Saturday, April 28, 2007

Thank God For Rich People

Was it Gatsby who said "the rich are not like you and me."? It is true they have special problems. I took one guy fishing for a couple of days whose firm had landed a huge contract and his problem was handling the expansion. Another "expansion" issue arose with a wealthy client for whom I was doing some carpentry work. An avid trophy hunter, he was needing more room in his river-side mansion to accomodate the growing collection of stuffed animals he and his family had killed. The biggest issue was making room for the full mount of the 18ft crocodile his daughter (who hosts an ESBN African safari show) wished to display. It wouldnt fit next to the full lion mount so we discussed pushing the wall out to create a large ,new, room. The walls and floors are covered with every kind of bird, fish or mammal from around the globe. Heads, skins,horns, parts and pieces, for all to admire.

Another rich persons problem which could become everybody's problem is the slide in the dollars value. Who owns the most dollars and hence loses the most? Not Americans, certainly, they have no savings, no dollars, but China and Japan have both been buying up tremendous amounts of US debt in dollars. Big losers. Will they let us down slow? A delirious stock market says yes. They've been wrong before. 80% of the makets wealth belongs to 5% of the "citizens".Average folk have their money tied up in their depreciating house. oops.

George Tenet joins the crowd of ex-loyalists hoping to sell a book. He jumps in a growing line of excuse makers, not my faulters, and other slime who wish to capitalize on some publishing profits before they slink back into the slime of think-tanks or corporate lobbying. Turns out he didn't mean the WMD "intelligence" was a "slam dunk", he meant selling it to Beakerkin and the other naive patriots would be a slam dunk. So all is forgiven. Hope you swim in blood soaked nightmares for the rest of your pathetic existence, George. Speaking of Beakerkin, I found out where he gets his affirmation, his "news" and opinions. A piece in the Nation describes the workings of the openly Zionist New York Sun, a right-wing funded welfare program for Israels brave defenders, disquised as a newspaper.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Spect "actors"

This is going to be Fun! Co-conspiritor Che Bob and I have been helping to plan a Spectacular May Day Event for Missoula and he has introduced a fun new element, Forum Theatre. Developed by Augusto Boal, it stems from his primary theoretical construction, the Theatre of the Oppressed. I really don't know much about it, Che is doing the real work, reading the book and "guiding" us along. "Us" is some CAJistas, some Free School folks, some folks living at the Lab (an anarchist collective) and others who heard the call and are ready for a little "shock and awe" of a totally different nature.

Basically , we introduce a "problem" of oppression and use "playing" to explore the dimensions, exigencies, tensions etc.. in a theatrical form. Then , during a second run through of the play, the audience (spect-actors) is invited in to try to better "solve" some of the problems (or not) and resolve some of the tension by stopping the act and jumping into different characters roles. We have no idea what to expect but yesterdays rehearsal was both great fun and a discursive de-construction of some of the very real "problems" we have been facing as organizations, activists and revolutionaries. It was a rehearsal for life!

Other than the play there will be music, revolutionary rap, a march to the courthouse where we will honor the labor roots of May Day and plant the IWW flag once again. Who knows where it might go from there? Life is Theatre. And often a carnival!

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Moving To Montana Soon

Took a great walk today, saw a moose crossing the river, a bunch of wild turkeys, pheasant, another coyote, deer, even some quail! The sign in front of the Baptist church said "For all you do ,His bloods for you!" I guess it's all about marketing.

Montana is back in the Nation magazine ( piece on Max Baucus, K Streets favorite Senator last month), this time about local, grassroots "progressive " politics, our new Senator John Tester, and possibilities for the New West. I wasn't mentioned and neither was the fact
that all these progressives live in two counties, while most of the state is populated with reactionary neanderthals ( sorry anonomous, I meant perception challenged) whose elected representatives argue endlessly about UN flags (hate them), gays (hate them) and wolves (hate them). What Im saying is, don't start packing your bags just yet if your dreaming of a worker-run state unless you want to help build one. Of course ,if you want to be a dental floss tycoon...

Andrew Bacevich does a great review in this same issue of some books about presidential power and Empire. Forget everything I said about you ,Andrew.

My wife returned yesterday from six weeks in Vietnam on a delegation with Thich Nhat Hahn. She said coming back to the states was like returning to the land of the gigantic people. She claims no one in Vietnam is fat. No one. She can't imagine how we could have ravaged such gentle , sweet people and such a beautiful country. I guess much of it was from way up high, where you didn't have to see faces.

Thinking of my recent lack of patience, in 1972 Salvadore Allende warned his companeros to work hard, but patiently. "The creation of a socio-economic regime entails the development of social and economic forces which are essentially opposed to that regime.Those factors , engines of revolutionary change , are not the laws or the institutional apparatus of the state; they are inherant in the economic structure, in the new relations of production which we are promoting, in the conscience of the workers, in the new labor organizations which are changing the infra-structure. It is a rudiment of materialist scientific analysis that the accumulation of quantitative changes produces qualitative changes. No one can have illusions of changing day to night a socio-economic regime. The institutional form of a state can be transformed rapidly but not it's economic structure."

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Overload

I spent a month organizing and advertising a presentation by Colombian social leader Yaneth Perez here in my little community. Eight people showed up. In my introduction I was on the verge of exploding into a rant on the pathetic nature of our society (fortunately ,I held back) and I left angry and embarrassed that she had travelled so far, risked so much, expended so much energy to try to reach us and ask for some help. At the end of the talk I sat down next to my friend Julie and noticed she was crying. She said "what is going on in the world?"

Now as I reflect on this I remember my own analysis, that we are indeed pathetic but we are collectively traumatized to a point which has not yet been adequately explained. We are now in the middle of our own Clockwork Orange and people have retreated to their televisions. Even our "anti-war" protests are pathetic.The War , the school shootings, global warming, the violence in Africa, Colombia, the only logical and human reaction is Julies. We should all be crying. Or we could watch Survivor, Deal or No Deal, The Apprentice perhaps, or American Idol.

There was a meeting in Wyoming yesterday to discuss the "de-listing" of wolves from the Endagered Species List. The news described it as "raucus" and I can imagine the cowboy hats and the collective ire aimed at this reviled creature which eats their cows and the Federal government which tries to protect it. I know if I really wanted to put together a "raucus" crowd here in this little town I would need to put on a Monster Truck rally with country western singers with large breasts. Some Spectacle with no meaning, no social or political import, something which better exploits the shift in the structure of experience, the hollow facade through which we grope each day. 113 killed in Mogadishu yesterday. Perhaps a tent Revival?

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Have You Noticed?

It seems new records on the stock market seem to coincide with the worst violence in Iraq. It also occurs to me that Don Imus' comment was not directed so much at the womens basketball team as at the strippers who accused the Duke lacrosse players of rape. Mixed in his mind. What will American women think of a Supreme Court that has so little regard for the health of the mother? Feminism has had a more profound effect on our culture than any other social force, in my opinion, and the backlash has stirred up our strongest emotions. I believe it plays the strongest role in the resurgence of extreme Islamist ideology, as well as Christian Millenialism. We certainly know what Beakerkin is against (collectivization), has any body noticed what he stands for? Has anybody noticed a science -fiction author named Kim Stanley Robinson? My friend thinks his Mars Trilogy will resonate with my political philosophy but the cover art makes it very difficult to take seriously.

update: Donald Feith teaches a class at Georgetown on why he shouldn't be held for war crimes. 41%of your 2006 income taxes went to pay for the military ,including the cost of past wars, according to the Friends Committee on National legislation. Lockheed Martin reported a 41% increase in earnings ,per share, in 2006. What a coincidence! Boeing reported a 51% increase and Raytheon posted 37%. Sweet.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

No Trespassing

If you are really looking to antagonize someone in this part of the world try disputing their property rights. No matter what class or political persuasion the person, private property is fetishized, in fact made sacred, to an astonishing degree. Many people have no qualms with the concept of shooting an un-armed trespasser( though few would actually commit the act). The latest public conflict involves Montana's stream access law, the right of recreationists to access the waterways, in opposition to a fierce group of landowners who want to keep the riff raff out. But it cuts to the heart of a foundational contradiction of capitalism, the constitutional and moral imperative of equality in the face of disproportional ownership of property, hence wealth and power as such.

The interesting aspect of this dilemna to me is the degree to which the imperative of private property rights has been culturally hegemonized to the point that the poorest peasant will defend the right of the richest land baron to do whatever the hell he pleases with his land. I don't suppose this is particularly a western or American phenomena but in the American west it is defended religiously and causes more than a little friction around issues of public interest, trust or domain, such as that of fishing access.

Aristotle found "private property" to be a solution to the "tragedy of the commons", his observed tendency of folks to neglect that which was publicly held. John Locke theorized that a "natural right" to property was formed when one "mixed ones labor with nature, thereby securing ownership of that part of nature", subject to the limitation that there should be "enough, and as good, left in common for others"and felt "The reason men enter into society is the preservation of property." Adam Smith, of course, declared property rights to be the basis of the system of capitalism and enshrined in the French Enlightenment Universal Rights of Man we find that all citizens are to be guaranteed the rights of"liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression." Abraham Lincoln mused that "Property is the fruit of labor ;property is desirable;it is a positive good in the world." Both the 5th and 14th amendments to the US constitution associate rights with property ownership.

Some early socialists and anarchists saw problems with this, Pierre Proudhon being perhaps the most explicit when he stated "property is theft". Marx and Engles made a distinction between "productive property" which was social, and the "hard won" property an individual might put to personal use. Of course it was one thing when there was plenty of property( not just land but all the means of production as well) to go around, when it just had to be liberated from the fuedal Lord or the indigenous tribe who was currently in possesion but we can see the problem that comes up when all the deeds have been passed out and you didn't get one. Now you got rent. And so the dilemna of democracy: It might be "one man ,one vote" but if he's got all the property, wealth and power, he can buy all the votes he needs. if there is supposed to be equal opportunity, how come he sits on his couch and collects rent while I walk behind a mule all day for shares?

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Friday, April 13, 2007

De-constructing Imus Nation

(warning to anonymous: I will be criticizing stupid white males again. If you find this painful, Im sorry.Repeat after me “Im a guy, but I can change.”)

First, I have never listened to a Don Imus show, so I’m basing this whole piece on hearsay, innuendo, personal speculation and what I hear on the news! In this sense, I have myself joined Imus Nation. How many listeners DID Mr. Imus have? 5 million ,30 million, whatever, it was enough to create a 150 million dollar revenue stream for giant media corporations.And what were these advertisers so sure Don would do to bring in listeners? That’s right, be “edgy”, maybe “shock” or titillate or be outrageous. We all remember that sense of weightlessness when the class clown would say something sure to get him sent to the principles office, that’s what Don did for big money every day. He certainly is not alone in this genre, America loves it’s class clowns, America is the little pack of wanna-be’s who follow the schoolyard bully around, who in fact give him their lunch money for the privilege of doing so.Whether it’s Howard Stern or Savage or Rush or O Reily, when they invite Jesse Jackson on their show, Imus Nation shows up to hear the Big Mouth say in public what they think in private.Or might dare to say amongst a closed circle of bigoted confederates. They listen in hopes the high paid clown will directly challenge the “politically correct” conventions which have restricted their GOD GIVEN RIGHT to express their homophobic, racist, and sexist views, and they will smirk and guffaw whenever the “nappy headed hoes” get a thumpin. Is this strictly a right-wing psycho-socio phenomenon? . Probably not, but can i have the illusion?Please? "When I am paricularly depressed," Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote in a NY Times op-ed ,"I ascribe our behavor to stupidity- the stupidity of our leadership, the stupidity of our culture.."

Columnist David Brooks was compelled to issue a flimsy mea culpa for being a guest on the Don Imus show so many times (probably knowing he would run into Gwen Ifil on the Newshour) by saying it was a kick for pundit intellectuals to go slumming every once in a while, buy a sixer of Budlight and head on down to the NASCAR track. Of course every nerd wants protection from the bully, but deep down he wants association, he wants the left-overs (did I mention the little flock of girls that are also in sexual awe of the “badboy”?).

So the shareholders got nervous,(maybe they’re invested in sub-prime lenders as well) and pulled the plug but Don has his defenders. Blogger sonia-belle points out Don’s free-speech rights are being infringed upon and that he is being subjected to a “McCarthy Trial” witch-hunt. I think those are terrible arguments and analogies (Don can go scream racist insults from any soapbox in the public sphere he wants) and I’m a little surprised to hear her defend commie bastard Arthur Miller. In terms of culture critique ,I don’t know if this is just more of “what’s wrong with Kansas” or in line with Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” thesis but something is obviously out of whack and perhaps all shock radio listeners should be picked up and taken to re-education camps. Just kidding, anonymous! I have compassion for the mentally oppressed as well as the physically, and will work to nurture their own compassion. "Not to know what happened before one was born is always to be a child." Cicero Shoot, we all have compassion for children! "Once the running of the state involves a permanent and massive shortage of historical knowledge, that state can no longer be run strategically." Guy Debord

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Man Without a Country

See you wherever Free Thinking-Humanist-Socialists end up, Kurt. In my Utopia, beakerkin would be required to put down his Stephen King or Tom Clancey and pick up Breakfast of Champions or Timequake every April 12th. You to ,anonymous.

"One of my favorite humans is Eugene Debs, from Terre Haute in my native state of Indiana...Doesn't anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools or health insurance for all? When you get out of bed each morning, with the roosters crowing, wouldn't you like to say. 'As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element ,I am in it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
Not exactly planks in a Republican platform."
Kurt Vonnegut, from A Man without a Country

I think Jack Kerouac hit it on the head in On The Road: "The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or SAY A COMMON PLACE THING, but burn, burn, burn.." Kurt burned and struggled with life and meaning. RIP

From the latest Adbusters: "..freedom has taken a perverse, hyper-individualistic turn.We now drink more ,do more drugs, live more promiscuously, spend more money, use up more resources, create more waste, and deliberately flaunt our wealth, power and sexuality more than any other culture on earth. When a modest, pious man living in a poor villiage a world away looks at us, what does he see?"

This post-modern crisis of "freedom" was not part of Jack and Cassidy's reality and while I applaud the work Adbusters does, the anti-consumerist-anti-logo-anti-capitalist analysis remains a little fuzzy for my re-constructed ,neo-Marxist tastes. Raised in Palo Alto I got high with the re-incarnated Prankster Cassidy in what was our own "fuzzy" form of anti-politics. More of an anthropological experiment as we reverted back to primitivistic rites and mescaline induced Coltrane carnivals. Plenty of drugs but we sure weren't flaunting power and wealth.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Thinking Thoughtstreams

First of all, I'd like to thank my mom and my agent and all the wonderful folks over at Google...
That's right, Ive been tagged with a Thinking Blogger Award so apparently using words with more than three syllables is paying off! I got hit from the Left and the Right.One from my neighbor to the East graemefinson (see links) who is a critic of the status quo and then from a tanned and worthy opponent from a tropical clime named sonia-belle,who is a supporter. I do think the diversity is important, and I attempt to engage folks from the "opposition" but it is rare that one can find civil discourse.

My problem is lack of tech skills so passing this on , a simple thing for most, turns into a big project for me. But here goes. Great blogs like Renegade Eye's have already been tagged.

My first choice is Phronesisaical, a site with always stimulating and topical postings with the added bonus of having amazing pictures of fruit you have never heard of. Helmut is a scholar with an inquisitive and open mind who is widely travelled, funny, and has links to Bobby Lightfoot and Ned.

Next I tag Lenin's Tomb, an uncompromising far-left blog with a great mix of polemical and scholarly work and often a level of discussion above the norm. I dout he will care to carry this meme along but all the same..

Third, I recommend Thoughts and Ideas, a well written and serious blog by a self described "Catholic Libertarian". We don't agree on much but his willingness to debate constructively and keep me honest is refreshing. He needs some feminists and people with meteorological expertise to visit him.

Fourth I hope people will visit Gregrandgar's site It Must Be the Vapors. He comes from the "physician, heal thyself" school of social change and finds his Truth in Do Unto Others and in his beautiful N Texas garden. He writes inspiring poetry and asks really good questions.

For number five I recommend by fellow cajista's site Lonestone Revolution. While Che Bob doesnt post often enough ( I know, I know, busy organizing , teaching , learning), when he does it is with depth and style, often pictures and graphics to keep it interesting. Che is a committed radical of the anarcho/ syndicalist persuasion and the first Wobblie in Montana in several decades.


Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bananas

In the Miguel Angel Asturias novel Strong Wind we are on a hill with the British manager of the banana plantation, somewhere in the Carribean.

"It did have, it did have it's epic hour; but what else can you expect now, it's nothing but cheap exploitation, the dreary exploitation of natural resources, of those individual lands we are looking down at!"
Mr. Pyle agreed with Carl Rose that there had been a moment of adventure, when the plantations were set up, when the machinery went into the jungle; but he could not accept it as a stupid exploitation now.
"The days of adventure were something else, weren't they,really, old John!" Carl Rose exclaimed; "there's a difference between the man who goes into the unknown to bring out beneficial natural resources and the one who follows him in the absurd routine of never getting beyond going along with what's been set up."

They then went off to drink and "do some bowling". Adventure, exploration, a risky undertaking, Manifest Destiny for an Empire of Men! The Great Epic...Jolly good, eh what!

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Cracking Up

This is twisted but Bobby Lightfoot makes me laugh like I really need to every once in a while. Warning to those of a religious bent or in any way sensitive: This Is Profane, Sacriligeous, Scary. Hat tip to Phronesisical for introducing me, by the way, another great blog.

"Anyway, so I'm out driving with God and he's driving his black fuckin' Escalade and we see a deer and he actually swerves to hit it. Like a total cock. Bad timing too because fuckin' Ronald Reagan almost bites his schwerma off. And what's worse is God grabs his machine pistol from th' glovebox and he squeezes off rounds into the deer's legs and shit before he finishes it. He's a complete sadist. And Reagan's laughing his head off. Sometimes I can't believe I hang out with these guys. God's always doing shit like making people drive forks into their eyes and tongue-kiss their children just to fuck with them. You'd think he would've gotten sick of it after however many billions of years but he's such a fuckin' little JAP. And when Ron and Jesus are around it's like this total oneupsmanship thing. Bunch of heartless little JAPs running around some lousy mall in Encino with mouthfuls of Raisinets and braces and cum. Gum. Gum."

His rant about Katherine Harris ,"the human cigarette",just killed me.It helps me to forget the bush administrations environmental policies. Messing with Federal Attorneys. FBI probes. VA hospitals. Wars. Secret prisons. Lies. Mismanagement. Dictator friends, on and on and on. How come Bush's Southern accent gets stronger when he talks of "funding the troops"?Bobby reminds me of classic Lenny Bruce, or Frank Zappa. Might as well join the theatre of the absurd,eh? Whatever has been happening in the Ukrain the last couple of days is definately not an "Orange Revolution". And the Ethiopians are a little slow in leaving Somalia. And Condi Rice got nothing out of the Arab Summit except the King is now strongly condemning the "American occupation"of Iraq,a definate break from our most loyal client state. Wynton Marsalis' new album is called From the Plantation to the Penitentiary. The TV in the local emergency waiting room was tuned to FOX. What is up with "energy drinks" and why are American kids getting so obese?

"The rights and interests of the laboring men will be protected and cared for by the Christian men to whom God has given the control of the property rights of the country." George Baer, president of the Philidelphia and Reading Railroad. 1929

"untaxed offshore funds make up a third of total global assets, or 11 trillion dollars. That costs governments over 250 billion dollars a year- more than twice what's spent on foreign aid for all developing countries combined." Nicholas Shaxson, from his book The Dirty Politics of African Oil. Capitalists don't feel that they owe taxes like everyone else. This is getting hard to stomach, by jingo!

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Monday, April 02, 2007

How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away

There are various discussions going on currently about the nature of social/political/economic change, be it socialism for the 21st century with it's "parallell institutions" or the recuperated factory movement in Argentina where a discourse on horizontalism and autonomy is finding space. I just finished an article concerning anarchist expression in Denmark and am working to build an anti-capitalist movement? collective? party? locally so wish to consolidate some of this and see if some useful synthesis can emerge.

The Venezuelan model ( in fact much of Latin America) is just fluid enough to make it difficult to generalize about but for the most part we see a rejection of both outsider-imposed neo-liberal economic policy and of certain cultural appendages of advanced capitalism such as hyper-individualism, competitiveness and meritocracy.On a less theoretical level, we have a petro-state distributing a bit more wealth to the poorest sectors of society to fulfill basic needs, food, healthcare, education,etc. There is little in the way of ideology outside the main political leadership, except perhaps the concept of "endogenous development" which is in some contradiction to the countries oil wealth and expanded international trade.

Argentinian society was in effect "de-classed" through economic crisis and traumatized by ruthless military dictatorship and so is re-examining basic institutions, structures and even cultural values as it attempts to move forward. The stories from re-cuperated factories and neighborhood assemblies express a keen yearning for a more just and dignified economic and political arrangement but again without any clear ideological or theoretical systems through which to analyze problems or contradictions. Reading Horizontalism:voices of popular power in Argentina, edited by Marina Sitrin, I am struck by the religious, almost mystical tone of the descriptions of societal transformation and the general inability to articulate this change in even marginally historic terms. There is a fear of ideology, a rejection of politics and even language to describe the situation. This description by a companero from an unemployed workers movement seems typical: "We aren't building the opposite to the capitalist system, thats been tried and doesn't work...We are building something different.What? I don't know. It doesn't have a name and I hope it never has one." This is hard for me to penetrate. Another worker says" hoizantalidad implies that there are no models." Maybe Im overburdened by my need for a more normative discursive field but I can't make out any real architecture springing from autogestion, horizontalidad,autonomy, or these other ephemeral terms.


This same lack of adequate terminology shows up in the "punk-anarchistic-autonom youths" movement (they probably don't like that word any more than the Argentinians) . In the article Capitalisms Normalization in Denmark: dismantling free places and judicial rights, we learn about a "free house" liberated (expropriated?) by the youth, re-taken by police in violent skirmishes, demonstrations devolving into looting, vandalism. They too are trying to "create something new within the shell of the old" but running directly into reality, that is ,state power, social and psychological contradiction, internal tension. "At International Forum, a progressive bookstore and solidarity info-action group for Latin America and the Middle East, police broke two doors and arrested all 20 inside". Using new "anti-terrorist" law, the Authorities give the anarchists a quick lesson in liberty. So the resistance sets up a tent on City Hall square : "They go over the rules for the tent users, no violence ,no drugs, no sexist discrimination. No veggie authoritarianism. Everyone treated as one self wants to be." I imagine this is some form of autonomous horizontalism but there seem to be lots of rules. "Janne, Tippo, Geo and I walk to a local cafe, which supports the squatters every evening with the food left over that day." Subsisting on capitalisms left-overs, they wait for "the next elections". " The Youth also recognize that they missed some popular sympathy due to the burning od cars and cycles. Worst of all, thousands of books and computers were burned at the local highschool." Bad deal.

Their "participatory democracy" unfortunately created space for "bullies and neo-nazis", who are also part of "the shell of the old", and now 200 Youth languish in jail. The Freehouse is demolished. The Right-wing is resurgent. And I wonder in what sphere this "parallel" model can actually challenge Power without being co-opted, where is the politics that allows the will of the multitude to express itself? The Zapatistas want to "walk" to a world where all worlds fit, but time is not on our side. The hegemonic "norms" of justice need a counter-norm, not ambiguity.

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