In my last entry I asserted that there was a general sentiment existing in the world that something is broken and it needs to be fixed. I don’t think any of you have to take my word for this (in fact I’d rather you didn’t on anything I say), we are living in a global recession. We see or read hear about it in the media, we see it in our own countries, cities, neighborhoods and families. In times like these we look for answers and typically levitate towards one of two groups of people, those with the answers or those looking for them. From a distance, everybody and anybody can look like they believe they have the answers and if those answers do not conform to our own beliefs, it is all too easy to view them as caricatures, cartoon villains who range from idiots to ideologues.
A significant portion of the entire collected works of hip-hop could serve as a compendium of broken things requiring fixes. Immortal Technique’s “The 3rd World”, Mos Def’s “N*ggas in Poorest” and Killer Mike’s acclaimed “R.A.P. Music” are but a few of the contemporary releases in hip-hop’s proud history of describing a broken system which needs to be fixed. One might deduce that the system has always been broken and has never been fixed, or perhaps that the system is fixed and needs to be broken. If the music is the message, what informs the message? The best way to answer that question is to ask the artists themselves. I exchanged e-mails with rapper and activist sole, the co-founder of anticon which he left in 2010, concerning his political beliefs. Fans and detractors know that his music is heavily political; his lyrics dense and at times sarcastic. What follows is my attempt to better understand of the politics behind the political rapper.
Kwes: If you had to apply a label to your beliefs, political and social, what would it be and how would you describe it?
sole: That is a difficult question to answer. Of all the things I have read I think Peter Kropotkin’s definition of anarcho-Marxism best fits me. I believe that that we only need institutions that improve the quality of life. I am against the state because it is by nature against me. I do not want to live in a world of arbitrary authority. I want to live in a world that has no use for cops, politicians, tax men or war. I want to live in a world where people would rather be “good” than “powerful”. I am beginning to come to terms with my more utopian ideas and how to reconcile them with the real world. I want to see the world become more philosophical. I want to be a good friend and have my actions match my words. I want to unleash my personal potential, but not at the cost of others. I am a firm believer in the ideas put forth by the situationists, i.e. “never work”. To me, what I do isn’t work; I read, garden and brainstorm all day, I play video games at night and I record occasionally. I’ve spent most of this year trying to win against cops and democrats. I think that this world alienates people from who they are and life should be about discovery and unlocking what we are truly capable of. Maybe my ideology could be summed up as “fight the power”.
Kwes: Could you describe anarcho-Marxism for the readers? Is it semantic choice of terminology, how does it differ from anarcho-communism?
sole: Yes, this is a semantic choice on my part. Kropotkin called it anarcho-communism, but after what has happened in China, the Soviet Union and North Korea, most people who like Marx’s ideas prefer the term Marxism over communism. The word anarchism to people outside of radical circles means “chaos” and/or “people who want to smash things”, the true definition of anarchism is a stateless society free of oppression, borders and hierarchy. I work under the assumption that at birth everyone is an anarchist and the artificial world that has been imposed on us places us in constant conflict and competition which destroys our intrinsic, kind nature. The problem with some anarchists, the “I hate my dad anarchists” as I call them, is that they are so caught up on direct action and personal autonomy that if we truly did abolish the state and everyone acted like that it could be kind of a disaster. A lot of anarchists say we don’t need a framework for what will replace the state after it’s done away with, but that’s not good enough for me. This is why I like the world that Kropotkin and David Graeber describe. One of the major problems in our society is its hierarchical structure; money flows upwards, dictates flow down. Under communism and democratic capitalism power and control is exerted from the center. Under anarcho-communism power is exerted from the peripheries. Society is organized around people’s needs and labor unions and neighborhood assemblies would govern. This would be true direct democracy.
To paraphrase David Graeber (one of the main ideological architects of O.W.S.), “with all the technology we have at our disposal, it’s absurd to think that what we currently have is the best we can do”. We don’t have to go back to the Stone Age; we can create a new world, one that isn’t based on exploitation. Were it not for what has happened all over the world in the past year, this would all seem like pie in the sky utopian thinking, but we are entering an era where it’s really important that we can ask these kind of questions. Representative democracy just doesn’t work for so many reasons. Imagine if our politicians were answerable to a neighborhood assembly (or a digital one) and motherfuckers were like, “NO YOU DID NOT JUST BOMB LIBYA AND BAIL OUT THE BANKS, WTF DUDE, NOPE WE’RE RECALLING YOU, PULL THOSE PLANES OUT RIGHT NOW”. In a society that runs on direct democracy, the power to represent is not the power to dictate and is instantly recallable. What does the state provide that we can’t on our own? Cops. I will paraphrase Kropotkin again; in 2012 it’s insane to think that police are really upholding a moral order. The police are there to preserve an order, but it isn’t moral. The state doesn’t teach morality. The laws don’t do shit but defend the wealthy. This is all sad but true, so in a worst case scenario if we have Halliburton death squads roaming America, we’ll need to figure out a way to deal with them. But there are answers to these questions, new ones, that don’t end up with arbitrary power structures and “Animal Farm” scenarios.
In 2012, it’s insane to think that police are really upholding a moral order. The police are there to preserve an order, but it isn’t moral.
Kwes: It seems that your music has become increasingly political with each successive release. How did you arrive at anarcho-Marxism?
sole: Yes, my music does get more political every release. I always hated political rap and felt it trivialized what it talked about by reducing important shit to bumper stickers. After 9/11, I made it my goal to become an “expert” and to try to understand history, economics, and philosophy and have a critical grasp on current events. All my favorite writers/thinkers are anarchists and Marxists. My favorite writer, Guy Debord (who penned “Society of the Spectacle”), was a Marxist, yet their movement, situationism, is said to have spawned the punk movement. There is so much cross over between anarchism and Marxism. When I was getting into Marx I really wanted to try out some of these different forms of organization so I transformed anticon from being my sole proprietorship to becoming a “collective”. I wish I had done more research on different, more radical modes of organizing a collective, because what we set up ended up just being a corporation. The artists were reduced to shareholders and the real power was exerted by salary employees who weren’t artists, and that is how the label has become what it has become. This was devastating for me. I fought this tooth and nail and I kind of gave up on the Marxism/solidarity part and just went off to be a “lone anarchist in the woods” for half a decade. I exiled myself to Barcelona, then went and lived in the woods in northern Arizona, just reading, being in nature, recording, etc., kind of removing myself from the “grind”.
I have still always maintained a radical standpoint in my music, but have also been very pessimistic about the masses and about the arc of history and was one of those “I want to learn to live off the land and wait for the world to crumble” kinds of dudes. Then I moved to Denver and started surrounding myself with intelligent people; I got a job working at Denver Open Media (they do Free Speech TV, Democracy Now, etc.) and started getting acquainted with the local activist scene. Denver has a very active and rich anarchist community and within Occupy Denver the anarchist arguments were usually almost always correct. The anarchists rolled into Occupy Denver with legal support through our local Anarchist Black Cross chapter and infrastructure for feeding people, providing medical care, etc. The biggest threat that Occupy poses to the current order is that it brings together people from all walks of life and radicalizes everyone. I have never been a follower and have always avoided speaking in “smash the state” kind of slogans. Most of the movements happening, at least in the western world, from the Indignados in Spain, the movement in Greece, the Montreal student protests, O.W.S., they all involve community based assemblies for governance, they all support direct democracy. Seeing this actually working (and god damn, not working a lot, too), it sort of started setting off clicks in my head like, “Wow, another world really is possible. What will it look like?”, so I started going back to the greats, reading philosophy again, both old and new. Kropotkin’s ideas lay a great argument/framework for what these movements are moving towards. A lot needs to happen between now and this perfect world, people need to be educated about capitalism and imperialism. Civilization has done a lot to us, and if we just did away with it tomorrow we would likely have mass starvation, riots, probably civil war. I’m down for working towards something better, but in the back of my head and with history as a guide, this is the framework I’m working with. However, the idea of holding onto a 100 year old book and saying “this is what I think” is dead. The world is fluid now, and if we are really going to talk about what a new world will look like we need to be adaptable, open minded and able to draw on a wide range of influences to come up with the creative answers.
Kwes: What you said about political rap resonates with me and I definitely shared similar misgivings towards it, the core problem being that politics are complex, and when it is distilled into three 16 bar verses and a chorus the limitations of the medium can result in an over-simplified message, whereby the central points can be lost. Do you find that your political evolution stripped you of these misgivings, what you were learning and seeing more or less making expressing your own political beliefs in song a necessity? Do you ever find yourself having finished writing or recording something and think “Fuck, this is more ‘Words I Never Said’ than ‘Fight the Power’” and have to start from scratch?
sole: I throw away a lot of writings; there is always a fine line between to walk between trite and poignant. I have always struggled with that until I discovered the whole Nuclear Winter mixtape aesthetic, replacing other rappers words with more far left political messages is really easy to me, and that approach really helped refine my song writing. I’ve never been much of a songwriter; I’ve always been more of a rapper at heart and a writer/poet on the page and never had much of a sense of “song”. We live in an A.D.D. age where the band of the minute becomes a has-been before the minute is even up, so for propaganda purposes in order for this stuff to work it has to be put into a format that people can digest, the “music is the message”. Songs are what radicalized me as a kid and I believe in the power of them. It was once said that art that doesn’t challenge the status quo is worthless. I don’t think it’s worthless, but I think all art should question our assumptions, it asks questions, it attacks, and it agitates. Hip-hop is a pretty loose art form, rappers rarely stay on topic, they bounce all over the place, and I think that approach is pretty liberating for what I do because everything is connected, so a long song can easily turn to a song about empire.
Kwes: You are involved in the Occupy Denver moment, can you describe what this movement means to you and what you believe it symbolizes in society at large, in America and beyond? Did your political and social beliefs lead you to participate in the movement or has your participation in the movement precipitated your current beliefs?
sole: Occupy is the most subversive thing to happen in the United States at least for 50 years, if not since the 20s. A bunch of radical academics get together in New York and dream up class war MEMES that will radicalize the middle class. Brilliant. We went from nowhere to somewhere almost overnight. As soon as it happened I instantly saw some Guy Debord in it, then later read interview from homie at Adbusters that called for it when he said, “I am not influenced by the sitiuationists, I am a student”. Occupy is a shot across the bow to the ruling class and it’s a spark that really put some great arguments against the current order. I for one always wanted to be an activist, but I thought I needed a degree or special experience, and this model which was replicated all over was pretty inclusive and has got a lot of people involved working against the system. One of the best things that Occupy does is dismantles the alienation of social networking and modernity, general assemblies like Occupy uses have been around since before Columbus showed up. When I first showed up at Occupy most people didn’t know who I was, I was pretty well dressed and was a good writer/strategist, so I’ve had a chance to be involved in some really cool projects which have pushed me in a more radical direction. I helped craft a letter to the governor and held negotiations with the police chief before two of the evictions to try to prevent evictions of the physical encampments. Both were futile wastes of time and those kinds of experiences are what have really honed my distrust of the state, the police and the politicians. They give lip service to “protecting our First Amendment rights” but when it boils down to it, all they really care about is property values and maintaining their careers. They don’t give a fuck about anything except money, power and politics and that is why this entire system must go.
For the casual supporters of Occupy who haven’t been there every day for this shit, they watched chants of “police are the 99%” to “police are the army of the rich” to “FUCK THE POLICE”, and they think we’ve all gone crazy! But there is a dialectic going on here, people have seen firsthand what the state is capable of, we have watched the soft police state materialize into a militarized police force overnight! One of the first things I noticed was how the cops tried to separate the anarchists from the rest of the protesters; I saw crazy online and on-ground chatter calling the local Anarchist Black Cross chapter and its supporters violent when they were not. There was a huge white noise campaign that was there to separate the radicals and activists from the more liberal occupiers (now we find out this was a nationwide strategy). They did this because they wanted to separate the people with experience from those who are just there to hold signs and go home so that we wouldn’t have any teeth. It was truly astounding to watch and because people trusted me and thought I was more on the “liberal” side I kind of weaseled my way into the core of the liberal minded “organizers” of Occupy and started exposing their undemocratic actions (people setting up secret meetings with cops, state officials, snitching, lying, etc.). One of the biggest problems of the Occupy movement is that the 99% language has kind of blown up in our faces and a lot of the kind of middle class liberals, they don’t want a class war, and they just want to march around chant “We are the 99%” and get to keep their houses. There is a huge disconnect between the middle class in the suburbs and the realities of people living in ghettos or the third world. There is a refusal to admit that we are empire, they just want to keep the world the way it is because they are scared they will lose everything. So this movement represents a lot, but what it really represents is an educational opportunity for everyone and a threat to the ruling class. I could actually write a hundred pages on this and maybe I should, nevertheless I see Occupy as a beta test for what is to come. The state repression, the media attacks and the energy that was put into making the middle class distrust the more radical elements has been largely effective in squashing the movement, but the spark has been lit, new communities of resistance have emerged and I expect a very exciting decade ahead of us. These experiences have refined and developed my beliefs; I expect them to continue to evolve as the situation changes.
Kwes: You mention “the artificial world which places us in constant conflict and competition which destroys our intrinsic, kind nature”, and I assume you’re referring to society as it exists within the current economic systems and systems of governance. In regards to our “intrinsic, kind nature”, would you not also consider conflict and competition also intrinsic within our, if not all, species?
sole: Sure, we are complex organisms, but I’m sure the desire to help is greater than the desire to destroy. The need to be a part of a community is greater than the need to be alone. Yes, there are weeds in the forest that can expand and choke out trees but there are also many positive symbiotic relationships between plants and insects that have evolved which are the opposite, we have it all here. The difference is that we are humans with the ability to choose and by creating a kind of ethics/morality that promotes solidarity over competition, we’d all be better off for it. Shit, fish, rodents, ants, birds, almost every animal finds a way to form a community and be in solidarity with each other, why can’t we?
I helped craft a letter to the governor and held negotiations with the police chief before two of the evictions to try to prevent evictions. Both were futile wastes of time and those experiences have really honed my distrust of the state.
Kwes: At the center of society are humans, could it not be said that we are the root cause of the ills which plague humanity? Are various forms of societal, economic and government structure merely the framework which amplifies our good and bad qualities?
sole: This economic order we are currently under, this form of governance, does nothing if NOT magnify the bad things about us. A lot of early economic theory in Britain/U.S.A. thought that if capitalism mimicked the “equilibrium” in nature that we’d be able to create a utopian order, like that which exists in nature. The problem with that is that nature does not exist in perfect balance; there is massive starvation, droughts, etc., so by basing our economy off of that model we have replicated that in our society. People are much less generous when they feel the boot of debt on their neck, when they don’t know if their job will be outsourced, when they don’t know if they’ll have money for food, especially when we are taught that empathy is less important than success. We are taught that if you work hard you’ll have it all and if you aren’t rich it’s your fault because you didn’t work hard enough. Tell that shit to motherfuckers working 60 hours a week. Americans work longer work days than any other countries in the west. When you are working 60 hours a week, you don’t have time to be nice, you don’t have time to pick your neighbors kid up from school or help some dude on the highway fix a flat, it’s every man for himself! That shit is fucked!
Kwes: How does anarcho-Marxism either control for this or offer an alternative means for dealing with this?
sole: I want to make this clear, both of the terms “anarchism” and “Marxism” are so loaded in the U.S.A. that if we were really going to work for that we’d probably have to use those ideas as a framework to base a new society on, but might have to word it differently. Most Americans would rather have Satan as president than live in an anarcho-Marxist or anarcho-syndicalist society because of what they have been told about Marxism and anarchism. One thing David Harvey was talking about recently in a lecture is a kind of anti-capitalist revolution based on the neo-con revolution that happened here, setting in place institutions, laws, etc., that work towards doing away with capitalism slowly, over the course of 40 years or so, because in order to truly change course people need to be provided examples of alternatives, they need to be educated. That argument is reformist, building a new world in the shell of the old, and it remains to be seen whether or not that could actually work. So much brainwashing has happened here and that capitalist ideology is so deeply rooted that it’s going to take a lot of work to snap people out of it. The general principles of anarcho-Marxism stress the need for cooperation, the need for solidarity, and a refutation of arbitrary forms of power. It’s an almost entirely opposite form of morality. It stresses compassion, it refutes the power of one class over any other class, and it promotes generosity over selfishness. It promotes the need for consensus over the ability to dominate.
Kwes: Are police not a necessary evil? How would police-less society maintain order, protect against rape, murder and exploitation, or even deal with extreme cases such as sociopaths or psychopaths? Does an alternative exist?
sole: Let’s turn the question around, do police really protect people? Do they really prevent rapes, murders and robberies? Nah, those things are already done and over with before the cops show up, so the police show up, fill out some paperwork, but they’re not really keeping rape victims safe. Colleges have a system to prevent sexual predators; they’ve got phones all over campus. If someone is following you, you pick up a phone and someone comes and escorts you. You don’t need police for that. Something like 75% of crimes in the USA are related to poverty, drug dealers, thefts, etc. If we could find a way to distribute goods/services/food/land/housing (wealth) in this country in a more equitable fashion we’d be able to reduce most crimes. There is a viscous cycle in our world, the people who are abused abuse, and most people who are abused also happen to be poor (Christian fundamentalism being a kind of “poor” also).
But to talk about really crazy people, really schizophrenic people, they had a way of dealing with this in native societies: if you couldn’t come to consensus with your tribe or get along, you were asked to leave. They did the same thing in old Europe, people would get exiled. Now of course this person becomes someone else’s problem, so I’m not sure this is the best way to deal with those people. In Occupy there are always mentally ill homeless people around and we have a strict “no cops” policy here in Denver, so when someone is crazy, yelling, and seemingly violent we deal with that person. We talk to them, we make them feel listened to or respected, but that doesn’t prevent the people who organize between churches/foodnotbombs/occupy from providing food for them. But again I turn the question around, how does our current system deal with people who are mentally ill? In the U.S.A. most publicly funded mental health institutions have been closed down, so these people are sent out into the streets, I see them every day. You know who the number one provider of mental health care in the U.S.A. is? The prison-industrial complex! It costs something like 5 times more to treat mentally ill people in prison and something like half of the prisons in the U.S.A. are privately owned, run for profit. Not to mention that how these people are routinely tortured, humiliated and abused in prison only making their condition worse. So this is an utter failure. If something isn’t working why keep doing it? Where is the love
I agree though, if we did away with police we would need to find a way to deal with violent offenders and the mentally ill. Police are certainly not the way to deal with the mentally ill. If we went to a more direct democracy model, where people in communities would work together and develop closer bonds, that would be better than cops. My neighbors have guns and my wife has their phone numbers, if she ever felt threatened she wouldn’t call the cops, they wouldn’t get here in time, she’d call our neighbors. That is how it is for most people. Again though, we don’t want to go back to tribalism, we want to find new ways of keeping people safe that don’t involve arbitrary power that indiscriminately oppress people of color and the poor. We would obviously need some sort of organization and I trust that the people would figure out how best to deal with crimes that would be far more just then the current system. I mean, the entire legal system is a fucking joke, what’s up with lawyers? How does that honestly represent justice? The people with the most money can afford the best lawyers; justice is something you BUY in this current system.
Kwes: What do you mean when you say that Christian fundamentalism is a kind of “poor”? Marx called religion the sigh of the oppressed creature, the opium of the people – what is your view of religion in our current society?
sole: I got into an argument with a guy from Halliburton recently, we were protesting against fracking at a convention center and this pretty friendly guy comes up to me and starts talking to me. He starts to tell me that global warming doesn’t exist, and then he points to the mountains, “Can I move a mountain? No, only God can. Do you really think that mankind can change the weather? That would make us gods. No, everything is as God wants it to be, if it is, it is because it is meant to be.” My response was “I don’t believe in God, I believe in matter. So by your logic, oil spills are good? Oil comes from the earth, and why not drink oil? What about nuclear war? Plutonium comes from the earth, why not nuke every city?” He replied, “If that’s what God wants, then it will be so. Trust me; even if every city was nuked the earth would come back. The earth and God is more powerful than you can ever imagine.” I’m not even lying. This is scary fucking stuff here in America.
I think it was Eugene Debs who said, “When fascism comes to the U.S.A. it’ll be a cross wrapped in an American flag”. I think that religion exists to as anesthesia against death. Period. People are afraid to die. Before we had civilization religion was science, philosophy and state rolled up into one. Religion’s ugly side is what is most commonly used in our society and it is also one of the biggest underlying ideological blocks in the U.S.A. The most prevalent version of Christianity is a perverted, racist, and repressive component of our society. So if your religion teaches you to hate gays, women’s reproductive rights, and the Islamic (heathen) “other” then that’s pretty much the end of the conversation. If your beliefs go to the depths of your being, to your very “soul”, that’s ideology in its purest form, and you can’t argue with ideology. That is why the Republicans need Christianity, because it allows a blind crusader-esque subservience which perfectly suits the needs of empire.
But let’s not get it twisted, religion isn’t all bad. I’ve seen Hare Krishnas come down, play music, sing and dance and serve amazing vegan meals on riot cop lines. I’ve seen Christian organizations in Denver do amazing work for the homeless, or against war, and it comes with no strings attached. We work very closely with a lot of religious organizations and they’re awesome, as long as people can respect each other, we’re good. I don’t like religion personally, but if your religion can respect the rights and opinions of others and allows for you to have intelligent discussions then I have no problem with it. We don’t need religion anymore to teach us morality, science or the earth. In fact, some of the most atheistic societies also have the lowest murder rates. The logic goes that if you don’t believe in an afterlife, you’re going to think life is precious. Anything that prevents critical thinking is an enemy. If I can use Society of the Spectacle as a framework for how I see the world, people can use the Bible if they want, as long as they’re cool about it.
Kwes: In the aftermath of political and economic events such as 9/11 or the 2008 economic crisis, in their struggles to comprehend and adapt to the derivation from the order of things, people seem to be pushed to beliefs which explain for them the causes for these events. A key example could be the 9/11 Truth movement which explained, for some, the very complex relationship between the United States, the western world, and the middle east in very simple terms – it was an inside job perpetrated as the pretext for carte blanche to expand empire. In the wake of the 2008 economic crisis there arose the Tea Party movement, which has been co-opted by the establishment right and heavily astroturfed, and the Occupy movement. In the information age and the sometimes-saturated competitive marketplace of ideas, how do you see Occupy competing for the hearts and minds of the disenfranchised?
sole: Okay, personally I think the “Truth” movement is a huge waste of energy. The Tea Party on the other hand, when it first started bubbling, before the Koch brothers, a lot of the Ron Paul kind of messaging wasn’t quite so bad. I remember being pissed off that the Tea Party had completely stolen the discussion about the economy and twisted it to say we need less regulation, etc. This is where Occupy comes in and turns that discussion around, it completely changed the discussion, and that’s the best thing it has accomplished. I’m not so sure anymore of Occupy’s ability to mobilize massive amounts of people, the mainstream media has done an amazing job to minimize the effectiveness of the movement. Most Americans believe that we have no message, we need leaders and to elect candidates, that we are all homeless drug addicts that want to shit on cop cars, and that is to say nothing of the massive state repression. I think the only thing left for Occupy to do is to start going into neighborhoods and start organizing people locally. Reaching out to other groups, working with the disenfranchised, become real activists and to move away from creating spectacles to organizing. Start to create an infrastructure that weans people off of the system, reclaiming vacant lots for gardens, legal support, cop-watch, medical support, and education. Occupy Denver is already doing all of this stuff, but we lack the numbers to do everything that we could do as effectively as possible. A lot of the real work is being done right now in affinity groups outside of official Occupy channels, but none of that would have been possible were it not for Occupy. I am also working under the assumption that we are a fringe group, that we’re actually not the 99% and that in order to stay relevant we have to push a very hard left agenda and become a part of a larger movement for change that actually does contain the masses. It has brought together communities of resistance all over the world, so if they’re calling that shit “Occupy” in 10 years it doesn’t matter, because the spark is there, and I don’t think that’s just going to go away because a couple thousand people got arrested and beaten up by riot cops.
Everything we do in our life is political, when we drive a car or buy organic produce. These are all political events and actions.
Kwes: There is a portion of the population – in my own experience I would say a significant one but I have far too small a sample size to be certain – who are informed about events – more interested in quirks and human interest stories – yet uninformed about politics, local, national and international. They write off movements like Occupy or the Montreal student protests, unwilling to listen to or consider what is being said because to them it registers as “politics”, brushing it off with false-equivalencies like “at least we’re not in Syria”. To them they can process that people are being slaughtered by a foreign government because it registers as an event, and without similar events happening closer to home to accompany the movement, it is politics. I would say this false-equivalency is also why reports of police brutality at Occupy, in Montreal, and even the G-20 protests in Toronto generate very little public outcry. How do movements such as these get across complex, long-view messages and ideas to the less and willfully uninformed?
sole: Maybe when George Clooney and Britney Spears light themselves on fire in front of parliament? Seriously though, everything we do in our life is political, when we drive a car, when we decide to buy organic produce, when we have to move out of the mountains because there is a forest fire. These are all political events and actions. A lot of people equate “political” with “depressing”, so they choose to shut out things they don’t want to hear. Half of the population is doped up on reality TV and anti-depressants. Part of it is that over the past 30 years there haven’t been any meaningful “political” acts of resistance, en masse, in our society so they think it’s futile to even bother. Now things are changing though, there are mass movements happening all over the world because the people are starting to realize that the global civilization is on the verge of crumbling. The idea of human beings going extinct is not as far off a reality as some would like to think, yet apathy is still the norm. Even people on the left parrot right wing talking points about O.W.S., and more experienced radicals are more concerned with preserving their political identities than taking part in what is happening. Unfortunately, because of the “west’s” current top of the food chain status we don’t see the world on fire like others do. People are rightfully horrified that in China they boil cats and dogs alive, but they don’t connect that to how we treat pigs, chickens and cattle. I don’t really have an answer for this, we are taught in our society if something bad happens to you, it’s your fault. If your brother loses his leg or dies in Iraq, it’s his decision to make. But isn’t it the fault of the president for sending them off to die in an imperial war?
We are taught very early on not to think critically, the public education system is more about learning to take orders, fall in line, etc., than education. My short answer is that when things impact them as individuals negatively then they will take action. But in some places apathy and subservience is more deeply ingrained, I mean, shit, look at how the student revolts hopped right over the U.S.A. from Canada to Mexico! Shame on America, with your one trillion in student debts and not self-reflecting while your neighbors are saying “We don’t want to be slaves like you!” Someone feeds an American a pie made of shit and they’re like “Shit’s not so bad”, but in Mexico and Canada they’re like FUCK THAT SHIT! Countries in Europe have a vibrant, militant labor movement, constant riots and acts of resistance, and it’s accepted, it’s the norm. It’s why they have such an amazing welfare state and social structure based around a better quality of life. That is why the U.S.A. is repressing this movement with all it has, because once the genie starts to really sneak out of the bottle there’s no putting it back in and its game over for the plutocrats. But god damn, the U.S.A. has a real slick plutocrat class, every day I start to realize how much of a “soft police state” we live in and how hard it is to pinpoint.
Kwes: In terms of militant resistance and riots, what is your opinion on violent and non-violent resistance? Which is the most effective, and at what point does violent resistance become legitimized or necessary?
sole: I definitely support everyone’s right to protest/resist the way they want to. First you have to define violence. Some people say property destruction is violence, some people say self defense is violent, some people who worship at the throne of M.L.K. and Gandhi yell about non-violence all day but will never ever put themselves in harm’s way for non-violent disobedience with the people they accuse of being violent simply for resisting orders to disperse. Denver has largely remained non-violent but the liberal-emotional types are the ones who freak the fuck out about violence when we have chosen to stand our ground non-violently. Some of the most violent/dangerous things that I have seen were when those people started snitching, lying to cops and spreading false rumors that resulted in people getting hurt and arrested. I’ve received legal threats simply for standing my ideological ground in a hostile environment, THAT is violence. If these movements continue to reach a point of critical mass, the soft dictatorship/oppression style that they are currently employing will no longer be effective and they will have to use brutal force, tanks on Broadway kind of shit. That is when the cops are really going to have to make a decision. That is when the protesters are really going to have to make a decision. To think that the U.S.A., the most violent regime on the earth, one of the most powerful nations in the history of mankind is going to just hand over the country to a bunch of non-violent protesters is super idealistic. No one has a crystal ball, so no one should be preventing people from doing what they as individuals feel is right, as long as it respects the time and space of everyone around them.
Kwes: The right, the police, and the rich are pejorative terms in far-left organisations, and yet members of each of these groups are made up of members of our society. Do you think that the negative connotation with these terms has a dehumanizing effect on people in these groups, and would this pose a problem towards creating a more cooperative society?
sole: Um, maybe, but most likely not. Most people who are the first to scream, “Kill the rich, fuck the police, death the right wing” are fully able, capable and willing to deal with anyone as an individual. A lot of rich people donated money to the Occupies; they know that their class is on the wrong side of history. A lot of cops just don’t give a shit, but when they make the moral decision and have a revolt of the guards, everyone will be able to work together. There are many cops who were very negatively affected by the riot cop lines in Denver, cops crying, handing in their badges, having to leave, not wanting to attack their own people; we see it happening in the Arab world with all these military defections. Many people would scream fuck the army, but those same people were cheering and crying as those soldiers threw their medals at the NATO protests. Yeah, it has dehumanizing effects, for sure. This is class war though. The people who are on the side of the ruling class have got to be made to feel the pressure, but not so much that it further entrenches their beliefs and they will never come over to the light.
Kwes: Do you think that there is a place for ideas which would fall on the right of the political spectrum in the type of society you’re envisioning?
sole: Absolutely. When I lived in Northern Arizona I was surrounded by Christian-libertarian types. The extreme left and the extreme right have a lot in common. I rarely got into arguments with people, none of them agreed with the wars, the banker bailouts, etc. Few of them think empire is a good idea. They are all deep down good people, and have been fed lies their whole lives. The libertarian movement in America is an abomination of anarchism, it’s basically anarchism for the rich, but there is certainly some middle ground there. When it comes down to basic human needs, food, clean water, energy, defense, etc., people can come together and reach consensus and respect. It’ll take a shit ton of work and education, that’s for sure, but it can happen. When society crumbles it won’t matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat, you’re going to have to break bread with people you disagree with. The same thing happened in the Arab world; students, liberals and Islamists are all working together, it can happen here too.
Kwes: You have made it quite clear that the change you think necessary is something which will not happen overnight. How does one avoid cynicism?
sole: I think by being involved is avoiding cynicism. I am constantly like, “This movement is over” and then something happens that completely reinvigorates me. Often it’s an event, an action, or the people around me really impressing me. It’s real easy to burn out, so people should take care of themselves. We still need to eat, to make money, to go out into nature, to swim, to be around normal people who don’t spend all day fighting the power, to take care of our loved ones, to read and to slow down sometimes. These things take time, it’s not going to happen overnight, and if you burn out and get jaded you’re not going to help anyone!
Kwes: If you had to give a crash course in your political beliefs, what would the reading list be? You’ve mentioned Peter Kropotkin’s writings on anarcho-communism and Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, what would provide the best primer for a leftist layperson?
sole: If I were teaching a course it would go like this, in order of a kind of political development/reading level:
- “The Twentieth Century: A People’s History” by Howard Zinn (I think Zinn is a great primer
- “Anarchism” by Emma Goldman
- “The Chomsky Reader” (some might not make it through, but just keep it and look shit up about empire when the need be)
- “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
- “1968: The Year That Rocked the World” by Mark Kurlansky
- “Society of the Spectacle” by Guy Debord
- “Comments on Society of the Spectacle” by Guy Debord
- “Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles” by Peter Kropotkin
- “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown
- “Collapse” by Jared Diamond
- “Violence” by Slavoj Zizek
Kwes: I would like to thank you on behalf of myself and Lesson Six for taking the time to answer my questions. Do you have any final words for our readers?
sole: This was probably the hardest interview I have ever done. I want to make it clear that I am not as dogmatic/pretentious as I might be coming off in this interview; this framework I am working with now is shaped a lot by my experiences over the last year. No one has the answers, and as long as we leave ourselves open to new possibilities, new ways of organizing ourselves, new ways of thinking, keep our ears to the street, keep learning and listening, we can begin to build a new world. To me the key is to be open minded. Thanks.
sole is currently accepting donations to help fund the production and release of his upcoming album “A Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing” through Kickstarter. For every $1000 raised above his achieved goal of $3000, he will be releasing an unreleased demo track to everyone who backs the project.