I feel like blogging works better in the quiet of quarantine than it does with fast moving news. Times like these, some sort of scroll seems to be of the most service. It might be because blogging, though it was pretty fast back in the day, is pretty much slow cooking now. It’s not all that nimble of a platform, the links stay up and rot, and it presents static pages. On these pages, the information and updates grow obsolete or get overwhelmed pretty fast.
Blogs occupy an awkward zone. They’re not as in depth or permanent as things like books, not as fast and disposable as SNS, and kind of terrible when they try to be either. But, having said that, I want to collect some resources together that may be of some use. A lot of this will probably be old news, some of it suddenly useless, and much of it will likely be idiosyncratic, following a bit of my path through Toronto, Sacramento, LA, and, now Busan, but I think most of it is of some basic value and some of it might be of some simple help.
Fund Services, Not Police
This is one of the most important demands. Police budgets in America and a lot of other places are out of control. An really good overview of the situation, set of resources, and tools can be found at People’s Budget LA. As an outline, it can probably be adapted to most cities and, doubtlessly, already has been.
There’s a lot of fuss over this subject and the Democrats are proving, once again, totally fucking worse than useless to any campaign for social justice and change, but defunding the police and funding services isn’t really all that difficult to understand.
The best guarantor of peace is not men with guns and tanks but a functioning and just society. To understand this, one only needs to think a little bit beyond the solutions that America always provides, which is security or charity.
No gate on your community, no army of armed men, no locks on doors, and no amount of prisons, will ever make anyone as safe as an egalitarian, much less atomized, and much less segregated society. Pepper spray does not prevent crime as well as ample public spaces and responsive universal services. Nothing will reduce crime faster than a living wage, workplaces the workers are invested in, and workplaces that invest in their workers. A society must do the same for all of its members. Even those who don’t “deserve” it.
People generally don’t steal from themselves and violence is typically born from a sense of humiliation. Violence is most often a method to avenge real or perceived humiliation. Every “target hardening” measure taken in the interest of crime prevention humiliates people. It humiliates while it screams “I AM NOT YOU! I AM A TARGET!” These measures make The Fear real. Make another idea real. Stop building death and violence and start building life.
Some resources to help with this demand:
2020 Toronto Police Budget – Call For Action Template: A template for emails to Toronto Cty Council.
Looking After Your Mental Health
I sometimes wish activists, anarchists, and the like watched more baseball. I feel like a basic working knowledge of the game might sometimes be helpful. It could teach, for example, that even top athletes need a fucking day off. You can take a day, be on the injured lists, or get pulled from a game when you start to tire, and still be part of the team.
Part of the problem here is, situations that require activism immediately throw you beyond your limit. Like exercise, pushing up to and beyond your breaking point is, if not the point, part of the process. On some level, the shit is supposed to stress you out. But, when that happens, it can be really hard to tell if you’re at a level of stress you can handle or if you’re going beyond that and putting yourself in danger. It’s like knowing the difference between regular pain and incoming injury pain. One you work through, the other you do not.
And it’s really hard to learn how to pace yourself. Really hard. When I was organizing, the stress of the thing was dangerous. Everyone tells you their problems and you listen to them all, and some of these problems were just incredibly awful. My mind keeps going back to the elder woman who was looking after a husband with cancer while Ralph’s was trying to take away her health coverage and stop giving her time off. At times, I would just be shaking.
You get into a loop where you can never do enough. The more you do, the more you need to do. And I’m of a type where doing something makes me feel better than doing nothing. The thing that would wipe me out was those rare moments between actions, when just the whole fucking thing would hit and overwhelm me. Self-care is generally some pretty hokey shit but it’s also really fucking important. Learning to do it is hard but not learning is harder.
One thing that helped me was just learning trust. You have to trust your team. You can’t do it all yourself, and it’s unfair to you and your team to think you can. As the man said, ‘strikeouts are fascist.’
You need a squad that can help you and you need to trust these people. Communicate clearly and personally with these people –not through general calls to action– about tasks and that sort of shit. Don’t put all the weight on yourself. It will crush you. And your goal should usually be to make yourself totally replaceable, not to foster dependence.
Another thing that helped me was breaking big things down into small doable things. Go step by step. You can’t do the whole thing, but you can do your part. You can break tasks down into smaller parts and do these parts. Often, you only need to glance at the big picture.
In the meantime, maybe this will be of some help.
I’m convinced that getting the unions to enter the fight is one of the most important things that can be done here and is absolutely necessary in taking this movement to the next level.
Significantly weakening the police will require a tremendous amount of social power — overcoming not just the institutional power of police unions, but the capitalist city planners that support expanded policing. To confront those interests, the movement will need to mobilize far more extensive forces than have yet entered the field. It will need to be able to exert power not merely through necessarily brief acts of disorganized disruption, but through organized, nonviolent coercion against capital and the state.
So far, results have been mixed. There’s some good news on the Teacher front about them getting cops out of schools –teachers in the US are a damn solid bunch– and there’s been calls for the AFL-CIO to expel police associations from their unions, which frankly, is a step that should have been taken a long goddamn time ago. My old union, UFCW 770 was slower than Amazon (FUCKING AMAZON?!) in releasing a statement of support for Black Lives Matter and, so far, seem pretty goddamn passive about the whole situation.
This movement is going to have to come from the rank and file. The sad fact of the matter is too many unions act as if they were no more than insurance companies and that needs to change. The good news is that it can change.
The rank and file can put pressure on their leadership to act. And many of these leaders aren’t bad people. It’s just . . . Shit is complicated. A lot of the laws governing unions are designed to make unions almost totally ineffective at best and, at worst, company morale operations designed to manage worker demands and anger, while depoliticizing rage. Getting the cops out of the AFL-CIO is good place to start correcting that mess. To do that, and to get your union to work for you, you need to organize on the shop floor. That takes time. Not as much you might think, but it still takes some time.
You can maybe speed up that process with these resources.
Union Members for #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd: This is a Facebook group and, like, I know, it’s Facebook, but groups and platforms like this have been effectively used by rank and file members to build much stronger, better, and more militant unions. A lot of the Teacher’s strikes came out of these sorts of things. And, on top of it, you’ll get to see examples of what the labor movement is doing, which is largely ignored by America’s corporate owned media. So join up and sign their petition.
Sign the petition: Union Members for #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd: You don’t even need to be a union member to sign this. You do however need a phone number, which I, don’t have. Long story.
NO COP UNIONS: Another petition.
As we have seen again and again around the country, police unions shield their officers from accountability — and, on many occasions, actively facilitate officer misconduct. For a labor movement that professes a commitment to creating a just society, continuing to affiliate with police unions signifies cognitive dissonance at the highest level.
You don’t even need a phone number for this one.
And like, if you’re trying to organize on a shop-floor and need to talk to someone about it or whatever, please feel free to hit me up. I can’t promise that I’ll be much help but, I’m here.
I never really know what academics want or need beyond what normal people want or need and I sort of feel like the good academics generally write the postmortems and they write them well, and fucked if I know how to give academics resources, since providing those resources largely seems to be their job, but uhh . . . Maybe this?
Look, I’m not going to tell you how to talk to people or listen to people or any of that. Part of this work is about finding and learning to use your own voice and your own ears and your own brain. There’s no real instruction manual for any of that. Listen first, usually works.
But this came in pretty handy for me.
I think, people can learn something about what’s important by seeing what needs translating. It kind of cuts to the chase, you know?
When a mobilization of this size occurs, there’s going to be a pretty big gulf in experience and know-how. This isn’t some fist-fight over the legacy and betrayals of the Spanish Civil War at the Anarchist Book Fair. There’s a lot of difference and diversity showing up.
For a lot of people, this is their first time out and, for many more, this is the first time they’ve been a protest rather than a parade, and, for a lot of these people, they have never seen or even expected the police to act like the fucking police. On top of that, they’ve never seen the massive, slippery head-fuck that the media can pull off and it is going to fuck their heads. Many of these people are going to buy into the media okey-doke about anarchists and “outside agitators” and that sort of bullshit, and a lot are going to think there’s “good protesters” and “bad.” Many of these people are going to let the media set the demands, and then when that bullshit is not even half-met, they’ll want to move onto “healing” while accomplishing nothing. You can expect to see a lot of fuckery going forward — fuckery including but not limited to white people singing “Imagine” or “Give Peace a Chance” with cops while they all hug and take a knee for the camera and the budget remains untouched. There will be bullshit and there will be trauma. A thing like this is ugly.
So, like, I wouldn’t stress black squares and the like all that much. They’re not much, everyone knows, but some people want them, some people don’t, and they sure the fuck aren’t where activism should end but for some people it might be where it begins.
But what I would like to see is people learn a bit about their lane and where they can do some good. Not everyone is built for the streets. Petitions and community council meetings lack the pyrotechnic satisfactions of Molotov Cocktails, but they too are an important part of this. They’re boring but important. So, if that’s all you can do, do that. Both things make the other approach much more effective. There isn’t one road here.
And, if you’re in the streets and new to them, this may help.
Defunding the police is a great start. But there’s a lot of fronts this work has to happen on. There needs to be a lot fewer cars, a lot more gun control, an end to gated communities, much more mixed use development, and a variety of spaces for the general mixing of classes — places where interests instead of oppressions can intersect. The way cities and suburbs are built needs to fundamentally change and this needs to happen with things as basic and pervasive as traffic lights. The problems run that deep. Razor wire is everywhere.
I mean, you can see this shit with COVID. It’s not the masks that will save your community. It’s working together.
America is almost totally fucking broken. It’s broken on almost every level except, perhaps, on the level of the human heart, which still, in spite of all this constant bullshit, somehow, sometimes, still occasionally manages to aspire towards justice. I hope some of the resources provided here help you to reach for justice and to make a better world. I hope that we can all, together, start building life instead of death.
Black Lives Matter.
And, as always, Hail Satan.