Why I Broke Up with the Anarchist Community
Posted November 27, 2009on:
-reposted from eleven o clock alchemy http://elevenoclockalchemy.wordpress.com/ –
-originally posted November 22, 2009-
About 5 years ago, I stopped hanging out and doing work in the anarchist community because it wasn’t meeting my needs. The community wasn’t doing the kind of work I’m most interested in, it was completely white-centric, and it tended to silence me when I got the most passionate. In short, the anarchist community in the city I was living in failed me.
But I never stopped considering myself an anarchist.
During my anarchist years, the same tiresome things kept happening. I’d attend meetings and it never changed: there was often a palpable feeling in the air “Who is this breeder? Doesn’t she know her kid isn’t welcome?” This always made me feel like saying, “Listen, you stinky motherfucker, your impressively righteous punk patches and by-the-book taste in music notwithstanding, you don’t get to decide whose party this is, and just because you’re uncomfortable with your own parents and class privilege doesn’t mean all parents, or all kids suck. It might mean that you suck, though. Now go throw a rock at a window and call it revolution.”
Instead of going on continual rants, I decided that if my anarchist community refused to grow up, it didn’t mean that I had to do the same. So I dropped out, and started many humbling years as a community organizer, trying to create human-scale neighborhood solutions aimed at solving some of the problems in places I lived.
But I never stopped considering myself an anarchist.
In fact, I am a die-hard anarchist. (This, even, from a person who refuses even to describe herself as “feminist” because she has too many disagreements with what most people consider feminism.) The one label, other than mother, that I use with comfort is “anarchist”. I fucking love the ideology of anarchism. Not so much the ideas espoused by crusty old Russians, more relevant to male industrial revolution-era workers than to poor mothers of the 21st century, but the idea that each person deserves access to all the necessary tools to make her life what she wants it to be. That we don’t have to go knocking on some rich, educated person’s door, or tug on our congressman’s coat, to ask politely for some solutions. That everyone on earth deserves justice, and to experience the richness of human life, now, not later, and that people should be held accountable for the messes we’ve created. That is my anarchism.
I just didn’t want to spend my life hanging out at punk shows, squats, and FNB thinking I’m doing everything I could be doing. I never fit into that scene anyway.
Let me ask a question. How many anarchist events, without being asked, provide childcare? Are there any anarchist communities in the US that provide elder care? There are uncountable ways we could address these simple issues, but for some reason we’d rather read about how they did things in 1930’s Spain then develop a nuanced and sustainable plan for a truly new society in the shell of the old. We’d rather talk at each other until we’re blue in the face because it is so much less risky to talk than to do the hard work of making things better.
Often, we ghettoize ourselves in our comfort zones, to a point that anyone that doesn’t fit the anarchist “description” feels as out of place as a fat woman in a fashion magazine. Hell, almost every anarchist meeting or event I went to with my kid, I was given the side eye. One guy at the infoshop refused to pass off the keys to me because he didn’t “trust” me. Well, I guess he was right, I didn’t fit into his version of anarchism: a white boys club that holds endless geekout sessions about whether the police qualify as “workers”. Count me and my kid out, thanks.
Often, our concept of what is revolutionary is not really a mature concept of true revolution. If you’ve ever thrown a rock through a window, you know what I’m talking about. It feels good, but ultimately, someone just comes and fixes that window. It would be nice to really dismantle something. We need comprehensive solutions-based thinking, because these are some big-ass problems we’re dealing with, and when the going gets tough, daddy is not going to drive up in his SUV and solve them by throwing some money around. Neither is the government, which is being eaten alive by a corporate cancer and outsourcing more and more of its most basic functions, going to be able to deal with the reality of the situation in a few years. Katrina was just a dry run for some of the awfulness that could happen. And not enough people see it coming.
It’s time to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
Another question: how much does an white-centric infoshop in a poor neighborhood of color really accomplish? What is the average lifespan of an anarchist infoshop anyway? I apologize for my bluntness, but please, don’t have the self-important illusion that you are really fomenting the revolution or helping anyone. Get your ass to community meetings, town hall meetings, listen, talk to people outside your comfort zone. Organize. Get yourself out of the anarchist ghetto.
Only the hard work of making things better will dismantle the current society by making it outdated and obsolete. Current “solutions” have already been obsolete for many of us: I haven’t had health insurance for 13 years. My food stamps were canceled this month. We need whole systems thinking and entire structures of mutual aid, folks. Where is the anarchist health clinic? Where is my anarchist restaurant with free food for poor single parents, disabled veterans and the homeless? When my rent gets raised, where is the anarchist sanctuary with safe, clean and cheap roomshares so that I have a place to stay when activists in the community are too intimidated by my child to let me have a room in their house (you know who you are, motherfuckers).
We’re not doing good enough. We are too complacent.
But I never stopped considering myself an anarchist. I believe, now more than ever, that anarchist principles are the answer. Every single anarchist needs to be a kick-ass community organizer–we need to spread decentralized solutions-based thinking before it’s not too late, and fascist corporate solutions take over when disaster hits (like New Orleans, where I hear all of the public schools have been closed, housing projects shuttered, and neighborhoods left to rot). We need to proactively empower our communities and brace for the coming disasters. The tidal wave will come, and we can carry on with our infoshops and punk shows, which are really comfortable, after all, or we can provide solutions for ourselves, our families and our communities.
We can grow up and start doing the work that makes things better: creating community-based health insurance, starting child and elder care systems of mutual aid, democratic schools, planting permaculture-based gardens and food forests, organizing free transportation, sustainable community housing, public safety programs, anarchist conflict resolution and mediation centers, rituals that bind our community together. The possibilities are endless.
Perhaps the best first step is to look for folks that have been doing this work in our communities for ages. Maybe that’s the person standing next to you at the punk show. And maybe it’s not.