It was a last minute choice, but after reading the two Rolling Stones articles about rape at UVa, i knew i had to go to the protest. Because of the hasty preparations and the large group going, i grabbed a dozen black gloves from commie clothes.
On the way into the protest, much of the conversation was about the choice to protest at the fraternity. In our minivan there seemed to be agreement that the university’s complicity in these sexual assaults was what really needed action and change. The university’s internal policies tend to punish survivors and set free perpetrators and thus fosters ongoing sexual assault. The first Rolling Stones article points out that 86 schools are being investigated by the Dept. of Education because they are suspected of denying students their equal right to education by inadequately handling sexual-violence complaints. UVa is one of only 12 under the harsher “compliance review”. Which are “… targeted efforts to go after very serious concerns,” says Office of Civil Rights assistant secretary Catherine Lhamon. “We don’t open compliance reviews unless we have something that we think merits it.” This is likely because not a single student has been expelled for sexual assault at UVa for the last 7 years.
We arrived a bit late for the protest, and it had already broken up into discussion groups. There was a policy group, an alumni group, a women’s group, a group discussing fraternity reform, and some others. Some local activists looking for a more confrontational action complained that we were not going to simply talk the university or the fraternities into changing their ways. There was also a critique of “Facebook activism” in which students thought that by hitting like and posting some protest pictures these well entrenched cultures would shift.
i joined the policy discussion group for a while, but because i was late, what ever groundrules there were about who could talk and who was facilitating eluded me. And there were lots of participants who had quite charged feelings on the topic, including a couple of UVa rape survivors who were speaking powerfully and critically about how the university failed in handling their personal cases. It did not feel like the right place to share my ideas.
i do have lots of thoughts about policy changes the university could make to reduce sexual assault based on many conversations with Abigail who is doing this work at University of Oregon, but this will be the subject of another post.
The fraternity at the center of the controversy, Phi Kappa Psi, has not had an easy time of it since the Rolling Stone article came out. There have been several attacks on the building itself. The members have moved out of the building to a hotel. And the fraternity voluntarily surrendered its “Fraternal Organizing Agreement”, which means for the moment it technically does not exist. UVa has suspended all Fraternity activities until Jan 2015, in response to the allegations.
Having brought in law enforcement to investigate the Rolling Stone gang-rape allegations (more than a year-and-a-half after the university was first made aware of them) the state fumbled its very first task. State Attorney General Mark Herring originally announced Mark Filip would be the University’s independent counsel to address its handling of sexual violence. Turns out Filip was a member of the fraternity at the center of the controversy. The appointment was reversed after this embarrassing mistake was made public.
There have been a handful of protests at UVa over the Rolling Stone article. A couple days before this one, more than 700 people came out to express their concern, frustration, and rage over the long history of sexual assault on campus and the university’s near total failure to reduce it.
UVa does not protest much. It is quite a quiet campus when it comes to activism, especially around gender issues. Rolling Stone characterized it this way:
From reading headlines today, one might think colleges have suddenly become hotbeds of protest by celebrated anti-rape activists. But like most colleges across America, genteel University of Virginia has no radical feminist culture seeking to upend the patriarchy. There are no red-tape-wearing protests like at Harvard, no “sex-positive” clubs promoting the female orgasm like at Yale, no mattress-hauling performance artists like at Columbia, and certainly no SlutWalks. UVA isn’t an edgy or progressive campus by any stretch. The pinnacle of its polite activism is its annual Take Back the Night vigil, which on this campus of 21,000 students attracts an audience of less than 500 souls. But the dearth of attention isn’t because rape doesn’t happen in Charlottesville. It’s because at UVA, rapes are kept quiet, both by students – who brush off sexual assaults as regrettable but inevitable casualties of their cherished party culture – and by an administration that critics say is less concerned with protecting students than it is with protecting its own reputation from scandal.
So i was unsurprised by some of the debate that was going on at this protest. One of the protest organizers with a bullhorn ended the working groups session and made a short speech on what is often called “diversity of tactics“. She said basically that many people have strong feelings about the issue of sexual assault on campus and there will be lots of different approaches to organizing based on these feelings. Some will want to engage the university in dialog and will stage peaceful protests and avoid confrontation with the police. Others will choose to confront the police and risk arrest. She called on the crowd to respect the different choices that different activist make and keep the focus on the university and frats which need to change most.
She did not talk specifically about property destruction and she certainly did not talk about violence against people [Sadly, there were lots of people in the crowd who thought property destruction was a form of violence.] These are the places where diversity of tactics gets tricky.
During the chanting which took place at the fraternity house after the discussion groups had ended, some protesters were chanting that the building should be burnt down. Several other protesters were quite upset with this chant and said so clearly. It stopped quickly.
There was an especially peculiar moment as people were risking arrest in which another protester upset about the gravity towards the arrest yelled at the protesters “Hello Gandhi, Hello Martin Luther King”. This simultaneously struck me is distressing and funny. How exactly did this person think Gandhi and MLK succeeded? It certainly was not by avoiding arrest (and much worse) at the hands of the authorities.
Four of us got arrested at the very end of the protest for trespassing: myself, Sapphyre, Edmund, and Caroline intern from Acorn. Going to the protest, it had not been any of our intentions to get arrested. And all through the protests the police and campus security had been basically invisible.
The overwhelming response to our arrests were positive. It also got a surprising amount of press, including the International Business Times, US network news, a mention in the LA Times, in Washington DC, the feminist press, local media and of course campus media.
On Dec 4th we have our trial. Feel encouraged to come and join us at the Cville court on market street.
One of the best parts about the Point A project is the lovely people who are in fairly close orbit to it. The DC Point A group includes Connor who i barely knew before the project but i have grown a deep affection for. This last evenings meeting was at his group house in Death City which he shares with his sister and several other charming housemates.
There was a lovely, chaotically structured pot luck dinner type thing which happened just before the Point A meeting. Part of which was the creation of homemade donuts. They were in a word, epic donuts.
The Akashic Record is a quasi mythical place in which all history of all things is being recorded in real time, using a complex combination of high speed digital technology, ancient hand scribing arts and indecipherable magic. This is not some giant flat bureaucracy. The Akashic record has a number of different divisions to help users figure out which the most important events are and how it is they are best represented.
One of the special forces groups of the Akashic Record is the Sonnets Division. For powerful historical events, when they need something really compelling and rich to capture the importance of an event, they call in the Sonnets Division.
Tonight, for these donuts, the Sonnets Division is working overtime.
i realize that central to my evaluation of someone is what it is that i think motivates them. Sadly, the affluent parts of the world seems crowded with people who have fallen into some type of personal profit maximization motivation. A “S/he who dies with the most toys wins” kind of mindset.
Another way of looking at things
Trying to avoid this kind of motivation has landed me in hippie communes and scruffy activist circles. A choice and trajectory i am quite pleased with.
For about 20 years i have a running joke with activists, organizers and communards who have gone out of their way to make the right things happen, often at some personal expense or hassle. What i tell them is that they will receive one of the highly coveted cardboard “Hero of the Revolution” buttons. Today i finally made the first one.
Made of 100% durable cardboard
i made it for Michael Mariotte who is having a lifetime achievement award ceremony on Monday in Death City (DC). MM (as everyone in the movement abbreviates his name) and i met in Kiev in 1996. I was running the Chernobyl tenth anniversary campaign, which included a huge anti-nuclear conference in the Ukrainian capital. Having spent the preceding 7 years mostly in eastern Europe i was unaware of the US anti-nuclear movement, where MM was a bit of a superstar.
MM was the executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (he is now president). He asked me to be on the NIRS board and when i asked him to tell me what the organization had done, he rattled off a number of successful achievements in slowing the spread of nuclear reactors in the US and blocking numerous dangerous waste dump proposals and reprocessing facilities. I was impressed, i joined the NIRS board, a position i held for a dozen years.
The ED has rhythm – MM on drums with Tru Fax and the Insaniacs
I thought i was getting into a David and Goliath situation, it was more like David and Godzilla. In eastern Europe we fought corrupt utilities and deluded development banks, this i was used to. In the US, where more money was on the line, there are all manner of professional liars and propagandists who were actively attacking us as well as a captured regulator which did an outstanding job of appearing to be fair and caring about civilian safety and concerns, when what they really did was protect nuclear industry profits.
MM at recent NYC Climate March
Nobody fights nukes for the money. The executive direct salary for NIRS is in the bottom 20% for full time non-profit EDs, paid to someone who is living in one of the countries most expensive cities. And because of the fickle nature of philanthropic foundations (driven both by their dynamic priorities and swings in the market influencing their endowment) there was often not enough money to pay the staff, and MM was proud that the staff always got paid, often times electing not to pay himself on time.
Intelligent people can disagree about the best way to fight nuclear power. There are two classical splits: Reactors versus Weapons and Nuclear versus Renewables. The nuclear weapons complex is directly tied to the nuclear power complex. They need each other to survive. And they have repeatedly served each other as a crutch. MM looked around at the many groups in the US fighting against nuclear weapons and believed reactors deserved focused attention. Similarly with renewables, NIRS avoid putting campaign energy into clean energy, because many groups were doing it well. NIRS is the only internationally operating pure play anti-nuclear power organization in the world.
But don’t confuse MM’s sharp focus on reactors as less than a full understanding of the clean energy and military issues at play. Currently, reliably the best information about renewable energies disruptive effects comes from the SafeEnergy.org blog, which MM continues to write for prolifically. Including recently:
- Deutsche Banks says rooftop solar will be cheaper than the grid across the US inside 2 years.
- Nuclear industries Earth Week assault on Renewbles.
- CitiCorp says renewables to displace coal and nuclear.
MM demonstrates a kind of scrappy intelligence critical to low budget non-profits. I was arrested at the new Exelon Headquarters in something like 2004. MM called me after the trial to find out how it went. “I got 80 hours of community service.” i told him. “You should do them at NIRS.” he replied without a pause. Not stumbling over the idea that i should do community service at the organization which created the event i got arrested for in the first place.
MM was also a visionary with respect to Eastern Europe, which is how we met. He was one of the few people in the US who saw what was completely apparent in Czechoslovakia, that without orders for new reactors in the 1990s in the west, the newly liberated former communist countries were the place nuclear engineering infrastructure could be maintained. And just as Westinghouse and GE’s focus moved to eastern Europe. MM designed (with me) and implemented the east European small grant program, he got money from Ted Turner and others, recognizing that relatively small contributions from the west could have tremendous impact in the east. We gave out 40 grants in perhaps 1998 of $2000 or less funding everything from bike tours, to direct action camps, micro anti-nuclear university and east/west internships.
mm, Tanya and kid 3 and kid 4
Some of the most important reactors in the world in this fight were the pair of units affectionately called K2R4, which were in Khmelnitsky and Rivne in the Ukraine. One of the most important interns to come to the micro anti-nuclear university was Tanya Murza also from Rivne. We stopped the western funding for the reactors at K2R4 and basically knocked the east European development bank (the EBRD) out of the business of paying western companies to complete 25 unfinished Russian reactors. And Tanya stayed and she an MM had two charming kids.
MM has been a hero and inspiration to a whole bunch of people including me. He deserves his cardboard hero button.
Twin Oaks is an established income sharing community in central Virginia of 93 adults and 15 children. Now located on a 450 acre farm, the commune operates 6 businesses, grows most of its own food–organically–builds it’s own buildings, teaches it’s own kids, and repairs it’s own appliances and vehicles.
Here is some of the mainstream and alternative media coverage of us:
Russia Today circa 2012
CNN circa 2010
Frequency555 circa 2010
Mojo Productions circa 2009
Voice of America circa 2009
Central to the community’s operation is the idea of sharing resources. Twin Oaks has developed robust systems for sharing cars, bikes, clothes and businesses. These systems are in sharp contrast to the casual sharing practiced in the mainstream where brittle agreements generally lead to failure.
One of the many advantages of sharing resources is dramatically reducing our negative ecological effect and carbon footprint. The numbers below demonstrate we are already near the 80% reduction in carbon emissions that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is recommending by the year 2050.
[Note: It is unclear if the below numbers include our income generating businesses or not. My guess is they do, and thus we are even more sustainable. But i will check and indicate here what is true.]
Gasoline: The average Virginia resident uses about 530 gallons per year. Twin Oaks consumed about 15,267 gallons of gas in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of population of 96, that would put our consumption at 159 gallons per person. That is 70% less gasoline consumed.
Electricity: The average Virginia resident uses 13,860 kWh of Electricity per year. Twin Oaks consumed 268,065 kWh in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of 96, that would put our consumption at 2,792 kWh per person. That is 80% less electricity consumed.
Natural Gas: The average household in Virginia uses 767 therms of natural gas. Twin Oaks consumed 16,221 therms of natural gas in 2007. With an adult population on average of 87 adults, that would put our consumption at 186 therms per person. That is 76% less natural gas consumed.
Solid Waste: The average American produces 1,460 pounds of trash a year. Twin Oaks produced 18,780.00 pounds of solid waste in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of 96, that would put our production at 196 pounds per person. That is 87% less solid waste produced.
The cultural aspects of community life are as important as the economic ones. We develop our own holidays. Almost all our operations are run by volunteers. We don’t use money internally and there is effectively no crime.
In many ways , the community is an island, culturally and economically separate from it’s immediate surroundings. This cooperative model, however, is one of the very few solutions that can actually avoid the climate catastrophe the US is hurtling toward at breakneck speeds.
The original data for comparing Twin Oaks with US average consumption of electricity, natural gas, gasoline and solid waste were researched by Alexis Ziegler of Living Energy Farm.
The game of Dominion is fairly popular at the commune. It is a dynamic card game, and a sister of Magic in that you build decks and the rules are changing all the time. These kinds of game are pretty complex and they are part of our informal home schooling curriculum. The fact that our kids want to play, because our adults are playing and because if they play well they can be peers to the adults, are big pluses.
When i first started playing Dominion with Sami he was not yet 5. Despite being involved in his home school efforts, i dont keep track of where kids are in the educational process by what age they are at. It is just not something i think about.
One evening Sami and some older kids wanted to play Dominion. We each choose some of the perhaps 200 different card types we have in the various expansions so we could create a game. Sami choose a couple of card types he liked as did everyone else. There was a bit of negotiating to get some better game dynamics on the board. All friendly negotiations.
Sami played well, i barely beat him and i was the overall winner. He got more points than several other kids and adults.
I was talking with Ezra, Sami’s dad, the following day (who Sami had recently beaten) and complimenting his clever kid. “Yeah, it is pretty impressive.” Confessed Ez. “Given that he can’t read the cards.”
“What?” i said
“He can’t read yet. But he really wanted to play. So he memorized all the cards so he could play.” Ez explained.
“But there are like 200 different cards, and some are crazy complicated.” i was amazed.
“Like i said, he really wanted to play.”