Apr 212017
 
Any act of self-sufficiency in common with community is an act of rebellion.” – Drew Philp

I’m sure Drew Philp self-identifies as a liberal, a Democrat, a progressive, or some combination of the three.  But, in my mind, he’s clearly a Libertarian, if not an outright anarchist.  I first read Mr. Philp’s story back in 2014 when BuzzFeed ran his feature article “Why I Bought A House In Detroit For $500.”  At 23, in his final year of college at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, disenchanted with the path he saw America following, Mr. Philp moved into the Poletown neighborhood of Detroit and started to build a life of meaning for himself.

“It would be only one house out of thousands, but I wanted to prove it could be done, prove that this American vision of torment could be built back into a home. I also decided I would do it the old-fashioned way, without grants or loans or the foundation money pouring into the city. I would work for everything that went into the house, because not everyone has access to those resources. I also wanted to prove to myself and my family I was a man.”

Mr Philp’s article was an inspiration and a source of renewed hope that there were still people in the United States who understood the road to both personal happiness and a healthier society was not being built by politicians or government programs, but by individuals – one day at a time.

Over the last couple of years Mr. Philp expanded that article into a book, A $500 House In Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City, which I just finished reading.  The conversational writing makes for easy reading and I finished its 300 pages in about 8 hours.  Along with the heart-warming (and occasionally heart-wrenching) tales of living in poverty while struggling to rebuild a devastated (and literally trashed) house into a home once again he shares numerous first hand accounts of government harming individuals in the name of helping “progress”.

From the folly of eminent domain-

“In the early ’80s, the entire north half of the neighborhood was demolished to make way for a 362-acre auto plant, heavily subsidized by the city, state, and federal governments. More than 4,000 residents were eminent-domained from their property; 1,400 homes, several churches, and 140 businesses were razed to make way for the promise of three shifts of work a day. 

“Approximately 6,500 jobs were promised at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant plant in exchange for demolishing half the neighborhood. At its peak employment, roughly 3,500 people worked there, less than the number of people kicked out of their homes to build it. Fewer than 1,500 people work there today.”

To the literal disenfranchisement of everyone living in America’s 18th largest city-

“The governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, appointed Detroit an emergency financial manager with autocratic control over the city’s finances and major decisions. In the United States of America, I am not, nor are any of my neighbors, able to select who will lead us locally. We have a mayor, but he can’t do anything aside from what the emergency manager tells him he can.”

But it’s not just the failures of government that have become evident to this young man trying to build his own American dream.  Social Justice Warriors made their impotence just as visible-

“That summer, 2010, the United States Social Forum, a sort of ideological precursor to Occupy Wall Street, was held for a week in Detroit. More than 20,000 people came into the city from around the world, slept in tents, went to classes and discussions, drank and partied, networked. I would have liked to see more of the Social Forum, but I was working on my house and cooking at a French restaurant.

“One of the events I did see was a march staged by professional protest coordinators who had come in from California opposing Detroit’s trash incinerator, the largest in the United States.  We have an asthma hospitalization rate three times the national average.  The protest would march down Detroit’s main thoroughfare and past the incinerator with hundreds of spray-painted sunflower pickets, miniature incinerators, and signs, presumably raising holy hell and sticking it to the man.

“I guess no one saw the irony in cutting down real pine trees to make fake sunflowers. Or that a protest to demand clean air would use so much aerosol spray paint. But the real irony came when the Social Forum was over and it was time for the out-of-towners to leave for the next protest.

What are you going to do with all this stuff?” we asked.

Why don’t you just recycle it?” they said.

Where?

“They left it all [behind] and split, leaving it for us to deal with. Now we had another pile of trash to clean up and nowhere for it to go. So while they were gallivanting off to the next good deed, that shit went into the incinerator and into our lungs.”

And then there’s the story of a group of art students who set up camp on Mr. Philp’s lawn while he’s at work one day.  When his neighbors inform them that they are trespassing their response is “you don’t understand. We’re helping.” By setting up easels and painting pictures of his house being rehabbed?  Upon his return from work he asks them to leave and the teacher refuses, yelling at him: “But I taught at Harvard.”  There is no thought to calling the police, of course, and no need as his neighbors came out en masse to help him defend his property. Luckily, he was able to diffuse the situation before the neighborhood residents and the invading art students came to blows – but just barely.

Near the end of his book Mr. Philp points out that, despite living “in Detroit’s east side, which reporters describe as ‘bombed out’ and like ‘Mogadishu,’” a place that “even the police say is ‘war-like… unsafe for visitors,’” he’s only had a gun pointed at his face three times in is life.  All three times by police officers.

“But there’s another Detroit, too, of which I am but a small part. It’s been happening quietly and for some time, between transplants and natives, black and white and Latino, city and country — tiny acts of kindness repeated thousands of times over, little gardens and lots of space, long meetings and mowing grass that isn’t yours. It’s the Detroit that’s saving itself. The Detroit that’s building something brand-new out of the cinders of consumerism and racism and escape.”

They key thing about that “other Detroit”, the one in which Mr. Philp and his neighbors live, is that it’s the Detroit of the people.  And they’re accomplishing those things despite the government, not because of it.  Which is what truly makes this story so powerful.  These people have changed the world, and are continuing to do so, not by asking other people to change anything, not by using the force of government to change anything, but by changing themselves and their environment each and every day.  Their lives are a shining example to all and the living embodiment of being the change they want to see in the world.

If you have friends or relatives who just can’t wrap their brains around the concept of healthy society without government I highly recommend you give them a copy of this book.  Whether they’re liberals like the author or conservatives who profess ideals of self-reliance this tale of functioning anarchy is one that simply can’t be denied.

Mar 292015
 

This is a “Guest Post” of sorts.  Everything below this italicized paragraph was written by Daniel Bane Cooper.  He wanted to share his story and was having difficulty finding a venue to do so.  He finally posted it to Facebook only to have it deleted, so I volunteered to post it here.  I am doing so, completely unedited, without comment and haven’t even read the story myself at this point.  I take no sides, take no vouch for the tale’s truth, and have never even met Daniel or anyone else mentioned in the story itself.  I’m just providing a venue.  Comments of any sort are welcome and will not be moderated (beyond spam control).  I do not know if Daniel will choose to come to this post to answer any questions, but if any are left for him I’ll be sure to let him know.

This is not an easy story to tell. There are a lot of reasons I am telling it and a lot of why it has taken me so much time to decide to do it. I am very far from a perfect person. There is not one part of me that doesn’t recognize a big part of this whole thing could have been avoided had I made better decisions. Part of it was also inevitable. This is nowhere close to how I wanted my time in NH to be, but at the end of the day it is the truth and hopefully someone can not have to learn the lessons the way I did. People also have a right to know the people they are around, good and bad.

Continue reading »

Mar 192011
 
Part of the Ask An Anarchist Series - Previous in series         Next in series

Ask An Anarchist

Ask An Anarchist

Welcome back to Ask An Anarchist. The ongoing series where I respond to questions about anarchist philosophy.

Q) So some small town somewhere started to fine all of their prisoners to pay for the prisons instead of taxes. Say you make 8 dollars an hour at your job then you get put in jail and pay 16 to 20 dollars a day every day you are in jail.
I think this is good because the “criminal” pays for the jails instead of everyone paying for it.
It’s a bad idea for a lot of reasons though. For one, people can’t pay if they can’t work. Also it gives police a reason to put you in jail for 30 days instead of just a ticket. What do you think?

A) This is not nearly as unusual as you might think, and you quickly recognized the largest problems with it yourself. Continue reading »

Part of the Ask An Anarchist Series - Previous in series        Next in series
Jan 122009
 

Had he lived, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 80 years old this coming Thursday.

If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

That is, by far, my favorite Martin Luther King quote.  In fact, it’s one of my favorite quotes of all time, by anyone.  And it is that philosophy that I honor on the third Monday of January each year. Martin Luther King clearly inspired millions (of all backgrounds) and had a massive impact on not only the United States, but on the world.  But I’m left wondering what he would have to say about the America of today.  As I wrote in honor of MLK’s birthday last year, 40 years after his assassination, Americans are still slaves.  This year, I’d like to focus on the issues that made Martin Luther King famous: civil rights and the advancement of blacks in American culture.

In 1939 Martin Luther King was a 10 year old Atlanta resident who had already traveled to Europe and had sung with his church choir at the opening of Gone With The Wind.  Meanwhile, roughly 87 percent of blacks in America were living in poverty. By the time Measure of Man was published in 1959 (still years before the Albany movement, Birmingham, and the March on Washington), poverty amongst black families had dropped a full 40 points to 47 percent and the incomes of blacks relative to whites had more than doubled.

1963 brought the March on Washington and the famous “I Have A Dream speech which will be quoted with such abandon in the next couple of weeks, 1964 was, of course, the Civil Rights Act, 1965 saw “Bloody Sundy” in Montgomery, AL (often cited as the turning point for the civil rights movemement in the United States – King was notably absent, BTW), this was followed numerous failures and cancelled marches in Chicago and then, in March 1968, the assassination of Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN.  The following year the poverty rate amongst blacks in America had fallen to roughly 32 percent (where it remained well in to the 1990s).

Which all leads me to question just why there’s a national holiday for this man.  Of course, we have a strange way of celebrating it…

In 1990 President George Bush (the first) invaded Iraq on Martin Luther King’s birthday.The day after America observes MLK’s 80th birthday the first black President will be inaugurated. King would, no doubt, be proud. But let us not forget that Barack Obama will not only continue the current invasion of Iraq, but has also come out in support of National Slavery!

Is this what Martin Luther King was fighting for?  Is this what you are honoring on this national holiday devoted to him?  Honestly, I think next Monday will just be another day of my distancing myself from as much of the celebration as possible.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Jan 092009
 
Part of the Ask An Anarchist Series - Previous in series         Next in series

Welcome back to Ask An Anarchist. The ongoing series where I respond to questions about anarchist philosophy. This is an easy edition for me to write as Michael Wiebe of Libertarian Anarchy has done all of the heavy lifting.

Q) Do you not care about poor people? Without government assistance and programs they wouldn’t be able to survive!

A) Of course I (and other anarchists) care about the poor. I, for one, am one of the poor.  But one of the reasons I’m an anarchist is because I know that, however well intentioned, government intervention does far more to hurt those in poverty than to help them.

Check out Micahel’s Government Against the Poor, for a better worded explanation of the above statement than I’m likely to write any time soon.  BTW, I discovered that post through the monthly Market Anarchist Blog Carnival which is well worth reading each month if you’re interested in attaining more personal freedom and better understanding the true problems of government.

Part of the Ask An Anarchist Series - Previous in series        Next in series