In 1978, Chinese democracy movement activists created the Democracy Wall – 西單民主牆(西单民主墙) – in Bejing. But it was Peking then. I think.
Ideas and opinions were openly expressed, a novel concept. “The Cultural Revolution Must be Reevaluated!” “Mao Zedong was 30% right and 70% wrong!” Heady stuff. Perhaps the most enduring of the postings was Wei Jingsheng’s Fifth Modernization. Read it. It will be covered on the final exam.
That same year, as the United Farm Workers circled the drain with escalating staff purges coming from the Union headquarters in the Tehachapi Mountains, we happy few in the legal department offices on Gabilan Street in Salinas created our own Democracy Wall, a bulletin board where we posted quotes that we thought applied to our situation. Gallows humor it turns out. I remember one quote – long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad saying that the genius of life is knowing when to get out. We didn’t. Too bad.
Anyway, though – back to Berkeley, where we have never been shy about our political views or expressing them. Just below San Pablo, just north of Ashby, on Pardee Street – there’s something happening here. I don’t know the person or persons responsible, but boy – what an expression! Our own sixth modernization?
The Democracy Fence around this house in otherwise not-so-residential South Berkeley just below San Pablo is a spectacular glimpse into Berkeley progressive politics for the last 30 years, as seen through the lens of a fanatic collagist. Imagine – a 360-ish square-foot collage, emphasis on leaflets and slogans and newspaper articles, weathered and even tattered, but as was the case in China, seeking truth from facts. A wonderful manifestation of democratic dissent. And crazy cool too.
When you look south down the driveway, you see a meticulous collection of something. I have no idea what it is.
And then a garage. Completely quirky. Big fun quirky.
My friend spent hours reading the clippings and signs on the wall. He struggled with the Fifth Modernization but liked the Pardee fence.