I woke in bed, in my home, surrounded by wilderness and the stars twinkling over the bed through the skylight, secure in this place, this country no matter how far to the ends of the continent I go. Still accountable for all the priveledges I could choose to have access to. It tightens my skin. I can wake from a dream of hell, make choices, love my family, watch Ila's light grow and shine, so many will never have such opportunity for joy. Tell me friends how can we stand such times and live? Yet how can we do anything but? What future do our children have in a world that increasingly has so little regard for the sancticity of life if we do not begin showing them and modelling it in our every day lives. The following is taken from Harper's January 9th Weekly Review:
Monday, February 12, 2007
I woke in bed, in my home, surrounded by wilderness and the stars twinkling over the bed through the skylight, secure in this place, this country no matter how far to the ends of the continent I go. Still accountable for all the priveledges I could choose to have access to. It tightens my skin. I can wake from a dream of hell, make choices, love my family, watch Ila's light grow and shine, so many will never have such opportunity for joy. Tell me friends how can we stand such times and live? Yet how can we do anything but? What future do our children have in a world that increasingly has so little regard for the sancticity of life if we do not begin showing them and modelling it in our every day lives. The following is taken from Harper's January 9th Weekly Review:
Thursday, February 8, 2007
I am not meaning just here on this screen but in general, both public and private.
I lovelovelovelove my partner for just who he is but lengthy discussion is not his interest, which is fine, he complements and balances out my tendency to exist totally in words and abstractions and I provide the catalyst to change our situation. It works, but it does mean that I need to look outside just the two of us to fufill my need to think and be thought to outloud, to learn. To ramble into the wee hours over music and food, my idea of the true university. Chris becomes suceptible to fits of narcolepsy starting anywhere between 8-11 pm and there is no inducing him back to the waking world. On my more truly insomniatic nights I observe his precious snoringness and envy him utterly. Unfortunatley although there are many wonderful people here everyone is fully engaged in their home and routine and is almost exclusively either 20 years older than us or who like to discuss over booze which is NOT my idea of a good time, while I love and admire them, it seems opportunity for real visits/discourse are rare. Visiting with a two year old during the day time is a fun exhausting business but leaves little room for more then giggling helplessly over her antics. She is VERY much the centre of all activity by being so absurdly happy 99% of the time, you can't help but give her your undivided attention which is what she deserves anyway. It doesnt help that I tend to be more interested in whatever children happen to be around and they in me, so that visiting with other parents is great but not what I am talking about. When we lived further south we had a great deal more visitors which I find so much more appealing then being the one to do the travelling then coming home to a cold house. Ila also refuses to sleep anywhere other than in her crib, no discussion, our lovely daughter who tells US when it is bedtime and happily snuggles in at night and nap becomes a raging fiendish hell beast, ALL NIGHT LONG. Factor in a dog and the assorted baggage and stuff, not to mention no $ takes all the spontenaeity out of leaving the Island. Secondly I just don't see why they would not want to see the incredible experience we are living here, I have never been anywhere like it and I have trekked back and forth across this country from Pacific to Atlantic six times (for a grand total of 18,000 kilometers by air, train, car and thumb) and spent time in every major Canadian city. I decided that I had no interest in being anywhere but the wetcoast at 16 when I came back for the last time. Since then I have travelled up and down this coast though no further north than Port Hardy (1hr from here). In a region known for it's epic beauty I have found no place more lovely or welcoming than this. The fact that this soil has been fertilized for over 100 years in dreams of freedom from modernity is no small selling point for me.
We moved to Sointula in May of 2005 and since that time only my father has made the trek here (6 hours driving the most beautiful stretch of pavement I have ever seen and a quick picturesque ferry ride) 4 or 5 times. I have been tempted a few times to get away not because I have any desire to leave but because like Ani said, "Strangers are exciting their mystery never ends, but there's nothing like seeing your own history in the faces of your friends." I can't help but feel that for 24 years of living I have left very little impression on those who I have loved since they have so little interest in what has such deep and profound value for me, dreams and the fufillment of them. I have always been so happy to support them and try to do whatever I could to help them achieve anything, whatever moved them towards happiness.
I have been reading both Sicicily Sue and supergirlest's blogs and both have written about loss of friends and community for simply being true to who they want to be. For just evolving. I know that has been true for my own experience, every time I have made decisions that brought me closer to being fully true to what in Herman Hesse wrote in Demian, "the promptings which came from my true self." I too demand as his character did, why is that so very difficult?
Not for myself but for all those who would rather deny those urgings because they are, as I can attest, so very inconvenient for living a comfortable or predicatable life. I have no wish for either. I know that safety is an illusionary carrot we dangle in our noses as distraction to keep us from recognizing the danger we present to ourselves and the immense reality of our situation. In short, all the work we should be doing. To speak out about the chains that bind us is to threaten the comforting illusion of the herd and of course they don't want to realize they have the keys to all the locks, they just want to go on milling. I refuse to settle for anything less then freedom, I believe that Martin Luther King was right when he said that it is no more possible to be half-alive then it is to be half-free. Whenever I have stood up without compromise for what I knew to be right I have lost friends regardless of the reason. So many other blogs are full of such honest stories of life and loss on a personal level and I have mainly written of where I am theoretically and physically at now. I have recreated myself so many times in self-preservation that my own past seems vaguely disconnected and surreal though if I choose I can go at will into the dark places of my heart without becoming lost or fatalistic. Why? Maybe because in the words of Dr. Suess himself, I know that, some people are much more, so much much much much more, so muchly much more, unlucky then [I] (from Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?).
I would be more inclined to let my past languish somewhere undisturbed while I am busy remaking myself (hey could you pass me the duct tape?) but I also know that it doesnt work that way. My every action is filtered through the accumulation of all my experiences, who I am is directly related to who I have been and continue to become. Everything I have been reading has made me rewind and consider my choices and the choices that were made for me, for keeping with the thread of lost friends, I have also lost many for experiencing grief or pain or anger as a result of the situations I found myself in, which I believe was also being true to myself in a different, but no less important, way. . . .
I was refusing to stop feeling.
I am feeling desperate and hopeful, torn in both directions all the posts I have been reading have been churning in my mind. I want to get it all out but it backs up, sticks in my throat, gums up my hands, falling out all garbled and incoherent. While I am still trying to pull my thoughts into some kind of tangible order so I will share some old bits and bobs on the subjects that are rattling around in my head.
I think I summed it up best when I was 14 and I type out my thoughts here for myself and whoever stumbles along because they perfectly convey my utter bewilderement that has only increased at what passes as normative for so many when they hit me right in the stomach. Like little Eva in Uncle Tom's Cabin, "these things just sink into my heart".
Maybe I'm just stupid.
Or maybe there is some inherent part of my psyche that got left in the womb when I was brought into this world. There is so much that I can not even begin to comprehend. I am reminded of how "a wise man is one who knows he knows nothing" or something like that. I am not sure if my realization of the fact that there are multitudes of things I'll never understand makes me wise or not but it certainly makes me frustrated.
There is no room in me to understand racism, rape, violence, murder, child abuse, the denigration and denial of women as valid and valuable human beings, religious fanaticism, the list just goes on and on into infinity. I know that these things exist. I have been a victim of a fair number and yet I still just can't wrap my mind around them.
How can anyone look into the beautiful face of a child and steal the bright light within? Hurt their precious tiny limbs?
How can anyone force another to the ground, violate, strip of human-rights, self-esteem, life?
How can we starve and demean entire nations of people?
Once again, maybe I'm stupid.
I have heard it said countless times that Canada is a glorious, free democracy. This makes me furious! A democracy means by the people not this "mob rule" as Plato rightly called it. The mob being the business men in their penthouse suites and their $70 000 cars, whispering their demands into the ears of their elected criminals, and since spineless marionettes are the only one's financially capable of running for office the last thing we have is a democracy.
In a true democracy 11 year old girls would not sell their bodies for the cash to feed their parent's heroin addictions because social services could care less and our government is too busy building billion dollar businesses and trying to get people to stop smoking.
In a democracy each person's concerns are valid but would any member of parliment stop long enought to listen to the opinions of some lysol drenched wino?
Who draws the line between a valid and non-valid member of society? Could someone please tell me how to pinpoint that distinction. Silly me, I thought we were all essential and deserving of an equal quality of life. How naive. You are only worthwhile if you play the game, smile pretty, smell nice, pay taxes and expect no less than a knife in the back for showing compassion.
In my hometown I have seen people step over the blue body of another person because of the needle in his arms, nevermind that blood is running from his ears and nose. Even disgust or anger would have been better then the blind unseeing eyes of the people who stepped over his prone body. This scares me. This sickens me. This moves me to tears.
I want to change the world, to make a difference, shake the foundations of people's ideologies, make them taker a closer look at the consequences of not only their actions but their thoughts. Where do I even start?
Charlottetown, PEI, 1996
Maybe that's it, I'm just stupid. After all instead of going to class like the normal kids I wrote stuff like that instead and got high, and abused. Go figure. I am still trying, to not allow the rest of the world who is so hell bent on conformity to let me stop thinking that I can make a difference, that I matter, whether or not anyone else believes that to be the case. I KNOW it to be true. I am reminded of my favorite Zap Mama song where they sing, for no one will I go to hell. I will not dull my painful heart to all the things I know are not okay. All the things that I am not closer to understanding now then I was then.
So instead of writing on the achingnesses that I am turning over in my brain I will end with a song that I wrote about solutions, it makes me feel good maybe you will too. Just for clarification THIS:
is Hastings and Main....
Fill Main and Hastings with flowers
pull the stars from the sky and place them in the hair of women on corners
offer them a seat, time to rest their aching feet
Wash the faces of dirty children with love
Feed them dishes of treats they have never heard of
Give them places and spaces in your hearts and your homes
Give them room to grow
Everybody deserves someone to see their worth
To be held and cherished, honoured and nourished
To be simply seen, we all want to be simply seen
as human beings
Hold the hands of old men lying in doorways,
stop to talk and hear what they have to say
Offer something sweeter to drink then listerine
Give them time and a safe place to think over all they've seen
Offer up a smile to a man in a three piece suit
Clutching his briefcase as though he may have something to lose
For you know he is equally as confused as me and you
(chorus) Everybody....to be simply seen as a living thing
Give praise to the mothers and daughters of our generation
who are raising the next dreamers and lovers and believers
of our brand new nation and try to just simply see
each of us as deserving human beings
On that note I am taking my tired out self to bed. Hopefully to dream of sugar plums and visions of other nice things instead of what I just spent the last two hours reading.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
This is what I have been working on for the last few days. Today I had a meeting with the local Resource Centre whose board I just happen to sit on, they agreed to serve as an interim board of directors while I start meeting with Island youth to find and elect a youth board. It feels good to get the ball rolling and begin to put into practive the ideas and knowledge I have been accumulating. For those with o clue what youth empowerment is I will include a definition here: Youth empowerment is an attitudinal, structural, and cultural process whereby young people gain the ability, authority, and agency to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people, including youth and adults. -Adam Fletcher, Freechild Project. If you have not heard of the freechild project I suggest you haul yourself over there for a much needed crash course in youth liberation while I haul myself off to bed.
-Henry Giroux, Translating the Future and the Promise of Democracy
Supply youth with the skills needed to navigate a rapidly changing world and the confidence to achieve their dreams.
Create opportunities for conservation and cooperation in the North Island region.
Provide rural youth with access to fine and performing arts, learning, mentorship, and skill building opportunities with the creation of an annual full summer leadership program and year round workshops and events.
Participate in building inclusive youth friendly communities that celebrate diversity.
Engage youth in preserving and valuing local and traditional knowledge.
Invest in youth as leaders and problem solvers.
Organize, support and encourage youth driven initiatives and events.
Unite youth across boundaries to find solutions to common problems.
Monday, February 5, 2007
I am working overtime now that howl is over and out of the way to develop the funding proposals for yoUNIte Empowerment Society, I am so bored with non-profit acronyms that I thought long and hard about this one. Yo as in "Yo! Get up off your ass", you for You as individual and youth, UNI=upper north island (the region of the province we live in) and also a play on unity, you'n'i=u-n-i-t-y, and YES as the short form because we need to unite to say yes to a better way of life for all youth, those now and those yet to come. The purpose of YES will be to empower youth as peacemakers and global citizens in a youth governed and driven organization akin to A.S. Neill's Summerhill (the original freeschool) eventually I hope this to develop into a full time year round learning institute for children and youth and hopefully our home. What better place to teach peacemaking then in a place of harmony? So I will be sharing some of what I am turning up in my research. It feels so GOOD to put away the constant reading and researching all the ways youth are dying and being failed for writing howl and now turning to all the incredible powerful youth there are out there now. The following is taken from http://www.universityofthepoor.org
Hello, welcome to the young people's liberation policy. We hope you enjoy every word of it. Relax, make yourself comfortable. Try reading it with someone else and talking about it with them afterwards. Take your time, you don't have to read it all at once.
What's a Liberation Policy?
It is our best understanding of young people, our oppression, and what we are doing to end it. This policy also contains information and ideas we have found important and useful. We will improve it as we learn more about ourselves and the world.
Purposes of Our Policy
The purposes of our policy are to:
" Remind us of the great things about being young.
" Give information on the situation of young people.
" Show how we can act effectively on our own thinking.
" Tell people how we want to be treated now.
" Help us in ending our oppression.
" Help us set goals for the future. And make us smile.
Who We Are
Young people are human beings under age 21. We are almost half the world's population. There are over 3 billion of us. We live in every part of the world. As young people we share common experiences that are unique to us. We have common bond that cuts across all differences of race, ethnic background, class, sex, nationality, religion, sexual preference, physical and mental differences. Because of the laws that limit some of us until age 21, this age has been chosen as the dividing line between being a young person and being an adult.
Our Roles in the World
As young people we are a key part of the world. We are active and powerful people. What we do and think has a great impact on our societies.
The economy depends on young people as consumers. Without our support the alcohol, food, clothing, toy, military, drug, education, candy, record, entertainment, fashion, car, and book industries would be forced to change quickly to avoid collapsing.
We do things to change society that many older people are still too afraid to do. We lead protests and revolutions all over the world. Young people are political leaders in many "third world" countries. We make up the majority of the military forces of the world. Without our support it is very hard for our countries to go to war.
Many of our families depend on us for their economic survival. We work on our families' farms, businesses etc.. Our families often depend on us to care for them.
Young people are important not only because of the things we do. By just being ourselves and enjoying our lives we improve life for everyone.
Young People's True Nature
Young people are powerful, bursting with life and energy, intelligent, good, lovely, and cooperative. We respect and enjoy each other, our world, and all other living creatures. Anytime we do not feel or act like this way, it is because of our oppression.
What is Oppression?
Oppression is when all members of one group of people are mistreated either by society as a whole, or by a particular group. This mistreatment is one-way and systematic. As a group young people are oppressed by adults. This oppression is part of the structure of our economy, schools, mental health systems, religions, political structures, families, media, etc..
The Oppression of Young People
Our oppression appears in many forms. The base of all these forms is lack of respect. Every human being deserves complete respect at every age. Young people are not given all the respect we deserve for our goodness, power, intelligence, thinking, and creativity because of our age. Often we are not recognized as real, complete human beings, with a will of our own. Because of this lack of respect, we are not allowed or expected to have complete power over our lives. We are not trusted to be able to think, make decisions, take action on our own, or correct our mistakes.
The Effects of the Oppression
The fundamental effect of our oppression is that the majority of young people live in extreme poverty and economic oppression. Thousands of young people starve to death every year. Many young people die because of unhealthy living conditions. For most young people surviving; trying to have a place to live, food to eat, and good health takes all of our time and attention. Most young people never get the opportunity to think about, experience, or work to change many of the situations that are talked about in this statement. In order for us to be completely liberated all forms of our oppression must be stopped.
A Few Examples of the Oppression
" We are expected to shut up and to be out of the way.
" Adults have the "right" to beat us and threaten us.
" Our ideas, governments and revolutions are attacked by more economically powerful countries.
" We are continually told that we will be good enough only when we have learned more.
" We are not expected to be powerful.
" We are looked upon as unintelligent.
" Our judgment is considered worse than adults. We are not thought of as valuable and important.
" We are not allowed to vote.
" Thousands of young people starve every year.
" Our relationships are not recognized as important.
All of this affects us in our homes, our schools, our jobs and on the street. In every corner of our lives we are hit by the oppression and inhuman expectations that come with it.
Everyone is (or has been) a young person. We all are (or have been) mistreated because we are (or were) young. Everyone tries to deal with this oppression in their own way. Because of its unrecognized, inhuman and extreme nature few people have been able to deal with the oppression well. Practically everyone has started to believe the lies we are (or were) told about ourselves as young people (for example: we are not powerful, we are a bother etc.). We start to feel these lies are true for all young people, and often begin to treat young people as if they are stupid, and not really human etc.. This process of how we come to believe the lies we are told about ourselves and about other young people is called "internalizing the oppression".
Examples of How Internalized Oppression Works
We often feel bad about ourselves and feel that older people are more important. By treating other young people as less important and acting more "cool" or "mature", we try to prove we are "better" and deserve more respect than they do.
Often we feel we are not good enough the way we are; and that we have to "become something." By competing with each other about who drinks the most, has the best toys, says their times tables faster, uses the most difficult words, who has the "best" sex life, is prettier, or acts tougher etc., we try to show people we are "something" and feel better about ourselves.
Internalized oppression is the main force in continuing the oppression of young people. It divides us, and keeps us from working together to end our oppression. It keeps us from enjoying ourselves and each other.
For interesting ways to stop internalized oppression read the section on, "Steps Towards Our Liberation".
How the Oppression Continues
This internalized oppression is the main reason that adults treat young people badly. The hurts that they suffered as young people left them with a confused memory and understanding of being a young person. The mistreatment they endured came to seem "normal" or "just the way things are." This makes it possible for adults to be forced into taking oppressive roles and continuing the social system that oppresses young people.
A hopeful sign is that each generation of adults passes on less of the lies and mistreatment they received when they were young. Another great thing is that now that we understand how this mechanism of internalized oppression works we can interrupt it with great success.
Age Does Not Affect the Basic Content of Oppression
The specific ways that our oppression affects us is different depending on our age, but the basic content of the oppression is always lack of respect.
Feeling Powerful and Being in Control of Our Lives
When we are very young we expect that we will have control of our lives. We assume that we will decide when we eat, who we want to be with, what we are going to do, etc..
Throughout our lives we have our power taken away from us. Sometimes wars and poverty disrupt ours and our parents lives. Often there are not enough people to take care of us and help us grow. When we do have people to take care of us, these people usually assume that we do not know what we want or need. They put us to bed when they want us to sleep. They move us around at their convenience. They treat our talking and communication as if it is unimportant. This type of treatment continues as we grow up. It often makes us feel as if we are not powerful and in charge of our lives.
Although we are discouraged often, the truth remains that we are powerful. We fight bravely to stand up for ourselves with our voices, bodies, and minds. As young people we have consistently worked to take complete charge of our lives. We have found it is possible to be with people in ways that are powerful while going to school, protecting our countries, keeping our families together, working, worshipping, surviving, socializing, sleeping, etc..
Factors that Affect Our Lives and Liberation
" We often do not have as much information about the world and ourselves as older people do.
" We are usually smaller and weaker physically than adults, and can be threatened by physical force and violence.
" We have few legal rights in most situations.
" We have little or no money of our own. When we do have money we often are not free to spend it the way we want.
" We expect the world to be a rational, human place and it is not explained to us why it is not.
" We are not told that the mistreatment we receive from people is the result of the way those people have been mistreated and hurt. Instead we are told that there is something wrong with us, or that these people are evil and have a mean, vicious way of thinking.
" We are dependent on adults for our money, food, shelter, information, transportation, and communication. We often risk losing access to these things if we stand up against the oppression.
How Other Oppressions Effect Us
In addition to being oppressed as young people, all of us belong to other oppressed groups, Jews, Japanese, Asians, Aborigines, women, artists, working class, disabled, blacks, etc..
This adds to the internalized oppression. It gives other socially accepted excuses for young people to mistreat each other. Young gentiles oppress Jews. Young white people oppress blacks, etc..
The other oppressed groups we are identified with are often socially recognized as oppressed and more attention is given to them, because of this we often forget that being young is a basic issue in our lives.
Ending All Oppression
" We will not be completely liberated until all oppressed groups are liberated.
" Part of our liberation is having fun in becoming experts on the liberation of all people.
Our Liberation is Key for All Liberation Movements
To end the oppression of young people is important to all people. If people were not oppressed when they were young they would never accept and would never help continue any other oppression. Without the hurt, confusion, and feelings of powerlessness that comes from being oppressed as young people, sexism, racism, classism and other forms of oppression would never be accepted. Young people as a group would become a model of people from all different groups treating each other well. Young people would quickly become leaders for all groups and liberation movements.
Steps Towards Our Liberation
There are many things that must happen for us to be liberated. This is a general outline of what we need to do for our liberation. Each young person and group of young people need to have a plan of how they are going to be liberated that includes specific long and short range goals. There are four basic steps for our liberation. (1) Ending the ways we have internalized our oppression. (2) Talking with as many young people as possible about our oppression. (3) Building groups of young people to working together to liberate ourselves. (4) Talking with adults about young peoples' liberation, and having them help us in our work.
1) Feeling Good About Ourselves - Not Believing Internalized Oppression
There are many things that we wouldn't change about ourselves or our lives. Young people accomplish amazing things and have a lot of fun doing it. We are good people. Despite this we have internalized some of the oppressive lies we are told. Many of us feel terrible about ourselves. We blame ourselves for things we know aren't our fault, etc..
By deciding not to believe these feelings about ourselves and other young, people we begin to reclaim our true human nature. Part of deciding not to believe internalized oppression is taking delight and pride in everything we do. Reminding each other that we are good, important people, helps us to feel good about ourselves and to remember that what we do is important. Because internalized oppression makes us forget our goodness and power, we need to decide to like ourselves and other young people over and over.
A commitment has developed to help us in ending our internalized oppression. Working to keep this commitment is a powerful tool in ending our oppression. This is it, "I cheerfully promise, from this moment on, to never again treat any young person, first and foremost myself, with anything less than complete respect."
2) Being Friends - Stopping the Effects of Internalized Oppression
Each friendship we have is important in our liberation. By deciding to reach out and be friends with all young people we are making a bold and powerful step in our liberation. We naturally like all young people. Only the effects of being oppressed make us feel like we don't like each other.
The oppression does this in three ways:
A. We find it hard to be with people who are the same as we are, because we don't want be reminded about the parts of our lives that bother us.
B. We feel separated from young people who are older or younger than us because they are either "too old" to be our friends, or "too young."
C. We find it difficult to get close to people who are different than we are because of the oppressive lies we have been told about these people. Despite the oppression we often burst with love for each other even though we can't always show it. We enjoy our friendships very much. We make new friends whenever we can. This is a key part of our liberation.
3) Changing the World
While enjoying our friendships, we can use them to change situations where we are not treated well. The closeness we have as we overcome the ways that our oppression divides us allows us to work together instead of fighting and arguing. As groups of young people we can change all kinds of situations: a child being beaten, boring classes, no food, fights, no parents, bad laws, the possibility of nuclear war, no toys, angry parents, not enough money, no jobs, etc..
4) Having Adults Help Us Work for Our Liberation
Having adults understand our oppression is an important part of our liberation. Being close friends with adults is a great way to do this. It gives us opportunities to explain ourselves clearly and insist that they treat young people well. As we get them to question and stop the ways they oppress young people adults often need to talk about the ways they were mistreated when they were young. Besides helping in our liberation, our friendships with adults are very important to us and bring us great joy. Many adults are already eager to help us work for our liberation, so if there is something we can't do: A) Look for the best adult to do the job. B) Say hello to them. C) Ask if they would like to help you. D) If they says yes, tell them exactly what you want them to do. E) Appreciate them thoroughly if they do well. Being friends with adults is not always the best or quickest way to get adults to treat us right. We need to be strong and clear as we speak for ourselves. Sometimes we need to be able to threaten, tease, fight, speak loudly, etc. with adults in order to get them to treat us properly. Being friends does not mean putting up with being mistreated.
Young People and the World
This section is a collection of thoughts and ideas about issues and people which affect many of our lives.
Young people have a right to time for learning free from other pressures. We have a right to information and assistance from adults to help us in our learning. Schools should be a place where this information and assistance is available; where young people are free to choose what, when, how, and at what speed, to learn.
Many young people do not have schools to go to. We do not have the opportunity to learn to; read, write, do math etc.. Our countries and parents can not afford to provide schools. We need to work so all young people have schools to go to.
Today, schools mainly play the role of oppressing us. They try to control young people by forcing us to act and think in certain ways. They help establish and encourage competition between young people. Schools make it harder for us to learn by not appreciating our intelligence and by testing us in ways that do not measure our true abilities. They try to make us fit into oppressive roles rather then expanding what we know and the things we can do. They train us to fit into jobs that are economically profitable, and that keep our oppressive social structure in place. They try to teach us that there are only a few "smart" people, who "deserve" important jobs that pay well, but that the rest of us are "stupid" and less able to do things, so we don't deserve to get paid very much for the work we do.
We can use schools for our liberation; as places to discuss, share and support one another. We can use them to get teachers to work for our liberation. As we become liberated schools will become fun, exciting, and caring places for all people.
The heart of the oppression of young people is economic. Our position and treatment in society comes from our economic system and is kept in place by it. Young people are often kept out of the recognized work force by required school attendance (if we have schools to go to). Young people do many unrecognized, but important jobs, particularly work in the home, taking care of younger people, as well as the important work of learning. Because these jobs are unrecognized as work, they are usually unpaid. This makes us feel that what we do has no "real" value, as if we are only preparing to be a useful person in society. When we do have an income of our own it is generally far less than what older people get. All this affects every area of our lives.
Because we are in this dependent economic position, two threats are effective in keeping us in school. First, if we do not go to school our financial support (from schools, parents, the government etc.) usually stops. Second, we are told that the "only" way we can get a "good" job and income is by going to school. This is not true. There are many ways to get a great, fun, job.
When we work, we are often forced into working in bad situations that no person should have to put up with. We can be replaced easily because the jobs we do often don't need much special training. This forces many of us into being a quiet work force that doesn't dare to stand up for itself. Instead of expecting to be treated with respect and given decent jobs, we often feel pleased to have any job at all.
We are almost always financially dependent on our parents. This increases the power parents have to control our lives. Our financial dependence should not be used by our parents to force us to do what they want. We should be included as active people with full voices in making decisions abut how our families spend their money.
Because young people are not respected as intelligent human beings, we are kept ignorant about money, jobs, and finances. We are not told how taxes work, how much money our parents get, how much money other people get, how our families spend money, how our schools spend money, etc.. This makes it hard for us to control our lives and keeps us in our oppressed position. Learning about and changing our economic system is a big challenge. We can do it.
Many of us are beaten, burned, slapped, molested, killed, raped, spanked, spit on, tied up, hit or otherwise abused. It is important to remember that many boys and young men are sexually abused. Girls and young women are not the only young people who get sexually mistreated. Often the abuse we receive comes from people we love and are close to. This is confusing and terrifying. It makes it hard for us to trust people. Often we feel we are somehow responsible for the abuse we receive, or that we somehow deserve it. We are not responsible for being abused. We do not deserve it. Often older people claim they are punishing us for our own good, that it will help us "grow up". This is not good for us. It does not help us grow up. It hurts us physically and emotionally. We need to get out of situations where we are abused as soon as possible, by running away, going to the police, threatening to tell, whatever works well in your situation. We then need to find a place where we can relax and talk about what it was like to be abused. It is important for us to be encouraged to do this.
Everyone deserves support in thinking about whether they want to be parents, and whether they are ready to be parents. No one should be forced into having a child they don't want, and no child should have parents that don't want them. Becoming parents is a very important choice; we deserve complete respect for our choices and decisions about having, or not having children. As young people we need to exercise birth control if we do not want be parents. Becoming parents "by accident" does not mean we are "stupid young people". Being a parent is a wonderful and important job. Yea! for parents!
We naturally love our parents and want to be close to them. They also love us and want to be close to us. Parents try their hardest to make thing right for us. Because of the way they were mistreated when they were young and the ways they are mistreated by society, our parents don't always do a good job of taking care of us.
Our being alive makes our parents lives better. Because of how hard parents have to work, it often seems that we are a burden to them. In reality parents benefit from us being alive as much as we benefit from their love and care. They take care of us because they love us. We don't have to "pay them back" for taking care of us.
There are many things we are told about how children and parents should act and feel. Most of them don't make much sense. They come from the ways parents and children are mistreated by society. Our parents want us to be happy. They want us to live our own lives and be what we want to be. The things that are good for us are also good for our parents; even when they make them feel uncomfortable.
Parents are forced by society to take the major role in oppressing young people. They are expected to control, educate, discipline, and socialize "their" children; otherwise they are considered "bad" parents. Parents are oppressed, but not by young people. Society does not recognize the massive job parents do and so their work is undervalued and usually unpaid.
Parents are natural supporters for ending our oppression. Most parents care for us deeply and are committed to seeing our lives go well. We never have to give up on our parents being our friends and allies.
We feel a lot of feelings. This is particularly true when we get together in groups or think about ending our oppression. Because of these feelings: people pick on each other, groups break up, quarrels about little things end up in people being resentful etc.. (See sections on "Internalized Oppression" and "Examples of Internalized Oppression" for a clear explanation of what causes us to have many of these feelings.)
When we have feelings we do not have to let them control us, but we do need some assistance to deal with them. Someone needs to help us see that our feelings are not "reality" but are feelings that we have because of ways we have been hurt. This is done by someone asking us to talk about why we feel the ways we do and allowing us to "discharge" our feelings. We "discharge" our feelings by talking, laughing, crying, shaking, sweating, yawning, about the things that bother us. This discharging of our feelings heals the hurts we have and lets us think better about our lives. Talking, crying, yawning, shaking, laughing, are the signs that this process is going on. Discharging our feelings allows us to see that these feelings come from times when we were hurt. There is a huge relief whenever groups of young people are organized in ways that let us treat each other well, but we still feel the old feelings of past mistreatment and they need to be dealt with (discharged). In most cases not recognizing these feelings and not allowing people to discharge results in the group not working as well as it might.
There are groups of young people in the Reevaluation Co-counseling communities who have worked together while encouraging "discharge" to take place. By doing this they have been able to have fun and work together instead of allowing bad feelings and quarrels to break up their groups. The Reevaluation Counseling communities are a group of people both young and old who have a profound and accurate theory of how to end oppression and heal the results of past mistreatment. By using this theory and allowing discharge to take place, they have found that under the scars of past mistreatment human beings are powerful and smart, but people behave unintelligently over and over because of these past mistreatment. Any time such patterns are thoughtfully dealt with people discharge profusely and reconsider (reevaluate) that part of their lives and intelligence. This re-revaluation allows human beings to stop acting in unintelligent ways and function fully and powerfully.
The Mental Health System
The mental health system provides ideas of what a "normal" human being is meant to be like. It assumes that the typical adults behavior is "less crazy" and more "mentally healthy" than young people's. We are measured against these ideas of how people are supposed to be. Young people are considered less "mentally healthy" and more "irrational" because we show our emotions more freely than adults. The mental health system demands that young people lose this openness in order to be "rational," truly "mature," and "adult." The ability to show and feel our feelings fully is natural and good for all human beings. It keeps us healthy, and thinking well.
By assuming young people are born irrational and have to overcome this by growing into "maturity," the mental health system continues the myth that young people are unable to have control of their lives. It creates excuses for how our oppression affects us. It teaches people that our feeling terrible about ourselves, being worried about our looks, etc., is a "normal" part of growing up that can't be changed. Instead of addressing the cause of our problems, it often covers them up and blames us for not putting up with an impossible situation.
Becoming a patient of the mental health system does not mean we are "mentally ill" or less human than other people. Because of our size and lack of legal rights we can easily be forced into becoming patients of the mental health system. This happens to us if we refuse to follow society's rules of "normal" behavior (like sitting quietly through boring classes, not crying "too much", not running away from home). We are called "weird" or "crazy" if we do not choose to follow these ideas. If the rules of the school system are not enough to make us "behave" we are considered "psychological problem cases". For example, if you question and argue with a teacher too much you will be sent to see a psychologist, taken to a school for "problem students" etc.. If we continue to refuse to cooperate we are put in mental "hospitals", halfway homes, etc.. In this way the mental health system enforces oppressive roles our societies have.
Some of us turn to the mental health system for help, sometimes we get some help with our problems, but often we get abused. We are put in isolation rooms, given harmful drugs, given electroshock therapy, and lobotomies. We are treated as if we are "ill" and not human. When we do get "help" from "therapy," the way we are often seen as the "problem", and our "therapist" is seen as the "expert" is oppressive. Being seen as the "problem" often makes us feel bad because we are made to believe that there is something "wrong" with us, that we are to blame for our problems, or that we should be able to control our lives and cannot because we are "sick". This does not reflect the true nature of young people or adults.
" As we grow older we get to keep a fresh, joyful view of the world. What we can't stand about adults or getting older is the effects of oppression that lead people to give up their dreams, hopes and power.
" We can always stay connected with younger people. We do not have to let becoming growing older separate us from young people.
" We already are something, we don't have to become something.
" We get to define what it means to be an "adult". Being an adult does not mean being lonely, tired and miserable.
" It's fun to be an adult.
Drugs and Alcohol *
Many of us use drugs and alcohol. Our social gatherings often focus on using these substances. Any use of alcohol and drugs hurts our minds and bodies. They keep us oppressed by numbing us and making it hard for us to think through the situations we want to handle. Drugs and alcohol make us feel good temporarily, but long range they cloud our minds and add to our despair.
There are many reasons why we use drugs and alcohol. We sometimes use them when we feel too scared to face a situation "straight". Often we feel so bad that we just want to block out our feelings by getting high or drunk. We use drugs and alcohol in an attempt to feel more "adult" and "grown up". We try to take the edge off of our embarrassments about sex, talking to other people, how we look etc. by drinking and taking drugs. The sensations we feel when using these strong chemicals are exciting compared to the boredom, misery and loneliness we often experience.
We are encouraged by many parts of society to use these substances. Often people we respect tell us that these substances are not harmful, or that they are good for us. At parties we are often pressured to use drugs and alcohol. Because of the huge profits are made from our use of addictive substances, a great deal of pressure put on us to use them from advertisements, drug dealers, the mental health system, etc..
Strong chemicals are both physically and emotionally addicting. When we stop using them we often have painful physical reactions (headaches, shakes, vomiting, etc.), and we also feel a flood of strong emotions (Fear, anger, sadness, nervousness, depression, loneliness, etc.). This makes it hard to stop using these drugs. It makes us want to go back to using them, or switch to abusing ourselves with other chemicals.
We need to get people to help us deal with these feelings when we stop using these substances. (See section on "Our Feelings" for information on how to deal with these feelings). We deserve warm encouragement and appreciation for each step we take towards stopping our use of drugs or alcohol. We need to be listened to as we deal with the emotions we feel as our bodies rid themselves of these substances.
Marijuana, speed, caffeine, cocaine, crack, black tar, heroin, cigarettes, cigars, lithium, haldol, LSD, PCP, angel dust, amphetamines, mushrooms, ritalin, beer, wine, whisky, gin vodka, chewing tobacco, syrup, thorazine, morphine, mellaril, acid, barbiturates, valium, hash, sniffing glue, rum, opium, ecstacy, pain killers, quaaludes, etc..
We call upon all people to make eliminating nuclear weapons weapon of mass distruction a major focus of liberation movements and community activities.
The fact that that large parts of our world could be easily destroyed before we are 30 is terrifying. This fear often makes it hard for us to think about our lives. It often makes us give up being able to control our future.
Despite this young people have always been a powerful force in the work to end nuclear weapons. We challenge all other groups to join with us in ending the possibility of nuclear war. It is essential for young peoples' liberation and the liberation of the human race.
Our society tries to make us to fit into the oppressive roles it has for women and men. We are taught many rules about what boys and girls are supposed to be like. None of these rules or roles make sense.
When we break one the rules, (for example a girl climbs trees), strange things happen. People get upset. They try to make us stop what we are doing. They call us names like fag, tomboy, gay, butch, lezzie.
As we get older we learn that these are names for people who do not follow the rules about how young men and women are supposed to behave. We find out that people think that it is "wrong" for girls to like other girls "too much" or boys to like other boys "too much".
Boys enjoy being close to each other; and girls also enjoy being close to each other. Sometimes it is scary to be close because we have been terrified into feeling that it is wrong.
In almost all parts of western culture we are taught that to be close to someone is to be sexual. In reality being close and being sexual are completely different. We can be close to both young women and men without being sexual. Our fears about sexual thoughts and feelings do not have to stop us from being close to other young men and women. Sometimes when we get close to people we do have sexual thoughts or feelings. They do not mean we have to be sexual, or that we are "straight," "gay" or "lesbian."
We are good and wonderful young women and men. We choose who we want to be close to and how we do it. We choose whether we want to be sexual or not. We decide how we are sexual, and who knows about it. We may decide to have sex with men or women or both or not at all. We may choose to call ourselves "lesbians", "heterosexual", "gay", or "bisexual". All of these choices deserve respect.
Jews are people who share a special culture. This culture has its own special music, books, closeness, and ideas about life. Part of this culture is a religion. Some of us are very religious, and some of us aren't religious at all. Some Jews don't even think of themselves as Jews. We come from all races and look many different ways. Most Jews don't have much money, a few have a lot of money.
In the past, Jews were mistreated just for being Jews. We were forced to live in certain parts of cities, and were often not allowed to practice our religion. As Jews we have been blamed for the economic problems of the countries we live in, and killed, abused, or thrown out of our countries because of this. This mistreatment continues today.
Because of the mistreatment and oppression it is often hard for us to trust people and depend on them to help us. As young Jews, we often feel that we don't belong to our schools, communities, etc.. Even though it happened many years ago, many of us are terrified by the holocaust. We still are afraid that we will be taken away and killed. Our families often teach us to fear and expect mistreatment from others. They do this because of the ways we have been mistreated, often believing that this will help us survive in the future. By building close, dependable, trusting friendships with all people we are able to notice that we belong and that the world is a safe, good place for us to live in as Jews.
The world we live in is full of lies and myths about Jews. Many young people who are not Jews are taught myths about Jews. Young people are often told: that it isn't okay to play with Jewish young people, that all Jews have big noses, that all Jews are rich, or that young Jews are spoiled. These lies and myths often leave those of us who are not Jews feeling confused and terrified about young Jews (See sections on "Our Feelings" and "Racism" for helpful information about how to get rid of these feelings.) In reality we are all wonderful human beings. The lies, myths and oppression do not have to separate other young people from Jews especially young Jews.
Young and Female
It is great to be a young woman. Young women are strong, beautiful, playful, and tough thinking. As young women, we are totally in control of our own lives. We are excellent, loving people; brilliant thinkers; tough, persistent fighters; and brave, enduring athletes.
Young men and young women are treated differently. Young women and young men are separated from each other from the beginning of our lives. Girls and young women are not allowed to do everything that boys and young men are. Often girls and young women are not included in rough play. We are not encouraged or expected to be good at subjects like woodworking, math or science. After being put down and restricted, many young women and girls gradually stop doing things like playing sports, wrestling, getting dirty, making speeches, acting strong. We begin to feel there are many things that we are not able to do.
We are separated and treated differently so that we will fit into societies where the power of women is not recognized. In these societies women earn less money than men. Women work in very important positions such as mothers and housewives without pay. Although some women have jobs which give them some recognition, generally we do not have roles which point out how powerful we are.
Young women and girls are born leaders but have often been taught to fear excellence in ourselves. When we act powerfully we often feel like we have to give up some of our young womenness, or our closeness with other women. In many cases we have not let these feeling keep us from being the leaders we are born to be. We have found that it is possible to be powerful, women leaders and still be well supported and close with other people.
Because of the ways we are treated differently, we are often lead to believe that our bodies are "public property" and can be touched or commented on at anyone's liking. Because of this many of us feel insecure about our looks and generally uncomfortable with our bodies. We don't have to use our bodies to get people to notice, like, or love us. Our bodies are ours, for us to enjoy in the ways we choose.
Being proud and having fun in everything we do helps us to notice that it's great to be female. Trusting our thinking and abilities is key to our liberation. As young women we never have to settle for having anything less than absolutely EVERYTHING we want in our lives.
Young men and boys are special to each other; we like each other so much. As a group we know what it's like to be male. We know male integrity, honor, pride and caring. We know what it's like to grow up as a young man. We know that we are good. Deep inside ourselves we love our fathers and brothers. We like our bodies, our voices, our hair, the way we walk, our sex organs, our muscles etc..
We are completely and fully men from the time we are conceived. Each cell in our body is distinctly male. As we grow up we are constantly told that we are not really "a man." This is humiliating. Instead of people recognizing that we are completely male and everything we do is masculine, we are told that we have to become "a man." We often end up trying to prove we are male instead of enjoying our natural maleness. Often we are told we must oppress women to prove we are men. Oppressing women does not make us "a man". Each of us is 100% male and always has been.
As we get older we are mistreated by people because they are afraid that we will become "those monstrous men that do all those terrible things". We get the idea that there is something basically wrong with us because we are men. This makes it hard for us to remember our pride, caring, love and leadership. Instead of doing what we want and enjoying our lives, we end up working to prove we are good. We all are good men. We never have to apologize for being a man. Being proud of ourselves as men is just right for us. It shows the true nature of both young men and our older brothers.
Our societies have many expectations and ideas about boys and young men that don't make sense. These expectations are different in different cultures. We need to question all of them.
One of the most basic and fundamental ways we are mistreated is being kept from feeling and "discharging" the ways we are hurt (see section on, "Our Feelings"). This keeps us separate from ourselves and other people. It makes us feel lonely, die sooner than women, long for sex, have a harder time learning, kill ourselves, etc..
By stopping people whenever they feel powerless or act terrified about men, we can keep ourselves from being separated from people. Regarding ourselves and every man as 100% male, (especially those of us who are generally not regarded as fully male such as; boys, infants, Jewish men, black men, Asian men, gay men, etc.) will keep us from being hard on each other and relieves us from working to "prove" we are men. Not acting oppressively towards women lets us feel good about ourselves, and keeps us from trying to prove ourselves through "sexual conquests." As men, deciding to relax and enjoy ourselves is the perfect thing for us. Who we are and what we want is important.
Racism is the systematic, one-way mistreatment of people because of their race or color. It is usually used to describe the oppression of people of color (blacks, Asians, native Americans, Aborigines, etc.) by white people.
Young people's liberation will not go very far without addressing racism as a day to day issue for all people. Racism hurts all people, not only people of color. It keeps young white people separated from people of color. It makes it hard for young white people to take full pride in the great things about their cultures and their white sisters and brothers.
Young People of Color
It is great to be a person of color. We are the majority of the world's population. Our many rich cultures help shape the world politically, socially, economically, etc.. As a group people of color are a powerful force in the world, despite the oppressive economic and political systems. The effects of racism often covers this over, but we will shine through in the end.
Racism is internalized in the same way the oppression of young people is. It makes us hate ourselves. It makes us fight, and kill each other. We need to take complete pride in ourselves, and our brothers and sisters. By doing this we will be able to build the unity we need to work well together. Our recovering our power and our taking over as acknowledged leaders of the world is important for our liberation and the liberation of the world.
Young White People
Young white people have played important roles as fighters in the battle against racism. We have fought hard to keep from accepting racist ideas or attitudes. Despite this we have been affected by racism.
Racism is internalized in a way that is similar to how we internalize our oppression as young people (See section on "Internalized Oppression"). We depend on older people to give us accurate information about people of color and the world in general. Unfortunately our societies are full of lies, confusion, and terror about people of color. These feelings get communicated to us and leave us with a confused understanding of people of color. Because of these feelings we act in racist ways without meaning to. Often we are racist and don't even know it. This is not our fault. We did not choose to have these feelings. We do need to continue listening to each other as we "discharge" the terror, confusion, grief, etc., racism has left us with (See section on "Our Feelings"). This allows us to enjoy ourselves more and more, and think better about our brothers and sisters who are people of color.
Young People's Rights
" The right to control (politically etc.) our lives.
" The right to accurate information about the world.
" The right to use to all information systems.
" The right to good food, transportation, clothing, home and money.
" The right to be welcomed by our parents and society, and have our presence welcomed at all times.
" The freedom to not be sexual or be sexual.
" The right to freedom from physical threats or "punishment".
" The freedom to choose and follow our own ideas, thinking and interests.
" The right to determine our own values and definitions of what is beautiful, good, music etc..
Included in these general rights are the following and much more.
" Freedom from being involuntarily drafted into military forces.
" Freedom to choose to go to school or not.
" Freedom to wear the clothes we choose.
" Freedom to keep our rooms the way we want to.
" Freedom from being circumcised.
" The right to buildings and furniture that fits our size.
" The right to live or not live with our parents.
" The right to vote.
" Freedom to be close to our parents during the first days of our lives.
" Freedom from physical and sexual abuse.
" Freedom from criticism.
" Freedom from having to learn things faster then we are ready to.
" Freedom to develop our own judgment.
" Freedom to decide when we want to go to sleep.
" Freedom to be religious or not.
" Freedom from being forced to compete with each other.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
And so while God slept, less than four percent of the population of the world gained control of everything. They control the thirty multinational corporations that control all the companies, and through them the jobs, schools, universities, health services, governments, United Nations, World Health Organizations and nuclear industry. Less than four percent of the world's population control more than ninety percent of the world's resources.I believe in magic. Perhaps Anne Cameron herself played a part in that she authored a number of children's books about pacific northwest native legends which I adored. I have read her work consistently throughout my life and am always unnerved at how well she articulates my own imaginings. I just turned the last page of the book quoted above bought for 50 cents at a friend's garage sale a few days ago. No matter how many times it happens I am always struck by how the right words find me at EXACTLY the right times. It seems fitting that I should read the above days after completing Howl which is all about making that roar of protest.
It's been out of control and unnatural for so long it's hard to believe it's probably just a portion of the whatever it is only a day (or a night) in the eyes of God. She is still sleeping. Still snoring perfectly, and the cherubim, and seraphim, angels and archangels are afraid to wake her up because as soon as she rubs the sleep out of her eyes and has a cup of coffee she's going to see a mess and know they were playing Trivial Pursuit instead of doing what they said they'de do, which was watch over stuff. They aren't apt to be in any kind of a hurry to waken her.
Not knowing how long a whatever is, it makes no sense for us to just sit here waiting for it to pass and the celestial alarm clock to go off and wake her up to tidy up the mess. Obviously, we have to do something.
Remember Peter Pan? Remember how, when Tinkerbell was dying, they said if we would all just vow, "I believe," she'd pull through and live? Remember sitting in the darkened theater on a Saturday afterneen snobbing, sniveling, and snuffling, and then suddenly daring to whisper it, and never mind f the kid next to you snickered at you, whisper it, and, emboldened by the little whispers of others in the anonymity of the pop-corn scented dark, whisper it again, louder. Then, hesitantly but louder still, you said it. And soon every kid in the Saturday show was on her feet yelling, "I believe!" and the music swelled, and the glow flickered, and there she was, Tinkerbell herself, stronger and stronger and stronger all the time, and we did it, we all helped save Tinkerbell!
Maybe it'll work again. Maybe we can wake up God if we all just keep on believing and keep on making an increasingly loud noise with our belief, so that the roar of our protest reaches even Heaven itself and God yawns, stirs and begins to come out of her deep, perfect sleep.
-Anne Cameron, Stubby Amberchuck and The Holy Grail, Harbour Books 1987
I have been feeling overwhelmed and isolated, my values are so radically different then the mass of those who fill the cities and suburbs that even my joyous optimistic nature gets bogged down. When, when, when will the balance shift? For how much longer? Can I accomplish all that I believe is neccesary alone? Because I cant go along with business as usual, can't even attempt to put on pretense for I know that I am unequipped to deal with what's coming. All my knowledge is cerebral I have no survival skills or ability to exist without reliance on all the trappings that got us into this reeking pile of dogshit. Sure I have pared us down to the absolute minimum our ecological footprint is 2.9 compared to an average 8.8 (check out your footprint here) by learning to live with less and am trying to grow our own food and create a places and opportunities for youth in paradise but I feel unbearably lonely sometimes. I know I am following my muse and am living an incredible experience but I am so saddened by the fact that how we choose to live is not valuable to others or seen as viable. That this community is struggling so hard despite over a hundred years of dreaming of freedom simply because there is so few to BELIEVE and that all it lacks is the people so busy being miserable in aforesaid cities.
But I digress, back to Anne, she gets it. At least I know I am not alone though my peers seem more often to be either double or triple my age or half it! Anne knows that the people want freedom and the west is the last bit of wildness untamed on our continent, it holds the last connection to our past and what must become our present if we are to have a future, are we just going to let them have it?
Not I, said the wolf.
The People heard the sound of their own hearts breaking. They remembered the litany of horros told by their grandparents and they decided to put miles between themselves and the Rulers. They headed off toward the west, for one thing was agreed upon by all the many people who formed the People and that was that freedom lay westward, in the direction of Avalon, the misty isle where apples grow year round and where Rulers have never been admitted.
I am going to try to restrain my normally exuberant wordiness as it seems as though my enormous posts are undigestable. I can't say how likely I am to succeed in the long run but instead of writing on about anything else....
-emilie smith, vancouver pastor in Oaxaca
Will you believe with me?
Friday, February 2, 2007
A Call to Poets
by A.D. Winans
Forget about a career
And concentrate on the
Quit turning out
Quit trying to imitate
Listen to your brothers
Quit being the first poet
To read and the first to leave
Quit using words
As preaching tools
When all over the world
People are starving
Dying and committing genocide
As we stand on stage well fed
Begging for applause
Playing to the audience
Telling our most intimate secrets
Pretending to be knowledgeable
When we know so little
Rams out fucking sheep
Poets playing trick-or-treat
Politicians beating their meat
Whores making it under the sheets
Predators lined-up with elbow grease
Landlords waiting to cancel your lease
It's gotten so bad
You can't tell the real
From the elite
Everyone has become a carbon copy
Take a number
Step up on stage
Rattle the cage
Let loose your rage
Be sure to wear your page
(The call you miss may be from God).
As we rival Ringling Brothers
Standing tall standing proud
Working the crowd
Like a carnie hustler
I call for all poets
To put down their poems
For 72 hours
Give up "my space" for a week
Take a Kaufman vow of silence
Help an old woman across the street
Serve a holiday meal at Saint Anthony's
Quit sending out manuscripts for a month
And spend the saved postage
Helping the homeless
Sell your signed copies of Bukowski
And Ginsberg and give the proceeds
To war victims in Iraq
Pay homage at Malcolm
Hoist one for Robert Kennedy
Ride a boxcar for
Say twelve Hail Mary's for Ali
Sing a song for Selena
Say a prayer for Allen
Take the Eskimo out
Of Eskimo pie
Scalp Ted Turner with the
Atlanta Brave's own tomahawk
Rename "Hooters" Bar
And hire Male waiters
To serve in jockey shorts
Campaign to have cops arrested
For disturbing the peace
Tell the Pope that
You're giving up drugs and the church
To worship at the
Altar of Walt Whitman
Make Kenneth Patchen required reading
Visit an animal shelter
Save a pet from its owner
Volunteer for meals on wheels
Deliver food to the disabled
Give up center stage ego driven mania
For a trip to the park at dusk
Invest in yourself instead
Of interest bearing bank accounts
Meditate instead of masturbate
Make love instead of fuck
Set fire to Naropa
To prove you're more than
A poet junkie
Sign a petition to replace Bush
With Bob Dylan
And give America a real high
Take a bookstore owner to dinner
Talk child talk
Put ego aside
Quit ingratiating yourself with one poet
At the expense of another poet
Do a soul dance for James Brown
Remember that life is but
A warm-up for the dance to come
Quit visiting the graves
Of Kerouac and Bukowski
Return to the world
Of the living
Put the poet back
Make me want to believe
In you again
"A Call to Poets" was published as a chapbook by Green Bean Press in 2002, republished by 24th Street Irregular Press as a free poetry pamphlet, and later by the same press in a thumb sized poetry booklet release. It has appeared in a number of literary journals both here and abroad. It has been recently slightly revised by the poet to bring it up to date.
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Three years of pecking away at countless drafts and revisions plus the last manic 48 hours but I think I am finally done my epic revisioning of Ginsberg's Howl. Which funnily enough I didn't really think too highly of until a few months ago, I respected the work for it's place in the evolution of the counter-culture, but felt it to be really self-involved and irrelevant. I have always favoured Lawrence Ferlinghetti of all the beat poets and he was never really part of the inner sanctum of hip cats like Kerouac and Cassidy. I started writing this piece not because of a great love of it's style and rhythm, that came later, but because I felt a urgent need to communicate the images that fill my thoughts. To try to make others feel the same tightening of the skin at their own priveledge and recognition of our mutual validity and insignificance, and to maybe ignite an answering response. I have been very hesitant about publishing or submitting any of my writing and one of my promises to myself has been to work through my fear of succeeding in anything I do for myself (I have no self-conciousness about dedicating myself to the projects or needs of others) so I decided last year to complete this piece in order to submit it to the Malahat Reviews bi-annual long poem prize. They may or may not be the right publisher but I just wanted to pick an achievable goal. Then I totally forgot about it, what with moving to utopia and all, after all the painting was done and the majority of my chicken scratchings unpacked it was already December. I have been trying to grab enough time every day to work on it but yesterday I was sure that I would never be done and decided to just foret about it. Some little stubborn part of me kicked me in the ass and said not this time dammit! I did have to send Chris to the postoffice at 4:30 to get them to weigh and postmark the envelope but I printed the final copy at 5:30. I share it with you here although it is a bit overwhelming inside this little box I prefer it in hard copy. It's too late to make any suggested revisions to this particular submission but I want to hear them all the same.
For The Twenty-First Century
Oh for a falconer’s voice that I could tear the cave where echo lies and make hoarse her voice with repetition of a single word:
senseless arrogant naked,
stumbling blindly through the angry spasms of a decaying culture hiding amidst the debris,
homogenous cartoons being all-they-can be in crew cuts and blue jeans an army of one united against creation man-made an island unto himself
vacant eyes boring holes in the great television screen of Time,
who die and fuck and laugh and bleed under the same mutable sky denying any connection to the vast conspiracy of life,
who angry in their solitude grow sick and twisted and bonsai-souled fruit of life withering sere on the vine before even being tasted or savored leaving empty husks whose only purpose is consumption,
who prowling back alleys, narrow eyed brass knuckle sharksters, sniffing after fear and sex and power by any means ,
who eyes closed to mystery still the rushing pulse of joy before it quickens subsuming vitality into data and binary code prostrate beneath the idol of technology subservient to the whirring clicking machines,
who moth-like race towards the suttee fires of industry to be consumed by the incendiary force no lazarus reborn phoenix in the ashes of transgression youth’s bright possibility only fuel for the corporate crematory pyre,
who tarred and feathered and bereft of dignity stand hogtied before the firing squad of progress and do not struggle,
who swallow the wild untamable barbaric yawp straining for release to echo over rooftops of the world in jubilant noise, a sursum corda, great cry of hope moving us all to our knees,
with indifference, without reverence, with AK47’s and dogma and false communion,
insensibly right; streets cower naked under regimental footsteps pounding merciless drummings of war setting earths bones a-vibrating from Canada to Iraq, threatening all the precious humanity between,
savage parodies of lives, oblivious to the setting of the day, mad reeling through ghost towns of the soul, wrapping dreams in star-striped finery auctioned to eBay’s highest bidder, sky and sea and earth reviled by the snake-blood rulers of our century of discontent,
who soulless deprived of solace mental landscapes bare and bleeding fall headlong into darkness with nothing to break their fall,
who tumble like Alice through curiouser confusion into psychedelic fractals of amanita gut-rot and peyote dreaming, melting puddles of de-boned youth ecstatic, tongues sweet with serotonin and methamphetamine buzz, careening down k-holes after the white rabbit of dissolution,
who cowering with tails of purpose between legs of self-hate lunge at the pinching grabbing hands that taunt them wounding all in the path of retribution,
lost regiment of fear-soaked petty tyrants conspiring in pentagon and penthouse to become Masters of War rolling loaded dice in the ultimate game of LIFE,
chitchatting doublespeak bullshit speechifying euphemism and misdirection and terror and patriotism and shock and awe and division and war
whole existences destroyed in complete indifference for human individuality or grace with atomic weapons aimed at the pearly gates of Heaven truth spurting oily blood in sacred Babylon,
who reaching for solace in needle or cock meet the unsmiling mortician beneath malignant orange skies from East Hastings to South Africa no mortal enemy to face with courage and steel this silent microscopic battle occurs beneath the skin,
suffering cold sweats and lipoatrophy and tumorous Kaposi sarcoma cultural pariahs exiled lepers from the bigoted homelands that made them,
who disappear in tenement districts into dirty predawn twilight
without trace or inquiry found years later in pig farm refuse
women’s bodies just supermarket meat and front page sensationalism covering backtracks of incompetent police lost in the jackal feeding of media vultures life stories dropped on the cutting room floor slipping through the cracked pavement of the dumping ground,
who stagger reeking of piss and sorrow bathed in neon and regret
lucidity a tide that never reaches shore wishes stuffed into paper-bag
bottle hearts tossed into the violent sea,
who at night after clocking from cant-see to cant-see transform to bits and bytes tiptappiting their hopes into a blankness of screen words colliding in silence alone but for the pulsating light,
who swallowing the white-coat’s placebo smooth over truth with pharmaceutical veneer lugging children like reluctant baggage from swim meet to practice while a while beast paces and gnaws at rib bones
desperate for egress,
who soul-bound lie weeping defeated in Oppression’s basement morality strung up on a plastic crucifix of shame,
who toil in vacuous futility for a faceless master who has no name and so cannot be defeated,
who couple in back alleys and seedy hotels and backseats on broken dreams and creaky mattresses love a greasy stain between the thighs of innocence,
who denied access to the Almighty Institution dull bright passions to rusty muttering acne faced flipping burgers dreaming of guns,
who malice ridden creep through virulent streets of barrio and ghetto hearts yearning for relief just one kind word or soft shoulder,
who perched on their plastic lifeboat thrones of stolen lives peer down at the teeming mass of limbs and outstretched hands and solemnly toast progress,
who pass through grades and tests and ratings without absorbing one iota of illumination paper thoughts cluttering mind-rooms with dusty academia and jargon,
who shiver beneath newspaper blankets in soggy refrigerator boxes watching a stream of indifferent boot-soles flash by unseen by whole cities of averted eyes,
who nine inch heeled parade in violent hues on city streets misery painted loud on faces made beautiful with wear bathed red in Moloch’s light,
who cram their internal rolodex with dogma and rhetoric leaving no room for questioning of self locking conscience away in Pandora’s box of denial,
who cannot hear the voice of creation calling their names for the ever-present tinny muttering ipods and cell phones and babbling prime time tv surfing inanities while community rots at the seams,
who view every particle as a tool to be used as a means to an end to avoid their own insignificance screaming ‘look at me! look at me!’ while they cut and splice life into a nightmarish freak show of spoat giders and pigoons ,
who cry out alone in the night over glossy magazines spilling lust into aching palms falling unsatisfied into dreams of sadness and humiliation,
who black and blue and battered manufacture excuses swallow the bitten-tongue penny taste praising the very hands that beat them down,
who corrode their unstable existence with ignorance turning a blind eye to redemption of spirit or pursuit of any but the basest pleasures,
who gather in maquiladoran finery to bemoan the state of the world over slave trade café au laits tossing recycled paper cups in the overflowing gutter of mediocre intentions,
who riddled with toxins line up in droves to swallow whatever cocktail purported to cure them lapping up the very poisons that make them ill,
who leap from the twin towers of fierce irony armed with the conviction of avenging seraphim kneeling in the War President’s temple of Mammon,
who top filled to overflowing with discontent savage dark cities in white hoods and righteousness herding the other towards the lynching tree,
whose sordid lives push them beyond recall tomorrow and tomorrow ceasing to creep spilling vitality into bathtubs, splattered against walls, strung up in trees, tossed from overpasses, gassed in vehicles, drowned in water, bottle, syringe, hope gone and lost forever down the drain,
who deafen themselves to the singing of their own souls drowning out the pure voices within beneath the dull thudding of techno grinding in sweat drenched frenzy to a litany of “I’m a slave for you hit me baby one more time” intoned by saccharine-coated barelegged schoolgirl coquettes with insipid doe-eyes, victims of old men’s lust,
who righteous with justified indignation purge their hate in a world war intifada, pitting brother against sister, sister against brother, streets awash with crimson and shame,
who engage in a ruthless jihad against all that is holy plundering our sacred hopes and fouling the connection linking our whole human community enshrouding us in nuclear clouds,
who wasteful squander tender kisses damp spring mornings joyful redemptive frolicking in the grass love a communion bringing two closer to god in furtive slip-slappings against flesh testament polluted with the sin of unconcern,
who trench-coat and tattered seek truth in darkness sighting fate through the barrel of their fathers transgressions hatred a bullet speeding down through the years to rob each other in schools and streets and homes of that which is not theirs to own,
who live in pawn to bits of coloured paper stuffing wallets with dead tree matter hoarding pulp and illusory digits while the debit accounts of the heart are writ in red as they charge it, buy, and expire,
who impoverished of spirit heart-worn and weary crawl inside to bury their dreams in the sand of regret secure in privilege bought at the cost of the earth’s diversity,
who sacrifice youth’s vibrant heart to the altar of War pulling it still beating from empty chests crusading not for freedom or liberty, truth or harmony, racing instead towards the final apathy of the grave,
who close their ears to the grieving cry of the mother her anguish the raw wound of a clear-cut rotting fish spawning in dirty streams the forest a grave where the bodies of children lay,
who cut and nip and tuck each unruly hair or thought masking the pungency of the moon’s tugging with ammoniac douche sucking up Eve’s bloody libation with plastic tubes and vacuums birthing new life in sterile cots through scheduled incision breasts denied mammal function suckling babes on latex and corn sugar refusing any honest touch,
who eyes downcast refuse to raise their face to the sun’s redemptive gaze scrabbling coakroachesque through the sordid underbelly of the beast,
who wretched in their isolation cannot see the grace in simply breathing and loving and fucking and dying just living on this imperfect hallowed land
who strip and rape and mine nature’s curves trading sacred flesh in the name of progress bankrupting future legacies to boost the GDP,
who in defiance toss flaming cocktails through the windows of sanctuary craving solace in violence burning heart homes to foundation leaving ruins and desecration running from the wreckage as discordance swells,
who capture the barefoot gamine of imagination binding their weeping muses to the grinding numbness of the assembly line originality lost to the gears of industry,
who cannot see that nothing is left here but useless sentiment as proof of the passing of time pathetic monuments to glory crumble before eternity, only creation remains,
who live out their days in purgatory oblivious to the daily rebirth of dawn only to find when breath ends that heaven was left with skin and bone now endless night awaits,
who rising in Montreal, Rome, Paris, Washington D.C with indignation flaring in their aching chests were sent home gassed and tearful to vent frustration with joysticks and vandalism the clamor for justice silenced bought like New York for a handful of beads and shiny things,
who airbrushed glossy flash pearly white incisors broadcasting live from the wreckage stacking up headlines like corpses to a soundtrack of buzzing flies and the mournful keening of carrion birds,
who speaking in tongues prophesize unheard to padded rooms calmed with straitjacket and electroshock for the better good and public safety of the status quo picket fence elite who do not know that “the soul is innocent and immortal it should never die alone in an armed madhouse ”,
and who sick with a sense of wrongness a drowning panic that life is slipping by unnoticed an impending feeling of falling sky are quickly diagnosed chemically lobotomized then returned to the milling herd,
who in final protest explode transformed into fiery dynamos made one with the enemy in anarchic mortal embrace graffitiing macabre collages of fabric and limbs on ancient walls eulogized by a droning murmur of the holy from tomb to unmarked grave all a-sighing for peace,
Operation Iraqi Liberation and Washington’s blood soaked centre, the Homeland is not secure, the people hide beneath terror’s red flag, dreams like halls of doors to which they have no key and cannot enter, chomping patriot toast while freedom fries,
with Madre Tierra firmly pissed off, and shit hitting the metaphorical fan, and National Guard killing citizens in the city that care forgot and the entire world stripped down to its patched underwear, a hollow shell that once cradled fullness, only a tiny crumb left and that little bit tenuous, nothing remaining but factories and parking lots,
oh Children! while life is not safe you are not safe, and now we are running holus bolus to the precipice of chaos,
and who reading these leaves by the light of flickering hearts scream eureka awakening from generations of cursed slumber coughing up the last chunk of poisoned apple,
who recognizing their sacred destiny shrug off the dusty mantle of complicity to stand stripped clean of pretense made humble and sacred before the vastness of creation to reclaim the pure joy of being humane,
cleansing history’s bloody legacy, planting seeds together in the fertile ground,
the lowly whore and the cultured saint seeing one altar and a pantheon of deities, only now understood and equal, both reflections of divinity, grace manifest in each vibrating cell,
with a word of boundless understanding torn from depths of shared experience, loud voices rusty with misuse ring out in a relentless howling for peace,
America! Brutal! Vicious! Intolerant! America! Oil and nuclear bombs! Children dying for profit! Boys trading flesh for shoes! A world lost to America!
America! America! God bless America! America the worthy!
Global America! America the eternally free!
America the Eden of Righteousness!
America whose towering skyscraper of freedom
raises her beacon of light to lift man from darkness!
America fortress of fear and paranoia in which I wander under golden arches
losing time and losing night!
America whose parking lots extend in all directions!
America whose manicured lawns mark the grave of a pristine wilderness!
America whose eyes see all! America the righteous New World Order!
America who spreads her fertile thighs to the johns of capitalism and trades her bounty for garbage!
America you killer of innocence! Desert of prosperity!
America victorious conqueror of nations whose emptiness is a
plague of locusts!
America whose voice is the desperate wailing of mothers holding the mangled bodies of their children to condemning skies in reproach!
America whose colossal arrogance dictates even to God, the Son and the Holy Ghost!
America who is not confined by the dictates of good taste and flaunts her professionally sculpted liposuctioned ass for all to see!
America who abandons her own children to the vagaries of destruction succoring only those whose skin abhors the sun!
America whose fields are stained with centuries of lives wasted
blood and poison fertilizing crops leaving them bitter with regret!
America whose citizens starve on Wonder and plastic cheese
bellies crying out for a taste of reality, one quick sip from the well of freedom!
America whose land trembles like a soft skinned virgin with her face towards the wall while her father commits unspeakable atrocities beneath the covers of democracy!
America whose bombs laying waste to the fertile delta from which we all came razing the birthplace of Saviors to rubble and bones!
America your rivers run grey with offal and unnatural fish hide deformities in shame and terror where silent river and deep water sentinels once reigned for thousands of years!
America whose bountiful sunlight goes unused, only nuclear fission for our monolith of power, just because we can!
America whose right to tools of hate supercedes a planet’s right to life!
America whose hope for redemption lies dying in the streets of Iraq while smoke billows in toxic clouds of uranium dust torn from the sacred lands of America’s first people!
America where beneath the surface even the worms shake in fear!
America you purveyor of death and delusion! Betrayer of hopes! Eater of dreams!
Integrity! Justice! Truth! Beauty! Freedom! Love! Happiness! Lost in America! Sold in America! Dead in America! Slaves to America!
America whose profits pile up like bodies into a reeking empire of paper!
Cancerous America whose malignancy cannot be excised!
America whose jails overflow with sadness and whose streets overflow with refuse! America whose cities sag beneath a blanket of plastic and despair! America whose endless death rattle will not shut up! Victims of America resist! Rebel! Unite!
I’m with you in Palestine where you spit in the faces of prophets Jesus, Muhammad and Abraham weeping for the forsaken,
I’m with you in the devastated motherland where earth begs for freedom from terror,
I’m with you in the depths of your sorrow when skeletons of feeling dance through moldy basement windows rebounding off of walls that were never silent, only unheard.
I’m with you in your computers following the scent of your aliveness through tangled webs of dreams and wire,
I’m with you in the eyes of the abused seeing each transgression or compromise of soul, weakened with every loss from son to seed,
I’m with you in children of all diversity’s hues restless flames of life’s longing, whosoever debases you condemns us all,
I’m with you in dignity from Guatanamo Bay to the lower eastside, we have struggled so long we must be free,
I’m with you in the brothers and sons of Year King’s sacrifice hands linked with sisters taking back the night shame at last defeated with honest laughter,
I’m with you in all reflections of the mother wombs tying blood to moon and tide, rebirth was granted into your keeping, guardians of life,
I’m with you in the stories of the Elders keepers of context and experience grandchildren take your rightful place at their feet,
I’m with you in the words of the fearless Sojourner’s for truth, progeny of 3,000 years of downpression, spirits unchained hands raised in liberty,
I’m with you in the moment of your awakening the hour that the ship comes in knuckling the wool from now open eyes,
I’m with you in Middle America, tossing possessions aside, walking fearless and unencumbered back to Eden’s wild sanctuary, the promise of the New World.
I’m with you in the rebirth of the sacred following ancient roots back to the first amoebic divide,
I’m with you in youth of Aquarius wolves disguised as black sheep among the flock release your voice joy is yours for the taking! go rushing pell-mell into the eye of the storm, manifest the very truth they seek to deny,
I’m with you in the Brownian chaos of ages revolving pin tip angels dancing all existence yours and mine, into dust, into stars
I’m with you in nomads land out beyond the edge of the world here there be dragons and mystery where Hope’s butterfly wings let loose a mighty tempest,
I’m with you in this place of harmony where the howling of all my relations beats a path to my open door, I have been waiting for you. Come inside.
Intifada: in·ti·fa·da n, the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that started in 1987 in protest against the continued Israeli occupation
Jihad : ji·had or je·had n, 1. a campaign waged by Muslims in defense of the Islamic faith against individuals, organizations, or countries regarded as hostile to Islam
2. any hostile campaign, for example, a series of political advertisements attacking an adversary
Kaposi sarcoma: red, brown or purple cancerous legions. A sign of advanced AID’s.
Lipoatrophy: devastating symptom of advanced AIDs where loss of fat from beneath the skin results in sunken cheeks and skeletal appearance.
Mammon: wealth and riches considered as an evil and corrupt influence
Moloch: Mo·loch or Mo·lech n 1. in the Bible, a Semitic deity to whom children were sacrificed 2. somebody or something that requires a costly and painful sacrifice, major aspect of Ginsberg’s original Howl
Operation Iraqi Liberation: originally proposed code name for America’s Operation Iraqi Freedom (note acronym spells OIL)
Sursum corda: a cry or exhortation, especially of hope