My run-in with radical thought occurred when I was in my first year of eighth grade (a few years before I dropped out of highschool, the best choice I ever made), in the form of punk rock. A friend of mine had turned me on to punk rock, and I had gotten interested in bands like Pennywise, Propagandhi, Refused, Crass, Aus Rotten, and a large number of other bands that promoted free thought and anarchy. Soon enough I would be playing in bands of my own, as a drummer. My time spent playing in bands culminated firstly in Druids on Parade, a hardcore punk band that sounded something along the lines of a mix between The Adolescents and Dag Nasty, and then in Division of Power, which was also a hardcore punk band, though it had a little more melody, and screamed, rather than yelled, vocals, something along the lines of From Ashes Rise meets Strike Anywhere, but less polished than either of those bands. Neither of my bands ever toured, though we had a lot of fun and fans in the local punk scene.
While playing in punk bands, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the crowd at 1919 Hemphill, a DIY punk and radical activist community center in an old warehouse in a run-down part of Fort Worth, where prostitutes and homeless men walk the streets on a regular basis. 1919 pays the bills by hosting live music, and opens its space up for free use by activist organizations. It’s loosely run by volunteers, with no paid staff. It hosts a radical lending library with punk, feminist, animal rights, environmentalist, and anarchist literature, as well as a “free store” where donations primarily of used clothing are provided to the local community without cost. I volunteered time at 1919 getting the place in order, painting, and organizing the library.
While playing music at 1919, there were different activities outside of musical events that others would throw on. Food Not Bombs, for instance, met a few times at 1919. Vegan Chili Cookoffs and “Examined Life” gatherings were common in the beginning, as put on by a fellow named Cri, who was also the mastermind behind the place. The Examined Life gatherings were weekend gatherings of workshops and skillshares, where different kinds of knowledge were shared, from political perspectives to DIY auto mechanics and screen printing, by an assortment of people from the local community.Anti-war protests were organized from there, as well as trips to protest outside of the area, such as in Houston, D.C., and New York (I’d learn from these activities the ineffectiveness of protests). Trips to the Radical Encuentro Camp, a camp of workshops surrounding various radical issues, and the Rhizome Collective, a green anarchist collective practicing “Sustainable City Living,” by collecting rainwater, farming with aquaponics, restoration work, and hosting various programs, among other things, were arranged from 1919.
Other groups would meet regularly at 1919, and I met many people involved in the Green Party. Of special importance was a woman by the name of Diane Wood, who I volunteered time with doing some counter-military recruitment in local highschools, as part of her non-profit project, Peaceful Vocations. I drew a poster for the organization, which was posted in public highschools in Fort Worth, as equal access clauses in the lawbooks provide opportunities to counter-recruiters. A volunteer at 1919, and a Green Party member, Ramsey, would put on a video series called “Conscientious Projector,” wherein various political documentaries would be shown. I believe it was at one of Ramsey’s Conscientious Projector showings that I met Stephanie and Russell, with whom I would co-found a local IWW group, that would later become an official branch, of which I was a card-issuing delegate.
We didn’t do a whole lot of actual on-the-job organizing, because of a few reasons. Firstly, we didn’t work together. Aside from that, I found it difficult to persuade my fellow workers at the progressive vegan restaurant I was working at (I was vegan for 11 years, and now eat a lacto-ovo post-vegan diet) to form a union, or, in regard to the minority I convinced, to go about it tactfully, instead of making premature announcements. Our union did, however, focus a lot on raising class consciousness more generally, as we felt that the lack of class consciousness was our primary obstacle to organizing in our workplaces. We did this by hosting meetings and workshops, movie nights, promoting the IWW, and putting on events.
The most important of the events we put on was called the Night of Progress, which was a night where our branch would invite many different kinds of activist and political organizations from the area to share time on the mic between musical acts of various kinds and fire-cooked chili. We invited groups like Animal Connection of Texas, The International Socialist Organization, The Green Party, Code Pink, The Libertarian Party, Denton Anarchist Collective, Querencia Bike Collective (when it first started out), and many other diverse organizations, which set up literature tables and introduced their projects. We hosted rappers, punk rock bands, indie artists, poets, and more. The idea was to get a wide range of organizations together so that we would each bring our followers and create a larger mass of influence than we would have alone. It worked out quite well, and even almost developed into a community coalition of the participating groups. We had two large meetings where we established a name (GROUP – Grass Roots Organizations Uniting People) and passed some other business, but eventually the distance got between us, and meetings became under attended. With proper organization, this may not have been an issue, but I was not capable of managing the situation at the time. I was in my early 20s.
Eventually, I dated a woman I fell in love with who took interest in my philosophy and wanted to get involved herself, signing up with the IWW. Before meeting her, some of us had discussed “salting” (getting a job with intentions of forming a union) a Starbucks as part of a larger campaign that was going on at the time, but I had failed to get hired. She decided to try where I had failed, and she succeeded in getting a job, and eventually forming a shop committee with her fellow workers. Unfortunately, our relationship would not last and, between emotions related to the relationship and concerns I had developed about the IWW (such as not allowing us to use consensus in our bylaws) in my 6 years of organizing, I quit the IWW.
Some of the concerns I had developed were not so much fundamental issues with the philosophy—such as my concerns about majority rule—, but more tactical issues that I had come to be aware of. I had come to read some valid criticisms of “workerist” anarchism, which suggested to me that, while syndicates like the IWW certainly serve a purpose, this purpose is not absolute, and other kinds of issues also need to be tackled. I had also come to see the limitations with the IWW as a historical organization, which was limited by its 100-year-old culture and imagery, much of which was very “white” and dated masculine imagery involving factory-workers. Mostly, I wanted to take on projects that did not fit under the scope of the IWWs purpose, or which would be a fight to argue otherwise.
After quitting the IWW, at about 24 years old, I decided to form what would become the Black Cat Collective. The idea was very general: I had found it difficult to motivate people into syndicalism because it was not a passion of theirs, so I would instead focus on enabling people to go about their passions in an anarchistic fashion, by creating an institution for mutual support. The collective would act as a central body for many subsidiary projects. It would be a mutual aid society, in which the group would decide on common areas of agreement, and pursue the ends of these agreements. The collective hosted a few group feasts and socials in its early days, and eventually moved into an office of its own, which would find its home in the parlor of a rental house that has long been passed around the community (it had previously been “The Tolstoy House,” a Christian anarchist “house of hospitality”), and which had its own entrance. We barricaded the walkway from the parlor to the living room with a large bookshelf that I built, and which would earn the office the title of “The Josiah Warren Library.” The Josiah Warren Library has served as the general headquarters of the collective ever since. The moveable property of the collective— including a laptop computer, a video camera, a video projector, lots of books, and a number of other items— is stored there, and meetings of the collective are held there as well. There were two issues of a literary journal, “The Bombay Notebook,” put out by the collective, which contain poetry, artwork, stories, and essays from the local community, covering a wide range of topics and sentiments. The collective has hosted a number of events and meetings around a number of subjects.
Perhaps the most successful project associated with the collective was The People’s Arcane School, which was a peer-instructed and democratically-controlled school of metaphysics, philosophy, and self-discovery. The People’s Arcane School was actually the brainchild of my friend, Steven, who had also been a Wobbly with me. The School hosted a good number of classes and speakers on topics as diverse as quantum physics, Nietzsche, the harmony of the spheres, Hindu cosmology, Georg Gurjieff, pantheism, natural law, Epicurus, Reflexology, Cybernetics, geology, Object Relations, Sufi chanting, yoga, Boolean algebra, astronomy, art theory, evolution, Max Stirner, sacred geometry, and many more. The school lasted for 2 solid years, before we ran out of subject matter from volunteers.
I have written three books now, the first two, “The Evolution of Consent: Collected Essays” volumes I and II being collections of essays I wrote, and the third being “Community Economics for Permaculture Practitioners.” Some of the essays from “The Evolution of Consent” were originally written as lectures for The People’s Arcane School. Both volumes of the set offer a metaphysical-theological perspective I call “dualist pantheism” and a political-economic perspective I call “geo-mutualist panarchism.”
This has been a general overview of my activities as a radical. There is much more, of course. I was originally intending to post posters from many of the events I arranged, and which I made posters for. There are many of them, however, and it would take a great deal of effort to upload all of them. I think it’s important for anarchist authors to do some actual ground-level organizing, and I have tried to live by this in my organizations and their programs, which have functioned on formal consensus decision-making processes within general assemblies, work committees, etc. Today I am taking a bit of a break from all of the rigorous social activities described above, and am focusing more on cooperative living with friends and family, philosophy, my writings and teachings, and sustainable farming.