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greengalloway

As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Get pissed: destroy


Photo is of 1996 Guinness site / Wandsworth occupation from This Land is Ours website http://www.cix.co.uk/~tsphoto/land/landmenu.htm


Get pissed: destroy [Sex Pistols: Anarchy in the UK: 1976]

Found this report by Starhawk on her G8 experiences. I’ve edited it down and highlighted the interesting section, but just to reinforce my theme, here it is again

While the vast majority of people were there to mount and support actions against the G8, there was a small but significant group of the festival/party crowd, who drank heavily, imbibed, I'm sure, other consciousness altering substances, and caused an immense amount of trouble to the rest of us. Overall Scottish and British culture is much more alcohol-focused than us U.S. puritans are used to, at least in action situations, and even the most serious activists like their beer and some loud disco music to unwind with at night.

I guess anyone who has been involved in any kind of alternative actions/ spaces over at least the past 25 years will recognise the problem. Way back in 1981/2 , at least according to Albert Meltzer, it was drunken punks wot trashed the Wapping ‘Autonomy’ (Anarchy) Centre. John Pendragon made a similar complaint to me (circa 1986) about ‘punks’ destroying the Travelling / free festivals culture… although a few years later blame shifted to the acid house rave scene. At Greenham in 1982 , it was the Peace Convoy from Stonehenge - though here it was men in generally rather than punks that were seen as the problem. At Greenlands Farm, Glastonbury in 85, it was the ‘Brew Crew’, with similar problems on the M11 campaign at Claremont Road in 94.

But is it just alcohol ? Barnaby, who lived at the Guinness site in Wandsworth in 96 reckoned the big difficulty was that such alternative spaces [Temporary Autonomous Zones as Hakim Bay described them] attract people with mental health problems. Barnaby felt the sheer numbers of such people overwhelmed the physical and practical resources of those who were there to make a political point. The theory of ‘Care in the Community’ is fine, but in practice it means there are a lot of people with severe mental health problems who have no ‘community’ to be cared in. The alternative community has to cope as best it can.

When alcohol and ‘other consciousness altering substances’ are added into the mix, violent and abusive behaviour is a result. This can either be directed ‘internally’ or ‘externally’ - towards the alternative community or towards the police, as Starhawk indicates. It seems to be a problem which is mostly ignored, even though it undermines even the most together attempts to create working alternatives to the status quo.

Rather than waffle on, read what she says and think about it. "Tat" is a word which came from the travelling community / road protest interface - I think. I don't remember it being used by the pre-travelling anarcho goth punk community.

http://www.reclaimingquarterly.org/web/g8/g8-star1.html#july11

July 11, 2005
Tatting Down
"Tat" is a word I'd never heard until a few weeks ago, that has dominated my life throughout this action. "Tat" means "stuff", material resources, generally of a low but useful quality, and often acquired from 'skips', which at home we call 'dumpsters', by a process known as 'skipping' (tr. 'dumpster diving') or sometimes by 'blagging', which means talking people into or out of something. Hopefully not by 'nicking', that is, stealing, although 'getting nicked' also means 'getting arrested.' We spent weeks tatting, or acquiring tat, in order to create the ecovillage-from old bathtubs to plumbing parts to wood, and now we are 'tatting down', or taking the ecovillage apart. It's sad to see it go, sad to see all the social fabric deconstruct itself, the coaches turn back into pumpkins. Before it goes away entirely, I want to write something about the last few days.
In camp, we had an emergency meeting to deal with the toilet crisis. Our diversity of toilets included nine composting toilets built around wheely bins (wheeled garbage cans) which would be sealed and stored for two years, and the resulting compost then used on trees and ornamentals. It also included many trench toilets dug along the edges of the field, which would simply be filled in and left to compost in place. And it was supposed to include forty porta-loos (porta-potties, honey huts, chemical toilets), required by the Council for the license and which we were counting on for capacity. Due to many circumstances beyond anyone's control, we never had more than fifteen, and for days the company had been unable to come in and clean them. First this was due to the police lines, but by Friday, a truck had managed to come through, only to be mounted by an exuberant and possibly drunk crowd who danced on top of it and reputedly threatened the driver. When his boss phoned for help, someone on the phone allegedly swore at him, and now the company was refusing to come back.

The incident illustrated some of the wild contradictions in the camp. While the vast majority of people were there to mount and support actions against the G8, there was a small but significant group of the festival/party crowd, who drank heavily, imbibed, I'm sure, other consciousness altering substances, and caused an immense amount of trouble to the rest of us. Overall Scottish and British culture is much more alcohol-focused than us U.S. puritans are used to, at least in action situations, and even the most serious activists like their beer and some loud disco music to unwind with at night. There were multiple sound systems in camp, and the thundering base vied with the thrum of helicopters to disturb any possibility of sleeping.

By setting up an encampment, where we all had to live together for a week, we were constantly faced with the real life, practical implications of our politics. Does anarchism simply mean that no one can ever tell me what to do, whatever state of consciousness I'm in or however I'm affecting the good of the whole? How do we respect the individual freedom of those who are in no state to make rational decisions or listen to the needs of others, and who gets to decide? And at what point does the good of the whole override the absolute freedom of the individual? It's one thing to consider these issues in the abstract, another to spend half an hour at 2:30 AM trying to get a drunk to move back from the police lines.

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