UNDERGROUND ROOTS (1998)

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UNDERGROUND ROOTS (1998)

I was walking through the forest one day not long ago with a couple of my friends, everything green and lush and so different than anything I know from growing up in the big city. We were surrounded by these huge two-thousand year old trees stretching with knots and tendrils into the sky and there was thick moss hanging down from the branches like old mens beards. My friend Tim was explaining to me how all the trees are connected underground, communicating with their roots in intricate networks and water systems. He made me realize for the first time how the language and culture we grew up with makes our minds split up a forest into individual trees and rocks and streams when the reality is that it's really more like one great creature with separate parts all working together. The longer the trees grow, the more their roots form together under the earth and the tighter their connections become.
The men who own the lumber companies envision the forests of the future as vast tree farms: straight rows harvested in squares, purely a cash crop, something to be cultivated for the optimum amount of years and then cut and replanted with no memory of what came before. They dont factor in the natural cycles of death and rebirth that occur when old trees decompose and create the materials for new eco-systems to thrive. Theyre not much interested in the animals and the insects or even us people for that matter. Theyre solely interested in cold profit and the efficiency of the monoculture.
Walking through the forest that day, feeling the earth under my feet and all around me, I wondered if the trees all the way down in the jungles of South America could feel it when the trees up here in Headwaters forest get clearcut. If the trees have global solidarity like me and my people, underground roots that stretch across continents.
Later that day we were on the highway driving back to the city of Oakland and I started thinking about my friends and our connections, how slowly our roots become more deeply intertwined over time. I started thinking about how the people I know create paths for themselves leading in all sorts of directions but the longer theyre all around, the more I watch them meet each other and figure out ways to work together, play off each others energy and create community together. The longer were around each other and the older we get, the tighter we become. I started thinking more about the city and how it's not some insane drive that always brings me back to these paved streets and stacks of concrete boxes and light and noise. What always seems to bring me back to the city is the people: your people and my people and the chance they might meet each other on some street corner in the middle of the night and do something beautiful together someday.
I thrive off of the energy of all you people, its what gets me up in the morning. Knowing my friends are all out there somewhere struggling through their daily lives just like me somehow keeps me going no matter what kind of situation I find myself in the middle of. And in the end its the human stuff I get really excited about: working on projects with other people and sculpting collective visions with everyones ideas. Sometimes its just the little things: yawning in a room full of people and watching a bunch of other people yawn in a chain reaction. Bonding with a group of my friends and over time picking up each others mannerisms and lingo. Meeting my friends' friends from the other side of the country and noticing that they have the same speech patterns and hand gestures because they come from the same town. Listening to all my traveling friends talk and hearing their crazy mix of accents. Knowing I can remember where I picked up some of my accents and knowing where they picked up some of theirs. Knowing that its just other parts of the country or other parts of the world and different scenes or different branches of the same scene and knowing in the end that we really are all just like a bunch of trees. The trick is to figure out how we can all work together and not get ourselves cut down, how we can figure out ways to create our visions and hold each other up through this long struggle ahead.
Weve had enough of the monoculture of the suburbs and the strip malls and weve had enough of the cut-throat efficiency of global capitalism -- its time to see death and rebirth and race mixing gone wild and hybrids of cultures flourishing in cities all over the world. I want to see the prisons burn and new societies that respect life and accept differences and change rise from the ashes of this war torn planet. I want to see people put justice as a first priority in the economy instead of the interests of a few people living far away from any of us in gated communities somewhere. I want to see an equitable distribution of power and I want to see people growing their own food and fuel for their engines on large tracts of communally owned land. I want to see people taking power away from the heads of transnational corporations and creating locally based cooperatives and councils to make their voices heard. I want to see local unity and global solidarity.
Theres my wishes for the year. Time to get crackin.
Happy New Year to all my friends out there struggling for justice and change in whatever way, shape, or form and all my friends struggling to find a place for themselves in this crazy world, whatever paths they find themselves walking:
To those of my friends teaching the new generation of kids in the classrooms, in the jails, on the streets, or in their homes. To those of my friends out on the front lines working and living in communities under attack by the police and militaries here in this country or on the other side of the border or world. To those of my friends organizing in their communities to keep big business and development interests and condos and toxic waste and whatever else out of their neighborhoods. To those of my friends building the bridges between people of different cultures who have the same common goals but havent yet figured out how to talk to each other. To those of my friends putting pressure on big businesses and figuring out creative ways of protesting in the streets, to everyone doing solidarity work with communities other than their own because they realize in the end were all responsible for looking after each other. To those of my friends distributing and publishing all the important information and creating safe spaces for people to gather and think and create radical community together. To the teachers at the free schools and the organizers of the infoshops and bookstores. To those of my friends who are working in the homeless shelters and substance abuse programs, working late night at the suicide hotlines and setting good examples for people around them with their victories against addiction. To those of my friends still struggling with addiction who know theyre going to kick one day. To those of my friends sitting alone in the old libraries digging up all the forgotten radical history to keep us inspired and remind us of our legacies and potentials, our mistakes and our victories. To those of my friends sitting alone at computer terminals on-line somewhere researching corporate crimes and hidden black budgets, dreaming of revenge. To those of my friends studying natural medicine and midwifery, working at the free clinics and trying to create alternatives to the pharmaceutical industry and heal themselves and all of us from the damage of being raised in a toxic world. To those of my friends who have decided to work within the system and are struggling through the layers of bureaucracy with a vision of creating an alternative infrastructure on a mass scale. To those of my friends writing grant proposals and figuring out ways to direct resources and money into programs and communities who need it a lot more than the businessmen and the stock brokers. To those of my friends who have chosen a path outside the system and are busy off on land growing food and experimenting with sustainable and renewable models on small scales, struggling to survive off the grid and figuring out how to reconnect with the earth. To those of my friends in the middle of the city who are making things from everybody elses trash including their homes and figuring out creative ways to recycle and reuse everything, blazing the paths of the future from the stuff of the past. To those of my friends who are documenting the world around us: writing the stories, painting the paintings, singing the songs, playing the music, dancing the dances, using all their talents to make this world a better place. To those of my friends writing the articles and getting them published and to those of my friends building up the network of alternative media, putting out the magazines and broadcasting the radio stations. To those of my friends who are badly paid labor organizers struggling for the rights of badly paid workers and to those of my friends who are badly paid workers just plain struggling. To those of my friends locking themselves down to big machinery and tearing up the roads to keep the forests from getting destroyed. To those of my friends who never cared much about or got fed up with the politics a long time ago but still realize change comes from within and do unto the people in their daily lives like they would do unto themselves. Much love and respect.
You all inspire the hell out of me.

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