An Antagonist’s Guide To Destroying The Surveillance State
From Tides of Flame
A bore, a paranoiac, a madman, a watcher with no one to watch him in turn, someone it’s going to be hard to get rid of.
-Roberto Bolaño, “The Secret of Evil.”
Head bone connected to the neck bone, neck bone connected to the arm bone, arm bone connected to the hand bone, hand bone connected to the internet, connected to the Google, connected to the government.
-M.I.A., “The Message.”
I: The Twitter Employee and the Airport
My flight is delayed for two hours. The people around me text on their phones, update their Facebook status, use the Google search browser for their homework, and listen to music through tiny headphones. While I wait with them, all of us sitting in identical rows, I read over a hundred pages of Assata Shakur’s autobiography.
After the Boston Marathon bombing, the FBI had once again added her to their Most Wanted list, hoping to capitalize on the public hysteria and to remind the public that Assata is a “dangerous terrorist.” I brought her book into the airport in defiance of their media campaign, hoping to get into an argument with some official or other and learn exactly what they were up to behind the curtain.
For the past several months, my boarding passes have been labeled with “SSSS” in the lower right corner. In the Sea-Tac airport, I first learned that I had been flagged as a threat of some sort and was to be thoroughly searched. Thinking it was because my hair was curly and my skin was dark, I started antagonizing the TSA employees, asking them if all brown people were terrorists and if my beard scared them. Hitting a nerve, one of the employees pointed at the “SSSS” and told me they were only responding to my classification, that it wasn’t their personal decision. I asked them who had deemed me a Secondary Security Screening Selection, and he said that he had no idea.
After they swabbed my bag to test for explosives, an alarm went off. Magically, my bag had acquired trace amounts of explosive residue. After a second swab triggered another alarm, the airport bomb expert inspected my bag and found no secret explosive devices. I repacked my bag and they let me walk to my gate, no longer a potential threat, safe to board my plane.
At the Oakland airport months later I received the same treatment, but this time there were no explosives detected on my bag. A few months after that, again at Sea-Tac, explosives were detected once, twice, and then the bomb expert was summoned for another thorough inspection of my dangerous bag. Sea-Tac is evidently where I suddenly acquire explosive powder on my belongings. Every time I fly through its terminals, I have the sense that someone is behind a screen in an office pressing a button to trigger the alarm.
Back at the Oakland airport, reading Assata’s autobiography, waiting for my delayed flight to Seattle, I notice that I am one of a few people not using a computer or smart phone. When the staff finally starts the boarding process, I sit down near the line next to a young woman who is deeply mesmerized by the soft blue glow of her phone screen. As we wait for our turn to line up and board our plane, she sighs and anxiously looks at the long lines of upper class passengers boarding before us.
“Why is it taking so long?” she asks me.
“Don’t know. It just does.”
We sit silently for a moment and watch the other passengers.
“Do you live in Seattle?” I ask.
“No, I’m from there, but I live in San Francisco now.”
“It’s getting really expensive to live in San Francisco.”
“Yeah,” she nods.
“I know people who grew up there who can’t afford to stay. It’s Google that’s doing it, all their employees making the rent spike.”
“No, for sure, it is. I have rent control, though, so it doesn’t really affect me. But I’m all for it because I work for Twitter.”
The line of passengers sways back and forth. I have no idea how to respond to her statement and suddenly I realize that in the center of her black shirt is the little blue bird of Twitter. This was the moment when I began to discover the secret of evil.
II: Microsoft, Seattle, and the NSA
Edward Snowden is one year older than I am. Thanks to the information he released, my SSSS designation has started to make far more sense within the context of the massive surveillance network we inhabit within the United States. Snowden’s leaks have revealed a network of contractors who can monitor every aspect of an individual’s internet activity and determine who is and who is not a threat. My own activity has brought me into a vast social network that is perceived to be a threat by the NSA and their employees.
I am clearly not a suicide bomber and will never hijack a plane, but the security system at the Seattle airport thinks that I might. There are a lot of reasons why Sea-Tac might be so jumpy. Microsoft is located 20 miles from the Sea-Tac Airport. This corporation also happens to be one of the main collaborators with the NSA.
Recently, I was sitting with some friends outside of the Black Coffee Co-Op in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. As we sat there, a Connector Bus drove past, carrying a single passenger. These green and white buses drive back and forth from the Microsoft campus in close-by Redmond, Washington, bringing the tech workers home to their condos and apartments. I see two more of these buses go by within half an hour, each carrying no more than three employees.
“Do you see these all the time?” I ask.
“Uh-huh,” my friend responds. “They all live here in the condos.”
“How many of these buses do you see in a day while you’re working at the café?”
“I lose count, I don’t even pay attention any more.”
We look across the street at the new condos, opened within the last year. Before the block was destroyed, there were some cheap bars that were part of the enjoyably scummy and depraved Capitol Hill that existed when I arrived over a decade ago. Now there is a large glass and metal box with expensive commercial space below. Block by block, the old neighborhood is being transformed into a streamlined, inexpressive nightmare.
Thousands of Microsoft employees have moved into Seattle’s neighborhoods and driven up the rents over the years with their high and disposable salaries. The average rental price for a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle is currently $1,600 a month.
At work, some of these employees look for the security flaws within Microsoft software that make users hugely vulnerable to having their entire operating systems open to surveillance. When a flaw is discovered these employees are required to inform their superiors, who then inform the NSA and FBI. Microsoft does not fix these security glitches until the NSA and FBI have been allowed to explore them. This is a standard practice within the corporation that was noted in the Snowden leaks.
Thanks to Microsoft, Seattle has been in a permanent tech boom for the past two decades. Over forty thousand Microsoft employees currently live in the Seattle metropolitan area. Just as the neighborhoods these employees inhabit become their off-work playgrounds, so to does the local environment become the playground of Microsoft. For example, there are several massive data centers in the region that support Microsoft’s growing cloud infrastructure and data storage needs. These data centers consume more electricity than several metropolitan neighborhoods combined.
A few data centers are built on top of the former site of the largest village of the Duwamish tribe in Renton, a sacred place that has long since been destroyed and now hosts several bland and monotonous corporate parks. It is nearly impossible to find any of these data centers on Google Maps, despite the fact that they are the very backbones of the internet. It is as if they are being intentionally hidden from the public.
Microsoft hides more than just data centers. Northeast of Seattle, in their sprawling Redmond campus, hundreds of foreign immigrants with H-1B visas work throughout the week, selling their skills to Microsoft for US currency. If a worker with an H-1B visa quits or is fired, they can either apply for citizenship (something unlikely to be successful) or they will be deported. A tech worker with citizenship is able to negotiate pay increases by threatening to defect to Amazon or Google, but the worker with the H-1B visa is forever bound to Microsoft under penalty of deportation.
For this reason, Bill Gates and the current leaders of the corporation want the federal government to expand the number of H-1B visas that can be issued. With the encouragement of Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and other tech companies, the Senate just passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (S.744), a bill that will allow 20,000 more H-1B visas to be issued. The tech giants will have to pay $10,000 per visa, but that money will be used to fund educational programs that will train more US citizens for tech jobs in the United States. However, these tech giants will always pick immigrant workers over domestic workers. They work for less and cannot complain.
One of these workers, a man named Vineet Kumar Srivastava, was recently arrested for raping a janitor in Building 27 of the Redmond campus. Srivastava was a senior programming manager with a wife and children who worked diligently to propel the Microsoft empire forward. When the police detained him, Srivastava claimed the janitor had forced him to have sex with her. He is now out on a $75 thousand bail that is well within his financial reach.
The loneliness of many male tech workers, immigrant and citizen alike, brings them to spend their high wages on prostitutes. This phenomenon is widely seen from Seattle to the Silicon Valley. Every prostitute I have met in Seattle has worked for at least one of these men. For them, a prostitute is only a click away. It is far easier to pay for sex twice a week than it is to have a relationship that requires presence, time, and love. With most of their energy consumed by the company, these men gladly spend $300 an hour to release every manner of repressed emotion on these prostitutes.
On their website, Microsoft describes Seattle, its “headquarters for work and play,” as having “a dynamic urban culture, distinctive neighborhoods, great restaurants, a family-friendly atmosphere, world-class arts and entertainment, and endless recreation.” With large amounts of money at their disposal, these Microsoft employees want access to everything: land, neighborhoods, food, entertainment, drugs, and sex. If they cannot get these things, they will change the area around them to suite their increasingly luxurious needs.
In their perpetual quest for the perfect environment, these tech employees colonize “distinctive neighborhoods” and quickly render them into aesthetically homogenous blocks stripped of anything distinctive. It is as if they are terrified of authentic urban community because whenever they find it they do everything in their power to destroy it.
The Connector Bus brings Microsoft employees to Capitol Hill and drops them off in front of their condos and apartments. At work, some of these Microsoft employees may have been directly collaborating with the NSA. At night and on their days off, these employees can be party monsters, coke sniffers, yoga freaks, health food junkies, dancing queens, or whatever else they want to be. They have the money to do anything, but many of them seem content with the monotonous comfort of condos, expensive meals, and prostitutes.
For a moment, I thought maybe I would see Microsoft implode. Its Windows 8 product did not take off, nor did its new Microsoft Surface technology. CEO Steve Ballmer has decided to step down, the stock price for Microsoft keeps dropping, and in a desperate move the corporation purchased Nokia for a modest $7.2 billion. Now there are five main contenders in the fight for control of the US consumer electronics market: Microsoft, Samsung, Google, Sony, and Apple. It is still possible that Microsoft will crumble, that the forty thousand company employees will leave Seattle, that all of the upscale businesses they support will go bankrupt, and that a culture of freedom and radicalism will replace their corporate legacy. But just like the nodes of the internet, if one is destroyed, another one takes its place.
III: Amazon and the CIA
The pinnacle of Seattle tech-gentrification is the South Lake Union neighborhood, now mostly owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Dozens of giant apartment and condo buildings all crowd around the Amazon campus, the centerpiece of the neighborhood. During the lunch break, Amazon vomits thousands of employees into the restaurants, the bars, and the nearby Whole Foods. Their money enters the Seattle economy, encouraging more restaurants, bars, stores, apartments, and condos. As a reward for contributing to the local economy, the city of Seattle built these employees their very own train line to take them downtown. Their lunch options are now vast.
This train line was a joke for many years, with journalists and websites referring to it as Paul Allen’s gift to himself. However, the same type of train lines are now being laid from downtown to Capitol Hill where the line terminates at the future site of the underground Light Rail station. When this is complete, a giant circuit will have been created, enabling Amazon workers to take the train directly to work and also eat an interesting lunch. Everyone else can take the bus or walk.
My mother and I currently have an agreement. In the near future, we will both give up two things we are addicted to. I will give up cigarettes on the condition she stops purchasing things off Amazon.com. So far, neither of us have given up our habits. When she asks me what’s so bad about Amazon, it’s easier for me to point to news stories about neo-nazi bosses at Amazon warehouses in Poland than it is to explain the intricacies of what the corporation has done to Seattle. However, another news story recently appeared that makes my arguments with my mother easier.
The CIA, those infamous supporters of fascist dictatorships and death squads, have recently hired Amazon to provide them with cloud infrastructure. Going against its own utopian vision of the grand public data cloud, Amazon will build a private cloud inside a CIA owned building in exchange for $660,000, 000. This private cloud will be one of several that Amazon has already built, including FinCloud, a system created for NASDAQ to help ease and expedite stock trading. Building off the success of this venture, Amazon is now going to help the CIA to be more efficient at what it does.
Keep in mind that this is the same CIA that currently kills innocent people with drones and collaborates with al Qaeda fighters in Syria. Amazon’s task is to organize the hive mind of the agency into a cloud of data, accessible only by their internal network. By doing this, Amazon will be directly collaborating with one of the main players in the surveillance state and any innovations they discover in the future will be passed on to the CIA.
To make matter worse, Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, recently bought the Washington Post. There are many reasons why he would have done this, and many of them involve the paper’s reputation for printing leaks and exposing corruption, including the recent revelations concerning the “black budget”. Of the 178 pages received by the Post regarding the secret multi-billion dollar budget, only 48 were released. The Post collaborated with the government in censoring specific documents, citing security concerns. Some political writers say Bezos wants to control the media and stop leaks, others say he is personally working with CIA, and others say he is just greedy and maniacal. Perhaps all these claims are true.
Bezos and the CIA have another mutual interest: quantum computers. They are both pumping millions of dollars into the development of machines that will open up new dimensions of technology and increase the speed of all computing. History tells me that whenever the CIA is involved in financing anything, whether it is art, technology, or grass roots political movements, it is always with the intention of using them as a weapon against their foes. The thought of what they will come up with terrifies me, especially right now, when the CIA already has access to nearly everything.
But I take comfort in the fact that at the heart of quantum computing is the great paradox: how one thing can be everything and nothing simultaneously. Qubits, the quantum units that make up a quantum computer, also happen to be impossible to predict. This quality of the qubit is what programmers harvest to solve problems quickly. The qubit can be everywhere at once or nowhere at once. If it is not contained, the data given to a qubit undergoes decoherence and leaks away. Data leaks and decoherence are part of this new technology that is built on the inherent unpredictability of its components.
When the sun begins to come out in the beginning of spring, I bike to the other end of Lake Union and stare at the Seattle skyline. The center of Amazon’s empire sits below the skyscrapers, along the water, quickly growing. The freeway begins to snarl as people get off work, buzzing back to their homes. From the other side of the lake, Seattle looks tranquil, perfect, serene. It surely has to be green city, the healthy city, the tech city. Everything functions smoothly and the Amazon packages arrive on time, although sometimes they are stolen from people’s doorsteps. Security cameras may deter a thief, but they can really only do so much.
IV: Silicon Valley and the Bay Area
In July of 2012, a professor from the University of Toronto was with his family at the McDonalds on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. This professor was wearing an apparatus he had designed called Eye Glass that kept a computer screen and camera over his right eye. From this camera, the man recorded everything he saw. When he entered the McDonalds, the security guard immediately noticed the apparatus and asked what was on his face. After the professor produced a doctor’s note explaining he had to wear the camera, the security guard let him and his family proceed to the cash registers. Once they sat down with their food, another McDonalds employee began pulling at the apparatus on the professor’s head. When it did not come off, the employee and two other men started to attack the professor, leaving him with his Eye Gear broken and his pants wet with urine. The professor pissed himself in fear.
I thought about this story when I was in the Oakland hills some time ago. A group of us drove up there to see the view of San Francisco just as a bank of fog settled in over our heads. Staring at the giant gray cloud, we smoked a powerful joint and tried not to shiver in the cold.
“Yeah, we can’t live there anymore.”
“No, none of us can anymore. Both of us are living with our moms.”
“Are people you know leaving San Francisco?” I asked.
“Hella people,” she stressed. “I’m staying because that’s my home, you know, but what the fuck? Google and Facebook and all this shit fucked everything up. First the hipsters, then these rich fucks…man, they’ll be wearing Google glasses, I bet.”
“No!” I protested. “No one’s wearing those now, are they?”
“No, they will, trust me man,” she said. “We gotta destroy them, snatch ‘em off people’s faces and crush em on the ground. You know? Because otherwise people will think its okay to do that, to film everything, like it’s all a movie, all a fucking lie.”
We didn’t linger too long after the joint was gone. The fog got thicker and we drove back down into the long grid of Oakland. In my own fog, I imagined mobs of young men and women running through the Mission district, instinctually destroying these cybernetic glasses, following an urge to keep life organic.
My friend’s childhood city is undergoing rapid colonization by well-paid employees from Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter. The number of evictions in the city has spiked due to the Ellis Act, a state law that allows landlords to evict all tenants of a building if it is being taken off the rental market and turned into apartments for sale.
With more buildings becoming luxury housing, rent is increasing dramatically, and the neighborhoods are filling with expensive restaurants and luxury stores. The average price for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is now $2,800 a month. While hundreds of longtime residents are evicted from their rent controlled units, the Google Bus drives the sixty miles to and from the Googleplex, bringing employees from their Mountain View headquarters to the colonized neighborhoods of San Francisco.
When I type the words “san francisco google gentrification” into the Google search bar and press enter, it is clear that Google has accumulated quite a reservoir of anger and hatred around itself. Hundreds of articles detail exactly what is happening to the Fillmore or Mission districts, and hundreds more explain how no one can stop it. A strong reaction is taking place against the tech invasion, but the reaction is overwhelmed by the sheer amount of money flowing into San Francisco.
So when Google employees start walking around wearing Google glasses, I won’t be surprised when people finally snap and start physically assaulting them. Although I’m sure these victims will view the assailants as bullies from high school, these assaults will be more akin to a cat protecting her kittens from harm.
When I was in high school, the affluence of the late 1990’s was in full bloom and the first tech bubble had yet to burst. By the time I graduated in 2002, the World Trade Center had been destroyed and the media was revving the US population up for war. However, some people left my high school a few years before I did, when the US was far more stable. As it turns out, people from this age group are now in positions of extreme power.
Google currently employs a man named Jared Cohen, the son of wealthy Connecticut parents. He graduated high school in 2000 and then went to Stanford. After winning much praise for his brilliance, Cohen ended up at Oxford where he studied international relations and earned his MA. After interning at the State Department, he was eventually scooped up by then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in 2006 as part of her Policy Planning Staff. He was 24 when he began working for them. Since then, he has risen to become a top counter-terrorism expert and was one of the earliest proponents of using social media to advance US foreign policy.
When an insurrection broke out in Iran against the government after the elections of 2009, Cohen famously instructed Twitter to not perform scheduled maintenance so that Iranian dissidents could continue to Tweet to each other. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton did nothing to discourage his activities.
In 2010, Cohen became a fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations and took part in their Cyberconflict and Cybersecurity Initiative. One month after joining this think tank, Cohen joined a more interesting one. Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, personally made Cohen the director of Google Ideas.
The organization describes itself as a “a think/do tank that explores how technology can enable people to confront threats in the face of conflict, instability or repression.” When I went to the website, I learned that their main projects involve building data maps of social networks, illicit activities, and tracing flows of subversive information. Right now, if you type “google ideas network mapper” into the Google search engine, you will find a network map for the Assad regime as the showcase of their project.
There is little difference between Google and the government at this point. They share the same interests and use the internet to manipulate and monitor different populations, whether foreign or domestic. Leaked documents reveal that in the midst of the Arab Spring, the private security company Stratfor was concerned that Google was “doing things the CIA cannot do.” In regards to Jared Cohen’s role in the whole affair, one Stratfor analyst wrote “he’s going to get himself kidnapped or killed. Might be the best thing to happen to expose Google’s covert role in foaming uprisings, to be blunt.”
Jared Cohen and Eric Schmidt co-wrote a book called The New Digital Age: Re-shaping the Future of People, Nations and Business. Disgusted by what he had just read, Julian Assange wrote these scathing words about the authors: “This book is a balefully seminal work in which neither author has the language to see, much less to express, the titanic centralizing evil they are constructing.”
The corporate slogan for Google is DON’T BE EVIL. I think about evil when I walk through the Mission District in San Francisco. When I see the expensive restaurants, the well-dressed techies, the luxury condos, the fancy cars, and the Google Bus, I am seeing evil attempting to spread itself like a computer program across physical reality. It is an evil the founders of Google knew would be tempting, but it is an evil none of them can resist. But unfortunately for them, Google carries the seeds of its own destruction within itself. Google it.
V: Burning the Man
I currently live inside a squatted building in a major metropolis on the west coast of the US. To my dismay, one morning I came home to find my door locks glued. It turns out our immediate neighbor was very angry that my friends and I were attempting to live for free in a building that had been abandoned for a decade. All it took was one of us banging on his door and explaining that we were not interested in robbing him or cooking meth for him to calm down and accept our presence. Since then, we have become the beloved squatters of the neighborhood, having turned an urban blight into an oasis from rent and landlords.
A group of us were sitting outside in typical squatter fashion drinking 40’s and smoking weed when one of the neighbors came over with a beer in his hand in an attempt to make peace after the glue incident. We started chatting about random things before we finally got down to the heart of the conflict.
“Well, you know, my roommate has PTSD,” the neighbor said. “He’s a little high strung when it comes to stuff.”
“He seemed a bit high strung, yeah,” I said.
“Yeah, he was in Iraq for two tours, so he’s on edge. Plus, man, you know, he bought his house and is still paying it off.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” I asked.
“He’s paying every month for his own house and you guys just moved into this place. I think it made him a bit resentful, that you guys don’t have to pay anything and he does. That’s all.”
Towards the end of this conversation, I learned that their entire household was going to Burning Man, the counter-cultural festival in the Nevada desert. A few days earlier, I watched a video of Google CEO Larry Page saying, “I like going to Burning Man, for example. An environment where people can try new things. I think as technologists we should have some safe places where we can try out new things and figure out the effect on society. What’s the effect on people, without having to deploy it to the whole world.”
This might sound nice out of context, but what Larry Page is actually talking about is not a festival in the desert. Along with Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google is obsessed with plugging the remaining 5 billion people of the earth into the internet. To this end, Google will fill the upper atmosphere with balloons that emit wireless internet signals to the earth below. Their first mass application of this technology will be over sub-Saharan Africa. Google is eager to bring more humans into the network that it has built across the world.
Every year, thousands of people flock to Burning Man to create a fake city where there is no money. In this fake city, people take drugs and experiment with living differently than they normally do. Some people become addicted to this tradition precisely because it is the one moment where they can do what they are not allowed to do outside the fake city.
For one week, everyone forgets the sorry state of the world and pretends they are free. All of their repressed desires manifest in this rotten utopia that is built to be burnt. Within the giant crescent of tents and dwellings that wrap around the central playa, thousands of tech employees mingle with a dying counter-culture and extract the last remnants of its creativity and vitality, just as they do to every city they colonize. What they all build and then burn is for their own amusement, nothing more. Next year they will buy another ticket, build another city, and then destroy it. They can afford to do so.
The current tech bubble will not burst like it did at the turn of the twenty-first century. Information technology is far too enmeshed in daily life for the giant tech companies to quickly disappear. Thus far, these giants have weathered all the storms of the economy. With the aid of the federal government, the giants are hoping to live forever. In order to definitively stop their plans for a completely monitored and controlled population, it will be necessary to act. There will be no end to their expansion unless we stop them ourselves.
Like the Department of Homeland Security advises us, “If you see something, say something.” When your neighborhood starts to fill with these colonizers, do not sit quietly behind your computer screen writing angry blog posts. That’s where they want you. Instead, go outside and use your hands and your words to fight them. Cover the walls in anti-tech, anti-gentrification, or anti-capitalist slogans. If you see a group of them walk down the street, follow them while loudly yelling the truth about who they are and what they are doing. Cause disturbances outside their restaurants and condo windows. Stand by the entrance to their private buses and hurl curses at them. If there is no other option and they will not leave after this onslaught of negative reinforcement, get more drastic. I can’t recommend anything more specific, but whatever you do, make sure it has a high probability of success, otherwise it’s not worth it.
But it’s more complicated than driving the employees of these tech companies out of our neighborhoods. Almost everyone in the US is plugged into the networks built by these tech giants, and as long as the populations materially supports them as customers, users, and consumers, these companies will continue to expand their capabilities. The boycott of the big banks during the Occupy movement never took off, and the majority of the US population still deposits their money with them. It is the same with the tech companies. A boycott will not take off. As long as capitalist infrastructure is functioning properly, electronic commodities and the internet will be easily accessible to the population. It is the prerogative of capitalism for its commodities to be constantly available at the cheapest price and at the best value. A force antagonistic to capitalism cannot hope to defeat it unless they create something new that offers what capitalism cannot.
As I type this, I look out my window and watch my neighbor walk down his front steps and get on his motorcycle. It is a few days after he returned from Burning Man and already he is back in the rhythm, the routine, the long commute to work. A pile of desert stained bicycles sits in his backyard, not to be used until next summer. The wages my neighbor earns will be used to pay his mortgage, fill his gas tank, and distract him from reality. Every night he comes home and watches a movie with his girlfriend and roommates. Every morning he drives to work. This is the life capitalism offered him after he returned from Iraq.
Next door, we have built a solar-heated shower out of a black barrel and hoses. In our basement we have built a large social center for the neighborhood. Our squatted building provides housing for 6-12 people on a given day and no one works a normal job for more than three days a week. The majority of us do not need to work and have the time to build a world free from rent, bills, and monotony. In the surrounding neighborhood there are other squats, providing free housing for over a dozen more people. Sometimes the police destroy a squat and everyone finds another abandoned house to start rebuilding.
Ideally we would also have land in the countryside for growing our own food, but for now we are building an urban counter-network against money, capitalism, and alienation. We are doing it with our own hands every day of the week. We lack nothing essential in our lives and pass our excess to the other squats and friends that need it. Along with overt antagonism to the colonizers, building a habitable world against capitalism is the path to follow. We have something to offer other than rent, smart phones, surveillance, and misery.
Just as I am ready to finish this article, a Mercedes SUV pulls up outside. A woman with blonde hair and blue eyes emerges carrying a bag of groceries. On her head is a native headdress. She walks into my neighbor’s house smiling about something. In total disbelief, I walk into my friend’s apartment and tell them what I saw. They nod their heads and tell me a story I’ve never heard.
Right after the neighbors glued our locks, a couple of them came over. Both were already drunk. They all decided to go up on the roof and drink the bottle of whiskey the neighbors had brought with them.
“Were the people from next door cool?” I ask.
“Not really. No.”
“They said a bunch of stupid shit about the neighborhood, how better people need to move in. Plus they work for some fucking giant tech company, I don’t remember. I don’t know, they’re gentrifiers basically. They’re not cool. Not cool at all.”
Edward Snowden feared that the population of the US would do nothing after learning of the surveillance apparatus. So far, there has not been a mass uprising against the state and everything continues to function normally. But there is an old saying: “one does not defeat a lie with a truth. It can only be defeated by a world of truth.” The truth lives outside the range of their surveillance and to manifest a world of truth we must build it ourselves. Only a force can defeat another force, and every world of truth burns a hole in the fabric of lies we inhabit. Fill these worlds with beauty, joy, and light. Let them grow until the lie is defeated. Good luck, stay free, and remember, if you see something, say something.
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