Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What’s Up, Dach? (The Carrots of Anarchy.)




“Look. Art knows no prejudice, art knows no boundaries, art doesn't really have judgment in it's purest form. So just go, just go.” – K.D. Lang

Hello Blogiteers!

Today’s blog is all about personal hypocrisy, asinine rashness, and the consequences of what happens when you let your inherent narcissism get out of hand. Yes, my faithful readers, today we’ll be dealing with the issue of bad judgment, that most dreaded and insidious aspect sheltered within one’s own personal psyche.

Let’s be honest- we’ve all made some seriously  bone-headed decisions, and we’ll continue to make more as we walk the path- it’s just human nature, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’m almost positive that if one were to take a look at my track record, they’d probably be stunned that I haven’t been given a lifetime achievement award in regards to all the bad calls that I’ve made.

Personally, I’ve always thought of myself as a highly accomplished amateur when it comes to the art of making bad decisions - I’m good enough to turn pro, but I lack the skill set to make it happen. Unlike most people, there truly are no skeletons in my closet- they’re too busy drinking Martinis and disco dancing right up front, and taken as a whole, there really isn’t anything tucked away in my past that would embarrass me if it ever saw the light of day.

That’s the beauty of being an egotistical extrovert- you want everybody to know what you’re about. When it comes to my numerous flaws, I made peace with the majority of them a very long time ago, and if I had any piece of hard-won advice to offer a young man as he makes his way through the world, it would be this: never fall in love with anyone who pays their rent in singles.

I’m just chock-full of useful tidbits like that, all of it based on my past experiences, so trust me, I do know what I’m talking about. However- I’m not here to mindlessly blather on and on about my abundant acts of personal stupidity, nor am I going to recount the tales of such that I’ve heard throughout my lifetime.

Besides… who doesn’t have a “I once took a hair dryer into the shower with me” story? That’s what I thought. However, since our particular blog subject today is all about bad judgment, I would be remiss if I didn’t address the current outrage that at this time, is brewing within the downtown scene, courtesy of one Cindy Dach. So who is she, and what has she done that has upset the gentle sensibilities of the Downtown PHX Community you ask?
 
Well, up until a few weeks ago, Cindy was best known for two things- the first for being on the board of the Roosevelt Row CDC, which according to it’s mission statement is set up to be: “a 501(c)3 non-profit community development corporation established to further the unique cultural character and creative assets of the Roosevelt Row Arts District, to advocate for the continuing presence and role of the arts and small business in the revitalization of the district, and to foster a dense, diverse and walkable urban community.”

Her second accolade is being the co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, and a small boutique called MADE, which is located on the corner of Fifth Street and Roosevelt in downtown PHX. A normally quiet little street, it contains several local businesses, such as Jobot Coffee, Think, Lawn Gnome Publishing, The Lost Leaf, Aside of Heart, and Missconstrued Boutique.

Because this area is so low-key, it remains a hidden gem to most Phoenicians, and for those who oppose the gentrifying effects of local development, that’s a positive so far as where they’re concerned, and I tend to agree. There is one day however, when it literally becomes ground zero for chaos, both real and imagined, and here is where all of our trouble begins.

Unlike Grand Avenue, that singular hotbed of artistic grittiness, Roosevelt tends to lean towards a vanilla wafer blandness that attracts a substantial amount of essentially useless people to mass in a few square blocks come the first Friday of every month.

Yipee.

Largely due to the amount of people that come down for the event, a strong police presence has been a consistent for the last few years, and that presence is crucial to keeping the peace. Yeah, I said it. The police are somewhat essential down here, despite what the local patchouli patrol likes to claim.

Shockingly, if you take several thousand people, cram them into a few square blocks, add alcohol, and let it simmer, you’re going to have the occasional problem. I’ve personally witnessed public/underage drinking, outright public intoxication, fistfights, random homeless engaging in what the cool kids refer to as “that shit be crazy”, and the odd drug bust.

For myself, I’ve always been of the mindset that when the crazy hammer falls, I’d rather have the police coming to my rescue, versus a bunch of drunken beer-swilling Hipsters any day. Overall, I have no inherent issue with cops doing their jobs, and neither do most people with common sense, it seems. But as the saying goes, cops are people too, and just like there will always be the pretentious barista, there will always be the occasionally bad cop.

However, that doesn’t provide evidence to the theory that all cops are corrupt, and using the limited abuses of a few to justify disrespect to all, is a rather ignorant point of view in my opinion. But I’m getting ahead of myself. As I stated earlier, there is a huge brouhaha surrounding Ms. Dach currently, and it involves an interaction with the Phoenix police dept. that went completely pear-shaped.

According to a recently published report,  she sent an email to Phoenix police Sgt. Chas Clements that stated the location and time of an Occupy Phoenix meeting on Fifth Street at the same time as a First Friday event.

Now, to be fair, the information she provided was publicly available and may not have led to any immediate harm to activists- a claim that several members of the Occupy movement regard as blatantly false. Upon first reading, the report also strongly suggests that police used that intelligence to take repressive action, sending undercover officers to infiltrate the movement and gather intelligence. 

For instance- Saul DeLara, an undercover officer, attended several Occupy Phoenix meetings presenting himself as a homeless Mexican national, and another covert officer allegedly was overheard advocating violence on more than one occasion before his presence was discovered. The email that Dach sent alerted police of an Occupy Phoenix meeting at Conspire, a former vegan cafe and art space, according to the report. Dach claimed she sent the email for the intent of maintaining security during First Fridays on Roosevelt Row.

In her own words:  “In 2011, there was a lot of public safety issues on First Fridays, we wanted to ensure an event that reflected the great arts community in Phoenix and that was also a safe event for attendees of all ages.”

What happened instead was that personal social security numbers, physical descriptions, driver’s license/state identification numbers and home addresses of citizens who had been given ‘warnings’ in relation to Occupy Phoenix activity were collected for God knows what purposes, something that I find to be an outright desecration of civil rights.

When all the dust from this settles, I definitely think those responsible for the PD’s overreach should be publically censured, fired, and if the case can be proven- prosecuted, for exceeding the limit of what their authority actually encapsulates. Heads need to roll, and that right quick, be it the Soldiers or the Generals.

As you can imagine, this unwarranted violation has led to a huge amount of backlash, mostly in the form of highly negative comments all across the social media networks, forcing Ms. Dach to offer a public apology for her lack of foresight and breach of trust.

Once again, in her own words: “I am truly sorry. It was never my intention to provide an intelligence-gathering tip to local police, or attempt to disrupt free speech. Reading through the CMD report last night, I’ve come to realize how naive I was in this situation.

To some, that will make me seem like a fool, but I was surprised to discover how my email was used. When this happened back in 2011, it didn’t occur to me that a First Friday crowd safety concern—just one of many that Roosevelt Row merchants were dealing with at the
time—would be used instead to gather information about an Occupy meeting.

These public safety concerns are a matter of public record, and as Roosevelt Row’s interim director it was my responsibility to address them. That was what my email to Sergeant Clements was about. There was no political motivation nor malice intended on my part.

All my life, I have rolled up my sleeves to help my community, and now I can say that I’ve had a reality shock and better understand how good intentions can be used for other purposes. It’s a sobering lesson. I apologize for any harm that was done as a result of my email. I don’t know any other way to say it—I’m sorry. Very sorry.”

Personally, I find this apology to be somewhat weak in the spine, but it does strike as sincere. At worst, she’s a petty little snitch, and at best- a naïve ingénue who apparently is completely clueless as to how the world really works. Getting in bed (metaphorically) with the police has never been a good idea, especially when they’re monitoring the actions of a political movement. Shades of Orwell’s Big Brother and all that, you know.

After this apology was released, one might think that would help settle or cool off the issue, but you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. Across the social media Serengeti, there were calls for meetings to discuss the issue, poorly debated harangues about her breaching the community’s trust, and not unexpectedly- talk of boycotting her businesses in response to her collusion with the authorities.

And in principle, I agree that all of these should be enacted… up to a point.

Ms. Dach definitely needs to be taken to the woodshed in my opinion, and there should be some consequences in regards to her excruciating lack of common sense. But here’s where I and some people differ in our opinion of how that should be done. Personally, while I feel that boycotts are effective, there’s the issue of what good it would actually do. In the long run, Ms. Dach won’t really be affected that much. The Media really only cares about the big companies, and there will always be a customer base that will ignore such actions anyway.

Want to hit her where it hurts? Take away her ability to make any future decisions regarding the PHX Art Scene, and make sure she remains in the Gulag until she understands why what she did was wrong. Because I can guarantee that three months from now, this will be old news where she’s concerned.

The cops are another problem altogether. See, the real underlying issue at play here is not Cindy’s snitching to the cops, it’s the relationship between the local community and the police- if I were to make an honest observation, I’ve seen warmer interaction between the cast of Glee and the Westboro Baptist Church.

So to say it’s not going well would be the mother of all understatements.

The cops claim they’re protecting the community, the anti-cop brigade says they’re terrorizing it. As with all differences of opinion, the actual truth lies somewhere in-between. I’ve been in the “scene” since 1991 or so, and have observed the gradual buildup of the police presence in downtown, as well as the commercial development of the surrounding area, so I do remember what it used to be like “back in the day” as us old white male dinosaurs are fond of saying.

Has it gotten worse? Well…. sort of, depending on what point of view you ascribe to, of course.

Yes, in the sense that seemingly, there exists no reasoned plan for true community development versus what amounts to a rapidly expanding collection of buildings currently adding to the giant heat sink that is Downtown. Granted, there are a few bright spots here and there, a public bike initiative is under development, for instance- but as a whole, there is a dearth of businesses that can help create that solidification of community we so desperately need.

We don’t need more bars downtown, we need more cafes, bookstores, coffee shops, and parks. Oh, and some form of shade would be really nice too- I’ve been told there are these things called “trees”, perhaps we should get a few more of those, or I don’t know… erect some damn sunscreens?

Either/or. I’m good with both.

Getting back on point, over the last few years, there’s been a growing influx of new residents, the demographic consisting of new condo/townhome owners and students attending the ASU campus downtown. With all this new blood comes the same old problems of society, disturbances, petty crime and the like.

Most of this crime is what is referred to as “soft crime”- think minor vandalism, petty theft, and the like, meaning that police aren’t really going to beat the bushes looking for the criminals who did it, unless they literally trip into luck and find them. Now I’m not saying that downtown has devolved into Gotham City, but with growth there always some form of mild cancer- for instance, I hear about bike thefts about six times a week, and there’s always a burglary story of the day, it seems.

Considering the huge incursion of college students, this is not to be unexpected, after all. Speaking from personal experience, most 20 somethings tend to go a bit wild first time out of the house, so the types of disturbances listed above are sort of par for the course. Leading naturally, to a more prominent police presence within the community.

Something that I myself have barely noticed outside of FF and other similar events. By way of gentle disclosure, I don’t live downtown, but I do spend an amazing amount of time there in regards to my business and social life, and quite honestly can count the number of unpleasant interactions I’ve had with the police on less than four fingers. That BTW, is over a span of fifteen years or so. Granted, since I don’t live there, I may not have the same base of reference than those who do, and I cheerfully will admit that.

But I also find it odd that despite all the claims of rampant abuse, I’ve never actually seen any of this so-called out of control activity. I’ve been to late-night raves, parties, bake-offs, BBQ’s, gatherings, shin digs, festivals, clam bakes, bon-fires, fetes, get-togethers, pot lucks, and soirees, yet I’ve never experienced any of what I would consider abusive authority. Maybe I’ve just been lucky. That could be the case.

Or maybe it’s something else. If I had a dime for every tale I’ve heard of abusive police, I could have retired already. Now, I’m not suggesting that abuse doesn’t happen, nor am I being an apologist for the PHX police department, because as a rule, I’m not the biggest fan of any law enforcement entity, not by a long shot.

I’m just saying that it strikes strange that it always seems to happen to a third party source. And for those of you who are now sputtering with unchecked and righteous anger, let me say it again: “I’m not the biggest fan of any law enforcement entity, not by a long shot. I’m not the biggest fan of any law enforcement entity, not by a long shot. I’m not the biggest fan of any law enforcement entity, not by a long shot. I’m not the biggest fan of any law enforcement entity, not by a long shot. I’m not the biggest fan of any law enforcement entity, not by a long shot.”

Having said that five times, I hope everybody understands that as a rule, I don’t like cops. However, I don’t really have an issue with them either- I’m just not a fan of authority in general, whether it be police, bureaucrats, or my boss, so don’t even waste effort on an attempt to slander me with the label of one who is a sympathetic collaborator, because I’m not. I am however, someone who deals in reality, and reality alone, so for me- its all about the facts. I do believe that at times, there are rampant and excessive abuses of police authority, wholly confirmed by the release of the report that exposed this clusterf**k in the first place.

Going one better, I also think that not all of this activity gets reported within the context of local media, as well. But when it comes to focused political activism, it’s also not too shocking that the authorities keep tabs on the key players as well as their worker bees. Anytime you go up against an established power base, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll encounter overkill when it comes to governmental interference, and it’s painfully naïve to think that you won’t.

Is it fair? F**K NO. Is it the reality? Sadly, yes.
 
Utopia is a wonderful concept, but it forgets to factor in one thing: people and all their hard-wired tendencies that undermine a truly collective effort. Involve more than ten people, and its almost certain that you’re going to have a myriad of issues within your movement. Factor in the police spying on you, and the mire increases exponentially.

As is my tendency, I soon jumped in on the various online forums, to offer my two cents about this situation, taking the position that perhaps having a sit-down with the “enemy” might be much more useful in fostering a solution- a nice, neat, common sense approach, as it were. Future suggestion to myself- I really need to learn to listen to my inner monologue, because that cat is wicked smart. His take on my getting involved ran like this:

“Why do you keep doing this to yourself? You know conversing with people who professionally couch-surf is a waste of logic, time and energy!”

That’s my problem… I apparently have the optimism of a four year old girl. Nevertheless, I dove in, thinking surely I could have a civil debate regarding the anti-cop sentiments being expressed in various declarations of anger and outright rage. Oh wait… I forgot that I was on the Internet, essentially the digital version of Tombstone back in 1878. No rules, anything goes, and you’re most likely dealing with someone who’s functionally illiterate.

Almost immediately, I found myself in the gun sights of two people, one calling herself “Ting Ting” and the other, a dude known only as “Justice”… I kid you not.

Essentially, I was facing down the principal cast of a Disney western. After posting my opinion that I personally felt that it was time for a sit-down, these two reacted with all the hissiness of a girl scout troop. Ting, in between all of her anti-cop and police state rhetoric, also felt the need for some reason to point out that I’m a white guy (thanks for that info) and that I was older than her, (your point being?) rather than actually debate what I had said.

This is why you do some research before you engage your chosen opponent- it makes you look less stupid. It’s always refreshing to have someone I’ve never met insult me based solely on gender and skin color, especially when you consider how much effort and art I’ve donated for the causes of Gay Rights, Equal Rights, Voting Rights, along with my numerous campaigns against Domestic Violence.

I’d also like to add that I’ve been dating an ardent Feminist for the last four years, so the thought that I happen to be a sexist pig due to the set of genitalia I was born with is laughable at best, asinine at worst. And as for my age, you’re supposed to treat your decrepit elders with some respect- just saying.

Oh yes. You’re all shades of morally superior… way to put me in my place, Tingbat. Because as we all know, us white males (at our core) just want to enslave the world using the dual chains of Capitalism and Sexism. [*In fact, this was actually the topic of our last Board Meeting at Hooters.]

So to have this ineffectual (and whiny) firebrand attempt to malign my character just because I dare to have a different POV than hers, and also happen to be a male, just makes me giggle like a... well, normally, I would say like a Japanese schoolgirl, but she would most likely label that’s as racially sexist dogma, so let me say instead that she makes me giggle in the manner of a drunken Pokemon.

She also added that she: “could believe in something, even if she didn’t practice it”. Thank you Lord, for the early Xmas gift. Remind me to get you something really nice.

What strikes as funny is that for all her bluster, several of my friends who are heavily involved within the Occupy Movement have pretty much dismissed her as nothing more than a huge pain in the ass, a claim I can easily believe, given her nature in regards to self-aggrandizement. My favorite take from one of these trusted sources concerning the anarchist backlash and some of it’s polarized members was this: “They’re basically the Juggalos of Activists”.

Ouch. That one stung, and I’m not even the target. I’ve noticed that when people are this polarized, they tend to overlook their obvious faults while simultaneously attacking their enemies for doing the exact same thing. Where I come from, that’s called hypocrisy, but what do I know? Apparently being an old white guy changes the definition of the word. Besides… I just can’t get upset with anyone who was seemingly named after a panda.

Justice, on the other hand, took an entirely different tack. Most people who have a differing POV usually launch a counter-argument, complete with bullet points, facts and conclusions. Justice took one look at that approach and decided that was just way too complicated, so he took the most logical and direct approach- he attacked my mustache... my “handlebar” mustache, to be more precise.

As anyone who’s met me in person knows, my “look”, (if you want to call it that) is styled very loosely after the one and only Ian Fraser Kilmister, better known as “Lemmy”- he is the lead vocalist, bassist, principal songwriter and the founding and sole constant member of the hard rock band Motorhead, as well as a former member of Hawkwind.

Granted, I’ve never taken as many drugs as him, but then again, I really am quite fond of breathing.

However, Lemmy has never had a handlebar mustache, nor have I- it’s just way too much work, and besides… have you priced moustache wax lately? It’s absolutely outlandish. Insulting me, I can easily live with that, but putting Lemmy on the same intellectual level as Snidely Whiplash… well, that’s just downright despicable, if not outright lazy. Slights regarding my hairline, pony-tail, and occasionally, my well-trimmed beard have been part of my detractors stock in trade as far back as I can remember- but this may be the first time anyone’s ever gone directly after the lip toupee.

Maybe that’s why he got the insult wrong. Maybe the pressure of being a lone trailblazer got to him, and he cracked. More likely, it’s that he doesn’t know a Chevron from an Imperial, and that’s just sad. Never let it be said that I don’t try to educate the youth as to what’s what.
[Link: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/moustache-styles-and-names.html]

Peppered with F-bombs, his already feeble argument proceeded to then degrade into a rambling discourse about the evils of Capitalism, it’s role in causing death and destruction around the globe, and how I was a “tool” for not seeing the truth that was right before my eyes, to which, I say this: For the love of Christ, please shut the f**k up already, you touchy tattooed twit.

With all due respect, I’m pretty certain that the marketing of my art and the feeding of my Ding Dong habit hasn’t wiped out any indigenous Indian tribes anywhere. But if I were to form a solid opinion regarding his pitiable inability to debate like an adult, I would speculate that it stems from his refusal to act like one.

It really is just that simple. See, I have no problems with Anarchists (or any political movement) per se, I just think that the refusal to see an opposing POV is somewhat short sighted, especially when the current stalemate between factions has lead to zero positive forward progress. On a side note, does anyone else think that being a member of an “organized anarchist movement” is kind of amusing, considering that the definition of Anarchist is defined as:

1. a person who advocates or believes in anarchy or anarchism.
2. a person who seeks to overturn by violence all constituted forms and institutions of society and government, with no purpose of establishing any other system of order.
3. a person who promotes disorder or excites revolt against any established rule, law, or custom.

No offense intended on any level, I just can’t see a bunch of people who hate authority and the concept of an organized system coming together to form…well, an organized system. In the end, there’s always a need for a Chief, so how in the heck do you select one when you’re anti-authority? No wonder so many within this group drink and smoke weed. It’s just gotta be a sheer living Hell to have to cope with so many contradictions prevalent within your belief system.

And for a group so seemingly above money and possessions, so above for operating within the system, I just have to ask this one simple question: if you hate cops so much, hate Capitalism so much, then why do you consistently avail yourself of both resources whenever it suits your need or purpose?

Hence the reason why I refer to many in the Downtown Community as “weekend anarchists”. They pull out that particular set of politics to hide behind whenever they feel the need to prove themselves morally and intellectually superior. As proof, here’s a snippet of something I wrote, and the response from one of the community’s noble defenders of the realm, referred to only by her initials:

ARTBitch: “Its been my experience that the artists screaming about gentrification, repression, and capitalism are usually the ones who've already taken themselves out of the box of success. And also generally refuse to see another side while demanding that they alone are correct.

Granted, I DO see the irony in my saying this, but if any progress is to be made regarding the viability of this scene, people need to sit down at the table, discuss the issues at hand and stop acting like a bunch of weekend anarchists.”

KT: you are so closed minded and ignorant.

ARTBitch: "Thanks for your insight. Ill just take my twenty years of working in the real world and go home then. have a nice day."

Did we all see that? I suggest that in the name of beneficial progress we sit together and find a solution, (a common sense approach) and one of the hypocrisy squadron immediately calls me narrow-minded and dim-witted.

Can you now understand why I seriously conjecture how these people have been able to survive so long without being eaten? Fortunately, I’m not completely alone regarding this conviction, as evidenced by this statement posted on my FB page:  “Ive never understood that logic to keep cops out of communities. And a lof of people we know feel this way. Yet their shit goes missing/ripped off on the daily, theres assaults and HARD drug busts all the time downtown.

Yep. Looks like the patchouli patrol is doing a great job of keeping them safe. Maybe they feel less safe because they are doing things that they shouldnt be. I cant even tell you how many times cops were NOT called to occurances downtown because people in the "community" wanted to keep the peace... but mostly because everyone was holding at the times this has happened.

And the next time I go to court for "solving my own problems", Ill just tell them my wack sense of libertarianism was supposed to save me.”

That was soon followed up by a response from Kevin Flanagan, Technical Director at Space 55 and Mindless Drone at The Cult of The Yellow Sign:
[Link to his blog: http://www.principlediscord.blogspot.com/]

“I'll speak from as neutral a standpoint as I can manage: police are to crime as firemen are to fires. By that, I mean that they don't really "stop" crime from happening, they are a "first response" to it having happened. If someone was talking about removing police from communities, communities would need to take steps to train everyone to act as a "first responder."

This, of course, raises difficult questions- each community member would have to be trained in a wide variety of skills, from first aid and conflict resolution to martial skills and other dangerous operations. From where does this training come?

Who are the first trainers? Where did their experience come from?


This training would need to address use of authority, how it can be asserted safely and respectfully, and ways to effectively mobilize in matters of emergency. This is where it gets complicated, because we are not talking about a peace-keeping team of citizens, but a trained and armed militia holding down every city block across the city. That doesn't sound like freedom to me, it sounds like fucking Starship Troopers.

What street level idealists tend to imagine is "schmolice," a group of police-like policers policeing, who aren't police, but citizens helping citizens. Newsflash- that's police. There are alternatives to organized police forces, but most of them aren't pretty and don't work in large, urban settings.


It's not antianarchist to desire a group of citizens to take on the mantle of organized peace-keeping. It's not black-hoodie-crass-patch anarchy, no doubt, but the major problem with that particular brand of anarchistic thought is that it places no value whatsoever on the lives and purpose of anyone who wears a different uniform.

Police officers are people, working class people, under the same boot as everyone else- with children, families, and the same problems everyone in the current structure faces. Our 'little community' is chooses to demonize rather than communicate, where the truth is that self-governance comes from grassroots outreach.


By involving the PEOPLE wearing the uniforms in your community, they cease to be blue-clad automatons and you cease to be dreadlocked roustabouts. However, that isn't cool, so no one is going to reach that hand out to begin that cultural acclimation because, let's face it, the average person hanging out downtown isn't working class, and doesn't understand a police officers life or motivations.

That's right- I called the guy playing guitar a classist.”


Nicely stated, Kevin. But I’m afraid it will fall on deaf ears, given the grudges involved.

Sadly, there are some who will see only what they want to see, and add subtext where there never was any. And despite the obvious benefits of both parties sitting down at the table and finding a workable solution, the impasse remains current and steadfast- and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, whether it be for the better or for the worse.

So my advice to both parties? Get over yourselves, or you’ll never get past this.
And when we come back…

I finally tackle Richard Bledsoe’s obsession with a pure soapbox, and I see whether or not I can still walk into an alternative coffeehouse.

“You cannot compromise unless people talk to you.”- Aung San Suu Kyi









2 comments:

  1. Lovely treatise on desperate lives.You make it all so glamourous! My coffee thanks you, from its steamy heart to my lips: KUDOS, Cher!

    ReplyDelete