When I go to an activist meeting, seminar, or rally here in San Francisco, I almost always come away feeling newly pumped-up and enthused about the possibility of feeding hippies to crocodiles. I think maybe it’s a “power of visualization” thing.

I’m fed up. If it’s not someone hijacking a meeting about X to talk about their favorite topic Y, it’s some narcissist rambling incoherently to a sea of indulgent nods. If it’s not some hippie demanding that we all center ourselves with a group “Om,” it’s someone making an “underrepresented voices” power play and shutting down all conversation in favor of a violin solo we’ve all heard a million times before.

The most underrepresented voices among San Francisco activists are the ones that stay on topic and speak in complete sentences. No wonder the right wing is running the country — the lefties can’t even run a meeting.

If the San Francisco Left ever became relevant or threatening to the Powers That Be, they could destroy it simply by sending someone to every meeting to say something like “boy I wish those Palestinians would stop being such terrorists” or “why does this group have so many white people / men in it?” or any of a vast number of other triggers and without fail the bees will start to buzz, the hive will go berzerk, and it’s honey time for the bear.

We’ve been preaching the virtue of tolerance so adamantly and so long that we’ve forgotten the virtue of intolerance.

What I wouldn’t give for someone who would stand up and say — “to heck with being inclusive and making sure everybody gets heard. We’re here to try to get something done. If you want to get something done, you’re in the right place. If you want to talk about the harmonica virgins or if you think your favorite issue or minority group isn’t being respected here, find another group, because we don’t have time for that now.”

I know what you’re thinking — why don’t you do it yourself? I tried that once. Learned pretty quickly from the chorus about what a pattern of white male dominance I was perpetuating. So I backed off to let the underrepresented voices get heard, and got an earful of information about how if everyone in the world were to chant “boomshanka” at the same time the enlightened masters from Unarius would come and bring us all to the next level of consciousness together.

And the fact is that nobody is really up to the task, because no matter how many minority cards they’ve got in their hand, there’s always the risk that someone else in the room has ’em trumped. And any ol’ softie may stand up at any time and serve out that old familiar pudding about “tolerance” and “inclusivity” and so on, and then the bobblehead nods begin and it’s all over.

This time it was some jerk who interrupted again and again to ramble on about the magnificent struggles of and… oh, Paris, the barricades, I’m writing a book, Jefferson and Mao and I’m going to make a movie, and Bush is a right-wing maniac who wants to turn us into robots, and remember the struggle against Vietnam in the sixties oh yes we were united then and had solidarity, us and the proletariat, I worked two months as a laborer and saw with my own eyes Hamilton and Trotsky and Hegel, I’ve got a xeroxed pamphlet of collage art and poetry right here, we need to come together, all of us…

I took the bullet. Luring him into another room away from the meeting with a feigned interest in learning more about his upcoming book. He went on and on and on. All I had to do was let my eyes glaze over in his general direction and nod from time to time, but I ended up feeling exhausted, the way you do when you’ve been fighting a strong headwind all day. I’d like to think the meeting went on in my absence and worthwhile things were discussed. Stranger things have happened.

If only I had listened to William S. Burroughs when he tried to give me some advice:

If, after having been exposed to someone’s presence, you feel as if you’ve lost a quart of plasma, avoid that presence. You need it like you need pernicious anemia.

We don’t like to hear the word “vampire” around here; we’re trying to improve our public image. Building a kindly, avuncular, benevolent image; “interdependence” is the keyword — “enlightened interdependence.”

Life in all its rich variety, take a little, leave a little. However, by the inexorable logistics of the vampiric process they always take more than they leave — and why, indeed, should they take any?

Avoid fuck-ups. FUs, I call them. You all know the type — no matter how good it sounds, everything they have anything to do with turns into a disaster. Trouble for themselves and everyone connected with them. A FU is bad news, and it rubs off — don’t let it rub off on you.

Do not proffer sympathy to the mentally ill; it is a bottomless pit. Tell them firmly, “I am not paid to listen to this drivel — you are a terminal FU!” Otherwise, they make you as crazy as they are.

San Francisco’s activist groups often seem like FU conventions. FUs and their victims and their nodding enablers. Email me for details about the next meeting of Intolerant San Franciscans Against Bullshit.

browse«»
Find Out More!

For more information on the topic or topics below (organized as “topic → subtopic → sub-subtopic”), click on any of the ♦ symbols to see other pages on this site that cover the topic. Or browse the site’s topic index at the “Outline” page.