I’ve had the honor and pleasure of being able to participate in the oak grove tree-sit for the last 600-plus days. I’ve had the opportunity to meet members of my community who feel the same way I do about the state of the world, the state of our country, and the state of our city. I’ve been able to see and experience how “police state” and “fascism”—words that I usually associate with some other country in some other time period—are actually a lot closer to home that I thought. The UC Berkeley Police Department, however unprofessional and unreasonable they have been, I now see are quite predictably acting in service of their chancellor and UC Regent masters.
However, when we turn our peaceful protest towards those decisionmakers (i.e. Chancellor Birgenau), we are punished. It is a scary time, when planting a tree can be considered vandalism, when being on a “public” university is trespassing, and when coming together with 50 others to participate in a sacred ceremony to honor life, death, and re-birth (and commemorate the life of Dona Spring) is conspiracy.
I’ve had the opportunity to have been born and raised in Berkeley, and to experience the many different colors and sounds and faces and opinions, which have shaped me to become the person I am today. I want to see Berkeley as a place where bicycles can roam free, where trees are respected, and a diverse community can exchange ideas and opinions, express their dissent and stand up for what they believe in without being incarcerated. Berkeley is a haven to those who believe in a better world.
I’ve had the opportunity to attend UC Berkeley, and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with my student peers, and take with me a wide range of insights and opinions that I would not otherwise have been exposed to. However, after more than $20,000 in tuition fees, I soon realized that the university is, for the most part, a mind-control machine to process its students into an obedient, conforming, working-class member of society, who goes to a job, pays taxes, pays rent, and who doesn’t question this capitalistic system of mindless entertainment, consumeristic values, and endless war. Only a handful of courses I took encouraged critical thinking, community service, real democracy, and interpersonal relationships.
We are living in a time, where torturing and killing animals, whether for food or scientific research, seems to be normal and accepted by most of society. We are living in a time where monoculture farm plots sprayed with pesticides and fertilizers, polluting water and eroding soil, seems normal and accepted. We are living in a time when destroying ancient forests and clearing tropical rainforests, seems normal and accepted. We are living in a time when economic development is considered more valuable than life. Worst of all, we are living in a time when concerned members of the community who stand up in opposition to these atrocities, are being arrested and incarcerated by our government.
This short-term thinking, profit maximizing, third world country exploiting, industrial capitalistic economic system, is doomed. I think each and every one of us knows this in our heart, no matter how hard we try to justify our modern lifestyles. However, we don’t have to abandon the city and live in an eco-village in the country to solve these problems. We can act in our own communities to support the ongoing struggle against the corporate industrial machine that is running rampant and unchecked. If you, personally, cannot take part in such actions, the least you can do is support those who are putting their bodies on the line, who are willing to suffer the consequences of their dissent, to protect our heritage, for us and for our children.
We need to get back in touch with the earth. She is screaming to be heard, but we continue to cover our eyes and ears, pretending that everything is fine. The city of Berkeley (the community, not the City Council) can lead us into the next age of truth, reconciliation, and sustainability, if we, as a community, come together in support of such a transformation. We don’t need Obama or the UC Berkeley football team (although they are welcome to participate); we need to honor and acknowledge those working in our community now, with real moral consciousness; those who set an example of taking action congruent with their vision of a better world.
Kingman Lim is a 27-year Berkeley resident, a certified arborist, and a graduate of UC Berkeley’s environmental science department.