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Through The Eye Of A Needle

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." - Matthew 6:1

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men." - Matthew 6:2

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." - Matthew 6:5-6

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. -Matthew 6:16-18

You don't have to be Christian (which I'm not) to see the underlying theme here.  Either Jesus was a very shy person who hated trumpets or those who make endless pronouncements of their unbelievable awesomeness at being totally awesome aren't always the most awesome. 

Ok, yes, I could use some help on my Biblical interpretation.  But I still think that there is a key secular relevance to all these phrases from the Sermont on the Mount and our "Sacred Grove" Kabuki Theatre.  And it ain't "wash your face, hippies," because we all know that ain't happening!

The relevance is the ego versus the egolessness.  And yes, I understand.  Who I am to give a bloody lecture on egolessness?  I have the best arrogance.  The most delightful self-absorption.  The amazing vanity!  Oh, how amazing, that vanity.

But the other day when I was standing naked before a full length mirror, masturbating furiously, I thought to myself, "Twist, do you think that the tree-sitters in Berkeley really want to save the world's trees?" 

The answer seemed inevitably no.  A more accurate answer seemed that this was a pure extension of their ego.  The attempt to scratch that self-absorbed itch.  To make themselves feel important.  To overthrow capitalism.  There are several reasons I feel this to be true:

1.  As danzig pointed out, there are a variety of other opportunities to truly help save trees and promote conservation.  And new reader kleph (from SBN sister site RollBamaRoll) has more information on genuine environmental problems facing not only America, but also the world.  There are very serious environmental problems all across the Bay Area, America, and the world.  Even the most ardent anti-tree-sitter people couldn't deny that!

But you don't see Runnie Dub and Ayr running down to Brazil to help stop deforestation there.  You don't see Dumpster Muffin moving her GodPod to the rainforest (Ed Note:  This was written like 2 weeks ago, when times were adifferent). Because they won't get their name in the paper.  They won't get on the TV, have their moment in the sun. 




"Hey, did you guys hear that Dumpster Muffin moved next door?  Yeah, I don't know what that means either."

I have contacted some genuine conservation groups, such as the California Oaks Foundation, asking about an interview as to their strategy and tactics.  To see how the groups' strategy and tactics compare to the tree-sitters strategy and tactics.  I didn't receive much back.

I received one angry response about how we just hurl invectives towards hippies.  Fair enough.  It's better than what they hurl back, that's for sure.

I did receive one response back of sufficient length to quote here.  It is from the California Oaks Foundation and is very reasonable (except where she says she doesn't have time to post on the blog, I mean what kind of American worker is she??).  I have removed the responder's name for privacy:

All,  I can understand why you are confused about the issue of the tree sitters.  The press has done a poor job of reporting on this important issue.  The California Oak Foundation does not support tree sitting as an activity or a strategy.  We are dedicated to keeping oak trees standing in order to achieve sustainable wildlife habitat and healthy watersheds. 

That said, people do have the right in this country to question and protest poor decision making by non violent means.

Since the University of California paid no attention to any responses to their Environmental documents, it left many people with little hope of moving the proposed Athletic Center to a satisfactory site.  Once law suits are filed and injunctions are in place, COF believes these issues should be settled in the Courts. 

Tree sitting seems to have captivated the press, but it is not good stewardship of the trees or the surrounding area.  Of course, the University cutting everything down would be much worse! 

I do not have time or interest in participating in your blog, but I wish you well in having a new stadium and athletic center that will serve the University community and not jeopardize the public's safety.

Creativity is called for here, not positional and confrontational tactics. 

Best wishes for a rational solution.  XXXXXX

p.s.  Tehama County has approved cutting down 97,000 oak trees for a proposed retirement community.  In a time when we must keep trees standing if we are to have clean air and water, it does not seem a wise action on the part of the University to destroy this Memorial Grove.

2.  Some of the quotes from the hippies themselves.  The most key example of this comes from an article when Cal decided to give some water to the tree-sitters.  Here is the key quote:

The decision by the tree-sitters to accept water from campus police disappointed some of their supporters on the ground, in part because a decision hadn’t been reached collectively.

As I previously pointed out, that is one of the most arrogant things I have ever seen.  Take it from the angle of the hippies.  The tree-sitters are in dire straits.  They need food and water, stat.  And that *evil* UC Cal won't let the hippies give it to them.  Ai!  But wait, UC Cal might be giving some much-needed supplies to our beloved tree-sitters to help them through these difficult times.  And, hell, it doesn't really affect me (i.e. ground support hippie) because I'm not the one siting in the tree.

Yet, these "supporters on the ground" so felt they had to be involved, so felt they knew what was best for the tree-sitters, so felt that their voice needed to be heard (even on a seemingly cut and dry issue of getting supplies to their BFFs up in the trees), that they were upset by this. 

It was the same way when CBKWit and I went to their "Special Activism Training."  Especially when the Martial Art Mask Maker gentleman sparred with Ayr.  Martial Art Mask Maker WANTED HIS VOICE HEARD!  HOW DARE AYR NOT CALL ON HIM?  UNBELIEVABLE! 

CBKWit similarly noted this when he witnessed the following at the Grove the day before the ruling came out (when Cal was dismantling the ropes et al):

There was a commotion down the road and an audacious hippie shouted an order: "Everyone move over here!"  A few sheep started to follow, but immediately a veteran hippie voiced his disapproval: "Why?"  It's tough to lead a pack when everyone is highly suspicious of authority.

Why are they highly suspicious of authority?  Because they know better.  Because they should be involved. 

3.  They are now promoting a book of themselves.  Two books, really.  A picture one and a text one.  Win or lose, it doesn't matter, they'll write their book and make their money.  There really  isn't too much more to say about this, it speaks for itself.

4.  And this might not win be a lot of friends, but this is the same pattern of "egotistical activism" I saw all throughout my time at Berkeley.  It's just what the Hoku Jeffries and Ronald Cruzes of the world would do.  And look, I'm not trying to be insultory here, but you have to take an honest look at the purported goals and the purported tactics. 

Let's take one example, Israel and Palestine.  I bring this up NOT TO START A POLITICAL CONSERVATION ON THE MERITS OF THIS UNFORTUNATE AND TERRIBLE SITUATION, but instead to try to compare and contrast tactics between a public campus organization and the tree-sitters.   A very hot button topic when I was at Cal and I'm sure it continues to this day.  Students For Justice In Palestine (SJP)'s purported goal is "fighting to end israeli apartheid" (it's their slogan on their website).  They would have their big marches and rallies and mock Israeli checkpoints on campus.  

How is this successful in changing the Israeli political situation?  Are the leaders of Israel going to be all "Woah, a mock checkpoint in a random college thousands and thousands of miles away?  Let's change it all!" 

This is ultimately masturbatory.  It isn't designed to actually change anything about the incredibly complex situation in the Middle East that's been going on for thousands of years now.  It's just designed to make people feel as if they are changing something.  And, more importantly, look as if they are changing something.

Does anybody else remember when they occupied Wheeler Hall in April of 02?  To counter-protest an pro-Israel protest going on at the same time, they hung Palestinian flags out of Wheeler and blocked the entrance.  How does this help move the situation in Israel and Palestine towards a successful resolution?  How does this accomplish anything of real substance?  Well besides this letter I wrote to the Daily Cal, of course:

That day was when I really came to understand the pure arrogance of the campus protesters.  When I tried to enter Wheeler to attend my class and had the following interaction with a protester.

TwistNHook (peering through the window):  I can't really see what's going on.

Protester (apparently not understanding what I said):  They've been doing this since 1997!

TwistNHook (with a cool, dry wit):  Oh yeah I remember when they used to do it for the love of the protesting, now it's all about the big money contracts.

For that, I received the most evil stare I have ever received.  Ever.  Nothing is more indicative of arrogance than taking oneself way too seriously.  That's essentially why the Daily Show is so popular, popping the arrogant bubbles of politicians who can't take a joke.

Ultimately that's why we started attending Sproul protests with non-sensical signs like "It burns when I pee" and "I need a prom date":






"Thumb Wars Are Not The Answer" and "I Heart Berkeley Protest Signs" are just as likely to end Israeli apartheid as any other Sproul campus signs or chants or mock checkpoints.  And we're a lot less likely to loot the Foot Locker.

And look, before you accuse me of favoritism or getting all political on you, let me again assure you that this has nothing to do with the merits of pro-Palestinian groups, only their tactics.  This blog is not designed for an in depth political discussion of that merit.  Certainly, we can all agree that the situation in Palestine is an unfortunate one and requires not only Berkeley, but also the world's attention.  Further, if the marches and protests were pro-Israel, we would have been out there just as much.  However, those are a lot more rare than the pro-Palestinian ones.

Maybe I've been rambling on too long about all this.  We have been discussing this a lot recently and I felt it prudent to collate all of the reasoning into 1 post.  Maybe this is your breaking point on "tree-sitter" commentary (and hopefully we are nearing the end here).  But maybe it'll help people consider what are and are not efficient and humble means to accomplish real world goals.  When the California Oaks Foundation doesn't want the trees cut down, but does not support the current means by which the tree-sitters are attempting to achieve that goal, then it makes you think.

My basic point is that the actions by the tree-sitters are some of the most arrogant, self-absorbed ones I have ever witnessed.  They are not designed to save the oaks.  The dirty little secret that Carolyn Jones doesn't want you to know is that nothing they do has ANYTHING to do with whether the oaks stay or go.  Their actions are ultimately futile and a complete waste of their time.  Their actions are instead designed to satisfy their own egotistical short-coming by promoting themselves as saviors of the world.  To get on TV, to get in the papers.  To fucking overthrow capitalism!  To feel as if they are doing something.

When in reality they are merely hurting not only their specific cause (Berkeley campus oaks), but also environmentalism in general.  But they don't care about that.  They are too arrogant and egotistical to see that.  And that's the saddest part of this whole 18 month long temper tantrum.