justice

Earth and Freedom Song

A wilderness, a wilderness
calling, calling. When I was younger,
I had a fantasy of foraging
in the ruins of western civilization.
The truth of the zombie apocalypse
is that the worst predators are human.

A wilderness is calling us,
a wonderness. Earth is shifting
and our signpost won’t direct us
no more. We need a human technology.
We need music springing around us,
drums, voices, strings. Grass underfoot.

Spring is calling us, wilder now,
wondering at how long, how long
we’ve been downpressed. No more.
We make a human technology,
music and language, the laughter
of Earth working. Grass underfoot.

Flowers burst and we’re wilder here,
raving, calling in the dawn. Snowmelt
and rising rivers, up to our shins
in richness, rich mud. And all the colors
come out. Now, now we move,
shake out from this chrysalis. Wings.

Metamorphosis. We are seeds, we sing
an Earth song. These tones are our home,
we feel our blood rise to the occassion
and how long, we wonder at how long,
but no more. There’s a freedom coming
we’ve none of us known before.

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.

That Just Doesn’t Make Any Sense at All: American Exceptionalism and White Supremacy are Incompatible with Justice

For anyone who still believes that police departments are not infected by racism, this on-the-ground account of the divergent experiences of two men–one white, one black–over the weekend at a protest in New York City may be helpful in getting a clear view. For anyone unfamiliar with excessive force and police corruption, watching this six-minute news clip about the beating of a suspected Latino drug dealer and the undocumented police action against the citizen that filmed the encounter should be informative. Please do note that the news clip is violent and includes police violence against a pregnant woman; those who may be disturbed by the video are advised to read the story instead. And for elucidation of the problems that the African American community has faced and continues to face from the non-African American community, I recommend this video of Angela Davis (prison interview footage starts at about 1:00 in).

Because of the way this society’s organized, because of the violence that exists on the surface everywhere, you have to expect that there are going to be such explosions. You have to expect things like that as reactions. If you are a black person and live in the black community all your life, and walk out on the street every day, seeing white policemen surrounding you… …when you live under a situation like that constantly… um, and then you ask me whether I approve of violence. I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense at all.

Those are the words of Angela Davis from over forty years ago. Yet, despite any advances that may be cited regarding civil and human rights in this country, they apply to our contemporary situation. Let me be clear: none of this is to condone violence. Violence exists. The state is violent. America is violent. Our society has always been violent. That we have been able to overcome the prejudice that we have, that we have been able to make any social progress at all through non-violent means situated in a historical and systemic matrix of violence attests to the power of non-violence.

Yet we have Dick Cheney telling media, “I’d do it again in a minute,” in regards to torture, which has once again been brought into the media spotlight with the release of a redacted version of the Senate’s 6,000 page torture report. This is the doctrine of American exceptionalism, the notion that, because we are America, we do not have to play by the rules. There is no room for justice in that doctrine. There is no room for dissent, which makes it an extremely poor doctrine for a nation founded on dissent and revolution. It boils down to the simple words of George W. Bush, “Either you are with us… or you are with the enemy.”

As calls for police accountability continue across the nation in the form of protests and non-violent #ShutItDown actions, I notice that mainstream white culture remains silent. I stopped paying attention to mainstream media a long time ago, so I’m unable to say definitively whether mainstream media continues with business as usual, though I have my impressions. There is a large segment of white America that simply doesn’t get it; “it” being the entrenched, historic, systemic violence against people of color, especially black people.

What will it take for America to become the just and free nation that it aggressively advertises itself to be? I humbly suggest less posturing, less defensiveness, less violence, the cultivation of empathy and the ability to listen, the demotion of individualism as a cultural value. More to the point: less American exceptionalism, less white supremacy.