Have you checked out? Are you considering it?

Anarchism cannot be reconciled to life in this world, to a world of day jobs and bills, of having children and mortgages, and of relationships that find politics to be exhausting and not a language of liberation. But, of course, this isn’t the anarchism-of-the-heart it’s the anarchism of “the scene” or anarchism “of the streets” or the anarchism of sisyphus. One can believe, can dream, and can aspire to the freedom of anarchy no matter who their friends are, and no matter what their day job is, and no matter what their lifestyle is. There is no correct form of anarchist life but there is a body of people who identify as anarchists, and for many of us, leaving these people is part of the process we need to go through to become happy people.


Counter-cultures, whether youth, music, or political are usually self-marginalized . That is to say they make choices to separate themselves from /normal/ culture and as a result become irreconcilable to a normal life. We may all agree that normal sucks but we cannot doubt its gravity. We age and need health care, we fall out of love with young rebels, we want to make commitments and stay in one place, we make choices, which usually means boring, normal choices. Anarchism, like punk rock, veganism, and a thousand other counter-cultures seems to force dogmatisms and judgmentalism and it begins to wear on a person. At some point the cost-benifit analysis is made and anarchism-as-a-practice falls short.

I personally feel and have reconciled myself to both this force of gravity and my own life project of fighting this gravity but I do not think I have made the right choice. I realize why I have so few age peers in this life (and its not just because I am a jerk). The choice to stay within anarchism-as-a-practice is to live with constant failure (as in we haven’t won yet, have we?), constant bickering (not just because I am not conversant with the newest political line against the newest forms of oppression), constant knee-capping of projects, and constant floods of young know-it-alls. It is also not a place to talk about adult problems like the death of a parent, paying off student loans, or caring for elders who cared for you as a child. This is doubley true for men (at least in my experience). And the nature of this gravity is that eventually it will break my heart, even though I started out with one that was good and strong, because the constant pull is constant.

All of this is a preface. I want to put together an anthology of these stories, of departures and those who have departed, and I don’t know how to invite you other than by this kind of complicated chunk of text. I don’t know how to persuade you to tell your personal story, that probably includes resentment at people like me, without putting some blood into the game. I don’t want to pretend that our stories can make youth last any longer than it does, or put an end to a world gone wildy awry but I think that just as most of us found each other after feeling lonely and isolated as young people, many of us too find loneliness entering into a middle age, only this time also lacks the easy socialibility of counter-culture and the easy answers of a political identity.

If you have some interest on working on this with me drop me a line at aragorn@lbcbooks.com

5 thoughts on “Have you checked out? Are you considering it?”

  1. have you considered checking out our reading group re: speculative anarchism? It’s going on over at syntheticzero.net
    Yours thought would be appreciated…

  2. ‘We’ are our own little planet, and like the planet all living entities have biorythms & will wax & wane. Humans are ultimatly subjective & decided if the glass is half full or empty. One has many philosophies, political views & ethical approaches to life …or not! Having ideals is a healthy view of will and can replenish/fill the glass, when all around us seems to be naught. It is distresing when our constructed relity disolves around us and many times people have said ‘mutate'(change with the times) or die!’.
    I am a second generation ‘activist’and thought my parents were not ‘spikey’ enough with their envirnomental, human rights & food sovereignty views. ‘Our community’ exists because of the concept ‘I am because we are !’. And yes, each decade, it seems the NKOTB want to re-invent the wheel & ‘everyone’ over thrity is ‘suspect’. When going to meetings or even marches/gatherings,I can only see less than a half dozen people that were active in the 20th c. but although included in the co-cordinating of events like Prague, Seattle, G8’s, EU’s and ten caravans that went around the world on four continents, experience shows me that many people put themselves first, esp their career development rather approach the world as a single community. Betw 1998 -2005 was the ‘Millenium Madness’ where those involved gave more than they took, were very altruistic,following the life style of the Zapatista & most Indigenous -fighting to survive as a unity. Then the middle class ‘envied’ this ‘lifestyle’ and joined with their own agenda. ‘Join’, use it for career development & make a living out of it ! And thus began the demise…..Only in complacent western society ! For the rest of the world is still fighting for self-determination(as they are forced off their land); climate justice (as they suffer first hand from earthquakes/sunami’s/floods, etc);food sovereignty ( as land/water/seeds are taken from them) ; discrimination (as they are killed/jailed/expelled)& now in the 21st century , it is 20% of the worlds’ population that is using 80% of the world’s natural resources. La lucha sigue…….& while there are people on this planet fighting for survival, there will be people who respect their rights and are in solidarity with them. An injury to one IS an injury to all & one can stand up to that on a daily basis in one’s own way.Actions are taken daily on a global basis and now more than ever,everyone needs to stand up & be counted…..!

  3. ohboy. checking out…I feel the shape of what you’re saying, but i am not sure I’m getting the specifics. “Become irreconcilable to a normal life,” making a commitment to living that “ideologically pure” lifestyle that guarantees you will not be participating in any of the projects of capitalism (oligarchy)–is that being “checked in?” And, please excuse the tone–cyberia breeds our worst interpretations with its lack of nuance. To clarify: I don’t know whether or not I’m resentful of you, because I’m not sure what you’re positing. I’m certainly hooked by the topic, because the “compromises” of attrition that eat one’s ideals from the inside is a very real and present topic to me.

    The sad realization that I have to pony up with is: i think there’s really no way you can be part of the spectacle and work against it–that complicity in its project, by the mere fact of paying taxes and bills, means that nothing you can do will counterweigh those default participations. The heartbreak is fucking real–whether it’s from abandoning that ideological purity of youth, or maintaining the commitment to radicalism that ensures you’ll always be pushing the stone uphill. But the point (and this may be more of a perception than a fact, but that’s still meaningful)–the point that “anarchism-as-a-practice” is NOT a place to talk about the significant features of middle age (and really, I think that caring for aging parents is pretty radical in its own right)–that’s weird and silly. Why should we not practice mutual aid and solidarity on longer generational timelines, as well as in the fleeting and sporadic transits of youth?

    And maybe I’m not unique in that I hold out hope for the last 1/3 of my life to be the most radical. I managed to live the first 1/3 of my life out of the teeth of the machine. Now i’m in it; but I wouldn’t say that i’m assimilated. Best case scenario: I’ll be shat out still basically intact and ready to germinate. Of course, I may be hit by a fucking bus or whatnot, there’s always that. But I guess I have to have some kind of panacea to keep me from succumbing to despair. Besides the beer, I mean.

    Thanks for bringing this up. I know there are other “movement psychology/burnout” resources, but i think telling stories is a really good way to know/learn things.

  4. Hey Aragorn,

    Remember me from 10,000 years ago? Well now I’m a run of the mill liberal lawyer working for the nonprofit industrial complex in New York. I’d be interested in taking part in this.


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