Editorial episode 2 – Radical Notions

On our minds

On our minds this weekend: http://nativenationsrise.org/ Native Nations March in WDC

Because the hardest lessons have to be learned over and over again yesterday the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and grassroots Indigenous leaders marched in prayer and action on WDC from the Army Corp of Engineers to Layafette Square

The Native Nations Rise march was organized by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Native Organizers Alliance and Indigenous Environmental Network to support the Standing Rock fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline and raise awareness to other indigenous issues. Thanks to the participation of protesters the march generated headlines and raised the spirits of Native activists and their allies. “Water is life, and we’re going to fight for what’s rightfully ours,” said Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Chairman Aaron Payment. “We’re going to keep bringing information so that they’re going to have to do something. We’re going to remind them of their trust responsibilities, and our treaty rights to protect our natural resources, and sacred sites.



A central question to having a radical notion about the world and the world you would prefer to live in is who are you in that world and in that notion. This is especially true because this world, the world, doesn’t allow you a lot of flexibility in who you get to be and you capacity to have notions of your own.

The internet has been an interesting intervention in this question because, while in some ways it doesn’t mean a thing, for most people the internet has been taken at face value. Here is a place where you get to define yourself from a blank slate. Are you a black masked rioter? Are you a person with an integrated plan about every aspect of how society should be organized? Are your ideas more important than how they get put into practice?

There are several different anarchist approaches to this question about how to put radical notions into practice as many as there are different ideas about how to test those ideas first. The part of this I’d like to focus on this week is whether these different perspectives have different amounts of merit based on whose mouth they come out of, rather than the ideas themselves.

Last week we discussed a critique of the Black Bloc that attempted to place it within the measure of privilege politics. While clearly the author had the liberal bias of statist politics their question of whether it is possible to show support for a community while anonymous is interesting. Their extra dig that white bodies will take measure to prevent their own arrest, while possibly leaving colored bodies to be arrested, is also interesting. What does solidarity look like if you aren’t interested in, and are in fact hostile to, the state that does the measuring?

I don’t want these editorials to just ask probing questions so I’ll answer mine from the last paragraph. I don’t think it is possible for the Black Bloc (full well knowing it isn’t a singular thing) to show solidairty for a group while remaining separate from that group. I don’t think that is usually the goal of the individual members of the BB either. I think they, in the hypothetical scenario the original critic is implying, are showing the limited solidarity that outsiders are capable of showing when something terrible happens to people you feel empathy towards but nothing more substantial than that. I also don’t think the criticism that outsiders can only show outsider levels of support is particularly fair or interesting. There are many other flavors of people, who are perhaps not as performative as BB, that are also outsiders showing empathy but little else. I rarely hear BB express a moralistic superiority over those other empathy-showers. I hear plenty of moralism against those who do not perform empathy at empathy-events but that is a topic for antoher time.

The rule of thumb that I think is missing from the liberal state apologist critic is that one should not judge others by ones own criteria. If one thinks that solidarity should look like getting arrested and judges those who do not get arrested one has drawn a clear line around the type of solidarity they are interested in. The critic is correct that “those with privilege” are not going to magically shed it becasue of /their/ criteria but there are plenty of examples of privilege being shed. Those stories are interesting but are, mostly, not because of politics as much as the individual stories of how politics get translating into lived human experiences. Usually that is not by judgment, shame, or acrimony.

For my own part the part of the critic’s attitude that I agree with to be the same as the central question of radical notions. The world does not allow one a lot of flexibility in participating in it. This means we have to create our own ways of being radical, and of having notions of acting in the world. Sometimes that looks like finding people who we find attractive and doing what they do. Sometimes it looks like something else entirely.

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