‘LBC’ Category Archives
by aragorn in LBC
For those of you that haven’t heard I threw an event with Bob Black at our local infoshop on August 7th 2015. At this event local activist “Morgan Le Fay” came to protest Bob for the 1995 Hogshire affair and ended up punching him a few times (3) in the face. A month later Bob announced on Facebook that I was both a traitor and enemy. He proceeded to blow my pseudonym (incorrectly) as an act of vengeance.
Rather than speaking about my own anger at Morgan or Bob at their behavior I am going to give the eulogy–one I’ve been contemplating for some time–of Bob.
I have known Bob, not in his daring years when I could have been a co-conspirator to his minor offenses against local legends Processed World, not when he was at the peak of his power and railed against work at the Gorilla Grotto, but perhaps in his decline, as publisher of his last two books. But the relationship between a publisher and an author is a close one. We could safely discuss his entire oeuvre at length and depth. We could discuss our shared ideological enemies. I could share with him my goal of returning his name back to being on the cynosure of anarchist thinkers where he belonged, returning him from his exile (for his naughty behavior against Jim Hogshire, etc.). As the preening narcissist he has always been, Bob basked in my appreciation, of someone he delusionally believed to be a fawning acolyte.
I still believe that Bob deserves defending, and my defense of him follows in three parts: he survived, he did something (even if it was the wrong thing), and he did it alone (for better and worse).
I imagine become an anarchist in the twilight period between the end of the Vietnam War era (not exactly a banner time for anarchists anyway) and the rise of (albiet low-profile) anarchist punks must have been quite lonely. I can’t imagine having these ideas without the benefit of seeing what impact they had on relationships as they were tested out. One of my clearest experiments of this sort was when I moved out of a group house (the very next day as I recall) when they wrote my name to an objectionable task on the chore wheel because I was at work. I had Debordian fantasies and put my body on the line in their pursuit. But I did not do it in a vacuum. The day I left the house I drove across the state to a warm, waiting room with friends who were happy to see me. The situation would have been miserable if I didn’t have those friends, that shared understanding about Debord, or the money to have a car to make that drive.
While Bob isn’t the only survivor of his generation I have a giant soft spot for all of them. Their clarity about then is one of the reasons that we can be fighting different fights now. Specifically I am referring to the context of anarchism, workerism, the left, and ATR. I have so much respect for this generation because I caught the tail end of the Red anarchist menace and its mediocrity was asphyxiating. As an ex-post-left anarchist I’ve had enough talk of what the left should be (if only…) to last three lifetimes. Dodging the bullet of having to endure Great-Men-Talking-about-Revolution-as-if-it-were-about-to-happen (or already did) I still consider quite the achievement, which would not have been possible if it were not for the ones who survived and particularly for Bob Black.
But they paid a price. In Bob’s case an ass-kicking or two, for others it was different kinds of social exclusions, ones that reflected their personalities and survival skills. On another level they paid the price of loss of faith. Obviously we are talking about a secular kind of faith–a belief that when exposed to a correct analysis or critique people will change their minds–but a faith nonetheless. A faith that other people, strangers, are like you: reasonable, argumentative, and more interested in something-like-truth than in popularity contests or petty games. This loss of faith has created grumpy, lonely men but it has also created a neon colored sign post for us, the next generation, and for those who are arriving after us.
I realize that most of the anarchists of the post-left generation have exposed their own influences as being egoist but that wasn’t my perception of them or their position(s) during my first decade of exposure to them (prior to meeting them). It seemed to me that Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed was the American wing of a post-situationist perspective, full stop. In hindsight, I realize how little I knew but it was the SI that excited me when I was just an anarcho-tot. It was their practice of critique-as-action that made sense to me, and it was how I saw action that I wanted to participate in. The SI critique of what we would now call activism felt complete to me and, as a result, held no interest, it was complete. The attacks against groups and people of the same fighting weight did, and still does, hold me captivated.
This is where my defense of Bob is strongest. Whether in the name of revenge or his own sense of rightousness Bob devoted his life to fighting people and institutions outside of his weight class. We once had a conversation where I was expressing how not-in-a-hurry I was with regard to dealing with a slight because I held that the long view, the strategic view, would win out against hurried action. Bob made it clear that while he might have agreed with me about the likelihood of winning, my attitude was bullshit. The only time to deal with opponents is now. He meant it. He would rather lose the fight, and do it now, than wait and win.
This charming personality trait explains nearly every scandal and misstep Bob ever took. As he aged, his rush to fight took on the long form essay rather than the flaming poop bag, but the will to fight never waned.
This point, by the way, is why the activist insult against theory/critique people has always aggravated me. I try to give the activist crowd the benefit of the doubt that they do truly believe in the political practice they are part of “in the streets” and are not just using regular people as cover for their desire to see the glittering rain of a window pane. (The least they can do is realize that a vigorous internal conversation is a verb and not “doing nothing” but whatever.)
Bob has taught anarchism a lesson that has yet to be meaningfully followed up. We need to establish something like a set of rules, or a kind of terrain, around how to fight with one another. When Bob accused Ramsey, in the letter section of AJODA, of being a state agent (on the flimsey grounds that they needed to evade the consequences of the Anarchist Exclusion Act of 1901), there were two results . One, Bob broke an unspoken rule against snitch-jacketing and two, Ramsey took him (and the accusation) extremeley seriously. Ramsey placed a fatwa against that issue of the magazine (#65, which had quite of few strong articles) and did whatever he could do persuade us (including by threat of force) and whomever was in his sphere of influence (which mostly meant infoshops that inclined Red) to not carry it. By putting his (and by extension ours–as AJODA did the material suffering, since AK Press stopped distributing the magazine after this issue) body on the line, Bob proved an unintended point. He provided Ramsey an opportunity to show what Ramsey was all about and Ramsey’s response to that paragraph of text couldn’t have been clearer.
For those of us who are similarly inclined, this lesson should be instructive. When you throw your body, identity, and personhood into the fray you rarely get accolades or huzzahs. At best you get a clarifying moment on a tangential point related to but not necessarily central to why you were acting in the first place. What most people do with this information is hide themselves behind nicknames, anonymity, or silence, and we, as a politic and practice, suffer for it.
The power of one
Bob has never had an ally (or accomplice in the modern vernacular) as he made it structurally impossible for anybody to be (or become) one. There are many private examples of how this looked in practice but it’s an obvious point that if you are fighting for your interpretation of the singular right and correct position anyone who would join you has to convince you that they think the same way that you do and for the same reasons.
Bob’s life is a series of breaks from limited collaborations that is not disconnected from the Stirnerite postulation about organization only lasting as long as the participants in it gain satisfaction in that arrangement. Bob’s innovation, if it could be called that, was to (mostly) set fire to any possibility of future collaboration by way of personal insults and public declarations of acrimony. Let’s call this practice “angry egoism,” which can only be ameliorated by its target bending knee, thereby placing future collaboration on the unstable base of an explicit power-over relationship.
And these dysfunctions ultimately rise from the fact that every battle, every idea, and every break happened for Bob alone. He has had lovers and temporary friends but largely his life was one lived alone, with no voice cautioning consequences or suggesting a different pacing, no daily consultations in bed. The only voice in his head was his, amplified by a Debordesque diet of spirits.
By this cautionary tale I put Bob Black to rest. He was a clarifying influence in my life, largely as a negative example but also as a good writer, but one incapable of reaching the heights he reached for. He will be remembered as much for who he wasn’t as for who he wanted to be but this is the most anarchist of problems. Most of us will not be remembered at all as our shared Beautiful Idea is larger than each of us and continues on after we are gone. The best we can hope for is some contribution to that idea and as a person who lived and wrote in especially challenging times and circumstances Bob Black has done his part.
by aragorn in LBC
It has been a rough year so far. For the past few years I’ve been able to afford to work very part time and devote my energy to projects that I love and share with my closest friends. I’ve lost a few of those friends, some recently, and some in years past but if radical politics has taught me anything it is that friendship isn’t forever. Anyway, I’ve returned to full time(+) work and it’s reminded me about keeping things in perspective, especially in regards to friendship.
There seems to be a general confusion about the difference between friendship and comrades(hip). Furthermore this confusion lives in short-time. Terribly short time. And as the confusion tends to to mean conflating the two things, it means increased the frequency that it takes them to cycle through our world without increasing the amplitude of the relationship(s).
In my few friendships is a feeling, a shared chemistry, and the lack of need to spend a bunch of time defining terms, calibrating jargon, and deciding what to do next. We already knew. Friendship is in the category of romance, fleeting, uplifting, and harder to achieve as the years go by. Thirty years ago I made friends nearly every day. At 45 I find friendship almost impossible to find and to nurture (nostalgia is a hell of a drug.)
Comrades, on the other hand, are a bit easier to find, even today. I don’t have to sit strangers down to calibrate them to my interests. By the time they find me they’ve usually calibrated themselves (or visa versa of course.) My interest in topics like alienation, social change, and the transformation of daily life has a predetermied audience (for and against). Politics, by this measure, is what my comrades and I are capable of doing. My project is to share the building of that capacity and collaborate with comrades about what to do with our capacity.
When I see people talk like strugglismo’s (which frequently means pretending that their crew of friends are on the cusp of something great, something permanent, something that can’t possibly be coopted–even at THE EXACT MOMENT that cooptation is is exactly what is happening), I don’t blame their friendships, which are enviable, I blame their politics. Their inability to see what is happening to and around them is the failure of their political imagination, on the one side believing that substantial libertarian change is possible (in the here and now), and on the other believing in their relevance (aka imminent necessity) to that change.
Camatte was onto something when he said “One awaits the revolution in vain, for it is already underway. It is unnoticed by those who await it, expecting a particular sign, a ‘crisis’ releasing the vast insurrectional movement which would produce another essential sign, the formation of the party etc…” but he uses the term revolution differently from me. When I use the term I attempt to always use it as a negative, as the project of the old left to create their bureaucratic utopia or of the christians (who almost always call themselves something else… like anarchist) who have clear intentions about their heaven on earth. Camatte is using the term in a far less grandiose manner. “The increasing loss of our real submission to capital will allow us to confront the true question of the revolution, not that of changing life, because all life has been enslaved, domesticated, misled by the existence of classes for millennia, but the creation of human life.” I wouldn’t put it this way (as I’m not exactly up on people) but for Camatte the revolution that is happening now is the creation of human life outside of politics, jargon, and “the struggle for the streets” (aka playing with cops in urban playgrounds).
Here the American followers of the Appelistas get it half right. The milieu is not, nor ever intended to be, the active agent for future revolutionary activity. If that’s what you are looking for good luck to you. It has always been the place to meet the fellow revolutionaries of the “create a human life worth living” school and this is why I will continue to serve it (even while largely not benefiting from it).
But of course all of this is a preface to a different point. As much as the Internet has allowed for a certain kind of hostility to exist between us, I forgive you your excesses. Forgive me for being a rude host, but my goal was always to get us to talk to each other. I didn’t realize how alienated those discussions would turn out but of course, in hindsight, it makes sense. I apologize for letting you believe we were ever going to be friends even though we agree about nearly everything. As much as I may hate you right now I really understand that in the landscapes of hatred it really isn’t a thing.
On the other hand I have been working a lot. I’m trying to take care of a pile of personal and family debt that I never took seriously before but that now looms large. Now I am hunkered in the digital coal mines tap, tap, tapping. My mind is never clear, rested, or happy with the task at hand. Even the things I love doing (like LBC) are annoyances and burdens. This reminds me that we are not enemies. We may not be friends any more, we may only be silent, or indifferent, comrades, but my hate for you is nothing. It is not a thing. My enemy is this imagination-killing nightmare called work. It is the duty to debt, the separation from my body, and the incredible organization of it all that has rationalized my life along with 7 billion of my closest… friends?
I hate using code words, or jargon, to substitute for my feelings, so of course it is the cops who implement, the middle managers who hammer out the terms, the teachers and parents who convince us there is no outside, and the shoppers, wage laborers, and protesters who consent to the terms of the agreement, so blame isn’t much beyond the rhetoric and shouting. My feeling is that the agreement is the problem and the process by which one figures out exactly what we agreed to is one I continue to be capable of being seduced by. I may hate you but in your stupid, ill-advised, immature, silly yearning I still love you. Both are true at once.
I would not say the same for the architects of this disaster.
by aragorn in LBC
Ideally I would be updating this thing at least once a month. At least that often I have some poignant thing that I’m working through that I’d love to share in this context as at least a bookmark for further thinking but I find I’m rarely getting around to it. Why? Because between websites I run (and that self destruct), publishing a book a month, helping run a distro, trying to get & keep some paying work, publishing and writing for a newspaper, and just keeping up with the daily grind of keeping all of this in order… writing is a hard sell.
Oh yeah, and there is traveling. At least 2 major and 3-4 minor times a year I leave the Bay and go to some other part of anarchyland to discover what riches and dramas live there. It makes sense as a way to break my own head out of the drama of the Bay and to submerge myself in “somewhere else” which is a favored place to visit for sure. This November I traveled to the southeast part of the US and visited Atlanta, Asheville, and Chapel Hill/Carrboro. Here are my thoughts about this trip.
In the Bay we are starting to have a serious problem with the age gap between new residents to anarchyland and the old timers. I saw a shadow play version of the same issue in the SE where the young people seem to have generationally different concerns and interests than the late 20-something people who have distinctly different priorities than those in the next older age group. This could be talked about as a Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennials distinction but also breaks down as a pre-Seattle ‘99, post-Seattle 99, and post-RNC (or even post-Occupy) split in anarchyland.
Sure there isn’t really a disagreement between the three around a general orientation about how to live ones life (aka the lifestyle questions are in the range of more free time and less working for others, diet leaning towards veganism, affect towards stylish REI suburban america gear) but the projectuality was distinct. I was excited there was so much Gen X energy on this trip as most of the US doesn’t seem to have it at all or there just isn’t a large enough center of gravity to keep older people around and productive.
I guess this experience can be summed up by the conclusion that North American anarchyland is finally starting to have a generation gap. Enough people in enough age categories to reflect a changing and different anarchy for each. This portends something exciting as, arguably, a culture of resistance (or whatever) may only be truly possible when there is enough of a range of people to actually demonstrate anarchy-as-a-form-of-life from cradle to grave.
I’m not going to call out a specific group or set of ideas but I want to put the warning into peoples heads that, much like the RCP and other recruiting organizations of the past, there may be a group of dedicated and intelligent individuals using anarchyland to recruit for a cult. Again, I don’t want to overstate the case but somewhere in the combination of self-appointed charismatic spokespeople, a value system that seems innovative and exclusive, and a double set of ethics is something-like-a-cult.
Beware the wolf by first recognizing it.
There is a significant way in which I belong in the SE. It still hangs on to hardcore scene roots, which I grew up with, as a source of pride (or at least self-recognition) rather than “aw shucks I was never in to that” which I experience in most other places. This is a generational questions too as the Gen Y (aka post-Seattle) generation and younger is more likely to not have a background in the punk/hardcore scene… but in the SE it still feels on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
Proof? The first night of the Carrboro bookfair weekend there was an ad-hoc, put-together-in-four-hours, jump on each others sweaty bodies, use a megaphone as a microphone, break a window, put a foot into my nose, cover band of Minor Threat. It was awesome, trust me.
That said, I’m not into Hardcore like I used to be. The iconography is still meaningful to me but when I was booted from the mainline of HC I realized important things about myself that I count as the lessons of adulthood. HC was great for my adolescence but things changed. HC didn’t. (not to give any credit to Uppercut, I’m not talking about selling out but about what a music scene’s limitations are)
At some point during my time in CH/C I said something about how ethical the place was… What I meant, what I experienced, was an approach to disagreement that is qualitatively different from how I experience it. If I disagree with someone or something disagreeable is referred to in a room I am in I will often make a joke at the disagreeable objects expense. Usually the joke is funny/not-funny and has, if I do it right, the multiple levels of agreement, disagreement, and ambivalence I feel towards the disagreeable subject are all implied by the joke. I’d like to say that I only don’t talk/joke about the things I absolutely despise, otherwise, games on.
What I realize, now that I’m gone, is that the South really has a thing about politeness that is more-or-less the opposite of my approach. Disagreeable subjects are almost never talked about as disagreeable or in a cruel or sloppy way. Instead the universe slows down and a series of precise statements that clarifies the exact terrain of the disagreement between the speaker and the subject are made. I confused this with ethics because I tend not to treat my (political) rivals with a great deal of respect (preferring to roll about in the mud with them, thank you very much) but it’s something else.
Another example that kind of muddies the water. There were many guests passing through CH/C while I was there including an American ex-pat who currently lives in Berlin. In a rare moment of joviality the kitchen table was making jokes around the challenges of call out culture. The specific example that was being cited was a very complicated situation that was only discussed obliquely but concerned trans identity and the line between trans-misogyny and something else lie. The ex-pat put an absolute chill into the room by saying (more-or-less) “where I am from we don’t make jokes about trans issues because they are very serious” which put the room into a shame spiral that lasted the next 20 minutes.
This attitude and the response is what confused me about the difference between ethical social behavior and a sort of cultural norm around hospitality and the like. Obviously I am ideological when it comes to my ideas around the value of humor, especially if it is painful and disrespectful, but I’m not going to defend this here. I’ll say instead that it’s nice to see that there are still local characteristics in different parts of the country.
In my imagination anarchyland could be a healthy, multi-generational, cauldron of persons, ideas, and projects. Among the limitations to this ever happening is the moralism around broke culture. I share a condemnation of work(ing for a living). I recognize how American culture pulls us towards a shallow materialism and crazy ideas like freedom = property ownership et al. I choose as one of my least desirable abstractions the one called Capitalism (I especially like this critique of it). I also see a hard contradiction between the ways that anarchyland forces people to choose a side around having money and being a true & real anarchist.
I lived in the Mission district prior to the first dot com bubble in the late 90s (I believe I moved to the East Bay around 97). During the 90s most of the people I knew worked no more than 20 hours a week and spent the rest of their energy doing creative interesting things. There was a balance between living (the things one enjoyed doing) and working (the things violently forced on us by this world). It was great and I was surrounded by sparks and fire.
I despise the violence of this world but scurrying about as if it doesn’t constrain our imagination and possibilities adds a second level of abstraction to a condition that is already difficult. Forcing our people to see themselves as good or bad depending on how much of their working life is criminal or black/gray market is… sad. It’s also IMO one of the sub-cultural aspects of anarchyland that I hate the most. It seems to drive people to doing Jobs They Believe in (TM) or leaving anarchyland altogether.
I believe we could be more creative about how we work rather than create ultimatums around it. Sure figuring out coops and collectives may be part of that but so too could shared jobs and other types of resource sharing. Most of us live in cities where the cost of living is outrageously high and our lack of trust in each other means we each face these obstacles alone.
Thanks to my hosts in ATL, Asheville, and Chapel Hill/Carrboro. Thanks for letting me into your home and lives.
by aragorn in LBC
This reportback will include some thoughts about the different locations I visited in my trip around the US, highlights from my presentation, and some thoughts about where current conversations are at regarding Green & anarchist ideas. The broad project of Black Seed is to grow the audience and definition of green anarchism beyond the constrains of windmills, wolves, and wildness into a broad category of non-instrumental approaches to living, struggling, and thinking. This means fighting the allure of jargon, counter-cultural shortcuts, and sectarianism. A green anarchism can (and should) be one that is pluralist with bruises rather than righteously exclusionary.
Timing is Everything
The Black Seed tour was somewhat motivated by the desire to go to the Cleveland and NYC Anarchist bookfairs (for LBC) and wanting to make sure people who wouldn’t otherwise ask for a copy of Black Seed would still get one as easily as possible. With that in mind the tour was setup just a few weeks before it began and ended up including events in Milwaukee, Cleveland OH, Pittsburgh PA, Rochester NY, Buffalo NY, Philadelphia PA, Columbus OH, Bloomington IN, and Salt Lake City UT.
Given that (sadly) anarchism tends to be of interest to a primarily college-aged crowd if you want to speak to a larger-than-small crowd you should orient your trip around student participation. Traveling to a town a week or two after finals is therefore not recommended. Mostly, towns where there was not a standing anarchist population had nearly zero turnout.
Couple that with the perceived (or not-so-perceived) hostility between old-time red anarchists and anything not-red and I felt a little bummed in a couple towns. But turnouts that are really just become conversations rather than presentations and while I think I’m better at the latter (with strangers) than the former… context matters and acting like you are talking to an audience when three people are in the room is kind of silly.
Initially I was going to prepare a new presentation regarding some of my current thinking about the problem of indigeneity but the Black Seed editors reminded me of an important thing. I am not an editor of Black Seed, I am the publisher. This point, while subtle in an anarchist project where lines are often muddied and disrespected, is an important one as I am not nearly as equipped to represent the content of the paper as I am to present my own thoughts. If the stated goal was to bring Black Seed to towns… then doing that, describing the context that Black Seed came out of, reading the editorial, and calling for questions seemed to be the appropriate level of engagement. This is an especially important point given that the very small GA milieu seems particularly guilty of personalizing projects/ideas which is absolutely not the goal of Black Seed. Green Anarchism will whither on the vine again if it is about personalities (or singular projects).
Since I know this will be asked, I’ll answer it ahead of time. The difference between a publisher and editor of a project (or at least this one) is basically one of experience and money. A publisher pays for the printing and deals with the distribution. An editor collaborates with authors to make their writing as strong as possible, which can mean political, content, or copy editing work.
Here are a few bullets points from the presentation.
What is green anarchism
In one view of anarchism it is part of the divided revolutionary project in a dialectical relationship with Marxism and its branches. In that view Green Anarchism is a branch that only began to thrive as the ecological movement came into general consciousness after WWII (although it did have an earlier origin story). This isn’t my definition of GA.
For me there is one great story, one bible, of radical engagement to the world and that is Hegelianism. Those who reject this specific story, the idea that reality can be expressed by rational categories and that the goal is to reduce reality to a unity, may be green anarchists. This means that my orientation is more cautious & circumspect than declarative and valiant. It also means I don’t tend to buy “the end is nigh therefore…” arguments as I don’t think that human consciousness/will/capacity is all it’s cracked up to be. Put another way, not only am I not a humanist (by design), I don’t think humans are either. But that’s just me.
The context of Black Seed
We miss the magazine Green Anarchy. It died, to a greater or lesser extent, as a consequence of the Green Scare (aka the persecution of anarchist, earth, and animal liberations types on the West Coast). It wasn’t as simple as that, of course, but the feds set the fire and only lunatics and fools don’t run from fire.
Black Seed is the serotinous result of this fire.
The critique of anthropology
This is obviously the topic of a larger “meta” conversation but here are the stated concerns/issues/critiques of anthropology as stated in Black Seed. One, anthropology is an academic discipline that begs for a deeper analysis of why anti-authoritarians would engage in a field that uses knowledge to grow the power of the existent and not something that thrives outside of the academy. Two, anthropology traditionally “others” people in ways that can only be described as problematic (or genocidal depending on your perspective). Three, anthropology is a discipline of truth (with a capital T). If it were a form of story telling (where the aspects of truth are malleable and subjective) there would be little concern with it. Disciplines of truth are some of the arcane magicks that have summoned Leviathan.
Here are some brief notes on some of the stops on the tour.
NYC believes it is the center of the universe. It absolutely is not. Especially when it comes to anarchy. Even moreso when it comes to vibrant, exciting, searching for new ideas. NYC is where ideas and dreamers go to die.
I did get to see Jerry Koch and Daniel McGowan back from prison and back in the mix. That made my heart soar (no joke).
The First Annual Cleveland Anarchist Bookfair was a great first time effort by a very young crew. Bloomington always turns out an inquisitive crowd. Columbus was a really positive and engaged group of people at the new Sporeprint Infoshop. These three towns were the best attended events and most interested attendees on the tour.
The area between the West Coast and the Great Lakes is a huge wasteland of anarchist emptiness. The only exception (this trip) was Salt Lake City which was a strange mix (and included an event with me and scott crow…) that included a great group house, an utterly hostile town, and a group of people who seemed to have been passed by by time…
Finally I’ll speak a bit to the condition of anarchy (especially green) based on my fractional view of NA@ on the Black Seed tour. First, I got the strong impression that there is an eager audience for a new/refreshed view of a green anarchist perspective that is not EF! style activism or ideological. People seem to feel that -something- green reflects their values but are really looking for an active conversation about it (rather than a fait accompli). Second, the history of even recent North American radical activity is woefully incomplete and under told. This is probably a direct result of the turn-26-and-youre-out nature of 21st century anarchism but I’ll also go ahead and blame wikipedia, the @ FAQ, and the vicious little scene that eats everyone alive who participates in it. Third, many anti-left positions no longer have to be defended. Everyone agrees on the basics and (in an all-too-american way) want to get down to brass tacks.
For future trips I would recommend an editor and an author or two to travel together with a wider variety of approaches (like skill + content, intro + experiential, etc) than my “one person show” was capable of. Plus, I’m getting to old to haul books, drive thousands of miles, and give a compelling presentation to a small crowd without getting demoralized. Which isn’t to say that I feel demoralized after the trip but that some days felt like I was only capable of reaching one or two people (rather than dozens, hundreds, or the millions necessary to shift our conversations beyond the arcane and irrelevant).
Final note. The last event I did on this tour was a public conversation with Scott Crow who, perhaps, would seem like someone from a different corner of the big tent of anarchy. The conversation was productive but only because we came into it already knowing each others jargon (ie the very different words we used to say the same things) and liking each other. I’ll say tentatively that our capacity to find common cause may indicate a possibility for many of the different clans to find ways to work together. Scott is a great contrast to the color coded sectarianism of the rest of the anarchist world and I think we can agree that a black flag is good enough.
by aragorn in LBC
Final reports and self-criticism
At the end of week three I was still glowing from my first day in New Orleans. The glow has faded now that I am a couple thousand miles away. The trip is over but it’s not completely gone for me. I look forward to seeing New Orleans again and seeing if the Iron Rail can continue with the energy of the first annual event into the future.
This final trip update has taken longer than anticipated because I’ve been spending the past week sleeping. Traveling for so long, alone, left me exhausted. I can still stumble along but only just. I’ll discuss this more in the conclusion.
The Longest Drive
In the realm of ridiculous ideas driving nonstop from New Orleans to Tucson isn’t the worst one ever (an award that goes to a similar drive from Nashville to Tucson on my motorcycle in the 90s) but it isn’t a good idea. For starters, it took about 20 hours behind the wheel (not counting the necessary in seat naps). Next, and I totally have myself to blame for this, road food is total shit. Finally, and this does go without saying, Texas is really boring.
I was hoping to drive through Texas primarily at night to avoid the boredom of it but barely made it past San Antonio before I conked out. This meant the entirety of West Texas, which is really the worst part, I endured in a bleary haze.
This turned out to be the worst part of the trip not because the drive was so bad (although it was) but because of the ruined plan I had for it. I had this harebrained scheme that during the long drives of this trip I would use a digital recorder to put down my ideas for a couple of writing projects. It turns out that as important as the time and solitude is for this kind of work what is more important is the head space. While I did have a few moments of inspiration during my long drive it paled in comparison to a drive a third has long right after an evening of exhilarating conversation. During that day I mostly finished an essay and notes on a couple of other pieces as long as that.
Obviously the idea of writing something at length while driving was ridiculous but if it would’ve worked it would’ve encouraged me to drive more. Perhaps instead, it’s just encouraged me to have more exhilarating conversations.
Interesting thing about Tucson is that I have done a few different events there and each one has felt totally different. What I know now, but didn’t before this visit, is that Tucson is a town of transients. It makes sense of course, because 110° summer days aren’t livable for the humans but I didn’t realize there was such a circuit of @ who traveled around based on the seasons. There is and they winter in Tucson.
Like a lot of towns, the feedback from my presentation wasn’t that useful for me. While a few people seem to understand what I was getting at, what my motivation was, and that we were on the same wavelength the majority of the crowd seemed highly ambivalent. On the flipside, I was texted by the event organizer right after I left who seem to think that what I said made a real impact and was going to be useful in catalyzing future discussions. That is more than I could hope for.
The Phoenix event was very small and half the people who showed up seem too young to care about stupid shit like infrastructure or conflict. It was the event that the most eyeballs on cell phones of any other event than the one I did on campus. The other half are the people who have been around for a long time in the Phoenix/Tempe area and who I have a fairly long history with. We had a pleasant conversation that only seemed slightly annoying (as measured by eye rolls per minute) to our texting youth.
Then I got to drive home.
EBBCE (aka EB@B)
And the day after I got back our little community threw its own anarchist bookfair. We call it the East Bay Book and Conversation Event but everyone has abbreviated that to EB@B.
Was there to say about a bookfair? It is the best place to see an anarchist that will most definitely (probably) not involve somebody getting arrested. It’s a glance into how vibrant anarchist publishing space is (short answer: not). In the Bay Area it’s a window into just how crazy big city life can make you. Perhaps as a sign of poor outreach this year’s event didn’t kick anybody out (and only had one eviction from a conversation). Last year there were three(ish).
They were probably have as many attendees to this year’s event is last year’s which is strange because last year’s event was seemingly more precarious because there was a real threat of rain all day long. This year, on the other hand, the day was beautiful and a little crisp with no sign of rain at all. Our outreach and general excitement level was much better in 2012. Couple this with the relationship between anarchists and the fall harvest season and the smaller attendance was not a surprise.
Realistically, the space where we hold the event at seemed full all day (ridiculously so last year) and constrains the event far more than our lack of outreach. Perhaps another constraint is that the organizers of EB@B are starting to reflect a different (older) demographic than a lot of the audience. This seemed reflected in the lack of enthusiasm for parties or extra curricular events in general.
Finally it’s worth mentioning that karaoke was a limited success. Only 25 to 30 people stayed around for it but that was more than enough for a couple hours of amusement. I’m mostly inspired to do more karaoke at a better venue with better timing. I do feel like after bookfair events at the venue itself are doomed to failure. I’m going to propose the next year we extend the hours of the bookfair itself.
I’m not sure what to say about the concept of my presentation. Somewhere in the idea of “conflict infrastructure” is something I do think is important but I am not sure that a speech is the way to approach the problem. If I wanted to tell anarchist North America that it’s time to build to last, prepare for internal and external kinds of conflict, and have a sense of humor about it all I guess I could write an essay, maybe a book. But if I want to take people by the shoulders and force them to do the same it gets a bit more complicated, cuz you know… consent and shit.
This is where my head was at about a week into the trip (in Minneapolis). I knew that the difference between saying something and actually taking part in making it happen is the difference between me and people who are better public speakers than I am. I’m not trying to be humble about my technical capacity to memorize a presentation (which I suck at) or be compelling or charismatic (which I don’t) but brutal about something else. It’s not that I think that it’s not possible to be an anarchist and to speak to an audience in declarative statements (you should, you must, etc) but I’m not sure how I can do that. It just doesn’t feel natural and normal to me. I realize this is a strange counterpoint to the fact that it does feel natural for me to be insulting or shit-talking about people that are seen as leaders or inspirational but the difference is humor.
If I could find a way to be funny about declarative statements I’d do that. Maybe a series of ridiculous veiled threats or a commitment to a Bible thumping preacher affect but neither of these appeal to my desire for playful conflict. I don’t hit the metaphor too hard but there’s something about fencing and the idea that the actual act is in the feint within a feint within a feint that I adore. This is distinct from some kind of put-on, as honest as it may be, that I’m just average folk coming off the mountain telling y’all about what I’ve learned, about my country wisdom, my authentic knowledge, my truth that is soon to be your truth or come hell or high water you will pay.
Additionally, I’m not sure that it’s possible to talk about politics in the US. This might seem like a rather jarring transition but it’s how I feel based on the blank faces I encountered during many of my stops once it came time to have a conversation. I think that there is a certain apolitical side to American anarchists that’s more dominant than I would’ve expected or feared.
My (positive) definition of politics is that it’s a practice of seeing the connections between the things we do, the world we live in, and our influence/power regarding both. Mostly I use politics in a negative sense to refer to the act that other do when they use influence/power to affect my/our life and refer to anti-politics as the activity that opposes this effort. But a positive politics is one that engages in questions and experiments with possible solutions rather than hypothesizing what other people should do with their lives. In a real sense it is what differentiates anarchist perspectives from others because ours prioritizes direct experiences (ours first) over sociological theories or good intentions writ large. Anyway, politics is a series of big questions that we should be thinking about in relation but in distinction from topics like prisoner support, corporate malfeasance, and identity.
Probably it isn’t possible to talk about big things with strangers but if it is possible I didn’t accomplish it during my presentation. I also didn’t accomplish much success with being funny or even particularly entertaining. I think the only thing I succeeded at was making a pitch to people who already were thinking along the same lines as I am. I succeeded at talking to myself.
To this end I think that future trips like this will look a lot more like entertainment or story telling than like a political frontal assault. Either I’m not very good at the latter or my audience isn’t capable of transitioning from the world, to a talk, to a conversation with me without a whole lot more preparation.
Whenever I return to the Midwest I feel like I have a sign over my head telling all passerby’s that I have returned, the prodigal son or some such shit. But the people who actually live here tend not to give a fuck. Everyone they know lives here so what’s it matter that another yahoo comes from the same stock. Of course the related issue is that an enthusiasm for other people, other lives, or their own miserable daily life doesn’t tend to shine through either…
Grand Rapids @ The bloom collective
This was a small gathering at the Bloom collective space. First of all it’s worth repeating how strange it is that I can even have an event at the infoshop of the town I grew up in but the conversation seemed to follow a thread that’s worth detailing a bit…
On the one hand there are the “holding down the fort” people who may (or may not) be anarchists but are willing to deal with the nuts-and-bolts aspect of keeping a space open. On the other there are people who want to see radical space be… radical. One of the central themes throughout this trip (and with the meta-proposal of Conflict Infrastructure) is that conflict has to be a core component of our infrastructure both as a consequence of principal of engagement (rather than passive aggressive silence) and as part of the orientation towards activity (as in if conflict infra isn’t doing stuff it is either plateaued as project or in decline) hopefully of a hostile nature (broadly conceived of).
In GR the tension between the two factions was palpable and my thrashing around the issue (on the pro-conflict side naturally) was not convincing to the fort radicals at all.
Bloomington @ Boxcar books
This town, as it turns out, is damn near a satellite of the Crimethinc enterprise. Obviously CT is anonymous and no one person is specifically involved in the project but I heard Contradiction type pith during every conversation I had while I was in town. And the design eye of the town is superb! Additionally, every time I turned my head too quickly, I saw a CT gremlin racing out of sight, only leaving a trailing dreadlock or buttflap.
The humorous CT style prank played on me while I was there was a “social game” where I directed a story to a room full of the humans by way of what letter of the alphabet I ended my sentences with. Much Dune dorkery ensued and a good time was had by all… (no, really)
The Boxcar event was great. A full house (which was a bit of a surprise given that the event started at 9pm) and more pessimism than I usually hear from the fort anarchists. My time in Bloomington ended with a very funny drunken tirade on the beauty of Marx’s words (cough) and against anarchist hostility for the same.
I spent almost a week in Austin Texas. A swell town that needs no accolades from me to convince someone to check it out. My terror there only begun when I heard exactly how expensive the rent is there. Sacrebleu!
I’m writing this before the second day of the New Orleans Anarchist Bookfaire so my thoughts aren’t complete but suffice it to say that I have been pleasantly surprised at the sophistication and engagement of the New Orleans folk to the anarchies as I know it. A large number of people have been totally educated on our material and why we do what we do. Kind of (by which I mean totally) satisfying.
I was in NOLA in 2006 and the cloud of death and terror still hung in the air. I felt it and while I enjoyed my time here I was also, more or less, afraid of its touch. This time the town has romanced me more effectively. I do not exaggerate when I say that I would consider coming here for time (months or years) if I didn’t have a life in the Bay. Perhaps this will be my backup plan for when everything else goes to hell. There is something in the attitude here that I really would love to learn more about.
by aragorn in LBC
Suffice it to say I am very thankful to all my hosts. I hope I was entertaining and seemed as appreciative as I was…
Los Angeles – Public School
LA is a strange town. I wouldn’t be surprised if one could have a half dozen events here (with the right contacts) with entirely different people at each event. The town is so large and disconnected, that it’s hard to imagine it as one town at all.
My first event of the tour was organized by my oldest friends in LA. They fed me and are always filled with interesting stories to an extent that I didn’t even feel motivated to do my song and dance in addition to the completely pleasant afternoon I had…
But I did, to a small crowd, and it went fairly well. I’d say this crowd ended up being the most receptive to the presentation I prepared for the trip. The conversation was lively and much reminiscing resulted. I am not sure how much the people who weren’t part of the “old timers” crew got out of the discussion but it was a pretty lively discussion about anarchism in the 90s.
Flagstaff – Taala Hooghan
This was the smallest event so far (maybe tied with Milwaukee). Rather than talk about the event (which there isn’t much to say about) let me wax poetic about the Taala Hooghan space. There is a garden in the back, active free box in front, a working kitchen, recording studio, show venue, and living room with literature. This space, and more importantly the attitude of the providers of space, is amazing. If I lived in a non-urban place I would hope to make a place half as inviting and interesting as this was.
We are an Indigenous-established, community based and volunteer-run collective dedicated to creatively confronting and overcoming social and environmental injustices in the occupied territories of Flagstaff and surrounding areas. We are restoring and redefining knowledge and information in ways that will be meaningful to our communities. We offer access to independent media, the arts, skill building, and alternative education, with the goal of self-development as well as empowerment for youth and the greater community into action in favor of a more just and sustainable world.
Some of you may be interested in the fact that I did a long interview while I was here that should result in some TCN audio pieces and a long form interview.
Durango – Campus event
This was the largest group at any event but largely because a professor forced his class to attend the lecture.
This brings up an interesting point. As you will soon see I have more or less abandoned the lecture format for the rest of my trip but this event was the argument against doing as much. I’m not saying my lecture made sense to this, largely, not anarchist group, but if I were to get conversational or nonlinear (my usual approach) this audience would have gotten even less than they did by the presentation I did do.
It was interesting to see the fundamental lack of interest the audience had to the entirety of my conception of the world (with anarchy as the center of gravity). Obviously this held no appeal to people’s whose only relationship to the idea was the four weeks of college education they’d received on the topic which was largely historical. But I have very little relationship to 18-21 year olds who aren’t interested in anarchy and their lack of interest was a breath of cold air. They just don’t give a fuck.
After Durango I drove for a very long time. Don’t do what I did. I did get to visit the workspace of P&L Printing which was very impressive.
Minneapolis – http://minnehahafreespace.org/
This is where my presentation fell apart. I started my presentation while still a touch out of breath from moving all the book boxes around, loading the tables, and settling in that I didn’t really take a good temperature of the room. As a result I read them all wrong. I met the Minneapolis I’ve always kind of feared.
As far back as I’ve traveled the punk and anarchist land I’ve always avoided Minneapolis. Maybe it was some combination of how aesthetically unattractive I found Profane Existence and the leftist anarchist propaganda from there but it just seemed like a town I should avoid. My preconceptions were largely shown to be inaccurate 3 years ago when I finally made it to town for a bookfair but I didn’t really get exposed to the aspects of the town I would have found most unpleasant that time.
This time I attribute my discombobulated presentation, my flippant tone, and a total lack of getting “the vibe” of the members of the crowd to a harsh lesson in how not to communicate with a group of people. I think the people who stuck around after the event enjoyed our discussion more but I got some intense feedback during the event itself. Most unpleasant was the person who jumped on my thin, partial, statement of hostility towards “the personal is political” type politics into an accusation that I think abuse should be silenced… Here is more on that topic.
My takeaway is that my presentation isn’t nearly complete enough to share in a potentially hostile political climate without some work…
Milwaukee – http://centerstreetfreespace.noblogs.org/
Totally nice conversation with a small group of nice people. A certain person is gone from this town and the town is improved by their absence. Fish. Pond. Size.
Chicago – http://theribcage.net/
This was a surprising event. It really felt (15 minutes in) like it would just be a nice chat with some newish friends but instead turned into a long engaged set of interactions where no one seemed butthurt by my outrageousness and many people seemed transfixed and interested in the connections between our recent past and current condition of “second tween”. I was really happy with the tenor of this event and look forward to seeing if there are any positive results from it.
Challenges so far…
Presentation or not?
As I’ve already said… I’m not sure how much it makes sense to make a political type presentation when you know few of the people and less of the political context of the place you are presenting.
One of the first surprising things, especially in the context of infrastructure, is that one of my assumptions is challenged immediately. Should I be talking to people at all. My thinking is that there is a continental anarchist space but that is not the experience of the people in many/most of the towns. I assume that I, and my projects are in discussion with people in other towns. One lesson has been is that this isn’t necessarily the case. In most towns people consider themselves to be alone, alone to deal with the problems of their towns, and not in a network of conversations that I assume we are in.
For me this is important because I’d say I largely derive my inspiration from the scattered projects and interventions that happen around the continent rather than from the Bay Area in particular. Obviously there are interesting/good things happening here but they aren’t (usually) as brave or innovative as the actions people take when they have nothing left to lose.
On the one hand, I truly enjoy spending long periods of time alone but on the other these drives are turning out to be too long to do alone, and then unload the boxes, and then set up the table, and then be entertaining for 3-5 hours, and then break everything down.
Perhaps I’m getting too old for this?
by aragorn in LBC
LBC Presents – a conversation about Conflict Infrastructure
A speaking tour with a cart full of books!
In the 1990s the internecine conflict between (North American) anarchists was not red vs green or insurrectionary vs platformist, but those who believed that anarchists should develop infrastructure vs those who believed that anarchists should build a (national) organization. The debates raged but more than that people practiced this difference, something one could do day-to-day.
This conflict isn’t the main one today. By and large, anarchist practices that are day-to-day are dismissed by other anarchists for being charity (FNB for example), or sub-cultural (infoshops or show spaces). The valorized project is an occasional one, whether an insurrection or a bookfair: happening no more often than once a year in a specific location. The rest of the time is for waiting or writing or traveling to somewhere else.
In some ways this is entirely understandable. Paying rent on a space can easily become an onerous focus rather than a small byproduct of inspiration. Feeding people, giving away literature, and devoting energy to strangers is inspiring only to a specific kind of person and that kind of person isn’t exactly the revolutionary subject. (Quite the opposite in fact, since the kind of person who derives satisfaction from the work is usually not the subject of the work itself.) This criticism (of the anarchist project as a separation from anarchy itself) can be crippling and usually entails the most enthusiastic people leaving projects (and often leaving town) leaving the people who continue with the long term project work feeling like the host at a party when the cool kids depart.
Perhaps another approach is that of the role of the anarchist (in projects and in a broader social context). On the one hand the anarchist is an ephemeral character, anonymous and without a home in this world. On the other the anarchist is your neighbor and the human face of a possible world, one where personal responsibility and direct action aren’t opposites. Up till now these two faces of the anarchist have faced in different directions and one part of our question is how to reconcile them. Can the neighborhood anarchists embrace conflict? Can the exalted anarchist consider the germinations under foot?
We will talk about our experiments in conflict infrastructure and, if we are successful, re-transmit an old idea. For anarchism (by the name) to survive the new cold wind of this world, we have to build something to warm our bones. For the stories of anarchy (dramatic and small) to be told, there has to a circle of friends, comrades, lovers, and frenemies. Conflict is the left hand of anarchy but something like home is the right. Let us sit together and warm our hands on these topics.
September 30 Northern AZ
October 1 SW CO
2nd Denver CO
4th Somewhere between KC and Chicago
5th – 6th Chicago
7th – 11th Michigan
13th – 18th Texas
19th – 20th NOLA
23rd – 24th Phoenix AZ
by aragorn in LBC
This year we did this 10 week death march where we published eight new titles in about 10 weeks. We’ve gotten rather good at all the wrangling, negotiating, and logistics necessary to do such an amount of work but that doesn’t mean it comes free. In a capitalist economy there are always costs and with our project is costs are usually human costs.
So for at least three months I have been teetering on the edge of total burn out. I’m not giving enough positive reinforcement for the things I’m doing to make up for the drudgery and the dealing with jerks all the time. I’m not saying this is a plea for positive feedback. Far back in my head I know that LBC is doing interesting work. I feel like our timing is off, and there would’ve been more of an audience for this project if we started it two, or five, years earlier than we did, but it took a long time to figure out how to publish aggressively and inexpensively.
Some teetering on the edge of total burnout and now comes eight days of anarchy. On the one hand this is a great time of year, many friends come into town, I do get to have inspiring conversations nearly every day, but this year I learned what the limits of human capacity is. I’ve suspected for a few years that aging was going to catch up to me at some point and this is that point.
This is very frustrating for me because I strongly believe that this is a worthwhile project and this is the time to do more with it and not less. It also should go without saying I have a fantastic group of people who help make the LBC project possible. But it’s not enough. At least today, at least by the measure of my current capacity, at least when I am feeling lowest. Today the trolls and ennui make me question the context in which this project exists. The project is worthwhile but the milieu might not be. I don’t know. Ask me in a week. Maybe I’ll have changed my mind by then.
The logic of the ad hominem
In a humorous recent thread I was accused of being the scion of riches. It’s hard to tell if the commenter is an actual enemy, a frenemy (that glorious combination of friend when they see you and whatever when they don’t), or just an educated troll the accusation is very interesting.
On one hand we (at LBC) are criticized fairly frequently for being a capitalist project, charging too much for our books, and basically just sucking because we are legal and Bloom-esque. This is the other side of that criticism. This says that our problem is some sort of “bad faith” due to our familial resources. Take this a step further and the accusation is that if you come from bad (aka money) then what you produce, what you make, is bad.
This right here, this impossible choice between being judged for failure and judged for success, is why anarchists never grow old. Why would they? Even a modicum of success (which I wouldn’t even say we’ve achieved) gets strangers to authoritatively declare you whenever, why succeed? Spend a couple years being a rebel, take some scalps, and walk the fuck away cleanly.
I used to think a lot about the origins of the people who are around. What the demographic story was of our scene. What the class composition of the people around me were and how it was a predictor of future behavior. But it was all bullshit. There are valid reasons for everyone to walk away. Those of us who stay behind aren’t particularly noble. We are just stubborn.
If I were accused of something I was not 20 years ago I would be in the trenches right now. I would not stand for the truth to not be told. I would not put up with something being wrong. I laugh at that person today. Things are wrong on the place, and nicer people are accused of worse things all the time.
Now I just think of the consequences, or the environment in which ad hominem attacks are honestly substituted for critical thinking, conversation, or dare I say it relationships.
Stomping out ashes
I think it’s safe to say that we are now in a moment of decline for the anarchist space. This is not due to failure of the Beautiful Idea but the failure of our imagination today. Naturally we have the extreme disadvantage of having zero resources and an impossible project but that didn’t stop the makers of nightmares from bringing this world into being and it shouldn’t stop us.
I am known, probably fairly, for being a naysayer of many projects. I am always mentioning the but of them rather than the heart of them. But that is not how I really feel. I more or less accept the nihilist should be someone whose heart has been broken one time too many and if it hasn’t been then it’s probably a shallow nihilism indeed. Which is to say that I am hopeful for new beginnings and projects over time. I continue to be doubtful about that thing that I call activism or right answers or solutions but I’m more inclined to shut my mouth about them than ever before.
Occupy was a fresh beginning. Clearly it doesn’t take much in the American context but the taking of space was a big deal. None of the rest of it matters all that much in my opinion. The rest of it easily falls within the spectrum of what a new radical can expect: meetings, romances, boredom, and maybe a little smashy smashy. But the taking of space, as bleak and mediocre as that space was, current something mundane into something fantastic, something worth repeating (over and over), something to crave.
But in the bizarre world of addiction you can’t really trust your instincts. Once it’s taken away and you have to live with absence is as if it never happened at all. There was never a moment where everything seemed possible. It was always emptiness and lack. It was always like today.
So it’s a moment of decline and that raises the question of what’s next. The Occupy Generation is now here and it’s different than the post-Seattle generation, the punks, or the New(ish) Left. It’s getting up to speed on identity politics, insurrectionary rhetoric, and all of the required reading of the 21st century but probably will not care all that much about what came before. This generation has its own orbits and logic.
So what’s next has to address the oldness and the newness in equal measure and without fixating on past correct answers (which weren’t either). Sure it involves the Internet but also has to involve some way to connect with people on a personal level, without irony or sarcasm or snarkiness. This personal connection is a lot of what people experienced that sticks with them after the occupations were done and it’s the thing that is impossible to maintain without that face-to-face interaction.
It’s also the thing that is damn near impossible for my generation to do. Generation X damn near invented survival sarcasm and I can’t imagine going back even now I know it’s killing the anarchist space and all social space. This isn’t just an (self) accusation of hipsterism but an assessment that Occupy demonstrated a flaw in my generations approach. If we want to take the Beautiful Idea seriously we have to leave space for the new earnest people to find their own way. Our jaundiced view, based in too much experience, is preventing the wide-eyed future from coming.
And frankly I think that this lesson comes to late. I think that the decline in the anarchist space is our own fault, it’s related to these attitude problems and others, and is probably not repairable. Instead we would do as we’ve done several times before (in my 20 odd years of experience) which is do as we do and wait for a complete cycle of new people to come around and stake their claim in the space. Perhaps our generation, or the attitude of our generation, will weaken enough to let them in.
At some point I became exhausted with the process of making new friends. This is perhaps telling sign of aging but I no longer feel like the honeymoon period of a relationship is the most important one anymore. It used to be that the first three hours, three weeks, three months of a new person, getting to know them, to love them, to obsess about them was the ultimate social experience. This corresponded nicely with the fact that I ended up making a new set of friends every three months, seemingly whether I wanted to or not.
The first sign of change was not, surprisingly, that it became more difficult for me to find new friends. Even after my decline from the cute plateau (age 16-24) I was still able to find new people. All of a sudden though I was no longer capable of being completely interested in all the things that people do. I blame radical politics for this, especially radical theory. I was so obsessed by my own self-education and the truth that I was finding the deeper I went down the rabbit hole theory that people who did not share my particular obsessions stopped being particularly interesting to me. You cannot balance a hunger for newness along with an obsession for depth.
I spend the next five years learning and relearning this lesson. Then I planted my feet and went deeper and deeper and deeper.
I recently had a recent post-cute plateau person, who I’ve known for at least five years, remind me that when I first met them I told them that they basically don’t exist for me until they’ve been around for years. Basically they asked me if they existed to me now, full well knowing that they had existed for some time. Although probably not the way that they wish that they had.
Lesson one: pick a piece of ground and stay there. It more or less goes without saying that if you come to the long haul in 10 years on a Tuesday evening I will be there also. Obviously I understand why people don’t like long haul, don’t like the ASG, or don’t like crowds but I’ve made a choice. Until something traumatic happens (which is obviously possible) I will be at this singular place having conversations about the things that I love with strangers and other people who at that point I will have known for two decades.
Lesson two: find some good people. Obviously I hate good people so here what I’m getting at is that I have spent way too much time having stupid conversations about bands, movies, and other people. Finding people who are interesting, compelling, interested is a serious fucking challenge. Don’t take it lightly. Don’t worry about the fact that it will not happen easily or quickly. Don’t take it too hard that you may not be as interesting as they are. That happens over time and will never happen if you surround yourself with the mundane.
Lesson three: find a mentor. Mentors are not elder wizards who are going to teach you alchemical wisd from a huge volume of recipes. One mentor might teach you to love better. Another by the martial art or an approach to martial arts. Another might just have a great attitude towards life. These people are your future comrades in arms. They are going to show you how to connect to others with the same interests as yourself. They are going to show you the extent of their abilities and vision which damn well better inform your own.
Lesson four: have patience.
This is a very busy time for us. In three weeks we will begin our annual eight days of anarchy celebration. This is our chance to spend a series of days and evenings together conspiring, gossiping, and decompressing. I have more to say but it is closer to the events but it goes without saying that I will be happy to see everyone come and happy to see everyone go.
The last few months have been filled with what I’m calling the 10 week death march. Eight projects in 10 weeks. We are just about done with all of the projects so I will list them.
- Stirner’s critics
- defacing the currency – new writings by Bob Black
- between predicates, war: theses on contemporary struggle by the Institute for Experimental Freedom
- anvil number four
- The 2013 LBC catalog
- Anarchism and violence – Severino Di Giovanni in Argentina
- Feral Revolution
- let’s destroy work. let’s destroy the economy
Fuck. The volume of content just in this list is enough for a year of reading and engagement. I’m going back to sleep.