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The Banality of Sedition (Written in CHAZ in Seattle in 2006)

[Note: The “Free” Zone currently “liberated” in the city of Seattle was always a sh*thole. Here’s some of the sh*t as observed 14 years ago]

It’s May Day again and Communism is still alive and well on the streets of Seattle….

Illustration by RapierWitt

THESE DAYS its not often that you see a member of the Despairing Classes being seduced by classic Communism on a city street, but it does happen.

Sidewalk Snapshot: It’s a warm Spring evening on Pine Street in Seattle. Lengthening shadows and brightening light brings everything into sharp relief including the random collection of lay-abouts, short-order poets, tattoo artistes, and students a decade between degrees that take up the tables outside the Cafe Laddro on Capitol Hill.

Capitol Hill is one of those neighborhoods in Seattle that compiles a mainstream lifestyle out of alternatives. Even though it is indeed a hill, it has suspended the normal laws of gravity and everything loose in Seattle rolls up to the top of it. That includes, on this evening, me.

I’m stepping out of your “one-every-block” Seattle espresso slop shop with my machiatto when I notice the odd couple at the table just outside the door. That’s not too odd since odd couples, like spiked bright blue hair, are pretty much the norm on Capitol Hill. I notice them at first because the youngest is wearing a Motorhead t-shirt with the mantra “Everything Louder Than Everything Else” on it in that faux German Black gothic font that got old when Auschwitz was in flower, and so had to be made new again back when heavy-metal was a fresh idea.

Glancing over Motorhead’s shoulder I note that the man across from him is giving him an ideological lap-dance complete with a whole raft of tracts, papers and books being brought out and waved about and placed, with a muffled thwang, one after the other on the thin black metal of the table: Trotsky’s “Marxism and Terrorism,” (thwang!); the ever-popular Marx and Engels “Communist Manifesto,” (thwang!); Lenin’s greatest hit “What Is To Be Done?,” (thwang!), Gramsci’s “Prison Notebooks,” (thunk!), Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States,”(clunk!).

One by one, they come out of the worn back pack and pile up on the table. All in all, a larger pile of ideological dung would be hard to imagine, and harder to handle even with meat hooks and thick rubber gloves.

The man making his pile of “roadmaps to a more perfect world” is quite a bit older than Motorhead with a slim, somewhat furtive look to him. There’s the vibe coming off him that you sometimes sense when someone old is trying to pick up somebody far too young for him.

In the intense light of the evening, you can see a faint cloud of dust motes rising from him as he keeps slapping the tracts down. Greying hair in moist ringlets covers his head except for a monk’s tonsure on the back of his skull. He’s got a mustache and a beard that, with a little care, could be brought to a Van Dyke point. He sports small round rimmed glasses in front of thin blue eyes. His eyes, although they never waver from his prey, carry within them a permanent 1,000 yard stare — as if he’s always looking outside of the present moment at something in the distance that never gets nearer. Overall the face reminds one, as these faces so often do, of a watered down Leon Trotsky, the Christ of Communism, crucified with an ice axe but still twitching in his tomb.

Trotsky is resurrect this evening on Capitol Hill though, and I linger at the table next to them writing down a few notes about their conversation. Except it is not exactly a conversation so much as a monologue as my Trotsky keeps, in smiling and soft tones, returning to the subject at hand which is the inevitable collapse of the evil American Empire (“Long past its expiry date…”), and the inevitable rise of world Socialism (“Everyone will have more than enough, but nobody will have it all.”)

Trotsky’s sporting, as all good Trotskys must, a collection of slogan buttons and a sheaf of free tracts and newspapers. The button that is the largest is pinned to his faded plaid flannel shirt and proclaims him to be a member in good standing of the ISO (International Socialist Organization, good Latter-Day Trotskyites all. )

He passes the tracts and newspapers over to his intended, “Free, all free,” and points out the more salient injustices they outline: eternal racism, eternal slavery of women, eternal repression of the working man by capitalists, eternal imperialism by the United States — the whole catastrophe. He underscores that the only escape is through the ever-imminent but forever delayed Rapture of the Left, The Revolution.

After several minutes of his soft chants, Motorhead is nodding like the drinking bird over the glass. He’s looking a bit dazed. I wonder if Trotsky has slipped a roofy into Motorhead’s machiatto and is just waiting for it to kick in.

Trotsky’s tales are the sad sotto voce sagas that underscore all the old nightmares of the Gulag, the Killing Fields, and every other massacre done in the name of the Marxist Utopia. It’s a litany proving, once again, that some lies lodge so deep in man’s hopes they will not die, no matter the murders they require to live.

Today’s fresh lie is that if only Motorhead will attend the “event” tomorrow, Trotsky will be pleased to take him to the exclusive “Cadre” meeting that follows so he can meet the “Comrade of Honor,” one Ahmed Shawki.

In soft tones salted with a quick twinkling smile that comes and goes like the red queen in three-card monte, Trotsky continues his spiel, his seduction. Motorhead is “obviously a man of no little intelligence” — even if his five facial piercings (ears, left eyebrow, lip stud and nose-ring) might make one wonder.

Motorhead “needs to live in a system where social justice is the rule for all, not just the rich.” Given Motorhead’s ripped black jeans, worn black boots and general air of someone not likely to be hired by any business whose work involves meeting the public, this is probably more true than either of them realize. Motorhead nods again to this last proposition, and observes that he yearns for a social order that is more just to his lifestyle than can easily be found outside the subcultural hamlets of Seattle.

Much has been made of Hannah Arendt’s phrase, “The banality of evil,” and I suppose I’m witnessing a small satori of that kind here on the sidewalks of Seattle. But it seems to me to be a more insidious event than that.

After all, there’s nothing evil in speech that argues for ideas that have proven, without exception, to be evil. It is, after all, only speech and the strength of the American system is to protect all forms of speech, especially the idle blather of a coffee house revolutionary. There’s nothing, really nothing, in this overheard conversation that threatens the existence of the United States. The mere fact that it can be had, five years into the First Terrorist War, underscores just how strong this nation adherence to its founding principles remains. Here on Capitol Hill dissent of even the most egregious sort, is not only tolerated but celebrated.

The conversation bothers me at the same time it fascinates me. It strikes me that what I am auditing is not so much “the banality of evil,” but “the banality of sedition;” a banality we see acted out daily on our television screens and on the op-ed pages of our newspapers.

The banality of sedition is now so well established that it is, well, banal and goes forward without a great deal of remark or trouble. In the last few years, the phrase that has arisen to describe this phenomenon is “The Culture of Treason.” I’m not sure who originated the phrase, but its use is proliferating across the Internet for the reason that all such phrases proliferate when the time is ripe; it somehow rings true.

Of late, it iseems that large sections of the better educated and the most privileged among us have decided that the Constitution is, after all, a suicide pact and have determined to preach this death gospel to us all:

“This way to the gas, ladies and gentlemen. Step right up into the van carrying you all away into the perfect freedom of the perfect world. Don’t worry about those canisters of gas dropping in through the top. It’s just to delouse you of your old, traditional ideas of what being an American is all about.

“In just a few painless minutes you’ll all be, as we are now, citizens of the world. And in that world to which we are all going you’ll forget the old dream of America. You’ll forget, at the last, everything that was good about America. You’ll also forget the true and the beautiful. In the end, you’ll forget about God himself.

“All those old dreams and visions will fade into a gray sameness. And then you’ll all be, at the last, perfect citizens of our brave new world. We’ve breathed deeply of this gas before you and find it is the perfect blend of platitudes, freshly roasted, for the killing of your soul. After all, you weren’t using it much. So step right up. First ride’s free.”

The long evening light was fading down into a warm dusk outside the coffee shop on Capitol Hill. Motorhead, in a moment of awakening, said, “Well, I should probably get grocery shopping.”

Having gotten Motorhead’s assent to attend the “event,” Trotsky the Comrade becomes Trotsky the Closer and skins twenty bucks out of Motorhead’s wallet for Gramsci’s “Prison Notebooks” ($14.95 at Amazon). The tracts and, of course, the newspaper are free. Such a deal.

The threadbare backpack is repacked with Trotsky’s portable library. He and Motorhead set off up the hill and, turning the corner, move out of sight.

I fold up the scrap of paper on the back of which I’ve made my notes of their meeting. The front side invites all and sundry to a “Solidarity Gathering” at the 45th Street Overpass: “We Support the Rape Survivor at Duke… and the Countless Others Everywhere. Come and join us in solidarity to bear witness to this terrorism against women.” I make a mental note to, somehow, manage to be elsewhere.

Walking back to the Century Ballroom, I notice a large flyer that announces the “event” that Motorhead has agreed to attend. Ahmed Shawki, editor of the International Socialist Review, will speak, it seems, on “Black Liberation and Socialism.”

Shaki’s image dominates the flyer and looks, for all the world, like a Malcom X returned to life. The look is, of course, a carefully studied one since black socialist saints are hard to come by these days.** The Clenched Fist logo is in the lower left hand corner of the flyer. There are other details but I have a hard time making them out. It is, I discover, hard to read a flyer that is lying in the gutter. Especially when the light has failed.


In “Celebration” of May Day, 2008. HT: Cynr who created the art.


**Written in April, 2006

“I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;”

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Schill McGuffin June 12, 2020, 11:59 AM

    That Motörhead t-shirt likely read “Everything Louder than Every/one/ Else”, which was a live album of theirs from 1999. The title might have been inspired by a track with the “Every/thing/ Else” name on Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell II” album of six years prior.

    Ironically, both Motörhead’s late “Lemmy” Kilmister and Meat Loaf were/are pretty publicly apolitical, but have caught flak for stray right-leaning (and in Lemmy’s case, allegedly pro-Nazi) quotes. Of course, in the pre-social media era the thought police were comparatively disadvantaged.

  • Rob De Witt June 12, 2020, 12:52 PM

    How difficult, after all, could it be to pick out of a crowd a kid wearing a t-shirt boldly proclaiming “I Hate My Parents?”

    His mom probably thought it was cute.

  • Mike Anderson June 12, 2020, 12:58 PM

    I presume “short-order poets” is an euphemism for Crap Artists. I like it.

  • Kevin in PA June 12, 2020, 1:32 PM

    GVDL wrote this in April of 2006:

    “There’s nothing, really nothing, in this overheard conversation that threatens the existence of the United States. The mere fact that it can be had, five years into the First Terrorist War, underscores just how strong this nation adherence to its founding principles remains. Here on Capitol Hill dissent of even the most egregious sort, is not only tolerated but celebrated.”

    I’m not trying to be argumentative with my questions.

    Is it true that dissent of even the most egregious sort is tolerated?

    I lived in the Seattle area from ’87 to ’08 and never did I find dissent of the political right celebrated and barely was it tolerated. Casually mention that you may tune into the Rush Limbaugh show in the late ’80s and you may find a new enemy, willing to stab you in the back. Mention some of the government’s violations of Constitutional Law in any number of high profile cases of right wing dissidents during the mid ’90s and you must be a NAZI! That was my experience. I found the so called white liberal left of Seattle to be mostly affectatious bunch of jerk-kneed fascists.

    And to the point of our Constitution; I have struggled with this one mightily. For many years there have been numerous affronts to the Constitution. Just going back to 1913 and the passage of the Federal Reserve Act (an act that delegates that the Congress control the monetary policy of the nation and gives it to a private banking cartel), on through the present renewal of the so called Patriot Act (an act that certainly puts to the test, at a very minimum– if anyone is paying attention, the Supreme Court ruling, see Marbury -v- Madison …any act of congress repugnant to the Constitution is null and void) .

    So my question is, how much of that Constitution is actually being adhered to by the actors in D.C.?

    And, frankly, I have learned through years of simply asking my fellow Americans the question, have you ever read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for the United States? that there are an awful lot of Americans (by my estimation the majority) that have never read the Founding Documents to this nation. 30 years ago it surprised me. Today it does not. So, in a nation of people that don’t even understand their own nation’s foundational principles, how can we expect to hold the government accountable for much of anything?…..and no, Trotsky and Motor-head’s conversation is no threat to the United States. The Congress of the United States is doing a fine job destroying the country and all with the blessings of an ignorant public, cheering for more!

  • Kevin in PA June 12, 2020, 1:39 PM

    …and meanwhile, the left is working hard.

    Trevor Loudon’s list of socialists and communists in the U.S. Congress.
    https://mariettaoh9-12project.com/2019-list-of-socialists-and-communists-in-congress/

  • ghostsniper June 12, 2020, 2:56 PM

    Kevin axed: “…how can we expect to hold the government accountable for much of anything?”
    =========
    You can’t, and I’ve explained this before.
    It has nothing to do with any of the citizens reading the said “contract”.

    The constitution is no such contract but is a document outlining preferred behavior by politicians.
    In that, the document does well, however one piece of crucial guidance is missing.

    What if.
    And consequences thereof.

    What, if politicians do not adhere to the letter of the law, will the consequences be?
    Without consequence there will be no governor on behavior and eventually chaos will ensue.
    The thing, that parchment under glass, was flawed from the gitgo and like the original, the next one if there is to be a next one, will be borne from enormous bloodshed. There really is no other way. Personally, I am not hopeful.

  • Chris June 12, 2020, 2:57 PM

    It all started in my mind when tipper called for label warnings on albums.
    For the Chilren ya? Way back machine activated in 2 ..3 ….

  • Anne June 12, 2020, 3:21 PM

    Why does CHAZ remind me of “The Lottery” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lottery)?
    The Lottery used to be required reading in high school–perhaps now we are witness to why our elders thought it should be required? How many here have read this short story? Was it required in your high school class and what year was that, by knowing what year it was dropped from the California curriculum we can then determine when the commies were beginning to take over our schools!

  • Skorpion June 12, 2020, 3:21 PM

    Of course, Marx and Lenin realized that people like Motorhead — urban hipsters, the homeless, “sex workers”, petty criminals — were worse than useless in a revolution, since they were individualists at heart, and invariably brought their personal dysfunctions and generally antisocial attitudes into vanguard organizations. They called such people *lumpenproletariat*, and advised Communist organizers to steer clear of them, and instead concentrate on winning urban factory workers to their cause.
    No doubt Motorhead and his ilk make up the vast majority of the CHAZ morons, and the few bargain-basement Trotskys attempting to direct them will vanish from the scene as soon as State security forces — or worse still, Freikorps-esque paramilitary vigilantes — put an end to the glorified street-party.

  • Skorpion June 12, 2020, 3:31 PM

    Of course, Marx and Lenin realized that people like Motorhead — urban hipsters, the homeless, “sex workers”, petty criminals — were worse than useless in a revolution, since they were individualists at heart, and invariably brought their personal dysfunctions and generally antisocial attitudes into vanguard organizations. They called such people *lumpenproletariat*, and advised Communist organizers to steer clear of them, and instead concentrate on winning urban factory workers to their cause.
    No doubt Motorhead and his ilk make up the vast majority of the CHAZ morons, and the few bargain-basement Trotskys attempting to direct them will vanish from the scene as soon as State security forces — or worse still, Freikorps-esque paramilitary vigilantes — put an end to the glorified street-party.

  • Kevin in PA June 12, 2020, 3:35 PM

    I’m not hopeful either, Ghost. It is going to be ugly and that part is just getting warmed up, aided and abetted by the spineless politicians attempting to appease the mob and the lying media hell-bent on spewing their narrative of RAAAAACISM.

    However, my point was that, if the citizenry is ignorant of what the rules are, surely there can be no consequences for the bad actors…..only confusion and misery for the ruled. Until it reaches the tipping point.

  • jwm June 12, 2020, 5:08 PM

    Ghostsniper said:
    “What, if politicians do not adhere to the letter of the law, will the consequences be?
    Without consequence there will be no governor on behavior and eventually chaos will ensue.”

    As they say in the comment threads: THIS!

    The trial run was the virus lockdowns. Not a one of the dictates from city, county, or state governments would have passed muster under Madison v Marbury. They were all “illegal”. I’ll bring up the inspiring, but feeble protest I rode through in Huntington Beach, or even the more vigorous ones in Michigan against Whittmer. Fat lot of good they did. I don’t want to float conspiracy crap, but look what came on the heels of those lockdowns.
    So it seems now that we suspend the constitution, and forfeit law & order as soon as the reason has enough support from the television masters…
    Like a flu bug, or “systemic racism.”
    There is whole lot more I’m tempted to go on about, but I think I’ll just leave it at this. Everything that comes to mind is pessimistic. It’s Friday, our guests are arriving, and we’re going to BBQ.
    Tomorrow is bike club, and after the ride I’m going to go home, rest up, and get stoned off my ass.

    JWM

  • ghostsniper June 12, 2020, 6:35 PM

    John sed: “…we’re going to BBQ. Tomorrow is bike club, and after the ride I’m going to go home, rest up, and get stoned off my ass.”
    ========
    I sure wouldn’t mind sitting in on all of that!
    Seems like I’ve been Jonesin’ for 20 years.

  • Fletcher Christian June 13, 2020, 2:12 AM

    A similar work from a writer best known for SF and fantasy, Ursula LeGuin:
    “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”
    The idea being that this fictional community is a utopia for everyone in it, except a single child who lives in filth and misery. The eponymous people are those who will not tolerate it.
    I think this is relevant because, in essence and for some people, today’s capitalist society and particularly its globalist aspect relies on people who live in misery – Third World sweatshop workers, for example.

  • Snakepit Kansas June 13, 2020, 5:02 AM

    Fletch,
    I am all for safe working environments and certainly against child labor. Having lived a few years in the third world and worked in factories with masses of low paid people, I can tell you that at least in the Philippines these factories allow people to earn some money. More than they would make out in the provinces. The factories I worked at also had free clinics and meal allowances to be used at the internal cafeteria. They got paid an equivalent of about $5/day in 2002. $5 may sound cruel, but that much money went a long way, especially if they sent some of it back to their family in the province.

    As we quickly realized with the lockdown, shutting down our capitalist economy put a whole bunch of people in MORE misery. Wealth is created and it often quickly depreciates. It must be recreated at all times to maintain our lifestyles. If you don’t like capitalism what other choices do we have?

  • Casey Klahn June 13, 2020, 6:13 AM

    Excellent post.

    I worked at REI for 9 years. Actually 15 years but 9 on CH. Dead center of the CHAZ.

    How about the time I got out of my all night Thursday night shift, and the dimness of the Seattle light was only just weakening. Bleary and tired, I walked to the employee parking lot, which was down in a hole. From overhead I watched as a tramp was bent over a trailer tongue, taking a large shit on the pavement.

    Another more humorous event was a clear summer day, and we had our doors open to 11th. The store, which was a bulwark of capitalism in spite of its commie name and beginnings, was buzzing with people. A homeless guy stood in the open doors and gave us all his best glowering. He yelled: “You people think you can camp? I LIVE outdoors!”

    The counterpose to this was the time when, after our store wrench guy had begged management to block off the ramp to the loading dock, he found a homeless guy under there dead.

    CH is the gay neighborhood of Seattle. It was a soft target for the Antifa rioters. These are the Antifa the protestors and media swore up and down are not involved in the riots. If you go back in old footage, if it still exists, you’ll see Seattle LEO watching calmly as Antifa march in DT Seattle, over-watched by their own Antifa bearing ARs.

    Fair, gay, liberal Seattle.

    I moved away 20 years ago.

  • Anne June 13, 2020, 8:12 AM

    Seattle is owned and operated by China. The response to any issue that can be raised against “the Americans” will be first designed in Seattle by China’s flunkies.

    If in doubt take a look at these:
    Amazon
    Boeing
    Microsoft
    Costco
    Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma
    UPS
    Nordstrom
    Weyerheuser
    Former governor Gary Locke (Chinese) became Obama’s Secretary of Commerce
    Since 1984 all governors have been Democrats
    These people do not tolerate clean elections.
    If you want to see how truly corrupt this city is just do a review of the Rapid Transit System. So many times the people were promised and voted for a monorail system and each time it passed the money was put elsewhere (sports stadiums for one). It is only now because of the many poor decisions made previously that the people are beginning to see the possibility of a truly functioning system. But, the city has been collecting money for at least 30 years that I know of. One example is this: the early promise of a rail system became the bus system which required the complete re-doing of most highways to include a bus lane. Yes, I understand that they were using bad design to keep people employed by the unions. But it was always arrogant in it’s corruption. Never forget that Governor Christine Gregoire once said when her election was being challenged as ballot fraud: “oh, what difference does it make (how many ballots get counted or lost)? An election is just an indicator of how the people are feeling”. You want to know who to blame for CHAZ? Blame the King County Attorneys of whom not onewould ever stand up in front of a jury and challenge this mess on any front!
    Those white men have been afraid of the women in charge, and the black community for so long that it makes one weep. IMHO Seattle and WA State were lost a long time ago.

  • BJM June 13, 2020, 8:23 AM

    It’s all fun and games now, but winter will sort them out…if the warlords don’t.

    Just an aside, but if one were planning to take over a section of a city, wouldn’t one choose an area with a supermarket?

  • Anne June 13, 2020, 8:37 AM

    In reply to BJM. It would seem so–however, never forget that these are the children of the Seattle school system. 🙂 Not the sharpest pencils in the box.

  • Rob De Witt June 13, 2020, 9:07 AM

    Anne (I admire the way you spell your name, btw)

    In re the corruption of Seattle, check out this chick:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=181&v=spPOHJe4iTk&feature=emb_logo

    What I particularly appreciate is that she presents herself as a normal white girl – which she transparently is – and makes no attempt at being a Macho Tough Girl like Coulter and all the other Right/Left news bimbos. And of course it’s all true.

  • Anne June 13, 2020, 10:15 AM

    Reply to RDW: NOW! This is a gal I would like to have coffee with (not at Starbucks)!
    Thank you for the link.

  • HUrricane567 June 13, 2020, 10:25 AM

    I’m no Commie, but I do like Motorhead. If he’s going grocery shopping, he might actually have a job just, like you said, not meeting with the public.

  • philip l horner June 13, 2020, 10:31 AM

    Sarin gas was used in the camps.
    The mobile killing vans used the engines exhaust.

    Just a detail. But banal as well.

  • captflee June 13, 2020, 1:15 PM

    philip,

    I had not heard allegations about Sarin in the camps, just Zyklon B. Perhaps the inmates in the camps, Jew, Gypsy, homosexual, political dissident, what have you, were made of sterner stuff, but I doubt they had much more resistance to organophosphate poisoning than do we today.

    When I ran the big haze gray boats, I went through a bit of training involving dealing with such earthly delights as Sarin and Tabun, and can assure you that I was profoundly impressed with their lethality, especially that following the demise of its intended victims. Hell, even the Sonderkommando had to mask up prior to carting out those killed by Zyklon B/cyanide, and that poison is weak beer in that regard when compared to the Nerve Agents, so the Sonderkommando would have had to wear some very impressive proto-MOPP Gear to stand any chance of carrying on with their duties. Not that the National Socialists had any love for those poor unfortunates; as I recall, no more than a few dozens saw the end of the war.

    Say what you will about our Teuton cousins, if nought else they are and were sticklers for operational efficiency and thoroughgoing record keeping, so I don’t see them needlessly killing off trained cadres through incidental exposure, or if they had, not obsessively chronicling that process.

    That said, I do recall some few years back reading something about plans to arm V1s to be launched from one of the Channel Islands with chemical weapons, the better to disrupt preps for the invasion of continental Europa, with the Stygian labours of tunneling out labyrinths in which to hide and shelter their enterprise from the predations of the Allied air forces done by inmates of the labor camps. Could have had Sarin there, and slave laborers might well have been fatally exposed, though I doubt that even the SS and/or Todt Org. were any too eager to deal with the effects of intentional usage of it comparatively close by.

  • Cynyr June 13, 2020, 7:38 PM

    Gerard:
    I’m grateful to see that you still use the illustration that I whipped up all those years ago, when this essay made such a powerful impression on me. I’m also glad to see that it stayed with you, even with all you have been thru in that time.

    I don’t blog anymore, and barely comment, but I still check in, time to time. Thanks for the memory, and the kind credit.