Hacking the Planet: How I Became a Wobbly by Dade Murphy
I grew up in a strange city famous for its outward and violent racism, which is at a level unusual for both its geographic location and size; it’s a city my Jewish friend described it as “The good ol’ South of the North.” As a white cis dude that appeared straight though, I was often invited to participate in or given a pass to witness terrible things that I found abhorrent. When combined with an abusive home life, I found my solace in computers. Witnessing authority figures abuse their power in that environment, even or perhaps especially those paying lip service to liberal notions of justice and diversity, left me unable to care for others on the surface for a long time.
I held a multitude of jobs, including roofing, loading trucks, cooking, childcare, and more, but none could seem to hold my attention or give me any kind of satisfaction with my work. Upon graduating from high school, I took my shot at academia. Despite scoring incredibly high on college admissions tests, I was rejected from a multitude of programs due to an only moderately high high school GPA (which probably stemmed from my general anti-authoritarian outlook). I finally made it into both the Physics and Astrophysics programs at my local research university, which truly challenged me, and I enjoyed it immensely when my life was in order. I worked with a few different research groups, but witnessed the capitalism/scientific method barrier issues with large physics experiments first hand, and left those projects feeling frustrated.
Around this same time, the anti-cult Project Chanology was launching. I was heavily involved in my local branch, as it was one of the first times I was able to express my thoughts and feelings among others who had a similar background in hacker culture. Our local branch also had a reputation for being one of the most effective cells in the nation, a reputation I chalk up to serious in person actions/organizing and rejection of national level activism. This experience made me a competent organizer on levels and in ways I find difficult to put into words.
After Chanology died down and I left research, I started a video games (as art) development club focused on education, horizontal participation, and an anti-capitalist core functioning. I had to leave university and my club a year after due to monetary issues and concerns with access to health care, but luckily my club reputation landed me a job as a programmer across the country. I packed up and moved to the South, only to figure out that the job itself wasn’t quite as advertised – I was actually designing and building slot machines to subvert gambling laws in order to put them everywhere and jack up the house take by about a factor of ten. The industry was super exploitative of both workers and consumers, litigious as all hell, and my position made me feel like I was working at a tobacco company. I was axed soon after I started asking questions, but I had to sign a non-compete contract to get the job in the first place, and I still cannot work with anything involving computers for nearly another year at the point of writing this.
After losing that job and facing police violence, a for profit hospital holding me hostage literally at gunpoint, and homelessness looming in an area with few to no friends, I returned to my hometown: the place I least wanted to be in the world. After composing myself for a few months and gaining the energy to fight back, I decided that the most important issues facing game developers (the skill diversity issue, fracturing of independent developers, and the capitalist structure of both corporations and greedy NGOs) could all be addressed by forming a union. At this same time, an old high school friend invited me to a GDC rally against the confederate flag and introduced me to the IWW. The solidarity model, the horizontal structure, and the anti-capitalist and revolutionary politics were exactly what I was looking for in both a union and in life, and I’m still baffled to this day that I had never heard of the IWW before!
Since joining eight months ago, I’ve been heavily involved with the General Defense Committee in both actions and trainings, and I’ve made a personal project of building and repairing the local branch’s technology infrastructure. I’ve also been involved with a local workplace campaign, and feel like Wobbling is something I’ve needed and have been working towards since before I knew what it was!
Revolution one step at a time,