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Digitized by the Internet Archive 
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War Heads 

Introduction and editorials by Med-o, Bean, Zoe Noe, Prinnitivo 

Arsumince & Fax 

From our readers 

Not OUI" Owns Demystifying Goals and 
Methods of "Progressive Work" 

Analytical Tale of Toil by Steven Colatrella 

Progressive Pretensions 

Tale of Toil by Kwazee Wabbitt 

Aaah! HIP Capitalists! 

fiction by Chris Carlsson 

Ambivalent Nemories of 
Virtual Community 

Analytical Tale of Toil by G.S. Williamson 

There Goes The 
Neishborhoodt It 

Tale of Toil by Glenn Caley Bachmann 

Beatnik Nanagersy Tye-Dye 

Bureaucrats, and Corporate 
All-Purpose Tofu Paste 16 

Tale of Toil by Robert Ovetz 

Iff I Die Beffore 
I Wake 19 

Fiction by Jim Lough 

Poetry 40 

Bergamino, Conant, Harter, King, 
Lazzara, Michele C, Miller, West 

Adventures In The 
Huck-lt Research 
Game 41 

"Fiction" by Art Tinnitus 

A Trade Reporter's 
Report 46 

Tale of Toil by Frank Wilde 

Post-Nodern Pensees 49 

Poetry by Paula Orlando 

Kelly Girrs Good Job 50 

Tale of Toil by Kelly Girl 



VDT update, Disney Revolution?, Poll Tax Revolt, & More! 

Lessons In Democracy SS 

Poetry by Adam Cornford 

From The Grey Ranks: 
Graffiti in War & Peace in Poland 56 

Interview with Tomasz Sikorski by D.S. Black 

Art & Chaos in Brazil 61 

Interview with Ze Carratu 

Harvey Pekar 

Article by klipschutz 

Reviews < 

Frog, Morales, Black, Carlsson 

Texas: Penury off Plenty. 

Tale of Texan Toil by Salvador Ferret 


Front Cover by Angela Bocage 
Back Cover by Trixie T-Square 

Processed World is a project of the Bay Area 
Center for Art & Technology, a California non- 
profit, tax-exempt corporation. BACAT can be 
written to at 1095 Market Street, Suite 209, San 
Francisco. CA 94103, USA or phoned at (415) 
626-2979, or faxed at (415) 626-2685. or E-mailed 
at pwmag^ 


Michael Botkin, Frog, Bean, Glenn 
Caley Bachmann, Chris Carlsson, 
D.S. Black, Ellen K., Louis Michael- 
son, Primitive Morales, Nell Miller, 
Denim Dada, Salvador Ferret, 
klipschutz, Med-o, Rachel D. Chaz 
Bufe, Jay Stone 

Graphics: Trixie T-Square, J.R.S., 
V.T. Voss, Chris Carlsson, Angela 
Bocage, Zoe Know-lt-AII, Louis 
Michaelson. Paula Pieretty, 
Joven. Rachel J. Rick Gerhar- 
harter. Kit Miller, Chaz Bufe, 
Tom Tomorrow, James 
Carman, IB. Nelson. E. 
Tumbaie. Doug Minkler, 
and many others. . . 

The contents of this magazine 
■eflect the ideas and fantasies of 
the specific authors and artists, and 
lot necessarily other contributors, 
editors, or BACAT. 


Summer 1991 

ISSN 0735-9381 

41 Sutter Street #1829 

San Francisco . CA 94104. USA 

Processed World is collectively 
produced & edited: only the printer 
and the post office get paid. 

War Heads 

This special double issue marks Processed World's 
10th anniversary, a milestone nobody envisioned 
at the beginning, or even halfway along! This 
issue, which we've been working on for more than six 
months, happens to be our first during the Persian Gulf 
War, which, contrary to reports, is only just beginning. 
This is reflected in the gallery of oppositional creativity 
throughout the magazine, and in the continuation of this 
opening editorial by our friends Med-o, Primitive Morales, 
Bean, and Zoe Noe. 

The main theme of this issue— "The 
Good Job" — serves as a rejoinder to 
the most common criticism of Processed 
World's bad work attitude: "If you 
don't like your job, why don't you 
find one you do like?" As it turns out, 
by virtue of our class, race, education, 
predispositions, talent and owing to the 
peculiar U.S. history of Work 
during the past decade, Processed 
Worlders have often managed to escape 
the blatant misery of working in dead- 
end jobs directly for Corporate 
America. We have found jobs with 
"progressive" organizations, started our 
own businesses, found academic jobs, 
well-paid freelance work. Otherwise, we 
continue to work for low wages but 
part-time in self-managed or 
"alternative" businesses, sometimes 
cooperatively or collectively owned. 
And for some of us, the Good Job is a 
well-paid, low-hassle niche in a techni- 
cal writing, programming, or such like 
department in a larger institution. 

So, are these jobs better? Are they 
changed by our involvement in them? 
Or are we changed by our jobs? Or 
both? Does our willing participation 
diminish the alienating qualities inevi- 
tably present in any job, "progressive," 
"alternative," or otherwise? What is 
the relationship between the specific 
purpose and content of a job and its 
categorization as good or bad? What if 
it still consists of stuffing envelopes or 
processing mailing lists? And what role 
is played by the relationships estab- 
lished with co-workers? What are the 
criteria of good jobs? Meaning? 
Pleasure? Money? Creative challenge? 
Social benefit? Freedom from super- 

vision? These are the questions this 
issue of Processed World sets out to 
address in more than a half dozen 
pieces from a variety of people dis- 
cussing a multiplicity of jobs. 

In finding good, or at least better, 
accommodation to the status quo, 
what have we gained or lost? In some 
cases we gain a greater sense of mean- 
ing, the sense that our work is con- 
tributing to a better life. In other 
cases, our work may not be intrinsi- 
cally meaningful, but autonomy on the 
job allows us to pursue what we do 
consider meaningful, or leaves us more 
energy after work to do what we want. 
Most common, perhaps, is a confused 
and contradictory search for meaning 
and autonomy, responsibility and 
respect, and of course financial security. 
Because this society is remarkably 
retarded in examining worklife, our 
rationalizations and explanations tend 
to jump around from reason to reason, 
and each of us is finally forced into 
unpleasant compromises. 

For some, a sixty-hour week in a 
community organization with a low 
salary and "comp time" is justified by 
the feeling that at least one is helping 
people. Genuine help and service is 
often paid by the relief and gratitude 
of the served; the social contact can, 
at times, take on the qualities of a 
"perk." Another person's forty-hour 
week is accepted on the grounds of a 
good medical insurance plan, a lenient 
boss and a light workload— plenty of 
time for personal phone calls, writing 
projects, and so forth. The qualities of 
a job that we call "good" are highly 
varied. In identifying them we can 

begin to flesh out something of what 
we're fighting for. 

On the other hand, good jobs also 
satisfy needs of the ruling order. Often 
they "buy off' the most creative, moti- 
vated, and potentially subversive indi- 
viduals. When we find ourselves in a 
"good" niche, our organizing, agitation, 
and politically dissident energies tend 
to migrate away from our own imme- 
diate circumstances, reinforcing a 
broader political disengagement from 
workplace politics in general. If we 
consider our own "deal" to be a 
relatively good one, we are not so 
compelled to embrace a radical, 
directly democratic movement that 
recognizes the workplace as the locus 
of social power. 

One big question, then, that arises 
from this issue's theme (and also from 
the historic impasse of all workers' 
movements), is what kind of new 
methods, formal or not, can we 
develop to make practical our gen- 
eralized opposition to this society, 
while retaining and expanding the 
good qualities of our current worklives? 
How can we reject Work as a social 
institution, and reclaim our right to a 
useful, meaningful, enjoyable, autono- 
mous, and democratic engagement 
with the activities we decide we really 

What exactly do we want from 
Work? Processed World has advocated a 
Bad Attitude toward Work, even the 
abolition of Work as such. But what 
does this mean in the real world of 
contrived scarcity, massive poverty and 
deprivation, ecological holocaust, and 
pandemic apathy and cynicism about 
the prospects for a better life? Don't 
our jobs, even our "good" jobs, contri- 
bute directly and indirectly to propping 
up this insane way of life? But what 
about all the things we do as part of 
our society's aggregate workload that 
are useful, do provide pleasure — for us 
as workers and for those we care 
about? How can we develop a language 
that appreciates the various impulses 
that go into Work? 

Anyway, our personal feelings and 
needs are by no means the only con- 
cern about Work. Our most public 
secret, in fact, may be the practical 
unconsciousness most of us bring to our 
participation in this complex, highly 
socialized aspect of human existence. 
Completely absent from most current 
discussions of freedom and democracy 
is any concern for the missing social 

Page 2 

PROCESSED WORLD 126/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 


with the cooperation of all TV networks 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 3 


"We never expected they would 
take all of Kuwait." 
—former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, 
April Glaspie, quoted in post-invasion 
u report in NY Times. 

t Barbarism, Unlimited 

A Transnational Partnership of War Criminals 

process that would allow democratic 
participation and control over what we 
as a society decide is worth doing. 
And once this is decided, what would 
be a sensible, healthy way to realize a 
specific social desire? In other words, 
who wants what, and who is willing to 
do what, to achieve it? And can it be 

done in an ecologically sound way? 

The Economy, Growth, the Nation, 
and Money/Debt are all popular 
myths (fictions) about the proper cate- 
gories for analyzing life. They are also 
globally enforced institutions that 
compel routine mass murder, from 
industrial accidents, by way of toxic 
spills, to mass starvation. The Work 
we seek to abolish is the 10-50% of 
every job and the 100% of millions of 
jobs whose sole function is the creation 
or manipulation of financial/property 
data (especially banking, real estate, in- 
surance, and speculative markets), or 
anything to do with the war-making 
capabilities of modern nation states. It 
also includes the massive reproduction 
of shoddy, planned-obsolescent goods, 
the vast production of toxic or simply 
wasteful waste, the endless record-keep- 
ing that begins at birth and follows us 
into the grave, and so on. With the 
elimination of 70% of all the Work 
done in our society, we could all work 
far less, have what we need and want, 
and live a great deal better! 

The basic human impulse to alter 
the physical conditions of life is a 
healthy one. The desire for material 
comfort is a natural and healthy need 
too, albeit a socially constructed and 
culturally defined one. Starting from 
this, it should be possible for people to 
match themselves with the things they 
like to do, that also produce the things 
we want, and to do it in the most 
ecologically sensible way. These, rather 
than worrying about the health of an 
abstraction called "The Economy," 
should be the basic concerns of 
modern life. 

We seek the abolition of Work as a 
separate sphere, the end of a society in 
which "real life" begins after work. A 
perverse society indeed, whose people 
voluntarily (even eagerly) enslave them- 
selves to an agenda over which they 
have no control, in exchange for 
money to purchase commodities — and, 
increasingly, experiences. 

Our society is lapsing into barbarism 
on every side, yet few feel passionate 
enough to imagine, much less act 
toward, social revolution. Isn't it about 
time that the bleak fears of late capi- 
talism are determinedly pushed aside 
for good? Are we capable of popu- 
larizing a new language for our daily 
activities, a new engagement with the 
existential challenges of our lives, a 
definitive break with the logic of 
buying and selling? Isn't it about time 
we became serious about a pleasurable 


In this issue we provide the reflec- 
tions of a seasoned veteran of union 
and left organization jobs around the 
East in hlot Our Own; a disgruntled ex- 
food co-op worker in Austin, Texas, in 
Beatnik Managers, Tye-Dye Bureaucrats; a 
jaded programmer at the progressive 
Community Memory Project of Berkeley, 
Ambivalent Memories of Virtual Community; 
a hemmed-in investigative journalist at a 
large product-oriented computer publica- 
tion, A Trade Reporter's Report; the re- 
turn of Kelly Girl, now a freelance writer; 
an itinerant white-collar hobo down on 
his luck in Texas, Penury of Plenty; a refu- 
gee of both a trotskyist sect and a progres- 
sive greeting card company, Progressive 
Pretensions; a veteran of focus-group 
marketing scams. Adventures in the Muck- 
it Research. Game; and a thoughtful in- 
sider's critique of an S.F. neighborhood 
recycling center, There Goes The Neigh- 
borhood! This theme really struck a nerve. 
We also present interviews with two 
graffiti artists on opposite sides of the 
world— Tomasz Sikorski in Warsaw 
Poland, and Ze Carratu in Sao Paulo 
Brazil, along with samples of local 
work in the medium. Bringing the two 
themes together is klipschutz's article 
on comic book writer Harvey Pekar of 
American Splendor fame. 

Angela Bocage found time to do this 
issue's front cover and have a baby 
(with Green Fuschia. . . Wow! Super- 
Mom storms Processed World!) A bunch 
of good poetry, letters and graphics 
are also included, as always, along with 
the resuscitation of our DOWNTIME! 
section, highlighting a different look at 
the recently passed VDT legislation in 
San Francisco. We are initiating with 
this issue a review section, which will 
feature both long and short reviews of 
books, magazines, movies, theater, and 
whatever else strikes our collective fancy. 

As always we depend on you, our 
readers, for everything. Without your 
comments and letters we get depressed 
and sometimes bored. Without your 
creative submissions, we don't have 
enough material. Without your money 
we can't afford our printing and 
mailing bills. So you know what to do! 

Processed World 

41 Sutter St. #1829, S.F., CA 94104. USA 
. tel. 415-626-2979 / fax 415-626-2685 

Page 4 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 






I like the slogan "Bring the Troops 
Home Alive!" For me it carries broad 
philosophical dimensions. I want them 
to return ALIVE— not merely in the 
sense of not needing to be carried 
back, but ALIVE in every sense of the 
word; as thinking, feeling beings ready 
to challenge the present regime of 
brutality and senseless slaughter; read 
to fight for a new world that we would 
all want to be ALIVE in! 

It's important to acknowledge the 
degrees to which most, if not all, of us 
are complicit in society's war machine, 
even if we're not the ones in uniform. 
It's obvious that the "volunteer army" 
is rarely voluntary in terms of actually 
making free choices. Often mentioned 
is the reality of the so-called "poverty 
draft," in which joining the military 
seems to be the only escape from 
severe scarcity, unemployment and 
starvation. Another type of de facto 
"draft" could be labeled a "boredom 
draft." In a Generican society which 
offers so little in the way of real ad- 
venture, the armed forces might seem 

fulfilling by comparison— even if you 
are living someone else's adventure. In 
a society that accumulates pent-up 
anger and bitterness while offering no 
constructive ways to release it, one 
might be enticed to sign up for a "rage 
draft." It's not listed on the recruiting 
posters, but the military is one of the 
only officially sanctioned avenues that 
promises an outlet for one's accumu- 
lated aggression. One might also want 
to consider the "alienation draft." In 
an atomized society that manufactures 
loneliness, the military can appear to 
offer a much-craved sense of identity, 
community, and security. 

While it's important to understand 
each person's particular set of circum- 
stances, that still doesn't justify being 
part of a killing machine. The most 
important question remains: What are 
you going to do about it? I believe that 
when significant opposition to war and 
its machinery do emerge, some of the 
most important leadership will arise 
from those who are now in the war or 
say they support it. Those in uniform 
are in a unique position to see first- 

hand the horrors of war, and are in a 
unique position to be able to challenge 
it! — Zee Noe 


Eh . . . Amigos ... let me tell you 
about these pinche yanquis and their 
war machine. 

A friend of mine (one Salvador 
Ferret) said that Americans are dromo- 
maniacs — a $25 word that means 
"sleepwalkers." They endlessly do 
things and then are horrified at the 
consequences; they live in a world of 
continual surprise, a world of their 
own making. 

They value convenience over all else; 
inconvenience is the true social crime 
here. And they will do anything to get 
more money, to "get ahead," as they 
call it. Join the military to go to 
college ... but if they aren't smart 
enough to see the consequences of the 
military career, are they smart enough 
to benefit from college? Or run the 
high-tech equipment needed for 
modern war? 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 


A resident of Santo Domingo, after 
the U.S. invaded to get rid of an 
elected president, asked a black U.S. 
Marine why he didn't go back home 
and fight to liberate his people. The 
reply— "You going to pay me more?"— 
sums up, in a nutshell, the American 

And the Yanquis seem to be unaware 
of their military— one of the most for- 
midable machines in history. . .paid for 
by all of them for all of their lives 
(well, since WWII). . .and they pretend 
that it does NOTHING, especially 
when it is in the barracks at home. 
They ignore (willfully? out of 
stupidity?) the military's enormous 
influence, domestically and interna- 
tionally. The bastards have been 
bombing around the world, mining 
harbors, doing shit for decades, but 
these brain-dead humanists only wake 
up when it looks as if Americans might 
get killed. Nothing else matters. 

South Africa's invasion of Angola? 
Indonesia's invasion of East Timor? 
The terrible bloodshed of Guatemala, 
the executions in El Salvador by injec- 
tion of sulfuric acid? . . . But they re- 
main silent (well . . . there are some 
who aren't total vendidos). 

And their leaders are so honest, so 
smart, so wise. . .you can see the joy in 

people's faces every day . . . nightmare 
poverty and discrimination, boredom 
and sanitized bullshit everywhere. 

The fuckers will kill anybody, 
destroy anything, in pursuit of their 
comfort and convenience. And they 
will never take responsibility for their 
own actions . . . never. 

The technological prowess and 
bloodless (for the Americans) victories, 
along with the need to divert attention 
from ever-mounting domestic problems, 
will guarantee more wars in the future. 
Let their enemies kill as many of them 
as possible . . . Let them realize that war 
is no game, that their privileges are 
bought at terrible cost, their lives up- 
holstered and comfortable and unreal. 
Maybe they will learn, but probably 
not, for they have all taken of that 
good old "milk of amnesia." They are 
all good Germans. 

i jodidosl "Peace!" they cry, but there 
is no peace; nor should there be until 
there is justice for all of us. Their 
"peace" is war on all the rest of us . . . 
at least when they're all romping in 
the Middle East they are not as 
capable of inflicting murder in the rest 
of the world. Me? I'm learning to 

goose-step— a useful skill in the "new" 
world order. —Primitive Morales 


"What will become of men who have lost 
the habit of thinking with faith about the 
meaning and scope of their actions? The 
best of them, the ones whom l^ature 
anoints with a sacred desire for the future, 
will lose, in a painful and unheeded 
annihilation, all incentive to bear the 
brunt of life's sordid aspects; and the 
masses, the common people, the materially- 
minded, the average man, will unright- 
eously beget a race of empty-headed 
children, will raise to the level of es- 
sentials the faculties intended to be 
nothing more than instruments, and will 
perplex the incurable torments of the soul, 
which delight only in the beautiful and 
grand, with the bustle of an ever incom- 
plete prosperity." —]ose Marti 

Speak to someone at least once a 
day about the war. Think about it at 
least once a day. Even if it's officially 
over when you read this. Skip TV. 
Other media-heads. Just think about it. 

Freedom is not free will. Free will 
implies personal debate when making 
decisions. Question what you 
read — even this! 

For close to four years, I waitressed 
and tended bar in Norfolk, Virginia 
while I was a student at Old Dominion 
University. Norfolk has one of the 
largest naval bases in the country. The 
city is made up of local people from 
everywhere else. Most of my clientele, 
besides local fishermen and crabbers, 
were college students, railroad workers 
from Ohio waiting to be transferred 
home, and those we labeled "Squids," 
the mostly male sailors. Sometimes 
they would be out to sea and there 
would be a slight decrease in business. 
But when they docked they docked 
loudly. At one point in a year, the 
head waitress found out the ship's 
schedule beforehand and phoned to 
warn the staff. 

When I was bartending, I managed 
to get over the "gender thing" because, 
if anything at all, we became parental 
figures for them, or better yet, thera- 
pists. We learned to do a lot of listen- 
ing, mostly about trying to maintain 
various relationships through the mail. 
I became friends with some of them, 
although the military has always been 
a hot spot in my own ideological 
schema, as the quintessence of a pat- 
riarchal society. Nevertheless, I have 

attempted, with tattered patience, to 
change them somehow, through con- 
versation. Now, after all those conver- 
sations, I believe they honestly thought 
they had no other alternative to mili- 
tary service . Just as I am in debt with 
government loans, and will probably 
have to bartend again someday; like 
them, I feel I had no other alternative. 

I tried to challenge my military 
friends' belief systems using their own 
arguments: "Thou shalt not worship 
false idols" — a country, a president, a 
flag; "Thou shalt not kill"-WAR. I 
don't know if it ever worked. I do 
know they listened. We were around 
the same ages, born somewhere 
between 1962 and 1967. Popular 
culture, music, film, TV, was easy 
enough to talk about. But politics and 
intellectual discourse, like most intel- 
ligent dialogue, was tense and blocked 
by our various attitudes toward lan- 
guage. Their 's was rational, moral, and 
technical. Mine was abstract, 
emotional, based in the creative arts. 
Our main similarity, though, was our 
desire for knowledge. Knowledge that 
would secure a comfortable position 
within a capitalist society is what 
brought us all to Norfolk. 

The armed forces is another univer- 
sity dividing individual interests into 
parts of the military nucleus. This hap- 
pens in most formal institutions. The 
success of a capitalistic society is to 
insure each stroke of the engine yields 
proper supply while simultaneously 
demanding it. This is learned behavior. 

We who are fortunate enough to 
have learned the skills and knowledge 
required for particular jobs, we who 
choose to sacrifice some part of our 
existence somehow grin and "bare" it. 
We may slave somewhere to pay back 
loans or possibly commit murder, even 
if our moral code condemns such a 
thing. We, the educated, pervertedly 
become the "fortunate" ones. Or may- 
be one day we wake up and really it's 
a big ol' game of Monopoly, and we're 
the little silver dog or thimble or iron, 
going around in circles until we fall off 
the board. Or maybe not! The Ameri- 
can ideology offers a path to false 
security, the "Good Job." That's what 
people in the military are victims of, 
and so are most college students, and 
workers of various collar colors. 

As Americans, we're prone to create 
a Demonology of the Other, those 
who don't have this great American 
chance. Bush is doing it with Hussein 

Page 6 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

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as is Hussein, in George's game, with 
Bush. For me, the Other is a concept 
constructed from greed. Greed is ex- 
cessive desire willing to sacrifice 
someone else' loss. 

Personally, I think we should send 
all the professional athletes in America 
to fight it out for Bush since athletics 

were formed in ancient Rome to train 
the men as warriors. But that's a bit 
sexist of me, isn't it? Well, send the 
cheerleaders too!! 

Racism, poverty, hunger, disease, 
and now War, are all realities. War 
sacrifices all life for ideals. Someone 
else's ideals. 

Remind yourself to think about war 
because thinking for ourselves is true 
freedom, and true education. That's 
what military personnel have ceased to 
do. Many are probably in the process 
of changing their minds and they have 
my support. But I'm concerned here 
with those who haven't or never will. 
Remember to question everything you 
want until no one is affected but your- 
self. Including this! 

— Bean 

GOOD (sic) JOB 

It is a psychic tranquilizer. It's a drug 
we are given as children. As adults 
most of us stay heavily addicted. A 
few, very few, are "in recovery." 

Actually it is more than a drug: it's 
a way of life, an identity. It is often 
the ultimate justification for a most 
common, self-destructive daily ritual. 
As a covert, widespread tool of social 
control it's as strong as nationalism and 
institutional religion. It is the belief, the 
faith, in "the good job." 

Nowhere is this more striking than 
for those who get paid to inflict and 
receive violence. This is the soldier's 
job. What convoluted inner deceptions 
would allow you to justify such self- 
destructive behavior? There are many 
familiar explanations that seem valid: 
escape from a bleak future of poverty, 
camaraderie as part of a larger mission, 
thrills from the prospect of glory and 
adventure, human bonds formed in a 
group struggle to survive. But there is 
another explanation never put forth. 
A big part of accepting war-work is the 
misleading quest for the "good job." 
Nowhere else is there such a com- 
pelling need to ignore the downside 
and dwell on the comparative advan- 
tages. Talk about an unsafe workplace! 
You can be sure the half-million U.S. 
war-workers in the Persian Gulf are 
not protected by OSHA. In fact, a 
recent court decision subjects them to 
experimental drugs without consent! Is 
there any other vocation millions of 
men (and now women) would be con- 
sciously willing to risk their lives for? 

This must be the ultimate "good 

job"— something you believe in enough 
to die for. TTiere is no mucking around 
about job performance here: produc- 
tivity literally means survival. There is 
no question about the self-interest in a 
job well done. It's understandable... 
and totally unacceptable. 

During the many large street protests 
in San Francisco against the US war 
to control the Middle East there has 
been a compassionate but awfully 
wrong-headed line from anti-war 
protesters to "Bring Our Troops 
Home." WTiat a cruel absurdity— they're 
definitely not my nor any of my friends' 
troops; we don't want them in the 
Middle East, Europe, Korea, or here. 
All this lamebrained leftist cringing 
about the economic and racist draft, 
while factually true, doesn't give 
anyone license to work the killing 
fields. The same rationale could excuse 
the Nazis just doing their job in Hitler's 
original call for a "new world order." 
There is no justification for taking a 
job that potentially involves killing 
people. This misguided compassion for 
"our" troops also denies the dignified, 
human choice made by all those who 
suffer from the same (or worse) 
multiple oppressions and don't line up 
in the military chow line. 

Those are the people I support, those 
are the people with whom I want to be 
in solidarity. If you are willing to 
accept being paid to kill people and 
you don't take any responsibility to 
think about it or challenge your initial 
naivete — we are in fundamental oppo- 

Though not as graphically, the rest 
of us face the same predicament. My 
experience is that almost every working 
person in the US has an inner psycho- 
logical "justifier" that cleverly makes 
their job "the good job." For a tiny 
minority this is a conscious, rational 
understanding based on objective 
conditions. For a much larger minority, 
it is a conscious but false projection 
blatantly contradicted by their actual 
work conditions: the hard-working 
redneck proudly boasting he dug a 
ditch the fastest and best and the 
driven middle manager strutting how 
smoothly she finished a complicated 
project, both exemplars of stereotypical 
"good attitudes" which produce the 
delusion of the "good job." 

But it is a third kind of inner 
justifier that afflicts the vast majority 
of us. We live under a powerful 
cultural ethic that the work we do for 


PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

money should be the basis of our 
personal identity. At the same time, 
we're forced to earn money or be vic- 
timized by poverty. So, we have to 
form some kind of "armed truce" with 
our psyche to make our job OK, or 
better, or best of all, good. Perhaps the 
most common and binding truce is the 
belief that "at least in my job I'm bet- 
ter off than the poor sot over there!" 
The feeling of comparative advantage 
can be based on more money, shorter 
hours, perks, relative autonomy, close 
bonds with co-workers, or innumerable 
other subjective feelings. Everyone I've 
met affirms comparative advantages in 
one way or another. 

And why not? After all, if we are 
forced to work to escape poverty— we 
may not like it— but we can at least get 
the best shake possible. This is 
survival, basic self-interest. But it 
shouldn't be considered the only route. 

The internal construction of the 
good (actually, comparatively better) 
job is the result of the normal 
trajectory in most people's work 
history. Often as teenagers we begin 
working in low-paying, low-status jobs 
and "work our way up." We would be 
chumps not to advance into better 
jobs — however we may personally 
define them. But this process usually 
gets confused with an insidious career- 
ist ideology, particularly after we hit 
thirty. The prevailing notion is 
someone working a "bad" job is at 
fault and therefore inadequate. In this 
twisted way we blame ourselves for a 
perverse social system, since self-blame 
negates the facts of class, race, and 
gender oppression, as well as that 
elusive luck factor. 

Coping with the social expectation 
that "good people end up in good 
jobs" is hardest for those whose jobs 
don't improve. Some capitulate and 
accept their depressing plight. More 
often, denial and self-deception 
internally enhance what is externally 
awful. But equally deceived are the 
millions of people like me who 
experience some objective improvement 
but tend to magnify this far beyond its 
broader content. It's just too painful to 
face the fact that although my work 
life has improved, there is nothing 
really good about it, and I have no 
hope this will change in my lifetime. It 
is much more satisfying to dwell on 
the feeling that I've got it good work- 
wise as a highly-paid, self-employed 
electrician and scam-artist, who enjoys 

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lots of free time and independent 
scheduling. There is a truth here but 
one that pales before a much larger 

Nothing 1 have done for money 
makes me feel good. Sometimes, when 
what I've done is clearly beneficial to 
another, I temporarily feel good in spite 
of the cash yoke tied to the experi- 
ence. Indeed, all the meaningful things 
I want to do are degraded when linked 
to the desperate and deceiving system 
of money. The activities that give me 
meaning necessarily involve my friends 
and other working people. How could 
I feel good about charging them to 
participate in something I find intrin- 
sically valuable? Conversely, how could 
I not feel alienated about making 
money dong something meaningful 
with people with whom I share no 
affinity, or worse, actually gain money 

by exploiting others? Although I wish 
it was otherwise, it is a deadly No Exit. 

This dilemma, and the fact that the 
most socially useful activities (childcare, 
healthcare, education, etc.) are usually 
the lowest paid, closes off any illusions 
I have about the "good job." Even if I 
get a relatively better shake, how can I 
participate happily in an overall system 
that pays investment bankers hundreds 
of thousands of dollars a year for 
doing absolutely nothing socially useful, 
while a childcare worker makes 
minimum wage? Averting my eyes to 
this doesn't allow me to withdraw 
from the forced stupidity of buying 
and selling my and others' time. 
Ultimately it's a bad deal— we simply 
get to pick our poison. 

Here is where many get confused 
about Processed World's politics of 

continued bottom page 1 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 9 



Dear PW: 

I just got #25. The theme— vacation- 
inspired me to write. Maybe other readers will 
be interested to hear about my vacation. A 
while ago I decided to quit my programming 
job and go for a long trip in an exotic place. 
I'm back now. The trip was a year long, and I 
traveled around Southeast Asia, India and 

Is such a vacation the "answer"? Can it 
justify years of "toil" and a cruddy job to save 
up the money? Is coming back to the West 
such a big letdown that it's worse than never 
leaving in the first place? What about my 

Beats me. But I'll tell you that anyone could 
do it. The year cost about $5000 (that 
includes airfare, hotels and everything else). 
Many North Americans could save that much 
by doing without a car for a while. If you're in 
the fast-paced hi-tech world of computers, 
you don't have to worry about being obsolete 
after a year's absence . . . nothing really 
changes. I got a new job in 2 weeks. "Did you 
find your travels mind expanding?" asked one 
boss-to-be in a job interview. Who disagrees 
in a job interview? 

Don't think that as soon as you get off a 
plane in an Asian city that you'll be "away 
from it all." You'll probably end up staying in a 
hostel or guest house filled with Europeans 
and Americans. Maybe you'll order that 
exotic Asian dish— the club sandwich from the 
menu that's printed in English. The next 
day . . . let's go visit that temple which that 
Australian woman mentioned last night at 
dinner. Gee, there's a lot of white-skinned 
people at this temple— I wonder why. Just like 
when you're at home, you have to look for 
"alternative" things to do if you want to find 
them. If you are a couch potato at home, 
you'll be a guidebook groupie when you're 


Bon voyage, 

—DM, Toronto, Canada 


Dear PW: 

Suddenly we are at the end of history. So a 
neo-Hegelian Washington functionary, Francis 
Fukuyama, proclaimed not long ago, crowing 
that the worldwide collapse of Communism 
nullifies the historical dialectic— and thus, 
presto, kills off history itself. 

It's a neat equation. I wonder, however, 
what a resident of, say, Bucharest or Luanda 
or Hanoi might have to say, for there are still 
a few historically minded Communists left in 
such places as Havana and the Heavenly City. 
Whether we are indeed at the end of this 
third-rate science-fiction novel called history 
remains to be seen; greed, ambition, and 
good, old-fashioned hatred offer at least the 
promise of a spectacular denouement. History 
appears to have an ample store of tricks up its 
sleeve, enough that for millennia to come 
we'll be obliged to climb the dialectical ladder 
toward what passes for a German logician's 

History clearly endures. But, as the Rolling 
Stones warned, we're just as clearly out of 

These days everyone seems to be in a hurry. 
We rush between relationships, shedding 
mates like skins; we dash from one job to the 
next; we hurtle from one city to another, 
from coast to coast, rootless, alienated. The 
average American is likely to meet more 
people in a year than his or her grandfather did 
in a lifetime. Small wonder, given the demands 
of all these new pals, that our hours should fall 
into a black hole and be lost to us. 

A quarter of all full-time workers now 
spend more than fifty hours a week on the 
job. The rest clock a mere forty-seven hours a 

from page 9 
work, since we make a complete break 
with the pro-jobs bias of leftist analy- 
sis. Workers that never question the 
social contract oppressing them are not 
"our" comrades. We may identify with 
and have compassion for them. We 
certainly encourage them to become 
more critical and organized. But we 
don't see class oppression as a blanket 
excuse for a continual pattern of ig- 
norance and passivity. At best (worst.'), 
every worker is a victim stuck in her/ 
his role, or, better, a ghastly hybrid of 
victim and collaborator. To be sure, 
we are an oppressed class oc- 
cupying a unique position because "the 
system" can't ■ function without our 
labor. We possess further leverage: if 
we democratically organized and con- 
trolled our productive capacities, 

society would be freed for unprece- 
dented beneficial, creative and pleasur- 
able purposes. 

Despite all this there is no glory in 
work or being a worker — and this is 
where both leftists and rightists can't 
fathom Processed World. My patriotic 
superhero is the anti-worker who, even 
though s/he may strive for the best 
work compromise, refuses to internalize 
the ethics of the good job. My four- 
star Bad Attitudinist realizes that even 
creating a niche where you get paid to 
do what you intrinsically love doing 
doesn't make it feel good to be a cog in 
the planetary work/war machine. I 
salute, shower medals upon, even 
promise a parade for all those strug- 
gling against just doin' the good job. 
Here's hoping to hear from you. 

— Med-o 

week at the workplace. For business execu- 
tives and managers, seventy to eighty hours of 
desk jockeying is common. In 1 967, a Senate 
subcommittee declared that twenty years 
hence the average worker would spend no 
more than twenty-two hours a week on the 
job; poor optimists, even politicians now must 
sell their souls from dawn to midnight, 
weekend included. 

A TV advertisement now in heavy rotation 
depicts a child's Sunday birthday party in some 
sepia-toned but recognizable past. The tele- 
phone rings, and the kid's father is summoned 
into town to attend to some business that 
cannot wait until morning. The kid, having 
learned where his father's priorities lie, is 

Fast forward to 1 990, when another tele- 
phone summons another adult— perhaps our 
slighted kid, wrinkled and bowed by post- 
industrial capitalism— away from another Sun- 
day birthday party. But now Dad has a fax 
machine, a modem, and a bank of computer 
gear in the den, and he can get right to work; 
he pushes a button or two, hits a carriage 
return, and— poof— in nanoseconds a few 
million dollars are zapped from Peoria to 
Pretoria, picking up interest along the way. 
Dad's still missing Buddy's birthday, but from a 
distance of yards instead of miles. (For his 
part. Buddy will likely dispense with birthday 
celebrations altogether when his kids come 
along.) This condition, our advertiser pro- 
claims, is progress. 

With time-saving technologies, our days 
should expand. They have indeed expanded, 
but only to accommodate still more labor, 
useful or not. Work now interrupts us at any 
hour of the day or night; an employer's 
demands need have no respect for the clock. 
Surely this is not the first time Dad has been 
called away from the table to plug in another 
projection into a spreadsheet. Nor will it be 
the last. 

Real progress would move in just the 
opposite direction. We'd all unplug our tele- 
phones on the weekend, or, better, agitate 
for strict laws to prevent bosses from invading 
our privacy in the first place— anything to 
safeguard our scant allotment of hours as they 
flash past, quick-marched by relativity's drill 

In the 1 920s, Emily Post, the doyenne of 
manners, pronounced that a decent woman 
would mourn her husband's death for at least 
three years, garbed in widow's black. A half- 
century later, her late colleague Amy Vander- 
bilt reckoned that a week would do. We're a 
busy people, we Americans; too busy to 
wonder, too busy for trifles like death, too 
busy for birthdays, too busy to take stock of 
our miserable selves on this suffering planet. 
Suffering, in part, because busy people con- 
sume more resources than the lazy-bones 
among us. If the Japanese wish Banzai— "May 
you live ten thousand years!"— ever came 
true, a legion of post-industrial busy beavers 
would scrape the planet clean before we 
cleared adolescence. 

"Thought's the slave of life, and life time's 
fool," said William Shakespeare, writing in a 
world where the very notion of measurable 

Page 10 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 







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time was new, where the clock was a recent 
by-product of the alchemists' quest for per- 
petual motion. They found it, too: one has 
only to consider the Long Island Expressway 
at eight in the morning or the Santa Monica 
Freeway at dusk to know that medieval 
magicians still exercise a dark power over this 
age of smart machines and brainless citizens. 

Elsewhere Shakespeare wrote, "I were 
better to be eaten away with rust than to be 
scoured to nothing with perpetual motion." I 
second that. The end of time— of time 
available to us, of time under our control, of 
free time— wears us all away, planes off those 
little burrs of individuality, smoothes us into 
perfectly functioning ball bearings in the great 
racecup of the State. 

Any destiny but such erosion, please. Resist 
it. Take the day off, and tell your employer 
that you demand more hours for yourself. If 
the whistle blows at eight, do what pleases 
you until nine, then go home early. Call in sick 
on the anniversary of the Haymarket riots. 
Give the planet a break by staying in bed. 
Spurn alchemy, revive history, commit acts of 
temporal revolution. 

Take your time. 

—Gregory McNamee, Tucson, AZ 



Dear PW: 

I work as a radio newscaster for one of the 
three big networks— one of the last great 
union gigs on Earth. The pay is generous, 
though likely soon to be reduced; but for me 
and at least some of my colleagues, it's a 
spiritually corrosive job. We work in a 
straitjacket. Many of PW's "tales of toil" 
therefore seem disturbingly familiar. My wife 
and I are saving money as carefully as we can in 
order to finance an early escape from our 

respective corporate hamster wheels. This is 
not easy even for relatively lucky workers like 
us. I think I'd go bonkers if I had to keep at it 
until "retirement" age (I'm 46). I stand in awe 
of those who cannot escape the master 
wheel, yet somehow manage to stay human. 
But no one should have to pass the test. My 
wife's grandfather correctly told her that if 
work were so terrific, the rich would have 
kept it for themselves. 
—A Reader, New York 


Dear PW: 

I basically agree with your premise that 
corporate employment is degrading, mentally 
insulting, meaninglessly hierarchical, etc. It 
seems that your response to the working 
world was just as meaningless and personally 
degrading; you have to be part of the business 
world, so your only response is to give a 
half-assed effort and sabotage the workplace. 
Is this your view? Or is this just using comedy 
to get people to think about their working 
lives? If it's comedy, do y'all have a rational 
alternative to the corporate world? 

-GC. Albany, CA 


[Last spring ( 1 990), three PWers (Chris 
Carlsson, Med-O, and D.S. Black) were 
sponsored by the Anti-Economy League of 
S.F. to travel to Eastern Europe as corporate 
insultants. Armed with anti-business cards, 
indefatigable hedonism, and the humble desire 
to destroy the entire western financial sys- 
tem, we made friends with many radicals in 
Poland, Prague and East Berlin. Below are 
excerpts of 2 letters from a sharp couple we 

CoMiNq Soon to a 

Home Front Near YouI 

stayed with in Wroclaw, Poland.] 

Dear people. 

We have been reading Processed World 

on our vacations, and now I guess I understand 
more of your mission. There are two things 
that seem to me to be the obstacle in the 
communication between you and the people 
of Eastern Europe. First, sometimes the 
language you use automatically brings about 
unpleasant associations since it does not avoid 
the expressions we have been offered by the 
communist propaganda for the last 40 
years. . : [e.g., the term "collective" while 
connoting voluntary, decentralized group col- 
laboration and democratic decision making 
here, was a horrific doublespeak application 
by the state to force unwilling people into 
groups that had no power or internal demo- 

Second, quite a lot of the problems you deal 
with are very local, very American or at least 
caused by the level of civilization which is at 
present beyond our reach. We are many years 
backwards (though we did have "Mr. Ed"), 
and computers are a new thing here. I realize I 
live among the "social margin" people, but I 
do not know anybody (not a single person!) 
who would go everyday to work in an office, 
would have to dress nicely and smile, and be a 
good clerk— indeed, life here is quite different 
than in S.F. 

The problem with most people I know is 
what to do with the potential they have, all 
the energy they don't know what to do with 
because there are still so few areas of possible 
social activity, and even if there is somebody 
who attempts to create a new one, he or she 
has to be a real strong personality to 
overcome people's frustration and passivity. 

I learned a lot from you [during Med-o & 
Chris' visit in June, '90], and most important 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 1 1 

was for me the discovery that dreams are not 
necessarily doomed to failure only because of 
their "dreamy" nature . . . We are products 
of this reality. We complain a lot. You do a 
lot. There are serious differences— we have 
learned to be active first. 

We have had also some troubles recently, 
also concerning our plans of spreading the 
good Bolo'bolo news. [Bolo'bolo is a Swiss 
author's practical Utopian analysis to trans- 
form the "existing planetary work machine" 
into non-monetary, decentralized, globally 
connected collective bolo's— Ed.] 

So we are not able to do as we hoped— to 
translate and publish Bolo'bolo in parts— it is 
a very good time for it now, everything being 
in a state of complete chaos. Unfortunately, 
now we are back to step one: finances and 
organizing the technical background. 

Some weeks ago Julita and Plotr visited 
P.M., the author of Bolo'bolo in Zurich. The 
conversation was short but meaningful; 

Piotr: So what have you been doing all this 
time? You haven't yet introduced the 
Bolo'bolo system in Switzerland . . . 

P.M. (apologetically): Oh, Switzerland now- 
adays is not a good time and place for 
Bolo'bolo. . . 

Julita and Piotr (enthusiastic laughter): But 
Poland nowadays is absolutely a gorgeous 
place for Bolo'bolo! 

My best wishes of a Great Bolo'bolo all 
around the world. 


— Hanka, Wroclaw, Poland 


Dear PW: 

Believe it or not, a tiny minority of 
students here at Oxford University are totally 
refusing to make use of the "privileges" we 
are handed on silver plates, but there is no 
serious, organized alternative to the boring, 
dodgy, retro, liberal, pseudo-political orcryp- 
to-artistic groupings which are self- 
perpetuating and DOOMED TO DIE. 

Attempts to collectivize, mobilize, even 
have good parties, fail again and again. They 
call us "hippies," "anarchists," "boat- 
rockers," or that most impotence-inducing 
label of all: "guilt-ridden middle class chil- 
dren." But we know what we believe, and 
what we've lived through ( I I years of 

I'm trying the best that I can to use the time 
here, which I am very privileged to be 
experiencing, to read the original texts, the 
ones which have questioned the bases of The 
Centralized Power, since "English literature" 
began: whether that's 20th century literary 
theory, studies of other people's studies of 
"culture, "deconstruction, medieval mystical 
texts, the nineteenth century novel, industrial 
revolution, or whatever. It's a hard thing to 
justify, because it is totally unjustifiable. 
"Student life" would be obsolete in Utopia. 

It's getting late. My generation is utterly 
despairing and desperate, and doesn't realize it 

Yours for life, 

—Lilah, Oxford, U.K. 


Dear PW: 

The day before the war to liberate Kuwait 


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was launched by the U.S. -led coalition forces, 
I smashed my Geo Metro car, and was forced 
to take a night job to pay for the damages. My 
background is in political fundraising, and so it 
seemed natural for me to do this again. 

This job, ironically enough, was in direct 
response to the war. It was fundraising over 
the telephone for Citizen to Citizen, a client 
of Gargantua Campaigns. Gargantua exists to 
raise money for itself and others. It is a 
professional fundraising machine, employing 
over fifty telemarketers who work in several 
staggered four-hour shifts. For the last several 
months. Citizen to Citizen had been working 
to call attention to the U.S. -funded war 
against El Salvador. Evidently the political 
concern of the constituent donor base was 
drifting towards the Persian Gulf, so Citizen 
to Citizen decided to launch a thirty-day push 
to prevent the war. 

Citizen to Citizen, C2C for short, uses 
mainstream political organizing to pressure 
Congresspersons whose votes are deemed to 
be politically essential. C2C will work in 
coalition but it also fights the good fight 
alone, and has a D.C. based lobbying arm. One 
of the most important selling points of C2C is 
their ability to train organizers who— money 
permitting— organize demonstrations, pick- 
ets, letters, personal visits to opinion leaders, 
and TV and radio spots. C2C has a PAC and 
has cultivated foundation money, and a few 
well-heeled individuals. 

Imagine a phone call five minutes before the 
war begins: "Mister Bardamu, my name is 
John Reed, and I'm calling for Citizen to 
Citizen. We're organizing in 7 states to 
pressure Congress to restrain the President 
from launching a war. You're against going to 
war with Iraq, right?" 

This phonebank is high tech. We have 
computer screens which have been shielded, 
and a computer which is our telephone. On 
the screen a small donor profile appears: I 
know that my telephone call has been an- 
swered. The information I have is a name, 
address, and telephone number. Only rarely 
do I have a monetary profile. I speak into a 
mike attached to the headphones. I sit in a 

cubicle and stare at my screen. Sometimes it 
takes as long as two minutes between calls. 
The computer does the dialing and I do the 

"Mr. Bardamu, I'm very happy to hear that 
you are against the war. I'm sure you know 
how important it is that C2C continue to 
lobby Congress for a cease fire in the Gulf 
with respectable demonstrations. Will you 
help us with a gift of $100?" 

My objective is placing this sum on a credit 
card so my company has the donation as soon 
as possible, and so I get my 1 percent bonus 
in cash at the end of the night. Checks take 
time and sometimes other things come up, and 
that means the money doesn't always come. 

Once the bombs began to drop, the pitch to 
the donor base changed from 30 days to 
prevent war, to a more pro-active stand 
against the war. Imagine the telemarketers 
ringing phones across the United States as 
CNN broadcast the first rushes of war. 

It is an upside down political world. We can 
save the Amazon by eating ice cream; stop a 
war anywhere in the world on our Working 
Assets Visa card (which gives you the oppor- 
tunity to have a percentage of your credit 
card fees go to a PC group chosen by 
Working Assets), and change faces in Con- 
gress by buying into a political commodity 
which will do it for us. Citizen to Citizen is in 
the business of good causes. Groups like 
Citizen to Citizen are businesses interested in 
being players in the big game. Like most 
businesses, they require techniques of persua- 
sion to build a customer base. My job is 
persuading you to buy the product. Salvation 
on the installment plan. 

As long as citizens remain pliant and passive 
and don't inquire too deeply into the necessi- 
ty for the modern political action package, 
donors will continue to create a new class of 
activists who have more in common with 
corporate thinking than ideological struggle. 
For instance, if you contribute money to pay a 
lobbyist in Washington to chat up politicians 
and monitor the issues for you, then you are 
also buying into the thinking that incremental 
change is a feasible solution. It is not. 

Each of us must act as individuals and 
radically alter our way of existence; radically 
alter our relationship to commodity culture 
and the toxics that come with it. No 
government can make you free and no 
lobbyist can effectively represent your au- 
thentic interests if these run counter to the 
organizational line. 

Readers, we are being disempowered by 
groups that swallow our money and give back 
to us a product called politics. Unless we hold 
our elected representatives accountable, 
without the help of the priest cum lobbyist, 
we will continue to be sold down the river by 
our friends. Capitalism is the problem, con- 
sumerism the symptom. 

In a consumer world, everything that is 
political is reduced to a TV spot, a direct mail 
piece, a phone call, or ice cream. We must use 
our own imaginations in a revolutionary 
way — we must organize to abolish the middle 
-class pretensions of our hired political help. 
We must live out the alternative to consum- 
erism individually by building a community 
rooted in political struggle. 

In short, we must embrace the anti- 
—John Reed, San Francisco, CA 

Page 1 2 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Not Our Own: 

Demystifying Goals and Methods 
of "Progressive" Work 

"Transform the world by labor? But the world is being transformed by 
labor, which is why it is being transformed so badly." 

— Raoul Vaneigem 

"Anything built on sacrifice and self-renunciation only demands more 
sacrifice and renunciation." — bolo'bolo 

I'm 30 years old and I have an MA degree in political 
science, which is not enough to get any kind of good 
job, but enough to exclude you from any unskilled 
or semi-st .ed jobs because employers know you'll never 
last. I've worked a lot of jobs— cab driver, landscaper, 
even ad clerk at The New York Times, but I quickly left 
them out of boredom, frustration, or low pay. 

What 1 learned from all of them is that the only thing 
that makes them bearable for five minutes is the social 
interaction. What made them all eventually unbearable 
was the utter uselessness and meaninglessness of the work 

itself. I usually found myself growing despondent, 
listless, and suicidal after just a few days. So for 
the past several years I've made a living trying to 
do something useful, fun and that I do well- 
political organizing. For the average leftist, who 
chants whatever the Workers World thugs tell him 
to and dutifully ponders this week's media issue, 
it can be a great solution. If you fit this descrip- 
tion, stop reading and look in the help wanted 
section of Community Jobs, In These Times or The 
Nation. But if your faculty for critical thinking 
and communal and libertarian vision lingers 
despite your best efforts to drown it in careerism, 
it can be a bumpy ride. That's especially true if 
you refuse to believe any single organization is 
worth dedicating your whole life to. 
I've worked for a spectrum of U.S. leftist groups. 

PuJbiJc interest groups 

spread information, but 

foster ignorance — about 

how the electoral system 

works, aJbout what 

constitutes political 

activity. Suddenly, the 

"politically correct" thing 

to do is to write your 


I was campaign coordinator for a Citizens' Party 
State Senate race, I raised funds for the New 
National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee 
and the New Jersey ACLU (no pay, commission 
only, zero money), I canvassed for New Jersey 
Citizen Action, sorted mail at the Guardian, and 
stacked groceries at Texas' biggest food co-op. By 
early '88, I had just about given up on this 
method of making a living when a strange ex- 
perience led to slightly improved working 
conditions and a bit more "status." 

A friend told me that the National Lawyers 
Guild was hiring. (Incidentally, I got most of 
these political jobs by knowing people who knew 
people at the group in question. I'm not sure 
whether this is a leftist version of "it's who you 
know" or a sign of "community" winning out over 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 1 3 

abstract "merit" in the hiring game.) I 
called the Guild, and the person on 
the other end of the line insisted I 
come in immediately for an interview 
despite my protests that I was in blue 
jeans and sneakers and unprepared. I 
didn't even know what the job was. 

I was hired immediately to recruit 
students at law schools and form new 
chapters of the Guild across the country. 
I had done Civil Liberties work — which 
involved very little actual knowledge, 
ability, or organizing experience — and 
had dropped out of law school after one 
year. Also, as a student 1 had been a 
member of the Guild. They figured, 
probably correctly, that I'd be able to 
relate to left-wing law students. For 
reasons I will describe below, I left after a 

Most left-wing groups pay very poorly: 
My National Civil Liberties pay started 
at $5 an hour, and was $7 when I left; 
the Guardian pay was unmentionably 
low. But the Guild paid $20,000 a year, 
which seemed like a lot to me, and for 
the first time in my life offered health 
benefits and overtime pay. 

Also, with the Guild on my resume, I 
could apply for union jobs, which usual- 
ly pay in the mid-'20s with benefits and 
often a car. But when I eventually 
looked into working for a union, the 
only one interested in hiring me was the 
white collar division of the International 
Ladies' Garment Workers Union (IL- 
GWU), PACE, which offered me a job 
at their one-person Vermont state office. 
They paid slightly less than the Guild, 
but did provide me with a car and 

My most recent sojourn into employ- 
ment was a temporary organizing posi- 
tion with the Committee of Interns and 
Residents (CIR), which I took after being 
transferred back to New York with 
PACE at my own request. CIR is a 
NY-based union of medical residents, 
people who regularly work 80-130 hours 
per week right out of medical school. 
The job paid $15,000 for six months, 
more than I had ever made before. This 
enabled me to get a larger unemploy- 
ment check when I left. 

For the past six years, I've been part of 
the Midnight hlotes publishing collective. 
This journal gives me something that no 
job ever has — the chance to be part of a 
genuine collective based on a common 
project and a common understanding of 
the world. It's a place where I can express 
my own "maximum" views instead those 
of the lowest common denominator 


Till- RI^I'K I 111 \n IllVlllRMRS Wll 
MUM ll\ 1(1 \ sm IMfORTAST ( Al SE! 

coalition politics that predominate at 
most leftist organizations. 

I started with this long, detailed list of 
jobs and wages because such factors 
shape the world views and political 
analyses of even the most abstract 
radical thinkers. Also, it makes it clear 
that the analysis that follows is based on 
extensive experience. 

Institutional Ambivalence 

I don't think any single organization 
can represent a whole movement or 
class. The experience of collective and 
individual self-transformation, which is 
the basis of all genuine radical social 
struggles and what attracts people to 
them in the first place, can never be 
totally encompassed by the work of the 
organizations that partially represent 
that movement. 

At best, institutions mobilize people at 
a crucial moment in history, or champi- 
on the needs of some of the exploited. At 
worst, institutions project the interests of 
those social sectors from which they 
recruit onto a whole class or movement. 
This process accounts for the bureaucra- 
tization of unions, parties and other 
groups, and explains how they become 
detached from and hostile to criticisms, 
suggestions, and initiatives from below. 

At the lowest level of "degeneration," 
these institutions can consciously play a 
crucial role in siphoning off political 
energies by providing an alternative job 
market for people who hate capitalist 
institutions and refuse to work for 
corporate profits. We get to work on 

political issues, but not the issues that we 
would work on, or in the way we would 
work if it weren't a job. The possibilities 
for creating communal places to live, 
produce, consume, and create close off 
to you when you're stuffing envelopes to 
save a rainforest, or lobbying some 
legislators. Meanwhile, even if you 
would prefer the former course, members 
of your potential alternative network are 
also working either at straight jobs or for 
the left. 

Only reasonably well-funded organi- 
zations can provide a living wage, but 
the well-funded-employer market is de- 
termined by funders. By default these 
become the left. That they have offices 
and people in charge means that they are 
available to cooperate with the media, 
the Democratic Party, and other institu- 
tions as a responsible, respectable, for- 
mal opposition. If an alternative view is 
presented on TV, it belongs to the 
chairperson of a recognizable national 
organization, or a left lawyer. 

Although these individuals advocate 
an alternative, they keep working people 
and less formal activists like squatters, 
ACT UP, and local groups from pre- 
senting their views and being recognized. 
So while we keep body, soul, and sanity 
together by working at non-profits, we 
are helping to prevent the formation of a 
real movement. 

What's more, because these organiza- 
tions need funding to operate this way, 
preserving their financial base becomes 
Priority No. 1. Increasingly structured 
around their budget, they consider their 

Page 14 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

members as nothing more than a fund- 
ing source. Yet this thwarts the ostensi- 
ble purpose of political organizations in 
the first place— strengthening and en- 
hancing a struggle or movement. 

It's no surprise, then, that people 
usually avoid formal organizations when 
the need for action arises — witness the 
proliferation of antiwar groups amid the 
chaos of the divided formal groups. Yet 
when no autonomous mass upheavals 
exist, these labor, civil liberties, and 
other groups do mitigate political repres- 
sion and occasionally help push through 
a useful reform. More importantly, they 
sometimes provide a space for activists to 
meet, gain political experience, do some 
of their "own" political work, and sur- 
vive without being ground up in the 
wheels of capital. 


The official bag of Operation Desert Shield 

A Mobil Chemical Company product. 

Pursuing Your Own Agenda 

The question is: How can people 
whose vision of life is communal and 
egalitarian and who work at leftist 
organizations 1) advance exploited peo- 
ple's own initiatives; and 2) develop 
some fun, collective project that builds 

The short answer is that you cannot 
do your own political work while work- 
ing for the left anywhere I've been if you 
have my priorities. The long answer is 
that you can do some of it if you: 1) go 
around the organization while using its 
contacts/networks and resources; 2) 
make it your top priority to facilitate 
self-organization, not just recruit for 
your employer; 3) develop horizontal 
networks among those involved in the 
group's campaigns; and 4) don't care 
very much about getting fired. 

Historically, this is a very strange way 
to make a living. The only other leftists 
who did so were the generation of 
communists who became union organiz- 
ers and officials in the '30s and '40s. This 
precedent is not a comforting one, 
because both the role these men played 
and the way unions turned out are a 
mixed bag at best. 

The institutions that today's radicals 
work for fall into three categories. The 
first are organizations run as unpaid 
collectives or communes 20 years ago. 
The second are those which arose after 
the '60s movement faded. The third are 
those already seen as corrupt when the 
New Left was new, but which have 
acquired a new attractiveness because 
other, better alternatives are lacking. 

In the first category, I put the Guardian 
and the National Lawyers Guild— which 
the New Left literally rejuvenated 
through collective volunteer work. A 
number of New Left groups, forged in 
the heat of battle with 60s communalist 
enthusiasm, continue to function, but as 
formal organizations with paid staff and 
a clear division of labor between manag- 
ers and workers. During my stay at the 
Guardian and the Guild, I found people 
more "consciously" or consistently radi- 
cal than at Citizen Action. It is always 
nice to work underneath a poster of Che 
Guevara or Malcolm X. But the unsavo- 
ry religious flavor generated when ideo- 
logical orthodoxy is enforced on top of 
regular work discipline left a bad taste in 
my mouth. 

The Guardian claimed to be a collective, 
and a "Leninist" one at that. But a 
subtle hierarchy existed. I was not the 
only one told that before I could obtain 
full membership with policy voting 
rights I would have to "clarify my views 
on the Soviet Union." 

Organizing the Organizers 

The job at the National Lawyers Guild 
was one of the best I ever had. There was 
a union, something I longed for at 
Citizens Action, although when my 
position needed new funding, its func- 
tion left something to be desired. A staff 
union testified to the Guild's sincerity 
about living up to its ideals. But it also 
raised the question of why we should 
need union representation at our "own" 

There is no question that employees at 
many "progressive" organizations need 
unions to get treated with some respect 
and gain the benefits that even some 
small, mainstream companies afford 
their employees. Also, a union provides 

a way to share thoughts with fellow 
employees, who are invariably activists 

In theory, the officials in charge are 
also activists, even fellow members of the 
working class. But the creation of organ- 
izations designed to gain employer con- 
cessions acknowledges that antagonistic 
relations and class differences exist with- 
in the workplace. Whether or not we 
focus on the power of only some to hire 
and fire, or the difference between 
formulating policy and carrying it out, 
recognizing that class divisions separate 
most workers in leftist groups from their 
"professional" executive directors can 
revive true alternative politics in this 

On a national scale, the rank and file 
caucuses that appeared in many unions 
in the '70s, such as Teamsters for a 
Democratic Union, reflect this division. 
However, as with Miners for Democra- 
cy's capture of the United Mine Workers 
Union, once such groups gain power the 
relationship between leadership and 
members remains fundamentally un- 

The most dramatic example of this is 
the rise of Solidarnosc. The strikes that 
created it in 1980 (and not the other way 
around) clearly demonstrated that the 
Communist Party was not the workers' 
party. The union's formation meant that 
class conflict existed between the workers 
and the state. But once in power, 
Solidarnosc started representing class 
interests other than those of the work- 
ers, and rank and file control gave way 
to a new bureaucratic professionalism. 

The Issue of Class 

Through the Guild I saw a lot of the 
United States, met hundreds of radical 
young people, and probably encouraged 
somebody to consider alternatives to 
corporate law. But I was organizing 
lawyers. Nothing's wrong with this, but I 
was sometimes aware that I was lower in 
the social pecking order than my "cli- 
ents," leftists or not. 

What's more, the projects I worked on 
had to enable lawyers or law students to 
play a role. The issues themselves — 
racism, sexism, Palestine — were often 
good. But radical forms of organization 
should not only be internally democratic 
and non- hierarchical, which the Guild 
was not, but should also allow the 
exploited to interact in ways that break 
down the social hierarchy. 

Organizations based upon professional 
affiliations pose problems — they're not 
bad, but limited. In theory, legal workers 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page I S 

and jailhouse lawyers can be members. 
But the jailhouse lawyers are treated as 
charity cases, and the legal workers, 
including the Guild staff, are clearly a 
low priority. In addition, legal workers 
have very little decision-making power. 
This is mostly because of a lack of 
resources, but also because funding pri- 
orities require a focus on paying mem- 

The inclusion of non-professionals and 
students was forced on the old left 
movement by the struggles of students, 
prisoners and women in the early '70s. 
Thus, changing the social relations 
within the legal union are part of the 
movement outside the organization, 
which determines relations within. 

The increasing moderation of old 
"New Leftists" and the continued pres- 
ence of old "old leftists," who always 
counsel working within established 
structures like liberal city governments 
and avoiding controversial subjects like 
Palestine, made my stay at the Guild 
uneasy. Old CP'ers had never reconciled 
themselves to the inclusion of law stu- 
dents, as it would make the Guild seem 
less serious-minded compared to the 
American Bar Association — to which it 
is supposed to be an alternative. 

As a result, my position came under 
fire. A new president of the Guild, as 
always chosen before the national con- 
vention, planned to forego recruiting 
new members in favor of making the 
Guild a clearinghouse for high-profile, 
media-oriented cases handled by a na- 
tional staff of lawyers. This hasn't hap- 
pened yet, but the political atmosphere 
got uncomfortable and increasingly ca- 
reerist. Some Guild members were de- 
fending the police in brutality and civil 
rights cases for city administrations like 
Chicago Mayor Harold Washington's, 
which were perceived as grassroots- 
oriented. Others were defending the 

I took the liberty of expressing my 
views on these and other subjects. Soon 
the national office was getting enough 
complaints about me that I decided to 
politely bow out. This blew my chances 
for a good reference despite having set up 
their whole law student recruitment 
structure from scratch and adding many 
new chapters. 

Working for these formerly volunteer 
groups makes you more likely to meet 
some genuine radicals with whom you 
may work in the future. You'll also learn 
a lot of useful information. But it's an 
uphill climb for someone whose goal is to 

overcome class divisions and create an 
ideologically unconstrained movement. 
Luckily, such groups are still quite 
marginal because they are explicitly 
anti-capitalist in theory if not always in 
practice. Mostly they lack a sense of 
humor, but they do allow some diversity 
of views. 



Citizen InAction, 
Public Disinterest 

More insidiously typical, and more 
cynical and prevalent, are "category 
two" jobs at Citizen Action and similar 
"community organizations" and "public 
interest" groups. If the New Left groups 
were born of '60s rebellion, and became 
tamer and more conventional with the 
movement's collapse, the defeat of these 
revolutionary aspirations in the mid-'70s 
laid the groundwork for Massachusetts 
Fair Share (now defunct), the California 
Public Interest Research Group (Cal- 
PIRG), the United Neighborhood Or- 
ganization, and their ilk. 

These groups appeal strongly to white 
suburban liberals and leftists who have 
little or no experience of real social 
movements or direct action. They push 
specific pieces of legislation, which are 
usually OK as far as they go, but they 
organize in the most conventional man- 
ner possible. They parody the camara- 
derie of real collectives by going out to 
canvass in teams, ringing doorbells and 
making you work endless hours for low 
pay out of "idealism." You go drinking 
at the end of the night with your team 
because you work so much that you 
never see anyone else. 

Public interest groups spread informa- 
tion but foster ignorance — about how 
the electoral system works, about what 
constitutes political activity. Suddenly, 
the "politically correct" thing to do is to 
write your congressperson! 

But if their strategy is absurd, even 
reactionary, their tactics could be revolu- 
tionary. They are among the only groups 
that go to people's homes to talk to them 
about politics (only in the last few years 
have some labor unions tried this tactic). 
The problem is that the canvasser gets 
an empty petition signed, a letter written 
to a Senator, and maybe a new subscrip- 
tion to the group's magazine — period. 
People are never broken out of the 
isolation in which the organizer finds 

I saw this problem most clearly when 
we canvassed Belleville, New Jersey, 
mere weeks after the racially mixed, 
blue-collar town had discovered the 
largest-ever dump of dioxin, the chemi- 
cal base of Agent Orange. Citizen Ac- 
tion was pushing a Right To Know Bill 
on Toxics (which eventually passed the 
legislature only after farm workers were 
explicitly excluded from protection un- 
der the bill). 

The bill was of course too late to help 
Belleville, but was not irrelevant to their 
problem. Unlike wealthier towns, every- 
one gave me some money towards my 
"quota" in the piecework wage system 
and wrote a letter. But they all asked, 
"Which group is it this time?" Every 
ecological group in the world had been 
at their front door in the past month, 
but the residents were still in the same 
boat. Worse yet, despite their anger and 
militancy, they remained as isolated and 
felt as helpless as before. 

The New Left at its best saw breaking 
through people's isolation as the purpose 
of radical politics. They recognized that 
in groups, people's consciousness, abili- 
ties and commitments are radically dif- 
ferent than when they act as individual 
citizens or consumers. 

But in contrast, citizen-based organiz- 
ing depends on that isolation. No one 
had called a group meeting where Bel- 
leville residents could talk among them- 
selves, relying on their own knowledge 
and resources as well as the expertise of 
helpful activists. No one organized direct 
action to punish the companies respon- 

Public interest and citizen groups (in- 
cluding many mainstream environmen- 
tal organizations) also depend on a 
steady supply of cheap, willing labor in 

Page 1 6 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

the form of idealistic college students 
and recent graduates desperate for non- 
corporate work. A successful revival of 
demands for "wages for students" in the 
form of lower tuition, higher scholar- 
ships, and more grants instead of loans 
might eliminate these organizations 

The old left joined mass organizations 
to win members to their own party. 
Today radicals can play a positive role in 
such groups only by subverting the 
"public interest" strategy by fostering 
rank and file personal contacts to discuss 
needs met only outside the organiza- 
tions' limits. Some tenant organizers 1 
know bring tenants together to form fuel 
co-ops, discuss problems, and pressure 
the very groups for which the organizers 
work for more resources and decision- 
making power. It is rarely possible to 
carry out this kind of agitation, but the 
human contacts are very rich at some of 
these jobs— people would often have me 
in for coffee, dinner, long conversations. 

The Union Staffer 

Unions of course fall into "category 
three"— groups already discredited as 
sources of social transformation. They 
are also the most stable and best paying 
— plus, union organizing leads to much 
more intensive contact with working 

But the level of cynicism one finds 
among union people is astounding. The 
white-collar division of the ILGWU for 
which I worked was ostensibly created 
because, with garment workers declining 
in numbers, the union hoped (along 
with many other unions) to latch onto 
the growth in office workers. But no one 
has successfully organized large numbers 
of U.S. office workers. This suggests a 
need for innovation, experimentation, 
and concern for issues like abortion, 
sexual harassment, and child care. 

No innovation was allowed at PACE. 
The hierarchy knew that an organizer 
has tremendous potential to facilitate 
contact among workers — in short, to 
subvert the union in favor of rank and 
file power. So they put real pressure on 
us all. 

Years ago the ILGWU crushed a 
unionization attempt by the organizing 
staff. We were prevented from working 
with feminist groups, and I was banned 
from meeting with radical church activ- 
ists. The height of cynicism was reached 
when companies were told that if they 
allowed their garment workers to join 
the ILGWU without a fight, we could 
leave their office workers alone. Con- 


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versely, we were ordered out of some 
offices because the garment organizers 
were interested in the shops. I stayed as 
long as I could find new ways to meet 
I knew PACE would not be the im- 

petus to mass office worker insurgency, 
but I thought that anything that fostered 
struggle, militancy, and collective inter- 
action would seed future movements. 
However, soon there were no avenues 
toward this goal left, and virtually the 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 1 7 

Jm I "*"! * 

'i ii in Miiii l ii i| iii l.. iiyi t km 

^* «»m « ii. 

Photo D S. Slack 

whole staff quit. 

This job reminds me about one of the 
biggest problems with all existing organ- 
izations: radicals gain experience at such 
places and bring analyses and knowledge 
to them, but the organizations impede 
political movements by preventing us 
from using all that we know. Their 
whole basis for existence is the fragmen- 
tation of political needs, issues, and 
identities. In this they are reactionary. 

Was I supposed to talk about nuclear 
power or the death penalty when people 
wanted to discuss these problems? Or 
was I supposed to tell them that I was 
sorry, but our organization didn't talk 
about those issues? Once, at a union staff 
meeting, I was told that our goal was to 
get a majority of pro-union people, even 
if that meant a white majority over a 
black minority. Fighting racism was a 
fine thing, said my boss, but not what we 
did. When I argued that overcoming 
racial divisions within the working class 
would make our job easier in the long 
run, discussion ended. We organized one 
workplace at a time, period. 

This fragmentation of experiences, 
goals, knowledge, ideals, and energies 
means that we spend 40 or more hours 
per week in ways that prevent us from 
fully using our talents. All of the various 
kinds of "intelligence" we've accumu- 
lated suffer from disuse because they 
promote more threatening, multidimen- 
sional struggles. Controlling radicals and 
shutting off uncontrollable avenues of 
resistance have been capitalism's major 
projects ever since the 1960s. 

In fairness, working for the Committee 
of Interns and Residents (CIR) was a 
much better experience. I worked on a 
successful strike campaign at Bronx- 
Lebanon Hospital in the South Bronx. 
The majority of doctors were "Third 
World" Puerto Rican, Indian, Pakistani, 
Arab. We had picket signs in Hindi, 
Spanish, and. Arabic, and protest songs 
in five languages. The residents there 
were likely to work for wages their whole 
lives and were ruled by threats from 
superiors. Nurses and other community 
people led them on picket lines, breaking 
down the hierarchy of doctor/nurse/pa- 
tient. We even won the strike! 

However, I discovered that when doc- 

tors struggle with other workers, the 
union undoubtedly represents the pro- 
fessionals' specific interests. These are 
not always antagonistic to those of other 
exploited people — CIR supports a na- 
tional health plan, for instance. But they 
are different. 

In a contract dispute in a state-owned 
New Jersey hospital where most resi- 
dents were white middle class males, the 
issues seemed more narrow and parochi- 
al. Contempt for lower echelons of 
workers lay just beneath the surface in 
many, though not most doctors. What's 
more, though CIR is superior to most 
unions in its recognition of members' 
needs and demands, even "far left" CIR 
organizers were sometimes suspicious of 
rank and file initiatives. 

When previous structures carry over 
or reflect parallel corporate or state 
hierarchies, the "professional" role the 
activist plays separates him from the very 
people he came from or "represents." 
Obviously, some "professionals" are 
more "sensitive" to this problem than 
others. But for the most part it is not 

At CIR, three organizers— myself, and 
two other "anti-authoritarians" — would 
sometimes suspect a member who put 
out a leaflet on his own, organized for 
other than previously agreed-upon de- 
mands, or who called his own meeting. 

We weren't necessarily "wrong" in 
thinking such efforts divisive, incompet- 
ent, or even the result of bad intentions. 
But it's impossible to tell whether you're 
in and of the organization when you 
aren't the one working 80 hours a week 
or living on a dioxin dump. It isn't that 
members are always right, but that their 
outlook, interests, and experiences are 
very different from the organizers'. 
What's more, they have a different class 
perspective from the leadership, who 
become focused on remaining in inter- 
esting jobs where they can control 
institutional policy. 

"Portals to Radicalism" 
or Just "Good Jobs?" 

I'm tired of "progressive" jobs, but I've 
learned that their use value is what's 
most important — along with the wage. If 
you can use your job to get experience or 
create some space for your own political 
priorities and it pays a living wage, it can 
be bearable for a while— even positive. 
But if you feel like you're being ripped 
off, you'll resent every limitation and 
restriction that much more. 

Now I'm hoping to get a Ph.D. and 

teach for a living. I don't see a qualitative 
difference between this and many of my 
previous jobs: part of the work is 
interesting and fulfilling to me, part of it 
is not because it's organized as a job. Pay 
is low, but the exploitation less severe 
than in corporations. The human rela- 
tions can be fun— getting through to 
students, enjoying room for activism, 
meeting other faculty with common 
concerns— but the hierarchy and career- 
ism are stultifying. 

I've never kidded myself that I was 
making revolutionary changes when I 
worked for unions, except when I tried 
to go beyond the job's limitations. I have 
the same attitude towards academia, 
except there the job security and even- 
tual wages are a bit higher. 

The careerist New Leftists who flocked 
to teaching positions in the '70s, but 
who are politically quiescent today (ex- 
cept for their mostly unread books), 
made the mistake of assuming that 
teaching per se could be radical activity 
— as though capital can't turn anyone 
into a commodity. 

The "long march through the institu- 
tions" usually leads only to empty insti- 
tutional victories. But any time people 
can find collective space to struggle 
against power, or can work mainly to 
reproduce themselves and friends in- 
stead of profits, a foundation for ex- 
panding the struggle exists. 

We have to first demystify the alterna- 
tive labor market. Marxist professor- 
ships, civil rights attorneys, union jobs 
for left-wingers, canvassing positions— all 
exist today because our extra- 
institutional struggles created new needs 
and wants and transformed "the mar- 
ket." The question is how we can move 
on from these accomplishments and use 
our proven capacity to transform the 
labor market to abolish the labor market! 
— Steven Colatrella 

Page 18 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 


I spent most of my young adulthood avoiding formal 
"work." The thought of the soul-killing routine that 
makes up the bulk of most careers horrified me. Un- 
fortunately, I had no clear notion of what I wanted to 
do, only a strong aversion to boring and routine tasks. 
As much as possible, I arranged my life so that I could 
lay around and read with no obligation to do anything 

College provided an obvious and easy refuge for the 
lifestyle I desired. By reading the textbooks the week be- 
fore exams I picked up enough to pass most courses with- 
out wasting too much time on academics. The luxuriant 
student financial aid of the mid 70s easily paid the token 
tuition at the city university with plenty left over to sub- 
sidize my leisure. 

When I finally left home (at age 20), the student dole 
ceased to be enough to get by on, and I was compelled to 

seek part time work. I couldn't hack more than 
two months as an evening phone surveyor for 
"Snears"; I only lasted six weeks as a file clerk at 
the library. Finally, 1 found a nice, over-paid, 
federally subsidized "work-study" job reading 
journal articles for an absent-minded professor of 

My academic status justified my existence to my 
parents. I satisfied my own existential needs by 
other means. Coming out as gay, and the asso- 
ciated sexual exploration, occupied my twenty-first 
and twenty-second years pretty fully. 

The Movement, as personified by my lover Joe 
the Professional Revolutionary, anchored my 
world for the next two years. It had the additional 
benefits of aggravating my mother and enshrining 
my aversion to "alienated" work as political 

Recycled Paper Products 

looked like the perfect 

refuge. . .At first I 

approached it as a 

relatively non-toxic work 

environment. Soon, 

encouraged by success, I 

began to contemplate 

it as a Career. 

correctness, rather than mere laziness and/or 
whining. I coasted, happily, a little longer. 


After several years of aimless academic browsing 
I dropped out of school (a 24-year-old junior) in 
the summer of '81, and so lost the shelter of 
financial aid and cushy work-study jobs. After a 
last six months of leisurely hanging out on my 
unemployment checks, I was faced with the task 
of getting a "real" job. And it might as well be 
one that would justify my existence at the same 
time, for I was being purged from The Party. 

Joe's group, the now-defunct Revolutionary 
Socialist League, was kind of a humanist Sparti- 
cist League, dedicated to a Proletarian Revolution. 
Come the Revolution, we would run things. Until 

PROCESSED WORLD 126/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 19 

then, the rank and file worked (ideally) 
in heavy industry, which provided con- 
tact with Real Workers and large dues 
for the Central Office (about 50% of the 
wages and everything over $20,000). 
This work, despite appearances to the 
contrary, was not "alienated" because it 
was an part of being a Professional 

The middle management (branch 
honchos) were allowed cushy, middle 
class jobs like teacher or social worker. 
The top hochos were paid a bohemian 
pittance by the Party, which they fur- 
tively supplemented with many from 
their parents. Instead of holding down 
outside jobs they put out the paper from 
New York City, and spent a lot of time 
Thinking and writing "documents" 
about how to build a Leninist revolu- 
tionary "party." 

Just before we met, Joe had won a 
hard-fought battle for leadership of the 
Chicago branch, in one of the very rare 
successful challenges of the Central Of- 
fice authority. He defeated the offical 
slate by seducing the local rank-and-file 
with his apppeals to hedonism, and by 
recognizing of the need for occasional 
breaks from hawking our unreadable 
cult rag. He justified his suspiciously 
enjoyable and unproletarian "interven- 
tions" in academia and the gay commu- 
nity by producing real live recruits (a 
rarity)— like me. 

To be a candidate member in good 
standing, I should have quit school and 
applied for a job in the steel mills or 
something. But the rules were not strict- 
ly enforced as I was the Organizer's 
boyfriend. For similar reasons Sally, the 
Big Cheese's ex-girlfriend, could ignore a 
technically binding order (from the Or- 
ganizer before Joe) to get an abortion in 
order to avoid "wasted" time. 

The CO. never resigned itself to Joe's 
liberal regime. Refusing to read the 
writing on the wall, they considered his 
election an anomaly made possible by 
temporary rank and file disgruntlement. A 
year's worth of persistent covert infight- 
ing toppled him, and I was caught up in 
the long postponed house-cleaning. The 

"The rank-and-file stood 

on frigid street corners 

waving The Paper at 

disinterested proletarians." 

technical charges against me were "petty 
bourgeois" (read: gay) tendencies and 
anarchism. In view of this latter charge, 
it amuses me to see that the remnants of 
the RSL have retro-fitted as "anarchists" 
in a no doubt futile attempt to find a 
viable milieu. 

In retrospect, I have to acknowledge 
that I was guilty on both counts, and 
should never have joined that chicken- 
shit outfit. My attempts to rally opposi- 
tion to the CO. were brushed aside, but 
I at least tried. Joe, my mentor and lover, 
didn't even defend himself, instead fall- 
ing into a months-long depression when 
"criticized" personally by Ron Tabor, 

the Big Cheese. I was kicked out after a 
brutal trial before a kangaroo court, 
while Joe was allowed to resign from 
office and go "on leave" from Party 

Our relationship had been on the 
rocks for most of its three years. Still, I 
was hurt and surprised that he dumped 
me as soon I was purged. Joe later 
patched up his difficulties with the CO 
for another few years. The RSL was 
more important to him than I was, 
something I hadn't wanted to discover. 

I was out of school, out of work (out of 
benefits, even), out of the movement, 

Page 20 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

and didn't even have a boyfriend any- 
more. For the first time in my life, a 
Career began to look good to me. 


My Career would, ideally, be mean- 
ingful, instead of a mere auctioning of 
my precious time for a paycheck. It had 
to be Socially Responsible, if not actively 
Politically Correct. It couldn't be too 
mainstream, because I just couldn't pass 
as a standard drone. In fact I couldn't 
even get a position as a bank teller (a 
standard job for young three-piece-suit 

At first I scraped by on a variety of 
casual jobs, ones that didn't require 
much interaction with mainstream work 
culture. A combination of part-time 
non-legal pursuits offered short hours 
but required unsavory company. House- 
cleaning for "Brooms Hilda" provided 
good browsing opportunities but little 
existential gratification. Working as a 
clerk at a used book store came close to 
being ideal; then the creepy proto-fascist 
owner tried to get in my pants. I quit. 

A guy I was dating at the time 
suggested I apply at Recycled Paper 
Products. His best friend's lover was "an 
executive" there, and with her recom- 
mendation and my native talents, I got a 

RPP had just reached the peak of its 
growth. Started in a garage in the early 
'70s by founders Mike and Steve, RPP 
printed off-beat greeting cards on 100% 
recycled paper, a novelty back then. 
They offered a cute but not cutesey 
alternative to the smarmy quatrains 
favored at that time by the two greeting 
card giants— Hallmark and American. 
Their recycled paper shtick got them a 
lot of good initial media coverage, and 
their cards sold well. 

They began to edge into the main- 
stream when one of their properties 
really caught on. Sandra Boynton's cute 
kitten cards sold in the millions. RPP 
doubled and doubled again, year after 
year. By 1982, when I started work there, 
it was the fourth largest greeting card 
company in the U.S.. It employed 
hundreds of salespersons in the field, 
and a hundred more people at its 
warehouse in Chicago's south suburbs. 
The central office in Chicago's New- 
town, where I worked, had grown from 
Mike and Steve and their secretary to a 
staff of almost two hundred. 

Newtown is Chicago's youth/hip/gay 
neighborhood, a developing zone be- 
tween thoroughly gentrified Lakeview to 

the south and sleazy Uptown to the 
north. RPP, with its hip, laid-back 
reputation, fit right in. The office staff 
included lots of feminist women and gay 
men from the area. Flex time in the 
summer allowed the staff to stroll over to 
Wrigley Field, 2 blocks to the west, for 
afternoon baseball games. 

RPP looked like the perfect refuge. 
They proclaimed their determination to 
promote ecology, and played up their 
belief that the company should be a big, 
happy family. At first, I approached it as 
a relatively non-toxic work environ- 
ment. Soon, encouraged by success, I 
began to contemplate it as a Career. 

I started as a packing slip clerk, 
graduated in six weeks to commissions 
clerk, and within six months was assist- 
ant manager of my department at double 
my original pay. This was the largest 
salary I'd ever earned ($12,000 a year, 
even then no big deal), and unlike my 
friends I didn't have to dress up in 
establishment drag to go to work. De- 
spite my official cynicism I wondered if 
the American Dream might not be true. 
I wondered if I were selling out, or if it 
were OK to be a capitalist as long as you 
worked for a progressive outfit, and 
examined RPP from my new vantage 
point in the lowest branches of Manage- 


Some years before I arrived, RPP had 
had some sort of falling out with Boyn- 
ton, their biggest star, the woman who 
did the cute cats. However, their associ- 
ation was too profitable for either party 
to break off. Bound by iron clad con- 
tracts monitored by squads of lawyers 
from either side, she produced X 
hundreds of designs per year. There was 
no direct communication between her 
and RPP. In addition Mike and Steve 
had recently gobbled up the Dales, a 
husband-and-wife team that had tried to 
be an independent card company and 
failed. They specialized in cards that had 
smarmy openers on the front and dirty 
punchlines inside, using words like 
"fuck" and "shit"; they were very popu- 

But dark times were looming for RPP. 
Lots of people used recycled paper now. 
Hallmark began to produce a line of 
"lite" cards that were a frank rip-off of 
Boynton's designs — and the gullible 
public, unable to distinguish these from 
genuine RPP cards, were buying them. 
Several previously "underground" card 
companies were just going mainstream, 
and their slick stuff was far dirtier — and 


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therefore more popular— than anything 
we produced. 

RPP was no longer unique, and its fast 
growth period was over. For the first 
time, in 1982, RPP failed to double in 
size; it hardly grew at all. In 1983 it 
would suffer its first year of net loss. 
Mike and Steve, shocked at this sudden 
downturn after 10 years of uninterupted 
success, looked for ways to cut costs. The 
facade of Family, so long supported by 
seemingly endless growth, faltered. 


My department. Payments and Re- 
cords, was responsible for calculating the 
pay of everyone who worked in "the 
Field": anyone outside Chicago. Offi- 
cially these were all "contractors," so 
that no one got benefits of any sort. In 
addition to salepersons, who got com- 
missions, there were "service" people, 
mostly retired women who stocked cards 
at their local stores at piece-work rates. 
My job, in addition to supervising the 
six-person staff, included resolving the 
complaints of any sales and service 
personnel who claimed they were not 
being paid even the sub-minimum wage 
they were entitled to. 

As part of the austerity effort my boss 
instructed me to deny all such claims 
wherever feasible regardless of ostensible 
merit. This was actually fun to do, 
particularly as most of the salespeople 
were pushy and obnoxious. Some of the 
field personnel, put out at being ripped 
off by a snotty clerk (me) appealed to 
their regional managers. 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 2 1 

If their regional manager was one of 
the original five salesmen who signed on 
with Mike and Steve at the very begin- 
ning, they always won their appeal. 
Otherwise not. The field operation was 
strictly a feudal-style hierarchy, and no 
one even bothered with progressive 
jargon to cover it, as we did at the 
central office. 


When RPP began, its cards were 
packed and mailed by blind and disabled 
people contracted via federal and city 
agencies. This was PR'd as charitable 
employment, but in fact after federal 
subsidies and tax breaks, RPP ended up 
paying them about $1.50 an hour (and 
no benefits); some would call this exploi- 
tation of the disabled. 

When the company grew too big for 
this, it founded a warehouse in a distant 
south suburb, a white working class 
area. The office staff, Newtown liberals 
and gays, only saw the warehouse staff at 
the annual Christmas party and we 
never felt comfortable around these loud 
red-neck types. We heard vague rumors 
about tyrannical foremen, low wages, 
and double-shifts with no overtime. 

Shortly after I got there, the ware- 
house staff tried to unionize. Mike and 
Steve, progressiveness notwithstanding, 
hired a famous union-busting law firm 
and threatened to move the warehouse 
to Tennesee, a "right-to-work" state. 
The union lost the vote, the "ringlead- 
ers" were fired while a small raise was 
given to everyone else, and peace re- 
turned to the warehouse operation. 

"Barbara was a loud, fat, upfront bull-dyke 
whose very existence aggravated Eileen's 
Lipstick Lesbian/Career Woman sensibilities." 

I learned most of this by reading 
confidential memos on my boss's desk 
while she was doing power lunch. Few 
people at the central office knew any- 
thing about the affair. 


In fact, as far as I could tell all my boss 
Eileen did was Power Lunch. I moni- 
tored and assigned work in the office, 
resolved disputes, prepared reports and 
gave them to her to sign. She did lunch 
and attended meetings, held frequent 
morale boosting sessions where she 
urged us to work harder in New Age 
jargon, and lobbied for a larger staff 
while trying to stay on Mike and Steve's 
good side. 

For some reason I could never figure 
out, virtually all of the department 

heads, like Eileen, were lesbians. Perhaps 
Mike and Steve felt less threatened by 
them than they would have by men in 
the same spots; maybe it was simply that 
their willingness to tolerate these wom- 
en's sexual orientation allowed them to 
pay a good 30% less than comparable 
positions earned at most other offices. 

Soon after I became assistant office 
manager, Mike and Steve hired an "effi- 
ciency consultant" famed for ruthlessly 
reducing oversize staffs. His advice was 
to almost totally eliminate an entire level 
of management — the lesbian department 
heads, as it turned out. This was actually 
a pretty shrewd call, for as I'd guessed 
this crowd did little real work except to 
stroke the bosses' egos and spy on the 
workers and each other. 

To my bitter disappointment, for I 
hoped to replace Eileen as many (much 
lower paid) assistant managers were 
doing for their ex-department heads, she 
was one of the very few to weather the 
storm. Mike and Steve got a real kick 
out of her sassy, hip style and new age 


At this point I was totally disillu- 
sioned about RPP being progressive in 
any real way, and also realized that now 
that "fast growth" had ended, so did my 
prospects for rising into junior manage- 

I began to notice parallels between 
RPP and the RSL, despite their ideologi- 
cal differences. In both organizations the 
rank and file did shit work, the simple, 
boring, meaningless tasks that comprise 
most jobs. The progressive claims of our 
bosses were supposed to transform this 
drudgery into something exalted, instead 
of the "alienated" work we could be 
doing elsewhere for more money. 

The middle management got better, 
more interesting, and easier work, as 
well as power over the peons and a 
chance to hob nob with the honchos. In 
return for this supposed burden of 
responsibility, we got vastly higher wag- 
es. While my co-workers at RPP added 
columns of figures, filed forms, and 
stuffed envelopes, I wrote evaluations of 
them and performed fairly interesting 
and challenging (if, ultimately, just as 
meaningless) tasks. Just so, in the RSL, 
Joe attended steering committee meet- 
ings of this or that progressive cause 
while the rank & file stood on frigid 
street-corners waving The Paper at dis- 
interested proletarians. 

The Top Honchos in both outfits did 
nothing but sit around and Think, 

Page 22 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

assign blame, get their asses kissed, and 
feud with each other. Mike and Steve of 
RPP ruminated over their stagnant sales 
figures; Ron Tabor, the Big Cheese of 
the RSL, agonized over the dwindling 
subscriptions to The Paper. Mike and 
Steve spent months on the Annual 
Report; Ron endlessly wrote The Book 
(on Trotskyism during World War II— a 
topic as pressing and interesting then as 
it is now). Both organizations, when a 
scape-goat was needed, purged their gay 

In short, the progressive pretensions of 
both outfits were a scam, with obvious 
financial and personal payoffs for the 
honchos. Clearly a good deal for them; 
equally clearly a raw deal for the peons. 
But what about the middle managers? 


The real job of the middle manager is 
Fink. Kissing ass is rarely enough (unless 
you're doing it physically, that is, putting 
out sexually), you also have to keep the 
peons in line. This, ultimately, was 
where Joe had let the CO. down. This 
was Eileen's real job, which she passed 
along to me. I'd reluctantly accepted it 
when I was On My Way Up. Now, 
stripped of my illusions, I balked. I lost 
my interest in screwing the field person- 
nel out of their commissions, or in 
whipping on the office. Firing a worker 
was contrary to RPP procedure— if you 
fire someone you have to pay a share of 
their unemployment benefits. Instead, 
you hazed the worker until they quit. 
You would take away whatever mildly 
interesting task they had cornered and 
give it to someone else, replacing it with 
inventory duty (the most boring task 
available). At the same time you 
watched them like a hawk, noting and 
writing up every late arrival or long 
lunch. An impressive paper trail could 
be used to deny a raise at their annual 
review— assuming they lasted that long. 

Most likely, you have experienced or 
at least observed this universal and 
highly successful management tech- 
nique. The victims are usually perpetrat- 
ors of Bad Attitude. My first designated 
purgee was Barbara, a loud, fat, upfront 
bull-dyke whose very existence aggra- 
vated Eileen's Lipstick Lesbian/Career 
woman sensibilities. She was also the 
unofficial leader of the department rank 
and file, organizing the after-work bar 
socializing and generally slowing the 
pace of work down to human speed 
despite Eileen's pep talks. 

To my great relief, she quit as soon as 
it became obvious that Eileen had it in 

for her, and I was spared the unwelcome 
task of persecuting her in detail and at 
length. My reprieve was temporary, for 
inevitably a new worker with Bad Atti- 
tude rose to the top of Eileen's shit list. 

I was fed up. I'd been doing Real Work 
for almost two years, and began to 
dream of escape. I dreaded going to work 
every morning, hated every moment I 
was there, and began to get stoned at 
lunch every day. Finally, I decided to go 
back to school, at least part time. 

Despite my checkered transcript, I 
found that I could get a degree with only 
a year's more work- IF I could take some 
key classes offered only in the mornings. 
This meant working less than full time 
and abdicating as assistant manager, a 
double relief. Eileen accepted my resig- 
nation with tight-lipped anger, clearly 
scenting Bad Attitude. 

To my surprise, school was now a 
breeze. I aced my courses, and began to 
suspect that there were ways to become a 
Professional without kissing Eileen's ass. 
I applied for graduate school (four more 
years of prolonged adolescence!) and was 
accepted on the strength of my pheno- 
menal test stores — the result of several 
years compulsive reading. 

Meanwhile, Eileen had replaced me 
with a new assistant office manager, a 
cute (if not terribly bright) young lesbian 
Eileen had the galloping hots for. Pam's 
first assignment as Assistant Manager 
was to haze ME into quitting. 

My old co-workers, who had written 
me off when I became Eileen's protege, 
welcomed me back to the ranks. They 
told me how Pam snooped at my desk 
when I went to work, looking for 
something incriminating. I began fishing 
for a student loan, so that I could attend 

my last quarter of college as a full-time 
student. When my safety net was in 
place, I left a note buried in my "in" file 
which read: "Hi Pam— snooping again?" 

Pam found it as soon as I went to 
lunch (my co-workers later gleefully 
reported), and ran into Eileen's office, 
where they talked in angry whispers for 
an hour. When I got back, a simmering 
Eileen called me into her office to 
reprimand me, but I cut her off and gave 
her two weeks notice and walked out- 
one of my finest moments and fondest 

Needless to say, I did no real work my 
last 2 weeks on the job. Despite Eileen's 
ban, my co-workers threw me a farewell 
party. For a year after my departure 
Eileen and Pam attributed every mis- 
placed file to sabotage on my part — not 
entirely without justification. But it was 
pretty clearly Pam's profound incompe- 
tence, and Eileen's infatuated defense of 
her, which eventually got them both 

Since then I have been remarkably 
successful at avoiding Real Work, "pro- 
gressive" or otherwise. Graduate school 
turned out to be an excellent playground 
and I highly recommend it to the 
professional readers of the world. 

I have encountered numerous "Pro- 
gressive" operations since I left the RSL 
and RPP. All insisted that their Cause 
would transform routine labor into non- 
alienated work, and also that eventually 
there would be a concrete payoff of 
money and/or power, come Dividends 
day or the Revolution, as the case may 

Some were sincere. Most were sleazy 
scamsters. None delivered the goods. 

— Kivazee Wabbit 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 23 

Aaaah! H/P Capitalists! 


That forlorn, plaintive look. The aura of poverty. Soiled blue 

jacket and dun slacks. Walking through the front door. 

She darted out from behind her counter to intercept. 
"Hi! Can I help you?" 

fully expecting a series of unintelligible mumbles, but. . . 
"I'll sweep your sidewalk for a sandwich and a bowl of soup" 
. . .was an incontestable declaration. 
She knew when to settle. 
"Fine, I'll get you a broom." 


"Nope, no pesticides whatsoever!" 

In their designer veggie patches, only Himalayan bottled water 

from above 9,000 feet would do. 
Marta and Jorge only worked part-time for them and they paid 

them $8.50 an hour with 2 sick days a month. 
What could be fairer? 
Marta had four children and also worked part-time at the 

electronics factory in the mornings. 
Rushing from one job to the next, the residues of industrial 

solvents rushed with her. 
Drops of toxic sweat are hidden flavor enhancers. 


In the morning fog he runs through eucalyptus-laden hills. 
His Personal Atmosphere Program fills his house with designer 

coffee aroma. 
After his Daily Pause, his mind is clear, anxiety is reduced to a 

creatively useful minimum. 
Phone in ear on bridge. Numbers begin to fill the void, clarity 

gradually muddies. 
Sun-brightened brick walls feel like a workplace, sort of. 
"Stan, I'll be out for a couple of hours at lunch today." 
"OK, no problem" but why does she think I'm paying her $15 

an hour? 
Not to go shopping, that's for damn sure! 
Returning calls. 

Most are out, an occasional nibble. 
"But it takes so long to pay for itself!" 
Think of the bigger picture and then give me the sale! 
The market is up, but not hi-tech. 
Should he sell his last options? 
Damn, who was that? Didja see her?!! 

Open convertible, she's in tight leather, cruising back roads. 

"Pick up Elmer?" 

Vet closes early on Wednesday — golf day. 
Damn dog, let 'im stay over another night! 
"Staaan, puh-leeze!" 

d a 


Hey, steal from us 

and you're ripping 

off the community! 

Fuck you! 

We're a collective, not profiteers. 

75 for a tube o' toothpaste! 
Tomatoes, 89 cents a pound! 
$1 .69 an avocado! 
Who's rippin ' whom? 

Look pal, the wages here are low— we only pay 
ourselves $7 an hour. 

Well, who's rippin whom? 

Page 24 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 


Clattering printer cranking out personal pitches '". 

Dear Mr/Ms [Last Name], 

You are invited to explore socially responsible investing. 

High returns assured (albeit uninsured). 

Financial Services — Money Massage — Interpreting Circum- 

ambulatory Precious Metals Markets. 
Animating inanimate resources. 
Profiting from dead labor. 

Capital growth through strategic mirror positioning. 
You've earned it. 


We started a boom, a new renaissance. 

We've created 47 jobs just in our small business in the past 

Since we started up, 14 other businesses have opened up in the 

Honesty, confidence, tenacity, community awareness, that's 

our edge. 
Meeting the needs of consumers best and first. 
Caring through aggressive market research. 
Acting through hiring the homeless. 
Serving through blanket distribution to every home. 
Earning Trust by telling the Truth. 
Profiting by sharing our overhead with government programs, 

and knowing who to know. 


It pisses me off when you treat me like a manager. 

Raised eyebrows. 

Look, we operate by the same rules, we get the same deal don't 

A look aside. 

You're not working for me you know! 
. . .1 don't like it any more than you do, but let's face it, this is 

our bread and butter. 
Yeah, I guess so. 
I hate this shit. 


Hi, I'm from Better Citizens for an Environment. Have you 

ever heard of acid rain? 
No? Did you hear about the cancer rate just a few miles from 

Yeah, it's really awful isn't it? 
Our organization is pursuing a lawsuit against this company 

for its chronic violations of pollution law. 
We're here today to ask for your support and a donation to 

help us continue. 

The local playground is — 
OK, here's a five-spot. 
Thanks, keep up the fight! 
... At week's end, payday! 

Canvassers: $169.42 and brow— uh. . er . . greenie points. 
Staff lawyers and scientists: $824.17 
Environment: [-$1,435,887,906,277] 


Welcome aboard! 

It's a real team effort here. 
We sink or swim together. 
We strive for a supportive 

work environment. 
We respect you as an 

We care about you and 

want you to feel free to 

talk openly with us at 

any time. 
We offer flextime flexibenes 

flexduty and flexmood 

We expect an average of 20 

hours a week unpaid 

overtime for the first 

three years. 
Then it'll slack off. 

We need to recruit new board members. 

We need to develop more projects. 

We need to keep better records. 

We need to stop working at our jobs so we can do some work 

on what we want to do. 
We need a grant. 
We need a sugar donor. 
We need to be a less needy organization! 
I need some aspirin. 
Pass that joint, would'ja? 
Next meeting? 


Thanks a lot! Really! 

Oh . . . Don't thank me. Thank you! 

See ya next time. 

OK, bye. 


Can I come over? 



Hey, check this out! 

Aalll RIGHT! Finally, some decent bud! 

This is going incredibly fast. 

I'm sure. 

How much? 


Shit! What an outrage! 

Remember the $10 lid? 

The '90s: $20 grams of sinsemilla. 

Name the three companies, on contract to the same federal 

agency, that secretly control the market. 
Rumor monger. 

— Chris Carlsson 

PROCESSED WORLD §26117 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 25 


Memories of 
Virtual Community 

Ir ve got a GREAT job. I can walk to work through 
a pretty neighborhood to work with intelligent 
people on a project which is both personally 
creative and socially useful. The job has many different 
facets and the twenty-four week is flexible— leaving free 
time for my own pursuits. All this and more, for a thou- 
sand dollars a month. I'm a computer programmer with a 
small nonprofit called Community Memory (CM) which 
has created a public access electronic bulletin board in 
Berkeley, California. 

For more than ten years (with some time off for good 
behavior) I've worked as a programmer. My formal edu- 
cation — undergraduate psychology — proved useless in the 
job market. After a couple of years washing dishes and 
being a courier, 1 got a few low-paying jobs programming 
microcomputers for small companies. I was able to use 
this experience to get a real job at Structured Systems 
Group in Oakland where I spent the next two- 
and-a-half years ('80-'83) writing instructions for 
microcomputers (in BASIC for early microcom- 
puters) to help business people count their money 
accurately and rapidly. The pay was good by my 
standards, the job relatively unstressful (and sa/e), 
the co-workers mostly amiable. As a programmer 
I had a lot of control over not only the pace of 
the job, but over its direction. I learned a lot, 
developed some bad habits and read a lot of good 
books while looking busy. 

A year-long vacation was followed by work as a 
contract programmer for various individuals and 
companies, and then a year-and-a-half at a 

The net resuif: we 

reinforce the image of 

institutions, rather than 

individuals, as providers 

of information; some clerk 

in the city government 
has yet another task: and 

the city government— 

which already has ample 

ways to disseminate 

information — continues 

to set the agenda. 


consulting company in San Mateo. I wrote and 
supported BASIC programs for minicomputers 
(MAI Basic Four) for clients that were country 

clubs or in the food industry (processors, distri- 
butors, brokers). My co-workers were a genial lot, 
and the work was challenging as I grasped the 
essentials of a new type of computer and a new 
business. On the down side, I had a long com- 
mute from Berkeley by public transit, customer 
support was a drag, and the poor business climate 
led to greater demands on staff. 

I was laid off in autumn of 1987: a bitter 
experience, for even with a certain distance from 
the work I was still involved. There is an aspect of 
creativity — albeit within narrow constraints — to 
most programming. That aspect is much greater 
when one is given responsibility for design and 
support, rather than just coding one little piece 
without knowing its role in the larger scheme of 

Page 26 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

I heard about a "position" at Com- 
munity Memory from a friend who 
worked there. I had used their ter- 
minals in a grocery store, which were 
part of a free, publicly-accessible data- 
base. It contained a swarm of messages 
—some on political issues, some ad- 
vertisements, some raving about the 
Grateful Dead. I was intrigued and 
arranged an interview. 

I got the job; the meager $700 a 
month was a step down, but I was 
living in a rent-controlled apartment 
and could squeak by. The work con- 
ditions also were worse: instead of my 
quiet office with a view of the coastal 
mountains I had a desk in a large 
room, with no secretary to answer the 
telephone. On the other hand, I was 
learning a new language (C) and a new 
operating system (UNIX) which held 
great promise for the future: no longer 
would I be stuck in the double ghetto 
of being a BASIC (usually said with a 
sneer) applications programmer. No 
longer was I counting money or con- 
signing some clerk to the unemploy- 
ment line, or a secretary to a finger- 
numbing and brain-deadening job! I 
could show curious friends what I did for 
a living, and my "shop-talk" might have 
a chance of being interesting to a 

CM has its origins in the public service 
telephone switchboards of the late '60s 
and early '70s. There was a continuous 
turnover in both people and groups 
which led to a perpetual reinventing of 
the wheel, as each new person or group 
duplicated the efforts of others. "Aha! 
Why not a common storage for ALL of 
these diverse groups?" asked some. After 
soliciting various switchboards in San 
Francisco, a group of computer people 
who had left the University of California 
at Berkeley at the time of the Cambodia 
invasion launched "Resource One." By 
the time the technological problems were 
solved, however, the project was all 
dressed up with no place to go: the 
personnel turnover meant that nobody 
at the switchboards had ever heard of 
the project. 

Terminals were then set up in public 
places to see how people would use a 
public bulletin board. Tom Athanasiou' 
described it: "A small three-terminal 
Community Memory System [was] kept 
up for about fourteen months. Uses 
reflected the locations of the terminals. 
One was in a music store and collected 
information about gigs, bands and the 
like. Another, at a hippie hardware store. 

specialized in Alternative Technology 
and barter. The third, located in a public 
library in the Mission District, a poor 
area of San Francisco, was little more 
than a high-tech graffiti board." The 
system proved to be much more diverse 
in its uses than any of the organizers had 

Funding never materialized, and it was 
several years until the system was started 
again. Several people decided to develop 
an improved public-access bulletin board 
system which would use the latest avail- 
able minicomputers. In 1977, after unex- 
pected delays, and with aid from hard- 
ware designer Lee Felsenstein's success in 
the newborn personal computer indus- 
try. The Community Memory Project 
was incorporated. A key idea was repli- 
cability: other areas or non-geographical 
groups, including organizers, could start 
their own CM "nodes." 

Creating software is a long and costly 
affair, and funding such a venture has 
driven more than one company out of 
business. The group decided to develop 
software in such a way as to allow 
commercial spinoffs. Predictably this 
lead to other problems associated with 
business. Says Athanasiou: "The story 
of Community Memory is really two 
stories, reflecting our history as a politi- 
cal/technical collective that took a long, 
unplanned, and largely unpleasant trip 
through the computer industry." There 
were disputes that reflected the hier- 
archy of the programmers over other 
workers, and which pitted the money 
suppliers against the programmers. 
There were also fierce debates over sales 
policy: a South African company want- 
ed to buy "X.Dot," a communication 
protocol for linking computers together, 
and the U.S. Naval Surface Weapons 
Laboratory wanted to buy a database 
product ("Sequitur"). Additional ten- 
sions developed around the "profession- 
alization" of the operation^. 

Eventually the software company 
folded, but there were enough royalties 
from sales of old products to allow 
Community Memory to survive, and in 
September of 1984 a new system with 
four locations in Berkeley was started. It 
was driven by a central minicomputer 
with "dumb terminals" (i.e., the central 
machine controlled every keystroke and 
every character on the screen). The 
terminals were located in several mem- 
ber-owned grocery stores, a Latino cul- 
tural center and a "hip capitalist" de- 
partment store. 

They were free, easy to use, and 

proved to be popular. Many uses that 
had been expected did materialize, and 
several that hadn't been foreseen sprang 
up, including a sort of "electronic thera- 
py" in which people would describe a 
problem in their lives and others would 
respond with advice and support. The 
system was terminated in the summer of 
1988 when the financial collapse of the 
grocery stores closed half the sites, and 
the hip capitalists became offended at 
some message and claimed "liability" 
problems, as well as the need for more 
sales space. 

By that time CM was hard at work on 
yet another version, considerably more 
sophisticated than the previous one. In 
the summer of 1989 public terminals 
running the new system were set up. 
Currently there are ten public terminals 
located in libraries, 24-hour laundro- 
mats, student housing, a senior center 
and various non-profits. Because the 
local terminals are microcomputers, 
which handle the user's input, screen 
display, various timing operations, and 
store copies of messages, the overall 
operation of the main computer is much 
more efficient and more people can be 
served. As in the earlier versions, people 
may use any "name" they please, and 
reading messages is free. 

Unlike previous versions, however, 
messages are grouped together in "for- 
ums," which allow more messages to be 
handled with less wasted time. (Of 
course, this adds another "layer" the 
user must negotiate to get to read 
messages.) Another change is in the con- 
tent: CM provides a lot of material in 
the form of listings of community agen- 
cies, phone numbers and calendars. 



PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 27 

Unlike earlier versions it costs money 
— a quarter — to leave a message. The 
quarter isn't intended as a funding 
source for CM (even the busiest site 
barely pays for the phone line, let alone 
the cost of a terminal), but rather to 
reduce the "Fuck You" messages, as well 
as gibberish and random typing. It 
undoubtedly also discourages some us- 
ers, and certainly is a disincentive to 
multiple use (we are now implementing a 
system that allows us to credit prolific 
authors with free messages). The soft- 
ware is still being refined; although the 
process is orderly, the need for improve- 
ments is potentially never-ending. 
The Seeds Of Discontent 

In many ways, I've got a really SHIT- 
TY job. The equipment is inadequate 
and poorly positioned and my "office" is 
little more than a cubicle made of book 
shelves that does nothing to keep out 
street and office noise. I'm interrupted by 
the phone when I'm trying to concen- 
trate, assuming that somebody isn't 
using my desk when I arrive, and the 
work can be monotonous. The pay is 
low for a person with ten years' experi- 
ence, and the insurance plan is inade- 
quate. Until very recently we were paid 
monthly, and even then not necessarily 
on time. My good name [sarcastic smile] 
is sometimes associated with people and 
projects that I do not support. And 1 
have come to some unpleasant conclu- 
sions about socially innovative applica- 
tions of technology. 

My discontent springs from many 
sources— long-nagging problems that 
have become major irritants, a hyper- 
sensitivity to political issues and my 
changing view of the world (and my role 
in it), and the changing nature of the 
organization itself. 

"Those that do good should not 
expect to do well" might well be embla- 
zoned over the doors of "nonprofits" 
and service companies. The continuous 
parade of broken-down machines and 
inadequate furniture only emphasizes 
the message that goes with the small 
paycheck (a message implicit in "profes- 
sionalized service systems" in general): 
(I) You are deficient; (2) you have a 
problem; (3) you have many problems. 

The overt justification for poor condi- 
tions and pay is that money is scarce, 
which it is, compared with the sloshing 
waste of funds at Visa or Bank of 
America. But this explanation wears 
thin after a while; the priority always 
seems to be something other than the 
workers. The situation is exacerbated by 
differential pay scales. When I first 
started at CM in the spring of 1988, 
everybody was paid ten dollars an hour 
(the same wage as in 1981!); a bit more 
for those who had worked there for long 
enough to get the (small) annual raises. 
This changed in 1989 when the first 
grant money was applied for. The pro- 
posal called for two positions to be 
funded at something closer to $15 an 
hour; lo! it came to pass. The justifica- 
tion was that you have to pay more to 
get good people ... an idea I take heated 
exception to. It was six months before 
the new pay scale was extended to the 
programming staff. Interest was also 
expressed in hiring students at a local 
business school at $5 an hour, the rate 
the school paid its student workers. 
Ironically, higher pay was accompanied 
on my part by greater disaffection. My 
identity became more clearly articulated 
as that of a mercenary doing a paid task: 
this is a job, not a calling. 

Along with a differentiation in wages 

'■-•• \ M 

■■«rirfi«|-ii ml*"" ■ ■ -- itiiiiifii -Ini^iiTi 

came a greater division of labor. There 
has been an increase in maintenance 
labor, both of the hardware and of the 
information on the system, and this has 
not been shared equally. The judgment 
of the relative worth of various tasks can 
summed up by: "It's really important, 
but I have more important things to do, 
so someone else should do it," a senti- 
ment less common when I started work 

In earlier days the primacy of the 
technical staff caused conflict, and more 
recently has led to comments such as: 
"For too long CM has been guided by 
technical needs. Now we must get out of 
the test-tube and into the community." 
This argument has been propelled by the 
availability of funds from large donors 
oriented toward specific uses and pro- 
jects, rather than support for software 

Another source of my discontent has 
been the creeping institutionalization of 
the project. Part of this is reflected in the 
information providers. While there is 
healthy participation by individuals, a 
great deal of effort has been spent 
providing existing institutions, which 
already have access to various media 
outlets, with a presence on the system. 
Try as I may I cannot see how this serves 
to "empower" (to use one of those fuzzy 
buzz-words so beloved by progressives) 
individuals. Many of these institutions 
are part of a network of "professional 
helpers" that make a feathered nest out 
of the alleged problems and deficiencies 
of large numbers of people. While most 
of these are innocuous, there are some 
that are not. Although innocently en- 
tered into, CM's appearance on a "May- 
or's Advisory Panel on Drug Abuse" 
drew my ire. Such panels are rarely 
anything but populist window-dressing 
for the establishment's jihad against 
drugs; I was appalled that CM's name 
would be used without other collective 
members knowing about it. 

At least some of the material on the 
system, and some of the ties to other 
organizations, seem aimed at accumulat- 
ing a laundry list of politically correct 
items to please potential donors. This 
includes forums such as "Current Agen- 
da," which has the agenda for upcoming 
City Council meetings; a whole series of 
messages targeting the hapless homeless, 
such as soup kitchens ("prayer service 
required"); city services; and, always, 
drug and alcohol programs. 

And, inevitably, there have been criti- 
cisms of internal make-up. The group 

Page 28 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

has been overwhelmingly white; hence 
we can't claim to represent the "Black 
Community" or the "Asian Communi- 
ty." True, but then I, at least, never 
claimed to be representing people, just 
trying to provide a technical means for 
them to speak for themselves. 

The quest for money has generated a 
creeping respectability. Following the 
predilections of donors, CM has created 
more rigid job descriptions, and has 
made efforts to appear "a part of the 
community." But Berkeley is a diverse 
city, and the "community" of users is 
ambiguous. As a result, there have been 
attempts to enlist putative representa- 
tives of "communities" in both the 
direction and implementation of CM. 
Of course, this almost always boils down 
to "community" institutions, usually with 
professional staff— and, of course, their 
own agendas and requirements. They 
also tend to be underfunded and over- 
worked, so taking part in CM often is 
more work for their staffs; alternatively, 
we have to do the work. In the case of 
the City Council agenda, a program 
(written by an unpaid volunteer) con- 
verts the material from one electronic 
form to another; then a person— usually 
a programmer — adds index words and 
minor edits, and loads the few dozen 
messages. The net result: perhaps one 
person a month reads some of the 
messages; we reinforce the image of 
institutions, rather than individuals, as 
providers of information; some clerk in 
the city government has yet another 
task; and the city government— which 
already has ample ways to disseminate 
information — continues to set the agen- 

This desire to appear "proper" has also 
led to the creation of "advisory panels" 
that contain people of dubious political 
character but with loads of respectabili- 
ty. One such person— a head of the city 
library system— demonstrated her com- 
mitment to free speech when she an- 
nounced that she had "referred to the 
District Attorney" a "problem" that had 
arisen. Somebody had published a "So- 
cial Decoder" pamphlet in which, for 
instance, CISPES stands not for "Com- 
mittee In Solidarity with the People of El 
Salvador," but rather for "Committee 
for Improved State Power In El Salva- 
dor." This pamphlet, which claimed to 
be published by the Berkeley Public 
Library, in fact gave a name and a PO 
Box, and was not likely to be confused 
with a real library publication. Love me, 
love me, I'm a liberal librarian. 

CM has changed its internal structure 
from a (theoretically) membership con- 
trolled organization to (as of January 
1991) a group controlled by a board of 
directors and a paid staff. In theory, 
volunteers still have a place, but the 
inability of the group to attract new 
(unpaid) people reflects both the ambi- 
guity of the project and its somewhat 
manipulative view of volunteers. 

Although the earlier days were char- 
acterized, at times, by obstructionism 
and personal antagonism, CM at least 
gave people a sense of participation, 
sometimes even the reality of it. While 
not everything was subject to group 
approval, and not every decision was 
sensible, the process was generally agree- 
able. Sometimes minor points would 
take on major importance precisely be- 
cause of personalities and/or political 
differences, but the process at least 
allowed some form of discussion and 
even appeal. On the flip side, having 
every decision subject to possible rene- 
gotiation was vastly frustrating for peo- 
ple whose job it was to carry out those 

Given these problems I've been forced 
to look ever more closely at the ideologi- 
cal foundations of the project. There are 
two intertwined aspects: the primacy of 
information, and the importance of 

Langdon Winner in his "Mythinfor- 
mation"^ says: "The political arguments 
of computer romantics draw upon four 
key assumptions: 1) people are bereft of 
information; 2) information is know- 
ledge; 3) knowledge is power; and 4) 
increased access to information enhanc- 

es democracy and equalizes social pow- 

Certainly Berkeley can't be considered 
information-poor; indeed, many people 
seem to feel overwhelmed by what passes 
for information. I would venture that 
most peoples' lives contain, within their 
own experiences, the information most 
crucial to reshaping those lives. 

The bland treatment of "informa- 
tion" — for CM this roughly equates to 
"messages read" and "messages writ- 
ten"— has little significance. The utility 
to the reader is ignored for a time- 
honored reason: it's hard to quantify. 
We screen out a great deal of garbage by 
requiring a quarter, but we still have a 
fair number of messages that are gibber- 
ish, wild rants, obscene retorts and the 

The equating of knowledge and power 
is laughable: for instance, one may know 
where an enemy is and what he intends, 
and yet be powerless to stop him. 
Alternatively, you can know that you 
are being exploited and be no closer to 
ending that exploitation. It's doubtful 
that the abundant advertisements placed 
on CM, or the play-lists of past Grateful 
Dead concerts, or the musings on magic, 
have anything to do with power. Con- 
fusing some abstract form of knowledge 
with actual power is a convenient trick, 
particularly for those with an interest in 
maintaining existing forms of "democra- 
cy." Indeed, it is rare for the proponents 
of such "radical" change to actually 
examine the structures of power; often 
the claims of the apologists are taken at 
face value. And as Winner points out, 
having a personal computer no more sets 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 29 


Q the innerface of capital's interface 

you up to compete with the National 
Security Agency than having a hang- 
glider equips you to compete with the 
U.S. Air Force. The proponents of the 
computer have argued that the spread of 
(relatively) low-cost machines has al- 
lowed popular movements to "catch up" 
with the government. This is a some- 
what ingenuous argument: while some 
people may have a nifty machine — 
indeed, a machine of extraordinary ca- 
pabilities by the standards of 1965 — the 
government/business sector not only 
has such machines and their big brothers 
(which are also exponentially more pow- 
erful than their ancestors) but also the 
ability to connect them together. 

Access to some types of information 
might enhance democracy, but continu- 
ing to reinforce a "one-speaking-to- 
many" system, does not, just as access to 
jokes or lists of phone numbers doesn't 
equalize social power. 

The second ideology is that of "com- 
munity." Admittedly, CM has never 
argued that electronic communication 
should replace face-to-face xontact— only 
that it could be used to meet a wider 
spectrum of people. But beneath the 
appeal of "community" (another pro- 
gressive buzz-word) lie unasked ques- 
tions. Is community a reactionary desire? 
Is it simply a matter of shared interests? 
Is there some meaningful aspect beyond 
the simplistic sense? Or does the word 
conceal an agenda as well as an ideology? 

As Bedford Fenwick'* says: "In terms of 
control, the State is finding the ideology 
of the community a far more effective 
means of maintaining good order than 
the threat of confinement. [ . . . ] The 
traditional community represents the 
most effective Panopticon of all— control 
through mutual surveillance. Capitalism 
destroyed this. [. . .] The present age is 

attempting a resuscitation. Just as the 
traditional community policed itself be- 
cause it gave consent to the ruling 
ideology, because people considered 
their own interests were connected to 
the interests of their masters in a 
significant and truthful way, so present 
day power is seeking an imaginary 
identification with the interests of every- 
body. Only today that identification is 
hard to achieve and power must ransack 
the ideologies and rhetorics of previously 
popular movements to gain a footing." 
In a passage relevant to projects like CM, 
he says "Our society seems to torment 
itself with the loss of community. Radi- 
cal projects define themselves as a dis- 
covery of community, like the gay 
community, or the national community. 
[...The State's] assertion of benevo- 
lence serves to demoralize society both 
by denying the unbearable reality of 
present society, and by undermining 
society's belief in itself, independent 
from expertise, as a responsible and 
reasonable substance. The State not 
only wants our obedience, but like other 
contemporary corporations, it demands 
our love. The ideology of community is 
one way it seeks to achieve this." 

Given that many Americans no longer 
feel an identity with neighborhood or 
job, it is not surprising to see such 
attempts to create a more nebulous (and 
less demanding) "community" by elec- 
tronic means. 

CM's work, of course, does not occur 
in a vacuum: there has been an enor- 
mous change in both the public view 
and the actual implementation of com- 
puter technology. 

When the antecedents of CM were 
conceived, the nature — and the popular 
perception — of computers was very dif- 
ferent. Even the cheapest of machines 
cost tens of thousands of dollars and 
required a host of experts to operate. 
Heavily concentrated in the government 
and large corporations, they calculated 
the money needs of the economic mon- 
sters, aided the physicists in their quest 
for knowledge (and weaponry), and 
helped the state track both benefits and 
punishments. There was little doubt in 
the popular mind that the computers 
were on the side of Big Brother and his 
faceless minions. Indeed, much of the 
discourse on privacy and personal liberty 
was couched in terms of these machines 
and their potentials. 

The need to train technicians means 
exposing a growing number of students 
to computers, however, and not all of 

the trainees are devotees of totalitarian 
dreams. For the libertarian aficionados, 
the early days were characterized by a 
heady excitement about the potentials of 
the machine — a potential often ignored 
or delayed by the accountant-minded 
administrators. Indeed, these admini- 
strators and SYSOPs (SYStem OPera- 
tors) were the nemesis of these libertari- 
ans, later to be known as hackers. The 
attempt to develop "democratic" com- 
puters had two major thrusts: one 
towards a more popular use of the large 
machines, the other towards smaller and 
cheaper machines. In the first category 
were attempts to create or increase access 
to the machines (e.g. Resource One, 
CM's ancestor), often by time-sharing or 
else by wider public access to the 
information derived from the machines. 
The Homebrew Computer Club in the 
San Francisco Bay Area, which nurtured 
many of the early pioneers of the 
micro-computer (and Community 
Memory), falls in the second category. 

The diminution of the Big Brother 
image is only partly due to the actual use 
of such machines — it has far more to do 
with the utility of a benign appearance 
for the technology. Part of this change 
has been wrought by the promises — and 
occasionally the practice— of alternativ- 
ist projects. 

David Noble has said that "the fight 
for alternatives . . . diverts attention from 
the realities of power and technological 
development, holds out facile and false 
promises, and reinforces the cultural 
fetish for technological transcendence." 
By contrast, Athanasiou argues for a 
movement that does not simply oppose 
technology. He cites the woman's move- 
ment as an example of a social move- 
ment seeking the implementation and 
improvement of technology (contracep- 
tion and abortion). Such alternativist 
attempts as CM help focus the imagina- 
tion and the technological fascination 
that many people feel. But given the 
difficulties of actually implementing any 
large project, I am skeptical about this 
use of people and time. CM has tried 
both the corporate approach (as Pacific 
Software) and the non-profit/donor 
route: neither is very successful, both 
absorb serious amounts of time and 
energy, and both have built-in traps; 
indeed, such efforts clearly delineate the 
enormous obstacles to humanist proj- 
ects, even if such projects succeed in 
their own terms, computerization con- 
tinues to deepen the division of labor: a 
few (relatively) well paid and highly 

Page 30 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

skilled jobs (the programmers and "so- 
cial" experts) versus a much larger 
number of people with few skills who 
are poorly, if at all. 

At this point, CM has probably 
guaranteed its institutional survival, but 
its vision seems clouded, at best. Perhaps 
it is to the project's credit, however, that 
it has more imagination than capability: 
certainly the opposite is more dangerous. 
I've learned that using a system like CM 
in the service of greater democracy is 
very difficult; it requires both passion 
and perspective. Success might be more 
likely in an area with fewer possibilities 
for popular participation, or in an area 
less saturated with communications 
channels. Nor would a group contem- 
plating such a thing today have to design 
the system from scratch — much of the 
needed software is commonly available, 
and the hardware costs are far lower. But 
the steady flow of requests for us to 
provide information also tells me that 
the system encourages a dangerous pas- 
sivity in its current form. 

The ultimate meaning of projects like 
CM may well be that they are a soft sell 
for a hard technology that provides a 
career ladder for ambitious social profes- 

sionals. The technology, despite CM's 
hopes for it, promotes passivity: very few 
people think of themselves as sources of 
information. CM can't overcome illiter- 
acy and self-doubt; nor can it create 
community where there is none. Mod- 
ern management techniques and the 
emphasis both on "community" and 
"the information economy" find a pre- 
cise reflection in oppositional politics 
when they become obsessed with com- 
munication and technique. Consciously 
we can provide a human face for a 
devastating technology. Possibilities of 
computer use within a truly free society 
are barely shadows flitting across our 
screens as we mechanically maintain the 
edifice of legitimacy for this barbaric 

social order. 

— O. o. Williamson 

1) Tom Athanasiou, "High-Tech Alternativism: 
The Case for the Community Memory Project," 
Radical Science #17 

2) Lucius Cabins, "Making of a Bad Attitude," 
PW ifn, pages 8-10 on Pacific Software. 

3) Langdon Winner, "Mythinformation," Whole 
Earth Rei'ieu', January 1985, pg 22 

4) Bedford Fenwick, "The Institutionalization of 
the Community," Here & h^ow #10, 1990, pg 7. 
Here & Now c/o Transmission Gallery, 28 King 
St., Glasgow, Gl 5QP Scotland or PO Box 1109, 
Leeds, LS5 3AA, England 



rain, the drops 

streak the windows. 

When the trolley waits 
they point one way. 
When the trolley moves 
they point another, 
cross-hatched like people 
going to work. 

I want to run 
through the aisles. 
I want to touch 
everyone on the shoulder. 

Look! I will say 

the rain is making 

wonderful designs! 

Each window is different 


& m eaningless ! 

But I stay in my seat 
& do nothing. 
I am one of them. 

— William Talcott 

THIS M^PfctU W«tL» 


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FdOTEcT THE Ft><?PaWAfi 


PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special lOth Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 3 1 

There Goes 
The Neighborhood! 

I work at a neighborhood recycling center in the 
Haight-Ashbury. At the moment I feel pretty grateful 
toward my job. It lets me do certain things I wouldn't 
be able to do at other jobs: I can hang massive anti-war 
banners around the recycling yard; or, the other night, I 
borrowed the flatbed truck to use as a traveling sound 
stage during a demonstration roving through the city. No 
one complained when 1 decided to honor the General 
Strike the day after the air invasion of Iraq began. 

Thanks to another part-time job, I work only two days 
a week at the recycling center. On Thursdays we go into 
the Financial District to get paper out of offices. I quit a 
Financial District job a few years ago to take this recy- 
cling job, and now, ironically, recycling has me working 
downtown again. I'm usually not stuck in any one office 
for more than about 5 minutes, and contact with the of- 
fice workers is usually pleasant — they seem to regard me 

Instead of being a 

mcaginal dumping ground 

for the community, I 

envision the recycling 

center as being central 

to the "economy" of the 

neighborhood, being a 

trading hub as well as 

an important resource in 

ecology information. 

with at least a notch or two more dignity than 
when I was a bike messenger. 

On Saturdays I go around the neighborhood 
with a partner, getting the recyclables out of cafes 
and the basements of peoples' homes. The work is 
physically demanding, and I don't always enjoy 
having to work Saturdays, but it is often an 
enjoyable way of having contact with the neigh- 

I worked in recycling before, managing a tiny 
buy-back center in a Safeway parking lot, patron- 
ized largely by annoying suburbanites who were 
only doing it for the money. The experience for- 
tunately didn't dampen my enthusiasm for recyc- 
ling, but did leave a bad taste in my mouth. I 
had always been fond of the Haight-Ashbury 
center, and when a friend working there said they 

needed people, 1 decided to try recycling work 
again. The director of the center had recently 
quit due to burnout, and my friend told me that 
the center was now being run as a collective, 
which appealed to me. 

It soon became clear how little of a collective it 
really was. The non-profit center was under the 
jurisdiction of a local neighborhood council 
board, which tended to be pretty out of touch 
with the daily realities of the recycling center. 
However, they certainly didn't mind deciding 
which groups would get small grants from the 
money that we made. 

Apparently, at the same time that the board 
authorized the collective, they also hired a certain 
individual with the understanding that he was to 
be manager. They never drew any clear lines oi 

Page 32 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

authority between the two, naively 
trusting that it would work itself out 
somehow. Of course it didn't. 

The collective was split into two 
factions: those who tried to make the 
collective succeed, and those who didn't 
want it to be a collective at all. The 
pro-management faction was only two 
people. One was a guy whose father had 
started the center back in the mid-70's 
and had grown up with the place. He'd 
naturally expected to be tapped as 
director when the last one quit, and was 
disappointed when it didn't happen. He 
didn't really recognize the collective, but 
he continued to participate in the cha- 
rade of collective meetings. People often 
accused him (fairly or unfairly) of sabo- 
taging the collective process. The other 
was the manager designee, an "old boy" 
recycler who, rumor had it had been 
fired from just about every recycling 
center in the city. Somehow he sweet- 
talked the board into hiring him, and 
regularly told them what they wanted to 
hear. He was "our representative to the 
board," but in reality he was more like 
the board's representative to us. Collec- 
tive decisions had a mysterious way of 
not being carried out. 

Pay equity was an issue. The starting 
wage was $5.00/hour, and most of us 
were still making that, even after work- 
ing there over a year. A couple of the 
drivers got $5.50, and a few people got 
$6.00, including the two guys mentioned 
above. We repeatedly sought pay raises 
to make it equal, the vote usually always 
going something like 8 to 2 (guess which 
2?), and wondered why the board was 
always so slow to act on what we'd 
decided. It turned out that our "repre- 
sentative" never even told the board 
about the votes at all! 

Things got worse and more surreal: 
grueling 5 hour collective meetings, an- 
grily abandoned by many. A "personnel 
committee," formed to handle disciplin- 
ary procedures, turned into a kangaroo 
court, accusing individuals of "anti- 
collective behavior." A scandal involv- 
ing the Christmas bonus: some people 
got less than $50, some got as much as 
$600, with nobody confessing who made 
the decisions or what criterion was used. 
We later learned that the decision was 
made by our supposed representative (in 
consultation with an unnamable third 
party), and further investigation re- 
vealed that our "representative" had 
gotten $1600! 

The board got tired of the "collective" 
experiment, and began convening a 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Sppci?l 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue 

"Management Restructuring Commit- 
tee" ostensibly to study the present 
formation. I had become somewhat 
active in trying to bring some peace 
between the different factions, which led 
to my being elected, along with my 
friend Debbie, as collective representa- 
tives on the Management Restructuring 
Committee. Our "representative" was 
asked to leave the center, in a dignified 
way so that it looked like he quit. 
(Subsequently he became manager of a 
failing nearby recycling center.) 

Our center would have a three-person 
interim management team for the next 3 
months, at the end of which the board 
would decide on a management struc- 
ture for the center. The interim team was 
comprised of me, Debbie, and a man- 
agement consultant. Debbie and I were 
demanding strict pay equity — everybody 
working at the center should make 
$6.00/hour. The consultant said that 
the rock-bottom lowest she would work 
for was $12.00. She proposed we should 
all three get $12.00, which sounded good 
to us, except that out of principle we 
didn't want to be making more than 
other people at the center. We finally 
compromised and decided to receive the 
$12.00/hour for our management hours, 
$6.00 of which we kept, and the other 
$6.00 of which we divided among all the 
workers who were still making $5.00/ 
hour. It was a bookkeeper's nightmare, 
but it was the closest our collective ever 
got to pay equity. 

I couldn't wait for the three-month 
period to end. We did actually manage 
to draft a rather agile and sophisticated 
proposal for collective management of 
the center, which addressed many of the 
shortcomings we had experienced previ- 

ously, but it wasn't taken seriously, and 
we knew it wouldn't be. There was some 
talk among us of going on strike if the 
board voted against us, but it felt 
half-hearted, and I was extremely burned 
out from the whole interim management 
ordeal anyway, and very uninterested in 
gearing up for what was certain to be 
another losing battle. And for what!? 
Were we really that much of a collective 

P.C. Recycling (Post-Collective) 

I appreciate not having to deal with 
the board anymore. Most, if not all of 
them consider themselves pretty pro- 
gressive (One of them once described the 
board as "radical"). They're actually 
representative of the general political 
character of the Haight-Ashbury these 
days: professional people with a consci- 
ence, especially compared to most of 
their co-workers. But they are blind 
when it comes to understanding things 
from the point of view of the people who 
work for them. 

I often complained about the conde- 
scending way we were treated. They 
would listen to the management con- 
sultant and think of her as the manager, 
while mostly feeling uncomfortable 
around me and Debbie. They treated us 
like kids, something especially apparent 
when we would ask for raises. They 
looked down on us because we made so 
much less than they did. They didn't 
believe we deserved to make any more, 
so they didn't give us any more — another 
bitter Catch-22. 

The board ended the experiment with 
"collectivity" and opted instead for a 
"manager with an egalitarian style." The 
whole interim period was designed to 

Page 33 

give an appearance of objectivity to what 
they had been planning all along. They 
already had their handpicked candidate. 

Now he has a good job; lives a half 
block away, and gets paid $12/hour to 
go home and babysit his 3-year-old 
daughter. Well, that's not all he does; he 
also gets paid to deal with the board, and 
with the city and the Parks Dept. (they 
own the land), and I guess he must be 
getting some stuff done; we haven't been 
shut down yet. When he feels like it, he 
can even decide once in a while to join 
us and do some work. I don't feel bad 
about him having such a good job: I 
wish we all could have jobs as good. 

He's cooler than a lot of other manag- 
ers would be, is open minded, and even 
appreciates Processed World material 
from time to time. He's easygoing and 
tolerant of frivolity, which certainly 
makes any job more sane. I think he's 
basically a nice fellow, happy to have a 
good job. But he doesn't seem to be 

much of a manager, and seems to have 
abdicated much of that responsibility 
anyway. We don't even see him very 
much, and wonder what he does with 
his time— it takes an awfully long time to 
get things we need. If we want safety 
equipment, we're much better off getting 
it ourselves rather than waiting for him. 

Recycling Boom 

Reflecting the ecology boom of the last 
few years, the center has quickly grown 
from a funky little drop-off center into a 
fairly bustling business, with tonnage 
figures and all that. Management be- 
came more of an issue simply because 
there was that much more to be man- 
aged. More income led to more problems 
owing to more disagreements over what 
to do with the money. It caused an 
identity problem for the center (and for 
us) to have it grow so quickly. The Parks 
Dept. stopped donating the site and 
started charging us rent. We were no 
longer just a drop-off center: a lot more 
people came in to get redemption value 
on their bottles and cans, especially 
people living on the street. The reces- 
sionary mood crept in and added an 
increased air of desperation to the mood 
of the center. 

Since the management restructuring 
period there has been more emphasis on 
"efficiency" at the center: controlling the 
number of person-hours spent at the 
yard; and less joyriding in the truck (no 
more rides to the beach, or stopping in 
Golden Gate Park to feed the "duckie- 
wuckies"). We had to prepare for compe- 
tition from the city's curbside recycling 
program, which was being implemented 
already in other corners of the city. 

Curbside recycling can be a good 
thing, but we were starting to worry 
about our survival, and were scandalized 
when the local garbage company. Sunset 
Scavenger, was awarded the contract 
with no competitive bidding. Our re- 
peated petitions to City Hall to have our 
neighborhood exempted from the city- 
wide curbside program because we were 
already doing it were ignored. Assuranc- 
es that we would be reimbursed by the 
city for any money lost because of the 
curbside program also turned out to be 

The curbside program hit our neigh- 
borhood about a half a year ago now, 
and the effect has been dramatic. We 
creatively try to cut our losses (our 
unofficial advertising slogan: "Just Say 
'Fuck It' To The Blue Buckets!"), but 
volume has still dropped as much as 50%. 

We've succeeded in winning some cus- 
tomers back. (We have some very loyal 
customers. One woman actually UPS's 
her junk paper to us all the way from 
Santa Fe!) Many people like what we do 
but have been confused. Some thought 
the blue buckets were our service, and 
that they were supporting us all this 
time, and are surprised to find out 
they're not. No one is happy to find out 
that Sunset charges $1 /month for their 
service (whether you use it or not!), 
something that is not advertised as being 
part of the deal. 

Still, it's hard to compete with a 
service that offers convenience like that. 
When people can just put their recycla- 
bles on the curb, why should they spend 
their gas money and "free" time and gas 
to deliver it to us— isn't that wasteful? So 
we're coping. 

The effort spent expanding our own 
pickup program pays off— the program 
continues to grow (We need a 2nd 
truck!), and our downtown office paper 
program is also expanding rapidly. But 
the formerly bustling yard now seems 
often like a ghost town— it's even sparse 
on weekends. Our staff hours have been 
cut way back, with no cutbacks in 
management hours, naturally. (In fact, 
management had the nerve to suggest we 
put in some volunteer time!) The yard 
uses more free help, like pre-trial diver- 
sion people. Decision-making is more 
concentrated among the two de-facto 
managers, staff meetings are almost a 
thing of the past, and the proposal for a 
staff group health plan, which we were 
seriously discussing before the curbside 
program hit, has now been all but 
forgotten . . . 

If I'm so critical and dissatisfied, one 
might be tempted to ask, why do I 
continue to work there? I ask that 
myself. In what way is it the good job? I 
rationalize it this way: As much as I 

Page 34 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

dislike a job sometimes, I hate the 
thought of job hunting even more. My job 
pays more now than it used to and offers 
plenty of other flexibilities (and fringe 
benefits). Although staff cutbacks asso- 
ciated with curbside damaged the social 
fabric of the center, it is still a fairly 
closeknit group. Whatever might be said 
for collective management, I actually 
find lately that my worklife is considera- 
bly more tolerable and I feel freer if I 
don't waste time thinking about work 
politics at all. I have no illusions about 
"saving the world," but I enjoy the 
comparative luxury of knowing that 
recycling doesn't seem to make things 
worse. 1 don't have to ponder what sort 
of atrocities my energies may ultimately 
lend themselves to. 

Recycle Your Troubles Away? 

Many well-meaning people feel good 
about "saving the planet" when they put 
something into a recycling receptacle 
instead of into a trash can. However, 
whatever happens to that material after 
it leaves their sight may or may not do 
any good at all. Placing all the emphasis 
on what to do with the stuff at the end of 
the consumption cycle (instead of ad- 
dressing production) makes it impossible 
to do more than cosmetic cleanup. If it 
helps people justify obscene consump- 
tion habits, you could even say it does 
some harm. No matter how many 
progressive or well-meaning little opera- 
tions are involved in recycling collection, 
they still have to sell it to somebody else. 
The recycling market is completely con- 
trolled by large companies whose only 
concern is making a profit, not trying to 
conserve resources or protect the envi- 
ronment. Many of the same companies 
getting in on recycling are the nation's 
biggest polluters (3M, BFl, WML) Inves- 
tigations so far are inconclusive, but 
many speculate that collected recyclables 

are ending up in landfills anyway. It may 
sound outrageous, but it is not far- 
fetched as long as it is still more 
profitable to bury stuff than it is to 
recycle it. Tax breaks to corporations 
that use untapped, unrenewable re- 
sources like oil, aluminum ore, etc. 
("depletion allowances") are further road- 
blocks to an ecologically sane solution. 

Plastic recycling programs are a scam, 
marketing hype to make people feel 
better about using plastic. It doesn't 
actually get recycled, but is at best made 
into something else that will get thrown 
away— and often doesn't even make it 
that far, but gets routed to the landfill. 
Ditto for the much-trumpeted styrofoam 
recycling— very little of it actually goes to 
the "recycling" plant. One person who'd 
visited the high-tech styrofoam "recy- 
cling" plant in Fremont was appalled to 
find that the workers wore no protective 
breathing equipment in a factory filled 
with a thick, toxic cloud. 

Recycling under the present system 
has to adapt to the logic of the market- 
place. Small, community-based recycling 
operations cannot compete with bigger 
companies. Big recycling companies can 
stockpile materials and wait for a favora- 
ble moment in the marketplace. Small 
centers don't have that kind of flexibili- 
ty, and have to curtail collection of 
materials that aren't profitable. When 
the market is glutted, sellers can't find 
buyers and the price plunges, threaten- 
ing the very existence of many small 
centers. Last year the market for news- 
paper got so glutted and the price 
dropped so low that many centers on the 
East Coast actually had to pay to have 
their newspapers hauled away! It's still 
cheaper to buy and produce non- 
recycled paper, and most mills are still 
reluctant to invest in the de-inking 
equipment necessary to produce recycled 
paper. Things are a little better on the 
West Coast, but most of the paper 
collected for recycling gets sold to mar- 
kets in Asia; very little of it gets recycled 
here in the United States. 

Curbside recycling is convenient, but 
attacks the problem from the wrong end 
by focusing on end results rather than 
how and why things are produced in the 
first place. It also takes resources out of 
the community. Neighborhood centers 
like the one in Haight-Ashbury attempt 
to keep resources in the community, but 
that's mostly limited to "recycling" small 
amounts of money. One of Haight- 
Ashbury Recycling's most useful and 
popular features, the "free table," is in 
danger now because Park &. Rec consid- 
ers it an eyesore, attracting the wrong 
kind of people to the center, i.e., the 
indigent and homeless (though in reality 
all kinds of people are attracted to the 
free table). 

There needs to be more neighborhood 
recycling centers, not less. Instead of being 
a marginal dumping ground for the 
community, I envision the recycling 
center as being central to the "economy" 
of the neighborhood: taking up several 
buildings as well as a lot, and being a 
trading hub as well as an important 
resource in ecology information. It could 
also have facilities for all kinds of 
hitherto unprofitable kinds of recycling, 
such as composting. Basic recycling of 
familiar materials like paper and bever- 
age containers could have a much more 
visible presence throughout the commu- 
nity, like the streetcorner recycling ki- 
osks that are commonplace in many 
European cities. Production needs to be 
wholly re-examined. Mandate that, as 
much as possible, paper be composed of 
recycled fiber, and use hemp fiber for the 
rest. Promote a culture of "repair and 
re-use" instead of "throw away and buy 
another." Make bottles more durable 
and returnable. Examine the role of 
plastic. It's an amazing, versatile and 
revolutionary substance, but is way 
overproduced. For which functions is it 
appropriate, and for which other func- 
tions is it simply wasteful? 

To really look at recycling means 
looking at just about every aspect of the 
society we live in— and the society we could 
be living in! 

— Glenn Caley Bachmann 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 35 

Beatnik Managers, 
Tye-Dye Bureaucrats, 

and Corporate All-Purpose 

Tofu Paste 

When I decided I wanted to work at Wheatsville 
Food Co-op I got very puzzled reactions from 
two friends who already worked there. 
Diane, my partner at the time and a member of the Board of 
Directors thought it was great, since to her it wasn't a 
job, but "fun." My other friend just looked at me in his 
customary disbelieving manner and asked, "Why do you 
want to do that?" I would soon understand what he meant. 
When I got the job I gave up an easy cashier position 
at a Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant. I was exchanging a 
job where I read half the time, daily consumed food 
worth as much as my wage and talked to people from all 
over the world for what I thought would be an even 
more "workless" job. What I found was a refuge of hippie 
capitalism mystified by Politically Correct commodities, 
"avant-guard" management and five kinds of tofu, a 

Stocking became a 
favorite chore among 
cashiers since it could be 
stretched out for hours 
while avoiding one's 
register. It was also easy 
to subvert the efficiency 
and speed tracking by 
hitting the total key after 
every item to stop 
the clock. 

facade perpetuated with the assistance of the most 
"respectable" elements of the Austin left. 

The Coop was formed innocently enough during 
the late 1970s by a group of people who wanted to 
get access to good, cheap food. It offered no-frills 
food organized by volunteers with all the profits 
directed back into maintaining cheap prices and a 
basic selection. 

By the mid '80s this concept faced the harsh 
realities of rising rent, paying wages, limited de- 
mand, and a local economy ravaged by the collapse 
of the oil boom. The Co-op relocated to a larger spot 
and expanded its inventory beyond staples, hoping 
to expand its pool of shoppers. Despite this, it went 
deep into the red, and increasingly turned to worker 

austerity as a means to boost profits. 

Austerity "saved" the Co-op. When I arrived, wages 
had been frozen for over a year, paid sick leave 
eliminated for part-time workers (defined at an 
impossible 30 hours per week), discounts for 
staff reduced five percent for full-timers and entirely 
for part-timers, and member dividend refunds 
eliminated. This was in addition to the implementa- 
tion of numerous efficiency enhancement programs 
such as constant busy -work activity, notifying 
management when going to the bathroom, elec- 
tronic monitoring of cashier speed and efficiency, 
periodic performance reviews and other prog- 
grams that earned a heap of praise from the 
HEB supermarket conglomerate and the Austin 
Chamber of Commerce on the Co-op's 

Page 36 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

tenth birthday. 

This class war was not one-sided. 
While the workers didn't have any, 
officially recognized organizations, we 
had lots of everyday forms of resistance. 

Cashiers had an unspoken program of 
extended bathroom breaks, with one or 
more of us off at a time during both lulls 
and high points in business, visiting 
friends who were shopping or working, 
snacking in the deli, changing the music 
selection, making phone calls, and 
sometimes even actually going to the 
bathroom. Sometimes we just sat down 
on the register and read the paper, 
listened to the music, talked or relaxed. 
Cheated on official breaks, we quietly 
created our own. That this grew to crisis 
proportions for management could be 
seen in the frequent exhortations by 
buttkissers and bureaucrats in the cash- 
ier logbook to "always notify the shift 
manager that you want to leave your 
register and to not leave until allowed to 
do so." We turned the busywork of 
stocking the soda cooler or the bags into 

an extended trip around the store. In 
fact, stocking became a favorite chore 
among cashiers since it could be 
stretched out for hours while avoiding 
one's register. It was also easy to subvert 
the efficiency and speed tracking by 
hitting the total key after every item to 
stop the clock. 

We also made "friendly mistakes," like 
giving the item to the customer at a 
lower price, or neglecting to charge the 
7% added fee for non-members, or giving 
staff discounts to almost anybody. And 
let's not forget the long, friendly conver- 
sations that would erupt between a 
customer and cashier during transac- 
tions. The best thing about working 
there was that many of us used its aura 
of being a laid-back, hippie coop to avoid 
having to work hard or at all. Consider- 
ing that many of us led full lives as 
musicians, students, or just people, and 
work never became a priority among 
most, this relaxed atmosphere was quite 
attractive. We could get away with a lot, 
since we were required to make Wheats- 
ville a relaxed, friendly place to shop. 
Whereas on one hand we were selling 
our smile, on the other we were saving 
up our energy for other activities besides 


I suspect that the largest impetus for 
installing automatic scanners was not so 
much speeding us up as it was to cut 
back on "friendly mistakes" and staff 
reappropriation. Since the staff knew so 
many of the customers, it is likely that 
massive self-reduction in prices was oc- 
curring that was impossible to stop. All 
you had to do was have a friend come 
through the line with tons of groceries 
(for example, mountains of $5 bottles of 
"organic, we don't test on animals" 
shampoo) and give up to 80% discounts. 
There was no sacker, and the manager 
was always occupied with stocking or 
checking — so we were free to do as we 
pleased. Some friends of staff built up 
awesome wine collections with these 
connections. This was some compensa- 
tion for being cheated on salaries and 
benefits. Why should we sell thousands 
of dollars of the best food on the market 
in return for twenty or thirty bucks a 
day— a rate which would prohibit us 
from enjoying any of it? This was only 
partially so, since some were adept at 
having another cashier undercharge for 
food that was eaten, only a fraction of 
which was admitted to. 

I learned about the plan to install the 
scanners from Diane, my partner who 
was on the board of directors. Austerity 
had already revitalized profits: the 
$100,000 debt had almost been retired 
and gross annual sales would soon top 
$1 million. They figured they could 
replace the five existing registers for 
$80,000 and eliminate long lines and the 
need for inventory, in addition to stran- 
gling worker reappropriation. They nei- 
ther asked for cashiers' input nor even 
notified us of their plan, despite being a 
"democratic, member-run co-op." In fact, 
I was rebuffed by the cashier team head 
for using this label. "Wheatsville is a 
business." I was told. "It doesn't matter 
what the staff thinks." 

This event was the beginning of the 
end for me at Wheatsville. I put out 

^gfl S aa Individual. S^S 

flyers to the staff warning them of this 
plan, concluding that this was an at- 
tempt to make us work harder and faster 
and destroy what remained of the 
Co-op's laid-back atmosphere. I also 
suggested that the money instead be 
used to make up for real losses in wages 
over the last few years. Since the Co-op 
would have to borrow in order to afford 
this new technology, it would only 
continue the process by which the staff 
paid off debt through further austerity 
and price increases. 

But I couldn't arouse any active staff 
interest. I called a very unsuccessful 
meeting at my house at which only two 
people showed — both of them manage- 
ment bureaucrats. It became clear that 
no one really cared since it was only 
another dead-end job. I went to the 
board meeting alone— by now my rela- 
tionship with Diane was quickly erod- 
ing—and confronted the manager about 
the scanners, asking why they'd only 
accepted one bid (I wonder who was 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 37 

grafting off that one?) and why it was 
needed at all since we rarely used the 
fifth register (which sat idle as a soda 
shelO- They ignored me. 


Without staff response, I turned to the 
consumers. Over the next few weeks I 
quietly dropped a small flyer in the 
groceries of every customer that I 
checked out, informing them of what 
was happening. I also sent a letter 
detailing the events to four local alterna- 
tive newspapers, two of which carried 
Co-op advertising. Giving out the ffyers 
stirred some members to action. Within 
a few days, numerous pissed -off members 
called the store, angry that their favorite 
laid back shopping oasis would be defiled 
by automation. Then two of the papers 
published the letter and a third, a 
popular weekly with a circulation of 
40,000, was about to when it called the 
manager to alert him to his impending 
publicity catastrophe. He then called me 
to negotiate the withdrawal of the 
remaining letters in return for a mem- 
bership vote on the scanners and one- 
year moratorium on buying them (which 
now included competitive bidding) if he 
won. 1 agreed and required that he 
inform the entire staff. 

But few of the members gave a damn 
about the Co-op's inner workings; "mem- 
bership," like the rest of the Politically 
Correct facade, was a sham. Voting for 
directors and boycotts (another "proof 
of the Co-op's Political Correctness) often 
took six months to get a few hundred 

votes, and it was a rare fool who actually 
agreed to unwaged "volunteer" labor. 
Most of the customers think it's a great 
place to shop but wouldn't dream of 
working there. It turned out that most 
members were oblivious to and/or thor- 
oughly uninterested in hearing about 
employee troubles. While I found a few 
members who saw through this fraud 
most constantly remind us that "it is a 
great place to work." After all, our low 
salaries supplemented their cheap con- 
sumption. In fact, Wheatsville was a club 
for well-paid workers and yuppie capital- 
ists, mostly white who lived on the west 
side of this segregated city. It was a place 
to be seen and consume while remaining 
politically correct. On any given day the 
store would be inundated with radical 
National Lawyers Guild and ACLU 
lawyers, intellectuals, and all the other 
hipsters of the vanguard underground 
hotfooting it through aisles of tofu, 
canola oil and organic fufu. They would 
cheerfully dance to the tune of some 
underpaid local musicians offering live 
Musak to calm their daily frustrations. 

Imagine my surprise a few months 
later when I realized that a vote was 
already weeks in progress and that none 
of the staff, who are required to be 
members, had been sent ballots. By that 
time I had left for a winter break and 
couldn't raise hell. When I returned I 
found that I'd been summarily purged— 
removed from the schedule and refused 
both permanent and substitute shifts. 

After my forced departure, reorganiza- 

Page 38 

tion continued uninterrupted. As with 
any good business, the profits are fun- 
neled right back into expanding opera- 
tions and keeping people at work. 
They've added a new deli counter, a 
fresh flower cooler, a huge awning, more 
tables in front, a wooden display case for 
bulk oil and nut butters, and such 
healthy necessities as blank tapes to the 
inventory. No doubt rats continue to die 
in the storeroom and inside the walls, 
the toilets still back up, and the staff still 
doesn't have a breakroom and instead 
eat among beer and soda boxes. Staff 
breaks remain at five minutes per hour 
(below the federal minimum), and it is 
required that one work 30 hours or be 
demoted to substitute status. A worker 
was fired for talking to customers while 
stocking, and bounties are being offered 
for the arrest of shoplifters. 

The Co-op shrouds itself in the cliches 
of left political causes: "peace," "vegetar- 
ianism," "environmentalism." The 
manager — once described to me as an 
"anarchist" — dresses like a beat and 
wears his black motorcycle gloves and 
beret as he stocks [see photo]. All kinds 
of causes get to post their flyers and 
Co-op ads even show up in underground 
publications. Yet inside it is business as 
usual, with Profits, Work, Political Re- 
pression, and Austerity waiting to be 
ferreted out, analyzed and attacked. 

In the year that I worked there I saw 
the Co-op as a model of existing "social- 
ism" that is actually socialized state 
capitalism, fully managed by the state 
under the aegis of some left party, as in 
the USSR, China, Cuba, etc. Although 
Co-op ownership is legally socialized 
among the 10,000 or so members, the 
actual control is in the hands of a 
management that operates like any other 
good capitalist business, seeking to 
generate profits they can reinvest in the 
store to keep its employees at work 
producing ever-greater profits. I drew an 
analogy between the Co-op and socialist 
state capitalism, under which ownership 
is supposedly socialized by the state, but 
the reality is the same— subordination of 
all of life to work for the accumulation of 

Maybe I expected too much from a 
political community dominated by an 
illegitimate and authoritarian left dedi- 
cated to putting us to work under their 
revolutionary leadership. Currently, I 
spit up every time I hear about food 

—Robert Ovetz, 

with help from Ross A. Dreyer 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

If I Die Before I Wake 

The resolute thud of a car door. 

The unquestioned authority of a stopUght. 

The simple, curved grace of a nuclear reactor along the 

The reassuring chatter of a morning talk-show radio co-host. 

The urgent flutter of air through a window opened one 

half inch. 
The elegant glass panels of the familiar building, reflecting 

the enormous parking lot. 

The pride of belonging when showing a laminated 
identification card. 

The light, syncopated heelclicks in the enormous parking 


The fluorescent sheen of buffed hallway floors. 
The family portrait pinned to the fabric cubicle wall surface. 
The familiar buzz of the computer booting up. 
The satisfaction of the illuminated monitor's amber screen. 
The eager apprehension as an LCD wristwatch displays 

The quiet jubilance of breaktime; powdered coffee, raisin 
danish packaged in cellophane. 

The mild dread at 10:10, in anticipation of returning to 

the cubicle. 
The recalcitrant self-congratulation in making a personal 

phone call. 

The relief as LCD watchface reads 11:55. 

The sunbleached sidewalk, and background swishing of 
cars on the interstate. 

The distant chatter of lawn sprinklers. 

The patient gurgle of the concrete-lined, atmosphere 
enhancing fountain. 

The slick, hard surface of the fiberglass bench. 

The gentle crackle of a plastic sandwich bag. 

The vague panic at how to fill the remaining forty minutes 
of lunchbreak. 

The sudden waking up from having been staring into the 
monitor without intent. 

The exasperating patience of the LCD display consulted 
every twelve minutes, every ten. 

The weary relief of 2:56. 

The irritating thin walls of a paper coffee cup, burning 

The breathy hum of the microwave in the breakroom, the 
violent boiling of contents in a green, resealable 
plastic bowl. 

The exasperating chewing sounds of an ingenuous 

The clouded suspicion of an existence discarded well 
prior to expiration date. 

The faint craving for the calves beneath the white hose 
passing the cubicle. 


The idle figuring of wages on an adding machine: 

26,000 ^ 12 months. 2166 ^ 4 weeks. 542 ^ 5 days. 
108.40 - 8 hours. 13.55 ^ 60 minutes. .22 ^ 60 
seconds. .004 cents per second. 

The anxious 4:00 craving for a cup of coffee. 

The renewed hope of 4:45. 

The stylish liberation of a loosened necktie. 

The light, syncopated heelclicks in the enormous parking 

The thoughtful chatter of the radio talk show host. 

The harsh buzz of the apartment's security door. 

The sighing of shoes on the nylon carpet in the hallway. 

The comforting chime of ice in a cocktail. 

The reassuring chatter of the nightly news. 

The crisp bedsheets and the mercy of sleep. 

— Jim Lough 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 39 


Everybody died. 

I missed the funeral. I didn't know 

it was in my backyard. 
I slept late that day imagining 
The cock-eyed undertow of continental 

drift, washed my hair with beer, 
And cleansed the house with white sage. 
Nothing helped. 

I realized long ago there had been 
A certain silent war going on for years, 
So I felt guilty. 

Everybody in the world died. 
I still made Cream of Wheat for breakfast. 
Everybody in the world died 

so I showered without soap. Everybody 
In the world died except for me 
And West, the neighborhood street man. 

Everybody in the world died and West 

didn't understand. He raided my door, 
Pushed into my hallway, stole the bottles 
Of perfume I've received for years never 

opening. Everybody in the world died 
And West sat on my stoop drinking Love's 
Baby Soft and Chanel -5. When the perfume 

emptied I passed him Lysol, dish detergent, 
Flea powder. Witch Hazel. He was indestructible. 
Everybody in the world 
Died except for me and West. We figured out 

how to extract alcohol from bread crumbs 
By soaking them mushed in banana peels and water. 
Everybody in the world died, and West and I 

ran out of ideas. Everybody in the world 
Died and West sobered, gradually, like a child 
On the verge of understanding the hand's tiny 

pores extract blossoms. 

— Marina Lazzara 


it was a typical legal 

secretary's hectic afternoon 

it cost one client 

a thousand bucks 

to file those papers 

before the court closed 

and they were truly screwed up 

we did them so fast 

I knew he'd call the next day and scream 

the fact that I'd sweated blood 

to type them on time, at the last minute 

like these guys always do things 

didn't matter a bit 

because once they've done their work 

they assume it's all taken care of 

it's just like a blow job 

they're flushed & triumphant 

all these messengers and clerks going crazy 

it makes them feel important 

who cares where the semen goes 

they came that's what they paid for 

my hands were shaking but I didn't 

say much I went for a walk 

I was trying to quit smoking 

& having other problems too 

none of them mattered 

I just walked real slow 

to the hot dog stand where the old 

Chinese couple sold cigarettes 

one at a time, they cost 15 cents 

they were worth every penny 

I walked back to the office 
feeling dizzy and weird 
when an old guy said buddy 
can you spare a dime? 
I got out a quarter I was 
shaking so bad I dropped it 
and had to pick it up 
I told the guy good luck 
he said listen jack 
you need the luck 
I'll take the quarter 

I hung out by what's left 

of the Chelsea hotel 

the owners tried to tear it down last year 

the old guys who lived there 

took the owners to court 

and won for a while 

but the stay was lifting 

the wheels of justice ground on 

the owners were starting 

to renovate the place 

as the workmen came and went 
the old guys sat in the lobby 
watching TV looking tired 
and sour daring anyone 
to kick them out 

the ringleader of the bunch 

a white haired, warty guy 

was sitting in the lobby 

looking right through me 

his hands were steady as a rock 

on his cane and I looked 

at my hands and I looked 

at his hands and thought 

I gotta quit 

this business 

soon —David West 

Page 40 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 


neon squiggles through signpost 
across trash cans, posters & sidewalk 
whatever they pass gets their mark 
indian calls echo through stairwells 
running faster than trains 
they flash by like lightning 

— Gina Bergamino 


"Lester Bowie was playing his ass off" 

What what? 

When a leaf is overturned is overturned 

an overture understands its intensive destruction. 

Dictum: if an insurrectionist attitude belies denials 

everyday vocabulary falters fades 


in the rough 

take a testimony, a nightingale 


the weariness, the fever and the fret 

When a dog wets a garden flower 
its ambition enacts. 
Cool it, dog. 

Surrounding, the glow of ground 
slows down, wound, 
a terrific posse glides intractably 
mute, impossible. 

It is a social thing 

a fever, delivered with good graces. 

Penny arcades suck a person dry 

action becomes ambit — 
shun succumbing daily 

— Jeff Conant 


My knees are 

stained with grass. 

My father says 

I can ignore my neighbor. 

I will fill three buckets 

with acorns. If I'm good 

my grandmother will take 

out her teeth. Woody 

Woodpecker lives on the patio. 

How many ways can I spend 

seven dollars. 

— Gina Bergamino 


They ride around 

and cover ground 

they spring full fledged at dawn 

predictable as a reflex. 

They do not cease at noon 

After sunset they're still riding 

at least until eleven 

the next day — 

they ride around again. 

The earth give up her metals 
the ground give up his sauce 
so they con ride around and round 
and be the boss of us. 

— Janice King 

everyone's fighting in this city 

people reduced to shouted curses 

stacked over broken bottles 

women and fags are bashed 

on any corner 

and the pervading stink 

is of ignorance 

this is no city of love 

what causes this narrowing hardness 

in the city i craved 

all kinds of hardness 

brick, concrete, asphalt, glass 

blades, fists and metal claws 

the environment becomes enemy 

even while the environment 

provides defense 

— Michele C. 


We'll leave it to chance 

not even calling home 

to the Home Office 

in Rhode Island or North Carolina 

they'll only rubber stamp it anyway 

two-by-two their engineers of gravity 

slumping down that long hollow corridor 

of stone containers and paper proof 

of time's whirling blue machines 

millions of dollars will lay on the table 

ions of weeping with no appreciation 

just the ivory palace fermenting 

in a heaving sea 

of Spanish moss 

and bald green flies euphoric. 

— Errol Miller 


Because I didn't have a job, 

I walked over a little hill 

in spring, the leaves weren't out yet. 

The trees were tall and silent strangers, 
the brown leaves rustled on the ground, 
the sun in the blue, cloudless sky. 

Over the hill there was a road 

that led to nowhere I could see. 

I just stood and listened to the silence there. 

Because I didn't have a job, I stood 

between a road that led to nowhere I could see 

and a hill of brown leaves and tall, silent trees. 

— Gene Harter 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 4 1 

Adventures In The 
Muck-It Research 

I am any man. I make purchasing decisions that have 
far-reaching effects. Whether it's raking muck or 
throwing it, I'm ready to pitch in or haul ass with 
the best of them. And, most important, I like to talk shop 
— for a price. 

Roundup the usual suspects. When Casablanca Field Re- 
search calls, I stand up to be counted. A black Mariah is 
dispatched to my rickety address in the Mission District. 
The interviewer doesn't ask how I am, or what I'm doing; 
we put such pleasantries behind us years ago. Instead, 
with a blurting maniacal laugh, he launches into my new 

"You are one of the friends of Monsieur Rick, yes? You 
must be the Vice in charge of security and facilities main- 
tenance for a major West Coast pro-apartheid bank head- 
quartered in the Financial District. You pull in 60K a year, 
several of which go up your nose; you wear pinstripes and 

suspenders, live in Gnoe Valley, drive Basic 
Marin Wheels ... two-faced and heartless, you'll 
do fine." 

Ordinarily I would resent this rude identikit, 
my eyes would narrow, lips compress at his fiber 
optic effrontery. But coming from my friend 
Fudge, who is a telephone pimp for a large 
market research firm, I listen intently to this 
malignant portrait of a stranger— I try the suit on 
for size. While it's a life I despise, I can hack it 
for a whiff of the quick money that seems to stalk 
these BMW-driving executive types. Do they 
really get paid for every breath they take? 

A case of do or die. See, I can't afford to hang 
up. After another flea-bitten day moping around 
my squalid Mission apartment in Duboce Fucking 

Page 42 

Triangle, waiting in vain for an evasive and inef- 
fectual temp agency to call, I'll snap at just about 
anything. Especially an invitation to scam, to 
make some quick moolah, a bit of cutter, the 
pretty poUy that will help me pay my three-digit 
phone bill, grotesquely inflated since I moved to 

"Sure, Fudge," I say, after a pause to savor the 
New Me. "I'll bite. Sign me up to play this slime- 
mold. Just say when and where." 

Fudge can barely conceal his glee— he's got 
another friend of Rick's on board for a "focus 
group." For two hours, I will sit through the fuck- 
us group discussion with a dozen other "decision- 
maker" corporate managers, shooting the breeze 
about the latest Star Wars-spinoff widget, or shar- 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

ing our gag reactions to the latest slogan- 
eering tablets miraculously dragged 
down from Mount Sinai to flog a new 

Here's looking at you, kid. I will sit 
unflinching under video and audio sur- 
veillance, one of them, make all the right 
moves, the noises that signify assent and 
sound convincing. For me, it's a ques- 
tion of survival— and the perverse pleas- 
ure of subtly feeding them my own line, 
a little counter-drivel. The unsuspecting 
host— Thieving Electronics, Perturba- 
tion Research, or whichever client re- 
tains Casablanca Field Research for this 
opinion pap smear — is subject to the 
woof and warp of my skewed views, and 
any other friends of Rick's who get 
packed into this group. The beauty of it 
is, the client will most likely never figure 
out they've been had. 

To be sure, there are signs of our 
deceit — the images we construct flake a 
bit around the edges, like dandruff on 
the collar. Not all of us have quite the 
right threads; sometimes getting outfit- 
ted requires a bit of hustling. Even so, I 
see the wrinkled noses of the genuine 
"respondoids" sitting near us, appalled 
by the stench of the street that sticks to 
us like freshly-poured tar. 

I can usually bluff my way through any 
oral presentation, but a written ques- 
tionnaire, often handed out with the 
croissants, tempts the devil in me. I spike 
my answers with weird indirection, and 
surreal suggestions — Q: Have you any 
additional ideas on how this product could 
be improved? A: A submersible model of this 
laptop would be desirable, for both the 
bathtub and, say, a press conference on the 

Fudge once explained to me about 
these focus groups. It wasn't "focus" in 
the New Age sense, as human potential 
types might think — it was even more 
manipulative than one of their inner 
development scams— 

"Our client has either been requested 
to discover something about the world, 
or our client had purported something 
about the world to his client. The focus 
group is conducted in order either to 
verify the delusions of the client, or the 
delusions of the moderator, as the case 
may be. 

"Seeing as we at Casablanca Field 
Research are one of the best," here 
Fudge giggled, "one of the best delusion 
verification companies in the world, you 
can see how your role of multiple 
personalities— the ever-flexible 'friend of 
Rick's' — becomes crucial to satisfying the 



reality needs of the situation." 

My first meeting with Fudge is limned 
in a strobe-mist of dry ice, on one of my 
first visits to San Francisco. It was his 
birthday, and he was tripping. As I later 
learned, there was little difference be- 
tween Fudge straight, and Fudge on 

I am one of his more "normal" (or 
conventional-appearing) friends, not be- 
ing a stripper, a leather lesbian, or a 
professional space program booster. The 
phone-call "screeners" that Fudge and 
his colleagues in market research use to 
recruit focus group participants serve as 
yet another vehicle for us to joyride 
while Fudge discharges his duties for 
Casablanca. It gives him private pleasure 
to infiltrate these market research groups 
with friends, or any convincing fuck-off 
who can cynically act a part, take the 
money, and run. 

"For your time. Mister Tinnitus, you 
will be reimbursed with an honorarium 
of a startling one hundred dollars— did I 
say dollars? I meant one hundred Vichy 
French Reichmarks — or whatever we pay 
you scurvaceous people with. 

"Refreshments, a light supper of soggy 
croissant sandwiches and soft drinks, 
will be served if you arrive early for your 
six o'clock group. 

"Please be punctual. If you happen to 
recognize anyone in the group, any 
other friends of Rick's, you may ex- 
change secret handshakes in the elevator 
afterwards, but for my sake in this job, if 
we are to continue our mutually lucra- 
tive arrangement, please do not divulge 
your prior acquaintance, or personal 
connection with me. It is not in our 
interest for my employer, Casablanca 
Field Research, or its clients, to recognize 
that you or any others are on my list of 
'usual suspects.' Thank you, sir, and be 
sure to have yourself one hell of a nice 

Oh, Victor, please don't go to the 
underground meeting tonight. The address 
at which we are to meet is the thirty- 
something floor of the Flubb Building 

on Market Street. 

I have a copy of MlS-lnfoWorld under 
the arm of my London Frog trench coat. 
The only thing that sets me off from 
those strangely suited creatures of the 
Embarcadero, or the management/ 
slash/procurement types from Star Wars 
suck-up firms in SilValley, is my Big 
Country bolo tie, and the scuffed-up 
black Reeboks I wear in place of more 
laid-back Birkenstocks, or the new pow- 
er footware with Italian toes. 

I arrive late, knowing that on those 
few occasions when everybody they need 
to fill a group shows up, they have to 
turn the last ones away with pay, 
rewarding tardiness for a change. 

No such luck as the five o'clock 
shadows lengthen towards six. It is 
raining; I sense relief in the receptionist, 
as my arrival brings them up to a desired 
quorum. These are the days my frierub, yes 
these are the days my friends intones a 
Philip Glass opera in my head, as we file 
into the conference room with mirror 

My paper plate is loaded with the 
promised soggy croissant sandwiches, 
stuffed with sauteed scorpion. A couple 
of bottles of Calistoga water clink in the 
pocket of my thriftshop pinstripes. I 
have reached a new plateau with this 
group: a hundred gaudy greenbacks for 
my precious time! I am ready to start 
celebrating even before it begins, but all I 
have in front of me is a plastic glass with 
Diet Coke and not enough ice. 

We start with the usual round robin of 
introductions. For the purposes of today, 
my title is Public Debt and Securities 
ossifer at Krugerrand Savings and Loan. 
Other people in the group admit to 
being in Mergers &. Execrations, Con- 
sumption Modulation, and Honesty 
Verification. Buncha sharks — unless 
there's another friend of Rick's in this 
group, with a solid cover. 

For the convenience of the client, we 
are being monitored through one-way 
glass, recorded for both voice and pic- 
ture. We're a suave ad hoc committee, 
nodding nonchalance, but then surveil- 
lance is in our job description. 

The facilitator, a fourth Stooge for the 
yet unnamed, and possibly unnamable 
client, faces us from between the tines of 
the U-shaped table, simulating relaxa- 
tion. He genially introduces us to the 
format for tonight's discussion, assuming 
we're all virgins. He will channel our 
comments, and exhorts us to be com- 
pletely candid in our reactions. "There's 
no such thing as a wrong answer here," 

PROCESSED WORLD (i'26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 43 

he assures us. 

I've heard this spiel so many times, I 
sometimes worry that the non-Fudge 
staff at Casablanca will recognize me as a 
little more of a "regular" than the strict 
canons of market research would ordi- 
narily allow. But Fudge is a meticulous 
scam-artist — he protects the friends of 
Rick's from embarrassment and appre- 
hension. He is, after all, a professional. 

Tonight we are to be introduced to 
something new that is in the develop- 
ment stage. This (blankety blank) com- 
pany would like Stooge to find out what 
we think about the product's viability- 
will it be attractive to business? 

It is not clear just what the product is, 
for he then leads us into a very general 
and inconclusive discussion of the mod- 
ern corporation, the way its physical 
organization can be modeled as an 
organism. All right, the elevators and 
corridors are — 

"Alimentary, dear Watson,' Stooge 
looks up from his script, then frowns as 
if we've missed our cue on the laugh- 

The phones and computers are nerv- 
ous bundles, relaying masses of informa- 
tion, commands to the corpuscular per- 
sonnel. Everyone winces when I suggest, 
as security officers, we are the white 
phagocytes of the system — that phuh 
word sounds strange, even if it is 
accurate. Management is presumably 
berthed in the seat of intelligence, the 
company boardroom. 

"What about the plumbing? The water 
fountains, the sinks, the toilets?" 

What about them? 

"Wouldn't they be for intake and 
excretion?" asks Consumption Modula- 

"It's the circulatory system," chips in 
Mergers and Execrations. "With filters 
for the poisons." 

"We all know that water is the very 
basis of life," Stooge says knowingly. 
"And waste often reveals what cannot 
be said." 

"Garbage in, garbage out," I opine. 

"Precisely. Now what would you say if 
a means existed for a safe and discrete 
analysis of that garbage? And better still, 
for correlating this information with the 
specific individuals who introduce this 
garbage into the system? Asking the 
employee for a waste specimen does not 
usually engender the most agreeable 
exchange, and by showing your hand, 
gives the employee a chance to mess with 
the process." 

"Are you talking about controlled sub- 


"We're talking about this," Stooge 
points to the flip chart. "Quality." In our 
opening discussion, we'd thrown some 
words around which he had written in 
big letters with a felt tip pen. "And what 
about this: Control. Quality. . .Control. 
A company is only as good as its human 

I've been in some pretty far-out focus 
groups before, like the one involving 
cosmetic surgery for animals — in which 
everything from vaginoplasty, liposuc- 
tion, nose-piercing, fur dyes, tattoos, and 
contact lenses was discussed in all seri- 
ousness for house pets. If people were 
prepared to shell out monster bucks to 
buy their pooches and pussies a burial 
plot, then why not go the full yard for 
penis-implanted tarantulas? Me, I'm a 
low-tech kinda guy who's content just to 
kick the cat now and then. 

Every day I see the postmodern neo- 
primitives in business suits swinging 
from pillar to post on the glassine vines 
of the Financial District. What they do 
with (hopefully) consenting animals in 
private is something I'm prepared to 
ignore, even if it does disgust me. Only in 
San Francisco. . . we accept this kind of 
everyday surrealism. 

But it's gotten so nothing in the SoMa 
demimonde can match the Jekyll and 
Hyde machinations of Corporate Amer- 
ica for nightmare logic. This bilgewater 
about the purity and essence of the 
employee's precious bodily fluids makes 
me ill. I rise. 

"Speaking of plumbing, is it permitted 
to go visit the great god Porcelain?" I ask 

Without waiting for an answer, I step 
out into the hall, and dash down 
towards the men's room. I am tempted 
to grab an elevator back into the maw of 
the city once again. Only I would not 
pass GO, would not collect a hundred 

I gotta pee, but after hearing the turn 
the focus group was taking, do not dare 
empty my bladder anywhere in this 
building. Casablanca's client this time 
has to be among the slimiest of copro- 
phages — although they haven't named 
the party, I can pretty much guess that 
it's Sin-Tech. Let's hope they aren't 
trying out the product here. 

It's after seven; this part of the hallway 
is darkened —no Casablanca staff are in 
sight. The client is in the observation 
room, possibly humping away with one 
of the market research execs, while on 
the other side of the one-way glass, the 

focus group weighs the virtues and 
cost-effectiveness of excretion analysis. 

I slip out my garden hose, and quietly, 
unobtrusively I hope, spray one of the 
potted plants by an accountant's desk. 
Poor thing, wilting in this fluorescent 
fun-house. I'll bet they're asleep all over 
America. At least I'll make its secret life a 
bit more interesting — it can dream of 
ammonia seas and gas-giant planets. 

After molesting the plants for a few 
more minutes, my nose buried among 
the leaves, I slouch back into the light. 
Before reentering the conference room, I 
square my shoulders, securing what I 
hope is my determined, earlier facade, 
before the horror set in. 

The focus group has changed in char- 
acter while I've been gone. Most are now 
pencilling answers on a questionnaire. 
Honesty Verification turns his pages face 
down, making short work of it with a 
ready round of rubber stamp platitudes. 

I feel like a student late for class as I 
take my seat near the door. More time 
has passed in this room than I can 
account for with my quick micturation. 
The minutes so easily become distended 
in Casablanca. Stooge looks at me with 
officious disapproval. I glare him down 
with my filed-teeth look, honed from 
riding the El. Don't fuck vuith me. Mister. 

The questions have to do with the 
"flexible response" option for manage- 
ment to deal with the ever-weakening 
code of conduct, and employee attitude. 
Q: If a security management system facili- 
tates total access to the encoded use charac- 
teristics of your workforce, hou> much more 
effectively would you be able to husband 
your human resources? A: Sodomy is a good 
start, but for real exploitation, let's fit them 
each with a wire, and a bit between the 
teeth. Q: How much would you be prepared 
to pay for such a system, on a per-employee 
basis? A: Rather than dirty our hands with 
cash, filthy lucre, 1 would seek barter in 
kind. How many pints of blood, how many 
sperm samples, placentas, corneas, or organs 
from our body bank would you accept in 
exchange for the swift installation of your 

I scribble my flexible responses using 
my own pen, which has a special 
acid-based ink that will, over the course 
of the next few days, eat through the 
stack of uncoded, unkeyed, unevaluated 
questionnaires. Would that I could do 
the same to the image on the video tape, 
introduce a wavering moire cloud, as if 
we were all clad in scramble suits, 
effacing our features into expressionistic 
blurs, our bland words melting into gobs 

Page 44 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

of meaningless verbiage on the carpet 

Stooge mechanically thanks us for our 
participation. "You've all been very 
helpful, and you can be sure what you've 
said tonight will be reflected in the 
packaging of this new service. Until it is 
actually released, I'd like to remind you 
of the nondisclosure agreement you've 
signed— this product is still in a develop- 
ment stage, and may not be available for 
some time to come." Stooge consults his 
watch. "And thank you for taking the 
time from your evening to come to 
Casablanca. It's a few minutes before 
eight, but we're going to let you go early. 
Outside is another focus group sched- 
uled for eight— please don't say anything 
about what we've discussed here as you 

The air out in the waiting room 
crackles, as we file past the paymistress 
doling out our centuries. A fresh batch 
of respondoids sit slumped where we 
were not two hours ago. They're fading 
already— it's way past the time they 
usually shuck their suits. For the next 
two hours, they too will get to rap about 
this or that divine invention, whether 
it's from Sin-Tech, Fourth Reich Re- 
search, Thieving Electronics, whatever. 

"Your name, sir?" She fans the stack of 

I scratch my head. Who am I this time? 
The fundnmental things apply. 

For a moment I'm distracted by a 
familiar face, an odor I know coming in 
the door. A woman with demure attire 
but severe earrings walks past me into 
the waiting room. She has a cocky stride, 
a sly wink as she takes her place and 
immediately starts to fill her plate. 

I point to an envelope. "There I am. 
That's me." I sign by the x. 

Your nvinnings, sir. 

—Art Tinnitus 

Afterword: I recently spoke with 
Fudge, who left Casablanca a few years 
ago, and has since moved out of state. 

Fudge recalled this about his career in 
muck-it research: 

"All too frequently, the depressing fact 
of life when you do general population 
interviewing, is that people have so very 
little happening between their ears, that 
you can see why we get the governments 
that we get, and many of the products 
that we get, and many of the TV shows 
that we get. It's these shit-for-brains 
types that make it possible." 

The type of research Fudge most 
reviled is political surveying. " We were 



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A Multinational Capital Consortium Filling Space 

very careful to aim these calls at voting 
blocs which were thought to be switch- 
able, or changeable— their voting history 
had been volatile— it could be switched 
from one persuasion to another by 
which way the wind was blowing. It was 
propagandizing in the worst case. You 
would get questions like: if you kneuj 
that ujorthy opponent candidate X routinely 
ate human brains, would you still vote for 
this person! 

Fudge had his own fanciful example of 
political surveying, prepared for a poten- 
tial client— "Lebensraum Research." 

We're calling French people tonight. We 
have here a short one-minute survey of French 
soldiers on the Maginot line, whose pay- 
checks are one tenth what they should be. 
Does that describe you? 

It does describe you. You believe your pay- 
check is one tenth what is should be? We'll 
get your name, rank arui bunker location later. 

Please tell me if you agree or disagree with 
any of the following statements: 

I enjoy trench foot, gangrene, lice, maggots, 
and the satanic nightmare of certain rruingled 
doom. Would you agree or disagree? 

Germany, the land of beer, Beethoven, 
Bach, and boobs, is composed of unrealized 

geniuses just like yourself. Would you agree 
or disagree? 

France is the most civilized country in 
Europe, and therefore the universe. You 
would agree with that, I'm sure. 

In a rational universe, civilized countries 
would not need armies whose soldiers are 
paid shit, merde, or scheiss while fat coward- 
ly stupid, i.e. unFrench officers wallow in 
looted, gilded sloth? Would you agree with 
that? I assume that you do. 

Those who can goosestep, do. Those who 
can't, drink chablis. Would you agree or 

France, the most civilized etc., is surrounded 
by the scum of the Earth. I'm sure you would 

Scum of the Earth— Untermenschen, is the 
German term— plot constantly to loot and 
rape France of its sacred, virginal honor. 

France, the most etc., needs protection 
from the rest of the world as described. The 
Third Reich has the largest army in Europe, 
and therefore the universe. 

And finally, in France, a really precocious 
feisty Chardonnay is best appreciated by 
those who are still living. I'm sure you would 

Do you agree or disagree that life is good, 
and that your death would be wrong? 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 45 

A Trade Reporter's 


Zapped by your VDT? No one really knows if the 
radiation it puts out— along with hair dryers, elec- 
tric blankets and power lines— is dangerous. But 
studies show that it might be. 

The Environmental Protection Agency came to exactly 
that point in a report that was to be out in late Novem- 
ber. That would be news in itself, a good story to cover 
for my high-tech newspaper. But even more interesting is 
that the White House was sitting on the report because it 
would scare people— a better story to cover for my high- 
tech newspaper. 

More exciting for me as a journalist was the fact that I 
was the only one on to the story— an unusual chance for 
a scoop in an industry that usually cares more about new 
mainframes than how computers affect lives. This is what 
keeps me on the job. 

Except, the story got held. By the time my piece came 

Apparently flaks don't 

think that executives of 

fhejr companies are to be 

trusted to say the "right" 

words. They're scared to 

death that someone will 

actually reveal NEWS. 

out, other journalists broke it on network news. I 
could console myself that I had information no 
one else had. For instance, the reason studies 
were so inconclusive is that the non-ionizing ra- 
diation (electromagnetic fields) from our appliances 
don't behave like toxic chemicals: there is no 
dose/response relationship, and the outcome of 
experiments depends on where they are carried 
out in relation to the earth's own electromagnetic 
field. Except that when the story did finally ap- 
pear, it was not on the front page— and with a 
trade paper, if it ain't on the front page it might 
as well be in Siberia. 

Now, if that story had been about a new main- 
frame from IBM, it would have played lead story, 
with graphs and charts and a sidebar for every 
state in the union. 

I try not to write those mainframe stories, but 
that's how to get on the front page and get a 
bonus. Money and a byline. A few free lunches. 
It's not awful in the scheme of things. 

At the first paycheck, I knew nothing about 
computers, except how to run Wordstar. Three 
years later, I know way too much about them in 
terms of abstract or virtual knowledge. In real 
terms, I now know how to use both Wordstar 
and Xywrite. 

Trade reporters can move among different trade 
publications, but those dozens of publications are 
controlled mainly by two owners (Ziff-Davis and 
International Data Group). They only seem to 
differ in the narrowness of their focus (like on a 
particular vendor, such as MacWorld, for Apple 
Computers) and in the degree of fawning copy 

Page 46 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

devoted to companies that advertise in 
their pages. 

I have never been asked to write 
stories favorable to the companies that 
advertise in my paper, but people 
working at other publications say that 
pressure comes with the well-paid job. 
In at least one case, IBM reads and ap- 
proves the editorial copy before it goes 
to press. Instead, the pressure is to do 
stories on the endless stream of new 
products emanating from the zillions of 
computer companies out there. You use 
acronyms like commas. Acronyms like 
RISC, MIPS, and EDI take on as much 
meaning as IBM. But my mother and 
most friends cannot decipher my work. 
For them, the word "Eunuchs" is used to 
signify short fat castrated men guarding 
harems. Now it's Unix, an operating 

For three years I've been stuffing my 
head with all this relatively useless in- 
formation when I could use my research 
and writing skills to inform on more 
pressing matters. I still have no interest 
in how the industry works, or care for 
its products (only the reliability of word 
processing software). 

Not only do I now speak a different 
language, covering the computer 
industry takes a whole different 
technique than being a general interest 
or even a general business reporter. 

For one, it breeds flaks like flies. After 
being a reporter, even a business re- 
porter, for ten years, I found the clouds 
of computer flaks (or public relations 
people, as they prefer to be called) 
astonishing. Apparently flaks don't 
think that executives of their companies 
are to be trusted to say the "right" 
words. They're scared to death that 
someone will actually reveal NEWS. 
Most stupidly, they're afraid that an 
"unannounced product" will be re- 
vealed. In the computer biz, products 
(like the latest Macintosh) are not 
talked about before there is an official 
"roll-out," when all the information hits 
at once. My job, of course, is to find 
out just what the products are before 
the official time comes. Then I attend 
the roll-out, which often resembles a 
rock concert complete with dry ice, 
blaring music and background videos. 
Only instead of Jon Bon Jovi appearing 
through the haze, you see some plastic 
encased box with a screen in front and 
an announcer with a receding hairline. 

All roll-outs have some weirdness to 
them. The worst, so far, was in 1988 
when Steve lobs rolled out the first 

Next computer. He rented Davies Sym- 
phony Hall in San Francisco. Invita- 
tions were so hard to come by that 
some people were scalping them at the 
door (they were free). Jobs appeared in 
the spotlight like Macbeth. The music 
swelled, and there was a collective oral 
orgasm from the crowd when he 
removed the black sheath surrounding 
the model computer on the stage. The 
press was then herded into a separate 
conference room where company flaks 
guarded press kits like gold bullion. It 
was a press conference and they 
wouldn't give out the damn press kits. 
Of course we diverted them and stole 
them anyway— big thrill— along with 
the vegetarian sandwiches and Calistoga. 

You can't get a press kit without 
them, you can't get a drink without 

'em. And you can't talk to anyone with- 
out flaks. If it's a phone interview, they 
quietly listen and take notes on a con- 
ference line. If it's a live interview, they 
sit next to you and take their own 
notes or tape recorder. They've even 
followed me into the bathroom to make 
sure I don't stray into off-limits territory 
on my way in and out. 

Not surprisingly, they lie. "I hear the 
company's not doing too well and that 
there may be layoffs soon." "No, we're 
doing fine." Next day 300 people are 
out of a job. I have to add that some 
are helpful— usually the ex-reporters 
who've gone over to the other side 
where they can make twice the money. 
But after a few years, the corporateness 
tends to creep in and take them over 

UMIra a \l, 




PROCESSED WORLD 26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 47 

You do get free lunches out of them, 
if that's the way you want to spend a 
lunch hour. At my office, we count 
good weeks in terms of how many 
lunches we can scam. They also send us 
things. Often they're just stupid pro- 
motional devices like corporate calen- 
dars, or a microchip embedded in 
plastic. But lately they've been getting 
better. At Xmas we got chemistry sets 
with different colored liquids and in- 
structions to make the combinations 
fizz or turn into a gluey substance. With 
real gifts, like leather-bound filofaxes, 
we try to scrape off the corporate logo 
and regive them to friends. For this faux 
generosity (I plaster my cubicle with 
Xmas cards from companies and 
humans I've never heard of) the trade 
reporter is expected at least to take the 
flak's phone calls, which are never 

Phone calls from flaks trying to get 
some ink for products or marketing 
scams, which move me about as much as 
Perry Como, I greet with an honest, 
"1 don't care, sorry." This moves some 
of them near tears, pleading to speak to 
my boss about this terrible injustice I've 
just meted out to them. And it is true- 
no ink in the newspaper means they 
remain in obscurity that much longer. 
So, send me good gifts! 

The gifts keep coming despite the 
recession, and despite the fact that the 
recession hit the computer industry 
early on. It had grown way too big, way 
too fast, and a little economic pin 
pricked its balloon. 

But when it hit, there were some omi- 
nous editorial signs. All of a sudden, 
editors were demanding more stories on 
"products." Forget the interesting stuff 
about how technology affects lives in 
say, the Middle East, or how pollution 
from the manufacturing process has 




Graphic: Arch D. Bunker & Trixie T-Square 

made Silicon Valley groundwater toxic. 
PRODUCT STORIES, the bane of the 
trade reporter's existence, were all of a 
sudden in high demand. 

My publication and others retracted 
the tentacles they had slithered out into 
the real world and tried to rely on the 
old method of trade journalism. Not 
much different than writing for the 
Macy's insert in the Sunday paper. To 
weather the recession, their first tactic 
was to go back to pretending that 

computers were still just a small part of 
the world and refusing to recognize that 
high tech and life in the 1990s had be- 
come inextricable. 

We had seen it coming — at least those 
of us on the bottom looking out. Com- 
puters were developing so fast — doubling 
in speed every year — that consumers did 
not care to keep up with them. Rocket 
scientists can use these machines, but 
that is not a big market. 

While the industry was expanding in 
the late 1980s, when consumers could 
keep up, computer companies grew into 
their wingtips. The status symbol be- 
came a new suburban building with 
fountains — the more fountains, the bet- 
ter one's success. Executives were 
leasing Ferraris, and the expansion 
seemed unlimited. 

And so it was, in technology terms, 
but that wouldn't translate into buying 
and selling, even without a recession. 
Human beings were not about to keep 
up with the changing technology— 
there's a basic resistance to things new. 
Humans don't want to learn a new 
word-processing application, much less 
a new method of logic underneath it 
(the operating system) if they don't 
have to. It doesn't matter whether the 
hardware is cheaper for the employers 
in the long run; few workers are going 
to buy it. 

So I watch the high-tech world go by. 
While many magazines such as mine 
will go under in the recession— or have 
already gone — mine will still be around. 
I'll probably spend the rest of my days 
on the phone with managers of cor- 
porate information systems trying to 
divine the next greatest mainframe, 
while my VDT slowly cooks my brain. 
—Frank Wilde 

TWISTED IMAGE t.y Ace Oackwords en« 

Page 48 

PROCESSED WORLD 126/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Post-Modern Pensees 





















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— Paula Orlando 

PROCESSED WORLD 26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 49 

Kelly Girl's Good Job 

When I was a sophomore in college I found a 
good summer internship in Washington, D.C., 
working under the Jimmy Carter administra- 
tion (the last administration, I believe, to take special 
notice of women). It paid, it sounded important, and I 
hoped (OK, I was 19) that it might make me and the rest 
of the world better feminists. 

The job consisted of doing research for a report to the 
President on the status of women. We wrote abstracts 
from testimony by hundreds of women about welfare, 
child care, sexual abuse, harassment, and other types of 
discrimination. Those women and the ones conducting 
the hearings, believed their efforts might make a 
difference. But I realized one day that the report wouldn't 
even be finished until approximately one week before 
Carter would be out of office for good. All that work was 
for show. 

The all-woman office was entirely bureaucratic 
and hierarchical: the worst example of women in 
power imitating men. I started keeping a journal 
to ease my frustrations, writing reflections about 
how the best way to be a bureaucrat was to be 
stupid, how unfeminist this "feminist" office was, 
and how committee chair Lynda Johnson Robb 
(of pink and patent-leather TV wedding fame) 
seemed as if she'd be much more comfortable 
back home barking at the servants. I also wrote 
personal things about whom I'd slept with and 
how my eating disorder was going. 

Then one day I was called into the Executive 
Director's office, where my journal was sitting on 
the middle of a big, clean desk. I was told my 
journal was government property now. It was 
done on government time, on a government type- 

I don't have to wake up 
to an alarm clock, angry 

as the day begins, 

confined in stockings and 

pumps and busses and 

cubicles, I don't have to 

pretend to be nice to 

anyone, or play office 

politics and sicken myself 

at how good I can be at 

those games . . . 

writer, so it belonged to the government. They 
threatened to fire me (I later found out they 
couldn't, because their action was in fact what I 
felt it was, an invasion of privacy). 

The upshot was that I could keep the job, but 
as punishment I wouldn't be able to work on the 
special White House event, or anything else. 

My second internship was much more hip. I 
worked at Rolling Stone on Fifth Avenue in Man- 
hattan. I wanted to work there because eventually 
I wanted to write raucous, political, point-of-view 
journalism, like they had in RS's good old days. 

But the new days at Rolling Stone were different. 
It was a tense hushed atmosphere, where only es- 
tablished old buddies ever wrote anything. As an 
intern my job was to photocopy for the profes- 

Page 50 

PROCESSED WORLD 126/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

sionally hip. For this, I was paid 
nothing, but offered occasional free 
tickets to bad concerts and opportuni- 
ties to go out with record reviewers 
twice my age. I kept suggesting ideas 
and offering to do research, and I kept 
being told I looked great in that color 
and would you get me some coffee, 
and, once, don't you realize you 
should never sleep with anyone you 
work with? 
My friends envied my great job. 

Eventually I moved to San Francisco 
to become a writer. I wrote a lot of 
stories in exchange for very little 
money. I would spend maybe a month 
doing original research and, if lucky, 
get paid $50 or $150 for an article. 
Usually I tried to write in the style and 
voice of the publication (not my own) 
and include just what they wanted me 
to include. I was young and 
inexperienced. They got off cheap. 

To support myself, I worked as a 
temp. My idea of a good temp job was 
one where there wasn't much to do all 
day (particularly no charts to word 
process) and nobody bothered me. It 
was an especially good temp job if 
there was free juice, easy access to the 
xerox machine, lots of good stuff to 
take home, and a WATS line. 

Those good temp jobs were few, and 
didn't last. 

These days I work for myself. I've 
freelanced for several years, and 
gradually I've been able to do at least 
as much work I want to do as work I 
have to do to pay the rent. I mostly 
write about things I'm interested in, 
and I get paid pretty well for doing it 
(relatively speaking, of course). 

But it isn't perfect. For instance, I 
know that over the years I've interna- 
lized many of the requirements for 
being a successful freelance writer, and 
that my "voice" in magazine articles is 
not always so much my own as it is the 
one I instinctively know will work. I 
may not have as much freedom as I 
think I have. And I don't really know 
how my voice would be different in a 
different kind of system, where I didn't 
have to write anything to pay the rent, 
to please the editors. 

But I try to be a good boss. For one 
thing, I don't make myself work very 
hard. Friends of mine (mostly from 
New York) who are very time-achieve- 
ment-money oriented tease me, some- 

what jealously, somewhat seriously, 
about being lazy. They can't understand 
why, when they come to visit on a Mon- 
day, I take the day off to go to the beach 
to be with them. They don't know how I 
can be out in the middle of the afternoon 
when they call. They think this free- 
lancing is kind of cute but not really that 
important, and certainly not very powerful. 
One of the legacies of my 
involvement with the Processed World 
collective is that I've also internalized 
the Why Work? ethic. I only work as 
much as I have to, or want to. It 
makes perfect sense to me to take a 
bicycle ride at 3:00 p.m., when most 
people are experiencing that mid-after- 
noon slump that not even caffeine will 
fix. It also makes sense to spend a day, 
like today, working on something for 
fun, which won't pay anything but 

But this good job, as I mentioned, is 
not without its problems. For one 
thing, I don't have a community of 
people to work with, to conspire, col- 
laborate, and create with. Working 
alone I get to feeling dull. I've tried to 
create community by spending time 
with other freelancers, having lunch, 
chatting about projects, and playing 
hooky for whole weeks at the film 
festival. I also log in to a virtual com- 
munity every day, talking with people 
on the WELL, the Bay Area's Whole 
Earth 'Lectronic Link. There the con- 
versations are more or less as interest- 
ing as those you'd find at a water 
cooler, but it's at least interaction. 

There's also a problem of feeling as if 
I have to recreate myself every day. I 
can't simply push the time clock and 
do what's expected of me. In some 
ways, that's more difficult. I have to 
pace myself, hustle up work, and 
wonder what I'll do next month or 
next year. I panic that I'll run out of 
ideas and assignments, that all my 
outlets will dry up, that I'll never 
figure out the bigger project I can't 
quite grasp right now. 

But I don't have to wake up to an 
alarm clock, angry as the day begins, 
confined in stockings and pumps and 
busses and cubicles. I don't have to 
pretend to be nice to anyone, or play 
office politics and sicken myself at how 
good I can be at those games. No 
one's my boss except the Big Boss, the 
economy that keeps me writing articles 
that end up wedged between glossy ads 
for dreams, articles that are accepted 
because they will appeal to people who 







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buy dreams. But in that tiny filler 
space I do what I can. 

And in the long stretches of my 
working days, my good job has a lot 
more possibilities. 

-Kelly Girl 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 5 1 


SF VDT Legislation: 
A Great Idea Corrupted 

San Francisco's by now infamous 
Video Display Terminal (VDT) legisla- 
tion started out amazingly well. But by 
the time it was signed by the mayor, 
most of the protections had been re- 
moved or watered down so that workers 
may only be safeguarded from the most 
egregious examples of poorly designed 

Originally the ordinance would have: 

• Affected workers who spend more than 
half their work day at terminals. 

• Applied to all businesses with 15 or 
more employees who work at VDTs. 

• Mandated adjustable chairs and 
desks, and set a minimum standard 
for the thickness of chair upholstery. 

• Required anti-glare screens for em- 
ployees who request such items. 

• Necessitated 15-minute work breaks 
every two hours. 

• Specified non-glare lighting and light 

• Mandated non-VDT work during 
pregnancy when requested. 

• Provided for employer-sponsored 
vision exams and mitigation. 

• Minimized noise from impact printers. 

• Required a minimum space of five 
feet between a worker and the back 
of a terminal to minimize exposure to 
magnetic fields. 

• Asked the Director of Public Health 
to report to the county on studies of 
health effects from electromagnetic 

At the end of the process, only the 
first five and the last requirement were 
left intact. The most important one 
that remained— adjustable chairs and 
desks to prevent repetitive strain 
injuries — was substantially weakened by 
the business community. 

VDT legislation began rolling in San 
Francisco after labor was struck by 
four ominous precedents, according to 
Barbara Kellogg, Oakland-based 
organizer for the Service Employees In- 
ternational Union Local 790. 

In 1988, a similar ordinance was 
struck down in Suffolk County, NY, 
which is now on appeal. The same 
year. Kaiser Permanente came out with 
a study indicating that women who 

spend more than 20 hours a week at a 
terminal, and also have higher-stress 
jobs are more likely to experience re- 
productive health problems, including 

In 1989, CalOSHA refused to set 
ergonomic, vision, and stress standards 
for California workers, despite recom- 
mendations to do so from their own 
ad hoc committee. 

Finally, in mid- 1990, then-Governor 
Deukmejian vetoed a symbolic VDT bill 
that had been watered down to only 
say that computer equipment makers 
should meet their own recommended 
ergonomic standards. 

First off, San Francisco city lawyers 
looked at the proposed legislation and 
nixed the parts requiring vision exams 
and alternative work for pregnant 
women — since those two areas are, or 
may be governed by the state and fede- 
ral government. Then, in a misplaced 
spirit of cooperation with the "business 
community," the supervisors spent 
several months meeting with the very 
same business people who have forced 
workers to remain at terminals long 
after signs of stress injuries had 

In one case, at Pacific Bell, an opera- 
tor with splints running from her 
knuckles to her elbows, was forced to 
remain at the keyboard or lose her job. 
About a month before the ordinance 
was made public, Pac Bell announced 
new plans for ergonomic redesign of its 
offices. However, Pac Bell managers had 
no idea about such a program and a 

spokeswoman said that it was an- 
nounced before details were worked 
out. The San Francisco Examiner, in 
another case of inhumanity, sent its 
suffering workers home. 

Since the supervisors allowed these 
meetings, the business community used 
the opportunity to weaken nearly every 
point in the ordinance, compromising 
safety further by weakening require- 
ments for pregnant workers to be al- 
lowed non-VDT work if requested and 
indirect lighting to ease eye strain. 

Next to go was the requirement that 
a worker be placed no closer than five 
feet from the back or sides of a VDT. 
This was put in because electromagnetic 
radiation, which the EPA says may be 
linked to cancer, envelopes a terminal 
on all sides. It was whittled down to 
three feet and then tossed completely. 

Even after the bill was signed into law 
in late December, corporate interests 
continued to tinker with it. Through 
amendments, they were able to limit 
the amount they would have to invest 
in retrofitting workstations to a 
maximum of $250 and to have four 
years to complete the work. They were 
also able to extend non-retrofits, or new 
furniture purchases for workstations up 
to four years after the legislation goes 
into effect. 

By negotiating with business leaders 
the city helped shift the discussion from 
the health of workers to the health of 
the business climate, one always coming 
at the expense of the other. Of course, 
business once again threatened to leave 
San Francisco due to "interference" by 
city government. 

There were projections of enormous 
costs to both the city and business— be- 
tween $73 million and $120 million. But 
no one spoke about the cost of future 
decades of workers' compensation 

To retrofit a cubicle with an adjust- 
able chair and desk and a detachable 
keyboard costs between $1,200 and 
$2,000, testified one doctor. If someone 
gets a repetitive stress injury, workers' 
compensation for lost work time, 
reduced output, increased premiums, 
administration, etc., easily tops all that. 

But corporations see workers' comp as 
a cost of doing business. Workers' comp 

Page 52 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

is no-fault insurance, a system which 
prevents employees from filing for 
punitive damages. Companies which 
knowingly put workers in a hazardous 
situation only have to pay for actual 
hospitalization or doctor bills. Lawyers 
say it's a disincentive for protection (not 
to mention bad for their business!). 

Despite the massive concessions, 
many on the corporate side came away 
from the process with a sour taste. 
Some vowed to sue the city. Some 
vowed resistance. The woman at Pac 
Bell with the splints up to her elbows 
couldn't come to the final Board of 
Supervisors meeting to watch the vote. 
She couldn't take any more time off 
from work at her VDT for fear of losing 
her job. 

—Frank Wilde 


The Poll Tax 

The British government is trying to 
enforce the "Poll Tax" — a flat rate tax 
on every adult. The Poll Tax is unjust 
and many cannot afford to pay (espe- 
cially women, young people and 
Britain's black and ethnic minority 
communities). It will also devastate 
local democracy and welfare services. 

The last time a British government 
tried to impose such a tax— in 
1381!— there was an armed uprising 
and government ministers were set 
upon and killed. No other country in 
the world has successfully imposed 
such a tax. Papua New Guinea 
scrapped theirs 12 years ago because it 
was unworkable. A plan to implement 
a Poll Tax in New South Wales, Aus- 
tralia was abandoned last year 
following the mass opposition in the 
The Opposition 

Over 12 million adults in Britain 
have so far refused to pay the tax, 
despite government threats of court 
action, seizure of property, wages etc., 
and ultimately prison. There are over 
2,000 local anti-Poll Tax groups and 
regional federations working to 
encourage and support non-payers, in 
order to make the tax unworkable. It 
is a diverse and dynamic self-organized 
movement of class and community 
Trafalgar Square 

March 31st was the eve of the imple- 
mentation of the tax in England and 

Wales (it had been introduced in Scot- 
land the year before). Following a wave 
of angry local protests all over the 
country, a national demonstration was 
called, ending in a rally in Trafalgar 
Square. Nearly 250,000 people 
attended, making it one of the largest 
demonstrations in 20th century British 
history. The police— increasingly notor- 
ious for their role in smashing strikes 
and other working class actions 
attempted to break up the rally by 
cavalry-charging a sit down protest 
outside the Prime Minister's Downing 
Street residence. Instead they provoked 
a six-hour long battle, in which 
protesters defended themselves against 
police and did millions of dollars 
damage to capitalist property in 
London's lush West End. Predictably, 
the British press and state used the 
police violence as an occasion to attack 
the anti-Poll Tax movement, and to 
label anyone arrested as "Thugs, 
Rioters or Hooligans." The police 
launched an immediate campaign of 
harassment against the movement, 
arresting activists and raiding their 
homes. Altogether, over 520 people 
have been arrested, and are receiving 
heavy fines and long prison sentences 
after political show trials. 

The Trafalgar Square Defendants 

Building on the long tradition of 
community self defense by British 
black people, a campaign was formed 
to support those arrested, coordinate 
legal defense (over 200 different lawyers 
are acting for the various defendants), 
and raise money for defendants' legal 
and welfare costs (our target is $75,000). 
We want to tell the truth about what 
happened in Trafalgar Square that day 
and since, against the hysteria and lies 
of the media and the authorities. 
Above all, we need to ensure the anti- 

Poll Tax movement is not intimidated 
by these attacks, and fights for the 
right to oppose this hated tax and 
demonstrate freely. 

The campaign has already organized 
pickets of courts where show trials are 
in progress, and prisons where 
protesters are being held. We have 
successfully tracked down witnesses to 
illegal arrests and violence by police 
officers, and have arranged lawyers for 
defendants who were unrepresented. 
We have raised thousands of dollars 
for publicity and defendants' costs, and 
have received support from hundreds 
of anti-Poll Tax groups and federations 
all over the country. 

We are calling for the dropping of all 
charges against protesters from March 
31st and October 20th. 
What You Can Do: 

• Organize a protest and send us a 
report and photograph. 

• Become a contact for distributing 
information about our activities in 
your country. 

• Publicize our situation. 

• Send messages of solidarity to 
those in prison. 

• Let us know of similar struggles in 
which you are involved. 


The Trafalgar Square 

Defendants Campaign 

(they can be reached through Processed World) 


A new singing group, the Shines, is 
spreading the notion that it's OK to 
have a life outside of work. They are 
striking a chord among young Japanese 
within the rigid corporate structures, 
providing a voice to express vague frus- 

"From early in the morning 
M}! battle starts 
I run up the station stairs 
Turn around, turn around 
A cog in a wheel 
Work hard, work hard, 
Japanese salaryman" 

The Shines draw on traditions of 
Japanese sentimental ballads and com- 
pany picnic cheers. "We sing a capella 
because we don't have instruments, 
and anyway, the message is more 
important than the music," says Taro 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 53 

Sugimura, 26. "The message is, 'Let's 
find another interest outside the 
company. Let's enjoy our life!" 

Rika Muranaka, 27, who quit her 
job at Esquire Japan to become a 
freelance event promoter, said, "It's no 
longer enough to be just a company 
person. People are beginning to see 
that a well-rounded, talented person 
has more than just a company life." 

More young people in prestigious 
companies are questioning the system 
that got them there, particularly the 
"examination hell that rewards their 
ability to memorize and cultivates the 
kind of diligence that companies 
demand." They are questioning values 
seen as integral to the Japanese. 

Recently there has been a prolifera- 
tion of young people's groups called 
"networks," which cut across usual 
company or university classmate lines; 
consisting instead of "side-by-side rela- 
tionships," without seniority systems or 
vertical structures (unlike traditional 
groups in Japan). 

The new horizontal networks are 
also unusual because they include 
women. With few exceptions, women 
are hired as "OLs" ("office ladies"), 
pouring tea, making copies and doing 
other trivial chores. These days, OLs 
are shown in TV commercials laughing 
together at their bosses. The majority 
of Shines' fans are OLs. S.F. Examiner 

The Disney Revolution? 

Disney employees were presumably 
responsible for crafting this fake memo 
mocking the style of Jeffrey 


(You have nothing to lose . . .but your briefs!) 


Hedonists . . Saboteurs . . Erotopreneurs . . 
Pleasurecrats. .Working 'Stiffs" for per- 
sonal stories of Sex on the Job, to be 
included in Fucking Off on the Job: 
Tales celebrating the erotic spirit sapping 
the strength of the planetary work 
machine. A book and serialized radio 
show of first-person accounts by 
workers telling how they mixed 
business and pleasure in ways never 
told before. 

Cultivating the erotic sphere on the 
job takes many shapes, many hues, 
many complications. For some it is 
planned and quite straightforward; for 
others it may be a mutually consenting 
spontaneous "accident"— perhaps re- 
warding, perhaps not. Unfortunately, 

unwanted sexual advances are an all- 
too-common experience. This project is 
NOT about that. Rather, it is about 
consensual erotic adventures in a 
situation where you have been at work. 

To contribute to this project, your 
sexual forays do not necessarily have 
to have occurred at your job. It could 
be at a partner's. It could be at the 
workplace but "after hours." It's even 
possible to exclude both the workplace 
and hours— one friend's story involved 
him "stealing" the company truck after 
work, picking up his lover (at work!) 
and then sneaking the truck back by 6 
a.m.— Whew! Just as there is no set 
definition of where sex starts or stops, 
being sexual on the job is equally slip- 
pery. So use your imagination. What is 
essential is that you enjoyed a charged 
erotic experience somehow linked to 
the world of work. Masturbation 
stories are perhaps the most common, 
group sex the least, but all tales, 
whatever their configuration, are 
welcome. You can send a typed, first- 
person narrative, a tape recording, or I 
can interview/record you by telephone 
(or in person!) Call or write us!! We 
want your story!! Michael Medo 

Center for Full Empleasurement 

1668 Page Street, SF CA 94117 USA 
(415) 864-1013 

Katzenberg, chairman of Disney 
Studios. Disney has a reputation as the 
most penny-pinching of Hollywood's 
major studios. The satire was produced 
and then faxed to friends at other 

Another "True" Fake 


This country faces some of ttie worst economic and political conditions imag- 
inable. Our streets are filled with the homeless, the uneducated: our troops 
face the constant threat of chemical weapons, Scud missiles and repeated 
shell fire; and attendance at our parks is down, way down. 

That's the bad news. Now the good news. We intend to save money by 
paying our employees even less. 

Our great and noble leader, Michael Eisner himself, took home a paltry $1 1 
million in stock and salary this year, down from last year's haul of over $50 
million. ThaVs an 88 percent sacrifice! 

All I'm asking is that each of you make the same sacrifice that Michael 
Eisner has made. By reducing employees' salaries by 88% we will establish a 
platform to launch the next round of good times. 

Greed is the only word that can explain how we can force employees to 
work 60-hour weeks at the studio, paying them the lowest salaries of any 
major studio, while taking home incredible salaries ourselves. 

Renegade sign maker Christopher True 
has caused a stir in the Boston area by 
posting very official looking signs 
bearing unorthodox messages. 

Page 54 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Lessons in Democracy 

Listen, you poor unemployed managers of State Utopia 
there in grey Prague, Sofia and drizzling Warsaw, 

with your sad jowls, wondering if you can keep the 

Mercedes — 
here's what we learned in Central America. 
To stay on top indefinitely it's not enough 
to split the language into Above and Below 
so that dissenters' words dissolve like salt under their 

and make their mouths wither. 

Not enough 
to tap their phones, inject them with migraine 
or vertigo in locked wards, not enough even 
to pound their faces pulpy and toothless 
in Security cellars, abandon them 
shaky with malnutrition in some remote village. 
You never understood that fear 

has to reach all the way down 
through the body. The heart must pucker shut 
like a sea anemone poked with a stick, the fingers 
must cling to the hand, the eyes to the face, the lips 
to the teeth, imagining the surgical tray with its silvery verbs 
laid out in rows, the grammar of the Recording Angel. 
The fear must travel like pale threadworms in milk 
from mother's nipple to child's mouth. 

Because somewhere 
your bodies still believed in the body, in keeping 
the promises you made it: promises 
with the warm savor of bread an hour from the oven, 
the bright primaries of a child's toy. 
Your zodiac still held a vague sunrise silhouette, 
woman or man in Vitruvian reach 
toward the four corners of Heaven. 

That's why 
in the end it cracked from one side to the other. 
Peace, Justice, Progress, the Power of the Workers — 
these words that were your only justification 
soaked through your skins like red dye and poisoned 

you all. 
That's why finally even your professionals 
weren't able to keep it up, 

whether cool surgeon's gaze or sniggering erection 
when they put out cigarettes in a prisoner's wrinkled openings, 
when she bounced and wailed under the electrodes. 
You couldn't even trust your soldiers to open fire. In the end 
you were just petty bullies, knocking intellectuals' glasses 

making them take jobs cleaning toilets. 
That's why now 

you hunch away crabwise from your teak desks 
like bad-tempered bookkeepers caught with their hands 

in the till, 
whining, blustering, promising to change. You feared the 

even as you loved what it brought you. 

PROCESSED WORLD 126/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

don't have these difficulties. We need only say: Subversion. 

We need only show Them a swatted helicopter, say, 

some weapons 
we captured inexpensively from a dealer in Lima 
and the money comes down, pure as Their Columbia River. 
This cold clean flow drives the turbines 
They have given us, the friendly computers with webs 
of suspect names woven across the screen, the arc lights 
around the strategic village compound, the projectors 
in the theaters that show Their movies about wild dogs 
eating women, huge warriors armored in 
muscle pissing petroleum fire into the jungle. 
With this voltage 

we wire up a captured rebel, scrawny marionette 
hanging from his own ganglia, to lip-synch some atrocity 

Right away new assault rifles appear in our hands, 

blessing us 
with fragrant oil. 

You see, we still get the joke 
when prisoners' mouths make those absurd rubbery shapes, 
when they apologize for crimes they've never committed 

and beg 
to kiss our fingers. We understand, as you never did, 

that ignorance 
is a velvety dark bloom that must be watered and pruned. 
We understand that an army is a business, like planting 

or bringing the Bible to the brown mongrels in the barrios. 
We understand above all that the axis the planet spirals 
around like a bluebottle fly, buzzing and licking, 
is a great column of blood spouting between eternities. 

Too bad 
your father Stalin couldn't pass himself on to his pasty sons. 
You see, our Father is the Father of television. He shows us 
pearl-colored sedans cornering silkily under a swollen moon, 
gringas with tight hips and slow cataracts of hair, 
and we reach into the screen's cool water 
and take them. 

That is His promise. That's what it means 
to be even the smallest organ of this immense body — 
to be rooted, humbly, in the continent of democracy. 

— Adam Cornford 

Page 55 

'(E%:\From The Grey Ranks 

graphic: Tomasz Stepien 

Elves and Mermaids: 

Polish Graffiti in War and Peace 

Warsaw, 1944: Graffiti made by Resistance movement in occupied 
Warsaw. Photo by Zaturski & Szeliga 

If on a summer's night a traveler. . . 

i met Tomasz Sikorski by showing up on the doorstep of his 
Warsaw apartment late one June afternoon. I was given his name by 
an artist designer friend in Wroclaw, who told me Tomasz was putting 
together a gallery show on graffiti. 

The train to Warsaw passed through Lodz, Poland's second largest 
city. I had heard Lodz was a heavy factory town, and was surprised to 
see what I thought was the sun setting through haze, until I realized 
that fire was actually a flame jet at the top of a stack, not solar. 

I happened upon Tomasz's address by chance, as I was wandering 
around Warsaw's "Old Town" (like much of Warsaw, this area was 
levelled during the war, and exists today as a modern replica of the 

His building was enclosed by a scaffolding — the exact nature of the 
renovation, the work was not clear ... it must have been a long-term 
project, whatever it was. Near the entrance I saw a man's face 
stencilled on the wall, somewhat concealed by the scaffolding. This 
had to be the place. 

After explaining myself to the building's intercom, which greeted me 
in English, Tomasz said "Yes, you'd better come up." He was indeed 
the man stencilled outside. 

Tomasz invited me to the opening of an exhibition at Centrum 
Sztuka the next evening on "The Lost Paradise." It was a retrospective 
of two diametrically opposed but complementary styles in Polish art. 
A number of works were drawn from the social realist period, 1949-55, 
when the state's cultural agenda held sway, with humanizing portraits 
of ghouls like Stalin and the Polish commissar "Bloody Felix" 
Dzierzynski, boy-meets-bulldozer scenes of pastoral patriotism, and 
apparatchiks addressing Party congresses. Also featured was opposi- 
tional art of the 1980s, following the banning of Solidarity and the 
imposition of martial law. 

The next day, Tomasz was going to be showing slides of Polish 
graffiti in another wing of this gallery, which like so much in Poland 
was also undergoing renovation. Although a long-time fan and 
international collector of graffiti, I was unable to attend this show — for 
I had to fly to London the next day for the Attitude Adjustment 
Seminar that Chris Carlsson, Mark Leger, Melinda Gebbie, Linda 
Wiens and I were to inflict on the public to herald the publication of 
Bad Attitude, the Processed World anthology. 

All Tomasz and I had time for was talking about graffiti late into the 
night. When it began to get dark, around 10:30, we repaired to the 
train station cafeteria for some cold soup. My flight was early the next 
morning, so I hastened back to my hostel by the 1 1 p.m curfew, 
wishing there was time to read more of this Polish milieu through its 
markings, and the people who made them. 

-U.S. Black 

PW: Your father used graffiti in the Resistance? 

Tomasz Sikorski: Yes, during the Second World War, here in 
Warsaw, beginning from 1941. My father belonged to Szare Szeregi 
(Grey Ranks), an underground resistance organization, derived from 
the Polish Scouts, incorporated later in 1944 into the so-called 
National Army. During the years 1940-44, one of the forms of active 
resistance was counter-propaganda: underground radio, press, and the 

Page 56 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

most spectacular, writing and painting on the walls. One of the duties 
of my teenage father (he was 15 when he joined the Szare Szeregi), was 
to write slogans on the walls to manifest the resistance against Nazis, 
to build up a confidence in Polish people that Germans will fail, 
sooner or later. 

German signs were being changed back into Polish; signs of 
RGHTING POLAND (the two letters P and W form an anchor, the 
symbol of hope), signs of resistance organizations and slogans in Polish 
and German were written on the walls. 

Germans used their propaganda; for instance, there appeared huge 
inscriptions which read: DEUTSCHLAND SIEGT AN ALLEN 
FRONTEN (Germans Win on Every Frontline). By altering just one 
letter, this was quickly transformed into DEUTSCHLAND LIEGT 
AN ALLEN FRONTEN (Germans Lie on Every Frontline). Or the 
name of Hitler would be turned into "Hycler," which sounds similar 
to the Polish word for "dogcatcher." 

Writing on walls is a very quick and direct way of communication. It 
catches you by surprise whether you want it or not. Everybody is a 
potential receiver. Therefore it was used as one of the weapons of 
psychological war. 

You see, after long years of occupation, some weaker souls may lose 
their faith and hope, and may try to adapt themselves to the new, for 
others unacceptable situation. It was so very important therefore to 
maintain that faith. During the years of occupation one strong sign of 
resistance worked like a spark in deep darkness. 

With the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising on the 1st of August, 
1944, writing on the walls subsided. Nazis were pushed out from the 
central districts of Warsaw, and graffiti was replaced by posters and 
printed news-sheets displayed on the walls. Now, not brush and paint 
were used, but guns and bullets. 

Then the Stalinist times came, a new wave of terror, cold war. As far 
as I know, there was no other form of street propaganda then, other 
than official monumentalism. My father does not recall any examples 
of graffiti, neither then nor in the following years, although it is quite 
probable that it appeared around protests and demonstrations in 
1956, 1968, and 1970. 

The first form of graffiti that I have witnessed was the striking series 
of human silhouettes that suddenly appeared somewhere about 1973 
in Warsaw. In one particular area, there were grouped outlines of 
human bodies, in natural size, painted with a wide brush with either 
white or black paint in places where, according to rumor, civilians 
were killed by the Nazis. It is supposed that someone had witnessed 
those acts and then, thirty years later, reconstructed them in the exact 
places — for instance, while leaning against a wall with their hands up, 
or caught while jumping over a fence, probably in an attempt to 
escape . . . 

PW: Reminds me of Chicago in 1981 or '82. Suddenly on the 
sidewalks of Hyde Park appeared the words, at various strategic 
points, "A Woman Was Raped Here." You'd be walking along, and 
without warning find yourself faced with a shocking flashback. Also, 
there are the shadows that appear on the sidewalks in August to 
commemorate Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

TS: And strikingly similar to the figures of the so-called desapareci- 
dos in Argentina and perhaps in other parts of Latin America. It was 
the first graffiti that I saw, and the first one that I took pictures of. 

With the rise of the Solidarity movement in 1980, it brought a whole 
new wave of iconography. In 1980, this was used mainly for political 
statements and slogans, signs and symbols of the forces of opposition. 
Later, when Solidarity grew into an all-nation movement, it adopted 
the symbols that traditionally denoted the nation's ideals and its 


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PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 57 

Lodz (pronounced Woodge), Poland's 2nd largest city. 

"The time we live in must be filled up with struggle and 
hard, arduous work," —General W. Jaruzelski 

Photo: Tonnasz Sikorski, 1990 

Struggle for freedom. Two colors were dominating: white and red, the 
national colors of Poland. 

Under the terror of martial law in Poland (1981-1983), political 
graffiti and underground press were extremely important. A very 
interesting phenomenon was the reappearance of the anchor-like 
symbol of the Underground, Fighting Poland. Their message was 
clear: Poland is occupied again, and again we will fight the enemy. 

Very few things were legal then, and the absurdity of martial law 
was beautifully pinpointed and ridiculed by the Pomaranczowa 
Alternaty wa (Orange Alternative) movement led by Wladyslaw 
"Major" Frydrich. In 1982, he and his friends started to paint colorful 
elves on the walls of Wroclaw. In 1983, elves appeared in Warsaw. 
They were smiling, innocent, some of them holding flowers in their 
tiny hands, but they were all illegal! Imagine, illegal elves! The 
authorities didn't know what to do with them. They couldn't leave 
them because they were illegal, but neither could they wipe them off 
without making a laughingstock of themselves. 

Major's favorite places for painting elves were the fragments of walls 
where previously there had been illegal inscriptions. Special crews 
painted over this graffiti; their job was to blur messages before they 
could reach the public. The crews used paint of a particularly ugly grey 
color. Those stains of grey were perfect, prime spots to put new signs 

Everything painted and drawn on the walls was being systematically 
destroyed during martial law, and in the following years, until the fall 
of communism in 1989. 

I took real pleasure in photographing those little elves, and that's 
how my slide collection of graffiti began. Then in 1984 my life brought 
me to New York City, and I was truly overwhelmed by the polyphony 
and the power of graffiti there. I took pictures of everything that I 
could. Left some stencil prints on the walls and sidewalks of SoHo and 
the East Village. I came back to Warsaw in the Fall of 1985, and 
immediately started to spread my stencilled works on the walls over 

I brought home quite a big collection of slides of New York graffiti. 
My intention was to spread around and spur graffiti in Poland in order 
to fight the rigidity, the uniformity and the hypocrisy of the 
socio-political system here. I travelled to various cities with a show of 
about 300 slides which were synchronized with an audio tape. On the 
tape there were sounds recorded in the places where I took pictures, 
bits of various music and other sounds of Manhattan. Sometime in 
1986, to my uttermost delight, some friends of mine started doing their 
own graffiti. From the very beginning, stencil was the most popular 
technique. Because of problems with finding spray paint (the cunning 
authorities made it unavailable for long years), the paint was applied 
with a sponge wad. 

It is perhaps worth mentioning here that those who were first to do 
graffiti in Poland were either art students or graduates. Nowadays 
there is a whole avalanche of graffiti makers: teenagers, kids, organized 
groups, recognizable individuals. 

Most graffiti in postwar Poland, if not all of it, was political; its 
source was disagreement. Besides strikes, demonstrations, and 
underground press, wall writings were the true evidence of this 
disagreement. The communist propaganda, on the other hand, used 
its boring messages everywhere. There were, for instance, huge 
monumental, pseudo-patriotic slogans painted on factory walls 
addressed to the workers, large-scale poster-like billboards in a terrible 
style, attempting to make them work more and more for the country's 
better future and international peace. These were made with steel and 
concrete to last forever. The opposition scribbled on the walls with 
haste. The two aesthetics differed greatly, one legal and untrue, the 

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PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

other illegal and true. 

All of political graffiti was generally against something, against the 
occupant, against the system, against the government. Only in the 
late eighties there appeared graffiti which brought messages that were 
not against something, but rather for something, let's say for normal, 
real and joyful life, without hypocrisy and pretence. I think that most 
of art can be seen as an endeavor towards the wholeness of human 

It is necessary to make a distinction here between graffiti as a 
political weapon, and graffiti as a form of art. It is an extensive topic, 
but briefly speaking one could say that art— or any other form of 
individual expression that comes from a totalitarian system — weakens 
that system. All forms of art are valid in this respect, but graffiti art is 
perhaps the most perfect because it can be done by anyone, and 
because it can reach anyone, without any mediators or interpreters. 
And besides — artworks placed on street walls come as a surprise, and 
are perceived unexpectedly. Their power is different than that of 
artworks exhibited in art galleries. Graffiti lives in the context of the 
real environment, it originates from it, is a part of it, and transforms 
it. It does not need any special, abstracted space. 

The thing that I find most interesting in graffiti art is the desire to 
transform the environment, the striving to turn a place you live in to a 
place you feel like belonging to. It is like putting a charm on something 
in order to make it alive and more humane. 

That is what I experienced in New York: I saw that most of those 
dead buildings with burned-out windows and other abandoned, 
strange looking places were painted, marked and drawn all over. There 
were many graffiti signs that were very tiny, you had to look around 
very carefully, come very close, sometimes squat down or lean over a 
fence. Some of those little arrangements were done with evident love 
or passion, and looked like sanctuaries. Very powerful, although 
modest and silent! 

I think that the same impulse drove the unknown souls in the 
desolate areas of Manhattan and in the grim cities of Poland under 
martial law. 

Under martial law, most artists — I'm thinking about visual 
artists— were boycotting official places to show their work. Classical 
forms of art couldn't do much. But when one door is closed, another 
one is open. For instance, for me one of the ways to show my work, to 
continue my activity, was to do something in places which weren't 
belonging to anybody in particular, to any organization or institution. 
Street walls, telephone booths were perfect places to use. 

PW: What has changed about graffiti since Solidarity came to 

TS: Sometimes it is hard to believe how much and how quickly the 
things have changed over here, from one extreme to another. After 
years of total control, suppression, censorship bans, and such— we 
jumped into the vast waters of freedom. And look, now we have a 
show of graffiti which is going to open tomorrow evening right here, at 
the Center of Contemporary Art (Centrum Sztuki Wspolczesnej). It 
will be the first show of its kind in the country. This show, which I am 
curating, will take place on the second floor of this seventeenth 
century castle. You see, some few years ago I did my first graffiti prints 
here in the dark of the night, frozen with fear of being arrested. 
Today, the same works are being shown just a few steps away from 
their original location, this time openly, one of the most official places, 
sponsored by the Ministry of Culture. Everything changes, and all is 
possible. . . 

Graffiti in Poland is on the rise now, it is growing very quickly 
and now you can see it even in the small, remote towns. 


Warsaw, 1990 


PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 59 



Pn2ER/iT()R 1 




It is also losing its combative spirit. It becomes lighter, more 
entertaining, more decorative, more elaborate, more related to young 
subcultures, to music . . . Since graffiti is not so bound to politics now, 
many really young kids joined in with their own iconography. You 
can notice now certain schools or groups. There is an air of growing 
competitiveness and showing off. And obviously, it is much more 
diversified now, since more and more people do it. 

The common enemy has died. That's a strange moment: for some, 
especially for the beginners, it is very activating. For some others, on 
the other hand, though, it is quite demobilizing. You see, if you no 
longer have this enemy, this all-too-obvious target or point of 
reference— you have to think what to do now. 

[But] I think there will always be something which you would feel 
like opposing. Youngsters, for instance, have different problems than 
those who are 30 or 40 years old. I am not doing graffiti anymore 
because I'm concerned with other things now, primarily with 
painting, but for younger or beginning artists, graffiti is a good way to 
manifest themselves and to join the culture. 

Youngsters want to be seen. They go the fast way, they do not want 
to wait for some remote tomorrow. I know committed graffiti-makers 
who are 15 years old or younger, and of course it doesn't mean that 
they will do only graffiti in their lives. I don't know anybody who does 
just that. Imagine someone who is sixty, and still goes around with a 
spray can. 

Graffiti may just be a certain stage in someone's development, or a 
certain episode. Therefore, attempts to fight graffiti are unwise and 

And, obviously, graffiti-making may be a passage to the art world. 
You could have noticed it in America. After the big boom in 1983-84, 
people like Keith Haring, who started with graffiti, quickly became 
famous. There were many followers, whole organized gangs from New 
Jerseys and Bronxes, who would dream of making quick careers, not 
necessarily financial, so they would come over to Manhattan, paint 
huge walls, remembering to leave a legible signature. I have met young 
graffiti artists in Poland who are now trying to enroll in academies of 
fine arts.They feel like being artists, they are artists, beginning artists 
who started off and expressed themselves primarily through graffiti. 

PW: What do you see as the future of graffiti art in Poland? 

TS: I don't know. I think this is perhaps the most interesting part of 
it. It is a kind of art form that is very strongly connected to the present 
problems of the times, to the political, cultural, and social situations. 

Graffiti will always be there until everybody will be satisfied. But it is 
quite inconceivable that everybody will be happy, and I suppose that 
in our times, in places like Warsaw, New York, and other big cities, 
there will always be problems for at least certain groups of people, and 
that they will always feel the urge to articulate their position. 

But beyond socio-politically engaged graffiti, there is something that 
is especially interesting to me, which is graffiti that transcends the 
prosaic aspects of life and is more spiritually oriented. 

For instance, there was a guy called Larmee. In 1984/85 1 saw many 
of his paintings on the walls of Manhattan. He would make his 
paintings at home on paper, and then he would glue the ready works 
on the walls in various places in Lower Manhattan. His works were 
not politically oriented, not at all. They instead expressed loneliness, 
the solitude of a person in a big city, something that was particularly 
striking in crowded places, like on Broadway in rush hour. Just 
imagine seeing suddenly a beautiful, detached, and somehow 
sorrowful face in a dehumanized place: something very tender, very 
human, something that suddenly shifts your attention onto a higher 

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PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Another example: a stencil print, small delicate, almost unnotice- 
able, faded face of a young, pensive boy with an inscription below, 
"THERE IS A NEW KID IN TOWN." Very simple and very 
touching. I still remember that face, it looked so much more humane 
than the faces of the rushing phantoms around. 

My own graffiti works, my first stencils and chalk drawings, were 
also not politically oriented, and it was curious to observe that these 
special crews of graffiti exterminators would sometimes leave my 
works intact. Some of them survived the long years, and are still there. 
They were for everybody, you see, for the right and the left, for 
communists and non-communists, for atheists and for the believers, 
they were just for men and women, regardless of their external guises. 

At that time, in 1985, 1 didn't use any distinct political messages 
except for one thing: I made a stencil with the emblem of the city of 
Warsaw, which is a mermaid. The emblem is strange and alien to me, 
because the mermaid holds a shield and sword. So I made a new 
image: the mermaid joyfully throwing the shield and the sword away, 
freeing herself finally from that burden. The message was clear: change 
is coming, end of playing war, no more creating enemies, no need for 
armament. And also: down with the army, with the military. 

PW: What are the risks involved in making graffiti in Poland? 

TS: I used to do it at night, because one couldn't foresee the 
consequences; anything could have happened. My father would be 
shot dead if caught doing it in 1942. If I were caught doing it in 1985, 1 
would be arrested. 

Now I hear from a graffiti kid that there is no written law that bans 
graffiti. It is not illegal, it must be legal. I never heard about a trial, or 
sentence, or a fine for making graffiti here. 

It is not dangerous anymore. Maybe it's one of the reason that I quit 
doing it. It is not exciting anymore. Resistance is a natural and very 
strong energy in the human psyche. 

PW: To summarize? 

TS: Some words about the future, perhaps. 

I think there are two directions. The first is the obvious voice of 
those who feel like expressing their unfavorable situation or political 
opinions. I suppose that in Poland more and more individuals will fall 
into very difficult positions. This first kind of graffiti could be called 
political, combative, or contentious. 

The other kind is artistically oriented. Among meaningless 
scribblings, there are true artworks painted on the street walls instead 
of on canvas and shown in interiors accessible to few. This is very 
important. I think that this is, in today's free Poland, the real test. The 
external enemy is gone; now is the time to drive away the internal 
enemy— ignorance, mental stiffness, prejudice, superfluousness, lazi- 
ness, and so on. 

I remember what Keith Haring said in one of the interviews about 
his graffiti. He said that even when he started to show in galleries, he 
still wanted to use the more immediate way of communication, 
without any mediators. It is really wonderful, because you do it for 
other people, engage yourself into something that transcends your own 
particular case, and you do it selflessly. 

You paint something on a wall, and it hits the people right away. 
There's no time in between the execution of the work and the act of 
showing it. You do it, and it's already there, in action! 


Graphic; Tomasz Sikorski, Warsaw 1985 



-4 A -A 

Graphic; Tomasz Stepien, Wroclaw 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special lOih Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 6 1 

Art & Chaos in Brazil /^l 

i spent five weeks in and around Sao Paulo, Brazil during the southern 
hemispheric summer 1 988-89. Fortunately I was with my long-time m 

companion Caitlin Manning, whose talent at learning new languages, I 
together with our good luck in finding fascinating interview sub}ects,made it 
possible to produce a one-hour video documentary called Brazilian Dreams: 
Visiting Points of Resistance. One of the most intriguing eTu:ounters we had 
was with Ze Carratu, a very active graffiti artist in Sao Paulo's explosive 
street art scene. What follows are excerpts from the interview Caitlin 
conducted in a concrete shell of an abandoned building on the University of 
Sao Paulo campus, which was originally to be a cultural center. The 
basement is submerged in four feet of water, and the building has become an 
eerie gallery of graffiti art. The editing and translation are mine. 

—Chris Carlsson 

Page 62 

ZE CARRATU: The Rio de Janeiro— Sao Paulo axis represents 
the two most effervescent cities in Brazil, where people really have a 
vision of modernity and information about First World cultural 
developments. I make a living from plastic art. Some works I've made 
are commercialized. I paint murals. I am recognized, Pve done lots of 
paintings. I live pretty hard, but I come from a family of immigrants, 
Italians, and they have a certain power. They developed a business in 
Brazil and managed things. I, for example, am a person with the 
opportunity to travel, to leave the country. I can go and return. Thus, 
I'm the only one who does culture in a family of three hundred! 

I am from a family of Italian anarchists. I'm sort of an anarchist, I 
don't know, I just think there's going to be a tremendous chaos, total 
chaos, and afterward we are going to have to build a new society, sort 
of like what happens in a country after a big war . . . 

PW: And the role of the artist in this? 

ZC: The artist has to help establish chaos. I think that s/he has to 
be critical and work on the chaos, appropriate the chaos— and that's 
what I do. I work on the garbage, the rubble of the city, this is a way of 
elevating chaos. 

I eat the culture that was given to me. I was born with the ability to 
have culture, to learn things and understand society. So I swallow 
these things that I learn. This is "anthropophagy," I eat my literature. 
We had anthropophagists here in Brazil, the Indians that ate people. 
The Portugese were good to eat! Today I eat the culture in a certain 
way. It's chaos, we mix everything together. I can't forget that I do art 
in Brazil. The images that I make have everything to do with this 
culture and this society. They are almost all fragments. 

Since I work in the city, here inside, I am using the city as a support, 
a context. I think it's pretty natural, probably the same in any part of 
the world, that people try to understand each other in the street. 
From the moment I am in the street, I am mixing with society. When I 
am in my workshop, I am far from society, things are totally abstract. 
But on the streets I must make myself clear sociologically, anthropolo- 
gically because I am in the middle of everyday life. 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 


Graffiti has very interesting characteristics. People have an artistic 
way when they are working with graffiti. Joao, Kenny Schaffley, Keith 
Haring and these people have artistic training, so their graffiti is a true 
work of art. Here in Brazil we have much to learn from our own Third 
World situation. We are at a distance, not just because of the ocean, 
but because of the type of news that we've had available during this 

I began working in the street in 1978. 1 didn't begin with graffiti, but 
with performance works, theater, and environmental installations. In 
1982, a guy from New York started doing graffiti here. May 1968 in 
Paris was a powerful message, and as I was already working in the 
streets, I saw that the street was a very important space. The poverty 
of the people, the necessity of bringing information to them, 
motivated us to begin doing graffiti. Our graffiti began inside the city, 
on walls, on the sides of buildings. 

Sao Paulo is a city with a big speculation problem. Real estate 
speculation in this city devalues one space and raises the value of 
another, which they understand how to manipulate very well. For 
instance the government put the river into an underground sewer, 
built a big avenue on it, with huge walls on either side, and people in 
the surrounding neighborhoods moved away. It became a slum. Then 
the speculators came in and bought up the place at a very low price, 
and it soon increased in value. So we began to work on top of these 
speculators. They speculate a place, tear it down. Chaos is established 
and there we go to work, always. 

This space [an abandoned cultural center building on the University 
of Sao Paulo campus] is typical, because it was constructed in 1976 
more or less. In a place so short of technical resources and cultural 
information that people need, a space like this with thousands of 
square meters was never used for anything. So we decided to occupy 
it. Now we are trying to rescue it as a cultural space and bring its 
existence to people's attention. We are going to hold an event with 
people from cinema and other art forms and hold a great cultural 
marathon to rescue this place. It's an alert that there's something to 
do, to come and see that it's possible for something to happen here. 
Because nobody even knows that it exists, neither the local 
community nor the students on campus. No one ever comes here, it's 
never used, in fact, never finished! So we've painted here, we're still 
painting, working all the time. 

When we first came here 1 1 years ago we found names and dates 
inscribed on the walls, like "Severino, 1976." Severino was probably 
an immigrant from Brazil's northeast, where it is a common name, 
and he was probably working here as manual labor. Many people were 
working here for a time, but for nothing, and this is quite common 
here in Brazil. 

Now some people are living here, poor people, also some punks, and 
we've hung out with them. Here is a mirror of water, which underlines 
the sadness one feels when you realize that a space of this size is here 
for nothing, it's such an absurdity, a waste, so much money, the 
speculation! They built a building under water! Of course it could be 
fixed, but this was a work of pure speculation, squandering money 
with no thought whatsoever. They said this would be a cultural 
center, but such a thing interests no one in Brazil because people here 
don't care about culture. In the time of this construction, the 
mid-1970s, the political situation was very complicated. There was an 
ideological hunt going on, really a persecution of thought. So those 
people who were really articulating something, they had no power to 
do anything at that time. 

(Marijuana leaf X'ed out on Can) 

BRAZILIAN DREAMS: Visting Points of Resisunce". available from BACAT, 1095 Markec St . 1209, S F , CA 94103 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 63 


There are many works, many places that we develop in the city. The 
only places that really bear our work well are these immense places 
that have never been used for anything. Our presence immediately 
improves them. 

I think there is going to be a great chaos and that will be really good 
for making art. 

PW: But for life? 

ZC: I think not for life, but for the artist it is very inspiring. It's 
already a chaotic city in a certain way. On one side you have beauty, 
on the other barbarism, extreme poverty. You can go to the southern 
area of Sao Paulo and it is beautiful, marvelous, like a Beverly Hills. If 
you go to the eastern zone or the north you will see incredible poverty, 
serious suffering. 

Brazil is a country of speculation, of grand industries built on 
speculation. We have 20 brands of powdered soap, 30, 40 brands of 
detergent, 200 of canned sausage, everything. Only people can see it 
but they cannot buy it. You go to the eastern zone where they have 
four supermarkets in a very poor neighborhood, with immense 
displays of merchandise, with the same advertising as here. You have 
a culture shock, a social shock because the people can see but cannot 
have. So what do they do? They steal. It is perfectly natural that this 
occurs, considering the shocking divergence between what is seen and 
what can be had. 

We see that in our city all the art galleries and cultural spaces are 
here for a very specific part of the public. People that patronize such 
spaces are very select, and very selected. The galleries are constructed 
in a certain way, there is always a guard at the door, there's no access 
for handicapped, and so on. The Brazilian people are deprived of 
information and culture. Not everyone has a chance to study and 
learn things. Those that do, uphold a system very alienated at the 
level of cultural information. 

Some years ago I had an exhibit in a museum, but many of our 
invited guests couldn't even find the place. This reality has everything 
to do with the media. We know that the media is a strong force, 
whether a newspaper or a TV station. The power to act in the street, 
to occupy the walls, abandoned buildings and locations with weird 
architecture, is also a force. We extend the street, really. 

It's a very weird situation and I think that with today's media, 
people are learning to see images, to read images, so when we work in 
the street, our work provides a different perspective. We don't sell 
anything, and don't even offer a product. 

PW: It's an anti-commercial? 

ZC: Yes, it's totally anti-commercial. 

Page 64 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Harvey Pekar 

". . .children's games, comic books, bubble gum, 
the weirdness of television and advertising" 
—from What You Should Know To Be A Poet by Gary Snyder 

Most of us left comic books behind somewhere 
around puberty, the oxy moronic phrase 
"adult comics" notwithstanding. And yet, 
perfectly intelligent people were reading Mr. Natural and 
the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers throughout my post- 
adolescence. During the '80s, I began seeing stores selling 
nothing but comics nestled among the third-hand 
boutiques, recycled CD outlets and cookie emporiums. 

Enter Harvey Pekar. You may have read him; more 
likely you've never heard of him, or know of him only 
through his guest shots turned verbal sparring matches 
with David Letterman. 

Harvey Pekar writes comic books — that is, he provides 
the story-line and words. He collaborates with a number 
of illustrators who work from his stick figure storyboards, 
usually through the mail. One of Pekar 's good friends and 
illustrators is alternative comics legend R. Crumb. 

You get the world 

according to Harvey. . . 

Maybe a world you want 

to visit, maybe a world 

you want to live in, 

maybe one you want to 

avoid — nonetheless a 

world, to be 

reckoned with. 

Since 1975, Pekar, who is 51 years old, has put 
out a 60 page comic book every summer, self- 
funded and published under the series title 
American Splendor— From Off The Streets of Cleve- 
land. (As of 1985 he was still losing money, if he's 
making any by now, it's not much.) There is not 
one super-hero or dragon in these books. Instead, 
there is Harvey Pekar, his wives, friends, co- 
workers, and a cast of characters — mostly Cleve- 
landers — including old Jewish ladies in line, a 
pitch lady at a supermarket, Ozzie Nelson, bus 
drivers and old cars in winter. 

Anyone who has read most or all of the 15 
issues will know a lot about Harvey; where his 
parents came from and what his father did for a 

living (both parents were immigrants from Poland, 
his father ran a small grocery store, routinely 
working 95 hour weeks); why he doesn't mind his 
job; how and why he puts out his books; his 
ruminations; politics (non-dogmatic leftist); literary 
tastes, dreams, obsessive compulsions and 
enthusiasms — a short list includes world history, 
popular culture, jazz, record and book collecting, 
trash picking, Katherine Mansfield's short stories, 
Russian fiction. You will also meet each of his 
three wives, and his co-workers, notably Toby, 
who through his appearances in Harvey's books 
has been written up in newspapers, and been on 
MTV and at grand openings of White Castle 
hamburger stands. 

PROCESSED world #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 65 

AS UONe A*:. 

HE MAVtee 
ABOUT (r.e. 
CRAa<:6 A- 



HOBT &fi"., 

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PORT! N<=. NAeer 

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In other words, you get the world 
according to Harvey. Which is one 
working definition of a genuine artist — 
he or she creates a world. Maybe a world 
you want to visit, maybe a world you 
want to live in, maybe one you want to 
avoid — nonetheless a world, to be reck- 
oned with. 

Harvey's approach is unabashedly re- 
a\issxTn.o, down to the artwork — the 
characters look like real people, not 
caricatures or versions of soap opera 
stars. (Some illustrators study photo- 
graphs of Cleveland neighborhoods, 
from the '20s to the present, to capture 
the milieu.) His deadpan this-is-my-life- 
take-it-or-leave-it monologues and char- 
acterizations range from one to over 20 
pages. Refracted through the unlikely 
vehicle of comic books, they are, in the 
words of R. Crumb, "so staggeringly 
mundane [they] verge on the exotic." 

In Harvey's own words, "everyday 
experience has a huge effect on people 
— the accumulation of everyday experi- 
ence ... I didn't want to write about 
generic experiences ... I wanted to write 
about particular experiences ..." (Jhe. 
Situation As Of 9-20-85 (AS #1 1).) If a tag 
can catch the flavor of Pekar's "school," 
I humbly offer up "Schlemiel Realism" 
(though Harvey himself is a struggling 

An issue of American Splendor may 
contain anecdotes, rants, gags and char- 
acter studies from the previous year, or 
flashbacks from Harvey's childhood and 
early adulthood. 

Harvey is himself usually involved, 
sometimes as an observer, in the stories, 
which are mainly set at work or at home. 
In the sense that he is writing his own 
autobiography in progress, the approach 
has sympathies with Henry Miller, Erica 
Jong, Philip Roth and Frederick Exley, 
though Pekar is as unlike these writers as 
they are unlike each other. As with the 
above-named writers, recurrent motifs 
are in evidence— in this case, cheapness, 
donuts, obsessive-compulsive behavior 
and workplace vignettes. 

One significant difference is that Pekar 
doesn't seem interested in the post- 
modern game of masks — on the con- 
trary, he strives for realistic depictions of 
himself and others. 

Also, there are plentiful sketches and 
snapshots of situations observed (such as 
Local Sculptor, Old Goat), and occasional 
stories about Cleveland history, usually 
involving Jewish immigrants. In these 
"oral histories" Harvey is shown writing 
on a pad while an elderly man tells him 
the story; then we are thrust into the 
narrative itself. 

To make a point, I hope, about 
creativity and work, and the very tricky 
relationship between them, I will now 
identify myself and my milieu. 

I am a poet (mea culpa). Living in San 
Francisco, I know writers, musicians, 
artists galore as well as many politically 
motivated people, and all permutations 
of the two. For most of us, economic 
survival looms large, constantly threat- 
ening the continuance of creative pur- 

suits. A lot of us spend a lot of time 
complaining that [/ we worked less hours 
or none, ['/ we had the money to finance 
our ideas and projects, if, if, if . . . 

Harvey Pekar spends a lot of time 
complaining too, if his comics are any 
indication. But he seems never to have 
expected a break, and has proceeded on 
the basis of the old open mike M.C. jab, 
"Don't quit your day job." In a time 
when "having it all" is pursued by some 
artists as avidly as by entrepreneurs, the 
quote "I gave up life for the sake of 
representing life" (Anthony Burgess) is 
sobering. I choose to write poetry: it is 
my responsibility; what you do or want 
to, from ice sculpture to narrative origa- 
mi, to more or less respected activities, is 
yours. These decisions come with conse- 

In Harvey Pekar's case, this has meant 
giving up outside activities which he 
doesn't much miss in order to write. He 
never expected to make anything ap- 
proaching a living from it. Still, like all 
artists, he wants "praise and recogni- 
tion," which means an audience, and a 
perceptive one at that. He also says, 
apropos the nobility of wage slavery, "I 
should point out that I don't consider it 
ennobling to be a flunky." (Interview in 
The Comix journal. No. 97.) 

American Splendor contains more than 
one story mentioning the series of dead- 
end menial jobs Pekar worked after 
completing high school. "I even tried the 
Navy but I got kicked out because, 
believe it or not, I couldn't pass inspec- 
tions." (A Matter of Life And..., AS 
#11). In 1965, he landed a civil service 
job as a file clerk in a VA hospital. After 
eight years of hit and miss work without 
a saleable skill, he settled into the job 
and a few years later set his sights on 
sticking it out for the retirement pen- 
sion, at age 55. 

Pekar's argument, stated in many 
ways in American Splendor, that Life isn't 
fair, is tough to disagree with. But his 
concentration is on life, with a lower 
case 1. Put another way, independent of 
ongoing effort and desire, whether to 
lose weight or to restructure society, 
there is the zero point, day-to-day exist- 
ence. For 25 years, Pekar has worked 40 
hours a week; he can appreciate the 
hours to the extent that compared to his 
father's they can be livable, given the 
right attitude and manner of living. 
(And the right working situation— his 
seems to be low on stress with the 
built-in job security of working for the 
government.) He has to be at work by 

Page 66 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

8:00, goes to bed early, does not frequent 
bars nor socialize overmuch. 

In addition to his comics, he has 
written criticism for Doujnbeat (from 
1962 to 1971) and other jazz magazines, 
and many articles on subjects ranging 
from Bob &. Ray to African history to a 
planned economy to Middle Eastern 
politics. He also does book reviews— 
recently he reviewed Thomas Pynchon's 
Vineland. In other words, he leads the 
life of a committed focused individual 
with time constraints— the open slots 
being nights and weekends. An autodi- 
dact, he continually pursues self-devised 
courses of study in areas including 
literature, history, politics and anthro- 

It should be noted that Pekar's life is 
one of voluntary simplicity, without 
extravagant material wants. In American 
Splendor, he does not preach, but 
simply presents his outlook. He enjoys 
Cleveland in spite of unpleasant effects 
of urban blight; he has lived in rough 
neighborhoods, and been the victim of 
violent crime. His job suits him largely 
because it provides security and because 
he has been willing to make necessary 
accomodations. For instance, he has 
gone years without a car, shows no 
interest in owning a home and his main 
"vices" appear to be compulsive book 
and record collecting. 

The risks for artists working with 
serious intent in "pop" forms are so 
depressing, why go into them? Among 
the advantages are the chance to pick up 
an audience from unprecedented quar- 
ters, to create an audience. Pekar is wildly 
popular with a small, diverse and dedi- 
cated audience. In antagonizing David 
Letterman he knowingly rejected an 
opportunity for national exposure that 
may have increased his audience many- 
fold. (More on Letterman later.) 

Pekar has received media attention; 
more than 25 articles on him have 
appeared in publications ranging from 
the Los Angeles Herald Examiner to The 
Village Voice to skin magazines. In 1986 
and '87, Doubleday put out two large- 
format paperback anthologies of his 
work. His comics have also appeared in 
The Village Voice and he has been the 
subject of scholarly articles and a bibli- 
ography (through 1985) indexing and 
cross-indexing the stories and characters 
appearing in them. If a book-length 
dissertation or popular audience work 
on him has not been published, more 
than one is probably being written. So 
he is not without honor in his home- 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 



Art: Gerry Shamray 

land. What he suffers from is the subtle 
and intelligent character of his work, as 
comic books — the frequent complaint be- 
ing, "Where's the punchline?" He has 
called them "avant garde comic books" 
—as a joke I think — but realistic comic 
books do qualify as avant-garde. 

I've haunted various comic book stores 
in researching this article. I also consult- 
ed my 1 1 year old nephew— he reads The 
Punisher, Captain America, Batman, Flash 
Gordon, and Dick Tracy. ("I don't read 
Superman- he's too old.") When I told 
him about Pekar's books, he shook his 
head and told me he couldn't see reading 
that kind of material. He explained why 
he reads superhero comics: "It gives me 
the daily resources of energy I need to 

One thing a surface encounter with 
the comics scene teaches quickly is that 
this is a huge genre, with all kinds of 
subgenres. "Underground" comics is just 
one of them. It began as an outgrowth of 
the '60s. Like the Left and the rest of our 
culture, these comics were dominated by 
straight white men and the male per- 
spective, both in social commentary and 
humor. Now, there are women's comics, 
gay comics, ethnic comics, and that's a 
very general and incomplete list. 

The major figure in the '60s under- 
ground comics was R. Crumb, famous 
both for his Mr. Natural strips and his 
autobiographical commentaries and sex- 
ual (mis)adventures. In the early sixties, 
Crumb lived in Cleveland, and had a 
friend named Harvey Pekar. Both were 
fanatic record collectors. 

Pekar comes from working class East- 
ern European Jewish stock, and is a 
Cleveland native. He is a child of the 
'50s, a young adult of the '60s, and a 
self-described depressive fighting an up- 
hill battle with pessimism. He sees things 
through class-conscious eyes to a degree 
rarely in evidence in American litera- 

A comics fan from about the ages of 6 
to 11 , through Crumb and others Pekar 
became interested in the possibilities of 
dealing with politics, social commentary 
and "real life" through the form. After 
Pekar visited Crumb in Haight Ashbury, 
Crumb agreed to illustrate some of his 
stories. Pekar decided to publish them 
himself and American Splendor was born. 

Pekar is a cross-over in that fans can be 
found among readers of "serious" fiction 
and poetry as well as among comics 
aficionados. In one sense, comics can be 
seen as the perfect way to reach the 
post-literate, those without the attention 

Page 67 




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PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

span to read— but Pekar turns that on its 
head. His stories are full of his world, 
and prominent in that world are books 
and his thoughts about them and their 

According to Eric Gilbert of Last Gasp 
Comics, when Harvey started in 1975, 
there were "maybe two distributors for 
comics" — this was when underground 
comics were truly underground, sold 
mainly through head shops, amidst the 
headbands, waterpipes, posters and 
black lights. Today, there are somewhere 
between six and ten distributors, as well 
as a national network of comic book 
stores. Harvey's work is currently distri- 
buted through some of these, though he 
still has thousands of copies of American 
Splendor in his basement and in storage. 

Gilbert on Pekar: "He started the 
whole thing... he was the only one 
doing a very literary comic book. [Of 
course there was Crumb] but Crumb 
was more into sexual fantasies. . .What 
people expect from comic books are 
people in tights beating up each 
other . . . What Harvey's doing is not 
commercially viable, it's an elite com- 
modity for a select readership." 

I have previously alluded to Pekar's 
brush with network television notoriety. 
As the proprietor of an S.F. comic book 
store put it, "If he'd kept his mouth shut, 
Harvey'd still be on TV." 

In late 1986, after publishing II comic 
books and becoming something of a cult 
figure, he was asked onto the David 
Letterman Show. Over the next three 
years, he returned to the show four 
times. (The first, fourth and fifth ap- 
pearances are chronicled in American 
Splendor #'s 12, 13 and 14.)' 

Pekar, who put in some time as a 
streetcorner comedian many years ago, 
by all accounts displayed "presence" on 
the show. But apparently the veneer of 
pleasant, if pungent, repartee wore thin; 
what the viewer saw was a pissed-off 
quick-witted comic book writer with 
strong political convictions and deep 
roots in the working class clashing with 
a misfit post-preppie exemplar of the 
who-cares anything-for-a-laugh success- 
is-an-end-in-itself '80s. Whatever the 
chemistry was, it worked well enough for 
Harvey to be asked back. 

In his fourth appearance, Harvey tried 
to bring up the role of General Electric, 
owner of NBC, in various matters 
involving lack of corporate responsibili- 
ty, including the safety record of its 
nuclear reactors. He subsequently wrote 
about the episode in AS #13. 

The "David Letterman Exploitation 

Issue" (#14) recounts the final shoot-out 
between Pekar and Letterman. On the 
cover, Letterman, cigar in hand, ad- 
dresses Harvey during a commercial 

break: "You f d up a great thing." 

Harvey is pictured standing before him, 
wearing a t-shirt, hands in pockets and 

The "Grand Finale" appearance had 
gotten off to a rocky start; it blew up 
when Letterman leafed through AS #13 
during a commercial break, seeing him- 
self presented as basically a shill for G.E., 
either lacking convictions or without the 
courage to use his position to express 

I saw the end of this segment. I 
remember Harvey putting his feet up on 
Dave's desk, grabbing Dave's pencil out 
of his hand, and telling him something 
like, "Look Dave, I'm sorry I can't be as 
witty as you. You've got lots of writers, 
Dave, and I've just got me." The episode 
ends with Dave flexing his network 
muscles, telling Harvey that he has given 
him "many, many chances... to pro- 
mote your little Mickey Mouse maga- 
,zine, your little weekly reader. . .You're 
a dork Harvey." In American Splendor 
both are portrayed as telling each other 
"You're fulla shit." These character 
analyses were bleeped out. 

Pekar has turned down seemingly 
attractive offers to do his own TV show. 
He presents himself as not having seri- 
ously considered such offers for reasons 
ranging from creative control to the 
vehicles presented to him. On why he 
turned down a talk show offer: "First of 
all you get co-opted, you can't do 
anything serious, it's a drag to go on 
night after night doing simple-minded 
bullshit." {AS #13, in response to a 
question from David Letterman.) He has 
also been approached by a number of 
Hollywood movie types — mega-mega 
talk with no follow-through. The two 
Doubleday anthologies are the most 
concrete results of interest in "main- 
streaming" Harvey's appeal. 

Assuming you are among those who 
have not heard of Pekar, the reason is no 
mystery. In any market, from local to 
international, media "saturation bomb- 
ing" — a combination of advertising and 
press — is what gets a name on lips and in 
heads. To have had over 25 articles 
written about you, to have appeared on 
a national talk show with hip demogra- 
phics ain't bad, but obviously isn't 
enough. Pekar's predicament is, as he 
has stated, that most people who might 
like what he does have not been exposed 
to his work. He can't afford to advertise. 

and word-of-mouth is as hard a dollar 
for an artist as for a business. 

Interview magazine has not yet, and 
may not, assimilate all the currently 
significant artists, entertainers and cul- 
tural workers of our age. It is a worthy 
goal that artists be recognized early on in 
their careers, as have such immortal 
talents as Bret Easton Ellis and Tama 
Janowitz. We have seen very talented 
people achieve well-deserved success 
thanks to the fame machine; for in- 
stance, certain musicians live like kings 
and queens. 

Harvey Pekar still lives in Cleveland 
Heights, and works a day job, at 51. It is 
doubtful that fame and fortune will 
descend on him in a flash as it did on 
Charles Bukowski at roughly the same 
age. Nonetheless, he is a true American 
original, variously an entertainer, a 
poignant clown, a philosopher of the 
everyday. His stories can be re-read with 
increased interest. 

No less than Henry Miller, he has 
suffered for and lived his art. Like Henry 
David Thoreau, he has travelled far and 
wide, mainly through reading and 
thinking. If you read Harvey Pekar, and 
like what you read, pass it on, tell a 
friend. —klipschutz 

Thanks to Eric Gilbert of Last Gasp, Krystine 
Kryttre and Barbara Deuel. 1 am also indebted 
to the following pieces: "Approaching Harvey 
Pekar" by Doruxld Phelps, "The Life and Work 
of Harvey Pekar" by Donald M. Fiene, and a 
lengthy interview with Pekar conducted by Gary 
Groth, all appearing in The Comics Journal, 
No. 97. April, 1985. 

American Splendor #'s 6 through 15 can be 
ordered from Harvey Pekar, P.O. Box 18471, 
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118 (price range: 
$2.25-$3.50 plus postage); recent issues are 
available at some comic book stores. The 
Doubleday anthologies are carried by book- 
stores and comic book stores, though they 
may be out of print. 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 69 


photo courtesy Climate Theatre 


Josh Kornbluth performance 

One person on stage— a storyteller, 
raconteur, soloist performer— the lone 
entertainer has made quite a comeback 
of late. The popularity of performance 
artists runs the gamut of Stephen 
Wade's Banjo Dancing, Spalding 
Gray's Swimming to Cambodia, Karen 
Finley's We Keep Our Victims Ready, 
and now Josh Kornbluth. 

Josh premiered Haiku Tunnel in the 
Fall of 1990 at San Francisco's Solo 
Mio Festival, and has since taken it to 
the Marsh, Climate Theatre, and other 
Bay Area venues. 

San Francisco is a big lawyer town. 
The "king of torts" Melvin Belli is 
based here, in a French bordello-style 
building in North Beach — one is re- 
minded of Dickens' line "the law is an 
ass." But looking beyond this imme- 
diate concentration of earthquake 
fodder, just about everyone knows 
someone who is connected with the 
practice (if not outright violation) of 

Subtitled "the adventures of a male 
secretary," Haiku Tunnel documents 
the interior monologue of a legal 
secretary, employed by "Schuyler 6*. 
Mitchell, an enormous downtown law 
firm with an unfortunate acronym." 
From the start, this job does not look 


good to Josh, recently moved to 
California from New York. On his first 
day at S&M, he is assigned a "room," 
or more accurately, a desk in the hall- 
way with the euphemistic plaque 
"Room 1525a." 

His first task is inventorying his 
"room" for office supplies he might 
find, um, useful. Unfortunately, the 
previous occupant practiced a "scorched 
desk policy," removing everything of 
value from it. The only sign of the 
previous occupant is a letter addressed 
to her from the boss, who 
inauspiciously composed it at 11 p.m.. 
New Year's Eve: "As the New Year 
rapidly approaches, I thought I would 
outline for you your duties as my new 
secretary" followed by 11 '/z single 
spaced pages of explicit instructions. Its 
anal author. Bob Shelby, is the Tax 
Group lawyer of S&I.M Josh has been 
assigned to. 

After one week as an exemplary 
temp employee. Josh agrees to go 
"perm" when S&lM offers to foot his 
psychotherapy bill. For an ex -New 
Yorker, this fringe is not to be passed 

Josh's productivity as perm predict- 
ably plummets. Each day he comes to 
work a little later, confessing at embar- 
rassing length to the head secretary's 
voice mail about his "vague personal 
problems" that have again delayed 
him. Then, he works on his novel on 
the company mainframe, masturbates 
his transcription machine, and other- 
wise does what he can to keep the job 
and its idiot demands firmly at bay. 

Amid many agreeable onstage con- 
tortions. Josh tells how he endlessly 
procrastinates mailing some 85 letters 
for his boss marked personal and 

"Now take these letters. Eighty-five 
communications I'm supposed to mail 
out to eighty-five people I've never 
even met? Fuck it." 

While the dread of discovery hangs 
over his head, the letters' true worth- 
lessness (and, by extension, the job in 
general) is amply demonstrated by 
their never being missed by either Bob 
Shelby or the 85 intended recipients. 


The Haiku Tunnel of the title is a 
project Josh worked on (in flashback) 

at an engineering firm. It was the 
closest thing to "a good job" Josh 
seems to have had (apart, one hopes, 
from the role of performer). Showing 
flexibility that is practically anti-cor- 
porate in its decency, his supervisor 
blesses his wearing a walkman at work; 
she even tells him to work a couple 
hours each day on his novel, if it's so 
important. When he is so disposed, his 
assignment is to type specs for the 
Haiku Tunnel project. Because it re- 
mains work, even despite all the slack 
they cut him. Josh is depressed ... for 
he remains a man entombed in Haiku 

Haiku Tunnel, the show, should not 
be missed. If nothing else, the existence 
of Josh and his ilk should inspire 
others to take their private acts of 
protest and sabotage beyond the re- 
hearsal stage, to perform where- and 

-D.S. Black 


Living in Canada has, alas, kept the 
work of one of my favorite writers, 
Crad Kilodney, a well-kept secret. 
Crad has the dubious benefit of meet- 
ing a number of his readers on the 
street. For on most days, he can be 
found selling his books on Yonge or 
Bloor Streets, in downtown Toronto. 

This exposure has, predictably, given 
Crad a fairly low opinion of most 
passersby, who prefer to ignore a man 
with titles like Lightning Struck My Dick 
and Excrement. Perhaps they are put off 
by the signs he wears around his neck, 
don't want to be shook from holo- 
inspired reveries of credit card balances 
when confronted by Crad's reflective, 
living deadpan. 

Aside from being a lonely, literate 
foot-soldier in the Canadian street 
theatre, Crad Kilodney has an acerbic 
wit to rival Bierce, and a no bullshit- 
biliousness that beats Bukowski. In his 
new book. Girl on the Subway, he 
skewers such modern monstrosities as 
the enclosed environment super-shop- 
ping malls (which, over the last few 
decades, have honeycombed consumer 



Page 70 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

playgrounds everywhere from Toronto 
to Pretoria). 

In "No Chekhov at Yorkdale," the 
quest for a collection of stories by the 
great nineteenth Russian writer, leads 
to such comments as "You mean the 
fellow on Star TrekV After several 
pages of decription of all the worthless, 
overpriced junk that can be had at 
Yorkdale by any "Fellow Prisoner of 
the Nineties," "It's back to the 
subway via the enclosed walkway 
without Anton Chekhov. The rain is 
still coming down. The city is 
becoming more and more enclosed. If 
one is sufficiently clever and well off, it 
is already possible to get about from 
home to work to shopping without 
ever actually being out of doors. In the 
future, only the lowest class of city 
dwellers will need overcoats, umbrellas, 
and boots. The future belongs to brave 
boys and girls who, in the words of 
the prophet, 'aren't afraid to live in 
tubes and push buttons.'" 

For a few months I kept Crad's 1988 
collection Malignant Humors (from 
Black Moss Press of Windsor, Ontario) 
by my bed, and I would chuckle myself 
to sleep over stories like "Filling Orders 
in Albania" and "The Hard-Working 
Garbage Men of Cleveland." Elsewhere 
in this section, we reprint one of the 
"Office Worker's Dreams" from this 

Other titles of interest by Crad 
include: Blood-Sucking Monkeys from 
North Torutivanda, The First Chamel 
House Anthology of Bad Poetry, and 
]unior Brain Tumors in Action. 

Crad has also produced two 
entertaining cassette tapes, which 
include strange things people say to 
him on the street, answering machine 
messages, stories from his early (out of 
print) collections, including his 
program for "The Peoples' Revolution- 
ary Committee Against Indiscipline." 

Write to him at his press for more 
info: Chamel House, PO Box 281, 
Station S, Toronto, Ont. Canada 
M5M 4L7. 

-D.S. Black 


Modem Facilities 

When I ask in the office where the 
men's room is, the middle-aged secretary 
tells me it's upstairs "under the sign, 
almost directly overhead." I go upstairs 
and find the second floor to be an empty 
framework of wooden beams, like a 
house under construction. In the corner 


Suppose there is a war, 
and nobody is looking . . 





I see a sign: "MEN." There is nothing 
under it. No toilet. No door. Nothing. I 
am greatly disturbed but must relieve 
myself immediately. I look around. Am I 
to do it here? Is this what is done in this 
company? I've never seen such a thing 
before. I look at the floor and see that it 
is wet. There is a smell of urine. 
Apparently, this is where men relieve 
themselves! Astonishing! What if also 
astonishing is that there are cracks 
between the floor boards. I can see the 
office where I was a minute ago. The 
women are at their desks right below me. 
The secretary who directed me is smok- 
ing a cigarette and coding orders. I can 
wait no longer! I unzip myself and after a 
moment of self-consciousness, I begin to 
release a strong, healthy stream of piss. It 
spatters warmly on the floor. Then I 
hear a voice scream, "Jesus Christ! 
There's piss coming down through the 
ceiling!" An uproar spreads through the 

office, but I can't stop. The piss goes on 
and on and on! I hear footsteps from 
across the floor. It is the president of the 
company, leading a prospective client by 
the arm. I hear him say, "I want to 
assure you we have the most modern 

—Crad Kilodney 

CITY OF QUARTZ: Excavating the 
Future in Los Angeles by Mike Davis 
(Verso: London/New York 1990) 440 
pp. $25 hardbound. 

I have lived in the San Francisco Bay 
Area since 1967, so I've developed the 
snobbish disdain for all things south- 
ern Californian characteristic of we en- 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 7 1 

lightened northerners. Sure I've visited 
LA— went to Disneyland as a kid; later 
I hung out in Encino and Studio City, 
Westwood and Santa Monica for a few 
days each in the mid-'70s. I marvelled 
at the pleasantness and beauty of the 
area, but I also had my native disdain 
reinforced by the emtpy car-and-shop- 
ping culture which I simplistically as- 
sumed filled the lives of my friends and 
their families. I remember, too, feeling 
an odd vibration which I attributed to 
being near the center of the global en- 
tertainment industry— somehow, in 
spite of the apparent emptiness all 
around me, this city was producing the 
images, icons, and aspirations which 
were increasingly holding the rest of 
the world in thrall. 

Subject of much angry investigative 
journalism, even then, the LA Police 
Department was already ingrained in 
my mind as the quintessential Gestapo/ 
storm troopers of the U.S., and pro- 
bably the center of a vast conspiracy 
instigated by Nixon and his Law En- 
forcement Assistance Administration 
to turn local police into a nationally- 
coordinated network of crack counter- 
insurgency troops. 

Now a book has been published 
which illuminates the shadows and 
lays bare the power structures, politics 
and history of that most bizarre of 
modern megalopolises, Los Angeles. 
Mike Davis, who edits Verso's Hay- 
market Series, displays his own deft 
analysis and occasional acerbic wit in 
City of Quartz, the latest contribution 
to the series. 

I particularly like the way this book 
is organized, with chapters devoted to 
specific narratives of power, its accu- 





■ '"1 



.,„, .J^::^^.3. 



t. TUMftAue' 9 87 

mulation, dissipation, and final meta- 
morphosis into new configurations. A 
charming prologue introduces us to the 
crumbling ruins of Llano del Rio, a 
socialist Utopia which lived and died in 
the Mojave Desert 90 miles north of 
downtown LA in the years 1914-I9I8. 
Davis gives us a concise history of 
radicalism and political opposition in 
LA, along with the stories of the 

He relies on various earlier critics of 
Los Angeles to flesh out the dynamics 
of past eras, as when he recounts the 
"debunking" analysis of Louis Adamic 
(Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence 
in America, 1931) and Carey Mc Wil- 
liams who went on to edit The Nation. 
Davis stitches together a first chapter 
"Sunshine or Noir?", out of a variety 
of intellectuals, writers, artists, 
academics and developers for whom 
LA was both home and raw material, 
and shows how their various 
reflections in turn fed back into the 
larger collective mythology. 

Davis's look at the Noir genre 
situates it on a similar experiential 
plane to Processed World's own: 

"Collectively the declasse middle 
strata of these novels (Double Indemnity, 
The Day of the Locust, They Shoot 
Horses Don't They?) are without 
ideological coherence or capacity to 
act . . . individually their petit-bourgeois 
anti-heroes become a conduit for the 
resentments of writers in the velvet 
trap of the studio system. Tod 
Hackett, in Day of the Locust, is por- 
trayed in a situation like Nathaniel 

West's own: brought to the Coast by a 
talent scout for the studios and forced 
to live 'the dilemma of reconciling his 
creative work with his commercial 

A fascinating chapter is devoted 
largely to the genesis, history, growth 
and current politics of Homeowners' 
Associations, the organized might of 
the property-owning and historically 
very racist middle classes. He recounts 
the role played by restrictive deeds and 
how developers often set up the Asso- 
ciations and enrolled every home buyer 
automatically. The Associations' role 
in enforcing a form of apartheid with a 
"White Wall" throughout much of the 
LA area was undermined by the U.S. 
Supreme Court's 1948 decision on 
housing discrimination. 

Benefiting from the extraordinary 
real estate inflation of the '70s, Home- 
owners' Associations were the back- 
bone of the Proposition 13 taxpayer 
revolt in California, rolling back assess- 
ments that tried to keep pace with 
inflation, leading to a decade of 
contracting services and crumbling 
infrastructure, even in the "paradise" 
of California. Davis is far more de- 
tailed and nuanced than anything I 
can show you in a short review. It's 
like looking at a clear x-ray and seeing 
a lot you've never seen before. 

In the 1980's, Homeowners' Associa- 
tions have often become proponents of 
slow-growth policies. They are fighting 
to roll back apartment housing, restrict 
development to 1-acre lots, and 
provide more recreational land, but 
Davis shows how this is consistent 
with their historic mission to preserve 
and increase property values at all 

"The tap-root of slow growth [in 
Southern California], however, is an 
exceptionalistic local history of middle- 
class interest formation around home 
ownership . . . [Slow growth in Califor- 
nia] is merely the latest incarnation of 
a middle-class political subjectivity that 
fitfully constitutes and reconstitutes 
itself every few years around the 
defense of household equity and 
residential privilege." 

Elsewhere he discusses the rise of the 
"barricaded community," the freely 
chosen kind where the frightened rich 
and middle class congregate, as well as 
the "Narcotics Enforcement Areas" 
which have been repeatedly imposed 
on Black and Hispanic neighborhoods 
by the LAPD (barricades seal off a 

Page 72 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

multi-block area and only residents 
with ID are allowed to pass in or out). 

He situates the LAPD in a social 
context of rising paranoia, bunker and 
enclave architecture, racial tension, 
gang warfare, and so on, sketches out 
its special history of ultra-right 
militarism, and makes it clear that the 
department is but one prong in a 
many-pronged strategy to manage the 
Third World-ization of a major city. 
On the 1950s LAPD: "Dragnet's Sgt. 
Friday precisely captured the [then 
Chief] Parkerized LAPD's quality of 
prudish alienation from a citizenry 
composed of fools, degenerates and 
psychopaths." But in the high-tech 
'90s: "As part of its 'Astra' program, 
the LAPD maintains an average 19- 
hours-a-day vigil over 'high crime 
areas,' tactically coordinated to patrol 
cars and exceeding even the British 
Army's aerial surveillance of Belfast 
[Northern Ireland], only 8 hours a 

An equally important prong, rarely 
acknowledged or discussed, but 
admirably done here, is the elimination 
of public space. In a chapter called 
"Fortress L.A." Davis gives a critical 
architectural tour of LA's new 
buildings: a mall topped by a small 
branch library, which is in turn topped 
by a substation of the LAPD, with full 
video surveillance of the mall below, 
especially the three critical chokepoints 
of entry and exit. There is another 
library built to resemble the U.S. 
Embassy in Beirut, while soaring office 
complexes complete with roof gardens 
and walkways preclude contact with 
the street below and enforce the separation 
that is already imposed by the physical 
layout of the plant. 

"Ultimately, the aims of contempo- 
rary architecture and the police 
converge most strikingly around the 
problem of crowd control. As we have 
seen, the designers of malls and 
pseudo-public space attack the crowd 
by homogenizing it. They set up 
architectural and semiotic barriers to 
filter out 'undesirables.' They enclose 
the mass that remains, directing its 
circulation with behaviorist ferocity. It 
is lured by visual stimuli of all kinds, 
dulled by muzak, sometimes even 
scented by invisible aromatizers. This 
Skinnerian orchestration, if well 
conducted, produces a veritable com- 
mercial symphony of swarming, 
consuming monads moving from one 
cashpoint to another." 

This is a great book. It's also a very 
beautifully done book, with regard to 
paper, layout, and printing. Verso has 
been producing some physically 
wonderful books^viz the beautiful 
hardback edition of Cockburn and 
Hecht's Fate of the Forest. Now if only 
they were priced more affordably {City 
of Quartz is a painful $25) many more 
people would probably read it. 

—Chris Carlsson 

"How did our oil get over there in the 
first place, anyway?!!" 
—protest sign at Port Chicago muni- 
tions depot gate, autumn 1990 

With a buildup rivaling that of the 
Super Bowl (and perhaps pre-empting 
interest in it, as the '89 Earthquake did 
to the World Series), the Persian Gulf 
War became one of the most antici- 
pated events in memory. During the 
buildup some voices tried to offer a 
different, but not widely available 
analysis. Two are: 

When Crusaders And Assassins 
Unite, Let the People Beware was 

written by the Midnight Notes collec- 
tive and published in November 1990. 
They situate themselves within the 
growing anti-war movement, but dis- 
agree with the theoretical and strategic 
premises framing it as "another Viet- 
nam." They offer a detailed history 
both longer-term and recent, and see 
the current crisis in terms of an attack 
on the international oil producing pro- 
letariat (broadly defined to include the 
working classes of all oil producing 
countries, both native and "imported"). 

They call for not only withdrawal from 
the Middle East, but complete military 
demobilization. It's a provocative read, 
even though it was rendered wrong by 
the bombing of Baghdad. It never- 
theless provides a clearer class analysis 
of the underlying world oil economy 
than any other view. They advocate 
fighting for lower fuel prices in the 
U.S. as basic strategy for the anti-war 

A later pamphlet, after the onset of 
war, entitled The Spy and the 
Assassin, recasts the analysis in light 
of later developments. 
Midnight Notes, Box 204, Jamaica 
Plain, MA 02130 USA 

All Quiet On the Eastern Front, 

signed by nine people and published 
last October, departs from the hypo- 
thetical, somewhat ironic chance that 
"it all goes perfectly— the sanctions 
eventually bite, the admonitory air 
strikes take out, say, ten percent of 
their intended targets, and there turns 
out to be no secret weapon, or none 
the Iraqi field commanders agree to 
use. . ." and so on until the U.S. has 
installed its own "democratic" general. 
Then what? An analysis follows that I 
found dry and somewhat disjointed 
during my first two readings back in 
October, but reading it the January 
evening of Congress's "Declaration of 
War," it was much more focused. 
Much more literary in style than 
Midnight hlotes, its authors eschew 
tactical advice in favor of the declara- 
tion: "It will be opposition to capi- 
talism as a world system or it will be 

Available from: P.O. Box 9699, 
Berkeley, CA 94709 USA 

—Chris Carlsson 


Keeping Democracy in the Right Hands. 

PROCESSED WORLD 126/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 73 

In the old "good news-bad news" tra- 
dition, I bring you the bad news: The 
Mill Hunk Herald is, alas, dead 
(1979-1989). But the good news is that 
they have an anthology— Overtime— 
which gives a more permanent form to 
their work. For those who haven't 
heard of them. The MHH was the 
doppelganger of Processed World: it 
dealt with issues of work, both with 
analysis and with workers' stories, from 
(for the most part) the industrial world 
of production. With poems, graphics, 
fiction and articles they covered issues 
ranging from history to the changing 
face of industrial America. The 
anthology has two pieces on the his- 
tory and financing of the MHH, and 
an excellent selection of the 'zine. 
Those who enjoyed it when it was 
alive will get a kick out of seeing the 
material together in one large volume 
(8'/2xll, more than 200 pages); those 
who haven't seen it will be in for a 
real treat. Hey— just a thought— pair it 
with the PW anthology Bad Attitude, 
and you'd almost have a classroom- 
worthy snapshot of North American 
work. Overtime is overdue: You gotta 
read this book! It's available for 
$12.95; it's published by West End 
Press and Piece of the Hunk Publishers, 
Inc. (1990). The ISBN is 0-9311212-55-4. 
—Primitivo Morales 

There's a tabloid out of France, name 
of MORDICUS, that you may want 
to take a look at (given, of course, that 
you can read some French). The 
premiere issue included a "10 Step" 
program for stopping work (which 
advice for elementary hygiene was 
transmitted to them after circulating in 
the e-mail boxes of La Defense— a 
white collar hive in Paris), the 
difficulty of being insulting, material 
on the war in the Middle East, and 
various other diabolic pieces. 

Just before "the war" started, Mordi- 
cus papered the city of Paris with a 
poster offering some 17 outrageous sug- 
gestions on the subject of "What to do 
when war breaks out." These range 
from burning McDonalds to seducing 
soldiers' wives and husbands, scalping 
journalists, sending insulting letters to 
the front, and breaking your TV. 
"War's infamy is perpetuated by our 
passivity" they say (in French). Stay 
active or regret it deeply some day 

The latest from Mordicus: "Open 
season on wild ducks." Thirteen 
people, including several editors from 
the Mordicus collective, were arrested 
on January 23rd and the films 
necessary to the publication of 
Mordicus #2 were confiscated by the 
French police. As they put it: "At the 
time of the sacred unity, they want to 
silence the rare voices raised against 
the consensus. If we are already under 
a state of emergency, let it be pro- 
claimed." The same tactics of preven- 
tive arrests and confiscations were used 
in the 1968 era (repression went on for 
several more years). It led to the 
demise of Charlie Hebdo, my personal 
fave of that period, as well as the 
boring Maoist rag La Cause du Peuple, 
the sale of which could land you in jail 
for a firm 18 months. The French 
police state is as alive and well under 
Mitterrand as it was under d'Estaing or 
Pompidou. Don't let labels ("socialism?!!") 
fool you. 


In a very different vein is the French 

progressive French mag dedicated to 
the study of the information age. PW 

Graphic; Doo Daa Florida 

shares some of the ideas contained in 
it (see translated piece in PW #10, 
"Clodo Speaks"). The language in this 
magazine makes it more challenging 
than Mordicus, and the material is very 
different. Terminal includes a wide 
variety of material on computers and 
the world of telecommunications, as 
well as social issues. A recent issue in- 
cluded an article "Limits of Production 
&. Union Realignment," which had 
material closely paralleling ideas in PW 
#25 about the waste of human effort 
while "at work," and the ecological 
implications of how we structure our 

In one passage they comment: "The 
unions are no longer on top of a situa- 
tion where divisions, segmentations 
and contradictory interests are dictated 
by the State and Capital: Workers of 
the North against Workers of the 
South, full timers vs. "precarious" 
temps against the unemployed . . . This 
leads to a unionist rationalization of 
work, not in view of its usefulness but 
by virtue of how many jobs they 
procure. In this manner, productivism 
reigns supreme, the view that the 
salaried modality is essential to the re- 
distribution of collective wealth is rein- 
forced . . . An ecology-minded reorien- 
tation of the economy, at the service 
of its peoples and social creativity can 
only be led from the standpoint of the 
abolition of unemployment. We have 
to do away with the forced producti- 
vism implied by salaried work." 

People who are interested may 
contact them at C.LLL/Terminal, 
18 rue de Chatillon, 14th Arrori' 
dissement, Paris, France. 


PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Graphic: IB Nelson 


Penury of Plenty 

My friend and 1 arrived in Austin, Texas, in 
an old car jammed with what we could sal- 
vage from a dead woman's Santa Fe, New 
Mexico estate. My friend — we'll call her Babs, because she 
is from the Midwest and evinces the kind of all-American 
wholesomeness the name implies, which is exactly the 
kind of wholesomeness that lands such jobs as live-in 
companion to the elderly — had hung in with the old 
woman until the latter 's nicotine-stained, sherry-spattered 
end, and seen her to her grave in the plaster of the living 
room wall alongside her husband, whose ashes had been 
similarly spackled many years ago. A colorful family, that, 
but the furnishings bequeathed to Babs were disappoint- 
ingly mundane: the flattest of flatware, a hideous artdeco 
standing lamp, a dozen dull white plates from which the 
old one had been caught senilely feasting one evening on 
a meal of candles al jereZy and which still bore the tawny 

Despite her obvious 

loathing of me, she 

engaged me in the kind 

of hypocTitically unctuous 

conversation conservative 

Texas women are trained 

in from an early age . . . 

Texas, she replied 

daintily, was going 

through an economic 

"disappointment. " 

scorchmarks from her beloved and overlong 

But scavengers can't be choosers (though on 
second thought, they are in fact the best of 
choosers; what eye is more discriminating, more 
curatorial, than that of a professional pepenador in 
the dumps of Mexico City or of an untouchable 
in the middens of Bombay?); so we loaded up all 
this domestic impedimenta into the old car and 
set out for the Lone Star State. 

Many friends questioned the wisdom of our 
move to Texas. The state was in an economic 
nosedive, they reminded us, and we hadn't so 
much as a friend there to hang on to and scream 
with as we all plummeted. 

Texas' economic drop had begun in the mid- 
1980s, and no one could say when its course 

might at least become horizontal, much less 
regain its former heady altitude. The Texas 
economy was a craft that had run out of fuel; or 
rather, that fuel, which was nothing more than 
crude petroleum, had become, in mid-flight, no 
longer sufficient to keep it aloft. It seemed the 
Saudis and the other swarthies of OPEC had, in 
their cunning Oriental fashion, divested that dark 
liquid of its power to keep going the impressive 
machinery of our soon-to-be-adopted state. 

Our friends recommended that we at least 
consult the latest forecasts from the economists, 
our culture's seers and the official interpreters of 
the Market and its complex mythologies. Although 
we knew the economy, the Market system, de- 
rived from social relations was not externally im- 
posed on society, we could not be sure the good 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 75 

folk of Texas, who are notorious for 
believing in an ideology that teaches 
just the opposite, would ever help us 
out if we found ourselves unemployed 
or otherwise in a financial pickle. 
Mightn't they, rather, allow us to suc- 
cumb to Market circumstances deemed 
by them natural, eternal, and, strangest 
of all, the essence of our "freedom?" 

And though we knew economists to 
be little more than modern-day shamans 
(shamans so intoxicated on their mathe- 
matics and their "models" that they 
declare themselves "scientists"), we also 
knew that the world was highly mysti- 
fied. Mightn't they, after all, speak some 
truth about this world? We agreed to 
listen to what they knew. 

They left aside, for the moment, their 
monitoring of the cosmic struggle be- 
tween the Bears and the Bulls and the 
other larger epic wars being waged across 
the Universe of Commodities ("where 
things live human lives and humans live 
thingish lives"), and bore down, as per 
our request, on the more specific ques- 
tion of the employment situation in 
Texas. They showed us their charts and 
figures, which in their conjunction 
looked to us something like a board 
game, full of ups and downs and crises 
and miracles, rather like Chutes and 
Ladders. Now, they said, we know that 
an unfortunate roll of the Market dice 
(dice loaded, we all suspect, by those 
OPEC ministers cited above) landed 
Texas in the Tar Pit where the Skeezix of 
Recession dwells. Now to get out of the 
Pit, relatively low rolls on the Unemp- 

loyment dice had to obtain, a good deal 
lower than the near-double-digit figure 
that was still coming up. Of course, it 
didn't want to keep getting low rolls on 
the Unemployment dice either, at least 
not on a national scale, or interest rates 
would rise and the whole game could 
overheat, sending all players to Inflation 

This game was a bit too byzantine for 
us to grasp. It seemed remote from our 
possibilities as individual actors in every- 
day life. Maybe we were being too 
ruggedly individualistic, but it seemed to 
us that, no matter how airtight the 
ideology might attempt to be, there was 
still an opportunity for individual hu- 
man agency to knock breathing holes in 
that armor. In other words, we would 
find a way. In any case, we found that 
the "science" of economics described a 
universe an order of magnitude larger 
than our own lives. If it described a 
relativistic universe, ours was still a 
Newtonian one; what did it matter to us 
if the universe was in truth curved, if all 
we really had to deal with, in our world, 
were straight lines? 

And for us, for now, the first such line 
was a highway leading straight across 
New Mexico and West Texas to 
Austin . . . 

Less than a week prior to our depar- 
ture from Santa Fe I got an opportunity 
to gather intelligence on the Texas 
economy directly from the kind of 
creature the ideology most works mater- 
ially to serve: a rich person. But this 
person was not just any rich person, this 

was a Texan rich person, and this was 
my chance to determine to what extent 
an ideology might turn on its own 
masters. Had the collapse of the Market 
in Texas brought down the swells with 

My meeting with this person came by 
virtue of a scheduling faux pas— or was it 
somebody's idea of a joke?— on a bibu- 
lous bon vivant's guest list: I was invited 
to attend a gathering of Texan fatfish at 
her quaint adobe settled venerably into 
the mud of Canyon Road. (Contrary to 
popular belief, the most valuable real 
estate in this most contrivedly fashiona- 
ble of towns is not that which affords a 
dramatic view from the mountains, but a 
humble, low location, preferably a war- 
ren-like arrangement along a narrow, 
unpaved road in the "historic" section of 
town. Property values are exorbitant 
here, and these have become enclaves 
for the wealthy, mostly Texans, who act 
out their fantasy of Pueblo Indian, 
calling on one another in their faux- 
kivas to swap posole recipes and share 
intelligence on the relative wampum 
values of Hopi jewelry and Navajo rugs). 

At this swank gathering I was intro- 
duced to said rich person, a young, 
wasp-waisted woman from Dallas, who 
gave my sartorially despicable figure a 
scornful once-over. She herself was re- 
splendently outfitted in Neiman Marcus 
threads, which despite their Navajo 
motifs were so hallucinatorily rich that 
they more resembled the weavings of a 
peyote-peaking Huichol. Despite her ob- 
vious loathing of me, she engaged me in 
the kind of hypocritically unctuous con- 
versation conservative Texan women are 
trained in from an early age, and that 
was when I took the opportunity to 
inquire into her thoughts about the 
economy of the Lone Star State. 

Texas, she replied daintily, was going 
through an economic "disappointment." 

By the time I left the party, I had filed 
this irridescent damsel's delicate term 
away in that obscure part of the lobe 
reserved for Texan forms of expression, 
both the manly crude and the womanly 
euphemistic. But driving through Texas 
a few days later, it resurfaced. I realized 
immediately that her description was 
quite accurate: for the rich, the collapse 
and stagnation of the Texas economy 
was but a disappointment, a vision 
vanished rather than a nightmare lived. 
Their dreams of unheard-of wealth had 
evaporated, and they had awakened to 
the harsh and dreary reality of their 
concrete assets alone: the Mercedeses, 

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PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

the furs, the ostentatious homes and 
sumptuous ranches with their exotic 
game animals ("homesteads," which by 
state law can be touched by virtually no 
creditor). And to the same old oil wells, 
which, because the black gold they 
pumped was now worth only half of 
what it was at the peak of the boom in 
the early 80's, only brought in enough 
income to replace and maintain all those 
things. (Mexican President Lopez Portil- 
lo, who with his corrupt sidekicks had 
shared the same dream in the early 
1980's, had advised Mexicans to "pre- 
pare themselves for prosperity." The 
Texan version of this might have been, 
because Texas was already so rich, to 
prepare for sheer obscenity.) 

The hope then had been that the price 
of oil would keep going up, possibly to 
$100 a barrel. But it only got up to $32 
by the end of 1983 when the bust set in. 
From there it plummeted to about $14. 
(At the time of this writing the price, 
thanks to the sabre-rattling over Kuwait, 
is back up to around $35 for most Texas 
crude). Texans, banking greedily on 
visions of ever-upward-spiralling oil pric- 
es, had already grossly overinvested in 
things such as real estate. Driving into 
Austin, we saw that practically every 
other office building was empty and for 
lease, and we soon learned that the city 
indeed had the most overbuilt office 
space in the country. Greed had led to 
overproduction had led to unemploy- 
ment: this was the "rationality" of the 
Market system. 

Austin seemed pretty prosperous 
nonetheless, at least on the swank side of 
town. The "disappointment" seemed 
only slight there. Debutant balls took 
place as always on those west-side hills, 
though on a scale slightly less grand than 
before; some exclusive clothing outlets 
were said to have closed, but plenty 
remained; gourmet dog biscuits, at $5.00 
a pound, were still an item in demand at 
your finer victualers. 

The poor, well, they'll always be with 
us, says the eternalizing ideology, and in 
Austin this means mostly on the east 
side of town. Over twenty percent of the 
residents of Travis County, of which 
Austin is county seat, live under the 
official poverty line of $11, 400 a year for 
a family of four. 

We found the poor in the laundromat, 
one of our first stops after our road trip. 
They were sprawled uncomfortably on 
the hard yellow plastic seats. Why do the 
homeless like laundromats so? Because 
it's warm and roofed and they're not 

immediately evicted from it, I suppose. 
It's surely not for the homey atmos- 
phere. Dully watching the clothes roll 
round in the drier, I reflected on how 
Western instrumental rationality has 
robbed clothes-washing of its traditional 
communal quality. This rationality, be- 
lieving it could reduce the "drudgery" of 
everyday life to a nullity through tech- 
nology, has instead succeeded in elimi- 
nating the human from the everyday, 
thus turning everyday activities into true 
drudgery. I was reminded of a missionary 
couple I once knew who brought their 
African maid back with them to the 
U.S. This African could not get over the 
fact that no one in America washed 
their clothes in rivers: every time they 
drove over a bridge she would remark on 
the absence of gossipy scrubbers below. 
What was she talking about? thought 
the missionaries. She knew what a 
washing machine is, she used one every 
week! The missionaries failed utterly to 
see the subtext of her remark, which I 
imagine referred to the acute absence 
ot communality in America, the intense 
loneliness of everyday tasks here. 
I wondered, too, if those missionaries, 

having lived in West Africa, understood 
how the word "zombie" was used among 
the Bakweri of West Cameroon. "Zom- 
bie," according to Michael Taussig's 
book The Devil and Commodity Fetishism, 
was the word applied to fellow Bakweri 
and others who drove trucks and did 
certain other kinds of work in the British 
and German banana plantations. The 
"zombies" worked far beyond what was 
required to satisfy their needs. They 
couldn't seem to stop, they were the 
living dead. Their "lives" had become 
abstracted into the commodity of labor- 
time, and consequently they weighed 
like a nightmare on the brains of the 

Across the street from the laundro- 
mat, in the morning drizzle, a ragged 
man hunted for food in a dumpster. He 
found a soggy crust of pizza, which he 
gobbled and washed down with a swal- 
low of Thunderbird. A block further 
down sat the drab brown brick Austin 
Plasma Center. Perhaps after his meal 
he'd go there to sell his blood. According 
to an ad on the laundromat bulletin 
board, you can make two donations to 
the Center a week, at $10 a pop. On 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 77 

Fridays there is some sort of $25 "bonus 
drawing" which I don't quite under- 

It pleased me to think that this ragged 
man's diet of dumpster pizza and Thun- 
derbird was convertible to good human 
plasma; plasma just as good as, maybe 
better than, that obtainable from King 
George's blue blood. There was some- 
thing satisfyingly egalitarian about this 
notion; but beyond that, there was an 
even more essential comfort in the 
thought of rotten crusts and cheap wine 
being converted to blood. It was some- 
thing that seemed to give the lie to that 
part of capitalist and socialist and exis- 
tentialist ideology that insists on scarcity 
as the metaphysical grounding of life. It 
reminds me that scarcity exists only as a 
social concept, not a biological one. We 
aren't aliens in hostile territory. We 
evolved here. It's our planet, and our 
bodies are RIGHT for it. 

The myth of scarcity is championed by 
those systems hung up on production- 
capitalist as well as "actually-existing 
socialist." This myth is the touchstone of 
their terror, and is what keeps everybody 
in line without too much overt coercion. 
"He's (she's) a survivor"— I don't know 
how many times I was to hear this 
admiring phrase from the lips of Texans. 
Mere survival the goal? I realize they said 
it in the context of the economic slump, 
and they generally meant survival in the 
manner in which one was normally 
accustomed, but it nevertheless always 
struck me as an awfully low setting of 
one's sights, especially for such an out- 
wardly arrogant people as Texans. The 
odd corollary to it is the belief, in 
defiance of common sense and of the 
most elementary statistics, that one will 
be the exception who will "make it" over 
all the other "losers." One of the results 
of this belief, of course, is a contempt for 
"welfare" and the state's notoriously low 
ranking in social services. 

The fear of scarcity leads not just to 
production, but to the astounding over- 
production that is the hallmark of "late" 
capitalism. The basic absurdity of capi- 
talist ideology rests on the idea that 
putting the accumulated wealth to so- 
cially-useful ends is anathema to the 
system overall. In other words, the 
system's fear is that satisfaction of hu- 
man needs will reduce or eliminate the 
human fear that is the engine of accum- 
ulation and overproduction. It's a bit 
like working to put money in the bank, 
but under the condition that if you make 
any withdrawals the bank will collapse 

Graphic IB. Nelson 

and you'll lose it all. Of course, the State 
employs calculated ways of siphoning off 
some of this overproduction, primarily 
military spending, which, while it waste- 
fully relieves some of the bloating, serves 
to feed the fear on another plane: fear of 
the enemy Other bent on stealing the 
whole bank. 

Never mind, then, that we are well 
into one of the longest periods of eco- 
nomic expansion in U.S. history, with 
over $35 trillion in goods and services 
produced. We're not to think about 
this social surplus, and we're certainly 
not to ask that any of it be used to 
ameliorate our fear of not "surviving." 
On the contrary, the system seems to 
require more fear, more poverty and 
homelessness, while the rich get a 
capital-gains tax cut. In any case, in 
Texas and the world over, we're a long 
ways from Felix Guattari's and Toni 
Negri's vision in We Communists: "Hu- 
man goals and the values of desire 
must from this point on orient and 
characterize production. Not the 

The Plasma Center ad stated that 
donors are required to show proof of 
Austin residence. How would the home- 
less manage that? Babs and I wondered. 
In any case, we were reminded that we 
needed to find a place to live right away. 
We investigated a tiny garage apartment 
a block north of the laundromat and 
decided we could afford it, at least for the 
moment. But we would have to get jobs 

The landlords were a middle-aged 
couple who carried on a preternaturally 
perfect middle-class existence in the big 
house next door. Projecting onto us their 
vision of Utopia, they assumed our goal 
in life was to work our way up to their 
status, someday to become just like 
them, landlords in the manor behind 
twin magnolia trees. For now, of course, 
we would have to pay our dues, which 

meant sign a 6-month lease for the little 
place, along with a stipulation allowing 
them to run a credit check on us— at our 
expense. Lease, leash, leech— the word 
itself was revolting to me, and I doubted 
the credit check would reveal us in too 
favorable a light, though if we did pass 
it, I knew we were supposed to get a 
warm feeling all over of legitimacy and 
belonging. Instead I got a sour feeling 
thinking about all those uncreditworthy 
souls our acts of submission to these 
kinds of investigations only help to 
further delegitimize. I felt a traitor to 
them. The process of "belonging" always 
involves treason. 

Born play pla/ p1«y play Play pia 

raad taat raad -ork pia 

raad taat read taat raad "ork pia 

work work work work work buy pay 

work work work work work buy pay 

work work work work work buy pay 

work work work work work buy pai 

work work work work work buy pai 

-nrk work work work work buy pai 

But the credit check apparently was 
never carried out, and we moved into 
the tiny apartment. Babs got a job 
cleaning real estate— houses that weren't 
moving, which meant they had to be 
maintained especially spic and span to 
entice what few prospective buyers there 
were. It was one of those ironic jobs 
spawned of economic busts— ironic like 
the record homelessness in the midst of 
this vast square footage of empty shelter. 
Not that it was a good job; like pizza 
delivery, it required so much driving 
around in one's own vehicle that half 
one's paycheck goes into the car. Never- 
theless, it was something. 

I was not quite so lucky. I scanned the 
want ads every day, especially those 
listed under "General," since I've had 
the audacity in life not to have special- 
ized in any particular field. The listings 
are alphabetical, usually beginning with 
A for "Aggressive." Aggressive this 
wanted, aggressive that. It's not a word I 

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PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 — Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

particularly like. After a few weeks of 
seeing it there, it really begins to irritate 
me, and I think, well goddamn, the day 
I'm compelled to be "aggressive" for 
money I guess I'll do it right, with the 
snubby nose of my .38 poking the ribs of 
some gulping fatfish. 

There are curious ads, such as the one 
that reads, "Have you ever lied to get a 
job? If so, your story may be worth 
$100." But how would the folks doing 
this study know my story was not a lie, 
just to get my hands on the $100? Or 
would that in itself constitute the lie they 
were looking for? The Liar's Paradox is 
lurking here somewhere and I don't like 
the smell of it. 

Pharmaco, I notice, advertises a lot for 
research subjects: "up to $375 for anyone 
with resistant genital warts to participate 
in a study testing a new antiviral drug." 
(What do they mean, "up to?" Are some 
people's genital warts more valuable 
than others'?) In any case, I'm not about 
to go out and contract resistant genital 
warts just to get my hands on a lousy 

A sperm bank is looking for donors. 
This would be a more exhilirating dona- 
tion than plasma, to be sure. But again, 
the question: how much a pop? It 
doesn't say. And how many donations 
can you make? At half a billion or so 
sperms per, I imagine it's probably just a 
one-night stand, so to speak. 

So much for the classifieds. I try the 
Texas Employment Commission, but 
quickly discover that instead of helping 
you find a job, it seems primarily 
designed to discourage you from seeking 


















one. The functionary at the end of an 
interminable line informs me proudly 
that the TEC in Austin has so many 
applicants — over 20,000— that the on- 
line files are no longer available for 
perusal by job-seekers. Strange reason- 
ing: the greater the numbers of unem- 
ployed, the less access they get to the job 
listings. We'll look FOR you, he says, 
pen poised above the application, eager 
to strike out each category for which I 
don't claim enormous experience. A 
bureaucrat's favorite word is "no." I 
never hear from the TEC. 

I check out every shit-on-a-shingle 
restaurant in the neighborhood, the 
kind of places that serve dyed margaritas 
("pink killer 'ritas") and have names like 
Silverado; surely one doesn't need great 
restaurant experience to serve THEIR 
kind of slop. Wrong again. 

I try canvassing for a progressive 
organization, but find it too weird trying 
to sell "peace and justice" as a commodi- 
ty. Is nothing sacred? Must even this be 
subservient to the money economy? My 
field captain thinks I'm naive and have 
an attitude to boot; he's glad to see me 

I learn to interpret the penultimate 
words from a job interviewer, the ones 
that precede the handshake and the 
we'11-let-you-knows, things like "sorry 
you had to come out in the rain," which 
means, "gee, sorry you had to waste your 
time and ours AND get wet." 

I check out the temp agencies, places 
with vaguely salacious names like Man- 
power (the overtly wanton-sounding 
Kelly Girl has been changed to the more 
sober Kelly Services, I notice). I get 
nowhere there, but am led to discover a 
few things about the temps. I learn that 
large-scale hiring of temps is a recent 
phenomenon; that the electronics and 
defense industries do a lot of it, and that 
the federal government employs some 
300,000 temps. Temps receive virtually 
no benefits, and are the first to be laid off 
when a slump or recession hits, while 
core employees, if they're lucky, get to 
stay. When the next nationwide reces- 
sion arrives, up to 3 million temps can 
expect to lose their jobs. As it is, the 
Labor Department's Bureau of Labor 
Statistics counts anyone working one 
hour or more a week as "fully em- 
ployed"; this accounts for the exaggerat- 
edly low official unemployment rate. But 
at least the BLS factors into its monthly 
report those "discouraged workers" who 
have given up looking for work alto- 

I feel myself gradually becoming one of 
those "discouraged workers." I begin to 
investigate what it would be like to live 
in the streets. One of the first things that 
strikes me about such a life is its relative 
rigor, in terms of planning, scheduling, 
and so forth. Required to abandon the 
Salvation Army premises by 6 a.m., you 
must seek warmth elsewhere— the Capi- 
tol building, for instance— until the Car- 
itas or other soupline opens. If you're 
sick, you've got to keep in mind that the 
Caritas clinic is only open Tuesday and 
Thursday evenings. You've got to keep 
your eye on the spots under the bridges 
for possible vacancies, and be quick to 
stake your claim when one arises. You've 
got to be mindful of police routes and 
schedules, and keep track of your plasma 
donations. If after all this stress you need 
to get drunk, remember the Showdown's 
"Happy Minutes," with 25-cent drafts, 
are from 3:00-3:15 p.m. A lot of the 
homeless guys I talk to have all the bus 
schedules memorized. 

When depressed, go to a demonstra- 
tion. It quickens the blood and gets your 
mind on something larger than yourself. 
The one I went to, described in the next 
day's American Statesman (Austin's 
only daily, better known in our circles as 
the American Reai Estatesman) as "spir- 
ited," was over El Salvador. We defied 
pig orders and took the streets. One 
zealous porker could put up with it no 
more and collared one of our guys, a 
lanky Quaker with a Thoreau beard. 
The crowd turned ugly. The Quaker, a 
wry smile on his 19th-century face, 
pleaded for calm while pointing out to 
the cop the advisability of letting him go. 
The cop decided he was right, and 
sprung the handcuffs. 

I told Babs about the incident and 
how I admired the Quaker's cool and 
humorous resistance. She said, sure, 
those folks believe so little in authority 
that they can never take it seriously. By 
the way, she said, the Quakers are fixing 
up their Hill Country retreat next week- 
end, and needed volunteers, if I cared to 

So we went. But there I learn that even 
the Friends are not immune to the 
ideology of desireless production. While 
washing Quaker windows and railing 
about the absurd hoops you have to 
jump through to get a lousy $4-an-hour 
job in the University of Texas library 
system (though I proudly report that I 
passed, at 45 wpm, the typing test, using 
my version of caffeinated hunt-and- 
peck), a middle-aged Quaker listening to 

PROCESSED WORLD #26/27 - Special 1 0th Anniversary Double Issue! 

Page 79 

me announces that she works in library 
personnel and would probably be the 
one to interview me if my application 
were to get that far. To my astonish- 
ment, this woman turns out to be a 
champion of taylorized work efficiency 
and seems to know every angle on the 
scientific organization and bureaucratic 
management of white-collar labor. She 
actually uses, in a personal context, 
terms like "private sector" ("my husband 
works in the private sector") and refers 
to students meeting their "educational 
consumer needs." What SHE doesn't 
need on the other hand, is "defiance": 
"Can you imagine if every time I told 
someone to do something they asked 
why?" In the end, what she is looking 
for, as an interviewer, is "grown up" 
people. I take this to mean people so 
burdened with responsibilities and/or 
fears that they would never ask their 
boss "why?" I get the distinct feeling I 
have already blown the interview. 

And then, the miracle. A few weeks 
later, just as Babs and I hit rock 
bottom — she was by then a volunteer for 
the United Farm Workers, who pay only 
for her barest subsistence— I was able to 
land some free-lance translating jobs. 
English to Spanish, Spanish to English, 

I'll translate anything. More work comes 
my way, and soon we are receiving 
almost a lower-middle class income. 
Combined with the fact that we live 
frugally, it's O.K. 

But after a year or so of this, a malaise 
begins to set into our household. We 
begin to feel trapped in routine. The 
adventure seems over. We begin to 
suspect it's not enough just to live 
frugally; we begin to suspect that this 
"simple" lifestyle of growing our own 
and of consuming little, though ostensi- 
bly subversive, might actually be com- 
plicitous with the movement of capital 
from an industrial to an informational 
mode. After all, wasn't it the big corpo- 
rations who sponsored the last Earth 
Day celebration in Austin? There's 
something fishy here ... By "living sim- 
ply" instead of DEMANDING the social 
surplus— those trillions mentioned 
above— weren't we acquiescing to this 
obvious corporate redirection of capital? 
But where was such a movement to 
demand that surplus? Not in Austin, 
certainly. Most progressives there were 
like we had been, believing that frugality 
was subversion. Still believing, in other 
words, in the myth of scarcity. 

Suddenly we want out . . . "Archeo- 

logists have led us to conceive of this 
nomadism not as a primary state, but as 
an adventure suddenly embarked upon 
by sedentary groups impelled by the 
attraction of movement, by what lies 
outside. . . an extrinsic nomadic unit as 
opposed to an intrinsic despotic unit." 
(Gilles Deleuze). We give the car and a 
lot of the other shit to CISPES, and Babs 
makes the first go, choosing to move to 
downtown Detroit, the cutting edge of 
urban American decay. I opt for Mana- 
gua, where a similar raw confrontation 
between the haves and the have-nots 
continues to openly fester. It seems that 
in order to restore our sense of reality we 
are impelled to go to places where the 
myth of scarcity has taken a real toll. 

Meanwhile, back in Texas, the 
700,000 individuals to whom oil royalty 
checks roll in every month, as regularly 
and eternally as the tides of Galveston, 
have seen a pleasant doubling of their 
income, owing to the "Gulf crisis." One 
can only suppose that the old Texas 
arrogance— arrogance based on nothing 
other than the good fortune of having 
stumbled upon the land under which lay 
dissolved bodies of dinosaurs— will soon 
be making a florid comeback. 

— Salvador Ferret 


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"One of our favorite books of 1990!" 

— Village Voice Literary Supplement 

''Processed World is the subversive flip 
side to 12-hour day propaganda mags Uke 
Working Woman . . . the blackly humorous 
graphics have the baddest attitude . . . ex- 
pos[ing] the nonsensical quality of all the 
instructions received "from above." 

—Heather Mackey, S.F. Bay Guardian 

"Bad Attitude is strongly recommended for 
virtually everyone from precocious teen- 
agers to embattled workers to stodgy CEOs. 
PW's insistence on freshness and open- 
mindedness and radical objectivity turns 
up dozens of dizzying new perspectives." 

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"Innoculation from other bits of the Ameri- 
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The spirit of '68 stalks on." 

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Also available from the Bay Area Center for Art & Technology: 


D Brazilian Dreams: Visiting 
Points of Resistance 

VHS, 54 mins. 

D Across From City Hall 

VHS, 30 mins. 
This half-hour video documents the extra- 
ordinarily articulate residents of "Camp 
Agnos," a homeless camp-in in SF's Civic 
Center Plaza, 1988-89. 

D Gulf Crisis TV Project Part I 
VHS, 2 hours (4 y2-hour shows) 

D Gulf Crisis TV Project, Part II 
VHS, 1 hour (2 Va-hour shows) 

D Gulf Crisis TV Project, Part III 
VHS, 1 hour (2 ^A-hour shows) 

D Gulf Crisis TV Project, Part IV 

VHS, 1 hour (2 Va-hour shows) 
AU Gulf Crisis TV Project shows are pro- 
duced by the Deep Dish TV Network, an 
alternative satellite network of public-access 
independent video producers. They can be 
contacted through Processed World. 


from End of the Century Books 

D Things I Don't Remember 

6^ Barbara Schaffer 

U Calling In Sick 
by William Talcott 

D The Good Neighbor PoUcy 

by klipschutz 


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Comments? Write to your local Congresspersons or President George Bush, The White House, Washington DC. 

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