About six months ago, I started an anonymously written blog called “truly conscious,” an expansion—so I thought—of a poster project called false ignorance. And since years before that, I’ve been sending out updates about myself, and my journeys as a traveling radical activist, an opponent of borders & lover of fascinating communities. As it turns out, my political voice doesn’t detach well (in my own opinion) from my embodied self. Nor does the idea of creating an anonymous disembodied persona interest me that much. So, I’m trying to fuse the two, and challenging people who know me only through one side of that line to see the other.
What follows is the introduction to the political blog, which will continue (and be reposted in part) in many ways here.
Welcome to the flipside of false ignorance.
Five years ago, a little burned out (temporarily, I knew even at the time) from NGO human rights work and laid up in pain from carpal tunnel, I started an occasional design project called falseignorance.info. It came from an intense, desperately driven need to say something more articulate and complicated about the realities of empire and the possibilities of resistance.
The first thing I laid out, testing my brand new voice dictation machine and working with pageMaker until my fingers burned, was a little pamphlet called “Do you think about torture?” I do. Think about it. I witnessed it quite up close and personal once, in a jail in Cincinnati, where someone was slammed to the ground and repeatedly tasered in front of me. And it has becoming an ever-more-overt policy. So I wanted to let other people know that there’s a mass of us, thinking, and (this is the point of “false ignorance”) a perhaps larger mass knowing but doing their best not to think, but actually not-thinking. That is pouring energy into a tangible denial of what they know is being done in their name, or with their money, or with the need of their acceptance. So one face of the project was to break the silence about open secrets.
Another was to find human ways to relate to realities of empire. And yet a third was to remind everyone that resistance is not only possible, but brilliantly possible, vibrant, and always boiling beneath the surface when it isn’t shattering what we believe (or is it, fear?) is inevitable.
Five years on, I no longer think denial is so much of the problem. Though I do think that reminders of how some truly scary efforts are deliberately planned are essential. And of course neither the media nor the grapevine tell us everything. Well documented truths are essential for outrage, for activism, for change.
Why I’m starting to blog…
Everyone I meet is more in the turmoil between hope and despair than struggling to move from ignorance to knowledge. Two nights ago at a beautiful warehouse party full of fire and creativity, a 46-year-old metal sculptor came up to me. And said he had seen me around the activist spaces and events of the Bay. And thanked me for being out there. And said what I’ve heard too many times, that he is living out a sense of despair about the situation of the world. That the U.S. now is something like his long term nightmare.
Fair enough. My nightmare is the return of colonialism (“Something old and awful” is making a return to public consciousness, and the risk of public acceptance, I wrote in my Ransom Note for action to resist the Iraq War). It’s now our neighbors and nieces and nephews, and lovers and high school friends who are driving the tanks down the middle of occupied streets, seeing kids throw stones at them, raiding houses and shooting up families. ”We’re” doing it. “And we don’t even scream. Are we dead?” (the line is from Jean Genet’s The Maids)
My Iranian-American boss at my old Bay Area job asked last night, Where is the anger? I’ve heard that a lot too. You can see in the last paragraph, I think it sometimes. But I have a different relationship to that question than most. I don’t think it’s a matter of things affecting us more directly, or of the gradualness or the slowness of the change. I don’t think Americans are just mesmerized by the media, or that some analogy about raising the temperature of a lobster pot can explain a so-called acquiescence. I think people know what is done in their name, and I think a hundred million regrets and sadnesses are felt about it every night.
I think the swing point is the capacity for hope, for planning, and envisioning change. For seeing how to impact and transform the world, to bring an end to the disaster-dream that is global empire. We need to get good at hope, which means we need to get good at resisting.
Fortunately, humanity is fairly well quaking with both right now.
People in their numbers, in their violence-defying brilliance, in their relentless persistence in finding ways to survive and thrive in ways that are worthy of us, are doing many fascinating things. I’ve made it my day job to witness and describe how that happens. I’ve been back in school for 10 months now, getting a PhD as a means to study social movements, autonomy and the capacity for disrupting power and empire.
Last night, and the night before, I was asked the same sincere questions by people with open hearts. Questions I feel sure I know how to answer for myself. Why should we have hope? What are our options for getting out of this imperial madness? Are the rest of the folks out there asking the same things? Answering these is about claiming the offensive, about apprenticing ourselves to the portions of humanity that inspire us, about learning how to make ourselves into collectives with the capacity of writing our own futures.
Understanding empire, and understanding oppressive power is the defensive work. What you don’t understand you can’t change. What you don’t see, don’t perceive as part of the problem can make sure the disaster comes back. Yet this defensive knowledge must be balanced with the offensive knowledge of hope if it is to be something other than an way of intimidating ourselves into inaction and despair.
You’ll hear some of both sides here, because, well, our sibling humans are being wounded and killed, because our planet is under seige at the moment. But if this becomes a space you dread to read, let me know, because that means I’m doing something wrong.