punishing dissent

a note for those who don’t know – veg*n means vegetarian/vegan.

so i was at the anarchist bookfair on saturday, and went to see lierre keith speak (author of the vegetarian myth). i had been unsure about attending her talk because i tried to read the book and it only frustrated me. although she makes some interesting arguments about agriculture being the root of all evil, i found her logic overall to be really faulty and i disagreed with her conclusion (essentially, that nobody should be veg*n and all veg*ns are delusional). but i decided it would be really interesting to see what kind of questions people asked and how she responded, and maybe ask her a question or two myself.

the room was really full and she was up there talking talking talking, when all of a sudden three people emerged from the stage curtain behind her and one, two, three pies hit her in the head and face. some of the audience cheered, keith screamed something as she stumbled away from the mic, and a slight tussle broke out in the front of the crowd with some people screaming pro-vegan things and others screaming at the pie throwers. after a short delay, the rest of us recovered from the shock and started booing. a man took the mic and said something about how anarchism is about letting everyone have a say, and we shouldn’t be silencing people we disagree with. there was widespread applause.

i’m bothered on so many levels by this action.

i mean, it’s annoying that so many people are sponging up her faulty logic and offensive views of veg*ns. she’s no anarchist and her book is detrimental to veg*nism. she’s disingenuous and judgmental – in her book she claims to harbor no negative feelings or opinions toward veg*ns, yet implies multiple times that veg*ns are dangerously deluded, naieve, disconnected from reality, and frankly not worth listening to. but it’s not like she’s dick cheney – i don’t know that she deserves to be physically attacked for her opinions. she’s generally on our side. she is explicitly against factory farming, has an intense desire to fix the planet that most likely everyone at the bookfair shares, and shortly before the pieing, had been discussing how destructive capitalism is and expressing appreciation for the fact that nobody in this space would argue that point with her. i think we should be challenging her with ideas, words, reasoning – not bullying her and throwing tantrums (see “words not pie” link in my comment below).

as a vegan, i’m disappointed that one of keith’s negative assertions about veg*ns was proved in that moment. in her book she talks about the sometimes violent, fiery anger demonstrated by veg*ns who are religiously attached to veg*n philosophies and lifestyles. whenever i read something like that i bristle, because it’s such a reversal of the way things usually are. dominant culture in this country is very pro meat-eating. many people become defensive and angry when confronted with the idea that eating meat is deplorable to some. sometimes even simply sitting at a table with a quiet veg*n is enough for someone to launch into a defensive speech about why they love meat. so when people diss veg*ns for being defensive or protective of their choices, i think, “well, of course they are! they’re challenged and minimized all the time. what’s your excuse?” but i also think about how i and most other veg*ns i know are very capable of having, and prefer to have, calm, intelligent discussions with people about our dietary choices. it has been my experience that only a very few veg*ns exemplify the “crazy veg*n” stigma, yet it is applied with a broad stroke to the whole community by people who either have an agenda or who happen to encounter a lot of the crazies due to the nature of their public work. as a former vegan of 20 years, keith should know this. in fact, she should know a lot that she appears not to – like the fact that being vegan will not cause your spine to collapse. but i digress.

as an anarchist, i’m incredibly frustrated with the hypocrisy of this pieing. someone was punished for expressing an unpopular opinion in an anarchist space – shutting up people we disagree with by physically attacking them smacks of dictatorship, not anarchy. i value dialogue and was looking forward to the challenge of listening to her openly and contributing to the inevitable debate to follow during the question and answer period. obviously, that never happened. a message that could easily be taken from this incident is that veg*ns and anarchists have no solid theoretical ground to stand on, because if we did, we wouldn’t need to shut down dissenting opinions with pranks. newsflash: all of humanity will never share all the same opinions and values, so we need to be able to tolerate dissenting points of view unless we plan on recreating totalitarianism under the banner of anarchy.

there’s a gaping rift i often feel in anarchist spaces. on one side, there are people who seem to be attracted to anarchy as the ultimate individualistic approach to life. people who want to be able to do whatever they want without having to consider what anyone else may want. people who think anarchy means the utter absence of accountability – i.e. chaos. and then there are those, like myself, who believe the exact opposite. i believe that the only hope we have for success lies in strengthening interpersonal connectedness and building supportive communities. maybe we don’t need laws to tell us how to behave, but what we do need is mutual respect and a willingness to try and understand each other. do we want to reinforce the state’s idea that the absence of their “protection” means hordes of unfriendly people will be creating violence and chaos in our communities, or do we want to demonstrate how mutual support, community dialogue, and owning our responsibility to care for one another could replace the false security imposed upon us through oppressive state control? btw, to clarify, my feelings of frustration with this perceived rift were brought up by this incident, but i don’t mean to imply that the pie-ers are individualistic, uncaring jerks. i don’t know them. maybe they just don’t think it’s that big a deal to cover someone’s face in pastry, and i could see that. but i still think it was an ineffective action that created more publicity and book sales for keith, yet will save no animals and convince nobody who wasn’t already inclined to disagree with her.

i guess we don’t all want the same thing, but that’s kind of the point. it’s supposed to be okay for us to not all want the same thing. we’re supposed to be fighting for our right to want different things, to live different ways – as long as we don’t get in anyone else’s way or oppress or harm others with our choices. aren’t we? and if keith is harming other beings with her choices and her opinions (she is), how are we to deal with that? by oppressing and harming her? how do anarchists propose to deal with folks who cause harm in the absence of a police presence? ultimately, the result of this pieing was that the police were called… the police. were called. to the anarchist bookfair. to handle a dispute. something has gone terribly wrong here. i feel that this approach to dealing with dissent was counterproductive and should not be encouraged in a prefigurative anarchist community.


March 15, 2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 7 comments.

my dad rocks

today is my dad’s birthday. since he’s anti-materialistic (yay!), he doesn’t like for people to get him presents. so here is a wordy gift instead – a little appreciation for who he is, and what he has done for me.

when i went to rootworks (some women’s land in southern oregon) to pick up zeik and debbie last week, debbie pointed me to a huge pile of rocks that some of the visitors to the land enjoy climbing around on:

the pile is really large, it extends out into the woods for a ways

the pile is really large, it extends out into the woods for a ways

as i was picking my way around over the pile, i thought about how great it would be if my dad were there with me – he used to be a geologist, and watching him study rocks and listening to him explain how they were made is one of my favorite things. he’ll pick up a rock with different colored streaks running through it, and point to a black streak and say something like “this is where river silt that was trapped between two layers of shale hardened as pressure from the build-up of more and more sediment slowly forced the layers of shale together”. then he’ll point to where a thin white streak separates two different colored sections of the stone, and say something about a sudden change of environment – say a volcanic eruption or an earthquake – causing the minerals, temperatures, and other things affecting the formation of this rock to drastically change. while he’s talking, my mind creates visuals of all this unseen activity and the earth feels so much more dynamically alive. my dad had a huge collection of special rocks when i was growing up. some were incorporated into the stone wall by our driveway, some were displayed throughout the house, and others were up in the attic… i can still picture some of them really clearly. sadly, my dad ‘s career as a geologist suffered a fatal blow when regan removed funding for his gov’t grant; but although he stopped getting paid for it, his fascination with rocks remained a big part of who he was and is, in his heart and in mine. he’ll still stop the car to observe some crazy formation that was uncovered by the blasting away of a mountain to build the road he’s driving on, or bend to study a rock in a streambed or a cobblestone street.

and speaking of rocks, did anyone notice the bad pun in the title of this blog post? yeah… that’s another thing about my dad. i don’t think a single dinner conversation escaped unscathed by my dad’s penchant for puns. oh, lord… he’d let one slip, then utter a sheepish “hehe?” as his wit was met with a cacophony of groans and a wave of eye-rolling. :) love you dad!

one of my dad’s careers following geology was working as a contractor. he had a bunch of power tools in the basement, including a table saw, which he let me use for my own personal projects. one time i made a small triangular stool for my little brother, painted orange with yellow stripes and big red polka-dots. i really appreciate the fact that he taught me how to use his tools, and that he trusted me enough to let me use them by myself. it gave me a strong feeling of agency and capability that i still carry with me today – i really love trying to fix things myself.

something else my dad gave me that has been so important to me is an interest in meditation and eastern spiritual philosophies. he started meditating when i was a junior or senior in high school, i think. after going to college for one year i decided to expand my horizons on a road trip around the country with a friend. when i left, my dad gave me a couple books by his guru, eknath easwaran. one of them was a translation of the dhammapada, and the other was called dialogue with death, which is easwaran’s commentary on the katha upanishad. i read these (and the dharma bums by jack kerouac) on my trip and experienced a pretty profound shift in my awareness. while my body was being taken to all these new places, seeing crazy new things and meeting interesting new people, my mind was absorbing new information about the nature of reality and the importance of fostering a connection to something other than material existence. i still count that road trip as one of the most important formative experiences in my life, and the role those books played was huge. my dad now has a couple books of poems published, many of which are about spiritual reality. you can read some of them on his website, hdpoetry.com.

and one last memory, the funnest one of all… when my sister jael and i were really little, my dad played these two games with us that i will never forget. he’d get down on his hands and knees and pretend to be a horse, and we would get on his back while he crawled around and then, all of a sudden, he’d get horsey hiccups. we’d laugh hysterically while slowly sliding off his back from the turbulence. the other one was, he would stand with his legs spread open and make a swing by intertwining his fingers and dangling his arms down. we’d sit in the cradle of his hands, hold on to his arms, and get swung wayyy up high just like on a swingset. i don’t know how his back survived!

thanks for everything dad, i love you!

October 19, 2009. Uncategorized. 4 comments.

a bad day to be awake

I feel sick. Today, something I’ve been waiting for finally came to me. And something I wasn’t waiting for at all came right behind it.

Y’all know about my tattoo, right? On my neck? The one symbolizing Erzulie, a Voodoun love goddess who I know absolutely nothing about (unless you count what I’ve read online)? Yeah…
Sometimes people recognize the symbol, but up until today it has always been other white folks, who seem excited to see it, and who I (blindly) assume learned about Erzulie in some African or religious studies class they took in college. I’ve been feeling pretty uncomfortable with my tattoo for a while now, due to my ignorance about the cultural and spiritual tradition it comes out of. I’ve been anticipating, with a dull spark of dread, the moment when I encounter someone who actually is connected to that culture and tradition in a meaningful way.
Today was that day. At Herbivore, right after I sat down for brunch, a man at an adjoining table turned around to ask what possessed me to get a tattoo of Erzulie on my neck. He was not unkind at all, but he was clearly struck in a powerful and strange way by the sight of me. I briefly explained to him how I found the symbol in a book and then researched Erzulie further. All throughout my meal I was very uncomfortable. A woman sitting with him kept looking at me, and I could just tell she thought I was a fool – and rightly so. Finally, as we were getting ready to leave, my friend L went to the restroom and the man turned to me again. He started telling me that, although I probably chose this symbol because it is connected with love, it is also connected with a lot of violence. People’s heads getting chopped off. Specifically, white people’s heads getting chopped off during the slave rebellion in Haiti. Which is why he felt so powerfully struck by seeing me, a white person, waltz in with this symbol tattooed on my neck. His ancestors are from Haiti, he said – there is all this ancestral energy coming at me through this symbol and I have no idea what it’s about. He suggested I meditate on what it was that drew me to such a powerful symbol, and figure out what is in me that made me want all this powerful, possibly violent ancestral energy coming at me. He said I was bold, that he wouldn’t even put the symbol on his body. I assured him that it was not boldness, but ignorance, that allowed me to do such a thing. I left feeling shaken, ready to go home and think and maybe cry a little to calm myself down. What was I thinking when I got this tattoo? “Peace be with you,” the man had said as I left.

And then. Then L and I went to 25th and MLK to check out this show “Hoodstock” that was supposed to be happening there (illegally) all weekend. Apparently, the organizers were not worried about the cops showing up because it was being held in the parking lot of a purported crack building. L had gone on Saturday but left before it was over. Her friend called while we were eating and told her the cops had shown up around 2 in the morning and cleared everybody out. So we roll up and there’s nobody there. A woman sweeping the street out in front of the gate tells us they moved the party to somewhere on Telegraph. She lives in the supposed crack building. Says that when people at the party started breaking bottles in the middle of the street at 2 in the morning, someone finally called the cops. She points out a car in the parking lot that’s been trashed, pounded and spray-painted on. Says it belongs to a woman in the building, and that both this woman’s cars were messed up by people at the show the night before. The woman doesn’t want to call the cops about her cars, but “someone has got to pay for them,” explains the woman speaking as she looks away. She points to the overflowing dumpster, says she and her neighbors filled the dumpster with the trash people left behind after the show. A man standing nearby glares at us. I can hardly breathe. I drop L off and go home, feeling incredibly angry and helpless. What can I do? I have no desire to go to the show now, but I think about going to take up a collection for the woman’s cars. L tells me she’ll talk to the organizer and see if he will take care of it.
But… REALLY?! Really, Oakland punk/anarchist/hipster kids? Really, people I probably hang out with? This is where we’re at – busting into a neighborhood that isn’t ours, to party, using the residents as a shield against the cops, trashing their property and then leaving them with our garbage? If I could make this screen you’re reading scream, I would. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! WHAT THE FUCK???

September 13, 2009. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 3 comments.


I heart The Pinky Show! This is a really awesome explanation of how the US stole Hawai’i.

August 21, 2009. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

WTF it is!!!

Remember the mystery of the bunnymousepiglet from this post? Here’s a reminder photo, just in case the insane cuteness has been blocked out of your memory for self-protection:

how does this exist?

how does this exist?

Soooo, a little while ago Bree was trying to explain to me what a chinchilla looks like. Her description reminded me of this lil’ creature (or “creetcha” – yeah, you’ll get that in a minute), so I thought the mystery had been solved and showed her the picture. Turns out it’s not a chinchilla, but Bree decided to figure out what my little friend is all about and somehow, within a couple minutes she had found videos. Don’t ask me how. So it’s called a Jerboa, more specifically the one in the picture is a Long-eared Jerboa. There are lots of different types, some of which may be endangered. In the first two videos you will see the long-eared variety, and in the second two the pygmy variety. Unfortunately, both pygmy videos are of pets and a bit sad for that reason, but I think it’s worth watching them anyway. You thought you knew what cute was… well you thought wrong, my friend. Witness.

June 12, 2009. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.


In honor of my mom, I’d like to share some of my favorite memories of her from when I was growing up.

Food! She made the most awesome cakes for my and my sister’s birthdays when we were little. There were books with pictures of fun cakes we could pick from, and I don’t think she ever said no to any of them. I remember: a yellow schoolbus, a little cottage, a monster? or something covered with red coconut fur, a clown, a racetrack, a lion. Since Jael and I weren’t supposed to eat artificial colors & flavors, she made us special candy for our easter baskets – my favorite were these raspberry coconut eggs, man those were delicious. At christmas she made candy-cane shaped peppermint cookies we hung on the tree. My favorite food memory is probably thanksgiving though – we were vegetarian and each year she made the most amaaazing gluten roast. She labored for hours at the sink, kneading, rinsing, kneading, rinsing. And when it came out of the oven – surrounded by potatoes, onions, and carrots and drenched in a peanut-buttery tamari sauce – it was juicy, chewy and tender, not all rubbery like store-bought gluten. The most delicious thing I will ever put in my mouth ever! And oh, the special breakfasts she made on the weekends – coffee cake, orange-glazed sweet rolls, chocolate-chip pancakes, doughnuts from scratch! Holy cow. Ridiculous! Guess what else she did? Collected seaweed on the beach and made soup from it! It tasted disgusting, but is it not way cool that she did that?

Hand-made stuff! My mom’s incredibly creative, and over the years she’s made some truly amazing things for me. Halloween costumes, dresses, long stripey scarves with secret skulls knit into them, plush toys. I still have some of the stuffed animals she made: an adorable pink pig she knit or crocheted and then stuffed, a lace bunny with dried rose petals in it that smelled sooo good, and of course, Mr. Monster – one of my most cherished possessions. He’s amazing, here’s a kinda crappy picture:


Homeschooling! There are so many things I’m grateful for about the way I was raised, but the thing I still kind of can’t even believe I had the good fortune to experience is being home-schooled by my mom during my primary school years. Going to the beach to look at marine life in the tide pools, singing the continents song at the top of my lungs while picking out books from the library, using crushed up colored eggshells to create mosaics during art classes with one of my mom’s music students’ mothers (they traded art classes for music lessons), learning math with flash cards, bringing lunch to film screenings in the basement of the big library in Portland – one of these I remember really vividly, eating an eggplant parmesan sandwich from Amatos while watching some film about Robert Frost with lots of autumn leaves in it.

Music! My mom taught music lessons out of our house, mostly piano. She taught me piano and violin, and of course I mostly hated practicing. But she had this weekly group class all her students could come to, and it was sooo fun! We played music and musical games together, like throwing a bean-bag onto a big staff on the floor with bass and treble clefs on it that she made on canvas out of electrical tape to help us learn our notes.

Randomness! The tree sap lozenges she used to chew. The smell of her Bonne Bell lip balm. Her basket full of buttons that I loved to dig through. Best bed-time back tickles ever. Crawling into bed with her when I got scared so she could spoon me.

May 10, 2009. Tags: , . Uncategorized. 3 comments.

You know you want this

April 16, 2009. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

wild wieners on the loose

There’s a little strip of nature preserve near where I work that’s droolingly gorgeous right now, so I’ve been going there for frequent hikes after work. Today I passed two people on the crest of a hill, and a minute later saw a kinda old, kinda roly-poly daschund tiredly trotting after them. Little wiener was so far behind that after I passed her/him and looked back, I couldn’t see the folks anymore – I could only see the lone dog slowly bouncing up the hill, ears flopping and fat lil belly swingin back and forth. At that moment I could imagine what the world would be like if there were wild wiener dogs roaming around in the woods making twig nests, sniffing flowers, crossing dirt roads at wiener crossing signs trailing rows of tiny puppies, making paths through the tall grass that actually look more like tunnels cuz they’re so short. And it made my day. Up until today I really didn’t care much for daschunds, but after that vision of free wieners I think I’m sold.

April 2, 2009. Tags: , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Protesting protesting

I attended a rally and march Wednesday night (01/14) in downtown Oakland demanding:

  • A BART community oversight committee
  • a murder conviction for officer Mehserle
  • the release of names and an investigation of all other officers present at the time of shooting
  • the creation of healing centers in communities most affected by police violence
  • the resignation/recall of Alameda county’s DA Tom Orloff

First of all I should say thank you to folks who organized this protest. I appreciate the time and energy that was put into it, and the obviously good intentions behind it. I know I haven’t contributed nearly as much as they have, and don’t mean to diminish their contributions. I do want to raise some critical questions & observations though, in the spirit of movement self-evaluation. The first one is specifically about this rally, but the rest of it is about this type of protest in general.

After the opening rally at Oakland city hall, the march kicked off with a prayer to “God the father” and “Christ our Lord”. We were asked to hold hands and pray along with the reverend. I can sort of appreciate the desire to bring a spiritual element in when you’re asking people to remain peaceful. But the invocation of a Christian god, in whose name bloody oppression and conquest have been carried out for millennia, was very disturbing to me. While leaders from other faiths were included as speakers (a Muslim leader whose name I don’t recall spoke eloquently about all the $ poured into the CA penal system while our state goes deeper into debt and our poor communities remain underserved), the only actual prayer I heard while I was there was this one. Personally I’d prefer no praying at all, but if it’s included, shouldn’t it be a little more… er… inclusive? While I don’t subscribe to any theistic belief system and my objections tend to be more political, I wonder if those of other faiths might have been offended to have to march under the “blessing” of a Christian god. I don’t understand why organizers felt this was a good call.

The organizers’ intent to keep the protest peaceful was abundantly clear. Speakers repeated it over and over, and as with any legally permitted march, “dissident” volunteers worked alongside police to monitor the crowd and keep the peace. Yet during the march, unsurprisingly, this well-used protest slogan was repeatedly invoked for us to chant: “No justice, no peace!”. Does anyone else find this maddening? Nothing like watering down the intent of what should be revolutionary words by using them completely out of context where they become meaningless. Okay yeah, “We are peaceful now, but if you don’t meet our demands we might reevaluate our strategy and bring the noise” isn’t exactly a catchy slogan. But can’t we at least refrain from using language that lulls us into believing we are acting in a threatening manner towards the state when in fact we are clearly working with the state to ensure that our peaceful protest doesn’t get out of hand? Maybe I’m just being a nitpicky vocabulary geek, but I do believe in the power of words and I believe it’s a problem that we kill our own power phrases.

This is the main reason I stopped going to marches and rallies many years ago. They just make me feel incredibly stupid, to be honest. There’s surprisingly little critical evaluation of tactics and I feel the opposite of powerful when I’m following a crowd that’s adhering to state-sanctioned forms of expression. Like a little sheep, marching where I’m supposed to march and yelling what everyone else is yelling, and going home at the end of it to resume normal life. None of it really makes sense to me. I don’t think the powers we are supposedly yelling at during these protests simply don’t know that we wish the cops would stop shooting people for no reason. That they don’t realize people want justice and aren’t getting it. That if they only realized how unhappy we are with the way they run things, they’d stop making policies based on greed and power and start making policies that reflect the desires of the people. I think they know exactly what they are doing and they choose to do it anyway, either because they have a twisted belief that it is necessary for people to have no rights in order to save us from ourselves, or because they really couldn’t give a shit whether or not people are happy. If they were sitting up there scratching their pus-filled heads, waiting only for an indication that folks were dissatisfied with their leadership to mend their ways, we would’ve launched blissfully into utopia ages ago. Ages.

I believe that peaceful marches and rallies¬† serve two purposes only – to educate others about what’s going on and increase community ties between dissenters.¬† IMO, these tactics are a means but they tend to be used as an end, which creates a feeling of accomplishment amongst participants that I don’t feel is realistic.

January 15, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Oh, Liz Lemon! Oh, Tracy Morgan! I heart 30 Rock.

Update: Crap, I guess this post is pointless now that the clip’s been nixed. It WAS depicting Liz Lemon fawning sappily over a baby, saying “What a cute little girl… or boy, if you grow up and decide that that’s what’s inside you”

I tried to post another clip of Tracy, but it won’t work. You should really watch the full episode anyway. I don’t think I’ll spoil it if I just say… “a Blafair to Rememblack”? Oh, shit.

January 11, 2009. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

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