The moment i realized i had changed was last year when i took part in a very aggressive protest against the police oppression in my kiez. After weeks of walking home from work and being surrounded by riot police who had branded my entire neighborhood as a "danger zone", it exploded. Kids set fire to cars and smashed windows and sprayed BLM, ACAB and Ⓐ on the sidewalks. Some lit road flares and fireworks. Most of us were peaceful. The jackbooted fascists attacked us with teargas, pepper spray, flashlights and truncheons anyway. We made the front page of the Guardian - briefly - and then the conservative politician responsible for the whole mess quietly pulled back the police presence.
Yesterday i refused to watch any of the inauguration, because that pageantry would be insufferable even if the incoming president wasn't a shameless flim-flam man, but i did watch the livestreams of citizen journalists and alternative reporters who have cut their teeth covering Black Lives Matter and #NoDAPL. I cheered as a bunch of kids smashed symbols of capitalism and scampered through the American capital waving the black flag of anarchy. I don't know how they managed to stage it so well, but setting fire to a limo in front of the WaPo office was fucking genius. Meanwhile all round the world #bridgesnotwalls had been doing banner drops, and in the rest of America little pockets of anarchist youth thumbed their nose at the patriarchy and the oligarchy.
All of this gives me life. How did i go from someone who 15 years ago went on angry rants about how protestors should get the fuck off the streets and we should run them over with tanks just like at Tiananmen to someone who whoops and hollers as punx set fire to cop cars?
I mean, the issues changed, for one. I was not against the Iraq War. I still think taking out Saddam was the right thing to do for the people of Iraq, though obviously the aftermath of that war has turned the whole region into a shit-show. I am pro-globalization. I don't like out-of-control capitalism any more than the next guy, but having lived my life as a permanent immigrant, free trade and freedom of movement are two values i will never let go of. Most of the noughties were defined by anti-war and anti-globalization rallies. But the last few years issues have switched around to be more pro-environment and anti-fascism. Those are issues i can get behind.
The last major protest i could have been a part of but didn't was the G20 Summit in Toronto 2010. A lot of the people i was hanging out with at the time were going under the flag of feminism and LGBTQ rights. I withdrew from that group of friends in part because i didn't want to be associated with the anti-globalization underpinnings of the protests. At the time i wasn't working in an office job, so the only people i really interacted with besides J's upper-middle class suburban family were those working class women i boxed with. Going back to a real office job really took off the blinders. I will never forget that Christmas party of 2011 (i think?) where my colleagues hated on the "lazy" Occupy protestors but then simultaneously complained about being part of the downtrodden 99% because they were being taxed too highly on their second home.
That was when i started to hate my colleagues. Yeah. Maybe Occupy was the turning point for me. I have written before about how blessed i feel that i have a job that pays so well, but the longer i work in it the more i resent it. Even in my current company where everyone is relatively liberal and topics like Brexit, Trump and the AfD get a regular public drubbing on our chat channels, these guys are still earning a ton of money and happily putting it away in stocks and property and whatever other things they need to retire rich and happy. Meanwhile i feel ill that i currently have ~30k in my bank account. I actually feel ill when i look at it. How can anyone have that much money just sitting around? And the fact that that's not even a "lot" of money, given tons of "middle class" people buy cars and houses and other things worth far more... And then complain they are still getting a raw deal. That makes me so angry. It is not right that i have 30k in my bank account when people who fled abject poverty and war are living in tents across town. (Oh, and facing accusations of being secret terrorists too.) Seriously. Fuck that noise. It makes me so conflicted and so unhappy.
Anyway, by the time Ferguson happened it was a done deal. Black Lives Matter. #NoDAPL. Kein Mensch ist Illegal. Fuck Tha Police. Those kids in balaclavas, the black bloc, the ones brave enough to risk injury and jail to call out the apathetic masses, those kids are heroes. When i get blocked by a protest on the way home from work nowadays it's the uniformed thugs who block me, not the kids. And if some anti-capitalist protestors blocked the entrance to my office like the heroes in San Francisco yesterday, you know i would sit up and take notice. Because i have already noticed. The tech industry is a cancer on society. Gentrification is a massive problem. Consumerism is fucking awful. Venture capitalism is little more than white collar gambling. I don't know how to break out of the loop, but i acknowledge there are systemic problems here, and i am glad i am not the only one who cares.
I am generally a pretty nice and tolerant person. I don't want to sit around preaching to everyone how they should live their lives every single minute of every single day. We all have to make a living somehow, and people will choose their own hill to die on. But, at the same time, i don't feel bad cheering on the anarchists whose direct action makes people uncomfortable. There is a lot to be uncomfortable about. I get it now. It took me a lot of growing up to get it, but i get it now.