On Voting, Tattoo Shops and Paper Street.
'Choose or Lose', 'Vote or Die', "If you don't vote you have no right to complain" "This is the most important election in our lifetime"; by now you've heard these slogans and phrases enough times that they've etched a permanent scar onto your cerebellum. Their purpose is to inspire, guilt-trip, accuse or even scare you into believing that you are less than a citizen if you choose to not participate in the electoral process. To be certain there are life and death issues at stake this time around. Women's Reproductice Rights, Domestic Partnership Laws and Never-ending Warfare and Global Imperialism come to mind. I'm not here to encourage or discourage you from voting. By the time you read this, the election is long over anyway. Somewhere in the range of 50-60% of the voting age population will have abstained from voting, making this year's election one of the all-time percentage low voter turnouts. If anarchists make up one tenth of one percent of those who chose not to choose, we'd have a much larger movement than we've had in many decades.
Is it realistic to believe that upwards of sixty percent of the population didn't vote because they are apathetic? Because they are ignorant and uniformed? Because they're not extremely concerned with the direction this country is going? To the contrary I believe people are staying home from the polls in record numbers has much more to do with disempowerment and feelings of unaccountability. To be certain folks are more informed, knowledgeable and involved in the political process now than ever before. The political process being ten times more complex and personal than the notion that pulling a lever every four years being the most important contribution you can make to shaping the future of your family, your friends or the community you live in. If that were true than we would indeed be in a sad state of affairs.
The political process from where I'm sitting involves taking control of the ability to determine your own path in life. To be able to directly participate in formulating and implementing the decisions that impact and affect the ways we carry out our lives. Government officials from the White House down to the Capital House and City Hall cannot possibly begin to speak for the myriad set of values, beliefs and lifestyles that make up even the average neighborhood, let alone a country of 300 million inhabitants. 'Vote or Die', what a fucking joke. How about 'Reclaim your Life or sit back and watch as megalomaniacs who believe they're on personal missions from God destroy the world.'
The 786th tattoo shop in the city of Richmond just opened up two blocks from where I live. I live in a dense, two-century-old, residential community that is undergoing a total makeover these days. Lifelong, multi-generational renters are being pushed out of the neighborhood as yuppies are gobbling up more and more houses and punks are squeezing in as many as they can to pay the $1,200 rents that are unfathomable to those trying to survive on a fixed income.
We all know what role yuppies play when they begin entering a new neighborhood en masse. The sense of community and culture in the neighborhood deteriorates as they are more interested in property values and establishing good relationships with the police than establishing good relations with other neighbors. But what makes punks any better? There is a block in my neighborhood that might have as many of twenty or thirty punks living in four or five houses. Several nights a week, weekdays included they have full-on rage parties out on the sidewalk and street. They wreak havoc into the wee hours of the morning and then leave a big ass mess all up and down the block which is inevitably cleaned up by the elderly woman who is unfortunate to live amongst them.
If yuppies are notorious for creating little yuppie enclaves that exist in diversified neighborhoods, punks are even worse. A few years ago in Philadelphia swarms of punks moved to an area of West Philadelphia where they have set up a little fantasy world where they don't have to interact with anybody other than fellow punks unless they choose to do so. Oregon Hill's not far behind. Chances are high there's a punk party going on in the neighborhood tonight. There are two bars/ restaurants in the neighborhood where punks make up the majority of the clientele and now they even have a place to get tattoos right down the street. What no show space? It's not too late, there's a nearly abandoned Rug Factory three blocks away. Here in my neighborhood, Punks definitely not dead, but it sure is revolting, and not in a good way.
For countless years Richmond has had a difficult time establishing any sort of physical spaces that can serve as a face for the larger radical and anarchist movement. Other than the success that is the Richmond Queer Space, things have been bleak. A group that spent years trying to gather funding for the development of a multi-faceted anarchist community center has been dead in the water for close to two year now. A bookstore on Broad Street was short-lived due to its affiliation with a notorious sexual assaulter. A cafe/newsstand/bookstore near VCU's campus was shut down when the person who was running it had his parents withdraw funding after they found out it was called Che Cafe. The list goes on and on, which brings me to today.
A new anarchist bookstore has opened up in a small space that might've once been part of a mechanic's shop at 2506 West Cary Street not far from downtown. The new space called The Paper Street Infoshop is currently open Thursdays - Saturdays 1-9pm and Sundays 1-6pm. There are probably a few hundred contemporary and classic titles, periodicals, zines, records and artwork. Lots of exciting events and activities are in the works. So stop in and check it out.
Closing Notes: Complete Control #12 is now out and is available for $3 ppd from me at PO Box 5021 Richmond, VA. 23220. Read Richmond Indymedia.org for great Richmond news and commentary including myself on occasion. As always the Flying Brick Library stationed in the front room of my house is open to travelers and visitors at 506 S Pine St or by calling 804-644-2544. Take Care, Greg