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Capitalism, War, and KFC: Report back on the first four and a half minutes

I left the march early today. Truth be told, I wasn't really in the mood for a march. I haven't been for at least two years now, when I finally realized all those marches weren't making any difference. I go anyway, usually, for the same reason everyone else does: I can't figure out what else to do. But I did not stay today.
I left when the donation buckets came out. It was just so damn disheartening. No, this isn't a rant about "damn liberals," I'm not gunning for anyone. I saw the same well-meaning people there that I always see at these things, carrying the same signs and flags and dwindling hope that they are always carrying. I'm in no position to be looking down on any of them. At least they're still trying. I saw the same shiny faces surrounded by the same threatening mob of the same bored riot cops, and the same utter lack of concern about the ineffectiveness of it all. I saw the guy who announced into the loudspeaker last time that "the police are not our enemies," and the same contingent of street performers who try to rally the crowds.

Ah yes, and yet I had to leave. I left because a child pointed out the donation buckets, a particular peeve of mine, and I saw that they were KFC buckets with peace signs and solicitations taped over their corporate logos. He noticed it before I did, and was as outraged as one should be at such a discovery. I couldn't even be angry. I just felt the despair I had been pushing away since I had first arrived. It crept in and would not leave, and so I did. I waited long enough to hear the heartfelt plea for people to give give give for peace. Write out those checks and feel good. And I realized just how absolutely inescapable are the ruts we are wearing into the pavement, as we so literally and metaphorically continue to walk in circles.

As I reflected on this, a small cadre of black bloc folk stood along a concrete retaining wall and heckled. "Don't give it, BURN it," called one person as the speaker asked for cash. Others hissed at the KFC buckets which many of us were beginning to notice now. I saw a few shiny smiles turn down, a few dark glances cast at the offending voices. I'm sure they will convince themselves that those voices were just the ill-mannered ravings of some malcontents, the ne'er-do-wells who often try to spoil "otherwise peaceful" events like these. But most of the gentle folk were too polite to notice the bad behavior, and just ignored the bloc. Alas.

Every time I have the indelicacy to mention the irony I see in soliciting donations at an anti-war protest, it raises voices of irritated admonition. People remind me that it takes money to organize a protest, that no one is personally profiting from this, and that the money is all going toward "a good cause." In truth, I have no doubt about the sincerity and good intentions of the people who pass the buckets around. I do not accuse anyone of dipping into the proceeds. And yes, many things do cost money. It costs money to pay the protection money to our oppressors, so that they can afford to surround and intimidate the crowds of trusting marchers who show up. It costs money to buy advertising space in corporate rags like the Willamette Week and the Mercury. It costs money to print out flyers on non-recycled paper that used to be trees.

I know, maybe I'm rambling now. But this gets to the crux of what I keep trying to say. The reason we have been walking in circles is not that we don't mean well. It's that we have failed to recognize, or care enough about, the connections between our actions and everything that's happening in the world. We have given too much energy to one cause at a time, and not enough thought toward the delicate threads that bind all of the causes we care about.

And so we ignore the connection between capitalism and war, though we say we're marching to end war. We ignore the connection between mindless consumption and war, between objectification of living beings and war, between each little concrete action we take on this stage and all that noise on the battle fields. But our ignorance of these things does not make them go away.

Parade permits and advertising is not a "good cause." Money given to pay for these things is just adding to the problem and co-opting the spirit of those who give, by convincing them they did their good deed for the day even if they did not. And to ask that money to end a war (through middlemen, of course) be dropped into a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket only boldly underlines a lack of understanding of what it's really going to take.

For those who do not know, KFC is a multinational corporate giant that swallows the lives of billions of chickens every year, and thousands of poorly paid, ripped-off workers every day. It is one of a growing corps of voracious chain stores turning the world into the monotonous wasteland so well-described by Eric Schlosser in his book, Fast Food Nation. KFC poisons the people who eat there with monstrously high levels of saturated fat gooped into regurgitated chicken parts mixed with tallow, and then deceptively markets its crap as "healthy," because you know, chicken, it must be healthy. Recently, a cancerous substance was found in KFC sauce being slathered over their food. Despite the fact that Sudan I, a cheap red dye used in solvents, was banned, KFC had been using it in their FOOD. And they would still be doing it if they had not been caught. Anything for a buck.

And the buck does not stop there. The predatory labor practices of KFC and its parent company, YUM inc., are infamous. Those who read this site will remember the struggles of the Immokolee farm workers who were being grossly exploited by Taco Bell. Taco Bell, like KFC, is owned by YUM inc. Fast food workers are some of the lowest paid, most exploited workers in the world. Few have health insurance, none can afford to live on the meagre wages they are paid. Even as the corporate giant fattens to corpulance off their labors, KFC workers cannot feed their families on the income they earn.

Ah, but the very worst offense committed by KFC must surely be the grisly murders of billions of chickens. Perhaps if you've never met a chicken, you can think of it as just a piece of meat. But I live with three chickens, who are part of my family. Like all birds, they're intelligent, communicative, and have complex social organization. They have their own lives, their own desires, their own hopes and fears. They're not so different from you and I. And KFC's cruel treatment of beings like these has become legendary. Whole videos line shelves at places like PeTA and IDA exposing the crimes of KFC in this regard. It's almost more than one can bear to watch these things. People have been caught on film throwing living chickens by their feet into wooden crates, smashing them against the wood; beating them against the ground; stepping on them; swinging them by their necks. Piles of dead chickens lay on the floors of hatcheries, smothered by the overcrowded conditions. Baby chicks have their beaks cut off, older chickens suffer stresses and diseases that often kill them before they even reach the slaughter houses. (But that doesn't stop KFC from cooking up their carcasses and serving them to customers.) And these are the least shocking of the gory mounds of evidence. I will not even describe the horrific scenes of terror within the walls of the slaughterhouses. You get the picture. And the dead Colonel smiles on.

This ability to objectify other living beings, to ignore the pain and suffering of others, and to put our own insatiable consumption of things we do not really need above the lives and well-being of others; these are, after all, at the very heart of the evil that is war.

And so watching people who mean well holding out a bucket someone got from KFC, and asking me to drop money in it to end a war, was just too much. It was evidence too overwhelming to ignore that nothing will ever change until we change ourselves.

Where were YOU? 19.Mar.2005 19:46


Where were YOU when PPRC was asking for help, and suggestions? Why don't YOU work for change instead of criticizing this event? I wrote up my personal account of today, and I had a high time. I also have protested at KFC demonstrations, and other humane causes. Our whole system needs to change or wars keep repeating. We know that. Work to change. YOU missed out on a high day. Too bad. There are many who would have loved to participate, but are not able to walk much or cannot get rides. YOU gave up. I won't.

I understand 19.Mar.2005 19:55


Consider though that they may have simply been trying to reuse those buckets one more time before they hit the landfills.

Something heard us today, even if it wasn't the corporate puppet media. Before the march I had prayed, "let it be dry just for the march, just for a few hours." Half an hour before the march the rain stopped. Partway into the march, just as we were passing the Oregonian building, the sun came out briefly.

Something is listening.

And ITA about KFC, that shit gives me mad heartburn so I don't eat their chicken anymore.

once again... 19.Mar.2005 20:08

regular reader

...you grabbed the issues right at their roots, CatWoman!

where ARE you, gk? 19.Mar.2005 20:42

get a grip

you ask: "Why don't YOU work for change instead of criticizing this event?"

ahem. clearly, you don't know catwoman or the things she does. she works very hard to make change in the world. i've seen people so moved by her video work, for example, that they cry.

but this comment isn't about me typing up her curriculum vitae. it's about taking you to task, gk.

catwoman didn't miss out on anything. this event wasn't for her. she's very clear why it wasn't, and why other people should think about it, too. where we spend our money and how we live our lives have direct connections to the systems that sponsor war. the real question here, gk, is: if you don't understand what she's talking about, then it is YOU that needs to figure out what the real work is.

You wrote: "Our whole system needs to change or wars keep repeating. We know that." No, gk, you don't know that. it's very clear from your insipid, ignorant, reactionary comment that you don't.

grin 19.Mar.2005 20:44


Great Post Catwoman!!! (as usual)

cats rule 19.Mar.2005 20:46


giving up on a failed strategy is not giving up on real change, it is a forward movement towards real change.

btw, catwoman rocks big time

know your enemy 19.Mar.2005 21:33


"don't give it, burn it"
exactally! it pissed me off when they asked for donations for permits and such. fuck permits! we will not "end the war" by giving money to "legalize" dissent. we shouldn't have to pay "THEM" to beat and arrest "US".

Right On!

lost out 19.Mar.2005 21:57


Whoever or whatever she is, she lost out on a great day. It was a day to show the world, NO to war. It was a day to support others. It was a day to support anti war movements with our dollars, too. I believe in chickens and elephants and PEACE. I do not believe in walking out on a group one believes in. Go get your own tin cup, if necessary, and bring cups and signs for others.

I know the feeling 19.Mar.2005 22:20


Writing this from B.C. I know if I stayed in PDX I'd be there marching, disgusted: marching in circles to the empty streets. I felt just like Catwoman, so my wife, kids and I picked up and moved. My family felt like our energies for a humane future would be more fruitful across the border. Not that Canada isn't experiencing a somewhat milder version of the same fundamental problem: the implosion of the global capitalist system. I certainly have no answers and am not going to make any judgments. If you want to stay, or can't move, power to you for any actions you take toward a more sustainable world. But I have to say that things in the States look even worse from up here. Marching in circles is pretty futile, in my humble opinion. It's time to change tactics, which might also include forming up communities for a post-oil world, which includes a major economic collapse and an even more overtly fascistic order.

gk, you're missing the point 19.Mar.2005 22:22

not your enemy

I think the point here is that this march (and the associated donations) was not about ending a war, it was about making people think it was. And this response is not about "leaving a group you believe in," it's about abandoning tactics some of us don't believe in.

If you believe in "chickens and elephants and peace," then why can you not see the connections here? Look for them. And then join me. Let's start from here and build a real resistance that will make a real difference. I know you have a lot of fun at these marches, and you had a fine time. But now let's take this to another level. Let's do something that actually works.

When you can recognize the connection between supporting, even with a few dollars, the genocide of corporate rule and the war you say you are against, then you will be making progress. But as long as people keep making those "little" compromises that they think don't make any difference, the war will rage on, along with all those other evils you're just not seeing.

It's like the person who drives to the protest in a gas hog. Wouldn't it have made a bigger difference to save the gas? The thing so many of us are afraid to face is the relationship between our own consumption habits and the problems in the "outside" world. It's just more fun to march around in a circle than to actually give up a few of those un-needed luxury items Americans take for granted. But marching in a circle won't make nearly the difference that giving up the things we don't need will make.

finally, about the tin cup. See, you're missing the point. The whole point is, one should not need a tin cup to stop a war. One should just stop the damn war. Money is part of the problem. It's not a solution.

Agree with both sides 19.Mar.2005 22:41


I highly respect catwoman. I also believe that we shouldn't be so hard on gk. gk makes a point that we can't put down pprc for trying to get money. Being so John Kerry of me, I must say that I also agree with catwoman. It made it seem more like a fundraiser than a protest. They spraypainted a huge arrow with a money sign on the little cart that the pprc used. I also believe that if you want to make a peaceful protest than you have to make it permitted. The police make non permitted protests hell. Asking for donations is fine. But making it into that big of a thing made it look like a fundraiser. I do think catwoman is highly active, seeing her films, and that even if she were to help with this protest, pprc would probably only go by their plan, mostly because they are the ones that wanted full responsibility for this protest. You may think that is very flip floppy of me but it is what I believe.

One other thing catwoman. You said that these protests don't achieve anything. I am living proof that protests work. I became interested in finding out what was happening with this world because seeing protests happen, recent protests. If a protest gets at least one person to find out what is happening in the world, than it is worth any expense.


repeating 19.Mar.2005 22:52


As if I don't know already. The capitalist system is the problem, and as a result, wars keep repeating. I also believe in a covenant, "respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part." I know. I had a great day. Peace to dogs, cats, and all living things. You, too.

Same old crap 19.Mar.2005 23:46

George Bender

This is what the radicals always do after every peace march: they say it was not effective and not radical enough. If you think it's not effective what do you propose to do instead? I've never heard any good concrete alternative proposal. If you simply think it's ineffective and can offer no alternative, why do you feel compelled to tell us about it, EACH AND EVERY TIME? As for not being radical enough, I don't give a shit. This is about stopping a war. If you want to put all your issues in one bundle, start a political party.

It's too bad that so many Portland radicals devote their energies to trying to stop things from happening instead of making things happen.

police make non permitted protests hell 20.Mar.2005 00:18


that should tell you something about permitted "protests"

This is about stopping a war 20.Mar.2005 03:48


Is it? Because you could have fooled me.

Don't assume that because you haven't been told about the alternatives, or understand the alternative proposals, that they haven't been made, repeatedly. I'm beginning to think that the field of humn experience is too large to bridge with communication systems as we understand them.

Nor should one confuse critcism with that which is only there to tear down. I would have torn down this protest, given my expreriences last year, but I chose not to. But I may still criticize this year.

But my point is simply that this kind of protest is not about stopping any war. It may be about voicing opposition to the war, but I think people can recognize that this kind of demonstration will not bring about the end of the war. And if it will not, and we are aware of this, shouldn't it be easy to discuss what this is really about? What is it people are really trying to accomplish, perhaps successfully, perhaps not? Or, as Ben noted, and was discussed on the web radio today, what is it protest accomplish well, and perhaps we can evaluate the effectiveness in that light.

Or shall we just sling rhetoric at eash other for a while...

Just a couple of things.... 20.Mar.2005 07:04


I'm relieved that this hasn't quite turned into the liberal/radical rant that I feared. Seems one can't offer fair criticism of any PPRC event without the debate degenerating into that, but it looks pretty tame this time. Just to offer a few thoughts:

gk, I'm happy you had a great time. But that wasn't really the point...was it?

Ben, you make a good point. I think you're right, that the benefit of a protest like this may be to bring this stuff to people who weren't aware. If it works for that, then that's cool. It would be nice, too, for there to be some place to go once people get "in" that will actually make a difference.

George Bender, you ask what I would propose instead, and then rave that you have never heard any good, concrete proposal. Hey, man. I made the proposal. But true to form, you just cannot, will not, hear it. It's the hardest thing for most Americans to hear, or to act upon. I'll say it again, but I hold little hope that you will ever actually try it. Stop the war by stopping your support of the system which created it. In other words, stop the mindless consumption. Stop taking more than you need, stop participating in the capitalist, consumer circle that makes war inevitable, stop pretending that spending more will help. It's the little things. The greatest thing I think you could possibly do right now to end this war, and a whole raft of other evils, is to starve the capitalist beast.

But it's hard to do that. It's easier to walk in circles. That's my point.

And yes, I do realize, it's VERY hard to do. This isn't just about PPRC's shortsightedness in offering up KFC buckets and asking for peace money, it's about all of us. You, me, everyone. All of us could do better. Few of us ever really try.

There are other things we can do, besides walk in permitted, moving pens around the city under the watchful eye of the riot squads -- whose purpose, after all, is to make sure we don't ever really put up a real threat to the war machine. But I really believe that the very first thing we do must be the little things. The things that start in our own homes and our own hearts.

So those are my thoughts, except to say to some of the rest of you, careful, you're gonna give me a big head. I'm blushing....But thanks.

Clear 20.Mar.2005 08:26

Den Mark, Vancouver

Catwoman's essay was, as usual, intelligent & open & articulate. I agree with every word.

One point was that most of us are not making enuf lifestyle changes, & that we are often inconsistent, & she's correct. I went to a meeting once which was organized by ecologically-concerned people & saw coca-cola products, including bottled water, laid out as "refreshments", while a water tap waited just outside the room. I went to a progressive third-party meeting once, & a member came in with a bag of mc-crap "food". I was at a sign-making party once & a person intended to go to wal-wart to get supplies.

None of us is perfect; i know i'm not. But every decision we make, every dollar we spend, should be carefully considered. Dollars are votes. What are we voting FOR when we spend them. Companies like kfc or wal-wart or coke or mc-crap would not exist if we did not support them. So we should spend not one penny with them.

Not everything we buy can be local or from mom-&-pop shops, but we must aim for that. I eventually need rubber tires for my bike, & it's hard to find a mom-&-pop rubber plantation & tire-maker. Still, every dollar we spend should be spent with conscientious precision.

Would it be helpful to have a permanent feature on Indy, in the form of a list of corporate criminals along with their crimes. One of my delinquent projects is to compile such a list for my info table at Vancouver's farmers' market.

Another point in Catwoman's excellent essay is that yesterday's march was missing something, & i felt that, too. This is not to say that the march was bad, or something. It was good, as far as it went, but that was not far.

The march lacked spontaneity & edge. Maybe that's why the number was not bigger. Some activists are done with over-controlled marches. Actions like protests cannot continue to draw people if they are overly contained & orchestrated. We need "permits" to gather & to express ourselves? I thawt the Bill of Rights is permission enuf!

I've in the past wondered here, why after a march we don't all move thru-out downtown, four people to a corner, waving our flags & signs for hours, occupying every intersection on every street. We'd not be blocking anyone, yet nobody could escape our message, block after block after block. I've never seen that done before.

Debriefing after an event is a necessary process, & i'm happy to see this thread. Thank you.

Thank you, Catwoman! I know the feeling well, got it reading these posts... 20.Mar.2005 08:51


The only thing I got out of my Polisci major was that every country has the government it deserves. Bush did not materialize in the whitehouse, the Iraq war is one of hundreds of genocidal spurts our country and our people have been on, we are 4 percent of humanity and consume 20% of the planet's resources, we all pay taxes that send mindless killer fucks which we call "out boys" to torture people in dozens of countries, we have taught the world's worst dictators their bag of tricks in the SOA, etc. ad nauseum. And our adolescent excuse is, "but I didn't vote for these guys that keep me fat, sassy, happy and lying to myself..." Further, even if we stopped feeding the beast, it would still continue to march onwards and downwards because IT WAS BORN FROM THE SUM OF OUR OWN RACIST INDIVIDUAL GREED AND SELFISHNESS; CAPITALISM IS NOW MORE AMERICAN THAN APPLE PIE! Our identity has become mingled with that which we profess to despise as the Beast. The overhaul which we need to carry out is much more profound than stop eating KFC and it will not come about because we decide not to poison ourselves with their crap. See, the physical crap they feed us is the final step, not the first. The spirit of America was really the first thing they went for and that was fairly easy to pervert.

The Spirit of America is now capitalism and has been for a long time, since before devilbush was born. To stop the wars our gavernment is presently carrying out in our name we need to admit that we are the planet's principal problem AS INDIVIDUALS. We are ugly outside and in because the deaths of 100 million innocent people during the last century have fed our bellies and built our homes and increased our bank accounts and given us the unjustified quantity of resources which we now squander mindlessly. Our spiritual composition is less than compost and no one talks about this - certainly not on the left because they SOOOOOO mistakenly think that the infrahuman retards on the right that talk about religion also have the spiritual ground covered and becaus it was alwasy easier to play radical without really changing our insides from the spirit outward. The Cosmic Mother/Father that sustains the planet is rather appalled by the Whore that America has become and becomes ever more appalled by the abomination that come out of her putrid mouth and even by the crap that goes into that putrid mouth. We need a new identity that will start with a base of humility because we are not the greatest anything in the world except its greatest whore. America, we are evil and we can't even see it!! And only catwoman's chickens are capable of telling us what we are really truly like but they are dead.

Catwoman, I think your essay is 20.Mar.2005 09:49


brilliant, and thanks for writing it. Partly I think that you're getting criticized because you brought in the "marginal" animal rights issue. Most people reading Indy eat chickens and their products, and bringing to light that this is one of the issues that the compassionate left should care about hits a nerve. I mean, here one is calling for peace in the world, but then one goes home and digs into the body of a creature who has been made miserable from birth to death for that person's dinner. Well, the war is right here, in that person's heart and home and city - at OHSU where monkeys are kept alone in tiny cages their whole lives; in the supermarket where body after body of tortured animal can be purchased and brought home for dinner; and in anyone's heart who see those lives as so much less significant than human lives, that to even mention it seems trivial, compared with the human-caused war against other humans. It can be tiring to be around people who can't see how they needlessly, barbarically, hypocritically contribute to immense destruction of other living creatures.

critized 20.Mar.2005 10:22


Cat is criticized because she deserted the peace protest, NOT because she brought up chickens and our capitalist system. Many of us are vegetarians, and vegans, even, and go to both peace and animal rights protests! Some minority political party people work to change capitalism. One peace protester yesterday was again peddling Socialist newspapers. They participated in their way. I say, stick around & pursue your statements to others. Of course, writing, afterwards, is at least another form to attempt change. We do need to make individual changes in our life styles.

Chickens, Capitalism, and Real change 20.Mar.2005 10:44

Cat's friend

Hey, first, CatWoman's chickens aren't dead! They're very much alive, and really cool. You should meet them! (But I know, asd, that you were probably speaking about the KFC chickens and referring to them as "catwoman's chickens" in a less literal sense when you said that.) But yes, Cat's chickens are alive and well. I never knew how cool and intelligent chickens were. These ones are awesome. They talk to you, and they answer when you talk to them.

To gk, I don't want to really belabor this any more, or to personalize this. But one thing you said that I think it would be good to answer, is your last comment. You say that you're criticizing Cat for leaving a peace protest. Why? When the thing is pointless, it's pointless. Why waste time there, rather than moving on to do something else?

Actually, though, the real thing I wanted to respond to was your statement that "Many of us are vegetarians, and vegans, even, and go to both peace and animal rights protests!" I'm really happy to hear that you care about all these things, but if you just go to these protests and don't think about how your own actions (aka patronizing KFC) impact those causes, then you're not really doing anything. Just think about it. I know you mean well, and I think you will come around.

Me, Too 20.Mar.2005 10:56

me, too

I've been an activist for 25 years, and I am feeling disheartened. I'm not saying large protests don't accomplish anything, but clearly, we want to accomplish a lot more.

We need some different thinking. A handful of committed people can create a real disruption--legally or illegally. It's time to pick some well thought targets. What would it take to gum up the war effort while simultaneously exposing the TRUTH? We need to be more thoughtful and strategic. For example, the company that owns the planes to "rendition" prisoners to other countries for torture is in PORTLAND. I'll bet some thought and research would turn up a lot more interesting targets in the Pacific Northwest. With 1000--or 500--or 100--committed people we should be able to make a BIG SPLASH. But I don't see folks doing it. Study some SHAC tactics and apply them to the anti-war effort is my suggestion. They have a lot to choose from--from mild to ones I wouldn't participate in. But as I said, it takes very little to cause a big disruption, if you are thoughtful and creative. I haven't found a group yet that seems into it.

My greatest disillusionment comes from the way we treat each other. We seem to mimic the hierarchical, punishment-oriented model we are living in. Seeing the connections is critical to our success. And while I know people don't like to have others comment on their personal habits, please consider BOYCOTTING MEAT--and dairy. It's not hard. I've been doing it for a year now and I feel great. I've seen a nutritionist to be sure I'm doing it right. Although I am not as heroic as those who walk, take mass transit, or ride bikes, I have made a concerted effort to limit my own use of gas and production of greenhouse gasses (I have a hybrid car and ferouciously guard my own patch of forest to preserve it for wildlife). I try to make every day Buy Nothing Day.

Thanks Catwoman for the insightful piece. I understand that it can be taken a picking on people who are trying hard, but your tone was gentle and the points you make are valid ones.

Capitalism and War 20.Mar.2005 11:22

Noah Page Noah_WSWS@yahoo.com

Catwoman, your instincts about the connection between capitalism and war are correct. This thread is also a testament to the total failure of the "left" and "radicals" in Portland to do anything other than march and yell, and then snivel and navel-gaze in the wake of yet another protest.

I reached this conclusion years ago.

That is why I support the Socialist Equality Party.

Our mission is not to settle for "bringing the troops home." We are not focused on the little man in the White House. We are not focused on the next election. Our aim is not to push the Democratic Party "left" because we are opposed to the Democratic Party. We do not regard Ralph Nader, the Greens or the trade unionism of the AFL-CIO as a viable alternative because all have made their peace with capitalism and see their role as trying to "reform" it.

Our mission is of an historical character.

A new perspective is required -- egalitarian, international, socialist and absolutely independent of bourgeois political parties. It is not enough to simply recognize that protest politics is a political cul-de-sac; it is necessary to understand WHY.

That is why I am a socialist.

That is why support the Socialist Equality Party.

I invite you to join me. Visit the World Socialist Web Site (www.wsws.org) and join us in the task of building a politically independent force of the international working class, based on democratic and socialist principles.

For those of you who are opposed to our perspective or do not regard it as viable, I'm sure there will soon be another protest in which you can march. And this board will be here, too, so you can gather online afterward and wonder why it doesn't matter.

ummm..... 20.Mar.2005 11:24

and i'm at work again

i didn't go to the march. i was at work. i'm a social worker, we often work weekends for barely more than what american KFC workers make.

let's talk about wars, capitalism, lifestyle and marches for a sec.

to me, and i'm speaking from my experience as a "radical" and an anti-capitalist, this conversation about capitalism is vague and inaccessible. Why is Sammy Suburbia and Ronnie Rural (and their kids) going to give a fuck about a bunch of people with sings in the streets of metro Portland? S/he's not and s/he doesn't. We've seen it now for at least the last 11 or 12 years. Public protest does little to sway public opinion, and seemingly less to galvanize a movement -- unless you're white, liberal, male dominated, middle class and heterosexually organized.

many of us involved in this discussion act as if capitalism doesn't serve at least some of our best interests (for example travel and technology sectors), and for a wide spectrum of middle-class folks who make up the (moral) majority, capitalism still works just dandy; in fact, it's ideal. So, with Sammy and Ronnie holding on so tightly to capitalism, how do we change anything? Is it through our lifestyles? marching?

I agree with Catwoman, but who cares about the KFC bucket? why get choked up about some stupid symbol while we're surrounded by the realities of murder and the choking of peoples/animals/environments that aren't (capable of being) complicit with capitalism's evils? Yet, we have no coherent, agreed-upon vision to denounce the KFC-bucket anecdote as bad, so outside of the context of your life, and a fairly inaccessable political paradigm, the example is arbitrary and rhetorical.

now, i am a human being and i've heard enough about lifestyles from just being a queer man, and i've felt the repercussions of people's expectations as such. right now, i'm interested in my and my communities'/loves'/friends' survival, and working to create happiness therein. because of this, (and refusal) i am not always able to be consistant, or "pure" in my actions. The demand for purity is sickening (and derives from hegemony), but in "lifestyle" is laughable.

symbolic protest is just that: symbolic. And if survival is contingent on one's options, and the cheapest option is Wal-Mart, how can we demand anti-capitalism? how can you ask for consistancy/purity in something as complicated as lifestlye? especially when ethical options aren't accessible?

Maybe they found the KFC buckets lying around 20.Mar.2005 11:38

just a thought...and

and someone wanted to recycle them, not thinking that that would be a gaffe. Some people really don't think about labels much, rather consider design. Or maybe someone brought the empty, new or used and washed-out KFC buckets to a meeting and offered them to be used, and the organizers thought twice about it, because using an obvious iconic symbol like a KFC bucket for a donation bucket for a peace march is so UNCOOL, but didn't want to embarrass the person who donated the buckets, or didn't want to look silly by suggesting that such a contribution was uncool, or...The other day, this earnest middle-aged man drove by our peace witness and stopped and gave us a case of bottled water. He thought he was really being generous, and his offer was accepted in the spirit in which it was given, even though we had to go around and find soemone to take the stuff after our gathering was over. We want the man to come back and join us, and by refusing his gift of bottled water, we would have alienated him. Maybe that's why the KFC buckets were used. Or maybe not.

Thanks CatWoman I Left the March also 20.Mar.2005 13:37


CatWoman again you so plainly state the obvious. Thanks for clearly articulating what we all know but many choose to ignore.

I left the rally too. It wasn't the KFC buckets though. I'll admit being asked for money at a rally makes me cringe and shake my head. They're asking the wrong people for money - if you're there you've contributed. I left because the whole thing made me feel utterly and completely hopeless. Same people. same routine. Same uninspiring speakers. Same. Boring. Mundane. Uninspiring. Dispassionate sameness.

I go to these rallies. Most of them actually. I don't know what else to do really. But I'm pretty sure I'm not going to go anymore. Something happened to me yesterday while I stood there shaking my head as a woman with a bucket asked me for money. I've decided that I will not march around a deserted city on a saturday with a police contingent. I won't do it out of a sense of duty, obligation or whatever it is that the organizers who plan these marches thinks motivates people. All I know is the marches are a waste of my time. They are uninspiring and they do no good whatsoever. I'd rather do nothing than go to another rally. When people start blockading government buildings or recruiting stations count me in. Until then I hope the people enjoy their nice little walks about town with police escort.

Protest every day: Stop paying war taxes 20.Mar.2005 14:19


I go to about half the protests these days- I missed this one. I can relate to the way Catwoman feels about this, that sometimes it doesn't feel like we're effecting change. It took a long time for the U. S. to get out of Vietnam, but it did finally happen after an overwhelming majority opposed the war and were vocal about it. I do feel that protest marches had a big effect then. They got more news coverage then than they do now. I was in high school at the time and remember this. Back then it seemed like everyone was out there protesting, and eventually it did have an effect on stopping the war. I think it had another effect too- it made a lot of people take notice, become more informed, and many people got radicalized as a result. Many people became activists not only in the peace movement, but also for the environment, civil rights and social justice.

I figure that even if I don't make it to every single protest, I'm protesting every day by not paying war taxes. We intentionally have less taxable income than the federally taxable level. Also we avoid buying stuff from large corporations, reduce all spending, and what we do buy is from small businesses and co-ops. It's also important not to patronize businesses that contribute to Bu$h and Republicans. Buy.Blue.org has lists of these corporations.

How about? 20.Mar.2005 18:04


How about having a real protest! I mean a real protest--not a parade--one without permits from the establishment. A protest with civil disobedience and an outright challenge to the status quo, because asking/begging for a seat at the table is just not getting anywhere.

Unfortunately, I don't see any change coming soon, more people abroad will have to continue living under the full weight of American imperialism, and things will have to get worse at home before people rise up. Only then will people, be driven and compelled to risk all their material possessions and even their lives, to bring about a revolution. Anything less, is just a waste of time!

Drama 20.Mar.2005 18:55

Den Mark, Vancouver

Today's protest had impact for me. It had drama. Sad that so few saw it. The service was a funeral service, for Iraqis & others. The procession was a funeral procession. The massive First Cong tower struck loud monotone bell-notes. The two snares beat a sad cadence. We ourselves were silent. We carried cardboard headstones. We walked in the street, to & along Broadway & back to the Park Blocks. We placed the headstones among hundreds of others in that "cemetery". We continued to walk, silently, as we approached another bell, struck with each name read of a dead service person. Along one side were cords strung between poles, with Himalayan-style prayer flags, each containing a name. And the wind blew. And the rain fell. And we were moved. I felt a sad, bitter, yet peaceful resolve, to continue the struggle.

Lifestyle Changes As Iraqis Burn 20.Mar.2005 19:11

Dark Majus

Verbal masturbation ensues as bullets and bombs paid for by US continue to blow to smithereens innocent brown people. Some talk about having fun at anti-war protests; others talk of starving the capitalist beast. Mario Savio talked about a time when we would have to throw ourselves into the levers and gears of the vicious machine and disrupt it until it halted. How do we halt, how doe we destroy the imperialist machine? It is a job that must be done, but how? Actions that aren't designed to halt the beast are a waste of time. Symbolic protest is BULL-SHIT evasion.

Does anyone want to talk about, strategize about, plan for reigning in the criminal administration? I say the truth should reign; fuck the Left's hurt feelings. It seems to me that a strategy session should precede any more "actions" allegedly designed to create change. In 1955, the boycott, the march, the sit-in were relatively new tactics on the domestic scene. Today, that shit is old hat and its done mindlessly, without any kind of serious discussion about what its supposed to produce. And the Enemy, the media simply laugh as Lefties cry over how many people were left uncounted at the march. Boo-fucking-hoo! That's their job, dummy, to make people think you ain't doin' shit. In this case, they are right.

There needs to be a National Continental Congress for lefties, a serious get together where some serious reflection, brutally honest critique and major creativity is called up. We need a PLAN, short term and longterm, that takes into account the reality of what's going on.

I know I have a tendency to be very harsh and I apologize for that. But I speak in my own voice as a black man looking at your world from the bottom. But I very much appreciated Catwoman's tone and message. Please read the words and don't let your ego prevent you from understaning them. Thank you Catwoman, and I love you!

Consumption 20.Mar.2005 20:41

George Bender

"stop the mindless consumption"

I live on $589 a month in Social Security plus $44 in food stamps. I can't afford consumption, mindless or otherwise. Neither can all the other poor people, about a third of American workers, for whom your advice is, well, mindless.

Lifestyle change as political action is bullshit. People with power don't care how much you buy or don't buy. They will not notice your frugality. There are plenty of other Americans who will buy as much as they possibly can. The rich don't need you. You are surplus.

The people who run this country and take us to war were put in place by political processes, and that is the only way they can be removed. If you want to stop this war you're going to have to organize politically, outside of the Democratic party. But my experience is that radicals are incapable of large-scale organization. They are too busy obsessing about what they eat.

actually, George 21.Mar.2005 01:25


they are too busy obsessing about large-scale organization
or wasting their time chattering with those obsessed

when USians see something which needs to be done
they do not do it

they look for "somebody ought" to do it
they look for a leader to do it
they look for an organization to send money to do it

they sometimes join an organization,
if it doesn't take too much time
if it doesn't take too much effort

the activists forty years ago had it easy

they didn't have an elitist medium like the internet
to slander each other on
it didn't stop them from trying
but ultimately somebody had to meet face to face
even to deliver an insult
face to face
where people must choose between killing and listening
yeah, sometimes killing was chosen

sure, the media were not so completely controlled
'popular' music escaped the bounds of propriety
cocaine and heroin were not so easy to come by
despite the noisy fools
not many people thought they had a god-given right
to turn themselves into idiots and maniacs
and insist others praise them

mostly, though, people knew that talking happened
face to face

SNIC, CORE, NAACP, the Panthers, SDS, WITCH :)
priests and rabbis and atheists and confused
talked face to face
in the steets and parks and hallways, even door to door

they almost succeeded
Congress was force to pass and
Johnson was forced to sign the Civil Rights Act

then the assassinations began
not only the anonymous workers beaten and murdered in the streets
the noisy bullets
the quieter drugs and rumours

leftists were duped into supporting Democrats, then, too
Clean For Gene

face to face, one on one, respectful dialogue
that's why they beat and kill you
that's why there is always somebody here to object
and somebody to suggest something more exciting

masses of obedient lemmings
chanting empty slogans at shuttered buildings
don't work
that's why they allow it

Consumption 21.Mar.2005 01:42


I almost forgot

$450 a month, give or take a little
and it is colder here

and no food stamps
$44 a month?
I would get fat, er.. Reubenesque

a lot of my neighbours get by on less
and they feed the kids with it too

the kids come from putin out for the cash

I feel sorry for you, white boy

Looking for solutions 21.Mar.2005 06:43


I guess everyone but george bender can help make the world better by starting where they live. Not george bender though, he's perfect.

For myself, I think it's good advice. Trying to make everyone else change is overwhelming and often pointless. Starting at home makes me less of a hypocrit, makes my actions more meaningful, and gives me the strength to carry the changes out into the world. (Or like, you know, I could just join some organization, march around in a circle, and pretend it made a difference. But I could only fool myelf like that for so long. Unlike George bender.)

While 21.Mar.2005 07:25

Den Mark, Vancouver

While Mr Bender obsesses about obsessing, many of us others are into a lifestyle which has simply become routine, & not difficult at all. If one decides to never buy bottled water, that is not an obsession, but rather a choice that becomes almost reflexive. If a mere 100,000 people refrain from buying merely one bottle of water per week, that's over 5,000,000 per year, & would be noticed. Extrapolate from that, & very large numbers appear. The key to bigger & bigger numbers is education, talking about choices, modeling choices. Simple. And less-well-off people are actually in charge here, as that ever-growing demographic CAN afford bottled water, & shouldn't. Education is the key, like teaching people that a dollar goes a lot farther when used for rice than for Rice Krispies. So simple. Not an obsession at all. Just simple intelligent compassionate logical choices.

Me, Too 21.Mar.2005 07:44

me, too

The average person consumes 80 animals per year. This is a great place to start.

On the other hand, I would love to know how to contact Dark Majus--he is right on!

Den Mark, You Rock 21.Mar.2005 09:03


This is a great thread, very informative. And Den Mark, thanks for saying that before I could find the words. And thanks for keeping Vancouver on its toes.

Agree to Agree 21.Mar.2005 10:06

Dark Majus antibes13@hotmail.com

I support those who make choices to consume less, not pay war taxes (I haven't 2 years running, coming up on 3) and all those other choices. But whoever talked about meeting face to face...HELLO!! Lefties don't even talk to each other, don't talk to the common folk. This is my perception, I could be wrong. It seems that Lefties communitcate by bumpersticker, by picket sign, by fax. But when it comes to looking a human being that you don't know in the eye...As a person of color, I've found the most racist RACISTS are lefties whose shit doesn't stink. Can't tell them anything. They have read so much Chomsky, Zinn, Parenti, Klein etc, that they dismiss alternate views before you can get it out of your mouth. Why are people afraid to meet? Talk to, not at? This brotha, Ralph Wiley, wrote a book called "Why Black People Tend To Shout." Its because you don't listen, white man! You don't listen to us, you don't listen to your women, you don't listen to anything contrary to your highly privileged self - be you a granola hemp wearer or three piece GQ suit pimp style. And I don't mean ALL WHITE MEN or people. But we don't have time to quibble about that shit; that's one of the evasive tactics of people who don't want to drop privilege - get you arguing over semantics to distract you from how they benefit from the very system that they claim to despise.

We NEED to TALK shop, speak truth, not to power, but to each other. These little cliques that run these marches - they can come, but they can't be in charge. We need the Catwomen, the folks who are a little on the margins of this thing, who have the abillity to take action but REFLECT on, OBSERVE the true dynamics of what's happening and offer insight in to what we need to do to get what we SAY we want. I know that not everybody who claims to be for justice, IS for justice. Meeting face to face like folks used to do and thrashing and hashing this all out is a great first.

Peace out to the Revolution, Baby!!

Email address to anyone who wants to tawk:  antibes13@hotmail.com

Saaaaa 21.Mar.2005 10:18


you know, here is someone writing their personal thoughts, asking good questions, not attacking people but really considering these things. your harsh criticism is off base gk

this very article by catwoman is an act of trying to improve things, trying to deepen dialog and break out of ruts.

gk says she missed out on a great day. in what way was it a great day?

Was the war stopped? no - that would be a great day. Just because you may have enjoyed yourself, is no indication of whether it was useful. I went to a good party the other night, you missed out on a great party. That party did nothing to make the war stop either.

G 21.Mar.2005 11:30


gk said "Cat is criticized because she deserted the peace protest"

Good for her! Good for her for demanding something better. Good for her for admitting that the protest depresses her and not pretending. Good for her for asking questions and striving for more.

The protests that happen now feel flat from the start. There is little power. I've stopped going. They depress me too. They smell of defeat. What depresses me about them, is not the defeat, but the lack of effort to do something different, the lack of admission of defeat and effort to find more fruitful paths to follow.

2 years and couple months ago, there were 20,000 in the streets of Portland. This time it was maybe 500. Where are the other 19,000 who came out then? Getting tons of people out on the streets does not matter much unless those people are committed to more than the occassional street protest. And street protest has little effect unless it is happening as an expression of an ongoing movement.

I would rather see 500 people go door to door for a couple hours, talking to neighbors, than march corralled by police and paying for the 'priviledge'.

.............................................. 21.Mar.2005 11:49


The point about not meeting face to face is well made. Lefties are afraid to meet face to face. Is this because they are afraid? Afraid of talking to black folks, conservatives and others who may have a different thought process? One person mentioned going door to door. That would be far more useful than marching in the street when such marching has been marginalized so well by the system.

Next time have a big march for 20 minutes down Alberta, then everyone can split up and cover the whole NE and go door to door. Take the funds for permits and the like, print some literature to hand out, but mnost of all, talk to people. There are so many things that could be done if people weren't so afraid of actually meeting other people.

"Lifestyles" and "Lefties" 21.Mar.2005 14:12

Guerrilla Gardener

When you use the word "lifestyle," it sounds like you're talking about something trivial. Like, what kind of clothes someone likes to wear, or what kind of sports someone participates in, or what kind of hobbies someone has. So when a couple of you say that this is about whether or not "lifestyle" changes can make a difference, it makes me feel like you missed the point. No one is talking about some surface, scenester, costuming change. (That's more what the march was about.) I think the point here is deeper than that. No, a "lifestyle" change won't do much for the world. But fundamentally, and deeply changing the way you interact with the world, the way you live, the choices that you make, fundamentally understanding the connections between how you live and the rest of the world...this is not just a "lifestyle." And it's a way to make a real difference. If everyone did that, rather than marching in circles, the world would be a much different place.

As for whether or not "lefties" talk to each other, here's the thing. I don't really know who these "lefties" are. If you're talking about the elitist "peace movement" that put on that march over the weekend, then I probably agree with you. But if you're talking about the activist community in general, then I have to disagree. First, most Portland activists don't consider themselves "lefties" at all, at least not the ones I hang with. Generally, Portland activism transcends the left/right dichotomy. (Oops. Now I sound like a geek. didn't mean to.) What I mean is, most of us are really suspicious about the easy categories that people are put into, like left and right. Second, my experience here is that the activist community is very inclusive, very open, and very "face to face." That may not be how you have experienced things, and I respect your thoughts if this is true. To be sure, you're not the first person who has said this, so there may very well be something to it even if I haven't seen it myself. But for my part, most of us prefer face to face communication over the other kinds you mention -- even if only because big brother is breathing down our necks.

Catwoman is right 21.Mar.2005 15:28

. . .

I choked as the march left the plaza, and I almost went up to the guy with the PPRC public address contraption with the speakers mounted on it, and the arrrows and signs, that said "donation here"- pointing to the slot where you should stuff your money & I almost clocked him one (how violent of me).
As we led off into downtown Portland, and yes, surrounded by bike cops and on fairly empty streets
I mean people do come downtown on a Saturday afternoon to shop, eat lunch, go to the library. Let's at least be honest about that.
But, back to the part where I choked- I was looking around to see if anybody was gonna say anything to him, that if PPRC REALLY was going to let this fool lead off the march- on a somber and serious occasion, remembering the Iraqi war dead- with a SALES PITCH on how putting on these events costs money and that we should contribute now. NOW??? Right NOW??? But, nobody stopped him. I didn't run up to him either, (shame on me) because all too many times I get into it with the peacekeepers at these things. But I just could not believe that we were marching behind someone giving an all too perfect rendition of an NPR or OPB (or worse) pledge drive style-pitch for money!
This was so far from being OK, it still makes me angry to remember it (it's Monday now).
What the hell are we doing?
Marching in a circle, very little new information (really boring speeches), surrounded by cops, as polite as it's possible to be, and listening to a salesman?
There has got to be something else.
Whatever happened to direct action? Civil disobedience? How 'bout some great music? Remember how they used to pull in the crowds at rallies (like the anti-nuke ones?) by getting famous and really popular bands to play for free? That's how it's done. People come for the music and stay to learn something about the real issues. Or the singers are singing about the real issues!!!
What about that?
C'mon folks. Learn from the past, or at least invent a new future!
We really need it.

Sorry, I missed the whole KFC bucket thing that day- but, you are right, it is outrageous, too.
Except if you think "recycling", OK?

Lifestyle 21.Mar.2005 15:51

Den Mark, Vancouver

The "-style" part is unfortunate, but when i use the term "lifestyle", i'm not being trivial. I'll try to think up a different word, except "lifestyle" is the term many people recognize & use. "Lifestyle" is how one lives one's life. That's not trivial, or doesn't have to be. It's the most important Decision (big D) a person can make. I'm trying my best to live in such a way that the path behind me is better than the path ahead of me. I'm trying.

How 'bout "lifefocus" or "lifechoice".

I rest my case 21.Mar.2005 17:15

Noah Page

This thread is a testament to the total failure of the "left" and "radicals" in Portland to do anything other than march and yell, snivel and navel-gaze in the wake of yet another protest.

No 21.Mar.2005 18:01

Den Mark

No. This is not such a testament. It's simply a conversation some people are having over a beer, minus the beer, maybe. Every conversation does not end up with a Magna Carta of some sort. And in a day made up of 1440 minutes, posting a small e-message takes maybe three of those, between doing more important stuff.

good, good 22.Mar.2005 02:01


Guerrilla Gardener objected to "lifestyle"
without throwing a tantrum or scriptural quotation
(not that I have ever known GG to do so)
Den Mark replied with calm and reason

DM, also, pointed out correctly that the word is problematic
GG's tone indicates (s)he knew that, too
so, it is still there
but perhaps the sharper spines have been filed down

realistically, no matter what word you choose
as long as it is not "naked nipple"
it will be for sale the day after
custom-tailored from chemically-distressed designer fabrics
with pricey plastic beads and an entire rock genre to match

we need to shrug off and apologize for minor insults
because they harrass our language
the same way they harrass our actions

GG correctly identifies left/right as a false dichotomy
I would add liberal/conservative, Republican/Democrat
perhaps _all_ the dichotomies which they paint florescent lines around
are false

having confronted George, I am obliged to declare
I don't think he is a dichotomy, either

he certainly has some bad ideas
especially those about mass-movements and submitting to the party
in my opinion

if only he desist from demanding I submit as well
and if he learn to show a little respect for CatWoman
(whom I admire greatly, but don't know from Eve)
George can and should have a few of his own kinks

he might be right

unless he does his thing
unless I do my thing
unless others do their things
and we all help or cheer each other along
to the extent that we have energy and sympatiteco
we will never find out

probably a varied, unrefined, diet is more healthy

One more note about "lifestyle" 22.Mar.2005 09:27

Guerrilla Gardener

I just wanted to clear up that I wasn't directing that at anything you said, Den Mark. I was addressing it to a few comments that implied it wasn't "revolutionary" enough to talk about changing one's lifestyle. Which it wouldn't be, if we were talking about the triviality I think of when I think of "lifestyle."

But changing the way one lives and relates with the world is, in fact, so revolutionary that few of us ever really accomplish it. It seems like a simple, easy thing to do, but when you actually give it a try, shit it's hard. I'm convinced we will change things if we can really change ourselves. That doesn't mean giving up on the rest of the world, either. It certainly doesn't mean giving up on direct action, or working toward revolution in the world. It just means, well, starting with ourselves. While we're working out there, we need to be working in here too.

Great Job Cat!!!!!!!! I Love You!!! 22.Mar.2005 11:54


Another amazing article that makes people finally think!!!! Thank you Cat!!!! I stayed to the end of the protest, but wanted to leave many times, especially when I saw people wearing fur.

gk, most people are NOT vegetarians or vegans that go to the anti-war rallies. Most people who go to the rallies probably go home and eat meat. I am a proud vegan and probably met you at one of the KFC protests and I think it's great that you are out there! I will continue to criticize anyone who WEARS FUR or supports the destruction of our forests or the slaughtering of animals or supports corporate greed at ANY PROTEST!!!!!! YOU SHOULD TOO!!!!!