As if life in Ciudad Juarez weren't hard enough, things are heating up even more in Lomas del Poleo, the little colonia on the western outskirts of the city where government and corporate forces want to build a new highway and border port, thus obliterating the neighborhood of lower-income people. This struggle has been going on for a few years now but apparently it is heating up, with the Zaragosa family hiring armed thugs to even stop people from organizing. There are more details on this spanish-language blog, and an english translation of a press release about the Lomas del Poleo "Breaking the Siege" Forum.
What are the ethics of doing versus not-doing? Of quitting versus "staying the course"? If you got a group of people into something, or helped get them into it, and they may or may not be worse off because of it, but you want out, are you justified in counting yourself out? Or do you have an obligation to finish what you started, no matter what? And what if others are telling you to quit? What is the moral calculus for deciding when, for each individual, they say, "I will not be a party to this," as opposed to, "I will try to help salvage this mess," or somewhere in-between?
What a crazy time, this week and the coming 2. This evening was a Critical Mass ride, the first in Tucson for about 12 years, I'm told. So long ago that the organizers weren't aware that there had ever been one. So long ago, and Critical Mass so crazy an idea for this town, I guess, that the organizers were about 6 years old when it was last tried.
I'll have more of a report later, with photos, but in brief, it was without incident. The police herded everyone along in a double-file line for about an hour, blocked traffic for us, and there were no arrests or even tickets. Compared to the debacle on Tuesday night, they were amazingly respectful of the bicyclists.
After the ride me and O had a little dinner and then went to see Gogol Bordello. They're such an amazing live band. But, since I have to wake up at 4am to drive to Calexico, I couldn't really get that into it. normally i might have had a couple beers and gone down to the front and pogo'ed with everybody else.
So, yeah, weekend in Calexico doing No Border Camp prep stuff and then back here for a day and then to portland for a wedding and then back to tucson again for the Dry River anniversary party and then back to Calexico for the camp iteself.
Can someone slow down this merry-go-round?
There's a project called Oil 21, "Perspectives on Intellectual Property," started by the cool folks at Bootlab in Berlin. The name come from a quote by some bigshot at Getty Images in which he claimed that IP is the oil of the 21st century.
This is perhaps an unsurprising statement (the Getty family made their money from oil, afterall), but it's a really stupid metaphor, and I'll tell you why: Oil is the Oil of the 21st century. I'm positive that at least until 2040 or so petroleum will continue to be something that shapes the world, informs geopolitics, and causes conflict around the globe more than any other resource, with the possible exception of water.
I guess I'm glad someone still cares a lot about fighting the good fight over in IP land, that virtual world where songs and books and images are drops of vital water in some virtual desert.
But I've really moved on. Most of the masses in the rich world don't care and it's irrelevant - youth steal music and movies and no one can ever stop them. Most of the rest of the world is too busy fighting for water and a place to live and food to eat. Occasionally in that world someone earns enough to buy that food by stacking some pirated DVDs on a blanket in the street and selling them for 50 cents a pop. That will never be stopped.
So, it's a niche issue for rich academics and artists. I'm done. I'm more interested in, for instance, the drops of water that might sustain the real thirst of people in other, more visceral deserts.
A largely excellent essay by David Graeber appeared on Infoshop.org the other day. It's called "REVOLUTION IN REVERSE (OR, ON THE CONFLICT BETWEEN POLITICAL ONTOLOGIES OF VIOLENCE AND POLITICAL ONTOLOGIES OF THE IMAGINATION)" It's really worth reading, if you can pick through the typos and missing words and other copy-editing gaffs (or maybe it was never copy-edited past the rough draft? It's really quite astounding how such an academic piece of writing could have so many such errors. hmm).
The piece is mostly about the difference between those who use force and those who use imagination, to get what they want from other people. Imagination, in this case, includes communicating with other people and trying to understand them, which violence never requires, except to some extent, as Graeber points out, when the sides are relatively evenly matched.
He uses this comparison to look at how recent developments in progressive activism have proceeded. One point he makes during this is what an influence feminist thought has had on the 'movement'. Feminism is more than just demanding that women are "equal" in some abstract way, but is also about learning things from how women and other opressed groups look at things.
For much of human history, what has been taken as politics has consisted essentially of a series of dramatic performances carried out upon theatrical stages. One of the great gifts of feminism to political thought has been to continually remind us of the people is in fact making and preparing and cleaning those stages, and even more, maintaining the invisible structures that make them possible—people who have, overwhelmingly, been women. The normal process of politics of course is to make such people disappear. Indeed one of the chief functions of women’s work is to make itself disappear. One might say that the political ideal within direct action circles has become to efface the difference; or, to put it another way, that action is seen as genuinely revolutionary when the process of production of situations is experienced as just as liberating as the situations themselves.
All I can say, in general and in this case, is, while you and your hoodie-wearing friends are getting their imaginative powers giddily realigned, please keep in mind that someone else nearby might be getting their face kicked in as a result.
(The extensive comment thread following the essay is at times pretty good reading as well.)
Ruben Martinez, an author who is working on a new book about the border, recently visited us here in Tucson and went for a ride down to the San Pedro River's border crossing with some friends of mine. Today he has an op-ed in the LA Times about that trip and the recent border wall developments. He even mentions, obliquely, the No Borders Camp.
He has a great way with words, as with this beautiful and wise passage:
The Great Wall of America underscores a delusional faith in technology as the only solution to a problem that has nothing to do with technology. Ultimately, such Ozymandian monuments say more about the minds that conceived them than any "enemies" they actually contain. Think of the grandiose barriers of history -- the walls of Troy and China and Berlin; the wall that kept the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. Think of their fate, their ultimate symbolism. Each began with the idea that people -- and their ideas -- could be restrained by barriers, just like rivers can be dammed. A simple feat of engineering.
And yet we believe that our wall will be the exception.
I'm not sure how old it is but this is a great little satirical video from Pepperspray Productions in Seattle: (UPDATE: i guess there's a problem with Archive.org's embedding code so here's a direct link.)
A week ago today I went down to Sasabe with another filmmaker and with O. He wanted to interview her about the effects on wildlife of the border wall, the subject of his new documentary, and I just tagged along.
Sasabe is a tiny little town bisected by the border, in the middle of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, about 90 minutes southwest of Tucson. The new wall, part of the 370 new miles approved recently and being pushed frantically by Ministry of Fear, err, I mean Department of Homeland Security, is pretty much done at Sasabe, but the joke of it is that you can look off in the distance and see the ends of it a few miles on either side of the port of entry. So migrants and drug runners might have to walk a little bit out of their way if they weren't already avoiding the area by now. So stupid.
In other places the situation is more dire, like around the San Pedro River, a sensitive riparian area that they're planning to put wall right up to the banks of, and a cement road that cuts right through the stream for Border Patrol vehicles to easily cross at.. It's still not going to stop illegal border crossings, but it's going to fuck up a lot of sensitive species there.
In an attempt to earn some extra money and get some more exposure for this video, I uploaded to Current TV my coverage of the Binational Fiesta in Naco.
So if you have an account on their site or don't mind registering, please greenlight this piece. That is, if you like it. :-)
I finally was given access to the server where the Indymedia Newsreal website is hosted, so I was able to update the site with the correct information about where to mail submissions, how long the segments can be, etc etc. It had been 3 years since anyone touched the site and a lot was out of date. I also put links to recent episodes and embedded the september episode on the front page.
It's amazing that even though there were recent feature stories on the US and global indymedia sites, and lots of emailing trying to get the word out, and lots of people saying stuff like, cool, good work, thanx for keeping this going, that I've not been receiving a huge avalanche of submissions. But, maybe it will just take some time for it to pick up.