Some thoughts on the G-20

There is in young people, particularly in young male people the unaccountable joy of breaking shit. The kind of shit being broken almost doesn’t matter, as long as there is a proper sense of mayhem and a little carnage. Debris is good, bits of what was once a whole scattered about, some evidence of our existence imprinted on the world around us. In building the new tattoo shop , for example, I had to remove an old bath tub from the premises. The easiest way was to break it up with a sledgehammer, when I was done it looked like this:

It was a hard hour in a hot, humid, stinking, cramped, loud (even with earplugs), and filthy environment and I had a blast doing it. As a kid didn’t idolize firemen or superman, my heroes were Conan  and Mad Max. Then I spent most of the teen years  listening to loud music and smashing into other people to it, I have broken, vandalized, and destroyed more shit than your average person from the age of 10 til into my 30’s so please believe me when I tell you that I get it. I understand the pure barbaric joy of imposing your will on some inanimate object, as well I also know the extra little cherry on top of the destructive sundae when one is able to justify this savagery by claiming to be doing damage in the name of some lofty ideal. Graffiti is a bit sweeter on the side of a bank or police station the same way that shooting a tiger was more fun than plinking groundhogs to a big game hunter.

I get it, I’ve done it, I know its fun to fuck with the system. it gives one a sense of control in a world where we seem to be nothing more than a mouse in the maze. Imagine how fun it would be if the mouse could knock down a wall or at least write “fuck the scientists” on it with a teeny tiny can of spray paint!

I think there is a reason why this feels good, and it is the same reason that “being right” feels good or getting mad feels good, because it makes us feel real. The lingering doubt that there is anything we can truly call a self goes away in that rush of adrenaline and cortisol, and when you mix this with the idea that you getting revenge on some entity you feel has harmed you then there is the bonus of feeling like you have accomplished something important for yourself and the world.

At the root however is the very mistaken notion that we can soothe the ennui by reinforcing our “self” this way. The truth is that in a dynamic, impermanent, and constantly changing world there is no thing we can truly get hold of and call a “self” and in our heart of hearts we know this. Feeding this sense of self with the goal of feeling comfortable in our own skins is like a junky believing he can quit if he just does enough heroin. It is a bottomless pit because it is going in the wrong direction, anytime we deny and try to cover over what our heart knows to be a fact the only result is suffering.

The argument is that by taking to the streets a-la the G-20 protests that people are becoming organized against global corporations and showing the power of people in numbers, that the chaos demonstrates to police that they are not all-powerful (an assumption that I’m not sure that police actually believe), and that they are fighting against governments and companies which harm the rest of the world. I wish that were true, and I sincerely wish that it could work out in the idealized way the anarchist holds dear. I have a feeling that even if such a thing would come to pass the results would look a lot more like the Reign of Terror or modern warlord states like Somalia or Afghanistan than a cooperative utopia.

Which is actually beside the point anyway, in my opinion. The real work to be done in the world must first be accomplished in each person. How many of the protesters demanding that a company or government act with compassion and kindness show it in their own lives? It’s easy to tell Starbucks what it’s doing wrong, however it is a whole lot harder to go a whole day without talking shit on someone you know, to keep your mind clear of drugs and booze long enough to form relationships not based on getting fucked up, to turn that critical mirror back toward ourselves. Until this is done, I feel that all the rock throwing and slogan writing in the world is simply a way of avoiding the real work of saving the world by saving it from Us!!

Of course we need to speak out against injustice and to strive for a world that is better than the one we have now, but if we do it with even a little bit of the idea that we are reinforcing the “self” then I feel like it negates any good we might be doing “out there”. The second I feel like I am better than a cop, head of BP, or government official I have done more damage to the world than the oil spill. I mean that seriously and literally. Environmental disaster may ruin a part of the world, but thinking you are more worthy than anything or anyone else ruins everything, always. Suffering happens to all of us when you forget that you are all of us. We need to work for a better world without getting so attached to our ideal that we forget the real work is within ourselves.

Running amok in the streets feels good, I know because I’ve done it. Being in a mob feels good too, but its like putting a band-aid on a cancer tumor, it only hides the real problem of what we each do in our everyday world to make it better. Smashing a bank window only gives the poor janitor more work to do, but saying “Hi, how are you doing?” to the same janitor the next day and genuinely caring about his answer will save a lot more lives and free a lot more people than the broken window did.

Categories: Buddhism and life, random dumbness | Tags: , , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “Some thoughts on the G-20

  1. nathan

    I think you make some good points, but it’s important to remember that the vast majority of protesters in these situations are NOT busting shit up. The troublemakers get all the press, which is the easiest way to dismiss the legitimate concerns of the many people and groups involved.

  2. I didn’t really miss the point at all, I am including all those who equate being “in the streets” with “doing something about it”, so perhaps you missed mine. Im not the greatest writer in the world. Let me try to rephrase; being “in the street” is small potatoes compared to the real work each of them (and us) must do to actually change anything at all. Being mad about something and yelling is not the same thing as actually changing it for the better.

    this attitude is commonly portrayed in dualistic terms. i.e. you are either super concerned and a raging activist or one of the uncaring, sheep-like masses. But I dont agree that that is the only options, in buddhist terms the proper response is to do what we can to effectively make a change (which usually is something in our own lives instead of demanding the world meet our expectation) and then letting go til the next opportunity to effectively change things arises.

    I’m not a Tibetan style Buddhist, but I often think of something the Dali Lama once said when asked if he ever thought the Chinese would leave Tibet and restore its autonomy. “In the short term I have no hope, but I know that in the long term everything changes.” To me the first thought must always be “is what I am now doing causing more or less suffering?” Im afraid that these type of cathartic actions end up causing everyone (including the “good guys”) more suffering than they alleviate.

  3. Chris

    Well put, man. Well put.

  4. Just a copy/paste from what I wrote elsewhere:

    I don’t even know what to say. Using Afghanistan- a war torn nation with a government being totally screwed over by our and other governments- as an example for what anarchy is like? Anarchy- an-archos- wihout leaders. The writer acts as if the rioters do nothing else with their time except wait for another big riot. Anarchy is order. … See MoreAnarchy is mutual aid, organizing, respect and care for each other, dismantling of oppressive hierarchies like queerphobia, racism, sexism, etc. Anarchy is love.

    “How many of the protesters demanding that a company or government act with compassion and kindness show it in their own lives?” Well, all of them I know. It’s funny the author accuses them all of being on drugs and booze when most I know abstain or rarely drink- as if that matters.

    I’ll tell ya what. I AM better than a cop or a BP official. I don’t beat the shit out of people and rape people like cops do and I don’t create massive oil spills that destroy entire ecosystems, kill thousands of animals, and screw over entire peoples. Call me judgmental for separating myself from them… You can think of yourself on their level but I choose not to be.

    The most insulting thing about this piece is that we have comrades still in jail and the author dared to condemn their acts and criticize them, accuse them of hurting the cause, from the cozy comfort of his computer while he writes a blog? Let me know when your blog brings about the change you speak of. Until then, I support liberation by rioting and a thousand other means. There is a pretty sweet article with that title in the Steel City Revolt. The author should get himself a copy.

  5. Corvus you have apparently already decided Im evil and “one of them” so arguing with you on the internet, where meaningful communication is difficult already would simply be a waste of both our times. I could have simply ignored and deleted your comment, but I think it does show what I am talking about and i respect your right to express it, even in “the cozy comfort” of my own computer.

    I sent you an email, hopefully you read it.

    • I think you misread what I wrote. I did not say you were evil. I said if you choose to put yourself on the same level as scum ( ya know, bc you say none of us is better than a cop or BP exec) that’s your choice, but I don’t.

      You seem irked by my comment. Why is it that you can be angered but I can not?

      Like I said to you in my reply via email, this isn’t personal. When the g20 was in Pgh I experienced all kinds of violence at the hands of the state and there were plenty of people bloggin about who weren’t coming out to the streets to show support, who weren’t at jail vigils, who weren’t participating in actually helping people, accusing those on the streets of not doing the right thing. Well, that’s a bit messed up don’t ya think?

      We still have people in jail or recovering from injuries the cops (you think we’re all on the same level as) gave them or the sexual assaults they went through in jail. Show them a little respect and put the criticism where it’s due- on those that break bones and burn countries, not those who break windows and burn cop cars.

  6. Anonymous

    Corvus is a perfect example of a jackass. “Let me know when your blog brings about the change you speak of.” Let me know when your flaccid excuse of a “revolution” does something other than get a bunch of stinky hipsters pepper sprayed, beaten, and arrested for vandalism.

    Claiming that “anarchy is love, and organization” sounds great, coming from someone that promotes rioting against organizations that he doesn’t agree with / dislikes. Organization and violence is a great solution to his problem with organization and violence.

    “I AM better than a cop or a BP official. I don’t beat the shit out of people and rape people like cops do and I don’t create massive oil spills that destroy entire ecosystems, kill thousands of animals, and screw over entire peoples.” He only wants to screw over some peoples. Mostly cops, and other people that aren’t part of his “anarchist” gang, that live off of their parents. See Corvus’ website for further explanation:

    • Corvus

      Sexism, corporate love, law sucking, classism, ageism, and ableism all in one post! Bravo!

      Let’s all be nice and write some letters. Maybe that’ll stop the cops from raping and starving people in their detention centers. Oh, and I bet the g20 will listen and stop starving the global south. Especially if we ask really nicely!

      • Anonymous

        This is what happens when daddy isn’t around to smack some sense into a kid. You get a self-entitled brat, that thinks vandalism, violence, and buzzwords will do anything but make him look like a moron. Well, Corvus, maybe not to the emo-skanks, and hippie scumbags that you usually hang out with, I’m talking about real people.

        Speaking of people, how many people has your pretend revolution set free? None, I’m guessing. I, on the other hand, just found out that as a direct result of my actions, two people (a man and a woman, as I try not to discriminate based on gender) are going to prison for up to five years. They thought that they could ignore the laws that they didn’t like, too. Me: 2, scumbags: 0. As a concerned citizen, I assist the police whenever possible, as they have always done for me.

        Enjoy your failure. I know I am.

      • Well it’s good to know you think the prison industrial complex is working for you. Maybe when those people get out after being in the neglect and torture facility and being left broke by the system, they’ll surely stop committing crimes, right? Good for you. You can pat yourself on the back for helping fill our prisons more every day and creating more poverty and “crime”.

        I find it hilarious that you ask who I’ve freed, then mention how many folks you’ve imprisoned as a show of how much better you are. Very funny.

  7. Just so you all know, if you ever experience the same treatment from the cops, I’ll have your back there, too. I promise not to spend my time writing on the internet about how you didn’t do well enough and how you’re no better than the cop who shot you.

    Until then, ta ta. There’s better things to do than talk shit on each other here, no? Let’s all practice what we preach and make some of those personal changes the author is talking about. I’ll start by continuing my support for the folks in Toronto whether they held signs and shouted or burned cop cars. Hopefully they’ll all be out soon so they can get some food, water, shelter, and beds- which they were deprived of in jail.

  8. Anonymous

    Prison doesn’t make people commit crimes. Committing crimes makes people go to prison. I hope they get out, and stop taking things that aren’t theirs, but if they don’t, you can bet that I won’t be losing any sleep over seeing them go right back where they belong. Or, maybe we should try it your way. I’m sure that the world would be a much better place if there were no consequences, and people didn’t have to take responsibility for their actions. Hell, we could be throwing rocks at each other, and setting each others’ cars on fire right now! Yee-haw! Anarchy! It worked so well in Somalia!

    You could have just said that you’ve accomplished nothing. I was just making a smug assertion that I’m on the winning team.

    • Since you seem to be having a really hard time comprehending the reality of the prison system, take a look at the fact that the prisons are overflowing. If they’re working so well, why has their population grown exponentially every year? I’m sure whatever those people stole won’t come close to the amount that will be coming out of our taxes to keep them in prison. So again, Batman wannabe, you didn’t do shit for society.

      As for your lack of any knowledge of what anarchy is here (Somalia is a war torn country with leaders and has also been a dumping ground for the good ol USA to put their trash among other things, making it the product of governments, not anarchy), I implore you, do some reading. You might be able to have a conversation next time:

      • Anonymous

        Yes. Crime is the result of punishment, and when anarchy results in the inevitable break down of society, it’s more finger-pointing at the government. Congratulations. You are a master of bullshit. Again, stick to peddling your stupidity to the stupid.

        Nice link. Got one that shows an example of your bullshit actually working? Assuming that the government hasn’t used their secret industrial internet oppression murder death kill squad to suppress the truth. Damn you, IIOMDK squad. Damn you.

  9. As a matter of fact, anonymous, I do.

    There’s a few. But you can also see anarchy working around you every day in co-ops, free food centers, free clinics, and other mutual aid based systems.

    But it’s a lot more fun to pander to the system and call each other names now isn’t it? You enjoy your “freedom”. I’m gonna keep fighting for mine.

    • Anonymous

      Beautiful examples of failed, and failing “anarchy.”

      “Co-ops, free food centers, free clinics, and other mutual aid based systems.” Your welfare society sounds great, until someone has to pay the bill. Then it’s time to burn cars, and bitch about the system that you depend on. (I understand that in your ass-pie fantasy world, there wouldn’t be a bill to pay, but we still live in the real world.)

      I wish I lived in a place where cameras weren’t allowed. Sounds like some great “anarchy.”

      The next time I need to prove that I’m right, I’ll be damn sure to send my opposition to you for some “help.”

      • Alright Glenn Beck wannabe. You tell yourself what you need to about things to make it bearable. The information is there for you. You have the choice of absorbing it, or as you seem to, changing it and spewing right wing rhetoric to make your asinine point. Ta ta now.

  10. Anonymous

    My point is far from asinine, and since it’s correct, and contrary to the horse shit that you spoon-feed to your unwashed pals, you choose the path most traveled by your kind; You liken me to Glenn Beck, or some other totally polarized retard (look in a mirror), and cry about the fact that the evidence you handed me to prove your argument, proves the absolute opposite. The only “anarchy” that exists today, is in small communities within countries that have governments (evil lol). I dare you to go live in one of your examples of how things should be. Try this one. –>

    If you actually go there, do me a favor, and come back with HIV.

  11. Here’s an article you all should read. It puts things much more eloquently than I ever could.

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