Articles from Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed; The Age of No Opinion
Articles from Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed; The Age of No Opinion published by Evanvinh
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Posted on 2016-03-15
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The Age of No Opinion
I’m too much of a realist to believe in anarchism.
— Anonymous Realist
Lately I have had the displeasure of engaging in philosophical discussions with a segment of our so modern population that believes that critiquing dominant ideologies is self-righteous. Some others, who even though they feel the injurious nature of our state, won’t form strong judgments about it because they believe they would then be seen as a fanatic, stupid, duped, or missing the grand joke of human life...that no opinion matters because nothing we ever do will change the way the world is now.
We are a worn down population — tired out emotionally from politicians’ scare tactics, lack of exercise and nutritional food, frenzied media blasts which offer consumption as an antidote for our lack of meaningful relationships, days and years of meaningless wage earning tasks, and trying to make ourselves feel okay about our lives, which is most tiring of all.
Tearing it all down philosophically is complicated. Figuring out what aspects of this culture are useful to us, harmful to us, helpful, or neither is difficult; there are no clear lines. Who is the enemy? Even as anarchists this can be unclear. The short answer is: the state, of course. But scratch beyond that thin veneer of agreement and we dissolve into factions as to what to do after the state has been abolished. Do we have worker-collective factories that maintain an approximation of our current lifestyles, or do we exchange our computers for spears and warm up our drums? Or will it be a sort of magical miscellany of loosely related communities, each of them fluid in its structure and interacting with the environment and other groups in its own way? The arguments go round and round endlessly, and we become our own worst enemies, which seems understandable because arguing about minutiae is all we have right now. There is no revolution in sight, and no specifics in that glorious and fictitious situation to persuade us to prefer one path over another.
Here I would like to make a distinction between two types of critique. The first is personal, the second is systemic in scope. In the personal realm, in relationships and small communities, there can be a play of power where it is difficult to distinguish between dominators and submitters, the intelligent and the ignorant, the powerless and the powerful; these things are fluid and changeable since they involve the shifting of people’s personalities, or the fluctuations of group knowledge and commitment, and are often contextual and therefore difficult to evaluate with certainty. Established regimes or institutions are not so liquid or difficult to discern in nature. It is very easy to distinguish the oppressiveness of large organizations, and increasingly important to do so. It can be more frustrating to make critiques on a macro scale because it is less likely we will be able to shift these goliaths directly. Regardless, it is system-wide critical assessments I am concerned with here, particularly pertaining to the state.
It is advantageous for states that they should foster populations reluctant to form energetic, articulate, and radical critiques about them. Statists have studied the psychology of their populations, reviewed their past mistakes and victories, and synthesized this information into a patriot-making propaganda machine which they have unleashed with some disturbing successes.
With the help of the media, the modern state creates nationalist yarns to inspire and distract. For example, one popular us narrative showcases how the state has (generously) allowed women, people of color, formerly poor folks, non-christians, and people with alternative lifestyles (i.e. gay) to join the decision-making echelons. This inclusion and subsequent showcasing has persuaded some of the previously unrepresented multitudes to buy into [again with the economical metaphors? Or is it deliberate this time?] the myth that anyone can rise to the top of the money pile in the us. Not surprisingly, just as with all minor rearrangements in the face of the government, these superficial changes please enough people to weaken an opportunity to foment real change — the agenda all along.
There are large numbers of people who have swallowed this kind of nonsense, and trust in the state to manage our social relations and logistical needs, with few or no objections.
For those of the population who, despite the goodies dangled before them, object outright to this system, the promoters of the state offer a scattershot mixture of self-doubt, guilt, and intimidation.
As a first defense the state offers a simple way out for folks who don’t want to think very much beyond knowing they are dissatisfied (and have no passion to do anything about their discontent anyway). Statists very nicely explain that the machinations of government and society are too complicated for mere citizens to understand. No one in the general public is so brilliant or talented that they could keep their succors (or is it suckers?), and have complete freedom without inflicting a harsh word, bruise, or tear. They offer a pat on the back for caring, and ask you to keep working and paying your taxes so they can do their jobs, too. We all have to sacrifice something, and we don’t all have to know what’s going on. After all, the sufferings of contemporary life are inextricably woven together with their most cherished comforts and safety. Restrictions on freedom must be accepted to maintain this security, and a certain amount of violence is necessary to protect these goodies from other people or states who murderously covet them. Statists, in the worst fatherly tone, perpetuate the impossible utopian crap that it is every good citizen’s right to be comfortable, safe, and happy, and that it is their government’s job to see to that, if the people will just be good enough to keep quiet and let them do their duty.
The second line of popular defense alleges that where the state has certain deficiencies, the problems are really with the citizens not pulling their weight. They have not denied that some people don’t get a fair chance because of class, gender, or race. They have not denied that there is crime, homelessness, malnutrition, illiteracy, and pollution accompanied by new diseases and ecological damage. In fact, they have admitted to many shortcomings. But instead of allowing this ownership of the failings to be used as an argument against the state, they use their limitations to garner more support; the state recognizes the problem, the state has programs that prove that they care, but they need each person help to make the changes we all want. They expound on a communal sharing of fault, in which each enlightened citizen is responsible for doing everything in their power to make life better for all. If you haven’t, then you have no right to complain that the government can’t fix it. For example, if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain about any government actions. This blame approach apparently disorients and paralyzes some people in an overworked, strung-out, and guilty population. Feel dizzy yet?
This brings us to a third line of state defense: defeat stories. Parables of great movements end with easily repealed reforms and, ultimately, conformity and support for the state. They have threatened upstarts with the poverty and horror of other revolutions. They have pledged retaliation, violence, or death for uprisings. And one of our very understandable responses is to tell ourselves we don’t live in revolutionary times; why should we worry ourselves with things we can’t fix when we could just focus on the positive things that are happening and have a good time with our petty revenges? Sure it’s a little scary, crazy making, or unfair sometimes, but haven’t we enjoyed some of it, too? Aren’t we free to grumble and gripe? Or slip into a sullen, dark, and immobilizing ennui? You wouldn’t want to hurt anyone would you? You aren’t a terrorist are you?
Now for the double mind fuck. Are you comfortable? Are you more comfortable now than you would be watching your friends and loved ones getting pepper sprayed, their heads bashed in, imprisoned, or shot? Is having that little bit more freedom really worth the lives or limbs it would cost? Are you willing to sacrifice your loved ones? And would anything really change in the long run? I mean, isn’t ultimate failure what characterizes every anarchist revolution to date?
Presumably if you are reading this you might say, “But I really DO see through it all. I really DO have passion to change something. I really, really, really want it to be different. What can I do?” And what are the answers to these vital questions? How can anarchists compete with the safety, comfort, and ease the state offers? We can’t.
There are plenty of people awake to the facts of our well-padded cells and mediocre allowances. We can relax into a self-satisfied belief that we’re already doing all we can, or face alternatives which are less comfortable, less safe, and more difficult to negotiate without making matters qualitatively worse for ourselves. The aversion to discomfort is understandable; we don’t want to give up how good it is for how bad they promised it will be if we cultivate a real challenge to them. We crave action, and they have cleverly offered us pseudo-dangers in the form of video games, epic movies, roller coasters, extreme sports and martial arts...or the opportunity to watch others take these challenges on reality tv. For anarchists these can be entertaining or educational, but we want something real and lasting. Where is it? Vandalism? Petty theft? Animal liberation? Sabotage? Too many of us have been harassed, bruised, or spent time in jail not to feel acutely the personal price of such activities. Are there any safe alternatives to marching uselessly in a sanctioned path with sanctioned speakers and feeling like the cowed masses that we are? One thing I know about revolution: if it were to happen, it would be uncomfortable, scary, and dangerous...yes, even more intimidating than facing forty-plus years of wage slavery.
Not only are we discouraged and overwhelmed by the flash and scope of the state, but the courage, desire, and ability to act has been trained out of us. The ability to form the close networks needed for such actions are destroyed by nuclear families, scarcity of time and goods. We are all laboring for the future, the possibilities. A future we have nearly given up on seeing in our lifetimes. A future we argue about and discuss in detail.
Should we find all the places in our lives where we are succumbing too much to the current system, where we are feeling a little too cosseted, and destroy them all? There is an excitement, a courage and energy that comes with risking danger, even hurting ourselves in finding our limits. There is learning from the past, where we went wrong when we were so close, where we let go and where we held too tightly. There is visioning how it could be possible, with a firm view of the outcome and a variety of methods to attack the status quo how we could affect this struggle, and as they learn from our tactics we learn from theirs, and as they adapt and suppress so we adapt to evade, and strike with intelligence.
I have been preparing myself for something...parkour, soma therapy, radical study groups, herbal medicine, community building...my dying breath will be the moment I let go of the belief in large scale anarchy in my lifetime.
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