Old Dog; New Tricks

January 27, 2012 at 5:38 pm (Uncategorized)

There might be something to that saying about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks. Hell, it’s hard enough teaching a new dog new tricks (although Lester is quite adorable when he rolls over on command).

First, last October after enduring years of teasing (thank you comrade S. and I really mean that), I signed up for French classes. The group to which I belong is bi-lingual and produces a review in both English and French, and I go to Montreal several times a year including for the Anarchist bookfair in May. French is good. I struggled a little in the first session, but I’m persisting. The second session started a week or two back and so far it’s pretty good.

According to received wisdom, it takes seven years to become fluent in a second language. Acquiring a native accent in a second language after puberty is much harder. I’m resigned to the fact that I will never speak French sounding as a native speaker, but I do have aspirations to be able to carry on a conversation.

Second, my eight-year-old son is taking skating lessons. Every kid in Canada should be able to skate, but like many of the kids in the class, it’s not easy. In a good parent moment, I foolishly said, I’ll take lessons too, and so there I was. 

As I stood waiting to step onto the ice with my brand new skates and helmet, I wondered: Do I really need to be able to slide around on two thin pieces of metal on ice? Really?  I hugged the guard rail pretty hard for the first half of the class, but by the end of the first session I was walking across the ice. By the end of the second, I was almost skating. Needless to say, I was very pleased by my progress.

On the third night, I had my Icarus moment. I took two nasty falls on exactly the same spot. Point of impact: right elbow and right hip. When I got into bed a few hours later, I accidentally lay on my right side. It felt as if I had bene kicked by a mule. (Not having ever been kicked by a mule I can only imagine what it might feel like, but I’m pretty sure it hurts.. a lot. Four days after the lesson, my hip is a fine burgundy. And yes, it still hurts.

Still, learning  French and skating, could I get anymore Canadian?

A friend informed me that I could, but I’d have to be drinking a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee and carrying a beaver while skating to do it.

Yeah, and speaking French too, right?

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Occupy Wall Street and Anti-Capitalism

January 26, 2012 at 11:47 pm (Uncategorized)

Meeting announcement. This Sunday in New York. 

Do you believe another world is possible?  That humankind would be better off with a system other than capitalism (or the other class societies that came before it)?  Are you inspired by OWS and the explosion of the occupy movement, but also find the need for a network of similar minded activists to work or share ideas with?

 Revolutionary and non-sectarian anarchists, socialists, and communists are coming together to report on their activity in OWS,  share insights and discuss next steps, support each other, and hopefully work
 together productively in the future.

Our first meeting, initiated by a small group of anti-capitalist activists, took place on January 8th.  About forty-five people attended and, after a productive discussion, agreed to continue meeting.

We are not looking to ‘take over’ OWS, or build a separate alternative to it, but to form a network for anti-capitalist activists already active in the movement.  No decisions have been made about what we might do!

Next Meeting

Sunday                          January 29th                          6:00 PM

The Commons              388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn
(three blocks from the Atlantic Avenue Subway Stop)

Agenda

6:15 – 6:45           One-to-One Introductions and Small Group Conversations

6:45 – 7:45           Discussion on what is happening in New York City

 7:45 – 8:15         Small Group Discussions on Common Work

Come join the conversation and contribute to an explicitly anti-capitalist current within the occupy movement.

For more information, write to: againstprofitnyc@gmail.com.

 

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Life is Work, but Work isn’t Life

January 24, 2012 at 7:57 pm (Uncategorized)

In the second half of last year, I was underemployed. Well, basically unemployed with short bursts of employment. As anyone whose has negotiated between the two states of existence knows, both are filled with strong emotions. 

When I’m working, I’m more accurately working for the weekend, Friday night and its magic of possibilities, only to ber crushed by the misery of Sunday knowing that you will be back at work on Monday.  Like most workers I dream of free time, holidays etc. And I actually aspects of my job, as there are many moments of personal freedom combined with a wage that’s not as bad as some. But there have been many many moments in my working life when the job sucked, the bosses were, well, bosses and the pay was unspeakably low.  

To be quit of that state is often welcome.  Forty extra hours a week to do….well anything. Not waking up at 4:30 and being unable to go back to sleep because work is coming. One of my concerns when I went back to work was when would I have time to do all the stuff that just needs to get done?  

But  then, the reality sinks in. I’m not independently wealthy. The only thing I can sell in this market economy is my ability to labour. No work means no money. The miserable pittance the government hands out is just that miserable . In Canada, employment insurance benefits are 55% of salary to a maximum of just over $400 a week (so if you had a semi-decent paying job, you benefit is actually much less than 55% ). That’s quite a drop, and given that most people are a paycheque of two away from poverty, that’s quite terrifying.

I’m not a big spender. I don’t have debts apart from my mortgage, but inexorably, the bank account declines.  As English singer-songwriter TV Smith  observed in a song I posted last week, it’s expensive being poor.

So on we tread. Caught between a rock and a hard place, between employment and unemployment. And we wonder, is this all there is? For most of my life, I’ve believed in a negative answer to that question. There is better, possible world. And it’s coming.

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Expensive Being Poor

January 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm (Uncategorized)

I refer to this song in an as yet unpublished piece, and it’s so good, I thought why not post it here. From TV Smith’s Generation Y record.

——————————————————————————–

And the car is off the road but I never had a car.
And I pay more for my food ’cause the supermarket’s too far.

It’s expensive being poor because everything costs more,
Knocking on a closing door, it’s expensive being poor,
Someone throw me down some crumbs I will eat them off the floor,
It’s expensive being poor but I look good when I get desperate.

And the box is on the fritz, it’s a black and white, or was,
I tried taking it to bits now the picture’s just a grey fuzz.

It’s expensive being poor because everything costs more
someone pick me off the floor, it’s expensive being poor,
How can I live with what I did when the cinema’s six quid?
It’s expensive being poor but I look good when I get desperate.

Let the good times roll Into a bottomless hole with job,
Friends and future my ideal home furniture,
Let the trumpets sound as my house falls down.

And the dust begins to clear and I’m lying on the ground,
And I’m standing on a path in an unknown part of town,
And the path leads me away over hills and out of sight,
In the blazing sun by day and the hanging moon by night,
And I wind up in a place where I never have to count,
And I never see the waves as I push my leaking boat out.

It’s expensive being poor because everything hurts more,
Knocking on a bolted door It’s expensive being poor.
Someone throw me down some crumbs I will eat them off the floor,
It’s expensive being poor, but I look good when I get desperate.

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2012: OWS at a Crossroads

January 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm (Uncategorized)

The meeting takes place this Sunday. If you’re in the New York area, consider attending.

As the year is ending, the Occupy movement can look back with pride. A lot was accomplished in just a few months time. Our protest has broken the silence on the pain that the system we live under inflicts on the vast majority of the population. It has shifted the debate. It has spread throughout the country and beyond. It has created a space in which all voices can express themselves, in which people talk to each other about their lives and relate it to what’s happening to society. It has protected and expanded this space with creative direct democracy-methods. It has seen itself in continuation of, and in solidarity with, the protest movements in Egypt, Greece, Spain and everywhere against a global system of injustice. And its essential slogan : “Occupy !” gives a sense of direction to our movement : Let’s occupy our world, make it work for the needs of the 99% !

To occupy our world, we must expropriate its current owners, dubbed the 1% but more appropriately described as “capital.” But not everyone in the Occupy movement agrees with this conclusion. So now that the movement enters a new phase, and everyone is talking about what the next step will be, it finds itself at a crossroads. We are all bound together by our outrage over the injustice this system inflicts but we draw different conclusions. Some think our aim must be to reform the system, to change the laws to protect politicians from the corrupting influence of money. Others like us think that, as long as the capitalist core of the system survives, it won’t matter how democratically politicians are elected, they will always be bound by higher laws, the laws of capital. Congress, the Democratic party and its trade union allies, the cops, the mayors, governors etc, are all integral parts of the soulless machine that structures society in the interests of capital. They can never represent the interests of the 99%.

In 2012, the spectacle of the electoral circus will suck up a lot of media-attention and it threatens to suck up part of the Occupy movement as well. The challenge to those who refuse to be co-opted by the very forces against whose policies the movement has risen, who don’t want to become foot soldiers for progessive Democrats or the unions, is to pose an alternative perspective to the movement.

How to concretize the battle cry “Occupy!” ? How to resist the forces of co-optation ? How to reach out to the ‘99%’ in the workplaces, whose involvement is vital to our movement ? How will the deepening of capitalism’s crisis in the coming year increase the pressure and affect the spread of the Occupy movement ?

These and other questions, the anti-capitalists in the Occupy movement need to discuss. We invite them to do so at an open meeting, on January 8th.

January 8, 2012
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
The Commons
388 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn
(three blocks from the Atlantic Avenue Subway Stop)

Issued by : a group of anti-capitalist activists
For more information, write to : Against Profit NYC

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Top Ten Lists – A cautionary Tale

January 2, 2012 at 7:48 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m not really sure why people think the holidays are a time to kick back and catch up. Holidays, especially the Christmas ones, seem the busiest time in life. Anyway, it’s Monday and I’m now reading the Sunday New York Times magazine.

Wanted to pass on though, a terrific article about top ten lists. “The Top 210 Reasons to Make (and Love) Top Ten Lists.”

Here also are the lists mentioned in the article.

Enjoy.

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