Billy Fong is out of a job. Until recently, this high school student had found a purpose helping Hong Kong’s demonstrators over the high median dividers cutting through their encampment in the city’s Admiralty district. Yet, as the occupation of Harcourt Road enters its fourth week, getting over the concrete walls has become easy: protesters handy with tools have made several sets of wooden stairs for them, complete with handrails. “I have somehow become useless,” says Fong, 17, standing idly at one such set of steps on a recent evening. “But it’s okay,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “Now I have more leisure time.”
What if we continually organized our social spaces as if social relations mattered? What if we dedicated ourselves to being enthusiastic lifelong learners and thus better schooled for revolutionary openings, to better be the kind of people who just might be able to supply the staying power for a better society—one where we and our communities are always, also, becoming better?
Last month PM Press published the Debt Resisters' Operations Manual —also known as “the DROM.” But don’t let that menacing-sounding acronym fool you: this is a book written in plain English and filled with tips and tactics for dealing with debt.
In 2012, the Pachamama Alliance, a U.S.-based organization working in partnership with indigenous Achuar people in Ecuador, published a meme showing two native men discussing a new “scientific discovery”: the fact that our world is deeply interconnected. The joke, of course, is the idea that these scientists could “discover” a concept that is age-old wisdom for indigenous peoples across the world. I was delighted by the two-fold genius of the cartoon, the way it both highlights the importance of understanding the world we live in while pointedly calling out the dangers of cultural and intellectual appropriation.
It is time to try to describe, at first abstractly and later concretely, a strategy for destroying capitalism. At its most basic, this strategy calls for pulling time, energy, and resources out of capitalist civilization and putting them into building a new civilization. The image, then, is one of emptying out capitalist structures, hollowing them out, by draining wealth, power, and meaning from them until there is nothing left but shells.
In an essay in The Baffler a couple of weeks ago, David Graeber that there is a play principle embedded in all levels of physical reality. His essay, which ranges playfully from Spencer and Darwin to and string theory, ponders a deep and serious problem. As he writes:
"Still, if one wants a consistently materialist explanation of the world — that is, if one does not wish to treat the mind as some supernatural entity imposed on the material world, but rather as simply a more complex organization of processes that are already going on, at every level of material reality — then it makes sense that something at least a little like intentionality, something at least a little like experience, something at least a little like freedom, would have to exist on every level of physical reality as well."
On a bitingly cold and rainy November evening last year, I was in a pickle: I’d taken a city bus to CoCo, the coworking space where I office in downtown Minneapolis, and was seemingly stuck without an efficient option for getting to Birchwood Café, where I would meet friends for dinner, three miles away. That is until I remembered my new membership with car2go, a car-share service that had recently won a contract with the city of Minneapolis. I quickly located a vehicle using car2go’s mobile app and, my despair vanishing, dashed out of the building in search of the blue and white smart car parked only a few blocks away.
On Thursday, three days after Hurricane Sandy swept across the Eastern Seaboard, darkening power grids, flooding neighborhoods, and killing at least 74 people, former Star Trek actor and social-media dynamo George Takei posted a lovely photo to his Facebook timeline. It showed two power strips draped over the gratework of a fence, phone cords tendrilling from each one. A sign said, “We have power. Please feel free to charge your phone!”
In 2012, a member of the UK Socialist Workers Party (SWP) came forward saying she had been raped and sexually harassed by the former National Secretary of the organisation, Martin Smith. The internal ‘investigation’ which followed demonstrated a number of common ways in which sexual violence is ignored and those who experience it are demonised. Some of the members of the Disputes Committee chosen to investigate the claim were close friends of Smith. The woman who had come forward was questioned about her sexual history and alcohol use.
Last month, an estimated 10,000 gallons of the coal-processing chemical MCHM, along with an unknown amount of a second substance called PPH, spilled into West Virginia’s Elk River — just upstream from a municipal water intake that serves nine counties. Freedom Industries, the company responsible for the spill, neglected to report it, despite some residents claiming to have smelled the chemicals as far back as December. After repeated complaints of a strong licorice-like smell, state inspectors literally followed their noses to the source. It wasn’t until many hours later that the water company and government agencies finally warned residents to avoid any contact with water— aside from flushing toilets and putting out fires.