fuck love

This is not meant as a slight against people who make different life choices than mine.  It’s mainly written for self-clarification.  I’m sure it will inevitably be interpreted by someone as an insult.  Not much I can do about that; I guess just try to take some of the unusual thoughts from it and ignore the others.  All we can do is kneel before the altar of our true lives’ missions, and if we’ve already made choices which obstruct that purpose, we’ve just got to do the best we can with the situation we’re in.

Is it so rare to believe that life is not a nihilistic “experience to be had,” to be wandered through without aim or purpose?  Why isn’t life a mission to complete?

Isn’t there too much tremendous suffering, needless suffering in the world to sit idly by, in a bohemian wander of “taking it all in” rather than fighting like hell to change it all?

Life involves some hard choices.  Having kids, having a spouse, getting involved with people are some of them.

In a world where the most interesting and powerful thing going on is the human being, it makes sense to maybe want to connect to some of them, maybe even to create a few more of them.

Or does it?  Maybe it just makes sense to focus on solving the problems of the people that are already here.

One problem I have is that 0 + 0 = 0.  People think that love adds something to the people in the relationship – “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” or maybe just even “two is more than one.”  But if the people involved aren’t all that impressive, then what does it matter?  What do they live for?  Does your heart beat for anything other than wanting to possess, and in turn be possessed by someone?  Do you want to press as hard as you can against another being until the barrier breaks down and you blend?  (And, ha, does that ever actually happen at all?)  Everyone is familiar with the process of idealizing a person while becoming attracted to them, and then suddenly seeing all their heinous shortcomings if the relationship falls apart.

Is this really all you want?  To simply relate?  What about being?  Does this connection you have really say anything about your own character, your own accomplishments?  Is it possible that all the songs are about love on the radio, because love is just so damn easy?

Another problem, though, is that the entanglement of a relationship can actually distract a person from their greater life’s work.  A person has only one lifetime to leave their dent on the world, on history.  Do you really want to blow your time obsessing over/walking on eggshells around a single other person’s feelings?  So maybe you all stand for something – maybe it’s not 0 + 0 = 0, maybe it’s 2 + 2 = 4.  But if all you do is distract each other from your lives’ purposes with personal shit and sweet nothings, maybe it’s 2 – 2 = 0 again.

Regarding kids, I have no interest.  My childhood was so miserable that I wouldn’t put anyone else through it.  There are other issues.  For one, I have no idea what any potential children would be like – they could be cut from my same cloth, or they could end up as someone simply having nothing in common with me at the level of the soul.  Both of us would wonder what the point was, to be a father and child for whom any substantial relationship was impossible from the start.  Then there is always the ethical dilemma of birthing someone into this horrid world.

But once more, the real issue is: If you have kids, they’re going to wipe out a good 18 or more of your short years on Earth on changing their diapers and providing all sorts of other money and attention.

Don’t you have something better to be doing?  I am more interested in blowing my time on qualitatively improving the human condition for the six billion humans already here, not quantitatively adding a few more to the pile.

There is a social pressure that these familial arrangements are “inevitable,” or that they’re “for everyone.”  I can feel the world leaning on me, making assumptions that I’ll just cave in later, sort of like the people who say everyone turns conservative after 30.  No, not me.  I want to live for my purpose wholly and without compromise.  I want to be free of any other focus.  I want to live life to the fullest, which means either creating, or self-expressively destroying all limitations.  When I die, I want to die “alone” or really, uncompromisingly myself.  And then, unless the concentration of my soul is thick enough to persist beyond my body, my entire being will happily dissipate into my life’s remaining effects.

being a post-college Millennial sucks

Us young people move around too much.  Between starting out at home, going to college, possibly coming back home, moving to some other city where there are actually jobs or just to keep yourself from going insane in your small hometown – you just don’t spend enough time with anyone to accumulate any deep personal friendships with people that you can only really achieve by sharing a history with them.  And politics is right out the window, because being an effective organizer means developing long-term relationships in a way that probably takes even more time and work than it takes to make friends.

(Eventually your comrades end up as your friends, and you drift away from the others from simple lack of time for everyone.  True life.)

I can’t date anyone because that would probably involve sex at some point but half of us live with our parents for economic reasons.  A lot of us are in this situation but too many of us are embarrassed about it anyway even if a lot of other people are going through it – the very person you might be afraid to ask out because you live with their parents may, in fact, also live with their parents and would not judge you at all.  But you cannot know that.  Virgina Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own has gone from being just a feminist statement to the anxiety of a fucking generation.

When people ask me what my job is I don’t know what to tell them, I’ve changed it so many times.  I used to be unemployed.  Now I’m sort of part-time employed while I figure shit out.  I’m also “in school” sometimes too, that never seems to end either.  When exactly “figuring shit out” ends and “life” begins I don’t have any clue, but it sure feels like my entire life is on hold until the first phase is taken care of.  This, of course, is not just torture for Millennials ourselves, but may turn out to be a huge macro-economic problem.

Liberation: personal versus political?

It’s very possible to be a dumb Millennial and to blow too much of your time and your life on things like activism or watching Breaking Bad for 30 hours straight instead of focusing on getting a career so you can move out of your parents’ house or whatever.

Why are you into politics?  Is it because you feel bad for others who are suffering?  That’s understandable, I dig that, but it’s not my main motivation.  For me it’s my own freedom.

So after spending countless hours working on political projects which ultimately mean little if they do not feed into a revolution which is kind of iffy, you begin wondering if maybe you shouldn’t just bail out and start pursuing the more typical capitalist methods of self-liberation.  Try to focus on a career, try to focus on a small business.

It’s true, some of these things can help.  Maybe you can move out of your parents’ house, maybe you can buy some nice appliances and get some better health insurance, yeah this is all possible.  Maybe you can work in an air-conditioned office instead of a meatpacking plant.  I guess these things are worth pursuing and I’m getting better at pursuing them.

But the wall that I always hit is that the true capitalist dream of liberation is not just small improvements.  To be truly free, which can only mean to be free of work, means that you have to build up something called “passive residual income.”  You have to have enough investments that are paying some kind of dividends or interest or profits that you can live off of them without having a regular job.

Only 54% of Americans even have stock investments, and that includes people who only have a handful of shares.  The amount of people who can live off them?  Basically no one — pretty much the 1%, possibly the top 10%.  We can’t even retire, let alone live off of an automated money machine during the prime of our lives.

So maybe pouring those hours into the revolutionary process isn’t such a mistake, when you know that when using capitalist methods, probably 95% of us will just never be free.

When I work on political stuff, even if I do it in total isolation, I still feel an incredible togetherness with the world movement.  I feel like I am stepping into a stream that includes the strikers in China, everyone who went to Occupy, the Middle East revolutions, politicos all over the Internet, everyone all over the world who is fighting for themselves, and giving solidarity to each other.

When I do apolitical, self-centered things, I get a noticeable lack of this feeling of togetherness.  I realize that there are things in life which no one else will do for me, things which it almost does not even make any sense to talk to anyone about, because they’re so completely individual.

The Left would have you think that you could live with it forever.  It constantly pulls you in, it invites you into its warm fold of causes and collectivity and crowds, and often enough will demand more and more and more of your time until it’s like it’s all you do.

Here’s an great example of the distinction.  Comics like this are great reminders of what women have to deal with when it comes to body image problems — our society’s whole visual display is one giant reminder to women that they “don’t look good enough.”

This is odd for me as a male.  Of course I think that social pressures are unhealthy, that the images of women provided by the corporate media are unrealistic.  And yet I find these subconscious cues continue to exist in my thinking.  Obviously it comes up when thinking over things like “would I date her?”  The worst part is, no matter how I may fight it, it ends up leaking into other judgments too — my basic non-romantic judgments of a person’s character.  I’m not alone in this.

I’ve been chubby, so I know it’s rough.  It’s hard to lose weight when you live in a McDonalized culture and you blow all your energy working — especially if you work a standing job and your legs hurt too much to go running at the end of the day.

However, I still can’t help feeling that a person who controls their weight just has their shit together more.  You have to ask yourself, at what point in a person’s weight gain did they just decide “fuck it, I give up on ever trying to reverse or even halt this?”

It’s not just my judgments of others.  I guess I happen to be one of the few males out there who is openly dissatisfied with his body image.  Maybe it’s because I actually possess objectivity unlike many males who just think they’re hot shit without ever taking a critical look at a mirror, or maybe I’ve somehow internalized comparing myself to people on TV the way many women do.

So yeah.  I’ll stand together with people who are saying that we should smash body image expectations, that we should value everyone.  I think Marx was really onto something when he wrote “Social progress can be measured exactly by the social status of the beautiful sex (the ugly ones included).”  Because deep down I think the hard objective truth is that not everyone is beautiful, that there are beautiful and ugly people superficially, so maybe we should get better at valuing people in unrelated ways.

And then, at the same time, I’ll continue to be a product of my environment.  I’ll pay more attention to women who are stereotypically attractive, and fight like hell to look better myself, knowing that others are not just judging my attractiveness but even my competence by it.  I’ll do it alone, without anyone’s help.  The difficulties and the results won’t belong to anyone but me.  Much of my soul belongs to the Left, and its great celebration of human unity.  Some of my soul, though will always be separate and apart — not just distinct, but perhaps even antagonistic, putting up a necessary wall of buzz-killing selfish pragmatism against the big happy human embrace.  I guess that’s the dark side.

radicals, outsiders, the shaman archetype

Radicals are caught between a strong connection with all humanity and a frustrating isolation as a fringe minority group.  We want the best for almost everyone, we bring up issues that affect everyone, we speak to a deep longing within all humanity for unimaginable liberation and a joyous global future.  And then our ideas go through long historical periods of being either unpopular or entirely unknown, and are certainly almost never predominant.  Materially we are often in the same position as the rest of the working majority; mentally, we are somewhere else entirely.

So in some ways we are the soldiers and voices of the world-spirit; in some ways we are total outsiders.

The outsider is faced with a number of problems.  One obvious one is alienation.  They possess a difference which no one (or few people) around them can bridge.  They may go about their lives imitating normality, but this is painful; otherwise, they act out their strangeness and possibly suffer social and economic consequences.  This is not a passing threat: the natural social networks which a person often possesses (family, churches, community groups, friends) can very often get them an economic connection at some point – a job, a deal, something they wouldn’t have if they weren’t part of that group.  Straying from the norm can damage these networks or your place in them.  Obviously church may go out the window for any number of reasons, but even family and friend networks can deprioritize you on the list of who they give referrals if you’re a weirdo.

But the outsider has a gift, too.  Their lives are not pure difference.  Oddly enough, they may understand most people better than most people understand themselves.  Their outside perspective can give them an objectivity about society which other people, smack in the middle of it without a second thought, never attain.  To really understand what’s ticking in the minds of the American cultural norm, it may require people who just aren’t part of it.

The shaman or wizard archetype often has the same cycle to it.  They go away from society, they go to some “out there,” maybe the wilderness, maybe up a mountain, maybe they commune with the spirit world, whatever.  Crazy stuff happens that could only happen alone or in that “other” place.  Out there, they have some kind of experience, or they learn something, or they literally find something, some object.  They return ready to make a greater contribution to society, creating a new synthesis between whatever new thing they learned and the old society to which they returned.  They new synthesis is an altered society, whether they just have a better medicine man now or the wanderer returns with some sort of prophetic idea about the way things should run.

In secular terms this reminds me of when radicals, individually or collectively, sometimes retreat into high theory – rather than focusing on active social movements, they do deep reading and research to figure out an overall framework.  It’s necessary for every radical to go through such a phase at least once, and to possibly revisit it, in small bursts balanced with active involvement or in longer spells, depending.

why socialists should care about anarchism

Don’t worry, I have one going in the other direction.

THE ANARCHIST TENSION

I haven’t read the entire thing, and I think forcing myself to do so would be very much against the point contained within.  But I feel like the title alone gets to the point.  There’s something deeply personal about anarchism.  Rather than a structured theory of history like marxism, anarchism has that Fight Club feel to it – anarchism is about feeling the whole rest of the world pushing down on you from the outside, as a hostile force, and returning fire with a fuck you I won’t do whatcha tell mee, pushing back in every direction.  While most of my political theories remain largely marxism-that-is-compatible-with-anarchism, I find this emotional vibe alone to be reason to take up the old label again.  I am an anarchist.  I am against the system because the system is against me.  It’s personal.  I feel it every day – every second.

ALL POWER TO THE IMAGINATION

Marxists can get so dogmatic, analytic, intellectual, and systemic that it becomes impossible to even have new thoughts.  If perfection breeds conservatism, then marxists need to, once more, pull a Fight Club and disrupt themselves.  A periodic existentialist re-evaluation of your ideas is as necessary for mental hygiene as brushing your teeth.

Marxists are often the grumps who serve the sad-but-necessary role of reminding people that certain forms of struggle are just not yet possible or intelligent.  Insurrection, for example.  So we find other, lower-intensity forms of resistance to engage in.  But by acting as the reality principle of social movements, marxists sometimes miss the fact that conditions have shifted in our favor and that new, more aggressive tactics are now possible.  I don’t necessarily mean riots; maybe now we could start running candidates where it was previously just not worth the resource investment.

Because anarchists are always chomping at the bit to escalate the intensity while marxists are typically reminding people that it’s really not the insurrection yet, anarchists tend to win the day when circumstances have shifted and an escalation in tactics is appropriate.  For example, many socialists initially dismissed Occupy Wall Street as a “voluntaristic” action by a few that was ridiculous because nobody would camp for very long.  They might have been correct about the camping, but before Occupy fizzled out, it pretty much went globally viral, making many city governments feel physically threatened, and resulted in riots in many places.

As another example, while many marxists dismiss civil disobedience as a foolish anarchist fad for people who have no long-term strategy, actually it isn’t always bad.  Yes, it can get in the way of building a broad movement by creating an implied hierarchy of heroes vs. “passive” crowd, but actually sometimes it’s necessary.  When?  I’m not here to give you a schema, just think for yourself and figure out when it’s good for yourself.  But here’s one example: Wisconsin.  Maybe you can think of others.  Maybe you should just think creatively and independently.

For all the Trotskyist prattling about “transitional demands,” actually I think transitional demands are very simple.  They are about expanding the imagination.  Obviously you need to back up the checks that your mouth tries to cash – you need to prove that America is wealthy/productive enough to actually afford things like universal healthcare, abolishing tuition, massive redistribution of wealth, etc.  But no really, let’s dream wildly about the way the world could be, the way our lives could be, and place that directly into our political demands when we protest or demonstrate or talk or whatever.

SELF-GOVERNANCE

There’s a quote by some dude, Bakunin I think, “Freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice…Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality.”  Don’t hold me to it, I wasn’t there and I don’t blog to make myself do more research.  Point is, he’s right.

                There is a tremendous lack of discussion of direct democracy in the USA’s political culture, even the US Left.  Socialists often make noises about believing in workers’ self-management, but don’t really acknowledge how they’re going to have to do the heavy lifting of popularizing direct democracy before workers’ councils can even be a concept in most people’s minds.  It seems that the groups most willing to discuss direct democracy are anarchists and especially anarcho-syndicalists.

The anarchist principle of self-governance is pretty much the corrective for almost everything that has ever been wrong with bolshevism.  Some nitpickers might say “true bolshevism was always about self-governance” but if I said true Christianity was always about kindness and not child rape, you might see my point about how labels can get abused regardless of good intentions at the beginning.  It becomes difficult to say “Stalinism is not true bolshevism” when so many people describing themselves as bolsheviks have either been Stalinists, Russian ultra-nationalists, or these days, orthodox Trotskyists who are dangerously close to Stalinism anyway.

When you have a nationalized economy without effective democratic control over that economy, it’s not anything deserving of the word “socialism.”  Having formal voting power, having formal workers’ councils while the KGB breathes down your neck threatening to send you to the gulag for saying the wrong thing, doesn’t count.  I really don’t care about the ortho-Trot arguments that nationalization is somehow magically workers’ property, while workers are ground beneath the gears and the apparatchiks enjoy their nice places and cars.  I don’t care about their sophistry, insisting that the theory of state capitalism violates the Gospel of Marx and Trotsky, as if the mission of human self-liberation centers around quoting dead people while ignoring clearly-existing but yet-unnamed structures of economic class and political power.  As Trotsky himself said in Revolution Betrayed,

If a ship is declared collective property, but the passengers continue to be divided into first, second and third class, it is clear that, for the third class passengers, differences in the conditions of life will have infinitely more importance than the juridical change in proprietorship. The first-class passengers, on the other hand, will propound, together with their coffee and cigars, the thought that collective ownership is everything and a comfortable cabin nothing at all.

Yes, I adhere to the left-revisionist deviation that a workers’ state must actually be controlled by workers.

NO REALLY – FUCK AUTHORITY – AND YES THAT MEANS YOU, PARTY HACKS

Everyone knows it, no one wants to admit it – there is something deeply wrong about how contemporary socialist/”Leninist” organizations deal with having paid staff.  Everyone knows it, no one wants to admit it – the way things are done now breed a culture of party hacks.  It is important to be anti-authoritarian within resistance organizations, not just in society broadly, and the organizations which claim to be anti-authoritarian are no exception.

Even if a group is organized to be “democratic,” the conferences where the democratic decision-making is performed are generally dominated hard by the paid staff of the organization.  It’s not just that they control the formal procedures.  It’s also that, after the same paid staff are in office for decades, an informal culture within the organization arises.  That unwritten rule says, “The only statements to take seriously are ones from the leadership; the rest are to be answered either with knee-jerk condemnation or awkward silent non-response.”  If you think this doesn’t apply to you, watch your own thoughts and behavior at your next political meeting (party hacks aren’t the paid staff; they’re the people who never question the paid staff).  I think it is impossible to ever remove these decades-long “cadre” (a word pretty much defined to mean “anyone who has been around a while and agrees with the leadership perspective”).  I think they are so entrenched, so hostile to being removed, because they have worked in a socialist organization for so long that their job history would make it impossible to do anything else.  You may think it’s necessary to build up people who have practice doing something, but I think it’s more important to spread those skills and experience out to have true democracy.  I think given the way the SWP leadership closed up around and defended Marty Smith from charges of sexual assault demonstrates how this decades-long clique becomes just that – a clique, with all the organizational implications that implies.  It begins to act as a faction campaigning within the organization, rather than just a leadership that administrates necessary functions and is free to send mixed signals by being internally divided on various issues.  This dynamic is obviously clear to anyone who has been following the crisis in the British SWP, though oddly enough it applies to some of the very organizations that have been giving encouragement to the SWP dissidents.

This isn’t just about being an anti-authoritarian for the sake of it.  In fact I think it’s necessary to keep an organization alive.  If you’re in an organization and you fall into the passive routine of going through the motions, selling your papers and holding your meetings, without any evaluation of your success, and you just go on doing it for years without any traction, this can literally spell death for an organization.  You need to constantly be applying critical thought and results-evaluation to your own efforts.  You need to completely liberate yourself from dogma or leadership pressure as you do this.  You need to be organic, to have a sense of the spirit of the times, perhaps borrowed from your leadership but also self-created by the process of being on-the-ground, hitting the sidewalk and the coalitions, trying to organize and educate.

Every organization could use a little more anarchy.

Channeling the destructive impulse

Some days, I really just want to watch the world burn.

Irresponsible, you might say.  Given the typical American method of carrying out such an impulse, like the bombing of the Boston Marathon, I’d have to agree that it can be an issue.

We can’t shake the fact though, that sometimes our entire environment feels hostile to us.  It’s the whole world’s fault.  The fact that we have pain or anger does not necessarily help us identify what, precisely, deserves our backlash.  We just feel a heavy pressure coming down on us from the outside, and we want to push back, in every direction.

Given that Marx basically defined being a member of the working class as suffering crushing alienation, I think even “responsible, respectable” radicals (seriously, fuck you) should agree that this isn’t totally off base, and it might explain why a very good book was written linking work under capitalism, Reaganism, and school/workplace shootings.  It’s easy to understand the Christopher Dorner insurrection-of-one, especially when the media glorifies violent, individual solutions in pretty much every action movie and news report.

So how do we take this negative energy and make it work for something good, or at least, something that’s not a felony?  Well, for one thing I don’t think it needs to be converted but only properly aimed.  I think that besides promotion of socialism, there also needs to be a lot of verbal and printed criticism of capitalism, the people who run it, and the people who profit from it.  So some of your venom can be spent mouthing off about them.

It’s true that we need to build institutions, we need to build power, but personally for me I see this as a great outlet for my negative energy.  When I’m putting together a coalition or team that really energizes and empowers the people in it, I’m not just happy I built something.  I feel that this sort of activity, appearing constructive on the surface, is really a knock in the face of the ruling class – especially if it contributes to a really huge protest.

Protest movements are similar in that they are really a collective criticism of the way things are, embodied in person.  They help build our side and subvert the power structure.  When I’m part of a really big protest, something nationally organized with bus contingents, or something going viral everywhere, I feel like I’m tapping into a collective stream of anger running through the entire population.  I’m standing there with my sign for the people who couldn’t show up, so their hate is with me.

When all else fails, riots work.

seeking fulfillment in this fucking nightmare

Simple steps:

  1. Realize the system ruins every facet of everything
  2. Seethe with hatred against capitalism, go nuts organizing against it
  3. Get tired of that and go numb because one person can only change so much
  4. Wander off into “normal life”
  5. Feel lost, directionless, purposeless; wonder where your passion went
  6. Admit that things really are as bad as you first said they were
  7. Recommit yourself out of grim Sisyphean existential determination

We are the broken.  There is no helping us.  No amount of therapy or sex or the simple things can fix things for us.  We know that as residents of a capitalist planet, our human potential is terminally prevented.  We will never be allowed to be all we could.  We don’t only suspect it.  We know it as a fact, unmistakable as death.

Unlike many other people who don’t fully grasp the situation, we are sure of our abhorrent fate.  Others feel the same strain but just occasionally flip out or break down, blaming their pain on surface causes instead of facing the underlying truth that this planet is a prison, their days are passed in slavery, and their entire lives are ruined by the system.

Unlike them, we don’t have the luxury of ignorance, of riding the emotional roller coaster of attention to the little things.  Eight-plus hours of work, commuting, dressing and prepping, whatever sleep we get (we dream about work), bills and shopping, a few hours to relax in the evening (maybe?) – and then CHANGING DIAPERS??   In the land of the free it’s expensive just to live (0:45).  We know that life is never getting better.

“Never?” whines the optimistic socialist.  “What about the revolution?”

Well sure, and how’s that revolution going?  The system, by its repugnance, inevitably provokes resistance, but victory for our side is not inevitable unless organized.  And how is that organizing going?  In my opinion, it could be going a lot better.  We are splintered and wasting huge potential by having no central place to unite.

The revolution is not a guaranteed thing, like heaven for good people or whatever.  What if this is your entire existence?  What if you never get to see the other side of the wall?

Some radicals are into being happy hippies, social-butterfly socialists, impulsive anarchists, whatever.  That’s fine for them I suppose.  Those may even be useful organizing tools.

You think that just because you have faced the darkness that is our world once, and resolved to fight for what is right, that you can go back to your normal life and be a normal person.

Mark my words, when you turn away from the dark side, you lose your fire.  To focus on the good things in life is to become apolitical (yup, that’s politics).  Maybe you think you’ve gotten over whatever anger or depression made you want an insurrection in the first place.

It wasn’t the good times in your life that got you into this.  But I’m not worried.  Maybe politics became harder to focus on with the Recession.  Maybe all of us sometimes feel the strain and retreat into whatever nonsense.

Maybe it’s possible to have both.  Keep some happiness if you can, why not?  But you can’t run forever.  The same things that brought you here once will bring you back again.