Follow the Soapbox
By Stephen Wallace

I like to joke with my friends, that, at 22 years-old, I retired. After all, I worked very hard during my years of living in humiliating and laughably painful American poverty. As an Organizer, I stayed up late past hours thinking endlessly about possible ways to raise the consciousness of the community. Every night, including weekends and holidays, by the way!  I don’t mean this to be a touting of my virtues. I mean it as an unfortunate fact of my life. I thought about it all the damn time. To the point of tormented hysteria, in fact. Probably to the annoyance of my friends. It was obsessive. A thing fueled by an excessive amount of anger at what we had done to ourselves as a species.

A system that produced so much suffering. The data reveals, clearly, this is the species that is its own predator and prey. The species that dominates the planet is suicidal! This was the known and beautiful irony of all of The State’s programs. Lies from the government (and moneyed friends) that we ignore, or choose to go along with. In doing so, we come closer to our collective demise. Something we could have stopped if everyone just chose to tell the truth, in the first place.

But the pursuit of truth begins with self-knowledge. That’s what Aristotle says, anyway. Homelessness, that’s what I knew. I knew my way of dealing with it and that was reading to know things. Knowing that a minimum wage job wouldn’t be enough to pay rent anywhere decent was part of it, And knowing that if I was going to get out of this cycle, I would just have to learn to take things one day at a time. That’s what I knew. And that gave me a lot of time to think about different ways to phrase all of this. A lot of time building roads that all lead to the revelation of The United States and its Big Lie. Every choice has its gains and losses. And since time and money are the two forces with which we measure the value in our lives, I chose to give myself as much time as possible, to do what I wanted to do that didn’t cost anything. Days spent thinking, reading and getting to know other people that might change the way I saw the world, even if it seemed unlikely that we would ever become regulars in each other’s lives. Days felt longer than they would have, but weren’t stretched out to unbearable lengths. It began to feel natural to know a life lived moment by moment. It could be spontaneous if I wanted it to be. But that time spent “doing nothing” was the time I spent learning how to live with myself, and crafting a sense of purpose that was founded in small deeds. Sentimentality and open sharing of woundedness without testimonial melodrama -- casual solidarity became my social norm, in this way.

But those things felt like forced perspectives, sometimes. Pleasantness cannot make you forget your own evils. And none of it makes it possible to forget the violence dealt to you by others. Generally, I think people have just as much understanding of right as they do wrong. If a few positions are given concentrated power, the consequences of a few mistakes made by a few individuals in those positions will be just as powerful. And that can’t be undone. It’s the same way you can’t unsay or undo an act that hurts someone you love. But the act that a ruler can’t undo is multiplied by many millionsfold.

I imagine that involuntary homelessness and solitary confinement, for all apparent differences, are, in essence, the same. Two empty worlds orbiting the same unhappy neutron star. Both experiences are forms of imposed isolation of a person from all other people. I had experienced an overflow of feelings, of inescapable separation. And I was prematurely exposed. So I aged rapidly, in a manner of speaking. And also stayed the same as the friends who were my age. A child’s temper with an old man’s tired mumbling.  A lovely marriage of bad attitudes. That probably ended up damaging every single relationship I had with all of my friend’s parents. There were rumors that spread about me and my personal life between some of them. Housewife gossip fodder.  

Clumsy frustration and condemnatory monologues became “just a part of the job.” But I was not a fool. Hot air rises to the surface, but I knew that beneath all of that raging and aging that parents saw, I was not a fool. Judgements of what felt like -- what I knew was their prejudice probably only made them more afraid. I can’t blame them for feeling scared and discomforted. I wanted to force a mirror in front of their faces that hid nothing in the reflection. But that was my own violence. Something I paid for in self-destructive marginalization. And all of that beat the loneliness harder into my very being. I found a better way to be later on. And it changed my career and got me a bed to sleep in every night. After half a decade of wondering what it feels like -- not just to have it, but have the choice for it or not -- I can sleep in a bed.

This career was the fulfillment of an anthropologist’s dream that was never mine. To the student of cultural studies, who slept through his entire undergraduate career, I will never forget you. The Universe sent me as the stand-in for your study abroad program -- I liked the topic:

...To Be Invisible: Culture of the Oppressed in America.

I can write the essay, too. Just pay me in cigarettes so I can stay focused, and let me see what your writing is like. And tell me what kind of grade you are aiming for. I already know the title: From Misery to Misery. And there would be suspense and humor like everything worth reading (But it’s real!). “Escape from the midnight mugging!” and “Almost killed by broken glass and a broken heart.” You’ve got one hell of an original thesis here. They’re going to tell you to publish your findings!  

You are so very welcome, and I give you an old man’s fond thanks. Thanks for the chance to see something new every day. It is gratitude that only the keeper of a long and hard life knows. Though, I am sure that you don’t want to hear an old man’s stories, I know that they seem to go on for eons and eternities. What I am trying to say, of course, is that I enjoyed every minute of it, and that every day, no matter what the forecast said, my intuition told me that the day would consist of totally clear blue skies with 100% chance of smiley-face sunshine.sporting shades to keep cool and to keep me company and to keep me pumped up!! Clearly, that is what I meant.

Oh, well. That was life. That was my “professional” life. I spent a lot of my time amusing myself with the thought of ending both lives. But ending only one of those lives seems good enough to me. That’s just a little helping of death. Better not die too much now (to paraphrase a diddle of Leonard Cohen’s).

Though my career didn’t make me wealthy, it was very hard work and should be thought of as nothing less. I did my reading, no doubt: History books that highlighted racism, sexism, capitalism and the State, philosophy, poetry, literature and literary criticism. I snuck into lectures of accomplished activists. I sent e-mails to many of them, most notably Noam Chomsky, but there was always a string of others: The former Yale Professor, anarchist and anthropologist, David Graeber, the retired bishop of Newark, John Shelby Spong, local area professors. Infamy or fame wasn’t the deciding factor. It was more-so that those popular resources were the ones that I came across first. If the author was alive and evidently active, I would attempt to reach out to them. A visit to my girlfriend in Wisconsin three Christmases ago proved to be a part of that journey. She was in college and I was not. A book for her sociology class, titled Unequal Childhoods was the centerpiece of my reading while she went to work for the day. The book was by Annette Lareau, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. I e-mailed her questions about the work, her influences, Marx and so on. Through her recommendations, I was lead to explore the classic sociologists -- Max Weber, Pierre Bourdieu, C. Wright Mills.

Street Smart, Book Smart…

This is what I did as someone who couldn’t talk to his professors regularly. By that I mean that I was a dropout and that was how I learned. That became part of the job as an organizer -- maintaining correspondence, recommended reading, and bouncing the ideas off of -- shockingly receptive strangers. Some of those strangers became friends. Some of those friends became organizers. That is how I imagine all people get involved. Friends who decide to band together and try to change things.

Not all strangers became friends. To some I’m sure I just looked strange. But all of those strangers taught me something that was an important lesson, a piece of wisdom to carry with me until my next exchange, even if the seminar was quick, short, and the “lecture” consisted of one zap-moment disregard -- No, thank you, I’m not interested in buying anything or joining any religion, F--- off, if you’d be so kind. Lessons learned. Respect people’s spaces, and don’t vilify people you don’t know. Some people are busy working, silly, and it’s not that they hate you. And there’s always more people who will come along, people who are waiting to be shown something new. The smallest of the “most important” lessons for Organizing is the reason that we continue to do anything at all: There are always more people out there that feel invisible and know that they are treated like stray dogs. They have become too used to not being listened to, heard, or recognized in any way, despite all that they have to show and tell.

There’s more. One of the lessons to remember is that, though books are written by authors, books are not living, breathing, or capable of suffering. People around you, alive, imperfect, damaged and fabulous, they are the ones who teach the things that matter, all about pain, existence, and love.

Every stranger and friend became a teacher and co-worker in this busy career. Everyone I talked to deserved careful attention. Including, maybe especially those who would call me their ideological opposite. Exchanges always began with a familiar adversarial and accusatory tone. But it helps to ignore something that sounds like it came from a pundit on television (and having the decency to not point that out).  Sometimes, the both of us would stop treating each other with bitterness and childish reproach. We’d pause, rewind, shake our heads, and reintroduce ourselves with added sensitivity. The insights that would open out to me during those conversations would always feel especially rewarding. Earned from hard work. A job well done, for what it was.

Admired from a Distance...

If this retirement was not a joke, I would say that I did not do enough. That is always going to be true. If your work is the realization of a free, just and loving world, then the work will never be enough. The only retirement is death. But in the sense that Organizing begins to feel like little more than monotonous routine, I would say that I have left practice. I only mean this in a certain way. I married myself to the Revolution very young. And, like all who have loved, I have not forgotten my first love, my love of books. While I’m at it, I will never forget all of the friends I made in my time spent in an on-again-off-again relationship with Strangers. The time I spent simply wandering, directionless, carrying some pleasant acceptance of how lost I had become.  The latter two things were part of me, whether I liked it or not. And when I began Organizing, they were also a part of that. I would like to think that it has had an impact. Still some sort of unusual shame, remains. Because the Organizers I have known were the Organizers I admired, and wanted to be, and never became.

An Organizer finds a way to spread the message along, to show people that they can lead themselves, to show them that history is still happening right at this very moment. Organizers inspire others by showing them that it it is not useless or meaningless to believe in the imminent awakening and the coming Renaissance of our lives. Organizers are the ones who reveal to all what that feeling is, that uneasiness that people at first might not be able to put into words. That feeling that something isn’t right, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. The Organizer, the Activist, is the one who gives voice to the unspeakable.

The Message

In an earlier draft to this, I got carried away. That happens. And, in trying to explain it creatively, the message was lost in a cacophony of metaphor. So for the sake of keeping it short and sweet, I’ll tell you what the root of all evil is, in words we can all understand. Contrary to what we are taught by playful cynics, every person is reasonable. The problem is, you can be reasoned into anything, and reasoned out of anything. And we are given a lot of reasons to feel scared of people because they look different or say things that sound different than what we’re used to hearing, or do things that we may not think of doing. We’re given reasons, a lot of reasons, to be scared of people. And we’re given a lot of reasons to love people who have a lot of things. We are taught to love things and be afraid of people, and that has made a huge mess. It has spawned landfills and landfills of problems.

All these problems that no one should attempt to reason their way out of.

It is just plain wrong, and we all know it. And, like a lukewarm romance that’s doomed to die, we don’t talk about what’s wrong with one another. All of us walk on isolated lines, believing a lie that we must do all things alone. And again, the radical shouts out, lie! and again the Organizer shows by example that things don’t have to be this way.There are plenty of reasons to believe that we can do better than this. People may not be wildly imaginative. They may have no idea how we got into this mess in the first place! They may not even read as much as they should, but an even illiterate fellow somewhere in this stone-cold country has better ideas for what the world could be than what it is at present. The world we have right now is a world where one of the ideas that “made it big” was to publish magazines with front covers featuring rich people who own a lot of things. Everyone we know probably has the ability to imagine a world better than that. It would be wrong to doubt that for a minute of your life!

Resume Dramatic Poise: In Praise of The Organizer

No doubt, it’s all wrong! Pot-smokers and the poor in prison, the artists starve but they never had to, the students feel crushed by debt and feel that they’ve learned nothing. For all the time and money they spent, nothing. It’s all wrong. An Organizer pulls those realizations forward in a way that does not crush the soul. Instead illuminating its beauty, raising the spirit of humanity higher than all things that threaten its survival. Organizers guide people to places in their minds where permanent truths remain hidden away. They carry lanterns that hold their souls, their lives and wisdom are guiding lights. Those white flames give life to liberated genius. That is, a new perspective. A different picture of our world. A freedom of the mind and heart. They are re-born, and, as the flag-wavers say, they are born to be free. Free to leave the hollow meaning of conventional truth behind. And this reincarnated soul learns to walk very quickly. The Organizer invites them to run. To sprint into the open streets, toward the pink-orange Good Morning of the better day. But I am not someone who can do that.

Not like the Organizers who took me along for the ride, or the ones who I invited along.

At least, not in the ways of the Conscientious Objector, not the Protestor, not the Demonstrator, the Sit-in, Die-In Dramatists.

Activism and theatre have always been, evidently inter-linked. I never was good at acting, though. I could never really get rid of stage fright, so to speak. Though I know I had meaningful things to say, my voice is not loud and, God knows that I could not dream of delivering a speech in-the-moment and at the same time hope to stir the air in a large crowd. I was content to wander, alone, but not lonely -- to know what what it felt like to breathe in the free air. And to hear the noisy and melodious sounds of their celebratory marching.

Every play has a few important people who work behind the scenes. And they’ve got their names written in the program that is given out before the curtain opens. Without that quiet and diligent work that goes on invisibly, the show can’t go on.

Every person has a part to play. My name is near the back somewhere, in small bold and italic-style print. And each person gets a short biography that tells the viewers, just a little bit of the story of the real people on the stage. Mine would be just a few lines, nothing evidently outstanding to someone just flipping through. There would be something about dropping out and wanting to die painfully slow -- how I felt that that was all I could do, for a long time, and, forgiveness at last. And something about the joke that I am retired. And my most recent role, behind the scenes of this Revolutionary Masterpiece. A writer who could bring this story to the People!

Literary Criticism for Dropouts

The meaning of all of this is to point out, that the Activists and Demonstrators, the Radicals, like every culture, have their mainstream which constructs an accepted understanding of how popular revolution should be brought about. And there are the ones who have contributed in ways that are independent of the most direct methods of involvement. Still, those contributions prove to be invaluable and essential to a movement’s continued life. We turn, for a moment, to the classics. The novelist, Franz Kafka’s critical illustrations of state bureaucracies and other forms of social management have enriched the motivations of anarchists and other dissidents. Kafka’s work highlights the agonizing effects of meaningless societal violence. The patriot says that we are born to be free. But in our time, it is not to be so. Our longing for independence and creative thinking disintegrates on contact with cold reality. Possibilities for humanity are reduced to that of an insect. The superficial measures and arbitrary limits that are central to modern institutional construction are webs of Oppression. Kafka’s involvement in anarchist organizations has been noted. There has been substantial documentation of this fact.. Peter Kropotkin is Anarchism’s answer to Karl Marx. His name appears in the personal writings of the studious Kafka,

He may not have been as directly involved in the Struggle against Capital like the anarchist Kropotkin, but his work has highlighted the effects of the prolonged abuse of human beings by institutionalized behavioral patterns. The pathological tendency for attention to trivial details and meaningless standards of measurement. This relationship has been explored in-depth by the French philosopher, Michael Löwy. It’s a highly accessible read, and the author has written about many of the icons of Radical Politics. Also, the associated theological current, Liberation Theology. I enjoy my time with things like this. But I don’t pretend that everyone will find joy in elaborate commentaries. Especially elaborate commentaries written on books by Authors long dead. Authors that everyone talks about but very few people would torment themselves and force themselves to read. Authors like, Karl Marx. Though, I don’t know what to think. People always surprise you with the strange things they do.

Mainstream Marxists
And The Ones You’ve Never Heard Of Before…

The Marxists, like everyone else, have a mainstream -- Leon Trotsky is the obvious example, and out of the American canon, E.P. Thomspon, and Eugene Debs. The Marxists also have their unorthodox variants -- Rosa Luxemburg, the anarchist dissident in the Soviet Union, the astronomer and theorist of Council Marxism, Antonie Pannekoek, or the Anarchist Orator, Voltarine De Clerye. The first two were denounced by Leninists -- an expected reaction of the rigid Red bureaucrats. Pannekoek was mocked by Trotsky who dismissed the Marxian Stargazer with signature intellectual sarcasm as “an infantile leftist.” Luxemburg was murdered in Berlin. Her work is largely forgotten. Contemporary affiliation and appreciation survive in little shards, in remarks made by Noam Chomsky, for example.

De Cleyre, who the immortal and infamous Emma Goldman called “the most brilliant anarchist woman America ever produced,” is also largely forgotten, and misrepresentation of her views in summary articles becomes startlingly obvious when her work is reviewed independently. She was a Poetess. and a fearlessly passionate speaker, infatuated with the nature of Ideas. She was a feminist, a critic of the Church -- two things that, in her time, could have gotten her killed. Examples all worth careful review. Through studying these three phenomenal individuals, a question of survival arose. A question about History’s memory of radicals. Had History pushed these exemplary thinkers off the edge, were they deliberately thrown into that dark valley, the Shadow of Forgotten Wisdom? Maybe it was because they are more difficult to categorize. Either way, I began to feel that History tended to bury things and that it’s forgetfulness effectively marginalized the Radical voices that were revered by friends within the Radical Thought circles of their time. More is forgotten by History than learned from it.

We are not good at keeping track of the wallflowers that line the edge of the room.

Bohemians in the Digital Age

I mentioned that I was homeless for four years, didn’t I? And I suppose in a way, that is my cultural background. One of the definitions I have heard of culture, is that everything that happens in society is culture. So my time spent, learning the nomad-of-one culture has taught me a lot. Each different home had a culture of their own, and each spoke a different language than the last. All of the recently discovered off-shoots of American English -- left wing, right wing, rich, poor, divorcee, addict, hopeful disciple, secular humanist, and the universal language that no one wants to use during daylight hours: Heartbroken and helpless, and sick of living. Though I am fluent in the romantic language of the Anarchistic Madman, it would be senseless to carry that verbal weapon openly, especially when it so late and everyone wants to sleep.

Another lesson learned -- an open door is kind and trusting enough. It needs no annotation or additional comment.

All friends begin as strangers. Some strangers become friends, some friends you only know for a little while. Some friends come back, and some friends stay with you. The friends that stay, stay up late with you.

Here are two friends who stayed up late with me.

The Digital Native Night Owls aren’t frightened by much of anything. Certainly not a poor and clumsy hippie with a book. Those all-night reclusive youths that opened their doors to me, I will be forever grateful for them. They are my best friends. They are also the ones who gave me Night Classes. Two people come to mind when I say this. Both of them I won’t let myself forget. One lady (who wishes to remain unnamed, here) and one gent (who wishes to be named here and I will do so below). Two different houses, part of the same Night Owl Digital Bohemian culture.

The lady nocturne lived in a lie of a house. She told me that a few times. Outwardly it appeared as the model home for the affluent and quiet family. She hated it. It was a lie of a house. For its inner emptiness, its big and blank-walled emptiness. The type of home that a lot of people are told is The American Dream House. The thing they are told that they want. She left high school very early, and by some series of events, she obtained a high school diploma. She would not call herself a teacher, and she would be disgusted at the notion of being thought of as an intellectual. But I have learned more from her than any schoolmaster. Though her house was large and had a nice television, I found that early on, before anything about the house might have informed my understanding of her or her family, that the house was, indeed. a lie. It indicated nothing about her. Her family never asked for money for my nights of sleeping there, and the illusion of affluence hid a life lived in struggle. The first friend I completely trusted moved around a lot during her years in school. She attended more than a dozen different schools between middle and high school for a variety of reasons. None of them had anything to do with military life. And she had lived in small apartments and smaller houses. I don’t want to describe her experience dishonestly, but from her telling me of her “one of everything” sampling of living spaces, that should be enough. Thinking of how much she has seen of American daily life makes me think of how uneducated I was -- not in the Official sense. In the sense that is related to events. My education, though informal, was primarily received through the intellectual community. Academic books, and talking to Professors..

She reminded me, again and again, sometimes daily, of my stupidity. This was not by deliberate cruelty. She had nothing to gain from this, except that she might gain a better friend if being an honest person can help people grow. She always knew how to say what she thought. And when it came to America, she knew how to say what she thought better than any Marxist or Intellectual Leftist I have known. In a way anyone could grasp. This was different than my learning through reading alone of empirical material. She wanted nothing to do with the hollow vernacular of the sociologists. She and I would watch films and stay up very late. It has seemed then, and still does, that her knowledge of literature, poetry, and music came from a bottomless pit. Maybe in that empty house, there was a secret room, where she kept all of the novels and records that should be preserved and locked away, in case of a raid by government tyrants, or SONY Producers looking to seize the musical treasures for their corporate empire. But her imagination is not littered with paranoia. I don’t think she would have given a thought to being frightened by the government.

There were more important things to think about. More music is forgotten than uploaded and digitally archived. She was a preservationist, thinking of music in this way. And she had so much to show me. Always more, new and beautiful and differently beautiful, whatever it was. I knew I was totally ignorant of all of it. It says a lot that the only word I could use to describe my feelings about certain songs and lyrics -- the word was“interesting,”-- that showed me my own lack of culture. That’s a half-brained understanding of art. She, more than any person I can think of, has stood out as honest and uncompromised.

America, she told me, was a long sick, and twisted joke. Her precocious cynicism is complemented by a love of the works that present wisdom with a sense of humor -- insights that are transmitted through wit, mockery, satire. But she is not cruel or insincere. She is finding a way to laugh at some ugly truth about the state of things. And when it has not been laughter, it has been beauty. Real beauty.

She will point out all of the things about art that people miss (maybe I was the only one who never gave it enough time). I thought I knew “enough”about what music and poetry were, what it meant to appreciate art. But that was lazy of me. We do not give ourselves enough time to find music and books that we like, and that has made the world an emptier place. There is so much more, and some important message is being sent (without imposing itself on the reader or listener). Something that those artists were pointing toward. She showed me recently, the poet Gil Scott. His poem.“Whitey On The Moon,” is not-so-shockingly relevant to our 21st century social illness, the reality of racism in the so-called “post-racial” American world. Our friendship is rooted in a trust and confidence that is only because of the “in-touch always” convenience that Digital Natives enjoy.

Ferguson, Modern Savagery: Like, Comment, Share

The night that the ruling of Officer Darren Wilson was announced to the public, we expressed to each other, what felt like sober and lucid sentiments. I was not surprised. Was she? No, not at all. Two children who were not born yesterday. When Mike Brown’s murder became a matter of secondary importance, what took priority in the discussions surrounding the tragedy became the courteous savagery that we have become familiar with. The chastising of the ungrateful dissidents, and barbaric looters by the most prim, proper, privileged parts of the population. Protesters and breaking windows -- they aren’t peaceful, they are nothing but trouble! Why can’t they be grateful for the Police Force, for all they do for us.

It was she who, eras ahead of everyone else, pointed out the total depravity of the ongoing debate. How backwards a culture must be, that the pundits and forums overlap in near-congruent displays of ignorance. The television’s liberal voices were also meaningless. She always loathed the contrived indignation of intellectuals, the secret narcissists who were used to being summoned to the Television Eye to say nice things about justice and principle. And then they vanish.

Until ratings showed that being angry was in-style again. Famous or not famous, people like that want to get applause and impress their friends with how good they are.

People we all know are not excluded from this twisting backwards of our moral spines. The shame belongs to us, acting as if the discussion that followed Mike Brown’s murder was acceptable and that the whole thing could be excused as a complex issue. But it was indeed a sick, and very long, twisted joke. Digital Age Savagery. Social media battalions, line up -- keyboards, locked and loaded.

A jury of the masses to determine -- whether or not -- the death of someone our age is a tragedy. And it was after talking to her, that the detached and unemotional character of the debates -- between intellectual students, and various people of privilege that an ugly and simple truth revealed itself to me. Ignorance is a privilege. The privilege of being a part of the Ruler’s Ideology is not having to know the pain of oppression. Ignorance. I get what they say about it now.

It must be so very blissful.

Rare Sightings of a Saint Among Us: Gentle Genius, Friendly Ghost

The other friend is, similarly, a digital native. Nicholas Keller introduced himself with tender amusement, called himself a socially engaging recluse. A beautiful contradiction. Young and insecure children with good heads on their shoulders always dress up their language. Our culture is perverted by a need to win, and the bookworms have their sport, too. Being the smartest person in the room is more important than making friends, for some reason. All of that competitive nonsense is beneath him, though. That doesn’t worry him. Empathy comes first, is his unspoken rule. But everyone knows that Nicholas Keller could send professors reeling, if he wanted to. If he was someone who was violent, he could make a nice side hobby of breaking the egos of intellectuals. Like a master of martial arts who breaks cinder blocks with apparent ease. But he is a gentle person. If I wrote a fantasy novel, in it, he would be a singing old man, carrying a lantern, captaining a ferry that only appears on clear nights when the moon is full. And that ferry would take the passengers to The World of Ideas. The ferri would return by daybreak, but all passengers returning, would be changed forever. The wisdom of a thousand lives would  be theirs for the keeping. This is how I think of him. Luckily for him, I am not interesting in writing fantasy novels!

Radicalized at an early age, he organized walk-outs in his high school to protest the re-invasion of Iraq by George W. Bush. I believe he was fourteen. He marched on to the White House, during a series of history’s largest demonstrations. Our friendship is one of those lucky happenings that emerges out of unlucky circumstances. The older brother of a high school friend, our first conversations were in his car riding to whatever house I was staying at for the night. He is self-taught in literature, theology, philosophy, cognitive science, botany, art, music, mathematics and spanish. And this is no Hobbyist. It has seemed, at times, that he absorbed Ideas similar to the way a plant absorbs sunlight. He is humble. A quiet man with unmatched brilliance. He has demonstrated love and endearing sincerity to me that is dreadfully rare. He mailed books to me, encouraged my exploration in art and intellectual matters more than all of my other friends. During some of the most unhappy times of my life, months spent in a house so poor that the dog’s ribs were always showing and the electricity shut off for a handful of days each month -- that small act was something I held on to.

These two friends of mine have not yet met, and I don’t know if they ever will. I know that they represent to me, two different versions of the same lesson. They have been some of the wisest people of all ages that I have known -- demonstrating not only intelligence but tender love and forgiving nature. They have been exposed to many of the unusually abrasive and harsh conditions of life. They are the ones who have shown something to me, a rare and whole grasp on the meaning of human decency. They are not protesters, demonstrators, or organizers in the sense we might be used to. However, it was this pair of people who helped me understand my own study of Radical Politics -- because of their invisible compassion.

The fellow nocturne Nicholas Keller has told me he would not last in retail. He would probably crack. But to me, they both have done the hardest and most important work. They can answer the question of who they are, and can tell you the story. We are all never done growing, not until death, but they have shown me something astonishing about self-growth and independence. Institutional learning exhausts the youth, suffocating their strength away. Most become too exhausted, or frightened to look inward. The arbitrary measuring of the person’s psychological worth by grades and wages rewards them with nothing but grief. It abuses them and either degrades emotional honesty, or produces detached, and academic arguments. Arguments like that can be, of course not always, the product of compromising the search for what drives our passions, internally. We already have enough problems to learn from, when we have hurt each other. The ones I have spent time with, the ones who have continued to learn so far away from the University life and do not restrain how they illustrate their worldview. They do not rigidly align the whole of their speech with the language of academics or the activists. But by making these choices, they have been revolutionary -- their minds are independent, critical, not inclined to answer to any ideology. Only inclined to honesty and love.

Kafka would not have called himself the philosopher-activist, or an anarchist. But, as he wrote in private, we should not forget Kropotkin! He arguably would have accepted the word existentialist. Regardless of the exact details, it is clear that the novelist’s work has given a rich illustration for the anarchists, the dissidents, the revolutionaries. Those radicals have been able to bring the writing to life. The modern bureaucratic nightmares, the Kafkaesque portraits of a fundamentally backwards world. The artist pours his imagination onto the pages. The activist alludes to those pages in his own exchanges. The line between real and fiction blurs. The line between revolutionary and artist dissolves. The relationship is symbiotic. And that, I believe, is similar to what my friends have been to me. All of my conversations with them never included reference to classic leftist philosophers. But it was the ones who saw artists as prophets and saints, that gave me another key to one of the locks in my radicalization process. One step closer to unlocking myself from the social conditions of the Kafkaesque American Nightmare.

...Only to your Friends...

I have a lot more to write about. My career as a rigidly defined Organizer has given me so much, and I want to write all of it down. Some lonely reader might feel like it was written just for them. Maybe, without me knowing, it will turn out that way. I hope it teaches any stranger who will read it. Maybe we will become friends, and I’ll come out of retirement like all of those bands from the 1970’s. I could take my little joke just a little further, and simply state that I am moving to a new phase in my career. I would like my contribution to the Revolutionary Drama to be in writing, to capture in words, the sentiments that sent me on a long journey through the Activist world. I don’t mind operating behind the scenes of this play. I want to represent these two people. Culture is everything that happens in society. The culture of these two friends of mine is one that displays a characteristic of unintentional radicalism. Something I seek to represent, somehow. They are the Digital Native Bohemians. To write in an honest way about the things I have seen, and to write about what I learned while organizing to fight the system on The Frontlines. This is the way I would like to give back to them -- which is especially important to me, considering how long it was that I felt I had nothing, nothing at all, to give.


martin gugino
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