I want to die in bed, a hundred years old, having lived most of my life in a stateless, anticapitalist society. This is possible. Authoritarianism is not unconquerable. I don’t believe in utopia, per se, and I don’t think an anarchist society would be perfect, but I believe we could live a lot healthier, happier, and more freely than we do now. So I want to win. I believe it’s possible for us to win.
On the other hand, I don’t expect to.
I came to terms a long time ago with my investment in this hopeless cause. Even when I was an eager and innocent baby anarchist, I never believed that a beautiful, black-and-red dawn was about to break across the horizon. I cut my teeth getting my ass kicked by cops trying to stop a war and trying to stop corporate globalization, then moved on to the insurmountable task of trying to slowly shift culture towards anti-authoritarian values. I never expected to win. I try to fight like I’m going to, though.
Acting as though winning is a serious possibility is the only way for it to become even the barest possibility.
Fighting to win, and fighting for what I actually believe in instead of some watered down compromise, has proven to just outright be a better way to live. Furthermore, acting as though winning is a serious possibility is the only way for it to become even the barest possibility.
There are a handful of fights going on in contemporary feminism right now, and one of the most heated is about the issue of trans-acceptance. Like any good fight, we can rudely simplify it down to two sides. On one side, you have trans-inclusive feminism. On the other, you have what are generally known as TERFs: trans-exclusive radical feminists. For context, I am a transwoman.
TERFs claim they want to destroy gender. The thing is, though, that us trans-accepting feminists are doing a better job of it.
When the nazis came to town, a friend of mine got in her pickup truck and drove around the entire night. Not just to keep track of the fascists, but to give rides and offer safety to anyone and everyone who felt threatened by them. I know without a doubt she would have climbed out of her truck and intervened more bodily if it had been required of her.
She’s also white and has a rather large and prominent tattoo of Mjolnir, “Thor’s hammer.” She listens to black metal, writes in runes, tends towards misanthropy, and draws strength from the old gods. These are all things a lot of nazis do too. Which is to say, my friend spends a lot of her time in contested cultural terrain. I love her for it. Continue reading Cede No Ground To Fascists→
Fifteen years ago today, on February 2nd, 2002, I became an anarchist. I was nineteen, living in NYC, and I attended the World Economic Forum protests. I knew the anarchists by reputation only — they wore all black and they smashed things. They were going to wear masks in defiance of NYC’s anti-mask laws. I wanted to know why, so I approached a man with his face obscured by a black bandanna.
“What’s anarchism?” I asked.
“Well, we hate capitalism and the state.” He was very forthcoming, which I appreciated.
“What do you all do about it?”
“We build up alternative institutions without hierarchy while attacking and interfering with the existing, oppressive ones we despise.”
“Oh,” I said. I pondered this for a moment, but honestly only a moment. “Do you have an extra mask?”
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” —Assata Shakur
I admit, I’m terrified.
(Usually I write blogposts several days ahead of time and put them through several rounds of edits. This one I wrote and posted this morning, because even though I’ve been thinking about, and listening to others’ thoughts about, a Trump victory, I didn’t actually think it was going to happen.)
We don’t know what happens now. We don’t know if all our much-acclaimed checks and balances will keep the status quo of the country (already a totalitarian nightmare of police check points, deportations, stop and frisk, and mass incarceration for many of its inhabitants) intact. We do know that this nation elected an “unelectable” racist demagogue who quotes Mussolini, brags about sexually assaulting women, and isn’t even a very good businessman.
We also know that the Republicans control the house and senate. This isn’t unprecedented: George Bush, Jr. came into office with a republican majority congress as well. Which didn’t go so well for anyone, at home or abroad, though most of us survived it.
There’s a simple-but-effective “political compass” used by many people I know. “Compass” has always seemed like a misnomer, and I prefer the word “map.” This map has two axes: left/right economics and libertarian/authoritarian structure. The idea is that individuals, groups, and societies can be placed on the map so that they can be understood in relation to one another.
It’s a good starting point. I’d like to expound upon it by recalibrating it and providing further subdivisions.
I was driving through northwestern Ohio, which from the car window sure looks like a series of small towns strung out along cornfields. No offense to cornfields of course. My high school in Maryland was surrounded on three sides by cornfields. But my phone was broken so I was stuck listening to the radio and I’d made the mistake of tuning in to the local Christian talk radio station.
When I was young and naive I half-heartedly campaigned for Ralph Nader. It was the year 2000 and I wasn’t quite old enough to vote but I had a green party pin on the lapel of my corduroy blazer. I’m as embarrassed of my teenage fashion choices as I am of having ever supported third party politics, if I’m being honest.
I had my excuses and talking points all lined up. Not about the corduroy, there’s no excusing corduroy. About the pin. About Ralph Nader.
“He’s unelectable,” someone might say.
“That’s only because we assume it to be true,” I said. “The only reason we’re locked into a two-party system is because people say we are.”
I think I got that line from my friend, the Nader campaign coordinator on campus. Thanks to the Nader campaign, he and I both got to feel like we were part of something important.
Nader lost, and a year later I realized that the only reason we’re trapped in capitalism and statist politics is because people assume we are. People assume revolution is off the table. People assume that taking autonomy for ourselves and defending it is off the table. We, as people, can reconstruct society to be anything we want it to be, and I’d been wasting my time imagining spending that potential on some vaguely-better version of the status quo.
I left Seattle on an Amtrak. Heading north, I saw the Olympic peninsula burning. I was watching a rainforest on fire. Rainforests aren’t supposed to be on fire.
I felt almost nothing.
I’ve heard it called “disaster fatigue.” No one on the train reacted while the announcer told us what we were watching. I’d been a committed environmentalist anarchist for more than a decade, and I was numb.
Toilets, at the very least those conceived by Western cultures, are a blindingly stupid idea. Civilization is full of incredibly stupid ideas, actually. But for the purposes of this article, I’ll stick to toilets.
Toilets a bad idea because flushing our sewage is stupid and because the sitting position is a stupid one to be in when you shit.
Toilet were an improvement at the time, don’t get me wrong. We do have to deal with our sewage. Ignoring it is poisonous, and any sedentary community of even a modest population density is going to have to do something with their shit. So yes, moving to toilets was a step in the right direction. But they were a half-revolution.