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Carnage and Cynicism

Woke up yesterday to a glorious sunny, warm day, unusual for San Francisco in the summer, and after a cold fog last night, it’s beautiful again today. In the news yesterday I read a cyclist was killed by an SUV jockeying for position on a Los Angeles street, and in downtown SF a woman cyclist was run over (she died today) by a truck after she turned left in front of it. The dull routinization of slaughter that our transit choices depend on…

A few days ago SF police shot a guy ten times when he ran away from them after apparently evading his $2 bus fare in Bayview (there are conflicting claims about whether or not he was armed and whether or not he shot at the police, and now the police are claiming he shot himself!). Two nights ago a spirited anti-cop demo went roaring through the streets, leading to 35 arrests and a smattering of property damage. Some people produced a flyer (art below). I loved the banner in front of the march: “You can’t shoot all of us: Fuck the Police!” It is a deep insult to the social fabric of our daily lives that people are getting murdered by police for any reason, let alone something as petty as avoiding a bus fare.

This is a flyer distributed at the march July 20 in San Francisco.

I’m reminded of Peter Linebaugh’s magisterial “The London Hanged,” an incredible book in which he profiles several hundred individuals who were hung (by the neck) at Tyburn Gate in London between the mid-1600s and mid-1700s, the vast majority for stealing rather small amounts of “property” (often food). As Linebaugh shows, this was the time in capitalist and British history when the basic idea of the inviolability of property rights was being established, and it took a good deal of state-sanctioned murder to reinforce that new logic. Could it be that we’re living through an analogous process in which refusing to pay for small things like bus rides, or even petty shoplifting, is going to face much more severe punishment, even random death?

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Hills and Dales of Summer in San Francisco

During this prolonged blogging blackout, when all I could do was try to catch up with our wonderful trip to the Andes, I was doing lots of fun stuff around here too. In the past few weeks I’ve had some lovely walks, and the lovely experience of going to an obscure cement platform in the Marin headlands for Rebecca Solnit’s 50th birthday party on Friday, June 24. It was surprisingly a fog-free night and we got to the Rodeo Beach parking lot about a half hour before sunset (after meeting Adriana near Caltrain, and hoping against hope that we’d get stuck in traffic while Critical Mass rolled by! Hugh and I were totally psyched to be stuck in a car while bikes streamed around us… but we didn’t meet it, alas!).

Gorgeous light as we hiked north through the Marin Headlands...

That cement platform way down there is where we were headed. Eventually we were freezing, but it was a spectacular evening with lovely folks...

I still take my usual ride up Twin Peaks a couple of times a month at least.

Lots of fog and wind during June, practically blowing me off the hill in mid-month when I was up there.

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Lima at Last!

Our journey finally ended in Lima from March 17-21, 2011. Seems like such a long time ago now… we had a lovely visit, staying with Nelida Silva, a friend I made at the TedXAmazonia conference in November last. I gave a Nowtopia talk at a “Charla Solidaria” sponsored by Programa Democracia y Transformación Global, a non-party left group in Lima, Peru. I also gave a Critical Mass/bicycling talk for Cicloaxion, the local activist group we met there, thanks to Octavio who contacted me ahead of time…

This was a typical scene in downtown Lima, gorgeous old colonial buildings painted in bright colors.

Wandering around Lima was a great pleasure. I have to admit that I’d been a bit worried about it, having heard countless fearful accounts of people getting mugged in Lima, how street crime is out of control, etc., but we didn’t have any bad experiences. In fact, we walked around and rode the combi vans all over and never even felt like we were in a risky situation. Lima is great! Of course we only saw a part of it in the four days we were there, but we did get around a bit…

We were heading to a small anthropological museum when we saw this plaza in the distance. After we came out of the museum we walked over to see what it looked like more closely.

The plaza was filled with campers under cardboard roofs. Sugar workers were occupying the plaza, turns out they’d been there for three months, demanding that the government take steps to preserve a national sugar industry. It didn’t seem that their protest was getting much traction, but the occupation was impressive nonetheless.

Sugar workers demand a law of national protection.

Hard to imagine living in this space for months, but these folks had been doing just that.

It's quite a picturesque plaza, surrounded by beautiful blue colonial buildings.

Plenty of traffic whizzing around at all times, too.

Somehow a poignant juxtaposition, the welder's mask and the Peruvian flag, flying over the cardboard village.

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