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community building | sustainability

USA: Dispatch From A Midwestern City

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To anyone who has ever dreamt of a world beyond the boundaries imposed upon the one we currently inhabit. To all who cringe with disgust at the thought of another month's work to pay for another month's rent. To anyone who has dared to notice the glaring inadequacy of this walking death sold to us as life: These words are for you.

For the past year, we have inhabited an occupied space in conflict with the prevailing logic of capitalism: everything that can be desired is for sale (nothing escapes the realm of the commodity); in order to survive one must exchange commodities for their representation in the form of currency; one's daily experience, the sum of life itself, is nothing more than a good to be sold on the open market. That space and the lives we have come to know and to love are being directly threatened by those who have chosen to base their livelihoods on exploitation, fear, and the destruction of life. We are anarchists, squatters, and gardeners who by asking no leave, no permission to live, have attempted to take directly some of the means necessary for life: the space and time to breathe and recover from the incessant monotony of school, work, rent, and the supermarket; the thought and energy to mount an attack against all that which is killing us piecemeal. We are people forced by this world to spend our sweat and blood filling the coffers of landlords and business owners. We have chosen instead to spend the currency of our daily existence in conflict with the forces that would reduce life to a dull routine. The house we have inhabited for over a year is owned by a man and his minions who would like us to evaporate. The house is our home, it is the realization of a dream that has often seemed out of reach, it is where we have loved and cried, shouted and consoled. The space and the activity taking place within and around it are our attempts to generate momentum, to push back against the tides of despair and defeat.

Our project is the destruction of the current social order and the creation of lives truly worth living. Squatting is one means of many we choose to further this endeavor. We have never been interested in finding yet another way to merely survive. Our interest lies in the generation of conflict - combustions capable of skyrocketing us out of this mess.

We have set out to create a squat that explodes the preconceived notions of what that word means here in the United States: a dirty mattress on the floor, only entering and leaving with the cover of night, no running water or heat. With this in mind we created a home complete with functioning kitchen and bathroom, refinished floors and walls, a wood burning stove, a library and some couches for reclining; costing us only our labor and a fraction of a month's rent. We made ourselves comfortable. For security we relied on friendly relations with our neighbors: sharing food, talking in the street, borrowing and loaning tools. We planted an orchard and began bit by bit to turn what had once been a sight of dereliction and neglect into an area capable of sustaining life.

In response to these efforts we have been threatened by self-righteous community planners implying the threat of police action. We have had our windows boarded over, only to take them down again when the time was right. Our home has been deemed unlivable by the city (a condemnation that we return tenfold to the skyscrapers, freeways, and industrial parks). Our trees have been mowed over, our gardens hacked to bits. We have been told that the bulldozers might be coming for us next. It is here that our tale branches out. It must, in order to continue, for if we remain isolated and immobilized our experiment will surely go the way of all such previous experiments in living, that is, we will end up as forgotten annotations and footnotes in the history books of the dominating and powerful. We wish to write our own fables of struggle and resistance, we desire to be the protagonists of our own fire-side stories, we hope that together we can invent a new script with no room for the roles played by concentrated power, and for this we need your active participation.

As far as we can see, there are two possibilities for how things will go down. Either we will know ahead of time that the storm clouds are gathering or they will suddenly crash down upon us. In the latter case we have prepared a phone tree and some ideas on how to stall until our friends can arrive on scene. If, however, our information gathering networks are able to provide us with a date, be it for an eviction, demolition, or another set of boards over our windows, the winds will be blowing in our favor. Keep your ears to the ground. Our call to action, our plea for help, may very well come in the form of a whisper or a tremor that shakes every foundation. The near future may see us together: defending this home, opening new squats, revealing hidden paths of resistance, and drafting the unwritten chapters of our lives.

If you can't bridge the physical distance between us, know that you can still act with us from anywhere. Turn abandoned buildings into palaces and hold on to them for all you're worth. Find new and different methods for integrating the realm of ideas with that of daily life. Develop your own strategies for living and fighting on your terms. Be bold, take risks; determination and perseverance will see us through. Help us prove once and for all that, yes, anything is indeed possible.

These are our homes now. If they dare to turn our dreams back into property, they should be expecting one hell of a fight.