The Four That Should Not Be One
After my trip to Europe I came back to a couple of different existential challenges. This was put succinctly during a conversation with T in Greece who responded to my question “What was your biggest criticism of American Anarchists?” by saying simply “You all act like you are in High School” and as unfair as this is, it is also dead on. We are the Columbine Kids in the worlds largest high school (I doubt even China has this issue to the same extent). We are by-and-large lost & confused by the scale of our national identity and the smallness of the people around us who even seem sane. Who understand that being a dick waving winner doesn’t mean anything other than you scored the last touchdown. The scale of this place, of the engine that won WWII, of the military that still polices the world even though our debt burden is, per capita, among the highest in the world is daunting. We are daunted.
As far as my people are concerned, I think a useful first step to addressing this problem would be to stop considering that we (US nation-state residents) are even in the same country (cultural unit) at all. Instead we are in four different countries. We could call them West Turtle, East Turtle, Middle Turtle and South Turtle (with the place above us probably being broken up into NW, N & NE Turtle itself).
To come at this from a straight anarchist-who-travels-around-alot perspective this makes a lot of sense from a sectarian perspective. To be wholly unfair the East is Red@, the West is Green@, the Middle is practical @ & South don’t care about such things (although, tbh I don’t know the South nearly as well as I know the other 3 countries). This might be a confusing shorthand for anarchists, as we despise the Nation-State (aka countries) and would work towards the abolition of the entire political entity called the US of A if we had the power to do so. But if we had that power would we create a United Federation of Anarchy that was contained by the same boundaries? I think not. I think the scale of another world, without nation-states would be much, much smaller. Probably smaller than the broad cultural units I am implying here, perhaps much smaller (as I am not sure I live in the same place as Los Angeles).
Short that power, we can at least admit that our region (the West) experiences Anarchy in distinct ways from the other regions. This is demonstrated by the General Strike of Oakland, Occupies on the West Coast, and our general attitude towards Federations and the like (as seen from a several decades out perspective).
I’ll end with a pet peeve of mine. This is not to criticize one person or project in particular but the general attitude of some if not most anarchists who start high profile projects. Usually they start their project with an announcement to the world “Here we are, we are going to do EVERYTHING better than what came before” that is also cloaking a desperate plea for help from others. That help doesn’t come, the capacity to DO everything isn’t possible so the clock starts ticking (visible to no one other than people who have been around for a long time), finally when it strikes the project either disappears from sight or flames out.
Before you take on a (public) project you should first figure out what emotional or organizational intelligence is going to be necessary to actually DO it. Talk to others who have done the same one. Have these chats respectfully, because even if your project is 1000x better than what has come before (and it’s not) the past will not disappear in a moment. The past sticks around and does turn out to be the shoulders you step onto if you survive, which you probably will not.
This is particularly resonant for me because when I started a particular “kill your parents” projects I did not publicize it (or my involvement) widely for years. I also didn’t (publicly) damn by elder for being first (and wrong). I did what I did and, over time, I demonstrated my consistency, attitude and ability and the project became what it became.