“The enemy is the objectification of man, as manifested through violent institutions and defended by cowards”
I had a thesis and the seed for my most mature writing project to date now. I defined objectification as disregarding the dignity of your fellow humans, violence as meeting your needs at their expense and cowards those who value self-preservation over the establishment of truth.
Objectification is the excuse, violence the crime, and cowardice the enemy.
The conversation had grown to be about more than California, more than even the United States. But the above book pitch, a first chapter out of a planned 25 describing a light-hearted but thoroughly researched summary of revolutionary principles and tactics, is skipping ahead a little.
I did create the outline and table of contents in that shack on Vieques where I contemplated the natural beauty and order of our world while I channeled centuries of abuse into what I hoped would be a guide book for a constructive response, editing out my own ego with the tools of newfound peace and confidence.
But I was also a young man in his late 20’s now with a couple detours to go before settling into my path in life. And I was still David McNerney technically.
The adventures of David McNerney sometimes exceed his ability to outrun their real consequences.
More arrests. But this time it was along with 300 other people in Zuccotti Park, otherwise known as Liberty Plaza, the epicenter of the American interpretation of a global populist movement to reform government.
They called themselves Occupy Wall St. Well I guess we did, since I arrived November 1st 2011 to camp with them two weeks before the raid.
I hadn’t planned on it though. Originally I left Puerto Rico to drive a friend’s car from Chicago to California to gift it to his mom. My own folks, remember them? They were in the final stages of foreclosure on their own house, the one where I was dancing around in my underwear in that ill-conceived video.
Not all high ideas are good ideas. Feel free to write stoned just remember to edit sober.
On the way to California I picked up a rideshare who was a college educated anarchist which seemed to me a contradiction in terms but I let it slide. He informed me about the protests going on in Manhattan.
That’s funny I said, I’m writing a book about revolution. I should probably check that out.
So I spent October at the folks house finishing that first chapter along with a professional looking proposal then headed off to New York City to sell a book and save the family homestead while also helping spur on the evolution of consciousness that would help save our world.
But as they say sometimes
gang aft agley
I had shaved my head. Too many hippies already here, I’d said.
Also if you’ve ever been on the streets for an extended period of time you know that practicality trumps style. Long hair invites more hygiene issues and clean socks become your new best friend.
In fact, traveller kids actually prank each other when they fall asleep with their shoes on, foot hygiene is that big of an issue.
If you can’t walk you can’t keep going. And in this crazy world we’ve built based on conformity and control, if you’re going to choose to go off script you can only survive if you keep moving. It doesn’t even have to be going forward, just don’t make yourself a target.
Which is what was the inherent courage behind the Occupy movement. We all stood together, still as stone in a single geographic place, to have a discussion. And we dared the powers that be to hit us on the chin with their best shot.
Oh and they did. And they continue to do so. As the police dragged me out from our central group shoulder to shoulder, I huddled my arms around my backpack containing my laptop and book proposal. I locked my hands around the straps and held on, figuring they’d have to pick me up and drag me out of there if they were going to physically deny my right to protest injustice.
But that would have been too much work.
So they kicked me instead. In the head, on the ears. Punched my ribs. Kneed my spine. Beat me with batons. Ripped the clothes off my body, the chain off my neck, my belt. Finally I’d had enough and extended my arms out so the half dozen officers could cuff me.
“What happened to him?”
During my processing at central booking I looked like a mess. I think one of the officers felt bad, said something about it being for our own good you know.
I wish they’d stop being so good to us.
Defining Autonomy & Violence; an Inclusive Discussion
17 hours of professional video this time with a hired videographer and an actual planned shot schedule using $300 my mom sent me.
My parents had been evicted from their house while I was living on the streets of New York between November and March. They were now renting a room on craigslist with some…interesting characters. When you get evicted they lock you out and then let you back in later to get whatever you can out of the house within whatever time frame they give you.
At least that’s how they did it with my folks. Between the lockout and the allowed window to come back for their stuff someone broke into the house and robbed it.
It was a hard time for us. I was pretty beat emotionally and physically by the time the above videos were shot. But my mom still gave me that money. ‘Cause that’s what family does. Even when it doesn’t understand what the hell you’re doing.
It’s ironic that during my proposal one of those college-educated anarchist kids contested my discussion of violence versus non-violence. As I transitioned out of full-time activism into getting my real estate license, finally coming to terms with how bad of a situation our family was in, I lived out of a tent in the backyard of a supposed anarchist collective.
Supposed because, once I got my license and moved out the leader claimed I owed him some money. I went back to pick up my things and settle up, his claim for I think it was $50 in my pocket. But I was going to get my things first, I heard weird stories about this guy.
So I just walked into the front door down to the unfinished basement and grabbed my couple plastic bags of clothes and books, always books. I wish I remembered which ones, they had a bunch of notes in them. I think it was Conservatism by Nisbit, and some good anarchist readers.
That’s when the dude appears at the bottom of the stairs blocking my path with a metal Louisville slugger in his hands. Now this wasn’t a scary guy, maybe six foot two but lanky, a bit of a goof. Remember Dash Rendar? We became friends because as a bigger kid from 5th grade he’d whoop my ass until I could fight him even, which is how I became the captain of my wrestling team.
I’ve always felt comfortable physically.
But this was a fucking metal bat, even if he was choking up on it way too much.
So Goofy swings as I dive in to close the distance and I take one to the side of the head before grabbing it from him. Then he jumps on my back and starts pulling my hair.
NOT THE HAIR! I yell, and hand the bat to his hobbit friend standing to the side watching. Let’s take this outside man.
I was trembling while I tried to talk to him. Not out of fear, again not an intimidating dude. But I thought we’d been friends. You don’t hit your friends in the head with metal bats, I started. He just looked at me coldly. I was the other now, a sell-out, a real estate agent. Formal and informal structures. I’d broken the bonds, stopped being a part of the cool kids. I was being fired from the park again for breaking unspoken rules and not fitting in.
My parents aren’t well off like yours. I need to work. They just lost their house.
I touched my hand to my head. I was bleeding. While I type this I stop to run my fingertips over the right side of my head to find the indentation that’s still there, a reminder about paying attention to the company I keep. It’s amazing that your skull retains all the little dents you pick up through the years.
I’m lucky my head is so thick.
So I stopped talking that day when I realized I was getting nowhere and reached my hand out to shake and squash it, extending a red palm upwards.
When there’s blood in the water I’ve learned to leave the area. There’s an order to the wild that I respect and this kid was not in line with that order as I understood it, and so a danger to keep in my life. And that was besides the attack on me. It was the principle. As a friend on the island once told me, he was trying to play big boy games. And he definitely was a big boy in appearance only.
Donald Trump kind of reminds me of this guy.
Tough guy pro-tip; don’t wield weapons you can’t control, because they just end up being gifts for those who can.
That was one of the few negative experiences I had in the Occupy Wall St movement though.
On the whole I met a lot of amazing people I wouldn’t have ever expected to otherwise. Philosophers, poets, activists, often all three within the same individual. Took a lover for a bit who I had to cut short the morning she threw on a Hezbollah shirt with a grin and told me she had HPV, not sure which seemed more threatening at the time but definitely the STI was something she should have told me before.
But I’m on the end of my period so I thought it wouldn’t matter.
What you thought a sexually transmitted infection would be LESS infectious while you’re bleeding?
The shirt was just silly. It’s already hard enough to avoid being painted into a violent corner when you try to discuss anarchism without claiming the banner of actual violence as your own. Laws of the wild. Don’t pretend to be a shark when you’re not one, when you don’t need to be one.
Bigger sharks eat smaller sharks you know. Not always because they want to. Because they have to.
And sometimes because they want to.
Her family vacationed next to Noam Chomsky’s compound on the north-eastern seaboard. Or was it Ralph Nader? She took me to a cool Burning Man decompression party though, where they handed me some synthetic mescaline at the door and I melted into the couch.
There was a lot to the world I still had not experienced.
And Occupy was kind of like my anarchism coming out party, captured on my documentary footage. I’d just read Fukuoka’s “One Straw Revolution” and was getting a crazy cross-pollination of thoughts between permaculture practices anarchist theory and open source systems. Add that to my previous passion for Zen Buddhism derived from Pacifica radio doing the lord’s work by consistently broadcasting the lectures of Alan Watts and I was starting to craft a solid political philosophy all my own.
But I still needed to process. I was beat. So before jumping into real estate full time I went to Puerto Rico for a little bit.
And honestly, I didn’t think I was coming back. Reviewing my life’s story, it’s easy to apply a narrative after the fact. Well, not easy, this has taken over 4 weeks and cost me the potential $10-20k I’ve grown used to making a month in real estate, summer or winter.
It’s really been exhausting to go through all of these memories and try to be as honest with myself as possible in applying context. There are so many details I had to leave out. I didn’t even talk about the farm we secured and then lost for the movement. That was a really sweet family. And I’m a much different person than when I started this journey at the end of November.
Hopefully I’m more like myself. Who I’ve always been trying to be. Which was kind of the point of the exercise, one that I was inspired to start by watching a podcast by Jordan Peterson.
But it’s easier to tell this story than it was to live it. I can truly say that at each major turn or crisis, I was 100% broken. I gave up and tried to change course. I actually challenged myself to find an alternative path that made sense. I challenged my own assumptions over and over to filter my ideas into a coherent set of principles I could hold onto, wisdom I could embed into some form of art.
Luckily I also kept all my notes just in case I ever earned the peace to actually make sense of all the accumulated scraps.
So I left to Puerto Rico after Occupy Wall St still David McNerney but this time with some numbers tattooed on my forearm.
My social security number. I was ready to live my philosophy. The government itemizes us to borrow against expected tax revenue, committing future generations to debt slavery. What they call “the national debt” which every citizen inherits at birth. What they use to fund these foreign entanglements which propagate their own cycles of violence. What Washington the playboy philanderer warned about. What the so called founding fathers originally protested, taxation without representation, by dressing up as – wait for it – anarchist Mohawk Indians.
If you take a look at history the right answers don’t change, just the excuses and the cowards who make them.
In my mind I was Spartacus, whether or not I ever made it beyond the mountains or marched on Rome. So I put my slave number on my arm just in case I ever forgot this truth in my quest for survival, one last fuck you to the system I’d now spent a majority of my adult life trying to figure out and improve.
The first thing in life is to have no fear. We’ve got to understand this.
And now I was going back to meditate on the footprints of God before heading into the heart of the capitalist arena to earn freedom for my family.
What else can we do but try to live a story worth telling.
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