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Borf Brigade Communique

August 14, 2006

On Saturday, July 29, members of the Borf Brigade threw a roving street party in Washington, DC. Agents Q and fi5e from the Graffiti Research Lab built a bike-mounted sound system and (of course) documented the whole extravaganza. Check out their video of the party here.
The Borf Brigade also released a video communique, explaining the philosophy of Borfismo and officially expanding the Borf conspiracy by announcing the commencement of Operation: Twist & Shout.
Through the story of the original Borf, a teenager and friend of future brigade members who committed suicide in October 2003, the communique makes a compelling case that depression is a social problem with roots in the alienation of consumer capitalism and repression of suburban isolation. It’s a beautiful statement that in the end keeps its sense of humor and hope intact.
Video and a full transcript below the fold. Trust me: you don’t want to miss this one.

Quicktime plugin needed to view video.
— To download the Communique, right-click here: (33MB Quicktime file)
Full text: Borf Brigade Video Communique
Hello, my name is not important. The following is a statement written by the delinquents of the Borf Brigade.
Recently, the press has made much hullaballoo on the capture of minor Borfist John Tsombikos. This member is henceforth purged.
On October 22nd, 2003 our friend Borf hung himself from a basement pipe in a suburb of the nation’s capital. This was not a solitary act. Over 30,000 people in the US alone fall victim to this conspiratorial violence. It is the 3rd leading killer of young people, ages 15-24, and outnumbers homicides 3 to 2. This epidemic cannot be medicated into remission. It is not a problem confined to our family bloodline. “Trouble at home” is not the only trigger for depression.
People like [D.C.] Mayor Anthony Williams and developer Jim Abdo who maintain the gentri-fucking of our neighborhoods, establish 10 o’clock curfew laws targeting youth, ultimately deciding D.C.’s fate without the consent of its residents; as well as politicians and CEO’s around the world–these are the conspirators who would rather see us fight their wars and work in their sweatshops than see us develop and build supportive communities and relationships. They would rather see homeless shelters be turned into condos and would rather profit off of our misery through the funding of programs that stifle our creativity and imagination than spend a dime on programs that empower youth and give us the tools to think independently. Given these offenses, would anyone be surprised that so many young people feel so worthless? The message is clear: Leurs actions systematiquement se rendent a la perpetuatien de notre isolement et notre condition de precarite’.
These feelings of powerlessness and alienation, which are characteristics of living in an abusive culture, can be paralyzing and debilitating, leaving youth with few options. Either we can give up and self-destruct or realize our anger and frustration through property destruction and other anti-social acts. Graffiti for us was merely the expression of our frustration, an act in retaliation for Borf’s destruction. We needed to make our discontent visible. We have destroyed countless thousands of dollars worth of property as have our Parisian counterparts and the frustrated youth of the world who are forced to make a decision to either fall or destroy that which is pushing.
Rather than fall into quiet despair, we shall purple the proverbial nurple of the grey matter at hand. As our nurples have endured incessant purplings in untold schools, malls, courtrooms, office buildings and even while we walk home, we will no longer idly abide by bouts of unbearable purple nurpling.
Today begins Operation: Twist & Shout.
Twist & Shout will make you uncomfortable. For every rush hour Metro delay, dropped cell phone call, jammed coin return, mysterious odor, Borf will be involved. We will reface every wall, rhyme on every stall and have the gall to have a blast.
Borf is alive and well. How are you?


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13 comments on “Borf Brigade Communique”

To the picked on, the bullied, and the tortured souls:
Empower yourselves through finding and helping the borfs-to-be.
Spend the time on your future to empower yourselves against the system.
Destruction will align forces against you instead of them joining your call.
Man a hotline for suicide prevention. Help a distressed friend in need.
Go to the library to enrich your soul and empower your mind. Get thru college however possible. Vote. Go to city/county meetings and express.
Become a big brother/sister. Be a friend. Adopt. Foster. Open hand.
Become a majority. Mentor. Speak loudly into the darkness.

In reply to Shane, I would like to say that you have missed the point completely. What you are suggesting is to mitigate the effects of a problem instead of solving the problem itself. In effect, you are saying to frustrated the youth, “suck it up and teach others to suck it up.” You say that the youth should empower themselves through the system to solve problems, but did it ever occur to you that the youth cannot empower themselves? Can you go to college when you are 16? no. Can you vote? no. Even so, this doesn’t provide sufficient empowerment to do anything meaningful–no offense to college graduates registered to vote. At least the B-Brigade have empowered themselves in a respect that you may never equal. They have created an underground movement that projects onto public spaces. I’d say they have empowered themselves so much more than going to college can do for anyone.
I will agree with your comment that destructive behavior will only make enemies with the authorities. However, I think we diverge in our ideas of what destructive is anyways. What the B-Brigade do is actually creative. Consider the number of teenagers who kill their classmates, who kill each other by driving recklessly. Think about teenagers who feel compelled to hide their sexual desires or want of social acceptance because our patronizing society will not accept it from them at their age. Consider the effect that has. How many people do you think have social problems and suffer from depression? So many that it should be considered normal instead of abnormal in our society.
Furthermore, the problem isn’t stopping someone from committing suicide. It is the process by which suicide comes about. I’d wager you didn’t grow up in a repressed urban/suburban area. Actually, DC probably has it better than most communities since the police actually have jobs to do there. In most suburban communities, the reality of a police state is quite apparent as the youth are punished for asserting independence during a transitional period in their lives. The US has taken a completely opposite road as the Europeans have in dealing with adolescence, and it reflects on how poorly we (the US) understand and deal with the developmental psychology of adolescence.
I’d like to outline some policies which Europe has implemented which better allow the youth to come into their independence and responsibilities quicker and why this has made the youth in those countries substantially happier and healthier:
1. Age to drink beer and wine 16, Hard liquor 18. The most likely response from an American audience is that such a policy would lead to alcoholism and delinquency. This is far from the truth. In Europe, you can drink earlier, which also means you can go to bars and clubs at an earlier age. As a teen in America, you do not have the option of being openly independent. Most parents frown upon their teenage children staying out late at night. Rightly so, because since there is nothing to do, most teens find reckless things to do instead, like e.g. racing cars, congregating in parking lots, drinking in someone’s garage–which always ends up in someone driving drunk. If you let the youth drink at an early age and go to bars or dance clubs, you let them assert their independence in a controlled environment without being reckless. Additionally, this teaches the youth responsibility with alcohol at an accelerated rate while letting them be social and congregate with others their age.
2. There is a caveat to drinking at an earlier age. In Europe you cannot drive until you are 18. This makes sense of course, because if you are experimenting with alcohol you shouldn’t be driving. However, by the time you can drive, one already knows how to be responsible with alcohol. By contrast, our system lets you become a good driver first, and then lets you fuck it up when you are allowed to drink at 21. And even still, I would wager that most youth in America drink before 21 anyways and risk doing it secretly while driving around.
3. The ability to transport yourself makes you independent. In Europe, since you cannot drive until 18, they have one thing we do not have–that we would stand to benefit greatly from for other reasons–they have a massive public transit system. This allows young people to transport themselves freely without the need to drive anywhere in a car. I’d say everyone in society would benefit from such infrastructure, since even adults have problems with getting to and from a bar. But the youth stand to benefit much more, because they don’t need to rely on Mom or Dad to take them places. They can feel free to test their independence and make their own choices–what to do, where to go, who to meet. In America, you can drive anywhere you want, but there is nowhere to go. And if there is a place to go, it is most likely not a controlled location. The result is delinquency.
4. The age of sexual consent is staggered. At age 14 one can get with a 14 year old and a 15 year old. At 16 one can get with a 15, 16, or 17 year old. At 16 the range goes from 15 to 18, and at 18 one is good to go. I think many Americans might fear such a thing, thinking the youth would have wild orgies and teenage sex would be widespread. In fact, this isn’t the case. In Europe, more sexual freedom allows the youth to understand themselves and their sexuality at an age when they should be able to get to know themselves better. Our society still represses sexuality and refuses to let the youth engage in sexual conduct unless it is out of the public’s vision. Think about the shame the youth feel when they do something they are biologically capable and mature to do. Think about what sort of effect this has on teenage pregnancy and the desire to hide one’s shame through such acts as abortion. I agree that sex education is the best tool to fight teenage pregnancy. But sex education fails to take into account that teenagers simply aren’t allowed to engage in sexual conduct. It is shunned upon. Changing our statutory standard would help free society a bit from its self imposed Freudian prison.
The end result of teenage independence is a well rounded individual with no social anxiety and a way to be independent from parents and the patronizing aspects of society while building trust with them through exercising their newfound independence in a responsible manner. In America, if you try to do something that someone your age is doing in Europe, even if you think you are doing it responsibly, you get the smack down. That is a fact.
No wonder our youth is killing itself.
Shane, your ideas have been tried, and they have failed. Thinking up better policies is a good plan of course, but in the meantime, our youth are repressed, and they will and must express their frustrations with their condition. At least B-Brigade is being creative. I see in them the brilliance and ingenuity that most artists of great movements have expressed (expressionism, postmodernism, etc. as is made manifest in their works of art, literature, and film). I see talented individuals doing as they should. You might think they are being destructive, but you are wrong- dead wrong.

we could endlessly debate this topic to no avail. i say, like the last line in this article, we just paint, believe in our causes, and have a ball.

I’m too old, but share the same views. The government or any of the societal mechanisms that have been in place in the U.S. for the past 200+ years doesn’t cater to anybody but those of a certain skin color, body-type, or tax bracket. What will you do afterward? It needs to culminate in something in order to be self-sustaining.
There’s no place for you after you grow up you know. This is something you can’t shrug off or alleviate with a trite statement about “selling out”. Speaking as one of the people now living in quiet desperation, playing the stupid game, I’m a bit more privy to this than some rich kid who’s parents live in a nice-ass neighborhood in Great Falls. Consider leaving something behind that will be remembered, and possibly emulated.
Think. BIG.

Im from the UK and well, to be honest, i hear what you’re saying. Youth today is often repressed and victimised, when one teen kills someone it is classed as the act of a violent yob. The newspapers have a field day, bringing up articles on the dissocaiton of todays youth on the problems we have of our lack of respect for other things. What no one seems to realise is that to many of us respect is just a word, no one shows us it, so we dont show it to other people. This resistence thing seems to be going in the right direction with that, we need to draw attention to the fact that we’re rebelling against something which is unjust and a system which is flawed. The few who cause crimes cause a bad name for those who dont or who commit lesser crimes, this creates a social stereotype and screws us all over big time, if you can get out ther and get all our voices heard, then you will be remembered. If you can create this resistence and make it work it wont be long before it snowballs all over the world and into the news properly, i just hope it reaches the UK before its too late

Bob you start your case very well. A youth worker living in the UK we have very similar problems, which I believe are attributed to respect, self esteem and aspiration.
However if you take a look at the recent unicef report the UK has terrible teenage alcohol use issues and europe’s worst teen pregancy rate.
I believe the basis of your arguments are sound. Your evidence floored.
Creativity and expression are the only answer !!!

I’m curious if you could shed some light on the alcoholism and teen pregnancy issues in the UK. A Scotish friend told me about neds, which somehow accurately portrays the image of both teen alcohol abuse and teen pregnancy problems–in my mind at least. I actually should have acknowledged that there are still some problems in Europe and that of course my solution is not an end all solution.
But having grown up also in the United States, I think this is a serious issue since the population that is repressed has no voice and when heard, is too easily dismissed.

Nice blog:) I liked the artcle, I agree with Elm :we could endlessly debate this topic to no avail. I would like to tell you about my trip that I went to washington DC with my parents, If that is ok, with you, Little bit off the topic but I think it will raise some opinions comment’s back and forth,
When we arrived to the capital,One of the night I snuck off to take my photos of the city. To say I was scared is an understatement. I knew that my nice Nikon digital
camera clearly marked me as a tourist, and one with money besides. Taking Washington DC photos of bums camped under bridges, or of rundown slums was a risky
proposition at best. Nonetheless, I persevered. I guess I was just lucky. No one even hassled me. When I got back, I had some Washington DC photos to show my civics
class that shook them to the core. It says a lot about our nation that its capital is so run down and so impoverished. If we can’t even take care of the people in our capital,
who can we take care of? What do you think of the capital ?

Very strong message. Honestly, I do agree. I’m a fifteen year old girl from the United States. No matter what you would have to say about my age, I act more like someone in their twenties or thirties. I’m very mature for my age, and not treated as such. Teachers, and occasional adults have even commented on my maturity. I can’t help it. But, back to the point. Because I am young, my voice isn’t heard as well as it should be. This helps me to become the artist and writer I am though. Art, poetry, writing in any form all helps with getting your thoughts and points across. They aren’t always as strong as a violent act though. But, sometimes that’s better. Violence isn’t always a very great thing, but, it is a strong and harsh way to show and prove you are serious. Be careful where the violence is being used though, and everything might go through alright.

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