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.  

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OBU Manifesto #9   

OBU is in mourning. The world reassembles itself. There is incomprehension; there is relentless theorizing; there is the outraged energy that propels one to meeting after meeting as to “what shall we do?”… and people tell how they feel and how sad and angry and betrayed they are… and the plan we take out is: to feel sad and outraged and still have no plan.   

And, gradually, OBU comes to the sense that there is still a world and that one is alive in it; that the world contains (for the moment) oxygen and water and sustenance; that its wars are (still, for the moment) elsewhere. The natural and human storms that seem now so proximate and inevitable have not yet burst on us–not here, not yet. The poor feel them, the Black feel them, the Native people feel them, immigrants feel them, the “middle class” feel them, the sexually abused and the gender abused of all groups feel them.   

If OBU is not all of these, then it’s nothing.   

OBU feels these storms. If some of OBU have not yet reckoned with them personally, the whole of OBU knows they are close and they are here; they are soon and they are now. The distinctions have lost their importance.   

OBU asks, does everyone feel only their own feelings? Is that really what it comes down to? Or are only certain people capable of feeling with others? Are some people able to step with imagination into another life? Are any people? Are most people?    

It is the goal of our moral and intellectual education, OBU asserts, to prepare us to make that step of imagination into the lives of others. And it is the further goal to teach us the humility of knowing that the imagination of another’s life is not its actual experience. This is an ethics, a knowledge, an aesthetics, and a politics. One feels the suffering and oppression of the other; it is not, of course, the same feeling that the other–in her/his actual life–feels. But it is what allows and compels us to commit ourselves to stopping the suffering and injustice. And the “other,” what is that? The other is another person.   

OBU is One Big Union   

How does one know, OBU asks, this other person–the person from another place, another neighborhood, another region, another social stratum, another historical experience? One can read. There are many wonderful novels, essays, poems, histories, pieces of journalism, films and documentaries that show people’s lives. One should encounter all these texts and learn from them. For many people, this is the beginning.   

But it can’t be the conclusion. There must be places, institutions, organizations of real social contact. Social movements must be integrated–“integrated,” that old term… before we knew about “diversity.” When a place is merely “diverse,” people of the various groups need not talk to each other, and the place will still be “diverse.” Integration implies genuine relationships–the creation of a new social integrity out of the various constituent parts. Integration is the goal. Integration is the teacher.   

The sacred places where the races meet,” says Leonard Cohen.   

And out of integration–relation, knowledge, imagination, empathy, ethical and personal commitment–OBU hopes, will come solidarity.   

Solidarity is the commitment to stay together in spite of setbacks. Solidarity is the willingness to take risks for each other. OBU will not say, at this point, what kind of risks may be faced. OBU does not know. OBU hopes they will not be too severe, but they may be severe. OBU knows that some people can summon more courage than can others, but OBU does not know how much courage will be needed, or what kind.   

Obu is Oligarchy Busters United   

The collective that is writing this document feels at times great lacks of both solidarity and courage. Perhaps that’s why they’re able to imagine them as vividly as they do.   

OBU calls for a Mourn-In in every city and town. Come weeping, with large umbrellas and distribute tissue…. Come with bright large masks of Incredulity that a person of such social ignorance will oversee housing policy. Come weeping with circus prayer shawls… Come with Tinker toys and Legos and Lincoln Logs for the new Housing Secretary…. Come with Trump Fright Masks (are there any other kind?) so that Dr. C. can signify his fealty to his new Boss. Come weeping. And leave laughing, because this band of malicious, incompetent boobs will not succeed and will not stay in power…. if we unite and persevere                     

OBU Manifesto #10   

OBU calls for national days of mourning and contrition.   

Whatever we’ve been doing, it ain’t been fucking working. That includes the Obama years.   

This great economic “recovery,” says OBU, where is it really? These jobs that have increased so massively, what are they? Is it not clear, asks OBU, that the entire notion of work, of employment, has been transformed? There is no longer work, there are “ gigs.” You have a gig for a while, until a new technology or shift in location or new marketing strategy makes it unnecessary–for the employer. Capital no longer requires labor.    

Capital no longer requires consumers. International and upscale markets will do all the consumption that’s needed. Henry Ford’s ancient insight is obsolete that the worker must be paid enough to afford to buy the product he produces.   

Capital requires only more capital. Capital creates itself now. But you have to have capital to get capital.   

The economy now is one of rent. We pay rent now to banks for the privilege of existing.   

OBU submits that, in fact, we are more deeply fucked than we know, and Donald Trump has only just got on board. Begin the sentence with Donald Trump, but it’s a long and difficult sentence and no one knows where it ends. We are living in an age of uncertain grammar.   

And Trump really only picks things up in the middle.   

OBU is forced to admit there are really only middles.   

OBU calls for national days of mourning and contrition.   

The victory at Standing Rock is glorious, whatever crushing defeat stands to follow.   

The confession and plea for forgiveness on the part of the military veteran allies of the First Peoples at Standing Rock was one of the most profound and signifying moments in all American history. Even OBU could not imagine such a thing, and then it happened, as if some great wall had fallen.   

And yet the wall still stands.   

It is as if, OBU thinks, it doesn’t matter what you do, it doesn’t matter what you do, it doesn’t matter what you do…   

OBU is One Big Union   

OBU is Oligarchy Busters United