Turn the World Upside Down!
By Jimmy Nil
I never thought I'd be there two weeks. Two weeks in the Belly of the Beast, D.C., with its monuments and its high-rises (not too tall, though, can't overshadow the monuments, now can we-Washington monument sharp indignant prickrock aimed at the sky). Two weeks under DragonPig's watchful eye. Eyes. Eyes and ears everywhere, flesh, blood, silicon, electromagnetic, electronic. Cop observation posts on the tops of all the big buildings, the eye in the sky rides in helicopters (were they black? I couldn't tell, didn't get much of a look at 'em really, just heard the perpetual thrup-thrup-thrup of their blades in the air all day). Eyes on the street, the cops' eyes sometimes cool and dismissive, sometimes bulging with fear, rage, excitement, that battlefield heat. Eyes of the infiltrators, peering even into the houses where we retreat to sleep, even into the little meetings of affinity groups in living rooms, Metro stations, shouting over the sirens and chants in the street. Of course their eyes and ears cynically, efficiently monitoring the Direct Action Network spokes-council meetings. The electronic eyes around the jail. The eyes of the Federal Marshals on my friends' bodies as they huddle sopping wet in cold cells for warmth. Their eyes slits as they hiss at my friends' faces the filthy mantra of fear-"Pussy, faggot, gonna put you in general population, see how you like gettin' raped, teach you to come fuckin' around in my town." And so on , and so on, ad nauseum.
Okay. Okay, so we didn't shut the IMF/World Bank meetings down. They snuck the delegates in, had the staff sleep in the building, used the alleged tunnels and sneaky interconnected alleys behind the White House as documented by a gleeful Washington Post bootlicker. (1) But, we held the streets. We learned, some of us for the first time, some of us on a refresher course, what happens when you exercise your democratic rights to free speech and free assembly in a way that actually challenges power and disrupts the status quo. We learned about the great American tradition of civil disobedience--used by everyone from the Boston Tea Party boys to the indigenous tribes resisting busted treaties and relocation to the Black slaves breaking racist laws to escape to freedom to the Wobbly Free-Speech fighters to the pacifist movement against WWI to the striking workers of the Thirties to the Civil Rights and Peace movements of the 60's and 70's to the ACT UP! activists and Earth First!ers of the 90's. We learned about it by doing it, on a huge, grand scale, with all the tools of an affluent, technological society and all the practices of people who must assert their freedom, serve notice to their society, spread the word about the reality that the government and the corporations want to hide behind their walls of misinformation and outright lies.
We had cameras, video and still. We had hand-held tape recorders and palm computers. We had cell phones and walkie-talkies, bikes and boots and runnin' shoes, gas masks, saline and Seattle Facial solutions, vinegar-soaked bandanas and sports gear for body armor. (Mental note: next time wear a cup like that guy who got a motorcycle wheel in the crotch and lived to tell about it; bicycle helmets don't have ear flaps, neck guards or faceshields-next time it's hockey goalie gear for the head). We had police scanners, too. We held crazy jumbled consensus meetings in the street. We held 'em in cellblocks. We held 'em in front of the jail and in front of the courthouse too. Cosmic irony: practicing the basic skills of face-to-face direct democracy outside the front doors of buildings that house the everyday engines of repression that keep the people weak and befuddled, and the system hummin' along, degrading and disrupting the possibility of democracy at every opportunity.
Gainesville did a good job in D.C. Gville people were everywhere on A16, on the front line with the lockdown crews in the Florida and Friends blockade at Pennsylvania and 21st, and scattered throughout other affinity groups at other blockade points, sitting in safe-houses with fingers crossed watching C-SPAN waiting for phone calls from jail, cruising through the streets checking the action out, getting pictures, jumping in to lend a hand when the cops went nuts. Our affinity groups in that blockade were tight-we had media crews, medics, direct support caregivers for the high-tech lockdown folks, jail solidarity teams--heck, even the legal observers at our site were from Florida. I got a sense of new possibilities being carried into reality right before my very eyes, the reality of our Gainesville progressive and radical community having transformed itself into a mobile community of resistance. I saw and felt the strengthening and solidifying of community ties and the fantastic high of all of us taking direct action together in the same place, at the same time. Just imagining the possibilities of us getting together like this for other actions, for other causes, makes me giddy in a way that is like the way that you feel when you first step out the front door of the jailhouse and spot your friends waiting there in the street for you. It is that crazy joy that calls from the chromosomes of every being that has the capacity to live and enjoy life, that iron-edged, dangerous taste of freedom that comes up around clenched teeth and over a newly loosening tongue, one step ahead of the animal shout that announces your intent to live and live more fully, the kind of shout that is always answered by comrades in kind.
Revivification! Revival! Democracy is in the streets! Who better than the mostly-white, mostly-middle-class, mostly-educated, mostly-young to articulate this issue in this country. It's not just about "complex issues of international finance," it's about recognition, and it's about choice. It's about recognizing that those people are the people in this country who exist in the unique and contradictory position of tasting the fruits of exploitation, of being just privileged enough to be blind like Buddha was--the young prince Siddhartha, secluded in his castle-and yet just common enough, just exploited enough, just close enough to the "salt of the earth," the more-exploited and the hyper-exploited (who may be their friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, or neighbors), to see through the happy horseshit the system feeds them, and to recognize how their position of relative privilege comes at the expense of the rights and needs of others, at home and far, far abroad, and to make the choice, to have the moral character, the intestinal fortitude, the ethic and the intellect, to try to do something about it. The young prince goes out in the streets and sees the reality of suffering and death, and renounces his privilege, swearing to work from now on forever for the alleviation of the suffering of all beings.
This process of the privileged young rebelling and renouncing the oppression on which their luxury is built is not new-ask young Tolstoy, young Kropotkin, young Bakunin--it's been going on forever, if the 3,000-year-old tales of Buddha and his friends can be believed. It's not something our parents invented in the 60's out of boredom and frustration with their pampered young lives. We must remember why everybody thinks they were so pampered. It's because their parents were so fucked, growing up in the Depression and living through the 2nd World War. It's because they and their parents represented the new revised and expanded American middle class. Which was built upon the revised and expanded Post-WWII American Empire. In the decades that followed, the powers that be in Amerikkka went about killin' commies abroad and at home, staving off the coulda-been revolution of the 70's here and doing our damnedest to stop it elsewhere ( with varying degrees of success). And to a large degree the capitalist all-out assault on the people of earth and the planet itself succeeded. And the totalitarian societies of "siege socialism" disintegrated under the weight of their own contradictions and the unending capitalist attack. And America the Empire kept rising, and the attendant corporate monoculture began to be spread to the far corners of the earth. And the parents of many of the A16 protesters punked out, if they were ever on the revolution train at all. Mine weren't. Mine were first-generation middle class, just up from settlers and swamp crackers, and they were eager to provide all the trappings of the "good life," and the stiff-upper-lips Protestant ethics that go with it, they accepted the shapely, fashionable, safe boot, which mostly they knew by its strap. They were too old and too Americana to be hippies.
But not all those older folks who got radical back then went the David Horowitz/Jerry Reubin/Michael Kelly (2) route. Some of them hung in there and stayed with the struggle, working inside and outside the system-social workers, labor organizers, radical academics, drop-out hippie farmers and wanderers, working-class iconoclasts, anti-nuke protesters, Quakers and socialist party members and city and county commissioners and so on. They had kids, and whole damn lot of those kids were out there in the streets on A16, some of them even had their parents with 'em. Some of them didn't have kids, in order to maintain full-time commitments to the movement for freedom. Some of them are from Gainesville. Some of them were out there protesting the World Bank and IMF's policies, too. Ha! Take that, Mr. Murder Capitol: two generations, three generations even, of pacifist socialist anarchist agitators right here in your America--right outside your White House! how crazy, how could it happen? Need better surveillance gear for FBI, need more paramilitary police, gotta step up 'em Drug War, ugh. Sell Coke-cola to Chinamen, quick. Write yellow Post-It note to self: Get National Security Administration computer records on all them, tomorrow. Buy more Gucci watches, eat more fat steak, take 'em real big Tums, try to forget, ugh.
Oh and by the way, Joker, just so you know: this movement against global capitalist power-grabs in the guise of poverty-alleviation programs is not the only movement we're involved in. All of us, or at least all the ones I talked to, are into other work on other issues, and have a solid commitment to fighting economic exploitation and environmental destruction in our home regions and communities as well. In fact, that's why we look so motley and so hodge-podge out here in the street--because we do come from all over and we are from all different kinds of organizations, but we're here because we have found common ground with each other and with people's organizations all over the planet in this cause. We like our motliness, we're trying to accept and set aside our differences, we are united in and through our diversity. We represent the strength of civil society-we are neither capital nor state, we are people. We stand with others and for ourselves.
What is this "new movement" then? This movement is anti-capitalist, it is anti-imperialist. It is not a new movement. It is just a new phase of the perpetual struggle between those who labor and those who dictate the terms and conditions of the lives of those who labor. The WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, these are all just new tools in the arsenal of an old enemy, the ultimate enemy of all freedom-loving people and the earth. His name is Capitalist. His goal is profit. His game is empire-building. He is a tyrant. He is a terrorist. His favorite book is not "Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith--he don't play by those rules, don't be fooled--his favorite book is Machiavelli's "The Prince," with a vengeance. His name is Phil Knight. His name is Bill Gates. His name is Michael Eisner. His name is Lee Iacocca and Dave Thomas, too. Al Gore and John McCain are his left- and his right-hand man. His name is also H. Ross Perot. Don't be fooled by folksiness, cuddliness, and down-home accents. He's got a big greygreen dollarbill dick and his favorite image of you, tough girl shoutin' in the street, badass boy with a megaphone, is straight-up dead or bent over the bigdog desk for a fuck. Or both. He is present in all of us, here in the heart of the empire. We are walking in minefields when we walk these cold rainy streets of D.C. This is war. War all around, war all the time, as Charles Bukowski say--even war inside our heads. We come smack up against our own contradictions on this unholy/now holy ground. This is the Belly of the Beast, as Che say. We Americans are lucky? Maybe, Che. We are trying, at least. We will be the Non-Violent army today.
The black and green graffitti on the boarded up house at 4th Ave. and 1st St. SW in downtown Gainesville says "USA is Down, Warning" and "Target America." This is what is hummed under the thud of our drums. This is the vision that fires our veins-not suffering for the people of America, too many of them have already suffered enough-but the death of the Empire of America, the possible birth of a new, truly free world. We are the cracks in the monolithic wall. Yes we are mostly white, young, middle class. Who better to put their bodies on the line to fuck up DragonPig's games? Who better to learn the hard lessons when the iron fist comes out of the velvet glove? You lie when you say we are all young, white, "privileged things," Mr. Mouthpiece (3). You deny the existence of the union people and other working folks, the thirty- forty- and fifty-somethings, the Grey Panther grandmas and grandpas, the brigade of indigenous activists with their AIM flag flying and their ancestral drums pounding out a rhythm of resistance right there on Pennsylvania Avenue, the people of all ages, colors and ethnicities who were there (too few among a sea of youthful whiteness, yes, but still THERE, dammit). We do not, cannot, will not, "Speak For Them," our brothers and sisters in the so-called Third World, as the media stooges say we claim to do. What we do is speak WITH them. We join our voices in the call for a Globalization of Resistance, a call that has gone out from the Zapatistas in the Mexican jungle, that has gone out from workers and peasants massed in the streets of India, that has gone out from the half-million Korean workers on general strike in 1997, that has gone out from the rioters in the streets of Jakarta, 1999, that has gone out from the war-torn guts of Africa, that has gone out from the G77 summit in Havana, Cuba, that has gone out from the radicals and farmers and students and freaks from all over the planet who stormed the streets of Geneva to shut down the MAI...you're right Mr. Media man, who are we to speak FOR them? We don't have to! They speak out loud and clear, bold and strong, brave and desperate FOR THEMSELVES! Only poor dumbed-down, a-historical amerikkkan media sheep who sleep, ears-deaf, eyes-blind, tongue-dumb, under your mediacracy of Whitewash and Blackout MythInformation could possibly believe such dreck! Bah! Us, speak for them, indeed...
I read the alternative media, I've seen that Indonesian student, sitting down in the street, bandana over nose and mouth, just like me, holding his sign that says "Stop IMF Intervention" in his own language, in front of a line of black-n-white Indonesian riot pigs, in the photo on the back cover of the anarchist agit-prop paper "Active Transformation." Do you think they learned that bandana trick from us? Hell no, WE learned it from THEM! and the Europeans...
I read the mainstream media too--woe to you, oh corporate masters, you still have to tell some of the truth some of the time so we'll keep on swallerin' all them lies--and I spotted that piece about the G77 meetings in Cuba, buried in the back pages of the front section of some Post or some Times, the ministers from 77 of the poorest countries gathering to talk about what they can do for themselves, for each other, over against the Almighty Imperial Man. (That's U, S of A...and a few others, of course-Deutschland, Nippon, Holy Zion, Merrie England, China's New Non-Red Bourgeoisie, the odd Mid-Eastern oil baron, etc., the so-called "G7" and their closest friends.)
Sure, these G77 delegates are really just the underdog elites, but they gotta front bein' down with the people just like you, Mr. Man, and they gave our protests the approving two-lines-in-a-capitalist-paper nod, right there in your article, ain't you tickled, ain't you tickled that I somehow managed to use your media, your schools, your churches, your institutional learning facilities AGAINST YA? Ain't you proud? Ain't you glad I dragged my non-rich, not-so-young, lilywhite ass up outta the southern swamp to put yer DEMOCRACY which you preach all over the world into practice? Ain't you glad I larned myself up on thet thar KONSTITOOSHUN and tried to see how it works on the ground? Aren't you thrilled to see the ultimate sign of a healthy, vigorous civil society bloom right before your eyes--that is, DISSENT? Wha--I say, What, you're not? Whoa, hey OUCH! don't get so aggro, HEY! What is that shit you're spraying in my eyes? AARGH! Whatcha hittin me for? YOW! Leggo my leg-o! O, guess it's off to jail I go...
Activist joke, A18, Washington D.C.:
Q: "Hey John, what'd you get charged with Assaulting a Police Officer for?"
A: "Oh, lemme see, that would be...NOT assaulting a Police Officer."
And why is it that you and them (the underdog elites, that is) gotta get together and front? Why is it that y'all gotta play divide and conquer with the people's minds, have your lackey newspaper writers talk us down as "rich white kids," "imitation activists," play the race card with that "white kids pushing on lines of black riot cops" jive-ass jive? Why is it that they gotta get together down in Havana and play like they down with us and our li'l demo, and they gonna do somethin' for all those starvin millions back home, gonna angle on a piece of the great white pie for everybody, this time for real?
Why? Because when we get together, all us people, and we get out here in the streets, you (and them) get SHIT-SCARED, don't ya, cuz then you see (and you know that all the other people see) that you really can't control us, that there is some freedom in the world, that anything is possible, that this movement is an old, old movement (ask the ragin' grannies on Social Security that went to jail, contrary to all your "dumb rich children" lies), that this movement CAN get the one-up on you, in the streets and more importantly in the people's minds, and that if the people remember and teach the history you try to bury, (like the Black D.C. cop out in front of the jail, pleading with protesters to be mellow, to understand how he feels, Black man called on to defend the System from protesters when his momma did some protesting, went to jail, too, for Civil Rights down Mississippi way) if the people see the struggles you try to hide, then they might just start to see the possibility of their-our-power, and the umpire might start callin' OUT! on the empire, and the little cracks might start spreading up that marble monolith face, and there might be some shake in that Washington Monocult penis-monster, some quake in that fake green Maul, and we might all start taking a different kind of piece from a different kind of pie, and not the pie that ran down your face, Mr. IMF, but the kind that you keep stashed in yer closet underneath your silk ties, the kind that swells Swiss bank accounts behind firewalls of electronic theft and lies.
And when we get together like that, it is, as I said above, because we HEAR the cries from the streets of all those "other" places, those G77 maquiladoras and shantytowns, those high-tech urban avenues, those crumbling temples and embattled bazaars--and the word doesn't just reach us from their "leaders" chompin Castro cigars, it reaches us from the people themselves, on the Web, down phone lines, in telegrams, through the alternative press, on hand-me-down recopied videotapes, at anarchist book fairs and bazaars, over campfires in the California chill, from our traveling sisters and brothers who roam near and far, from "those" people themselves when they travel far and near-in my own experience: nuns from Chiapas, migrant workers met on the Greyhound bus, indigenous tribesmen from the jungles of Ecuador making treks to D.C. to tell somebody some truth, Philippino-American friends fresh back from the Philippines, Iranian-American anarchists fresh back from Iran, the radical student from India at the local university, the Haitian immigrants behind the counter at the Circle K in Orlando.
Guess what? Globalization already happened. It's not globalization we're pissed about, it's capitalist exploitation. The two are not synonymous. It's not a matter of whether or not we like being socially and economically intertwined with folks in the far far corners of the globe. It's just a matter of whether we and those other people are gonna let y'all keep on building your empire of decadence, destruction and fear, or tear it down from without and from within, and make something new with the world's abundance...you know, all that "stuff" that you keep from "them" at gunpoint (Shell helicopters fly the bootboys to machinegun the students protesting on the oil rig in Nigeria, another uppity Guatemalan peasant goes down with a Washington bullet in her back from a CIA gun) while you cram it down our throats with reckless abandon and make media mania magic to convince us it's good for us, we love it, it's the fulfillment of our life's dreams, it's what we need, we'll never, ever get enough (another all-American "kid" with 200-channel-TV empty eyes gets out of his daddybought sports car, jacked on cocaine and caffeine with a plastic lazersight gun and a Viagra hard-on in his $300 pants, ready for Penthouse Pet action like a bad Bret Easton Ellis novel)...as long as we keep sweatin' fer that payola and pushin' ourselves further and further into the hole with that plastic funny money and pumpin' up your profit lines, buyin' more-n-more stuff as if shopping was a recreational activity...and more than half that stuff goes to the landfill instead of to those "others" it could clothe, house and feed, never mind to our own internal "Third World" of reservations, ghettoes and newly private prisons.
This movements is not, as some simplistically put it, "anti-globalization." Guess what ? Globalization already happened! Guess what? Globalization could be a synonym for "internationalization." Internationalism is the necessary way of radical resistance to capital, state and empire! Globalism as a way of life, as a mode of thought, has been with us for quite awhile. All my life I've heard the slogan "Think Globally, Act Locally." The Zapatistas didn't invent that idea, they just reminded us of it when they told us that the best solidarity work we could do for them is to organize and resist the forces of neo-liberalism and corporate power right here in our own communities. It comes down to the solidarity of the bosses against the solidarity of the rest of us, really. Capitalists don't use the word "solidarity." They use words like "economic cooperation," as in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, but they mean the same thing that we mean when we say "solidarity." Despite all their rhetoric about "competition" and "free trade" and the "discipline of the market," the capitalists and their government lackeys are constantly getting together and figuring out how to work cooperatively with each other for their mutual benefit, at our mutual expense.
What are the World Bank and IMF? Capitalist credit union and capitalist strike fund-as in, "Hmm, where can we muster our credit and marshal our privateers of speculative finance to strike next?" You see, they do the same things we do, just on a different scale. The difference is that when we organize successfully, it puts the pinch on a few of their pocketbooks, but when they organize successfully, it can mean ruination and even death for thousands of us. Working people invented credit unions and strike funds as a way to get some economic protection for themselves as a class, in their local communities and in their organized shops-"social security" the grassroots way, over against the attacks of the boss, from regressive taxes to repressive laws to vicious, back-stabbing company policies, to straight-up violence from cops, scabs, and company thugs. Likewise the global capitalists need to ensure their own survival and continuity as a class, thus NAFTA, GATT, WTO, MAI, and a host of other international agreements and organizations are created, with which they furnish themselves giant political and economic cushions, over against the pressure from the power of the people who resist them on the one hand, and the terrible contradicitons that threaten to destroy their system from within on the other hand-contradictions that lead to war, environmental disasters, resource depletion, market collapse, all those ills that are the built-in by-products of what they call "doing business."
Never mind the grassroots paranoiacs with their United Nations One World Commie Government conspiracy theories--the New World Order is here, it's been with us since the 70's really. The evil socialist elite conspirators turn out to be the international capitalists playing "socialism for the rich"--take all that socially produced wealth and hand it over to the capitalist corporate CEOs and investors. All those pension plans, University investments, etc. to the World Bank, all those state-owned industries to the running dogs following hot on the heels of the IMF. Yes, boys, it really is bankers who run the world, but not just the "Jew bankers," the renegade Rothschilds of your anti-Semitic fantasies, why look they're Anglo and Teutonic and Asian and even a few brown ones here and there too. Funny how many of 'em seem to have American accents. Funny how many of 'em have American educations. Funny how that American veto keeps popping up in the Security Council whenever anybody else in the U.N. gets any "un-American" ideas.
So where do we go from here? People are talking about the next "big thing," the next chance to stick it to the man in a loud, public way. I hope we don't spend too much energy on it. I think what we need to do is let the tear gas settle, let the documentaries get made and distributed, let the gears of the criticism/self-criticism perpetual-motion machine grind out the next round of assessment of impact, analysis and ideas for improvements, and get back to the long, hard work of movement-building at the grassroots level among the people of our home communities. We must beware the easy shelter of youth culture, the convenient dalliances of pop culture, wherein the ecstatic buzz derived from these cataclysmic moments like Seattle and D.C. is in danger of becoming so hyped, so celebrated, that it becomes a substitute for making real change, which is always made the hard way, from the bottom up and with a lot of struggle. Remember, these were direct actions and protests, they were attention-getting and disruptive, they hit hard but they didn't finish the job by any means. The running dog media men have issued the challenge from their safe, well-papered cage: will this demo be a building block in a meaningful, sustained movement, or will it be, as they bark from behind their muzzles, "that space between spring break and summer vacation, and between the last body-piercing and the first IPO"? (4 )
We need to get our local communities and universities in on the World Bank bonds boycott. We need to organize to fight over-development and urban sprawl, build equitable and sustainable food systems (build community gardens! support organic farms! buy local produce from local farmers' markets and stores) and build sustainable dual-power institutions such as infoshops, organizing centers, food co-ops, tool libraries, etc. that will sustain our movement for the long haul. We need to investigate, educate and agitate and reach outside of the activist/counterculture ghetto to let everyone in our local communities know how globalization is affecting us right here, right now. Example: Right now as this `zine goes to press, the AFL-CIO is embarked upon an extensive "No Most-Favored Nation Status for China" campaign. Two years ago, a company that I used to work for right here in Gainesville, a sweatshop-type business that made plastic resin statues, picked up and shipped all thirty or so jobs to, that's right folks, China. See, globalization already happened, even right here in our little burg. It's still happening. It's gonna happen our way or their way, and we need to really stay in this fight, and realize that every fight we are already in is a part of it. Those new cement plants they're building on top of our pristine North Florida rivers and springs? Ain't happenin' by accident-somebody somewhere else--say, West Texas, maybe--already fought 'em off, and if they get run out of here they're liable to turn up down in South Florida, or maybe Mexico. We got our work cut out for us, that's for sure.
Lastly, lets hold on to the spirit of joy and solidarity that's in the air around here. The Gainesville 3 are free! We did it, with a little help from our brothers and sisters from many different lands, and of course the Midnight Special Legal Collective. Halleleujah for the banner and the vigilers at University and 13th! You all were a sight for this poor sick traveler's sore eyes, that Monday morning at 2a.m. N30, A16, May Day-these are building blocks on the long road to fulfilling the promises of democracy, ecological harmony, aesthetic pleasure, and real, meaningful abundance that we who believe in freedom must always make, to each other and to the world. May the commitment, love, and strength that we have demonstrated to each other in recent days be the rule, and not the exception, in our lives together in this town, and may we take that spirit with us and spread it like wildfire wherever we roam.
1) Post staff writer Frank Ahrens, whose gleeful soliloquoy about being "The Man" and getting "Access" to the No-Man's Land behind our lines via a D.C. police bus full of delegates that snuck past protesters through a gate on the White House grounds is a real hoot--not. Washington Post, Monday, April 17th, 2000, page C2.
2) Former editor of 60's revolutionary commie zine Ramparts turned whiney capitalist apologist/ Former 60's Yippie movement leader turned Wall Street pig capitalist, busted for insider trading, now dead/ Self-proclaimed former 60's phony, now apparently operating as phony journalist for Post and editor of National Review. See his brilliant insights into the character of our movement under the headline "Imitation Activism" on page A27 of the Monday, April 17th Post.
3) My favorite phony, Michael Kelly, again.
4) Most Favored Foil Kelly strikes again.