Archive for category Anarchism
It is going to be a busy day! So much to do!
- Congratulate a bunch of people — those who felt the system was failing them — for letting their voices be heard in a dramatic way. I’m sure there is something hopeful in that. Well done.
- After considering some of the people mentioned in #1 — just as a precaution, change my Christmas shopping wish-list from Amazon books to Cabella’s gun department.
- Check into that whole “rigged election” thing…after all, he’s been right about everything else.
- Check the over/under on “Days Until Military Coup.” If they’re calling it 230, I’m taking the under.
- Select my outfit for the Inaugural Ball. (I am thinking something white and billowy, with maybe a pointy cap….)
- Read a good “prepper” manual and stock up on canned goods, freeze-dried meals, and water. Also pretzels. I really like pretzels.
- Remember to boot my computer from Tails, and always use a zero-knowledge VPN and the TOR browser. Get all my friends to switch to the Signal instance messaging app (end-to-end encryption, and not owned by Facebook). Delete all my social media accounts (please send cute baby and kitten pictures via snail-mail to my new post office box in Belize).
- Smash capitalism.
- Scoop the litter box.
- Shut down this blog.
Well, I’d better get busy!
People want to know: Who is to blame for this whole election, for these two candidates, for all the rancor and dissension. I’ll explain:
- The Republicans are to blame: from Gingrich on, the party has positioned itself to lead inexorably to Donald Trump. Their emphasis on no-nothingness, obstruction, racism, sexism, their denigration of the poor, weak, and vulnerable — no wonder this is who they’ve nominated. He is a mirror to that party, and many in it now don’t like what they see. But Republicans have brought it on themselves.
- The Democrats are to blame: ever since Bill Clinton, the party has tried to move rightward such that it is now “Republican-lite” — and not even that “lite.” They are in bed with finance capital, and no longer are they the party of labor. They are traitors to their base. They are the ones who started to cut the social safety net to ribbons, they are the ones who removed the protections of Glass-Steagell, they are the ones who implemented mass incarceration and the prison-industrial system. The forgotten and disaffected needed someone who would listen — or at least feign listening, as the Democratic party no longer even pretends to be the representatives of the middle and working classes. And when a candidate like Sanders comes along who can galvanize the party’s historical base, they do everything in their power to quash his efforts. Instead, they nominate the one candidate in the world who is vulnerable in a campaign against Trump. The Democrats have brought this on themselves.
- Democracy is to blame: Democracy — the rule of the people, by the people, for the people — i.e., self-rule is an oxymoron. If the system depends on everyone having a voice, then the enemies of democracy get a voice — and no anti-democratic voice has been louder in recent times than Donald Trump (“I, alone, can fix it!”). A social system based on the occasional voting of a populace otherwise unconcerned and ill-equipped in matters of governing, is fundamentally vulnerable to demagoguery, fascism, political suicide. Was Churchill correct? Is democracy the worst form of government…except for every other form of government? Democracy requires constant attention. Trumpism (or something like it) is a permanent risk and tempation for democracies. Is it worth it? Democracy has brought this on itself.
- We are to blame: We consent to work 50+ hours per week, often at what David Graeber calls (technically speaking) “bullshit jobs.” We have our faces buried in our mobile devices. We live our lives on social media, blissfully unconcerned about matters of privacy, ideology, manipulation, and control. We dumb down our schools, cutting music and the arts, belittling philosophy and critical thought, turning educational institutions into factories for producing more cogs for the machine. We get our “news” from any website with a .com, regardless of its quality. We repost articles we haven’t read and have not vetted, and then feel we’ve added to the civic conversation. We believe all the lies that make us feel better about ourselves and that give us someone else to blame for all the troubles. We pat ourselves on the back for making it down to the polls once every four years and throwing a few switches (or punching out a few chads) for candidates about whom we haven’t the slightest idea. We are proud patriots. We look down our noses at the non-voters (lumping them all together under the umbrellas of “lazy un-americans”) and feel superior that we have kept democracy safe (for capital, for the 0.1%, for creeping bureaucracy, for the surveillance state, for a system for lining the pockets of those who play this highly artificial game). We denigrate those who just say ‘no’ to this charade, insisting that they have no right to complain, no voice, nothing to say. If they propose alternatives, we simply stop our ears. “Just vote once every four years, then shut the hell up.” Well, in fact we voters are the lazy and the ignorant — perhaps the most ignorant, the most duped, the most “played.” We are right where the powers-that-be want us: compliant consumers of whatever bullshit they configured us to “need.” We brought this on ourselves.
Until we admit this, we will continue to be plagued by bad politics. And it will be our fault.
So what shall we do?
What, again? Are you still asking someone else what you should do? Let me remind you of something Immanuel Kant wrote [An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? (1784)]:
Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of [people], long after nature has released them from alien guidance, nonetheless gladly remain in lifelong immaturity, and why it is so easy for others to establish themselves as their guardians. It is so easy to be immature. If I have a book to serve as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience, a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on, I need not exert myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay: others will readily undertake the irksome work for me. The guardians who have so benevolently taken over the supervision of men have carefully seen to it that the far greatest part of them…regard taking the step to maturity as very dangerous, not to mention difficult. Having first made their domestic livestock [i.e., us] dumb, and having carefully made sure that these docile creatures [i.e., we] will not take a single step without the go-cart to which they are harnessed, these guardians then show them the danger that threatens them, should they attempt to walk alone. Now this danger is not actually so great, for after falling a few times they [i.e., we] would in the end certainly learn to walk; but an example of this kind makes men timid and usually frightens them out of all further attempts. Thus, it is difficult for any individual [person] to work him- or herself out of the immaturity that has all but become his [or her] nature.
Has immaturity become your second nature? Are you able to respond to Kant’s clarion call: sapere aude — “Dare to know!”? Can you think for yourself? And do you think you can think for yourself if you don’t even know yourself?
Okay, you say, you’ll think for yourself for a change. But still you ask: can you at least give us some guidance, some way to go about it?
Fine…but just this once. On Tuesday, go down to the polling place and pull the Democrat lever. Don’t even look at the names…just pull it and leave. [Why not Trump? Answer: Clinton is (a symptom of) the problem; Trump is not the answer; there is no quick fix.] On Wednesday, after Clinton is deemed President-elect, write her a letter (okay, okay, an email). Congratulate her, then tell her that you vow to never let up on her the entire time she is in office. Tell her you don’t mean you are falling for all these phony “scandals” the opposition has tainted her with all these years. Tell you mean you will be on her about her policies, decisions, alliances, and performance on the job. Tell her you are not doing this because she’s a woman. Tell her you are doing this because you should have been doing this all along, no matter who got elected. Tell her you promise to seek out your local and state representatives and deliver them the same message. Tell her you will do what you can to organize a local meeting of your party — whatever your party happens to be, or, if you do not belong to a party, that you will at least meet with neighbors and friends (it could even be bi- or non-partisan) — every two months to discuss the performance of all your representatives, and that you will report to all those representatives your collective views of how they are doing. That means that she, along with all your other representatives, will be getting a “report card” based, not just on your own idiosyncratic opinions, but on the research, discussions, and debate that you’ve been engaged with and tested by. Tell her you hope to encourage friends and family outside your local community to do the same. Tell her a failing grade will not be tolerated, at least not by your local, informed, diligent, and objective group which has actually thought things through. Tell her that the existence of this network of discussion groups may very well result in a significant grassroots movement or even a third (or fourth) party, unless she (and your other representatives) are adequately responsive to those she/they purport to represent.
There you go! Do that. Not enough, you say? Won’t work, you say? Well, it is likely to be about a jillion times more than what you have been doing, right? And things have gone to shit, I’m sure you’ll agree. So give this idea a whirl. At least you might meet a few neighbors and make some new friends and learn a few things. How bad could that be?
“…the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.”
— J.R.R. Tolkein
Why I am (not) an anarchist.
Here are some random thoughts on this claim:
- Anarchism tends towards emphasis on negative liberty: “Nobody tells me what I can and cannot do.” Like difference philosophy and deconstruction, anarchism emphasizes one pole of the sphere of human existence. What about postive liberty, the freedom for becoming what you are (or will have been)?
- Anarchism, as Emma Goldman puts it, resists the state, property, and religion. It is an open question whether these can be resisted. All can be seen as “artificial,” creatures of human artifice, and so we might be warned against, in Roberto Mangabeira Unger’s terminology, false necessity. But the question is whether underlying the particular manifestations of state, property, and religion there is not something fundamental, something fundamenting, as Xavier Zubiri would put it, that explains the inescapability of something like state, property, and religion.
- Anarchism, as an ism, paradoxically functions as an archē, as an inviolable principle which serves to authorize, to generate authority (and heresy). A good example of this can be seen in all the trouble Shevek gets into with the “anarchists” of Anarres in Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed. He is called a “traitor” for his “egoizing” desire to be in contact with the people of Urras (the “Propertarians”). The “anarchism” of Annares becomes the tyranny of the mass, as Goldman would put it.
- I am interested in an anarchy that has no archē. Or at least no single archē.
- Anarchy means to be without a ruler. It means, thus, to be unruled, unmeasured, without a measure. But is it so that human beings are lacking all measure? Is self-transcendence (Augustine) the same as infinitude? Is not the confusion of these two what is meant by “original sin”?
- Multarchism would mean that there are multiple measures, perhaps always one more measure. It would reject the idea that there is no measure (an-archy), but it would also reject the hegemony of any particular measure, principle, foundation.
We hate too often. There is no shortage of things to hate for an anarchist, but we must never allow our hate to become a defining feature of our individual insurrections and revolutionary rhetoric. Hate can help us identify the enemy, but it can never destroy them. Hate will not empty the prisons, it will not burn down the corporate office space, it will not melt down the machinery of the military-industrial complex. If we are filled with hate, we will only accomplish the destruction of our current system for another system of walls. Because what is oppression but hatred for freedom? It is raw fear, terror and misery which ensnare us all in some way. It is the true fuel of military conquest, racism, xenophobia, sexism. Without hate, systems have no way of imposing themselves on us.
Sometimes, it starts to seem simple.
Everything. All of it.
Yeah. Sometimes I think I see the simple pattern of all the struggles that our common life together seems to bring.
Yes. Let me explain. I read the following sentences in a book:
In what measure and by what means can individuals accept themselves as mortal without any imaginary instituted compensation; in what measure can thought hold together the demands of the identitary logic which are rooted in the Legein and the exigencies of what is (which is surely not identitary without becoming for that reason incoherent); in what measure, finally and especially, can society truly recognize in its institution its own self-creation, recognize itself as institution, auto-institute itself explicitly, and surmount the self-perpetuation of the instituted by showing itself capable of taking it up and transforming it according to its own exigencies and not according to the inertia of the instituted, to recognize itself as the source of its own alterity? These are the questions, the question of revolution, which not only go beyond the frontier of the theorizable but situate themselves right away on another terrain…the terrain of the creativity of history. [Cornelius Castoriades, cited by Dick Howard, The Marxian Legacy, 298-299.]
Say what, now?
Yeah, dense, isn’t it? But what is the simple meaning? To me, this goes back to Aristotle, at least. What is the good life? It is the life that is best for us to lead. How do we know it? How do we learn it? We learn it by watching others and forming habits. But what if the habits we form by watching others whom society says are worth imitating, what if that leads us to vice, not virtue? What if the whole society is corrupt? Is there any hope? Yes, because although moral virtue is very important, there is more to being a human than moral virtue. There is what Aristotle calls intellectual virtue, which is being able to see what is—even past the habits and practices and institutions of our own society. With those intellectual virtues, we always have access to the other, to the unexpressed, to the not-now visible possibilities. Indeed, this goes further back, to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” in which the prisoner somehow slips his bonds (but how?) and gets out of the darkness of illusion and can see what is in its truth. But the prisoner does not—cannot—live in this “realm” because he is human. He needs his institutions in order to live. Those institutions make life possible AND impossible at the same time. To say this in a formula: I am in society, but not wholly of it. I carry my alterity with me. I need the bonds of identitary logic to live AND I am always more and other than how that logic “identifies” me, how it turns me into a (mere) identity.
Perhaps that goes even further back to the very edge of thought: the many and the one, identity and difference, analysis and synthesis.
Indeed, it does. The truth is in the middle and the margin, in the in-between and at the edges.
But is what you claimed, right? Is what you just tried to say simple?
Yes. It is just that simple.
I have always referred to what I call the “anarchist temptation.” It is always so tempting to think we can just do away with the state, have no gods and no masters. I have been leery of that temptation in light of all the concrete questions that anarchist and intentional communities have failed to solve. It has not worked so far. But now it seems I have to give into this temptation. I realize, if I am honest with myself, that I simply subscribe to left-libertarian views, even as I cannot always think them through consistently. I am certain that the capitalist world system does and will continue to threaten the very existence of the human race. I believe that governments exist as the means of violent imposition of the will of capital and/or kings, and not for the well being of the people or the planet.
I am, though, very skeptical about the idea of the innate goodness of human beings. I am not convinced. I see massive stupidity, venality, greed, and meanness all around me – of course not exclusively, but more than enough to make me suspicious of any grand program, party, or plan.
Thus, although I am sympathetic to socialist goals in the abstract, I am too skeptical to be an outright advocate of hitherto existing socialisms. I certainly do not believe in “state capitalism,” central command and control, or any other totalitarian structure. But our U.S. “democracy” is fake. Everyone knows it. People just aren’t courageous enough to admit it outwardly, except for the freaks, left and right. And those people scare regular folk (and not without justification, by the way).
So if there is no such thing as “good” government, maybe anarchism turns out to be the least bad bad form of government (as Aristotle thought about democracy, which to him was dangerously close to anarchy, which to him was a bad thing). Maybe, however imperfect a mutual aid society would be, its problems would be less bad than the problems caused by capitalism (both the so-called “laissez faire” and the state-monopolistic kinds). Maybe, despite whatever drawbacks there would be with localism and subsidiarity, they would represent an improvement in human relations, both among themselves and with nature. But anarchism just scares people. Folks hear the word and they think of mask wearing, bomb throwing, window breaking, dumpster diving, mayhem producing vulgarians who violently act without thinking and who have no idea of the good.
Is that all there is to anarchism? If it really is the least bad bad form of social arrangement, then maybe we need a new way to say “anarchism,” a new way to think it, a new strategy for living it.