Steps for Anti-Racist White People

July 10, 2015

Below are some notes and thoughts on next steps for white anti-racist organizing.  These notes are based on Ahjamu Umi‘s community education and organizing work.

  • cops take “path of least resistance” in enforcement and arrest, so we need to attack the social hierarchies that underly and lead to the targeting of black populations in addition to holding individual cops and the policing institutions accountable
    • “good cops” are not cops who simply do not personally participate in racist activity; they do not stand by passively or remain silent while the “bad cops” run amuck, but work to hold perpetrators accountable and change the racist system.  where are the truly good cops?
    • focus on the more fundamental issue of “public safety” instead of merely trying to reform the police system.  how does the police system help or hurt public safety?  what are the other ways in which we can achieve true public safety?
  • work close to home:  we need to leverage current relationships and develop new relationships to confront white supremacy through respectful dialog vs “othering” overt racists and disowning them to justify our own passivity (e.g,. “i don’t know any racists”)
    • e.g., talk w/friends and family first in calmer settings instead of just confronting strange white supremacists on the picket line when emotions are heated
    • e.g., northern white liberals need to talk with and activate other northern white liberals and understand their relationship to racism vs demonizing and othering “southern racist conservatives”
    • recognize that white supremacist leaders and ideologies tend to target and recruit working-class whites, especially struggling white men who seek someone or something convenient to blame.  Distinguish between the horizontal violence of working class people fighting each-other and the vertical violence of the white supremacist ideology of the ruling class (divide and conquer).  How do anti-racists deal with this effectively?
  • it’s important to “get right with yourself” to do this work effectively from a place of love instead of from simple fear, anger or “having something to prove”
  • keep educating yourself on social revolution: join or set up a study group, curriculum or other plan
    • revolution means mass political education
    • social revolution means challenging one-another to become better people
    • no pain, no gain:  just like any exercise program, stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone in order to learn and grow
    • Get active: turn off the TV and the passive mass media consumption and start reading and seeking and interacting
  • join and support existing organizations doing revolutionary work

    • many different organizations with different focuses is a good thing
    • coordinate within and between organizations to avoid duplicating work or spreading yourselves too thin
  • Break your dependency on and allegiance to slave-based institutions that continue to thrive today, such as
    • the chocolate industry, “When People Eat Chocolate, They Are Eating My Flesh”
    • the sugar industry
    • the coltan mining industry underlying all computing, electronics and telecommunications infrastructure today
    • the banking industry, which grew to prominence based on profits from the slave-based cotton industry
    • the insurance industry, one of the first industries to profit from and provide legal and economic facilitation of chattel slavery by reducing economic and legal risks associated with being a slave owner
    • Note the common thread above:  industry, aka consumer commodity culture.  This isn’t to say that, “(eating) chocolate is bad” or ” (having) insurance is bad,” but that their economic existence as for-profit global commodities depended (and still depends) on racism and slavery and other forms of oppression.  So we don’t seek the destruction of chocolate.  But we seek the destruction of the chocolate commodity industry, in part, to protect and respect the existence of chocolate itself.  What, you say?  Consider that Danish colonists directly and explicitly caused the extinction of several speices of clove trees to control production, limit competition for clove as a commodity and inflate clove prices (source: Amy Stewart, The Drunken Botanist).  Commodity culture filters everything through its profit value, supporting all atrocities that increase profits.  So we must find new ways of accessing goods and services important to our lives without participation in commodity culture, aka decommoditization.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but a starting point for people who want to participate in the liberation of society from racism and chattel slavery.  There are plenty of things, simple and intensive, that anyone can do to contribute to freedom and liberation for all.

Thanks also to Samantha and Caiti for their contributions.

Welcome to the Race War (please enjoy your stay)

July 1, 2015

Here’s a headline I’ve kicked around in my mind for a few days:

White people everywhere declare themselves “not racist” in response to black churches burning

Inspiration for that headline came from the below picture, which I now see circulating on Facebook amongst white people at ever-increasing frequency and popularity in the wake of the Charleston Massacre and string of additional white terrorist arson against black communities:


reads, “I don’t judge people based on color, race, religion, sexuality, gender, ability or size.
I base it on whether or not they are an asshole.”

I don’t have a problem with the picture, per se.  I have a huge problem with the fact that I see it with ever-increasing frequency among white folks in the wake of white supremacist terrorism against black communities.  I even see groups of white people using the above picture to band together and declare themselves and one-another “not-racist” in a perverse sort of white ego circle jerk.  I give exactly four fucks about this trend:

  • It deflects from the real issue of black safety and liberation and institutionalized / systematic white supremacy, and makes it about the egos and insecurities of white individuals.  When white people “respond” to events relating to black liberation by defensively declaring themselves “not racist,” it creates a comparison and equality between black lives lost and terrorized on one hand, and hurt white egos on the other. That seems highly problematic to me: Such a comparison minimizes and marginalizes and delegitimizes black lives, even implying that fragile white egos matter more than black lives.  It’s similar to how many people compare a broken windows to a lost life and try to make the discussion about the broken window.  This is exactly why “Black Lives Matter!” has risen as a central slogan and even the name of the current liberation movement: it’s, in part, a very succinct and constructive way to say, “stop delegitimizing, marginalizing and minimizing us!” while affirming at the same time that Black Lives do indeed Matter (esp. when compared to hurt white egos and broken windows!).  Consequently, this also factors into Arthur Chu’s observation about (mostly white?) people changing #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter:
    Do people who change #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter run through a cancer fundraiser going,

    Arthur Chu’s insightful observations about structural racism in white discourse on black liberation

    Why do white people so often feel the need to “correct” the language of black people?  Why do men feel the need to “correct” (#mansplain to) women?  It’s difficult to interpret intention and motive — especially claimed vs real motives, inasmuch as understanding real motives requires full and thoughtful honesty on the part of the actor — but both the above examples represent ways in which white people continue to dominate, marginalize, minimize and delegitimize black voices, people and lives even as they seem to engage in discourse on the issue, constituting a form of white supremacist micro-aggression.  It also exposes white (or male) privilege as the factor behind why white people (or men) can do such things to black people (or women) in the first place, regardless of motivation.

  • Individuals use “I’m not racist” as a way to excuse or hide their passivity:  white people claiming they are “not racist” often use such claims to remain on the sidelines, as if this isn’t “their fight.”  Or by virtue of declaring themselves “not racist,” they have no work to do.  How convenient!
  • Just as problematically, the white supremacist status quo uses the above-mentioned passivity and micro-aggressions of white individual defensiveness as a type of implicit apology for or endorsement of the current racist regime.  It’s a type of wink and a nod.
  • Also, you’re racist.  Get over it. I’m racist.  We’re all racist.  In a racist society and culture, everyone is racist by default.  Only when we actively do anti-racist things are we not racist…and even so, only partially and temporarily.  As Jennai Bundock reminds us, “Don’t tell me you are [feminist, anti-racist, BMX biker, runner, poet, anything, really].  I will know based on how you behave.” (paraphrasing)

In other words, you can’t stay neutral on a moving train, folks (thanks, Zinn).  This is a great example of structural racist micro-aggression, and shows how subtle and entrenched racism is in our society.

When institutionalized, systemic and systematic oppression brutalizes and terrorizes people in your community — perhaps people you know — how do you react or respond?  How will you behave?  Do you, for example, support black armed self-defense or other forms of black agency and empowerment?  Or do you try to police black behavior through the lens of respectability politics?  Such micro-aggression has huge — even deadly consequences for oppressed groups:


Hanley shows how respectability politics can manifest among white liberals as micro-aggression and then within black liberation movements as internalized oppression, ultimately putting more black lives at even greater risk. In this sense, respectability politics plays out as a form of victim blaming, shielding the perpetrator(s) from accountability by ignoring them or rendering them invisible while placing responsibility for the attack on the victim.  More insidious, it also direct attacks and undermines the legitimacy of any victim’s consideration of self-defense at the same time.

Well-meaning white people need to get off the sidelines, stop insisting they are “not racist,” realize its not about them personally or their own insecurities, and join in solidarity with the anti-racist resistance and liberation movements.  This can take a literally-infinite number of forms, big and small (help make signs, publicly condemn the race terrorists, talk to friends and family about what’s going on, take some initiative to educate yourself, etc).  To help establish some parameters, here’s what it DOES NOT look like:

  • selfish individualism:  defensively making it all about you, e.g., to claim or prove you’re “not racist”
  • passivity: refusing to say or do anything in support of and solidarity with anti-racist activists and victims of racial aggression.
  • victim blaming:  wondering silently or out-loud what the black people “did to provoke” their attackers
  • deflecting: using your privilege to judge and change any black-led anti-racist discourse and action that makes you feel uncomfortable
  • taking control:  assuming you know the path to liberation better than those who struggle for their liberation, reproducing the very power dynamic the liberation is supposed to free us from in the first place!

The recent rash of anti-black arson in the US are acts of physical aggression — continuations of the Charleston massacre — targeting a minority population who has become increasingly vocal about the inequalities and injustices they still face at the hands of white supremacy.   These are acts of war, perhaps even white supremacists’ efforts to provoke an explicit race war in the US.  Until then, these acts of war constitute a reactionary, race-baiting, white-supremacist backlash against black liberation to overcome centuries of entrenched oppression — a type of scorched-earth white terrorism targeting the hearts and peoples of many black communities.  These overt, hyper-aggressive attacks stem from and depend on ubiquitous micro-aggressions like those I describe above.

Liberation requires the destruction of white supremacy.  Anti-racists wage war against white supremacist identity while white supremacists wage a war directly against people who seek to escape the racist confines and terrors that white supremacist identity imposes upon them in the first place.  There’s no mistaking the aggressor in this race war:  anti-racists don’t want white people to die, they want the ubiquitous white supremacist threat to disappear.  In contrast, white supremacists seek to terrorize and silence the actual voices and lives all black people (and, to a lesser extent, their allies) who necessarily threaten white supremacist ideology as they seek liberation from it.  In this way, the struggle for racial liberation echoes the struggle for domestic liberation:  abusive, controlling people tend to be most dangerous when they think a victim wants — and is trying — to leave.  The closer we get to racial liberation, the more dangerous white supremacy becomes.

I stand in solidarity with the people of black liberation movements and against institutional and systematic white supremacy, including its more subtle manifestations as individual defensiveness, passivity or micro-aggressions.  Easy to say, difficult to do:  I struggle to find ways to do this in my daily life.

Showing solidarity sometimes gets tricky, uncomfortable and even scary.  It gets more and more difficult to “other” the perpetrators of hyper-aggressions when we begin to see the more subtle transgressions that form the fabric or foundation of the status quo.  The perpetrators of passivity or micro-aggression start to look an awful lot like friends, family, even ourselves.  Talk becomes personal.  Intersectionally-speaking, mansplaining (and other forms of solidarity-destroying privilege posturing) can rear its head.  I think this is a good thing — a journey we must make to confront and dismantle oppression in our lives and relationships.  It’s not that we remove focus from the terrorists of racism — we remain focused on them, and start dismantling the cultural and social basis of their social support system.  It starts with us, but does not end there, as we learn to turn white (or any other privileged) fragility into courageous imperfection:

If white people want to belong to the beloved community, if we want to be part of the tide that is turning thanks to people of color-led movements like #BlackLivesMatter, then we have to show up as bold and genuine and imperfect…Dismantling centuries of dehumanizing institutions and practices — both in the world and within ourselves — can’t be a simple process. The good news is that transforming your fragility into courageous imperfection is the beginning of a lot more joy. It’s the beginning of a lot more connection. It’s the beginning of the end of racism.

The rest of the above-linked article is well-worth the read for anyone from the perspective of owning and effectively dealing with the emotional fragility of social privilege.  We all benefit when we work to convert our privileged fragility into courageous imperfection toward greater solidarity.

For a different perspective on this same subject, read I, Racist by John Metta.  Some pullout quotes:

“The only difference between people in The North and people in The South is that down here, at least people are honest about being racist.”

Black people think in terms of we because we live in a society where the social and political structures interact with us as Black people.

White people in general decide to vigorously defend their own personal non-racism, or point out that it doesn’t exist because they don’t see it.

The entire discussion of race in America centers around the protection of White feelings.

people are dying not because individuals are racist, but because individuals are helping support a racist system by wanting to protect their own non-racist self beliefs.

Here’s what I want to say to you: Racism is so deeply embedded in this country not because of the racist right-wing radicals who practice it openly, it exists because of the silence and hurt feelings of liberal America.

That’s what I want to say, but really, I can’t… [read it all in context!]

The unbearable whiteness of being

I wrote this post as a direct response to a white trend I saw.  A few people shared it in support.  Facebook automatically picked up and displayed the first picture in the post, the one that inspired the critique begin with.  Even though people shared this post and linked to it, the vast majority of white people who commented did so without ever reading the post.  Instead, they simply looked at the picture and agreed with it (why not?  it affirms and comforts vs challenges their worldview), ignored the critique and went on with their day.  I directly asked those people whether they had read the actual post or just looked at the picture.  No response.  So, there you have it, proof in the pudding:  more black lives rest in power so that white liberal egoes may rest in comfort, free from any consideration of their role in the deaths and terrorization of black people.  I believe we need to keep hammering away at these people until their defenses crumble.

However, a few people responded and engaged thoughtfully.  These thoughtful few seem ready, willing and able to grow and remain accountable.  In time, the numbers of the thoughtful few will grow and challenge existing social norms.  All but the most intractable of white ignorance will acquiesce and rise to the occasion of liberation.

Thanks to Choya for contributing resources to this post.

The Feral Weeds of Civilization

June 27, 2015

There is no longer anything wild and free over the next hill. All you will find are filthy cities, factories, outlet malls, military bases, judicial centers. Remove your gaze from this monstrosity, and look toward the earth. Observe and learn from the flowering weed that cracks the pavement, so full of power, hopeful energy, creating beauty amid the desolation. Aren’t you a sweet, free spirit, a flowering weed that breaks through the asphalt, a serendipitous encounter who makes life bearable? Keep breaking out of the darkness of civilization. Thrust, reach up, display your beauty and freedom in ecstasy. Expand and expire for all to see, until you are crushed.

I feel my heart breaking and aching and resisting as I pull back from so much in life and take the time and space to heal and rebuild.  Painful.  Necessary.  And, after ten years intensively exploring anarcha-feminist lifeways within the confines of a consummate patriarchy, inevitable.  Each day I feel pieces of me fall away as i peel back the broken layers and rest what remains of my naked, raw self on a more solid foundation.  I look forward to our intersecting fates, my fellow feral weeds, as we continue to question and break from our pathological allegiance to an addictive society and its magnificent bribes.

Onward…What does it mean to leave an empire that has expanded everywhere?  In some ways, I think it makes the process more coherent, because the global expansion of empire has destroyed the illusion that we can simply pack up and ship out to a new place without recreating empire there as well. We must abolish and destroy the empire within us as well as the external forces of coercive control.

060615 temporary substitutes

June 6, 2015


(life implies)
work to destroy
our casual, ubiquitous relationship
to addictive colonial commodities
–exorphic tools of control such as
sugar, grains, chocolate, coffee
the so-called “English breakfast” tea
and the rest of the global spice trade–
to watch every privileged life fade from view…

subtractive zero-sum civilized pyramid schemes
describing domesticated lives less-screwed
fools survive floating by
on top the drowning poverty crew

accept no temporary substitutes
like machines that run obediently on juice
and when the juice runs low
run back to the chattel
just a stone’s throw away
prisoners of an imprisoned
privileged few work the fields
night and day, nothing new
now hidden
behind the global technological veil

prepare yourself
when the liberal fair-trade fantasies fail
when slaveries stutter and lapse
imperial economies collapse
beneath the revolting tide of collective feral will

gladly say goodbye
because bodies detox and tastebuds adjust
while we discover exactly what
the land beneath our feet offers us

want liberation
in your body, soul, heart and mind

build genetic allegiance and trust
no willing addict of denial
expressing narcissistic preference
for the next fix, mindless
empty undead hunger-driven lust.

Tool: Understanding and Breaking Coercive Control

January 4, 2015
  1. Introduction
  2. The Audition (video clip)
  3. Analysis:  The tactics of control
  4. The Way Out, The Way Forward
  5. Concluding Thoughts


This post revolves around a short two-minute animated video (“The Audition,” directed by Daniel Cohen, created from a series of still photographs of fists).  The video features Joanna Lumley and Patrick Stewart literally playing out a domestic violence process.  It shows how entitlement, escalation, calculated outbursts, and honeymoon/reconciliation periods all converge to reinforce a system of coercive control — the same power dynamic underlying all forms of oppression and a major force of colonization.  In this way, domestic violence exists as a microcosmal reflection of the relationship between many people and the existing social order.

The video does an excellent job of dispelling the myth that domestic violence is mostly about physical violence (ie, people inflicting physical pain upon others). Domestic violence is coercive, controlling violence — the systematic (non-consensual) imposition of one’s will on another to create and reinforce a stagnant and arbitrary power dynamic for its own sake.  Coercive control is often slick and subtle, and may or may not include physical violence. Physical violence may serve coercive control, or it may serve as a form of defense against coercive control. We can only tell the one from the other when we understand the relational and social context of the violence — the social power dynamic.

The Audition (video clip)


TRANSCRIPT: The Audition

Setting: a female auditioner, clearly a professional with a lot of industry experience, calls on some finalists from an earlier audition to demonstrate their ability to represent the “face of domestic violence” by accurately portraying an abusive attitude.

Auditioner (voiced by Joanna Lumley): Now, thank you all for attending. You’ve all been superb. It’s a testament to the depth and range of aggression out there that any one of you could have been the new fist-face of domestic violence.

So, now, who’s still in for the chance to be the poster-boy of painful abuse? Um, I’d like to see number three, number seven [both appear clearly excited in front fo the camera] and number twenty three [appearing calm, almost bored] again.

Number three, let’s see you in action again.
[cut to Fist #3]
Fist #3: [flips the camera the bird]

Auditioner: Very good. Strong but silent, but this time I think you’re missing that little bit of magic. Number seven?
[cut to Fist #7]
Fist #7: [growls menacingly at the camera]

Auditioner: Very believable. I can almost feel myself bruising when I watch you. But I think this time you’re just a bit too obvious. Number twenty-three?
[cut to Fist #23]
Fist #23 [voice by Patrick Stewart, with a smug, confident drawl]: Hello, everyone.

Auditioner: Lovely start, keep going.

Fist #23: Do you know that on average you can beat a woman 35 times before she calls the police? Surprising, isn’t it?

Auditioner [excited, very pleased]: Very good!

Fist #23 [smugly]: Thank you, I am classically trained.

Auditioner [clarifying]: I was just thinking, the message we really want to get across–

Fist #23 [interrupting, irritated]: Yes, I think I know what the message is.

Auditioner: If I could just finish…What we–

Fist #23 [interrupting, agitated, pointing aggressively]: Listen, sweetie, I’ve been in the business a long time, and I don’t need someone like you telling me what to do.

Auditioner [flustered, confused]: But I…I just–

Fist #23 [shouting aggressively, pounding fist violently]: DON’T YOU TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!!

Auditioner [scared, terrified]: Sorry, sorry…

Fist #23 [calm again]: I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me. Shall we do another take…dear?

Analysis: the tactics of control

Notice how fist #23 creates the power dynamic by first interrupting and usurping control from the auditioner (who technically should have final and complete say in how the audition unfolds…afterall, they are auditioning for her). He uses demeaning language to reinforce his interruptions, then erupts in rage to cement his control of the situation and force his victim into a momentary position of apologetic submission. The auditioner apologizes almost automatically, as if she did something to provoke his rage, clearly trying to avoid further confrontation. Fist #23 capitalizes on the apologetic submission by quickly returning to a state of calm with a subtle and patronizing implication that she “provoked” him into his fit. Lastly, Fist #23 cements his dominance by moving everything back on track as if nothing at all had happened (except that he just terrorized her and completely usurped her agency), still using demeaning language as a tactic of control (“…dear”). He appears calm, while she is clearly shaken. Now they have an understanding, a working relationship: He can calmly order her around from a position of empowered entitlement, pretending like he’s requesting something when in fact he demands it. She now has a pretty good idea of what will happen if she either a. does something he doesn’t want, or b. doesn’t do something he wants. He will flip the switch randomly from this point on, to keep her in constant fear (aka, “walking on eggshells”) of when and whether he will snap.  In other words, she has been colonized, victimized, forced into the social role of a tool and artifact of oppression, slavery and control.

In the business, we call the abuser’s abrupt tactical shift in behavior “crazy-making.” It’s over and done with long before you’ve had time to even process what’s happening. You never quite know when, where or how you will “provoke” another violent outburst. You start self-policing (“walking on eggshells”), doing every little thing you can to please him, or at least to avoid his rage.  Only it doesn’t work, because compliance and submission (the flipside of power and entitlement) demand random reinforcement.

Crazy-making explains why, when outsiders encounter incidents stemming from longstanding forms of systematic oppression, they often find a hysterical victim and a calm, collected and rational abuser. Often, they misinterpret the situation and paint the victim as the aggressor, supporting and strengthening the abuser’s social position.  Sometimes, the victim fights back, and outsiders’ mythical and incoherent belief in “victim aggression” means the victim often goes to prison, sentenced as an aggressor, not as someone defending their life and liberty from a terrifying, controlling onslaught.

Victims live under intense scrutiny and control.  As a result, they have to carefully plan any means to defend themselves without alerting their abuser.  Ignoring the context of coercive control, the establishment confuses victims’ self-defense with “pre-meditation,” even though it’s often just part of a larger personal safety strategy to break free of coercive control. Sometimes, the coercive control that abusers impose on victims gets so bad that victims often defend themselves knowing they’ll probably go to prison for it.  Sometimes, defensive outbursts come as a surprise to both the victim and the abuser.  In other words, abusers create a situation where victims are either willing to either die trying to leave, or willing to defend themselves, go to prison, and effectively substitute one form of coercive control to break free from another. To quote Patrick Stewart from another clip:

“A couple of months ago, having read a report in The Guardian about women who were all completing their sentences for having murdered their partners…I was so moved by the stories of these three women, that I think for the first time ever I was compelled to send off a response to the Guardian, which they printed. One of the things that I said was that I was not a violent child… but if my mother had, at any point between [my ages] of 5-12, picked up a knife or any other weapon against my father, I would have held her hand as she did it. I would have locked the door while she carried it out. That’s how bad it was, to be growing up inside a violent household.”

That’s how bad it gets?  No, it gets worse, actually.

The Way Out, The Way Forward

Abusers make leaving the relationship one of the most dangerous things an abuse victim can do.   So it’s equally understandable when someone decides to stay, keep their head down and weather the storm for a bit longer.  If someone doesn’t intervene and neutralize the source of control, then these are the four possible outcomes:

  1. The victim dies (murdered or suicide)
  2. The abuser dies (murdered in defense)
  3. Both die (abuser murder-suicide; note that abusers will often threaten suicide as a control tactic, but are more likely, if really suicidal, to commit a murder-suicide — another manifestation of empowered entitlement)
  4. Victim remains under abuser control

So, the victim must choose between prison, death or slavery to the terror of a living death in the constant shadow of coercive control.  I believe this is what people mean when they say, “No justice, no peace.”  Historically, when others have intervened, it has been victim-focused, and often victim-blaming in various ways (structurally speaking, any intervention that does not include accountability for the abuser and neutralization of the source of the threat is victim blaming).  In his book Coercive Control, Evan Stark points out a difficult truth that the domestic violence shelter movement has actually not made any progress toward its mission to protect the lives of abuse victims, who still get murdered by abusers at the same rate as before shelters appeared.   However, in giving victims the perception of a safe option, the shelter movement has effectively protected the lives of abusers who would otherwise have been murdered by their victims in an act of self-defense. To effectively protect the lives of victims, we must intervene proactively to neutralize the source of the ever-constant threat and terror the abuser creates in the life of the victim.

This intimate form of oppression is bad enough — but it doesn’t stop there.  We live in a society where the dynamic of coercive control manifests in various ways that intersect with or nest within one-another.  For example, a similar dynamic exists between black people (esp. black men, but also people of color generally) and the police state (including the prison-industrial complex), native people and the US and Canadian corporate governments, or between bosses and workers, or the 1% and the 99%, or hetero people and queers, etc, etc.

Due to the nesting and intersecting nature of coercive control, the intimate partner abuser may in turn suffer any number of other societal abuses at the hands of others, inside other institutional contexts (the indignities of wage slavery and subservience to the police state being two of many examples).  No clear “abuser/victim” dichotomy exists in an abusive, colonizing society.  That does not excuse an abuser’s perpetuation of coercive control from their particular position of empowered entitlement.

I often think that people abuse, not only because that’s how we learned to “relate” to the rest of the world, but because, deep down, we all desire liberation, and the established social order has convinced us wrongly that we can somehow find freedom by clawing our way up a rigid social hierarchy — by participating in and perpetuating a master/slave dynamic.  When we accept empowered entitlement and coercive control as our relational MO, we confine ourselves to social roles that destroy us and prevent our personal and relational development while reinforcing the very systems and institutions we seek to escape in the first place.  Liberation means relinquishing control and empowered entitlement as much as it means fighting off the coercive control of others.  When we do these two activities together, we gain the opportunity to build solidarity, where people help one-another in their autonomous struggles for liberation.

That said, abusers from the privileged side of the equation tend to behave intractably — that is, they actively refuse and resist change as an inherent part of the institution of coercive control.  I think this happens in part because nested and intersecting forces of colonization reinforce one-another and consistently reassert themselves.  Our desire for liberation conflicts with our social privilege.  The more privilege we have, the greater the conflict.  Besides, willingness to change and relinquish control would defeat the purpose of coercive control in the first place!

For example, in keeping with Evan Stark’s analysis of the DV shelter movement,  consider that cops still murder black people at the same rate that white mobs lynched them a few decades ago.  If the goal is the valuation of black lives (#blacklivesmatter), then we see that the institutions themselves rarely change in noticeable or meaningful ways, even when everyone involved wants the change.  Nor can they ironically impose meaningful change on anyone.   They do what they were designed to do:  control people through the imposition and strict enforcement of narrow social roles, upholding and reinforcing empowered entitlement and master/slave power dynamics.  When we legitimize the institutions, we play a game of whack-a-mole.  Sure, lynch mobs don’t happen as often as they used to.  But it’s still technically legal to murder a black person (that is, you can expect that the “justice system” won’t indict and prosecute you for the murder, as long as you’re not also black).  To value the lives of black people, we must actively abandon and destroy the “white” and “black” identities that form the master/slave dynamic of institutionalized racism, otherwise coercive control will simply continue to reassert itself in different ways.   Passive “white colorblindness” is just another version of what Howard Zinn called trying to “stay neutral on a moving train.”  People getting their heads bashed in can’t afford to “turn the other cheek.”

So when a good friend of mine holds a sign at a protest saying, “I respect black rage,” I understand and agree.  I see her carefully and forcefully acknowledging and abandoning her white identity for a greater, liberatory solidarity.  Respect it and support it.  The only way to protect life and liberty in the context of coercive control is to neutralize the source of empowered entitlement and the institutional means through which it manifests and imposes itself on victims.  That source exists within us and others.  Attack and undermine its social legitimacy.  Destroy its power.  This may involve struggles between individuals, but it must move beyond the individual interactions to target the social roles of empowered entitlement and victimization that coercive control requires.  That involves coordinated, direct action as well as chaotic, individual leadership.  Just as angry mobs can reproduce empowered entitlement, they can also destroy the thin veil of control that the existing social order uses to keep most people submissive and compliant in the face of overwhelming injustice.

Concluding Thoughts

We can’t make abusers change, but we can protect ourselves effectively from their onslaught. MLK, Jr, understood this (he carried a firearm “for protection,” surrounded himself with armed bodyguards, and a journalist described his home as “an arsenal.” Many understood the need for effective self-defense at the height of the civil rights movement:

Having fought in World War II, Williams led his local chapter in advocating armed self-defense after a nonviolent campaign for local desegregation failed. In his book, Negroes With Guns, he describes one occasion when he had to protect himself from a lynch mob.

As the mob is shouting for gasoline to be poured on Williams and his friends, and begins to throw stones, Williams steps out of the car with an Italian carbine in hand.

“All this time three policemen had been standing about fifty feet away from us while we kept waiting in the car for them to come and rescue us. Then when they saw that we were armed and the mob couldn’t take us, two of the policemen started running. One ran straight to me, grabbed me on the shoulder, and said, ‘Surrender your weapon! Surrender your weapon!’ I struck him in the face and knocked him back away from the car and put my carbine in his face, and told him that we didn’t intend to be lynched. The other policeman who had run around the side of the car started to draw his revolver out of the holster. He was hoping to shoot me in the back. They didn’t know that we had more than one gun. One of the students (who was seventeen years old) put a .45 in the policeman’s face and told him that if he pulled out his pistol he would kill him. The policeman started putting his gun back in the holster and backing away from the car, and he fell into the ditch.

“There was a very old man, an old white man out in the crowd, and he started screaming and crying like a baby, and he kept crying, and he said, ‘God damn, God damn, what is this God damn country coming to that the n*****s have got guns, the n*****s are armed and the police can’t even arrest them!’ He kept crying and somebody led him away through the crowd.”

We know we’re onto something good when sad, old abusers cry in frustration as they witness the disintegration of their social privilege.  Effective self-defense is a form of direct action that directly threatens the legitimacy of institutions of oppression.  It is one of the first ways we defect from and sabotage the existing social order.  In doing so, we create space and agency for more direct action to destroy the source of the threat requiring the defense in the first place.

let’s not forget about Robert F. Williams, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X and then later the Black Panther Party—all of whom advocated for violent retaliation, scaring their oppressors, and therefore opening up space for non-violent demonstrators to protest under safer conditions.

Inside that space, we have boundless opportunity to explore new forms of relating and interacting, only if the defensive response also undermines, delegitimizes and destroys other intersecting or nested forms of coercive control instead of reproducing them (e.g., sexism, intimate partner violence along with institutionalized racism).  The New Civil Rights Movement must tear down and destroy all intersecting and nested institutions of oppression and their related identities of empowered entitlement.  To liberate any one of us, we must liberate all of us.  To liberate all of us, we must manifest solidarity as mutual support of autonomous liberatory struggles.   And we must continue to destroy those institutions, identities and social roles wherever they threaten to grow again, otherwise we will create a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” situation.  We have lots to destroy.  So let’s get on with it.

041511 basic needs

January 1, 2015


we’re hatching plans to meet demands
all i see are outstretched hands
the world is watching, people are hungry
and we demand some dignity…
so if you disagree and try to stop me:

we plant fools like you neck-deep in the sands,
leave them for the rising tide
and let others decide if they live or die
it’s no matter of pride, i just don’t care
we’ve got bigger fish to fry
there’s more important things i’m juggling

the whole globe is local, struggling
still alive, trying to survive
nowhere near being close to thrive
we have unmet basic needs:
good food, shelter, friends, family;
a relationship with the land beneath our feet;
and deep-seeded sense of community

from clothes for kids to souls to feed
those are my goals, this is my creed:
i reframe what grows in our space
and name what contrains our sense of place
no more GE free-trade misery
give me the dynamic native weed
dandelion: fritters, wilted greens, wine, tea
make a wish, let it be-

-come, we’re planting seeds that will succeed
in spite of what insanity the toxic leaders spray
or what poisons their mindless minions bleed inside the fray
these are seeds they can’t eradicate
that live on through their fear and hate
we terraform land, we cultivate fate
and do whatever it will take, with or without you
to make sure there’s good food on all our plates
to sustain this drop in the rain we call the human race

i try to live my life right,
burning bright all through the day
until i embrace the dark at night
and while i sleep, i’ll dream a way
to integrate tactics, strategies, praxis, play
but i can’t do it alone
it’s who i’m with that let’s me say
the life i live is home…

Defecting from Rape Culture

December 8, 2014


A few days ago a man assaulted two young women close to where I live.  This is not an isolated incident, nor is it isolated to a few “bad apples” in our society.  A few weeks ago I witnessed employees of the business across the way from my house walk to their cars while ignoring a man assaulting a woman literally a few feet away from them.  When my partner goes out running she gets assaulted in one form or another — all the time, nearly every time.  She endures cat-calls and other verbal assaults.  Men slow their vehicles down and stalk her for a few blocks — as long as they aren’t holding up traffic.  They aren’t subtle about it, either — they make sure she knows with an unwavering gaze and explicit language or lewd gestures.  My partner fears for her safety — she doesn’t know whether this guy will be the one to stop the car, get out and confront her for ignoring his come-ons.  She steels herself against the assault every time she goes out.

I know of no woman in my life who does not deal with an onslaught from men.  Not one.  So I’m not surprised when I hear more stories from others, such as Estelle Tang’s wonderful Open Letter to All My Male Friends, or the viral #Yesallwomen on Twitter, or one of my partner’s friends recently sharing on Facebook about how she comes under regular assault when she goes running, or when several other women reply to her post to share yet more stories.  I’m not surprised when one of my best friends comments while reviewing this draft,

“I’ve had so many incidents where terrible things have happened — I just don’t think about it anymore.”

Men do this stuff to all women, every day, sometimes several times a day.  I admire the strength of women and girls who face this onslaught and refuse to allow it to dictate the parameters of their lives.  I admire the courage of women who speak out against it.  Their stories spark organization and action against this public health crisis.

Let’s be clear where the blame lies: most men don’t do these things.  Relatively few men make the world unsafe for women and destroy the trust between all men and women.  There’s a difference between rape jokes, cat calls, stalking, groping and rape, but *all* these activities assault women and send a positive signal to the worst offenders justifying the worst of their actions and escalations.  And men who remain silent around these assaults — that’s most of us — send the same signal of compliance to sexual assault offenders and survivors alike.  Our collective compliance not only empowers violence against women, it boxes in and isolates most men so we start to think we’re abnormal for feeling bad when some men openly mistreat other people.

Rape culture bullies everyone in our society, albeit in different ways. Fortunately, most men despise bullies and bullying behavior.  So we have an obligation to speak out whenever and wherever we hear or see others — especially friends, family or acquaintances — assaulting women.  Our lives and relationships depend on it.  By questioning or challenging such behavior and showing clear concern for victims and survivors, we hold offenders accountable, protect the trust necessary for healthy relationships and begin to change the rules of the game to create peaceful communities.

All sorts of questions come up in the moments we realize we might need to act:  What do I do?  Do I say something?  What do I say?  Who do I say it to?  Such situations can seem complex or daunting, and often times there are no clear or correct answers.  Local rape or domestic violence crisis services often offer training and other resources for allies on topics such as effective advocacy and bystander intervention.  For online resources, provides a wonderful compendium of accessible information and analysis for men, masculinities and gender politics, including a full section dedicated to the subject of working with boys and men.  Want something with pictures? (I usually do!) Check out Robot Hugs’ comic primer on harassment and what men can do about it:

More than ever aspects of rape culture appear as common topics of discussion in the public sphere.  Even the Daily Show had a wonderful bit recently about the web of sexual violence that women navigate (  Rape culture won’t go away without a fight, and the more we talk about it, the more visible and easier it becomes for us to identify, talk about, and change.  That should give us hope: with increasing clarity, courage and critical mass, we are well on the cusp of something wonderful: the liberation of the human species from its oldest form of oppression.

Tool: Know and Protect Your Watershed

December 5, 2014


Watersheds are one way of understanding the natural systems that support the existence of human life.  Knowing and appreciating the watersheds helps humans value and protect the natural systems that support the existence of human life.

Watersystems exist outside the imaginary grid system of arbitrary political and economic boundaries that civilized humans impose on the world around us in order to more efficiently subdivide, control and exploit it.


Imagine a void.  Now add gravity to it.  Now add freshwater falling from the sky.  Now add terrain.  Some low, some high.

The water falls onto the high terrain first, and then it filters and combines its way into streams, then creeks, then tributary rivers, then main rivers.  Perennial plant systems and their roots turn the earth into a giant sponge, steadily soaking up and slowly filtering, infusing and releasing the water over the seasons while also reducing erosion and nutrient loss to gravity.  It all drains eventually to the estuary, the lowest point in the watershed, out to the ocean.

The plants that slow the draining of the water and sustain its availability through the dry spells also generate enough moisture through respiratory activity to contribute to the annual rainfall.  Ironically, removal of perennial plant systems create both intensifying drought and flood conditions.

Salmonids (migratory fish) use intact watersheds to restore biomass and nutrients inevitably lost to gravity back to terrestrial ecosystems (some researchers have found up to 60% of the nitrogen in plants hundreds of meters from the nearest stream coming from salmon).  Damming and polluting the rivers and clearing out riparian areas, inasmuch as it destroys salmon habitat, also slowly kills the surrounding ecosystems.

Yes, watershed.

Know it.  Not figuratively.   Not conceptually.  Physically.  Visit it.  Appreciate it.  Defend it by any means necessary against any and all threats, because threats toward your watershed are threats toward life.  Specifically, your life.  The life of your friends and family.  Our children, born yet or not.

Cutting Canyons

i’m a drop in the bucket
and your bucket’s sprung a leak
draining us away like water
all the power that you seek
without us, you’re weak
you make your living
preying on the meek
when you try to shout
what comes out is just a squeak

while we slide into the stream
and the stream into the creek
and then another intermediary
cutting canyons deep, before
draining from the tributary
to the pristine estuary,
because we carry toxic baggage
what comes next is scary:

collective seamless entity
unstoppable fluid motion
we direct our flow with gravity
back into the ocean, potent potion

waves ebb and flow as levels rise
land and lives go with the tides
political climate destabilize
single problem with two sides
too much, too little water
flooding getting hotter
and drought intensifies

crisis opportunity energy
a tsunami from the deep blue
earthquake-induced origami
breaks what doesn’t fold in two
one Truth, no more lies to hide behind
one Will, one mind and peace to find
one Love, to dominate all time
one Reason to write and recite this rhyme

TERMS of Appropriate Technology

October 18, 2014

Appropriate (intermediate) technology calls for increasingly “people-centered, small-scale, decentralized, labor-intensive, energy-efficient, environmentally sound and locally controlled”1 technologies in response to the increasing development, prevalence and dependency upon increasingly complex, opaque, ineffective, unreliable, irreparable technologies of modern, globalized industrial economies. It is a response to technology for technology’s sake.  Many believe EF Schumacher to be the visionary behind the appropriate technology movement with his seminal and very readable book, Small is Beautiful.

Similar to permaculture ethics and principles, I write below about five principles and one ethic to our design and use of technology as guidelines to help us ensure that whatever we do with technology is ultimately in our best interests. I package them in an easy-to-remember acronym (TERMS), to facilitate further discussion on this topic.

Five principles (TERMS)

TERMS:  Transparent, Effective (ethical), Reliable (reusable / recyclable), Maintainable (modular), Simple

Transparent:  the technology should let us know what’s going on when we use it, so there are minimal surprises during normal use or when things go wrong.  it should be easy to understand where it comes from, how and why it was created (see story of stuff), and what happens to it at the end of its lifecycle.

Effective:  does it do the job its supposed to do, and do it well?  does it make the job easier or more difficult?  or does it trade one difficulty for another?  On a related note, is it ethical?  Does it provide both short-term and long-term benefit to the entire community (land and people)?  Does it internalize the cost of use?  To what extent is it safe or dangerous for anyone in the community?

A friend recently divided technology into two forms: that which helps us interact with and understand the existing world in new ways, and that which makes us stupid. Using the analogy of storytelling (which is itself an important technology), we can give some examples for comparison:

  • Some technologies help us tell new stories and understand the subtleties and depths of older, more familiar stories (such as through microscopes and telescopes).
  • In contrast, some technologies cause us to outsource the storytelling and become a bored, disengaged, alienated and passive listener or audience member (such as relying on Google Maps and GPS for directions).

Reliable:  technology should do what it’s supposed to do over and over again without needing any special care — durable and reusable.  it should withstand a little bit of abuse or even misuse (what some people might call “use for alternative purpose”). In relation to reusability, does the technology recycle well at the ends of its usable life, allowing us to reclaim its constituent parts and materials to (re)build other equipment? Otherwise, the technology and its constituent parts must readily biodegrade, which is the way the earth recycles materials for reuse.

Maintainable:  it should be easy to do preventative maintenance.  When technology breaks down, it should be easy to repair or replace parts with generic options.   To do this, we need to support and advocate for open standards, maintain standards compliance and design for modularity.  These are not quick and easy solutions, but the long-term benefits are worth it.

Simple:  if a technology is too complicated for the end user to understand all the way through, it’s probably too complicated to be transparent.  Also, the more complex something is, the less reliable it becomes.

These TERMS are relative to the technology, the user, and our performance expectations.  They give us a framework to think about and discuss whether and how technology is appropriate.  Let’s use a bicycle as an example:  It might have some inherent properties that make it more reliable, maintainable and simple than a motor vehicle.  But is it more effective?  It depends:  Motor vehicles can transport many heavy things long distances very quickly.  But bicycles give us exercise while we use them.  When we combine them with racks and saddle bags or trailers, they are often more than effective enough for most of our everyday urban transportation needs.

Ethic:  Balance technomass with biomass

We also need to balance technomass (the physical presence of technology) and biomass (the physical presence of living organisms) in our built environment.  Cities and other high density human settlements can be very heavy on technomass and very light on or even openly hostile to biomass, resulting in an imbalance.  An imbalance between technomass and biomass can cause all sorts of energetic, economic, social, physiological and psychological problems in humans and our habitat (think of the pollutions:  noise, light, chemical, water, air, even highly-processed pseudo-foods).   If cities are going to be viable at all in the future past peak oil, they probably need to achieve a much greater ratio of (non-human) biomass to technomass per land area.  Some people call biomass “green infrastructure” as opposed to technological infrastructure (technomass).  Whatever we call it, biomass helps

  • regulate temperature and rainfall (think: cool in the summer, warm in the winter);
  • clean our air and purify our water; build our soil fertility;
  • prevent and protect us from floods and droughts;
  • provide nutritious food, energy and raw materials;
  • keep us healthy (ref. to the myriad positive effects of forest bathing).

These are all things we want more of, right?  One way we can do this in temperate climates is to increase the surface area for biomass to grow on.  Since we have a finite amount of land in our built environments, our primary strategy for increasing surface area is to use a “lumpy texture” pattern — that is, minimize flat spaces and maximize spaces with vertical diversity.  Think:  goodbye lawns and hello roots, groundcovers, flowers, herbs, shrubs, trees and vines!  In addition to maximizing productivity, there are several other benefits to vertical diversity in our biomass or green infrastructure:

scientific research indicates that structural diversity in forest vegetation, what we call “lumpy texture,” appears to increase bird and insect population diversity and to balance insect pest populations—independent of plant species diversity


So what is a good balance between technomass and biomass?   1:1?  1:2?   I propose at least 1:10 — that is, 10 times more biomass than technomass.  Here’s why:

  • Technomass depends upon biomass.  Without biomass, technomass would not exist.
  • Technomass, like all things, is subject to the laws of thermodynamics.
  • Based on this premise, we can view technomass like a predator in a food chain organized into trophic levels:  only ~10% of the energy from the things it “feeds” on are available for it to use.
  • Technomass and biomass compete for space and energy.

Within the biomass population, net primary producers (photosynthesizers, namely, plants!) should probably make up approximately 90% of all biomass for the same reason as above.  So our final ratio should be something like 1:10:100 (technomass:consumers:producers), or in percentages as 1%:9%:90%  You can apply these ratios as mass calculations or as land area used for each.

These ratios are difficult to measure empirically.  However they provide an at-a-glance starting point for assessing the sustainability of a human settlement.  If you compare these ratios to most every current-day city, you can see that they are opposite:  technomass is probably closer to 90% of the makeup of city infrastructure.  Bringing cities in-line with these “ratios of sustainability” will probably require both a reduction in technomass and population density in addition to an increase in biomass. I also suggest we add another component to the ratio: wildmass. Based on permaculture concepts, wildmass consists of biomass existing outside of direct, everyday contact with a given human settlement. Again, basic thermodynamic principles might suggest the wildmass necessary to sustain the biomass that in turn sustains a human population and its technologies at 1000:100:10:1.


We have control over how, when and how much technomass is a factor in our lives and landscapes.  We should take every opportunity we can to minimize its presence while we maximize its positive impact.  TERMS and Balance are a framework that can help us move in that direction.  Maybe this is a framework that the appropriate technology gurus at MIT’s D-Lab can run with…

Final note on the definition of technology. From Wikipedia:

Technology (from Greek τέχνηtechne, “art, skill, cunning of hand”; and -λογία-logia[1]) is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of toolsmachines, techniques, craftssystems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation or perform a specific function.

We must overcome our current narrow conception of technology. To illustrate this point, let’s consider a culture’s stories and mythologies: they are, in context of the above definition, are no less a part of a society’s functional technology than a knife or a shelter structure. The narratives they comprise might store and transmit localized, place-based knowledge through the generations. For example, the narrative, although fictional and fantastic, may teach of important plants and animals: who and what they are, where they are located, what they do for humans, and how to best make use of and respect them.

In the above example example, a narrative technology conveys important information about plant- and animal-based technologies. However, those who use such technologies may never describe them as such – the plants and animals are active agents and participants in their communities, rather than mere “things” to be exploited. To reduce them into the fictional framework of objectified passivity is be to deny them their agency and complexity, like reducing forests to “a bunch of trees” to “a bunch of board-feet.” So while our definition of technology must expand, our use of that expanded definition of technology as a “map of the territory” must contract into specific, momentary situational contexts that require an entity to give up its agency in service of the larger community. To put it another way: When you’re in the territory, put the map away and interact with the territory on its own terms, not the terms dictated by the map, because the map is not the territory, and if you know the territory, you don’t need the map. On the other hand, if you always use the map, you will not only fail to learn the territory – you will end up destroying the territory through actions shaped by your dependency on the map.

Defection and Sabotage: Tools of Liberation

October 17, 2014

Defection and Sabotage form the foundation of a pattern language toward liberation.  Here begins a discussion of that pattern language to inform us of potential pathways forward, in three parts:

  1. Visual:  a liberation diagram
  2. Descriptive:  a narrative walkthrough of the diagram
  3. Disursive:  a brief question and answer

Liberation Diagram

A diagram illustrating colonizing processes and pathways toward liberation

A diagram illustrating colonizing processes and pathways toward liberation

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Diagram Description

  1. we all start from a general stage of civilized domestication (to varying degrees with regards to the various patterns affecting us), where we begin to explore various tools of defection.  Tools of defection consist of various processes, attitudes and modes of existence that help liberate us from dependence on and adherence to civilized institutions, attitudes and behaviors.  Defection includes (but is not limited to) capacity building toward communities of localizing, place-based interdependence.
  2. various risk factors conspire to co-opt and colonize our efforts toward liberation in order to maintain the domesticated control of the general populace.  risk factors may also threaten liberating communities.
  3. defectors protect themselves and their allies through acts of defense and sabotage of various risk factors or colonizing forces.  defense helps guard against the onslaught of colonization wherever and however it might occur.  acts of sabotage seek to undermine and neutralize the colonizing threats at their source: the risk factors themselves.
  4. when risk factors overcome the defensive ability of the defection process, then colonization occurs, resulting in the assertion and affirmation of civilized domestication.
  5. when the defensive measures of defection effectively protect against colonization, then the defection process may continue, resulting in movement and momentum toward post-civ liberating community.
  6. post-civ communities will manifest in diverse ways based largely upon resilient adaptation to local circumstances.  therefore, it is largely counter-productive to label such “hypothetical community structures.”  rather, we should allow them to emerge from the efforts of the people working to create them.  much of the process of creating these diverse sustainable place-based communities of localizing interdependence occurs as a result of emergence from and social evolution beyond the colonizing threat of civilization.
  7. by furthering our understanding of civilized risk factors and colonization processes we can continue to protect against the (re)emergent threat of civilization into the future.  one such risk factor is “forgetting or ignoring the colonizing threat or other risk factors” in the first place.

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Question and Answer

What is defection?

Defection provides an empowerment process that helps people — individuals, groups and communities — create time and space to identify and pursue their life’s priorities. Time and space is limited. The institutions and authoritarian hierarchies of civilization co-opt our time and space with their own dictates. In short, we often spend our precious time doing things we hate for people we don’t know and who don’t care about us <ref Alan Watts, or a readable version>. Defection is fundamentally about taking back that time and space so we can spend more time doing things we love for people we actually know and care about.

Why do defectors need defense?

Civilization poses a constant threat toward co-opting and mutilating our lives, lands and communities for its own purposes.  It has developed and refined such colonizing processes over millenia.  As a result, we have a constant need to defend ourselves from this colonizing threat.  Defense focuses fundamentally on setting and maintaining healthy boundaries with abusive people, groups, institutions and, in the case of civilization, entire societies — the protection of integrity.  Effective defense achieves the outcome of protecting integrity with as minimal escalation of conflict and violence (and thus energy expenditure) as possible.

Ok, but why sabotage?  That seems unnecessarily aggressive.

After a certain level of constant colonizing aggression (which civilization has long since surpassed), both the onslaught and the resulting constant (necessary) defensive posturing and readiness in themselves become forms of colonization and may inhibit further progress.  Sometimes, you just want the constant onslaught to stop, for emotional as well as strategic reasons.  So we might more accurately call it “defensive sabotage.”  Sabotage remains a defensive option for dealing with aggressors who refuse to acknowledge or respect the boundaries that others set.  Regardless of the underlying reasons (e.g., inability or lack of caring), we want persistent and pervasive abusive behavior to stop.  If the source of the abuse refuses to stop it willingly, or gives us the runaround, then the target of abuse retains the option of stopping the abuse directly, by whatever means necessary.

Why a pattern language?

At a certain point, we need to move past critical analysis into strategy and direct action while respecting the diverse reasons, backgrounds, intentions and priorities that people have for defecting and defending their process of liberation.  A rigid command and control strategy has several problems, such as limited strategic relevance, structural reproduction of civilized authoritarianism, and likelihood to alienate and oppress more than it will empower, engage and inspire.  A pattern language provides non-linear, intuitive promise and potential to help diverse peoples explore a life worth living in a world worth dying for.

What is a pattern language?

Each stage in this diagram consists of many ingredients or “patterns” that relate in various ways to other patterns in the same stage as well as patterns in different stages to form a complete network or constellation.  Each pattern represents an archetype or collective memory of processes that work (for better or worse!).  By sketching out major patterns and their relationships, we can achieve a strategic understanding of the liberation process and build a comprehensive liberation toolkit:  defection, defense and sabotage.  Such a toolkit may help individuals, groups and communities prioritize and focus as they pursue strategic and collaborative opportunities.

Likewise, we can understand various colonizing forces as patterns or groups of patterns.  Issues such as sexual and domestic violence (part of gender-based violence and patriarchy) serve two larger strategies for control and domestication:

  • divide and conquer (prevent and destroy direct, trusting relationships) and
  • keep us mired in crisis (inhibit our ability to relax, recover, plan and execute plans)

Keith Farnish covers many other strategies and patterns of control in his book, Underminers, which he makes available for free via his website.  In his book, he calls them “Tools of Disconnection.”  They provide a fantastic basic description of the matrix of control that civilization maintains over its domesticated servants.  I intent to focus more fully on Tools of Liberation.

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