"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Feb 12, 2012

How to ask superior questions...

Here:

Is there some serious projection being done by anarchists? Are folks considering their own habits, desires, values, etc.; and the roles that government does and does not play in their own lives; and concluding from this that we’d all be better off without government—but failing to adequately consider the full diversity of people being governed? Are violent criminals and street thugs, for example, out of sight and out of mind?

A couple qualifications are immediately necessary. I readily grant that there is a ton of unreasonable fear of violent crime, and that such fear can be easily exploited by people in power. I also readily grant, more parenthetically, that anarchism can draw on very important considerations of what government does to directly serve corporate interests, to wage war, etc.—and I have no intention of contesting or minimizing such things.

I’m just thinking about how violent crime is, in fact, a reality. And some violent criminals can only be stopped by force. And I’m glad that I don’t have to try to marshal that force myself.
I’m very grateful for the armed security guard at my school. And given the hell that the inner city can be, I’m very grateful for the armed police, and perhaps even the armed prison guards, who help to at least keep it contained in the inner city. (Not that letting it rage there is a good thing, obviously…)

I have seen up close and personal, and for a sustained period of time, a ghetto subculture that places a premium on toughness, violence, and taking what you want; and seldom seems to be given any pause by considerations like empathy, pity, or remorse. I’ve seen a steady stream of theft, robbery, and intimidation. I’ve heard and seen students’ readiness to fight at the slightest provocation, and to mercilessly beat a fallen opponent if given the chance. I’ve heard excited and admiring talk about countless shootings.

Near the beginning of this school year, two college students were walking in a park in my city when two young men robbed them, made them kneel down, and shot them both in the head. The next day three of my students were talking about this—bragging and comparing notes about how they would have done the same.

Can anarchism deal with such realities?

Or might anarchism be under some charitable illusion that cold-blooded violence doesn’t really exist? That the injustices and oppressions and privations of the current social order are wholly responsible for inner city violence, perhaps?

Such systemic issues play an enormous role, no doubt. There is an unbroken chain of oppression and discrimination stretching back to kidnapping and chattel slavery. And those born into urban poverty today have the deck stacked against them—all the more if they are also born into brown skin.
But even seeing these realities clearly, and even assigning most or all fault or blame to those in power rather than those in poverty—present realities still are what they are. And part of the present reality is cold-blooded violence. There are hardened killers in the world, and especially on the streets of the ghetto. These folks didn’t create the war zones they were raised in, and in that sense they are clearly not to blame. But they have nonetheless become what they have become.
And they’re not prepared to tend your community garden. They are prepared to shoot you and take your stereo.

http://fromwinetowater.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/anarchism-and-teaching/

19 comments:

Troville said...

This is a question I've always struggled with and have never been able to come up with a satisfactory answer. I suppose that's part of the reason why I stopped referring to myself as an anarchist.

davidly said...

Is this a (perhaps unwitting) concern troll-job that has happened upon you, Jack? Honest questions from somebody who just wants to know?

Forget that there are no answers to those questions, just horror scenario challenges to those who would challenge authority. Why, we can't have killers ruling the roost, can we?

There are hardened killers in the world, and especially on the streets of the ghetto. These folks didn’t create the war zones they were raised in, and in that sense they are clearly not to blame. But they have nonetheless become what they have become.

Yes, I am afraid of the police, too, but ya know...

And yet, in spite of regularly inflated law enforcement efforts, people still get shot in the head for all kinds of reasons, material and otherwise.

Both the state and its most "hardened criminals" share the quality of not being "prepared to tend the community garden". Also, neither mind getting cut-rate on the fruits of the gardeners' labors.

But only the state will prohibit you from tending your own garden because that function belongs to someone being subsidized to pay a higher protection premium.

There's a reason they call it a racket. And our fine educator is wariest of those the racketeers pays him to educate. Brilliant. Real Peace Prize acceptance speech logic.

If anarchism can provide the teacher with thug-free school zones, then anarchism just might gain one more advocate. Somebody needs to get on the case!

Devin Lenda said...

The argument, in short: "humans are evil, therefore the state." Or: "humans are evil, therefore systematic evil."

The ghetto is a product of the state. If you get rid of the state, you get rid of the ghetto. Not all evil, ghetto evil.

The questioner can study the drug war and note the relation between incarceration and ghettoization. Or between zoning laws and ghettoization. Or look at the state-produced, automobile-based economy that built the suburbs. Nevermind the Middle Easterners who get in the state's way when it's hunting for oil.

"Or might anarchism be under some charitable illusion that cold-blooded violence doesn’t really exist? That the injustices and oppressions and privations of the current social order are wholly responsible for inner city violence, perhaps?"

The rulers didn't create human evil. They perpetuate it. They defend it. It looks good to them. It IS good for them. You defend it. It looks good to you. It is good for you. Well, insofar as you find satisfaction in outsourcing the domination of state-produced enemies.

"They are prepared to shoot you and take your stereo."

You're talking about a SWAT team, right? (just noticed Davidly said that first)

The questioner rightly understands this in terms of system. Dark-hued people born into tough circumstances. Why? What made that so? Unless you can separate the police from the state, and you can't, you're making the case for the creation of ghetto violence.

Troville said...

To accept that ghetto violence is a product of the state--primarily if not entirely--doesn't get at the question of how to eliminate ghetto violence. Just because the state has caused a problem doesn't mean that elminating the state will necessarily fix it. The damage has already been done; a culture of violence and destructiveness (and this applies to more than non-whites living in poverty) has already been inculcated in the minds of many.

Speaking for myself, before I could sign off on a vision for a future society (as though it really matters what I think), I would want to know that there would be some sort of mechanism in place to deal with the question of violent behavior. I don't think that's unreasonable or that it makes me an apologist for statism.

Enron said...

Q: You have read, that when Hercules fighting with the Hydra, had cut off any one of his many heads, there are still those two other heads in its place; and yet at last he cut them off all.

A: The story is false. For Hercules did not cut off those heads, but bought them off; and afterwards, when he saw it did him no good, then he cut them off, and got the victory.

-Hobbes

Devin Lenda said...

"before I could sign off on a vision for a future society (as though it really matters what I think), I would want to know that there would be some sort of mechanism in place to deal with the question of violent behavior."

Violence is going to happen. The questions are to whom, by whom, and how much. The mechanism you seem to support is to the dark people, by the light people, and a lot. If you say "I want the cops to only go after actually violent people and keep non-violent people safe from them and to act as a net reducer of violence," I respect the sentiment but suggest that it's impossible. Obama is the most violent motherfucker on the planet right now. He, and people like him, are the captains of the current mechanism ship. Are the police keeping him in check? Are they trying? Is it conceivable that they'd ever try?

Every anarchist I know of supports self-defense and group self-defense. At what point these efforts become police or state is debateable but nobody's asking victims to accept their victimhood.

The best one can do is to fight against the greatest purveyors of violence in the world, as MLK kinda said--governments. Fight gangsterism, state or non-.

Troville said...

I don't disagree with what you're saying. The violence perpetuated by the United States government far outweighs anything else and opposition to that violence should be first and foremost among principles. But I remain apprehensive about what would replace our current society. I'll concede the point, though, because I recognize that I'm bordering on arguing against my own principles here. I probably didn't give this one enough thought.

Anonymous said...

before we worry about our dream anarchy utopias, we've got a lot of make total destroy first.

yonders said...

I heard a guy shot another guy in an anarchy once, and there were no cops around to lock him up or shoot him. That's why I vote Obama.

Cüneyt said...

It's really cute. Acting like the Leviathan is justified 'cause thug life is nature, red in tooth and claw. Because thug life has nothing to do with commodity, cultivated poses, post-industrial machismo, mass media, economic inequality.

Bullshit. I say bullshit. The armed guard and the thug are part of the same society.

If my fever permits, I'm going to write something about this. I fully, completely, and totally believe that anarchism will mean violence, not cleansing or temporary but perpetual and meaningless. I also believe that anarchy will inevitably give rise to tyranny. But this is bullshit, politically speaking. It would be more honest to say "I am thankful for the forces that protect me and mine." I see a reasonable and modest thankfulness for force, and not an actual critique of the anarchist criticism of society.

That said, utopian anarchists are projecting. It's true. But the logic don't follow.

Five by Five said...

Devin you've been making quite a bit of sense.

My addition to this conversation is that this piece is rife with assumptions. Perhaps if you walk right up to someone who makes a living by running protection rackets and robbing businesses and ask them to plant tomatoes with you you will get a strong negative reaction.

But why is that ALWAYS, without question, the case? I think it is not. It isn't even the most likely reaction, especially if one were to approach the issue in an intelligent fashion.

@Cüneyt:

Why do you think anarchism will lead to violence and tyranny? Do you think it will lead to more human suffering than the this great, heaving dark machine we and our ancestors imprisoned ourselves by? I am not sure that is possible, but I certainly do not hold it as the default position.

An alternative would be desirable if it even marginally reduced the horrors of the present organization of society.

rob payne said...

It seems to me that the assumption here is that the police and the state is here to protect you. If you consider the violent actions of the police against OWS whatever you may think of OWS is that they are protecting the wealthy which is the same as saying they are protecting the state. The incident where the cop pepper sprayed the young girls shows what sadistic people cops can be. There may be little difference between the cops and the violent criminals. Police brutality is an old story. Americans have always been a violent culture from the very beginning. Just look at those nice young white marines who slaughter women and children and piss on bodies. Many of them enjoy such things. What makes people so sadistic? Is it the state which ensures inequality? Is it the way you are raised? Is it a combination of both? Is it wired into humans? I have not heard a satisfactory answer to these questions. When you say anarchy many see people going nuts, running around burning things down, murder, rape, etc. but that is just malarkey. The fact is people have lived in various states of anarchy in the past and seemed to have gotten by just fine. Anarchy is nothing new. Since we have all lived within a system of statehood it is difficult for people to imagine anything different as if states are some kind of preordained natural and normal condition. I submit they are not and are only one possibility out of other possibilities.

Cüneyt said...

5x5, to be fair, anarchism doesn't lead to violence or tyranny. It precedes tyranny, even when it follows it. And humans are violent in and out of anarchism. We just argue respective rates, and the costs of each.

I can't give a factual answer, since this is all conjecture, but I would first say that human suffering is relative. There is a certain kind of security that brings calm. Other amounts that make one feel fenced in. If you're in charge of it, you buy a little worry. Is it worth it? I can't tell you. Depends on your personality, the quality of security, your trust, your value of freedom, your fear of loss. All subjective.

But what I can say is this. Some of this I got into on my post. If anarchy comes, expect to say goodbye to the big world wars. This will be awesome.

And then expect to see war on your street if just a few hundred men a block over decide they like the trees near you and you disagree. Or make similar partnerships to prevent it. It doesn't have to be Mad Max. It doesn't have to be immediate. But all it takes is one disagreement to come to murder and then the very issue of who gets to punish, or if anyone should be punished at all, to push you to the brink of war. Especially if one disputes the nature of the death.

Would all of this be better than The State? Maybe in many ways. Would be much more immediate, much more in my individual possession. But peaceful? Says who? Everyone knows that the most peaceful places are the ones where the dictators are in charge. Where power is uncertain, contested, there you see some real shifts. Law of fucking nature.

Jack Crow said...

Heh. I don't turn on the computer for half a day, and get a superior discussion. Note to self on that.

In brief, before longer replies later: I just think the questions are asked better than on average. I don't really accept the epistemic rules which inform them, or the premises upon which they're based, but they at least begin with a concession to actual anarchist critique.

Also, as briefly, it's my personal opinion that any "anarchist" who believes in the end to human violence is not so much an anarchist, but is rather a redemptionist who either cannot abide competing prophets, or has not found his final prophet...yet.

Devin Lenda said...

To draw on that old distinction between analysis (description; what is) and ethics (normativity; what should be), however bleak or bright the forecast, what I should do remains the same. Whether I live in a rigidly hierarchical system or an orgiastically violent one, I should resist unjustified power-over. So even if I buy Cuneyt's bleak forecast, it wouldn't change how I should act, especially since I think the state is a worst case scenario. As Five By Five said: "An alternative would be desirable if it even marginally reduced the horrors of the present organization of society."

Cuneyt, I'd like to say that what you call anarchy is actually a struggle to establish the next hierarchy. (Semantics to some extent but maybe more than that?) Stable hierarchy normalizes the violence of that struggle. What you're calling anarchy, I'd call unstable hierarchy. This leaves room for actual peaceful relations between people, which I'd call anarchy. Or if perfectly anarchical or hierarchical relations/systems don't exist, it makes sense to me to put them on a continuum.

Here's a story about stable and unstable hierarchies:
Dinner is almost ready. A hungry boy looks at a cookie jar. He doesn't take any cookies. What restraint, someone thinks. What they don't see is that when the boy was much smaller, his father beat him on several occasions for taking from the cookie jar before dinner. The boy doesn't consciously think about his father or the prospect of getting beaten. He just doesn't take the cookie. The violence has been internalized. It's still there though. I'd say it's literally in his body. In any case, the father's belt is responsible for the seemingly peaceful scene. On the state level, much of the violence is hidden, as in this case, while the rest is seen as justified and therefore "keeping the peace."

Hank said...

The police are a strange institution in that they claim to serve and protect, but the only thing I've ever seen a cop serve is a summons and the only thing I've ever seen a cop protect is property; everything else they inevitably arrive too late to rescue. They'll take your report, though, and if they ever get their criminal, they'll be sure to put him behind bars (unless he happens to be one of them)! But punishment never did erase the original crime.

I also find curious the way anarchy is described as a social landscape where quibbles about trees turn violent, in contrast to our current social landscape, where I have in fact seen very similar situations turn violent or if not violent, then the threat of violence was there.

One might be glad that cops are willing to do violence on their behalf, but I think that says more about that person than about society. One who calls on the cops to do violence for them is just as violent as the cops themselves; they just haven't the inclination to get their own hands dirty (which really is a shame).

Five by Five said...

@Devin:"The violence has been internalized. It's still there though. I'd say it's literally in his body. In any case, the father's belt is responsible for the seemingly peaceful scene. "

Silber has quite a lot to say about the obedience to authority that is beaten into every child (usually literally) from an early age.
"Violence against children is the first lie, which makes all the other crippling, soul- and life-destroying lies possible and inevitable.

The crimes against children are rendered still more heinous because of the specific nature of children themselves:
'There is one group of human beings that has almost no representation in our political life. It is a constituency that is left entirely unprotected. It is abused and brutalized in the most horrifying ways. What makes the horror almost ungraspable in its immensity is that this group is entirely defenseless: it is the weakest and most easily abused and manipulated group of all. That group, of course, is children, including very young adults.'"


http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/2009/10/meaningful-connections.html
and
http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/2010/07/wikileaks-resistance-genuine-heroes-and_29.html

And he bases a large portion of his work on Alice Miller, who I've only begun to scratch the surface of.

@Cüneyt:
"I can't give a factual answer, since this is all conjecture, but I would first say that human suffering is relative.

What about it is relative? Surely the physical violence visited upon one class or group of persons to create a perception of security is not relative. The emotional and psychological abuse fostered by an oppressive societal structure could be described as "relative" but only in that it would vary in specific attributes in different circumstances. I would call that a distinction without a difference.

More importantly, the Apocalypse is already here. It's just not where you or I happen to be living. Imagine growing up in DR Congo, or Somalia, or Iraq or Hati. I don't think retrenchment of the massive power modern states now have over their populations would lead to immediate (or even eventual) street battles over logging rights. It is possible to do away with the State and not concurrently raze all the infrastructure. State's a political entities, ideas, not physical objects, no matter how much the people running them would like us to believe otherwise.

"Everyone knows that the most peaceful places are the ones where the dictators are in charge."

Peaceful meaning what, exactly? Most dictators (one could likely say "all") build and maintain their power on large piles of bones. Separating the value of intellectual freedom from the value of personal physical integrity seems to me to be the definition of splitting hairs. What is one without the other?

Ivan said...

Many thanks for the link, Jack. I've greatly enjoyed reading the conversation here, as well as on the original post.

Cüneyt said...

At Five: "Surely the physical violence visited upon one class or group of persons to create a perception of security is not relative."

Surely it is. I have met a lot of people in pain, social and otherwise, and have felt a lot of pain, social and otherwise. Try measuring, quantifying, or equating it. Tell the queer and the black that they've suffered similarly, or this much more, this much less.

Sorry. Pet peeve. It is relative. But it's important to honor the suffering in all that the modern world creates.

I'm not trying to act like a fucking knowitall but you don't need to give me a primer on the imperial seat's exportation of violence to the ghetto, or Sub-Saharan Africa, or the Middle East.

God, we're on the same side but little things you type just keep setting my brain off. Like "State's a political entities, ideas, not physical objects" well no, it's a Doing, not a Being, but Doing is everything. A state that no longer encourages as it does might see a lot more than roads crumble. It will see entire towns vanish. It could mean movements of large numbers of people.

And as far as the struggle to establish the next hierarchy, I maintain that the next hierarchy is only as far as the next contention backed by threat of force, and that ain't far.

Christ, I need time to figure out how to say this better.

Anarchy is NOT peace. It is merely a chance for it. And if it leads to mutual defense, then that can be good for a lot of people for a long time. But even an alliance between two men can lead to marginalization of others. Root of all evil. No defensive weapons.