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Matt Derrick

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...as written in a blog post by my friend Magpie Killjoy. You should check out his blog, he's a great anarchist writer.

http://birdsbeforethestorm.net/2015/09/september-15-2008

SEPTEMBER 15, 2008
SEPTEMBER 16, 2015 MAGPIE 1 COMMENT

Content Warning: misogynist violence

It might be that the anarchist traveler scene died when Sali died, on September 15, 2008, as summer gave way to autumn. It was two weeks before her twenty-first birthday.

It might be that the man who killed her marked the end of a way of life.

There were probably hundreds of us in the early-to-mid aughts, us crusty anarchist travelers. We hopped freight trains and we fought the state. We ate out of trash cans, we shoplifted and scammed corporations. We stole photocopies from Kinkos to disseminate our zines, we broke into empty buildings to sleep and throw parties and convergences, because fuck capitalism and fuck asking permission from the system we detest. We worked hard, fought the State tooth and nail, and interwove play into everything we did. An endless summer.

There was no future in it, of course.

In the woods, we tree-sat and blockaded roads to keep old growth forests from the saws of greedy lumber barons. In the cities, we broke windows and locked our bodies to each other at neoliberal trade summits so as to make a mess of the plans of global capital. We were the shock troops of anarchy. We didn’t have jobs, and we didn’t pay rent, leaving us free to move to cities months before demonstrations to start organizing. For a lot of us, jail was already a daily part of our lives — police have never been fans of the homeless — and the threat of arrest was nigh unto meaningless. Because of how we’d set up our lives, we could go harder, give fewer fucks.

We had this crazy fierce love for one another that bordered on cultish, but we had no leaders — not even informally, not to any real degree. We came and went from one another’s lives all the time. We assumed we’d see one another later a little further down the line.

We played banjos and accordions more than electric guitars, but we were still pretty punk. Our clothes were sewn together with dental floss, our bodies and hearts held together by stick-and-poke tattoos. We learned gardening and permaculture and contradancing and primitive skills. We went to jail a lot. We studied Spanish. We hitchhiked and we piled into veggie-oil buses. We played a lot of games. We snuck into orchards to eat fruit right off the trees.

There are a lot of valid critiques that were levied at our way of life as a political praxis, and living the way we did is not something I advocate, specifically. But it’s how I lived and I’m not sorry.

The bottom fell out of the protest-hopping scene, and we tried to make do. A lot of us settled down to organize where we’d landed, a lot of us went further afield in search of adventure. Sali, she left the country and she never came back.



sali-singing-2-225x300.jpg
Sali
I can’t say I knew Sali well. But we were interwoven.


I write what follows without the emotion that I feel, only because I don’t know how to express the emotion I feel and because it helps me to just move through the events somewhat matter-of-fact.

She moved to Mexico in 2007, joining the social struggle in Oaxaca. A year later, she was hitchhiking around and a man offered her a place to stay. He raped her and cut her chest open with a machete and left her body to rot.

My friend Sascha relates what happened after she died:

In the next week, Sali’s killer was apprehended, not by the police, but by punks in Mexico City who had their suspicions she had been killed by an acquaintance. As the story goes, they [threw a party just to get the killer to attend], demanding to know where the cuts all over his body that looked suspiciously like knife wounds came from. He initially claimed that villagers in the town he had just been staying in attacked his dogs. That story fell apart, and he eventually confessed to killing Sali. The punks beat him within an inch of his life and handed him over to the police.

He went to trial eventually, and was sentenced to thirty years to life. At the sentencing Sali’s mother confronted him.

“You killed my daughter,” she said.

“I had to. She was too strong,” was his only reply.

“I had to. She was too strong.”

I can’t think of any more succinct summary of patriarchy than those seven words: “I had to. She was too strong.” Strange that the single clearest explanation came out of the mouth of the man who murdered my comrade.

Two years earlier, another anarchist traveler, Brad Will, was gunned down in Oaxaca, Mexico. He filmed his own death at the hands of government-aligned paramilitaries while covering the militant teacher’s strikes in the region.

Before he died, Brad, more than a decade my senior, had always seemed a bit like one of my possible future selves — a committed anarchist, rootless and brave. He still seems like one of my possible futures. So does Sali.

I can’t politically disambiguate their deaths from one another. One was shot by the federal police, one killed by a misogynist. One was murdered by the State, the other by Patriarchy, and those two things are entirely interwoven. Sali went down with her knife in her hand, fighting. Brad went down still filming.



* * *




darkstar-300x221.jpg
Darkstar is on the left, with Fodi and Ferg. On a boxcar, probably the summer of 2002 but I couldn’t promise.
Another friend of mine, Darkstar, died drinking and driving in 2003. I don’t think he made it to twenty-two. He was one of the best of us. He was a grizzled old veteran when I met him, myself only nineteen. He weighed 95lbs soaking wet. He taught Gaelic and wrote children’s stories. He burned every American flag he could get his hands on. I hopped a train to see him once, only to find him in jail for pulling a knife on a crowd of bros who were threatening him. He served a month, then got two years on probation that sent him back to Maryland and, I’d say, led to the depression that led to his death.


He’s the only person I’ve kissed whom I know to be dead, though to be honest I would be surprised if he’s the only one.



* * *


Were they the best of us because they’re dead?

There’s no future in it, in crusty travel. Maybe there’s no future in it because our community dissolved — or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe Darkstar and Sali can live on as legends because they died before their lives were complicated by age. Before attendance at huge demonstrations flagged, before it got harder to get by on petty crime and activism.

Sali’s death went through us. It hit some of my closest friends harder than it hit me, and this time of year I worry more for my friends than I do for myself. It wasn’t just that she died, it was how she died. It was that she was too strong, so she’d been destroyed.

I have no scientific evidence that Sali’s murder is what broke us apart. But the theory works, for me, symbolically.

We’ve held on, in our various ways. There’s a punk version of grownup that’s nothing to sneer at — a trailer on land at the edge of town, or a punk house full of grownups who know how to clean their own dishes and take out the compost. There are gardens and kids and community and tattoos and collective projects and bands and food.

I still wander, but it’s nothing like it was. The road is a lonelier place for me these past years. Ten years ago, if I saw someone in California in May, I’d like as not see them in New York come August. We floated around the country and world, independent but loosely interwoven.

There’s a new generation out there, to be sure. It’s not the same, but nothing ever is.

I can’t decide if I’m mourning a lost cultural movement or just my own lost youth. It was a magical thing we once had, and I like the idea that it’s still out there, opaque to me but vibrant and alive for those in it.



* * *


I’m sitting here at a fancy cafe on Harvard Square, on the seventh anniversary of Sali’s death, and Hurray for the Riff Raff came on the stereo. Hurray for the Riff Raff is Alynda’s project. Alynda was one of us, and she did amazing things then and she does amazing things now.

As much as I can wax nostalgic, I’m happy with who I am and what I’m doing. I’m proud of my past and it informs my present, but it’s my present I’m living for. I refuse to have had glory days.

A lot of the skills I’ve learned don’t translate well to polite society, and a lot of the mannerisms I’ve picked up tend to just confuse people. I know how to block roads and talk my way out of trouble with cops and I know how to get on a freight train without dying. I can organize consensus meetings but I don’t know how to play politics in scenes where people care about social capital and don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves. I forget to wear deodorant to job interviews and I have this tendency to tell bosses that I don’t take well to orders. (I wonder if they know that I have both studied and practiced the art of destroying businesses that upset me.)

Traveler life taught me to live for the present, not the past, not the future. I didn’t set myself up for a future because I wasn’t really sure I had a future.

I’m not the frontline anymore. Myself and plenty others of my generation, we’re the reserve troops of anarchy now. We’ve got a lot more to lose — some of us have children or aging parents or careers, some of us have felony records or endless probation. A lot of us have trauma and PTSD and health problems. The “let’s go fight cops” bar is set a lot higher than it used to be, but we’re still here. We never stopped caring. Hell, most of us never stopped fighting, we just do so along different fronts and with different tactics.

I get all the more upset about the people and institutions that have murdered my friends when I realize how amazing it is to grow up — when I think about how much I love wrestling with all the complexities of being antagonistic to the existent society yet needing to find stability within it. I learned an awful lot in my early twenties, and I’m better at things now than I was then. Sali, Darkstar, plenty of others, they’ll never have that.

People who plan all carefully for the future die in car accidents or get murdered or whatever else all the time too, and my friends packed more life into their years than most. Despite the risk, life is better when you don’t hold back. I truly believe that.

Just now summer is giving way to autumn, though, and the dead are on my mind.
 
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Damn. I do get the feeling, as someone who's only been on the road in the last 3ish years, that there is something very different among what the author calls "the next generation" compared to the 'ol battle of seattle type punx. I started traveling expecting this sort of a scene to still be alive, and found something very different. More drugs, less politics, more homeless-feeling sometimes than I think some of that generation must've felt. All that grass-is-greener shit said, we're still fucked as a planet and the punks and tramps are still out there. I don't see why we can't adapt to the new locks and the new laws and the new culture that seems to have a few more pretensions and inhibitions and keep the flame alive, maybe even burn it brighter and burn bigger swaths of the capitalist system.

I hope some of y'all are dormant out there and are just gettin ready to wake up and kick ass
 
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i think (hope) that this is just a lull between periods in the culture. i'm working on a book that will address some of these issues somewhat, so who knows, maybe kids will wise up and start caring about shit again. a big part of it is going to be calling people out on their shit and creating safe circles of anarcho punks that can fight back against dirty kid apathy.
 

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Rest in Peace to two awesome people the community lost...
Very informative article.

I hope some of y'all are dormant out there and are just gettin ready to wake up and kick ass
I would like to learn... with new changes coming my way in the foreseeable future.

i think (hope) that this is just a lull between periods in the culture. i'm working on a book that will address some of these issues somewhat, so who knows, maybe kids will wise up and start caring about shit again. a big part of it is going to be calling people out on their shit and creating safe circles of anarcho punks that can fight back against dirty kid apathy.
Apathy; It feels like this is growing in America today. People feel like they can't change things. The rat race makes people less concerned with a bigger picture and more focused on they're day to day survival. I would look forward to reading what you write.
 
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Apathy; It feels like this is growing in America today. People feel like they can't change things. The rat race makes people less concerned with a bigger picture and more focused on they're day to day survival. I would look forward to reading what you write.
Well the thing that's crazy too is that 'the rat race' isn't just the work-rent-car life. In spaces where the traveler community isn't super strong, our support networks as individuals aren't doin so well, it's easy to get in 'survival mode'. Gotta get food, where's the food bank? Gotta make sure I got a safe camp spot. Next thing you know you're lonelytravelin high speed, on an anxious routine, in some weird halfway point between work and traveling that is neither. It takes a strong person to get out of that alone. The only real solution is strengthening the community.
 
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Well the thing that's crazy too is that 'the rat race' isn't just the work-rent-car life. In spaces where the traveler community isn't super strong, our support networks as individuals aren't doin so well, it's easy to get in 'survival mode'. Gotta get food, where's the food bank? Gotta make sure I got a safe camp spot. Next thing you know you're lonelytravelin high speed, on an anxious routine, in some weird halfway point between work and traveling that is neither. It takes a strong person to get out of that alone. The only real solution is strengthening the community.
dude hell yeah, i can totally identify with that.

also @Matt Derrick didnt you know darkstar also? i had no idea that happend =/
yeah, i'm actually the person who took that picture of darkstar, fode, and ferg on the boxcar (back in 2003, the date in the article is off by one year) when we were hopping out west (picture was taken in delaware). after darkstar and myself rode out west to michigan, that's where he got arrested for brandishing a knife (as told in the article). i continued out west and didn't see him again until his funeral (which all the punks pooled up their money for to fly me out which was pretty incredible).
 

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creating safe circles of anarcho punks that can fight back against dirty kid apathy.
Fighting back against the apathy is the biggest challenge the millenial generation, my generation, faces.

It's difficult when so many youths are so jaded and that they don't believe anything they do can make a difference. It's a challenge that exists even outside of traveler culture. All across America young people just don't care to get involved in anything that benefits a community, it's sad. I've seen so many of my friends succumb to this apathy. I've seen friends give up on life all together and I'm only 25.

I'm not sure how the problem could be fixed. In a world of instant gratification no one wants to take the time to work towards a collective goal.
 

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There are definitely a lot of gray in this area and its a topic that I don't think there any clear cut answers to. Every maybe is followed by a I don't know. I know for me I never really got involved in the anarcho punk scene even though it was my generation. I know how you feel though I was there but I wasn't there if that makes any sense. I'm a anarchist and a nomad and that will never die for me. I can identify with the lonliness too. As I get older I feel like I don't want to be alone as much as I once did.

Jesus was an anarchist
 
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This was beautiful.
It seems that punk has become a cliquey social club, in some circles of today. It makes me sad, especially when I read things like this.
I mean, it's always had problems. No scene is perfect. But it could be so much better, so much more powerful, if we focused more on the meaningful ideals we have in common than partying and who's punker than who.
Maybe the movement is transitioning to a whole new stage; maybe we'll start remembering that ideas, passion, and heart matter a whole lot more than being "cool" or fitting in with the right people. We're so much stronger together.
 

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To anyone who's worried about having missed something...don't.

I used to know magpie. We never liked each other but were very much part of the same scene, which he describes with so much romanticism here. I'm not trying to talk shit - his work is out there, form your own opinion, I don't really want to yap about personal drama (although I will say that his tendency to do so never endeared him to me).

Are there really less anarchist travelers? I'm not sure I see the difference he's talking about, but I don't hang around with 'political' kids anymore for sure. I don't miss the self-righteousness and self-importance. Great and terrible things happen in all generations. Political pretensions may lead to adventures but they lead to a lot of other shittier things too. Some people are so intoxicated with ideals and grand visions they miss what's going on around them.

I knew both Brad and Sali a little too, and find the way their deaths are brought up here to be a little bit in bad taste. I don't see how a reader can get much sense of who they were behind the assertion that they were part of "us," some vague, glorious, dangerous thing that passed from the stage of history. A few years ago when I was taking some time off from the road, I told my partner at the time, who was eagerly converting herself into something like that, who was planning to ride trains to Mexico. I told her I knew two who were murdered there and she sneered at me - evidently I was another patriarch just getting in her way. I'm sure she thought that was in bad taste too, if she even believed me.

I don't know a lot about what happened to them, or her. But I know what happened to me and I know how much danger there can be in chasing some image of a golden age, a desired identity or some other contrived idea. Learn what you can but above all live your own fucking life, and don't brag because it may keep the impressionable young ones buying you drinks or whatever, but the seasoned hobos will peg you instantly for an asshole.
 
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Fighting back against the apathy is the biggest challenge the millenial generation, my generation, faces.
...
I think everything rises and falls in waves. I largely blame internet technology and spoiling, sheltering baby boomer parents, and no widespread liberatory music scene for the current seeming wave of apathy in America's youth. It's sad to see no overarching social movement (hippies in the 60's, punks in the 70's, enviros/anti-globalization/hip-hop in the 80's/90's, etc.) in the current generation.

Still, I think the internet will have it's own backlash. A lot of people yet to be born will look back at times before smartphones and social media and want to go back to that time. I already see this happening more and more. It's a shame I'm riding through my 20's in the internet generation, but hey, you can always go do international travel. France just had four consecutive months of inserrectionary riots, strikes, and a huge social movement protesting labor laws. The ZAD is also planned to be evicted in October. Check out The Stimulator's videos.

As far as building up the scene in the US, I think it has to start with local communities first. Food Not Bombs, squats, infoshops, encampments, etc. all provide infrastructure for people to meet and organize and can largley be started by anyone who puts in the effort. From there, it's just building up the community, taking action, and resisting police oppression as the pigs attempt to tear it down.
 
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As far as building up the scene in the US, I think it has to start with local communities first. Food Not Bombs, squats, infoshops, encampments, etc. all provide infrastructure for people to meet and organize and can largley be started by anyone who puts in the effort. From there, it's just building up the community, taking action, and resisting police oppression as the pigs attempt to tear it down.
i totally agree with you on the above, but blaming technology ignores the core of the problem, which is capitalism. i mean, if i hit you over the head with a wrench, do you blame the wrench?

technology is a tool just like anything else, it can be used as a tool to enable or distract, and it's the people trying to distract with it are the same ones trying to pass laws to get rid of all the good parts of the internet (mass, instant communication).
 
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technology is a tool just like anything else, it can be used as a tool to enable or distract, and it's the people trying to distract with it are the same ones trying to pass laws to get rid of all the good parts of the internet (mass, instant communication).
But the overwhelming tendency has been for technologies - especially complex technological systems - to be used by power to further its own ends. The liberatory facade that exists in technologies like the internet is the carrot to the ass that does not know this history. Usually it is this facade that presents some short term benefit that has a long-term repercussion that serves to eat up whatever was gained. Short-term benefit of the clock: I can get more done and schedule my day more effectively. Long-term cost: systems will eventually demand that we all abide by the clock, down to the very last minute, for all productive activity, until the clock becomes our master and awakens us each morning. Short-term benefit of the gun: I am made safer. Long-term cost: A continual need to outdo one's potential opponents until we finally have a nuclear arms race. Short-term benefit of the internet: I can obtain tons of information instantly. Long-term cost: Each person uses the tons of information to cherry-pick their way into an echo chamber. These are only a few examples, but in my own endeavors to study technology's wide-spread effects (reading Zerzan, Ellul, Jensen, as well as tech-lovers like Ray Kurzweil) they seem to be indicative of a long-run trend that is undesirable and limits human freedom.

Interestingly, it does seem that the less entrenched in the internet a culture is, the more radical shit you see. Things like the Arab Spring came from human, personable cultures using the internet as a tool, and it was incredible - but without the initial basis of their culture being quite centered around personal warmth and public space, this couldn't have happened. The long-term tendency is for tools to create realities that corrode whatever faculties were required in the absence of those tools and it appears there is little we can do to hold back this tendency. I would say that the internet's prevalence has corroded our capacities to be social in the post-industrial west, generally. The areas of the internet that seem most fuctional have a robust real-life basis. It's why I think my (and our) going to the Jambo is so important. If STP and other sites on the internet can be used to strengthen our ties in real life, great! But to count on this long-term is a false move.
 
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Matt Derrick

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But the overwhelming tendency has been for technologies - especially complex technological systems - to be used by power to further its own ends. The liberatory facade that exists in technologies like the internet is the carrot to the ass that does not know this history. Usually it is this facade that presents some short term benefit that has a long-term repercussion that serves to eat up whatever was gained. Short-term benefit of the clock: I can get more done and schedule my day more effectively. Long-term cost: systems will eventually demand that we all abide by the clock, down to the very last minute, for all productive activity, until the clock becomes our master and awakens us each morning. Short-term benefit of the gun: I am made safer. Long-term cost: A continual need to outdo one's potential opponents until we finally have a nuclear arms race. Short-term benefit of the internet: I can obtain tons of information instantly. Long-term cost: Each person uses the tons of information to cherry-pick their way into an echo chamber. These are only a few examples, but in my own endeavors to study technology's wide-spread effects (reading Zerzan, Ellul, Jensen, as well as tech-lovers like Ray Kurzweil) they seem to be indicative of a long-run trend that is undesirable and limits human freedom.

Interestingly, it does seem that the less entrenched in the internet a culture is, the more radical shit you see. Things like the Arab Spring came from human, personable cultures using the internet as a tool, and it was incredible - but without the initial basis of their culture being quite centered around personal warmth and public space, this couldn't have happened. The long-term tendency is for tools to create realities that corrode whatever faculties were required in the absence of those tools and it appears there is little we can do to hold back this tendency. I would say that the internet's prevalence has corroded our capacities to be social in the post-industrial west, generally. The areas of the internet that seem most fuctional have a robust real-life basis. It's why I think my (and our) going to the Jambo is so important. If STP and other sites on the internet can be used to strengthen our ties in real life, great! But to count on this long-term is a false move.
i honestly couldn't disagree with you more, but maybe we should make a different thread for it.
 

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