I have not been writing in my blog in the past nine months. On the principle of “publish or perish,” yes, it appears my blog has perished. But I haven’t lost passion for the things I write and care about. So let me fill you in.
What have I been doing?
After graduating from UPS, I was experimenting with different living situations, and this took up a lot of my time. After studying third world “squatting” in my free time, I became fascinated with the idea of occupying spaces in developed countries, and really, in my own backyard. This led me to think about how to communalize space in a living situation with others.
I recently read in the City Arts Magazine (in Tacoma) that my old house, called the 808 house, was listed as an “all-ages venue” in Tacoma. That is pretty interesting to me. It is part of a new and hip scene in Tacoma.
I must say that I did not contribute very much to the way that house developed over the past year. The 808 House had become more of an indy-hipster type of house, but this is precisely why it’s written about in City Arts Magazine. I wasn’t interested in that scene.
Before it was a hipster house it was loosely and informally known as the SDS House. When SDS was active, we had a website, we had a few chapters at different schools, and the buzz was generating out of that house. When the hipster scene took over, the new faces there started developing a negative attitude toward any “political” activity, and discouraged any talking about politics or anti-politics. They didn’t get us. We didn’t get them. They wanted the house to shy away from the radical reputation it had earned. Needless to say, my ideas were not fruitful there because of all the conflicts. 808 was never communal in any real sense, and the people there — most of them students — were less academic and politically minded than myself. Our dissimilarities grew over time.
I moved on and took a room in an anarchist house, a somewhat infamous one. This house was more promising. People there philosophized about eating garbage, about alienation, about autonomy and love. We could bullshit about anything — everything. It was one of the most beautiful Northwest summers, and the city was teeming with life. In the midst of economic recession our relationships were prosperous. My friends there had ideas, had goals, and wanted to share them with others.
When Autumn came, first the leaves began to fall, and then the sky turned gray like it does every year, and then… a deep-seated depression set in. I never felt a more barefaced Winter in this region. It was not so much my depression. It came from the people around me. People at this house were manic and depressive following seasonal patterns. They liked to talk a lot about their ideas and plans, but plans rarely went anywhere, and all of us together weren’t going anywhere.
There were plenty of reasons for this:
A lot of the anarchists developed what I started calling “the anarchist learning disability” — Because the world is “so fucked up,” some of them started losing their ability to communicate with one another, literally becoming like mutes, especially toward non-anarchists. In some quixotic attempt to transcend civilization, or commodity exchange, or patriarchal languages, they lost their ability to learn new things, lost the ability to interact with other people. Some were losing their ability to experience happiness, claiming that it did not exist. Others lost the ability to experience empathy, which was about the time the concept of “morality” ceased to represent anything meaningful, even as a pejorative.
The house was going mad and, in all seriousness, felt like a witch’s curse. The paranoia that the government was spying on us, which was indeed happening (and for a brief stint our plight was launched into a national mediasphere), was still no reason to lapse into existential depressions. I did not understand it. My description may seem improbable or exaggerated. Yet I could see this developing before my eyes.
Besides that, I was used to the more ambitious college-bound crowd who typically followed through on their plans. Anarchists had no such confidence. Even though the children of the bourgeoisie have their own flaws, over time I discovered that I value their perseverance and determination. Even if these values are learned socially and imbibed through privilege, it doesn’t matter, it is still a good trait to have. My social and economic background was much more like the anarchists I was living with, however. Most of us had grown up poor.
But I started to really despise other people who had grown up poor because, in reality, they had no desire not to be poor. They wanted to continue being poor. They reminded me of a life I thought I escaped but was lapsing back into because of some socially deterministic law I was unintentionally obeying.
I wondered why their standards were so much lower than mine in almost every category. It was not simply because I graduated from college. I graduated from college because I valued the experience of a higher education. On the one hand, I wanted to go to a university because I valued living in an academic learning environment. They, on the other hand, did not want to go to college because it sounded too uppity, sounded too bourgeois, and they believed they could get an equivalent education by starting an anarchist institution — (or, lose their minds trying.) The rejection of “bourgeois” comforts like heating, lighting, and clean, unbroken dishes was their need to feel even more “lower class” than the circumstances were allowing. I was not about to reject all the material goods the bourgeoisie have created, just to handicap myself when it came to surviving inside their system of production.
But the anarchists really had not experienced any success in their lives at all, and therefore did not believe in their own potential. No one ever believed in them. They did not believe in themselves. This became a huge barrier for me, and I found myself always frustrated with the way things were going. I stopped asking them to participate in projects I was doing. I stopped wanting to participate in theirs. With every new visitor or roommate, the group became more like a dropout support circle. I stopped being curious about the backgrounds and ideas of new people, what made them anarchists, etc. Instead I felt like the more appropriate question was, “What are you in here for?”
Some of the anarchists were not even anarchists, just punks and skaters with no politics and no ambition whatsoever. Smoking weed day after day, smoking cigarettes in the house… eventually people stopped giving a fuck about everything — anything. Nobody respected me when I asked them not to smoke in the house. Some people became so horribly depressed about “life” in general that other people had to clean up, pick up, take care of them, even pay their rents.
I was becoming extremely frustrated with this lifestyle. The focus became pure survival. Especially when the house started to fall apart physically: the heat stopped working, the pipes froze over, the shower was covered in black mold, etc., and I came down with strep throat three times in less than two months. Curiously, we were being visited by foreclosure specialists and could not get a hold of the landlord… Eventually we stopped paying rent and became real squatters.
But by this point the house was so unbearable that no one wanted to live in it. We stopped paying rent not out of defiance, and not as part of a plan to claim the house as social space, but because the house physically did not work and it was colder inside than it was outside. The tenants were moving out left and right. Any passion I had about popularizing the idea of “social space” in this recession economy had lost its momentum due to the circumstances of that house.
Eventually I admitted to myself that this project was over. One day in late December I packed up my things and left for a trip to the Bay Area, the California Central Valley, and ending at a carnival in the Mojave Desert for New Years Eve. I had to start my life new.
When I came back to Tacoma that house was boarded up with a “No Trespassing” sign on it.
Currently I live in a college house again. The only theme to this house is a lot of drunken partying on the weekends. Everything is “college” here. But the rent is cheap, my belongings (or, what I have left of them) are not being abused, and everyone is friendly. I’m not complaining.
I started a film business. Immediately after graduating I was able to do some video production. I found a lot of odd jobs: creating employee training videos, creating videos for nonprofit fundraisers, filming weddings, creating videos for professors, and for small practitioners. Every now and then I film something that pays a decent amount, and this is something I enjoy doing regardless of whether I “believe” in the cause. However, video production was not something I envisioned doing while in school. I see it as more of a skill or hobby that I’m fine doing for money, but not something I imagine I’ll do forever. The same goes for bartending, which I started doing last September on the weekends.
I worked as an unpaid intern for a nonprofit in Tukwila. I was using a lot of skills from studying economics, and this was exciting. I was able to “crunch numbers” and do other cool-sounding economist tricks like “create jobs”… The truth is, I wish I would have created a job for myself! Though the project was successful in the end, I did not believe strongly in what we were doing (lobbying the government to pay for middle class home improvement.) The lobbying was for part of the stimulus package. But the fact that I was not being paid — and really needed money — made it difficult to stick with the program. (Especially when the program was to help people who needed money in the recession.)
There are first times for everything. I was recently asked to publish a book review in a peer-reviewed Nietzsche journal, The Agonist. One of my professors from UPS is a well-known Nietzsche scholar and was asked to review a book called The Will to Technology. But he is busy writing his own book, so he asked me to write the review. This is exciting because it will introduce me to a whole new group of people, and hopefully some new opportunities will arise from it.
In the past year I have done a lot, and a lot has happened in this city. I have not gone very far physically, and my professional resume looks about the same. But I feel I needed these experiences in my life to help me figure out where I want to go next and what kind of life I want to live.
After that last communal living adventure, I have to retire from any experimental living at the moment. What I really need to do is live, earn a lot more money, have many more experiences, and travel. I want to experience everything. I always have wanted to experience things to the fullest — to experience everything possible.
I need to come up with entirely new goals, and an entirely new outlook. What do I want out of life? How do I want to live? Where do I want to live? How can I best do all of these things? I need to create a fresh life for myself, probably in a different city.
I don’t want to say that Tacoma has kicked my ass, but there hasn’t been a lot going for me here. I still have visions of a better Tacoma…
I am open to many new experiences: whether it’s graduate school, starting a new venture, moving to a new city, discovering a new talent, building on a new skill, planning for something new, learning… whatever comes up I am ready for it.
Cheers — to new adventures.