Radical Youth Hui

January 26, 2007

Over the weekend I travelled up to Auckland to attend the Radical Youth hui. Overall, I thought the hui was pretty good – a good mix of experienced activists (including long term RY members) and people for whom the hui was the first (or one of the first) explicitly political events they had attended. Before the hui I was a little worried that, being 21, I might feel a little old, but I didn’t actually experience that much at all – noone really treated anyone else any different because of their age, which was a refreshing surprise. Aucklands Burning has a brief report on the hui as well.

I ran three workshops at the hui – a male gender caucus, a direct action workshop and an introduction to anarchism. I thought I’d repost them here for anyone who might be interested in some of the things we did, or for people who attended the workshops and wanted to refresh their memories. These are just my notes to run the workshops from, discussions obviously progressed beyond them – if anyone’s got any questions just ask in the comments. Cheers to everyone who came to my workshops and made them what they were :)

Male Gender Caucus

Opening – name round, guidelines (respect, not interrupting, speaking list if needed), ask for honesty, don’t want to hear what people think we want to hear, but rather what people think.

Game – Moo

15-20 minutes discussion on gender relations during hui

Safer spaces policy – read out loud. Will this change how we act? What does the fact that we need such a policy mean for behaviour in past?

Things to pay attention to during hui:

Who is speaking and for how long?

Who gets listened to?

Body language – our own and others

Do we want to come up with a statement on how we as men will act during the hui?

Do we support progressive speaking lists if facilitators feel they are needed?

20-25 minutes discussion on consent – break into groups of 3-4, discuss following three questions for 15 mins then report backs for rest of time

How has consent worked in your relationships in the past?

What does it mean to “seek active consent”?

Why do men have a responsibility to seek active consent?

20 minutes discussion on supporting survivors and confronting perpetuators of rape/intimate violence (continuing in same groups) within our communities

How can we support survivors?

As radicals, how do we relate to the (in)justice system?

What are practical methods we can use to confront perpetuators of rape/intimate violence?

5 minutes closing round

Direct Action Workshop

Opening – name round (if needed)

5 mins Game – Swords and shields

20 minutes brainstorm + discussion on ideas for direct action

Go outside, 45 minutes blockading techniques

Standing, sitting, moving (banner bloc), Octopus, concentric circles, breaking through cop lines, de-arresting

15 minutes practicing with d-locks on a vehicle.

Getting used to the feeling of wearing them, practice getting locked on speedily, discuss possible uses and where they work best.

30 mins tips and tricks

Planning – scouting, roles, run-throughs, media (independent and capitalist), contingency plans

On the day – Interaction with cops, security guards, public, pull out if needed

After – Debrief, mood check, lessons to learn

5 mins closing round on how workshop went (what people enjoyed/didn’t enjoy, ideas for future)

Introduction To Anarchism

Opening – Name round (if needed)

Game – Shoot or shake

10 mins – brainstorm of political ideologies

Briefly touch on differences between them and anarchism

15 mins – History of anarchism around the world

1st international, Spain, Russia. Resurgence of anarchist tactics (if not anarchism) in 60’s/70’s in anti-war, feminist, New Left etc.

10 mins – History of anarchism in Aotearoa

early radical unionism, constant presence (even if small), lack of intergenerational contact

10 mins – Anarchism in Aotearoa today

Run over different anarchist groups (and groups with high anarchist involvement) in different centres

15 mins – Personal utopias

Round of our personal utopias – what they’d contain, how they’d function etc

10 mins – Differing streams of anarchism

Cover anarcho-communism, -syndicalism, anarcha-feminism, eco/green anarchism, anarcho-primitivism, insurrectionary anarchism, “anarcho”-capitalism (fun to mock), mutualism, collectivism, individualist anarchism.

Cover how common each are in Aotearoa, and where relevant if there are other parts of the world they are especially strong

15 mins – Questions and answers

Happy Valley and strategy

January 23, 2007

Recently, anarchafairy posted Happy Valley and a Divergence in Strategy over on his blog. You should ideally read that post (and if you have time the comments as well) in order to place this post in its full context. There have been some fairly angry comments in reply from others involved with the Save Happy Valley Coalition, hardly any of which could be labelled constructive in any way (unlike anarchafairy’s original post). Earlier today, I prepared to add my comments, but they went on a big long so I decided to expand it into a post here.

I find it sad (although unsurprising) that a well thought out and constructive critique has been responded to with personal attacks by some of the commenters in this post. When confronted with criticism of beliefs we hold dear, it is far too easy to respond defensively and take any criticism (no matter how constructive) of our actions as criticism of ourselves, rather than actually taking in the criticism and considering it.

Like anarchafairy, I too was not involved in the banner drop, although I am active in the SHV Wellington group (and SHVC nationally). While I had a number of reasons for not being involved (including being quite sick at the time), the relevance of the action (or more accurately the lack thereof) was definately a factor in my decision not to take part.

As has been the case a number of times when myself or anarchafairy have criticised the strategy and/or tactics chosen by SHVC, our positions have been both misunderstood and misrepresented by others. This was one of the reasons that we co-authored an Anarchist Position Piece on the Save Happy Valley campaign, a detailed document that gives a pretty damn good outline of where we are coming from, and outlines our critique of the strategy of “public support” and SHVC’s interaction with the corporate media thus far. In doing this, it provides a background and context for the discussion that has been continued with anarchafairy’s post and this response.

As anarchafairy stated, at the most recent SHVC hui, we decided that “direct action and economic costing was the best pathway” and that, as a Coalition, we had no faith in and did not wish to partake in lobbying. This has been reinforced since in countless informal discussions I have had with SHVC members from across the country. Yet, despite this, we continue to see proposals made and carried out for ideas which cannot be described as direct action or economic costing, and those few DA proposals which are made are generally dismissed out of hand or left to the side and soon forgotten about.

The recent banner drop is an excellent case in point. It was set up to be a media stunt, but ignored the fact that the media are long past the point of caring about simplistic stunts when it comes to SHVC – the lack of media coverage of the banner drop from the rooftop of Solid Energy in February should have proven this conclusively. In that action, there were 3 arrests (always a benefit for getting corporate media attention) and yet there was still little reporting, and so how SHVC people thought a banner drop with no arrests would get media bemuses me. Despite this, many caring and passionate activists (and friends of mine) put a large amount of time into this action, scouting, planning, painting and of course actually doing it. To see them get no result from this saddens me, as I care about them, but it doesn’t surprise me at all.

The banner drop, through the media coverage it was “supposed” to get, was aimed at connecting Happy Valley with climate change in the minds of “the public”. It was based on the (incredibly naive) idea that politicians have to listen to “the public” and that if only enough people out there think that Happy Valley shouldn’t be mined, that the Government will be forced to stop it.

Those in favour of this “public support” strategy point to the Native Forest Action campaign to stop native forest logging (that a number of SHVC members were involved in) as an example of how the “public support” strategy works, but they seem to ignore other campaigns such as the GE Free NZ campaign and the Foreshore & Seabed campaign which had public support at even higher levels than NFA (certainly much higher for GE Free, perhaps not for Foreshore & Seabed) but completely failed. They ignore the undeniably unique political situation that allowed NFA to capitalise on a Labour Party that needed the “environmental vote” to attain power, and they ignore the reality of the functioning of our political and economic system.

Ever since I got seriously involved in SHVC, I have posed one question which is yet to be answered. Every time we draw strategy diagrams, every time we do critical path analyses, I pose the question to those in favour of the “public support” strategy: “How does ‘public opposition to Happy Valley mine’ progress to the next step of ‘Government stops mine’?” As yet, nobody has answered this question.

Within this campaign, the only people who have written and/or proposed comprehensive strategy plans are anarchists – myself and anarchafairy have written a number between us (generally each more detailed than the last) and a handful of others have written them too – but we are yet to see a strategy plan for getting from where we are today to winning written by someone who supports the “public support” strategy. All the strategy sessions that SHVC has agrees with a direct action strategy to win. Why then, when it comes to our activity, is virtually everything we do confined to the realm of gaining “public support”?

Building “mad” friendly communities

January 18, 2007

My previous post on my struggle with mental illness really seems to have struck a nerve with many readers. I recieved a number of emails (anarchiazine [at] gmail [dot] com) from others who struggle (or have struggled) with mental illness, telling me their stories – some from friends, others from people I have never met. Those emails, combined with a line from Maia in a comment – “Do you have any ideas about where we could start to make things better?” – and some discussions with friends has really strengthened by desire to begin imagining the next step.

Before I continue, I’d like to mention that I have issues with using the term “mad”, but I’m yet to discover a better term, so in the interim I will continue to use it.

There seems to be a dearth of information on the internet relating to anarchism (or even other radical politics) and mental illness, and what little there is predominantly focuses on medical analyses of mental illness – looking at alternative methods of treatment, critiquing the medical establishment’s view of mental illness and the like. While this is no doubt important, what seems to be missing is a political analysis of mental illness, a discussion of how we can create “mad” friendly communities and indeed what those communities would even look like.

There is the odd site such as Mad Pride (not updated since 2001) that seemed to have potential to foster that discussion, and I have heard 2nd or 3rd hand stories of collectives/groups working on mental illness issues in various radical communities around the world, but for the most part it seems to be something that I’d need to start from scratch, and thats a thought that really scares me.

I remember having discussions with a couple of other people in the Wellington anarchist community in 2005. We had the idea of having an anarchist mental illness support group in Wellington, where we would get together and share our stories, and support each other in our personal struggles. The group never took shape, for a number of reasons, but thinking back now, I wonder whether we could have created a space/atmosphere where we all felt safe and comfortable opening up to each other. I also recall with sadness the fear I felt at the time about how such a group would be recieved by the community as a whole – a fear which, while it may have been unfounded (who knows?), was certainly very real.

Perhaps here we have much we could potentially learn from survivors of and those working on issues of intimate violence. I’m not wishing to compare the struggles in any way – they are clearly very different – but in terms of creating safe spaces for open and passionate discussion, it seems like it may be a worthwhile place to start.

I think community-based support groups such as this are a good beginning – while everyone’s experiences are undoubtably different, I feel much more comfortable talking about my struggle with others who at least have some real understanding of where I’m coming from. Once these groups are more established, they could also make excellent staging grounds for working with the wider community on “mad” issues – both in terms of education and in terms of proactively creating a framework for a more “mad” friendly community. Because, as much as solidarity from others is important, ultimately, any changes must be driven by those who are currently marginalised, who’s voices are currently unheard.

Mental illness: My struggle

January 17, 2007

NB: Before I start this post, I want to make it clear that this isn’t me making a well thought out political statement, and I’m probably not going to reach any positive conclusions. This is me not pleading for help, this is simply me letting out some of the hurt that I live with on a daily basis. I don’t want pity, I don’t want obligation-fuelled well meaning but nonetheless patronising comments. I get that enough already, and I’m fucking sick of it.

At age 14, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. At the time, being the naive and vaguely optimistic teenager I was, I thought that medication would “fix me”, that I’d take a few pills for a few months, and magically, it would all disappear, and I’d never have to think about it again. So when my doctor prescribed me an anti-depressant, I took it, and waited for it to build up in my system to the point where it was supposed to have an effect. It didn’t. So, I went back to my doctor, and still faithful to the medical establishment, I took her advice and increased my dosage. Again, no noticable effect. So again, I increased my dosage. After a while, this began to have an effect, but certainly not a desirable one – my sleep, already poor, became even worse, my appetite became totally insatiable (I put on around 15-20kg in just 2 or 3 months), and frequent uncontrollable mood swings were the order of the day. Clearly, I could not take this medication any longer, so my doctor switched me to another pill. A short time later, my dosage was again increased, to the point where I was taking twice the reccomend maximum adult dosage, at age 15. The side effects from this medication were similar to the previous one, only amplified massively. To cope with my severe lack of sleep (50+ hours without sleep wasn’t uncommon, and what little sleep I did get was in short bursts and unsatisfying) I was given sleeping pills, which at least gave me a few nights healthy rest.

All through this time I was also seeing a counsellor, an experience which I have tried my hardest to erase from my memory. It essentially boiled down to hours of being patronised, of being asked to talk and then not being listened to…I quickly began to dread my appointments and frequently refused to go.

As this dragged on and on, it got to the point where I decided I could take it no longer. While camping in January 2001, I threw all my medication into a river and swore to myself I would never take anti-depressants again, a promise I have kept to. And yet, almost 8 years since I was first diagnosed, my illness still effects me in every waking moment. Two or three times a year, during especially bad periods, I consider going back on medication, but the memories of the side effects are still too strong in my mind to allow myself to do that.

My illness definately marginalises me within society. I can think of a number of friendships I have lost due to it – both from friends, who, feeling unable (or unwilling) to offer any meaningful level of support that I have needed from time to time, have simply run away, and from people who’s response has been so patronising or otherwise offensive that I have lost any desire to be friends with them.

So often, people delegitimise mental illness. I have primarily experienced this in two ways. The first regards mental illness in a way that noone would ever regard physical illness – with virtual contempt for the sufferer. This way sees the sufferer as “too weak”, otherwise they would be able to “get over it”. The second, however, is more worrying for me personally, as I think it is limited to the anarchist/activist milieu, which is what I mostly hang out in – this is the belief that the sole cause of mental illness is the current capitalist, racist, patriarchal society we live in, and “after the revolution there won’t be mental illness”. To quote from an article I wrote a while ago:

Yes, it is entirely possible (and even likely) that the current society does make mental illness more common. But, just like how even in an anarchist society cancer would still exist, influenza would still exist, likewise mental illness would still exist. You might think you’re making a political statement when you say it, but what you’re really doing is invalidating the feelings and experiences of your friends and family that suffer every day

Now, while the idea is incredibly offensive to me, it is perhaps something I could deal with if people at least approached it on a politically consistent level. But they don’t. There are plenty of problems in society today that exist because of the capitalist, racist, patriarchal society we live in that wouldn’t exist if we destroyed capitalism, patriarchy and racism. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t actively work on them in the here and now. You don’t see people ignoring decolonisation work, or anti-rape work (both of which are incredibly important) because they wouldn’t exist if we smashed racism and patriarchy. So why ignore mental illness, even if you believe it wouldn’t exist in your utopia?

The lack of desire to seriously engage with the mental illnesses that so many people within my local anarchist community deal with has caused me to barely broach the subject with even my closest friends. But I’m sick of that. I’m sick of the silence. I’m sick of crying alone.

Giant Happy Valley banner unfurled from Wellington cranes

January 16, 2007

“Solid Energy = Govt sponsored climate change”

Press release: Save Happy Valley Coalition

A giant banner – “Solid Energy = govt sponsored climate change” – has been unfurled early this morning 45m above the harbour front at Queens Wharf, Jarvois Street. Two campaigners have hung the 69 square metre banner, which aims to highlight the urgent need for New Zealand to phase out the export and use of coal, and tackle the root causes of climate change.

“Climate change is one of the greatest environmental threats we face. It is a global problem – every country on earth contributes emissions, and every country feels the effects of rising global sea levels and temperatures” said Save Happy Valley Coalition spokesperson Frances Mountier. “In particular, the Pacific is incredibly vulnerable to sea level rise and chaotic climatic events. New Zealand has a regional and global responsibility to address our carbon dioxide emissions.

“Coal produces more carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than any other fossil fuel,” said Ms Mountier. “Burning it will lead to dangerous climate change. Even the Economist magazine has labelled the burning of coal as environmental enemy number one.

“Yet the New Zealand Government is being socially irresponsible by encouraging the rampant expansion of its coal mining company Solid Energy – at a time where we desperately need to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions.

“The Government’s claimed aspiration to “carbon neutrality” is nothing but hypocrisy and empty rhetoric and it must be replaced by actual steps for a just transition away from coal, and for tackling the root causes of climate change,” said Ms Mountier.

“New Zealand can lead the world by stepping away from new coal mines – rather than the Government encouraging an increase in coal extraction. Solid Energy currently produces 4.67 million tonnes of coal per year – greater than the C02 equivalent of all the cars, trucks and buses on New Zealand roads. More than half of this is exported, so it is a hidden impact; New Zealand does not account for these emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. In New Zealand, as well as plans for coal fired power stations, Solid Energy also wants to create diesel from coal – a process that emits twice as much carbon dioxide as regular petroleum use.

“The Government and Solid Energy justify these plans with talk of ‘carbon sequestration.’ This technology is, at minimum, twenty years away from being viable at an industrial scale. We are seeing money that should be invested in renewables is instead squandered away justifying business-as-usual. In the next twenty years, we could see more than 20 million tonnes of coal extracted, and burnt – without carbon sequestration technology. Any new facilities such as coal fired power stations would then live out their lives without sequestration technologies. The absolute majority of coal would still be burnt without such technologies in place.(2)

“Meanwhile, the bulldozers of Solid Energy’s operations condemn beautiful areas like Happy Valley to desecration, species to extinction, and waterways to unimaginable pollution. Many ecosystems, and the global climate, face a catastrophic future if we do begin phasing out our reliance on coal now. It is time we seriously tackle the root causes of climate change,” said Ms Mountier.



1. R. T. Pierrehumbert, a lead author of chapter 7 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis: Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has written that:

“It is estimated that potential coal resources are sufficient to enable us not just to double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but to quadruple or nearly octuple the pre-industrial value.34 With continued reliance on fossil fuels, continued economic growth, and an approach to parity between developing and developed countries, we could easily burn that much coal in two hundred to four hundred years.” p. 15, Climate Change: A Catastrophe in Slow Motion, R.T. Pierrehumbert, Professor in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago since 1989. From geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/papers/LawReview Catastrophe.pdf

2. Nationally and internationally, most new coal fired power stations will continue to operate without Carbon capture and storage facilities. The following graph is produced by the International Energy Agency. www.nature.com/nature/journal/v442/n7103/images/442620a-i4.0.jpg

Save Happy Valley Coalition

The Save Happy Valley Coalition is a collection of groups and individuals from around Aotearoa committed to stopping Solid Energy’s proposed open cast coal mine in Happy Valley (Upper Waimangaroa Valley) on the West Coast. They work to raise awareness on climate change in New Zealand. They are also deeply concerned about the fate of all endangered species under threat from Solid Energy. The Coalition is made up of West Coast locals, students, workers and the general public. The group has a track record of creative protests, occupations and lock-ons as well as producing a variety of informative media. More information about the coalition and its history can be found at www.savehappyvalley.org.nz/aboutus.htm

Save Happy Valley: The Movie

January 16, 2007

A while ago some people in the Save Happy Valley Coalition got together and made a movie about the campaign so far. As the campaign progresses, with the first anniversary of the occupation of Happy Valley approaching, I decided to put the movie online for everyone’s viewing pleasure. So here it is, split into two parts thanks you YouTube’s limits (the movie is about 12 mins all up).

Part 1:

Part 2:

If you don’t see the embedded videos, head here for part one and here for part two.

A high-res version of the movie is also available, click here to download it (107MB). This version is high enough quality to show on a projector/screen, if anyone so wishes.

This IS rape.

January 13, 2007

Lindsay Mitchell and David Farrar have both posted on a Rape Crisis programme for students. One of the scenarios given to students is as follows (emphasis mine):

Is this rape?

Jo is a Year 13 Student at XX High School. She is at a party on a Saturday night. Jared is going to be there and she’s been trying to hook up with him for awhile. She’s wearing a short skirt, boots, and a low cut top –she’s sure to catch his attention –She looks great. Jo and her friends drink a few bottles of wine before they get to the party and she feels pretty drunk by the time they arrive. At the party she starts talking with Jared, he asks if she wants to go up to one of the bedrooms –they walk up the stairs followed by comments from Jared’s mates as they close the door.

In the room they start kissing, and Jared is putting his hands up her top and down her pants, she likes it and starts touching Jared. Jared then takes off his pants and hers. Jo starts to feel uncomfortable and pulls back a bit, and pulls her underwear back up. She doesn’t want to have sex with Jared but doesn’t know how to stop it. Everyone at the party thinks they’re having sex, and she doesn’t want Jared to think she’s tight. Jared pulls her knickers back down and they have sex.

I don’t particularly even want to imagine the sort of fucked up thinking that could even begin to suggest that this sex was in any way consensual. Not only is Jared clearly not seeking active consent, but Jo has shown clearly that she is not giving her consent.

And yet, it seems commenters at both blogs see things differently. Some try to argue this from a highly flawed legalistic viewpoint, as if the law is the sole legitimate arbiter of consent. Yet others, perhaps coming from their own experiences, attempt to defend Jared’s actions. Here’s some quotes from the two blogs, most from men although a few from women:

  • What is your answer? I say no it isn’t. Neither is it sexual abuse.
  • There is no suggestion of criminal coercian on the part of Jared or any further actions that would (or should) led Jared to believe she is not consenting in the resulting sex.
  • While Jared needs to control himself as a human being is capable of ,Jo needs to realise and learn that she is the main cause of the situation she finds herself in and that its up to her to not put herself in these situations by giving cared the undoubted come on.Maybe if women were made aware earlier in life just how strong the male sexual urge really was they would be better prepared to deal with it and not find out the hard way…Mothers educate your daughters…
  • Jared certainly should have ascertained why Jo put her underwear back on, rather than pull them back down. But to paint this as criminal offending is highly arguable.
  • Jocularity……
    Wouldn’t even be approved for prosecution in Aust.
  • Just to stir things up,High Court judge Justice Morris said “If every man stopped the first time a woman said “no”, the world would be a much less exciting place to live”.
  • Whatever it is, it’s not rape.
    If there’s fault, it’s 50:50.. case closed.
  • This quite clearly is not rape. Her consent was letting her underwear be removed for a second time and having sex without protest.

    Men are not mind readers. I agree this though is a very good example, not only for the definition of rape but why some people are too immature to put themselves in the position where they are procuring sex, which Jo quite clearly is.

And people try to deny we live in a rape culture…


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