Thursday, December 11, 2008

Seth Tobocman Performance and Interview

Political artist and founding editor of World War 3 Illustrated Seth Tobocman performs pieces from his latest book Disaster and Resistance (AK Press) on the Valley Free Radio program "Passions and Survival" in Northampton, MA. Fellow World War 3 editor Rebecca Migdal also performs a piece. They were joined by musicians Steve Wishnia, Eric Blitz, and Andy Laties before a conversation with host Matt Dineen. Recorded on October 13, 2008.

Listen to the recording here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

On the Lower Frequencies: An Interview with Author Erick Lyle

By Matt Dineen

When I was asked if the community radio station I'm involved in would like to co-sponsor an event with legendary zinesters Erick Lyle (aka, Iggy Scam) author of Scam and Cindy Crabb (Doris), I enthusiastically signed us on right away. Before their reading at Food For Thought Books Collective in Amherst, MA, I was going to interview Erick on my radio show about his brand new book, On the Lower Frequencies: A Secret History of the City, and about the struggle to do what you love while surviving in a capitalist society. But that interview didn't happen. They were doing a late night event in New York featuring a performance by one of Erick's bands, Onion Flavored Rings, and my show is pretty earlier in the morning. So we just waited until after the event to chat.

Going into the interview I was inspired from their reading in which they took turns sharing stories from their books and zines. Cindy read about moving to the Ohio countryside and the challenge of talking about politics again without being dogmatic, while Erick told San Francisco tales of the city's most infamous 25 hour-a-day donut shop, transforming an abandon building on Market St. into a cultural center, and an April Fools Day "Pro-War" march right after the Iraq War began. I rode in their borrowed tour van back to Northampton, Ramones on the stereo, where Erick and I sat outside the local bowling alley off the freeway onramp and had the following conversation about writing, work, his book, and creating the kind of world we want to live in.

How do you usually respond when people ask you, "What do you do?" What does that question mean to you?

EL: What do I do? Well, I guess I've always felt like I'm a writer since I was a little kid. It's how I see the world—in terms of being a writer. I don't ever take pictures of things on vacations and stuff like that. I'm always just describing things in my head. I think writing informs my basic interaction with the world. And I've never thought of myself as an activist and all that, but I have always thought of myself as a writer.

Can you talk about living in San Francisco and not working a full-time wage job and what that means for someone who identifies as a writer?

EL: Well, it depends on what you call work. I haven't had a real, straight job in almost 20 years, but I live in one of the most expensive cities in the country to live in. So this is the paradox. I would say that I'm part of a community of folks in San Francisco—activists, writers, artists—that work harder than anybody, that are working like 80, 90 hours a week on their own projects. When I was at the Coalition on Homelessness working there, people didn't quit working until 10, 11 at night and then a lot of people slept in the office. None of those folks are really getting paid but it's their life's work to do this stuff.

In the book I talk about this street newspaper I used to do called, The Turd-Filled Donut with my best friend Ivy. We were putting out this skid row newspaper, living in welfare hotels and writing about the neighborhood, trying to highlight people's struggles: For tenants to organize against their shitty hotel owners, or for homeless people who were organizing to demand housing and things like that. We spent hours, all the time working on this paper, interviewing people, editing the paper, getting art for it, putting it out on the streets. It was a free newspaper. We gave it away. So that's work, but it's not work for financial remuneration.

That's kind of the subject of my buddy from San Francisco Chris Carlsson's new book [Nowtopia], how people are looking for community and meaningful work outside of, let's say, wage slavery. You know, most of the work that people are doing is completely meaningless and is not benefitting themselves or each other or the planet. It's just totally busy work and people are really dissatisfied with it. So there's all kinds of folks that are willing to work themselves to the bone 25 hours a day for what they believe in, but we're not working for…I haven't had a service industry job or something for a long time. The last real job I had was in 2000, I worked at a queer youth homeless shelter. That was the last "official" job I had. Since then, it's been freelance writing, crime, things like that…make ends meet. That's how it is. But always working on other stuff like putting on punk shows, protests, putting out a magazine that doesn't really pay for itself.

I think that element of community is so important, like the one in San Francisco you are part of, and relating that to the social pressure that a lot of people who don't have a community like that face. They can have these ideas, wanting to work on their own projects, doing things that aren't completely defined by a status job. But then they have pressure from their families, the larger society and just the economic realities of daily life. And that can be challenging even for people who do have really supportive communities.

EL: Yeah, I mean, things are awful right now with the economic situation…We're so far from changing things. We're sitting next to a freeway onramp. Everything is geared toward people having to drive everywhere they need to go. The food's being trucked in. The wage level is so low. The work is unskilled. People are working practically minimum wage. They need two or three jobs to make it. The economic situation in this country definitely makes it so that people are totally alienated and isolated. It's very cutthroat. It's an awful situation.

Some things you see are positive examples, like tonight we had an event sponsored by several collectives. People have come together to collectivize their workplace. That's one step in a positive direction. Is that gonna happen everywhere? I don't know. I don't think that invalidates the work that my community does, to say that we don't have an answer for how to get out of Wal-Mart or something. I know there are movements nationwide of people trying to hold these chain stores accountable for their labor practices, for their environmental practices...

Read this interview in its entirety at
Matt Dineen is a writer and the host of Passions and Survival, a weekly program on Valley Free Radio in Northampton, MA. Contact him at:

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Home of the Brave?

A Vision of the U.S. Beyond Money

By John Steinsvold

Economists concede that economics is an inexact science. What does that mean? Perhaps it means their economic forecast is better than yours or mine. Recently, economic indicators have been rising and people have their fingers crossed. Economists have given us reason to hope that the job market will improve and that the stock market will continue on a steady climb. Yet, the newspapers continue to report more layoffs and more jobs going overseas.

Meanwhile, our economy is getting more and more complex. We associate complexity with progress for some ungodly reason. The following problems, however, have become inherent in our economy. What does that mean? It means they will be around for a while:

Needless poverty, unemployment, inflation, the threat of depression, taxes, crimes related to profit (sale of illicit drugs, stolen IDs, muggings, bribery, con artists, etc.), conflict of interest, endless red tape, a staggering national debt plus a widening budget deficit, 48 out of 50 states in debt, cities in debt, counties in debt, skyrocketing personal debts, 50% of Americans unhappy at their work, saving for retirement and our children's education, health being a matter of wealth, competing in the "rat race", the need for insurance, being a nation of litigation, being subject to the tremors on Wall Street, fear of downsizing and automation, fear of more Enrons, outsourcing, bankruptcies, crippling strikes, materialism, corruption, welfare, social security, sacrificing quality and safety in our products for the sake of profit, the social problem of the "haves" vs. the "havenots" and the inevitable family quarrels over money.

Have we become gluttons for punishment? My college professor once said, "You can get used to hanging if you live long enough!"

We Americans love our freedom; yet, we have allowed the use of money to completely dominate our way of life. Indeed, we are no longer a free people. We are 7.4 trillion dollars in debt. We live in fear of depression, inflation, inadequate medical coverage and losing our jobs. Our freedom is at stake if not our very survival. Yet, we put our collective heads in the sand.

Yes, there is something we can do. We can look into ourselves for an answer. We may find that we have the strength to carry out our internal economic affairs without the need to use money. Yes, we will still need to use money when dealing with other countries.

There is no question that a way of life without money will alleviate if not completely eliminate all of the previously mentioned problems. Yet, we scoff at the idea. We are totally convinced that money is a necessity. We cannot imagine life without money. Perhaps the time has come to think otherwise. It is completely obvious our present economy no longer satisfies our present day needs. As individuals, we will gain complete economic freedom. In return, a way of life without money demands only that we, as individuals, do the work we love to do. It is a win/win situation. Let us consider the following arguments:

Can we learn to distribute our goods and services according to need (on an ongoing basis) rather than by the ability to pay? Why not? Poverty and materialism will be eliminated! Our sense of value will change. Wealth will no longer be a status symbol. A man will be judged by what he is; not by what he has. He will be judged by his achievements, leadership, ideas, artistic endeavours or athletic prowess; not by the size of his wallet. Yes, everything will be free according to need. All the necessities and common luxuries will be available on a help yourself basis at the local store. Surely, this country is capable of supplying the necessities and common luxuries for everyone in this country many times over.

The more "expensive" items, such as housing, cars, boats, etc. would be provided for on a priority basis. For example, the homeless would provided housing ahead of those living in crowded quarters. How will this priority be established? Perhaps a local board elected by the people in the neighborhood such as a school board. Or perhaps the school boards could absorb this responsibility in addition to their present duties.

Since cooperation will replace competition, can government, industry and the people learn to work together as a team to meet the economic needs of our nation as well as each individual? Again, why not? Yes, competition is great; but cooperation is even better. Cooperation avoids duplication of effort. Wouldn't it be more efficient to have everybody freely working together, sharing ideas, thoughts and technical knowledge? Patents and industrial secrets would be a thing of the past. Competition, however, will still be around. Individuals will still compete with their co-workers in ideas, achievements, leadership and getting promotions.

For example, Ford, Chrysler & GM would work together to build automobiles that are truly safe and efficient and environmentally friendly. Perhaps, with everyone working together, we can invent a car engine that would eliminate the need to import oil from the Middle East. (Note: Ford, Chrysler & GM would gradually become one entity.)

Unfortunately, what immediately jumps into the minds of most people is: "It simply won't work!" The idea of a way of life without money is then dismissed without further thought. After all, what motivation is there for people to work if there is no paycheck? How can we possibly satisfy the labor needs of our nation? The following reasons are offered why people would be completely happy working in a way of life without money: Today, only 50% of Americans enjoy their work. That will change. In a way of life without money, we will all be free to do the work we want to do or even love to do without any economic fear. We will be free to pursue our passion or as Joseph Campbell suggests we "follow our bliss".

Cooperation will replace wasteful competition. We will all work together as a team. Work will become a way to help people, to meet people or to be part of something meaningful. It is a proven fact that people like to help one another. An esprit de corps will naturally build up and make work more enjoyable. Even the most menial task becomes easier when people work together. Yes, work will become more of a "togetherness" thing.

The profit motive will no longer be a hindrance to efficiency. There will be no need to sacrifice quality and safety in our products for the sake of profit. We will, like in the olden days, take pride in our work. Yes, there is very likely to be a shortage of people volunteering to do the more menial tasks. One option is to offer "perks". A perk can be of various forms such as front row season tickets to the opera or to his or her favorite sports team. Can you imagine an NBA basketball game where the celebrities are sitting in the back rows while the dishwashers and janitors are at courtside? (My apologies to Spike Lee & Jack Nicholson!) Or the perk could be the latest model boat or sports car which would not be immediately available to the public. Another option is to draft everyone once in their lifetime, to do a half year or so stint at a menial task. Perhaps a humbling experience is in order for all of us. It might serve us well in the area of character building.

Also, consider the fact that perhaps millions of people will be freed from jobs associated with the use of money. Millions more that are now unemployed or on welfare will also be available to help fill the labor needs of our country. Thus, we will have the work force necessary to do the work which is not economically feasible in our present economy such as cleaning our environment (land, sea & air), conservation, recycling, humanitarian work, research in medicine, education, science & space and now we can include national security.

Perhaps the most difficult problem is in the administration of a way of life without money. Can we learn to determine our economic needs, allocate our resources from the federal on down to the neighborhood levels? Perhaps some sort of economic bodies must be created to coordinate, monitor and carryout our economic needs. These economic bodies would exist similar to our governments, one for the federal, one for each state and one for each local level.Yes, in order to administrate a way of life without money, economic bodies, boards or councils or whatever you wish to call them would be created to absorb economic responsibility from our various governments. They will interact and cooperate with one another to meet the economic needs of our country and of each individual. They will be empowered by Congress to tend to the economic needs of its constituents. Thus, a balance of power will be safely maintained.

Our federal needs, which would be similar to the federal budget we have today, will be resolved by an economic body comprised of representatives of the various branches of government, our industrial & labor resources, research (in medicine, education, science & space), our environment, conservation, importing & exporting, and now, national security and whatever facet of our way of life should be represented. This economic body will arrange for the labor and material resources necessary to meet the economic needs of our nation.

Similarly, the same will occur at the state and local levels. The economic body at the local levels will be responsible for providing services to the people in the neighborhood. If the labor needs cannot be met with volunteer workers, "perks" must be offered. Also, the economic body at the local levels will be responsible for keeping the stores stocked with food, clothing and the common luxuries which will be available free. Thus, the economic needs of the nation right on down to the neighborhood levels would be determined and satisfied by these economic bodies.

How much economic responsibility will these new bodies absorb from our federal, state and local governments? How much will be shared? Can a balance of power be maintained? At any rate, our federal, state and local governments will be relieved of considerable amount of economic responsibility. Thus, our various governments will be free to catch up on all the other domestic and foreign issues that face us.

Yes, we will still import and export goods with foreign countries as our needs dictate; but what money will be used in place of the almighty dollar? Would the dollar have any value if everything is free in the USA? Would that be a problem? We would, however, still be able to use the currency of the country we are doing business with. For example, if we export goods to Germany, we would accept marks or euros in payment. The euros would then be deposited in our national treasury for future use. The money could then be used to import goods or perhaps send Americans overseas on vacation.

Yes, a way of life without money could be compared to the kibbutz which now exist in Israel. Can you picture the USA as one big kibbutz? However, ownership of property will remain the same as it is today. Our government will remain the same. Our free enterprise system will remain in place as it is today. There will be no need for money or any substitute for money since everything will be free.

The advantages of a way of life without money stagger the imagination; but they are real and cannot be disputed. Perhaps it is time for us to grab the brass ring.

"The Human Race has improved everything except the Human Race." -Adlai Stevenson
Article republished from The American Daily.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day!

Leap Day Action

2008 is leap year -- a fantastic opportunity to leap into something new. Are you gonna to use your extra day like you use so many other days -- toiling away at your job to make the bosses richer? Using up more of the earth's resources while the forests, the oceans and free communities are being killed? Watching it all go on around you -- an "information consumer" -- feeling helpless to do anything to resist it?

Life is far too short to spend days, weeks, years just getting by -- getting treated like an object. How much of your life do you really get to control? How often are you really fully alive and free?
If you wish things were different and dream about a better world, you're not alone. Vast numbers of people from all walks of life realize that life as we know it isn't satisfying our real needs and has to change. But hoping and dreaming isn't enough.

Lots of people have developed and articulated ideas for how life could be transformed. We need to love each other, take care of each other, share and cooperate, live with the earth instead of destroying it, and embrace diversity, not hatred and violence. Social structures that promote power and inequality need to be dismantled, and arrangements that promote freedom and sustainability constructed in their place.

So if things are to change, how can each of us be part of creating these changes? Most people feel like they're too isolated as individuals to really do much of anything effective against a massive, entrenched system. This collective feeling of individual helplessness and inertia is a self-fulfilling prophecy -- but it isn't real -- it is just a collective illusion.

Those in charge encourage feelings of isolation, helplessness and passivity in a million ways. They want everyone to individually conclude that nothing very big or important can change -- that the big things have to be the way they are. They love cynicism, resignation and isolation. They fear community and discussion about alternatives. But most of all, they fear action -- the moment when individuals take matters into their own hands and stop just hoping for a better world.

Anyone and everyone can take action. Taking action means moving from wishing things would change to changing them -- in your family, in your neighborhood, in your workplace, in your school . . . in your own mind. Change in your mind is the most accessible change and yet often the most difficult -- we're all embedded in deep patterns that hold us back from building change out in the world. We've learned to feel powerless and take for granted lots of fucked up power relations. Working on changing our internal mental state goes hand and hand with taking action to change the external world. As we take action in the real world. we help liberate the parts of our mind that hold us back. Each new experience with action -- creating change ourselves -- helps open possibility for even more action and change.

Action in the world can mean living differently yourself in a variety of ways -- the way you relate to others, the way you communicate, the way you eat, the work you do, the way you move around, etc. And it can mean organizing with others to build new ways of living -- building community gardens, cooperative houses, alternative businesses, and revolutionary decision-making bodies. And action also means rising up to fight those who dominate power and try to prevent change -- joining protests, sit-ins, riots and strikes. The historical dates in this organizer chronicle all the amazing ways people have taken action through the ages: non-violently and violently; on a local level and on a global level; alone and together in every year across every place on earth. When you take action, you are far from alone! The key is for each individual to make the leap from hopelessness to action in as many ways as they can in any particular moment.

This leap day *February 29* imagine everyone who feels smothered living a mediocre life within the current insane system rising up to resist in whatever way they can. Take leap day off work and live life like it really mattered. Spend the day as a free and whole being. Maybe that means spending time alone, or maybe it means with friends, or with your whole block, or even the whole city. Maybe it means tearing down the forces that seek to force you back to work and back onto you knees on March 1. Maybe living free for a day means spending the day creating new structures, new ideas, new forms of cooperation and a whole new reality which make you happier and freer. You don't have to wait for tomorrow, and you don't have to ask anyone for permission.

Leap for it!
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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

There is a Difference Between Life and Survival

Whatever medical science may profess, there is a difference between Life and survival. There is more to being alive than just having a heartbeat and brain activity. Being alive, really alive, is something much subtler and more magnificent. Their instruments measure blood pressure and temperature, but overlook joy, passion, love, all the things that make life really matter. To make our lives matter again, to really get the most out of them, we will have to redefine life itself. We have to dispense with their merely clinical definitions, in favor of ones which have more to do with what we actually feel.

As it stands, how much living do we have in our lives? How many mornings do you wake up feeling truly free, thrilled to be alive, breathlessly anticipating the experiences of a new day? How many nights do you fall asleep feeling fulfilled, going over the events of the past day with satisfaction? Most of us feel as though everything has already been decided without us, as if living is not a creative activity but rather something that happens to us. That's not being alive, that's just surviving: being undead. We have undertakers, but their services are not usually required; we have morgues, but we spend most of our time in office cubicles and video arcades, in shopping malls, in front of televisions. Of course suburban housewives and petty executives are terrified of risk and change; they can't imagine that there is anything more valuable than physical safety. Their hearts may be beating, but they no longer believe in their dreams, let alone chase after them.

But this is how the revolution begins: a few of us start chasing our dreams, breaking our old patterns, embracing what we love (and in the process discovering what we hate), daydreaming, questioning, acting outside the boundaries of routine and regularity. Others see us doing this, see people daring to be more creative and more adventurous, more generous and more ambitious than they had imagined possible, and join us one by one. Once enough people embrace this new way of living, a point of critical mass is finally reached, and society itself begins to change. From that moment, the world will start to undergo a transformation: from the frightening, alien place that it is, into a place ripe with possibility, where our lives are in our own hands and any dream can come true.

So do what you want with your life, whatever it is! But to be sure you do get what you want, think carefully about what it really is, first, and how to go about getting it. Analyze the world around you, so you'll know which people and forces are working against your desires, and which ones are on your side... and how you can work together with us. We're out here, living life to the fullest, waiting for you-hopping trains across the United States, organizing political protests in French public schools, writing beautiful letters at sunrise in Bangkok. We just finished making love in the corporate washroom a minute before you walked in on your half hour lunchbreak. And Life is waiting for you with us, on the peaks of unclimbed mountains, in the smoke of campfires and burning buildings, in the arms of lovers who will turn your world upside down. Come join us!
Reprinted from