Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Boogie Not Bombs 2009

Organizing Boogie

Sorry I don't have any pictures or videos, but I wanted to do a brief review of the DePaul Activist Student Union's annual Boogie Not Bombs event.

Every year since the US invasion of Iraq, students at DePaul have organized an outdoor spring concert called Boogie Not Bombs. The school sponsors a large concert called Fest, where Frat boys are allowed to drink on campus, and boring pop acts mindlessly entertain. DePaul Students Against the War wanted to host an anti-Fest where they could raise some rabble against the war while enjoying good music.

As the years have gone by, I have been critical of Boogie Not Bombs. Mainly because I have felt like it was not the best use of our collective time as an anti-war student group. It would utterly consume the life of one of our activists for several months, as they dealt with the school bureaucracy in obtaining the outdoor quad, obtaining noise permits, funding requests for bands, etc. Then every year, it would be a small turn out, where maybe 30 people would stick around for the bands. Often it would rain and the bands would be forced to perform under the overhang near the bicycle rack.

While the music was great every year, featuring punk, hip-hop and funk bands as well as speakers, I felt like we were focusing on this big party, instead of organizing against military recruiters, or kicking ROTC off campus.

This year, I am told that it required less time to set up, however the weather decided to not cooperate, it rained all day. I feel like next year students activists at DePaul might want to reconsider how they continue this tradition, and if they do. They might want to host it indoors, perhaps at the student center atrium, a public place where many students will be passing through. This would cut down the time needed to set the event up and eliminate the chance of rain outs. Another option would be to take over the better funded school music activity- Fest. If enough left-wing students get involved in the DePaul Activities Board, they would be able to host events that hundreds, even thousands of students would attend.

I remember some of the rap concerts that Students for Justice in Palestine hosted, and they were packed, sold out concerts in the athletic center. Why can't Boogie Not Bombs inspire the same kind of energy? I think it's become less of an anti-war concert, and more of a personal punk show for students activists at DePaul to bond around.

I understand that many members of the DePaul Activist Student Union want to have a fun party at the end of the year. There are many reasons to bond and hang out with our fellow activists in a more informal atmosphere. However we have to ask if an event like Boogie Not Bombs is worth the effort, when we could have parties that require far less set up.

The Boogie Music

The bands that performed to the small punk rock crowd were great though.

Ryan Harvey was great as ever. He is a humble story teller, a genuinely nice guy who plays acoustic folk while singing about the personal impact of war and empire. Son of Nun joked in between raps that compared the poverty of Baltimore to that of Baghdad. The Rust Belt Ramblers played some kickin' country rock.

Al Thawra finished the show with a sludge metal sound that invoked early Sepultura, and Napalm Death. Al Thawra closed their set by inviting the small crowd to play different tribal drums with them while a Muslim woman sang in Arabic.

Al Thawra has gotten a decent amount of press in their short time as a metal/punk band. As one of the first Arab/Muslim Punk bands, they have achieved a certain punk commodity. Rolling Stone did a feature on the Tawqacore scene, and compared Al Thawra (incorrectly in my view) to Slipknot. Al Thawra was interviewed by Al Jazeera and written about in the Chicago Tribune. Yet I feel like many of these media outlets are missing the social and political story in the rise of Tawqa-consciousness.

I was a student with Marwan, the lead singer and guitarist of Al Thawra, and I recall having long conversations with him about Anarchism, religion, the middle-east, the war, and multiculturalism . I remember talking him that Anarchism was similar to Western liberalism in the sense that it's ideology evolved out of European conditions, and that it faced a striking contradiction in that it is universal ideology, it claims that all people should be free, yet it has gained few adherents in predominantly Muslim countries. If it is to be an ideology that struggles for the universal liberation of mankind from the clutches of superstition, patriarchy, and class oppression, Anarchism faces a existential crises.

I think this crises is summed up in the fact that universal symbol of anarchy, the letter A with a circle around it, is rooted in Latin based languages. What would be the symbol for Anarchy in a culture that speaks Arabic, Hindi or Mandarin? Communists don't have this problem, the sickle and hammer represent urban and rural workers the world over. Which could represent part of the reason why there were large Communist movements in Yeman, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, and throughout the middle-east during the era of national liberation movements from the 1940's until the 1970's.

Marwan and I would speculate about what an Arab Anarchism would look like. I would point to Peter Kropotkin's classic text on Anarchism and evolution, Mutual Aid: a factor in Evolution. Kropotkin, a trained geologist who studied animal biology, wrote that human evolution led our species to cooperate with each other, to build societies together, and to help each other, and that this was a factor in allowing the human race to survive natural selection. I would tell Marwan, that there has to be elements in Arab history and culture which would be building blocks of an Arab Anarchism.

This is fundamentally a different perspective than liberalism's existential crises regarding Islam. Writers like Christopher Hitchens have written much on how Islam needs to have an “Enlightenment”, or a “Protestant Reformation” to respect women, and generally join the 21st century. Hitchen's has really hammered on this issue, in his best selling atheist book “God is Not Great”, he practically ignores Christian fundamentalist violence against enlightenment ideals, and focuses his energy on Islam. Hitchen's, who claims to be a leftist, joins the crowd of former Trotskyists in the Bush administration in their solution- invading Muslim countries and forcing Western neo-liberal capitalism on them.

Al Thawra and Tawqacore represent the first stirrings of an Arab Anarchist consciousness. Their lyrics target capitalist exploitation and imperialist expansion, as well as Muslim religious superstitions. The only question is whether this consciousness will be confined to Arab-Americans, or if it will grow in the middle-east as well, possibly creating a serious opposition to Western Imperialism and Muslim Theocracy.

Intense Debate Comments