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.
In this digital age, we’ve all experienced situations in which a text message or e-mail was misconstrued because the person on the receiving end could not discern tone. Without the facial expressions, physical gestures, and vocal inflections gathered during face-to-face conversation, communication can often be challenging.
Have you daydreamed about being a member of an intergenerational social justice organization like the Order of Phoenix? Do you want Dumbledore to be your mentor? Have dementors ever burned you out to the point where you doubted your ability to take on the Voldemorts of our world? Do you find yourself analyzing Dumbledore's Army for lessons on developing liberatory vision, culture, leadership, and organization?
I became a father last summer when my daughter Fern was born. As little as she is, Fern is already an amazing teacher. The most precious things I'm learning aren't about babies or being a parent, but about what it means to be human and what is important about life. While I'm still too new a parent to feel qualified to write much and this is a little disorganized, here are my initial impressions.
In April, the anarchist collective CrimethInc published a new pamphlet critiquing accountability processes and suggesting ways forward. “Accounting for Ourselves” is not an introduction to accountability processes, nor to the concepts of restorative or transformative justice, but an attempt to evaluate the current implementation of these concepts in political subcultures.
My interest in this topic has come from participating and supporting friends and comrades in this work over the last ten or so years. Accountability processes attempt to put many of my values into practice—mutual aid, respect, direct action, a DIY ethic, an acknowledgement that “crime,” safety, harm, and support are complex. Accountability processes haven’t been a perfect solution, however, and many of the participants I know have left these processes frustrated. At the same time, a lot of the collective knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work is scattered, unwritten, and lost as ad-hoc groups come and go around particular crises.
A week and a half ago, when I first drove to Little Axe, Oklahoma, to take a look at post-tornado recovery efforts, the countryside was still in crisis mode. Mountains of rubble and garbage filled gravel roads and red dirt paths leading to the remains of homes. Neighborhoods that had been full of working-class houses were uprooted and dirty, unsafe tent camps were all that remained. Just 30 minutes away, the big NGOs and FEMA operated, bringing national attention to Moore - a badly struck area, to be sure. But not the only one affected.