Posts Tagged ‘occupy wall street’

ruleistobreakcover

I received John and Jana’s A Rule is to Break: A Child’s Guide to Anarchy as a belated holiday gift ostensibly for my 5 year old daughter (but probably moreso intended for me). I missed it originally, but apparently this book caused a bit of tantrum among easily-outraged Tea Party types who equate anarchy with terrorism or liberalism or communism or whatever. Which is weird when you think about it (and forget that most Tea Party folks aren’t all that bright) because libertarianism is in several ways quite similar to anarchism (yes, the capitalism thing is a huge divide, but still).

Alternately, nearly everyone who isn’t a frothing Obama=Socialist, they’re-gonna-take-our-guns-and-ban-Jesus half wit seems to think the book is among the best kids’ books ever and uncritically lauds it. A quick scan of the reviews on Amazon (a great source of scientific data, I know) demonstrates a split response to the book between a bunch of 5s, absolutely no 4s, 3s, or 2s, and a couple of 1s from people who probably didn’t even read the book.

To say the critical response to the book is largely ideologically-driven would be too obvious, right?

Well, as a practical anarchist who has read more than a bit on anarchist theory over the years, I’m going to break with our esteemed Amazon reviewers (and the other glowing reviews or harsh condemnations I’ve read) and land pretty squarely in the middle on this book. I’d give it a 3/5 or C-plus.

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I’ve let this concept slide for a while, so it’s time to get back on track.  I’m going to try to shift my focus to include more bloggers, small websites, and positions I disagree with from now on.

“Batman and the Problem of Constituent Power” – David Graeber (guest post at De Dicto 10/28/2012)

I’m a fan of David Graeber as a critic of capitalism; as a critic of film and pop culture, however, I’m much more ambivalent.  This is his take on The Dark Knight Rises (and superheroes in general) vis-a-vis the Occupy movement.  The main problem with the essay is that it starts out with cliched and at times incorrect or overstated claims about the superhero genre. To put it bluntly, Graeber comes across as someone who is not well-read enough in the existing criticism of superheroes to be writing about them.  Because of this, I’m guessing this essay will lose (or enrage) most comic fans and critics early on as he seems to be appropriating something without studying it thoroughly, and doing so in order to make a point about one specific film that he could have made without such overgeneralizations.  That said, the concluding arguments about how The Dark Knight Rises ends are worth pushing through to the end and considering.

“The Myth of Meritocracy” – Christopher Powell (The Practical Theorist 11/14/2012)

Powell is one of those relatively rare, practicing academics whose public writing is written clearly, with a minimum of jargon, and without arrogance.  He often deals with difficult theory but doesn’t try to make concepts harder than they need to be.  I’m a big fan of that.  In this essay he lays out the structural inequalities that affect student academic success.  Upon reading it, the points he makes seem so obvious that you tend to just nod your head like you knew this all along, which you probably did even if you never articulated it clearly.

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We vote by mail in Oregon, so my ballot was submitted a while ago.  And, like many, I’m ready for this all to be over so the stupid ads and junk mail and “news” articles cluttering up my internet cease.  Even more than that, I’ll be happy to not have to engage in dialogue with true believer campaigners who are so sure electing their candidate will change everything.  Guess what?  It won’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly one of those anarchists who claims you shouldn’t vote because it “legitimates the system” and is hypocritical, and then parrots an unsourced Emma Goldman quote.  That’s nonsense, and especially so when you live somewhere where there are ballot measures that decide policy put directly to voters.  And it does matter which candidate takes office.  That said, to me it’s important to remember how limited the impact of voting, especially for political offices, actually is.

In a recent article for Spin (“How Political Change Actually Happens”), Boots Riley of The Coup (who I’ll get to below the cut) and Occupy Oakland lays this point out as follows:

If what you want is actual change, then what has to be built is a mass movement that is militant and can use direct action to slow or stop profit. A movement that can do that can demand whatever it wants. Why? Because politicians answer the dictates of the ruling class, the 1%. [Politicians] are merely puppets. If you have a movement that stops a portion of the economic machine, the ruling class will make their puppets dance for you.

None of the changes that we see as great advances in human or civil rights have come by electing the right politician. Social Security, Medicare, Section 8, AFDC, Civil Rights legislation — that all came because there were movements that were using direct action to stop profits; movements that the ruling class was scared would turn revolutionary.

Interestingly, this reminder to question change through voting, reformist liberalism, and the existing socioeconomic system, is often most clearly expressed through music (though music is no substitute for real action, as Boots is always the first to mention).  And there are a number of artists who have recently released (or will soon release) albums with messages to this effect.  Here’s a quick rundown of a few I happen to like (skewing toward indy hip hop since that’s where I’m at right now), and I’d be happy to hear if you have other suggestions in this vein.

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I haven’t taken much time to write about music recently (or, on this blog, at all).  There are various reasons for this, including: A. my interest in strange, often noisy, and overtly politically-oriented styles of music, and B. my somewhat narrow topic focus here.  But when I heard about the ridiculously prolific, smart, and politically-relevant rapper Sole doing a new studio record (and seeking crowdfunding to get it done right), I figured I should write something up about him and why people should check him out.

Sole was one of the founding members of the collective/label anticon., who I discovered in the early 2000s while living in Oakland/Berkeley.  During that time, around 2001-06, a lot of interesting and great stuff was happening with DIY/indy/underground/whatever hip hop in the Bay Area and elsewhere, and the anticon. collective’s work was one of the several ongoing projects I latched on to.  All of their work, and a lot of underground hip-hop of the time, deviates greatly in style and content from the kind of mainstream crap that most think of when you talk about hip-hop or rap.

Sadly, as with many such things, I kind of let my attention slide when I moved north and started all the things that I’m now occupied with.  Distance from a locale where these things actually happened, plus new priorities led me to let a lot of less-pressing interests wither.  So, I missed out on the news of Sole leaving anticon. or his recent work; until a few months back when someone linked something on some forum or page and I (re-)discovered him via this video:

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