Category: Anarchy

Mom’s Basement and MAFWUCKERS.net

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To follow up what I just posted about Free Radical Radio, I have been working on some new projects since moving back to Tempe. I will be elaborating on them more later, but for now I’ll give the following work-safe description(s). The main project is called Mom’s Basement (or, MAFW Mom’s Basement) and it is:

An offshoot of the broader network of locals participating in Maple-Ash-Farmer-Wilson. It’s emphasis is on computer science, gaming, comic books, role-playing, and digital culture. So far, it’s primary projects include the hosting and maintenance of a cloud-based server (virtual machine), used specifically for education and electronic services for the neighborhood: websites, chat, wiki, blogs, multi-player games, media streaming, and more.

As can be gathered from above, this is tied into the overall MAFW efforts that I have been writing and speaking about for the past few years. A lot of the development has been behind-the-scenes and on-the-ground …but, there is a couple of websites that are mostly just placeholders right now: http://mafwuckers.net/momsbasement.html and http://mafwuckers.net/blogs/momsbasement

If you’re familiar with my perspective on things, this is in every way an effort to put into practice the analyses of contemporary anarchism, neighborhood organizing, and cyberspace that have been at the fore of my thinking. It’s not specifically an anarchist project, but it also isn’t not an anarchist project.

Look forward to updates!

– squee

Free Radical Radio

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I didn’t realize I had been building up some anticipation about my participation in Free Radical Radio; so, I won’t continue to. I am no longer working on the project because I moved back to Tempe, AZ. The story isn’t very interesting: I shattered my heel bone in September of ’15, lost my ability to pay bills, and have been recovering since then on all levels …it’s May of 2016 and I still can’t walk. I thought I may be able to score a job for the first couple of months that I was in AZ and remain a resident of the East Bay, but that didn’t pan out. I also thought I may still wind up participating in FRR remotely, but that also hasn’t panned either; at least, it hasn’t yet. Overall, I enjoyed working on the project a lot. I wish that I could still be doin’ it.

The Cumming Hipsterection

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I assume that the term “hipster” is defined as vaguely for you as it is for most people. 1 We tend to know ‘em when we see ‘em, but upon inquiry we’re lost for words. For the most part, the term re-emerged in contemporary times to describe characters seen around town that don’t adhere to any hitherto known subcultures, yet seem to compose one. They seemingly shared a taste for PBR, tight pants, fancy beards, DJed underground music, Ikea, and snobbery …so cultural analysts ran with those signifiers and constructed stereotypes from them.

However, what most of these cultural analysts missed is that these hipsters were really just doing what the status quo had been doing already for a while: changing their consumer relationships as a consequence of more fundamental, Internet-contingent dynamics. While the status quo was abandoning the shopping malls, hipsters were abandoning all-ages music venues. While the status quo was participating in shows like American Idol or online fantasy football, hipsters were participating in dance parties and blogging. That is to say, people have been adapting to a world where localized forms of culture are disappearing …even if the idea of “local” -as in locally sourced materials or ingredients – has become a fad. Hipsters had merely become excited about their access to different, digitized versions of culture than others. They’re people whose tastes probably hadn’t ever been status quo, but whose gaze had become more untethered to their particular localities.

Ok, so why? Why is this happening?

Well – that’s where an analysis of the Hipster becomes more interesting, especially for anarchism, a philosophy that owes its current popularity to New Left counter-culture and academics. To understand what’s been going on here requires a little comprehension of Globalization, the Internet, and the Sharing Economy 2 that has been emerging from it. Long story short, the Internet does two very important things at the same time: it makes it possible to access cultures from all over time and space, and it makes it possible for powerful institutions to access subjects on an individual scale like never before. As for the underlying changes that compliment this, production (and work, generally) is becoming more-and-more decentralized with a workforce that is becoming more-and-more mobile, precariously employed, precariously housed 3, and tasked to perform in more individuated environments. There is a demand for – and an ability to meet the demands for – an economy where individuals can produce/consume any where, at any time.

These circumstances undermine the ability to form cultures that reproduce at a local scale. Reproduction (of culture) is now tied up with the maintenance of networked infrastructure: websites, virtual libraries, social media profiles, e-mail contacts, shipped goods, torrents, crowd-sourced review forums like Yelp. The sorts of culture(s) that come from such foundations are basically in conflict with the older, subcultural sorts. At the base of each type there are conflicting interests. Yet for all of the glamor that internet-based culture can glimmer with, the autonomous production of food, shelter, and other basics (like medical service) require stable, local foundations. Multinational corporations may be able to organize such complicated variables so that they can plant the food here, sell it there, house laborers in this area, advertise in another area, and offer services to anyone they want. At this point, anarchists are not.

I think that the trajectory of this will eventually pressure us anarchists to ask ourselves, “do we want to try?” It’s a shitty situation all around. There is a current tendency to try and acquire land, to maybe build an ecologically-minded network of communes from the ground up, mostly estranged from cyberspace. That’s one way to respond. There’s also the tendency towards hacktivism, which is another response, but it could go further and deeper 4.

My suspicion is that going forward, anarchists will wind up dealing with their one-foot-in-each-world situation more intensely. And with an eye to the Hipster, I also suspect that similar attitudes, motifs, “taste culture,” 5 and tech-savvyness will be more embraced …perhaps out of necessity.


 

  1. Some cultural analysts trying to figure out what a hipster is, exactly …and predict its future: http://flavorwire.com/269261/what-comes-after-the-hipster-we-ask-the-experts
  2. A general overview of the Sharing Economy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharing_economy
  3. An CNBC blurb about millenial preferences: http://www.cnbc.com/2015/04/14/millennials-put-off-home-buying-despite-rising-rent.html
  4. Documentary on Cyber Punk (hint hint): https://youtu.be/UdvxPlhTjDU
  5. See page 69 (40 in the PDF) for Taste Culture: http://marciaganem.com.br/traditionandinnovation/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Gans-1974-Popular-culture-and-high-culture.pdf

Developmental Psychology for Anarchists

(and others who are dealing with Identity debates)
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I often read questions posed by anarchists that to really answer, require insight into the psychological development of individual subjects. Additionally, what I’ve noticed along with the frequency of these sorts of questions is the extent to which anarchists want nothing to do with psychology. I’ve never been entirely certain why this is, but giving others the benefit of the doubt, I believe it is because structural forms of authority are the primary object of radical critiques. Authoritarian social structures are important objects of critique. They’re the established machinations for governing individuals, or at least influencing social behaviors. However, the study of contemporary social structures inevitably leads to a study of how social structures use psychological techniques to govern. It is true that sociological data is also important for analyzing and controlling society, but sociological data is more of a first step than anything else. It is used to paint the general picture in statistical averages, while psychological techniques are used to refine the methods used for control.

Generally speaking, the social structures anarchists oppose first set goals: uphold laws, provide social services, sell products, manage labor, manage the incarceration of people, etc. These structures require some sort of funding, which is acquired in one of three main ways: investors, taxes and government allocation, and/or sales. To motivate the interest of investors, governments, and/or customers the goal must usually account for something predominant enough that establishing a structure for it makes some sort of sense. Sociological data plays into this requirement by demonstrating such predominance, and in what categories the predominance exists. It can tell you how changes in architecture tend to effect the traffic of people and the vehicles they use. It can tell you how many potential voters can be influenced by emphasizing various issues and talking points. It can suggest how policy changes will impact different sectors of society or where to place an ad so you can influence a target audience.

For anarchists, sociology has played a role in understanding the overall mechanics of capitalism, governmental institutions, patriarchy, white supremacy, and other institutionalized practices that subordinate individuals to their goals. This is useful to the extent that it can provide a map of the forces that dominate us, but it can only ever provide targets. It can show us where weak points are, what striking them may impact, who is likely to deal with the consequences of our activity, and/or measure social inequalities. Since anarchists don’t often have large and powerful institutions, there isn’t a lot more that can be done with it. What sociology does not (and can not) do is answer deeper questions about, but not limited to identities, desires, liberty, decision-making, and satisfaction. Thinking about those deeper questions requires psychology in the broad philosophical sense or in the sense of psychology as it is commonly discussed as the study of behavior. Thinking about how to develop a personal, anti-authoritarian practice or how to experiment with group dynamics are also issues that mostly fall under the domain of psychology. Finally, since it is psychology that is used by authoritarians to develop their techniques of domination, it is psychology that is useful for resisting those techniques.

Contemporary psychology is specialized. It is broken-up into a variety of fields that focus on different aspects of behavior: development, memory, decision-making, abnormalities [sic], sex, therapy. It is also broken-up by its context for application: personal, small group, industrial, clinical, athletics, animal, forensics. There are leading overall theories of psychology that are attributed to schools or individuals. I find all of this useful, but I want to focus specifically on developmental psychology due to the recent popularity of debates about identity. Overall, I reject the idols that mediate our relationships with one another. Without limiting these idols to the following, I reject the icons of beauty, family, lifestyle, spirituality, and social change that appear over-and-over again in schools, advertisements, magazines, television, propaganda, campaigns, and all the rest. For reasons stated above, these sometimes traditional and sometimes carefully crafted images of the Good are the fountainhead of the domination that discussions of identity oppose. Even in their absence, they merely leave a hole at the center of a vast matrix of identities that each come with their own expectations and privileges. I also reject that matrix.

What I aim to understand is the preconditions necessary for these idols to become fixtures in our lives, the conditions that reinforce their sway on us, and the techniques that are used to create and destroy them. An attempt to understand the preconditions brings me to two different fields of study, only one of which I will be exploring below: the relationships between individuals and what is meaningful to them; and, the social structures that intervene to control those relationships and meanings. Focusing on the former is mostly a study of developmental psychology. Identity isn’t something that just happens at random or something that is primarily rational. It ties into a lifetime of reflecting on the interactions an individual has in the world; with their environment of material structures, other creatures, other human beings, social norms, and institutions that try to control those social norms.

One of the most standard theories of developmental psychology is Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development. The theory consists of 8 sequential stages of development, each with specific existential crises preoccupying an individual’s overall goals at different points in their life. While the sequential aspect of Erikson’s theory and the age boundaries defined by each crises have been criticized, it is overall supported to the extent that it has been scrutinized. Accepting the criticisms, I will simply list the stages and their associated crises that are described as a dichotomy:

Basic trust vs. mistrust: Can I trust the world?
Autonomy vs. shame and doubt: Is it okay to be me?
Initiative vs. guilt: Is it okay for me to do, move, and act?
Industry vs. inferiority: Can I make it in the world of people and things?
Identity vs. role confusion: Who am I? Who can I be?
Intimacy vs. isolation: Can I love?
Generativity vs. stagnation: Can I make my life count?
Ego integrity vs. despair: Is it okay to have been me?

Right in the middle of Erikson’s list is the crisis of Identity. For Erikson, the crucial time-frame for resolving this crises is between the ages of 13 and 19 years old …adolescence. His theory is that if someone successfully resolves this crisis, they form a solid concept of who they are and what they should expect from themselves. If they are unable to resolve this crisis, it will persist throughout the rest of their lives and interrupt the later stages of their development. What I find apt about this theory is the correlation between identity crisis and adolescence, and the consequences of unresolved identity issues. This is what a typical interpretation of this stage looks like (from wikipedia):

The adolescent is newly concerned with how they appear to others. Superego identity is the accrued confidence that the outer sameness and continuity prepared in the future are matched by the sameness and continuity of one’s meaning for oneself, as evidenced in the promise of a career. The ability to settle on a school or occupational identity is pleasant. In later stages of Adolescence, the child develops a sense of sexual identity. As they make the transition from childhood to adulthood, adolescents ponder the roles they will play in the adult world. Initially, they are apt to experience some role confusion—mixed ideas and feelings about the specific ways in which they will fit into society—and may experiment with a variety of behaviors and activities (e.g. tinkering with cars, baby-sitting for neighbors, affiliating with certain political or religious groups). Eventually, Erikson proposed, most adolescents achieve a sense of identity regarding who they are and where their lives are headed.

Erikson is credited with coining the term “Identity Crisis.” Each stage that came before and that follows has its own ‘crisis’, but even more so now, for this marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. This passage is necessary because “Throughout infancy and childhood, a person forms many identifications. But the need for identity in youth is not met by these.” This turning point in human development seems to be the reconciliation between ‘the person one has come to be’ and ‘the person society expects one to become’. This emerging sense of self will be established by ‘forging’ past experiences with anticipations of the future. In relation to the eight life stages as a whole, the fifth stage corresponds to the crossroads:

What is unique about the stage of Identity is that it is a special sort of synthesis of earlier stages and a special sort of anticipation of later ones. Youth has a certain unique quality in a person’s life; it is a bridge between childhood and adulthood. Youth is a time of radical change—the great body changes accompanying puberty, the ability of the mind to search one’s own intentions and the intentions of others, the suddenly sharpened awareness of the roles society has offered for later life.

Adolescents “are confronted by the need to re-establish boundaries for themselves and to do this in the face of an often potentially hostile world.” This is often challenging since commitments are being asked for before particular identity roles have formed. At this point, one is in a state of ‘identity confusion’, but society normally makes allowances for youth to “find themselves,” and this state is called ‘the moratorium’:

The problem of adolescence is one of role confusion—a reluctance to commit which may haunt a person into his mature years. Given the right conditions—and Erikson believes these are essentially having enough space and time, a psychosocial moratorium, when a person can freely experiment and explore—what may emerge is a firm sense of identity, an emotional and deep awareness of who he or she is.

As in other stages, bio-psycho-social forces are at work. No matter how one has been raised, one’s personal ideologies are now chosen for oneself. Often, this leads to conflict with adults over religious and political orientations. Another area where teenagers are deciding for themselves is their career choice, and often parents want to have a decisive say in that role. If society is too insistent, the teenager will acquiesce to internal wishes, effectively forcing him or her to ‘foreclose’ on experimentation and, therefore, true self-discovery. Once someone settles on a worldview and vocation, will he or she be able to integrate this aspect of self-definition into a diverse society? According to Erikson, when an adolescent has balanced both perspectives of “What have I got?” and “What am I going to do with it?” he or she has established their identity:

Dependent on this stage is the ego quality of fidelity—the ability to sustain loyalties freely pledged in spite of the inevitable contradictions and confusions of value systems.

Given that the next stage (Intimacy) is often characterized by marriage, many are tempted to cap off the fifth stage at 20 years of age. However, these age ranges are actually quite fluid, especially for the achievement of identity, since it may take many years to become grounded, to identify the object of one’s fidelity, to feel that one has “come of age.” In the biographies Young Man Luther and Gandhi’s Truth, Erikson determined that their crises ended at ages 25 and 30, respectively:

Erikson does note that the time of Identity crisis for persons of genius is frequently prolonged. He further notes that in our industrial society, identity formation tends to be long, because it takes us so long to gain the skills needed for adulthood’s tasks in our technological world. So… we do not have an exact time span in which to find ourselves. It doesn’t happen automatically at eighteen or at twenty-one. A very approximate rule of thumb for our society would put the end somewhere in one’s twenties.

Some of this will likely make an anarchist want to vomit, but for all of its repulsiveness, there are some important insights into the questions of identity that anarchists have been dealing with as of late. According to survey results that were released in 2010 (sociology: http://pimpmygarden.org/anarchistsurvey.com/results/#Q3), most anarchists are either adolescents or young adults. According to Erikson’s theory, the issue of identity should be the primary concern in their lives or the concern which the current crisis of their life is contingent upon resolving. But there is more to this issue that pertains specifically to anarchists. We live in a world where adolescence is prime time for being manipulated by social structures (for some excellent insight, watch Merchants of Cool: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cool/view/ ). Not only is it big money, it is also big politics. Adolescents are targeted specifically because of the loyalties they’re likely to form depending on how they resolve their identity crisis. Every authoritarian wants a piece of this action and it there is hardly an outside to the competition of those authoritarians. Anarchists (and counter-cultures) send a message that sympathises with adolescents struggling with their identities in a world that wants to control them at every turn. For these reasons, it is no surprise that identity is such a hot topic.

Developmental psychology can be instructive for anarchists in comprehending the importance of identity issues, but it can also help anarchists resolve them. The failure of what is sometimes called Identity Politics is that instead of comprehending and offering resolutions, it elaborates on the matrix of identities offered by the very institutions anarchists are in revolt against. It takes the sociological data and uses it for comparisons of privileges, quantities of those effected by one aspect of identity or another, and offers a moral politics meant to establish the correct decision-makers. What psychology could offer instead is a perspective that recognizes the social and psychological consequences of identity, but also a way to consider what it can mean to identify as an anarchist. As individuals in revolt, it’s nice to know that we are each treated differently by the institutions we oppose; but, leaving it there is only useful for asking those institutions to change the way they sort us out and treat us based on those very same identities. That is not liberation, it is an improvement that those institutions could make to better control us. As anarchists, our loyalties are different, our lives are not the lives these institutions want us to live, our liberty is not the liberty offered by voting for representatives and choosing the products we consume but do not have a role in producing. These identities are only so many buttons for authoritarians to push according to where they want us and how they want us.

Anarchist identity doesn’t need to be hegemonic. It doesn’t need to create new idols that provide an easily digestible picture of the Good. It doesn’t need to be filled with prescriptive roles like organizer, activist, street fighter, or worker. There is a deeper and richer life outside of and against such authoritarianism. One in which you become the creator of your own identity, where you decide your own loyalties and your own roles. A life where your own liberties, desires, associations, and satisfactions belong to you or something else that is more important to you than this society (if something like green anarchism is your angle). At the very least, a critique of the identities that authoritarian institutions want you do adopt can inform your choices and empower you to recognize those identities for what they are: the hooks at the end of authority’s fishing poles, baited with status and waiting to reel you in.

Green Anarchism: a Self-Interview

landfill_beale_joravsky_magnumQ: Are you a Green Anarchist?
A: The short answer is, “I don’t know.” I have more questions than I have answers about this. Like most things, it depends how the term is defined.

Q: Well let’s start with definition, then. How do you understand the term?
A: There has to be some sort of pre-requisites to make the term meaningful at all. The operative word is “Green”, which would mean that a green anarchism would be concerned with the Earth in some way. That satisfies some things, but not enough. A green anarchism would be a form of concern with environmental issues that is particularly anarchist. So something about the manner in which someone cares about the environment would lead to some kind of anarchism being meaningful. I don’t want to say that it would conclude that anarchism is a solution to environmental problems, nor that anarchism would logically include concerns about the environment. Just that anarchism would be one of the main features of the theory.

Q: If you are being this vague already at the point of definition, you either don’t know what you’re talking about at all or you are hesitating to make sense of the complexities involved. Which is it?
A: It’s almost both. I’m not very well versed in green anarchist literature. However, I have explored some of the philosophical problems with environmentalism in the context of phenomenology and in some more-or-less formal group settings. So I’m familiar with the complexities, but I’m hesitant to make any solid statements about the way that anarchists have dealt with them. I could provide some superficial overviews of something like… anarcho-primitivism or green syndicalism, but on a deeper level I haven’t familiarized myself with any literature that addresses the questions I have coming out of my own way of turning the environment into a problem.

Q: Ok. What are these environment problems? Clearly there are ugly things happening around us, particularly related to organic life on the planet. Even more-so tied in with the technological systems that human beings have developed over the course of civilization’s existence. Especially those of the 20th and 21st Centuries. You certainly recognize that there are some problems here, correct?
A: Well yeah of course I do …it’s all very depressing. But even in your brief summary of the situation, I become hung-up on the details: civilization, technology, the relationship between me, the context I live in, humans generally, and organic life on the planet. What makes this even more difficult for me is the anarchism part of these considerations. Where is the connection between my depression about this and my anarchism? Is there anything fundamental about these concerns to my particularly anarchist thoughts?

Q: You seem to be leading with that question. Why don’t you just continue and I’ll interrupt when I have something to work with.
A: Alright. So my anarchism develops out of an existentialist outlook on life and the concerns that come with living in this world as I interpret it. At bottom I fundamentally understand my own life to be meaningless, to be a situation that I’m constantly trying to make sense of without any interpretations being acceptably concrete. The desires that come from existing as an embodied consciousness – concerns that come from a body that wants to live – an interpretation of those desires isn’t even given concretely. They can be a compass, but those desires are suggestions, more-or-less. I can interpret them as obstacles to some other project, I can comprehend my own urges to eat, sleep, and shelter myself as some kind of weakness that must be overcome to …I don’t know, die for the Cause …or some other nonsense. This problem of interpretation sits like an anchor upon a bed of meaningless stuff, which is attached to this ship that I call, “anarchism”.

To summarize the logic: when you begin to think about life from this position, you don’t have any easy methods for evaluating your decisions. You can kill yourself or you can continue living without any reason at all, without any rationale… but the moment that you want a rationale, you need to sort through some very basic problems. Should I live, or shouldn’t I? Why should I keep doing these things that I need to do so that I can survive? Those problems. Well it turns out that when you obsessively attempt to answer these questions, there isn’t a very good rationale for killing yourself or allowing yourself to die. It turns out that when you create a rationale for suicide, you admit that you have already decided that all sorts of stuff is meaningful to you. Somehow the act of killing yourself is the best conclusion you can come to about all of this meaningful stuff. But that’s paradoxical: you’re basically responsible for deciding that all of that stuff is meaningful to begin with, so how do you take the meaning of it all seriously enough to kill yourself? The consequence of killing yourself is that you annihilate the agent that came up with these meanings, so killing yourself amounts to the same consequences as just simply changing what you think is meaningful in the first place.

There’s a lot of follow-up questions and answers about this, but to stay on topic, I’m just going to say that there isn’t a good way to answer those follow-up questions, either. Suicide is out of the question. So, I’m stuck with a life of irrational non-decisions, and the necessity of deciding what is meaningful about my own existence when I want to act rationally. This leads to some of the more interesting questions that eventually lead to my anarchism. An easy way to put it is that if I need to be the source of my life’s meaning, that meaning doesn’t and can’t come from authority, or an appeal to popularity, or a religious system. Those are all irrational, passive methods of establishing meaning. If I’m the source of what I find meaningful in life, that says something about the nature of my agency and my relationship to other human beings. It says something about my participation in creating myself. It also denies other human beings their rationale to dominate me, to force their meaning upon me …meanings that are ultimately based on the choices they made from their own experience. Not to mention the systems human beings come up with to support such a rationale. As if formalizing the problem of meaning has somehow changed the situation. Well none of it is acceptable. I don’t think there is any acceptable form of someone dominating me.

This doesn’t actually make me an anarchist yet. There’s still an opportunity for me to be comfortable with others being dominated, or even dominating others myself. Long story short, I also do not find any of that to be acceptable …at least insofar as the domination of others is contingent upon a system existing that subjugates me at the same time as it subjugates others. I could give less than half-a-fuck if two people on an island play power games. However, when power is formalized into systems of domination that I am also subject to, it becomes my problem. This is when I become an anarchist. I develop a self-interest in annihilating those systems, simply for my own liberation.

There is more to this though and it relates directly to the nature of power games. I don’t accept an interpretation of life that considers all relationships to be relationships of dominance and submission, master and slave. Whether those roles are crystallized into a formal structure or they’re in a fluid exchange with each other, I reject this comprehension of life because of its limits. Power dynamics may be common, but they’re not absolute in any sense. There is a boundary to these roles (or, positions) of power that is defined by relationships among equals. I’ll use an abstraction to help elaborate on this limit. Let’s say that there are two things in space …waffles. These two waffles aren’t simply floating about as if there aren’t any other forces at play to influence their trajectory. These waffles are acted upon by gravity, wind, whatever. They are put on a path by external forces… and only external forces …after-all they’re waffles. A power dynamic would come out of these two waffles having interfering trajectories, but they can also have parallel trajectories. There is nothing about the waffle nature that determines them to come into a dynamic of exchanging force with one another. If the waffles are on a parallel trajectory, then although they are separate units, they’re heading in the same direction in the same way. Without any need to depend upon a notion of intentionality, the waffles have become complimentary parts of a larger system.

People are a bit more complicated, but the analogy holds. The problem with people is that we’re intentional creatures, we choose meanings, we act upon those choices, we have a role in determining our own trajectories. However, like the waffles, we can project ourselves in directions away from each other, in parallel with each other, and towards each other. It is only when we project ourselves towards each other that we determine ourselves to exchange force: power dynamics. Well that’s not my ideal mode of relationship. My project is to maximize my own force by acting in concert with others, preferably because we’re in parallel trajectory.

There’s a range of power games that I think are acceptable, but as an anarchist I want to annihilate systems that dominate me. Despite Machiavellian techniques for doing this, I don’t recognize much benefit to existing in perpetual conflict with others. If not for any other reason than my own laziness, I prefer the company of others on the same trajectory. My preference is, at the very least, to not waste energy sorting out conflicts where there needn’t be conflicts. There’s also an interpretation of human psychology that studies what is called “flow”. This notion of “flow” is very important to me and my sense of satisfaction. You could also think about it with dancing as a model, or by reference to some forms of martial art. The interplay of force doesn’t come in a dichotomous pair of motion, there’s always a third variable of parallelism.  There’s a form of power that comes out of increasing the quantity of particles traveling in the same direction. That’s just basic. It’s not even taking something like emergence into consideration.

Q: Ok, so that’s interesting, and waffles. How does this relate to green anarchism?
A: That’s exactly the problem. Where can an interest in non-human, organic life come from with this sort of approach? It’s difficult enough to define “organic,” “life,” and “environment” in an especially green-friendly way, but to then recognize my own role in defining these things and interpreting their meaning… Something very easy to do is accept an egoistic rationale for the way that I interact with the organic systems that I am tangled up with. That doesn’t really mean a lot compared to some of the more traditional approaches to environmentalism, though. It says less about a particularly anarchist environmentalism, a green anarchism. Do I think that anarchism will fix the problems that are tied up with the way humans, technology, social systems, and the rest of organic life all relate to each other? Where does my anarchism become tied up in these concerns?

Q: Well you said that you’re against domination, or that you find it unacceptable. What about the domination of nature, of animals, of technology?
A: So that’s the catch, but only in some ways. It wouldn’t be inappropriate for me to elaborate the details of how the State and its capitalist economics depends on technology and ideological notions about so-called nature to perpetuate itself as a force of domination over my life and others. There’s some excellent thought that comes out of analyzing these things. The issue for me with this is that it’s very difficult to take the specific problem my own agency existing in conflict with systems of domination, and then expanding that problem beyond myself or beyond other human beings. I don’t want to settle for a mere transference of the relationships I’m familiar with as a human being, to my comprehension of non-human existence. What exactly justifies such a transfer of meaning? That’s one problem, then betting on anarchism is another one.

Let’s unpack this a bit. To begin with, I don’t specifically seek to protect all organic life. There are many organisms that are in my best interest to annihilate completely, like disease-causing organisms. There are other organisms that I’m ignorant of, apathetic towards, or benefit from consuming …even on the strictest vegan diet. So there’s no answers that come out of defining my interests in relation to “all organic life”. I’m specifically concerned with the way that I relate to particular organisms and how systems that I am part of relate to particular organisms. In some ways, the particulars set me against those systems from an interest in perpetuating the health of organisms I depend on. In some other ways, I must admit that these very same systems align with my interests on the point of annihilating disease-causing organisms. There happens to be many more reasons for me to destroy those systems, but even without them I wouldn’t suddenly seek to perpetuate the existence of all organic life. At face value I’m just not interested in “all organic life”, but at a very deep level my own existence competes with the existence of other organisms.

It doesn’t follow from this competition that I must dominate these particular organisms. It requires some sophisticated techniques to actually dominate and control organisms in an agricultural sense. I don’t need to participate in agriculture. I could even extend this argument to an anarchism that refuses to dominate the organisms a human being finds themselves in competition with. What I doubt is that even with such an extension, that this anarchism would be fundamentally “green”. It is still fundamentally existentialist. With or without “green” considerations, it still exists as anarchism. I would need to prove that this anarchism would fall apart if my concerns for non-human organisms didn’t play a role in it. I don’t think that I can argue that it would. It’s an anarchism that is consequently concerned with “green” issues, not an anarchism that extends from a central concern with “green” issues. Also as I was saying, I’m not confident that the anarchist societies would solve such issues. I’ll admit they’d likely be an improvement for strictly economic reasons, but I don’t think that the relationships between human beings and other organisms is specifically beneficial to other organisms. I think that these relationships are particular and that they are partially contingent upon the way other organisms become meaningful to particular human beings.

Q: If you’re going to admit that it is in your interest to fight technological civilization, then why would it matter if your anarchism is “fundamentally” green?
A: It matters because my anarchism can’t be understood if I call it “green” or suggest that it ought to be comprehended through a green lense. The consequences of my anarchism are a sort of do-it-yourself ethics that actively combat the State, capitalism, and other forms of my own subjugation and domination. This means that there is a lot of potential for combating systems that dominate non-human forms of organic life, but that potential is tied up with the specific choices I make when it comes to the meaning of an organism …or the choices that those I am in affinity with make about this. Too much of it depends on my active participation in these decisions after-the-fact to blame the anarchist conclusions of my philosophy. While I don’t think that my personal concern about organic life is less important than my anarchism, the two concerns come from distinct sets of questions and answers. I could care about other organisms without the anarchism just as much as I could care about anarchism without thinking of other organisms. So I am an environmentalist and I am also an anarchist. My concerns about the conditions of the Earth and organisms that depend upon those conditions are very strong. They just aren’t the result of my conclusions about domination. They’re the result of my conclusions about how I want to live when I am not dominated, when I am intentionally relating to other organisms. I guess what I can say is that my existentialist trunk branches off into these two directions of concern. I think that these concerns parallel each other in fascinating ways, but I recognize that they are cleaved from each other at their base.

Q: If these two things are distinct for you, then what about looking at the path that your environmentalism takes. Doesn’t it also become an anarchism on its own?
A: It’s possible. I could say what that would look like, but I’m not sure that I’m there. It would look like a basic conclusion that my relationships with other organisms forms the basis for a rebellion against domination. I would have to somehow bridge this gap between the way that I conceptualize the meaning of my own life and the same sort of no-turning-back conflict with the State/etc. There’s a lot of obstacles to this kind of conclusion. For the most part, my life has been and it continues to be a series of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and social choices. My relationship with other organisms is mostly limited to consumer choices. The relationships are mediated by the systems that result in what I go shopping for. There’s my relationships with pets, with antibiotics, and with whatever other organisms are in my immediate environment. That’s a far distance from the sort of relationships that I imagine an especially meaningful green anarchism coming from.

The way I think about this now is that I depend on thought experiments to make environmental decisions. I think about relationships of production and consumption, about commodities, about macro-level impacts of agricultural production, and other such things that I minimally participate in. These considerations would be more immediate if I were to produce my own food and medicine, for instance. Right now they’re not immediate. In a somewhat hypocritical way, I could recognize that if I were to produce my own food and medicine, I wouldn’t do it by setting up these insane systems of industrial agriculture and pharmaceutical production. I could consider this “Good Enough”. What I think is difficult is ditching the sense that I’m merely pretending at an anarchism rooted in these concerns.

Q: Why does it matter if you’re making a choice based on a hypothetical situation?
A: How about I return that question with another question, “How meaningful would my hypothetical conclusions be?” I can say anything I want about what “I may do if” given this or that situation. The fact of my life is that I am not producing my own food, medicine, clothes, etc. I’m consuming things. I can stop consuming things based on how they’re produced, but that isn’t an anarchist action …it’s a consumer choice. It is a solution that fits into a consumer politic. It is a consideration after-the-fact of having already accepted my own participation in this system of capitalism. And if I were to to annihilate the separation between my activity as a producer and my activity as a consumer, I don’t know if I could sincerely suggest that I have annihilated that separation because of my concern for other forms of organic life. At least, not unless I were to first come up with that rationale. Currently, any environmental actions I take that would be anarchistic would be the consequence of how my anarchism shapes the environmental decisions I’m willing to make. I’d be lying to you if I said that my environmentalism has lead me to conclude with a strictly anarchist approach.

Q: How does this effect your perspective on existing green anarchisms then?
A: I recognize that they’re foreign to me, I guess. I would need to learn more about them first.

Q: It seems like your main issue is with your situation. At the level of the type of situation you want to be in, isn’t it an anarchist situation that “flows” with nature?
A: That’s an interesting perspective… Yes, the situation I want for myself isn’t this mediated existence where my decisions about other organisms are the result of subordinating myself to this shitty social order. At that level, yes I have a green anarchist opinion where the two blend together nicely. Although, that only means that I’ve replaced all of the reasons that go into these desires with a comparison of “situations”. That isn’t the sort of thinking that I come to anarchism from. I also don’t mind if others do come from that sort of thinking. I suppose that conclusively, I just have more to think about.

Q: I’d suggest that you consider it this way: your ability to survive currently depends upon these systems of mediation and domination that you detest. Therefor, it is in your own interest, in relationship to non-human organisms, to be able to be self-sufficient. That very self-sufficiency depends upon the annihilation of the division between your consumption of food and medicine from the way that it is produced. It depends upon forming an immediate relationship to the production of your own sustenance. This would be a green anarchism.
A: Well, thank you. I’ll consider that!

Critique of the Farmer Neighborhood in Tempe, AZ

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In Struggles of the Farmer Neighborhood in Tempe, AZ, I took a look at the neighborhood I had formerly lived in from the angle of anarchist, radical, and/or counter-cultural struggle. I concluded by stating that “I see it as a legitimate beginning and hope for the resistance there to sustain.” To follow up, I want to examine what some of the obstacles are from that angle, which by far is not the only or even the most popular angle to examine the situation from.

An illusory sense of ownership and satisfaction with realizing a somewhat ideal democratic culture are two of the more obvious and limiting factors about the results of these experiments. Though capitalist relationships between renters and their landlords, customers and local businesses, and work aren’t entirely comfortable, they are challenged less as relationships of domination and more in the quality of their products. The worst thing that local capitalists can do to this neighborhood is offer shitty products and shitty prices. Retaliation against capitalists that make poor choices regarding social norms they want to enforce exists, but price is more of a factor than anything else. This isn’t so bad when it comes to creating demand for caution form capitalists regarding rent and tenant agreements, appreciation for consistent customers and tolerance of customer’s social transgressions, and visibly highlighting the relationships between capital and social life that exist in the neighborhood. However, that relationship itself exists comfortably next to projects that attempt to dispense with waged labor, profit, and a separation between production and consumption. The result is a neighborhood that provides something of an illusion that its residents own it by offering more explicit say-so to locals than most other neighborhoods in exchange for the profit those residents bring to the owner’s ventures. At bottom, the landlord, the business owner, and the boss have been just as much if not more-so the beneficiaries of these cultural experiments as renters, consumers, and workers have.

Facebook as a medium for social organization is a popular choice for the Farmer neighborhood. What had once (to a lesser extent) been done with flyers and zines left at East Side Records, Zias, etc., word-of-mouth at bars and drum circles, and interactions while walking around the neighborhood has been sucked up into world that is controlled by a notoriously fucked up corporation. This is an unfortunate situation, but I’m not sure how successful any of these experiments would be without taking to FB. The local record stores are gone along with sitting/lying on the streets, the vibrancy of street-based activities (which have mostly been recuperated by the city’s arts/cultural projects), and a number of venues for music, open mic stuff, and hanging out. On the bright side, one of the fundamental disappointments with life in the neighborhood is the disappearance of these spaces and activities …which look to be on the increase the more that events are coordinated in the manner that they have been. It would be nice to see FB become less-and-less the standard medium for social organization and face time in meat space become the primary arena for communicating these ideas/events. Ultimately, I don’t think that transition will happen, thinking about the Tech No! Tuesday experiment as an example of resistance to such a shift …but I do think that in comparison, the Farmer neighborhood will continue to emphasize the importance of physical interactions as a defining characteristic of the culture it produces.

There’s a common question that comes up in anarchist space about the effects produced by alleviating the disasters that the State and Capital produce: whether or not alleviation creates a more comfortable status quo that prevents further revolt …or increases the chances of revolt to take place. From examining the Farmer neighborhood situation, my answer in relationship to this context would be that alleviation has lead to more revolt and not less. All of the above considered, activity against the police, against profit-based decision making, domineering personalities, State authority, and the values of capitalists seems to be increasing in direct relationship to the extent to which social activity comes out of collective neighborhood efforts to have fun (or whatever). No one knows where this thing will go, but the more structural relationships of domination that found the basis for the neighborhood’s existence may ultimately suffer from these experiments. It’s still a giant step to go from a sort of counter-cultural conscious consumerism to a clean break with these systemically authoritarian relationships, but if I were my enemies I would pin the Farmer neighborhood on my Google map as a definite ‘at risk’ neighborhood.

 

 

Struggles of the Farmer Neighborhood in Tempe, AZ

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For years I have been writing about subjectivity, long-term goals, cultural struggles, radical ghettos, liberating space, and resisting domination. Yet, I have failed in communication with comrades and friends alike to articulate the importance and originality of the Farmer neighborhood struggle; how it exemplifies an approach to rebellion that has won my approval, and the extent to which its transgressions betray a casual and dismissive perspective from afar. I will  begin my story of the Farmer neighborhood with some background context as to who I am, what I’ve seen and been through, and what the Farmer neighborhood is not.

I was born in Scottsdale, AZ where I lived until around 1992 before moving to Gilbert, AZ. Historically, Gilbert is a place that began in the early 1900‘s with a strong Mormon community. They had fled from the Mormon colonies in Mexico as a result of Pancho Villa’s forces and 1915, they began holding church meetings at the Gilbert Elementary School. In 1918, they were organized into the Gilbert Ward. Incorporated in July 1920, Gilbert was primarily a farming community fueled by the rail line and construction of the Roosevelt Dam and the Eastern and Consolidated Canals. It remained an agricultural town for many years and was known as the “Hay Capital of the World” from 1911 until the late 1920s. Fast forward to 1992 and the town was currently busy covering up a backlash against development from it’s white, often Mormon residents. In 1992, Gilbert was in the midst of intense transformation. It was the fastest growing school district in the state, and the town’s 245% growth rate over 10 years was staggering. Gilbert’s population went gone from 29,000 in 1990 to about 100,000 in the year 2000, much of it because of job growth in the Phoenix area. Part of this resulting backlash was the development of a gang called the Devil Dogs, who were organized out of my high school’s football team and had terrorized minorities in the area until its leadership was busted for their monopolization of ecstasy drug trafficking… shortly before I moved.

To summarize humbly, it was an extremely repressive town to live in on every level. Fortunately, I found cultural acceptance in the local hardcore and punk scenes. Then, my life there ended around 2001 when I dropped out of school and moved with my mother to Phoenix’s college town, Tempe, AZ. Outside of Gilbert there was Mesa, Chandler, Tempe, and other suburbs of Phoenix that were mostly going through similar boom periods. Of them all, Tempe and Phoenix were just about the only two places where someone could move in the Valley that had given a home to counter-cultural and creative types. It was already a place that I had been going to for its music venues and the lively bar-lined strip, Mill Ave. Although I wasn’t in the Farmer neighborhood (don’t worry I’m getting there), I was close enough to easily get there…

Now, the Farmer neighborhood is a place that is closely connected with the more general context of Phoenix and its repressive suburbs, ASU and its party school notoriety, and local counter-culture. It’s one of those Phoenix neighborhoods that is still full of foliage and architecture dating back to the early 1900‘s and it is where regular house parties, house shows, couch surfing, and other such things would happen most often. If you wanted to have a 24/7 party lifestyle and be around weirdos and freaks all the time, it’s one of the main places you’d move, crash, or beg for spare change. It’s where you would go to buy underground records and CD’s, get tattoos, find the best comic books, and meet people you liked who were all fed up and resistant to the conservative nature of Phoenix. Not that Tempe didn’t have its own sordid history with the KKK and segregation, but it had become what I had just described above.

As of a few years ago, Tempe (like many other places similar to it) has embarked on massive redevelopment projects meant to rebrand the city –and specificially the neighborhoods surrounding Mill Ave.– as an environment for sophisticated liberal consumption: gastro pubs, sleek imagery, luxury condos and apartments, attempts at an astroturfed arts district, attempts to change its colloquial name to “the DT” (downtown or downtown Tempe), and other bullshit much to the dismay of locals. While this is a national trend in many ways, what is unique about the situation in the Farmer neighborhood is that it inherited as a part of its hedonistic residents a number of anarchists and other more radical types whom also found a place there to call home. What will become apparent as I continue to discuss this anarchist/radical presence is the extent to which anarchist/radical action can take a form that is different from punk shows, from Occupy!, from workplace organizing, from street protest, from collective projects, and from subcultural insulation.

For a moment, I’d like to comment on the relevant context for anarchists in the United States. In overview, anarchists have gone through some marked phases of visibility and activity: from the anti or alter-globalization movement, to animal and earth liberation, to the anti-war movement, to fighting border militarization (especially in AZ), to the Occupy! movement, to surveillance and anti-Police fights around the country. Noted, I’ve spared a shit load of what anarchist have and continue to do; but, only because of the situation I’m about to mention. Anarchists today seem to have become pessimistic and defeated. Somewhat from latching onto past notions of what anarchists ought to do with themselves, somewhat from the ways in which past interactions with the Left have turned sour (how couldn’t they?), and somewhat from ineffectual lifestyle-as-activism becoming more difficult and more problematized. What continues to come in conversations discussing this situation is confusion about what can be done at this point, what other forms of activity may look like, and what it even means to be an anarchist anymore.

Comparing this anarchist/radical slump with the Farmer neighborhood struggle will be the focus from hereon. To expand on the repression of the Farmer neighborhood; in addition to the rebranding and development projects driving up rent, the food taxes, police capacity to issue noise complaints themselves, the shitty frat houses being moved off campus into the neighborhoods, and the failure of longtime businesses valued by counter-cultural types, the City of Tempe has spent a fortune at the beginning of each school year for the past couple of years, rallying together 10+ separate police departments to entirely lock down Mill Ave. and the neighborhoods that surround it. More details as to the extent of this repression can be found elsewhere; however it is these actions collectively by the City of Tempe in a metropolis that offers hardly anywhere else for ‘us types’ to go which has given birth to a real, everyday struggle. The police repression and anarchist/radical swift to act against it, as well as the long-term residency of anarchist/radicals in the neighborhood and the neighborhood’s general rowdyism have all boiled over into an open atmosphere of hostility to police, anarchists/radicals and locals crashing city meetings, a comforting pride in counter-cultural lifestyle, and a generalized attitude of resistance towards anything which might throw a wet towel on the neighborhood fires.

At a time when anarchists where I live now are disappointed with a lack of direction, anarchists in Tempe are busy with an ongoing project to invigorate and defend the historically anarchic neighborhood(s) they live in. The aspects of this struggle which stand out and against what anarchists seem to be up to in the rest of the country is that these anarchists are not something separate from the neighborhood(s) they live in. This is not a participation in Left-dominated reform movements. They are not isolating themselves or merely practicing a lifestyle of their choice. It is a struggle that is open to at least a couple-thousand people invited both to partake in the fighting and in the enjoyment of new and/or longtime pleasures. If only in the imagination of Farmer neighborhood residents, this is now a place where the police are not welcome, where everyone is free to come and eat and drink and fuck in the streets and do whatever, where people take responsibility for themselves and their neighbor/friends about the town, where the landlords should be thrown into the gutters, where the character of the neighborhoods is already and should continue to be the character chosen by its residents. And why not beyond the imagination?

It’s not perfect, it’s not an insurrection, the police still repress, there’s still a lot of bullshit… but, it’s also not the Left, ideological, lifestyle-as-activism, insular, estranged, and another anarchist social space full of interpersonal drama. To the extent that this is something reproducible elsewhere, I am uncertain. The context is very specific, yet not dissimilar from contexts elsewhere in the US and beyond. The characters were positioned naturally to act in their own interests from the social history of Phoenix and the obvious, limited choices of living there in any satisfying way. I see it as a legitimate beginning and hope for the resistance there to sustain.

As a final note, something that I’m attempting to do with this writing is take a lesson from the events I have been to recently: to look at specific (historical) contexts, outside of the activity of anarchists, yet in a round-about way laying out paths of least resistance that become opportunities for anarchist activity. There’s historical reasons why shit in Phoenix proper is different from shit in Tempe …and I imagine that in every major city (with its suburbs, college towns, leftover ghettos from segregation, etc.) there are details there that point towards the greater determinants of cultural life …at least greater limits on it.

The Future and Rebellion

question-mark-clock-2127118The themes of time, context, and rebellion have run through a variety of anarchist events that I have attended lately. This has taken the form of discussions about lifestylism (with crimethinc often cited), leftist ideals of the Revolution, the notion of prefiguration, and ideologies. The conversations usually go something like this:

– Leftist revolutionary movements construct the image of an ideal, future society; one without capitalism, class, the State, and various systemic prejudices. Some of the developments which come out of this sort of revolutionary ideal are: organizing in a manner that takes a form similar to that of organizations in the future society (prefiguration), developing strategies for taking over the means of production (syndicalism), trying to inspire the correct subjects to insurrection (general strikes, occupations, riots), and generally orientating towards the future as a time of salvation, liberation, and peace.

– However, anarchists don’t necessarily have a blueprint or an ideal, future society. Anarchists who have focused on the present moment and sought to immediately deal with the ways that they are limited and smothered by the social structures governing them appear throughout modern history. This sometimes leads to drop-out cultures, the creation of self-sustaining communes, illegal methods of sustaining themselves, attack as an expression of personal and practical desires, as well as dietary, racial, sexual, and gender-oriented considerations.

– Leftist revolutionary ideals are an absurd waste of time in the 21st Century and they put one on well bloodied path of monotheistic idealism, ideology, and politics. The problem then becomes the global scope of the systems that subjugate us and how granular their focus becomes when they attack. Even when ignoring or opposing a leftist, revolutionary orientation, attempting to fight one’s way out of the mess of their individual life makes one an enemy of these systems. There is no clear strategy for winning at the individual or collective level.

– When dropping out, illegal subsistence, collective living, free love, and attacking from the shadows isn’t enough to gain autonomy or requires more than a reasonable amount of risk, it becomes clear that not only are the Left’s myths absurd, but imagining a future that is not bleak (or one even worth living in) is difficult. This provides further motivation to focus on the present, immediate alleviation of one’s suffering; but, in doing so it traps rebellion between conformity (total failure) and activities that have little to no impact on the order of things …even if they are the least compromising of methods available for survival. Without any future orientation whatsoever, rebellion is limited to dodging blows without effectively striking back. So, to carry out a rebellion that grows and accumulates power instead of one that consistently crumbles back into the ruins from which it emerged, some sort of future-orientation becomes necessary …if only to respond with consideration to the patience of our enemies.

To start answering the questions above, let’s start by remember that even if we are not all dispossessed and recently proletarianized, we are at least not in possession of any means to sustain or own lives, nor methods for using acquired means that would create a foundation upon which sustained attacks against our enemies can become more effective. At this point, even as a superficially self-sustaining intentional community, we would not have the means to preventing shit like the pollution of atmosphere we depend on (or global warming), surveillance/infiltration/attacks from the State, energy resources we’d need (hence, the market), etc. Even if we somehow did manage to carve out a more permanent autonomous zone, chances are that it would not sustain generationally: even with the best forms of indoctrination (which would require the sort of ideology we’re rejecting here) kids will want into the grandeur of the metropolis… whether for sex, for fun, or because it does a better job of creating cheap, entertaining shit. So to the extent that lacking space, means, and autonomy could be alleviated, that lack already puts us a long way from having places for ourselves that are not a compromise with our enemies.

For anarchists, whose rebellion has broadened to all that which may subjugate them, there are far fewer packages to buy and issues to think of as singularly important than there are for those rebels who oppose one form of domination, but not all. Anarchist rebellion is so broad that it takes as its enemy almost the entirety of established institutional society. This means that beyond the lack of possession discussed above, for an anarchist to survive there is additional and inevitable compromise with one’s enemies. This compromise can range for a variety of jobs, to the desperations of poverty, to the risks of being caught carrying out illegal actions to simply live another day, to giving up a rebellion against all forms of domination. Anarchist rebellion begins and often ekes out an existence in the terrifying, lonely corner of near-complete rejection of and enmity for the world. This means that even for an anarchist to simply survive as an anarchist, they are already in a perpetual state of rebellion.

Survival and compromise, which can never be satisfying, creates an individual interest in …making shit better. To do this without entirely losing whatever it was that one thought was worth fighting the whole entire social order for, it becomes desirable and maybe necessary to meet other rebels. Meeting others and even devising some methods to alleviate each other of some pains which rebellion brings can also and often does become insulating: a life in a sometimes less painful bubble midst a society one was already alienated from. Here enters the lovely world of group dynamics, with its problems of group-think, status jockeying, power plays, personality clashes, and in-group mentality. This can happen in a collective living situation, a cooperative businesses, a syndicalist union, a social clique, a street gang, an gaggle of squatters, whatever …it happens with groups generally. Out of individual and collective interest in surviving with as little compromise as possible, anarchists come together to try and figure it out and yet still, only more problems!

On top of those group dynamic problems, the particular attitudes and values of anarchists can compound the isolation, hopelessness, and angst many anarchists experience. Anarchists groups can often be a downright miserable series of relationships that may seem like they were created from a false premise, even if they weren’t. More to the point, such a context itself can hallow out the future of anything desirable. Any belief in eventual individual satisfaction, fulfillment, joy and/or collective well being, sustainability, care and god forbid a successful attack or autonomous space. The misery of living with miserable people can completely rip the future as a creative, imaginal space from the psyche and throw it into oblivion with the rest of this damned world. But ought we to oppose an orientation towards the future? I do not think so.

Futures aren’t solely a realm specific to ideologues and theologians. The persistence of subjectivity through time and in orientation towards a future existence is the framework for rebellion. Rebellious activity already assumes that there is something worth protecting and preserving, something that is worth defending in its existence against whatever forces attempt to oppress, dominate, subjugate, or exterminate it. Without that something, it’s not rebellion. Some anarchists are more egoistic and their rebellion takes the form of first being an attempt at realizing an immediate desire. But at the moment when the realization is opposed by force, it again puts action in the realm of rebellion. Even for the orientation of maximizing one’s potential to realize their desires generally, there is already within the relationship between the subject and its context an orientation towards a future. There is a future for the something: the uniqueness of the individual, the skills or space to act upon immediate desires, or the qualities of one’s identity which can not be changed and are nevertheless condemned in the social order.

To first emphasize what is disgusting about ideology with a special consideration to Leftist revolutionary thinking; these forms of thought insert poison into the imaginal spaces of our futures. They don’t themselves invent the entire framework for future; the phenomenological scaffolding which is substantiated with goals, dreams, visions, and aspirations. Furthermore, what ideological garbage does is replace that something which one is protecting and preserving in the rebellious act with an Other: State, Soul, Man, Singularity, Reason, Rights. The reason for the act is controlled by ideology for these Others. Ideology additionally benefits from disguising these Others as something objective …something with more reality, weight, and value than individual subjects and their finite, mortal, and muddled existences. These Others that are supposedly more important and more valuable than the individual agent have futures that will persist, that will be worthy of a rebel’s anguished existence, that will be the Future of all futures …says the ideologue.

That said, there is still a future orientation presumed in the act of rebellion and this includes the anarchists’ rebellions …even after rejecting the Left. The difference is that this future orientation would depend upon the individuals involved as the something protected and preserved and would aim at what anarchists already aim at in their togetherness, even if feebly: places to live, play, and plot that require as little compromise as possible with the existing order. Methods of surviving and attacking that attempt to expand the space and means by which to further survive and attack. A better squat, maybe next week. A new arrangement for free food. A more accurate understanding of how to eliminate that which subjugates us to it. Whatever that future orientation is, in whatever distance… it is there. To not focus on it, to confuse it with ideology, or to attempt to cut oneself off from a future orientation entirely conflicts with one of the fundamental properties of rebellion itself.

There’s additional reasons why attempting to cut oneself off from a future orientation is a bad idea which are tied into the ontological question, the ways in which time plays into subjectivity, and other shit beyond the scope of this piece. As a teaser, one of those reasons is because it forces you into a past orientation, which is what a present-tense context is constructed from: past traumas, conditions, meanings, relationships, habits, diseases, financial situations, legal statuses, etc. There are practices related to the present-tense that are meditative and attempt to break with the past, but those are difficult and impractical mental states to maintain …even if valuable from time to time. Anyway, it’s what I have mentioned above that ties into resolving issues of time and context in anarchist theory. A future orientation itself doesn’t provided any particular practices worth promoting to improve everyday life and our individual life stories, but it keeps the door open for practices that require more long term thinking and it maintains coherence with rebellious activity in general.

Anarchism and the Martial Arts

The more I think about writing about this topic the more there is that I want to write about. So what I think I’m going to do with this is just write this progressively as I learn more through my own research and the responses I get; instead of attempting a full blown op-ed.

This question is difficult to answer because on the one hand, anarchists have somewhat diverse ethics about various issues relating to self-defense, biopolitics, violence, spirituality, and character virtues that would already be difficult to make many generalizations about. On the other hand, the Martial Arts is even more diverse on these same issues and numerous other ones. To survey both as much as possible in an essay would lead to an enormous text if it was taken to the finest nuance and detail that I could imagine. So I want to begin by making some important clarifications as to why this isn’t going to be that text and what to expect from this essay.

I am by no means an expert on the history of any martial art, the practice of any martial art, or even the practicality of many martial arts. However, I am (and for as long as I can remember) extremely interested in studying martial arts and have practiced a few: Kenpo Karate, Bujinkan Taijutsu (sometimes referred to as Budo Taijutsu or Ninpo Taijutsu), a bit of Judo, and an even lesser bit of Kung Fu. Since I began to formulate my own ethical principals more, my approach to the martial arts has changed and I have found it rather difficult to weight the next MA I want to train in by these principals. I think that this would be an important place to begin for other anarchist and anti-authoritarian revolutionaries as well.

Some Problems

Measuring Stick: There are many reasons why someone may decide to take up martial arts. Some of the more common reasons seem to be for the exercise, developing confidence and skill in one’s ability to defend themselves/others/stuff, for an authoritarian job (military, police, security, etc.), sport, fascination and enthusiasm, and let’s be honest …to be a more fierce asshole. So what’s in it for anarchists?

  • Self-defense: This one seems obvious to me but I can’t say that it is really the biggest concern for any other anarchists based on the amount of self-defense workshops or group meet-ups that focus on martial arts training. At the same time, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that there isn’t an interest or even a large number of anarchists that take up a martial art (or have) outside the context of anarchist struggle. Ethically, I do think that it is a good idea to at least explore the limits and capacities that one has to defend themselves in a fairly antagonistic if not outright power-driven society. There is a link between the capacity to free expression and having an ability to do so without worrying about various people trying to kick your ass for it. There is also numerous reasons for those who are persecuted based on their race, sex, sexuality, religious background, and other identifying traits to learn how to defend themselves.

 

  • Self-empowerment: I think that the issue of self-empowerment or rather, the sense of self-empowerment that some people claim to derive from the practice of a martial art has as much of a chance to prove detrimental as it does psychologically beneficial. Some instruction and instructors have a nasty habit of hyping up what they’re teaching and then the application of the techniques (which may suck or just may have not been trained to efficiency) winds up creating a worse situation for someone than would otherwise be the case. Naivety, especially about what exactly could go drastically wrong with the application of many martial arts techniques (in a street situation) isn’t worth the self-confidence that may come with it. I think what martial arts ought to make abundantly clear is how fragile and easily injured our bodies are, that you’re likely not going to be fighting someone with the same training (or any, they may just use a weapon on you), and that even if you have “the deadly” down …retaliation from people that may be a hell of a lot less ethical than you are isn’t too strange. A sense of purpose, achievement, and self-improvement that can come from playing any sport can make just as many claims to self-empowerment as the martial arts as well.
  • Group defense: A lot of martial arts may concern themselves with how to defend oneself against a group of attackers (and they ought to advice flight first), but hardly any that I am aware of really focus on how to work together as a group. In a sense, an affinity group that trains together may be able to work well together as a group… but this isn’t because there is any sort of tactical training for groups inherent in many arts. Team sports, paint-ball, game theory, etc. – this is the stuff of working together as a tactical unit to accomplish a goal. Some people don’t think of the SCA (society for creative anarchronisms) as a martial art, but at least for this purpose of tactical group stuff, it seems to be very applicable to what could be the needs of an affinity group (or even larger collectives).
  • Flight (Parkour): RAAN covers this well enough. I’ll link to their stuff on the issue; but, I do want to make one point. What makes more sense… getting into a match with thugs in a uniform who probably have better weapons and training than you; or, out-maneuvering them if you think you or your comrades may be put in their cross-hairs? Yes, there are many situations that I will not elaborate on where direct, physical confrontation with thugs in uniforms may be a goal worth the risks (and, by “thugs in uniforms” I mean that non-specific to the cops – I mean neo-nazis and all sorts of scum here).
  • Revolutionary applicability: I’m not ready to fill in this section but at this point, the applicability of many martial arts to what I imagine as contemporary revolutionary activities fall a bit short of the bar. Learning Krav Maga, studying police training manuals, and other such stuff that will provide some good insight into what we’re up against is definitely applicable. But really, it’s going to be a lot of other stuff outside the purview of what is generally taught as a martial art that will be applicable, imo. I’m not saying that martial arts training has no benefits for revolutionaries (far from it); but, in the long run I’d have to say that whatever martial skill is incorporated into various revolutionaries’ arts – it won’t look like anything you’ll find in a gym or a dojo.
  • Other ethical considerations: more on this later

Health: http://www.dctkd.org/library/papers/benefits-of-ma-training.cfm

psychological (perceptual changes, learned perspectives of the Other, mind-body dichotomy/objectification, outward perception, conception of pain, orientation to violence, etc.) and physical (posture, flexibility, cardiovascular, energy efficient motion, endurance, etc.)

Metaphysics: various traditions… Zen, Shinto, Chivalry, etc. (being a martial arts master probably shouldn’t motivate one’s practice of spiritual traditions.

Style: hard, soft, mixed – Western, Eastern, MMA, etc.

Training: aliveness, peer-to-peer or workshop stuff, gyms, rip-offs, instructor credibility (and what that means), ranking systems, etc.

Legal Issues:

  • Registration of body parts as lethal weapons: This is actually a huge myth. Boxers and other martial artists do not have to “register” their body parts as lethal weapons.

The following are commonly spoken words that are often misunderstood. Because they relate to physical confrontation, you, as a martial artist, should have a clear understanding of each of them.

CITIZEN’S ARREST: This is the act of one person (citizen) placing another person under arrest when the citizen observes that person committing a criminal act. You do this at your own risk. If you are wrong, or if you did not actually observe the person committing a crime, you may be liable for false imprisonment. In most jurisdictions, the citizen invoking the arrest will be listed as an arresting officer, and law enforcement is legally required to take an arrested suspect into custody even if they feel the arrest is unjustified. Citizen’s arrest should only be done as a last resort to prevent the alleged criminal from “fleeing the scene” after committing a crime.

ASSAULT: The intentional creation of apprehension of immediate harm to another. It is not a threat of some future, but a threatened immediate harm. Any non-lethal violence that does not involve substantial risk of death will be an assault. You don’t have to actually touch someone, only make them think that was your intention. The degree of assault varies upon instrumentality, numbers, or difference in ability to inflict harm to someone else. For instance, shot at with a gun, the swing of a bat, or some other attempted serious act to harm.

BATTERY: Any unwanted touching. The harmful or offensive touching of someone with the intent to harmfully or offensively touch. Simply grabbing a person in an argument, for example, may be sufficient to constitute battery. The contact doesn’t necessarily have to cause pain or injury. Examples of battery are harsh grabbing or pushing. The common defense to battery charges are: the right to self defense, reasonable touching, consent, implied consent, accident, mistake, and no intent.

GOOD SAMARITAN: The defense of others. You have the right to defend someone who in turn has the legal right to defend themselves but for some reason they cannot or will not defend themselves. If you have made a reasonable mistake of fact, you might still be able to plead defense of others, but not always. The use of non-physical de-escalation skills while law enforcement personnel are on the way is the wisest choice. Be a good witness.

EXCESSIVE FORCE: The use of continued use of retaliatory strikes when the threat is no longer immediate. For martial artists, an act may be considered retaliatory even if it followed the underlying assault by seconds. Reasonable force under assault circumstances is a difficult matter to judge with any accuracy. If you use excessively force, you can be charged with a crime. If law enforcement has probable cause to believe you used excessive force, you will probably be placed under arrests even if you were lawfully defending yourself.

MANSLAUGHTER: “Involuntary” manslaughter is when a person is killed by another unintentionally as a result of recklessness or gross negligence. “Voluntary” manslaughter is when a person is killed by another upon a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion.

STATUTORY RAPE: Actually called FELONIOUS INTERCOURSE, is having sex with someone under the age of consent. The age of consent varies from state to state and can be as young as 16 years old, but 18 years old is the generally accepted minimum age of consent.

SELF DEFENSE: The right to defend yourself with as much force as required to ensure your safety. The critical elements to keep in mind are:

1) the defense must be necessary – no other way out,

2) the force used must be reasonable under the circumstances.

SELF DEFENSE IN THE EYES OF THE LAW . . .

The defense must be necessary. In order for the defense to be necessary, you must be protecting yourself from:

  • Imminent harm by unlawful physical assault. If the harm is not imminent, you do not have the right to use force.

  • Sexual assault.

  • Unlawful detention.

  • You must be in danger at the present time and not threatened with some future harm.

  • You may not retaliate for some past harm or attempted harm.

If you use EXCESSIVE FORCE, you can be charged with a crime. If law enforcement has probable cause to believe you used excessive force, you will most likely be placed under arrest even if the initial self-defense is permitted.

MISTAKE OF FACT:

An example of this is as follows:

Someone points a toy gun or an unloaded gun at you in a threatening manner and you use defensive tactics on that person believing they could have and would have shot you, self-defense would apply.

The more innocent the person or unreasonable your belief, the less likely self-defense would still apply.

DUELING OR BRAWLING:

Most states have laws against the classical “let’s step outside” routine for a challenge match. Unless there are rules and the match is akin to a sporting event, both parties may be guilty of a crime.

ILLEGAL DEFENSE:

The use of certain martial arts weapons is illegal in many states. California, in particular, has zero tolerance with regard to the use of the BO STAFF, NUNCHAKU, ESCRIMA STICK, KAMAS, TONFA, NINJA STARS, BUTTERFLY KNIVES, etc. The whole gamut of Martial Art weaponry is on the DO NOT USE list.

Never use these weapons to defend anyone or anything. If you use any Martial Art weapon outside of a licensed Martial Art school, you are committing a felony, which is a serious crime punishable by one year or more in prison. Using illegal weaponry of any kind will often get you into more trouble that the criminal against whom you used it!

This is the primary reason we DO NOT teach weapons as a means of self-defense. As a martial artist, it’s better to rely upon your empty hand skills if you must resort to physically defending yourself or coming to the defense of others.

TRESPASS TO LAND: Basically, this is coming onto someone’s land without right or permission. Emergencies allow people on land and some people have the right to enter, such as police, postal service, UPS, etc. If someone comes onto land and approaches a door, that is not trespass. If an uninvited person is on your property, you have the right to ask them to leave, and if they don’t you should inform them that they are now trespassing and call law enforcement. You may not physically remove the person or persons from your property.

DEFENSE OF PERSONAL PROPERTY:

Personal property can be defined as anything without a soul. Automobiles, luggage, clothing, money, tools, etc.

Using force to protect/defend property is generally frowned on by the law. The amount of force you use to protect property must be minimal, and generally speaking, progressive. You can’t start by breaking someone’s arm because they picked up your jacket at a restaurant.

You can avoid problems in almost all jurisdictions by first making verbal contact, then moving to physically prevent the person from leaving with or harming your property WITHOUT striking them; and then moving on to holds, pain compliance techniques, or other non-lethal methods or protecting your property.

DEFENSE OR YOUR HOME “CASTLE”:

Defending your home is another matter entirely. If you are trying to keep someone out of your home or office or business, you normally have the right to use some degree of force to eject them. Physically pushing someone out will not normally result in any liability. If the person uses force to gain entry, or if there is a probable danger of the person harming any of the occupants, then the amount of force used may be higher. Once the person leaves, you may not use any additional force except that which applies to citizen’s arrest.

MISCELLANEOUS ILLEGAL DEFENSE:

Repo man: If the repo man is taking your automobile, you cannot legally stop him from doing his job.

Landlord: If your landlord is coming into your apartment or rented home and has the right to do so under the conditions of your lease, you may not use force to prevent him from doing so.

TERRORIST THREATS:

California Penal Code 422: Any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, which, on its face and under the circumstances in which it is made, is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat, and thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.

For the purpose of this section, “immediate family” means any spouse, whether by marriage or not, parent, child, any person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree, or any other person who regularly resides in the household, or who, within the prior six months, regularly resided in the household.

“Electronic communication device” includes, but is not limited to, telephones, cellular telephones, computers, ipod, zune, video recorders, fax machines, or pagers. “Electronics communication” has the same meaning as the term defined in subsection 12 of Section 2510 of Title 18 of the United States Code.

 

  •  yadda yadda…

The above are the areas I am going to be focusing on to whatever extent I am able to over the next while.

 

 

Anarchy and the Burden of Proof

There are a number of perspectives one can entertain when thinking about anarchy, anarchism, etc. There is one in particular that I think is generally useful to consider even if it may fly in the face of the history of anarchist thought (some of it). I intend to outline some of the features of this perspective although I doubt that in the space of this text I will sufficiently build upon the basics of it. Though it is a simple perspective, it does lead to some problems that perhaps account for some other perspectives. I think I will be able to at least reach that point of this topic.

I suppose a decent way to begin elaborating on this perspective is to demonstrate its main features. The first of which is to doubt the legitimacy of authority, dominance, hierarchy, etc. In short, to suppose that the burden of proof is on those who wish to dominate or position themselves as an authority: that they must prove there is a legitimacy to their power. What this entails does not necessarily need to be formally reasoned, just a simple doubt. It is to cast doubt on the claims of a right to power by clergy, landlord, statesman, gods, bosses, and other authorities. It is a demand from them to prove that there is a reason why in ones maturity, they ought to submit to the control of such figures (or systems). The second feature of this perspective is the critique. That since those in power as a general rule attempt to prove the legitimacy of their power, it becomes necessary to disagree with their attempts at proof… to critique their logic.

I believe that it is not this initial doubt which becomes problematic, but the proceeding critique. It is common for people of all types to doubt the notion that some other person is competent to determine their situation for them. This goes back far beyond capitalism and the State to so called biblical times. The Jewish holiday Passover, for instance, encourages the reading of a particular story of three children… one of which is heretical and doubts the authority of God. Of course the story is meant to demonstrate that it is foolish to doubt the authority of God, it also demonstrates that the burden of proof is not on human beings but on God: to show through might or right that His authority is legitimate. Similar rituals exist under the rule of any authority, even if its a mere display of force that is used to persuade the ruled of authorities legitimacy.

But doubt isn’t good enough! I can doubt the legitimacy of my boss all I want to but until I can critique the boss, their power still holds sway. This isn’t true because critique is a necessary prerequisite for dismissing power, but because the power between me and the boss is not equivalent. If it were just me and this other person, and they were to insist that I subject myself to their control… doubt would be adequate for me to refuse their control. Even down to the power of force, doubt is sufficient for me to refuse the orders of someone stronger than me, better armed than me, more powerful than me. But, power doesn’t rely on the persuasion of me personally, it relies on the persuasion of as many others as possible. And it is here, at this point of the capacity for others to be duped by power that critique demonstrates its necessity.

To further this perspective though, I feel compelled to question the nature of critique itself. If my doubt isn’t sufficient because my power isn’t sufficient to effectively disable so many institutional powers that wish to determine the course of my life… I am in the position of needing to posit this doubt formally and to infect others with it so as to disempower institutionalized authority. Perhaps the nature of an anarchist critique is to articulate this doubt. But we know that anarchists take things further: they posit alternatives, they organize, and they attempt to demonstrate the superiority of anarchy to domination!

Perhaps this absurd?

But it isn’t…

Our doubt is rejected and we are further moved to investigate the reasons why any human being would support their own domination. The critique expands to an analysis of power, authority, and the particular sophistry employed to convince the others that their position is a legitimate position. This is extremely problematic. Suddenly, the burden of proof is on the anarchist to demonstrate that systems of domination are inferior to social life without them. The doubt becomes wanting of an affirmation, but the affirmation is so plain, common, and visceral that it is almost ridicules to  entertain the need to prove that we (or myself personally) are better off without being dominated. And that is the ultimate catch…

No one affirms the legitimacy of those that dominate them until those that dominate them also dominate others whom they believe require domination. The individual accepts their own subjugation because they fear the absence of the general system of subjugation: they accept the legitimacy of authority over others. This is the crucial aspect of anarchist theory… not to prove that our own doubts and critiques are adequate; but, to prove that the liberty of those others is legitimate as well. Magically, we no longer face proving our own competence to decide for ourselves… but face proving that others are competent to decide for themselves. This is how power shifts the burden of proof onto us, the doubters.

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