May 9: “Deciding For Ourselves: Direct Democracy in Times of Disaster” Online Panel

Last month, the anthology Deciding for Ourselves: The Promise of Direct Democracy was published by AK Press. As part of #RadicalMay, an multilingual series of online events organized by the recently formed Radical Publishers Alliance, editor Cindy Milstein and contributors Dilar Dirik, Asbjørn Nielsen, and I will participate in the online panel “Deciding For Ourselves: Direct Democracy in Times of Disaster” on Saturday, May 9 at 3pm EDT/12pm PDT.

You can register and read more about it here. It is free, but any donations will go to Mutual Aid Disaster Relief. From the event listing:

In this time of coronavirus-related disaster, people everywhere are looking for solutions. It’s clear that neither governments nor the capitalist economy can provide them. In almost every respect that matters, we’ll have to deal with this mess on our own. But how?

A better world through self-determination and self-governance is not only achievable. It was already happening before this pandemic, in urban and rural communities around the world as an implicit or explicit replacement for hierarchical social control. In this panel discussion, participants in such projects will share their insights and lessons, applying them to the situation we’re facing today. Diverse forms of direct democracy offer us not only a way to organize in times of crisis but also the best chance of creating the worlds we dream about, because they allow us to determine together, dynamically over time, what we need and want in our own distinctive contexts. Let’s build and dream together!

The Haunting Gaze of the Pandemic

Also reposted on Gods & Radicals Press

Sleep comes fitfully if at all anymore. In this I know I am not alone. At their due hour, the yawns, lethargy, and drooping eyelids make their appearances. Yet slumber comes not. Pills of concoctions both chemical and herbal are consumed in conjunction with pleas to Hypnos. But to no avail. Unlike past episodes of sleeplessness, there are no fiercely ruminating thoughts. Oddly, the mind is relatively quiet. All the same, consciousness will not abate. As I lie amidst the passing hours, a restless presencing inhibits the transition to sleep. Invading both body and mind, but perhaps most powerfully agitating the soul, it seems best described as a haunting.

Contemplating this experience, I’m drawn to a passage in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, where Carl Jung recalls the events immediately precipitating his writing of the gnostic Seven Sermons to the Dead:

It began with a restlessness, but I did not know what it meant or what “they” wanted of me. There was an ominous atmosphere all around me. I had the strange feeling that the air was filled with ghostly entities. Then it was as if my house began to be haunted…. The whole house was filled as if there were a crowd present, crammed full of spirits. They were packed deep right up to the door, and the air was so thick it was scarcely possible to breathe.

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Out Now: “Deciding for Ourselves: The Promise of Direct Democracy”

While it emerges in the midst of tragic and difficult circumstances, I am excited for the release of the anthology Deciding for Ourselves: The Promise of Direct Democracy, edited by Cindy Milstein and to which I contributed the chapter “The Bonfires of Autonomy in Cherán.” As we make our way through this time of loss and uncertainty and begin to think about what comes next, I hope it may offer some insight and inspiration.

It’s now available for a short time on a “Pay What You Can” basis from AK Press.

As the book description reads, “A better world through self-determination and self-governance is not only achievable. It is already happening in urban and rural communities around the world.” This is what Deciding for Ourselves dives into, a theme that couldn’t feel more pressing and necessary.

My contribution looks at the indigenous P’urhépecha municipality of Cherán, located in Michoacán, Mexico. For the past nine years, Cherán has operated under a form of autonomous communal government after a popular uprising removed cartels, local police, politicians and political parties from the area. While the story of the rebellion and its immediate aftermath have been well documented, the chapter takes an in-depth look at how the communal government functions and meets the daily needs of Cherán’s residents, why the government took the form that it did, and how life has changed and is experienced in a place where community and government are woven into a shared communal fabric.

If mutual aid, solidarity, autonomy, self-determination and collective liberation are ideas that interest or resonate with you, this book is worth picking up. And at up to 75% off, it’s a great deal that also helps support an independent radical publisher.

Farewell, George

In fond and rebellious memory of George Salzman, who passed on at the age of 94 in Oaxaca, Mexico, on January 27, 2020. Intended to be shared at a memorial for him today in Boston, now cancelled due to the coronavirus.

When I heard you died, first, I froze. Then, I wept.

Next, I dug out old memories, questioning their veracity but wanting so badly to see your face I gladly indulged them.

I went to a park, walked a looping trail in a field sparsely populated by ponderosa pine.

When I last saw you, you said you didn’t do much walking anymore. But that you still tried to climb the stairs to the Guelaguetza auditorium to get some exercise.

I think you would’ve been able to join on this walk. Had you not renounced your US citizenship.

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The Disease of Modernity: Coronavirus and the Myth of Institutional Failure

Originally posted on It’s Going Down

Last week, in a class I teach, we were discussing the concept of “posthuman suffering,” which can be understood in two different ways. In the mundane sense, it is the experience of a negative emotion resulting from our dependence on technology and especially when a technology fails. For example, if you must complete an online task for work or school and the internet goes out, you may feel frustrated, irresponsible, or inadequate, despite the fault of the situation and your resulting emotional experience of it lying completely with the technology and not with you. In a deeper sense, posthuman suffering manifests as “ontological angst” brought on by the awareness that we are biological entities dependent upon technology in order to survive, to know ourselves, and to know the world around us. This awareness has implications for the construction of our sense of self as human beings when simply to be is contingent on a technological other distinct from us. As class was ending on that point, a student shared that the college just announced a temporary halt to in-person classes due to the coronavirus.

It is not difficult to see posthuman suffering play out in the face of this pandemic. In the US, we have seen test kits that don’t work or don’t exist, systems of technology that spread misinformation or fear, access to medical technologies denied to those who are or may be sick, etc. This is amplified by the emphatic, ever-present reminder of our biological fragility, the gaze toward technoscience to save us, and the worry and helplessness upon realizing that it might not – indeed, that it already has not for thousands of people.

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The Femicidal State

Originally published on It’s Going Down

By Celia Guerrero, Pie de Página
Translated by Scott Campbell

I want to pause and think about the correct words and also recognize the linguistic paralysis produced by the maelstrom of femicidal violence. Because this is not the first time the tsunami of immediacy has removed the possibility of stopping to reflect on the importance of choosing the words with which we form our discourse. And, I assume, I am not the only one who in the urgency to speak cannot even name what or how much it hurts while I try to reflect more deeply on what we are living through.

Among the feminist reflections sparked by the atrocious femicide of Ingrid Escamilla, there is one that barely resonates and is worth lifting up: we face the abandonment of being citizens of a femicidal state to which we continue to confer our security despite it repeatedly proving itself to be the very perpetrator of violence against women and the propagator of hatred against women.

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Indigenous Nahua Community Removes Politician, Forms Self-Government to Defend its River

Originally posted on El Enemigo Común and It’s Going Down

On January 19, the Indigenous Nahua community of Zacatepec, Puebla, removed its mayor and replaced him with a Council of Elders in response to his failure to stop a toxic drainage system that is part of the Mexican government’s neoliberal Morelos Integral Project. Shortly thereafter, on January 24, Miguel López Vega, the community’s representative to the National Indigenous Congress and its Indigenous Governing Council, was detained moments after delivering official notice of this action to the state government, setting off protests and highway blockades that won his release five days later. The following day, January 30, the municipal government temporarily suspended construction of the drainage system. The below article and photos by Daliri Oropeza for Pie de Página and translated by Scott Campbell documents the assembly to remove the mayor and create a self-government.

While forming lines, residents of the Nahua community of Santa María Zacatepec look at one another. They smile. They check who is in each line, which one is the longest.

Facing the threat of a toxic drainage system emptying into the Metlapanapa River, they have decided to practice self-determination and choose their own government according to their own internal system.

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Life, Respect and Word: Chronicle of the Second Zapatista Gathering of Women Who Struggle

Originally posted on El Enemigo Común and It’s Going Down.

Originally published in Spanish by Radio Zapatista and translated by Scott Campbell. Additional photos, along with audios, can be found with the original text.

Text, audios and photos by all of us.

We dreamed “that the patriarchy burned” and that it was possible to inhabit spaces free of cruelty. For a long time, we graffitied it, theorized it, protested for it, and proposed it. We then came to shout this dream in a territory free of femicides. Here we cried it and wailed it. Here we sang it, danced it, cared for it in this valley of organization and work. From December 26 – 29, 2019, the Zapatista women sheltered us in their collective and rebellious lap to clothe us in dignity inside the seedbed carrying the name of Commander Ramona, who died 14 years ago. Walking in her footprints, in those of Susana and of all the founding mothers of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, we arrived at this gathering that never should have been. Violence against women, the topic of discussion at this international gathering, should have decreased if the systemic conditions of parity and equity we enacted as a result of feminist debates were enough. But they aren’t. These autonomous and self-managed Zapatista rebel islands, that have multiplied in the past year, resist within a rough sea of generalized violence that led to 38,000 murders in 2019 in a Mexico that doesn’t work. That same violence impacts billions of people, particularly women, boys and girls, as explained by the some 4,000 women who came from 49 countries that also don’t work.

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Support the upcoming book “Teaching Resistance: Radicals in the Classroom”

Teaching Resistance: Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Cultural Subversives in the Classroom is an impressive anthology coming out next month from PM Press incorporating a wide variety of voices examining the practice of radical education both inside and outside the classroom. I’m honored to have a piece included in the collection that chronicles and analyzes the militant 2016 teachers’ strike in Mexico which occurred across several states, was met with severe state repression, and led to broader popular rebellion, particularly in Oaxaca. (Here’s a piece from 2016 providing a brief snapshot of some of the events of that struggle.)

In order to print and distribute as many copies as possible, PM Press is running a Kickstarter campaign through which folks can pre-order the book. There are ten days left on the campaign and I encourage you to support it if you’re able and please help spread the word. Here’s more info on the book:

Teaching Resistance: Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Cultural Subversives in the Classroom is a collection of the voices of fierce, activist educators from around the world with a focus on those in and around DIY/punk subculture who engage inside and outside the classroom from pre-kindergarten to university.

More than just a book for teachers, Teaching Resistance is for anyone who wants to explore new ways to subvert educational systems and institutions, collectively transform (and re-imagine) educational spaces, and empower students and other teachers to fight for genuine change. Topics include community self-defense, Black Lives Matter and critical race theory, intersections between punk/DIY subculture and teaching, ESL, anarchist education, Palestinian resistance, trauma, working-class education, prison teaching, the resurgence of (and resistance to) the Far Right, special education, antifascist pedagogies, and more.

Thanks for supporting radical education and radical publishing!

Four years without justice “in this country that is no longer ours”

A few words of introduction:

Four years ago, on July 31, 2015, five lives were taken in a Mexico City apartment. They were Nadia Vera Pérez, Yesenia Quiroz Alfaro, Mile Virginia Martín, Olivia Alejandra Negrete Avilés, and Rubén Espinosa Becerril. Their torture and execution-style killings received international attention, in particular because Nadia Vera, a social justice organizer and human rights defender, and Rubén Espinosa, a photojournalist, had fled to Mexico City from Veracruz following attacks and death threats due to their work. Before her murder, Nadia stated that should anything happen to her, it would be Javier Duarte who was responsible. Duarte was then governor of Veracruz and is now serving a nine-year sentence for corruption after he fled the country and was extradited from Guatemala. During his rule, widespread human rights abuses were the norm, including the assassination of journalists and political opponents.

While a few people have been detained for the murders, the state’s investigation has been egregiously irregular, incompetent, and disrespectful to the victims and their families. Over the course of four years, it has offered a variety of narratives – from a robbery gone bad to a cartel settling of accounts – yet, unsurprisingly, has assiduously avoided investigating the most likely scenario, that it was an extrajudicial assassination ordered and organized by state actors.

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