we choose to be irrelevant: socialist fragmentation

 

There are many ways in which we the Left choose to be irrelevant.  I will list them in my standard dramatic form, but one of them is so important that it needs addressed up front at length.

We choose fragmentation.

We choose to lie to ourselves.  We choose to say that the current form of the socialist Left, a fragmentation into competing tendencies, which in only a split-second encounter proves our unseriousness to laypeople, is inevitable.  We choose to believe this ridiculous thing we tell ourselves, that this circus is just the way it is and cannot be changed.

No.  Fragmentation is not unchangeable.  It is not inevitable.  It is a choice, a choice that we reaffirm and reaffirm.  It is a choice we reinforce by our behaviors.  I am sure everyone is familiar with all the filthy ways we paint different groups in the most damaging terms, not only in our writing but worst of all in our unchecked one-on-one conversations, so we need not list them.

We choose to prioritize the growth of our own recruitment-competitive, hyper-specific party-line groupling over answering America’s hunger pangs for a nationally-visible mass socialist party.  That’s right: we choose to view our particular interpretation of socialism winning the argument within socialism, as more important than the health of the socialist movement as a whole.

And we choose to have delusions of grandeur that our specific perspective is so important to the health of the socialist movement, that our quest to out-compete the other tendencies, while shrugging at the burning need to consolidate the millions of newly-radicalizing Americans, is justified.  The ends justify the means – but perhaps our ends are not justified.

We choose to fight for scraps while Rome burns.

And for that, for telling ourselves and others that we have “advanced consciousness” and obsessing over questions of socialist history and organization, but being so organizationally egotistical that we do not even think to take this most basic leap of looking at what is nationally possible, what is nationally necessary, and locating the practical steps to be taken toward it – for this we are the worst sort of frauds.  Next time we look at our reflections, we should listen for the mirror’s screaming.

Of course when we choose fragmentation, we do not choose it simply by our behaviors.  We choose it by what we fail to do.  We fail to remember that we are on the same side.  We fail to even really care about anything beyond building our own tendency.  We fail to even try to approach the problem — if fragmentation exists, what can we do?  We don’t even want to know, because we truly don’t want to know.  Because we want the fragmentation to continue.  We fail to want the fragmentation to end.  Or we make gestures, fleeting one-time things, and we do not persist in them.  We do not see the problem as a mountain to climb, a goal we work toward step by step.  We don’t want to end the fragmentation in any serious way at all.  The futility in the air is as sickening and thick as when a strike fails because people won’t work across racial lines.  Except that this is our strike, we are the ones who are disunified instead of the ones chastising toward unity, and we are the ones failing.

 

~

 

We choose not to bring a more basic socialism to the everyday people of our lives.

We choose to ignore the fact that people are brought to a way of thinking by human relationships, not by having the best, most specific argument.  We pretend that anyone but the most left-brained maniacs forms a relationship – political let alone human – by spending hours torturously hammering out the specifics of a debate or party line.

We choose to give the middle finger to the working class by holding events during weekday daytimes when people who work nine-to-five cannot attend.

We choose to give the working class another middle finger by using consensus decision-making systems, attempting to respect all individuals, but ending up disrespecting most individuals by wasting their time, and guaranteeing that the meetings will be totally repellent to anyone who works full-time or has kids.

We choose to read more political literature instead of developing real-world skill sets that would actually help the logistics of an organization.  We sing praises of the philosophy of praxis, but we choose to be childishly impractical in our personal choices, having organizational ramifications.

We choose to attend protests without thinking about what our purpose there might be.  We choose not to assess whether that purpose was fulfilled.

We choose to tolerate our protest leaders picking meaningless protest routes in places where the general public will not even see us, defeating one of a protest’s main goals of reaching people.  We also choose to allow our leaders and protest organizers to throw together uninspiring zombie slogs (currently referred to as “marches” but with no actual marching that I can see).  We may not know how to shift the way these protests work – but then again, we choose not to think about it, choose not to put time, effort, or resources to that area of work.

We choose to fill our day’s attention with so many endless specifics, so many stances that no one walking down the sidewalk would care about, so many debates and issues and news articles, that we neglect our basic duty to ourselves to pursue a realistic career, and end up so poor we can’t even pay dues, when often nothing about our background or status should have determined that.  Inverting most workers’ misguided guilt about their economic status, we dishonestly blame the system for our own idiocy.  For thus slandering the difficulties of people who truly have no opportunities, we should be ashamed.

We choose sensuality and hedonism in an age of universal hardship, and act surprised when our attempts at personal utopia come crashing down.

We care too much about our “normal lives.”  We allow the entanglements of mainstream culture, false meaningless “relevance,” and traditional relationships to hold us back from our full single-minded revolutionary passion, our greatest happiness.  We fail to embrace that this is the age of revolutionary discipline. 

We choose not to remember, we choose to forget, we choose not to plan ahead, we choose not to follow through on the plans we make.  We pretend that we can master the world without first mastering our inner lives.  We choose to be thoughtless; we choose to be another powerless particle blown around in the wind; we choose not to exercise our infinity-seeking, freely-willing souls; we choose to not even truly occur as anything besides a reactive biological automaton; we choose not to choose; we choose not to be.  We choose to postpone the tough questions for our deathbeds, and then nothing matters, we die, and it’s final.

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the difficulties of being God/as dark as dark can be

I often wonder what I would do if I was God, or speculate about what the motivations of God could possibly be.

So you’ve got this all-powerful being.  It raises an awful question – what would be the point of doing anything?  I often feel that if you haven’t answered this question, you have not actually yet justified your continual choice not to commit suicide.  So it’s important!  To me anyway.

If you can do anything, you have no challenges to overcome.  You have no motivation to fight against your existing restrictions, because actually you don’t have any!

It’s true that you could live for sensual beauty, but personally I think that would get old very fast.  Ultimately the lure of aesthetics fades away before a sentient being’s need for fulfillment by accomplishment.  And then there’s ethics, I suppose – God could just try to make the absolute perfect existence for all his creations.  (Obviously this is not what God does – or is it?…)  I think that, too, would basically be comparable to living for beauty, and would ultimately not be enough.

Thinking it through, as God I would come to eventually realize that I need challenge.  Perhaps I might be all-powerful, but how sure am I of my own willpower?  If I placed limitations on myself, would I have the character to rise to the challenge?

So you can see that this is actually starting to sound like many of the major world religions.  Jesus, for example – what if Jesus was God’s attempt to test his own character?  Could God stand enduring a human existence?  Could he go to the wall?

Of course it would be cheating if God denied himself power, but was perfectly confident that after his death or whatever he would just merge back with himself and his infinite power.  So in order to truly test himself, God would need to section off a portion of his consciousness and deny it even the awareness that it was actually a fragment of God.  And actually this sounds more and more like Jesus!

But maybe, in this thought experiment/ramble, it’s not just Jesus.  Maybe every single conscious being could be God deflected into this horrible material reality.  Maybe God is testing himself under many different circumstances, and seeing how he rises to the occasion of life’s challenges in different levels of difficulty and different types of challenges.  Perhaps he sets himself different goals as a mosquito than he does as a human – and of course gives his incarnations no frigging idea of what their life’s purpose really is, but just sort of rolls the dice to see if they figure it out with limited knowledge.

How would God judge himself?  Potentially there’s a few ways.  God could judge whether his actions were ethical.  This is the classic test; basically good people would win.  This is what, spiritually speaking, we would call the Right-Hand Path.

God could also judge whether people lived beautiful lives.  Did they have the soul-stirrings of an artist, and follow their heart to releasing the beauty of God’s patterns into the world?  Or just live beautifully by committing to something fully, like a fanatic?  Or living for beauty like a person who dedicates themselves to seeing and experiencing beautiful things, like sightseeing or romance?  I’m not sure how to categorize this; it could possibly be called part of the Left-Hand Path.

But then I have a different theory, a different suspicion, about what this hypothetical God would actually most respect.  It’s pretty dark and sinister, and if you know the etymology of sinister then I think you can guess what’s coming.

What if what God most respected was not the attempts to use your time on Earth for what feels good (ethics in the case of emotions, pleasure and beauty in the case of the senses)?

What if what God most favored (as pieces of himself) was the beings who strove as hard as possible to re-climb the ladder back up to having the power of God?

Obviously you can’t achieve limitless power in a single lifetime – but with lifespan-extending biotechnology it actually may become possible.  It’s possible that a person could help work on the technological Singularity and eventually gain total mastery over the fabric of matter itself.

Until we get that far, though, a person dedicated to attaining the power of God would take the form of someone utterly, fanatically dedicated to continually, insatiably increasing their personal share of the world’s power.

God’s challenge to himself as an animal, obviously, could probably be little other than to survive and reproduce, to try as hard to do these things as possible.  So the power-drive in humans has some commonalities (material supremacy) with God’s only possible life purpose as an animal, unless even animals are supposed to appreciate the finer things in life or something.

So perhaps the challenge of life is not to seek goodness or beauty.  Perhaps life’s all-important test is to accumulate endlessly-expanding power.  This, I think, would definitely be categorized spiritually as a version, if not the definition, of the Left-Hand Path.  The very thought of someone who chooses such a pursuit, placing them beyond the love or familiarity of any other human being, is so horrifying and isolating to imagine that I am almost certain it must be the true interpretation of the Left-Hand Path, entering a realm far more sinister and spiritual than typical Satanist hedonism.

Of course we don’t actually need the hypothetical God to ask ourselves these questions.  Rather than fragments of God working our way back up to an existing God, maybe we could just live as though life is a challenge to be infinitely ethical, infinitely beautiful, infinitely powerful, or possibly a mixture (have your cake and eat it too!) or something else completely, to become godlike in these ways in a mundane material world with no divine backdrop.

I suspect that when a person lives this way, with such powerful purpose, their otherwise-dissipating soul crystallizes into a form that can endure beyond the barrier of bodily death.  It may be that truly using your life is the price of immortality.

But I could be wrong.

Edit: After writing and reflecting on this, I noticed a commonality between the three paths which really gets to the heart of what I was trying to say.  No matter which path you take, what all three of them require is SELF-MASTERY: truly dedicating yourself to something fully, to the point that you spend every second of your life on it, or on something required to do it.  If you live for ethics, you don’t eat for the sake of eating, you eat so you can survive so that you can do good works, etc.  This self-mastery requires a tremendous amount of willpower, constant self-awareness and constant self-control, in the service of some great overriding passion.  Whether right-handed or left-handed, this is the common element in the “way to God.”

observations of a security guard

My job has some similarities to police work.  Of course it is not exactly the same whatsoever.  I do not carry a firearm and I do not have the legal authority of police.  I am also not paid anywhere near as well.  Anyway feel free to hate me if you think I’m a pig; that’s not really the point.

The rules I enforce are often somewhat more reasonable than the rules that the police do.  Mainly I just try to keep people quiet so that other people can sleep.  However it is true that I still in essence play the same role of repression.

Of course some people would be afraid that this alters my perspective on politics.  Yawn.  The test of revolutionary sincerity is actions not words so people can think what they like and I will just keep doing what I am doing.

But it is a good point, I do have a unique perspective on some things because of my role.  For one thing personally I face constant demoralization.  Now this may have to do with some unique things about myself.  Unlike most police I do not believe in my job at all.  Many police believe in their jobs very enthusiastically and even have a somewhat conscious ideology about why their job is the right thing to do.

Of course I have the complete opposite ideology.

But I have to imagine that when a tremendous movement arises whether a large protest movement on a local scale or something larger and national like Occupy Wall Street it has to affect the police.  Though of course I don’t share their perspective or their position whatsoever, I suspect that it also has to affect the rich, the ruling class, the politicians etc..

However I realize something very interesting.  I have to go from campsite to campsite enforcing the rules of silence again and again.  This really exhausts me and demoralizes me over time.  I experience the full weight of the large amount of people that I must enforce the rules on — but it does not happen all at once.  It really happens one by one.  And the crazy thing is, the people I’m enforcing on have no idea that this is the way it is.
They have no idea that I’m being continually ground down by the weight of all the other people I’m enforcing on.

To me this is a great example of how the working class is completely powerless when it is not organized into a collective force.  If all these people stood together I would have no chance of enforcing anything on them at all.  But of course they’re not thinking in those terms whatsoever.  It doesn’t even occur to them!

So instead of having an experience where people are feeling their combined strength against an actually tiny apparatus, they feel themselves as individuals being crushed by an apparatus that is larger then their individual selves.
It’s really funny because that apparatus is actually tiny, but it is admittedly larger than a single individual or even a small group of individuals.
Of course it is also very well-funded apparatus, but it could easily be defeated by the strength of numbers.

It’s amazing how the people I’m enforcing on lack this perspective entirely.  They really have no idea what a threat they are to my ability to do my job.  Only I know it.  And I am not apologizing for it or justifying it whatsoever, but this may explain some of the police overzealousness while going about their jobs.

Most of us have no idea how threatened we must make them feel.  Maybe we should become conscious of that and utilize it.

There is of course a flipside to what I’m talking about.  Actually many people very impulsively and even aggressively resist my requests when I ask them to quiet down.  I have been physically threatened several times.  (Don’t worry about it, though, I am safe; these people have no idea how vicious I am and how easily I could pretty much wreck large amounts of people at once.)

I don’t know if I’m being a horrible person by saying this but I have a theory that the lower-income you are the worse impulse control you have.  It’s not because being low-income is some sign that you are inferior and that you deserve to be low-income.  It’s actually just that when you’re low-income, your life sucks and you get more sick of dealing with everything so you flip out more easily.  You are also less exposed to the very constrained and well-behaved environments of the higher education system.  In addition there’s the fact that when you take this factor and multiply it by the force of family tradition, and the phenomenon of family behavior rubbing off and mutually enforcing among all a family’s members, impulsive behavior can become even more pronounced amongst low-income people.  And yes at the campground I work at I deal with a lot of very very low income people so yes I’m talking about my customer base.

Of course it’s not just a low-income problem but I think it’s a almost a universal human problem that people react to situations instead of thinking ahead about them.

So it’s interesting that on an individual basis sometimes the response to me asking people to quiet down is rather fierce.  But I notice that the same exact people who react the most impulsively and aggressively to my enforcement (regardless of class) are the very people who cower in total compliance and obedience at a later stage of the process.  All I really have to do is involve the bureaucracy for people to become afraid, because they know my physical presence, as usually a lone individual, is actually representative of a larger bureaucratic machine behind me which owns the property that they are standing on.  And of course that ownership is protected by the much-larger legal enforcement apparatus of the police, as well as the court system and really the entire government.

So it makes sense that the people who are most impulsively, reactively combative to my enforcement attempts are the most compulsively, reactively compliant when finally concretely faced with the weight of the overall apparatus

It’s funny how the impulsive people are actually less afraid of a large scary man like me, and more afraid of the friendly-looking women at the front desk who control the status of each member through their various computerized accounting processes.

And then of course we have our more higher income and middle-class customers who have a complete opposite reaction.  They typically do not react to me as impulsively, but when they do it is of an entirely different character.  The lower income response is more of a hostility based on the fact that they’re just trying to have fun and I’m doing something wrong by stopping them.  The higher income people react to me when they are impulsive as though they are above the rules and that it’s ridiculous that I would even think to approach them.  I guess the word would be they feel “entitled.”  Of course the higher income and middle-class customers often do not react impulsively at all.  What many do is they circumvent me and speak privately with the front desk, also known as the apparatus, where they have plenty of reasons to be confident that their economic influence can get them whatever they want — including perhaps even a small suggestion to me from management that maybe I should take it easy on that group.  Fortunately for my sanity management backs me up and tells them to pipe the hell down and that’s I’m doing my job properly.  This is probably because the campground is so successful that anyone we offend to the point of leaving will be immediately replaced by another eager customer waiting in the wings.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my shitty life.

the real reason I hate party lines

These days I’ve been getting into this idea that many of the existing socialist groups have a method of operation which is inherently hostile to the human organism.  It’s just too much for anyone to handle.  I’ve come to view building a socialist group as something more like gardening, where yes you try to increase the number of plants in your garden and get them to grow, but you also take very good care of them.  I call this the human infrastructure of the movement, or when I feel like being less brief, the “bio-psychological-physical-economic infrastructure of a movement.”  Because humans do have all those different needs specifically, to function at the optimal level which helps them build socialist organization.

Of course it’s true that when people’s needs are denied, it’s often capitalism’s fault and not something we can immediately do much about.  But the thing we can do is respect how much pressure people are already under, respect their boundaries, not overtax them any further, and actually even make organizing friendly and fun (which kind of requires putting aside the constant bickering over party line).

I started this blog because I realized my life had taken a turn way too far toward the analytical side of life and too far away from the impulsive, emotional side.  I’ve come to view my unconscious, intuitive self as extremely intelligent, in fact probably much more intelligent than my analytic brain.  So these days I trust my gut more and more than ever.  It’s sort of being like a mystic, and actually I think this kind of instinctual attention to truth and meaning is the basis of what most religions are attempting (and failing).

So the real reason I hate party lines?

It’s just too much mental energy to remember all that shit.  An excerpt from a recent email exchange where someone just asked me to join one of the party line tendencies:

not trying to start an argument but these days I’m just not very interested in joining any tendency.  It takes too much mental effort to remember all the positions I’m supposed to support.  Remembering all that stuff requires so much focus that I end up forgetting to focus on important things like figuring out my life.

It sounds like a total slacker argument, but are most people any different?  Or am I just giving defined articulation to what most socialists already instinctually feel?  Let alone the fully-developed socialists who have already scarred their minds with an opinion on everything — how about the many new socialists who are just coming to that identity?  I think having so many damned obligations to hold certain opinions just seems repulsive to them at a gut level.

Recently I was in a conversation where a socialist group was talking about how it was opening up its decision-making meetings to be more democratic and open.  Someone in the car said “Do I have to show up in person?  Can I just tele-conference in?”

At first his idea was met with scoffing.  It seems a bit hard to handle technically for a group with little resources, as most socialist groups are.  But you know, the world is changing.  Maybe soon that kind of thing will be practical.

And with all the shit capitalism puts you through, maybe it makes sense not to force people to physically slog out to a meeting, and to just let people stay in bed with their laptop.

Philly Socialists retreat experience: three cheers

People keep asking me “How was the Philly Socialists retreat?” and I keep saying “hold on, I’ll write about it so I only have to do this once.”

Well, first off, pretty damn good.  Better than that fucking Left Forum 2013 certainly.  Sad thing is this was about 1/20th of the size, with something like over 20 people as opposed to 4,000.

I honestly was expecting the talks to be mediocre introductions to the socialist basics, which is what you get out of most broad formations who don’t take a party line.  Boy was I wrong.  Even the talk which really was just an intro to Marxist economics killed it and really covered all the bases explicitly and unapologetically, serving as a perfect crash course for anyone who has no idea what Marx’s critique of capitalism is.  After the talk you would know.

Then OUT OF LEFT FIELD came Anthony Shull’s research into business practices, wisdom gained from business books and literature as well as some academia about strategic planning, informal social relationships within an organization, and using quantitative psychological testing to identify a person’s strongest possible organizational role.  Okay, I’ve heard of literally NO socialist organization that utilizes business practices and it closely mirrors my love of stealing tactics from the bad guys.

Philly Socialists uses the revolutionary concept of basing itself on relationships.  Now, their website and literature defines that despite having no party line they do insist on being explicitly political.  So if you’re asking, what relationships is Philly Socialists based on – relationships based on common values and ideas (political), or relationships based on friendship, hanging out, possibly dating (apolitical) – the answer would be, they can be either, and will probably be both.

Some say this model “has flaws”: for example, not everyone will be friends and it would be silly not to expect that at least some people in the group would even dislike each other.  There’s also the possibility that a group can drift too much toward being fun and friendly and lose political seriousness.  The first possibility can be worked around I think, and the second, well I just see absolutely no threat of that actually happening to Philly Socialists because the seriousness with which they approach political ideas surprised the shit out of me.

The main thing is, I think this has come to grips with a fundamental dishonesty that most party-line organizations have been practicing.  They are all friend crews.  Half the time the people in the group are fucking married to each other.  And yet we insist that membership must be based entirely on political ideas only?  Hogwash.  Bullshit.  And Philly Socialists has called that out.

They talked about applying a network model.  If you imagine people as dots and their relationships as lines, a sparse network is one where people have only a few relationships with each other, so the dots may be connected to one or two other dots but not much.  A dense network is one where most of the dots are connected to many of the other dots, covering the space in many more lines, making it look more like a geometric shape where a line has been drawn between every point (except arranged in a scatter and not a neat shape).  A cult of personality movement would have everyone connected to the one central leader and may or may not have any other “density” (cross-relationships).

How are these relationships accomplished?  It could be formal or informal, political or apolitical, but the point is to assess both the formal/informal lines that already existed and accept them as your operating terrain, and then intentionally set up situations to create lines between the dots that aren’t yet linked.  This applies to so many different issues: breaking racial barriers, creating a sense of community, acknowledging and using informal scenes and hangouts and friendships.  There is also the great idea of creating internal cross-pollenation in the organization not just by finding, using, and expanding the existing formal connections, but by having the different sub-units of the organization occasionally swap or overlap their formal work, or assigning people as “ambassadors” who split their time between two sub-units.

They also discussed the best practices of speaking smoothly with people and active listening.  I admit I did not entirely identify with the talk about being a good listener because I work in customer service/security, and most of the time I just want to rip people’s throats out with my fingernails.  I’m in a job where I don’t have to care so much if I offend “my” customers (and am even often required to), and besides if one thing is true on this earth it is the dark side.  Still, what kind of socialist group focuses on teaching people how to listen?  Most of them just focus on shoving their shit down your throat as loudly, repeatedly, and specifically as possible.  A socialist group that listens!  What a fucking idea!  Seriously, kudos to them for being an ethically better type of person than me.

Philly Socialists, for a non-party line group (again such groups are often ill-defined and naïve compared to their sectarian sisters), was shockingly self-conscious of its strategy and its goals.  They say they have a 40-year plan to build a national mass party, which is exactly the kind of thinking I believe the left needs.  Nietzsche said something like greatness is a long, terrible will.  Rock on.

The “retreat” was, however, physically abusive in a way similar to Left Forum 2013.  More sitting and listening than I can possibly handle.  For a group that values connecting each member with each other member partially by promoting informal interactions, there was surprisingly little time for that (though there was some).  I was so brainwiped by the session-after-session barrage that by the end of the day I took refuge in copious amounts of alcohol to the point of becoming blackout-drunk and apparently vomiting in front of everyone, wiping out on the ground, and being transported via placement on a tarp which required the strength of six men to relocate (not kidding, and I’ve even lost a lot of weight).  I vaguely remember trying to open a Dos Equis bottle with my index finger and still have the gashes.  My impressive ability to form coherent thoughts while under clinical braindeath continued (though I only know this secondhand), as I debated that being laid down in my tent would lead to fatality by vomit-choking.  I remember only the fun and none of the suffering so I suppose it worked out for me, though of course diplomatic relations between Philly Socialists and CUSP are hopelessly terminated.

The harrowing circumstances which led to my excesses, however, are an example of neglecting the needs of the movement’s bio-physical-psychological infrastructure: human beings.  It’s a shame because the organizers actually did a great job making sure we had food, toilet paper, etc, so in many ways actually attended to precisely those needs.  Still, the seeming appearance of the retreat as a camping trip-strategizing hybrid was almost entirely deceptive – it was a classic exhausting leftist conference which merely happened to be in the woods, and not a vacation at all.  I had to insist to even go hiking at Rickett’s Glen legendary waterfall trail, which was immediately nearby.  For anyone who knows what this means, I donned the horns, and even encountered a guy in a red Philmont shirt with the bull on it at the end of our hike, and there was much celebration.

Fucking cool people though, lots of techie nerds and Game of Thrones fans and diehard Reds with Third Period aesthetics, also a surprising number of sane people who are actually socially normal and personable, plus a decent gender balance, and congratulations to Philly Socialists for achieving the careful balance of being Millennial radicals without being disgusting hipsters.  (Or maybe we were just too focused on politics for them to show their true colors, but I have a decent eye for these things, and as far as I could tell, no.)

Singing the Internationale around a campfire while setting off fireworks and holding sparklers and being wasted, now that was seriously sweet.