May 2013

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Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s Glendi’s birthday present to me of time to reflect in Vancouver, BC. Maybe it’s that my first year of teaching is coming to a successful end. Maybe it’s the inspiration of my friends and colleagues. Maybe I’m even starting to heal from some of my past pain. Certainly, some of it is the strength and beauty of my baby.

Whatever it is, I’ve been on a roll in May, reading, writing, and building community with energy and good spirits. I’ve actually hung out with 3 different friends this week, and I’ve gone to the radical coffeeshop twice on my own as well!

I feel so good.

As usual, once my brain gets going, it’s so fun where it takes me. I’ve got a bunch of pieces of writing and thinking that I’m working on. If you are actually reading this, here are some things that you might hopefully look forward to:

  • A review of Chris Crass’ Towards Collective Liberation
  • Campaigns are the New Black…Bloc: The Strategic Dangers of ‘Non-Reformist’ Reformism
  • Trolls, Feeders, and Button-Mashers: What Competitive Gaming Can Tell Us About Unhelpful Anti-Authoritarian Tendencies
  • A response to Andrew Flood’s piece, “Revolutionary Organization in the Age of Networked Individualism”
  • Some Lessons I’ve Learned From My Past Revolutionary Organizations…part 3
  • Sucking Out the Poison: How My Daughter Is Saving Me From Destructive Masculinity

    I’ve also re-read pretty much all the major pieces on this site, and I’m making plans to select and polish at least one for publication over the summer in Guatemala…which tends to be my most intellectually productive time of the year.

    Can someone fill me in? In current anti-authoritarian circles, what is the current state of dialogue/debate about forming organizations? Any new regional or national initiatives? Any new compelling arguments why we shouldn’t be talking about that question right now?

    Because I’m really baffled about why more people aren’t trying? Where is our modern Love and Rage, or Movement For A New Society, or whatever else?

    This isn’t rhetorical, I actually feel out of the loop and would love for someone to tell me where those discussions are at right now.

    Found this in my drafts. Wrote it in 2011. Given the gun control debacle, the overturning of the Guatemala genocide case, the 26,000+ sexual assaults that are happening annually in the military alone, the surreal monstrosity of Guantanamo, the crossing of the 400ppm carbon threshold, this seems appropriate right about now.

    Where do you stand?

    That is the question that we should be asking, constantly. The refrain. The invitation.

    At this point, the stakes are so clear, the realities are so stark, the trajectory is so predictable that it is no longer truly a matter of debate about what is happening in our world. It is known. We know it. And we know, quite clearly now, that those who continue to express doubt about naming it have a vested interest in the confusion. The deniers are now caricatures of themselves. There is no going back from that. It is now common knowledge.

    There is a millenia long war going on, and it’s now not even happening too slowly to notice it. It’s rocketing along. It is a war against almost all of us. It’s a war with ever multiplying targets. Like I said, we know this. It’s so well known that it’s boring.

    So then it’s simple. Where do you stand? What are you doing? How are you going to contribute to ending the war? That should be the question. That should be as basic a getting to know you question as “what’s your sign?” or “what’s your favorite type of music.” Because the war is more constant than the weather. It’s not an “are you political?” thing. That would be acting like this is about opinions. This isn’t about opinions. It’s not an opinion where our water is going. It’s not an opinion who makes my stuff, and what it costs them. It’s not an opinion that each day not fighting is a day that they are consolidating power. And it’s not an opinion that there is a “they.” There is. They know it, and so do we.

    So where do you stand? Everyone has an answer, whether implicit or no, and so everyone should be asked it. Because it’s going to take quite nearly everyone to turn this thing around.

    I know that where I stand shifts. I know that I waver, I wobble. We do this a lot. I can live with that, and I will. But still, I know where I stand.

    There is now no doubt that this thing is broken. Where do you stand on trying to help get it fixed?

    Oops…now I remember why I didn’t ever post this! I thought it was too ableist to frame everything around “standing.” I’m going to ponder this a bit and maybe edit it or take it down. Hope you don’t mind seeing me in process.

    Less than two weeks after his historic conviction for Genocide in Guatemala, Efrain Rios Montt has been let off the hook by the constitutional court.

    Democracy Now has been doing a fantastic job of covering this story, so I don’t have much to say here except this: this has nothing to do with simple court disputes, and everything to do with Guatemala’s military oligarchy. How dare those poor blanket wearing Indians try to take down an ex-president and general–and potentially even the current president. How dare that uppity female judge actually lay down a conviction and then order additional investigations. The masters of Guatemala wouldn’t have it, and what they want, they get. For now, at least.

    But this won’t go away so easily. That case, that trial, that conviction…all of it was hard-won by resilient people. They will not give up, and I doubt now that President Otto Perez Molina will get away so unscathed next time. Movements may take time, but they do move. Someday, oh someday, Guatemala will have its spring again. And justice will come, if not with courts, then with torches.

    What I don’t write about…

    I don’t write about teaching, my students, and my job, because that’s gotten me into trouble before. If I did, I’d have so many dozens of stories, analyses, and questions to share. I know that I’m only ready to write about that stuff here when I have sufficiently processed and synthesized it all to a more abstract and general conceptual level. Then, and only then, will I really get into it on this page. But oh my, I have learned so many things about teaching, schools, and social change in this year.

    I don’t write too much about the ups and downs of my marriage, and related issues of masculinity in relationships, because I don’t quite trust the audience. I think there are still a few people out there who doubt my relationship or who would be a little too satisfied to take in that vulnerability, and even imagining that deters me from sharing (if you imagine that I’m talking about you, you’re actually probably wrong). I wish I could, though, because long-time relationships offer amazing food for thought…and I am disturbed by the power of gendered divisions of labor in my life.

    I don’t write about my family very much, because that’s family business and it needs to be handled there first. If I don’t have the strength or energy to bring my analysis up directly with them, then I’m not going to share it with the world here first.

    I don’t write about sexual assault and community accountability in activist communities, even though it’s been a huge part of my work in activism, and I think about it quite a bit. I don’t talk about it because that topic–in my view–is the number one way to destabilize movements and I don’t take that lightly, so I prefer to keep those conversations face-to-face. However, my close people know that I have A LOT to say about it.

    I don’t write about all the ways I screw up with my family in Guatemala because it shames and embarrasses me…which is probably why it’s time to write about it.

    I don’t write about topic __________ because I just am not making the time I should for it.

    Thanks, Amanecer, for knocking this down and reminding me of it.

    Say, have you ever read this book? The Ecology of Everyday Life by Chaia Heller? If not, you should go get it. For me, it was one of the more brilliant and creative pieces of theory to come out of the global justice movement period, and I thought it marked a high point for both the eco-feminist and social ecology arms of anti-authoritarian politics. Sadly, I think it was greatly under-appreciated and missed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Heller’s book referenced anywhere, especially in the last 5-10 years. Have you?

    This would actually be a great book to do a reading group about, if anyone’s looking for something. I remember loving it and devouring it in a night.

    Actually, why isn’t there more discussion of eco-feminism generally? Books like Greta Gaard’s Ecological Politics and Ecofemism: Women, Animals, Nature had huge influences on me in the early 2000’s, and they don’t seem to get any love or references anymore. Big mistake, because a ton of that thinking still holds up and it’s so, so rich.

    It feels serendipitous. After weeks or months without logging in, I go on Facebook to check on an old friend who’s coming to town. Ths leads me to discover a new book is out, by another person who probably should be my friend but who I’ve never met. I find said book and I start to read it. It’s beautiful.

    Chris Crass’ Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy speaks to precisely the sentiments I expressed about anarchism in my previous post, and reinvigorates and validates just so many of the things that I have come to believe about winning social change for the long-haul. There are a number of elements I’ll hope to come back to in future posts, but for now I just feel fortunate to find this book right now. Yay!

    This weekend, like so many times before, I was drawn into a couple of conversations with non-activist folks about what “the anarchists” have done in Seattle. May Day hiijinks, street fighting, smashed bank windows, all those bandanas and balaclavas. I trot out all my weathered and withered replies: that those tactics don’t represent my style of anarchism; that I think they are immature, but that they also aren’t “terrorism” or usually even “violence” exactly; that the criminality of street fighting or black blocs is trivial in comparison to the daily criminality of the system; that I will support legal defense for such folks, though I lament how it distracts us in the movement. Again, and again.

    And then we don’t even talk about anarchism again until some other smashy media spectacle months or years from now. Cue my responses one more time.

    So, why am I an anarchist, then, if I don’t see myself at all in the current public face of anarchism? Why do I settle for just being an apologist for what I believe are losing tactics? What am I getting out of this, anyway? When is it time to cut the cord, and grow up from a philosophy that tends to always skew to the younger set? Why do I keep sitting at the anarchist table, when so many other bigger kids have changed seats?

    It’s pretty remarkable how quickly my answer comes, and how simple it is. Because anarchism is my philosophy. That’s it. To say anything different would be an opportunistic lie.

    I believe in this thing, in this idea. The core beliefs of anarchism–of social anarchism, of anti-authoritarian anti-capitalism, of libertarian communism–still guide and inspire me. Anarchism’s basic analysis of power still holds strong for understanding both the travesties and opportunities of society. The anarchist legacy–flawed though it is–of the Spanish revolution, of the First International, of Emma Goldman, the IWW, of Dorothy Day, of Gustav Landauer and Peter Kropotkin, is a legacy that I am proud to be a part of. For me to try and change the name while keeping the ideas is just playing into baiting and historical forgetting. For me to dump the ideals all together would just be betrayal of who I am. Seriously, what else do I want to claim to be? A Democrat? Some vague progressive? A plain vanilla socialist? None of these come close to the richness that I find in anarchism’s potential…a potential that still remains dormant in the 21st century.

    Nope, I’m not going to give up on the word. I’m certainly not going to abandon it to the whims of whatever insurrectionists or smashy-types who want to throw it around. They can go ahead and keeping working with the word, too, because…yeah…all that hooligan stuff is part of the historical tradition as well (including that legacy that I mentioned above). I’m sticking around with anarchism in spite of the elitist crusties and all the the security-culture let’s-make-everyone-else-less-secures, not because of them; but at the same time, I’m not too scared of guilt by association.

    But if I’m gonna stick with the word anarchism, I can’t just keep being an occasional apologist for what I see as crappy manifestations of it. I…better say we…we’ve got to go public with an actually different position, a reason why we keep siding with anarchism despite such tactically bankrupt nonsensery. If anarchism is something more than the same old bricks and windows, simplistic chants, and shallow promises of immediate revolutionary gratification–then what is that something else, and how do we let it manifest itself now? What are the other options?

    Please don’t tell me that the only other option is the quiet, reluctant example of all those thousands of “mature” anarchists who are doing indispensable work on the reformist and non-profit sidelines. Yeah, yeah, I know about all them because I’m one of them–but that can’t be our great anarchist alternative to the street fighting. “We’re anarchists: we do liberals’ work even more energetically and effectively than them, but we sure have a mighty fine self-critique while we do it.” C’mon, can’t we do better?

    No. My kind of anarchists, the anarchists who–in my opinion–really take winning seriously, need to start getting more public. More groups. More literature. More interventions in pop culture…and more toe-to-toe interventions with the smashy-kids to share some of our experience–as condescending as that sounds, and is.

    Easier said than done, sure. And sure I’ve said this dozens of times before. Okay, what’s next, then, Jeremy the Grouch?

    I have pretty much one parenting skill in which I can say I’m better than Glendi: putting Amanecer to sleep. My tactic–beyond the basic ingredient of love and tranquility–is singing…mostly just whatever songs from my childhood.

    However, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to sing the original versions of those songs, so I retool them to match my values a bit more. A favorite example:

    Silent night, hopeful night,
    All is calm, the future is bright.
    Proud young anarchist father and child,
    Precocious infant, tender, yet wild.
    Dreaming of justice and peace,
    Working for justice and peace.

    Currently Reading:

    -Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi