No One Starts Shit Anymore

journalism.jpgI want to apologize to any visitors to Dancy’s Corner who had to read through my celebrity tragedy post. I sometimes have to consolidate my perceived obligations. I felt/feel justified posting some of the unadulterated fluff I am sometimes reduced to submitting for a few schillings.

Besides, I learned something.

As a freelance journalist I missed an opportunity to make a statement. Spartacus reminded me in his response the importance of perspective. The smokescreen is only as thick as we allow it to be. The difference between the fluff and a statement is perspective. Ledger and Renfro visible, spoiled adults lapping at the teat of excess…no big loss. Young man seeking adventure in a foreign land with fantasies of killing terrorists dies in battle…no big loss?

The tragedies mirror each other I should not have mentioned one without the other. Especially right after another local dead soldier’s return was being honored. It would have coincided with press time.

I dropped the ball.

Thank you Spartacus I will remember our soldiers.

I will remember we are at war.

The backdrop of perpetual war demands our attention.

Will we give it?

Will we finally give it?

I’ll do my part…you do yours

I grew up in Berkeley Ca.. During the seventies and eighties it was- how do I say this?

Free?

I guess that is the closest word. There were cops but they pretty much minded their business. The city and state collected taxes so the government was visible. The roads were in pretty good shape. At the time, the public schools were good in Berkeley (metal detectors worked).
I was not fortunate enough to receive the well rounded education the Berkeley School District provides. I went to the Richmond School District.
Man, did I miss out.
There were a lot of openly gay couples walking hand in hand. Mostly Bull Daggers. I had a whole different concept of equality between the sexes. There were some scary, tough women no one fucked with. Hacky sacks everywhere…herb everywhere, many different languages. Guys yellin “thai sticks-got thai sticks”

There was also a healthy need for the people to express themselves.

When the local government failed to address the real issues of the constituents the constituency did everything in their power to convince that particular elected official to do their job.
I have witnessed some dramatic protests revolving around the removal of an oak tree, the name of a park and even public nudity.
People were born with a ‘fuck you’ attitude towards the Government.
A distrust.
Berkeley was a counter culture oasis, where the rules of behavior were turned upside down.
But it worked …it worked well.
What happened?A densely populated urban environment. Everyone jam packed into the east bay. Rich and poor, dumb and wise. Racial assimilation was apparent in the healthy number of bi racial children I grew up with. The only downside was the fact it was a eurocentric assimilation, less tolerant of other cultures.

People basically got along.

There were issues regarding the Police in the black community…people, all people, got together.
It didn’t hurt that the Black Panthers started to Police the Police while armed themselves.
At the heart of all the crosscultural camaraderie was the correct assumption that the people have the power.
Even my teachers. I remember Ms. Adams (her real name not being used to protect her privacy) (I love being parenthetical).
She taught the sorry excuse for a history class I took in eighth grade. She was always making note of her half Asian descent , in fact, because of her I do not refer to people of Asian descent as orientals. She was always giving speeches in class about this, that and blah blah blah. It would always end with you “watch… you see”
Strangely enough she is actually right about a lot of the things she predicted. Incredibly accurate. Hmmm. Then one day she bent over my desk to make eye contact with me and exclaimed.”China is the sleeping lion…she will awaken”.
She continued a long speech that effectively made me fear China…ironic right? I think she wanted us to have more interest- I, on the other hand, was wary of the foreign invaders who would soon buy San Francisco.

If she did that now she would probably be arrested or ,at the very least, dating me.

Back to the point.
No one starts shit anymore.
No one chucks a brick or a flaming milk crate through the bank window. I used to always hear about planned protests and I, along with my friends, even participated.
Protest was part of my civic reality. It was pleasure and duty.

There were marches over a proposal to increase parking meters. The resolution passed.

Enter plan B.
No one protested or even complained when the vigilantes started to decapitate parking meters. No one accept the city council which asked for more money to help catch the perpetrators.
Berkeley, hell, The Bay Area is a petri dish of social policies that create an exciting mix of lifestyles all within spitting distance of each other.

Completely different universes sharing space but rarely colliding, each maintaining their stable orbit within their singular part of the glorious grid. It worked, it seemed chaotic at times, but it worked.

I grew up in the hills, a rare African American treat-at the time. Our elementary School, Kensington Hilltop School, bussed the inner city (thats media slang for black) kids in from Richmond. It was like a cultural exchange program . Instead of building good schools in predominately black neighborhoods they would rather take a handful of kids with high aptitude scores and give them a shot.

Great, well meaning ,liberal, educational policies.
I learned quickly that I did not speak a lick of ebonics.
But whoop ass was another thing.
I was fluent in whoop ass (thanks dad).
The cultural exchange resulted in a boosted confidence in my ability to solve problems without discussion.
I know I am grown and shouldn’t even care. But now and back then, I did not like people making fun of the way I talked . The way I spoke was a great source of many fights. I spoke perfect English replete with may I’s, thank you ma’ams, yes sirs and excuse me’s. A great source of pride for my mother. To top it off I was anal about pronunciation. I was a weird kid.
I did not possess the oral er’…. verbal… flexibility I skillfully use today.
This is about Not Starting Shit Anymore. You see how easy it is for the issue to lose its resonance in the presence of personal experience?
I grew up watching active adults participate in changing the world around them.
Not much seemed to happen. We were always at war, gas was super expensive and no one voted for who was in power. Finally, amidst a growing cloud of apathy, something happened.

I think it started with Love Boat- Fantasy Island Fridays, Disco and cocaine.

The eighties happened.
People, the adults that is , stopped trying to change and adopted a ‘if you can’t beat em join em’ attitude.
Berkeley became different, there was still a counter culture vibe but it was going through a prepackaging process. The image was maturing. But it was still affectionately called Berzerkeley by anyone who didn’t live there.
Wavy Gravy hanging out at ‘Peoples Park’…people actually came to see that.

Cool right?

They also came to study at the nuclear physics lab at U.C. Berkeley- once again, another story.

Nuclear Physicists and Wavy Gravy within a mile of each other.

The potential for mushrooms so close to together.

The irony.

Street people, a mixture of burnout hippies, street punks and dumped patients from the state mental hospital in Napa lined the sidewalks on both sides of the street.

Social casualties, cast-off’s.
Those people, the woefully desperate, could be counted to turn over a car in a heartbeat. They had nothing to lose . They were into a free meal(vegetarian of course) and would latch on to any cause that disturbed the peace.
It took years for Berkeley to clean up Telegraph Ave. where hundreds gathered daily with nothing to do but try to fit in the gritty, high tech bazaar it had become.
Telegraph used to be kinda dangerous. Random acts of mayhem were not uncommon.
The anarchists, at least once a year, would tear that street up. Loot, break glass, flip a car over, cop car preferably.
A cathartic experience..it worked wonders for teenage angst.
I seen it all.
Controlled chaos.

No one starts shit anymore…I guess there is nothing to start shit over.

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~ by barrymax on January 31, 2008.

10 Responses to “No One Starts Shit Anymore”

  1. This is a fantastic post.

    “I grew up watching active adults participate in changing the world around them.

    Not much seemed to happen. We were always at war, gas was super expensive and no one voted for who was in power. Finally, amidst a growing cloud of apathy, something happened.

    I think it started with Love Boat- Fantasy Island Fridays, Disco and cocaine.

    The eighties happened.
    People, the adults that is , stopped trying to change and adopted a ‘if you can’t beat em join em’ attitude.”

    That is such an insightful comment, and I think it explains a lot about why people don’t start shit anymore. They gave up and allowed themselves to be entertained into ignorance.

    It confirms a lot of suspicions I’ve had about how we’ve gotten here to read this analysis of our apathy written by someone who experienced it (I was born in ’82). I’ve been trying to pinpoint certain societal shifts and wondered when and why the boomers stopped fighting the way hippie myths portray them fighting in the 1960s. For instance, my father has stories about running from the tear gas when he marched against the Vietnam war. The same man now defends President Bush. There’s a disconnect there that I see in a lot of people from that generation. There had to be a moment when my dad, and people like him, decided they were going to trust the government and believe what they’re told.

    If only we could figure out how to reverse whatever happened during that moment

  2. 1961-West 24th Street. NYC. Fuck, I still can’t believe Lindsay isn’t the mayor.

    I still have my accent and while I will slip into New Yorkese (“can I get…?), I know my “less-es” from my “fewers,” ulnike someone whose name I’ve forgotten but was — I think mayor though he sure didn’t act like one — and always took pride in that.

    Nice post.

  3. I really, really dig this post. But I’m partial to angsty and angry posts.

    “No one starts shit anymore…I guess there is nothing to start shit over.”

    There is PLENTY to start shit over. But America has learned to love comfort more than freedom – and I mean the freedom of civil liberties and of the rights supposedly made secure by the Constitution, not the bullshit flag-waving, consumerist, war-mongering freedom as defined by the GOP. We’ve allowed our government to oppress us through the Patriot Act. We’ve allowed ourselves to become so terrified of losing our comfortable “American way of life” and our SUV’s and our shopping malls, that we believe the government is protecting us when it removes our right of habeas corpus. We don’t start shit because violent or even loud protest has become synonymous with terrorism. Insurgency is terrorism. Revolution is terrorism. And since American citizens can now be declared enemy combatants for doing anything that remotely resembles BushCo’s definition of terrorism, ain’t nobody gonna be starting anything. Fear is the fascist’s best friend.

    So what are we going to do? What are we willing to risk? As The Public Intellectual pointed out, we’re all ready to bitch about it, but what’s the solution? Is it rioting? Is it writing letters? Is it voting? Is it forming/joining community activist groups? I’ve done all that. So what’s next. Is it running for public office? Is it giving up and moving to Canada? I don’t know anymore, so I’m just as guilty of complacency as anyone else.

  4. Listen Dave…like I told you at your site, start the shit and do it with an army. Coalition. That’s how it gets done. That’s how it’s always been done. Even the mofos that started this country didn’t agree on everything, but they knew who they hated more and fought together. The longer we are kept divided, the longer we remain conquered. Say it with me brothers and sisters — Coalition! Stand together! Start shit as one!

  5. Berkeley is paradise. I love Berkeley.

    When my partner and I lived in the Bay Area, we couldn’t afford to live in Berkeley, so we lived in nearby El Sobrante and went to Berkeley almost every weekend to eat, shop and just hang out.

    If I won the lottery, I’d buy a house in Berkeley around the Rose Garden.

  6. What an excellent post! Those were the days, my friend. Your Asian teacher sounded very wise. I wish I had a teacher like that. I was in Catholic schools most of the time and they weren’t exactly the best at teaching about what was going on in the world. They liked keeping us in a little cocoon and away from “worldly matters”. It wasn’t until I got out of the Catholic school system that I finally realized what was going on. Maybe that’s why I’m so “into” politics and world events now….and why I never sent my kids to Catholic schools.

  7. All I can tell you is that the schools where my kids attend, the very idea of dissent in any fashion is so looked down upon that no one wants to start anything ever. Not the parents, not the staff, and certainly not the kids.

    For a place with a rebellious past, they sure are a bunch of rule followers now.

    The one time I spoke out about something, I was blackballed from the mentor program and was shunned by the other “moms.”

  8. Yep, Love Boat and Fantasy Island are the milemarkers of when my world appeared to go to shit too. Are we the same age and there’s a time when life just does that? (Not that things don’t suck increasingly, even now.)

    Are my daughter’s going to say that the world started to go to shit when Britney Spears started freaking out or when that lie detector show started to air?

  9. SuziRiot: You get to the essential question. I was never at the place of wanting violent rebellion or revolution. To be a revolutionary you MUST be willing to kill a child or police officer in cold blood. Revolution is not about “paradigm shifts” or Barack Obama being president. And what revolution really is, I just don’t have in me.

    I chose to leave because it made the most sense for me. It was a practical not political act.

    There is something you CAN do. And collectively it would be a non-violent act which would really wreak havoc. I don’t want to go into it especially follow the results of the Wesley Snipes trial in federal court, but if you went back to your early American history and read about the Stamp Act, the Townsand Act and the Boston Tea Party, you might have an idea.

    If being radical is important to you. If not, obey the Golden Rule and be done with it.

  10. I had alot of fun writing this post. I have so many vivid memories from my days in Cali…I have to share.
    People are sometimes very isolated. Bizarre unwritten rules kinda govern everyones movements. What the guy next door thinks is suddenly important. I did not experience that type of reality until I moved East of the Mississippi. The experience of real social freedom is rare. Of course dense urban environments provide the same atmosphere but it is marginalized,there is no blending. Which leads directly to Spartacus’s point. Despite the shared agendas many groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation remain at odds unable to challenge the insane doctrine of our ruling class (Bush’s Kennedy’s ect.). A coalition is needed, I am an optimist. I think we will wake up… there is profit in a change.
    In the meantime ..lets have another war.

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