JFW: More than a year and a half ago I was cut down by a rare auto-immune disease where my own system tried to kill me–the metaphorical possibilities are almost endless. (A withering system within the context of a withering system.) With help of loving friends and family–I kept fighting so that last week I was able to go skiing for the first time in two years, get in a terrible wreck, dislocate my shoulder and break my thumb.
Regarding the law practice, the law office will once again fully operational here in Santa Fe by the end of March 2014. I have a major drug trial with serious due process, asset forfeiture and Sixth Amendment constitutional issues–see below–set February 17, 2014 in Roswell, NM. The media is calling it–“The Real Breaking Bad”– should anyone be interested.
2. What inspires your writing?
JFW: Love and loathing: a love of revolutionaries and a loathing of rebels.
The rebel, which to varying degrees, ironically, is part of the identity of the majority of people who participate in the culture of our time–look at that rebel on TV–is nothing more than the leading edge of consumer capitalism. Obedient servants masquerading as artists looking to do nothing more than get famous and sit like lapdogs at the table of the bourgeois. As a guy who has come from poverty and the lower classes who believed that artists and thinkers were supposed to stand for something and compel society to look in the mirror, I can’t stand their innocuous hypocrisy, learned helplessness and nauseatingly false optimism.
The revolutionary, on the other hands, stands in stark contrast to the consumer capitalism system. The revolutionary rejects mass produced identity, maintains an open heart in the face of a system that works every moment to fracture our selves from our selves, from each other, and from nature so that we become malleable for the purposes of shaping, submission and control. The revolutionary is the self-reliant walking spirit of refusal to give into to the easy sleep unto death that has come to be the American experience.
As the rebel’s reactions- whether they know it or not–do little more than affirm the system through what society has been taught is a full (meaningless) expression of (unthreatening) rights (that end up selling t-shirts at Hot Topic); the revolutionary pushes rights to the point where they grind against systemic walls toward basic structural change. The music of this grinding is what I think of as culture. She represents an emergence of new values through action that cannot be owned. While the Rebel’s actions are all geared toward societal success–money, fame, sex—the revolutionary is like “Prometheus who would rather be chained to the rock than be a servant of the gods.” Marx.
I write for the Revolutionary and against the coopted rebel. I write in the hopes of establishing an anti-establishment culture that is actually against the establishment.
3. How long have you been writing?
JFW: I used to sit in the garage at age 4, making crosses – raised catholic – then writing poetry and stories on each part of the wood.
My mother accused me of sniffing glue.
Here for the first time, in publication: I admit it, mom, I was…I needed that glue to open me up, help me to create.
4. In your piece, Bam. Bam. Bam, you refer to destroying the 5,000 year old relationship with ourselves. What’s the best way to go about that?
JFW: Let’s get back rebels versus revolutionaries: the rebel, along with mainstream society consumer society – will seek his or her answers in the prefabricated and socially acceptable arenas of mass produced politics, culture, etc. Never once getting to the root, the core from whence all things arise, which the concern of the revolutionary: the soul of the human condition.
Revolutionary freedom precedes everything. It does not operate within a context, but is the context in which all of our institutions operate. This is a truth about our existence that the powerful want to deny at all costs. First, they don’t want us to think about it. But if we do, secondly, they want us to both consciously and subconsciously understand that question human nature is secondary to the institutions and society where we live out our lives. They want us to believe that there is no question regarding being, because if there is, what are the chances that it fits with a plastic soul destroying consumer capitalist system…
This is the great battleground of heart, for the philosophical definition of persons is the most important and relevant struggle of the totality of our history, which is why the mass media corporate complex via our “democratic” institutions spends trillions of dollars trying to tell us who we and what we are; or, attempt to create a permanent confusion around the issue so that we give it up as nonsense or allow it, like so many other things, to become overtaken by fear.
Why do we exist? Why are we here? The person who wonders why it is they exist isn’t likely to be found at Walmart sucking down a gutbusting cola while loading up on endless unnecessary goods. As the dehumanized spirit is more easily controlled, the empowered human is much more difficult.
If you perceive me to be saying that thought is dangerous, then yes, that’s what I am saying: but not every thought is dangerous in the same way that every point is not worth making. For much of what we think and do is unavoidably the product of forces outside our own consciousness. The revolutionary struggle of our time, is to take the question – what is it to be a human being – and slam that mother back on the table. Imagine if this question were to reenter the national dialogue. Sure, like all things, it would be coopted to some degree. But if the integrity of the question is maintained through revolutionary fervor so that the answers we get–or the search–begin to inform us spiritually, then the system would break down on individual levels.
To be sure, the word spiritual, to me, is simply that which arises living life in the present moment. The song of strength that breathes life into culture and finds liberation through the examination of being.
5. You’re a lawyer and a writer…How do you make time for both in your lifestyle?
JFW: They are integrated into each other. When I write a motion, it is writing or at least generating ideas that will inform my writing. When I write a piece, the inverse is true. Creative ideas that ultimately become incorporated into my legal practice and my writing. Doing a public reading is great practice for trial as trial is great practice for a reading.
My disease has taught me to be very efficient with my energy. I can only do what I love, so that the practice of law and writing never feel like work. Specifically as far as time, organization, discipline and having really good employees who are as committed as I am to the fight for justice in all of its forms are invaluable saint-like revolutionaries. In my law office, we may spend Monday and Tuesday doing depos or in preparation for trial, but then Wednesday morning sharing an essay that one of us wrote for purposes of feedback and editing. Or just sharing an essay that someone was really interesting and that might make for some good conversation.
This is question we ask ourselves constantly, at the forefront of everything we do: is this who we are? Is this our purpose? We see ourselves in the tradition of the revolutionary law office: we take great pride in doing the work that openly challenges the empty values of a corrupt system, so there are many nights spent buried in the law till two a.m. Time becomes irrelevant, because it is an extension of who we are.
6. You founded the Whistle Blowers Defense League, can u explain a bit more about this venture for those not familiar with your civil rights work, and how this project came about?
JFW: Here, I am going to be controversial, but what the hell. I could die tomorrow.
Most lawyers are totally lame products of the system. They’re scared of getting in trouble with the court. They’re scared of the United States Attorney, they’re scared of pissing off the DA, they’re scared of the media, they operate and litigate out of fear.
I am a child of the drug war. My father was sentenced to 35 years in prison as a drug kingpin, my mother, sister and I thrown into extreme poverty. (Se below.) I sat in that courtroom watching my father’s so-called superstar, high-priced attorneys, get steamrolled by the government. They were never even in the game.
And the reason my dad had those attorneys, is the same reason that a lot of people on the left who get indicted have their attorneys and end up doing up time–because they’re trained to think that attorneys should look and act a certain way. They look for this fake gravitas, the right suit, all the TV idiocy that the layman believes defines a powerful and effective lawyer.
So, let me tell you, a powerful attorney is one who will disrupt the system for his or her client. You see, the state or government controls everything. The control the courthouse, the control the docket, they control the narrative, they have familiarity with the judges and court personnel. The defense attorney, meanwhile is always like the visiting team walking into the frozen tundra of Lambeau field – severe disadvantage.
The defense attorney has to disrupt the narrative, level the playing field and give his or her client a fighting chance to walk. For example, when see people from environmental groups or now first amendment fighters get indicted, then see these kind of “established” lawyers that they end up with…you just know that they’ll be copping a plea or going down because that attorney or law firm is not going to have the balls or understanding to really take on the system. Mainly, because they’re suburban squares who are afraid to lose anything and really don’t believe in the cause. I can tell from behind the scenes: there are very few actually radical attorneys in this country. Mostly, it’s just a job for them.
Nb. And the layperson, you see this a lot in the twitter world, is also as fearful about being aggressive and really taking on the government. Everybody has just been trained to play ball, be scared..Hell no. Fight the government at every possible stage. Shine a light on them through the media. Let them know from the outset that they have run up against real opposition who isn’t going to roll over. From the streets to the courthouse, revolutionary 24-7. The renegade soul in all forms, so that the law and the courtroom become a place of justice where fundamental questions are addressed.
So, with regard to the WBDL, I started it because I didn’t like what I was seeing out there. Attorneys rolling over. People scared. A lack of real fight and battle for what’s left of our constitutional rights. (I can often contradict myself here, because as a lawyer I still have to believe that our rights are real.) The funniest thing to me are like former United States attorneys who decided to switch it up and open up there own practice – oh yeah, like they’re really gonna fight for an activist?
So, with the government repression going down and lack of firewall to stop it, I wanted to put together a group of badass attorneys who would have no problem stepping to the fore and doing battle with some of the most powerful institutional forces on the planet.
We stand ready to defend the righteous activist whose words and actions come from a belief in human dignity and place in his or her soul. We love you and are always honored to represent.
I must recognize my founding brothers here, Jay Leiderman, Dennis Roberts and Tor Ekeland. Warriors all. If I got in trouble, I would be happy for any of them to represent me. One of the beauties of the WBDL is that when you get in trouble, we all represent you. You have a team that shares in your beliefs.
7. How do we cut off the economic noose that has held us back as a culture for all these years?
JFW: To be revolutionary is to go beyond the political, through the cultural, and past the economic or post-industrial and to the root of the issue which is the human condition. Here, in dialogue with what we can be, we begin to rebuild our revolutionary society within the false construct of America.
That’s the philosophical answer. The Eyes on The Prize answers is that we turn away from this bullshit culture and toward the likeminded revolutionaries of our generation. We struggle together for space and the defend that space. We struggle together for the expression of our rights and then defend those rights. There is a problem that can almost be stated in axiomatic terms: at the moment in which a culture becomes dangerous, the more repressive the corporate state becomes. Once we get free and begin to create work that simultaneously uplifts the dangerous questions of the mind while condemning the superficial fracturing of the consumer corporate complex, then as stated in they will begin to come for us. But here I don’t worry, for the new philosophers, thinkers, artists, soul seekers and revolutionaries I have in mind are the kind of people who are willing to stand for the things that they believe in. People who take their lives every seriously, who live according to a set of profound principals, who are not swayed or broken by the cheap seduction of a dollar store society. They are fighters of the soul, so that culture is simply another form of breath, of life, of dreaming one’s vision into reality.
Ultimately, I could see a cultural strike force of hyper talented aesthetic warriors who destroy the false subversive and transgressive art that proclaims itself to be taking on the establishment while in actuality reinforcing the establishment. This may need to happen in order to bring clarity to a very culturally muddied time
I don’t want to leave any answer unturned here: we must create things – and the word things is used intentionally for we cannot describe which is yet to be born out of the honest dialogue with being and the soul–that stand in killing contradistinction to the false and smothering capitalistic twaddle that is served to us as art and culture today.
8. How did you become involved in activism?
JFW: Same as writing: sniffing glue in the garage.
Seriously, it’s always been with me. My dad was thrown in prison. I never sought out the establishment. I was a serious punk rocker. And the punk scene was a great school where if you wanted, you could learn the truth about what Reagan was doing in places like El Salvador. That was my first protest: against US imperialism in Central America. After that I put most of it into writing about the hypocrisy and sickness of the drug war…but then Bush came in with Iraq and what we think of as real live activism was on.
During times when activism break out and there’s some movement out there, I believe the writer has a responsibility to straightforwardly cheer it on and support it as much as possible. I did that in 2004 with the RNC in NYC and then again with Occupy Wall Street with a piece called In The Battle Of The Open Heart.
But unlike a lot of writers – and think this is why I became a lawyer – could never just sit back and report on it. The old Kesey situation with needing to be a lightning bold rather than a seismograph.
My best activist moments were two and I’ll take em to my grave: the Fifth Avenue die in I organized in May 2004. When the cops stood over us with the bullhorns, putting on the cuffs while pulling us of the street. I tasted freedom that day. Second was sneaking vodka in Zuccotti Park with a Union guy from Long Island. Laughed that day till my stomach hurt.
9. It often varies when one sees the problems in the world and the falsity and delusions of the powers that be who keep most of out culture in the dark from the truth. What age did u realize things were messed up, and not going to improve until change happened?
Very early on because of the situation with my father and family. My “political” education was on the front lines of the drug war. At age 13, I watched my own government destroy my family without any remorse. My father was crucified, life ended. My mother was left trying to raise two children on welfare–until they took even that from her. The IRS claimed, under community property laws, that she owed them more than 640 thousand dollars in taxes. The Sheriff’s department would come to our house once a week to harass us and see if there was anything that they could take. One time, I was sitting my little room while they were there in the house. One of the cops came into bedroom without knocking and starting going through all my things. He lifted up a trophy I had and said: “What’s this for…”
He said, in the most condescending way: “You’re not big enough to play football.” Then dropped my trophy on the floor and left.
I learned to hate authority. And I think, unfortunately, this held me back as a writer. Most of the editors who decide what gets published are from the upper middle classes. And while they have an overeducated understanding of mild forms of lower class anger, they don’t like the real vitriol and certainly won’t publish it. If you ever notice, it’s always like a guy from Harvard who writes books about lower class subjects in America, They understand the American condition from their perspective, but not from ours. So, the books that I wrote in my twenties that I thought could stand for something and add to the emergence of a sharp culture, are all still sitting in my closet collecting dust.
That’s a little tangential to the question: but I knew things were deeply wrong from the age of 12 and this sense has gotten nothing but reinforced over time. If it weren’t that we would be clobbered by a massively powerful police state that has all the guns, I would be an out and out tear down the system through armed struggle kind of guy. In fact, I really am that kind of guy, save for that even if we won, China would invade and take us over.
I am, at heart, a child of poverty and injustice who would not mind at all seeing the whole thing come burning down so that we could start over. But we have to be smart, brilliant, about how it’s done so that we don’t win the battle and lose the war.
10. We’ve seen the Occupy movement as well as other civil rights and activist groups advocating change come and go, or stick around in other capacities….when do you suppose the people will take to the streets, hold the powers that be accountable and actually bring about the changes for the better?
JFW: Never. We don’t need reactionary protest that will end up on the cover of magazines. We need territory that will freak out the squares.
This land must be changed from the inside out. As we drive along the roads of our mother country toward revolution of the self-defined and reliant, there is no need to abandon, flee or withdraw into the emptiness of likeminded comfort. We are on the road to both the external and internal path. Constitutionally-integrated territories amidst the ruins of an empire within which we can no longer live meaningful lives. We must find and build a place where the establishment lie is kept out. A place where we can become our own humble masterpieces of exploration, where radical examination of being through all forms and inquiries, some known to us now, some not, generate an independent territory of liberated freedom.
The inside zones of freedom will stand in great contrast to the outside zones of imprisonment that economically and spiritually define the motherland, In this way, we will come to hold the keys that open the cell doors so that others may come to be a part of the resurrection, or first experience, of what it is to be alive and justified through the hard-driven truth of self-reflection.
This is a landscape of truth and liberation that will exist within the grinding fraud called America, I believe that we should abandon our constitution for our declaration of independence, where we the people exist to affirmatively create and assert the rights born of being–what I call culture. And as we do so, the outside land of the lie will come to tear us down—for this is a truth we know. They cannot allow themselves to be revealed through the revolutionary action of truth that holds closely to our original ideals, revealing how far the system has taken us from what American experiment was supposed to be. And in this manner, as we simply attempt to live lives that we can call our own, they will come for us, to be sure, and a revolution of spirit, born of hope, will become a revolution indeed, born of survival and self-defense. And this will be the thing we mean when we ask ourselves if there are such things worth dying for.
Importantly: I believe that independents and the left should embrace the second amendment and receive basic military training for purposes of self-defense. At they very least, it will get everyone into shape, make people a little sharper, and outreach with our brothers and sisters in the military. There’s a lot of potential there, people who are tired of the bullshit who we could learn a lot from.
11. Over all what is your favorite piece that you have had published?
JFW: I am proud of my novel, The Last Stand of Mr. America. (Grove atlantic.) It stands the test, but a lot of people tend to focus on the sexuality so that much is missed. (I was just trying to be honest about human emotion via overkill American metaphor.) But as a writer who I hope is constantly evolving and pushing, my most recent piece in Truth out that you cited: Bam Bam Bam is my favorite. It starts a dialogue that I intend to see through regarding the rebirth, reworking, cutting ties with the killing machine the prayer for the living.
12. are you still practicing law? any notable cases you have going on at the moment?
JFW: Yes. As aforementioned, the upcoming trial in the “Real Breaking Bad” case and March reestablishment of my law office to its full – twenty cases – capacity.
Regarding the Real Breaking Bad case, it’s been going for months and we actually pushed the law in this matter…In the arena of asset forfeiture, which is an area of vicious government abuse of power where the government seizes a defendant’s assets while inditcting so that he is left unable to defend himself, unable to pay bail and as stated by a US appellate court in the jaws of the pincers so that presumption of innocence is eviscerated before he even steps into court, we were able to take a Halliburton case – talk about subversion, right–and argue that pursuant to due process and the sixth amendment right to counsel that our client should be granted a “Halliburton Hearing” in which by a basic probable cause standard the government would have to show that it had the right to seize his property. The government folded and the property was returned.
This was a novel approach to asset forfeiture that I am happy to discuss with any attorney or person facing state or government abuse of power. We pushed the constitutional envelope, beat them and have been using those returned resources to keep up our vigorous defense.
13. What is the American Night, and how do we stop it?
JFW: It is time now, as it was during the Dark Ages, to tear this world wide open and free ourselves from the solitary imprisonment of our being so that we are no longer caught in a static nightmare of the soul, never knowing what our own being can be as even our own memories are faded and warped by the prison bars, the sharped barbed wire system and deprivation of rights by the executioners face, which is always well hidden. Yeah, it’s a hard rains gonna fall.
In this struggle we are met by the gloriously blemished illusion of our own transcendence, which is the truth of the sunset as it fades into night. These so-called defects are to be embraced as we move forward into the revolutionary stage of our advancement. This is not the time of messiahs, or leaders, or perfection. I want a revolution that holds onto human flaws. The more their ideals become our ideals, the more broken and isolated we become. Enough of that, once and for all.
From the thinness of the outer shell, to the infinite of our spirit, we begin to shed light in the darkness by embracing our flaws and by erecting walls of mind to withstand the 24 hour barrage and assault of their attempt to cut us off from the questions that lead us to the truly subversive seriousness that diminishes the power of the system over our minds. And when this occurs, there shall be light cast across the bold sky so that those with open hearts and wide eyes will begin to see again. And there are mountains, and oceans, and the eternal grey skies where the moon caresses us from one side of the ridge of transcendence in the daytime palace of grateful abandonment in the land where no moon should ever be. And that is the beginning of the question of who we are in the darkness of the American night.
14. You’re tearing it up with fellow writers Ina Parker, and Theodore Hamm at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn on January 14th, the event is nearly sold out, Will there be more events such as this one titled Texts from Our Toxic Republic? How did these events come about?
JFW: They just have to….I believe that any cultural event that openly takes on the consumer capitalist establishment is inherently worthwhile, that any gathering of the likeminded during this time of occupation is necessary.
There is no reason to pretend that this just another reading that we don’t care about. A night of entertainment to spread a little glory. It ain’t. As I have defined it here, this is a spiritual event, one of the soul that I think about all the time. Everything we can possibly do right now must be taken seriously. A mad pursuit–because yes the mad ones are the only ones–toward an invisible starting line, breaking away from the shadows of the subversive that is transgressive no more.
We are at such a time of ground zero that almost anything of quality counts and we need to restore the chaos and beauty of The Happening. Creative resistance, the thing that leaves us aeach inspired to go out and raise the authentic hell that gives birth to new philosophy. We’ve got to read honest pieces that risk embarrassment, that leave blood on the stage, so that we can be trusted. There is so much fame chasing today, so much want of worship. What I beg for, lomg for, is s ate of communion and total break down between so called audience and performer. I have no goods to sell. This is a time of necessary revolutionary ideas. I see us in the cave, sharing the truths in the vulnerability of a lost time, each of us looking for that sacred thing in each other that will give us hope. I love those whom society brands as pessimists, for they are the ones with the courage to stare into the abyss and report the truth.
There will always be more. We must build it from the grassroots. It is our only hope. If you make it down to Pete’s on January 14, there will be room for you – even if we’re putting chairs out on stage. It is the reason why I am living, to find the revolutionaries walking the streets of America.
15. How did you become involved with the Brooklyn Rail?
JFW: Ted Hamm and I became fast friends back in 2004. A friendship that remains and endures. Unfortunately, this last issue – December-January-was Ted’s last issue with the Rail, so that there a group of likeminded type writers looking for a place to keep going, putting forth there work. I am lucky to have a place like Truth Outthat has shown some faith in me. But with publishing a dead and gone zone lost to the demands of capitalism, there is right now a void–a void that has given rise to events like the one of January 14th. It’s time for a new beginning.