Dispatches has received a communique from an anonymous collective called OBU, announcing a sixteen-part Manifesto. The group has stated that it intends to send Dispatches one section every week over the next four months. The Manifesto apparently meditates on the current conjuncture and calls for the formation of a diffused cultural resistance of a brand new kind. The Manifesto as a whole is entitled OBU Manifestos 1-14 (Plus Two OBU Interludes). Past sections of the manifesto can be found under our Dispatches section tab, where they will be archived as they arrive.
OBU Manifesto 16
The new inflatable junta has now assumed power. The day after its assumption, the gatherings of OBU arose in cities across the world. These gatherings were miraculous. The influxes, effusions, arms, wings, tentacles, claws, teeth, epidermis, organs, hair, fur, feathers, scales, eyes, ears, nostrils, tongues, gyroscopes, barometers, altimeters, pussy-hats, clarinets, alter kockers, meandering effluvia, snare drums, cymbals and trumpets, symbols of strumpets of OBU in the happy procrastinations of filling the thoroughfares of cities and scraping like noisy glaciers toward the citadels of stolen authority… all this was, well, let’s say, a good opening gambit.
OBU is pleased to see that, yes, we can do this. We can put, across the country, a million people in the street– two million, three million.
Can we bring 10 million? Could the spirit of OBU produce even a General Strike? When will we choose to do this? At what provocation? For what assertion?
And OBU knows that even the most numerous manifestations of popular will and feeling can be ignored. Have been ignored. A million people? That means that 299 million people did not march. Who needs to pay attention to a million? Or two? Or three?
But, ok, OBU thinks, these three million of us–that’s our core. Can we increase it? OBU would assume we can. The three million is OBU; it has shown itself. And second, will the multitudes of OBU and its tributaries (whose only “tributes” are courage, intelligence, compassion, commitment, energy, and all the non-marketable forces of life) be ready to assemble at short notice to protect schools, health care facilities, workers and unions, immigrants, minorities threatened by state power, whistle-blowers, dissidents, journalists, artists, teachers, rivers, forests, the air, the oceans…?
OBU is One Big Union
Will OBU and its OBU-ite friends who turned out in such numbers for these rallies to oppose the Trumpist misogynocracy also turn out to not allow a single public school, public utility, public land to be privatized?
OBU asks, apropos of an earlier comment, what are the relations between a “tribute,” a “tributary,” and an “attribute”? A “tribute” is a form of praise. One “pays tribute” to a person who has accomplished something significant. But the economic-political metaphor is already present. To “pay tribute” also means to concede certain spoils or rewards of conquest to a conqueror. The payment of tribute is not voluntary; it is coerced. And the “tributary” is the smaller stream that flows into, pays into, contributes to the larger river. Indeed, by the time the river reaches the sea, most of its waters have been obtained through such “tributes.” Would we then say that these contributions are what comprise finally its attributes?
OBU’s brief research reveals that the common root of these words is the Latin tribus, meaning “tribe,” which then is refigured as the verb tribuere, to assign–specifically, to assign among tribes.
OBU is the tribe of solidarity and democracy; of political and economic justice. The tribe is open to all contributions, attributes, tributes, and tribulations.
OBU locates the porous zones of the sediment. It will overflow the dams and damnings of oligarchy.
Can the tribal be universal? The confluence of tribes? Is every universal by definition a false universal that conceals particular assumptions of power? But then, is there no OBU?
OBU is not a tribe.
OBU is a sediment.
* * * *
OBU Manifesto 17
What can defeat Trumpism and the Oligarchy that was there before and is still in power? No existing group can do it. The Democratic Party? Organized labor? MoveOn with all its calls and links and petitions? Not likely. Environmentalist groups can’t do it. Black Lives Matter can’t do it. Immigrants’ rights groups can’t do it. Common Cause can’t do it. If ACORN still existed, it couldn’t do it. The ACLU can’t do it. Doctors Without Borders can’t do it. Lawyers Without Doctors can’t do it. Ben and Jerry can’t do it.
Every person and organization must seek to understand his/her/its limits, and then seek to go beyond them.
How much time do you have, OBU wants to know? What hours do you have to commit to work, to your family, to the activities that give your life meaning and pleasure? And what do you have to give to working to create the solidarities that will save this country and this planet?
What talents do you have? Can you talk with people? Can you write? Can you walk? How are your knees and hips? Can you make phone calls? Can you tell time? Can you show people how you feel about where this country is going? Do you have a gift for teaching? Are you good at listening? How good are you at failure? Have you ever witnessed shit hitting a fan? What reserves of courage do you have? Are you good at working with people? Are you good at working alone? Do you have the ability to recognize when “push” does actually come to “shove”?
What can you give?
OBU is One Big Union
Everything we need to do now, OBU agrees, we should have done already. We should have stood up for unions–and forced the Democratic Party to do so. We should have gotten serious about climate change. We should have–how can OBU put it–not been so sanctimonious about “diversity,” but rather have accelerated real processes of racial integration and cultural interaction and created real environments in which all different ethnic racial gendered geographic religious groups might live, work, and study together. We should have rethought all the standard assumptions about economics, about the need for growth, the imperatives of profit; we should have busted our butts creating a sustainable economy that does not produce material or human waste, that does not produce poverty and environmental devastation as “externalities.” But we didn’t, and now here we are.
OBU is Oligarchy Busters United? (So, let’s see it).
* * * *
OBU Manifesto 18
Who can be the messenger or harbinger?
In what medium?
OBU says, we will have a FaceBook page! We will publish a manifesto as an online op-ed in The New Republic or Salon, maybe get on in Huff Post!
OBU will infiltrate the world of Left Avant-Garde poetics and be hailed as an underground masterpiece.
OBU will somehow sneak itself past the sacred arbiters of the New York Times.
OBU will hack into CNN, MSNBC and Fox News and deliver its ultimatums of solidarity, decency, and reclaiming the public sphere.
OBU is the archaic torso of Apollo without head or arms or legs that tells you “You must change your political economy, you must change your systems of assigning value, you must change your style of poetry… oh, and…
You must change your life.
OBU is Oligarchy Busters United
Don’t tell OBU why this is naive or impossible. Everyone is OBU’s midwife and parent. Everyone contributes her/his/their skill, illnesses, genetic mashup, stubbornness, resentment, fatigue, their unleashing of freedom, their vestigial slavery, their wakefulness and their plastic cutlery, and all reserves of hope and love.
Bring it to birth.
And to all the crusty fellows who say, One Big anything is just a monolith, and what we need are free individuals free to exercise their freedom, as if freedom were some pet you need to take out for a walk twice a day or a specific muscle group your personal trainer can help you develop. Well, you’ve got it wrong. Learn another tune.
And if you crusty fellows feel, after due consideration, that you need to stand with the oligarchy in order to enjoy your freedom in all its fullness and grandeur–like, say, the Grand Canyon after it’s been opened to the freedom of mineral extraction–then please do some rethinking, or get out of the way. The solidarities of OBU are coming through.
To be free in the earshot of oppression is to join the oppressor, says OBU.
What does it mean, OBU asks, to be a free human being? And how does one address unfreedom?
“Black Lives Matter,” for instance– and they matter in precisely the particular historical and cultural ways that the slogan intends. Black lives must be made to matter, must be given value, because of the histories of violence and violation directed against the lives of black people. This is not, as they say, rocket science–although the heroines of Hidden Figures could have given us some accurate algorithms for our national orbital reentry.
But if black lives are to matter, then black livelihoods must matter just as profoundly. Black people must live and make a living. They must not be killed, and they must flourish, prosper, and thrive. They must live–as black people, as people, as descendants and cultural heirs of Africans, and as Americans.
Racial justice and economic justice–and the political power required to bring these about–none of these are separate, OBU believes. All are entwined. Freedom, for real, cannot exist until these goals are accomplished.
OBU is One Big Union