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Saturday, January 26, 2008

No One Starts Shit Anymore

I want to apologize to any visitors to Dancy's Corner who had to read through my celebrity tragedy (previous) post. I sometimes have to consolidate my percieved obligations. I felt/feel justified posting some of the unadulterated fluff I am sometimes reduced to submitting for a few schillings.

Besides, I learned something.

As a freelance journalist I missed an opportunity to make a statement. Spartacus reminded me in his response the importance of perspective. The smokescreen is only as thick as we allow it to be. The difference between the fluff and a statement is perspective. Ledger and Renfro visible, spoiled adults lapping at the teat of excess...no big loss. Young man seeking adventure in a foreign land with fantasies of killing terrorists dies in battle...no big loss?

The tragedies mirror each other I should not have mentioned one without the other. Especially right after another local dead soldier's return was being honored. It would have coincided with press time.

I dropped the ball.

Thank you Spartacus I will remember our soldiers.

I will remember we are at war.

The backdrop of perpetual war demands our attention.

Will we give it?

Will we finally give it?

I'll do my part...you do yours

I grew up in Berkeley Ca.. During the seventies and eighties it was- how do I say this?

Free?


I guess that is the closest word. There were cops but they pretty much minded their business. The city and state collected taxes so the government was visible. The roads were in pretty good shape. At the time, the public schools were good in Berkeley (metal detectors worked).

I was not fortunate enough to recieve the well rounded education the Berkeley School District provides. I went to the Richmond School District.

Man, did I miss out.

There were a lot of openly gay couples walking hand in hand. Mostly Bull Daggers. I had a whole different concept of equality between the sexes. There were some scary, tough women no one fucked with. Hacky sacks everywhere...herb everywhere many different languages. Guys yellin "thai sticks-got thai sticks"
There was also a healthy need for the people to express themselves.

When the local government failed to address the real issues of the constituents the constituency did everything in their power to convince that particular elected official to do their job.
I have witnessed some dramatic protests revolving around the removal of an oak tree, the name of a park and even public nudity.
People were born with a 'fuck you' attitude towards the Government.
A distrust.
Berkeley was a counter culture oasis, where the rules of behavior were turned upside down.

But it worked ...it worked well.

What happened?

A densely populated urban environment. Everyone jam packed into the east bay. Rich and poor, dumb and wise. Racial assimilation was apparent in the healthy number of bi racial children I grew up with. The only downside was the fact it was a eurocentric assimilation, less tolerant of other cultures.
People basically got along.
There were issues regarding the Police in the black community...people, all people, got together.
It didn't hurt that the Black Panthers started to Police the Police while armed themselves.
At the heart of all the crosscultural comaraderie was the correct assumption that the people have the power.
Even my teachers. I remember Ms. Adams(her real name not being used to protect her privacy) (I love being parenthetical).

She taught the sorry excuse for a history class I took in eighth grade. She was always making note of her half asian descent , in fact, because of her I do not refer to people of asian descent as orientals. She was always giving speeches in class about this, that and blah blah blah. It would always end with you "watch... you see"

Strangely enough she is actually right about a lot of the things she predicted. Incredibly accurate. Hmmm. Then one day she bent over my desk to make eye contact with me and exclaimed.

"China is the sleeping lion...she will awaken".

She continued a long speech that effectively made me fear China...ironic right? I think she wanted us to have more interest- I, on the other hand, was wary of the foreign invaders who would soon buy San Francisco.
If she did that now she would probably be arrested or ,at the very least, dating me.

Back to the point.

No one starts shit anymore.

No one chucks a brick or a flaming milkcrate through the bank window. I used to always hear about planned protests and I, along with my friends, even participated.
Protest was part of my civic reality. It was pleasure and duty.
There were marches over a proposal to increase parking meters. The resolution passed.
Enter plan B.
No one protested or even complained when the vigilantes started to decapitate parking meters. No one accept the city council which asked for more money to help catch the perpetrators.

Berkeley, hell, The Bay Area is a petri dish of social policies that create an exciting mix of lifestyles all within spitting distance of each other.

Completely different universes sharing space but rarely colliding, each maintaing their stable orbit within their singular part of the glorious grid. It worked, it seemed chaotic at times, but it worked.

I grew up in the hills, a rare African American treat-at the time. Our elementary School, Kensington Hilltop School, bussed the inner city (thats media slang for black) kids in from Richmond. It was like a cultural exchange program . Instead of building good schools in predominately black neighborhhoods they would rather take a handfull of kids with high aptitude scores and give them a shot.

Great, well meaning ,liberal, educational policies.

I learned quickly that I did not speak a lick of ebonics.
But whoop ass was another thing.
I was fluent in whoop ass (thanks dad).

The cultural exchange resulted in a boosted confidence in my ability to solve problems without discussion.
I know I am grown and shouldn't even care. But now and back then, I did not like people making fun of the way I talked . The way I spoke was a great source of many fights. I spoke perfect english replete with may I's, thank you ma'ams, yes sirs and excuse me's. A great source of pride for my mother. To top it off I was anal about pronunciation. I was a weird kid.
I did not possess the oral er'.... verbal... flexibility I skillfully use today.

This is about Not Starting Shit Anymore. You see how easy it is for the issue to lose its resonance in the presence of personal experience?

I grew up watching active adults participate in changing the world around them.
Not much seemed to happen. We were always at war, gas was super expensive and no one voted for who was in power. Finally, amidst a growing cloud of apathy, something happened.
I think it started with Love Boat- Fantasy Island Fridays, Disco and cocaine.


The eighties happened.


People, the adults that is , stopped trying to change and adopted a 'if you can't beat em join em' attitude.


Berkeley became different, there was still a counter culture vibe but it was going through a prepackaging process. The image was maturing. But it was still affectionately called Berzerkeley by anyone who didn't live there.

Wavy Gravy hanging out at 'Peoples Park'...people actually came to see that.
Cool right?

They also came to study at the nuclear physics lab at U.C. Berkeley- once again, another story.
Nuclear Physicists and Wavy Gravy within a mile of each other.

The potential for mushrooms so close to together.

The irony.
Street people, a mixture of burnout hippies, street punks and dumped patients from the state mental hospital in Napa lined the sidewalks on both sides of the street.

Social casualties, cast-off's.

Those people, the woefully desperate, could be counted to turn over a car in a heartbeat. They had nothing to lose . They were into a free meal(vegetarian of course) and would latch on to any cause that disturbed the peace.

It took years for Berkeley to clean up Telegraph Ave. where hundreds gathered daily with nothing to do but try to fit in the gritty, high tech bazaar it had become.

Telegraph used to be kinda dangerous. Random acts of mayhem were not uncommon.

The anarchists, at least once a year, would tear that street up. Loot, break glass, flip a car over, cop car preferably.

A cathartic experience..it worked wonders for teenage angst.

I seen it all.

Controlled chaos.

No one starts shit anymore...I guess there is nothing to start shit over.





5 comments:

Spartacus said...

Dancy, thanks for this view into your world. I hear what you're saying about nobody starting shit. I could think of at least two factors that are contributing to this:

1) Media coverage or lack thereof. They pay so little attention to protests in this country that even the protests that went on during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City got little mainstream press. Back in the day, though, protests -- even the Bella Abzug-led protests for striking unions -- got lost of coverage. Could it be that the novelty has worn off or is it a more insidious tactic to simply keep the radicals out of sight and out of mind? A informational walled community.

2) Issue balkanization. These days, there is no one group fighting for a range of issues. Each one has its own group with its own priorities, which plays right into the hands of those they protest. From stem cell research to abortion to immigration, each issue has separate and distinct groups that rarely, if ever, join forces to create a unified platform or statement.

I feel your angst man. But this "army" of ours isn't going to fight until we learn how to march together and support each other's causes.

Spartacus said...

Dave, you dropped nothing. You missed nothing. You wrote a fine piece on the tragedy of talented actors dying so young. I really liked that you covered what made the untimely deaths so tragic, and did so in a manner devoid of fan fawning and unwarranted praise. This is in contrast to my friend on the train who could not help but heap a shitload of sadness on someone she did not know.

I hate shallow sympathy, and in my reading you offered none of that.

I commented as I did because on that basis. While hordes of lemming "fans" are leaving flowers at his apartment doorstep to cope with their sadness.

As far as giving attention to the war, I promise to do my part -- as writer and a father.

Peace!

Anonymous said...

Not startin' shit? Naaaw. You been missin out on the Hawkman. MC Hawking.
Hawking kicks it old school

David B. Dancy said...

Spartacus- Thank you I am, once again, inspired.

Anonymous- most people announce themselves on Dancy's Corner but that video was soo good I don't care.
Adrienne?

fairlane said...

I start shit, but then I lose links.

My last little spat with a certain asshole cost Jonestown four links. And our posts are no longer forwarded to Crooks and Liars for a potential "Hook Up."

Eh, Fuck'em.

By the way, I cross posted this. First thing in the am.