Thursday, June 25, 2015

What the Social Justice Crowd Doesn't Know

It's become almost a cliché nowadays for people on the political far-left to distance themselves from the online social justice movements. The one aspect about these people (such as those on tumblr) that I've come to notice is how little they truly understand about what needs to be done beyond the keyboard, and how much that relates to how little they understand about hegemony and ideology. It's actually quite easy to see how those pejoratively labeled as "social justice warriors" apprehend, to some extent, how institutions like the media manipulate individuals into thinking in certain ways, or how everyday language has consequences in regards to how we see and treat each other. However, when it comes to going beyond the now cliched calls for "privilege checking", there is no real motivation to orchestrate any kind of political praxis that would take to challenging the cultural logic of modern society.

There are a few ways to approach this issue. One tends to be the understanding held by the more "authoritarian" (if you will) people on the Left. That is, the typical theories relating to base-superstructure, that the function of specific institutions corresponds to the mode of production - albeit with some relative autonomy, and that ideology is shaped not only by a few individuals on the top but by the institutions that make up the superstructure. Within this, there is the notion that these institutions must be seized as part of a larger program; we see this, for example, in the "historical bloc" or "power bloc" and how Gramsci's Modern Prince (communist organization) must seek to grasp the minds of the people through intellectual reforms. These theorists understand that these ideological apparatuses mold individuals into subjects, and they have zero qualms about doing the molding.

Even as an anarchist who has no love for authoritarian socialisms, I can appreciate this view, since it enables a practice to arise from its theory. This may come off as a form of brainwashing, but we can look at the culture that's present today and understand how much of it furthers capitalist relations of production. In fact, we can look at plenty of revolutionary societies and see the efforts taken to remold the superstructure as well as the base. Even something like the creation of a Temporary Autonomous Zone fits with the emergence of a new paradigm, because even though you aren't seizing institutions, you are creating a challenge for them.

On the other hand, there is this specific attitude which assumes these institutions are just what they are and that there is no need to direct or upset them. The idea is, we're just going to stay on the sidelines and let the capitalist media, schools, religious institutions, and such do what they do. But as soon as someone does something that does not fit our preconceived notions of what we would see them as being in a just society, we're going to shame them until they become so humiliated that they have no other option but to submit to us. Of course, in this scenario there is nothing of an attempt to go beyond the relationships between single individuals. There is no program, there is no organization, nor is there any kind of challenge to the dominant ideology by any means.

This is the real problem with social justice liberals: they allow for themselves to be pacified up until something "problematic" occurs, and then they start rabidly shaming until the issue is forgotten along with their anger. They refuse to learn what Gramsci knew, what the Bolsheviks knew, and what the Spanish Anarchists (to an extent) knew: the superstructure forms and reproduces the base, and thus, like the base, needs to be dealt with on a systematic level. Without that, you're forced to resort to extreme individualism where everything is handled on an individual basis; even then, there is a reluctance to grab people's minds and benevolently direct them somewhere better ("it's not my job to educate you," etc.). And by that time, you're not engaging in any sort of activism. You are engaging in petty ramblings that do nothing but reassure your ego.

Now, the social justice crowd tends to look at this in a very black-and-white manner: "Oh, well if we organize or fuck with the system then we become elitist and authoritarian!" But then comes the great irony: when any part of the culture goes against their moral sensibilities they start viciously shaming in a manner that could very well be looked at as a precursor to an even greater authoritarian attitude.

Tumblr Social Justice would rather remain consumerist and pacified. They may find redemption in their consumer choices, be it Beyoncé's latest album or a "fair trade" T-shirt. They may rely entirely on simulated activism behind their computer screens (and let it be known that simulation entails that solidarity does not exist). They may also be unwilling to take matters into their own hands and get socially active in the real world so that the world is shaped in the way they want it to be. Then, when someone or something in the culture goes against their values, they become nasty and vicious in response, only to default right back to their forgetful, pacified selves. You ask them: "So, how do we organize around said issue?", and they tell you: "We can't do anything, we don't want to look bad, we don't want to be disturbed from our everyday lives. We're only going to shame our peers whenever they commit a 'microaggression'. We don't want to look like elitists, white saviors, or extremists like you."

And then you are the extremist, because you've remembered the struggles of the past and have the motivation to uproot a disgusting system, when they're content with updating their Tumblr blogs in the name of "awareness"!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

UK – Prisoner Emma Sheppard: Prisons do not work for anyone – except those who profit from them

Reblogged from: Act For Freedom Now
The prisons are nearly full. So they are building more. From Topshop to Tesco, DHL to Lend Lease, and Virgin to Geoamey, there is a lot of money in the prison regime. Now private ‘Community Rehabilitation Companies’ are running the probation service. Christopher Grayling has announced another ‘rehabilitative initiative’ for the Ministry of Justice. Prisoners will create sandbags, fence posts and kit for the Armed Forces, in order to ‘learn important new skills’ and the ‘value of a hard days work’.
The word rehabilitation is never far away inside these walls. But prison has a long shadow – it isolates, separates and destroys lives. Much has been written recently about women in prison. Even Vicky Pryce – ex-wife of a Tory MP has called for change. But whilst women in prison certainly have, to use the language of the screws, ‘complex needs’, calls for reform on gendered lines oversimplify the problem. Prisons do not work for anyone – except those who profit from them.
And what does ‘rehabilitation’ even mean? Repenting for your crime? Bowing down to supposedly benevolent systems which are offered to us as ‘choices’? Rehabilitation is used like a carrot we are meant to chase. But I will not participate in a race to make sandbags. There is no rehabilitation in an IPP, CSC or seg. When people are shipped out without warning. This is not rehabilitation.
Assata Shakur described one of the many show trials she was subjected to. Whilst I am not in any way comparing myself to her, the sentiment really resonated with me:
“Participating in the New Jersey Trial was unprincipled and incorrect.
By participating, I participated in my own oppression.
I should have known better and not lent credence to that sham. In the long run, the people are our only appeal.
The only ones who can free us are ourselves.”
Some people successfully detox in prison, many relapse. Some leave their abusive relationships, may return. Just like the myth of ‘protection’ the police perpetuate, ‘rehabilitation’ is a convenient facade which hides systemic violence. The decisions people make in prison may benefit or harm them. But any positive changes the individual makes happen in spite of, not due to, the ‘opportunities’ we receive. I will never forget the razor wire and the sound of the key in the door. but even though you lock me in, I am not alone.
Much love,Em x
Sheppard was sentenced to two years in prison for damaging police cars outside of Bristol.

You can write to her at:

Emma Sheppard
HMP Eastwood Park
Church Avenue
GL12 8DB

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Video: Spiritual Anarchism

Pygmalion is an Evil Bastard (Especially if He's a Radical Leftist)

A word of advice I'd give to all radical women who date men is this: steer clear of dating someone who desires to convert you to his political or religious views. This has happened to me before on multiple occasions, and it will certainly cause you a lot of pain. It's not just that men who assume they're entitled to fuck with your mind don't appreciate you for who you are in the present, it's also that their acts most certainly amount to gaslighting.

If you find that the Lefty dude whom you're dating acts like this, it's a sign that he may very well desire some kind of mental control over you. I made the mistake of not realizing it sooner and it fucked me up a lot. So, if you encounter someone like this, tell him to fuck off and let him understand that he is in no way entitled to your mind.

Overall, this is very much symptomatic of basing one's romantic intents primarily on politics. There were times in my life where I entered relationships with people solely on the basis of political views, and in every case it turned out to be a disaster; little disagreements we had overshadowed everything else to the point where the smallest debate can destroy your relationship. When you're in a radical organization, having everyone line up ideologically can be so crucial that people will leave or be looked upon with suspicion for taking a different stance on any issue. But that's political organizing. Things become even worse when ideological differences become the reason you break up with that otherwise amazing person whom you've been dating.

I will not speak for others, but I have never experienced a healthy relation in which one person constantly tries to "fix" their partner in such a way. Radical men, in particular, tend to have a complex where they only desire the woman whom they can "carve" themselves, whose every aspect (particularly her mind) is a product of his domination over her. If his partner evolves ideologically, he will try to stop her and regain control of her mind, because for him, his connection to her is based on the two of them being so ideologically identical. It is submission, albeit in a form that comrades would find tolerable.

So, to the radical dudes who date women: don't try to create and preserve the radical girlfriend you imagine from the girl in your organization whom you think is sweet and cute. If you desire to be with her, carry out your feelings through actions rather than an aggressive, possessive control of what she thinks. If you love her for her political views only, you will almost certainly not love her for very long, as all of us inevitably grow and evolve. You do not love her for herself but for the person you wish she was. And if she tells you to fuck off, please fuck off.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ma chanson française préférée

Maintenant que la jeunesse
s'éteint au carreau bleui
Maintenant que la jeunesse
machinale m'a trahi

Maintenant que la jeunesse
tu t'en souviens souviens-t-en
Maintenant que la jeunesse
chante à d'autres le printemps

Maintenant que la jeunesse
n'est plus ici n'est plus là
Maintenant que la jeunesse
suit un nuage étranger

Maintenant que la jeunesse
a fui , voleur généreux
me laissant mon droit d'aînesse
et l'argent de mes cheveux
Il fait beau a n'y pas croire
Il fait beau comme jamais

Quel temps quel temps sans mémoire
on ne sait plus comment voir
ni se lever ni s'asseoir
Il fait beau comme jamais

C'est un temps contre nature
comme le ciel des peintures
comme l'oubli des tortures
Il fait beau comme jamais

Frais comme l'eau sous la rame
un temps fort comme une femme
un temps à damner son âme
Il fait beau comme jamais

Un temps à rire et à courir
un temps à ne pas mourir
un temps à craindre le pire
Il fait beau comme jamais.
- L. Aragon 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

One of the Few Things That Keeps Me Going

Self-interest is a very strange thing. It may very well dictate how we act, yes. Perhaps we aren't rational all the time, that is true. What is best for us? We don't always know.

The times in my life in which I've felt like giving up have been many. Feeling abandoned by everyone around you drives you to unspeakable thoughts and acts. Sometimes I feel as though I'm undeserving of any of the things I hold dear. These thoughts are not uncommon.

Whenever these feelings come, I have to remind myself: I study philosophy, politics, the humanities, anthropology, economics, and everything in between for the creation of the new. At the end of the day, it isn't for the benefit of a single individual. You can become very well-read and everyone from school or work will come to you looking to understand what radical political theory is, but the praise you'll receive during that one moment doesn't translate to the overall project. It's not about your individual self-improvement, it's not about your social improvement, it's not about your intellectual improvement, but about winning. Whatever happens to me along the way doesn't really matter. It's far more in my self-interest to see the status quo crumble at our feet than it is for me to gain little compliments from others.

It is difficult to think like this. But I do so out of necessity - because if I didn't, I would be broken. 100 years from now our bodies will be gone, but the effects of what we did during our lives will remain.

Don't give up.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Former Classmate of Mine has Become a "Meme"

After graduating from McDaniel College, it was assumed I'd never hear about this guy again. Unfortunately, videos he did years ago are now all over the internet. I took philosophy courses alongside this guy back in 2011-2012. In class, he would act identical to his presentation in this one particular video. I have no hard feelings towards him, despite the fact that I find many of his views deplorable. This video of his (entitled "Confronting a Flu Vaccine Worker"), in which he harasses a pharmacist with straight-out-of-Infowars claims about vaccines back in 2009, is pretty bad. Prepare to cringe, or rage.

If that is too much, I recall this guy promoting backwards ideas of "black brains"/"white brains" and "male brains"/"female brains" in class, which shocked most of us. He would also bring in an Alex Jones water bottle, complete with a straw to take out the fluoride. Did I mention he was the guy my buddy and I were going to troll during my last semester there?

Almost 40,000 views. Even this well-known YouTube personality has made a response video laughing at Patrick's ridiculous antics.

To my knowledge, Patrick is now studying osteopathy in Mississippi. I haven't kept up with most of the people I knew from McDaniel and find no reason to do so. I do miss those days quite a bit, actually. 'Twas fun.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Athens: Nikos Romanos ended his hunger strike

Reblogged from ContraInfo:

Nikos Romanos, anarchist prisoner in Greece, was on hunger strike from the 10th of November until the 10th of December 2014. The judicial mechanisms refused his furlough request to attend university classes. In response to this, multiform actions of solidarity took place inside and outside the prisons of Greek democracy and internationally.

Most of all, it was the urgency of the situation that sparked street clashes and inspired instances of rebellion across the territory controlled by the Greek State. At the same time, comrades were eager to exchange ideas and desires over the previous month, and a great many diverse actions were able to see the light of day on the occasion of this prisoner hunger strike: daily assemblies, banner actions, direct actions, such as numerous arsons and attacks with homemade explosives (mainly against bank ATMs), hit-and-run attacks against police, street riots and large-scale clashes with the forces of order, building blockades, acts of sabotage (with the use of glue, paint, etc.), physical assaults against persons of Power, spontaneous protests against public appearance of politicians, symbolic occupation of radio and tv stations, a wave of state/corporate building occupations, counter-info gatherings, and large demonstrations. The creativity and conflictuality of various different anarchist individualities and groups may not be strong and decisive enough to keep the fight equally intense at the everyday level, but there’s always a chance that new projects will emerge from the latest encounter of comrades in occupied buildings, street actions, and so forth. However, only if people in solidarity with Nikos Romanos, and anarchists in particular, are willing to reflect on the specifics of what occurred during the last couple of days of his strike, they may find themselves prepared to practice a much-needed prisoner solidarity in the face of the new maximum security facility in Domokos, as well as the overall worsening of prison conditions.

Seeing that his initial request was repeatedly and vengefully denied, our comrade was blackmailed to accept electronic tagging as an option for getting educational furloughs eventually, “a last resort” that became more pressing as his health was quickly deteriorating. In fact, he chose to stop his hunger strike only after the Greek parliament voted almost unanimously (with the exception of two MPs of the main ruling party according to the official record, while MPs of the Nazi party were apparently quasi-present at the vote) in favor of an amendment proposed by the justice minister. This amendment refers to prisoners – convicts (sentenced in court) and indictees (awaiting trial) – that have the right to study at a higher education institution available in the same region as the state facility where they are incarcerated, but have not been granted educational leave from prison to regularly attend their classes. It specifies that any such prisoner must successfully attend 1/3 of classes and laboratory activities in one semester of an academic year by completing distant learning courses, and only then be permitted to make use of educational release days by wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet to physically attend classes. The justice minister included the provision of electronic tagging at the last minute, making sure to add that the competent disciplinary boards (prison councils) may still deny the request of an inmate for educational leave should they present a “special justification” for issuing a negative decision (even after the inmate has completed the required distance learning courses inside prison walls, and even if s/he accepts to be monitored by bracelet outside the walls, we presume). This legislative amendment applies in all cases of sentenced and awaiting-trial prisoners who are deprived of student furloughs (so, not just in the case of Nikos Romanos). On this occasion, almost all political parties had an electioneering benefit from promoting further repressive measures against prisoners while not missing their chance to show off a democratic and humanitarian profile.

Nikos has quit his strike, after 31 days, but he’s still asphyxiating for a few breaths of freedom. Given the outcome, knowing that his claim has not yet been vindicated, we demand what should be granted to him right away: educational leave from prison. Contrary to a widespread feeling of “victory”, we feel that nothing has been won apart from the valuable life of our comrade and the realization that we should respond to every blackmailing of statist lackeys, not sometime in the distant future but now, by intensifying all forms of fight against the prison-society. We firmly stand by the side of prisoners in struggle, and against the enforcement of the use of teleconferencing and electronic tagging as yet another method of isolating captives of the State/Capital. Now, more than ever before, prisoner solidarity must go on the offensive by any means necessary.