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.