I have mentioned in past posts that I take notice when a topic comes to me from different sources. This past week, after the violence in Iraq, a new movie release, a roommate’s offering maps and calendars on 19th century USA history, a puppet who is running for California’s governor, and a conversation with a friend from South Carolina, the phrases “secession” and “civil war” became prominent in my thoughts.
As a new year begins for those who live in the Common Era world, I have stepped back to ponder the flood of information that has flashed across my monitor these past twelve months. I have mentioned before that I constantly look for cracks within the media I see online. These cracks shed light on where things sit historically in the present moment, and allow me to gain possible choices for action in the future to bring about the changes in the world that I want to see.
I’ve just spent the last two days reading and seeing photographs of the city that was New Orleans. Now almost completely flooded, with scores of homeless, hungry refugees, the city that almost everyone loved is a place of misery, tainted water, and human suffering. Though the majority of those in precarious straits are poor Afro-Americans, all classes were affected by this third-world calamity. Still, the poor citizens of New Orleans were the people that didn’t have the means to evacuate the city, so they’re the majority hurting right now.
I watch videos, via a BBC Web site stream, of angry New Orleans citizens begging for President Bush to help them like he’s helping the Iraqis. A found photo shows criminals from a flooded jail sitting on an overpass, without shade and probably water, while polluted water runs underneath them. This small sample begins to show the breadth of destruction that Hurricane Katrina wrought. Continue reading “Precarious Grief”
Not knowing what to expect in the near future, where the leaders of Israel and Palestine will take the next crucial steps to resolve the mess that is the Intifada, I am presently thinking of a Gaza Strip without settlements. No matter where you stand on the issues of Erez Israel (the Land of Moses), the Palestinian claim for nationhood, or the many other intricate issues that that vampirically sucks international energy, a settler-less Gaza is a great step in some sort of right direction.
I’ve been researching the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab conflict for about six years now, and came to the conclusion that Israel must leave the West Bank and Gaza for a true peace. The Palestinians must give up their “right to return” and stop the ultra-religious desire to end the state of Israel for a true peace. And Jerusalem, well, that’s a super touchy issue that could be solved by making the Old City an autonomous city of the world…somehow. Though the Israeli fences, mines, checkpoints, and control of Gaza remain, the Bantusian gentrification by mostly-Zionist settlers will end tomorrow. Finally.
Most journalists don’t use the intellectual term Bantusian to describe Israel’s settlements, perhaps to avoid making the Israelis look like the racist South African government that used the same method to control it’s black populations. But if you look at all the maps that mainstream newspapers are posting online, you can see that Israel took chunks of Gaza, gentrified them (Palestinian-free), and then paved and irrigated them. Suburbs with barbed wire, machine guns, and terrorist attacks surrounded by a people that are poor, hungry, and full of emotions. A people that sometimes express themselves via rocks, guns, bombs, and rockets.
With the Bantusian settlements gone, the IDF has no reason to enter Gaza. I’m sure they’ll find plenty, especially after hearing that some conservative Likud members have called Gaza “Hamastan” in reference to the Hamas’ power there. In the present, knowing that IDF forces will remove settlers who are squatting, and that the settlements will be razed and handed over to the Palestinians, I am grateful that the children there will at least know a time where tanks didn’t roll through their slums and city centers.
The near future leads into foggy grayness. Concepts of civil war (Hamas vs. PLO), Gaza as an open “Escape From New York” style prison, continued expansion of the suburban West Bank settlements, and the final construction of the wall, will keep this land an open, bloody book. Starving Palestinians will continue to raise arms against one of the most advanced military forces in the world. Israelis will continue to claim the land as theirs by right, so says Moses, setting up trailer settlements, demanding protection, water, power, etc. from a sympathetic Israeli government.
Last year, I met a San Franciscan photographer who travelled extensively in Palestine taking photos. I asked him what he thought would be a sensible solution to the conflict there. He had no idea. Taking the Gaza pullout for what it is, a move on a Byzantine chess board, I can only hope that the next steps continue to move closer to some kind of peace. Who knows what’s really going on behind the scenes. In a land where alternate realities exist, where 5,000 year old texts create national boundaries for some, and where taking out a busload of civilians can send others to heaven, I can only hope that a generation will soon walk safely without fear of revenge. Praying in their own way, acknowledging the fact that nationality isn’t that big of a deal when we all bleed and die the same way.
I can only hope….
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill today (by a vote of 286 to 130) calling for a constitutional amendment banning the desecration of the American flag. The Republican-controlled Senate will vote on this bill next, making the measure a sure shot for becoming part of our Constitution. After four previous attempts since 1989 failed to reach the two-thirds majority in that wing, Neoconservative proponents of this amendment are peeing their pants in potential joy of protecting this “great American” symbol.
The amendment begs the question as to what exactly will be protected. Below are a few personal examples of where this amendment will be useless:
Five years ago at Burning Man, a random burner handed me a “Personal Flag Burning Kit.” It was a tiny USA flag on a tooth pick, taped to a cheap lighter. The flag was positioned over the flame, and the potential to spontaneously express myself was to large to hold back. I instantly burned the tiny flag and enjoyed every second.
About three years ago, I spent the Fourth of July at California’s only clothing-optional state park. Appropriately named the Red, White, and Blue beach, I enjoyed nude vollyball, sunbathing, and just plain hanging out (pardon the pun). On the Fourth, there was a camp bar-b-q, so I showed up clothed and had a burger and beer with all the folks there. There were all classes of Americans at this meal, singing bad karakoke, and enjoying themselves.
A woman walked up to the picnic area, wearing nothing except the American flag that was painted on her body. In glorious Fourth of July fashion, this woman had a painted-on one piece bathing suit of Old Glory. Yep, the stripes went all the way down to her nicely shaved crotch.
Being a patriotic American, ahem, these two examples of “waving the flag” are completely protected under the Constitution’s freedoms of expression. We know that Bush and Co. could care less about that amazing amendment, and are way more focused on curtailing all the flag slumming that goes on in the USA. I guess they need to pass something through Congress since they’re stuck on all fronts with judicial appointments, UN delegate appointments, Social Security reform, and… Iraq.
The flag of the United States is just a piece of cloth to me. When I hear people say that a soldier died for “flag and country,” I bite my lower lip and think of all those “losers” in this world who see that flag soaked in the blood of dead civilians. Peoples around the world, possessing something that the US government and corporations want badly (oil comes to mind, as does land) don’t see our flag as this glorious thing.
Here’s another flag story: In the 1800s, as the US headed west and killed the natives into submission, a tribal cheif made a pact with the “white grandfather” in Washington, DC. He agreed that his tribe would submit to peace with the blue-uniformed hordes that killed his people. He signed an agreement with the President himself, stating that he was pro-USA, and accepted all their demands. The US relocated his tribe, and they lived there for a while.
While the chief was in DC to sign the agreement, he was given a US flag as a sign of trust and friendship. For months, the chief proudly flew this gift outside his own teepee, and there was peace among his people. But the thirst and greed for the land that they had legally been moved to was too much for the US settlers and their sympathetic goverment.
So the US Army swooped in and began to massacre this chief’s peoples. They killed men, women, children; old and young. As his people died around him, the chief took down the US flag that the President had given him, and waved it as a sign of being a true American.
And he died with that flag in his hand. Just sewn pieces of white, blue, and red cloth; covered in blood of a man who thought it was a symbol of peace with the white man.
So if that amendment passes, I’ll be the first to buy a flag to proudly burn in public. The less logos and symbols in this world, the better. Besides, this white American owes that long-dead Indian chief.
A local playwright, and coworker at Teatro Zinzanni, just found out that his landlord is offering his roommate, the lease holder, $10,000 to vacate their rent-controlled Noe Valley apartment (rent at 1992 level).
Recent graffiti on a live/work loft going up on Harrison St.: “This is what corporate gentrification looks like.”
Save the Last SF Quonset Hut
For those of you who don’t already know, the owners of my space have filed an application for demolition & building of condos. This is the quonset hut at 20th & Shotwell in the Mission. It’s the building that looks like an airplane hanger with a red symbol on the front (representing longevity), formerly a yoga studio, affectionately known as The Tin Can and The Silver Twinkie. In brief, the building was constructed in 1946 for military family housing after the war. Over the years it’s been artist live/work, and is now one of few true artist live/work spaces in the city. It is also the last functional quonset hut in the city.
Here’s a pic to check (almost all the way on the bottom, 3350-3352 20th street). Here is another one (towards the bottom Best Relic of Prefabricated Housing Gone By).
MEDA, Mission Economic Development Association has filed a Discretionary Review to the demolition application. I met with MEDA this morning and it seems we have a good case to save the building and maintain it as artist live/work. In my few short months here, many people have told me stories of their experiences in this space, whether it be a yoga class or a party 20 years ago.
THIS is what I’m asking for right now:
MEDA needs your stories, your experiences, your feelings about the space. Time is important in this endeavor. Meetings will be occurring within the next month, with the review hearing tentatively scheduled for the first week of July. Please send this email to as many people & organizations as you can as soon as possible. And please try to send in the stories as soon as possible. They can be sent as in line text or word attachment to Nick Pagoulatos (MEDA) at firstname.lastname@example.org
next step: if you have any assistance to give in fundraising, donations, outreach, subletting with good credit (so I can afford to stay in the space to fight this), or even interest in establishing a community land trust in order to secure the use of the space for the future… please feel free to contact me at email@example.com
thank you so much for your time and energy!
“I think Fremont has a great concept there,” I said. “Denouncing an organization that doesn’t exist-one Fremont made up and says is taking over America. Obviously no one can destroy it. No one’s safe from it. No one knows where it’ll turn up next…. It’ll get Fremont into the White House.”
-Philip K. Dick Radio Free Albemuth
“Not only were the media bombarding us all the time with the talk about the terrorist threat; this threat was also obviously libidinally invested – just recall the series of movies from Escape From New York to Independence Day. The unthinkable which happened was thus the object of fantasy: in a way, America got what it fantasized about, and this was the greatest surprise.” -Slavoj Zizek Welcome to the Desert of the Real!
Network (1976) by Paddy Chayefsky.
A series about a bunch of bank-robbing guerillas?
What’re we going to call it –the Mao Tse Tung Hour?
Why not? They’ve got Strike Force, Task Force, SWAT — why not Che Guevara and his own little mod squad? Listen, I sent you all a concept analysis report yesterday. Did any of you read it? (apparently not) Well, in a nutshell, it said the American people are turning sullen. They’ve been clobbered on all sides by Vietnam, Watergate, the inflation, the depression. They’ve turned off, shot up, and they’ve fucked themselves limp. And nothing helps. Evil still triumphs over all, Christ is a dope-dealing pimp, even sin turned out to be impotent. The whole world seems to be going nuts and flipping off into space like an abandoned balloon. So — this concept analysis report concludes — the American people want somebody to articulate their rage for them. I’ve been telling you people since I took this job six months ago that I want angry shows. I don’t want conventional programming on this network. I want counter-culture. I want anti-establishment.
Wag the Dog (1997) by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet.
Lookit, don’t worry about it. It’s not a New Concept.
Wake me when we touch down, will…
We can’t afford a war.
We aren’t going to have a war. We’re going to have the “appearance” of a war.
I’m not sure we can afford to have the “appearance” of a war.
What’s it gonna cost?
But, but, but, “they” would find out.
Who would find out?
The American “people”?
Who’s gonna tell’em. What did they find out about the Gulf War? One shot: one bomb, falling though the roof, building coulda been made of Legos.
…you want us to go to War…
…that’s the general idea.
Why not, what’ve they ever done for us…? Also: they sound… Ah, you see, this is why we have to mobilize the B-2 Bomber…Well, I’m gonna hold on, but you went to win this election, you better change the subject. You wanna change this subject, you better have a War. What do you need? It’s gotta be quick, it’s gotta be dramatic, you got to have an enemy. Okay? What do you need in an enemy? Somebody you fear. Who do you fear? Som’b’y you don’t know.
Mid-May, someone told me about an underground viewing of Adam Curtis’s The Power of Nightmares at The Kitchen on Protrero. I couldn’t make it, but ended up with a flyer from that show. Ellison Horne’s em was on that flyer, along with alot of information about the BBC documentary and how to spread the word about the Neocon myths. It seemded like Horne worked as a one-man PR firm, so I instantly thought that CELLspace might be a larger, more public place to show the doc.
For those of you who don’t know, The Power of Nightmares is a three-part program that compares and contrasts the right-wing, fundamentalist philosophies of Sayed Kotb and Leo Strauss. It played the SF Film Festival early last month, and Curtis has won awards for this work. The San Francisco Bay Guardian covers the style and content of the doc pretty well. Al Jazzera comments on the doc, bringing up a few issues that Anglo media hasn’t mentioned.
With the hype from Curtis’s awards, and the fact that the doc sanely explains why the War on Terror is a complete fabrication (based upon Strauss’s belief that the people need a mythic enemy to fight to keep society wholesome), I decided to track down Horne and see where he was playing the DVD next. A quick em to him got a quick response, so I headed to the Meridian Gallery near Union Square and caught two of the three parts.
Horne, simply dressed and soft spoken, stood in front of the tiny gallery’s big screen and explained why he felt that the US public needed to see this UK doc. While Part Two played for the third hour (Horne felt that Parts One and Three work well together, so saved Part Two for last), I ended up speaking with him further. Horne, founder of Celebrating Solutions, got his DVD from Curtis himself, and both share the desire to pull the curtain back and reveal the fragile reality that the Neocons have created for the world. While appearing extremely busy in his many projects, Horne wanted to play the doc to larger audiences. He was working on a show at the Roxie, which opens June 10. I connected him with Patricia, the CELL caretaker who is programming the Sunday Movie Nights.
Horne’s desire to get this info out there inspired me, but I also hoped that The Power of Nightmares would get out of the leftist gutter and hit the conservative parts of the USA. Horne, who has film and TV connections (he helped run AcessSF), felt that he could get the show aired on other city PBS channels. I left him convinced that he indeed could get this doc on the air for that important meme tipping point (Right now, the UK memo showing that the whole war was fabricated may prove to be the meme that brings down this comedy).
As always, I put my conservative South Carolina family up to the test for whether they could sit through three hours of deep information, alternative history lessons, and bits of humor and irony thrown in. I took copious notes during for the two hours I watched, and realized that they would probably make it through an hour of this at the most. US Americans do not get into history unless it’s full of Ken Burns voice overs and antique photos. I sometimes found myself lost in a philosophy lecture, but Curtis kept coming back to the point that the War on Terror is a myth. Post-neocon philosopher Strauss’ influence on my parent’s world gave me chills. Not because of the danger of the myth getting worse, but because my family in SC have no idea that they’re believing the hype that the TV shits out to them. Would they believe this British journalist’s take on reality, or throw it out with all the other “liberal media” items that Rush always condemns? I’d love to find out.
For now, I’m a connector and mouth for Horne’s new alliance. I hope that this doc does get out of the liberal enclaves of the US and into the homes of folks who voted for Bush but don’t like the idea of still being in Iraq. I hope that the history and philosophies discussed in the doc also crack open that already weak shell that half of this country is surrounded by. So, to keep the buzz going about The Power of Nightmares, I suggest that you hit it up at the Roxie if you haven’t seen it already.
S.F. Indiefest presents ‘The Power of Nightmares,’ opening Fri/10, Roxie Cinema, 3117 16th St., S.F. $4-$8. (415) 863-1087.
Currently residing at Mercy Hot Springs, an off-the-grid spot east of Hollister (just off the I-5). Didn’t think I’d make it here yesterday due to several delays in SF and Oakland. After numerous hours waiting for my ride, the Big Tadoo Puppet Crew veggie-fuel bus, to show up (rain and load-in delays), I got picked up at my place on 17th Street around noon. We went shopping, fueled up via veggie oil from a local Vietnamese restaurant, and stopped by CELLspace briefly to pick up some things.
Jonathan filters and pumps veggie oil into Vegenius’ second tank
After the three hour delay, we hit the Bay Bridge on our trip south and stalled on the bridge. Jonathan Youtt, main Big Tadoo driver and mechanic, quickly went to work troubleshooting the problem. I meekly suggested calling 911 to get a push off the bridge, but Jonathan found a blown fuse that a new fuel pump most likely caused. Replacing the fuse got us over the bridge, where we stalled a second time in the right lane of an exit.
Jonathan scurried over and under the engine as I turned the ignition on so he could try to listen to the new fuel pump turn on. He couldn’t hear it, so quickly unhooked it and prayed that the standard fuel pump, tired from pumping veggie oil, would get us to an exit in Oakland to find fuses, filters, and diesel (no biodeisel was available and must be used to heat up the oil). We hit Broadway’s motor mile and drove up and down to various auto parts places to find what we need (the filters and deisel proved to be harder to find). In a more quiet spot, Jonathan still cannot hear the new fuel pump, and thought that it has been blown due to a too-powerful fuse (one of the auto parts places told him the pump runs on a smaller ampage than he started out with).
Finally, around 4pm, we left the Bay Area and headed south to the first-ever Alternative Fuels Summit at Mercy Hot Springs. On the way, we easily switched over from diesel to veggie, and only stopped once to change the veggie filter. I photo-documented the step-by-step process that Jonathan went through to make the change, and realized that your average soccer-mom wouldn’t dream of going through all of this for free fuel. At least for the time being.
Jonathan shows the difference between a new and yucky used filter
What I have discovered today at Mercy is what a workshop leader called the “Pioneers of Alternative Fuels”. A community of people like Jonathan, and his partner Emily, are all here this weekend to share knowledge about veggie fuel, biodeisel, ethanol, hydrogen, and other sustainable forms of power that can make automobiles go. Biodeisel autos of many kinds (buses, trucks, SUVs, Mercedes-Benz, and brand new VWs) sit with their hoods up and their owners networking and skillsharing. A truck that runs on hydrogen has a windmill attached to it for extra off-the-grid power. Buses with converted veggie oil engines show off their filtration systems. Their crews share on-the-road stories and talk about the future of the used oil as a source of free fuel. All these machines are owned by people consumed with ending petroleum dependency and creating systems that will allow communities to convert their own autos.
I sat in on workshops that dealt with ethanol issues, veggie oil issues, making your own ethanol stove out of a beer can, and even a permaculture introduction. This summit is all about DIY sustainability, including growing food. Tonight, Jonathan, Emily, and I will perform our puppet show, a circus medicine show that means to give away veggie oil for fuel. After that, and some other performances, Hot Buttered Rum String Band will play a couple of sets. All the artists performing have toured extensively in veggie oil buses. Tomorrow there will be workshops on getting funding and discussing legislative issues.
These pioneers are hippies, farmers, artists, and everyone in between willing to learn the basic skills to convert their autos. Like Jonathan, they troubleshoot on their own, without the millions of dollars in research and development that the auto industry puts behind their engineered machines. These pioneers have put maybe hundreds or several thousands into thier R&D. Most of the equipment is off-the-shelf and maybe modified by DIY and trained mechanics who believe in bringing down the current multibillion dollar oil, gas, and automobile industries. Biofuel refinery is DIY too, and communities around the United States are organizing to brew their own.
And these people are excited about their movement. The Alternative Fuels Summit can only get bigger and better as the United States slowly wakes up to higher fuel costs. The Washington Post just reported on a group of conservatives who are trying to convince Pres. Bush that alternative fuels are better than petroleum. That’s old news here at the Summit, and most people here don’t want corporations getting involved in alternative fuels. Decentralized and non-GMO are buzz words here this weekend.
Interesting that the mainstream medi missed this weekend. An indy Toronto-based crew videoed all weekend, hoping to score a deal with the Discover channel (they have connections). This blog entry may be the only written documentation of the event. Guess media is too busy covering the Pope’s funeral to notice this amazing aggregation of brain and will power that’s amassed here at Mercy. Guess the hottubs, beautiful vistas, clean air, and starry sky didn’t entice them either. For now, the alternative fuel pioneers will remain on the down low, but as these pioneers continue to organize communities on the grassroots level, this knowledge will only get more mainstream.
Two weekends ago, I attended a night of stencils, cement scrawls, and Precariousness at ATA’s Other Cinema. Chris Carlsson showed some videos from Greenpepper Magazine’s “Precarious” DVD, and then started a discussion on the new European movement. The DVD clips he showed were amusing creative civil disobedience for the most part, based upon a new definition of where we all fit into this crazy capitalist world. One clip showed Italian citizens discussing what made their lives precarious and I instantly related to alot of them. The idea of being precarious hit home when a few immigrants spoke about how hard it was for them to make a living under the threat of not having papers.
As the discussion, which didn’t really go anywhere, progressed to nearly midnight, I lost concentration. Afterwards, I headed to El Farralito with Josh MacPhee and some other friends. Along the way, we joked about how precarious our existence was, and that that was a big word to swallow as a name of a unified movement against capitalism. It was too intellectual. At one point in the walk, I realized I wasn’t joking, and then started to seriously think about this new language coming out of Europe.
Chris mentioned that Greenpepper magazing and the Web site, Metamute, had articles about Precariousness. The next day, I went to the site and tried to read an article. Staring at the tiny type crossed my eyes. I took it as a signal to meditate upon my own personal precarious existence for a while and print out copies of the Metamute articles for future absorption.
Just what does precarious mean? According to WordPress’ dictionary, precarious means:
- Dangerously lacking in security or stability: a precarious posture; precarious footing on the ladder.
- Subject to chance or unknown conditions: “His kingdom was still precarious; the Danes far from subdued” (Christopher Brooke).
- Based on uncertain, unwarranted, or unproved premises: a precarious solution to a difficult problem.
- Archaic. Dependent on the will or favor of another.
Putting the meanings into plitical cotext made me exclaim, “No shit. We’re all precariously existing in this system!” I realized that I knew almost no one who doesn’t live close to some form of capitalist edge of oblivion. Also, I knew many folks going through various hard times right now, and we were all creating support networks and mutual aid to get through it. The basic conclusion I drew, without reading any text on Europe’s Precarious movement, was that there are two classes: the Rich, and the Not Rich. This fit in with Chris’ statement that the working class was a misnomer and that language needed to create a new phrase for 21st century dwellers to actually relate to one another. In capitalist terms, almost the whole human population is Not Rich.
Put that in your solidarity pipe and smoke it. Chris was interested in trying to get the attending activists to somehow relate to the blue and white collar workers, and the discussion didn’t really create any juicy leads on how to do this. My time spent in the Corporate sphere showed that white collar workers do indeed live precariously, yet they strive to live in what is either a delusional lie or a dream. While I worked in that environment, I had a hard time relating to my coworkers. I was a prole admin employee, getting paid at the bottom of the scale, yet I lived better and maybe richer than the top-paid executives. How? Well, they worked their asses of for one thing, and consumed at a larger quantity than I did. I’d say that their money concerns, commutes, mortgages, and desire to have more and be more got in the way of the fact that they worked stupid jobs and lived with little real security.
Yet most of them would probably agree that they lived precariously if I had discussed it with them. This ties in nicely with the Coop research that I’ve been doing. I’ve recently discovered that Argentina’s middle class has sided with the unemployed masses on and off for decades! A teachers union started the picket tactic (blocking roads, bridges, etc.) that the piqueteros have used since the 1990s to degrade the capitalist system there. Why, do you ask? My guess is when a corporatist government makes white collar workers feel really precarious, then they’re out in th e streets fighting over it.
So my brooding is over, and the Metamute articles have been printed. Once the Coop research is done, I’ll dive in and see what this movement is all about. I hope to have more things to say about the Not Rich Class, and I hope to discuss precariousness further with people who don’t know that there are terms and philosophies being developed around the idea. That’s where I hope to find some fresh perspectives on what tactics can unite us all to try to make some tough changes. But these changes need to be made, and systems of mutual aid need to be set up in the future.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I would try to follow up on the coop movement in Argentina. Watching the documentary The Take came at a good time as forthcoming information on what is happening in all of the Americas soon followed from diferent sources. At the monthly NoBAWC (Network of Bay Area Cooperatives) meeting, not only did I get a reportback on what is happening in the United States, but there was also a reportback on the coop movement in Argentina and Venezuela. On top of that, I just scoured the Anarchist Bookfair for books en Ingles on the Argentine coop and peoples movement and only found an article and two pamphlets. Since this research is ongoing, I will continue to post entries about what I’m reading.
Locally, the recent NoBAWC meeting proved to be a watershed moment for the growing coop movement in the Bay Area. NoBAWC just restructured their model to rely on incoming dues from the member coops. Members pay a sliding scale fee that is based upon what their annual income is. One smaller-sized coop, and another larger one, voiced concern over justifying to their paying dues for a larger organization that doesn’t really do anything.
This was my first meeting with NoBAWC, so I listened intensely as other members voiced their concerns about getting future approval from their members to pay into an organization that only provided a card that gives members discounts within the network. The larger organization is currently loosely organized, with a steering committee and a part-time employee. It is not currently a nonprofit and has been trying to go there for a few years. NoBAWC also doesn’t currently produce any content other than the discount card (I’ve seen posters done from the recent past). No other services currently exist, and no information is posted on how to create a coop (something several members mentioned in the recent meeting).
One person attending the meeting summed up the next step when he stated that coops work best in a committee form (or clusters as CELLspace calls them). NoBAWC needed to put an item on their next meeting agenda to address the need to create smaller working groups to begin to set up tasks and follow through on creating services in a Bay Area-sized, and even national, scale. Everyone at the meeting seemed overworked and booked out with their various businesses and causes, but all agreed that it was time to step up and get the region organized.
This intense discussion started when a member of the NoBAWC steering committee gave a reportback on a few other regional coops and on the formation of a United States coop federation. Sadly, I did not take any notes on the reportbacks, but can say that the other regional organizations were charged with energy and already beginning to eclipse NoBAWC in services and action. On the national level, The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives recently formed in May of 2004. The reportback said that the Federation was in the process of creating bylaws for nonprofit status, membership processes, smaller regional state federations, and was created in response to other countries wondering why the U.S. wasn’t working to unite coops on a national level.
Summing up, the meme of coop organization that I feel sparked a fire in South America in 2001 has come home to the belly of the corporate capitalist beast that is the United States. As you will see, the fire of hunger and desperation that created the horizontal organization of neighborhoods and businesses in Argentina, ripples in the liberal enclaves like the San Francisco Bay Area and on a national level. Options other than “clearcut and sell” need to be given to the public, and as the Not Rich class continues to slide into precarious existence in the United States, the coop model proves to be a testy power rising from the cracks of mainstream consumerism. With the Bay Area getting off its ass to organize, and the United States beginning to organize, there’s a chance that different options mean better living and freedom of choice.
If not now, when? If not you, who?
to be continued…
I just caught the documentary The Take, a story about a group of workers’ struggle to take over their former work place. If you don’t know, Argentina has had a wild 21st century: protests, bank closures, disenfranchised middle class, many presidents (at least 5), massive layoffs and factory closures due to IMF restructuring, etc.
Some of the laid off workers went back to their closed factories and took them over as coops run by assemblies. The model differs according to the group who runs the different business, but they are all worker-owned.
For several years now, I have researched Argentina’s worker coop movement. There hasn’t been too much documentation in English until recently, and The Take is a great introduction for anyone who is interested in actual options other than the free market’s IMF/WTO, etc. model. There isn’t much else in English yet, but you could also scrape the Indymedia site for posts.
Author Marina Sitrin has published some of her research in The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest for an upcoming book about Argentina’s autonomous movement. AK Press has a video from Indymedia Argentina about the movement as well. It has English subtitles.
So I hope that you all try to catch The Take if it’s playing near you. I am blessed to be in a part of the world that has many forms of coops. Working for CELLspace has also been a huge experience on how to work with different systems. CELLspace has been a collective from the beginning.
I’ll probably touch on this form of organization again, because I hope to find more on the Argentina model. I also want to talk about the same model in reference to the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.