Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tear the Veil of Pallor; an Anarchist Speaking on Other "Anarchists"

Under the safe cover of holiday night, self-professed anarchists spray painted their sigil on buildings and broke windows. It was Christmas. The businesses were closed. People were away from their homes. The police presence was minimal. It was an easy crime. Cowardly vandalism committed when almost everybody was sure to have their attention cast elsewhere.
Locally owned businesses had their property, to a manageable but unfortunate extent, damaged. They were, on the large, "yuppy" establishments. I admit to having, at the time, found it funny that certain businesses were attacked. I, however, did not believe the acts were truly perpetrated by anarchists. I believed they were perpetrated by young people who could have just as well emblazoned the walls of these placed with black, spray-painted pentagrams. The encircled letter "A" meant nothing to me.
As time wore on, over the past few months, vandalism continued. Businesses were, once again, attacked and a low income housing facility had the message, "Wrong Neighborhood" spray painted on it. It was, later, discovered that the vandals believed it was a regular condo complex and did not understand they were vandalizing the homes of low income families. They thought, in all actuality, that every act of vandalism was one bearing an anti-gentrification message and agenda. They thought they were being anarchists.
I still, however, had my doubts.
Acts perpetrated on February 22nd, however, changed my feelings. An unfinished, unattended condominium was burned, in an act of arson. Three days later, letters began to arrive in the mailboxes of other tenants of the condominiums. This is that letter:

To the Tenants and Homeowners of East Hills Upscale Condominiums,

In the southeast corner of your suburbanite cul-de-sac, at approximately 4 a.m. February, 22nd, we, a group of anti-gentrification militants attacked an unfinished condominium. We placed 3 incendiary-devices throughout the first story of the household. This attack was not isolated , nor will it be the last. If you are holding this letter, you are a target. We announce with great volume our terms:

-The eviction /resignation of all lease-agreements in this cul-de-sac, and their occupants forced back into the suburbs.

-The immediate transition to low-income housing, both in this cul-de-sac, and in the surrounding East Hills area.

We are not peaceful. We are not willing to negotiate. You, your families and material possessions are at stake. Our demands are not implausible, and are expected to be carried out within a two-month period. Failure to comply will result in a multitude of repercussions, including, but no limited to: destruction of vehicles and houses, muggings, burglary, and kidnapping.


The Old Neighbors

Upon reading this letter, I became very upset.
I, as an anarchist or, at least, anarchy-sympathetic, am tired of living behind the pallored veil of stigma that comes with the label of my beliefs. I found a local news link that allowed comments to be left and I left this comment:

As an anarchistic-leaning individual, I've been getting increasingly upset with this case and the nature of the crimes. A true anarchist operates through means of subversion; living their life as true to their beliefs as possible, in the hopes that seeing this lifestyle work will help propagate its ideals.
The letters aren't letters... of anarchists. They are letters left by socialists who have chosen to live under the guise of anarchy because anarchy is a word that bears a lot more edge than socialism, Marxism or communism.
I know. I used to be a socialist. I used to be a Marxist. I used to think I was a communist.
I turned away from those ideas, when I realized the real problems weren't addressed by such systems that, really, just put political power under a different name and control in different boots.
There are many socialists who believe they are anarchists or, at least, wish to be perceived as such.
Anarchy and the way it has been stigmatized is synonymous with punk rock, edge and attitude.
These people are not anarchists. They are people who want attention.
I'm not saying they don't believe in something. I think that they at least believe they believe in something.
The escalation of these crimes, however, displays all the steps of a criminal profile: the steps of somebody who has been getting up the "courage" to do something big. Much in the way serial killers start by lighting fires and hurting animals.
I doubt they planned on making demands and issuing threats, when the fire was lit. I believe it was their first grand act and they didn't decide to assign their credible agenda to the act until they had fully experienced the satisfaction of having done it.
Although counter-gentrification is a big part of the anarchistic philosophy, government provisions are not. Not in the sense of what they're asking. Real anarchists would not demand low income housing be built. Real anarchists would find a way to provide such housing themselves. After all, real anarchy is about proving that life can be lived without government or corporate intervention. Anarchy doesn't vote, because it knows it can affect the issues that matter on its own, without a political advocate. Anarchy doesn't create laws to address problems, because it knows that laws change nothing. And, as I said, anarchy does not demand the government or corporate parties provide housing for the poor, because anarchy knows that this, if it matters that much, can be done without such aid.

I went forth to offer a possible solution to local anarchist, Ryan Cappalletti, who had been interviewed in the news story. I sent him a letter, suggesting that the local anarchist community become actively involved with the non-violent (but not pacifistic) interception of these parties and the active intervention against them.
This can be done in cooperation with the local and federal law enforcement officials. I am not against that, either. I think such an act could help repair and/or improve relations between the local anarchist community and those who hold it suspect. I, however, believe it would prove a larger point, if we were capable of doing this ourselves.

There is no conclusion to this blog post. There is no point. All I offer is that, if you are an anarchist in Grand Rapids, please contact me and, together, we can devise a way to affect change and stop these people from sullying our name and way of life.
If you are an anarchist and do not live in Grand Rapids, please think about what you do. Don't just plan or plot. FUCKING THINK. Think hard. Think about why you are the way you are and why you believe what you believe. Question yourself and the purity of your state of mind and allow the tenets of your beliefs to be reflected in your actions. Respect other anarchists as you wish the world would respect you. Hold their reputation with regard, whenever you act. After all, you do not represent yourself in the eyes of the world, just as nobody else represents you in your own eyes.
If you are an anarchist and somebody you know is going to perpetrate an act against the community, please stop them. And, although I believe in vigilantism, keep vigilantism out of it. You represent a belief to the world and you, with every action, run the risk of making the political realization of those beliefs even more impossible than they already are.
Quit being assholes, kids.
Drop out if you can't deal with it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My First Post In 5 Months: Part II - Joe Bob Briggs is My Dad

When I was young, I had little patience for stuff scholastic. I was a late bloomer, when it came to literacy, and I would have stayed behind, likely, were it not for comic books. Specifically, the X-Men book, in the years the titles were largely helmed by writer, Chris Claremont, and the young, vibrant artists; Marc Silvesteri and Jim Lee. The artists have, since, become obviously comfortable and their work lacks the luster and imagination it once had. Many have said the same of the writer. Then, however, was a different time. In the years between 1988 and 1990, I was exposed to some of the most ripping yarns I'd ever read and the stories, themselves, were informed by a visually artistic vision that operated so unanimously with the script that the end result was a kind of storytelling that was inseparable from motion pictures, in its unique and crystalline presentation. Movies, even before I had heard of the concept being explored and expressed by others, were practically the same as comic books and the two media were in a band apart from all other forms of storytelling. The correlation between the two gripped me and informed my dreams. I knew what I wanted to do. Regardless of what I told my elders, when asked what I wanted to “grow up to be” was, I wanted to make comics and I wanted to make movies. That was it and it was all there was, inside. I liked doing other things, but I didn't care about them, whenever what I came to know as visual storytelling was on my mind. I liked girls. I liked them a lot and continue to do so. I, however, never tried to secure myself a girlfriend through all of high school. I never went on a single date until I was twenty and I have yet to go on any date more than once.

While my body was too paralyzed by the difficulty of cracking-into the world of comics or movies, my mind was too captivated for anything else to matter that much. It continues to be. The prospect of a long term relationship is something frightening. How could something that requires so much time and devotion do anything but obscure the path to my own goals?

I'm 28 years old and I've been a lot closer to having a girlfriend than I have been to directing my own movie or publishing my own comic book, but the warmth of the sun is far more intense than that of the moon and I am more fixated on my goals than I ever have been.

Amid all of the comic books, I continued to watch movies. As comic books informed my tastes, it seemed the what I was reading and what I was watching became increasingly similar. I would pick comic books from the news stands, while finding whatever movies most resembled Godzilla, at the video rental store my mom worked in. Sure, in attempts to feel more adult, I read more self-proclaimed independent comics and saw more self-proclaimed independent movies, in my late teens and early twenties. I liked some of them, too. My forays into the intellectual stimulating realms of each medium, however, just left me more cynical towards authors and sensitive towards pretense.

What, it turns out, would be the style of storytelling I was most drawn to was the styles of storytelling that first attracted me to movies and comics in the first place.

Around the same time my mom stopped working at the local video rental place, as a second job, my dad started to make more money and we joined the suburban masses as cable television finally became something I could experience outside of Grandma's house. Fledgling stations, TBS and TNT showed almost nothing but low-budget monster, slasher, science fiction, western, mystery and other b-movies every night and weekend. By the time I was in junior high (middle-school, if you insist), Joe Bob Briggs' “Monstervision” was being broadcast every Saturday night on TNT. I would stay up late, in my room, with a blanket draped over my 13” TV/VCR so nobody could see the flickering blue light under my door at 3am. I simultaneously watched and taped the show, every week, so as to have archive copies of anything I happened to like. I liked a lot of it.

Joe Bob's show eventually went off the air and TNT began to slowly shift it's programming agenda to more “legitimate” domains. I never forgot his show, however. Even as I began to dip my toes into snobbier fare, I still looked back on his show with a pretty severe fondness.

As I explored the world of independent comics and film, almost ten years ago, I also found myself exploring other semi-obscurities. George A Romero, Sam Rami, Sergio Leone, John Landis, John Carpenter, George Miller and David Cronenberg began to become meaningful names to me. As time grew on, these people, especially Romero, became major influences on my storytelling style. From their movies, I also came to acquaintance with the works of many other directors who have inspired and encouraged me, my work and my style. Directors like John Waters, Frank Henenlotter, Dario Argento, Larry Cohen, Kathryn Bigelow, Stuart Gordon, James Gunn and many others.

These directors and their movies helped inform my taste and my vision. The stories I write would not be the same without them, nor would the way I want to tell them.

As February, 2011, comes to a close, I am not only closer to the end of my unemployment benefits. I am closer to making my first movie. I couldn't be there without G_d, losing my job or without Joe Bob Briggs.

My First Post In 5 Months: Part I – This Ain't Maggie's Farm No More, So Why The Hell Should I Work There?

In the course of having lost my job, several months ago, to the ubiquitous chameleon of political control maintenance, I have succumb to and initiated my share of personal shifts of paradigm. When the chameleon stomps you, after all, you are likely to either change along with it or change, in oh-so poetically a Newtonian fashion, in an equal and opposite way of the chameleon itself. I'm not sure which change I'm in the process of yet. Perhaps complimentary. Perhaps clashing. The time the chameleon was most recognizable, in recent history, was as the Red Scare. After a couple of decades, everybody learned to spot its spectral trail and it learned to start changing color, again. If you can't spot it, how can you point your finger at anything but the paranoid-sounding, conspiritorial multi-noun, “THEY”? Given I only know where it's been and I don't always know where it is, whether or not I know what I'm doing can't be said. I can say, however, is that these changes I'm making seem to be a lot more indulgent of my creative conscience. My lawful returns on the premium I've paid, over the years, to the Unemployment Insurance Agency are coming to a close and the resolutions I've come to regarding employment and income have begun to venture into the realm of ideas that would typically be out of character for myself. Upon the renewed realization that employment and income are more of a dichotomy than bedfellows, I've spent my time and mind on developing alternative resources. In the interest of maintaining the legality of these resources, I don't think I'm going to mention them, here, but I can say that I am finished with jobs. I am intent on working for myself and I will no longer submit to putting my livelihood in the largely incapable and self-serving hands of business people unless under the conditions of temporary economic duress. Such a resolution would not have been made by my previously employed self, months ago. Rather, those months ago, I would have written such a resolution off as irresponsible and bordering on scam. A job, however, seems to be more of a contradictory comfort, these days, than a necessity or the mark of a hard working and stalwartly ethical individual. The comfort of third party employment has, as of late, come to mean nothing more to me than artificial comfort much in the way that wax on an apple I could just as well polish, myself, would.

In an economic world, whether it it free market, socialist or otherwise, one comes to know one's income as their living; their livelihood. The idea of employment sullies this, I believe. After all, your living is not just a means of survival. Nor is it merely a means of acquiring comforts. If your money is your living, it should be, in one way or another, in service of your goals and dreams. If you are working for an employer, however, this is not as conceivably possible. After all, if you are employed, your time belongs to somebody else. If your time belongs to somebody else, the money you make is simply an exchange that is, somehow, representational of the time you have taken away from your aspirations and given to your employer. This means it is impossible, no matter how high your salary or wage, to make an actual living under an employer. Being employed does not mean you are earning a living, being employed means you are selling yourself so somebody else might make their living from the time and effort you've given them. So, not only are you selling yourself; you're selling yourself short, because who is to say their dream is of greater value than yours? Jobs don't earn you a living, they only represent a personal compromise. Although I don't think this compromise makes anybody weak or cowardly, I no longer intend to make that compromise.

Ever since I can remember, I have been gifted with tendencies towards two specific crafts: visual arts and storytelling. While friends and family suggested I work for Disney, to capitalize on my skills as a line artist, I found other outlets for my talent. I drew characters of my own and for each of them, I had concocted a story. These characters had pasts and their stories often intersected in different ways. After watching a movie that struck my fancy, I would often scurry to my bedroom, drawing pictures inspired by the movie and weaving stories that served as an artificial sequel, so I could continue to enjoy the movie beyond the restrictions of its run-time. I, later, understood this as fan fiction. When I was a child, however, it was simply an outlet for what I've been drawn to engage in for my whole life: visual storytelling. More than anything else, my creative mind was made to create comic books and motion pictures. Cut open my skull and pull out my brain and I can promise you that there will be a warning tag stuck to the bottom, stamped by G_d, informing the user that if my brain is used for any other purpose but visual storytelling that its performance, as an organ, cannot be guaranteed to the user and the warranty will have been voided. In the words of Dee Dee Ramone, interjecting his own performance of “Love Kills” during the Ramones' last show, “It's me; this is the way I am.”