Early on May Day, the FBI announced it had foiled a terrorist plot to blow up a bridge in Cleveland, Ohio – my hometown. Then days later, another “terrorist plot” was disrupted at the NATO protests in Chicago. (Arun Gupta has done some excellent on-the-ground reporting from both cities).
In the last few weeks, A lot of my emotional space has been taken up by these things. In both cases, an infiltrator or informant basically pushed people into doing (or talking about) something they in all likelihood would never have done, in the service of fear-mongering and justifying increased surveillance and targeting of protesters.
Will Potter, author of Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege, has an excellent post on this topic summarizing the situation and reflecting on the overall shift it tactics by the state: “It’s nothing new to see widespread police misconduct and abuse in the days leading up to high-profile demonstrations… In the last several years, though, that decades-old model has been transforming. All the old tactics are still there. But now the message is being sent not just through arrests or police violence, but through the FBI working with local cops to infiltrate and disrupt protest groups, provoke and coordinate illegal activity, and then charge some activists with ‘terrorism.'”
I have several quick thoughts about this.
1. Steve Jobs should not be held accountable for the faults of capitalism. Many of my friends are posting on Twitter and Facebook that iPhones are made in factories which have deplorable conditions, and they aren’t recyclable.
I don’t have the statistics on this, but I will bet you that most of the other electronics we use (as well as our cars, gasoline, and a lot of clothes and other things) are made in similar ways. Could Steve Jobs probably have done more to change it? Yes. Did he profit from it? Yes. Is this Steve Jobs’ fault? No.
I guess I am having a visceral reaction to some of my activist friends condemning Steve Jobs while at same time clutching laptops and cell phones. It is our entire global economic system that makes it possible for people to be poisoned in factories in Asia while Americans pretend it isn’t happening. Consumer demand – our own personal consumption, my consumption – drives this system and creates the need for poisonous factories.
Regardless of what you think about capitalism, Jobs (and the legions of people who work at Apple or influenced and helped him along the way) changed the way we interact with technology and each other, for for the better.
That is important. And good.
I’ve thought about this a lot – how to appreciate the good parts of a person while recognizing the bad parts exist? Very few people are saints. When I look at the people I know in my own life, which include well known punk rock scenesters or activist rockstars, very few of them are without fault. Some of them have big faults, like abusing their girlfriends or stealing money or otherwise being total shitheads – does this mean we should ignore their contributions that make the world a better place? I think we can accept the good and the bad. Acknowledging the good and the bad doesn’t mean that you’re erasing or ignoring the bad. I don’t think it’s asking too much for people to have a complex understanding of the way the world works, where things aren’t just “good” or “bad.”
2. Too bad that Steve Jobs died today because then the Occupy Wall Street protests wouldn’t get the coverage they deserved.
Sigh. First of all, the protests will never get the coverage they deserve.
Second, I would like to remind everyone of Manjula Martin’s excellent opinion piece last week on this very thing – the confluence of many things happening at the same time, especially on social media, and how it *is* actually possible to experience and understand and *feel* all of them. She was talking about how social media has turned into a space where we judge each other’s emotions.
In “The Week Social Media Broke My Heart,” she was talking about Troy Davis, the release of the hikers, and R.E.M. breaking up all happening at the same moment, but she could totally be talking about Steve Jobs dying and Occupy Wall Street.
I just re-read the piece looking for a part to quote, but the whole thing is just so good, I want you to read it for yourself. Here is just one small part:
Critics want it both ways: we want something to be pure and essential, but we also tend to retrospectively see events based solely on their context/reaction. Particularly in social media, context develops at an increasing pace: we condense the critical cycle into a series of quick “sharing” actions and move straight from “something happens” into criticizing ourselves and each other for liking things. In our rushed effort to provide the “essential” opinion, we forget the part about why we’re being critical in the first place: because the “something” happened made us feel something, and that made us want to contribute.
I totally want to quote the whole rest of the piece, but you should just read it yourself.
On Friday, the world changed. Toronto artist and activist Will Munro lost his two-year battle with brain cancer.
There’s no two ways about it, Will was brilliant. If you ever question the impact one person can have, reading over the comments on this public Facebook page Dave created, called Honoring the Heart of Will Munro, will remind you how much is possible.
The National Post calls him an “artist and scene impresario,” NOW calls him an “icon,” and Eye Weekly sums it all up like this: “So much of the cultural currency that Toronto has accrued over the past 10 years — a thriving, west-end queer arts scene; the establishment of West Queen West as the city’s new nightlife hub; the mixed gay/straight crowds at local dance parties and the indie-rock/disco fusions that soundtrack so many of them — can be directly attributed to [Munro’s] community-building efforts. Which is why his untimely passing this morning at the age of 35 from cancer represents more than just a sad case of a brilliant young man leaving us far too soon — it’s no understatement to say the city just won’t be the same without him.”
Thursday was the anniversary of my dad’s death. Last year, I wrote a post about it a few weeks after he died and always intended to write more, and though I’m not quite sure I’m ready, I don’t feel I can really let the anniversary go by without marking it.
So, on anniversaries. Taking time to do something special or to memorialize a person in some way seems important, but at the same time, it’s not as if I don’t think about him every day. What did happen was that as the day approached I started remembering everything that was going on last year and feeling a lot of anxiety – just remembering the events brought those emotions forward to the present. I think about how difficult his life was in the last few years, when he his body was working against him and he was struggling to find meaning in his life. I marvel at how strong my mom is. I also found it very difficult to talk about with people, but I miss him.
I guess that’s all I really have to say about it right now. The photo here is of my dad as a baby, with his parents, likely taken where they lived in Detroit, Michigan. This photo was probably taken around 1944. His parents were German immigrants who ran a grocery store. They both died before I was born. He had six older brothers and sisters, the youngest of which was 13 years older than him, and many of them have passed away.
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