colonization

Here

I am here on the precipice
looking out on work to be done
diving finding ground on which to walk
my voice is not my own is owned
is owned and it is I who do the owning
of my voice now

I am here on my own
holding your hand
discarding my clothes
together we turn to see the land
see it and taste it and walk on
on the ground we are finding

I am here with you
with your skin close to mine
I am afraid of all we must see
but the bare grass on my feet
and the music we speak
reminds me of youth

I am here on my own
owning a maturity a fruit
hard earned I am here
with you with your skin
close to mine I am sorry
for loss for the loss of life

I am here I own sorrow
but that is not all you say
and I affirm that we will be
more after all you have endured
and I say I cannot fathom
how you thrive

I am here and I cannot
choose to ignore any longer
the losses they have inflicted
and I am not complicit
in the blind rush to the precipice
but I watch the future fall

I am there with my sons
the extension of my flesh my thought
my love I am there with my sons
who are there coming to terms
with what has been done
and the work to be done

I am here which is nowhere
and I search for a place to stand
I see that the ground must be made
must be made of words of love
that will nurture the future
to blossom over the fire of the past

I am here I am not burning
am I burning who am I here
the television is telling us it is not us
it is telling us so much by
what it refuses to say
by its inability to hear

I am here demanding with you
that the present be accountable to the past
that our language be precise and authentic
that our technology serve us
that we serve the earth
I demand respect each other

I am here overstanding history
I have come to terms
I have come to shape the future
with words of love that nurture
skin and flesh and ground that blossoms
and demands that we be more basic

we are here and we must thrive
or we will die as we have died
and kill as we have killed we must stop
we must learn to bear fruit
we must learn to tend roots
we must learn we are here

Something Very Strange: the Work of Reclaiming Our Humanity

Something very strange happened to me. I was born white, male, and middle-class in the United States of America. I was miseducated into a system so entrenched, so deep, that to extricate myself from its illusions is a full-time job that does not pay. To extricate myself from the necessary illusions and downright lies of a white supremacist culture requires critical thinking and relentless self- and social-examination within a milieu that does not support that kind of reflection. At every turn, I was and am met with the message to look the other way. I was and am offered bribes in the form of the status quo. I was and am reminded of how good I have it.

And yet, the “good” that I have does not feel so good. It’s empty, inauthentic. It’s plastic and tarnished metal, rust. It’s a warm house and stocked fridge counterposed with belching fossil fuels wreaking climate change. It’s social neglect, and racism, and starvation, and war.

And so I dropped out. I pursued poverty, took minimum wage jobs with my college education, for years. And even my pursuit of poverty was inauthentic, because when, years later, I shifted back into the mainstream, that was possible for me. I was able to shift from service and retail work to social work. And I had the intention of working from within to create change. Yet the position I held was entrenched so deeply within the system that it was remedial. I was addressing a problem that had been created by complex forces of a dehumanizing economics, and my job was to assist in managing the problem.

The root of the problem is not being addressed. The root of the problem is not only an economics of dehumanization, but an overarching culture of dehumanization.

I have come to believe that people of conscience must work to create a whole new culture. I have work to do along with others who are repudiating a culture of dehumanization. This is deep work and has been going on since before the shores of the so-called New World were invaded by colonizers. It has been and is and will continue to be work of resistance.

We also must push beyond resistance into new territory. We must push beyond repudiation to replacement. We must build. We dismantle white supremacy and the larger culture of dehumanization to build something that we don’t yet have the words for, something that cannot be comprehended through the systems that we have. We have to build a new culture, a culture of love, not possession; a culture of union, not separation; a culture of cooperation, not competition. The culture that we build must be dynamic.

We have to be the work and pass the work to others and work with others and be willing to listen and see with the eyes of others. And this is hard work. This is real work. This is not a function of an economy, but a function of humanity. This is the work of being human and this is how we reclaim humanity from those who have, and do, and will continue to dehumanize.

We must first be human to have a human culture.

The Miseducation of We the People and the Transformation of Human Society

We live in a society that would be absurd if it wasn’t tragic. Yet a majority of the society embraces the myths of its miseducation and, doing so, refuses to accept reality. To be fair, all of the systems and institutions of the society–not only the miseducation system–encourage people to deny reality in favor of dreams. The American Dream of individual and familial meritocratic success isolated from the larger context of society is the driving myth that permeates all the institutions of what has become a corporate-dominated plutocracy masquerading as the world’s leading example of democracy, freedom, and equality. This Dream is exactly what it advertizes itself as: a dream, a somnolent fantasy that we must forget as we move into wakefulness and the realities of the American, and international, day.

America is a product and America is a fantasy, but America is also a reality. Relatively few people are willing to see the reality of America. We live in a banal version of the Matrix. Once you wake up, you’re still where you were. There’s no Morpheus to guide you, no organization with answers. No violent struggle against tyrants in corporate suits will free us. No superpowers will be gained. No pills will point the way out. What you find when you wake up alone today in America, aside from a moral wasteland and a devastated environment, is a loose collection of individuals and organizations stretching out hands and wifi signals in an effort to reclaim a sense of humanity. Our task is to ignite consciousness and conscience so that the people will wake up–if not all the people, enough to claim the ideal of We the People for the 21st century and beyond; enough to actualize the American dream of freedom, justice, and equality for all.


Education Emma Goldman copy

Miseducation put me to sleep. That’s what it’s designed to do. It put you to sleep, too. Maybe you woke up. I see a lot of people here that woke up before me. I’ve been half-awake. Groggy. Disturbed by the cold out there, the lateness of the day. Lulled back to sleep by comforts, rising half-asleep to consume lies. Willingly consuming lies, not because I believed them, but because I could see no other option.

Sure, I fasted in protest. I abstained from the most horrific lies, refused to partake in fake religion and consumer patriotism. I read some Chomsky, a third of A People’s History of the United States, Inga Muscio, Anne Moody, Derrick Jensen, The Conquest of Paradise. I was full-on awake for a while there. Publicly freaking, speaking out.

I got complacent. The reasons for my complacency are complex and irrelevant. What matters now is that I am awake again. Black Lives Matter woke me up. I intend to stay woke.

Miseducation shapes us. It stamps us with answers, stifles our questions. Generally, white people get ahead and get by by embracing our privilege and engaging in the parade of consumption-driven miseducation. The tests are multiple choice, memorization, or regurgitation of the white-washed historical party line–easy shit if you’re white and middle class. Go to college. Pass go, collect a job.

I stalled out. I’m ashamed to say that, despite stalling out, I repaired my jalopy ass–in the way that capitalist, white supremacist society recommended–and tried to get back on the road. But the road was a highway, people drive crazy, I’m overwhelmed by traffic, the damn radio is stuck on some white preacher delivering the news about the War on Terror and how Jesus approves, cut to commercial, and I got distracted, overwhelmed, stalled out again.

I’m built for back roads. I’m a jalopy. It’s good to be a jalopy. Sometimes I’m a bike. It’s good to be a bike. My favorite way to move is to walk, slowly and with awareness.

But the society is built for driving machines, real privileged BMWs and SWMs and SWFs. Career people with cars. Cars with career people. I’m an intentional, pensive guy driving a jalopy; rather be walking.

Miseducation directs us to a false life: the career embedded in capitalism. The goal of education in a capitalist society is not to draw out and nurture the human being, but to produce a worker-consumer for use in the economy. The goal of work in capitalist society is not to engage in meaningful and productive activity that nurtures the human being and human society, but to make money–ostensibly for yourself and family, but also for the perpetuation of the capitalist system. Engagement in meaningful work, a passion for your field, is incidental and a privilege. Capitalism doesn’t care about your passion. Capitalism doesn’t care. Capitalism is being driven to perpetuate itself and concentrate wealth. To work in this capitalist society is to channel wealth upward, no matter what your values, color, or creed.

And look at how that wealth is spent:

military spending

War. We work for war. No matter what we do, our tax dollars go to kill and maim, to destroy and drive to despair, to subjugate people to an economic system that is perpetuated by our miseducation, our labor, our passions. And increasingly, as we’ve seen in communities of the most disadvantaged and disenfranchised Americans this past year, that war is coming home.


How does one respond to this situation? By reaching forward, by pushing boundaries and defining the new. And by reaching back, embracing the work of those who have come before to push boundaries and define the new during their historic time. We are alive in history. History is a living thing, not a static page. We are alive within it, the vanguard, the representatives of not only ourselves at this moment in time, but also our ancestors in vital struggle and our children and grandchildren, the young, the just born, and the unborn.

Perhaps the miseducation system can be transformed from within into an education system. Valuable work is being done and will continue to be done from within the system–not only from within the miseducation system, but from within all the systems that are designed to perpetuate white supremacy and capitalism. Valuable work can also be done outside the system. The marginalized, the poor, the incarcerated, the disenfranchised and disadvantaged are increasingly forced to the margins or outside of the system and locked out of the economy. Against immense prejudice and odds, they rise and work. I discover organizations doing powerful, grassroots work–revolutionary work–in communities across America daily.

These organizations and the people that make them up move and inspire me. They call me forward to embrace a more authentic reality and a more authentic identity. Those of us who are overly privileged can work outside the system as well, if so inclined–or impelled. American capitalist society, white supremacist society, is not the inclusive entity it advertizes itself to be. That illusion is crumbling into transparent wreckage day by day, even as the willfully ignorant cling to it and claim it as reality.

No one knows what the future looks like. The image of the past that we have been miseducated to see and revere is an illusion, a socially-constructed lie that serves inhuman interests. Now is the time–the only time we have–to affirm or reaffirm our humanity and commit to serving human interests. When enough of us do, the inhuman will be deconstructed and transformed. With the scraps and wreckage of inhuman tyranny, we will recycle, renew, and rebuild reality. We will build a human society based not on dreams, but on the immense and beautiful potential of millions of human beings working together.

This is a vision. Far-flung, for sure. So far-flung that it seems like a dream. Yes. See it with me. Affirm it. And work toward it.

White People

for Amiri Baraka

White people don’t wanna hear about struggle.
White people don’t want you to think. White people
don’t want you to think about struggle.
White people don’t want you to struggle.
White people don’t wanna hear about depression.
White people don’t wanna hear about revolution
unless it happened, mythically, in 1776,
unless it happened in a galaxy far far away.
White people wanna watch Star Wars.
White people wanna listen to Imagine Dragons.
White people wanna vote, don’t wanna hear about
Black people dying to vote, Black people
getting killed trying to exercise their right
to vote. White people wanna listen
to the blues, to jazz, to hip hop, to gangsta rap.
White people don’t wanna listen to Black people.
White people don’t wanna hear about Black people,
about history, about slavery, about white supremacy.
White people don’t wanna hear about it.
White people wanna watch CNN, MSNBC, Fox News.
White people wanna watch TV. White people don’t hafta
sing the blues. But they do, they might. To get paid.
White people want the money. They don’t wanna hear about
money, about inequality, about the lack of money.
White people don’t wanna hear about it.

White people don’t wanna think about the bombs we drop.
White people don’t wanna think about the wars we make.
White people don’t wanna think about the wars we make
to keep up business as usual, the status quo,
to keep the oil flowing, the fat pig greased.
White people wanna eat that barbeque.
White people wanna pay for that barbeque
with the money they make working 9-5 capitalism
in the capital of the War on Terror. White people
don’t wanna see the terror inherent in capitalism.
White people don’t wanna read these words.
White people don’t wanna see that shit.
White people wanna look the other way.
White people wanna turn on that TV.
White people don’t wanna hear about poverty.

No one wants to be in poverty.
No one should be impoverished.
Could we change that? White people been exporting poverty
and death for five hundred years.
Can’t change that. Can we change the future?

White people gotta turn it around.
White people need more than a heart.
White people get your head out of your ass.
White people look me in the eye.
White people see the world tremble in your terror,
see the blood, the bombs, the tears, the terror,
White people see the resolution, the spine, the humanity
unflinching in the face of 500 years of terror.
White people, don’t pass the buck.
White people, the buck stops with you.
White people, read some books written by Black people.
Read some books. Read some books written by some people
who are not cushioned by the system that you aspire to,
that keeps you comfortable, that pats you on the head
and tells you you are white, you are ok, the world is just.
White people, wake your asses up. Stay woke.
White people, white people, white people you are shameful.
White people, come out of the American Dream.
It is a dream.
White people,
Reality can be much more beautiful
than that damned dream.