As much as I hate you, work is worse

It has been a rough year so far. For the past few years I’ve been able to afford to work very part time and devote my energy to projects that I love and share with my closest friends. I’ve lost a few of those friends, some recently, and some in years past but if radical politics has taught me anything it is that friendship isn’t forever. Anyway, I’ve returned to full time(+) work and it’s reminded me about keeping things in perspective, especially in regards to friendship.

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There seems to be a general confusion about the difference between friendship and comrades(hip). Furthermore this confusion lives in short-time. Terribly short time. And as the confusion tends to to mean conflating the two things, it means increased the frequency that it takes them to cycle through our world without increasing the amplitude of the relationship(s).

In my few friendships is a feeling, a shared chemistry, and the lack of need to spend a bunch of time defining terms, calibrating jargon, and deciding what to do next. We already knew. Friendship is in the category of romance, fleeting, uplifting, and harder to achieve as the years go by. Thirty years ago I made friends nearly every day. At 45 I find friendship almost impossible to find and to nurture (nostalgia is a hell of a drug.)

Comrades, on the other hand, are a bit easier to find, even today. I don’t have to sit strangers down to calibrate them to my interests. By the time they find me they’ve usually calibrated themselves (or visa versa of course.) My interest in topics like alienation, social change, and the transformation of daily life has a predetermied audience (for and against). Politics, by this measure, is what my comrades and I are capable of doing. My project is to share the building of that capacity and collaborate with comrades about what to do with our capacity.

When I see people talk like strugglismo’s (which frequently means pretending that their crew of friends are on the cusp of something great, something permanent, something that can’t possibly be coopted–even at THE EXACT MOMENT that cooptation is is exactly what is happening), I don’t blame their friendships, which are enviable, I blame their politics. Their inability to see what is happening to and around them is the failure of their political imagination, on the one side believing that substantial libertarian change is possible (in the here and now), and on the other believing in their relevance (aka imminent necessity) to that change.

Camatte was onto something when he said “One awaits the revolution in vain, for it is already underway. It is unnoticed by those who await it, expecting a particular sign, a ‘crisis’ releasing the vast insurrectional movement which would produce another essential sign, the formation of the party etc…” but he uses the term revolution differently from me. When I use the term I attempt to always use it as a negative, as the project of the old left to create their beauracratic utopia or of the christians (who almost always call themselves something else… like anarchist) who have clear intentions about their heaven on earth. Camatte is using the term in a far less grandiose manner. “The increasing loss of our real submission to capital will allow us to confront the true question of the revolution, not that of changing life, because all life has been enslaved, domesticated, misled by the existence of classes for millenia, but the creation of human life.” I wouldn’t put it this way (as I’m not exactly up on people) but for Camatte the revolution that is happening now is the creation of human life outside of politics, jargon, and “the struggle for the streets” (aka playing with cops in urban playgrounds).

Here the American followers of the Appelistas get it half right. The milieu is not, nor ever intended to be, the active agent for future revolutionary activity. If that’s what you are looking for good luck to you. It has always been the place to meet the fellow revolutionaries of the “create a human life worth living” school and this is why I will continue to serve it (even while largely not benefiting from it).

But of course all of this is a preface to a different point. As much as the Internet has allowed for a certain kind of hostility to exist between us, I forgive you your excesses. Forgive me for being a rude host, but my goal was always to get us to talk to each other. I didn’t realize how alienated those discussions would turn out but of course, in hindsight, it makes sense. I apologize for letting you believe we were ever going to be friends even though we agree about nearly everything. As much as I may hate you right now I really understand that in the landscapes of hatred it really isn’t a thing.

On the other hand I have been working a lot. I’m trying to take care of a pile of personal and family debt that I never took seriously before but that now looms large. Now I am hunkered in the digital coal mines tap, tap, tapping. My mind is never clear, rested, or happy with the task at hand. Even the things I love doing (like LBC) are annoyances and burdens. This reminds me that we are not enemies. We may not be friends any more, we may only be silent, or indifferent, comrades, but my hate for you is nothing. It is not a thing. My enemy is this imagination-killing nightmare called work. It is the duty to debt, the separation from my body, and the incredible organization of it all that has rationalized my life along with 7 billion of my closest… friends?

I hate using code words, or jargon, to substitute for my feelings, so of course it is the cops who implement, the middle managers who hammer out the terms, the teachers and parents who convince us there is no outside, and the shoppers, wage laborers, and protesters who consent to the terms of the agreement, so blame isn’t much beyond the rhetoric and shouting. My feeling is that the agreement is the problem and the process by which one figures out exactly what we agreed to is one I continue to be capable of being seduced by. I may hate you but in your stupid, ill-advised, immature, silly yearning I still love you. Both are true at once.

I would not say the same for the architects of this disaster.

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Green Anarchism: a Self-Interview

Q: Are you a Green Anarchist? A: The short answer is, “I don’t know.” I have more questions than I have answers about this. Like most things, it depends how the term is defined. Q: Well let’s start with definition, then. How do you understand the term? A: There has to be some sort of […]
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Problems of an Anarchist Jew

There is nothing about my life that has been more of a conflict than my heritage, but I am a Jew. Let’s begin with the first difficulty of this situation of being a Jew: proof. Superficially, I have two Jewish parents and a family of Jews whom until my generation, had not deviated from producing […]
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Ludwig Binswanger Blurb

Tomorrow I’ll be conducting the final installment of a 4-part workshop series on Existentialism. The text I will be using is, Foucault and Binswanger: Beyond the Dream. There are a few motivations for using this text that I want to write about before giving the presentation. These include: post-structuralism’s relationship to existentialism, the usefulness of […]
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The Ice King

On the peak of the world’s coldest mountain, there from his palace he gazes Down upon the swiftly swirling stew of organic life Everything caught between the outline his eye has isolated, stops And he gives it a name And he hangs it on the wall And he calls it his own When you walk […]
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After Finding Ground

Towards the end of my adolescence, I published a book called the Aberration that was the result of blending autobiographical, philosophical, and fictional writing which I had previously written. The greatest challenge of the project was systematically organizing and evaluating that work, highlighting the themes that ran through these different forms of activity, and coming […]
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The Rebel by Albert Camus reviewed by Squee

The Rebel by Albert Camus reviewed by Squee In 1951, Albert Camus had already dealt thoroughly with the questions of nihilism, rebellion, revolutionary politics, and anarchism. It may surprise many anarchists that this existentialist philosopher (mostly known for his novel The Stranger) was quite familiar with anarchism and was himself a frequent supporter of anarchists. […]
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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.

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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

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Nekro Anarcho

Nekro Anarcho Death is the only thing worth talking about…
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Critique of the Farmer Neighborhood in Tempe, AZ

In Struggles of the Farmer Neighborhood in Tempe, AZ, I took a look at the neighborhood I had formerly lived in from the angle of anarchist, radical, and/or counter-cultural struggle. I concluded by stating that “I see it as a legitimate beginning and hope for the resistance there to sustain.” To follow up, I want […]
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The Future is DorkLinux

If you didn’t think Linux was dorky enough, you were right! This is a guide dedicated to the full expression of total nerd for *Nix-Craft Masters. Beware! The DorkFu is strong here! DorkLinux is destroy everything. This must be done before anything else.   1) After you successfully destroy everything, you can build your linux […]
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Power Against Hierarchy …incomplete.

Augmented Reality Annabelle woke up early to check outside her apartment door for the new AR, one-a-day lenses she had pre-ordered from Cornea-X. It wasn’t very long after their release was announced that she confirmed the order; but, since it was the day of the release there were always potential last-minute setbacks. They had arrived […]
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A Little Pain

I usually keep these things to myself, as one is expected to do. Locking the heat in until the pressure cooker I become has cooled and no longer threatens to scald those nearby with steam. The cooling process is slow, but it can be timed. Time heals, sure. With enough of it, moments that offer […]
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Struggles of the Farmer Neighborhood in Tempe, AZ

For years I have been writing about subjectivity, long-term goals, cultural struggles, radical ghettos, liberating space, and resisting domination. Yet, I have failed in communication with comrades and friends alike to articulate the importance and originality of the Farmer neighborhood struggle; how it exemplifies an approach to rebellion that has won my approval, and the […]
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Regarding “Decolonizing the Imagination”

Dear friend,

Thanks for asking about the oblique statement I made on Facebook to quote…

I am terrified by the politics behind the phrase “decolonize the imagination”

in regards to this link.

YoX3o3A

To begin with let me state unequivocally that I loved Octavia Butler as an author and respect that fact that a generation of new authors have found her writing to be inspiring and her personal story heartwrenching. There is probably no better way to honor her than to put together a collection of SF writings by POC authors. I also respect the fact that Walidah Imarisha is doing good PR work for her project and finding whatever media sources available to get out the word of the project. As someone who works in publishing, I recognize the work that she is doing as uncomfortable but necessary in this early stage of the digital publishing transformation. It’ll probably work at selling many copies of the book.

Again, as a publisher of books in the conceptual neighborhood of this one, and as a life-long lover of SF I can’t help but be envious of AK Press for being associated with this project EXCEPT for the content of the book (or at least the PR) itself. Now, I have not read it so I can’t speak to the actual content, but I can speak to the political suppositions made in the boingboing article which, I assume, reflects the tenor of the introduction (ie the framing) of the book. Here is a quote that seems to get to the heart of the politics of Octavia’s Brood:

“Visionary fiction encompasses all of the fantastic, with the arc always towards justice,” writes Imarisha. “We believe this space is vital for any process of decolonization, for the decolonization of the imagination is the most dangerous and subversive form there is, for it is where all other forms of decolonization are born. Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless.”

Here is where you see the difference between an Octavia Butler–who in her essay “A Few Rules for Predicting the Future” made it clear that the strong-throated assertions of politicians are to considered in the face of the unintended consequences of their solutions–and the topicality of Imarisha’s declarations around decolonization and justice. On the one hand you have an author who decries the simplicity of speaking in terms of solutions to frightful, terrifying problems and on the other hand we have a vague, programmatic. “Take this world, add decolonization to imagination, and the future is limitless.” As any lover of SF will tell you, if you assume imagination, full stop, the world is limitless. That’s the definition of the word!

The alternative, offered here, is an imagination that is colonized by some foreign, external force. If we accept Imarisha’s premise that our imagination is colonized then we are utterly without hope. Imagination, as far as I’m concerned, is the magic dust that makes every other thing possible whether it’s activism, the pursuit of knowledge, or the will to fight. To start the conversation, whether it’s about visionary fiction or changing the world, by shooting yourself in the leg vis a vis imagination is to end it pre-born, it’s a fight for voice rather than speaking with it, it’s a fight for the right to think rather than thinking.

This brings us to the topicality of the message of Octavia’s Brood. The primary coded term in use here is decolonization. It’s used three times in the quote up above and I’m left struggling to understand what it means. I understand its use in the sense of ejecting foreign occupation of one’s land. I also understand the Fanonian idea that foreign values have come to dominate here (eg North America). I do not, though, understand what the connection to those two uses of the term have to do something called decolonization and I think that this is an intentional mystification.

I think that the word decolonization, in this use and generally, is intended to evoke a militant attitude regarding existential and physical occupation without much thinking, or practicality, behind it. It seems to be used as a powerful way to say “good, but not in a white way” without, necessarily, specifically racializing the point. In the quote above the subtext is of a liberation movement that begins by an oppressed minority breaking the deep existential chains that bind without having to name that minority or the oppressor. It is, in other words, topical PR about a book, using for inspiration a woman who deserves something less crass and ham-handed than she is getting.

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Rebellion and Future

The themes of time, context, and rebellion has ran through a variety of anarchist events that I have attended lately. This has taken the form of discussions about lifestylism (with crimethinc often cited), leftist ideals of the Revolution, the notion of prefiguration, and ideologies. The conversations usually go something like this: - Leftist revolutionary movements […]
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Magic

Occult philosophers and mystics have played an important role in my life and thinking. Although not often my primary focus, their theories, techniques, and stories have rode alongside my interests in psychology, Western philosophy, anarchism, and hyperspace. I’ve definitely done my dabbling, mostly with doubt and suspicion. However, I have consistently found some of it […]
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NAASN 2015

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I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’ve been feeling pretty low and unexcited about the anarchist space but didn’t want to devote much energy to complaining about it. I feel a bit better now. I participated in the 2015 NAASN gathering. I was motivated by Tom Nomad and his idea to discuss three perspectives on the role of anarchists in social movements. Tom, Doug and I gave presentations. I’ve attached the schedule and descriptions here.

NAASN2015-Preliminary-Program

Here is my presentation (more or less as a transcript). Enjoy!

Am I a pessimist?

so the first thing I want to say is that this panel (there are a couple others but very few this weekend) are sort of outside of the tradition of anarchist studies. to me, this is a good way to start thinking about what pessimism means.

I actually disagree with the premise (this is my habit, of course), I disagree with the premise of the question. So I’m here to represent the pessimistic, in this question, but I disagree with the premise. But to extend that a little, for me the pessimistic orientation, which I mostly do see as a modern, youth perspective… a pessimistic perspective sits on the outside as an observer, is disempowered, and sort of whines about how things are going, how shitty everything is, and how shitty everyone is. That’s the pessimistic position.

I would like to believe that I don’t do that at all. That my projects by and large (specifically Little Black Cart, but also certain web projects I do) has me absolutely engaged with the things that are happening around me and with this thing that I love, which I call anarchism.

I mention that because within the anarchist studies context, there is a quiet consensus that anarchism is a class-struggle perspective, and that anarchism is collegiate (because many of the people who are involved in anarchist studies together know that they will be seeing each other in sociology conferences, and what not, in the future; to some extent this is a wading pool for their bigger academic life, which—if they’re successful—they’ll actually have). so when you see the list of all the names, there’s a surprisingly small fraction of speakers who are outside of that tradition. One of the terms used to dismissively refer to these [outside-of-the-academic-tradition] people is “organic intellectuals;” and I guess i’m one of them.

I’m going to give a presentation from some notes that I wrote down, but I want to be cautious, because I know I’m liable to flights of fancy where people might not get the things I reference and could get confused. So I know that i’m somewhat notoriously incomprehensible. I apologize for that ahead of time and I’ll try to fill in a lot here, to make it clear what I’m trying to get at.

I’m here to represent the position with the absolute worst marketing in all of anarchism or even radical politics. I wish I could just blame bob black for this (which of course I can), but the amount of vitriol piled onto what is perceived to be my position is in absolute contrast to common sense. Whether you call it post left, anti left, anti organizational, anti civilization, or nihilist anarchy, it’s reviled from Bookchin to Zerzan. But at the end of the day, it is the anarchist position. It is an approach of utter hostility to the existing order, and or revulsion to most successful approaches to changing the world.

(That’s pretty clear.)

Where my position differs from my comrades here today is that I am not only opposed to successful approaches to changing the world–ie state communists, capitalists, technocrat– i’m also against failed approaches to changing the world. Every time I hear the word revolution, especially as it’s used by the class-struggle and struggle-struggle-all-the-time-strugglismos, what I perceive are plaintive wails of a failed secular crusade against the infidels.

Jesus

To put this in some context, I think I, like many of you, began being a radical in the shadow of what felt like a very structured arrangement. Like, “Spain is the high point of anarchist struggle,” “things have gotten better over time” (so, a progressive story about history), and over time when I stopped thinking of these accepted premises as true, and started to think about what they meant, what they assumed, I found that there were fewer and fewer answers the further I went down this rabbit hole. So not to simplify too much, but one of the history of ideas that I think is absolutely to think about in the context of anarchism (this is actually talked about a lot in a book called Anti-Nietzsche, by Bell—he’s a marxist scholar who attempts to revile Nietzsche from a Marxist perspective but makes an interesting point that may be valid), the first rebels were the rebels who contemplated the possibility that there might not be a God. Sorry, let me make the big clarification, the first rebels in the western tradition, the tradition that most of us in this room are locked into. So the first rebellion was even opening up the idea that God wasn’t this omnipotent, singular, reflection. So it was only later that sort of sub-Gods began to be of concern; so what we now say is that anarchism is against capitalism and the state. That’s a later formation. The original heresy in the western tradition is just to be against God. This is because the western tradition at its very core is a christian, religious, judeo-christian formation. The way we think about logic, history, the progress of history, the way we metaphysically place ourselves in the universe, has an entire christian pedagogical terrain. And I think it’s fair to say that anarchism does the same thing, in almost all its iterations.

Last night there was a very nice presentation about anarcho-pacifism that left out the Jesus… but there’s plenty of Jesus in anarcho-pacifism. To me the striking thing is that in all the beautiful flourishes that we all cheer along to, from the stories that we heard last night, almost all those stories begin and end with a narrative that looks like salvation by way of revolution.

So the reason that I question the premise that i’m a pessimist is because I question the premise that a revolution will save us, that the french revolution model of transforming society and social relationships—not only whether or not it’s valid but whether or not it’s… the toolset is incomplete. And that’s entirely putting aside the fact that the western model and the western gaze here doesn’t describe much more than 25% of the world. It just happens to be the winning 25%, at least as we understand it today.

So there’s the context.

Savages

As for the rest of us, the dirty savages of daily life… we labor in silence, fully aware that we are not the future managers of society. We are not necessary or considered in regards to how to feed and water the masses. We’re nto invited to the organizational meetings, or the fashionable equivalents in the 21st century, sex parties, how to set up a commune or whatever, we scrape and scrabble merely to survive. So let me restate my premise in reference to our current impasse (an impasse referred to in the original text, something of what tom was talking about). In days of yore, we believed in the spirits of rocks, trees, lakes around us. Our deities were human-sized, and we had personal relationships with them, as is normal when the frame of your reference is small and human-sized. Eventually our deities organized themselves and found heroes, stories, morality. This was a nightmare because it grew our frame of reference outside the band, into a gang, and bullies started to find themselves. The rest of us suffered. Finally these pantheons had it out with one another, and ended up in really large stories, universal stories that raged across continents, cutting people down like trees, and forcing many of us to fight for their flags and holy trinities.

Lucky for some, at some point someone came up with a better version of this story, that spun fire and brimstone into inside heating and iphones. This modern story is one that agrees on all levels with the universal monotheistic religion, but calls it something else, humanity let’s say. It convinces because it has better songs, FM radio, and shit, but perhaps has made some sort of back room deal with monotheism, because the two don’t seem to squabble at all in public at this point. But from the perspective of an anarchist, those who fight for one are identical in every way to those who fight for jesus and would hand infidels from the walls of the city (except for terminology and a decided lack of passion… growing less as times goes on).

So stop wasting your time, fellow anarchists, with a failed modernist strategy of a crusade against society in all its forms. There is no path from here to there. Anyone who tells you differently is selling you an ideology, full stop. The things we should be doing together and apart is to create anarchic moments of our own, not merely in the reflection of cops’ riot masks, but in the interstitial spaces of a totalizing world that aspires to fill more and more of the spaces between us. If one aspires to activism, it should in growing and developing those interstitial spaces rather than defending spaces that are long gone.

The point is no longer to fight against symbols of bad as a solution to a world gone bad, but to fight as a matter of affect, to create a loving hostility, that’s the only thing that anarchy can be today.

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Protected: Notes after ASG (Family background and Social Cohesion)

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.
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The Idealist-Criminal/Duped-Activist Trope

from a facebook post… Lately I’ve been watching the Blacklist on Netflix. One of its episodes shares a theme that I have a hard time thinking of a show I’ve watched the past couple of years that doesn’t. Those shows are somewhere in the genre-pool of mystery, detective, and sci-fi; and, there’s a lot of […]
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