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(en) Slingshot magazine, #79 - Anarchy Is For Everyone: Telling Our Stories, Bringing Folks Together - Thomas

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 19 Nov 2003 10:55:12 +0100 (CET)


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I tried to avoid it for a while, but if I wanted to find and meet other
anarchists in the east bay, I needed to go to the Long Haul, an anarchist
infoshop in berkeley. So I took a deep breath, opened the door and
entered, trying to free myself of my previous feelings, my stereotypes, my
love and hate for the anarchist community; and yes I know it ain’t one
homogeneous thing, but regardless, my experiences with it have been
fraught with good ol’ revolutionary angst.
Let me explain, I have never been into the punk scene, I am not white, I became a father
at 20 and had to think about changing diapers, not just about changing
social structures. I remember being chastised by someone trying to get us
to go up one summer to the logging protests and when I reminded him of
my responsibilities, he snapped back: ‘what was more important?’
I wanted to punch him, to make him see his ignorance, the elitism of
privilege, the typical dismissal of people with children, with jobs to pay
for food and rent. Yet, this has happened over and over. Meetings at 6pm
or reading my child a bed time story? How to choose? It felt as if I could
never fully commit, never be as dedicated as the people I met -- mostly
younger, white, students, who were mobile, who could survive on a
fluctuating income. Now there is nothing wrong with this, but this was not
me, not my experience, not my culture. But I knew that the anarchist
views more closely resembled my views about how life could be lived
than anything else, so I tried as much as I could to find that community.
brought my kids to meetings; I swapped childcare with other parents on
my block (a nice way of realizing it truly does take a neighborhood to
raise a child). I tried to figure out how to balance riding bikes with my
kids around the block versus riding in critical mass, which is right at
dinner time. I realized I needed the anarchist community after years of
trying to compartmentalize the seemingly disparate aspects of my life --
the non-monogamist, the self-schooling parent, the activist, the Chicano
academic, the fuck-the-police poet. But how I got to this point is another
story. It is in fact many stories.

Starting at the beginning
I began noticing the glaring discrepancies in my life; I grew up on hip hop
and could see it being co-opted into cheap fronting and frivolity. This was
not the community I was a part of, dressed in hand-me-downs and
learning to break on ripped up sections of linoleum. I simply couldn’t
handle the growing consumerism, the value placed on objects, after
having lived in poverty, after scoffing at and detesting the symbols of
wealth for so long (yes out of envy and jealousy at the time perhaps).
Yet, I desperately needed to believe in the anti-authoritarian politics of
NWA, Public Enemy, Freestyle Fellowship, and others, for I was not
hearing it from anyone else nor in any other way that spoke to me.

It continued in undergraduate classrooms in which I was appalled at the
refusal to engage in anything but what was deemed ‘practical and
possible realties.’ After being told that republicans and democrats
held the only legitimate and viable worldviews, I wondered how the
hometowns I grew up in – Las Vegas, New Mexico, Kailua, Hawaii,
Ventura, California -- were included in anything we discussed. How did
these ‘viable’ political choices account for the poverty, the single
mothers, the drugs, and the lack of choices available? There had to be
another way. And when I did make my way to an anarchist study group, I
seethed at people’s unwillingness to even attempt to connect anarchy
with issues of race and privilege. There had to be other ways. Other
places.

So I retreated for a while into my own experiences, creating and nurturing
a lifestyle that embodied the values I couldn’t find elsewhere. I found
connections with my imprisoned father and prison issues that introduced
me to Attica, to my father’s penitentiary, to political prisoners. I
reveled in becoming a father and was soon horrified as disciplined
behavior became the primary learning objective in my son’s school.
What could I do, where to turn? I refused to participate in the privilege of
private schooling so that was out. And then I found The Teenage
Liberation Handbook, and we created our autonomy, but struggled to
connect with others who chose to homeschool for reasons of liberation
rather than christian bullshit and racist, classist fears about public
education. Where were the other parents? People fuck, so I know people
reproduce.

Moving to the east bay from the city did help me meet more people with
similar values. While attempting to create a relationship based on free
choice rather than social coercion, my partner and I met another young
parent questioning the rigid social definitions of what relationships could
be. With the inspiration from Emma Goldman and the practical advice
from The Ethical Slut, we began to embrace non-monogamist freedom to
explore our own sexuality, our growing identities, our interests. But even
here we felt out of place: we weren’t 50 year old hippies reminiscing
about free love, nor were we new age converts trying to fuck while
rubbing crystals and engaging in tantric poses. We were in our late
twenties, we were looking for others more like us.

All these interests and choices of my life culminated in the tear gas of
Seattle. Studying globalism as an advisor to student clubs on the campus
I taught at, we decided to participate in the WTO protests, not realizing
the dramatic and liberating events that we would be a part of. So after the
smoke cleared from Seattle and then DC and then Quebec, I realized that
I could no longer chase the revolution, that I could no longer
compartmentalize the different aspects of my life. I needed a way to
synthesize them all. After ten years of making half-hearted attempts to
connect with people who seemed to look and live so differently than me, I
decided to toss aside my ego, my attitude, and my fears to find and help
create the community I wanted.

In the three years since I have made this commitment to be involved in
the anarchist community, I have met some powerful and inspirational
people; I have learned to see that resisting the oppressive and seemingly
undefeatable social world we live in can be practiced in so many minute,
marvelous and meaningful ways – in fucking, in gardening, in punk, in
slumming it, in cooking. Perhaps even in crystals. I’ve been a part of
RACE (revolutionary anarchists of color), been to and participated in the
anarchist conference, started a zine, boxcutter, with a few others to
explore aspects of personal liberation. I even staff a shift now at the Long
Haul. With each step I try to bring my stories and my experiences with
me. I want to be a part of something that combines theory and praxis, that
can talk the talk and walk the walk. I want to work with people that I can
learn from, that inspire me in my own efforts of teaching, parenting, and
living my daily life. I want to try and fail rather than remain safe in stasis.
And yet, at times I still feel like an outsider to the radical/anarchist
community. But now I know that I am a part of it, and so I have a
responsibility to help shape it. I am writing to engage myself in this
process that will force me to embrace more of it, to be more involved in it,
and welcome other people like me – marginalized from the
mainstream, yet not quite the typical anarchist – to join this
discussion. I know many more people are out there, many more stories,
and I hope we can start sharing them.

Let me tell you a story

I’m sitting at a park bench in south berkeley as my kids are running
around waiting for me to play shark attack with them. I’m talking to a
young man of color with a child in the 1st grade about schooling versus
home school, about the waste of money and the recall, about how things
could be. He’s talking about how he wishes there were other places
to get information about all this shit going on. I tell him about the info
shop; I tell him that there are others thinking the same thing.

The kids tell me they’re tired of waiting and want me to attack.
"That's the place across from la pena. I always wondered what that place
was." he says. We say good bye and he thanks me for the suggestion. I
get up, but look back and say, "Come in there some time, I’m there
Thursday nights." "I think I might just do that."
slingshot@tao.ca


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