Not My Vision of Liberation
This essay is an understated classic, and deserves to be read more widely as Leftism continues to rear it’s ugly head. As Cascadian bioregionalism continues to make sense to more and more people, let’s remember that we’ve never been “Left” or “Right”, but Autonomous. Ecology and living cultures are the foundations of a free society, not politics and dogma. Let’s not fool ourselves, stay true!
——————————————————————————————————————-“You’ve heard my story about the divisions . . . They always talk about unity, unity; but I always say, if you were the army, and the school, and the head of the health institutions, and the head of the government, and you had your guns, which would you rather see come through the door, one lion, unified, or 500 mice? My answer is 500 mice can do lots of damage and disruption.” — Born In Flames
I am for autonomy. I understand anarchy to be synonymous with autonomy; to live and act upon one’s own beliefs and desires without outside or overriding influences of power; to be self-sustaining; to live within one’s own, or a group’s own, limitations. As a green anarchist, this idea of autonomy naturally flows into my understanding of the concept of bioregionalism; to live within the limitations of our immediate surroundings; to obtain all nourishment and satisfaction from our local area; to be most deeply connected to the specific geography, micro-climate, patterns, plants, and animals (including humans) of the region in which we live. To me, these terms autonomy and bioregionalism can almost be used interchangeably. For me, they are the basis of my anarchist experience. It is for this reason that I become suspicious when I hear anarchists speak of organization. What are they organizing? Who are they organizing? Why are they organizing? I am fighting for a world that doesn’t need organizing, that doesn’t need running, that doesn’t need controlling. Sure, it is helpful to think about how we resist and live together, to be strategic, and to develop relationships with people outside our families, bands, cells, affinity groups, scenes (or however else we group ourselves based on deeper levels of trust, commitment, common goals, and desires), but these relationships need to be organic in nature, not forced and superficial. Any meaningful and honest decisions can only be made in small groups consisting of those who are directly effected by these decisions. For resistance to be liberatory (which I believe is why we resist, and not because of guilt or concepts like justice), we must be directly connected to what we are fighting for. Yes, it is important to learn about and support other struggles, but not as a substitute for our own. The basis for our resistance must come out of our own struggle for liberation, and our support for others can grow from that.
Yes, we can, and need to, work with other individuals and groups outside our own, but doing so in ways which do not sacrifice our autonomy and desires, and not compromising the autonomy and desires of others. We can work on specific or more general projects, we can unite for common goals or events, but again, these connections need to be organic, based on real interactions and honesty, and seen as temporary junctures of interest. Once these relationships are no longer satisfying, effective, necessary, or desirable, we must be flexible enough to accept it and not force interactions for the sake of “unity”. There are also different levels of connection and commitment to each other which may change over time, and it is important to be able to distinguish between true affinity and a nostalgic need to keep things going down a dead end road. The organic dynamics of relating to others can begin to take on a more natural form then the left or “radical” movements are used to, and this will often be met with hostility and misconceptions of a “lack of solidarity”. In fact, by relating to people on more meaningful levels, we are in far greater solidarity (more effective and relevant to revolutionary struggle) than the typical superficial “activist” relationships.
I wish to relate to people as people, and not necessarily in a political way. I think for deeper connections and understanding of one another, it is helpful to transcend politics. Yes, it’s political that some people have control of the land, food, and water, but it won’t be politics which changes that. Too often, the Left has alienated (and in some cases purged, fought against, and even slaughtered) those they see as the “other”, meaning those who do not blindly accept the ideologies, ideals, and morals of the Left or “Progressives” as righteous and “good”. Most people do not relate to the “Left vs. Right” duality. These terms are both part of the same system, and are therefore meaningless distinctions. Both have a long history of supporting their ideological stance with authoritarian, and often state sanctioned, force. I reject both as different faces of the same monster. These terms are irrelevant to anarchists, as we should fight against both. Even dwelling too much in “anarchist” politics has its limitations.
Sure, I like to discuss my feelings about organization or lifestylism among other anarchists and radicals, but to most people, this is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with their everyday lives. There are deeper connections to be made. I find that the most fulfilling conversations I have with people are those about how much they hate their job, the alienation we all feel from each other and ourselves, the toxic world we all live in, the new diseases and drugs that appear everyday, the destruction of the world around us, the fact that we cannot feed or take care of ourselves, that we have lost almost all control over our lives, and the spiritual emptiness we all feel. These discussions only re-enforce my understanding that the human condition has become a miserable one, and we are all entrenched in it, that there are no political solutions to it, that our only hope is to figure out how to connect to a different way of thinking and living. This is my “outreach”. I have no time for the patronizing crap of the liberals, and I have no tolerance for the authoritarianism and vanguardism of the Left (including anarcho-leftism). I have no plans for the “masses”. I hope people have their own plans, and maybe some of us will work together on a few. Maybe we can help to empower each other to take responsibility for our own lives, but it won’t happen by creating the perfect organization or infrastructure.
History, personal experience, and their basic arrangement have shown me that the Federationist and Party models of relating to one another are not liberatory, but instead are usually based on manipulation, coercion, and deception. They often contain representational structures, and despite good intentions, are often hierarchical. Some go as far as to give certain individuals militaristic and commanding titles as “General Secretariat” and “Minister of…”. Ten Point Programs and Platforms tend to be the least common denominator of our hopes and dreams, and to me seem to disturbingly reflect the neo-liberal nightmare I fight against. It seems that some anarchists’ need to “federate” stems from a need to feel part of something larger, to appear larger to others, to validate their perspectives or beliefs, or just the typical leftist ideal of controlling resistance and having their replacement infrastructure already set up. Whatever the motivation, I think it is important to look at these methods of relating to each other and ideas of organization with a critical and wary eye (and this does not even begin to detail the endless list of questions which continue to go unasked by leftists, which are directly linked to that organized and linear mindset, such as technology, division of labor, production, etc). As one who prioritizes autonomy and bioregionalism as vital anarchist perspectives, I feel that strength will not come from a monolithic mass of ideology, but from a multi-dimensional explosion of infinite passions.