Sunday, October 25, 2009

on disillusionment

a person who isn't involved with radical projects isn't able to see them at work, or to see the change that they do. from the outside, it seems cut and dried- they're just a bunch of stupid kids, punks, men, anarchists, angry feminists, whatever. but from the inside, one is able to see things evolve, change, grow over time. real change is slow- but it's real and it's happening. if you aren't tapped in, it can be easy to dismiss it all, to think that nothing works and nothing changes. to me, the simple things are the most revolutionary. the fact that people can work together to achieve some goal without anyone making any money out of the deal or being told what to do is a challenge to capitalism and to the horrific status quo we're all suffering from.

just because you don't see it doesn't mean it's not happening. it's a struggle for sure, and fraught with frustration. i'm not immune from it either- i get annoyed with people's thoughtlessness and bored in meetings, too. sometimes i'm so frustrated that i hole up on my own to take a break from it all. i understand all that, i really do. we are all so f*cked up by our society and the supposed norms that no one really fits into that none of us know what to do. it's a struggle for people to learn how to do things differently- how to be different kinds of people- people who don't need to sell themselves or buy things to be happy, people who fix things, make things, create things, people who work together and trust one another. but the learning curve is what it is. it doesn't mean that things aren't happening. it means that real meaningful change is slow and riddled with challenges.

but the fact is, change is happening. it's revolutionary change. let me give an example or two. friday night there was a show at dry river. i use the show example just because it' s recent and fresh in my mind, but the same could be true of any other event we put on. friday was the last show for a band made up of long time dry river folk and there was a huge turn out to see it all happen. it was rowdy and crazy and a very appropriate send off for this particular band (whose shows often include nudity, costumes, an exploding drum set (they only blew up a drum set once- new year's 2008), and lots of love). the crowd was full of all kinds of folks. very young punks- cutie pies who ranged in age from about 12-14. high school kids, out of high school/college kids, older folks (like me!) who are involved in dry river, and other older folks who don't usually come around the space cuz they prefer bars. it was a diverse, but packed crowd.

enter the revolution: our door is donation only- people know that, word gets around. it's a direct challenge to capitalism, because we really aren't invested in making a bunch of money. we have a huge show coming up this week (built to spill, yo!) and we're going to be set for quite awhile after that, so the pressure to make rent wasn't an issue at all for friday night's show. not that we stress about it much anyway. somehow, our community always makes sure we have our rent, even if we cut it close sometimes. for the kids who come to dry river regularly (mostly the high school, out of high school/college age kids) they know the drill. if they have money, we need it. if they don't have money, we love them anyway and they don't need to feel any embarrassment that they couldn't pay. for the people who don't usually come around dry river and who were there possibly for their first time- they see that the space is something very different from what they're used to. we don't sell anything (bands often have merch for sale, but that's about it), we don't require payment at the door, and nobody works there. we're a community running a space. for those of us who are involved most regularly- we all know each other. we know who to ask when a problem arises, we know who to check in with when we're not quite sure how to handle a situation. we know that we're empowered to make decisions ourselves. that is nothing short of revolutionary as far as i'm concerned.

there is a girl who is involved with the collective and dry river- she's about 20 and has been coming around about as long as i have- 3 years or so. she, like the majority of the regulars around dry river, is part of a very inspirational movement of sober youth. they aren't really organized and it isn't something related to religion (although some of them practice some religion or other)- but they all go to shows, play in bands, support each other, and are fiercely loyal to and protective of dry river. and so this girl saw some things going on at that show that shouldn't have been- people who don't usually come around and who aren't invested in the deeper meaning of the space had alcohol there. they were being rude, doing things that could have resulted in stuff getting broken and people being hurt. totally of her own volition, she got up on the mic, stopped the show, and gave everyone a piece of her mind. sure, there was one idiot who yelled, "f*ck you!" but there were many more who applauded and cheered for her and who, like me, really appreciated that she had the courage to say what she did. she was empowered, knew that the had the support of the dry river community, and took steps to put her own energy out there. she didn't need to ask anyone first because she knew it was okay and that we'd support her.

there is a boy who comes around dry river. i think he started coming at some point in the last year, while i was out doing my grad school thing. he's about 13, very thoughtful and polite, and totally into the punk/metal scene. he knew that people were drinking in the space friday night- they'd snuck in some of those alcoholic energy drinks, which is pretty easy to do since they look like a can of soda or iced tea or something. and this 13 year old kid took it upon himself to explain that dry river is an alcohol free space and asked them to take it outside. and they did it! just like the girl who got up on the mic, this boy knew that it was okay for him to act on behalf of dry river. i don't know if he thought about it consciously or not- but on some level he must have known that he had our support and that it wasn't necessary to ask someone what to do- he could just do it.

in what other place in tucson would you see things like that? there are some other grass roots, anarchist/radical projects happening and maybe they have a similar vibe. but in the context of a place that engages/supports/empowers people of a wide variety of ages and backgrounds, i think dry river really is unique. we have a long way to go- of course it's still a mostly white, mostly male place (i'm working on that, i really am!). it's often messy- for some reason it never occurs to anyone to wash the dishes they use, the toilet barely works, and there are all sorts of frustrations that come up just because they always do when people try and work together. but to me, the real change that has happened in dry river throughout the four years of its existence outweighs by far the frustrations and challenges. the point is- we rise to the challenges, we deal with the frustrations, we talk to each other and learn how to trust each other's strengths and tolerate our weaknesses (cuz we all have them, right?). in the end- the fact that dry river exists makes it revolutionary. the last four years have been a time of immense growth and change in dry river, as people connect to the deeper meaning behind the space, learn how to interact differently with one another, take responsibility for the impact they have, and use the empowerment provided by the space to create positive change.

i'm sorry that people give up. but i also realize that if they aren't going to be involved and they hide behind the idea that nothing matters and no one can change anything, then they won't see it happen. in very stark contrast, revolution is all i see. not just at dry river- but in really mundane ways, too. people biking, making stuff, deciding to throw neighborhood parties for strangers, volunteering to help bring about change however they can. i see revolution everywhere. it's happening, whether or not everyone acknowledges it.



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

pondering revolution

it's something that happens deep inside.  it's more than political upheaval, more than any economic system.  it's who we are inside that needs changing.  in my humble opinion, the only way this world will ever change for the better is when we seriously tackle the task of changing ourselves.  we've all been fed the same lies about who we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to be to be successful.  it's all really hard to let go of.  but if we really can let go of it all, and reconstruct who we are and the ways we relate to one another- great things await.

it's all about being free, right?  free to be our truest selves.  free of the constant pressure to make money and rise up to the top of our respective corporate towers.  for some folks, it works to drop out of sociey- travel light and not feel too concerned with how or whether the bills get paid.  for people like me, most people, it's not that easy.

and so the struggle is to break free while we're still enslaved.  perpetually enslaved by the dollar, debt, corporate greed, and the law.  the struggle is to find a way to be happy and to feel free- to feel like you spend your days doing what you really want to be doing.  but we're all trapped.  

when i came back from europe- i walked around like a person with newly opened eyes.  i saw all this societal imprisonment that most folks never think twice about.  i saw it everywhere and i felt above it all.  i felt that i'd been liberated at long last and that once i was able to see it all, it could not beat me down again.  but it has.  the pressure to be all the things i'm supposed to be gets me down while my back is turned.  i find myself trapped in mindsets i thought i'd left behind.  but i don't want them anymore.  i'm sick of constantly feeling like i'm too much of this and not enough of that.  i just want to be me.  and i want you to be you.  because you are the most beautiful thing i've ever seen.  

Sunday, October 18, 2009

new projects

i haven't written anything in awhile.  mostly it's because i've been busy doing things other than sitting in front of my computer.  but today is the first writing day in a long time.  as usual, i find myself much more eager to update my blog than to actually start writing.  

i have become involved with a very interesting new radio project.  saturdays at 6 is an hour you might be particularly interested in.  tucson time, of course.

work is sucking all my energy these days.  kids are beautiful and i love them.  i learn a lot from them and treasure the relationships that i have with them.  but i am not cut out for the work week.  i don't like forcing myself awake through caffeine every morning, i don't like how tired i am every night, i don't like it that my energy is primarily dedicated to my earning potential.  it's a real drag.  hopefully this is my last year doing work that drains me all day long, 5 days a week.  i know most "work" is this way.  but i'm convinced that there is balance out there and that i can find it somehow.  

my future is still uncertain.  so is everyone else's- but i'm still planless and will be planless probably until sometime in late spring.  the choices are, in order of my preference:

1.  stay in tucson and do my phd in geography here.  i like tucson.  i love a lot of people here and have found many who tolerate my awkward smart girlness and make me feel safe and loved.  i have good community that i don't want to leave.  also, academically- i like the department here a lot.  there are good people doing interesting things and i feel like i'd fit in (as much as i fit in anywhere) and be able to do my thing and strike the energy balance that i am lacking at present.

2.  move to kentucky and do my phd in geography there, at uk in lexington.  i have a number of friends who already live there and so that's a huge plus.  i like all those people a lot and would like to live near them.   the department is pretty into radical thinking and supportive of abnormal ways of doing things.  it would be a good fit for me.  but- i really hate being cold and i don't want to leave tucson for all the reasons stated in option 1.

3.  if i don't get funded, i won't be able to do either 1 or 2.  that means i have to find a job and make some money.  i am optimistic about this option, although it almost surely means i have to leave tucson.  maybe there's something i could do here that would pay me enough to handle my student loan debt- but probably not.  one cool idea i had was that i could look at working for an non governmental organization in the middle east and just have a big adventure out of the states for awhile.  that's a totally nebulous idea that i haven't really investigated- but it could be cool.  and maybe then i could be someplace where there are middle eastern anarchists and that could become part of my research/writing and i wouldn't be as sad to be out of school as i am now. 

no matter what happens- my path lies in the anarchist movement.  if i have to work a day job and continue that other, much more important, much more meaningful part of my life outside the parameters of "work," then i shall.  it's a beautiful thing that is changing the world around us and i want everyone to know about it.  academia is a pretty narrow and incestuous institution, so maybe that's just not the right place for me to be.  the fact is- it's the only thing i've ever really seen myself doing or wanted to do.  be in school for as long as possible, eventually be a professor, teach classes and continue my own research.  summers off, occasional sabbatical semesters- it's not such a bad life, especially since one way or the other- "work" is going to be a constant part of my life. 

now that you have the update on my potential future, here are a few big things on my mind of late:

1.  intoxication holds me back but i'm not sure what to do with that yet.  except to say that i'm really not into drinking alcohol at the moment and have become increasingly frustrated with the social impotence and apathy that accompanies our socialized urge to "party."  

2.  proprietary relationships with carefully defined rules and regulations are not for me, but it's really hard to break free of that conditioning.  it's also really hard to strike up new relationships with people because everyone operates on the ownership/rules/regulations model.  i find myself regularly in the company of men who see relationships in proprietary terms and who talk about women in ways that make me very uncomfortable.  they make me feel like i am the object of some great conquest, but i'm not.  i struggle to know how to deal with it.  lately it's just been making me really angry.  at the same time, i know that these men are just as confused and trapped in our repressive society as i am.  just that they don't see how they could break free.  i feel like i've broken free in my own mind- but that's only the beginning.  the hardest part is talking about it with people in a healthy way.  it's all very confusing.

3.  i want to be back in school.  i want to be back in school.  i want to be back in school.  maybe if i say it enough times it will come true.

4.  months ago i felt like a giant hurricane swirling full of energy and motivation.  today i am a pitifully powerless drizzling rainstorm.  i'm working on that.

5.  prison is ridiculous.  did you know that the united states has 25% of the global prison population?  it's pretty terrible that we live in a world where, when someone is naughty, we lock them up in a concrete box and expect that to fix things somehow.  it's disgusting that the prison system exists.  there are a lot of activists who work on prisoner support, which is great.  but usually the focus is on supporting other anarchist/activists who are in prison.  they definitely need our support and i'm glad that there is energy in that direction.  on the other hand, the vast majority of people in prison are not activists or professed anarchists.  there are many websites out there with lists of prisoners who want penpals from outside.  this can be a very rewarding experience and i encourage you to consider writing to someone who is in prison.  imagine if your life was spent in a concrete box.  you'd want someone to write to you.

whoever you are, i hope you are doing well.  sorry for my long silence here in the blogosphere.  life has caught me up.  all in all- things are flowing along.  and i am always reminded that there are many people out in the world struggling just to survive.  in comparison to the fortunes of many- my life is a paradise.  my task is to never forget that or take it for granted.