September 05, 2006

--Zinn noted 9in A People's History of the United States] that in government, the role of liberal reform has never been to balance the distribution of wealth and power but simply to reinforce and reorganize the structure of the system in order to stabilize it, perpetually remaining superficial and ineffective in the scope of the change.--

It seems that the only purpose of the internet for me these days is political bickering either within various anarchist/radical communities or if I'm feeling particularly masochistic, in general political forums. Still, I'm finding it pretty constructive, because I've always been able to articulate myself easier in opposition.

So, here are a couple of longer entries I've posted recently:

Go Easy on Adbusters

There has been a lot of criticism directed towards radical pseudo-individualist groups and ideologies such as CrimethInc or the mystical writings of Hakim Bey, and to some degree, I think it's absolutely warranted: For one thing, it's spawned legions of teenyboppers who shoplift and jump trains and tag dumpsters and think that they're committing revolutionary acts. It seems vapid, naive, privileged, a sort of falling out of middle-class children with the ratrace they're standing at the gates of and when many people see that, they tend to feel resentful of having their individual movements associated with this simple hedonism. Despite what these kids may like to think, the 'power elite' are not exactly quaking in their Guccis about a revolution of dumpster divers or self-created train hobos.

As an end, this sort of anarcho-hedonism is a dead one: If people decide to float around the edges of society and live off the scraps, more power to them, they're self-liberated, but it's a petty, apolitical existence. However, if nothing else, I've found Crimethinc to be if nothing else a great synthesis of the existential idea of "radical freedom" and politics, and everyone I've introduced to it who was otherwise apolitical or, worse, trapped in the hopeless cycles of the system's own internal political logic, has been positively affected by it has realized their capacity to exist as free individuals and from there, see the need and desire to find some way to actualize it.

If you go beating people in the head about the nightmares of class struggle or the oppression of modern plutocracy, you're not going to make any friends or change any minds. Whether you want to argue that this is the result of widespread heebie-jeebies towards the idea thanks to years of government fear-mongering and conditioning or that the reality of social discontent is buried under the blanket of spectacular distraction is irrelevent: The individual wills and drives and experiences of individuals are sacrosanct, and any collectivist that would rebuke this idea should be put under immediate scrutiny.

The first step towards a society of free-association and chosen participation has to begin with the individual's own self-liberation. The last thing that any self-respecting, free individual wants is a convert: Outside of direct action, the greatest service one can provide for another is the creative inspiration for self-disentanglement. The scope of the political landscape has changed dramatically: We don't have to cope with walking through city streets under the watchful eye of jackbooted military police... subservience and complacency are now cultivated rather than imposed. So deep the conditioning runs that in the extreme circumstances where imposition and intervention is actualized that in an almost self-flagellating manner, the population rationalizes it as for the best.

Arguably, in this age of a politically castrated proletariat, where alienation of labor teeters on the cusp of critical mass and the surge of customer service and information technology delineatess praxis to a crippled abstraction, the deck is stacked immeasurably higher against the agents of social change. While it's sentimental to harken back to a time where Kansas was a hotbed of radical farmer movements, socialist politicians could be found on the ballots, or the distinction between syndicalism and libertarian communism meant a measurable, immediate damn, the world is a different place: The sheer of hyperreality has cast down another layer, another obstacle between the general population's direct experience with life... the political technology of the individual has been commodified and repackaged.

This isn't an age of fascist vangaurds and hellcat strikes: These are the times of American Idol and pharmaceuticals and globalization... and the inflation of the middle-class. While the reality of class oppression, of the technological power of the state and pathological capitalism may be imminent and palpable to those of us who can taste the sulfuric ash of kitsch in the air with every intake of breath, let's face it... that's the exception, not the rule, and the system was designed that way. All these problems are real, but they're now buried: They've bloated, they've mutated, and they've kicked into the cultural air a thick layer of dust that must first be cleared before any direct changes can occur.

Raoul Vaneigem wrote:
"People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth."
As true as that was in the 60s, it is infinitely moreso now. There is no greater illuminating force than self-born emancipation. If you want to make the world your playground, soon, you run into corners, into chains, into boundaries, and when that desire for erratic, truly free living is restored in you, the limitations imposed upon your life by the hierarchical structure of society are finally revealed. Simply put, you're not going to break people's chains for them, at least initially.

Anarchist tradition has a long and rich history of altruism, but it's a highly limited (if noble) worldview. The enemy of freedom, to the anarchist, has always been hierarchy and the alienation that results... but culturally, we must first assault the spectre of complacency in which it now hides. First, give people an alternative: And then when they're happy, filled with the simple ecstasy of their own being, they'll soon run headlong into the prison bars they never knew existed.


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