Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Reflections on Evergreen, Port Protests

Personal ones. I had the displeasure of basically being shut out of participating in the first one due to circumstances beyond my control, and when I could participate in the activism found that the ship had moved on, so to speak, and it was next to impossible to get on board. This despite the fact that virtually everyone who organized the first major port protest in 2006, and participate in it, were friends who I knew through being in political science programs there.

At the beginning of the organizing of the port protests, I was taking a break from politics, which I'd been studying at Evergreen non-stop since the summer of 2004, and instead taking a program in philosophy combined with a craft program about creating art using neon. This was my last quarter in school, and I decided something fun was in order. Once the protests started in earnest, it was far enough along in the quarter that I was afraid that if I got arrested and spent time in jail it would seriously impact my ability to graduate. I had gone back to school after a long absence, and was now in my mid-20s, and very much wanted to get college behind me. So, I went down there exactly twice, and that was it.
Then, after graduating, I took a triumphant road trip down the coast, first to Arcata and Eureka in California, then Berkeley and San Francisco, and finally to L.A., where I spent a week.

When I got back, I found it extremely hard to get into the organizing of further action that was happening, and spent about half a year as a para-student, somewhat participating in student activities, and in off campus activities with students, until giving up entirely.

There was progress, then a lot of reversal, and I found that the people who were being lionized in the alternative media were more interested in cracking fart jokes in their spare time and generally acting like a fraternity then actually talking about politics.....and because I hadn't been there at the start it wasn't possible to really participate further.

I had moved from Florida, where I was living at the time, to the northwest, to Evergreen, to participate in something exactly like this, and now was unable to.
But a conversation I had with one of the participants several years later was illuminating on why that may have been.

I was having a phone conversation with one of the main people whole I'll call "Reff", and in the middle of it "Reff" made the statement that before the port protests he really hadn't been involved in politics at all, and that in fact what he was doing later was spending time with a kid as part of a "Big Brothers, Big Sisters" program. The meaning of that was that, unlike me, "Reff" was a pure soul who naturally came to politics out of conviction rather than ideology, and instead of focussing on theory he volunteered in the community helping out. Little did "Reff" know that at the time of the phone call I was volunteering at a food bank once a week as well as volunteering at a soup kitchen once a week as well.  To presume that I didn't do anything concrete to help the community was the height of arrogance.

In any case, it seemed that, in "Reff"'s eyes, the very fact that I'd cared about politics previous to the port protests, had been involved with activism elsewhere, and had moved to the northwest to become further involved was enough to disqualify me from being a valid politico....which was very convenient for him considering that this was the first major activist action he'd been part of and it yielded him a good amount of fame and repute both in Olympia and to a smaller extent nationally. And maybe some women as well, who knows.

Fame corrupts, and the small does of fame that the initial port protesters received was enough to stimulate their fantasies about their self worth and close off participation to people not as famous--unless they wanted to basically be lackeys for them, or to regard them in awe as stars.

Anyways, I hope that now that eight years have gone by that "Reff" has been confronted by similar assholes who are now complaining about him being an old man in the activism scene, and about not deserving a place because of his prior involvement. It would be a sweet justice.

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