My name is Esteban. But you probably know that. Welcome to my blog. I couldn't think of a title, hence the witty name. I've reached out to you to let you know about this blog because in one way or another I am related to, or have a deep respect for, each of you, and I want to make sure I stay in touch with you over the course of the next year or so.
If you haven't heard already, I'm moving to Madrid, Spain, in a couple of days. I'll be working with 5-10 year old kids as an English Language cultural assistant. Don't ask for much more of a description (it's a grant program through the Spanish government—like all things Spanish, details are lacking). I suppose the details of that will be yet to come in the coming entries to this blog.
Keeping a blog like this will be good for keeping in touch with you. More importantly, I think it'll provide a bit of insight for you and I. For you, I promise stories about my experiences, encounters with interesting people,1stories about completely fictional experiences and interesting people, mundane things I do, funny things I see and hear about, not-so-funny things I see and hear about, and pictures. And sometimes, what I think. For myself this is a reflective exercise to develop my capacity for praxis: the process which turns consciousness into action, which in turn, reinforces itself and transforms the world around me.2 Just maybe, sitting down every so often to collect what I've seen, done, and thought about will be good for me, and show you a different lens with which to see the world—through my eyes.
I really do hope you read it. Not because I'm afraid of losing contact with any of you, I know that those who interest me, my people, will come out in the end. But also for your thoughts about what I see and think. I want to hear from you. If you've been to Spain, I want to know where I should go and what to do. If you've any experience with 5-10 year old kids, I wanna know what you know so that I don't fuck up all that badly. Whatever else you think you can help me with, I welcome your advice.
Now for some context:
If you don't know me already, I've just graduated from (or, more appropriately, been chewed up and spit out by) what was at one time the greatest Public University system in the world, the University of California. I graduated from Berkeley last may (2010) with a BA in Political Science and since then have been working as a security guard at the UCB Library. Luckily, that was an easy job, which meant that concurrently, I had the privilege being an organizer on the front lines of one of the most important causes of our generation: drug policy reform.
I've been trying to poke a hole in a system of lies and injustices which has ruined lives and wasted resources. Specifically, I've been working with Yes on Proposition 19, the initiative on California's ballot that would control and tax cannabis—ending the arrest of nonviolent cannabis consumers by allowing the possession and cultivation of cannabis by adults over 213. It has been the most fulfilling political experience I've had, and one that I'm sad to leave. But alas, there are always choices, and the Road is too enticing for me right now. So I've made my choice and am getting on a plane on September 15th. I've got confidence, however, that there will always be struggles to get my hands dirty in. And I need this trip, it's a chance to enhance my critical thinking, and get me to engage effectively in praxis. I've a feeling that the velcro “rip” sound and feeling of uprooting to another place and sense of time for a while might be good for me as a person, and make me a better prepared actor in the historical process when I get back home—wherever that ends up being.
Berkeley was pretty fun, and I'm going to miss the Bay Area. It's a really beautiful place. Many of you reading this blog are from there or have spent time there. The Bay has a certain way of amassing a wide variety of people with the sun in their eyes—not the vast majority, but a lot. People who embrace the 'otherness' they possess. It's a legacy of the University, the Beats, the upheaval of the 20th century, and the counter-culture of the 1960s. I'm not saying that it's a reflection of that time and place today—in this sense history is always echoing—but rather, its history belies a certain undercurrent of resistance. On the flip side, there are plenty of people who did what I did (got their degree at Cal) who were and are blinded by their desire to see their name on a prestigious diploma. A lot of folks are chasing the free-market dream. They might see idealism as wasteful and stupid, but conversely, I see them as cynical and arrogant. An ideology of no ideology is similarly as dangerous.4
My last year in Berkeley was interesting. I came to a lot of questions about what the hell was coming next. Needless to say, the question I hated (and still hate) hearing is “What are you going to do now?” The real thought I always kept to myself was: “None of your goddamn business but if I figure it out I'll let you know!” I've been living in 'Obama's America' and trying to come to terms with my place in it, and my role in the progress of history going forward from it. It was a seminal moment in my formation as a political entity (and we are all political entities, whether we know it or not). I remember storming into the library with a bottle of wine and other amenities with my friends Tom and Pete as we celebrated by the thousands a victory over the forces of ignorance and bad governance. But over the last year, I saw the increasing reality of the situation. I saw police treat students as threats to the State when we asked for a say in the University we gave prestige to. I saw the State use its monopoly of force against people I knew, and people I cared about. I couldn't watch the news because of the rage that I felt watching death being dredged up from the depths of the earth to ooze forth in the waters of the Gulf Coast. I saw criminal finance wiz-kids walk away from the fraud they perpetrated on the public, blaming 'the boom and bust' cycle of money. I can't help wondering, “what's next?” I reserve the right to be wrong, but I think that anyone not recognizing the inevitability and necessity of a shaking transformation of the way things are operated is just talking about the weather. I'm still searching for my place in this historical process, and I think with an open and critical mind, I'll find it.
It's getting late and my front porch here in Pasadena is calling me like the 3rd story deck of my last house called me at 2am. I think I've done enough to introduce you to my thoughts and the context I'm telling you them in. I hope you enjoy the next year or so, and that you read my communiqués and talk to me about them. I want to engage in dialogue with the people I care about, and I hope you want the same. Much Love.
1“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!”--Jack Kerouac, On The Road
2This definition is up to some interpretation, and like all things I say in this experiment, please feel free to provide me with feedback on what you think. A dictionary.com definition of the term is: “practice, as distinguished from theory; application or use, as of knowledge or skills.” I, however, am deriving this notion out of the work of Paulo Freire who defines praxis as "reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it." Freire, P. (1986) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum. p. 36
4“There is nothing more ideological than to say, 'Everyone is ideological; I am the only one who is lucid.'” Sub-comandante Marcos, Of Trees, Criminals, and Odontology: Letter to Carlos Monsivais, The Zapatista Reader Edited by Tom Hayden 2002 Avalon Publishing Group