When I arrived in San Francisco in 1971, I began group living out of economic necessity, which, over time, developed into conscious collective and cooperative living and working arrangements. I spent the last 19 years of my work life at Inkworks Press, a worker-owned and collectively managed printing company In Berkeley. I love working together and sharing – both the hippie ideal and the socialist principle.
Shortly after my arrival, I joined one of many “food conspiracies,” whose members worked out of homes to buy food in bulk to get a lower price, then distributed it to the various buyers. The food conspiracies evolved into the collective food system, which at it’s zenith included 7 grocery stores and a warehouse. Rainbow Grocery and Other Avenues still exist from those days. I volunteered to buy produce for the Bernal Heights store for more than a year.
After the food coops, I spent the 70s involved in all kinds of political movements – LGBTI liberation, prisons, the literacy program of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, the fight to save the International Hotel . . . There was a sense of hope and determination that with hard work and organization we could make serious change in the world.
Then began the counterrevolution. Politically, the FBI’s CoIntelpro destroyed radical movements in this country, and the U.S.-supported coup against the Allende government in Chile made it clear that the United States would not permit a socialist government anywhere, even if it was legally elected by voters. Economically, the buying power of the minimum wage has declined since 1968. Reagan led the attack on workers starting with the PATCO strike, and the explosion of global sweatshops signaled an economic race to the bottom.
Culturally, the Death Wish movies made vengeance killings big box office, and advertising slogans, like “It costs more, but I’m worth it,” “Your membership has privilege,” “Look out for number one,” and “Nobody loves a loser” ushered in the age of neo-liberal selfishness, which has mutated into the ignorant sociopathic kleptocracy of the Donald Trump administration.
I began to think about what a Life Wish might look like. I’d been writing articles and essays for years. In the ‘80s I began writing song lyrics, because I realized how influential outspoken musicians can be. In 1992, I wrote a utopian song called Life Wish, and I called my solo show of 2002-2003 Life Wish. In early 2015, when Inkworks was preparing to go out of business, an email went out asking if anyone had a personal printing project they wanted to complete before we closed, and I started to think about compiling some of my writings into a book.
Shortly afterwards, I read a quote from Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B. to Republican leaders in Congress, I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is. Bingo! Life Wish exploded into a reality.
I began to go through my files to choose pieces that I felt explained the condition in which the world finds itself today, and offered glimmers of what a truly life-affirming society might look like. Everything is pretty short – the longest piece is an essay on the evolution of Nazi economic policy from World War II to the present, which I wrote in 1999, when I was working with the 50 Years Is Enough campaign to change the lending policies of (or abolish) the World Bank and the IMF. The book also includes the script of my play Solitary Man: A Visit to Pelican Bay State Prison.
Design Action Collective, which grew out of Inkworks, provided the beautiful design for the book, and also for this website, and Community Printers, another worker-owned business in Santa Cruz, did the actual printing. Thank You Design Action and Community!
One thing I must explain, the book includes a number of poems written in haiku format. They use the common 17 syllable form of the haiku, but tell little narratives that do not capture the spontaneous, evanescent feeling of a haiku. My apology to haiku purists.
On that note, I hope you will read and enjoy Life Wish. I appreciate any and all feedback.
Table of Contents
- Message from Tarot
- Bird glides in the air
- Last branch on the family tree
- Letter to Lexus 1
- Letter to Lexus 2
- Short sighted humans
- Disposable World
- The Bible says . . .
- Oprah shops handbags
- Out in the Streets
- How much is enough?
- U.S. citizen accepts President Ahmadinejad’s call for dialogue with “Noble Americans”
- Letter to President Clinton re: Leonard Peltier
- Letter to President Obama re: Leonard Peltier and Oscar Lopez Rivera
- Open letter to President Obama
- Letter to the SF Chronicle re: Mumia Abu-Jamal
- Letter to Governor Bush re: Gary Graham
- Letter to the San Francisco Chronicle re: Troy Anthony Davis
Haiku for Troy
- An Innocent Man, DeWayne Ewng Wins Order to Show Cause
Letter to Lindsay Hayes re: Sleep Deprivation in CA prison isolation units
- Solitary Man: My Visit to Pelican Bay State Prison
- Haiku for Hugo
- Demonstration Elections and how they work in Haiti and Honduras
- Duvalier: Dead but Not Gone
- Haiti 2017: From Demonstration Election to Electoral Coup
- From Jackboots to Wingtips: The Evolution of Nazi Economic Policy from World War II to the Present
- Open Letter to the Daily Kos
- Fascist mysticism, the Man of Destiny, and Donald Trump
- Born to Lose: When the Left relies on foundations for money and the Democratic Party for political leadership
- Life Wish
- Gay Liberation and Sexual Freedom
- White Underpants
- Snake Sheds Skin
- What can money buy?
- Forward into time and truth
- Souls in Space
- Bee flies off flower