Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm gets another extension

IMG_5437From the Press Democrat and confirmed today, Sunday, by Loretta Murphy, manager of DBOF.

Allies of Drakes Bay Oyster Co. announced Friday they had secured an agreement with the National Park Service to give the embattled Marin County oyster farm 30 days’ notice before ordering it to shut down operations in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

The agreement “ensures the status quo,” enabling oysterman Kevin Lunny’s company to continue harvesting oysters until a competitor, Tomales Bay Oyster Co., can get its case before a federal judge, possibly in September, said Stuart Gross, a San Francisco attorney representing Tomales Bay.

Gross said he had reached the agreement with the park service and it did not need a judge’s approval. A proposed schedule for future hearing dates requires that action, however.

Photo of Ginny Cummings, sister of Kevin Lunny, Sunday July 27. Plenty of oysters available, go and enjoy.

All this buttoning and unbuttoning…

 

In the old order of the 1950s, we were all repressed and that was good. It meant society would be stable. People couldn’t enjoy the physical experience of life, sex, and pleasure because we had been trained to repress our desires and not to express them.

This goes back to Freud. He believed that inside of man were powerful unconscious, violent and sexual urges that if we didn’t control, we would tear each other to pieces, but not before raping each other.

Then Wilhelm Reich came along and said the opposite. He thought: if we don’t express our primal sexual urges, then they will drive us crazy and then we will all tear each other to pieces (but not before raping each other).

This latter idea, Reich’s idea that mental health is secured through the freedom of the libidinal self, is a key element of the 1960s counter-culture, particularly in California; essentially that unconscious desires must find expression, and that our bodies, and one’s individual experience, one’s pleasure, might provide solutions that old politics were not producing – the revolution people wanted.

 

 A terrible trap

 

The dominant interpretation of University of California at San Diego Professor Herbert Marcuse’s “Eros and Civilization” holds that if enough people pursued non-traditional relationships, homosexuality – whatever, just not the mom-dad-kids patriarchy – it might undermine capitalism and cause a social transformation. In a similar vein, Norman O. Brown at UC Santa Cruz championed the idea of the “polymorphous perversity,” sources of sexual pleasure not directly related to the biological sexual function of our species. But particularly in Marcuse’s formulation, politics was refocused upon our bodies. We would find pleasure in the weird, and it would change the world.

Fast forward 40 years, and this is our ideology, and in places like West Marin, our religion. We are all focused on our emotional lives, the struggle to be our “authentic selves,” our self-expression, and our sex lives – a trance of pseudo-Buddhist detachment from reality and spiritualized hedonism. And it is a terrible trap. It doesn’t know what to do with concentrations of power, like the corporations that control the economy and destroy the environment. (As an aside: I was driving past El Segundo looking at the Chevron refinery this weekend. It was an appalling and stupefying sight. But congratulations to the West Marin “environmentalists” who have clearly won the real battle; of course I mean the cause against the climate destroying effects of… the oyster! We shall overcome!)

Our belief in our individuality and separateness from the whole, with its implicit indifference to concentrated power, is the scaffolding that supports Empire itself. And it disregards politics, the weak uniting to negotiate with the powerful, because the process of organizing politically means the individual is no longer the center. Lonely animals wandering the face of the earth, we all think about the terrible things going on in the world, but don’t think we can do anything about them.

Finally, ours is a totally regulated and conformist ideology, in which pleasure becomes an order, i.e. “you must enjoy yourself.” The liberty of experience, of sexual experience for instance, with liberty its essential quality, is forfeited – people regulate and obsess over all aspects of sex. In relationships, people act as though they were each other’s sex therapists trying to do the right thing for each other’s sexual health and satisfaction. Sex becomes a sacrifice, similar to the ideas of sex in the 1950s that men and women rebelled against.

  ‘Dude, let’s go rock climbing’

 

And more, people do outdoorsy adventuring because they feel they need to do it. We get anxious if we can’t conform to the “dude, let’s go rock climbing” command we all apparently have to obey now. We shameless suit our aging bodies in Lycra outfits, patronize coffee shops on our bikes, and discuss our stamina. We have assimilated this command to enjoy completely, to be focused on pleasure, our ecstatic aerobic selves.

Today, to unseat pleasure as our primary motivation, is considered to be a betrayal of one’s being. It would be dehumanizing, perhaps even the sign of mental illness.

And this is why we are so maniacal and unhappy. Our “I wanna have fun!” answer to everything treats other people as instruments of our own pleasure and emotional fulfillment. The humans that our eye pans across exist to play a role, two dimensional place-holders for humans, and if the 2D people come off the page, when they leave our script for them, we are forced, sadly, to replace them with new actors.

We need to confront our joyless binge on entertainment and pleasure, our ascendant, invincible banality. But if you say today that we have inverted and created a more extreme form of the social control than that of the 1950s, you are thought to be the enemy of freedom and humanity. Worst of all, this new ethos described, makes me sound like a scolding parish priest, an instrument of social control.

 

 

Drakes Bay Shuts Its Retail Operations

IMG_5438  But Hope Remains for the Fate of Oyster Production. Community members to share memories and celebrate 100 years of oyster
production at the beloved oyster shack.

WHAT: Drakes Bay Oyster Company will host a celebration event to recognize the historic, family owned farm that is being forced to stop selling oysters out of its famous oyster shack on July 31st. The event will include remarks from owners Kevin and Nancy Lunny, reflections from longtime community supporters and end with an oyster toast. The event is open to the public.

*Note: Although the retail operations will close on July 31st, the oyster farm received a last minute reprieve allowing them to continue harvesting oysters in the Estero while a lawsuit filed by local restaurants is resolved or 30 days’ notice is given by the Park Service.

WHEN: Thursday, July 31, 2014 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

WHERE: Drakes Bay Oyster Company, 17171 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Inverness, CA 94937

WHO: Speakers will include:

· Kevin and Nancy Lunny, owners of Drakes Bay Oyster Co.
· Albert Straus, owner of Straus Family Creamery
· Phyllis Faber, environmentalist
· Additional supporters and VIP guests from around the community

WHY: Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review an appeal from Drakes Bay Oyster Company, eliminating its legal options to keep the oyster farm open while they continue litigation. The oyster shack and cannery will be forced to close on July 31, 2014. The National Park Service decision to close down the sustainable, family-run farm will hurt the company’s nearly 30 employees (many of whom have grown up in the area and developed specialized skills that will be tough to put to use elsewhere nearby), the community (85% of whom have supported the oyster farm in their fight to stay open) and the local shellfish industry (the oyster farm provides nearly one third of California’s oysters).

Another site for affordable housing

 

Editor:

 

It’s great that the Coast Guard quarters in Pt. Reyes Station may become low cost housing but what about another source on federal property at Ducks Cove (DC) adjacent to Hearts Desire Beach?  Up until the time the Feds acquired the land through eminent domain in the “60’s, DC was a community of some dozen weekenders. They were forced to take compensation and term leases from the Feds, terms which have since expired, leaving DC an upscale ghost town.  The houses have since deteriorated but not beyond repair. Low cost buyers could off set some their purchase price with sweat equity toward such restoration. So this is where CLAM should step up and buy these places at fire sale prices, and negotiations with PRNS begin.

In doing so CLAM will run into the same imbroglio that Lunny has with his oyster farm.  The land on which DC stands is, I believe, designated “wilderness”.  But, of course, is not and hasn’t been since Ohlone times, probably not since the earth cooled.  Restoration of DC would jeopardize no seals, eelgrass, etc., etc.  At some point the Feds need to recognize this reality.

 

Tom Taylor

Inverness

Emergency suit filed to stop closure of Drakes Bay Oyster Company

BUSINESSES THREATENED BY CLOSURE OF DRAKES BAY OYSTER COMPANY FILE EMERGENCY SUIT TO
STOP ITS CLOSURE ON JULY 31

SAN FRANCISCO, July 18, 2014 – Late last night, West Marin businesses and others that directly depend on the continued operation of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company filed an emergency action to stop its closure by the federal government on July 31st .

The Tomales Bay Oyster Company, a plaintiff in the case, stated in papers filed in support for a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction that the company stands to lose between $250-$400 thousand a year if the Drakes Bay Oyster Company is shut down.

Charles “Tod” Friend, owner of the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, stated, “I’ve been involved in the West Marin oyster farming for thirty-five years. This is a close-knit community. We depend on each other. If they close down Drakes Bay, it is not only the Lunnys and all of their hard-working employees who will suffer.” Mr. Friend explained that Tomales Bay Oyster Company grows oysters itself, but depends on Drakes Bay Oyster Company when customer demand at their retail operations on shores of Tomales Bay outstrips what they can grow.

These sentiments were echoed by longtime West Marin resident and manager at Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Loretta Murphy, also a plaintiff. “Drakes Bay Oyster Company and the oyster farm workers are an integral part of the community fabric. If the oyster farm is forced to close and the oyster workers lose their housing and move to other areas it will be a large negative impact on the local school, the local church, and countless businesses, shops and restaurants. The loss of these jobs will mean upheaval for over 40 family members and there will be much collateral damage from such a large change in such a small town.”

The list of restaurants joining Tomales Bay Oyster Company and Loretta Murphy as plaintiffs read like a who’s who of the West Marin farm-to-table culinary scene, including Margaret Grade of Sir and Star, Osteria Stellina, Saltwater Oyster Depot, and Café Reyes.

Luc Chamberland, owner of the Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness, emphasized the importance of Drakes Bay oysters in the ability of his restaurant and others to deliver what their clientele has come to expect. “I and the other West Marin restaurateurs have built our reputations on providing an exceedingly fresh farm-to-table experience in a location that is remarkably close to one of the most urbanized places in the country. Closing Drakes Bay Oyster Company threatens our ability to do that.”

Stuart G. Gross of Gross Law, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. explained that the suit is fundamentally about ensuring that government agencies follow the law. “The Secretary of the Interior explicitly declared himself exempt from all legal requirements in deciding whether to close Drakes Bay Oyster Company. This was wrong. There are laws that he was required to follow, and he didn’t. This suit seeks to compel his compliance.”

Drakes Bay Oyster Company provides between one third and half of all oysters grown in California and as much as 70% of the oysters grown in Marin County. The nearest other growers to the San Francisco Bay area are hundreds of miles away. The suit alleges that the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service ignored their responsibilities under the National Aquaculture Act and the Coastal Management Act and disregarded the public trust rights of the people of California and California’s enforceable policies against conversion of coastal areas from agricultural use.

Also joining as plaintiffs are Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture (ALSA), Dr. Jeffrey Creque, founding member of ALSA, the Hayes Street Grill, and its co-owner and local food advocate, Patricia Unterman. Also named as a defendant is an office of NOAA.

With Stuart G. Gross of Gross Law, also representing plaintiffs are former U.S. Congressman Paul “Pete” McCloskey of Cotchett, Pitre, & McCarthy, LLP and former California state assemblyman Bill Bagley of Nossaman, LLP.

Gross Law is located at Pier 9 on The Embarcadero in San Francisco, California. Gross Law represents clients in natural resource, environmental, commercial, and business practices litigation throughout the United States.

The lawsuit is titled, Tomales Bay Oyster Company, et al. v. U.S. Dep’t of the Interior, et al., No. 14-3246, and was filed in the District Court of the Northern District of California.

A call for DBOC healing, but first……

We are all aware of how divisive this misadventure was, within our community as well as within some families. A number of people, Amy Trainer of the EAC included, have called for a time of healing.

I agree, we need a more united community when the next environmental challenge presents itself.

Within the past few months I reversed my position on DBOC and concluded that their time was up. I changed my mind, not because their departure would be a good idea or be beneficial for the environment (it could have a negative impact) but because the Secretary of the Interior was within his legal authority to decline an extension of a lease, already expired.

This argument was not sufficient for the opponents of the DBOC, the EAC in particular, as well as the Sierra Club and Earth Justice. They obfuscated the argument with fabricated information attacking the environmental stewardship of the DBOC.

For healing to take place, those who lied to us should not remain in positions of responsibility. They should resign or be fired. I wish that Amy Trainer were the first to go.

 

Chet Seligman

Pt. Reyes Station.

Elderhood: Another stage for boomers

by Bing Gong – age 75 and Eleanore Despina – age 68

Charles Schultz’s article in the June 26, 2014 issue of the West Marin Citizen was entitled The political, the communal, the individual: The three stages of the Boomer & the present malaise.” He describes the baby-boomer generation (born 1945-~1960) and pre-boomers (born in the 1930’s), who engaged in direct political action in the 60’s and 70’s “to change the federal government, to end repression, poverty, discrimination, and to end war.”

According to Schultz, when the dream of taking over America’s political institutions failed because of the brutal backlash from the government, the FBI, and the police – Kent State and COINTELPRO are examples – the Boomers moved away from politics. They rejected society to go back to the land. When the communes failed, the Boomers became individuals and consumers – had careers, and raised families. Many became complacent, affluent and wealthy. Thus today, we have “the present malaise” and the depression “at the apparent impossibility of doing anything about it.”

I would like to offer another perspective. There is the real possibility of another stage in the lives of baby boomers. Those choosing to become “conscious” Elders will be engaged in the unfinished business of the 60’s and 70’s, and in a giving back to the community that will impact the culture as a whole.

What is Elderhood?

There is a growing movement of Conscious Elderhood that will change the stereotypes of older people in our ageist culture. More and more aging people want their retirement years to be a time of growth – intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. “Elders” ripen into wisdom, and mellow into caring and compassion. “Oldsters” see their lives as behind them, reveling in what they have done and accomplished. Elders see their lives as enriched and enriching, right to the end.

Elders are coming together to nurture each other, raise consciousness, and create community. They are sharing perspectives and discovering their gifts. They discuss what they want and need in their future, and their course of action and attitudes, as they progress into and through their older years. What will be their role in society and community? What have their generational contributions been and what is left undone? What are their mistakes and triumphs, and what can they learn and offer to others – based on them? If they don’t want others to determine what becomes of them in very old age, they must be proactive, making conscious, thoughtful choices about their futures.

There can be a change in the aging paradigm. While it is said that growing old is not for sissies, with its aches and pains, physical decline, and loss of certain capacities, the latter stages of life hold enormous gifts for us. We now have a longer time to realize our full human potential. Elders can resurrect the dreams of early stages of their lives, before career and family. They can be political and creative, can take up neglected studies, and can develop aspects of themselves that have lain dormant for years. We begin to see aging as a new way of being, a way that is full of possibilities. It is an opportunity to open to new areas and explore our life-long passions.

Elder Gatherings in West Marin

At the Point Reyes Presbyterian Church, Elizabeth River led an elder circle to discuss Lew Richmond’s book Aging as a Spiritual Practice, and will start on Angeles Arrien’s The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom on July 11th. There is also a Senior Friendship Circle that meets at the Dance Palace on Fridays with Jody Farrell.

At the Commonweal Garden in Bolinas, there is an Elder Fire Circle that meets monthly on full moon outside around a fire; the next one will be on July 12th.

David “Lucky” Goff and Alexandra Hart, co-founders of the Transition Sebastopol Elder Salon, will read from their new book, The Age of Actualization: A Handbook for Growing Elder Community at the Point Reyes Presbyterian Church on August 10th. They formed the Elder Salon four years ago, and are at the forefront of the movement to create an elder culture. To quote the authors: “If enough of this new generation of older people can attain Elderhood, their gifts of perspective and collective wisdom could guide humanity to a new understanding of the possibilities of a well-developed and mature population.”

In the longevity revolution, people are living 20 to 30 years beyond retirement age. Baby boomers are becoming a demographic force as a majority of an aging population. Policy-makers call us the Silver Tsunami, and cite our impact on our overtaxed infrastructure – social security and Medicare, and social services for the elderly. But Boomers will have the time and energy to serve our planet. Rather than burdening the system, they can contribute to real change.

For more information on conscious elder gatherings in West Marin, contact Bing at 766-1439 or binggong@sonic.net. Published July 3,2014

Letter from the Lunny Family

Our family almost didn’t buy the oyster farm. Like all the ranches on Point Reyes, the farm can’t succeed without the seashore’s support, so we called then-Superintendent Don Neubacher before buying it to ask him what he thought. He said it would be a “bad idea” to buy the farm. The problem wasn’t that Drakes Estero was a “potential wilderness” area; wilderness status, he had told Charlie Johnson’s lawyer, was “more symbolic than anything else.” The problem was that the farm was falling apart, and the National Park Service wouldn’t support an operation that was in shambles. After the call, we agreed to walk away.

But Don called us back the next day. “I’d feel like I’d died and gone to heaven if you bought the oyster farm,” he said. He understood that our family had a great relationship with the park, that we were good stewards of our ranch and that we would take care of Drakes Estero. The park service had long supported the continuation of agriculture in the seashore, and had routinely renewed ranchers’ leases. We thought that if we fixed up the farm, as Don wanted, that the park would renew that lease, too—and that an important part of the agricultural fabric of our community would be saved.

After the call, our family decided to go ahead with the purchase. We took over operations on January 1, 2005, and quickly invested close to a million dollars in borrowed money for cleanup and upgrades. We truly believed the park would be relieved.

Instead, things went downhill. A few months later, the park sent us a letter from their lawyers concluding that the wilderness laws prohibited the renewal of the lease. (The people who drafted the legislation, like Congressman John Burton and the Environmental Action Committee’s founder, Jerry Friedman, thought Congress always intended the farm to stay.) We quickly became the target of an ugly attempt by the park to paint our family as “environmental felons.” (In fact, the environment in Drakes Estero is thriving.) Then-Secretary Ken Salazar, in denying our renewal, relied on much of the same wrong reasons.

If the park service can rewrite history and make false accusations of environmental harm against our family and the oyster farm, it can do it to any of the ranching families. So we sued. The federal district court and two judges on the Ninth Circuit held that the courts don’t have jurisdiction over our main claims. The only judge to review our claims on the merits—Judge Paul Watford—agreed with us that the decision was an abuse of discretion.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review our case, we are out of legal options to keep the farm open while we continue litigation. The oyster shack and cannery will close at the end of this month. We look forward to seeing and greeting our cherished friends and supporters in the coming days.

The park’s decision to close us down will hurt our employees. Many of them have grown up and put their children through school here, and have specialized skills that will be tough to put to use elsewhere in West Marin. We are grateful that California Rural Legal Assistance and Marin Legal Aid will be meeting with our employees and their families to try to find ways to help.

The decision will also hurt our community. The park service says it supports the ranchers and that the oyster farm issue is unrelated. We’re skeptical. If the park truly supports agriculture in West Marin, it would have honored Congress’s intent and renewed our farm’s permit. It would not have put a bull’s eye on the ranchers’ backs by identifying them in the farm’s recent environmental impact statement as the primary source of nonpoint-source pollution in an oyster-free Drakes Estero. It would be removing elk from the pastoral zone and issuing long-term leases today. And it would be thinking creatively about reusing the oyster shack as a place to sell the ranchers’ wares, rather than gearing up to send in the bulldozers. The park’s actions, and inactions, speak louder than words.

Our family will get through this. And there’s still a chance for us to get a new permit, either through the courts or Congress. (Though we don’t think civil disobedience is a good idea here, those of you still looking for ways to help should speak your mind to park officials and elected representatives.)

We owe so many people our deep and abiding gratitude; to name them all would overflow the pages of this newspaper. Thank you Senator Feinstein and Supervisor Kinsey, who have each proven willing to fight for their constituents and for sustainable agriculture in West Marin. Thank you Corey Goodman, who spent thousands of hours debunking the false claims of environmental harm and standing up for scientific integrity in government. Thank you Phyllis Faber, the Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture, Laura Watt, Jeff Creque, Dave Weiman, Sarah Rolph, Barbara Garfien, Judy Teichman, Bill Bagley, Michael Greenberg and Donna Yamagata, Jane Gyorgy and our lawyers. Thanks to the Light and the Citizen, which have covered this issue courageously over the years. And thanks to the countless volunteers who contributed their time and talent to make those wonderful “Save Our Drakes Bay Oyster Farm” signs, which we hope will stay up as a reminder that 85 percent of this community has supported us in this fight. Keep on shucking and believing.

Kevin & Nancy Lunny on behalf of the entire Lunny Family

 

 

The political, the communal, the individual: The three stages of the Boomer and the present malaise.

First the Boomers sought to take control of our political institutions; then in the frustration of this dream, awakened by state troopers’ and sheriffs’ batons, they tried the commune; true freedom, no politics, a group of equals. Finally, as the communes collapsed, the ultimate consumer called the Individual was born and the Boomers began to fold into their easy chairs of Imperial credit-booms, spirituality and inheritance.

Where then do we find the dreamers?

Today, the wealthy and ascendant who carefully tended the garden of their credit worthiness have, in our post-war, Wall Street reverie, bid up the prices of homes and property in West Marin, and the Bay Area generally. They have forced out the “hippies” and other remnants of the counter-culture. But let’s not mourn them only.

Let’s tell a story about them, a selective version of events to be sure, but not a wholly false one. It is a story about how the “counterculture” abandoned politics in favor of communal living. And, in the disappointment of the communes, they abandoned society to live as individuals. A narrow history and memory of failed idealism. This is the story of why we don’t believe the world can change.
Many people born in the 30’s and 40’s decided at various points in the 50’s and 60’s that they lived in a corrupt society. The government conducted unconstitutional and criminal wars. And it repressed the poor, women and minorities. America in the 50’s and 60’s was uniquely rich and powerful. Yet many did not share in this prosperity, or rather the rights and status of the weak had not grown equally in the sun of our golden empire. So, many a righteous Boomer (born 1945- ~1960) and pre-boomers (born in the 30’s), let’s call them Bloomers – either for the first to flower or old fashioned underwear, your choice – decided to engage in direct political action to change the government. Not just university administrations, but to change the federal government, to end repression, poverty, discrimination, and to end war.
They had a powerful opponent: the men already running the government. It was a terrible contradiction, the wealth that allowed so many the education and leisure to discover all of these beautiful ideas about equality and peace, was incubated within an Empire which was moving in an opposite direction – to remake the world in its image, through exploitation and violence. The Boomers’ and Bloomers’ parents were in charge – and did not want to give up power. So the government used repression, subversion and force to thwart the desire of their wayward children, and the minorities, to change the country.
The murder of four students at Kent State is, across generations, the most easily remembered example of the state declaring its intention not to be overthrown, but there are old forgotten words like cointelpro or the FBI’s “counter-intelligence program.” Already by the late 1960’s the FBI had been spying on and attacking dissident movements in the United States for decades. One grotesque example is the case of Fred Hamilton. J. Edgar Hoover wanted this black activist dead. If you don’t know the story, look Fred up. Find out, readers, if the FBI got their man!
Attacks on the left movements in America were extreme – including dozens of police riots on college campuses carried out by sheriffs and the National Guard (Alameda County Sheriff emeritus Edwin Meese gets special mention here). Universities were gassed by helicopters and planes, and not just with teargas. At UC Berkeley, it is claimed nerve gas was sprayed on students. and anyone else around that day as a testing ground for external enemies of the State.
One Boomer I spoke to recently at Nick’s Cove told me his childhood ideas about the goodness of our society ended when state troopers arrived at his university. On exiting the bus that had brought them – their opening engagement with these student protestors – one officer took out his baton, and in one swipe, smashed out the teeth of the girl standing next to him. This man told me, “She was so beautiful… I couldn’t believe the amount of blood….”
The commune
What did that fellow do? The dream of taking over America’s political institutions thus shattered, he went back to the land. In a mass rejection of society, 500,000 or more Boomers moved to the country side in an effort to create a more just and pure life – a life impossible in the brutality of industrial society – and crucially – away from politics, away from the failure of democracy and the Enlightenment.
I am referencing the work of documentarian Adam Curtis, who tracked down members of back-to-the-land communes. He wanted to know what happened there, in the eclipse of their activist ideals – the dream of using politics to change the world. He found, in many cases, a desire for radical egalitarianism – no leaders, no followers. This was expressed in the words used to rebuke group members who stood up for others, “Travel in your own country, man.” It was a complete rejection of organized politics. Alliances between commune members were forbidden.
The purpose of politics is the weak being able to organize and negotiate with the powerful. In the structureless communes, strong individual male and some female, personalities came to dominate, and crucially, no-one was allowed, by their ideology of radical freedom, to organize and resist the tyrants. Back in the city, you get the brutal oppression of the elite who controlled the government. If you stay in the commune, maybe an example is made of you by self-appointed leaders; maybe they turn your children or spouse against you; maybe you get raped. It turned out that escaping politics was no escape at all.
The Individual: Why I learned to stop worrying and love the 80’s
Consumer capitalism had prepared a perfect re-entry for the back-to-the-landers. The old politics were impossible, the communes were corrupt, and everyone was having kids – but now, ironically, you could be an Individual™. We forget that the 70’s-80’s self-help gurus came up with the “society doesn’t exist” line that the corrupt leaders like Margaret Thatcher brought to the mainstream.
There is no society – Maggie posited – only an economy. Lonely individuals seeking to maximize advantage for themselves, at the expense of all others – how close is that to lonely individuals seeking personal spiritual breakthroughs here in West Marin today?
The new mindset believes that the best you can do for others is to produce wealth, and thereby increase the wealth available to all and set an example of success. That is how you help the poor. And it matches perfectly with the spiritual and religious types who sell us the following; you must find your own internal peace, your own enlightenment, which will help you and set an example for others….
It was a lot clearer in the 80’s: Jerry Rubin, the Yippie capitalist, a voice for the once disaffected, selling the song of himself. Get to work! Don’t wait for the revolution; get that money, and buy the real you! Become credit worthy. Buy that house, perhaps a second house, in which your abandoned ideals can rest and wait for you, for your sentimental holidays, when you remember what you hoped for or what you resisted.
The Surprisingly Bearable, Unbearable Lightness of Being
To understand our fear of politics and why we aren’t making meaningful progress on the poverty and climate crises, let’s take the example, related to me by Paul Fenn, of Vaclav Havel and Milan Kundera.
Kundera has a broad popularity in the West, particularly his novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. His worldview instructs in two connected ways. For Kundera the ultimate wisdom is to see the myriad possibilities of experience and pleasure in the course of one’s life as a guide to true wisdom. For him, the ultimate vanity of man is to believe that he has an effect upon history. History is an uncontrollable and unknowable phenomenon, a volcano that erupts, and the fools believe that tossing a virgin into the caldera is going to prevent its capricious and devastating action. It was an ideal philosophy for the Boomer refugees who fled politics and communes for the beautiful private houses in West Marin.
Then there was Havel, who, to begin the story at the ending, was the first democratically elected President of a free Czechoslovakia. As a young man, Havel was a member of a relatively privileged elite in Czech society. Havel realized that he and his friends were sitting atop a repressive and corrupt society, enforced by the violence of the Soviet Union. And he decided to organize to oppose this corruption. He said that when he first knew his privileged relationship to his culture, in American terms, how he was rich and so many were poor, he was humiliated. And that is crucial. When we see ourselves, our own power, in relation to the suffering of the world, we are humiliated. We retreat from that emotion. It hurts us. We are tempted to turn away from the hurt and embrace the surprisingly bearable Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Vaclav Havel transcended the shame of inherited power, thus converted to responsibility, and led a movement that freed his country. Milan Kundera is popular amongst aging literate swingers. Most of us, if we peer out through the scrim of West Marin’s pageant of culture, have an enduring awareness of the suffering of the weak and are depressed at the apparent impossibility of doing anything about it. The way forward lies in politics and history, the story of what happened, what went wrong, and what to do about it. The further we descend into our inverted communities of solipsism and spiritualism, of fantastic and toxic individuality, the farther wisdom retreats from us.

Published June 26, 2014

 

The importance of activism

One of the nightmares of activism of any kind is the burnout that occurs when we’re overwhelmed by the enormity of the forces ranged against us. Even if we’re successful in one issue, another huge problem will crop up. Activists sometimes have to change tack for a while, just to maintain sanity.

We recently found archives from 2002 of an interactive installation we hung on the Grandi Building, called “Pro-Degradation”. It created lots of public interaction, and even front-page insults (“lumpenproletariat out-of-towners”) from David Mitchell, then owner of the Point Reyes Light. But even bad publicity helps get the message out.

 

It lifted our spirits back then, when lies were justifying war, to do something so tongue-in-cheek as a reminder of the danger of unconscious acceptance of the status quo. The show encouraged maximum consumption (“Drive more, breed more, war more, flush twice…”) in order to save other species by making life untenable for our own.

While the tone was ironic, the question was serious. Should the apparent death wish of our species be granted, if it’s the only way to reduce our inevitable impact on the biosphere?

Pro-Deg still lightens our hearts during frustrating times. Rather than telling humans not to do something, it recommends they do more!

 

Homes, or housing- a West Marin story

Congratulations to the graduating 8th graders of West Marin School. The best of luck as you go forward in high school. The changes come big and fast from here on out.

Sadly, there are only eight students graduating this year. This exodus of the young should be obvious to everyone and it’s not difficult to imagine the trend continuing until shortly there will be so few students in the Pt. Reyes area that the school itself cannot continue. One can chart a graph and see where it ends easily enough. If you add up the years of all the graduating class it barely approaches the median age of an Inverness resident.

In a decade or so when their formal schooling is over will any return to where they grew up? Let’s look at what they have to face:

The foul greedy monster himself, or at least his most apparent manifestation, greets the returning youth. Where to live? $850,000 will get you a small house but last I checked Wells Fargo isn’t issuing any 400-year mortgages. Master’s Degree in hand and a good job or not, just scratch the possibility of buying anything off your list. Probably forever. Go to Mississippi or South Dakota if you want the American dream. This surprises nobody certainly but it’s important in establishing where our youth stands, on what side of that fat green line he will find himself.

Let’s just suppose, so we can continue, that the problem of where to live is somehow surmounted and relatively affordable housing is secured. Housing—now there’s a word which puts one in his place immediately. Housing is for criminals, soldiers, and, in our case here, the poor. The old men and women of Inverness do not have housing, they have homes. Say to them “That’s a beautiful housing unit you’ve got there” and you’ll get some mighty queer, angry looks. It’s a telling, class-defining difference. Housing is for tenants, not landlords. People in housing refer to where they stay, not where they live. People in homes have a lifetime of memories; people in housing have a 30-day notice to vacate.

So a tenuous residency in the Pt. Reyes area is established which only eats up about three-quarters of his salary and gives him 150 square feet of a converted woodshed on someone’s three-acre estate. Try not to think about sharecropping or feudalism. As long as your face is white you’re okay. And certainly, if you’re living here your face is white. Very good. Time to enjoy. Hopefully, he likes the outdoors. The beaches and the trails are free, available to all (and never mind the irony that the only entity here whose purpose isn’t to turn a profit is everyone’s favorite target of contempt). As for cultural diversions—well, let’s just hope he likes ecstatic dance and bluegrass music. Maybe a one-woman show every now and then.

Or how about a nice dinner out? Well, for about what a new Model T cost in 1915 (and I use this as an example only because it will be familiar to so many people living here) you and your honey have the choice of about three different establishments determined to fleece every rich tourist rolling down State Route 1 with the promise of some foodie paradise.

And if our young couple enjoying dinner should marry and have a child or two? Let’s just hope that they never run out of diapers and have to make an emergency trip to buy some locally. Whatever savings they may have scraped together will be wiped out with a single package of Pampers. We’ve gone wildly out of balance here; the economy is warped by a tourist surcharge on everything from gas to bad, inauthentic Mexican food.

So who is to blame? Should we blame the rich who have gobbled up the houses only to let them sit vacant, gold in the vault, to be cashed in at some future age? We could, but they’re not here to blame and wouldn’t listen anyway. Bang your head against that wall a while, comrade. Besides, who was it that sold the house to them in the first place? The old. Or, more likely, the sons and daughters of the old who were left the house.

Must it be? Probably. The Grandi Building no doubt will be transformed into an expensive hotel with yet another overpriced, unwelcoming restaurant or two on the ground floor, not a community center. The few funky shops will close to be replaced by boutiques. The sound of children playing in Inverness will grow even more faint, then not heard at all. Houses will be sold at whatever price the market will bear, not a dollar less. It’s Capitalism son, nothing but, don’t look so appalled. Pt. Reyes will become an expensive museum, something to gawk at during lunch before roaring out of town again with a trunk full of souvenirs.

There is no amount of talk, no amount of writing, no amount of pseudo-grassroots signage or lockstep dogma going to make a difference when it comes down to money. We can Occupy Pt. Reyes and Ban Fracking all we want but we’ll need to gas up the Prius first before heading back to occupy our lovely million dollar Craftsman. Then again, who knows what seemingly innocuous event might change this ugly ancient course we’re set upon. Maybe one of our graduates, despite it all, comes back here determined to make it a home, not just a place to stay. Maybe you won’t even notice. We’ll grow our beards out and head to the mountains—symbolically of course, don’t worry.

Name withheld by author’s request.

Anonymous Submissions, Citizen policy:

Recently we have received some excellent submissions that, regrettably, were anonymous. Our policy is that sometimes they are permitted and appropriate, but handled case-by-case.  One case was a person who gave a false name and address, which we didn’t consider for publication once we discovered that the name and address did not exist.  We agreed to publish this week’s guest column without the name of the person after consulting with the author who lives in Inverness who has some concerns that the letter could put his family’s housing situation and livelihood at risk.

Published July 3, 2014