I wanted to walk home from work at least once as one way to say goodbye to where I’ve lived at the time. Finally did so one sunny Saturday in late June of 2017. At the time I lived in the Tangletown-Latona neighborhoods of the Green Lake area in North Seattle. Lived there for a little over four years in an informal cooperative household.
For various reasons of timing, I didn’t make the walk to where I worked in the old Cascade neighborhood of South Lake Union. Today, however, I declined the offer of a ride home and chose to proceed on foot instead. And I did. Walked all the way home. Passed thru the long, strung-out-along-the-water neighborhoods of East Lake, skirted the edges of the U-District, and crossed under I-5 into Wallingford. Eventually passed north thru Wallingford into Tangletown-Latona.
Took me about an hour and 45 minutes. Could’ve walked it in an hour and a half or less, but I dawdled at viewpoints and took my time before spurts of speed. I felt at peace in and with nature and enjoyed my little adventures along the edges of the urban wild.Continue reading “Swarm of Ants on a Sunny Day in June” »
Foto by William Dudley Bass on Saturday morning the 24th of July 2017.
Walked down the street on the way to work recently & came upon a haunting illustration at the rear of an abandoned restaurant slated for teardown. Felt intrigued by the bittersweet mix of symbols & metaphors. What’s the story behind a mystery as old as time when the first dawning of love went awry?
Six Videos, the Petition, and our Stories…and it’s not over
Note this article with its compilation of videos is not marketed or sold for profit nor is anything in this article being marketed and sold for profit. This article and the videos within may be freely shared as long as various sources and authorship are acknowledged.
“There is one word missing. One word that makes all the difference. This word is ‘organized’. That is: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, ORGANIZED citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” It speaks to the power of people mobilization; the power of true change that starts from the bottom wing…there is a growing, if naïve belief that all you need is a lot of passion, a lot of commitment, a lot of good intentions and lots of mavericks, rebels, disruptors, contrarians and challengers and, alas, change will happen. It won’t.” – Activist Leandro Herrero of Spain on the necessity for activists to organize.
A workers’ revolt brewed within REI since at least 2015. Matters came to a head in July 2016 as workers rose up openly in nonviolent direct action. Among their issues at stake were demands for a living wage, for secure scheduling, and for democratic representation via a union. These demands burst open the heart of the matter to reveal whether the REI Co-op would be a truly cooperative business. Or a lie.
This is our story as a brief summary from my perspective. This is a small part of our big story. Indeed, the record of this peaceful uprising may even be your story. Much work remains to be done by we the working people. In the beginning, actions will be led by small numbers of people determined to organize and act in such a way, as the late, great anthropologist Margaret Meade liked to point out, as to change the world. They may be resisted at first by those who insist these leaders not speak for them but say, “some few individuals.” Progress cannot be stayed. Even the most peaceful revolution has setbacks and is set upon by cynics and automatic critics as well as often ignored by the apathetic and the resigned. It is OK to feel afraid, and let us move forward anyway even if scared. Don’t let fear stop us, but do let it keep us alert and on top of our game. Our revolt had repercussions benefiting many workers, although success wasn’t as widespread as initially believed.
One can trace this revolt back to the influences of the 2011 Wisconsin Insurrection followed by the Occupy Uprisings of 2011-2012. These struggles were followed by the successful Fight for $15 an hour minimum wage struggles of 2014-2016, an uprising sparked by Alaska Airline employees in SeaTac, Washington, and which spread across the country in the form of fast food strikes and other direct actions organized with assistance from Socialist Alternative and allies in the labor union movement such as SEIU.
More directly related to REI, however, were the 2014 demonstrations against sweatshop labor in making products for The North Face and against REI’s partnership with The North Face. The anti-sweatshop protests were small but loud, nationwide, and even erupted in other countries. A nationwide student labor union known as the United Students Against Sweatshops or USAS (http://usas.org) organized these demonstrations at REI and TNF stores.
Sweatshop labor is slave labor where capitalists leveraged deeply indebted people into perpetual debt bondage and exploited children with their tiny hands and fingers. Such vulnerable people were beaten, fed little, worked with little rest or sleep, sexually violated, kept terrified, and generally traumatized. People died and were maimed in these slave factories. The problem afflicts many companies as human slavery and trafficking is a worldwide wicked problem.
Patagonia and Apple were among the few to take vigorous action to tackle this problem, but the capitalist imperative to exploit resources and cheap labor for short-term profits, socio-cultural normalization, and political power makes cleaning up this mess self-defeating. The North Face, owned by VF Corporation in Greensboro, North Carolina, was one of the worst offenders. Only in 2015 did VFC and TNF start addressing sustainability and green energy issues, but still has not addressed its use of sweatshop labor.
More workers in America and more workers in other nation-states such as Bangladesh are beginning to understand this is an international issue, indeed an international working class issue. Thus an issue that demands we workers hold the capitalist class accountable as we further organize a new mass movement of the Left across the working and middle classes to build a planetary Democratic Socialist society.
Below is the first of six videos here and is from United Students Against Sweatshops. It is a part of REI history we must remember and Corporate Headquarters wants us to forget. REI HQ preferred instead to distract people’s attention by ramping up its efforts to market the petty bourgeois abomination known as “glamping.”
Before REI workers launched their own petition for real change after so many were fired in late 2015, there was an earlier petition demanding “REI, Drop North Face Sweatshops!” I signed it on Monday 2 January 2017. I am ashamed to confess I was unaware of this petition until recently and didn’t realize the true nature of the anti-North Face protests back in 2014. In 2014 I was still emerging from almost two years of being homeless or semi-homeless and ill with severe depression and a cluster of autoimmune conditions. That’s no excuse, of course, and I share to give one a sense of what I experienced. As I alluded to earlier, these struggles of solidarity for justice, equality, and liberty for working class people are far from over.
Max Silva, an REI Member, initiated the anti-sweatshop Petition for USAS with Moveon.org back in 2014. It still continues to gather signatures. Move On is financed in large part by billionaire George Soros. While I am no fan of Soros and his capitalist manipulations of geopolitics and unaware activists to fund his faction of squabbling plutocrats, Move On still charges hard as an activist NGO.
This accelerated worker and member discontent within the Co-op. The first phase of the 2015-2016 REI workers revolt culminated on the 11th of July 2016. A small group of retail workers from across the United States, although mostly from the West Coast, showed up in Seattle to go public en masse before the media. These workers were desperate, afraid, and courageous. I know as I was one of them. My coworkers and I were scared we would lose everything, and we didn’t have much left to lose as our wages and hours were so low and random. The possibility of getting fired and losing what little we had left terrified us. We stood up anyway. We workers took a stand.
We did so with the support of Councilor Kshama Sawant of the Seattle City Council and the dynamic staff of her office. We did so with the determined support of Socialist Alternative and UFCW 21. We did so with the support of many Members of the REI Co-op, and we did so with the support of larger numbers of our co-workers from all across the company who felt they had to stay discreet or anonymous but who informed us privately they were still with us.
We REI Coworkers had many, many even conflicting demands. In just a few meetings we distilled them into three primary ones. Most of our demands were met. One primary demand was not. There remains the lack of some form of organized, internal democratic representation of the workers to management. There are several different ways towards building a workers’ democracy. One way is thru a union. Another is thru cooperative ownership of the company as a true cooperative business with democratic deliberation and planning. Or a hybrid of the two. Cooperative worker ownership and/or unionization defends hard-won gains, sustains the network, and advocates for greater democracy. Clearly this struggle isn’t new but is as old as the exploited standing up to those who exploit them. Our struggles are far from over for democratic socialist representation is THE most important battle to win.
Back in the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., came to recognize there can’t be any political democracy without having economic democracy and one can’t have capitalism without war. He came to champion democratic socialism. King was assassinated in April 1968 while in Memphis, Tennessee. He’d traveled there to support striking sanitation workers and their new union. The next five videos, however, demonstrate what’s possible when people from across the working classes come together to move what many thought were immovable mountains, especially REI, the mythic icon of the American Pacific Northwest and the Great Outdoors. Continue reading “Videos and Stories from the Unfinished Struggle for Workers’ Rights at REI” »
Machines break down and stop. People break down and somehow keep going. Machines are all about function and efficiency. People are for creativity, making messes, and love.
Chaos was silent. No blaring horns from cars around me. No one reads beyond the edges of their digital screens any more. Finally stopped wondering how people sitting in cars behind me might respond or react to my bumper stickers. Nope. They’re too busy merging with their, ahem, “mobile devices” as they herd themselves into the Internet of Things. At every stop during the last few days all across the City of Seattle I’d see heads bow down and fones rise up in the postmodern autonomic digital prayers of the unconscious. Can’t even get a HONK! Not even one faint li’l bitty ol’ frickin’ honk. Then, BOOM BOOM CHOP! I had to put my 16-year old blue car in the repair shop up north on the Greenwood side of Aurora Avenue, and I met real people out on the streets in the everyday circus of madness and bliss.
She sat hunched over in the woodchips alongside the sidewalk in the shade of Gold’s Gym under a row of leafy trees with her face kinked between folded arms and knees. Her body was so scrawny the spinous processes of her lumbar and thoracic vertebrae poked out like those strange fins on a stegosaurus’s back called scutes or dinosaur dermal plates. They arched over with her spine in such a way I could almost feel the connection to her reptilian brain, but, hey, she’s a mammal, a hominin like me. We’re hominins in America. Hominins in America! The United States was and is still a quasi-fascist, pseudo-democratic oligarchy masquerading as a constitutional capitalist killer clown republic, Barack Obama was POTUS, and the Dem-Rep Duopoly self-gridlocked. Global Climate Disruption worsened, and the Great Global Depression wasn’t over at all for millions and millions of unemployed and underemployed lost people like us. She sat. I walked. She smoked. I judged. She despaired, and so did I.
A red suitcase lay loosely shut with clothes hanging out next to her. She smoked a cigarette somewhere down there under crossed arms, I could smell its acrid, stale heat, but I couldn’t see her face. I could see the crack of her ass between her shirt and her shorts. She was a young White woman with brownish, straw blond hair and all skinny and boney and all alone. I felt huge sadness and empathy. Oh, she was so alone in this world! I felt her energy as I strode around her towards the Gym. Without even trying, I could feel into her dark pool of synaptic fog just by walking by her. She felt sad, hung over, frustrated, desperate, and zonked out depressed. I could feel the ice-cold glitter of pain screwing thru her veins as the yearning for the next fix built up hot under her long sleeves.
I was in a hurry, however, as my car was in the shop, I had errands to do, and I was walking everywhere without any wheels. I wouldn’t take the bus. Nope, no bus today. Gonna walk for exercise. I stopped myself from going over to her, however, and reminded myself I have an old, bad habit of rescuing people. I am not going to rescue anyone anymore, no more drama triangles in life, and so must hold tight to my boundaries. Yes?
Hurried off into the Gym and trained hard with the weights. Slowly regaining my health after a prolonged and strange illness. Came back out after my workout with a long walk ahead of me. There she sat, more sad and desperate then ever, without looking up. She didn’t need to look up. She was primal enough to sense what was happening around her, even if her senses were warped and fragmented by too many of the wrong kind of drugs. I felt her coil without coiling and sensed the dead pulse of mutant killer kundalini. She cranked taunt as locked gears forced apart and popped as automatically defensive as a robot sentinel left behind to guard some long-abandoned ancient fortress. I stopped. She bristled and the image of her lunging at me with a dirty syringe in hand burst into my mind as real as a wild ass grizzly bear rearing up on her hind legs. I shuddered and recalled being homeless myself not all that long ago…and scared.
Hungry. Sun blazing in my eyes. Making me squint as my belly growled low like a dog guarding a slab of meat. Hadn’t eaten since yesterday. Felt ravenous after I spent too much of the morning in the hospital being poked, pierced, measured, and explored by fantastic doctors and their curious assistants. Prodded me like a damn bug followed by quick pecks on their computers. Felt as if I was a giant insect splayed out and peeled apart in an enormous Petri dish by mad scientists and clever kids. Who behaved as if any moment they would hobble over and slather weird baby food goo all over me to see what monsters might grow. Ahhh, yes, call me…Petri Dish Man! BAM! BAM! BAM! DON’T BAN THE PETRI DISH MAN! ran thru my head over and over, tho I dared not tell anyone at the time, as it felt so strange.
Brought back memories of being in the Battle of Seattle during the so-called Anti-Globalization Revolts, and memories of being in Occupy Seattle and Occupy Olympia. Yes, even brought back memories of being homeless during the Great Global Recession after rich, capitalist pundits declared it long over. Despite being such a proficiently medically inspected man, however, I felt grateful for Obamacare’s ACA here in Washington State. Thank goodness it covered what my employer’s private health insurance plan wouldn’t cover. I shake my head funny too, as it seemed plain old common sense for 21st Century America, indeed all of Planet Earth, to have an integrated single-payer universal health care system, a democratic economic system, a socialist system.
Thus satiated on clarity of vision, I ventured hungrily into The Dish, a funky Seattle café, for a belated breakfast. Call it brunch. Time was 11:30 am. It’s a lively little café in my neighborhood. I currently live in a small, quasi-cooperative household below the landlord’s family in a house uprooted from the I-5 Corridor running north and south across the States between Canada and Mexico. The house sits beneath three immense Western redcedar trees in the Tangletown-Latona part of Green Lake up in the middle of North Seattle. At least till the rent rockets up. Only my second visit to this cafe, too. Rarely eat out anymore. Now it’s a treat! The place was abuzz, too.
Two staffers had called in sick, however, leaving the business understaffed. Only two other people were out front serving including one new worker who admitted she didn’t know how to work anything quite yet. But they were game and smiled anyway. Big, welcoming smiles, too. They bustled in and out among crowded customers, and the one cook in back paced himself as he had to. The warm smells of cooked food swirled with exuberant colors intoxicated yours truly Petri Dish Man.
The ghost of a homeless guy watched everything right over the lip of his big orange coffee cup. He was so invisible it as was if I couldn’t see him but nevertheless still sense his presence. I felt the color of his large, tattered coat fade charcoal and gray. Was his bright orange cup just a reflection of the Sun upon a glass bowl of slivered fruit? No, he wasn’t there, just a coat and a cup and the ghost of a man who gave up everything precious but his dignity and curiosity.
Rally for Bernie in the Key Arena, Seattle, WA. Foto by Kristina Katayama. Sunday 20 March 2016.
This isn’t about Bernie. It is for integrity and strategy.
Bernie, of course, is Bernard Sanders, the Independent Senator from Vermont who calls himself a “democratic socialist.” He’s charging forward to secure the nomination of the Democrat Party as its Candidate for the American Presidency. The state caucus is today this Saturday the 26th of March 2016.
It’s unethical to play musical chairs with the fate of our nation and go play Democrat just for one day if you have no intention of actually joining the Democrats to stay a Democrat. It’s shortsighted and self-defeating to get so caught up in Bernie’s amazing rise that one short-circuits the long-term building of a new party for the 99%. If we don’t stay focused on the new movement for the working and middle classes we’re going to end up right where we started, broken upon the altars of Lesser Evilism.
Many of my friends among the Left are crossing over into the Democrat Party to vote for Bernie Sanders in the Washington State Caucus. These people are usually independents and/or members of smaller parties outside the Democrat-Republican Duopoly. Most of those smaller parties represented are the Socialist Alternative and the Green Party with a few Libertarians. While a member of both SAlt and the Greens, I have engaged very little with either in the last couple of years due to a prolonged, chronic illness and due to my work and family schedule. Bernin’ for Bernie, however, burns all across social media.
There’re a sizeable number of my comrades among these same small parties that plan to vote for Bernie if and ONLY if he secures the Democrat nomination to run for President, or, failing to do so, launches an independent bid. They are NOT voting for Bernie in the Democrat Caucus. I am NOT voting in the caucus for Bernie either. “What? What! Why not? WTF?!” is often the response.
Discordian Harmony at the Pacific Northwest Folklife Festival
Mystery Musician aka Zombie Jimi
Sunday 24 May 2015
My eyes heard him hunched over his old green guitar before my ears could see him stretching notes thru the air. Old Man God stood in the Center of Seattle crouched in the corner facing Jerusalem on the other side of the world before turning his back on Abraham’s minions to face Ancient Timbuktu instead, his skin all black as Mississippi Goddamn and his beard as snowy white as polar bear belly all while focused on changing what never changes as he grasped the old, banged-up, burring, purring, electric, green guitar in his hands the same way Neptune once burst open the sky with his trident held high all a buzzsaw humming like Betty Dodson’s Hitachi Magic Wand gripped in Goddess hands orgasming the Himalayas apart with the Love Song of a Cosmic Chainsaw. His hands trembled all steady with purpose as he caressed his green guitar with the adoration Zeus once had for electric thunderbolts and nymphs sweaty with humid rust. Old God Man shuddered back on his feet, unwound his pelvis as Mike Mulligan once cranked up trusty Mary Anne, lumbered forward at the wall as a Zen steam shovel on testosterone and played his green guitar with a certain must with a deliberate lust driven to play things as they are with a ferocious thrust not what others demanded oh yeah he played with raw beauty and ugly grace oh yeah he played with verve to shear men and women like sheep oh yeah played his old green guitar so damn hard I swear the sky blazed electric blue and in the midst of such Rapture heard a vast groaning zombie drone as reanimated angels buzzed straight up outa the ground like Jimi Hendrix lighting up Woodstock high up on stage high above the mud deep down in O Mississippi Goddamn mud it’s Nina Simone eating up the sky with her brow all furrowed like eight thirty o’clock way up upon a stage crowded with pianos on fire PIANOS ON FIRE! giving voice to the lynched the burned and to the drowned. Aye, my hearing aids filled with the android squeals of Betty Dodson Jimi Hendrix Nina Simone jackhammering open bones skin and soul to touch my love with feathers stuffed with steel.
Dragonflies are small animals and ferocious predators. They live all across the planet except Antarctica. Prehistoric ancestors of today’s dragonflies were huge insects with wingspans of almost 30 inches or 7.6 centimeters across. The Dragonfly is also a symbol of transformation, power, adaptability, and poise. A number of us communitarians came together from different urban cooperative households across Greater Seattle to explore new communal possibilities. Some of the early meetings held anywhere from 20 to almost 50 people. Eventually some of us formed a new intentional community. Our new family came to be known as Dragonfly or the Yellow Dragonfly House. We chose this animal as our spirit totem with a focus on personal and group transformation.
TRANSFORMATION: a 150 foot long dragonfly crop circle apparently created overnight in England, the U.K., in June of 2009.**
What came to be known as simply Dragonfly or the Yellow House was established in October 2003, but the process of community formation began much earlier. People from older groups such as Orca Landing and The Barn began coming together in 2001 to determine what was next for them as individuals, families, and communities. Some of them were monogamous families. Others were engaged as a polyamorous cluster. And a few were single. All were deeply spiritual and engaged in profound personal and professional growth, training, and development. Most were ethical stands for love, communication, and for community. Those who were not left Dragonfly of their own accord except for one person, initially intensely involved, who was asked to leave.
During the years of 2002 – 2003 the members of Dragonfly embarked on a series of trips to spend time together in nature and to strengthen the bonds of community. Not every member of Dragonfly Community went on every adventure. The following fotos are from six of our trips including our major outings. Some of the earlier members and candidates are not in any of these fotos. The core ones are celebrated within. These pictures survived the 2010 burning down of my and then-wife Kristina’s post-Dragonfly home. I took most of these fotos, and some were by Kristina, and others by friends who gave us copies after the fire. I edited most of those images. They captured moments in time and space representing the forging and celebration of relationships amid the great outdoors of America’s Pacific Northwest. Enjoy.
Dragonfly Backpacking & Camping Trip to Second Beach, Olympic National Park, Thursday 4 July – Sunday 7 July 2002:
One of many travertine falls in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia, European Union. Photo by Donar Reiskoffer in the Public Domain. 2013.
What is the one place down on the surface of Planet Earth’s crust should everyone go visit at least once in their life? As gorgeous as they are, it’s not those beautiful lakes that fall one into the other in the picture above.
So many people pass thru Seattle these days and night, coming and going and going and coming, from somewhere to nowhere to everywhere. It seems Seattle is now the one place to go, or it’s what I hear from so many tourists. Which surprises me. Seattle is booming, yes, one survey earlier this year counted 80 construction cranes dominating the Downtown and Belltown areas alone. Despite the magnificent scenery of the Salish Sea and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, however, Seattle isn’t The One Place On Earth One Must Go. I love Seattle, tho.
During the Great Recession I worked in retail at the Downtown Seattle REI Store, its largest flagship, and met people from around the world. Still do. Love working here at REI. Many fellow human beings from all over Cascadia, too, came and went and come and go as they tell stories about past trips, excited or in some cases afraid of upcoming adventures. Many people come into REI to buy supplies on their way to help out others, whether it’s devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal, supertyphoons in the Philippines, giant mudslides in Latin America, or the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
At work I am usually in sustained motion. When it’s slow, I either stock products or stand briefly and people watch. Engage and talk. Ask questions and listen. Help them find appropriate products, or if we don’t have them, suggest other places. Once there was a man from Yakutsk, the capital of the Sakha Republic in Russia’s Siberia. He was of Turkish-Mongol-Siberian ancestry, was unusually tall, and was in the United States for the first time. Dressed like a cross between a tweedy college professor, a backcountry woodsman, and a steampunk engineer, he was in quiet awe of the amount of merchandise in every store, including North American grocery stores. He was especially in awe of REI’s depth and breadth in outdoor adventure travel.
Claiming to be among the numerous proud descendants of Genghis Khan’s warriors, he said I should visit Siberia. I’d love to go, I replied. Siberia! One of the wildest, most extreme regions on Earth! The vast boreal forests of the Siberian Taiga, deep and mysterious Lake Baikal, hungry brown and black bears raiding villages, gigantic rivers pulsing towards the Arctic Ocean, bitter subfreezing temperatures, exploding scary ass methane craters in Yamal, the wild, remote, volcanic Kamchatka Peninsula, meteorite-hit cities, huge mountains and isolated deserts, southern steppes and northern tundra, Eurasian ethno-cultural blending amid ancient, little-known ruins, and the longest railroads in the world. O, Siberia!
But, no, not even majestic Siberia. There’s another place even more incredible everyone must try to get to. Yes, everyone.
“Yeah! I think this is like Your Band’s first review!” ~ Ben Callup of Your Band
Your Band distorts gravity down at Cafe Racer~
My Saturday was awesome. Awesome beyond cliches, Hell yeah it was! The 3rd of January! 2015! Busted my middle-age Happy New Year ass in the Gym. Hung out with a dear friend I haven’t seen in almost 2 years and dove down an esoteric rabbit hole with her between death & life, and spent the evening of a Full Moon Eve at Café Racer where I met up with friends from the Socialist Alternative and listened to a trio of bands jam. It was good to get my butt away from the house and out on the town a bit. Slowly enjoyed a pint of Scotch Style Pike Kilt Lifter Ruby Ale from a scruffy, jolly bartender. I’m a glass-draining, guzzling gulper by habit, so I disciplined myself to slow it waaay down to one, delicious slow-drinkin’ beer while eyeing all the qwerty-quirky colorful, kitschy, & strange ugly ass art all over dayglow walls. Outside on the sidewalks knots of people smoked cigarettes in the rain as if it was the most natural thing to do at night in the misty Seattle rain.
Earlier this month I posted a link on one of my social media sites to an essay I wrote the night before, “Yes, $15 an hour minimum wage, NOW!” Among the people who responded along a spectrum between yes and no were two from my native state of Virginia. Let’s call one of them Brigid, which, of course, is not her real name. Brigid, a progressive liberal more radical than many and as mellow as a Summer pond at twilight, expressed concern about us activists moving too fast to raise the minimum wage. She thought proponents for $15 now would be wise to slow down and take more time. After all, why rush it and mess it up for all of us?
More captivating, however, was a wrenching inquiry from a friend of mine back East. He was a small business owner who ran a small but bustling bakery and café. My friend, let’s call him Isaac, declared raising the minimum wage up to $15 an hour “would put” him “out of business in one month.” Unless, he said, he jacked up his prices. I could hear him as he pounded his fist upon the countertop as he continued. “The socialist-workers rights-stick-it-to-the-man person in me loves it, but I am the man here. This seriously would break me,” he wrote. “Why do this if prices just rise in concert with pay?”
Up Close and Uncompromising! The front of one of the famous Red T-Shirts worn by volunteers for Kshama Sawant’s Socialist Alternative Campaign for Seattle City Council, Position 2, the 5th of November 2013. Photo by William Dudley Bass.
Those who argue against raising the minimum wage do not get it. The naysayers spin broken webs of economic facts and figures rooted not in the reality of our natural environment but inside the charts and computer algorithms of a virtual world divorced from physical reality. It’s not about the money. I want to stand up and shout, “It’s not about the money; it’s about people! Real live human beings!”
I really want to jump up and yell, “It’s not about money, you insert language most foul!” Such verbal intensity, however deliciously vulgar, would just rile up the troll militias, so I won’t cuss here. It’s challenging enough to feel compassion and empathy for my fellow human beings, including those who exhibit cruelty and heartless stupidity. No matter. We all suffer. Everyone single one of us experiences suffering. Life is Struggle.
The working classes get life is a struggle. So do artists and small business owners. So do the unemployed, the underemployed, the homeless, the foreclosed, the laid off, the poorly paid, the uneducated, the overeducated, students deep in debt, the hungry, the sick, the pissed off. Reformers understand action is better than indulging in cynicism, apathy, and do-nothingism. Revolutionaries understand reform only goes so far before it dead ends in a mirage. Struggle serves to move the working classes from enduring ever more suffering to survive to rising up to stand in their power and thrive.
During these bleak but exciting times I volunteered for Kshama Sawant’s openly Socialist campaign for Seattle City Council. I joined with other veterans of the Occupy Uprisings from the Green Party of Seattle and the Seattle branches of the Socialist Alternatives to serve to get her elected. Other Socialist Alternatives ran strong campaigns elsewhere, especially Ty Moore in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
It proved a tight race. Still counting ballots days after the Election. We rocked the city and made waves across the nation. Ripples were felt around the world. It was an astonishing experience. A small, highly disciplined organization raised well over $110,000 and marshaled over 300 volunteers, many of them part-time volunteers such as myself. What helped us stand out in addition to our red t-shirts was our uncompromising stand for a $15.00 an hour minimum wage.
The Blended Family Wedding of Kristina Katayama (L) and William Bass (R) with vows to their children (Morgan, Kate, & Talia) and with their Community.
I married Kristina this past 11 July 2009. She was the great love of my life at that time. We have been together over 7 years, ever since late 2001, as I write this essay. Kristina is a vibrant and dynamic woman, bold, sexy, intelligent, professional, and passionate. She lives full out as a Postmodern Age human being. We married ourselves privately in May 2005, became officially engaged back in November 2005, and intended to celebrate with a public, legal wedding in the summer of 2006. We felt too busy with careers and children, however, and lived as if already married. And in 2009 we finally did it. Up to our Wedding Day, she used her father’s family name, “Katayama,” as her own. And after our wedding she insisted on changing her name. Or, to be more accurate, adding my surname to hers.
“What?” I asked incredulously. “That’s old-fashioned culturally-ingrained male domination of females. I don’t own you. I’ve fought against this kind of bigotry my whole life.”
I had more to say, too. “I LIKE the Japanese sound of ‘Katayama.’ Mine is an “Olde English” name. I like the global feel of Bass and Katayama being together as a couple. It supports Euro-Asian-American planetary integration! My name is short and monosyllabic. Yours is long and lovely with four syllables emphasizing the same vowel. And don’t you dare hyphenate! That’s a monstrosity!” Blah blah blah.