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?
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 General
Herein we will begin to argue against the revolutionary importance of friendship. Will not argue that friendship isn’t a fine and wonderful thing for daily life, for the eating of brunch, or the consumption of beverages. This is all well and good, do what one will, live your life.
What we will argue against is the way in which the affinity group model that has been abandoned generally (although not universally) in anarchist circles has instead migrated into an unconscious way of life. This migration has caused the conflation of social circles (aka groups of friends) with sharing political values (aka the party) with the result that anarchists (and the ASC who predate on our energy) have become countercultural against their better instincts.
To put this into different terms, the conflation of friendship with politics, if it is caused by conscious agency, is done so either by those who prefer to “just hang out” but also want to believe that they and their friends are conscious social agents OR by those who have a specific political project and want to keep it relevant by having it also be a place where social needs can be met.
If the conflation is not conscious, as in, it merely reflects the spectating nature that radicals have over their own lives, then it goes a long way towards explaining the increasing isolation of radical groupuscles. Our lifeways cannot be attractive outside our capacity to grow our social cliques beyond themselves. It is not that we are not desirable, it is that we are choosing the wrong way to communicate that desirability. Being sexy rebels isn’t nearly enough to affect the kind of attraction we would need to confound even the MSM view of us as dangerous outsiders.
Of course this is not some backhanded way to form or reform some type of anarchist political party. I am asking a question I don’t have the answer to.
Indeed I am suspicious about the way in which this friend-comrade indistinction has occurred. Sure, I can point to a reaction against the new left or organizationalism or the desirability of true affinity or the writing of Tiqqun, but the lack of experimentation after Occupy is suspicious. This is the time to change up, not fall back to pattern. Relying on the cool kids to decide what comes next has obviously had limited returns (unless you’re a cool kid and your goals are limited to, by definition, individual social rewards). Perhaps it is time to stop being coy and declare a goal or two.
by aragorn in personal
I’m going to try to use a web posting to have a developed conversation about why I keep doing what I’m doing. Why anarchy? Sure, but also why projects, (anti)politics, or anything that doesn’t look like a quiet, satisfied life. One that doesn’t look like some satisfied combination of eating good food, consuming interesting media, and having friends.
Here is the posting, it’s by someone I’d like to consider a friend, and I think it’s a fairly well represented point of view. Check it out, I’ll wait.
What Jenn has posted is a grab bag of topics that include “the scene”, friendships, isolation, and values. This list isn’t dissimilar from my own when I think about the same topic but perhaps in different order in combination. But let’s start slow.
Q: Why do you keep doing the things that you do? Why anarchy?
A: I still have it deep excitement about the possibility I see around me for anarchy (and by extension what I despise about this world) to explode. When I see the light turn on in the strangers eye I feel inspired. I believe in collisions (by which I mean the collision of intelligences, perspectives, and tension) and continue to want to go faster and from different angles. This guttural passion moves me even though it looks nothing like it did 20 odd years ago when I began to practice it.
But you’ll notice this passion has little to do with other people, with victory conditions, or something other people experience as a social scene. This is for good reason. For starters, I’m not particularly well-liked in most social scenes. I might be liked by a few people who participate in scenes or are accepted as a background character but by-and-large those who connect their politics to a series of friendships, especially in so far as those friendships are static (aka the party), usually have a different project then me.
When I was in Europe a couple years ago this distinction was made clear to me. What I perceived was that the people who you did political work with were not necessarily the same people that you were friends with. Obviously this is inflicted by what politics means for anarchists, by the fact that I mostly was visiting with older people, and that I wasn’t aware of all the personal histories in the political groups I saw but it did seem like a principal. The principle was that one should not conflate friendships and (my word) project work unnecessarily. The politics come first and the friendship results over time. Fair enough. In the US the opposite model is in effect. Friendship is seen as the highest calling and friendship-like activity (eating, sex, living together) has a much higher value than any other project work. Friendship is the project, it’s usually considered a political one, it is also usually a failure.
Sidebar: My sobriety (especially when it was of the VSxE variety) has always informed my friendships. To put it differently, many of the people around me did not seem to have a lot of agency when it came to the people they hung out with. The priority always seemed to not be the people-in-and-of-themselves but the activity those people did. If one’s desired state was of intoxication then the personalities with whom you intoxicated were secondary at best.
A sure sign that I am aging is that instead of my personal crises being embodied by a burning bridge or some line in the sand between me and some one else, my current crisis was about deflation. More than any other time in my life, I have married my interests and most of my waking hours to this ridiculous, all encompassing anarchic project. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the world hasn’t shifted on its axis. Just because I have changed doesn’t mean that the world has.
This year I crisis was triggered by what resulted from all the work we did making 8 days of anarchy a success. The result of course was not much of anything. My perception is that a couple hundred people had a pretty great party. Lots of text was shifted on the Internet. That’s it. Nothing else of consequence came out of the months of preparation.
This year marks something like 13 years of my participation in the BASTARD conference. We’ve been doing the 8 days of anarchy for eight years or so. The carnival aspect of March in the Bay Area is firmly in place. We know how to do this. But do we know how to do anything else? Are we just enabling a kind of sophisticated party that we don’t even feel comfortable participating in? And if this is the case and what really differentiates our work from the activists (with big hearts and little capacity to see how small the results are of their work) we criticize?
I remember when I was a little boy getting a chance to hold on to an expensive camera, specifically an old-style zoom lens. I recall looking into the lens of turning it and being fascinated by the aperture closing and opening in the seemingly smooth way but but also clearly mechanical. Often times when I’m thinking through past, current, future projects I recall the amazing physical construction of this lens. It seems so clear after all is said and done how things were said and done but most of the time it’s impossible to get that clarity. Most of the time we spend turning the lens in an attempt to get focus but it’s not quite right.
Which is to say that my self-criticism is that I all too often flying over the content itself. We (LBC and friends) are in a fucking renaissance of new and interesting anarchist material. There are more new, interesting, and provoking things happening in the anarchist space than in any time over the past two decades. The difference is that they aren’t necessarily sensational or hero driven. It isn’t about some particular “bad boy” of anarchy land, some marketing inspired content-light sensation, or another moralist screed about how everyone else is doing it wrong. We still have this drama if that’s what excites you but we also have hard thinking about the relevance of militant action, the beginnings of anarchic critique of identity, and beautiful stories about human sized lives.
Obviously I am biased. I published much of this material and would like to think of myself as part of the storytelling that I am also inspired by. But it’s this work that has helped me escape the crisis of deflation. It’s not the social scene or my so-called friends would inspired me to continue doing the things I do. It is not meta. It is the thing itself, the words, the potential, and the explosive possibility of what putting these words into practice looks like that has brought me back.
What I’m working on
- Attentat – http://pistolsdrawn.org/announcing-attentat/
- I want to be a Suicide Bomber – https://www.facebook.com/pages/SIFIR-I-Want-to-be-a-Suicide-Bomber/278935228807324
- LBC Salon
- LBC Q3 Outreach party (TBA)
- Free from Civilization
- The masters tools (working title)
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.
by aragorn in personal
and not end up living a life of lonliness and desolation
I am a known bridge burner. This means that on several opportunities throughout my life I made choices that meant I lost friends. Not lost friends in that I got to pick them up again later, but lost friends in the sense that people who used to like me and want to be around me no longer wanted to be around me. When I say I have burned bridges I mean I have been entirely responsible for ending friendships that didn’t have to end.
This used to be a point of pride. I took commitments to too many things like a type of oath. A type of modern demonstration of an old value system. An extension of this system was the idea, to put it tritely, that I was willing to draw clear lines: between good and bad behavior, between healthy and not healthy, and between me and others.
Obviously at some point I had developed a reputation. It was and is a deserved reputation. Terms like arrogant and asshole have plagued me for well over 20 years. These terms have made it easy for people to watch the bridges between us burn to cinders. But we’ll get into that in a bit.
The worst of this whole phenomenon has to do with loss and the fact that I am currently experiencing a great loss. One that I cannot share because everyone who I should be able to share it with his on the other side of the bridge. A burned out, irreconcilable, devastating bridge.
I briefly met Sara (nee Mike) Kirsch in the late 80s and became close friends, or at least friends, in the early 90s. I lived with Sarah for several years in the mid-90s. We stayed close or “urban close” for the next few years and more or less lost close contact with each other about 10 years ago. We would still see each other a few times a year but due to a major conflict having nothing to do with he and I haven’t seen each other in five or so years.
Like many other people, my relationship with Sarah was a relationship with hardcore music. Sarah always represented the peak or the greatest intersection between politics and hardcore music. Around Sarah, and to a looser extent the HeartattaCk scene, was the West Coast equivalent of what I imagined was the rich and mature political hardcore music scene of Washington DC.
I traveled for a few weeks along a similar set of cities with John Henry West during their 1993 tour. During that time I fell in love with the conversations, music, and the people of this imaginary place that, as it turned out, I was only a visitor in. Sarah was central to this place. He represented somebody who totally disavowed their bourgeois background and meaningfully demonstrated what living for and in political music could be. Living with him for the two years that I did was an important rite of passage in my own life.
Sarah was also deeply important in terms of how I understood veganism. How it related to straight edge, is related to a political practice, and is an intentional act of eating delicious food. My own transformation away from veganism was largely possible because I no longer had access to interesting, engaged vegans who didn’t repulse me.
An equally important rite of passage for me personally was leaving the 20th Street apartment that I shared with Sarah (and others). I didn’t enjoy the Mission enough to turn down the opportunities that became available to me in the East Bay. More than that though, I was ready to challenge what I was beginning to understand as a form of orthodox thinking by members of the hardcore scene, including Sarah. Although I didn’t understand it that way at the time.
The great success of the political hardcore scene was the linkage of subculture to something bigger/greater. The sense that our potlucks were also an expression of a political practice, that shows weren’t just about music, was a deep challenge for me personally. Seemingly the next level of this challenge was a sort of dropping out from the capitalist system. Of course it wasn’t, albums were still purchased, rent was still paid, shitty jobs were still worked, but the idea that we were part of an underground and that meant being broke, all the time, was pervasive. But this wasn’t as important for me as it was for people who grew up in the suburbs. People like Sarah and the vast majority of the hardcore scene.
I was challenging the idea that the best/only way to fight capitalism was to do it as a destitute victim of capitalism. Obviously this is an overblown statement but the nature of radical politics is that subtle complicated personal issues tend to become bumper stickers by way of communicating them to others. As I was getting skills with the intention to use them also get a paycheck I was bumper stickered, not at first, not brazenly, is a sellout. This shallow understanding of how to live in this world and how to fight against this world confirmed that I had finally, painfully, outgrown the hardcore scene.
I wasn’t able to attend Sarah’s memorial. To do so would’ve hurt one person who really didn’t deserve it and probably would’ve ended badly generally. That bridge is gone. There are still people who don’t realize how much I miss them, how much I miss hardcore praxis, and how this burnt bridge is not about them. They probably expected to see me at the memorial but it was impossible.
I used to burn bridges and was proud for doing so. While it’s too late for my childhood, for a few hundred friends I’ve had over the years, I have more-or-less stopped burning bridges. They almost never represented the clear line, or the transversal of a line, to anyone else other than me. At great personal cost I have finally got it through my thick skull that I don’t have to sacrifice personal relationships every time I want to make a principled stand.
Today my life is filled with people. On a weekly basis I talked to more people than I used to talk to in a month. My life is no longer constrained by job, house, Facebook, or family. I have the kind of relationships I hoped to have when I was young. My friends and collaborators are interested, engaged, and critical, by which I mean lovingly hostile, towards me and my projects. I used to burn bridges because I believed that principled behavior required it. Now I realize that things are not that simple anymore and neither am I.
I* had an amazing year in 2012. So much so that the kind of perfectly normal winter induced funk that I seem to be in seems a little bit embarrassing. Here is a little bit about the year and a bit more about the future.
In 2011 I took a three month trip to Europe. Even though it was lonely and uncomfortable it was also life altering and inspiring. Prior to the trip I had been thinking more seriously about publishing. About how to do it in a more meaningful and affordable way and how to grow the umbrella project that a few of us were a part of. By about half way through the trip I had a pretty good idea what the plan was all that was left was implementation.
2012 was going to be a year about publishing. Publishing books. It took about 4 months to figure out what equipment to buy, how to use it, and what titles we were going to start the project with. By December 1st 2011 I knew that the first book we were going to put together was going to be by me and figured I knew what the first 3-4 titles of the year were.
In this write up I’m going to talk about the process of putting these books together, some nitty-gritty book production stuff, and perhaps wrap it up with some thoughts about why I feel more like a wrung out rag than a proud paterfamilias and why I go into 2013 with as more doubts than answers.
Here are the books we (LBC: Ardent, LBC Books, Repartee, GA, etc) will have officially publishing in 2012.
- Occupy Everything: Anarchists in the Occupation Movement 2009-2011 – edited by Aragorn!
- Queer Ultraviolence: An Anthology of Bash Back!
- Freedom: My Dream – The autobiography of Enrico Arrigoni
- Theory of Bloom – by Tiqqun
- Uncivilized: The best of Green Anarchy Magazine
- Crime Thought – by Alden Wood
- Treatise on Etiquette for the younger generations – Raoul Vaneigem
- Anarchy 101 – edited by dot matrix
- After Post-Anarchism – by Duane Rousselle
- Novatore – translations by Wolfi Landstreicher
- Anarchist International
Fuck. I am not sure how much I want to go into these books (beyond what I’ve already done in this blog) but perhaps I’ll do more of a crit/self-crit for your all’s amusement.
What we did right
The model worked. The idea of publishing anarchist material frequently (a book a month) seemed a little ridiculous this time last year. We had no idea what we were doing three months into 2012 and half these titles weren’t even sparkles in our eyes. The idea that to be doing this meant increasing the pressure, of our own capacity, of our relationships, of our processes, etc, was the right one.
If our desire was to live anarchy, as a vibrant, challenging, set of ideas and people, then publishing anarchist material (propaganda, biographies, theory, and collections) is a real way to do it. I would be hard pressed to think of much anarchist material that I am interested in that didn’t pass through our lens this year. I often say that there are two different kinds of anarchists. There are the ones whose anarchism ended in 1937 and want to try again harder and anarchists who were born in 1968. If we are a publisher of the second kind of anarchy then this year demonstrated (to me at least) that there are legs on this. I can’t wait to see where they take us next.
We didn’t taken the ankle-biting criticisms too seriously. Obviously there are a variety of real/not-real things that can be said about some of our choices (paper, indexes, covers, etc) and some times at the moment they are uttered they can really get me down but by-and-large I feel pretty good about balancing the criticisms we have received in terms of their heat rather than their smoke.
We didn’t burn too many bridges. Given how nasty our little world is I can definitely say that we built 3-4 times as many bridges as we burned this year. This was perhaps due to some maturity on our part but it also due to the fact that our project is primarily about delivering other people’s messages to the world. The effort we are spending is making things that are not financially viable but are meaningful to us and an expression of our friends (or comrades, as the case may be) has finally paid off. Obviously we aren’t perfect and are kind of jerks… but I can finally say with no irony that the work speaks for itself.
What we did wrong
We rely far too much on the milieu. I love the milieu** but it is too closed of a circle. Even as that circle has expanded (thanks Occupy!) it demonstrates all the weaknesses of self-definition. There is a ton to criticize in “the scene” but for us, as a project, we have to start reaching outside of our comfort zone. As to how to do that in a meaningful and long-view way… Good question!
Too many men. I am increasingly concerned that our project, especially as a publisher of anarchist books, has become a sausage party. We only have two books (although there are two anon titles and one multi-author collection) that aren’t duderific. I think this issue is going to take years to truly resolve but that one of our first steps is to pull back and think about what our goal is. If the goal is to embrace and publish the world of anarchist ideas then books have a ton of embedded problems. I have a critic who often lambasts me for my (seeming) embrace of the long form essay (which the book is obviously an even longer form) as being out of touch with the attention span of the modern human. Even though the criticism is also a ridiculous one (since I’m also fairly married to the web short form) there is a big question that seems right to me. Money is not our motivation. If chaos, or anarchy-wearing-chaos-formalwear, is our motivation how can we better transmit this? Somewhere in the answer to this question is also the answer to dude question.
We did not take enough risks. Being that we are self-funded (aka broke) we are also kind of bullet-proof in a way that other publishers are not. While it would be possible for someone to sue me into financial oblivion, I owe so much more than I have that it would probably be harder on them than me. More importantly it wouldn’t stop us from publishing! As a result of this we can, and should, be taking more risks, doing more illegal and inappropriate publishing projects. This year we published Treatise (an affordable version of Revolution of Everyday Life) and Words (a send up of the IAS’s Lexicon series) but this barely scraped the surface of what we should be doing. There are priests to be strangled by beauracratic entrails…
What is next
Books of course! In addition there is going to be a push into video (long and short form), music (?!), deeper web content, e-books, etc. 2013 is going to be a bit more focused on reaching outside of our safe(ish) space and into the cold, hard world that doesn’t care one bit about what we are thinking about. Anti-politics for the masses and shit.
Financially we have to figure out a way for more people to participate in the project. It is strange to think that this makes any sense at all (in the quid pro quo sense of the word) but becoming an accomplice of LBC means getting everything that we do (something like 25-30 projects in 2012) and supporting the fact that we are doing it. If we could cover our burn (rate, the amount we have to spend a month) with our accomplices it would go a long way towards making the project more (personally) sustainable.
I guess related to income is how connected this project is to a rich and fulfilling emotional life. While intellectually I couldn’t be happier I find that emotionally devoting so many hours of my day (and life) to this thing is exhausting. I am exhausted. I am exhausted by the bad faith and criticism-that-isn’t. I am exhausted by the frenemies. I am exhausted by the fact that I have made these choices and have no one to blame but myself. I am exhausted by blaming myself. 2013 is the year where I figure out how to convert some of the intellectually fulfilling aspects of this crazy thing called anarchy into something healthy.
Maybe I’ll just go back to Europe or something.
* I want to apologize for the use of I throughout this article (and in general). Often times I personify the LBC project even though there are a half a dozen people who are also as committed to the project as I am. I do this for a variety of reasons but to list them… a desire to not be or seem representational, a desire to take responsibility rather than hide behind an institution, because I’m the only one who tends towards writing about the project at all, because marketing is about people, because I am alienated from my individual desires and only have project desire now, because I’m fucked up.
** Obviously it is love and hate but if love is a decision about who you want to live and die with… I’m still here.
by admin in personal
You are principled independent, with a dark side
Your responses indicate a desire to escape from your troubles, and a fear that this action will destroy what you’ve already achieved.
These conflicting emotions sometimes cause you to be abnormally irritable and impatient when your needs are not met. Your concentration is also impacted, often leaving you feeling groggy or agitated.
The ensuing anxiety usually leaves you feeling vulnerable. As a result, you become less affectionate with people you care about. You occasionally become caustic and even needlessly cruel.
This stems from your own insecurity and fear of failure. Leveraging your ability to remain strong in the face of adversity — an ability you’ve proved to possess in the past — is the key to your emotional satisfaction.
You have a strong opinion of your own abilities, which is deserved. You are sharp and intellectually discerning when the need arises. In times of great stress, you have the will power to make difficult decisions.
by aragorn in General
A self-criticism. I find terrible, mocking humor to be enjoyable. I laugh at others expense and find the foibles and flaws of my rivals and political adversaries to be particular amusing. I will, in all engaged interest, sit for hours detailing flaws and imperfections in others, hopefully to comedic effect. I am not going to attempt to caveat this trait by saying that I will laugh just as hard when the flaw being exposed is mine, although this is true. I just find, and I don’t love this about myself, that cruel humor is my favorite.
But I don’t take it seriously. My actual feelings about rivals, myself, or flawed activity is complicated by all of the qualities that ones feelings usually are. I am as likely to despise an adversary as I am a so-called ally. The qualities that I like in others is not related to my own particular preference towards cruelty.
In this sense I understand a lot of the motivation of trolls and troll culture. When we are powerless to impact the world in such a way where we can see the impact of our blows it makes sense to attack things that get injured. We are curious creatures that deeply desire to see our experiments flourish. The cruelty we inflict on the world is unrelated to the humans we inflict it on. This disconnection has obviously been exacerbated by the Internet and the seeming lack of consequence for cruelty but we (as in humans) have long since been disconnected and done horrible things (to the world & each other) as a result of this social unpluggedness.
While I still find considerable pleasure in a similar type of cruelty I have to acknowledge that I have the incredible privilege of not ever having to do it online. I have people who find the same things funny as I do around me all the time. I have constructed a life where these pleasures feature centrally. But the corporealness of them is most important. Cruelty in isolation would have long since twisted me into the ineffective pathetic creatures I host on various websites and blogs. I understand the troll and despise them because they are what I could have been if not for a combination of luck, will, and being just a bit too old to have become trapped by the Internet for my social self-understanding.
Is all PR good?
I recently have been alerted (thanks everyone!) to an actual IRL troll of me. Correction. This is not a cruel attack done for the lulz (or whatever) but someone who believes they are doing what they are doing in the name of anarchist activists (TM) everywhere. Putting aside the very sad (and real) story of this particular individual the difference between them and a troll, between cruelty and activism, between attack and denouncement, is a central concern for me right now.
Perhaps this is a statement of our time but this is also a way to orient our conflictual capacity in real terms. We can not reasonably talk about movements of the liberation of humans against the oppressors, or perhaps we can but we don’t. Instead our fights are microscopically small and our victories are even smaller. We talk about abstractions that we oppose and our actions in regard to them is very small (aka break window, write manifest). We have an IRC argument with someone and in turn hack their email, delete their memories, and publicly advertise their home address (true story) and call our victory total. Our capacity to hurt individuals is inversely proportional to the importance of doing the same. Bad people, especially bad radicals, have little to do with the condition of the world, the problems of daily life, or our incapacity to do anything about it. Or perhaps the opposite is true, perhaps bad people are directly related to capacity.
In a related story I recently corresponded with someone who is being publicly trolled and they turned to me as someone to fix the problem. The inappropriate mention of their name was a source of concern and they feared that the deceit would be taken as truth. This is real. It is also false.
I’ll try to break this down a little bit more. Assuming the context of an open web forum (which are understandably becoming less common or perhaps more self-selecting) there are a number of concerns about bad information. One is the fact that a (self-selecting) reader might confuse the bad information with truth. They might think that X is a criminal (as a neutral way of discussing everything from the smashy to the genocide) because someone says as much, signs a post admitting to such, or is accused of being one by a convincing story. Two is association. If X is put into the same frame as criminality, in a web forum, then future discussions about criminality could very well include X as a related topic. Third is the idea that X and criminality may have a relationship but as presented is either a misrepresentation or a slander. Finally is the idea that outside of the discussion itself is the future. Search engines are forever. If X is associated in whatever way to criminality (or an open web forum) it means that X doesn’t have control over their own story. This has implication in everything from legal cases (or the States research interests) to jobs.
While this is often much ado about nothing it does put the power of representation into the hands of people who often don’t have any skin in the game. I, for instance, haven’t used my full legal name in any anarchist contexts but I have an old friend who used it to advertise for an event I participated in in the 90s. Several mentions of this event still linger on the front page of a search for my full legal name. I have attempted to contact, and resolve, this concern for several years to no avail. The people who get the emails associated with the top level domains just have no motivation, or interest, or process to protect my desire to not have my legal life associated with my anarchist life. In my case I have had to start the slow, ambivalent, process of changing my legal name as the only real way to sever my future (hostile) relations with employers or stalkers with my oh-so-naive past.
For younger people, for Facebook users, this problem will only get worse.
You may ask what my decision was regarding the trolled person? The other side of this discussion for me relates to the role of being a public person (a “personality”). I realize that talking to reporters, writing a book, or doing presentation shouldn’t necessitate the signing of some sort of unstated contract but for me, it kind of does. It means that you are choosing to associate yourself publicly with something. In my case it is anarchy, in another persons case it may be poetry, or Pokemon, or whatever. If you are public it means you have to accept the fickle, fickle love that the public has to offer. For some people this love means being accepted as a respected public intellectual or activist, for others it means being pilloried and reviled. As far as I’m concerned there is a choice, a willful act, that moves you from a private person to a public person. I am on the public side of this choice, as are many of my friends, but as a result I have had to suffer indignity and attack along side the (positive) attention and respect. I think it is disingenuous for other public personalities to think they should only get the pluses without getting the minuses so I refuse to coddle this kind of behavior. I think this is grist for the mill (see 1-3 on the list above).
But, and this is a big but, I don’t think it should last forever. I think a scandal, most every scandal, should last for the five minutes (or ten seconds) that it deserves and then that we should all move on. Search engines don’t allow for this so my decision regarding the trolled was to remove all mention of them after the scandal (such as it was) was aired.
This whole situation was a useful exercise for me because I much prefer my policy decisions to hinge on a different axis (or two if possible) than just “this is the policy” so putting the temporal axis into this decision was helpful. It also helped that the trolled came in good faith AND that I got good advice from an adviser… but this is how small decisions often times end up being big ones.
I’ll wrap this up. The earth is filling up. Many of the horrific things I despise about the existing order are, from the perspective of capital p Power, crowd control. There are too many of us, we are anonymous, and becoming invisible is most peoples alienated reality. Trolling, and the cruelty of the troll, is a kind of care too. The troll is paying attention, it may be a negative attention, but can you blame them? The troll is the most reviled of creatures in a world filled with the despised, the despicable, the tortured, and the lonely. It’s a funny way to end this but this is one of the few times where I believe in the healing power of the sun, by which I mean not only fresh air, exercise, and being outdoors but the brightness of people in a room, disagreeing and sharing a mammalian moment or two.