A Short Thought on Healthy Confidence

There’s this mindset that you should be supremely confident in your words, all the time, and command respect everywhere you go because — within this mindset — your social respect is your total value. Now, I think this is a horrible mindset — and I think we’ve all seen this mindset play out in social and professional situations. In the worst situations it can be toxic; even in the less egregious situations, it’s manipulative and produces less-than-optimal project outcomes. Having a base level of confidence is healthy and good. But beyond this base level, I try to keep my confidence … Continue reading A Short Thought on Healthy Confidence

3 Things I’m Learning as a Small Media Business Owner

For the last few weeks, I’ve wanted to write down — mostly for myself — some of the biggest lessons I’ve been learning as a small media business owner. These lessons are not original — I doubt these will surprise you. Nonetheless, I’ve wanted to write the following lessons down for several reasons: (1) the way I process information/emotions is very verbal, and writing this will help ingrain these lessons deeper within me; (2) these Facebook essays I write serve a secondary purpose as nice mementos that are, for me, if not ‘better than’ then at least ‘more efficient’ than … Continue reading 3 Things I’m Learning as a Small Media Business Owner

Tragedy & Choice

Content Warning: Everything going on right now. On January 31, 2021, I wrote an essay entitled “5 Years Ago in Reno” in which I reminisced about my second-ever union organizing drive. In that essay, I explained that at one point during that campaign, helping the workers at a small rehab hospital in North Bay win their union, I worked “28 straight 14-hour days.” I wrote that I had “never worked so hard in my life” and that “a week prior [to my 28 14-hour-a-day sprint], I had crashed my car in pure exhaustion, falling drowsy at the wheel.” I wrote, … Continue reading Tragedy & Choice

The Dream I Had Last Night: Amor Fati

So, as I start typing this, it’s 5AM in the morning. I’m typically not awake this early — particularly not in the wee morning hours of a holiday. I don’t even typically remember my dreams. But I’m awake right now because about half an hour ago I awoke very suddenly, jolted by the realism, vividness, and intensity of the dream. I’ll be up front, and consider this a content warning: My dream ends with a bunch of pissed off guards violently dragging my good friend into a room and shooting him in the head. I debated whether to write this … Continue reading The Dream I Had Last Night: Amor Fati

The Ontology of Organizing: My Fundamental Philosophy

— 1 — A few weeks ago, I spoke at the ten-year anniversary of the pepper spray incident at UC Davis. The anniversary event went without a hitch. There were various activities throughout the afternoon: kids screen printing t-shirts, music, food. Various organizations were tabling at the Memorial Union: Cops Off Campus UC Davis; the student arm of AFSCME 3299; and even the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) at UC Davis. I got real happy when I saw the YDSA. In the months and years following the pepper-spray incident, a few student organizers and I came together to create … Continue reading The Ontology of Organizing: My Fundamental Philosophy

10 Year Pepper-spray Anniversary (Speech)

(This is a speech I delivered on November 18th on the UC Davis quad — during an event remembering the ten-year anniversary of the UC Davis pepper-spray incident. The event was organized by UC Davis Cops Off Campus, Young Democratic Socialists of America at UC Davis, and other campus organizations.) Hey all, my name is Ian. And ten years ago, I was a freshman here at UC Davis. I was 18 years old then — and I’m 28 now. Honestly, I look out at this crowd, and I *can’t believe* it’s been *ten years* since me and my fellow student … Continue reading 10 Year Pepper-spray Anniversary (Speech)

Some Meandering Thoughts about Passion

If you asked people who knew me in middle school and high school what type of person I was like, you’d probably hear a bunch of things — ‘weird,’ ‘socially awkward,’ and ‘disagreeable’ would be among the descriptors. But a descriptor you’d probably hear frequently was that I was deeply, deeply Passionate about the things I cared about. Really, I didn’t ‘care’ about things; I Cared about things. And while most of my interests have shifted at least in some capacity since I was a teenager — an affection for computer animation shifted towards videography/photography, a fervor for political debate … Continue reading Some Meandering Thoughts about Passion

Vaccine Hesitancy & Western Ontology

There’s a lot of discourse circling around. Stuff like, “Get the vaccine. It will save your life. Here are the statistics. Here are the stories.” This discourse is important. This discourse is necessary. Appealing to someone’s self-interest is the quickest, fastest way to get someone to do the thing that’s best for them to do. But need I remind that values are important too? I fear that too few people are talking about the fundamental reason why so many of these self-interest conversations are necessary in the first place. Look, it’s true — on a deep, deep spiritual level — … Continue reading Vaccine Hesitancy & Western Ontology

Field Organizing, Part Redux

There are a lot of things that people call “organizing.” I’m not here to debate that — and frankly speaking, gatekeeping what an “organizer” is seems like it would be pretty boring. But I do want to encourage more folks who identify as progressive to engage in “field organizing,” that is, the organizing where you talk with a lot a lot a lot of folks, you have a lot a lot a lot of deep conversations, you inspire a lot a lot of people to action, and you develop a lot of leaders. It’s the type of organizing that — … Continue reading Field Organizing, Part Redux

Some Conflicted Feelings about the AAPI Hate Discourse

So first off: the massacre in Atlanta is a travesty — a travesty inextricably intertwined with racism and misogyny. The massacre follows a long and violent tradition of Asian women being viewed under the white supremacist male gaze not as human beings but as hypersexualized objects for use by the white male subject. The mainstream discourse surrounding the massacre provides further proof that the massacre is inextricably intertwined with racism and misogyny. In a press conference about the massacre, Police Captain Jay Barker described the killer as merely “having a bad day,” revealing that in his ideological worldview he views … Continue reading Some Conflicted Feelings about the AAPI Hate Discourse

5 Years Ago in Reno

Simpler times. I vividly remember this. The context was that I had finished working 28 straight 14-hour days organizing Vibra Kentfield, a small rehab hospital in North Bay. (On top of the grueling all-day schedule, I was regularly waking up at 3am to phonebank through swing shift — or otherwise sleeping in my car at a park adjacent the hospital.) I was, at that point in the campaign, a one-man organizing team, assisted only by a lead organizer and Andee Johanna Sunderland, who was “outside team” (driving around and visiting workers at their houses). I’d never worked so hard in … Continue reading 5 Years Ago in Reno

7 Thoughts on the 2020 Election: Delineating Ideology

(1) That we defeated President Trump is good. That 72.9 million people voted for President Trump is really not good. That President-elect Biden won with just 5.7 million more popular votes than Trump is reflective of something really, really bad. And we should all put our heads together to figure how Trump’s defeat wasn’t even more resounding. (2) When I was first getting started in my career back in 2013, I situated the Left and the Right in two separate categories in my mind — the Left within a sort of moralism, and the Right within a sort of ideology. … Continue reading 7 Thoughts on the 2020 Election: Delineating Ideology

Proposition 22 & Its Discontents, Part 2: The Postmodern Joke

This morning I am overwhelmed by sadness — the type of emotional overwhelmed-ness that sort of makes it, like, really hard to put into words exactly what I think and feel. Frankly, I suspect that even if I were not emotionally overwhelmed, I doubt I’d be able to sort through all the “hot takes” this morning for whatever “truth” exists within the barrels and barrels and barrels and barrels of hay. This morning — on the day after the election — there is just too much content: information, mis-information, well-informed opinions, not well-informed opinions. This much I know, though: this … Continue reading Proposition 22 & Its Discontents, Part 2: The Postmodern Joke

On Maturity & Responsibility, Part 2: The Beautiful Burden

I’ve been talking with lots of millennial Democrats recently as part of my job, so allow me to borrow one of the millennial Democrat’s favorite phrases: I am a man of “privilege.” I am under no threat socially, politically, or materially; I have more than enough money to survive and even thrive with my expensive videography hobby; and while I am not white, I am indeed a cis-gendered dude. And since I can only speak truthfully from my experience, it has not been lost on me — not one bit — that my privilege has largely come from my career … Continue reading On Maturity & Responsibility, Part 2: The Beautiful Burden

Proposition 22 & Its Discontents

Somehow in the years and years I’ve been writing Facebook rants about, like, my feelings or whatever, I’ve somehow managed to never write a Facebook rant about an actual ballot proposition. But we find ourselves in the most important election of our lifetimes, and time is of the essence… A spectre is haunting the working class — the spectre of Proposition 22. All the powers of the center-Left and Left have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: the Service Employees International Union, the Democratic Socialists of America, and even much of the Democratic Party (including Joe Biden), … Continue reading Proposition 22 & Its Discontents

2020 & Trauma

Regarding 2020 — When I was 19, I entered into my first romantic relationship. It was extremely unhealthy, codependent, and abusive — from both sides. And while during the relationship I knew it was unhealthy, I didn’t have a complete, large enough frame/model to understand just HOW unhealthy it was. It would take me many years afterwards, and therapy, to be able to fully understand what happened during that relationship — it was just so beyond my comprehension at the time. And it was also only in understanding what happened — updating my understandings of myself, people, emotions, and the … Continue reading 2020 & Trauma

On Personality & Belief

In my last Facebook essay-rant, I observed that in order to become a Leftist, one has to have the ability to “abstract out” a ton of intuitive information that is not the easiest to abstract out. I said, “It takes many levels of abstraction to take political action: 1. my life’s experience is connected with oppression, 2. that oppression is connected to large societal structures, 3. the way societal structures change is if thousands of people come together in an organization and take action, and 4. as an individual of many collectives I should take action and talk with other … Continue reading On Personality & Belief

On Abstraction & Real Empathy

Leftists are different in many ways — some are more extroverted, some are more introverted, some are more interpersonally contrarian, some are better mediators. But something that almost all Leftist share — in their non-stop sharing of Jacobin-like articles, endless discussions with one another, etc. — is their ability to take information and then use that information to “abstract out” deeper meaning. That may seem like a “like, duh” observation, but I think the ability and capacity of abstraction is something Leftists take for granted. As in, not everyone can abstract deeper meaning from information. And the inability to abstract … Continue reading On Abstraction & Real Empathy

COVID-19

May 4th, 2020 I feel overwhelmed. Can you relate? It’s just so extreme. We have a narcissist president who lies constantly — about science, about the record of his speech, about the benefits of ingesting bleach. On the low end something like tens of thousands of people will die because of his lies and his incompetence. Yet tens of millions Americans still support him. Following the ideology he represents like worship, thousands of his supporters have been rallying to re-open the government — some of them carrying confederate flags and white nationalist symbols. Against the advice of experts, republican governors … Continue reading COVID-19

The End of Organizing Essays?

From mid-2015 to November 2019, I somehow managed to write a (usually) fairly long essay about organizing on Facebook about once a month. I started writing about standard Leftist theory, then about organizing theory, then about social-emotional dynamics more generally, and then most recently incorporating very abstract spiritual/ existential concepts as they might relate to organizing. I haven’t written anything in the last four months. I haven’t felt inspired to. Not that I haven’t wanted to. As I sit in my room doing nothing but textbanking/ phonebanking folks all day, I don’t think I’ve ever had this much energy in … Continue reading The End of Organizing Essays?

Back to Basics

Today is the 8-year anniversary of the UC Davis pepper-spray incident. Historically what I’ve done on this day — it’s become a tradition — is I’ve looked back on all the essays I’ve written in the year, and I’ve summarize the biggest “organizing epiphany” I had that year. And this year, looking back at this year’s essays, I’ve definitely run the gamut: I wrote about how Buddhist spiritual concepts could interact with organizing, how existential concepts could interact with organizing, how self-help concepts could interact with organizing, etc. And while I stand by almost everything I’ve written this year, I’m … Continue reading Back to Basics

Some Nuanced Thoughts about Cancel Culture

The backstory here is that a conservative Christian motivational speaker Natalie Fikes from Georgia posted this rape culture-y meme, it went viral, and now there is online backlash against her. 1) So, clearly this is repugnant. Women are never obligated to have sex with anyone they don’t want to; people are never obligated to have sex with anyone they don’t want to. This sort of thinking is what people refer to as “rape culture.” I wish this first point didn’t need to be said still, but society is a process, humans are a process (more on this later), and the … Continue reading Some Nuanced Thoughts about Cancel Culture

Quick Thoughts: Weakness, Organizing, Love, and Chill

1. Weakness Everyone is weak in their own way. What that means is, you are weak in your own way. Others are weak in their own way. What that means is, be kind. Be honest, but be kind. 2. Field Organizing I think one of the most beautiful things about being committed to field organizing is that it forces you to become a better person socially. I still don’t consider myself to be particularly socially smart in certain very deep respects. I still have got a long, long ways to go. But I’ll tell you this: I was way, way … Continue reading Quick Thoughts: Weakness, Organizing, Love, and Chill

Thoughts on Being a Career Sell-Out, Part 2

I was walking around Old Town Sacramento this afternoon to de-stress. I needed it. It’s been a wild ride these last couple of weeks for me: I’ve gotten into a new romantic relationship, I’ve been hard at work organizing San Francisco non-profit clinic workers into the Union, I’ve launched a photography business called Jolie Media (and already done several gigs), I’m on the board of a non-profit for young progressive professionals called New Leaders Council, I’ve been helping the Outreach Committee for Sacramento for Real Rent Control, I’ve been attending committee meetings for the Democratic Socialists of America, I’ve been trying to hold onto … Continue reading Thoughts on Being a Career Sell-Out, Part 2

Organizing Helps Social Alienation

I think one of the most beautiful things about being committed to field organizing is that it forces you to become a better person socially. I still don’t consider myself to be particularly socially smart in certain very deep respects. I still have got a long, long ways to go. But I’ll tell you this: I was way, way worse when I first started. The amount of improvement I’ve made in terms of my social intelligence from when I first started my career to now has been absolutely staggering. Night and day difference: organizing has totally transformed me deep into … Continue reading Organizing Helps Social Alienation

Self-Development is Strange & Weird & Worth It

I’m having one of those mornings where my brain is firing a hundred thoughts a minute. There’s a larger idea that all these rapid-fire thoughts are coalescing towards, and I can sense that it’s there, somewhere, and so my hope is that if I just write my thoughts down in an essay, I can start to comprehend that larger idea. This is going to be one of those essays that I’m probably not going to edit very much at all — just start writing completely in a stream-of-consciousness style and just see what happens. I had a very strange dream … Continue reading Self-Development is Strange & Weird & Worth It

Turning Hustle & Self-development Into an Identity: Don’t

I write a lot in these essays about hustle, and don’t get me wrong: I think hustle is important. You’ve got a limited amount of time on this Earth. If you want to live a fulfilled life, become the best person you can be, accomplish great things, etc., hustle is half the battle. There is no getting around the axiomatic fact that in order to do lots of stuff, you’ve got to take lots of action. Something I’ve been reflecting on the last few days, though, is the point when “hustle” becomes an identity — when “hustle” becomes something you … Continue reading Turning Hustle & Self-development Into an Identity: Don’t

What Organizing Can Do, What It Cannot

The Left means so much to me, in the way that the deepest things cannot be described through written language — words diminish the meaning. Suffice to say, when I first discovered organizing I was a hollow shell of a person. Constantly anxious, had a hard time relating to even my closest friends, much less total strangers. I felt alone. I was in so much pain. And organizing allowed me to find community, discover an analysis for the world’s social systems that made sense to me, and gave me a sense of purpose. Here’s a list of what organizing is … Continue reading What Organizing Can Do, What It Cannot

3 Self-Help Clichés

Let’s combine three self-help clichés. When I was very obese 7 months ago, I wanted to not be obese. The goal was be *just* overweight. Then I got there, but I made the decision: why stop. I thought I would be happy when I could fit in a medium-sized t-shirt. And then I did that. My next goal after that was to get into a healthy weight range. I did that. Then the goal was to look great in a small-sized t-shirt. I’ve done that, and now I’m telling myself I’ll be satisfied when I can see my abs. I could … Continue reading 3 Self-Help Clichés

Fitness & Organizing: Synergistic Balance

Something I like about fitness is that it’s simultaneously one of the most important things in the world for you and also the most useless thing to the world. Like, it’s good for your body to be active and to exercise. Too much body fat will shorten your life, and putting on muscle properly has lots of health benefits. But also: No. One. Cares. I spend probably way too much time working out in the gym and planning out my nutrition, and sure maybe people who’ve known me a long time might comment, “Hey you’re looking good.” But even then … Continue reading Fitness & Organizing: Synergistic Balance

On the “Ironic” Left

There’s a large portion of the Left (and frankly the Right too, and also pretty much anyone who is alienated enough to make politics a centerpiece of their life) that lives their life with a lot of ironic distance: constantly in reaction to stuff, making fun of others, and basing a lot of happiness and self-esteem on their ability to critique stuff with wit and severity, etc. The podcast Chapo Trap House is a good example of the mindset I’m talking about. I spent most of my early 20s living my life with ironic distance. I thought it made me … Continue reading On the “Ironic” Left

On Pursuing Mastery, Part 3: Authenticity

I caught myself this morning noticing myself in bliss. I’ve been feeling this way for the last six hours: this almost complete euphoria. And it is the sort of euphoria that I did not chase or will myself into being. True euphoria is actually quite the opposite. True euphoria is almost like the absence of thought: a total fusion of “will” and “being” that doesn’t do, it just is. Unconsciously. And then I noticed it, a few moments ago, like, “Woah, I guess this morning I’ve been in a state of euphoria.” And now I am writing about it. Let … Continue reading On Pursuing Mastery, Part 3: Authenticity

On Pursuing Mastery, Part 2: Humanity

I’d think that as an organizer I’d be somewhat OK at listening, particularly when I’m in a car with a coworker who’s all hyped and excited and passionately telling me about his wild romantic pursuits — it’s not like he isn’t being interesting or engaging. But I can’t follow more than a sentence or two of anything he’s saying. Frankly (in retrospect), I’m probably not even paying attention to the road either. I’m hyper focused on strategizing how to steer the conversation towards asking him how much he weighs, what his body fat percentage is (if he knows), and whether … Continue reading On Pursuing Mastery, Part 2: Humanity

Call to Action for Life

I’m in one of those moods: Life is yours to make it. As a kid growing up, you don’t get to choose how you start off. You don’t get to choose how much privilege you have; you don’t get to choose your family or your upbringing. But when you are an adult — whether you are comfortable or have gone through unimaginable pain — you realize that there are things that you can control and there are things that you cannot control. Focus on the things you can control. The world is oppressive, yes. That isn’t your fault. And still, … Continue reading Call to Action for Life

A Framework for Integrity (and Beyond)

Honesty is easy when it’s convenient. That’s when your honesty is an act. Integrity — that is, honesty as a core identity — means fully accepting the consequences of one’s honesty. Always, no choice or conscious thought put into it. What do I mean by that? To be honest just *sometimes* is a “doing” that takes from people, since there’s a conscious choice whether to be honest based externally on a context. Honesty as a “doing” requires that context, and so necessarily the honesty acts as a way to seek an outcome from others. That’s manipulation. In contrast, to be … Continue reading A Framework for Integrity (and Beyond)

More Than Anything Take Action

Seeing lots of posts about the end of the government shutdown, about the structural power workers have in standing together, and I’m seeing calls for more threats of strikes and general strikes. If that’s your analysis — an analysis I agree with — then how you get there is getting good at talking with low-wage workers, learning how to inspire large groups of them into taking massive action; that’s a skill that takes a lot of time to develop. If you’re inspired by the end of the government shutdown, spend more time (for example) knocking on doors and practicing your organizing … Continue reading More Than Anything Take Action

On Pursuing Mastery, Part 1: Being

I’d be emotionally dishonest with myself if I didn’t acknowledge that, over the last couple of months in my health and fitness journey, I’ve often felt deep embarrassment. Even accounting for that I’m relatively short for a male, my ability to lift weights is far below average, especially for a 25 year old in his hypothetical physical prime. When it comes to cardio, I do have surprisingly good will-power, but I’m huffing and puffing within minutes, while others around me seem to be fine for much, much longer periods of time. The most shameful thing, I think, is that the … Continue reading On Pursuing Mastery, Part 1: Being

Self-Love Manifests to Behavior

A quick thought about inner confidence and self-esteem. There’s a lot of advice out there that tries to regulate and transform your inner world/emotions. Write daily affirmations. Meditate. Have gratitude, celebrate small wins throughout the day (however small). I think having a baseline level of self-acceptance is good, but my experience is that it’s super limited. If you stare at a mirror and tell yourself that you’re awesome, it’ll be true to an extent, but there is no real, material basis to point to. Over the last couple of months in particular I’ve been setting hard but achievable goals for … Continue reading Self-Love Manifests to Behavior

7 Years Later & a Spiritual Shift

I never figured out what happened to that jacket haha. It’s hard to personally conceptualize that it’s been seven years since the incident. Over the last seven years, I’ve managed to write and post an essay on my FB about once a month. For the first two years, most of those essays were about the nuances and contradictions of the radical Left. The next three years’ essays centered around organizing theory. And the last two years’ essays have largely been about trying to understand how the social world and the emotional world interact with each other and how the social … Continue reading 7 Years Later & a Spiritual Shift

Start with Experience, Not Ideology

Main point: Many people filter their experiences into representations of their (oftentimes political) ideology. Don’t do that. That’s bad. Instead, follow your experiences and integrate that into who you are. 1. Debate.org This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who knows me. When I was a teenager, I spent about four to six hours a day debating philosophy, theory, and politics on an online debate forum. I made 1000s of posts on there. (You know these long rant-like pieces I do here on my blog? I can read many of my first manifestos — which had way, way worse writing, and … Continue reading Start with Experience, Not Ideology

The Meaning of Life

For a couple of years now, I’ve been trying to articulate what the meaning of life is to me in a succinct but thorough and accurate way. I think I’ve finally been able to write that down, and at least for the moment, I’m satisfied with it. For anyone who cares or is interested (or you’re just bored), here it is: For me, real fulfillment is a fierce and totally ruthless engagement with life. Engagement with life — every present moment of it — is the payoff itself. That means doing the hard work of soul-searching to figure out who … Continue reading The Meaning of Life

RE: Cody Wilson’s Sexual Assault & Toxic Masculinity

I wanted to take a moment to expand on the recent New York Time’s article 3-D Printed Gun Promoter, Cody Wilson, Is Charged With Sexual Assault of Child. It should be clear from our cultural zeitgeist that we have a problem with sexual violence and that there’s something deep happening. But — taking this story, for example — it’s not the guns. Guns aren’t the problem. It’s the place the guns are coming from: the need to dominate. A desperation, that feeling of emptiness that: as a man you have to rise to the top to feel worthy and full and … Continue reading RE: Cody Wilson’s Sexual Assault & Toxic Masculinity

Don’t Confuse Apathy with Fulfillment

I feel like a big mistake that people in their 20’s make — and I’m certainly no exception — is confusing apathy for happiness/fulfillment. You see it everywhere, and it makes sense, because on the outside, apathy and inner spiritual fulfillment can look a lot alike. It’s this strange idea that “if I am comfortable and full just in my own skin, then I don’t need anything extra, and I don’t need to do anything extra, to be happy.” And I think at a certain level, it’s sort of true. To be fulfilled, you *should* be able to be happy … Continue reading Don’t Confuse Apathy with Fulfillment

On Maturity & Responsibility

A couple of weeks ago, I turned 25, and since then, I’ve felt super old. I keep on being told that, no, Ian, what are you talking about, you’re not old. But my brain is weird, and it’s a feeling I haven’t been able to shake. It’s the feeling that, oh my god, I’ve been alive for a quarter century now, and yes, I may have a great job that both pays the bills and fills me with abundant purpose, but what the heck, I still identify as a kid, deep down, on a base identity-level sort of way. And … Continue reading On Maturity & Responsibility

The Importance of Win-Win Relationships in Organizing

Over the last two years as a hobby, I’ve been reading a lot of self-help books. Really, my reading self-help books is a spin-off interest of one of the main driving passions of my life — organizing. They’re really quite similar fields: the caricature of self-help is that “if your life sucks, it is up to you as an individual to fix your mindsets and behaviors, and then you can thrive,” while the caricature of Left organizing is that “if your life sucks, it is up to you as an individual to gather as a group and create/alter social structures … Continue reading The Importance of Win-Win Relationships in Organizing

A Theory for Organizing Conversations: Combining Authenticity with Relatability

In much of the grassroots radical Left, there is heavy focus on authenticity: telling your story, getting in touch with your emotions (complex and deep), and telling truth to power. The idea is that, sure, if you go to City Council and scream at them during public comment about how they are white supremacist settler-colonial supporters of the patriarchy, the members of City Council may not understand what you’re saying, but what you’re saying is True; it’s not that reform through the “proper channels” can get you the demands you want anyway, and so really what you’re doing is trying … Continue reading A Theory for Organizing Conversations: Combining Authenticity with Relatability

On Giving Gratitude

So, for work every day, I’ve had to be at a particular geographic area around lunch time. There’s one of those Chinese express takeout places there, and so — also in a general attempt to eat healthier and eat fewer carbs — I’ve been going there and getting two portions of the plain roast chicken and steamed vegetables. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, and it’s always the same lady working there, and by now she knows what I’ll be ordering every day, and today she gave me a smile, sneakily glanced over to her manager, then … Continue reading On Giving Gratitude

The Janus Decision Means Do the Work

First of all, let’s get this clear: the result of Janus, as decided today by the Supreme Court, is devastating to millions of working families. Janus is a power grab — plain and simple — by the wealthy elite, taking collective power away from workers. Beyond that, I see a lot of people saying that this will forever hinder the labor movement. I also see a lot of people saying that, long term, this will force a vibrant, mass, militant labor movement. And I just don’t know if either is true. I think sometimes we can get lost in theory, and … Continue reading The Janus Decision Means Do the Work

3 Thoughts on Radical Trust

I’m curious what your thoughts are. 1. I’ve gotten to a point in my development where — as long as it’s not prima facie ridiculous/dangerous, until I am proven otherwise, and especially in the moment — I am believing totally in the truth of what other people are telling me, regardless if I know them or not, and as a principle. This allows me to more fully empathize with other people and the complex grays that are universal human consciousness. It also opens space for others to trust me back, which is the open and honest space a lot of … Continue reading 3 Thoughts on Radical Trust

In Defense of Positivity Culture

As the sort of meta-emotional-cultutal — idk, how to say — “vibe” sinks lower and lower, more and more people are turning to self-help, spirituality, and New Age ideas to cope. And with the rise of self-help, spirituality, New Age thought, etc., so too has risen criticism from the Left (and others), particularly around “positivity culture,” which is the idea that you should think positive and that by doing so you can improve your life through “the law of attraction” (similar internal thoughts/energies attract other similar thoughts/energies) and “manifestation” (internal thoughts can become your external reality). The criticisms of positivity … Continue reading In Defense of Positivity Culture

Union Organizing toward a Meditative Energy

I touched on this topic in a post a year ago, where I explored in detail how inner beliefs (such as self-love) affected one’s subtle behavior, and how putting effort into changing one’s inner beliefs could, thereby, actually create a massive improvement to one’s organizing results. I’m quite proud of the theory I proposed in that post. A year later, though, I want to expand on that topic, but this time, to go even further: to explain how the best union organizing requires a deep investigation of one’s emotional being and how complete presence (i.e., existing without much thought or … Continue reading Union Organizing toward a Meditative Energy

Thoughts on Being a Career Sell-Out

When I was in college, I was depressed. Maybe you might be able to relate with this. I would go to class, and do everything in my power to let the time pass by quicker: doodle, day-dream, zone-out. After class, I would go to the dining commons and eat as much unhealthy food as possible in order to numb myself, most of the time to the point where I would be in massive amounts of pain. Then, I would go back to my dorm room and watch hours and hours and hours and hours of Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and torrents. … Continue reading Thoughts on Being a Career Sell-Out

Against Pure “Authentic” Organizing

David Letterman has this new show on Netflix called “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.” The first episode has now been released, which features an hour-long interview with former President Barack Obama. Sad and drunk on a Sunday night, I’ve been crying for many more minutes than I’d care to admit — weeping hard at about the 29 minute mark of the interview. Obama is now a historical figure who’s greatest life’s work are definitely behind him. He has nothing to prove, nor any outcome or effective agenda at this point in his life or for the rest of his … Continue reading Against Pure “Authentic” Organizing

Agency, Trauma, & Pepper-spray: 6 Year Later

The other day while styling my hair, I accidentally sprayed some hairspray into my eyes. Don’t get me wrong — it hurt. But not in the grand scheme of things. For those who don’t know this about me, back in 2011 I was involved in a viral protest that became an international news story. Sometimes — among Leftists in Northern California — people will tell me how that incident helped shape the way they see the world and how it was important for their development. The incident was important for me too. It was seriously traumatic (on top of being … Continue reading Agency, Trauma, & Pepper-spray: 6 Year Later

Life, Politics, & Sashimi

I had a profound experience earlier this morning at a sushi bar eating a variety of sashimi on a blue glass platter. Now, the profound experience wasn’t so much about the sashimi (or the blue glass platter, for that matter). But there was a TV on the wall in front of me, and on it, an old white man from the “Left” was talking about how Trump’s immigration views were informed by racism, and then another old white man from the “Right” was talking about how, no, it wasn’t racism, it was actually just about security, economic growth, and preserving the American culture. And they went on and on back and forth for a good 10 minutes, and they didn’t … Continue reading Life, Politics, & Sashimi

What the Left Can Learn from New Age Spiritualists

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been immersing myself in content (books/videos) from the New Age spirituality/self-help community. (Teal Swan and David R Hawkins are two spiritual gurus I resonate with in particular.) A lot of it is whacked out, for sure. And with any ideology, if you take that ideology too far, you can get caught in a downward-spiral rabbit hole of nonsense. (Taken too far, for example, “the Law of Attraction” is just spiritually-justified victim-blaming and abuse.) At the same time, though, as with almost any sort of ideology, there is always some sort of truth. (There … Continue reading What the Left Can Learn from New Age Spiritualists

An Exposition on Mental Health & Organizing, Part 3: On Self-Worth, Authenticity, Organizing, and Existential Paradoxes

Summary of Previous Chapters PART 1: My Story In Part 1 of this series, I outlined my personal journey with mental health and organizing, concluding that using organizing to build my ego was an endlessly futile struggle, and that ultimately — if I continued on the path I was on — I was going to continue to feel more and more empty on the inside. Instead, I concluded that I needed to “try to derive happiness, self-worth, meaning, and social fullness totally from the inside.” In other words: I needed to stop basing my self-worth on organizing, and instead, learn … Continue reading An Exposition on Mental Health & Organizing, Part 3: On Self-Worth, Authenticity, Organizing, and Existential Paradoxes

An Exposition on Mental Health & Organizing, Part 2: The Subtle Ways Your Soul Makes a Profound Impact

A month ago, I posted this:  An Exposition on Organizing & Mental Health, Part 1: My Story. There’s a lot, a lot, a lot of stuff in that post to unpack, but for now, I want to expand on this central idea: if you are using Left organizing to bolster your sense of self-worth, you will necessarily create a co-dependent relationship with Left organizing, since there will always be more campaigns to win, it will never be enough, and you will always still feel perpetually incomplete (as I’d found through many years of personal experience). Instead, if you learn to … Continue reading An Exposition on Mental Health & Organizing, Part 2: The Subtle Ways Your Soul Makes a Profound Impact

Thoughts on Rent Control & Inside/Outside Strategy

Been reflecting a lot today on the defeat of Measure C, a rent control measure in the City of Santa Rosa that would have helped soften rent gouging by corporate landlords to 3% per year. I was lent to the “Yes on C” field team part-time, and this morning we learned that we lost in a tragic 52.5%-47.5% vote. I use the word “tragic” accurately: it was a common sense measure that the majority of Santa Rosans should have been able to easily rally behind. But due to the corrupt influence of the “No on C” side spreading massive lies … Continue reading Thoughts on Rent Control & Inside/Outside Strategy

An Exposition on Organizing & Mental Health, Part 1: My Story

When I tell people today that I used to be an introvert with paralyzing social anxiety, people generally don’t believe me. They don’t believe me because it’s taken years for me to get to the point where I can (usually) talk with new people comfortably and with ease — from a place where stuttery 10-second “hello how are you” greetings could send me down a spiraling self-hating, socially anxious depression to a state where I joyfully talk with random workers every day for a living. My first year of college, when my social anxiety and depression were at its all-time … Continue reading An Exposition on Organizing & Mental Health, Part 1: My Story

On Love

Yesterday, I met up with an ex. We were involved with each other for almost 4 years, and it had been a year since we has last seen each other… an emotional ride, for sure. Here are some things that I’ve known about how I experience reality and love, but through our interaction yesterday, I’m feeling these points more deep in my nerve endings than I ever have. I’m sharing these, because… why not, and maybe also I’m wondering if others feel similarly. * You never stop loving someone. You just learn to love them differently. (And there is other … Continue reading On Love

Milo Yiannopoulos on Real Time with Bill Maher

Watched all the clips of Milo Yiannopoulos on Real Time with Bill Maher. (Sick curiosity.) I already knew he was going to say a bunch of racist, misogynistic, transphobic, etc., stuff. That bullshit wasn’t interesting. What struck me the most was just how awkward Milo appeared. Like, really, really cringe-inducingly awkward: he wasn’t picking up on very basic social cues, his conversational tone didn’t fit, and even his humor (forgetting the actual content) felt *structurally* off and his *timing* off-beat. That Milo’s fans include white supremacists, misogynists, truly hateful, etc., people is probably the main thrust of Milo’s growing popularity. … Continue reading Milo Yiannopoulos on Real Time with Bill Maher

On the Importance of Having Thoughts & a Life Outside the Left

This is a hard organizing truth that took me the better part of four years to truly internalize: if the majority of what you think about and talk about is Left politics, you will not be an effective organizer for the Left. Why is this? 1. While if thinking about and talking about Left politics the majority of your waking hours might make you a leader among the Left — there is already an abundance of leaders among the Left, whom Lefties follow. What is needed, now more than ever, is moving and activating the vast majority of people who … Continue reading On the Importance of Having Thoughts & a Life Outside the Left

Is it OK to punch Fascists?

My answer is yes — at least from an ethical standpoint — followed by a: I hate this discussion. Let’s be totally real. This conversation of whether or not it is OK to punch a fascist is so popular right now because it is a sexy, interesting question. The overwhelming vast majority of people who have vocally stated that it is OK to punch a fascist will not actually commit violence against fascists anytime soon. I am reminded of the violence vs. nonviolence debates that happened at Occupy UC Davis. These debates were fiery and went on for hours, days, … Continue reading Is it OK to punch Fascists?

Women’s March 2017

To me, the most interesting thing about the Women’s March protests isn’t how problematically liberal the protests were, which is to be expected given the size of the protests (and I’m genuinely excited how many people who’d never taken action before are now taking action), and what’s most interesting isn’t all the Leftist critiques of the protests either, which are just as expected (and valid). To me, the most interesting thing about the protests was the making of it all: exceptionally small field campaign, almost all media. Repeat: the biggest protest in American history happened almost entirely through a highly … Continue reading Women’s March 2017

New Year’s Feelings Waiting for Janus

Last work day of the year. For the first time in my life, I am content. How lucky am I! A year ago, I was coming off having worked 28 days in a row (not a single day off!), doing 16-18 hr days, every single day. I was (for the most part) a one-man organizing team for this small rehab hospital of about 200 workers. I poured my heart, sweat, and soul into that campaign – but way more than that, my committee of worker leaders put everything that they had and then more on the line. I will never … Continue reading New Year’s Feelings Waiting for Janus

The Organizing Conversation

Sadness is immobility. “What is wrong with me? I can’t do anything.” Turn that into Anger. Then Rage, which is the magical stuff of which organizing is made. Fuck the world. Fuck the systems that coerce our identities — both our personal and collective identities. Turn that Rage into Hope. Through a real Plan to Win. That’s the stuff collectives grow with and develop under — the stuff that will make the world crumble under our revolutionary boots. Organizing is thus: Sadness, to Anger, to Rage, to Hope, to Action, to the Heavenstuff — a puddle of mud turned into … Continue reading The Organizing Conversation

Donald Trump’s Election

Last night as I scrolled through the 100s of posts about The Terror, I couldn’t bring myself to add to the conversation. I felt like everything I think and feel is already being said — and better than I could have said it myself. This morning I have a perspective that may be slightly more unique/interesting: the Left has no pathway… yet. I personally know a few of the union organizers and community/political organizers who got sent into these swing states. They are the best and the brightest our generation has to offer, with decades of experience winning real-world campaigns … Continue reading Donald Trump’s Election

In Support of Friendships with Racists

I had a great, deep, fun conversation with a racist/misogynist. What’s more? I want to see him again and become better friends. Let me tell you about it. Last Friday, I wanted to decompress after a long work week with lots of late nights. So I went to Corner Pocket Sports Bar, which is quickly becoming my favorite bar. There’s a lot of activities to do there (pool, darts, games), they play my favorite music, the beer and food selection is great, and it’s only 5 miles away from my apartment. I’m finding I always have so much fun. Anyway, … Continue reading In Support of Friendships with Racists

On Mastering All Organizing Styles

There is this mantra among professional organizers you’ll hear all the time. One way it’s often presented is: “You know, having some message discipline is important in an organizing drive. And you know, it’s important to really nail down your organizing/conversation fundamentals. But really! What is capital-i Important is that you find your own personal organizing style that works for you. Finding your personal organizing style is what will make you masterful.” Woah, what horseshit! Fuck that. The masterful organizer who has honed their craft is a chameleon, fluent in all organizing styles, and able to pull from whatever style … Continue reading On Mastering All Organizing Styles

From Activism to Organizing: The Difference

I think it took me three years to go from being an activist to being an organizer, by which I mean: it took me three years to have these two epiphanies. (1) People will take initial action if they become personally angry… seems sort of obvious, but when you’re in the heat of one of your first organizing attempts, it can feel a little like, “OF COURSE THE PRIVATIZATION of the University is a fucked up thing. I’m doing soooo much work. Why are the rest of these students not standing up and becoming ‘woke.’ Damn sheeple.” People won’t get … Continue reading From Activism to Organizing: The Difference

The Beauty of Union Organizing

For me, one of the best things about union organizing is getting to listen to dozens, hundreds, thousands of people’s life stories. And really, what are we but what we’ve done, what we’ve been through, and our values, our beliefs, and our feelings about all of life’s Stuff. Being a union organizer is getting to be — way more than full time — an explorer of humanity, and your job is to find some way to connect as deeply as possible with as many people as possible. Wow, how beautiful. Continue reading The Beauty of Union Organizing

4 Thoughts about the Congressional Sit-in

(1) To echo what other Leftists have been saying, yeah, the proposed bill that congressional Democrats are disrupting congress for would be ineffective and racist. For more: The Democrats Are Boldly Fighting For a Bad, Stupid Bill. (2) Obviously I have no insight into what actually goes on in the head of a congressional Democrat, but I can imagine this narrative (the narrative that I think most people are projecting whether they articulate it or not): working hard to get elected, feeling like you gotta make a difference, feeling like you gotta make the world a better place, feeling like congressional … Continue reading 4 Thoughts about the Congressional Sit-in

The Postmodern Apology

There’s this thing that I call a “postmodern apology” that’s pervading our conversational language. I first noticed it as something we tell ourselves; increasingly (or maybe I’m just going crazy — it’s not like I have quantitative proof this is happening in our culture), the “postmodern apology” is something we’re using with others. Here’s an example of me doing it to myself yesterday. I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I ate so much. I do this all the time. Uggghhh, this is unhealthy…” Now, notice: it’s not that I ate a lot, I felt bad, and so I thought those … Continue reading The Postmodern Apology

Black Lives Matter Shutdown of the 405

When I think about the Black Lives Matter shutdown of the 405, my thoughts are scattered, and they’re all wrapped up in my personal anxieties. Here are some of those scatterings: * I spent about 6 hours last night re-watching the NetRoots interruptions of O’Malley and Sanders and all the commentary surrounding it. (Holiday break boredom yay!) Almost 6 months have passed since then, and other than continuing a dialogue on the Left, and other than for the three weeks Bernie was talking a little more about structural racism… I don’t know if it did much else. Leftists were saying … Continue reading Black Lives Matter Shutdown of the 405

Seeing the “Left” as a Social Group

For the most part, many Leftists — including myself — spend a lot of time self-monitoring, and thinking about, how we come off to other Leftists; we don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about how we come off to most normal people. I use “normal” advisedly. Leftists are, let’s face it, a social group. Like most social groups: we are a small minority, we share a general set of values, and we judge/shame other (sometimes competing) social groups for having different values. In this way, much like any social group, Leftists become an insular bubble — that’s why we … Continue reading Seeing the “Left” as a Social Group

Build a Base First, Build Coalitions Later

Many Leftists (and even liberal nonprofits) focus more on coalition building than organizing new people into the movement. I think this is un-strategic (it doesn’t change the landscape by getting those who are already on board to be on board), but a lot of the time the impulse to build coalitions may come from that it seems easier – you have all these people who supposedly care about The Issue, you just need to get them in a room, or at an event/action, etc. Coalition building is not easier. Coalition building is actually harder. When you’re organizing new people into … Continue reading Build a Base First, Build Coalitions Later

Psychological Explanation for “Sanders as Trigger”

There are those on the Left who don’t like Bernie Sanders because they see him as too moderate and/or not a strategic way to engage with the working class. Those are also those on the Left who do like Bernie Sanders because they do see him as a strategic way to engage with the working class. I’m not talking about any of those people here: I’m talking about, there’s a minority on the Left who support Bernie Sanders out of respect, who’ve read some of the truly radical stuff he wrote in his 20s and 30s and so respect that … Continue reading Psychological Explanation for “Sanders as Trigger”

Confrontation of Bernie Sanders at Netroots

I know I’m late to the party, and I feel like I’m going to regret this, but: some reflections about the NetRoots confrontation of Bernie Sanders. 1. The overwhelming majority of people who know about this story are: Leftists, hardcore Democrats/liberals, and… no one else. I’ve talked with some of my lefty union coworkers; some of them don’t even know. The people who know about this story are people who are already down with the cause, and if we’re not reaching new people, then we’re not organizing, not making change. We’re not ‘changing the dialogue,’ and I don’t really know … Continue reading Confrontation of Bernie Sanders at Netroots

Golden Rule of Left Organizing

General rule of thumb: the more Left organizers want to talk with me about anything but politics and organizing, the more I trust them. They care about me as a person; naturally, that makes me care about them too. Yes, rapport building is important for organizing. But importantly, rapport building not for the sake of organizing. That’s the wrong frame. You give a shit about other people, period. Also then organic relationships help politics and organizing. The world is too dark for anything else. Continue reading Golden Rule of Left Organizing

Pepper Spray Anniversary & Prolegomenon to Students for a Democratic UC

(This is a speech I delivered on November 19th on the UC Davis quad — during an event for the one-year anniversary for the UC Davis pepper-spray incident.) Hello, my name is Ian Lee, and I was one of the students who was pepper-sprayed on this quad last year. I’ll keep this short. By now, the pepper-spray incident is almost a bit cliché: students protested, the University sent in riot police, and then the police brutalized us with pepper-spray. But I urge people interested in what happened last year to think about the pepper-spray incident more complexly, and to especially … Continue reading Pepper Spray Anniversary & Prolegomenon to Students for a Democratic UC