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6/7/2020

People are asking me to explain things I don’t think I can explain about these protests, which are exceedingly chaotic and decentralized affairs that no one person can claim to fully apprehend. The conclusion I draw from the demonstrations which have seized the country in the wake of the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breona Taylor is this: That a very large sector of the American population considers police violence to be a problem so serious and yet so insufficiently addressed that extreme means are required to fight against it. I do my best not to be distracted by the many, many arguments and interpretations bouncing around the social media, and focus on my own experience at the protest on Friday May 29th in Portland. All I know is what I saw from the limited perspective of one human being at large in a chaotic several hours of citywide events. …


How a dwindling minority of mid-caste teacher’s pets dominate the expert class despite their near-total lack of experience

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I’ve written before about the Square University Culture. I don’t mean everybody who attends university — I mean people who are born in comfortable circumstances, advance easily through the educational system, get their university degrees, then find jobs and settle into comfortable lives (generally including marriage, kids, buying a house, fiddling around on the stock market, maybe a dog) until they eventually die. A lot of folks will read the preceding description and say, “But isn’t that everybody?” Hilarious.

There are presently around 2.3 million people incarcerated in the USA. Most of those are poor people with limited education (less than half have a high school diploma), and most of them are in there for drug crimes. Sure, the occasional Martha Stewart or Lori Loughlin can be found in prison, but for the most part I assure you there are precious few squares in the Big House. An additional 4.7 million are not presently housed in a jail or prison, but are on Parole (meaning they were once imprisoned) or Probation (which usually means they were found guilty of a crime but did not serve time inside). …


I’ve seen it a hundred times, folks.

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For the purposes of this article, “fascists” will be used to refer to a loose-knit association of small groups who have repeatedly assembled in and around the city of Portland in order to express support for the Police and for Donald Trump (Patriot Prayer, Proud Boys, 3% Militia, et al.); as well as the not-unrelated gangs who assembled to commit racist violence in the 1980s and 90s (skinheads, White Aryan Resistance, KKK, et al.) I do this not to indicate that these movements are identical — they are not — but to identify commonalities in responding to their violent attacks on cities. I’ve been personally doing this since roughly 1987. …


The question is, why aren’t you joining us?

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How many times do I have to read some Internet smarty-pants decry the fact that Americans aren’t pouring into the street to protest against Donald Trump? Cousins — we are. I joined an enormous protest against Trump that took over the whole city of Portland, the day after he won the election. I don’t know how many people were out there — many thousands. The cops came with the tear gas and zip ties and flash-bang grenades that night, as they do. There have been so many protests since then, guys. …


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As you may have heard, the entire Western half of the United States is on fire. Some seem to have pushed this down that ol’ memory hole, but this happens every year now. California in particular, and the heavily-forested and drought-stricken West in general, has always had a wildfire season in the late Summer; but it’s never been as bad as this. This is just going to keep on happening, and it’s going to keep on getting worse. It’s happening in other parts of the world, too — Remember how the entire continent of Australia burned earlier this year? Why does this keep getting worse? Because of the widespread environmental devastation wreaked by humans living in the Rich World. If you live in the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan, or any other big-time consumer nation in the world; then this is partly your fault. No fun, right? …


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Count ’em, dummy.

Universities don’t encourage concrete solutions, but interesting ideas. They don’t encourage constructive problem-solving, but theoretical elaboration. They reward not cooperation, but competition. Everything is a word game — read a book, then sit around in a room and argue about it for an hour. While you’re doing that, try to say a few intriguing things that will get the professor’s attention. Write it all up into a little book report, get your grade, then start the process over again.

The assignment is Leviathan (Hobbes, 1651). You think, “OK, so this book is all about the need for a monarch in order to control the inherently violent and predatory nature of humankind. I’ll write a paper about how Trump’s presidency is both a validation of Hobbesian theory, in that Trump is the result of 240 years of Democracy and he’s ruining the country; and also a refutation of Hobbesian theory, because Trump is also the result of 40 years of placing more power in the hand of the Executive Branch and taking power away from Democratic institutions like Congress.” You write a few pages on that, and if it’s written in the correct format then you get an A. You write a bunch of papers like that. When you find one you like, you can make it your Master’s Thesis and ride it all the way to a graduate degree. If you want to really milk the system, the joke sentence I wrote about Hobbes can be expanded into a Doctorate Dissertation and you can get your PhD behind that bullshit. …


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I finally got to meet one of those Trumpist QAnon New Agers everyone’s been talking about. She was a friend of a friend who met up with us on Venice Beach, a major center of my childhood that I hadn’t visited in ten years or more. She kept the conversation light for a bit, but once we sat down for drinks she wasted no time in asking, “What’s going on in Hollywood, huh?”

My friends were like, “Um… I don’t know… not much… COVID, you know…”

The FOF said, “I mean, like, what’s happening with this crazy thing going on that everyone’s talking about?” …


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I don’t like Joe Biden, nor do I particularly care for Kamala Harris. I’m a Sanders guy. Would have gone for Warren too, if she had stayed in the race instead of… actually, forget about all that. The primaries are over, the Democratic Convention is over, the official Democratic Platform has been finalized, and we’re like 60 days away from the General Election. The Trump administration is pushing the pedal to the medal on their big red Fascism-mobile. Anyone who’s at all interested in maintaining a functional United States needs to vote for Biden/Harris. The Libertarian and Green candidates are a joke, and just about nobody is lining up behind them. I’m a big Kanye fan (…Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch the Throne, and Yeezus at any rate), and the concept of a Kardashian White House is not unamusing, but we mustn’t base our votes on who would be funniest. My choice at this point is Biden/Harris. …


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I see it everywhere. Folks are watching the Democratic National Convention, because it’s their duty as Americans of conscience. All four nights and four hours of it. I see this kind of talk around the Presidential debates, the Impeachment, even the more media-hyped Congressional hearings. I even see friends of mine complaining about it, “It sure is hard to sit through these Donald Trump press conferences!” Turn them off, cousins!

I cannot imagine a world in which I would watch even one minute of the Democratic National Convention. You know he already won, right? All these articles today, “Joe Biden Secures Enough Delegates to Win Democratic Nomination!” Yeah, three months ago, dickhead. I mean, theoretical scenarios exist in which this could have been a hotly contested convention with Sanders and Biden delegates duking it out over Progressive platform planks, but it’s been clear for ages it wasn’t going to be like that, and it wasn’t. I wish it was, believe me. I wish there were powerful people in the mix who were willing to prioritize the well-being of poor people like me and everyone I know and my entire family. I heave a sigh as I write this. …


8/13/2020

I hadn’t been Downtown for a while, to the Multnomah County Justice Center that’s served as the center of the ongoing uprising in Portland. Demonstrations had been moving around to different neighborhood precinct stations, which I think is a fine tactic but which has made them more of a challenge to keep up with. So I geared up and hopped on the #8 bus.

The atmosphere in the park was strange. The crowd was as small as I’ve ever seen it, and seemed not at all focused on demonstrating. The much-lamented Elk had been replaced by a lovely sort of ramshackle community art project spotlighting the names (George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McLain, et al.) and slogans which drive this movement. The centerpiece was a newly- and roughly-built statue welded and pounded out of scrap metal into its own brutalist depiction of an Elk, and I found the entire scene much to my liking. Around the base of this new construct was a rabble of extremely young street kids, not wearing much in the way of Black Bloc/Antifa style gear but rather the sort of ragamuffin Hip-hop-meets-Hook attire that characterizes the Northwest Homeless Kid. There was a big merch table set up, with a few busy-looking young men selling Black Lives Matter t-shirts. That fake Riot Ribs everyone was talking about a couple weeks ago was up and running, with a big sign, selling burgers and hot dogs. Some familiar faces from earlier nights milled around the park in nervous groups, or stood at the corners with signs. I had never encountered a scene like this, in nearly three months of continuous demonstrations. …

About

Noah Mickens

Writing about politics, world events, and entertainment from my home in the Great White North. I used to produce circuses, sing in bands, and run nightclubs.

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