarchism, its most important contributors, their theories and what advances the movement has made over the years. It might have improved my understanding later on if I had used this book as a crash course.

Starting with the Taoist movement many centuries ago, Peter Marshall elegantly takes us through the different political movements that have adopted anarchist ideas. Demanding the Impossible discusses the forerunners of anarchism that were prevalent in old Asian, Greek, Christian and European societies, then touches on the old libertarian thinkers who had an anarchist slant in their beliefs, followed by the more prominent thinkers. Throughout, Marshall displays an expertise for their philosophy and gets at the core of what their ideas were. At the end, Marshall focuses on the trends worldwide and movements that have claimed anarchist principles, like the Mexican revolution, the Spanish civil war, the 1968 protest in France, and more recent events. Regretfully, this book was not updated in time to include the Occupy movement.

Having read most of these authors before, I can tell Marshall is doing a lot of the heavy work for us in trying to understand what some of them were trying to get at. A lot this source material is dry, convoluted, and very difficult to read and having someone like Marshall extract its meaning for a general audience is vital. What’s also important is how Marshall shows us the complete picture of the philosophers, warts and all. So for example, he makes it a point to talk about Proudhon’s patriarchy and anti-Semitism, Bakunin’s contradictions in stressing the importance of a secret police, Kropotkin’s support of the war and imperialist powers, Goldman’s jealousy in open relationships, and Bookchin’s reversion to Marxism towards the end of his life.

This may sound like nitpicking, but it’s important to remember that these representatives of freedom had flaws themselves. I cannot stress it enough: this book is thorough and well put together.

Many more Anarchist anthologies will be written and undoubtedly the day will come when this book will be obsolete, but that won’t happen for a very long time. Demanding the Impossible is simply exhaustive and Peter Marshall has done an incredible job. Every historian will have to reckon with it.

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Entscheidend ist die Besatzungsmentalität: What’s crucial is the mentality of conquest and occupation

By Gabriel Kuhn
Kersplebedeb
February 21st, 2017


The following interview with J. Sakai was conducted by Gabriel Kuhn for the German radical monthly, “analyse & kritik” ( commonly known there as “AK” ).  Both the German-language translation in that  journal and this version, have been edited down considerably for reasons of space.


trump-white-working-class-b

Q. In an interview from the year 2000, titled “When Race Burns Class”, you said the following with respect to the status of the white working class within the U.S. Left: “So the white workers as a whole are either the revolutionary answer – which they aren’t unless your cause is snowmobiles and lawn tractors – or they’re like ignorant scum you wouldn’t waste your time on. Small wonder rebellious poor whites almost always seek out the Right rather than the Left.” This almost seems prophetic considering the results of the 2016 presidential election. What has gone wrong within the U.S. Left?

A. This is going to be bumpy, since there was both a left generational change and a dramatic class shift in American society itself.

When first joining the u.s. left in the late 1950s, we had our local social-democratic group’s small May Day celebration in a room at the cheap edge of downtown. Memorably, there was a strip-tease joint downstairs, giving the building a kind of lumpen/proletarian air. At the speaker’s side of the room there was an older Jewish worker from one of the garment unions, with an elderly woman garment worker representing the inactive social-democratic “Italian chapter”. The audience was less than thirty persons, almost all whites The meeting was a remnant, of an old u.s. left from the 1930s industrial labor battles.

If you could skip ahead in time only a few years to the start of the 1960s, There would be many more people, but the old white trade unionists would be gone. The white side of the left was mostly young, university students or drop-outs. The many workers and poor street people in the struggle would be Black, and had their own movement. Almost everyone in the young left mixed in the civil rights movement or the student anti-war movement—or often both. It was easy for the u.s. white left to become dominantly middle-class, and the full future implications of that were never faced. This New Left would constantly attract a small stream of white working class kids, but almost as migrants from across a national border.

Once the u.s. left became allies and activists with the Black freedom movement in the 1960s-1970s, white areas even working class ones became enemy territory for us—those were places where you worried about physical attacks and violent mobs. Remember that America was always divided into oppressor territories and oppressed colonial territories—called the rez, barrios, and ghettos—and the white settler population were constantly engaged in daily social policing. Informally, a low-level war by whites of beatings and terrorism and killings happened every day to keep the angry colonies inside their social prisons.

But there was a real division in the white working class communities in the 1960s-70s. The white labor aristocracy, like hard-hat construction workers and over the road truckers, were used as patriotic shock troops by the government, politically and in attacking anti-war protests. On the other hand, we worked with many white working class youth who were being drafted to fight in Vietnam, and were anti-government and sharing a rebel youth culture. Many white working class GIs became antiwar in Vietnam, and some joined us in the resistance.

After Washington’s Vietnam pull-out in 1973, though, this contact with white working class rebels sharply dropped off. Recall, for a while was working in a major parts factory in the far South Side. A crew of young white guys there, who were mostly ’Nam vets and dope smokers, invited me to join their clique and come party at the Indianapolis 500 auto race with them. They even supported me for being night-shift union shop steward. The only thing they warned me about—is that i had to stop hanging with the young Black workers or else they wouldn’t even say hello. The euro-settler/Black divide was and is everything here, really.

Q. In the 1980s, you wrote the book Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat. A new edition has been published recently. How is settlerism different from racism? It seems that some folks use the terms interchangeably.

A. Yes, often young anarchists or socialists here do use the words in an uncertain way, as though they mean the same. Settlerism, as we know, is a very specific type of capitalist colonialism. It is the most complete colonialism. A conquest society, where a loyal national population was brought in to both economically populate and be the permanent garrison for capitalism over the conquered territory.

Settlerism has within it the broader phenomena of racism, but is importantly different. The culture is capitalist but twisted further. Sometimes you can see the cultural mark of being a garrison population, like the American white “gun mania.” The ruling class has always supported a heavily armed white citizenry to keep colonized people under the boot. This is their neurotically guilty culture of would-be conquerors and genocidists. Settlerism means that we are always fighting “Americanism” itself, not just some extreme nationalistic form.

Q. You have said that settlerism has made fascism in the U.S. unnecessary because “however good or bad the economic situation was, white settlers were getting the best of what was available”. Is this changing? Does it, at least partly, explain Trump?

A. Think of settlerism as having its own shape but being co-terminus with fascism, its kith and kin. To sum it up, believe that fascism is much more widespread among settler Americans than anyone admits. The unspoken key to Trump’s victory was certainly fascism, although no one wants to say it. Instead, we get all this liberal capitalist coverup about how resentful white workers and others in their backward “loser” post-industrial communities are to blame.

What the real deal is: Between 1963 and 1968, as violent and massive Black ghetto “riots” spread, the u.s. ruling class made two critical decisions. That Civil Rights would be made national law as an “airbag” to cushion the crash of repressing Black revolution, and that the real costs of any “integration” would be shifted completely onto the euro-settler working class.

People who weren’t around then can’t realize how bitter and explosive this was. Before, euro-settler workers may have gotten their hands dirty, but they had all the good paying jobs, it was that simple. Suddenly it was the same but different. About that time was graduating from the u.s. government mechanics school, trying to find a job. The state employment office sent me to the mechanics department at the big railway freight yards. In the office, the supervisor leaned back in his chair and said unhappily: “We heard that the government was going to pass this law, so we figured it was better you than a nigger!” That was still in the old days, when we always knew what white men were thinking, because they felt free to say out loud whatever crossed their minds. Of course, the white mechanics had gathered nearby in the garage to see the “new hire”, and together serenaded me with the then popular toothpaste commercial: “You’ll wonder where the YELLOW went/When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.” ( Starting the daily harassment on the job. )

The point was, the white working class never had any “democratic” vote or say over this social tax on their communities. For two generations the u.s. ruling class solidified government, political parties, media and elections into an iron wall, enforcing this unpopular strategic concession. For the euro-settler working class communities shifting from being very privileged to less privileged. There never was any plebiscite or national popular vote on civil rights—which wouldn’t have passed. When the rare candidate to major office appeared who dead-on opposed civil rights, the establishment united to shoot him down. Famously, when Ku Klux Klan and neo-nazi leader David Duke ran for governor of the state of Louisiana in 1991, both parties united behind the Democratic candidate to block Duke, who still won 55% of the white vote. That was a signal flare of shipwreck sent up by settler communities, including but no means limited to their working class.

Donald Trump was today’s more respectable version of Duke. Marketing smarts told him that running on a platform of settler nationalism, of restoring the white nation to power and having a state publically dedicated to only their racial interests, would be the path to his elevation. The key to that would be his “dog whistle”, silently giving the piercing signal to euro-settlers that his was a united front of all whites in their common racial interests. He wouldn’t sell them out. What better way to silently do that than by conspicuously including the neo-nazis and klan haters in his campaign. Promoting the Confederate flag at his campaign rallies. Every Trump sexist vulgarity, every hate message and bullying threat, was only further proof to his enraptured followers that he wasn’t “politically correct” against them. That he would restore the white nation because at long last through him they could vote “civil rights” and the whole establishment agenda down.

Q. After Trump’s victory, Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times: “There turn out to be a huge number of people — white people, living mainly in rural areas — who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about.” This quote makes it sound like there is a bad backward America and a good enlightened America – represented by people who live in the big cities and read the New York Times. What do you make of this?

A. Think that Krugman and his wife, who co-writes that column, mean well, but got sucked into this liberal capitalist propaganda line, because it uses in a flattering way their own falsely positive views of their elite.

The metropolitan elite, university-educated, residing in major urban areas, dominates the computer industry and global corporate sectors like finance and media. While backing Hillary and LGBT human rights for public politics and all that, in their own worlds they live in apartheid racial/gender discipline. In the futuristic Silicon Valley, computer firms like Twitter and Pinterest are each coincidentally 92% white and Asian for tech employees. Google is right there, too, with tech employees being 94% white and Asian. Same at other computer corporations. It isn’t hard to guess that there are ethnic quotas or near-blanket exclusions secretly agreed upon between these outspokenly liberal corporate leaders. It’s ironic that conservative white factory workers and small industrial employers in the Midwest may be for Trump, but have much more integrated workplaces. Incidentally, the liberal icon New York Times, where Paul Krugman’s columns appear, has 6 White House reporters, but none of them are Black. It has 21 sports reporters, but none of them are Black ( although basketball and American football, for instance, are heavily Black ). Their lifestyles section has no Black writers, although Black people do have real lives. So who is more racist and backward?

Right now we are at intermission. As the previous left from the 1960s-70s has finally faded away, and exited the stage. In this transition, protest and struggle is starting all over again from ground zero. A new kind of radical movement with its own politics and startling ideas is still to come. But it had better have a real power hook-up for working class heroes and outcasts.


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We the People: A Review

By Melissa Wuske
Foreword Reviews
February 13, 2017

This emboldening book will equip movements to fight for community rights.

We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States, by Thomas Linzey and Anneke Campbell, presents the inspiring stories of everyday people and communities who stood up for their rights in the face of corporate and legal opposition.

Drawn from the work of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, each chapter presents a narrative case study of a particular community rights movement, each seeking to preserve the autonomy of groups of people and to protect the natural realm. Together, they form a picture of the struggles and victories that change agents face across the United States.

These stories are both aspirational and accessible for average people and communities. They show the high commitment needed to secure rights and fight legal battles, and yet they also demonstrate that, with the right strategy and persistence, those of modest means can triumph over the immense powers that oppose them.

The book is at once timeless and timely. With echoes of David versus Goliath, it embodies the cries for community rights and environmental protection voiced by prominent movements like the Standing Rock protests. In a time when corporations are more and more hungry for profits at the expense of communities, and when communities are increasingly voiceless in response, these stories of persistence and hope are incredibly vital.

Linzey, an attorney at CELDF, and Campbell, a writer and filmmaker focused on justice and the environment, lend their varied expertise to create a balanced look at accounts of social change from a narrative and legal perspective. The appendix shifts more fully toward the legal side of the issues, compiling a variety of laws and statues relevant to issues discussed in the book.

This balance of authorial expertise lends itself to legal minds who want to delve into activism, as well as to environmental activists who want to know how to scale the walls of legal restriction. For both groups, the narratives here paint a picture of what can be, allowing each to glean wisdom to apply to their own challenges.

We the People is an emboldening book that equips movements to fight for community rights.

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#VansBooksClub - Spray Paint the Walls: The Story of Black Flag de Stevie Chick

By Wenceslas Bruciaga
#VansBookClub
February 14th, 2017

Black Flag es una declaración de principios, distanciados de la típica banda que habla de la hermandad de sus integrantes como si narraran el cuento más pinche diabético de Disney, y Spray Paint The Walls es La Biografía a leer de la banda más relevante del Hardcore,

Según cuenta Stevie Chick (periodista de revistas que han marcado tendencia en el periodismo musical como Mojo o The Guardian) en Spray Paint the Walls, Henry Garfield (verdadero nombre de Rollins) fue un niño maltratado por su padre que por como lo describe Chick, se puede deducir que poseía los mismo rasgos intolerantes y gañanes del Trump que tuitea acaso compitiendo con el tuitsar más simplón y bufonesco; además, Henry fue abusado sexualmente de niño, múltiples veces, quizás por eso desarrolló una rabiosa conducta hiperactiva que le hizo acreedor a una inscripción a la Academia Bullis (el nombre es absolutamente real) sólo para varones y dónde los castigos corporales eran tan comunes, como las sumas y restas en el pizarrón: “Pero debo admitir que aquello fue muy bueno para mi, realmente me benefició que alguien me dijera No significa no y tu te vas a quedar aquí sentado hasta que lo entiendas. Lo cierto es que Bullis desarrolló en mi una autodisciplina muy rigurosa… lo único malo es que no había chicas y eso fue muy duro… me molestaba ser tan socialmente inepto por culpa de haber estado separado de las chicas todos esos años. Además que… sólo soy un freak” dice Rollins en el libro de Chick. La disciplina aprendida en Bullis fue un factor determinante para Black Flag perfeccionara sus riffs y su caos veloz fuera perfecto.

Rollins no era el único. El fundador de Black Flag, Greg Ginn, hijo de un profesor de literatura del Harbor College y habitante de Hermosa Beach, California, también era un freak, pero en un sentido retraído y concentrado de los aparatos que pasaba el tiempo en solitario, reconstruyendo viejos radiotransmisores de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, a ese negocio de reparación y venta por correo a radioaficionados lo bautizó como Solid State Turner, SST:

Cuando era niño, pensaba que el rock era estúpido. Cuando Janis Joplin murió, ni sabía quién era. Yo estaba en la electrónica y escribiendo poesía” recuerda Ginn. Hasta que leyó un artículo de algo llamado punk en el Village Voice y su vida cambiaría para siempre. Después conocería al desmadroso y borracho Kieth Morris y el hermano de Ginn, Raymond Pettibon perturbado ilustrador que inventó las cuatro franjas de Black Flag emulando las banderas de los piratas y daría vida al concepto visual del grupo que terminaría inventando el hardcore bajo una simple premisa: tocar como si Black Sabbath tuvieran cuernos de chivo en lugar de guitarras; los trazos de Pettibon desafiaban los peinados gringos con sus violentas caricaturas, que destruían las postales del idílico sueño americano con sus escenas de policías mamando el cañón de una pistola o el padre de familia volándose los sesos frente a sus hijos. Pettibon fue el pintor oficial de la imagen de la primera generación del rock subterráneo norteamericano, desde el hardcore de Black Flag hasta la inmortal portada del Goo de Sonic Youth.

Ginn conocería después de descubrir al punk al desmadroso Keith Morris que a finales de los 70 sólo perdía el tiempo emborrachándose y metiéndose ácidos y surfeando porque en Hermosa Beach todo era tan estereotípicamente californiano, que hablar de punk era tan críptico e ininteligible como una fórmula física de los agujeros negros alrededor de Saturno:

Entonces, de repente, estamos listos para tocar, y el chico saca la puerta del garaje, como si fuera una cortina de madera, y comenzamos a dar guitarrazos. Y lo primero que pasa es que sucede es una pelea que estalla, como a unos cuantos centímetros de distancia. De repente, la gente empieza a preguntrase, ¿Qué es esta mierda? ¿Quiénes son estos chicos? Fue entonces cuando las botellas, las latas y las tazas vacías comenzaron a volar a través del aire, y el vaso se estrellí delante de mí, y se puso realmente salvaje. Había empezado la fiesta” recuerda Keith Morris.

La violencia fue el prejuicio que persiguió a Black Flag a lo largo de sus ochos años de trayectoria. Chick recuerda que la policía los odiaba con la misma saña que un Minutmen practica deporte cazando migrantes. De hecho, se cuenta que incluso el departamento de policía de Los Ángeles inventaron un código numérico que cuando se transmitía por la frecuencia policial significaba Black Flag está a punto de dar un concierto, las patrullas encendían la torreta y los fanáticos de Black Flag estaban dispuestos a partirse la madre con tal de defender su derecho a romper el aburrimiento y la marginalidad del California Dreaming a punta de moshpit. Fue este acoso lo que inspiró probablemente el himno de Black Flag, Rise AboveEstamos hartos de que nos maltrates, ¡Tratar de detenernos no servirá de nada!”.

Después se unirían personajes como Chuck Dukowski (quién co-escribió Spary Paint), Robo Valverde, un colombiano ilegal, Dez Cadena, Bill Stevenson (quien luego fuera batería de los Descendents), Kira Roesseler con la que se rumora Henry tuvo un fugaz romance.

Spray paint the walls no sólo es LA biografía (indispensable) de la banda que inventó el hardcore y que fue perseguido por la policía (tal y como ciertas autoridades pretenden perseguir hoy día a los inmigrantes en Estados Unidos, incluyendo mexicanos) por su inconformidad y rabia que tradujeron en riffs y gritos y madrazos que entusiasmaron a los surfistas aburridos de las promesas californianas, traidoras, de los comerciales perfectos y las películas con finales felices y las palmeras y la fama televisada ; Chick aprovecha la fábula de Black Flag para desenterrar los fuertes contrastes de California y ejercer una severa crítica social a sus espejismos hollywoodenses que conviven con la miseria y sobrexplotación de los inmigrantes mediante una historia de precisión tan exacta como libro de texto. La parte en como revisa la fundación de California permite una reflexión para entender su contexto multicultural, sus gruesas venas mexicanas que circulan desde 1865 y su constante deseo de separarse de los Estados Unidos y fundarse como un país propio.

También contrapone el circuito de música independiente contra la industria comercial que por aquellos días dominaba casi todo el espectro de la Frecuencia Modulada, sentando las bases de lo indie: “El rock de masas consistía en vivir a lo grande; el indie, en vivir de forma realista y estar orgulloso de eso. Los grupos indie no necesitaban presupuestos promocionales de millones de dólares ni múltiples cambios de vestuarios. Lo único que necesitaban era creer en ellos mismos y que unos cuantos más creyeran en ellos” reflexiona Michaek Azerrad en el libro de Chick, el libro incluye adictivas entrevistas con todos ellos más citas de legendarios fanzines que fueron la hemeroteca oficial. Auténticos vetados en la era Trump y un jugoso y valiosísimo acervo fotográfico

Un libro que mas allá de ser la delicia de los melómanos, los punketos, los seguidores de Black Flag, a los que nos cambió la vida Black Flag, editado por PM Press editorial especializada en títulos contestarlos e iconoclastas que cuestionan el sistema gringo desde sus tripas.  Son páginas para reflexionar sobre la resistencia a la autoridad que pretende imponer un orden según sus prejuicios y pisoteando las libertades

Si, otra vez, Black Flag. Porque es la mejor banda de hardcore, lo que el punk siempre debió ser; porque ahora que el fascismo intransigente y enajenado con el patriotismo despótico y xenófobo y acosador de lo desigual se ha apoderado del país más poderoso del mundo que por mucho tiempo fue el atlas de las promesas doradas, las fantasías de glamur y el sueño más anhelado, es vital para sobrevivir al tsunami fascista que se viene, la beligerancia ideológica que fue la insignia de Black Flag, por encima de sus muros de ruido y su agresividad vocal y los reconcomios de sus errantes miembros, que fueron integrantes de una banda, pero nunca compadres. Lo importante era transmitir el mensaje: “si no te gusta el sistema, invéntate uno”.

Un libro que inspira a crear nuestro sistema.

Y porque Henry Rollins sigue estando bien pinche bueno y su sabrosura aumenta conforme su cabello se pinta de canas.

Nota del Ed. : Wenceslao nos pidió que  “por favor, por favor, por favor” pusiéramos esta foto de su tatuaje de Black Flag.

 

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The Explosion Of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance And Social Revolution In San Francisco, 1965 —1975: A Review

By Nick Kuzmack
Nixbeat
February 7th, 2017


The Explosion Of Deferred Dreams is an essential book that explores the powerful relationship between music and politics. Author Mat Callahan highlights the struggles that defined the 1960s and although it is a subject well covered, he shows that this era was fresh with sounds that made one move, and groove in a way that was totally revolutionary. This culturally and revolutionary period was far from perfect and could not be boiled down to the popular idea of simply having flowers in one’s hair. In his study, Callahan uses the San Francisco as his model to understand a deep political history that coincides with the cultural renaissance of the 60’s. To do this, Callahan explores a history of the civil rights, labor struggles and the emergence of feminism.

To understand the complex relationship between music and politics, Callahan first shows that the sounds that came out of the era defied traditional modes of authority because it was a form of expression that was beyond the ability to control. Music was and still is an expression of feeling. Callahan shows this by highlighting the power of performance as a way to channel revolutionary sentiment and even action. Callahan does not shy away from this medium’s controversial pitfalls or its limitations. For example, Callahan explores the capitalist motivations of people who worked behind the scenes and the fans/ musicians flirtations with the intoxicating effects of substances for inspiration. This being said, The Explosion Of Deferred Dreams is very much about the relationship that music plays with politics, for good or bad.
This is fascinating particularly because of the raw nature of sounds that came from folk, rock n’ roll or soul to evoke feeling—a notion not truly understood then by the powers that be.

However, as Callahan cites this as an impressive and powerful feat, this revolution did not last. The raw feeling that largely defined the revolutionary aspects of the sounds that came out of the ‘60s were eventually co-opted and filtered into family friendly or acceptable means. Although this resulted in a certain potency being lost, Callahan does show that was to a large degree regained by the punk movement in the late ‘70s.

While Callahan’s look at music as ungovernable medium is above all fascinating, his explorations of topics like feminism, labor struggles and civil rights are intriguing and are important to understand the times. Callahan’s explorations of feminism are of particular note as a philosophy of brutal honesty. As a movement it challenged all things from the fundamentals of the revolutionary movements to societal relationships. Not only that, but Callahan shows that women’s part to play in musical growth is fundamental it’s evolution. Although, he does take care to point out women’s exclusion from the machinations of the music industry.

The Explosion Of Deferred Dreams
is an important read to understand the power that music has in the realms of political change. The feelings invoked by rock n roll, soul, folk or other forms were exciting and raw—and arguably they still are. To couple music with forms of resistance was not a new idea, but for the turbulence of the ‘60s, it was truly revolutionary and considered a plausible threat to the establishment. No doubt music still plays a key role in expression, both politically and recreationally. Given the uncertainty of modern times and arguably our collective future, The Explosion Of Deferred Dreams may not only be an interesting read, but an essential one to explore what made music a definitive power of resistance and what were the shortcomings of it.


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What Life Was Like Before Roe v. Wade in 7 Books

In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided in Roe v. Wade that a woman’s right to privacy was “broad enough to encompass the right to terminate her pregnancy.”

On February 10, Tom Price was confirmed as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price, an orthopedic doctor, is virulently anti-choice. In his years as a Congressman, he has twice co-sponsored bills that would give zygotes full human rights from the moment of conception, which would not only prevent abortions, but would also prevent several methods of contraceptives that are thought to interfere with the implantation of fertilized eggs. In addition, Price believes that women should pay for their own birth control and that insurance companies should not be required to cover contraceptive pills and devices. Price’s belief is based on his not having met a woman who can’t afford her birth control.

With an anti-choice president having selected an anti-choice HHS Secretary, and with the possibility of Roe being overturned by SCOTUS, Signature found a handful of books that talk about life in America in the decades just prior to the legalization of abortion. While many people immediately envision the dystopian hellscape of The Handmaid’s Tale, the more accurate picture is contained in these books. In 1965, without access to legal abortion, seventeen percent of all deaths linked to pregnancy and childbirth were caused by botched abortions.

Here are novels and nonfiction accounts of some of the stories from that time.

  • The cover of the book Braided Lives

    Braided Lives

    Marge Piercy

    One of the first novels I ever read as an adult about female friendship; for me, this book inspired the same resonance that some women feel about “Sex and the City” or “Girls.” Piercy’s novel is set in the 1950s, and weaves together the stories of a group of female friends who support each other through college studies, love affairs, nascent careers, and the consequences of failed birth control in the days before the Pill. When it was written in 1982, it offended the New York Times reviewer, who confessed that he only liked one of the female characters, Jill, because she “was attractive.”

    Buy

     
  • The cover of the book The Story of Jane

    The Story of Jane

    Laura Kaplan

    For four years before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade, 100 women ran an underground service that aided 11,000 women in ending their pregnancies. Theirs was an outlaw service, and here, Kaplan has interviewed the volunteers who created and ran Jane while risking jail for their activities. “Jane” was the code name they gave to their collective, the “Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation,” and Kaplan chronicles the years that volunteers directed clients to a constantly changing list of doctors who were willing to provide abortion services that were affordable, safe, and dependable. These anonymous women often found themselves at odds with the physicians who were drawn from a medical field that was still heavily dominated by men in the early 1970s.

     
  • The cover of the book Florynce “Flo” Kennedy

    Florynce “Flo” Kennedy

    Sherie M. Randolph

    Flo Kennedy was one of the prime movers and shakers of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s. After her graduation from Columbia Law School, she brought with her many of the concerns and lessons of Black Power to the predominantly white feminist movement, helping to bring two movements together. Famous for her lightning-quick mind and her quips, it was Kennedy who gave the pro-choice movement one of its most memorable slogans: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

     
  • The cover of the book Revolutionary Road

    Revolutionary Road

    Richard Yates

    The post-WWII dream of a house with a white picket fence in a white suburb is explored in shattering prose by Yates, who wrote the novel in 1961. Frank commutes into work each day and leaves his wife, April, behind. April is bright and talented and, like many educated women of her generation, bored and depressed at home. The tensions in the marriage lead to an irrevocable decision, which makes this novel timely for this list, and timeless in the literature of American suburbia and marriage.

     
  • The cover of the book Forgetting to Be Afraid

    Forgetting to Be Afraid

    A Memoir

    Wendy Davis

    Wendy Davis came to national prominence when she stood for eleven hours against Governor Rick Perry’s anti-abortion bill. Her filibuster was inspired by her own experiences: the daughter of a single mother, she attended Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School while a single mother herself. In her memoir, she shares her hope for women’s futures, and her belief that the American dream belongs to all. Receiving thousands of messages while she was standing on the floor of the Texas Senate, letters in which women told her their stories of having their reproductive rights taken away, inspired Davis to share her own story in this memoir.  “Giving voice to the truths of so many women made me see that I needed to give voice to my own truths, the truths that had made me who I am and had brought me to stand there that day, and not yield until my job was done.”

     
  • The cover of the book The Girls Who Went Away

    The Girls Who Went Away

    The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade

    Ann Fessler

    For many years, young, unmarried women who got pregnant while still living at home would be pulled out of school and “sent away.” Neighbors were often told that the girls had gone off to boarding school for a year, or that they had gone to live with a relative, but the truth was that these young women had been sent somewhere else to have their babies in shame and secrecy. Fessler brings together the stories of over a hundred of these women, who tell her their stories of being forced to give up their babies for adoption because their families did not want the stigma of having a “bastard” child in the house. Fessler is one of those babies who was put up for adoption and, just prior to the book’s publication, had made contact with her birth mother.

     
  • The cover of the book Killing the Black Body

    Killing the Black Body

    Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty

    Dorothy Roberts

    The black female body has been the locus of governmental control from the beginning of America. Enslaved women were raped and forcibly impregnated. And, in the 20th century, thousands of women of color were sterilized without their consent in government eugenics programs. Roberts calls for a recognition of the connections between reproductive freedom and racial equality and for an acknowledgment that the fight for white women’s reproductive rights has sometimes led to painful repercussions for women of color.




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Rad Coloring Book Busts Gender Stereotypes With Awesome Images

By Talor Pittman
Huffington Post
January 31st, 2017

These aren’t your average coloring pages.


This coloring book is a creative mix of fun and social commentary.

Girls Are Not Chicks, from Jacinta Bunnell and Julie Novak, aims to teach kids to think past boys’ toys and girls’ toys and to be bold. From a girl who loves to farm to a princess who rescues herself to little Miss Muffet who refuses to get off her tuffet, the characters in the coloring book celebrate feminism, boldness and the beauty of being yourself.

Girls Are Not Chicks is a coloring book dedicated to teaching kids to look past gender stereotypes and be themselves.

Bunnell, a former community health educator for Planned Parenthood, began writing children’s books that defied stereotypes after seeing the messages kids received from other books and television shows.

“When I left Planned Parenthood to start my own childcare business, I observed children playing unbiased and non-gendered games everyday, and yet the toys, movies and clothes all around them were sending clear messages: there is a certain way to be a girl in this culture; there is a very narrow way to be a boy; there is nothing in between,” she told The Huffington Post. “And no, you cannot see same-sex couples in any media made for children!”

Her first coloring book, a joint effort from Irit Reinheimer titled Girls Will Be Boys Will Be Girls, took down traditional gender roles. She then teamed up with her friend Julie Novak, a graphic designer, for Girls Are Not Chicks. They first self-published the coloring book in 2004 before reformatting it with PM Press in 2009. It’s available on Amazon as well as Reach and Teach, a “peace and social justice learning company.” Though the book has been around for a while, its message still resonates with parents who want their kids to defy the typical pink and blue standards of gender stereotypes.

Jacinta Bunnell, one of the creators of the coloring book, wants her characters to exhibit “cleverness, courage, adventure, intelligence and boldness.”

With Girls Are Not Chicks, Bunnell wanted to show kids that there is more to being a woman than the characters in most fairy tales. 

“There is so much more to womanhood than that,” she said. “There is cleverness, courage, adventure, intelligence and boldness. These are all inherently human characteristics, no matter where you fall on the gender spectrum. I want to bring characters like this to children.”

Bunnell’s other children’s book titles include The Big Gay Alphabet Coloring Book and Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon. She also started a new project where people can celebrate what Planned Parenthood has done for them in the form of hand-painted signs and share them with the hashtag #iluvplannedparenthood. One day, she’d also like to create a queer, feminist children’s TV show. 

“It would be feminist, queer, radical, fun and zany,” she told HuffPost. “Kids can handle all this stuff. They are the ones pushing us forward to think about gender, identity, ethnicity and sexuality in new ways.”

Whatever her next project might be, Bunnell vows to help all kids see themselves in media of every sort as a way to normalize how they feel. Most importantly, she wants kids to appreciate who they are despite what other books might tell them.

“I want to provide media examples of something other than the hyper-masculinity, hyper-femininity and compulsory heterosexuality that the media bombards us with,” she said. “I want people to be proud of themselves.”

See more pages from the “Girls Are Not Chicks” coloring book below and learn more about it at Reach and Teach.


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Maine’s Elizabeth Hand shares her fascination with apocalypse

by Michael Berry
Portland Press Herald
January 29th, 2017

Oakland, California’s PM Press is noted for its line of slim-but-substantial “Outspoken Authors” paperbacks. Coastal Maine writer Elizabeth Hand certainly fits the bill, as proved by “Fire.,” a collection of stories, essays and an interview.

Hand, the author of the Cass Neary series of punk-influenced crime novels and a winner of the World Fantasy Award and science fiction’s Nebula, doesn’t shy away from addressing life’s dangers, tragedies and absurdities in her fiction. Her reviews and literary criticism for The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy and other publications are similarly sharp-eyed.


Apocalypse, dystopia and natural disaster have always loomed large in Hand’s imagination, fueling, for example, her novels “Glimmering” and “Waking the Moon.” The selections in this latest collection reflect that tendency.

In “The Saffron Gatherers,” a woman travels to San Francisco to meet with her lover, only to be captivated by an ancient fresco prophetic in ways she cannot guess. Time, cause, effect and missed connections collide in the moving and mind-bending “Kronia.”

Written especially for this collection and based on her work as a participant in a climate change think tank, “Fire.” envisions one stand-up comic’s reaction to a conflagration of global proportions.

In her essay “Beyond Belief: On Becoming a Writer,” Hand traces her commitment to storytelling, starting with seeing the George Pal film production of “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” when she was 5 years old. From there, it was on to “The Hobbit,” the rest of Tolkien and other, more obscure fantasists. She began writing her own stories and pursuing an interest in theater at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Things turned dark for a while; “Bad Stuff,” as she puts it, happened, including underemployment, serious illness and a kidnapping and rape. But Hand was able to persevere in her journey to becoming a writer with a singular vision.

She writes, “Despite living in a real world that increasingly resembles that of one of my early dystopian novels, I consider myself a very lucky person.”

“Flying Squirrels in the Attic,” the Q&A between Hand and series editor Terry Bisson, is wide-ranging, touching upon her experiences as a teacher of writing, living in Maine, writing “Star Wars” juvenile novelizations about bounty hunter Boba Fett, and reading the fiction of Sarah Orne Jewett.

It’s a fun and freewheeling conversation, and Hand reveals herself as both self-effacing and confident in her talents.

Two insightful profiles of supremely talented but darkly fated authors round out the book.

“The Woman Men Didn’t See” focuses on Alice Sheldon, the CIA analyst who wrote groundbreaking, feminist science fiction under the pseudonym James Tiptree Jr.
“Tom Disch” remembers the author of “Camp Concentration” and “The Genocides” in the aftermath of his suicide. Hand illuminates their life stories with compassion and grace.

Other writers in PM’s “Outspoken Authors” series include Hugo and Nebula award winner Kim Stanley Robinson, Man Booker Prize finalist Karen Joy Fowler and Ursula K. Le Guin, recipient of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Elizabeth Hand is a welcome addition to the roster, and this slender volume is an easy introduction to, or quick reminder of, her special brand of narrative magic.

Berkeley writer Michael Berry is a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, native who has contributed to Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle, New Hampshire Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books and many other publications. He can be contacted at:
mikeberry@mindspring.com

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