by aragorn in LBC
I am not writing very much right now. I wish I was.
I am so entirely mired in the day-to-day workflow of LBC that it has become nearly impossible to keep track of all the details or to look past them. I want to keep a record of this work (both types) though so I am going to try to do a monthly “report back” on the status of the project for your (and my) enjoyment.
I’ll talk about our setup and our February title to start this out…
I have been publishing stuff for a while now. I wrote my first pro-situ zine about twenty years ago now (wow) and it’s been about nine years since I started my involvement with Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed (and two since ending it). We published (as Ardent Press) our first book almost five years ago.
I guess I have decided that anarchist publishing is what I have decided I am going to do with my time and energy but how? On the basest level I have been concerned (to put it lightly) that with print dying that the publishing of anarchist material was going to lose all corporality. Obviously I am on top of that too but there is something not replaceable about print. Moreover the Internet has shown itself to be a poor mechanism to weaponizing ideas. It is great for the lulz and the information churn but it isn’t a place to geologically layer the knowledge, discussions, and style that forms awesome (aka peers).
Moreover the book we published in 2011 was expensive. So expensive that it made be very nervous about doing another like it. I believe it’ll make back the money spent on it over time but the lesson (perhaps wrong) I took away from that book is that obscure anarchist material will not sell well quickly led me to reconsider the project of anarchist publishing. Sidebar: While Enemies hasn’t been an incredible seller it has been an unqualified success on every other measure.
How do we publish interesting things (aggressively) while not losing our shirts (financially)? The short and long answer is that we bought the equipment to make future books (for about the cost of three Enemies). Obviously this wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t work a shitty office job for three years but I did and it was. Add to the mix another member to the LBC team who was willing to “take ownership” (which refers to PRDM which I’ll talk about another time) of the LBC print shop and we were off to the races (figuratively).
On the plus side: We can now publish interesting things.
On the minus side: We are now operating a print shop in addition to trying to publish books.
Here are some details.
First Book – Occupy Everything
I am not going to go into too much detail about Occupy Everything: Anarchists in the Occupy Movement 2009-2011. I decided in early December to edit a book by the end of January. It was very challenging work to make something that was balanced and (I believe) will stand the test of time while being interesting to a non-anarchist audience.
The book did immediately vindicate the LBC printing project in that we made a variety of mistakes that we were able to repair in a short period of time. We can now practice iterative publishing and printing which makes me nearly giddy. It wasn’t until March that I feel I became a pro but January was the start of learning pre-press the hard way.
I should mention another thing? With the equipment in hand it is our intention to publish one anarchist* book a month in 2012 (and maybe beyond). Occupy Everything was the first book.
Second Book – Queer Ultraviolence: A Bash Back! Anthology
I’ll give more detail to this project because it was a monster.
Final page count: 430.
This includes over 250 pages of Communiques (a sizable portion being so insider as to be indecipherable outside of the particular people being talked about), 150 pages of theory, and a new introduction and conclusion. But the content (text on page) wasn’t the difficult part of this project. Everything else was.
In a moment of insanity I agreed to let the book be design heavy (designed by the same lunatic behind Politics is not a Banana) which meant a two sided color cover (With the gloss on the inside. More on this later.), color inserts, and a color timeline of events.
This turned out to be the easy part (or at least until we tried to bind a book to it) as the (outsourced) printer just treated the inside of the book (the glossy part) as the outside of the book.
Here is the matte outside cover (pretty, no?)
The real difficulty came when we tried to glue the book bloc to the cover. Glossy (inside) cover + paper = cover + paper (in a pile on the floor). Not good!
This means that we ended up having to sandpaper the inside spine of every single book we put together. Insane!
Here is an unlucky grinder of gloss
Another issue with the cover is that due to the aesthetics of the full color inside cover a simple crease on the corner of the book bloc would not do. We ended up having to do a special crease (I forget the term, but basically a hinge an 1/8th of an inch from the edge of the book corner) to preserve the inside image. This wasn’t as frustration (by a long shot) as the sandpapering.
You can see the inserts here (although they’ve changed to full color porn on the left side)
The inserts obviously make this book “more special” and pretty and whatnot but have added intensity to the production process. For starters they have to be manually inserting INTO the book bloc (prior to binding… obviously) but the more challenging (especially for the persnickity people) issue has been that the printing surface has been offset compared to the usual page because of the way that the “full bleed” and printing process plays out.
It is hard to visualize this but in our usual pre-press process we rotate and flip our text so that the paper cut that creates a binding surface ALSO is the hidden cut. This is good for aesthetics and paper conservation but not applicable to the color spreads (although it could be and perhaps will be on the next run).
Mostly the timeline was a requirement of the editing process (without it the pile of Communiques are harder to contextualize) but ended up being a bit of an albatross on the project. At some point (when we decided not to bind it to the book) I contemplated blowing it up to a more proper poster size, but that quickly passed (mostly because it wasn’t going to be wise $).
Doing stuff is hard
I’ll try to do this once a month, just to give people who are book/print nerds a little insight into our world. There are tons of topics to cover but obvious the QU:BB! book represents the high point of design, volume, and insanity. I doubt we’ll do another book nearly this crazy this year. Perhaps never.
I am not going to focus on big lessons or negatives because, basically, there aren’t any. I love anarchists, I love the creative process, and I want others to share in this love. I am getting to do very hard work to make more sharing possible. I hope this loving work makes the best weapons ever. I hope I live long enough to see these weapons used against those I hate.
Let me start with public matter that I should have attended to earlier. My big projects, the ones I was so cagey about all fall, have been announced. These include…
- The formation of a new publishing project LBC Books
- The announcement of three new books to be published by this new project (with 2 more to be announced, with dates, within the next week or so)
- One of those books is edited by me. It has already been released
Falling under the category of “no good deed goes unpunished” the announcement of the new book was met with scorn and dismissal (although not by anyone who wanted me to know their name). The fascinating part of this, for me, was a new line of attack. Aragorn! is too powerful and should stop doing things. Giving this the full benefit of the doubt (which I don’t) this criticism is long overdue. Anarchists have become lazy. I don’t blame AK Press or Crimethinc for producing all the literature that deserves to be read but the attitude that because nothing we can do is good then we should do nothing at all. Obviously most everything I do…
Quick Sidebar: It is absolutely ridiculous for me to say that “I” do anything at all. I can think of 3-10 people (and one in particular) who I absolutely depend on for every public project I do. I say “I” mostly because I feel like I have prepared myself for the slings and arrows and want to honor my accomplices privacy and different capacities. Not everyone wants to be called out on the Internet, or in stupid email chains, or on forums, etc…
return: Most everything I do is bad. Is corrupted by capitalism, alienation, and editorial control. I’d like to say that the authorial control I try to give people is enough, but of course it isn’t. I wrestle with demons with clear motivation. I believe that an anarchy worth my time is one vibrant, powerful, and bottled with genie(s). I believe this thing is worth making my time worth something so I trudge on.
I am touched by corruption and blow it off because thinking in terms of the sacred and the unholy is exactly the Christian problem that makes life unlivable. I despise Christians and the forces of boring, boring, life. I want to fight them all but my (and our) weapons are dull and rusty. We anarchists have not risen to greatness and have no one to blame but ourselves.
The transformation of the world by the productive forces was bound slowly to realise the material conditions of total emancipation, having first passed through the stage of the bourgeoisie. Today, when automation and cybernetics applied in a human way would permit the construction of the dream of masters and slaves of all time, there only exists a socially shapeless magma which blends in each individual paltry portions of master and slave. Yet it is from this reign of equivalent values that then new masters, the masters without slaves, will emerge.
Personal Stuff: The slurring of my speech seems to be getting a bit worse. As some of you may remember I had a few brain aneurysms a few years ago which have mostly left me none-the-worse-for-wear but does seem to have impacted my speech. It usually only happens when I’m tired, or under-caffeinated, or feeling blah but this past week the issue has noticeably worsened. It seems to be impacted by my choice of words. Certain vowel combinations or word choices and my lazy tongue keels over.
It is easy to get troubled by this. Along with my typing hand this is my main output into the world. Without it I will be misunderstood or perhaps worst, ignored. It is a wonderful irony that just as I am finding a voice, in the publishing sense of the word, I might also be losing it.
by aragorn in General
After my trip to Europe I came back to a couple of different existential challenges. This was put succinctly during a conversation with T in Greece who responded to my question “What was your biggest criticism of American Anarchists?” by saying simply “You all act like you are in High School” and as unfair as this is, it is also dead on. We are the Columbine Kids in the worlds largest high school (I doubt even China has this issue to the same extent). We are by-and-large lost & confused by the scale of our national identity and the smallness of the people around us who even seem sane. Who understand that being a dick waving winner doesn’t mean anything other than you scored the last touchdown. The scale of this place, of the engine that won WWII, of the military that still polices the world even though our debt burden is, per capita, among the highest in the world is daunting. We are daunted.
As far as my people are concerned, I think a useful first step to addressing this problem would be to stop considering that we (US nation-state residents) are even in the same country (cultural unit) at all. Instead we are in four different countries. We could call them West Turtle, East Turtle, Middle Turtle and South Turtle (with the place above us probably being broken up into NW, N & NE Turtle itself).
To come at this from a straight anarchist-who-travels-around-alot perspective this makes a lot of sense from a sectarian perspective. To be wholly unfair the East is Red@, the West is Green@, the Middle is practical @ & South don’t care about such things (although, tbh I don’t know the South nearly as well as I know the other 3 countries). This might be a confusing shorthand for anarchists, as we despise the Nation-State (aka countries) and would work towards the abolition of the entire political entity called the US of A if we had the power to do so. But if we had that power would we create a United Federation of Anarchy that was contained by the same boundaries? I think not. I think the scale of another world, without nation-states would be much, much smaller. Probably smaller than the broad cultural units I am implying here, perhaps much smaller (as I am not sure I live in the same place as Los Angeles).
Short that power, we can at least admit that our region (the West) experiences Anarchy in distinct ways from the other regions. This is demonstrated by the General Strike of Oakland, Occupies on the West Coast, and our general attitude towards Federations and the like (as seen from a several decades out perspective).
I’ll end with a pet peeve of mine. This is not to criticize one person or project in particular but the general attitude of some if not most anarchists who start high profile projects. Usually they start their project with an announcement to the world “Here we are, we are going to do EVERYTHING better than what came before” that is also cloaking a desperate plea for help from others. That help doesn’t come, the capacity to DO everything isn’t possible so the clock starts ticking (visible to no one other than people who have been around for a long time), finally when it strikes the project either disappears from sight or flames out.
Before you take on a (public) project you should first figure out what emotional or organizational intelligence is going to be necessary to actually DO it. Talk to others who have done the same one. Have these chats respectfully, because even if your project is 1000x better than what has come before (and it’s not) the past will not disappear in a moment. The past sticks around and does turn out to be the shoulders you step onto if you survive, which you probably will not.
This is particularly resonant for me because when I started a particular “kill your parents” projects I did not publicize it (or my involvement) widely for years. I also didn’t (publicly) damn by elder for being first (and wrong). I did what I did and, over time, I demonstrated my consistency, attitude and ability and the project became what it became.
I would like to be updating this blog at least once a month (but preferably 2-4 times) but I haven’t for the past few. This is largely because I am about to announce the largest project I (by which I mean we since there are several other stakeholders) have ever undertaken and I would prefer to wrap up the announcement with a bow than be partial about it. I’ve already dropped a few hints so I’d rather stop doing that until we are ready.
I have been doing some other things that are probably “blog worthy” but up till now I’ve attempted to use my blog as a place for short essay type writing than what I guess is more “bloggy” kind of writing. I think quantity probably matters so I will do more bloggy shit even though it hurts my brain.
I do a monthly review of anarchist (mostly) print media
I did a few presentations over the past month while in Columbus OH and Chapel Hill NC. The topics were Illegalism & Social Media. I will be sharing writeups on both topics in the next year. There will be a new publication of my last few years of my presentations and follow ups to an old set of pamphlets called Attentat. Expect it around June.
My presentation in Columbus was particularly notable because it included like an hour discussion that was what I would call “high level.” It wasn’t stupid questions about a better world or silly hypotheticals but real discussion about the situation on the ground in town and how the presentation could relate to that. Afterwards it was pointed out to me that much of the room was in graduate school. I was sad.
Chapel Hill was a fast paced two day whirlwind. We arrived early for the bookfair and went to “the” eco-coop-natural fibers-bullshit store which gives anything on the West Coast a run for its money. The bookfair smelled like stale beer but was otherwise a fantastic time with a lot of good conversation, demonstrations of activism-without-the-word, and good energy. Even my frenemies couldn’t spoil the mood. I am really excited to go back to the area and check out Firestorm because those people were alarmingly nice and engaged.
I spent some time in Michigan where I may end up spending a lot more time in the next few years. I love the spring and fall time there. I basically hate the summer and winter. I did get to meet some real life @ in Grand Rapids (just about the last town one would ever believe @ would live in) while I was there. That was awesome.
Now I am back in the Bay. Occupy Oakland (which I will write about substantially another time) is starting to fade as the holidays come and police war against tents heats up. I was away for the day of the General Strike but here is my favorite image from the day…
I participated in the debate on the side of Political Demands, both as a personal test and so that I have my story straight if the syndicalist round ups ever begin. Once I got into it I realized that the “total negation” side of this informal formal debate had a very difficult task ahead of them (other than being the crowd favorite). Not only is proving a negative quite difficult but the negation argument is, at the end of the day, sophisticated. Subtle is hard to do in debate and even harder with a crowd yelling at you.
You can see the results of my debate below. Please laugh. It is supposed to be funny.
Since the format of this debate is messy and unknown even to the participants I am going to assume the best possibly faith from the organizers of the event and argue for an anarchist strategy for the transformation of the world that includes political demands. My questions for the negators will concern the specifically anarchist nature of their position. I will argue that the anarchist understands the state/capitalist composition of the world and that this understanding entails a conflict with it. This conflict requires political demands.
What is strategy
In its simplest formulation a strategy is the design one uses to achieve a goal. I use the term design because unlike a term like process or methodology a design expresses the artistic elements that are necessary for any good strategy. In the case of anarchism the goal is simple: a world without government or massified exchange relationships also called capitalism.
At the heart of any strategy against such a twin enemy, let us call it the spectacle and the fist, must be two components. These components have to blend in such a way to respond to the sophisticated nature of the spectacle while acknowledging that the fist exists and tends towards a linear response.
Analysis of existing conditions and the history of past struggles is a pre-condition to having a strategy today. Without experience, even other peoples, you don’t have enough information to even guess at how to achieve goals. With experience you can begin to establish small goals and through the experience of achieving them set your next goals higher.
As the anarchist goal is the highest of all, the complete emancipation of all those who live under the yoke of the state, the strategy to achieve it is not intuitive. It will be designed through the process of implementing smaller anarchist goals and growing those goals, and as a result strategies, over time.
What is politics
My sense is that much of this debate will hinge on a series of semantic arguments about what exactly negation, politics, complete, and demands are. These debates are a fantastic use of time for scholars and navel gazers but aren’t relevant if we understand that the very definition of being an anarchist is to be in conflict with the existing order and that this conflict is not theoretical.
It is also not simple. The multiplicities of conflict and the terrains conflict should be waged on cannot be simplified into us vs them, black spy vs white spy, good vs evil. The way that we name this sophisticated problem is politics but that doesn’t mean it is the best word for the problem, like many things in the real, existing world, it just happens to be the best term at this time.
A political analysis is the one we use to examine the behavior of the fist, in the form of police violence against black youth, as a foci of struggle. This doesn’t mean that the fist doesn’t serve the needs of much of the property owning citizenry. It does. Our analysis is that the behavior of the fist doesn’t serve the needs of life itself and that the sentiment of power over life is one that will resonate with the non-property owning population we identify with.
What are demands
The framing of the events debate begs the question of my position that is not accurate. It implies that demands are the temper tantrum wails of a petulant child towards their parent. This is ridiculous.
A demand is a request stated clearly and firmly. It isn’t designed to get concessions from those in power but to state the position of those who oppose the spectacle and the fist in terms that are clear.
All-too-often the desires of radicals as stated on posterboard and bumper stickers sound unrealistic. They are not demands but wishes. I wish BART would dismantle their police force. I wish I had a job. I wish the government was nice. Wishes spoken aloud are what liberals do.
A demand is the conscious expression of something unconscious. We want freedom but what does that really mean? A demand is where the unconscious hits the ground running.
What about nothing?
If there is no conflict there is no distinction between the anarchist position and the solipsist one. A solipsist is absorbed with the personal development, interpersonal relationships, and self actualization. These have all been the hallmark of late-stage capitalism. These have all been the benefits that capitalism, in the form of spectacle, have given those who don’t pay attention, or closer attention than giving to charity, to the brutal regime of resource extraction, surveillance culture, and the domination of lifeforms.
Nothing isn’t nothing at all, but an acceptance of the spectacle, the logic of of living live receding into representation. It is not even the silent protest of the conscientious objector or peace activists holding each others hands. Nothing is, at best, the full knowledge of the social relationships of control and pretending that being controlled is a choice.
The velocity of illusions that is hallmark of this society has now created several generations of media saturated ironic do-nothings. There is no harm in their willful irrelevance but they are not engaged in the anarchist project, even if they agree with it or even see themselves being served by its rewards. The anarchist project is conflict with the existing order. It is the strategy of transforming that conflict into the net that drags the spectacle and the fist under water where they will die. Anything else is an interest in philosophy, history, or humanities and is served best in its place.
Consider this post my farewell to veganism. I am writing it so that there is a single place to put down my ideas about the change and, I hope, the last place I’ll have to talk about this again. At the end of the day my change from being vegan has as much to do with the fact that I think that diets (and many other identities) just aren’t that interesting of a conversation as they seem to be to many people. Not to be entirely dismissive but I don’t really give a fuck what you do with your body. It is yours and is a major joy but it is your joy. The confusion about the difference between what is a personal thing and what is a political thing has long been a feature (not a bug!) of American radical politics. There are some other things to say too but all of that in its moment.
Twenty Years Later
Nine years into the future and we’re still counting the dead and the dying
…I’ve got to wonder what the fuck it’s going to take can it be undone
I was a vegan for a long time. Nearly half my life. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t attracted to the extremism of veganism. I was, especially in 1991 when I started. While I didn’t really know anyone associated with the Hardline scene until a few years later (and then only in passing and when they were on their way out) the idea of drawing clear lines appealed to me then. More or less it still appeals to me but it looks so different now that it isn’t really fair to call it the same thing. I liked the idea of taking the extreme position and abiding by extreme living-values (beyond just talking-values), but at the end of the day content matters.
Animal rights advocates are basically right. The animal farming industry is a horrific murder machine that has turned humans into receptacles of garbage.
The problem is that they are only partially right. It is far more than the animal farming industry that has done this thing to us: animals & humans. I am going to nod my head in the direction of JZ because I don’t think that the real problem here is capitalism. I don’t believe capitalism gives a fuck whether we eat animals (more on that later). This is where I disagree with Murder of Crows and other post-vegan ideologues.
I believe the reason (or rather what includes the reason in such a way that I can accept) that humans have turned all life into a factory is civilization. Here I think of civilization as the ideology of humans that states that it is good & right for us to control the rest of the planet. Mostly we control the earth by putting cities on top of it but for the rest of the land we have created factories that serve cities. Civilization is the process by which we separate the technics (which provide us food, tablet computers, and plastic crap) from the nice cups of coffee next to bike paths. It is the particular way we have chosen to separate life as a statistical, mechanical, and political problem from life as what we do in the world. It is the massification of systems so that seven billion people can roam the land. Civilization is humanism on steroids.
Veganism talks about this problem in the same way that a blind man talks about an elephant
- It is horrible that animals die, even more terrible that the vast majority of animals are raised purely for the dinner table.
- Many more people could be fed if we were more efficient about our land utilization.
- Veganism would save the environment (and much, much more) by decreasing the bad things and increasing the good things…
It has been well over a decade since I moved away from this kind of a vegan-outlook. About as long as it’s been since I’ve really associated with vegans and their potlucks, cute little shops, and adorable outfits. But I continued to have a vegan practice long after my departure from vegan(ism) for the same reason that I do many things, I am very stubborn.
Naming and subjects
Naming a root cause, be it human cruelty or Civilization, does very little to rectify the situation, even if it feels like a radical pursuit. Similarly, subjectivizing the problem perhaps makes you a more interesting person (or, as likely, a very boring one) but it doesn’t externalize a solution. Here is where capitalism comes in. Capitalism loves subjective problems, as it always has a solution to them. Guess what it is?
Veganism was always a partial solution (to the problems of industrial animal production) but in the past 20 years I have seen it become something else entirely. It only even slowed down factory farming if you accept the premises of boycott politics. Even if you accept the most positive premise that Veganism was direct action against a system of domination, it merely demonstrated how meager and small individual acts are. Actions in isolation are always isolated and rarely understood as statement (“Against the death machine”) or implementation (“and we act against your system which we burn to the ground”). This is not a plea for a set of mass actions against the animal industry (which would be a partial target that will crumble with the fall of the petro-economy anyway) but a reason to pause in the story as we understand it now. Moreover even if Veganism was a radical act at some point in the past it is more (and less) than that now. It is also an identity, with all that that implies.
I have a close friend who has been vegan even longer than I was who is also very sick. I just saw a short video of her on her sickbed talking about life in the hospital. Every time she talked about food she also mentioned the food’s veracity vis a vis veganism: “Vegan chicken”, “Vegan Ravioli”, etc. This is boundary checking behavior. It is similar to how bats echo locate the world as they navigate. The world responds with an echo and the bat knows themselves through their flight through space. This form of identity-checking makes sense when you recognize yourself in the echoes. But what happens when you no longer hear a response?
It is self-evident that veganism has become a consumer choice on a field of exotic choices. In many ways it has paved the way to a variety of niche markets that have fueled the growth of companies like Whole Foods, Herbivore, et al. and phenomena like soy & gluten free diets, the predominance of “cruelty free” HABA products, etc. It goes on and on. We have, by making life choices as simple as what we buy, participated in a transformation of capitalism from mass to boutique. From “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black” to “An Army of One.” Hurray us!
What is radical about you?
One of the hardest questions a radical1 can ask themselves is what exactly differentiates them from the dominant culture they are differentiating themselves from? Perhaps the larger existential question is why exactly does having radical politics also entail a differentiation at all? But the problem of how we put our ideas into practice is a more serious one than the particular social problem of why we have to be seen doing it.
My political arc isn’t unusual, especially among my age group. I started in punk/hardcore, and gravitated over time towards the political(esque) DIY hardcore scene that talked all the time about the link between politics and practice. In hindsight I realize how preachy, pedantic, and unsophisticated it all was but, to be honest, I was too.
Then, I had to wear my flag all the time. I cared so much about what strangers and future frenemies thought of me that I always played dress up. Today, I don’t care. The fact that it took me so long to grow (the fuck) up is related to the same stubbornness that kept me a vegan for all of those years.
For years I argued for veganism as one of the few ways that a person could put the Beautiful Idea into practice. I was wrong. The Idea is just that. We can do anarchistic things, we can attempt to break the cycles of terror and violence that comprise nearly every aspect of this world, but nothing we do is pure. Every person has to draw their line and the sad part about that is how lonely and isolated that is. I sincerely wish that my process of thinking about veganism, from pre to post, wasn’t alone. But it was.
I do not relate to the idea that the world will be changed by the conscious acts of the oppressed. This is not because I ignore the history of the struggles that have come before, but because the compromised victories of these mass struggles were always immediately superseded by the monsters. Whereas the mass celebrates, the monsters prepare for the next fight. They change the terms of engagement. The only form of mass culture that maintains memory and unity is on the side of the dominating class. More education, purer activities, or better people aren’t going to change the fact that individuals can be (and are) bought off, that the kind of organization that won the 40 hour work week isn’t even going to achieve the (meager, pathetic) goal of full employment ever again.
The individual act of rebellion does not make a radical. Radical was just another rock-and-roll fantasy. Late 20th century counter-cultural (aka boutique) capitalist methods were effective at convincing naïve mid-western children that we could make a difference. We couldn’t. Not in the way we thought. What we are capable of is smaller and more interesting than the lyrics of Soulside or Dead Kennedy. The process of working through the apparatus of illusions has taken me to a place I haven’t heard much about from former peers. I don’t want bumper sticker politics any longer but I also don’t want to be an existential “used to be” either.
Where does that leave us
Perhaps I began this with the idea of presenting a cogent argument about why I am no longer a vegan. But it isn’t an argument at all. Arguing about stupid shit is exactly what I have wasted far too much of the last two decades on. Veganism is at this point the representative characteristic of those stupid fights, of that wasted time.
At the end of the day my actual diet will not change all that much. I live with a vegetarian and am not so starving for a meat diet that I’m going to chase down a different situation. Moreover I don’t want to eat the offal of factory farming.
Leaving veganism behind is more about leaving behind my relationships with the thousand moralists who I have met over the years, obsessing about food-as-product, basing my self-understanding on an identity that is synthetic, shallow, and unsustainable. In many ways my criticism of veganism is similar to the reasons why I rarely socialize with anarchists. I want to build something social but I don’t want to rely on tradition, identity, or laziness to do it.
Farewell veganism. You helped me be aware of how I inhabited the world and how the world inhabited me. You are still a big part of the life of some few people who I am fond of . You probably kept me honest in a way that I needed in my twenties and kept me sincere in my thirties. I will always remember the potlucks, the restaurants, and the health of certain vegans as being directly inspiring to me. I don’t blame you for my weight, unhealthiness, or bad teeth. I don’t blame you for my stubbornness either, but my future goals just don’t include you and it took a lot of thinking to give myself the space to walk away. I am not an ex-vegan or a post-vegan. I am a fellow traveler who goes a different direction with no acrimony or regret.
1 I’ve always hated the term radical but almost every other general term to describe a position-that-stands-against-the-existing-order-but-isn’t-as-specific-as-my-particularly-nihilistic-anarchist-position is even worse.
by aragorn in Hammer
The Hammer – brief monthly reviews of the anarchist press
Even though publishing in the anarchist space was down a little this month (it being the end of the summer and all) we (LBC) attended the Seattle bookfair, which means this Hammer will be heavy on PNW (Pacific North West) publications. This is exciting, of course, because these publications reflect the high level of anarchist activity in the area over the past year. This next month includes a trip to Victoria BC and Minneapolis. I hope this means that the next Hammer will reflect recent Canadian & Midwest publications and activities that haven’t made it to the interwebz.
If you have a publication you want the Hammer to review send it to us
c/o The Anvil
PO Box 3549
Berkeley CA 94703
If your publication is more of the pdf/web variety send notice of it to me directly. There are already a couple dozen subscribers to the Hammer newsletter but feel free to add your name to their ranks. You can do that here.
On to the reviews.
Affinities Vol 5 No 1, PDF, August 2011
This is a journal that combines activist ethics with academic aesthetics. It uses this alloy to “construct sustainable alternatives to the racist, hetero-sexist system of liberal-capitalist nation-states”. Clearly the forged weapon isn’t particularly lethal but could probably spread a mean schmear or something. This issue is particularly strange for me as I am cited in several of the essays to such an extent that I feel like the missing contributor. Perhaps the editors didn’t know that I have an email address. The topic of the issue is called Anarch@Indigenism which is fine (albeit a little silly) but the subtitle basically makes me gag: “Working Across Difference for Post-Imperial Futures: Intersections Between Anarchism, Indigenism and Feminism.” I really wish that an attempt at a deep understanding of a topic, of any number of topics, wasn’t by those who are chasing, or have caught, careers in knowledge production. As long as I’m wishing I’ll add that I couldn’t easily understand these essays, which made it hard to access whatever interesting information was conveyed by the authors.
Burning the Bridges They Are Building, half sized, winter 2011
This is an extensive report back on the context and events of the anarchist intervention in the anti-police struggles of early 2011 in Seattle, WA. If I were to criticize it, I would point out that its comprehensive and dry style is a nice counter-point to the flowery and semi-mythical style of other reports from the area, but isn’t half as compelling. It is, on the other hand, far more useful. This should be the template by which other towns strategize anarchist activity over the next few years. Plus, the fact-inistas will enjoy it greatly.
Diaspora, half sized
This is a list of the prison-industrial-complex profiteers who are located in the PNW. This is an interesting project because it asks, without asking, for action against a list of targets without being explicit. It also evokes a kind of journalistic reporting that used to be done by the leftist press but has been long since abandoned. It is activist without prescription, informative without preaching, dangerous without the restraint of responsibility. My concern is that it will sit in a pile of paper, or in a directory of a hard drive, without ever finding the audience who could properly consider the fact that those who constrain us have names, addresses, and commutes.
In Defense of Conan the Barbarian, PDF, 2011
This is a fantastic and spirited anarcho-primitivist reclaiming of Conan the Barbarian. Not the Schwarzenegger version, although that would have been more awesome, but the original Howard version. It takes the original seriously and spends a great deal of time examining the definition of nature, violence, & social roles in Howard’s universe. It does err toward primitivist parody (for instance this quote is representative “Conan clearly has no love of or fear for the violent brutes who enforce civilized laws and oppress the poor and downtrodden”) but as we were informed of the author’s bias in the introduction it is forgivable.
Koukoulofori, half sized
This is an older (2010) publication on the “hooded ones” of Greece, but this is the first time I have actually sat down and read this unassuming publication. Its stated intention is to move North Americans’ understanding of the Greek experience away from the mythological. For that purpose, this project is a total failure as the selection demonstrates fascinating and exciting aspects of the Greek experience which are in no way transmittable to the US. If the difference between Greece and the US is as simple as self-confidence, then hearing another set of stories about successful organizing, free spaces, and life long trusting radical relationships doesn’t exactly demonstrate this simple difference or point a way for us. On the other hand this zine is a best of the We are an image from the Future book and worth checking out in lieu of it..
Not Afraid of Ruins #3, PDF
Given the fact that I just returned from Europe, reading this personal zine/travel journal (visiting of many of the same places, including some of the same beds slept in) is very nice. The author lives a very different experience than I do, punkier, cut-and-pastier, and probably 15 years younger than I am. This journey spans Berlin, Milan, Spain, and much of the UK.
Rivista Anarchica #364, HTML
This is a web instance of an Italian anarchist publication with a 40 year history and an open approach to anarchism. In their terms we want to discuss everything from God to the worm. This sounds great and this issue is indeed broad, albeit classical, in scope. It includes Proudhon, several articles remembering Colin Ward, an interesting article on anarcho-humanism, and much, much more. The closest publication in the US we have to this is Social Anarchism and similar to SA this is a publication of words and history rather than of the present and of the actions of anarchists today. To be specific, I asked an Italian comrade about this periodical and they nearly choked on the idea that one would take it seriously as the publication has been silent on the decades of anarchist struggle in their own country.
Tides of Flame #3/#4, PDF
Tides of Flame is the bi-weekly paper of anarchists-with-a-threatening-posture who have made themselves known in Seattle, WA. Reported on were the twenty-odd anarchists who were arrested in July, including several around the intrusion of police-with-shovel into a party at their group house and then a mass arrest at their solidarity demo the next day. Also an attack on a DOC office in West Seattle. Each issue has a well done piece on local anarchist history including an article on the George Jackson Brigade and the Seattle General Strike of 1919. Additionally there is new analysis/theory in the form of a rich article counterposing species being with the creative nothing and another on the Crisis. Other local articles, including one on a local cop and another on a local infrastructure project, round out these two issues. Awesome project that I have no idea how they accomplish every two weeks.
What Lies Beneath the Clock Tower, book, Margaret Killjoy
This is the first book of a new anarchist fiction imprint and the first book (that I know of) written by Magpie (not counting his collection of interviews). It is a choose-your-own-adventure story which is a cute idea but isn’t nearly as compelling as I had hoped it would be. This is no fault of MK but a fault of the form, one that makes it difficult to hang together anything thicker than a children’s story. MK’s idea here is to put the reader into the role of protagonist and then push them along an adventure with a standard set of D&D/steampunk characters. The problem is that the conclusions are more or less arbitrary. There is no projectuality in this story and this means that it is an adventure for tweens and nothing more. But, anarchists need more of these too so… fair enough.
I want to wrap up my out loud thinking about my time in Europe (I’ve been back for three weeks but it doesn’t feel like it since I am now traveling so much) with some conclusions but first some thoughts about other problems that feel specifically American but perhaps are more general.
US radicals are right to criticize ourselves for American exceptionalism. The idea that the US is at the center of the world has, sadly, been how all of here in this forsaken place have been raised. Our Civil War was a fight over big principles. So too was our entry into WWII. The Cold War was noble, just as our struggle against (whom again?) racism which we won with civil rights legislation. It is useless to argue against these facts with most people in this country. We honestly believe it, on the right and on the left.
This is why most anarchists wish a pox on both of their houses and why we have such a hard time finding ourselves out of the mess of liberalism, false oppositions, and the belief that somehow we are truly and goodly on the side of… right. We are not, of course. Not just because no such thing exists but because this belief is so shallow, so deeply uninformed, that it exposes itself all the time for being a matter of faith not of reasoned thought1. But we are from this primordial ooze and it is in us, like it or not.
Americans are opinionated. They have strong opinions about politicians, Muslims, the flag, recycling, soy, parking, taxes, etc, etc. The radio waves are filled with people who have a lot of true emotion wrapped up in every detail of mundanity. If there is any possible way to turn an issue into a simple one, stripped of context and complexity, Americans will do it and fight any comer.
Sadly this particular American trait still appears in those residents of this country who are the enemies of the country itself. American anarchists are filled with stupid fucking opinions2 and that world wants to hear them. This is particularly true if they never plan on doing anything real (material, outside of their heads) with them.
Perhaps this is related to the strangeness around American wealth. Most everyone I met in Europe was quite open and honest about how much money they had, made, and came from. In the US this is almost never the case. Experientially anarchist milieus always riff poverty with the primary difference being (in my experience) that Americans are broke but have enough money to eat out at restaurants whereas Europeans only eat street food (like €2 souvlaki) if they eat out at all. But the silence around money & origins is one of the creepiest things I run into time and time again with people around this place.
I don’t think this is entirely because all of my comrades are secret princes and princesses waiting for their trusts to vest before they return to their castles in the sky. I think that the flip side to wealth isn’t just poverty but shame. We fear association with our associations.
But everything is not bad in this home of mine. This land of fear, hate, wealth, and moralism. The reason that I am glad I left here for three months was because I could see from a distance, for the first time, that there are things that I love about the people I know and places I am from. Our eclectic vitality isn’t sharp but hacks through most things just the same, only requiring several swings. I am not more hopeful about the future but I have a lot more ideas about how I want to practice anarchy with my mongrel pack. Now to find them.
1 Not that I am a particular fan of reason but I do react to the religious devotion to God, whether it is called J-dog or Amerika, with something… cold and calculating. But I already covered this.
2 Opinions in this context means not facts, not defensible positions, but habitual simplistic perspectives that actually interfere in critical thought.
by aragorn in Hammer
Brief monthly reviews of the anarchist press
For some time I have been lamenting the loss of the review, a format that is a great way to learn about projects, periodicals, and books that might interest a person. But it has largely died. The closest thing we had to an “anarchist review” was the brilliant column done by John Petrovato, but this was done infrequently at best and only ever reviewed books. There was also a great project from the UK called the Hobnail Review but it only lasted about a year and barely left the island. During my tenure at Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed I loved the task of saying a couple words about the new magazines and periodicals that came out between issues. Even when I was critical of the specifics of the product I always loved the process of talking about new projects.
I love print (& to a much lesser extent the pdf seed of print) and always want to encourage us (by whom I mean anarchists: lovers of freedom, passion, and the future) to do more of it. To get it into the hands of more, and different, people and to nurture an attitude about print as one of the weapons we use to war against society.
Therefore the Hammer is to be a counter-point to another project, The Anvil. While The Anvil uses the review essay to interrogate popular culture The Hammer will have a simpler task. It will provide mostly short reviews of current anarchist periodicals. It will focus less on critical engagement than on being informative (obviously I reserve the option though) and will focus on English (with only a cursory examination of other languages as I encounter them) publications. Each issue will reflect what is new in print, pdf, and other formats as time is available.
If you would like to send me your new anarchist material please do so at PO Box 3549, Berkeley CA 94703. If you want to make sure I make a note of your publication drop me a line here. Along with this monthly newsletter there will be a print version of these reviews either along with The Anvil or in another form yet to be decided. Publication during this month’s edition of The Hammer doesn’t mean that the publication date was July, just that I received the publication this month (or earlier in this case).
This will be sent out as an email from an automated email list. If you would like to subscribe to The Hammer visit this page http://www.angrylists.com/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/hammer. If you want to be unsubscribed (and were mailed this, probably due to a publication of yours being reviewed) the instructions should be on the bottom of this email.
Act/React #2, PDF, June 2011
I am pleased as punch to see an anarchist periodical come from my hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, a reactionary midwest town that those who can, run from as fast as humanly possible. This is an author-less publication and tends towards rants and first person accounts of the trauma associated with living in this society. There is an interesting glimpse into the GR anarchist scene (which is a phrase I never thought I would utter) with the article Reflections on a Worker-run business and revolutionary potential.
Download, Grand Rapids MI, General/Personal
Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed #70/71, magazine, CAL Press, Spring/Summer 2011
AJODA is back after a year’s hiatus and this issue is another double issue. It is strikingly attractive with lovely cover art by Christian Edler and spot color throughout the issue courtesy of Eberhardt Press. The highlights include a few reviews of projects I am involved in: Nihilist Communism (the review is by Bob Black) and The Anvil. It also includes two lengthy engagements with The Coming Insurrection on by Wolfi Landstreicher (con) and the other by Lawrence Jarach (mixed positive). Perhaps the strangest thing in this issue is the column from John Zerzan titled Love. An excerpt from the first sentence “The vertigo of techno-modernity is an invasive sense of nothingness.”
Web, Berkeley CA, Post-left anarchist
ASR #56, magazine, Summer 2011
This bi-annual publication does a good job of collecting the writings of an international group of Anarcho-syndicalists. This issue has a special section on the Mid-East revolts of the spring of 2011 and an article on the simultaneous events of Wisconsin. Articles by van der Walt, Barclay, McKay, Hargis, and the indefatigable Bekken.
Web, Philadelphia PA, Anarcho-syndicalist
Black Cat Sabotage Book, magazine
This manual on sabotage is a new twist on an old idea. Mostly it feels like a rather thick reprint zine of old LWOD (Live Wild or Die) or pre-Judy Bari era Earth First! It is a fanzine in the traditional sense of having an obsession and then sharing every scrap of information (from the aforementioned publications) a fan could find about it. Poems about how great the earth is, striking graphics and cartoons, etc. Starting around page 100 are reprints of a few ALF recipes (wink, wink). This is followed by boilerplate security culture reprints and there you go.
Black Flag #233, Black Flag Group, magazine, mid 2011
This revitalized UK magazine has considerable overlap with Freedom Press (layout and authors). Whereas Freedom is topical, Black Flag attempts analysis, interviews, and deeper reporting on the issues Freedom covers. This issue focuses on the student movement (there were a series of eventful student protests in London that were dominated by periods of uncontrollability and kettling) of the Spring. Interviews include Active Distribution and Atari Teenage Riot. Reviews include the Socialist Party, Mutual Aid (via an introduction), Derek Wall, and Dave Douglass’ biography. If you love the writing of Iain McKay you will love Black Flag.
Web, London UK, Anarcho-Communist
Enemies of Society, book (392), Ardent Press, Spring 2011
This is the new book by Ardent Press (standard disclaimer: I published this book). It is an anthology of egoist and individualist anarchism. The story it tells is of different groups who were inspired by the work of Max Stirner: dissident readers of US based Liberty , Italians who went to war with the existing order and French folks who took the lessons into a short lived illegalist practice of daily life. In addition there is a (too) short chapter on egoist readings of Nietzsche and short articles on egoist practice beyond robbing banks and attacking politicians.
Web, Berkeley CA, Egoist
Fire to the Prisons #11, magazine, Spring 2011
FTTP is an irrepressible publication from the New York area that bills itself as an insurrectionary magazine focused on reporting on struggles of the disaffected. It does this reporting to inspire its readers to do something about their own feelings of frustration and resentment. This issue continues the FTTP pattern of placing strong graphics with poignant text in the style of Adbusters or any number of post-Situationist magazines. The effect continues to be striking. This issue includes articles on the Arab Spring of revolt, Appalachian struggles against coal mining, repression, and a chronology of prisoner resistance.
Web, Download, Insurrectionary
Freedom Vol 72 #14, tabloid, Freedom Press, June 2011
Freedom is looking healthier than I’ve seen it in a while. Good reporting, a silly cover image of a Crass crop circle (sighted near Stonehenge…), and a full color Wildcat comic, frame the issue. Contents include a criticism of News of the World and the latest Murdoch scandal, an obituary of Bob Miller, an analysis of recent prosecutions of UK anti-fascists due to a dustup in the London Underground. The highlight of this issue is the first part of a two part series on the role of Kropotkin on the modern ecological movement. This part focuses on Kropotkin’s theories around evolution and politics.
Web, London UK, Anarchist-Communist
Property is Theft, book (670), AK Press, April 2011
This is an Iain McKay joint. A large, but by no means comprehensive, collection of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s work. The editor has also been writing quite a bit of supporting material, mostly on his blog at the ‘Anarchist Writers’. If you have any interest in PJ Proudhon, especially how his writings can be interpreted as being pre-Anarcho-Communist, you will get a fair reading of it with this collection.
Psychic Swamp #1, PDF, Spring 2011
This is a brand new project from Max Cafard (who doesn’t do enough visible anarchist writing). At the heart of this new periodical, a surre(gion)al review, is an excellent review essay about the movie Avatar. It might be easy to dismiss this–as, on some level, everything that needs to be said about the monsterous movie has been said–but Cafard brings in great new information. Specifically he spends a great deal of time talking about the fairly recent advances in drone technology and how this relates to the future of warfare. The lesson of Avatar isn’t just about the incredible volume of money it generated but the ways in which it will and will not prefigure future warfare.
Web, Lousiana, Anarcho-Surrealist
Revolt & Crisis in Greece, book (378), AK Press, April 2011
This third book on the Greek Uprising (the non-AK book was called Everyone to the Streets) comes out of the Occupied London group who are Greek expats living in the UK. This book is a collection of essays by several dozens writers who provide a less activist, more learned context to the environment around Athens prior to the 2008 uprising and since the uprising into the current economic crisis. Some of the highlights include the analysis by TPTG, Christos Boukalas, and Antonis and Dimitri (who are part of the editing group and who toured the US in the spring of 2011).
Web, Greece/London, Greece
Tides of Flame, PDF, July 2011
This is new biweekly periodical from Seattle is incredibly ambitious. Along with the real stories of the activities of the comrades in the PNW are original analysis and histories. Just in the first two issues, which both appeared before 26 people were arrested in late July, are writing about the George Jackson Brigade, recent actions in the area, terrorism, rebellion in walla walla, an artist named Zeb, and much more. If you are in the area you should help this project out.
Web, Seattle WA, anarchist insurrectionary
Total Destroy #5, PDF, Spring 2011
This is an issue of the Milwaukee zine that has appeared sporadically over the past few years. From a rough start this issue stands tall as an object lesson in how theory is related to, and improved by, practice. This issue reflects the participation of the authors in the events that surrounded the Wisconsin occupation of the Capital building in response to Governor Walker’s attack on the rights of the Unions in negotiations with the state. Included are accounts of the occupation, of actions (not non-violent) taken in the state, interviews with the authors, and communiques issued at the time.
Download, Milwaukee WI, Anarchist Insurrectionary
Wolves at the Door, A5, Autumn 2011
This is a modern zine with well thought out positions on a variety of topics. One, a lengthy article critical of anarchist spaces, makes arguments against localism, for pre-figuration, and touches on both Holloway and Delueze (“our appropriated spaces can become nodes in a web of power”) without sounding too high falutin’. Other articles include one on Libya, an interview with Mutiny, a review of the local anarchist summer school (!), Athens, and liberalism (anti). This is a strong first showing for this project of not-ideological anarchism.
Download, Australia, General
I’m thinking a lot about what we (in the US) get absolutely wrong in (anti)politics as I am traveling in Europe. My last piece was about sociability and the structural difficulties in working with other people in the US context of no commons, people passing through, and the near requirement to full time work for survival (in much of the country). This time I am going to talk about consciousness and the suffocation of radicals by moralism usually learned from the protestant upbringings of most of the US but also from the newer religions of secularism and counter-cultural politics. Consider this a draft of some ideas that I will try to expand on later.
More importantly it is a self-criticism and a break from my own past & choices. You can laugh as long as you are not sanctimonious about it. I still believe in drawing lines.
I spent a lot of time digging into the cultural implications of the religions of Europe. My review is cursory and based on the limitations of my contacts in Euro-radicalism but I feel confident on the level of observing some differences that are worth sharing without pressing too hard on any conclusions. For starters, most of the people I have met haven’t really even thought about the issue. Perhaps this is true in the US also but my experience growing up in the northern Bible Belt instilled a certain necessity of understanding the impact of religion on cultural & social life. I’ll be specific and talk about a couple generalizations from around the country.
The major protestant religions in the US are Calvinism, baptist, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians. There are a scattering of Anglicans (although I’ve never met one), Amish, congregational, etc but these are the major ones. My specific history is with Calvinists (meaning I grew up around them but I’ve never even been to one of their services) and here is a nutshell on what differentiates them from other Christians.
- all people are depraved and incapable of following God on their own. They require guidance.
- predestination aka God already knows who is going to heaven
I’m sure they believed other things but these two things alone is enough to realize what a cold and formidable religion this is. As a result they created cold and formidable things in my town that largely dominated the psychic landscape. The children who broke with their religion (and eventually returned) tended to classic (aka boring) breaks; inebriated, sex starved monsters. Passionate moments to reflect on during later lives of monotony and cold, as shame is a warm emotion.
Baptists are creatures of a different suit entirely. Where the Calvinists are tight and disciplined in their impoverishment the baptists are fairly wild in theirs. Much of what we understand to be characteristics of the American personality are, in fact, Baptist traditions. Specifically the four freedoms (which most Baptists accept) which basically boil down to the idea that your soul and salvation are a reflection of your individual relationship with the savior (and your interpretation of the holy of holiest scriptures). Baptists don’t need anyone but their bible and Jesus which is about as American of a doctrine as I can imagine.
The orthodox & Catholics
These two religions vary wildly from the protestants. So much so that it is hard to believe they all are into the same zombie myth at all.
The Catholics are the original recuperators, taking whatever cultural artifact they encountered and rebranding it. The result is a conservatism that would be seemingly inherent in a 2000 year old institution. In Spain and France the role of the Church seems be entirely defending the cultural, social, and political gains it has achieved over that time. There is no real sense of a missionary zeal in these countries, only old buildings and a certain sense that the world is passing it by, but it doesn’t matter because it is the world-in-itself.
The orthodox are fascinating to someone who hasn’t been around their particular brand of archaic outfits and long beards. As exotic to someone from the US as the Muslims these people are the original Christians (the split was at the council of Nice and the composition of which texts were to be in the holy book we’ve been plagued with every since). A cultural artifacts that are notable with the Orthodox is the priest vow of poverty. This is also true with the Catholics but their thousands of years of hypocrisy make them a little harder to take seriously. With the (Greek at least) Orthodox this isn’t exactly the case and more importantly continues to be a social/cultural imperative. Greek society does not link wealth with holiness in the way that several Protestant sects do and the difference is real. Yes, it makes anarchists seem less crazy, but it also places the small business owner at the center of the Greek imagination.
Another example of this is to examine the prevalence of security cameras in each country. Greece has a very low number of security cameras with a generalized social repulsion to the idea that public space, and individual people in that space, should be recorded. This is somewhat related to a discussion of their tradition between the relationship between Idols and icons but as was described to me the Greek “face” (the actual human face of a Greek person) has a value that cannot be recorded. I can’t make this shit up.
Contrast this to Northern Europe, especially the UK where you cannot travel without being imaged by CCTV 300 times a day which likely correlates to the weakly ideological nature of the Anglicans requiring a process to verify trust. But also to the Calvinist Dutch who actually pedagogically believe that privacy is irrelevant because judgement is only possible from God who can see everything anyway).
Obviously I’m not painting enough of a picture here but the premise I’m working on is that both the Catholic & Orthodox are much older, sedate religions (even if they ostensibly worship the same bearded guy) than the Protestant one’s I know in the States. The impact resonates in the cultures themselves.
The even newer religions
I don’t believe that there will be a holy war led by these old religions. Not in my lifetime and probably never again. I would not say the same about some of the Protestants but I think it is quite likely that they will continue with their mainstreaming strategy (public participation in political and cultural crafting of the US) along with nurturing their lunatic fringe. I also will not say the same about other identity-religions.
Before I begin I’ll caveat. I believe I will make a stronger criticism of identity-politics another time. At this point I am scrabbling about myself, figuring out a way to distance myself from my own sense of false unity and self-betrayal that has surrounded my own participation the lie that we understand as identity. And the confusion we (in the US) have suffered from the secular mantra of the “personal is political” never realizing we were actually just repeating the gospel of Luke in different words (cite 1 and 2).
The formation of synthetic identity will be the new terrain for holy wars in this century. It may not be the vegans vs the paleolithic diet, instead it may be the equally fabricated Wahabi or Westboro Baptist Church that sets it off. What is important to argue is that the ideology of nation-as-identity is fading fast. I am not American and nearly no one on the globe is fighting for the glory of their own Nation-State (with a very few exceptions of course). But I have been, on the other hand, a handful of other labels that I was willing fight for yet didn’t have any tie to bind me but my own belief in them.
This auto-generation masks an existential point. We crave people. I craved some sense of place (meaning people) since there was no real place for me in the place I came from. In our search for place we attach ourselves to identity as a way to find a common vocabulary, a way to find people, and mission accomplished, we usually find them. It takes nearly a decade (measuring for instance the average lifespan of a punk, anarchist, or vegan) for most of us to realize that the unity that we have in these synthetic identities isn’t real connection, place, or enough to fill the loss. Especially since these new programs don’t have the infrastructure to fake real they have yet formed significant militias, creches, or old age homes.
A new moral framework with the added benefit of the illusion of Real Human Life ™. It also is a fair restatement of many substantial critiques of “the subcultural” which is why I want to be clear that what I’m saying is not a dismissal of people who participate in (sub, anti, or counter)-culture. I get it and I’m not trying to distance myself from the need that contra-culture represents. Instead I am saying that I realize now that this need isn’t possible to fill, not with one synthetic identity or another, not with religion, not with family.
This means that while I still have some connection with my contra-cultural past it is entirely on the level of liking the same music, sharing a preference for good food, and liking the same books. I am no longer set of terms but something else… perhaps just another person whose frustration with the language and so many of the people I have met along the way has just grown stale.
How I would rather put it is that the new post-secular religions haven’t improved on the source material in a significant way and draw far more from it than they would like to believe. Veganism isn’t going to change the world, end animal suffering, or much of anything at all except fill a different set of people’s pockets. DIY hasn’t made people particularly engaged with their own life, hasn’t slowed down the flow of products from China, and done much of anything except fill a different set of people’s pockets. Anarchist hasn’t created much anarchy.
So here we are, left in the rubble of Christianity. Anarchists have, by and large, avoided religion as a topic for criticism for the past 50 years out of some misguided tolerance but this has been a mistake. Religion, in the form of morality and Christianity, absolutely frames us. Our counter-cultures, our radical politics, our missionary zeal and our acts of contrition are all fruits of a poisoned tree. In the past I have called this tree European thought, but that is perhaps too abstract to be helpful. Perhaps this rant against religion and the way that it permeated everything that we believe is a little bit more grounded, but probably not.