Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

April 13, 2014

Silmarillion of the Midwest

I always wished that Michigan had a longer history. Our oldest town, Sault Ste. Marie, dates back to 1668, whilst towns in Europe have cathedrals from the 1300’s and ruins left by the Romans. In the countryside, Europe has standing stones that might as well date from the dawn of time. Here, we tend to tear everything down after about 30 years. The buildings we leave standing are fashionably ugly.

I was recently very satisfied to discover the Seven Fires Prophecy of the local First Nations. The prophecy is recorded on an ancient wampum belt, with various translations into English available on the ‘Net. Each Fire is a chapter in the history of the Anishinaabe peoples, such as the Ottawa and Chippewa. This is a history studded with magical events, not unlike reading Tolkien’s histories of Middle Earth or certain books of the Old Testament for that matter. It’s also a total cure for those who slip into believing the settler mythology about conquering an empty, wilderness continent.

Five or six of the Seven Fires have passed into history, but there are still a few events yet to come. Lately, with a Pan-Indian identity movement afoot in the land, the Seven Fires Prophecy is seen as applying in some ways to the entire North American continent; so, all North Americans become part of this unfolding story.

I’ve read a few versions of the Prophecy, and at each point in the story I’m going to relate whichever version I like best. That’s not quite a legitimate way to do history, so if you want a more accurate version, you’re going to have to poke around for yourself. As far as I can tell, the last keeper of the wampum belt, Grandfather William Commanda, died in 2011. If there is a new keeper s/he hasn’t made a public splash yet, so I don’t know who might be a legitimate authority on this topic. Assume that all inaccuracies are my fault:

The Anishinaabe lived on the shores of the Great Salt Ocean. A prophet came to them from their Mikmaq cousins, and told them that a light-skinned people would soon be coming to these shores. The Anishinaabe should divide: some would remain on the shores to greet the light-skinned people as brothers and sisters, and some would travel deep into the continent until the intentions of the newcomers were known. The travelling band would know they were on the right route by finding sites marked with sacred cowrie shells (which only occur naturally near salt water). They would find seven stopping places, the first and last of which would be turtle-shaped islands. The journey would be over when they found a place where food grows upon the water.

10,000 canoes were filled with Anishinaabe, from itty-bitty babies to withered elders. They headed up the St. Lawrence River and found a turtle-shaped island marked with cowrie shells, Mooniyaang, the current site of Montreal. There they split, half of the people continuing up the St. Lawrence and the other half moving up the Ottawa River. For the St. Lawrence band, the second stopping-place marked with cowrie shells was discovered near Kche Nisajewen, or Niagara Falls.

Around this time, a second prophet spoke to the people: “You will know the Second Fire because at this time the nation will be camped by a large body of water. In this time the direction of the Sacred Shell will be lost. The Midewiwin (Medicine Lodge) will diminish in strength. A boy will be born to point the way back to the traditional ways. He will show the direction to the stepping stones to the future of the Anishinaabe people.”

When the Niagara Falls region could no longer support the Anishinaabe’s growing numbers, some left in canoes once again. They discovered a third cowrie-shell-marked island in Lake St. Clair, where they established the third stopping place. From here, the sign of the cowrie shell was lost. The people struck out in different directions and divided into three bands: the Odowa (Ottawa), Keepers of Trade, camped along the North sides of Lakes Huron and Michigan and the south of Superior. The Ojibwe (Chippewa), Keepers of Medicine, camped on the North shore of Lake Superior. The Potawatomi, Keepers of the Fire, migrated to establish villages all around the southern half of Lake Michigan.

Search though they might, the Three Fires people could not find the next site marked with cowrie shells. The Midewinin declined in power and the people were stricken with all manner of ill health and disease. A Potawatomi boy dreamed of the next site, and called the Odowa and Ojibwe to meet his people East of Lake St. Clair. There they formed the Three Fires Council, an alliance of the three bands, which continues through today. From the camp on Lake St. Clair, an expedition paddled up Lake Huron, past the “stepping stone islands,” to Manitoulin Island, Lake Huron’s big island.

On Manitoulin Island, the Three Fires people met the Mississauga band. The Mississauga were Anishinaabe who had gone up the Ottawa River. They had never been lost, always maintaining cohesion with their Algonquin and Nipissing offshoots. The Medicine Lodges of these northern bands had never declined. On Manitoulin Island, the Mississauga reconnected the Three Fires peoples with their ancient medicine.

The Anishinaabe knew that the Second Fire was concluding and they were entering the time of the Third Fire, as the prophet had said: “The Anishinaabe will find the path to their chosen ground, a land in the West where they must move their families. This will be the land where food grows upon the water.”

Pushing out from Manitoulin, the fifth stop was at Senajewen, now known as Sault St. Marie. Those who remained at the fifth stop are now known as Saulteaux or Saulteurs, the people of the rapids and waterfalls. Others pushed on westward, searching for their chosen land.

One group paddled along the southern shore of Lake Superior, another along the northern shore, and they soon met up at Spirit Island near the western tip of the lake (the sixth stop). Here they finally found the food that grows on the water, wild rice. When a group stopped on Madeline Island and planted tobacco near the shores, cowrie shells washed up onto the beach, announcing that the seventh stopping place had been found and the journey was over. The Anishinaabe now ranged from the East Coast to the timber line dividing Minnesota.

At the opening of the Fourth Fire, the people were visited by a pair of prophets. The first prophet said:

You will know the future of our people by the face the light skinned race wears. If they come wearing the face of brotherhood then there will come a time of wonderful change for generations to come. They will bring new knowledge and articles that can be joined with the knowledge of this country. In this way, two nations will join to make a mighty nation. This new nation will be joined by two more so that four will make for the mightiest nation of all. You will know the face of the brotherhood if the light skinned race comes carrying no weapons, if they come bearing only their knowledge and a hand shake.”

The second prophet said:

Beware if the light skinned race comes wearing the face of death. You must be careful because the face of brotherhood and the face of death look very much alike. If they come carrying a weapon … beware. If they come in suffering … They could fool you. Their hearts may be filled with greed for the riches of this land. If they are indeed your brothers, let them prove it. Do not accept them in total trust. You shall know that the face they wear is one of death if the rivers run with poison and fish become unfit to eat. You shall know them by these many things.”

The French arrived with a face of brotherhood, trading useful articles like steel hatchets and iron pots for the animal furs the Anishinaabe collected in abundance. Before the French and Indians could forge a mighty new nation, unfortunately, the British and their American offshoot arrived with the face of death. Through a series of conquests and rip-off treaties, the Anishinaabe were confined to tiny reservations, assimilated into American culture, or shipped off to Indian Country in Kansas and Oklahoma.

The prophet of the Fifth Fire said:

In the time of the Fifth Fire there will come a time of great struggle that will grip the lives of all native people. At the warning of this Fire there will come among the people one who holds a promise of great joy and salvation. If the people accept this promise of a new way and abandon the old teachings, then the struggle of the Fifth Fire will be with the people for many generations. The promise that comes will prove to be a false promise. All those who accept this promise will cause the near destruction of the people.”

Many hold the false promise of the Fifth Fire to be Christianity, which basically failed to deliver the native peoples from miserable conditions. Others think that it was capitalism, or Federal recognition of the tribes. The many false promises extended to the native peoples render this prophecy obscure, but surely many of the native peoples of the continent were nearly destroyed. Languages and traditions went extinct.

In the time of the Sixth Fire it will be evident that the promise of the Fifth Fire came in a false way. Those deceived by this promise will take their children away from the teachings of the Elders. Grandsons and granddaughters will turn against the Elders. In this way the Elders will lose their reason for living … they will lose their purpose in life. At this time a new sickness will come among the people. The balance of many people will be disturbed. The cup of life will almost become the cup of grief.”

Compulsory schooling in the ways of the pale-skinned people, even including boarding schools that literally separated children from their elders, combined with new sicknesses of alcoholism and mental illness to destroy the balance of many peoples and turn the cup of life (almost) into a cup of grief.

This story is starting to suck. I don’t know that I want to write any further…

During the Sixth Fire, a group of visionaries called together all of the Medicine Lodges of the Anishinaabe. They gathered all of the sacred bundles and birch bark scrolls and placed them in a hollow ironwood log. They tied ropes around the log and lowered it down a cliff, burying it in the side of the cliff. The log is still waiting in the cliff. During a time when Indians can practice their religions without fear, a boy will dream of the location of the log to restore the old knowledge.

Not too long ago, the final prophet visited the people. This prophet was a very young man with a strange light in his eyes. He said: In the time of the Seventh Fire New People will emerge. They will retrace their steps to find what was left by the trail. Their steps will take them to the Elders who they will ask to guide them on their journey. But many of the Elders will have fallen asleep. They will awaken to this new time with nothing to offer. Some of the Elders will be silent because no one will ask anything of them. The New People will have to be careful in how they approach the Elders. The task of the New People will not be easy.

If the New People will remain strong in their quest the Water Drum of the Midewiwin Lodge will again sound its voice. There will be a rebirth of the Anishinaabe Nation and a rekindling of old flames. The Sacred Fire will again be lit.

The New People of this time are certainly the people of the First Nations rebuilding their cultures. With a great interest in traditional ways arising, with a new Pan-Indian consciousness building, with certain new protections such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in place, the time may not be too far off when a boy dreams of an ironwood log embedded in a cliffside.

The last prophet spoke a few more words: “In this time the light-skinned people will be given a choice between two roads. If they choose the right road, then the Seventh Fire will light the Eighth and final Fire, an eternal fire of peace, love, brotherhood and sisterhood. If the light skinned race makes the wrong choice of the roads, then the destruction which they brought with them in coming to this country will come back at them and cause much suffering and death to all the Earth’s people.”

The path of materialism, of economic growth, is obviously bringing suffering and death. My people launch wars across the globe to seize oil and opium fields, we disrupt the climate, reduce far-away peoples to peonage on plantations and in sweatshops, and we even tip the hormonal balance of the environment with BPA and other estrogens and anti-androgens, all in the name of increasing the standard of living.

The other path is called the path of spiritualism. This needn’t involve supernatural beliefs. Learning to be sane and build sane communities should be sufficient. The Anishinaabe used to practice going hungry for days at a time in the winter and early spring, adjusting themselves to their environment. In the settler culture, the response to a stress is almost always external: if we risk facing hunger, we need a giant well-stocked freezer. If we’re depressed, we need pills. If we’re bored, we need more television channels.

The material path is like trying to cover the whole world in leather. The spiritual path is like strapping on shoes.

Hopefully we turn from the destructive path, light the Eighth Fire and join into the union of four nations mentioned in the Fourth Fire prophecy (many believe that Africans and Asians will join Native American and Europeans in forming a new syncretic culture symbolized by the medicine wheel’s four colors of black, yellow, red and white.) The new nation will be guided by respect for all people and living things.

I really doubt that the settler culture can turn aside from its headlong rush into ruin. Still, each of us can decide which path we’re going to heed for ourselves. Whichever way things go, this story is not over just yet.

August 18, 2012

Is My Anti-Concentration Camp Stance Unreasonably Radical?

It takes a lot of bravery to stand up and tell the world this, but I am opposed to rounding people up because of their politics or ethnicity, and sticking them in concentration camps. I know that this may place me outside of the political mainstream, into the “extremes” populated by terrorists and morons.

Asked my Facebook crowd:

“Any limit to what kind of tyranny a politician can support, and you will not vote for them? Would you boycott politicians who supported the Patriot Act? Indefinite military detention? Concentration camps for dissidents? Please tell me where you draw the line.”

Received an answer with four “likes”:

“The whole thing is rigged! I don’t want to vote for anyone because they all seem to suck!! I however feel compelled to vote Democrat, to keep the Republicans out of office, but damn, its like you are sitting on Death Row, and they’re asking you,…. how do you want to die? Lethal Injection or the Gas Chamber….”

Really? I know some smart and tough-minded people. Can’t we draw a line at concentration camps? Instead, we’d split a hair as to which way we’d rather die: “I support Mitt Romney for Zyklon-B! Oppose Obama and his one-step incineration plan, it will kill jobs!”

We need to be able to coordinate, draw a line, and not allow our government to cross it. In this world, governments turn against their people all the time. “Democide,” murder by one’s own government, is a leading cause of death in the world. In the twentieth century, you were more likely to be murdered by your government than to die in a car crash OR battle OR be murdered by a fellow OR drink yourself to death. Democide is a bigger killer than tobacco or diabetes. Alert the public health department at your local university.

My source on democide claims that only about 2,000 Americans were killed by the American government during the 20th century, in lynchings, attacks on striking workers and so on. It’s more of an export than a locally-enjoyed product. America, however, we’re exceptional in our own special way.

The police state in America is on par with the Soviets’ at their peak of repression

If, like me, you grew up in the 1980’s, you remember that the Soviet Union was known as the Evil Empire, and we and they kept enough nuclear weapons pointed at each other to obliterate all of our cities and irradiate the countryside for decades. The Soviet Union was Evil because it granted its people no freedom of speech, no meaningful vote, and it sent ridiculous numbers of its people to inhumane prisons known as “the gulag.”

The United States imprisons a greater proportion of its people than any other nation in the world (760 / 100,000). That proportion blows away the EU’s rate of 135  or the world average of 166. It’s similar to the rate of imprisonment at the Soviet Union’s repressive peak (823 / 100,000, or, to be honest, it depends on what estimate you accept, as apparently the gulag did not have its paperwork together).

“Sure, there are that many Americans in jail,” you say. “That’s because Americans are drug-addled, church-shirking moral midgets. We still have more rights than people in those other countries! We still have the freedom to tape patriotic slogans on the bumpers of our cars, and they don’t have that!”

Meanwhile, the FBI is posting flyers in the back rooms of coffee shops, encouraging baristas to narc on anyone who views content of “an extreme/radical nature with violent themes,” such as my blog entry today (tip your barista well). A diet blogger was charged, earlier this year, for “practicing nutrition without a license” for discussing the diet that cured his diabetes. So freedom of speech doesn’t extend to health or politics: however, thanks to the cussing canoeist and his lawyer, it is lawful in Michigan for me to swear in front of women and children. Well, to quote Detroit’s homeboy Eminem, “fuck, shit, cunt, ass, shoobadee-doowhop.” Any freedoms we have, we have because some brave soul was willing to risk prosecution testing the laws out in a courtroom. You can’t just count on your rights being there for you tomorrow, as some prosecutor is always out there, also testing your rights while not personally risking jail time.

As for due process, a major obstacle to rounding people up into camps, government lawyers are arguing in court for the right to kidnap Americans in the name of national security, and stick them in military custody. Tangerine Bolen, a plaintiff in the case against NDAA’s due-process ending provisions, wrote in the UK Guardian:

In a May hearing, Judge Katherine Forrest issued an injunction against it [the bad NDAA provision]; this week, in a final hearing in New York City, US government lawyers asserted even more extreme powers – the right to disregard entirely the judge and the law. On Monday 6 August, Obama’s lawyers filed an appeal to the injunction – a profoundly important development that, as of this writing, has been scarcely reported.

In the earlier March hearing, US government lawyers had confirmed that, yes, the NDAA does give the president the power to lock up people like journalist Chris Hedges and peaceful activists like myself and other plaintiffs. Government attorneys stated on record that even war correspondents could be locked up indefinitely under the NDAA.

Judge Forrest had ruled for a temporary injunction against an unconstitutional provision in this law, after government attorneys refused to provide assurances to the court that plaintiffs and others would not be indefinitely detained for engaging in first amendment activities. At that time, twice the government has refused to define what it means to be an “associated force”, and it claimed the right to refrain from offering any clear definition of this term, or clear boundaries of power under this law.

This past week’s hearing was even more terrifying. Government attorneys again, in this hearing, presented no evidence to support their position and brought forth no witnesses. Most incredibly, Obama’s attorneys refused to assure the court, when questioned, that the NDAA’s section 1021 – the provision that permits reporters and others who have not committed crimes to be detained without trial – has not been applied by the US government anywhere in the world after Judge Forrest’s injunction. In other words, they were telling a US federal judge that they could not, or would not, state whether Obama’s government had complied with the legal injunction that she had laid down before them.

So what exactly is supposed to make me feel safe from the US government, and its ever-growing system of prisons and surveillance? In what way are we the land of the free?

Gone Campin’

States have actually been shrinking the proportion of people they imprison due to a lack of cash, however, Federal prisons continue expanding.

If there is a huge increase in incarceration despite a lack of funds for such, this will lead to the housing of people in camps. They will not be called “concentration” camps, but “internment,” or “reeducation,” or “safety and relocation” or such. Imperial powers have been rounding people up into camps since 1896, when the Spanish locked up masses of Cubans to cut guerrilla fighters off from the population. Defining characteristics of concentration camps are preemptively targeting people who might  be a problem (as we do in this country by defining broad swaths of terrorism suspects, and even classifying Insane Clown Posse fans as a criminal gang), and administrative detention, aka being held with no trial (which the Obama administration is claiming it can do even against  the courts and the rule of law).

In 2009, Congress considered creating camps out of closed-down military bases, for housing people displaced by natural disasters. That sounds like a good plan, but the bill authorized using the camps up for any purpose chosen by Homeland Security!

Our military is trained in containment and resettlement operations. Consider the problem of resettling Cuban refugees…

In less than a month, federal officials announced as many as 15,000 Cuban refugees would come to the 60,000-acre Fort McCoy military base between Sparta and Tomah.

Officials at Fort McCoy had only a few days to prepare 121 barracks, 40 mess halls, 15 administrative buildings and other facilities for the Cubans. Seven miles of 6-foot-tall, chain-link fence soon lined the perimeter of the refugee center.

About 1,000 military, federal government and support personnel arrived, and 850 civilians were hired to prepare and run the Fort McCoy refugee center, the fourth designated as a U.S. refugee resettlement center. (source)

By the way, the Cubans were not allowed to walk in and out of the “resettlement center.” It only takes days to put such an operation into effect. And, it can be done on a larger scale, as was done to Japanese ethnics on the West Coast during World War II.

I’m not saying that nefarious government agents are conspiring to lock us up in camps as we speak. I’m just saying that the conditions are developing. We’re losing our rights, building more police state apparatus, pushing the economic limits of our ability to lock people up by conventional means,  and on top of that we’re living in a population prepared to accept concentration camps as long as they retain their ability to vote against the party they fear more.

I’m thinking to incorporate an advocacy not-for-profit organization here in Michigan to oppose rounding people up into concentration camps. Clearly we are fuzzy as a culture on the concept that “concentration camps are bad.” The group will be organized, incorporated and ready to roll in advance of actually having an issue to assert. Actually, I suppose that racial profiling, an anti-medical marijuana pogrom, targeting raw milk providers as terrorists, authorizing the disappearance of people to torture chambers… all of these government actions should be monitored to track our progress towards a more brutal totalitarianism, such as would feature purges or concentration camps.

On the other hand, maybe a campaign narrowly opposing only the construction of bona fide concentration camps is still too radical. I don’t want to stir up trouble, alienate my friends, or ruin the Democrats’ plans for new and improved social programs. Maybe I should narrow my mission statement to opposing only death camps.

Jesus F. Christ, I’m going to post about pickles or beer next week.

July 18, 2012

Food Stamps for Independence

Over 46 million Americans use food stamps (or SNAP or EBT, also called the Bridge Card in Michigan), or over 15% of us. I think that you could say that the program has grown beyond a “safety net” function and become “life support for the rest of the economy.”

And what is the nature of that food-stamp-dependent economy? It seeks to rip off the rest of the world à la the United Fruit company, and then redistribute some of the spoils according to a humane, human welfare model. How can we support multinational companies exploiting all of the people and resources of the world and yet stay comfortable and well fed at home? Equilibrium will be restored, by jobs leaving the country, immigrants sneaking in, or by the financial powers that be putting us in the austerity sights. An EBT that is basically helping its user buy into the corporate food chain is supporting not only fruit company plantation imperialism, but also Monsanto, and Monsanto’s biological weapons, beehive death, and the degradation of the world into sterile salt flats. On the other hand, an American family gets to eat for another month, which is no small thing.

Food stamps don’t have to support imperial trade practices or shitty farming. SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has a couple of neat wrinkles in it that promote independence, particularly independence from the abusive corporate food chain. Firstly, food stamps can be used to buy fruit and vegetable seeds wherever they are accepted (as at a grocery store with a rack of seeds). Secondly, Michigan residents can receive bonus tokens for spending their Bridge Card money at various local produce markets. It’s as if someone has been listening to Michelle Obama.

Food stamps could buy seeds since 1973, yet the fact has not been much publicized. Senator James Allen of Alabama explained at the time:

The recipients of food stamps would thus be able to use their own initiative to produce fruits and vegetables needed to provide variety and nutritional value for their diets.

While this amendment does broaden the definition of food items which may be purchased with food stamp coupons, I would expect that the food stamp recipients would be able to purchase the seeds and plants they need from grocery stores who are now participating in the food stamp program.

I would not expect the Department of Agriculture to undertake the administrative costs of certifying those thousands of additional stores to supply the seeds and plants that food stamp recipients might wish to purchase.

The amendment would allow the food stamp recipient to purchase with his food stamps seeds and plants for the purpose of growing food  for consumption by himself and his household.

It would allow a person to buy  $1 or $2 worth of seed or vegetable plants and possibly have available a plot of land and be able to raise $50 or $100 worth of food for himself and his family.

It would encourage industry on the part of the food stamp recipient and it would be at no cost to the Federal Government.

Now, Senator Allen left out the best part. If someone raises $100 worth of vegetables from $2 of seeds, they’ve just denied the corporate food chain $98. SNAP Gardens is an organization promoting food stamp gardens, and providing information to gardeners. I suggest SNAP non-recipients visit the page to absorb some of its enthusiasm.

The idea of being independent of the Ugliness Economy doesn’t mean everyone must become an atomized individual sewing their own clothes from thread they spun themselves from a sheep they fed from their own garden. Clearly people need to support each other, with gifts, barter, and fair, localized commerce.

In Michigan, some farmer’s markets have a Bridge Card tent where you swipe your card, and then the cashier tells you that the card won’t scan, so you stand there and ask them to manually punch your number in (well, that’s how my Bridge Card worked after a couple of months). Anyways, they give you tokens representing food stamp money to spend at the other booths. And the cool bit is, they double your money up to $20 per day. The program is called Double Up Food Bucks, and if you follow the link you’ll find a list of participating markets. (Thanks, Wilfrid Cyrus, for pointing this one out to me.) These markets are much nicer places to spend money in than, say, Walmart. Other states may have similar programs — for instance, in Rhode Island, you can spend WIC credits at farmer’s markets.

I would love to see a Homesteader Card program, which would give out money for soil, fertilizer, planters, fencing, homebrew gear and all of the other good stuff that allows people to take care of their own household needs. Since that would undermine growth of “the marketplace” — people would get used to getting $100 of vegetables for only $2 — the government would never do such a thing. Oh, well. In the meantime, SNAP gardens and Double Up Food Bucks can still be used to undermine the Ugliness Economy.

Garden for victory!

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April 6, 2012

Garden-Variety Repression

The planting season hasn’t yet peaked, and government agencies are already busily kicking gardeners’ asses in the name of law and order. In the City of Flint, the Genesee County Land Bank sold property out from under Peace Mob Gardens’ lease, to a private owner, having apparently lost Peace Mob’s paperwork. In Oakland, California, multiple Federal agencies raided Oaksterdam University, the nation’s foremost school for medical marijuana workers and patients (a group which includes some of the world’s most sophisticated gardeners.) It’s business as usual in the Land of the Free, just your garden-variety repression.

Peace Mob Gardens

The Genesee County Land Bank is an entity created by state law, to return foreclosed-upon property to the tax base. Flint is a hollowed-out, deindustrialized city not unlike Detroit or Gary, in need of redevelopment as the only alternative to blight. GCLB is supposed to provide a community development function, since they are entrusted with so much land and can have a big effect. Peace Mob Gardens converts abandoned properties into livable, owned homes and/or community gardens. They offer the community educational opportunities from classes and work days to demonstration greenhouses built from recovered materials. Thus, GCLB should be eager to sell / lease land to Peace Mob, with its five-year track record of rehabbing properties.

Peace Mob tore down the dilapidated house at 1425 Illinois Street, but rehabbed the garage and planted on the property. They used the shed to store materials for gardens covering four residential plots on the block. The Peace Mobsters believed that they were leasing all four of those properties from the GCLB, although the GCLB held the only copies of the leases. Then, neighbor Larry Young purchased 1425 Illinois from GCLB for about $200.

According to Mobster Phillip Jacks, “Although we have offered to purchase the land many many times from our local land bank, for up to twice what Mr. Young has just paid, they have refused sale to us and sold it to him. Last year he also tried to purchase our land, and we made a verbal agreement to let him have a lot next to him, if he stopped trying to buy our land. I guess we should have got that in writing.” Larry Young allowed the community-based Peace Mob to rehab the property, then bought it for himself from the Land Bank which supposedly exists to facilitate community development and property rehabilitation! Peace Mob lost the property on March 30, and was moved out by April 4.

Why would GCLB not sell to Peace Mob, possibly even pretending to lose the paperwork? I think that community gardens, especially those built along organic lines, are an unpleasant reminder of the unsustainability of suburban life. Take away imports of petroleum-based products, and the two most sustainable places in Flint are the scattered Mob Gardens and the Occupy camp. “Damned dirty nonconformists!” think the developers. “Urban properties are for growing topiary and grass from synthetic fertilizer. Your obsession with a livable ecology is degrading the appearance of normality around here! Drive your SUV to the grocery store if you want to eat.”

You can petition Larry Young to not steal the property.

Oaksterdam University

Oaksterdam U was founded in 2007 by medical marijuana activist Richard Lee (he started California’s Prop 19, the first medical marijuana law in the country to stick). This is the best place in the nation to learn cannabis growing and medical use. There is a building with a large classroom and a grow lab, and a student union across the street. Besides Richard Lee, legendary medical grower Ed Rosenthal and hemp advocate Chris Conrad teach classes — national figures of the marijuana movement.

Many say that Oaksterdam U and a cluster of loosely associated dispensaries helped rehabilitate their Oakland neighborhood. Medical marijuana has rehabilitated many people — one patient I know was confined to a wheelchair and diaper for years, despite all the care he could get through conventional doctors and hospitals, until he started using medical marijuana. He now walks and uses the bathroom like anyone else.

To the Federal government, all marijuana use is criminal, and Oaksterdam U is not place of healing and learning, but a threat, a crime school. The Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Marshals and IRS descended on the school, taking computers, records, plants and other evidence. (The IRS participated in a raid to shut down a tax paying business?) The school is still operating, with a slimmer selection of classes available. The nursery service is gone, as all of the mother plants were destroyed along with their precious genes.

At the same time Federal agents were gathering evidence to lock away teachers and healers at Oaksterdam, a student named One L. Goh opened fire in a building at Oikos University, about half a mile away. Goh killed seven people and injured three more. Oakland’s local SWAT team rushed to the scene, but could only secure the area and locate victims, because Goh had quickly fled. An hour later, Goh admitted the shooting to a security guard working at a Safeway. Where were the U.S. Marshals during the manhunt? They were half a mile away, engaged with the important work of investigating teachers and ripping plants up by the root, of course!

The raid on Oaksterdam, flagship of the medical marijuana armada, has galvanized medical pot supporters. Lawmakers from five states have written the Obama administration, demanding it live up to its campaign promise to leave medical marijuana to the states.

Why all of this repression against planters? Because plants put power in the hands of people — the power to feed ourselves, the power to provide our own medicine, the power to make friends and allies in our communities. Governments instinctively want to keep us dependent, and will often display passive aggression to community gardens, or irrational and violent hostility to marijuana grows. The death suburb of today will still become the community garden of tomorrow, because there will simply not be enough fossil fuel energy to keep up a massive police state, nor the appearance of Apollonian order on every front lawn.

Go ahead and spray Roundup on that dandelion today, but tomorrow you may be jackhammering the entire sidewalk out, looking for more area to cultivate.

February 25, 2012

Candidate Promises Beheadings

Filed under: Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 5:06 pm

February 28 is a voting day here in Michigan. Checking out my ballot on publius.org, I see I have the choice of Republicans for President, one person running for one school board position, and an up/down vote on later electing a committee to revise the Detroit City Charter (replace the old, broken charter with a new, broken charter?). I’m going to vote Ron Paul for President for the completely trivial reasons that he wants to stop waging imperial wars all over the planet, remove us from the grip of bank-created debt-based play money, and also to restore some semblance of civil liberties to the citizens. So, mentally file me under “naive first-time voter fooled by cynical false promise to legalize marijuana” while you fantasize that Obama is really going to show his true colors if given a second term. Whatever. The only choice on Tuesday is between Republicans, why not check the box that indicates “I enjoy my remaining degree of freedom”?

In the general election, there is more choice. Did you know that there is a Green Tea party? Its members include, and perhaps consist entirely of, Roseanne Barr, candidate for President of the United States and Prime Minister of Israel. She declared on Mother’s Day 2010, with this speech. She declares patriarchal politics obsolete and calls forth Divine Matriarchy, saying that “Patriarchy is impotent, and qualitatively unable to solve even the simplest problems in the Cosmos, such as picking up its own socks, or placing a carton of milk back in the refrigerator after drinking directly out of it.”

Her three-part plan:

1) Outlaw war, including the War on Drugs (legalize cannabis.)

2) More women in government. Government loans to poor women to start businesses.

3) Outlaw bullshit.

Part #3 turns out to involve some enforcement difficulties, but Barr is the tough lady we need to see this program through:

Barr is recognized as a Green Party candidate for President. Her campaign page is available here — as of writing time, there is a bizarre prayer against the warlord Kony splashed across the top, but there are some good essays and news bits farther down.

Back to Ron Paul — the practical person’s protest vote. Many are afraid that, if elected, Paul would allow for abortions to be all but banned and the South to become resegregated. You know what I’m afraid of? Ron Paul would be inaugurated promising great change, but then find it strangely difficult to implement basic executive perogatives, like shutting down Guantanamo Bay prison or calling Justice Department dogs off of the medical marijuana community. I mean, truly, look at the difference between what Obama promised and was able to achieve. Paul himself was politically unable, as a Representative, to cast a principled vote of “Nay” against the pointless, brutal, and illegal invasion of Afghanistan (his staff threatened to quit.) So, what would it matter if he were President? He’d simply become the prisoner-in-chief of a prison nation.

That’s why I favor the more ironical candidates.

July 14, 2011

Outlaw gardens

Filed under: gardening, Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 3:22 am

When I think of outlaw gardens, I usually think of the major medicinal plants: coca (cocaine, the prototype local anaesthetic), opium poppy (the prototype painkiller and cough suppressant), marijuana (still underutilized), or magical cacti and mushrooms. But a garden doesn’t require any mind-blowing substances to drive local bureaucrats into a psychotic abyss.

Julie Bass appears to be a Normal Suburban Mom, but she’s one bad motherfucker in the eyes of the City of Oak Park, Michigan. She crossed a line you see: in the Code of Ordinances, Appendix A, Article XVII, Section 1716.A.5, it clearly states: “All unpaved portions of [any] site shall be planted with grass ground cover, shrubbery, or other suitable live plant material.” But Julie planted a vegetable garden in the front, which at least one neighbor found unsuitable. The city told Julie to rip out her organic bounty and sow Chemlawn-perfect grass like a good suburbanite, but the bitch won’t back down!  She’s dragging the City into a jury trial, and facing up to 93 days in jail if she loses.

I like how City Planner Kevin Rulkowski bizarrely defines “suitable” as “common.” Were there some hallucinogenic morning glory seeds in his coffee, or is he intentionally making things up? Just who do these guys think they are to say which plants can go where? When the usual food imports are disrupted by declining oil production, climate change  or currency collapse, the city officials who now persecute Ms. Bass will be begging her for help to keep their citizens fed. For now, the officials float in a denial narcosis, believing that they can impose arbitrary concepts of normalcy on their little suburban bubble indefinitely into a Jetsons-inspired future.

Growing your own food and medicine is a basic human right — if you can’t do it for yourself, you must depend upon “the global economy” for everything you consume. In such a way everything you need to exist is a commercial transaction, and subject to controls like taxation, “safety” regulations and monopoly power — in other words, governments and corporate cartels decide what you can eat or medicate with. In fact, part of Ms. Bass’s motivation for gardening was to glean some organic food she otherwise couldn’t so easily afford.

Besides the issues of human rights or property rights, Ms. Bass’s case rattled my cage in the sense of: “Oh my Goddess! We’re living in a cage!” Julie consulted the city planner and was left believing she was a little bit free, to grow some vegetable boxes in the front lawn and share something a little bit different with the neighborhood kids. But when she used that freedom: POW!  She’s threatened with being taken from her kids for three months. You don’t know you’re living in a cell until you hear someone stumble into the bars.

It’s exhausting to ponder the degrees of unfreedom we live under. But, Julie Bass’s stand may open things up a crack. Check out her blog, Oak Park Hates Veggies. Take note of the Useful Links sidebar on the right, ’cause that is where you can take action to support this brave lady.

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