SINK OR SWIM PT.1 “From outside the looking glass”
By Aaron Evans
“From outside the looking glass, no one told me that sleepy sun drenchedÂ San DiegoÂ was secretly still the Wild West. A whirling dervish where whimsical street performers, activists, and poet laureates still thrashed against neo-conservative undertones determined to protect starry-eyed tourists wandering through wonderland. Seemingly, I underestimated the looming prowess of a military and commercial conglomerate intent on stalling forward progress, hell bent on sitting in place while stepping into the future, complacent, believing only in the voices of those who can afford to pay for it. Yet, the most disheartening thing I’ve experienced since touching down in So. Cal. has come from within my, no our, very own culture where leaders have apparently and sadly forgotten that you can’t have a community without unity first.
I’ve never been keen on conspiracy theories until I moved to San Diego 18 months ago and saw first hand what the term “divide and conquer” really meant. I don’t even have to name names, the major players have done that job quite eloquently for me, perpetually slinging mud back and forth on social networks like a cyber school lunchroom, lacing icy glares across courtrooms and council meetings where we stand together, yet separate. I have and would still call many of these people my friends, but there comes a time when I must draw a line in the sand. This lion can no longer hold his tongue. We’ve all seen it and I’ve had a front row seat to this delusional presentation of a modern revolution.Â After watching Prop. 19 fail and the City and County of San Diego impose unreasonable zoning restrictions upon co-ops, each and every one of us, leader or follower, patient or sympathizer, must take a long, hard look in the mirror and have a very honest conversation about what went wrong.
Last fall, amongst the plume of adolescent infighting, I came across a quote from a friend and local activist, Ree Obana, which stopped me dead in my tracks. It has become the basis of my ideology concerning service to others. The passage read, “One of the most valuable things I have learned and relearned from time to time is asking ‘for whom and for what?Â Why do you do what you do? What and who does it REALLY serve? How much value do you place on fame, recognition and acknowledgement vs. doing the work to achieve actual progress?’ Chances areâ€¦if the masses are truly not of your concern…there may be something flawed in your process.”
I spent countless hours contemplating, analyzing and soul searching as I ask myself those questions again and again. Why do I do what I do and who exactly do I do it for? Am I simply another self-absorbed artist screaming for attention with my heart on my sleeve? Or did I truly believe in the struggle of each and every person I claimed to be fighting for? We all have egos; we all play the fool and, trust me, I’m no exception to the rule. I found that the trick is to maintain an internal system of checks and balances. I reiterated to myself that pride must never overpower true priority, and self-worth is never more important than those I’m serving.Â I try to do my best to remember that the voice I’m screaming atop the mountain with is not truly mine, but rather the collective consciousness and thoughts of those who have not yet learned or are unable to scream for themselves. I’m the first to admit that for years I’ve wanted to be a poster boy for the movement, and I’ve come to accept that itâ€™s fine as long as I’m not striving to be THE poster boy.Â For as much as Iâ€™m one to believe that any one driven individual can change the world, Iâ€™m not one to think that any one of my heroes actually accomplished their dreams single handedly.
I’m still somewhat of a new kid on the block and I’ll openly admit that my previous exposure to these parts was limited to pit stops in La Jolla in route to building homes for the homeless inÂ Mexico, a four day bender in O.B. to kick off the “Everybody’s Green” tour, and an all expense paid vacation with a love that didn’t last the plane ride home. Needless to say, upon moving to San Diego, I was one of those starry-eyed tourists with a rock star complex at best.Â I missed the 9/9/09 raids, the historic vote on Prop. 215 sixteen years ago, and I never met Jack, Tommy or Eddy. Â I wasn’t here when someone did or didn’t fuck someone else and I honestly couldn’t give a fuck less.Â I’ve sat and listened to almost every leader in the community call each other informants. I have come to realize that it’s basically a right of passage to be called a â€˜Federal Agentâ€™ before being called a â€˜Real Activist,â€™ which is normally a level of insanity limited to those who like to rock straight jackets for the style of it. AND guess what?Â I’m over it;Â all of it. Â Like a championship dynasty facing off against an inferior team and getting its ass kicked, we are performing down to the level of our opponent rather than maintaining focus, playing the game our way, and finally getting the job done. Â We’re smarter, more talented, and I’m calling a time out for self-reflection.
I’m notÂ claiming to have all the answers, but from outside the looking glass, I have a few theories. I’m convinced that the only way to overcome this conundrum is to bind together tightly as if weâ€™re the molecules of a mighty tidal wave, crashing against an archaic wall of oppression. We must lay our differences down or duke it out and let the dust settle once and for all. For as long as we allow “them” to pit “us” against ourselves, we will continue to fight an unwinnable war. We’re portraying crabs in a bucket while dancing a dance with the devil. Simply put, it’s a sink or swim situation and from this point forth, I must emphasize that I only raise my hand to solute THE PEOPLE as I believe any true leader in any cultural revolution should.”