They Want Our Bones

This is a guest post from my friend Fernando Marti. He sent this to me a few weeks ago, and I shared it with a few friends. We all loved it, so I thought it should have a wider audience and a more accessible home than just a file being passed around. Enjoy!

“They want our bones, y’know,” she said, motioning with her head down the row of tables at the café. There was a single person sitting alone at each of the tables along the wall, each young pale face lit blue by the glowing screens in front of them, the little logos on the laptop covers pulsing with their own life. I looked over to the woman sitting at the table next to me, a little slouched over her coffee, to make sure it was me she was talking to. She was a short thin lady, gray hair tied back in a tight ponytail, black dress made of heavy cloth, looking a bit like an aging Mexican goth rocker. I think maybe I had seen her before at this café, selling handmade sage bundles, but we had never talked before. Now she leaned over towards me, as though she was confiding a secret.

Y qué?” she said, some kind of question about I don’t know what. “It’s not their jobs we want,” and she motioned with her head again. “Or that they avoid our city buses and get on their own private tinted-window double-deckers like they’re on their way to the airport or something. And it’s not their pink-moustached cars with their drivers’ heads down on their text pads cutting off the old ladies like they’re johns looking for a hookup. Or that they crowd our sidewalks silently scrolling their fancy phones waiting for hand-dripped coffees that take twenty minutes to make, what’s that?” She almost seemed to laugh, looking down at her coffee, but it wasn’t really a laugh. She talked in a run-on, like she had a lot to say and too little time to say it, sometimes low as a whisper, then rising to where I think the other customers were starting to look at us. “It’s not what’s different about them, y’know? That’s not why we hate them, although maybe that would be a good reason. You know what it is? It’s that they want to be like us.” She let it sit there, and I nodded to her, “M-hmmm,” went back to my work.

Poster from Mutiny Radio event on Saturday March 1 at 21st and Florida in San Francisco's Mission District.... thanks to Art Hazelwood and the other artists!

Poster from Mutiny Radio event on Saturday March 1 at 21st and Florida in San Francisco’s Mission District…. thanks to Art Hazelwood and the other artists!

Continue reading They Want Our Bones

Public Secrets and Private Agony: Talking About Work!

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What (or whom) does knowledge serve? a good question on the wall of a closed school in Porto Alegre, Brazil. We might ask the same about work!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jobs Don’t Work! The whole structure of modern life has at its center the waged job. It doesn’t really matter if you’re making a paltry minimum wage (or less!) or nearly six figures (or more)—well, it does matter to YOU, since more money is better than less, self-evidently. But the deeper logic of our relationship to how we make life, how we reproduce the material and social conditions of our daily existence, is quite similar regardless of pay scale.

In this era, if you’re not pushing a shopping cart around looking for cans and bottles, or riding in your private jet to the next country club or gallery opening you probably describe yourself as “middle class.” This self-labeling carries social consequences that we don’t think or talk much about. If someone asks you what you do, you’ll probably answer with what your paid job is before quickly changing the subject, since talking about how unsatisfactory your work probably is just makes you look bad. It is socially forbidden to discuss how much money you actually make, even if comparing pay and benefits in a more transparent way would actually be extremely helpful to everyone. Instead, we are expected to glow with pride over how we trade our human capacities for creativity, engagement, sharing, skills, etc., for a vague but always apparently adequate amount of money. Complaints are frowned upon, whether regarding the work itself, the company, or the mysterious level of compensation. It’s ok to bitch about the boss, but all complaining is answered with the same pat solution: get another job! It is simply not allowed into the conversation—or most imaginations—that the “job” is itself the problem. That humans organized into a capitalist economy based on wage-work (whether by the hour or by the annual salary) necessarily leads the vast majority of us into profound loneliness, frustration over our inability to affect the world around us through what we do all day, despair over the emptiness of our daily lives, and a self-reproducing closed circuit of confusion and self-delusion. Continue reading Public Secrets and Private Agony: Talking About Work!

Mais Amor: Forum Mundial da Bicicleta III in Curitiba, Brazil

Mais amor, or "more love" was the recurrent theme running through the 3rd World Bike Forum in Curitiba, Brazil.

Mais amor, or “more love” was the recurrent theme running through the 3rd World Bike Forum in Curitiba, Brazil.

After almost a week of travel and visiting Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo, it was time to fulfill my primary reason for travelling to Brazil this time. I took the plane to Curitiba in Paraná state, south of Sao Paulo, and was met at the airport by Danilo, a bicycle transportation coordinator for the City, but also a major activist and participant in organizing the Forum Mundial da Bicicleta III (3rd World Bike Forum) here. He was just the first of many wonderful people I met in Curitiba, characterized by warmth, generosity, enthusiasm, and huge hearts!

Goura and Luis Patricio were stalwarts on a team of wonderful people who made the Forum a great success. Me? I just hung around pointing at things I like!

Goura and Luis Patricio were stalwarts on a team of wonderful people who made the Forum a great success. Me? I just hung around pointing at things I like!

Here I am giving my Talk on Friday night before the wet Critical Mass on Feb. 14 in Curitiba.

Here I am giving my Talk on Friday night before the wet Critical Mass on Feb. 14 in Curitiba.

I was an invited guest to the first Forum two years ago in Porto Alegre, so it was an unexpected pleasure and honor to be invited again so soon. I had always wanted to see Curitiba, a city famous for being an early innovator in Bus Rapid Transit and garbage recycling programs a couple of decades ago. Today it is probably the calmest city I’ve been to in Brazil, fairly prosperous, and full of long pedestrian areas and a few wonderful bikeways that run many kilometers from the center to the outer edges of the city. The one I took every day runs just a half block from the home of Cassinha and Joaquim, my amazing and super generous hosts. Cassinha was also a key player on the organizing committee for the Forum, helping get a big donation from the local Industrial Association among her many talented contributions.

Cassinha on one side, Luis Patricio on the other, at the World Bike Forum.

Cassinha on one side, Luis Patricio on the other, at the World Bike Forum.

I have to admit I was feeling a bit jaded before the Forum began, having been to the first one two years ago, and before that to two different “Towards Car-Free Cities” conferences (Portland in 2008 and Guadalajara in 2009) and also a “Congreso Nacional de Ciclismo Urbano” conference in Guadalajara too. Similar experiences were had too in various international gatherings (albeit not about bicycling per se) in the World Social Forum in Belém, Brazil, and the Copenhagen Climate Change conference in 2009. But after four days of meeting, attending various presentations, riding in a “Bicicletada” (Critical Mass) in the rain on Valentine’s Day (actually in Brazil Valentine’s Day is June 12, same day celebrated as Mother’s Day in Mexico I think), getting a side trip in to visit Nova Primaveira (a squatted quasi-nowtopian community in the shadow of a big modern Toshiba Factory in the City of Industry section of Curitiba) and topping it off with a day-long journey to ride down the famous “Serra da Graciosa” yesterday, I have had a fantastic time here. So many wonderful people converge on these gatherings, mostly Brazilians from all over the country, but this time we also had Elly Blue from Portland, Carlos Marroquin from Bicimaquinas in Guatemala, Mona Caron (and Dustin Fosnot) from San Francisco, Carlos Cadena Gaitán from Medellin (via Maastricht, Holland), Lars Gemzøe from Copenhagen, Uwe Redecker from Kiel Germany, Olga Sarmiento from Bogotá, Galo Cardenas from Quito, Charlotte Fagan from Boston’s Bikes Not Bombs, and so on. I tend to think of this as a “Brazil Bike Forum” with international guests, akin to the annual Ciclismo Urbano conferences in Mexico (especially when you consider that the opening night’s session featured 6 guest speakers, all Brazilian, all in Portuguese without translation).

A soggy Critical Mass in Curitiba, here I am in conversation with Brazilian bike activist pioneer Renata Falzoni.

A soggy Critical Mass in Curitiba, here I am in conversation with Brazilian bike activist pioneer Renata Falzoni; Danilo and Goura in front.

Continue reading Mais Amor: Forum Mundial da Bicicleta III in Curitiba, Brazil