» TRESPASS AT WILL: Squatting as Direct Action, Human Right, and Justified Theft

“Approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless, many of them veterans.  It is worth noting that, at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country.” – Tanuka Loha, Amnesty International, December 2011

by Erin Wiegand

IT’S A COLD, WINDY NIGHT IN SAN FRANCISCO, and three men are about to take shelter in a vacant apartment building. One of them digs a crowbar and bolt cutters out of his backpack; another keeps a careful eye out for police or passersby. In a matter of seconds they’ve snipped off the lock and opened the door. They survey the house, looking for any signs of occupancy or renovation—newspapers or mail, paint buckets or ladders. Satisfied that the house has been empty for some time, they relax and settle down for the night. Tomorrow, they’ll put a new padlock on the door, and set about fixing up their new home.

Thousands of miles away in Amsterdam, 50 young people have set up a barricade outside the front of a large building. The police, in full riot gear, file out of their vans and form a line opposite them. Inside the house, the doors have been reinforced with sheets of scrap plywood. The last remaining people in the building pour bottles of vegetable oil down the stairs in order to slow the cops down. Outside, the police raise their batons and charge the house.

Continue reading

» POETRY & THE POLITICAL IMAGINATION: Aimé Césaire, Negritude & Surrealism

by Robin D. G. Kelley

Negritude, by Wilfredo LamAimé Césaire demolishes the old maxim that poets make terrible politicians. Known in the world of letters as the progenitor of Negritude (the first diasporic “black pride” movement), a major voice of Surrealism, and one of the great French poets, Césaire is equally revered for his role in modern anticolonial and Pan-African movements. While it might appear that the poet and politician operated in separate spheres, Césaire’s life and work demonstrate that poetry can be the motor of political imagination, a potent weapon in any movement that claims freedom as its primary goal.

Continue reading

» THE OBJECT OF THE OBJECT: Porn, Dignity & the Masculine Mantle

by Susan Faludi

A few years ago, if you traveled up Van Nuys Boulevard to the 4500 block, you could meditate, like Ebenezer Scrooge, on the hollow murmurings and frenzied forebodings that are the ghosts of American commerce, past and future. This particular business strip belongs to the San Fernando Valley suburbs of Los Angeles, which means it could be anywhere. The east side of the street displays the flattened state of things to come: a block-long mini-mall parking lot lined with consumer franchises—a Blockbuster Music store, a Baskin-Robbins, a Humphrey Yogart outlet, a General Cinema twoplex next to large signs announcing, coming soon, a General Cinema ‘‘Multi Theater Complex’’ offering a unique movie going experience with five more screens, bigger and better. Across the street, on the west side, is the past, and crumpled newspapers and discarded Baskin-Robbins cups skitter up and down its crud-caked sidewalks. At the boarded-up entrances to former hardware stores and shoe-repair shops, where tradesmen’s tools once clattered, clouds of gnats hover, making loitering un- pleasant. The small independent businesses have abandoned the field. On the day I first passed through here, even a thrift store bore a “for lease” sign.

Only one veteran remains open for business, tucked away on a second floor, up a well-worn set of stairs. Behind an unmarked door lies a room the size and shabby complexion of a one-man private detective agency from another era; dust-covered vertical blinds quiver in the stale air circulated by a floor fan. A frayed gray-blue carpet with a permanent crease down the middle is held down by two chipped desks, each with an over-flowing ashtray and a five-line phone, which blinks and rings ceaselessly from nine to six. The company sign with its blue globe logo has presided over the street for most of the firm’s nineteen years, an exemplar of discreet advertisement from a more decorous time: Figure Photography Films. Wanted: Figure models for immediate placement. 986-4316. Suite 203. The ad belongs to the World Modeling Talent Agency, central casting for the nation’s pornographic film, video, and magazine industries.

I began to get a glimmer of the landscape the new young men of modern porn were struggling to traverse: a treacherous terrain that had more to do with work than sex, more to do with gender identity than genital excitement. It was also a terrain more relevant to the larger working male population than most men would care to contemplate.

The agency has survived, despite the old-fashioned propriety of its sign, by accommodating the forces unleashed across Van Nuys Boulevard. In a world where desire is packaged in videocassettes or DVDs and marketed in malls, where self-worth is quantified by exposure, World Modeling has become the last-chance opportunity for a generation desperately seeking “immediate placement.” It is a backstage door to the current American dream and an emergency escape hatch for some who find themselves capsizing in a reconfiguring American economy. Which is why, by the last decade of the century, World Modeling would become a mecca beckoning not just women but men. More men, in fact, than women; more men than this industry of feminine display could even begin to absorb.

Continue reading

» THE BUG IS THE SYSTEM: A Freewheeling Romp Through the Natural and Social Implications of Chaos Theory


by Clare Lacy (from the extended online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow – The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt)

Human civilization supposedly thrives on order and predictability; it means that people will obey traffic laws and pay their taxes, show up to work on time, and keep their word. Predictability gives us a sense of order, and order lends itself in varying degrees to unity, to nationalism, to legality, and to community. Whether we like it or not, much of our lives are governed by these ideas of order and predictability, and by our assumptions that these ideals are universal and natural. And indeed, nature does follow its own order with periodic population swells, predictable animal behavior, and food chains, but in attempting to mimic or find equilibrium with natural conditions, humans never seem to be able to get it quite right.

With all variables seemingly accounted for, chaos often predominates over predictive systems, and we are left wondering what clue we are missing in our search for order in natural systems. In every field of inquiry, scientists have come up against certain problems that until the advent of chaos theory were written off as unsolvable.

Continue reading

» HELD HOSTAGE TO HOPE: Derrick Jensen on Civilization & Its Discontents

“It’s not just false hope that’s the problem, it’s hope itself…’Hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency.'”

A free-ranging interview with the author of A Language Older Than Words, Welcome to the Machine, and The Culture of Make Believe about civilization, violence, activism, pacifism, reasons for optimism, and why hope is a bad thing.

A counterpoint interview about Malthusian economics and cults of catastrophism is also offered, with social historian Iain Boal, “We’re Not Doomed; That’s the Problem.”:

Many people believe, at least a little, that the end of human beings–whether by ecological disaster, the collapse of the oil economy, or nuclear extinction–is inevitable. For some, this projected collapse represents a just termination for a species they consider parasitic and pathologically unable to establish an equilibrium with the natural world and the creatures who  depend upon it. Others laments the tragedy of our fate.

But what role do faith and belief play in all of this? What if the capitalist realities of scarcity and collapse have been mistakenly interpreted as natural inevitabilities?  

>> READ THE FULL ARTICLE (PDF; 8 pages)

[From the online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow – The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt.] 

» PROPAGANDA, PUBLIC RELATIONS, AND THE NOT-SO-NEW DARK AGE

by Stephen Bender and Brian Awehali
(from the online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow-The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt)

Edward L. Bernays birthed the public relations industry in the United States. His clients included General Motors, United Fruit, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, the U.S. Department of State, Health, and Commerce, Samuel Goldwyn, Eleanor Roosevelt, the American Tobacco Company, and Proctor & Gamble. He directed public relations campaigns for every president from Calvin Coolidge in 1925, to Dwight Eisenhower in the late 1950s. He was, in the estimation of cultural historian Ann Douglas, the man “who orchestrated the commercialization of a culture.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE (PDF; 6 pages)

» LITTERBUG WORLD: Overproduction, Waste & the Limits of Recycling

Heather Rogers’ film and book, Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage, explore the “sinister success” of capitalism by looking at the life cycle of our waste.  They examine the realities of planned-in obsolescence and waste-by-design in our market economy, asking deep questions from a fresh perspective. Rogers contends that recycling is far from an actual solution, and is at best a band-aid approach—a much harder look, she argues, needs to be taken at our addiction to waste.

This interview by Ariane Conrad originally appeared in LiP magazine and was anthologized in Tipping the Sacred Cow. (AK Press) [PDF; available as of May 2011]

* * *

What inspired or motivated you to make Gone Tomorrow?

Heather Rogers: Two things: I wanted to know what happened to my garbage, because it seemed like it disappeared, but I knew that it didn’t. I wanted to find out where it went. I also realized that “waste disposal” is a process through which the market’s relations to labor and nature is made apparent. [Gone Tomorrow] is a way of understanding that garbage is something everyone makes—everyone can relate to it. It’s a way of connecting daily life and our daily interaction with waste to larger environmental crises.

In your film, you document several of the major shifts that occurred in the attitude towards garbage in the U.S.. Can you talk a little bit more about the most significant shifts?

It’s not so commonly known anymore, but in the 19th century there was a huge amount of re-use going on. A lot of it came from the fact that people couldn’t afford to buy manufactured goods because they were so expensive. One of the big shifts came with the Industrial Revolution, when commodities suddenly became much cheaper. The spatial component of the Industrial Revolution transformed the way people lived, so that suddenly people were leaving the countryside and concentrating in cities, to go work in the factories. They didn’t have places to save and store their waste like they had in the countryside, so it wasn’t as easy to save fat, for example, or scraps of materials to re-use and repair. That, in conjunction with commodities becoming cheaper, meant that people bought more of the things they needed instead of making them themselves.

Continue reading