Would You Shoplift “Days of War, Nights of Love”?

What ‘insurance’ could you buy that would keep you safer than living in a world where people actually cared for each other? (page 260)

Get the uzi!

            Some MAN i’d never met before handed this book to me at a meeting, and mumbled something about reviewing it. Lucky wimmin get to review six course dinners or new CDs, but i get to review a fucking polish sausage. Which is to say i’d rather be talking about women’s armed struggle against men & their insane and inane cultures. But there it is. And then again, i’m something of a maoista.

                Let’s get to the point. There’s bitching about this book, but no airline ticket is good for all times and all places. There is no all-day sucker, only suckers. The subtitle on this book is “Crimethink for Beginners” and that’s just what it is. So if you know someone young trapped in the suburban box, this is pages that might get them to see life from a different doorway.  If you know someone young and suburban who has heard the word “anarchism” but knows nothing else about anything, lay this on them. “Days of Blah, Nights of Barf” is for beginners. An introduction that’s not too heavy and might be a gust of fresh air. Maybe they’ll get a subversive laugh, a hint of rebellious spirit, maybe a seed planted in their mind.

                And “Days” is real easy to slide into, since it’s not really a long book. It’s like fifteen short essays on breaking with boring, regimented capitalist life. There’s tons of pictures, funny sarcastic cartoons, little boxed examples of this or that from what some rebels actually did. And you don’t even have to take it that reverentially (it isn’t as though the authors were doing something real, like fixing the brakes on your truck). Start reading it anywhere, skip pages, go backwards, don’t worry, it’s all the same. The CrimetInc people who put this together really designed a clever “book”, that’s a contrast to the usual thick books loaded with information that we’re supposed to learn from. Here there’s almost nothing to learn, which is so liberating.

                To me, the thing I like best about “Days” is that it brings out how barren the life of the spectator is. It challenges the spectatorism, the viewerism of passive virtual life in middle class capitalism. With its passive anti-sports (ten chemical-saturated dicks play, ten million overweight dicks sit and watch) and video game “challenges” and televised “relationships”. At its best, “Days” is provocative and thought-provoking, happily starting trouble for straight, middle class goal-seeking suburban youth.

Whatever each [of] us may be looking for, we all tend to pursue our desires by purchasing images: symbols of the things we desire. We buy leather jackets when we want rebellion and danger. ..When we want to live in a different world, we buy political pamphlets and bumper stickers. Somehow we assume that having all the right accessories will get us the perfect lives. And as we construct our lives, we tend to do it according to an image, a pattern that has been laid out for us…At our jobs, we exchange our time, energy, and creativity for the ability to buy these symbols…Rather than satisfying our needs, these products multiply them: for to get them, we must sell our lives away.

                What I dislike most about the book is that as a woman, as a trans-person, there’s no ability in it to fight back against being obliterated. It’s as though they’re saying that if you just switch your little mind to a different mental station then you can be free and running. That’s just bullshit. In fact, that’s just the empty pursuit of symbols and images that they put down. You can’t be free in a world that isn’t free, and we have the fucking scars from the mine fields to prove it. Though they don’t say it, these aren’t new ideas in their book. Mined out of seventy year old dada and surrealism, but could dada defeat the nazis? Here’s some free advice: Let someone else test that–don’t you bet your life on it.

                You can see what I mean by checking out their heavy advocacy of shoplifting. “Days” really blasts off on this: “…shoplifting makes me feel liberated and empowered”. Or “Everything changes when I shoplift.” Or “Shoplifting says NO to all the objectionable features that have come to characterize the modern corporation.” And on and on. Dumpster diving is also a big deal in the CrimethInc ideology. I think only superprivileged people talk this phony way, folks sitting on top of the rest of the human race but playing at being someone else.

                Hey, we should entertain the really revolutionary far-out daring novel idea of…shoplifting? Hel-lo! Earth to CrimethInc! Wake up! Any of you ever worked for a living at a store? Oh, I forgot, working is giving in to the corporations. Well, then, let me tell you the news that in real life millions and millions of Americans of every class, age, race and genders are shoplifting like mad weasels. It’s the fucking national sport. My roomate once had a richass white grandmother stuff a baby carriage with a baby in it full of shit and race full speed out the store shouting, “If you try and stop us and my baby granddaughter is injured we’ll sue you!” Hostage shoplifting.

                And you think the oppressed should shoplift what they need? Oh, they’ll really appreciate your teaching them, kemosabi. Hey, ever been in an inner city corner store with its bulletproof plexiglass inner walls, where you point out the canned soup or soap you want and the clerk hands it out to you through the revolving tray–after you slide your money in? The oppressed have been shoplifting and stealing and ripping since long before any of you were conceived of. And guess what, they aren’t “liberated” or “empowered” yet.

                Talk of subverting the system is cheap, but other people are being run over by the reality of it. The families who literally live their entire lives in the giant garbage dumps in the Philippines, living off of sifting for the scraps of cloth, metal, bottles or food, they’re the pros at dumpster diving and the white people here who do it are just posers at worst and amateurs at best. But those Filipino families aren’t “subverting the system” at all, they’re just struggling to survive. Life isn’t a spectator game for most wimmin in the world. It’s all too real–AIDS, malaria, rape, being really sick and still having to labor twelve hours a day on your feet. Dying young knowing that no one is going to take care of your kids. Sometimes this book is itself a spectator sport, privileged folks having the thrill of playing at life. As that possum said, “We have met the enemy, and they is us.”

 


Butch Lee is a revolutionary Amazon theorist, the author of Night-Vision: Illuminating War and Class on the Neo-Colonial Terrain, Jailbreak out of History: the re-biography of Harriet Tubman, and The Military Strategy of Women and Children. Many of her writings are available online  on this site, and all of her books can be ordered through Kersplebedeb – for more information see my list of Texts by Butch Lee.

 

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