Monday, June 27, 2005

Worldview Through Eyes of Anarchists

This is one of the only decent articles in the mainstream press leading up to the anarchist organized anti-war march in Palo Alto on Saturday June 25th. It's from the San Jose Mercury News.

Thank you Anarchist Action Palo Alto for organizing such a wonderful event. Check out their website:

-Peninsula Anarchist Collective

Mercury News

Between press conferences, day jobs and preparations for tonight's protest in downtown Palo Alto, it's been a busy week for the leaders of the Peninsula Anarchist Collective. But they took time out to talk with me because they wanted to clear up some misperceptions about who they are and what they stand for.

First, they are real anarchists, so don't call them ``self-described'' anarchists. They're gathering at Lytton Plaza to protest crimes committed by our government -- the very existence of our government, actually -- and not to give bored rich kids something to do on a Saturday night. They wish the corporate media would focus on the principles of anarchism instead of the window that was broken at the American Express office during their May 20 protest -- or the possibility that more windows will be broken tonight.

A broken window is nothing compared with people dying in Iraq, they say. I can't argue with that.

No piercings, no profanity

I spend a lot of time around teenagers, having two of my own. This bunch is earnest and articulate. No pierced tongues, no profanity. They speak in complete sentences that don't begin with, ``Like . . . .'' One 16-year-old girl who showed up in a ``Puppy Love'' T-shirt took advanced placement classes her sophomore year and works as a camp counselor.

They want me to print their comments, but not their names. Their parents might not approve.

But Rob Genevro doesn't mind seeing his name in the paper. At 20, he's the veteran protester, having been arrested several times. He's an anarchist communist, and has ``ANTI-CAPITALIST'' tattooed in block letters on his arm. He hands me a pamphlet on Noam Chomsky and talks about the rich history of anarchism in America: labor unions, the Haymarket riots, etc.

Even as a member of the corporate media, I agree with some of their positions. The war in Iraq was a bad idea. The divide between rich and poor in this country is obscene. Our political system is dysfunctional. Yes, it's wrong that cosmetic surgeons and basketball players live in luxury while the people who actually contribute to society -- farmers, nurses, teachers, writers -- barely get by.

Why our windows?

But why protest in Palo Alto? I ask. We sympathize. We recycle and write checks to Second Harvest Food Bank. Can't you leave us to shop for designer sunglasses and sip our vente chai lattes in peace?

Well, no, they explain to me. If you're protesting conspicuous consumption and the Starbucksization of America, there's no better place than Palo Alto. So smug, so full of BMWs and Range Rovers, so protected from the real world.

OK, so protest peacefully. Why break windows? Doesn't violence just alienate folks who might support your ideals?

Anarchists only perpetrate violence in response to far greater crimes, they say. Besides, bringing down capitalism means hitting 'em in the pocketbook, disrupting commerce, destroying the old system.

One window at a time, I suppose.

It's hard to argue with someone who sees the world so clearly. Freedom and equality are good. Capitalism and authority are bad.

For parents, city leaders and police, it's not quite so simple. A broken window may be nothing compared with killing people in Iraq, but if it's your window, it's not nothing.

I couldn't help slipping into mother mode. If they want to change the world, wouldn't a college degree be more useful than a rap sheet? Why risk getting arrested -- or worse, hurt -- in some minor protest?

Yet, I remember how important every Vietnam War march seemed when I was their age.

We raise our children to know right from wrong, to stand up for what they believe. We urge them to challenge the status quo.

Then one day they're off to a protest march, to stand up for what they believe. We trust them, but we don't trust everyone else. We're afraid they'll get into a situation they can't control.

So, we tell them to be careful. We can't bring ourselves to tell them we'd rather they stay home and watch MTV.

Patty Fisher writes about the Peninsula on Wednesday and Saturday. Contact her at or (650) 688-7510.


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