"...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

Jul 19, 2011

Dear Progressives

I was going to be nice. But, alas, you merit it not.

You are nice people. And you are dumb. And I don't mean C minus average, but can fix a motor, run a team of oxen and whip up a meal for twenty on a budget "dumb."

I mean, actually dumb. You're mute about all the wrong things. Because, well, you're compromised people. And I don't mean, "ah fuck, I shouldn't have taken that job, but I have to feed my kids" compromised.

I mean, actually compromised. You chose your insipid, unrealistic, wrong-sided beliefs. You choose to believe that the federal death state can do good, if only given over to the right people, who being noble and pure white of heart, will of course transform it into an angelic instrument of human progress.

You've pinned your hopes on good persons and bad, on scoundrels and almost saints, but you've never figured out a simple truth available to every American smart enough not to care about the ballot box.

No politics matters. Because there is no "the People." They aren't out there, waiting to give their holy Consent to the men in white hats. Or to the ladies in white hats, if that's your primary criteria.

The State - and let's just flash back to Kropotkin - exists to protect property and to kill, hurt, maim and break the ruled classes who must not be allowed control of that property. The state exists to control populations so that class which controls the state can have its preferred forms of property. No matter how many times men have tried to capture it and use it towards a different end, the state returns again and again to its stable form of power, and its stable function.

And you, dear progressives, aren't willing to let go of property. You're still trying to figure out ways to protect it. To make the state which guarantees it solvent. To get more people tied up in it. To shore up the lending power of the government.

Never mind your love for the state's nastier functions. You might want the prisons to be prettier, and the schools greener, but you still want them to discipline and punish. Or, worse, to reform and redeem.

But, really, you love that private property and the gummint that protects it.

So, let's get back to property. You know what you mean by property. And so do the rest of us. Sure, you want a slightly larger Commons than the more cartoonish conservatives. Yeah, yeah - they're astroturfed into stupidity and they worship an angry Yahwehian Jesus. They like to pretend you are all socialists, and you like to get indignant about that.

The cartoons are wrong. You loves you some property. You know, land ownership, traded shares, accumulated wealth, cleaned up neighborhoods, community gardens for Bedford housewives, gentrification as long as its "green". And the American Dream. Oh, the American Dream.

Proggies love the American Dream, dontcha?

If I had a nickel for every time I heard a progressive prattle on about the American Dream, I'd have enough money to arm a whole army of Lucy Parson's grifters, grimers and tramps. Oh, happy day...


It's just that you can't have it that way. The American Dream is all tangled up with a real, actual, specific set of events. Let's call it, hmmm, history. What actually happened. And the American dream is inseparable from slavery, the Indian Wars, land grabs, Manifest Destiny, corporate finance, debt, war economies and the pillaging of native, tribal, indigenous and "third world" peoples the world over.

The American Dream is purchased with the blood of poor white folk from the Appalachians to the Ozarks, and all across the dying rust belt. It is cheap corn, sugar and wheat dumped into African and South American markets in order to destroy the ability of Africans and South Americans to produce their own consumables for local - wow, what a concept - consumption. It's shareholder meetings and school bonds and coolie built railroads. It's fungible oil. It's coal fired power plants. And the next twenty years of nuclear plant construction.

It's the Gulf Oil Spill, and all the spills that don't make national news.

It's the prison industrial complex, and the Drug War.

All of that shit goes into the federal stew and is produced to make sure that the middle class - that most persistent of useful fictions - is placated with cheap roads, petroleum fertilized lettuce, public stadium football and perpetual warfare.

Your ideal America depends on the outsourcing of death, and the in-sourcing of stable middle class homes, high wages, low costs, jobs guarantees for voters and cheap healthcare. It's paid for by the poor, everywhere.

You, you fucking ass clowns, are the eaters of the dead.

Their lives ring your stomachs as fatty deposits and the excreta of poorly digested comfort food. Their stolen rubber sponges the soles of your feet when you get it through your death riddled heads to treadmill all that fat off. It's the shit food the poor eat, so you can shop organic.

You eat the poor and you eat the dead. You drink in their stolen lives, and livelihoods. Their lost lives, their very body fluids soak through every word you write, type or whisper in collaboration with your own imagined genius. It's their water in that plastic bottle next to your desk.

While the rest of the world starves, you congratulate yourselves on a new/old theory to print money and secure for yourselves an American Dream without any history attached to it. Or with the bad history of Good Presidents and Golden Ages. You know, the ones where FDR didn't sell out the muddles in order to get New York, Chicago and Boston chained to a disciplinary economy. In your history, he saved free exchange. For the rest of us, he stopped a revolution in the making.

Ah, fuck. We're almost through this...

While the prisons fill up, you pretend that access to the Presidency will allow your White Hats to tame the hydra and make it a treasured pet. You're fine with the new Enclosure, as long as it gets you healthcare.

You are, in a word, fools.

And you are also the enemy.

The federal death state's operators aren't going to print up a whole bunch of money because you have noble intentions towards the creation of a new fiat money regime which magically manages to be immune from runs on currency, depreciation, inflation or foreign trading. They are going to print or coin money if and when they can get away with it, in order to drive down even further the real value of wages, while encouraging the rise of prices to as high as tolerable levels. They'll do it when it's time to "rescue" Mexico or Colombia or Venezuela from its rising poor people. Or when the Chinese death state has finally converted Africa into a giant death state dependent market and no longer needs the US worker drone to absorb excess production.

You cannot tame this beast.

You kill it. And you do that by, I dunno, killing it. Not by feeding it tasty human treats until it learns to behave.


Figure it out already, or get out of the way. Because, come reckoning, if you're apologizing for evil as long as it wears your color halo, you get what the peasants got to give.

And I for one will be applauding them.

(thanks to good sir Shetterly for the inspiration)


Unknown said...

I have become a political nihilist.

It happened a few years ago and I don't regret it one fucking bit. I did a piece on the Professional Left today..and lets just say I think they are full of shit too and are no better than the extremists on the right.

Jack Crow said...

Hey, Dusty - it's not my place to preach against nihilism. That's for shit sure. I'm regularly prone to it.

But, for what it's worth, if we stop looking for political solutions to class problems, we're at least part of the way there.

I think the problem of progessivism is that it depends entirely on the preservation of a politics of its enemies. Because progressives fail to believe their enemies actually are out to get them.

And those enemies aren't poor conservatives and their cartoon elders.

Those enemies wear prettier faces. And they are playing to win.

Which means a bad world for the rest of us.

Look at this way. The progressive and liberal solution to Ford dumping thousands of gallons of paint sludge a day, for more than a decade, poisoning the entire Ramapough Indian people, is to pass a law or two, levy a set of fines, and "strengthen" the same EPA which has for thirty years helped Ford cover up a deliberate poisoning so toxic its inhumanity becomes incredible to believe.

When, as far as I see it, the correct response is to take every Ford executive, manager and contracting or subsidiary supplier CEO into popular custody, tie them each to a chair fastened to the bottom a closed and sealed container, and fill it up with the same sludge, and a whole lot of dioxin, to boot...

Anonymous said...

That's the Jack I love to read.

Fuck yeah.

Will Shetterly said...

Damn fine rant! Sometimes it's good to take no prisoners, because reluctant allies of the ruling class are still its allies.

Unknown said...

I watched the documentary today. It was a scathing indictment of the EPA..which has, since it's inception, catered to the Corporatocracy. It's pounded into their psyche I believe.

As for fixing our national nightmares' I tend to agree w/your assessment here in the comments section. I used to be a proud liberal..now I am just a disillusioned one that believes it has to all go to hell before it will begin to get better...if it's not too late at that point. That is why I own a gun and always have. It never leaves my home as it is there to protect me and my loved ones when everything goes into the crapper..as we don't have nearly as many law enforcement people as there are poor people...who's population is growing by the day.

I am of the same mindset as you regarding those that put profits ahead of human life and health..quit coddling the fuckers with the money and those that back them. Do like China does..they strung up a few of their corporate CEO's when all that shit hit the fan about how they cut corners when manufacturing toys and pet food.

Anonymous said...

Dusty, if you were ever unlucky enough to work with or for the US EPA you would be nauseated by the smug "professionalism" of their corporate polluter lapdog stoogery. I spent 3 yrs working closely with US EPA staff on air quality issues and found them to be smug, cementheaded, and generally inable to work or comment on anything outside each individual EPA employee's very narrow niche of "expertise" or "specialty." For an example of their absurd redundancy and bureaucratic bloat: I was the primary air quality planner for the DC region's planning coordination entity (MWCOG) and had responsibility for the whole spectrum of pollution and at EPA I had to deal with numerous niche "specialists" whose knowledge and authority were lesser than my own... yet because they were Uncle Sammy's Kids, they had the Power and Authority, ultimately. And they always chose the "business-friendly" routes, which basically were euphemisms for "let's be nice to the polluters because they will threaten to axe jobs, or increase product costs, or the like if we actually make them clean up their emissions."

It's not just the EPA. The US Forest Service is basically the handmaiden of timber extraction industries. The Bureau of Land Management is the butler/houseman to mineral, gas, oil extraction and to cattle grazing interests. The National Park Service is about putting a happy "eco" face on "development" of park lands, Disneyfying wherever possible.

I suggest reading "Green Rage" by Christopher Manes for a good historical accounting of how ecological health interests have always been owned and controlled by those whose activities harm the ecosystems of the USA. Gifford Pinchot, the father of the US Forest Service, put the USFS in the Department of Agriculture because he saw it as a timber extraction entity -- timber extraction, not forest ecosystem protection, was the point of creating the USFS.

Most liberals and progressives I know have a naive belief that these "stewardship" or "regulatory" entities are noble and pure with only occasional bad apples. Most liberal and progressive pundits are likewise.

Extrapolate that out across the whole array of bureaucratic entities supposedly working for the interests of everyone... and if you care about how things are divided and how power should be apportioned, it's easy to understand the fire behind Jack's essay here.

Weldon Berger said...

I participate in an email list populated by people such as those you describe. "Baby steps," I think. "Baby steps." And then something comes up where I yell at them that I'll be crazed and homeless and dead in the street in a few years if things continue apace, and they all get embarrassed for me.

Cüneyt said...

I'm sorry if I come off as pinheaded, but I have a question about this:

"When, as far as I see it, the correct response is to take every Ford executive, manager and contracting or subsidiary supplier CEO into popular custody..."

So the answer is not capture of the state, but formation of a state? Anyway, we may differ, but that's what I'd call even an ad hoc tribunal: a state, an exercise of power. And, so empowered, I'm not sure I have faith in a popular trial system being more benevolent than the monstrosity we have currently.

And no, I'm not defending our prison system.

ergo said...

Damn, Jack. Amazing.

Also, bravo Karl.

Jack Crow said...


It's a fine question.

But, to understand where you're coming from, I wonder if you'll allow me to ask one in return, to figure out if we're using words in the same way.

Let's assume for a moment that someone you love is badly injured or sickened by a negligent party; that the person in question, in the process of dumping benzene into your local swimming hole, poisons a family member of yours.

You decide to seek recompense from this person and collect several friends to help you in your task. You visit his place of residence, persuade him to understand the gravity of his predicament and the unlikelihood of escaping it and then suggest a number of remedies, up to and including providing support for your sickened kin until such time as her illness passes, if ever.

Have you formed a "state" to achieve these ends, or does a state have to meet more criteria than just "organizing to seek redress"?

Cüneyt said...


That's a perfect counterquestion; it clarifies my thought nicely.

I would say it's the beginning of a state. It depends on how persistent this group of friends is, and how numerous. For example, a circle of friends that does not regularly meet, but convenes on an as-needed basis, is certainly enough to form a state if we say that village councils are states, or alliances between houses are states, which I do. Of course, persistency is debatable--you can have states with revolving membership and still have states. Also, I say that numerousness may matter, but that may be more a matter of scale, numerical or power majority. I believe that the state sprang first from ad-hoc warbands, raiders, and foragers, though, and some people say that the state is much younger.

I would say that a posse can be a state, but a large part of that is how competitive the system is. How many other gangs are there? Do you have to fight off the poisoner's friends? That's war, if you ask me, just on a smaller scale than Westerners are usually accustomed. And the kernel of the state for me is the power to impose any matter of justice, recompense, or inflict a wound with impunity... Maybe I've painted myself into a corner, there, but that kernel, that ability to use power, is a weapon used both by the unpunished poisoner and those who would seek to right what I and you would call a wrong.

Now I'm talking quite a bit and I hope I'm saying something, but before I shut the fuck up let me make one more point. Whether or not we call it a state, I feel that organization for the cause of infliction of power, of the use of force or other coercion in order to effect our desired outcome--that's back to the progressive's problem. Who are we to say that the right of "the people" (which always means "some people") to inflict vengeance as they see fit is just, when there is no right or wrong but what we posit? Are we to, like the progressive as you say, rely on good men and women?

Or are we to aim for nothing more and nothing less than Hobbes' war of all against all? Personally, I don't think there's any other way. Personally, I think that is the endpoint of anarchistic thought is just that--nothing more because nothing more is possible, nothing less because anything less is servitude and weakness--the bellum omnium contra omnes.

But that isn't the death of the state. That's just a multitude of states. Which again, might be okay. Might be the only way. And will be as persistent as anything else in human history.

Landru said...

"We're more of an anarcho-syndicalist commune..."

With all love and respect, Jack: just pick up the fucking gun, then. Oh. Wait...

Randal Graves said...

Got nothing to add that hasn't already been said, so I'll just say that I've always wanted to be a state so I could issue my own currency with funny little pictures on them.

Anonymous said...

After reading this a 3d time I wanted to add:

when I first read it last night, I wanted to quote whole paragraphs and cheer for their wording and message... but then realized I'd be quoting the whole thing.

Maybe it's the righteous fury in me, but I'd say this is the best thing you've written, Jack.

Anonymous said...


is self-determination such a bad concept?

Quin said...

This and the last thread make for great reading. Powerful posts followed by even better discussion (and lest you take that as a backhanded compliment, Jack, I mean your comments, too-- in fact, sometimes there is so much gold in your comments that I wish they just became new posts).

You've so clearly described the massive violence which is already being inflicted on the innocent, and pointed out that it is only at this bloody cost that we have our current "progress". You're absolutely right on this score, and anybody so-called progressive who denies this is lost in a blind alley.

So a little bit of violence targeted at more deserving parties than the poor wretches who get it now certainly seems reasonable, right? This, though, is where I still can't agree.

I guess it boils down to my conviction of "violence bad, non-violence good". And I do completely acknowledge that this philosophy is problematic as a path toward obvious positive change-- hence its acceptability and vocal support by the status quo. But nonetheless.

Morally, if I don't believe it's right to use violence to coerce me or my loved ones, I also don't believe it's right to use violence to coerce others. Pragmatically, I wonder if violence is too dangerous a tool. I fear if I were to carry out -- or even just support -- the French Doctor's Remedy, I would soon become the same monster I was seeking to vanquish. That's human (animal?) nature. I think there is too much temptation, once violence proves to be an effective tool, to want to keep drinking from the same poisoned well, in increasingly less justifiable situations.

Then again, maybe my brain was warped at a young age by watching too many superheroes say "Remember kids, violence is never the answer", generally after saving the day by throwing a supervillian like a bowling ball through a human pyramid of their own henchmen. So, if you can, do you mind pointing me to historical examples which might assuage my misgivings?

Unknown said...

What about the verbal violence as in the rhetoric being spewed by the GOP and their party of No?

Doesn't that qualify as violence? Verbal abuse is cause enough to charge a parent w/child abuse, so it sure as hell should fit in here.

If someone is verbally attacking you, anyone..no one in particular, are you going to just take it? Does that make you a better man if you take it, without responding?

I think it makes the individual an enabler.

The GOP is waging a war, they like to say the D's are trying to start class warfare, all this talk about tax code changes, when the onus is really on them for that bit of fuckery as they believe sticking it to the least among us is better than expecting more from those that have the most.

Anonymous said...

I'm not keen on letting violent people have their way with me while I pacifistically adopt a progressive pose of ...what... ethical superiority?

People who know only violent power-grabbing and power-exertion-over-others do not reform their ways simply because a pacifist refuses to answer with violence. That's pure naivete there.

d.mantis said...

This post was exceptional.

However, I do think Quin and Cuynet have very valid points. My only response would be to read Karl's explanation of bureaucratic hierarchy.

In Jack's scenario the actors are clear, guilt is known/proven. I simply take his argument as a purging of hierarchy as a means to cover guilt.

Of course, I am probably wrong...

d.mantis said...

To clarify...This is not vigilantism because it has nothing to do with the enforcement of already coopted laws.

There is a difference between the communal act of recompence and the exertion of power by a state-like entity.

Perhaps it lies within the former's singular purpose and the latter's tendancy for mission creep.

Quin said...


The verbal violence of a parent, who is the center of a child's world and who that child relies on for its very survival, is a very different creature from the rhetorical violence directed by adults at adults. A child can not just turn the other cheek; we can.


I do not think less of the victim who hands over their wallet when they are mugged by someone at gunpoint. Sometimes there is no good solution anywhere to be seen. When faced with only bad choices, I don't think it makes one an overly virtuous poseur to choose the passive route, in which at least they are not the ones causing harm.

I more or less agree with your second paragraph (with the caveat that non-violence can have some effect if the act of non-violence ends up being publicly visible in the right way), and I said nothing to argue the contrary above. But I understand why you might have assumed otherwise.

Jack Crow said...

Just a superior batch of replies. I am grateful. It's several hours before I have any extended free time, but I'd like to pose a question which I think comes at the problem of violence indirectly, and might open a window into how that problem presents itself differently, depending on circumstance and temperament.

Imagine for a moment a group of feminists [Karl, my friend, be nice :)] who believe they have stumbled upon a solution to the inequities which persist in culture, law and family arrangements.

They believe that if women withdraw sexual contact entirely from all men, anywhere, men will be forced to examine their assumptions about women as receptacles of male sexual desire.

This group manages persuade the vast majority of women first in a small midwestern city, then across the state, and finally (following several egregious and infamous spousal rape-murders) the country.

Women everywhere go on sex strike.

Over the next several months, more than a hundred women are murdered by their spouses and boyfriends, in violent reaction to the withdrawal of sex. Twenty of those men are shorty afterward seized and beaten to death by groups of angry women.

Can a chain of causation and culpability be followed and subsequently assigned to the women who initiated the sex strike?

Who is responsible for the act of violence?

And are the women who killed the men in retaliation less culpable, or is their violence more excusable, than the men who struck out in rage and in attempts to reassert dominion?

Justin said...

I disagree with Jack somewhat, and I think it gets into Cunyet's point. There are two ways to punish those at the top of Ford's power structure. The first is as Jack says, direct, retaliatory violence against them. Then, someone will be promoted to replace them. And one day, more than likely, we will have to put them in a barrel too.

The second way is for people to realize that the CEO of Ford is only powerful enough to poison land and people because all of the people under him believe him to be. If we take stands against this system by refusing to participate in its evils, whatever those costs to ourselves, then we begin to evaporate the power they have.

Not a single person has the power to remake this system as they want it, nor can any system be designed so as to prevent abuses of power. Humans are not deterministic, convergent problems to be solved. Its about making sure that you personally are not contributing to these evils, withdrawing support, and accepting that you may be standing alone against the tide. That's my view.

I think Jack sometimes misunderstands my point when I return to this. I understand that if you are standing against the current, and some asshole tries to push you back, you hit back until he leaves you be. Likewise, I understand that if the current begins to shift, it could well come to the short term solution of barrel and dioxin for assholes who insist on their right to continue dumping waste in the river to keep the current in their favor.

Ultimately though, what we have available to us at any moment is the ability and capacity to first begin withdrawing support, to first begin resisting the current. We may not be able to do it all at once or in every way we can, but we can always provide more resistance than we currently are by figuring out where we are dependent upon this system and training ourselves for independence.

Sitting around and worrying or imagining what the end point or logical conclusion of anarchism as a governing philosophy is more often than not just angels on a pin head debate.

Unknown said...

Turning the other cheek,even verbally, is vastly over-rated and I still say it enables the jackass to keep screaming out the lies and obfuscations that derail a true discussion of the issues.

They aren't polite..why the fuck should we be polite and expect a true discussion from the likes of people who's tactics include phrases repeated over and over again,that hold not one scintilla of truth.

Anonymous said...

The second way is for people to realize that the CEO of Ford is only powerful enough to poison land and people because all of the people under him believe him to be. If we take stands against this system by refusing to participate in its evils, whatever those costs to ourselves, then we begin to evaporate the power they have.


Those who have discussed this issue in a pointed fashion with me will know that I find it better to withdraw, re-form, and dwell in a grey-market/black-market existence outside the system, not nourishing the system.

At the same time, though, the urge to drop out/withdraw has to be animated by something other than blase resignation to the inevitability of human greed, cruelty, oppression.

What is the context, though, of promoting pacifist behavior? In what setting does being pacifist gain one not just existential security in the moment, but also leave one feeling as though one has self-determination rather than victimhood as an animating impulse?

Quin said...

Lysistrata gone wrong, eh? Here's my answers, for what they're worth:

(1) Only if the women anticipated the violence, and did nothing to try to prevent it. But even if they didn't, it's still worth bearing in mind that their initial act is an act of non-violence. Which is probably why you picked this example to begin with.

(2) Every person who commits violence in this scenario are responsible for their own acts of violence. Unless they are first bitten by monkeys with an infectious rage virus or something.

(3) "More excusable"? Well, it's always easier to forgive the party that hits back when they are hit than the party that just starts hitting. That's a very different thing from arguing for it as the right or most effective thing to do, though.

Anonymous said...

also PS in response to Justin:

Sitting around and worrying or imagining what the end point or logical conclusion of anarchism as a governing philosophy is more often than not just angels on a pin head debate.

Precisely. It's like the default to a policy wonk's wet dream.

Unknown said...

Karl, I do appreciate your recommending that book to me. I was going to say it earlier but got off track w/the base of the discussion here.

I have really seen "the light" since The Big O was elected. It forced me to take a hard look at everything the govt is tasked to do..and how little of it actually gets done to protect the people..I have always been a skeptic and have never held an allegiance to any party, going so far as to register as Decline to State here in Cali.

I have tried however to work within the system and the only thing I get in return is frustration. When the D's started jerking my chain as being too far out there I really get my friggin panties in a wad.

There is no such thing as being too far out there when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable..and those who have no voice or power.

Anonymous said...

And an aside into human psychology:

To me the motive of pacifism is rooted in an assumption that everyone favors a pacifist outlook -- even those who demonstrate a lifelong record of power-wielding, abuse of others, violence, oppression.

A person whose demonstrable track record indicates an abhorrence of passivity and a rejection of pacifism... that person's not going to admire, respect, or otherwise treat kindly a show of passivity and pacifism. So if your aim is to "correct" or "modify" or "improve" the behavior of those who would oppress you, harm you, destroy your existential foundations (death by 1,000 cuts), then your aim is flawed.

If your aim is to feel superior for "not stooping to their level," I submit you misunderstand the human character, and should revisit the opening scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Perhaps you'll think "well those apes sure are savagely brutal" and ignore the same traits in humans.

Or maybe you'll understand.

Joe said...


I think you have painted yourself into a corner by defining "the state" too broadly. A group of people convened to resolve a dispute isn't a state as long as it doesn't also have the power to make laws that everyone else is obliged to follow. For me, the defining characteristic of a state is its ability to exercise power without any real consent from the people it governs. Also, I'm not convinced that the absence of a final authority guarantees a Hobbesian nightmare scenario. We're going to have that to some extent either way, as we do now, in spite of the existence of states.

Quin said...

Justin-- that's exactly in the direction of some things I wanted to say but didn't have any idea how. Thank you.

Dusty-- that's fine, so don't be polite. I can't tell if you're arguing against physical non-violence right now or not, but I really wasn't advocating verbal non-violence. If someone's yelling in your face, yeah, stand up for yourself. If someone's advocating continuing a pointless war, sure, yell away if that's how you roll. Polite, not polite-- those are all different strategies of engagement; sometimes one or the other may win an argument, more often neither can win at all. My personal preference is for politeness, as I feel it allows me to keep an open mind, as well as give an "opponent" a chance to calm down and open their own mind if they see fit. But I don't really mind what you do, as long as you keep an open mind with me!

Karl-- it is not the duty of pacifism to animate self-determinism. Rather, it's just a kind of Hippocratic Oath for life: "First, do no harm".

Anonymous said...

You're welcome Dusty. If you can't find it anywhere I can probably loan you my copy.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, Quin -- that's not how human existence works. Very sorry.

I can only surmise that you've led a very comfy life if that's how you see things.

Some of us have experienced first-hand the violence and power others seek to wield, and some of us victims tried to offset that violence with pacifism -- and found ourselves mentally traumatised by it.

It's a real thing, what I'm talking about here. Not an academic discussion. A real thing.

If you care to disbelieve what I'm saying here, then I'm sorry -- I'm not sharing anything more personal. You can believe me, or not. If you choose to disbelieve, I'd wonder about the evidence suggesting I'm a liar.

Quin said...


The Hobbesian nightmare scenario (despite Hobbes' intentions with its conception) is already what has happened. With humanity's technological innovations fueling its progress, today's nations and states are the end result, that's all.

Joe, I'm trying out your definition of "state" in my mind, but let me ask: if a group of people are convened to resolve a dispute, and make a decision which the losing party doesn't agree with (say, that a husband has the right to beat his wife as long as it's with a stick that's only so big)-- and the losing party doesn't really consent but is compelled to go along anyhow because of the superior force they're dealing with-- how does your redefinition change anything?


"Well those humans are savagely brutal." I don't understand how acknowledging humanity's animalistic brutality changes anything. It's still savagely brutal. Who knows, maybe humans will always be savagely brutal. The fact that some of them are able to choose to act otherwise gives me hope.

And hey look, what do you know! Maybe pacifism can lead to a feeling of self-determinism, after all!

Justin said...

in answer to your query about pacifism.

My premise is that the current system relies on several forms of coercion to function. The coercion are any number of physical threats to keep people in line. In the U.S., the physical threat of poverty and homelessness keeps people working in exploitive conditions. The physical threats of the drug wars and terror wars are more direct threats to keep the underclasses in line.

In my view, those threats are physical, and inspire fight, flight and avoidance/submission responses. Participation should be on a voluntary basis, which requires two things; the absence of a willingness to use threats to gain compliance, and a refusal to respond to any threat with any response other than obstinancy, until the offending party accepts your decision or offers to discuss as equal parties.

I say as a pacifist, that I accept the evolutionary progress of the system I am beginning to describe, and the premise of that system is of voluntary participation and withdrawal, and the invalidity of sustained threats as a mediation to disputes. But I also say that one can begin asserting your own premises on these points at the same time as you defend yourself from others mistaken beliefs in their right to threaten and exercise violence against you.

If the austerians and thier ilk persist antagonizing and robbing the populace, they may well face the guillotine, but that wouldn't validate the premise of the death penalty.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so can Jack Crow, and some of the rest of you, help me on this question related to the post itself:

so what about all the public workers in Wisconsin? Is Jack Crow saying that since these are public employees in the service of the state, they should say, "look, we're all wrong for fighting to preserve our own jobs and for greater public funding. After all, we're government employees and instruments of the state! Therefore we should be fighting to destroy our own jobs! We should be forming anarcho-syndicalist communes where we work without a proper wage, and without healthcare, since to fight for things like public pensions and the rest is to fight for the murderous state itself, etc. etc."

is that what you're saying? This post is not intended as a form of snark or saracasm -- it's a genuine question because I can't figure out how your anti-state rhetoric helps to build a coalition with people like Wisconsin protesters...

Unknown said...

Some of us have experienced first-hand the violence and power others seek to wield, and some of us victims tried to offset that violence with pacifism -- and found ourselves mentally traumatised by it. - Bravo Karl, well said! Your whole comment really hits to the point for me.

The only thing pacifism gives back is a smug feeling of being better than the other person. What else could you gain from that type of behavior? Like I said..it enables the jackass to continue said behavior without the fear of consequences for HIS actions.

Quin said...

Karl, there's no reason to disbelieve you. If you avoided committing an act of violence and you were deeply injured as a direct consequence, I'm very sorry to hear that. I hope I never have to live through the same kind of thing.

Which is not to say I've never known violence. But you guess right, I would characterize my life as having been relatively comfy up to now. Then again, I would guess there are plenty of people to whom your life experience would seem relatively comfy in comparison (and if I'm mistaken about that, please forgive the suggestion). Perhaps there are some lessons about human nature that can only be learned through the hardest of knocks. Then again, some single experiences can teach erroneous lessons. Who can say, easily, when which life lesson is which? I certainly can't.

I hope that rather than dismissing what I have to say because it sounds "academic" or because I haven't experienced what you have (nor have you experienced what I have), you could just continue to try to find lines of argument that might persuade me toward your point of view, as well as listen openly to mine.

Dusty-- Smugness is so often in the eye of the beholder. And even if one philosophy or another could be empirically proven to be insufferably and irreparably smug in all its possible iterations, that still doesn't, by itself, prove that it's wrong!

Anonymous said...


I'm reminded of an athletic metaphor. I played lacrosse in college. My sophomore year we had a stellar team and won our division. One game we played St Vincent's College at their home field in Latrobe PA. By the end of the first quarter it appeared obvious that we were going to rout them. We finished the game at 23-2 final score... a massive scoring onslaught by lacrosse standards.

We didn't respect their relative passivity and inability to defend themselves. We rolled over them.

It was just a game.

In life there are people who treat all of life in the way we treated that game. They look for and depend upon the passivity of others, to expand their own personal power.

Pretending we can offset their aims by being passive... that just plays into their hands.

I don't see how it's self-empowering... at all.

I suspect most pacifists do not have a lot of experience as competitive athletes and therefore fail to appreciate the power of the competitive urge.

Quin said...

Justin, yes and yes again. Plus a couple of other yeses that I probably just forgot.

Anonymous said...

Justin, I say this without any snarky intent and without trying to call you a hypocrite...


Aren't you ramping up your self-defense skills these days?

Quin said...

Karl, sports have specific rules that must be followed (unless you're playing Calvinball) and so the analogy only goes so far. Non-violence and passivity are not the same thing at all. One may refuse to injure while still choosing to take a different action.

Unknown said...

Quin, I wasn't directly applying that phrase to you.

In other words, don't take it personally. k? ;-)

And you jumped to the conclusion that I said 'its wrong'. Nope. Everyone is entitled to their pov dude. You get what you pay for,meaning you or anyone else can stand by their beliefs and/or principles..you also suffer the consequences of them.

Relax..take a deep breath. ;-D

Unknown said...

Shit..that's implying.

Sorry, multi-tasking.

Unknown said...

Ok, one more response and I gotta go.

Karl, great analogy! I do not believe for a moment that we can have a fair 'fight' with the GOP. I was raised in a GOP household and learned their mindset early in life..and it is a collective mindset. It's just that lately that mindset has taken a huge fucking swing to the dark recesses of hell known as the right.

Even moderate and seemingly normal folks that have voted R their entire lives are taken aback by those few dipshits that were elected to the House in the last war..er, election.

Quin said...

Dusty-- relaxing and breathing!

Well what do you know, I did jump to a conclusion there. Am I to take it, then, that you might consider the possibility that maybe "it's right"? ;-)

Unknown said...

Quin..not in this lifetime. ;-D

Have a good afternoon gents, it was grand fun/enlightening having a discussion with all of you.

Anonymous said...

I disagree, Quin.

I don't see the "rules of sports" as doing anything whatever to the analogy.

But maybe you could explain and maybe I'd change my mind. Though I doubt it. I'm thinking you simply don't understand what I'm talking about, because I'm not talking about rules (or the lack thereof), not even close.

Cüneyt said...

Karl, re: self-determination:
Absolutely nothing. It's just that the power necessary to maintain self-determination is often the power to limit, check, or destroy others.

Joe, re: states defined by the exercise of power without consent:
I see the only difference between the American citizen and the Afghan, when it comes to American state power, is a marginal difference in affiliation and representation, and yet is the American state less a state here than it is there? Is the Iraqi more or less subject to American force than an American? Consent, to me, matters not at all, when it comes to defining force.

The force of a state is defined, among other factors, by its extent. In this scenario, I feel that the poisoners are under jurisdiction of the avenging actors. That is the point of war--political control of another. To differentiate it from a state is to ignore the nature of conflict, force, "power over," which forms the kernel of all this as I see it.

Jack, re: your scenario:
You give me questions I must take time to answer! Knock it off! :) I will come back to that.

Quin, re: Hobbes as reality:
You are absolutely right. We are already living in an anarchistic world. All is possible. Nothing true, all permitted, all that. After all, Hobbes even goes on to say...
"[I]n that war, all have a right to all things."

Because there is no right. We know this because Stirner and Nietzsche and IOZ have told us so. There is no right but what is asserted.

But it doesn't last long. As I said, the war of all against all, the devolution I see written of there and about and, unless I'm mistaken, at this very blog, will inevitably give rise to affiliations, alliances, organizations, factions, treaties, truces, frees-for-all, and wars of coalition. And warbands will become tribes and tribes ethnicities and ethnicities will paint gods in their own color and this will go on and on for ever and ever amen. This is all probably inescapable.

But some of us argue the benefit of pushing things away from the dictatorship of the now, away from the tyrannical peace that Orwell, among others, predicted would come in an era of WMDs and long-distance rockets. There may well be some merit to such argument.

Anonymous said...

To clarify, Quin:

The metaphor was about the competitive urge in humans, not about the way athletic contests have rules which constrain that urge.

The fact that lacrosse has rules did not stop us from rolling over our adversaries. Competition is not about passivity, nor does it reward lack of practice, unpreparedness, or good wishes.

If you want to know how your enemies (those who compete in all walks of life; those who see other humans as obstacles to personal power and "greatness" (or whatever)) think, then you should get to know people who have strong competitive urges BUT who know how to apply those urges in healthy ways.

We competitive people do not think like pacifists. Not at all.

The saner, better grounded among us know how to redirect the urge so that we're not going about our daily lives treating others as our enemies in every setting.

The more insane, poorer grounded among us treat every encounter as life-or-death competition. Compete for a parking spot. Compete for a spot in the grocery checkout. Compete for a job. Compete for the best pre-school. Compete compete compete in every setting except the one that's healthy.

Athletic competition.


Cuneyt, "all against all" is reductio ad absurdum.

Cüneyt said...

Karl, it's only reductio ad absurdum if the end is absurd. I don't use bellum omnium to dismiss, ridicule, or rule out anarchy. That said, I am trying my best to follow the logic of devolution of power to its conclusion.

(And I trust you aren't using the phrase r.a.a. as I hear most Americans do so, to dismiss the reductio rather than acknowledge the weakness so pointed out.)

Anonymous said...

Using it literally... reducing everyone's argument re anarchism to "all against all" is absurd, because it assumes/implies that archism relieves that problem.

Anarchism isn't "all against all," unless you use the Chris Hedges definition, which considers it tantamount to "murder, mayhem, and baby-eating savages roaming the land."

Anarchism is the lack of an over-arching authority/state. If you wish to imply it will become "all against all," you need to show why and how that's the inescapable result.

Those poor savages who lived before The State... they just killed each other! We can't have that!

Anonymous said...

PS, thanks for the latin lesson and pedantry!

Quin said...


I see. If I read you right, you're basically saying: We are like the apes at the beginning of 2001, still killing each other over resources, and advocates of non-violence just don't seem understand this.

What I am saying is: non-violence is completely compatible with competition. It's just not compatible with violence. Your lacrosse team didn't win that game by intentionally injuring the other players, did it? If so, did you choose to join in with them?

I just don't want to play on a violent lacrosse team, that's all. I'll switch teams if I have to. Violent, bullying cheaters are a part of life, but they hurt the beauty of the game. This belief necessarily doesn't make me "passive". It just means I like the game for its own sake, and I choose to play in a way that I hope others will too. And the more people who join me in not hurting each other on purpose while we play, the more fun we all have. Does it mean I will always win? That I will never have to contend with violent cheaters? No. But that's life; I'll deal.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

Also, I think you've set up a false dichotomy: you have it as between non-violence with the goal of convincing violent people to act better, and non-violence with the goal of feeling smug moral superiority over others.

But there are other possible motivations, for instance: non-violence with the goal of just doing what one thinks is right. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Perhaps playing this game at is most prestigious levels has come to require teams to be mean, soulless bullies. I can still like the game, and I just want to have fun playing with my little local gang, maybe coach a junior team or something.

Anonymous said...

You must be intentionally misreading my posts in order to launch your own pseudo-related diatribes! That's the only conclusion I can draw from such mistaken understandings of very clear language.

Why you keep ignoring the competitive urge feature escapes me, but I'll grant you benefit of the doubt and assume it's because you don't know what is a competitive urge, even though you have one yourself.

Yours appears to show itself in the competition setting of pacifist vs non-.

The sports metaphor has nothing to do with lacrosse violence and whether it's a violent sport with or without rules.

I compete with myself every time I ride my bike, every time I ski. There are no rules to those dynamics of competition. No issues of violence.

I have no clue where you're getting the ideas you're attributing to my metaphor. None.

Quin said...

Nothing intentional, believe me. It's well past bedtime where I am so I'm quite willing to accept that it might be my own brain at fault, but I can't make sense of the "competitive urge feature" I'm supposedly ignoring, as I've already argued that competitive urges and non-violence are not mutually exclusive. As you pointed out yourself, I am competing with you, in a sense, in this very thread, at least about the validity of pacifism as a choice. So how is it that competitive people and pacifists cannot think the same? I am honestly unclear, but perhaps I should take it as a sign to disengage for the night.

One thing: in my continuation of the lacrosse metaphor, I did know that I was redirecting it toward a different end from yours. I could have made that clearer.

But, it's still a false dichotomy you laid out (starting but not ending at 1:12pm). Would you say that your main objection to non-violence is summarized there? Do you reject the validity of the alternate rationale for non-violence I offered in my last comment, and if so, why?

Cüneyt said...

Karl: Believe it or not, I'm not trying to see every one of our discussions end in strife. That said, I can't deny my pedantry; it's a pet peeve of mine that people think that r.a.a. means "your criticism of point X is absurd" rather than "point X is a proposition that ends in absurdity."

It is a requirement of skepticism that we take propositions to their logical extremes.

That said, you're fine to think that my reduction is absurd. I'll do my meager best to say why I don't think it is.

Simply put, Mr. Crow's posse scenario posits a world where everyone and their friends is free to form said groups. I don't think that's a mark against anarchy, mind you. It's just a logical conclusion. That's my view of war (or rather struggle) of all against all. It doesn't mean active battle everywhere, eating babies and the like. It means no monopoly of the power of force. There is much to say for that. There are problems too.

And please don't put words in my mouth. I don't imply or assume that statism corrects the problems of anarchy. The problems of hypothetical anarchy stand on their own, just as the problems of statism hypothetical and actual do not automatically get fixed by anarchism. I reject a dichotomy between the two, however easily the words imply essential opposition. Some problems will exist in either, because humans form each. Some problems caused in one will be different from problems present in another.

We do not get to ignore the problems in a model of anarchy just because statism fails to address that problem. That's the type of zero-sum retort I expect from partisans and statists (who can of course dream up any fault existing in anarchy, which is not what I'm doing here). "We're bad, but Alternative X doesn't have a solution!"

To be continued in another longwinded response...

Cüneyt said...

I can't really show why anarchism will become bellum omnium. I'm sorry that I overreach because I have no quantitative data here. I'm not a sociologist; I work with individuals, not with populations. But what I assert, without adequate grounds, is this:
Without a monopoly on power,
Without a monopoly on narratives (be they "crime," "justice," "law," etc...),
Without a coercive, overarching power...

With those conditions met, people will largely get by. I don't think the whole of human interactions will be hostile, and maybe I'm not being clear because I'm talking about only one level here. I really do believe that most people can self-manage.

The thing is that there will be boundary violations. There will be disagreements on matters of crime, injury, and affront. There will be corresponding shows of strength, people will organize to meet organization that they fear or resent or respect. I mean, that's the downside of self-organization, a principle of life I hold to at this point like holy writ. Power is an emergent phenomenon. Humans would do very well in anarchy, because we have no need to be told what to do. Unfortunately, that's because a lot of impulses for hierarchy are either inborn or emerge from interaction.

That's what happens when you break the power pinata. The power doesn't disappear. It's not the fucking Death Star. It devolves to everyone else. And we each have an element, and if that's what we prefer, that's fine. I get that argument. But I don't think you can dispute that it'll happen that way. I mean, you can argue that billions of people will restrain themselves, will not use their terrible power. But I don't see them as fundamentally different from those members of our species who currently wear crowns.

And isn't that what I've heard said here and elsewhere? That it's a progressive's dream that power can be held, but not wielded? That we'll find magical rulers who show restraint? But that's the thing, and that's why I see the war of all coming, should we ever devolve completely: while the individual may restrain herself or himself, the strategy only holds for so long. And anarchy cannot be maintained through restraint of power, as I see it, but by the balance of it, the checking of force or the capacity for force against same.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

deleted the first draft of this response because Cuneyt responded meantime and I hadn't said I was responding to Quin.

didn't want to confuse Cuneyt or Quin with the non-specific response.

I've added a few thoughts too.



A metaphor doesn't sum up feelings or thoughts. It's a tool to provoke analogy in others.

I haven't set out any false dichotomies.

Why do you persist in REstating my point IN YOUR WORDS and drawing FALSE conclusions about what I'm conveying?

Really, I don't see the point of this exchange, because you don't seem interested in understanding my clear language.

Unless, of course, you're simply trying to discredit me.

You wouldn't be the first to do so... to distort my words, restate them falsely, and thereby try to discredit me. It's pretty standard fare in e-discussions.

You sure seem to be trying to win at all costs, for someone who professes passivity, peacefulness, and non-competition.

I'm simply trying to describe how very competitive people view the world. And in return, you keep distorting the descriptions to suit your own personal rhetorical ends. How is that helping the discussion?

Seems you're more familiar with your enemies' practices than you let on. But maybe this is more subconscious and not really intentional? I can grasp that possibility; I've seen it happen in others, behavior that betrays a professed stance, and does so innocently. I've been guilty of it myself. Blind spots in a person's perspective are a regular, maybe even typical facet of human existence.

So if I grant you more benefit of the doubt, I'll guess that you're unaware of how you're being at worst dishonest here, or at best very very confusing and distortive.

Justin said...

Yes I am working on self-defense skills, while I may find the principles of pacifism an evolutionary step if we adopted them with any degree of seriousness, I also have to accept the reality that this is a big if, and that currently our society and civilization scoffs at that notion. Its not unreasonable to think that I may run afoul of those who are laughing the hardest some day, and if they aren't ready to accept my premises, that's no excuse for me to be unprepared to deal with theirs.

Anonymous said...


I can't follow abstract triangulated discussions. I guess I'm not smart enough.

Nobody has a road map for where an anarchic shift would lead.

The lack of road map may frighten you, cause you to be ill at ease, make you vaguely existentially uncertain... I don't know, really, what your problem with it is, because you've triangulated it.

How about speaking directly?

Or maybe you and Quin could continue talking indirectly, with each other. That would suit me, even if I didn't really have the ability to participate.

It seems many prefer to triangulate. Whether that's out of admiration for the DNC, Rahm Emanuel, Jim Carville, the Podesta Brothers... whatever... I don't know. I only know it's frustrating trying to discuss themes and problems when people are afraid to put their own existential asses on the line, rhetorically speaking, and offer a bit of personal truth about WHY they are so fucking afraid of anarchic shifts.

Justin said...

Apologies for the seeming spam, but I sometimes feel this gets lost when I post on this issue. Karl, see these from upthread, to your point about self-defense stuff.

I understand that if you are standing against the current, and some asshole tries to push you back, you hit back until he leaves you be. Likewise, I understand that if the current begins to shift, it could well come to the short term solution of barrel and dioxin for assholes who insist on their right to continue dumping waste in the river to keep the current in their favor. "
"But I also say that one can begin asserting your own premises on these points at the same time as you defend yourself from others mistaken beliefs in their right to threaten and exercise violence against you.

If the austerians and thier ilk persist antagonizing and robbing the populace, they may well face the guillotine, but that wouldn't validate the premise of the death penalty"

Anonymous said...


That's really all I wanted to hear, the reasons for and/or reconciliation of pacifism and enhanced preparation for self-defense. I thought it would add to the discussion. I'd already read one entry at your blog where you explained it, but thought it might be useful here.

Would it be fairer to say you're not an absolute pacifist, but instead, you prefer pacifism to violence ...but are not unwilling to use violent force in defense of your self and loved ones?

The absolute pacifist is the person I consider naive. You don't strike me as naive.

I think most people prefer peaceful solutions to problems.

I also think most people would happily use violence when pushed far enough, despite protestations and avowed preferences to the contrary in an academic setting.

And I think those who would not defend themselves and/or loved ones with violent force if necessary, they tend to be the ones who become Soylent Green.

If you catch the metaphoric drift.

Cüneyt said...

I wasn't going for abstract, but obviously I hit it anyway. Sorry; wasn't trying to insult your intelligence. I don't see what I wrote as particularly complex, but it was written badly, so...

Mr. Crow:
"Who is responsible for the act of violence?"

The men for the murder of women, and the women for the murder of men.

"And are the women who killed the men in retaliation less culpable, or is their violence more excusable, than the men who struck out in rage and in attempts to reassert dominion?"

My first impulse is to excuse it, but I can't come up with any logical position why reprisal's acceptable in that case or in others. I mean, there are a lot of variables there. How did the women hear about the murders? Did they confer, blah blah blah. I'm sure my point is obvious. The thing is that if another group of men form a militia to attack the female posses, I'm not sure if I can say anything other than that I disapprove. What right would I claim to combat that?

Quin said...

Powerless to resist the early-morning draw of the internet...

Why do you persist in REstating my point IN YOUR WORDS and drawing FALSE conclusions about what I'm conveying?

It's called having a conversation. You know, where two people who don't yet understand each other try to confirm that they understand what the other means. It's clear I'm just frustrating you now, and I guess getting frustrated myself, so I'll take my cue from Mother Mary's words of wisdom and let it be. At any rate, Justin already said everything I could have hoped to have said, and more, in a way that is clearly working far more effectively. So, throw out everything I wrote. Go with what Justin said.

Cuneyt: thank you, your thoughts help me clarify an argument I'm having with a friend on that very subject (anarchism, feasibility of, limits of, etc).

Word verification: moron. If that's not a sign from above that I oughta quit it right now, I don't know what is.

Drunk Pundit said...

Awesome Jack, fucking awesome. Very well said.

Enron said...

Yeah, and fuck Matthew Yglesias

Cabeza de Vaca said...

And some progressives really do read this blog, Crow. They found out about it when your "Anti-Yglesias" post made the rounds last year. Yglesias ticks us all off, and it was a relief to encounter someone who finally put that feeling into words for us.

But, just to echo Anon @2:52's question: what DO you mean by "the state" in these anti-state posts? I suspect you DON'T mean the publicly employed workers -- do you? I also can't tell if your beef is with the state because it IS a state (i.e. you'd prefer to live in a world without states) or because the state is dominated by the capitalist class (i.e. you'd prefer to live in a world where, perhaps, labor unions dominated the state).

I think for those of us arriving at this blog having grown fed up with progressive circles, it would be great if you could clarify some of these points.

fish said...

The only thing pacifism gives back is a smug feeling of being better than the other person. What else could you gain from that type of behavior?

Gandhi won freedom for his country that way. MLK Jr. radically altered race relations in the US that way.

Pacifism isn't always going to work (nor is violent upheaval), but non-violent resistance can be powerful and there are strong moral arguments for attempting peaceful resistance. One of the primary objections of state abuse of power is that it is violently enforced to protect a minority.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, India is totally caste-free now.

And black folks have no oppression either.

Thanks for the progressive cliches, fish. Seriously. They mean almost as much as quoting the Bible or some shit.

D'Angelo said...

Yes, I'd like to echo Cabeza de Vaca's question, and anonymous's question as well, Crow: I assume your attack on the progressive faith in the state is an attack on those nebbishy, technocratic "Center for American Progress" types who fetishize beltway politics, in which case, I'm all for it!

But if your attack on the state includes an attack on publicly employed workers (like those in Wisconsin) then...well, Cabeza already put it better than I can, so I simply would like to echo his question, because I'd really like to hear your response...

fish said...

Addressing Jack's post directly: Much of what you write resonates strongly with my own opinions and feelings, but one of the things I struggle with, is a basic (if even primitive) utilitarian argument. All societal structures are dynamic, and ultimately unstable. Collapse is inevitable, a second law of thermodynamics for societies if you will. Many societies are originally built on honorable intentions, "in order to form a more perfect union" etc etc, and inevitably (and rapidly) they will become corrupt/perverted/compromised. Over long arcs, they will collapse completely.
But there are often long stretches where the majority of individuals within a society are doing pretty well (at least in terms of how humans have done across all of history and pre-history). I am not ignoring that usually this "doing pretty well" is at the expense of other parts of the world being horribly exploited. But there are certainly large numbers of people benefitting from the societal structure.
I also believe that as information expands more quickly and is transferred more rapidly around the world, we are getting better with each iteration of societal organization. There are backslides and there are exceptions for sure, but the US, Europe, even China and India, came up with better structures than what existed before in terms of the number of people that benefitted from the society (this is admittedly a very low bar). More people are doing better in India and China now than any time in their history (even as a percentage).
All of these thoughts are just to express some sympathy for those that are trying to enact change through the system instead of outside the system. I think ultimately they are wrong, all progress in US society since its formation was taken by force (gay equality may eventually be the first exception to this assertion and may actually be somewhat of a counter argument).
I think on net balance it is a losers game, at least in recent history we are losing more ground than we are gaining in the US, but there is again a utilitarian argument to accepting that societal organization is ultimately flawed and doomed, but if the structures get better at minimizing human suffering (you will never eliminate it, we are too flawed) then we are doing better.
Maybe anarchism is a structure worth trying, maybe socialism, or a mix of socialism and capitalism is the sweet spot, I don't know what structure is going to work the best to minimize suffering (and let us all argue in relative comfort over luxury concepts like "freedom"), and even if we find the perfect system, it won't be perfect forever.
So maybe not all progressives are not dumb, but are trying to make the best of a bad situation.

That said, some of them are just dumb or evil, and fuck MattY.

fish said...

Yeah, India is totally caste-free now.

And black folks have no oppression either.

Not what I said by a long shot. Jesus Christ.

If you want to argue that race relations in the US are not better now than they were in the 50's, go ahead. Same with the argument that India is not better off with its own government instead of British rule, make that too.
But it is a stupid argument to say that pacifism didn't work in the two examples I gave because the world still isn't perfect.

Justin said...

I have some responses.
"All societal structures are dynamic, and ultimately unstable. "

No, I would say hierarchical structures are inherently unstable; as they are predicated on some being more equal than others. The greater the inequality of equality, the more unstable. Hierarchy is not a necessary condition for socialization; its certainly not the case in any of my interpersonal relationships that someone is more important than anyone else. (And here are some more of my thoughts on this.)

But there are often long stretches where the majority of individuals within a society are doing pretty well (at least in terms of how humans have done across all of history and pre-history).

There are so many unfounded assumptions here, but I would start with the earliest. The image or idea of what we think we know about pre-history does not jibe with what the current understanding of archaelogy says about that ancient past. This would be like starting a discussion about western expansion by repeating the now discarded convention of Europeans civilizing and bettering native Americans.

Define some of those terms.

Secondly, granting your assumptions, what does it mean in long stretches of hiearchichal societies where a lot of people, but not everyone, are doing well? And of that not everyone, a great many are suffering and exploited? That means something to me, it means that comfort purchased with the blood of another is not how I would define doing well for myself. I start from there and work out.

From a larger perspective, this doing well for ourselves is a complete inversion; doing well for ourselves in a modern, techno capitalist society means we are literally killing the planet and our species. The better we do, the more uninhabitable our world becomes. That is a pretty fucked up way to say we are doing well.

Race relations today may not be worth face to face, but our system tends toward diffuse responsibility and oppression. We have a far greater number of poor blacks in prison today than then, and once a convicted felon or criminal, one is effectively put into a second class citizenship role; political participation nulled and economic prospects blunted. I am not going to make the argument that things are worse now, but its not been an unmitigated success; and it also fits in with how our system generally sets things up; its no one's fault particularly, its just the way things are or how the rules are written. The facelessness of racism today is the same facelessness of our march toward environmental destruction, poverty and war.

Ok, I may have drifted off there, and I hope that even though this is pretty combative in response, from where I sit you have a lot of unchecked assumptions and axioms here that deserve some greater scrutiny.

First and foremost is looking at what you are acccepting as 'doing better' as human beings. More people are doing better now in China and India is a statement that should not stand unchallenged. More people may be materially comfortable, but in China, they are rapidly destroying their environment and culture for a bit of fleeting comfort. In India, oh boy, not sure why you went there. For starters, in the last few years, in pursuit of doing better, they've built about a dozen ticking time bombs that will go off within a lifetime or two in the form of nuclear energy facilities. I call them time bombs because while the waste is not going anywhere, in a relatively short period of time, the highly energy dependent technological system necessary to keep them under control will have broken down as we slide farther down peak oil.

Anonymous said...

Just admit you're being hyperbolic, and recognize that I used the hyperbole as a reflection of your use of it in the first case.

Recognize that, fish.

And beyond your hyperbole, I'd like to know exactly how MLKJr is the sole person responsible for civil rights improving for black people, and how Mahatma Gandhi was the sole person responsible for Indian reforms, and how each man was utterly pacifist in all situations.

Provide that, and your statements will start to take on some meaningful shape. Until then, you're just regurgitating pwoggie talking points, sorta like saying that FDR was heroic because of the New Deal, or that JFK would have ended the Vietnam war and that's why he was shot.

Jack Crow said...

Holy bat fuck.

Sorry I've been away. Little man and I have been taking advantage of the extreme heat to get in some high endurance training and body conditioning.

I'm just back from a run. Need to cool down, eat, get my bearings and then try to tackle 50 some odd replies.

Please bear with me, kindly.

And thank you all for a really fantastic discussion.

what the Tee Vee taught said...

I'll say something about the questions that referenced the Wisconsin state workers:

Yep. Wildly problematic, those public workers are. Because they just want "theirs" (ostensibly, I wouldn't say this is "true", how would I know).

Seemingly incapable of understanding that they will always get AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE, so long as they grant these powers to the absurd state and its functionaries... but who wouldn't prefer a few more years of servitude, before the train runs aground?

Those workers seem to be (solely) looking to perpetuate their place in a system that jams up others (not to mention themselves), they are placating to the powerful — "please, let us keep our benefits and money! Don't take it away from us, we're angry, but if you give us our stuff... we'll forgive you").

So yeah, I'd lump the Wisconsin workers in with the dumb and the compromised Jack describes... who love them some property — who almost certainly believe, "I deserve..." whatever it is they think the state owes them, and the property they're so sure the state will grant and protect. Which is to grossly misunderstand their place within larger systems, political and economic.

Bunch of assholes: probably pretty nice about it, and not their fault.

fish said...


I did say the bar was low and I am not saying things have improved to the point where they are okay. Race issues are still atrocious in the US, but 35% marginalization is better than 100%. We have made progress. RE: pollution, I grew up on the banks of the Merrimack River, it was a toxic stew when I was a kid, now people swim and fish in it. We have made improvements there too (not enough!). China and India will eventually too, Beijing is a pollution nightmare, but it is better per capita than London was in 1900. We are learning slowly. My take on the matter is that much of the global stress is a direct function of population. I would argue the first step to real progress is to reduce our population by 90%, competition for resources is the source of much evil in the world. I fully realize this is fantasy.

I would also argue that material comfort is a key measure of doing okay for me. Freedom or pollution or global hegemony matter little to someone who is worried about where his or her next meal is coming from. If you can remove 100% of the population from fear of starvation you are doing better, if you can't do it without destroying your natural resources (or anyone else's), you aren't doing good enough.

Finally, my point about stability is basically opinion. I don't believe a social structure can be devised that won't eventually become so corrupted by dishonesty and aggressive self interest that it collapses. Some last longer than others, but all are doomed to fail. Eventually the guillotines always roll into the streets...

Jack Crow said...


I participate in an email list populated by people such as those you describe. "Baby steps," I think. "Baby steps." And then something comes up where I yell at them that I'll be crazed and homeless and dead in the street in a few years if things continue apace, and they all get embarrassed for me.

What I find most interesting is that those who make this set of arguments are those with the most vested interest in the status quo. I don't mean that they're political conservatives who don't want to expand recognition of the marriage contract to gays, have a female president, and a "state" for the more behaved Palestinians.

By temperament, disposition and economic position, they're already well off. The Woodchucks and Ezras are not substantively different from Megan McArdle, except that McArdle is less adept at not appearing mercenary.

Jack Crow said...


With all love and respect, Jack: just pick up the fucking gun, then. Oh. Wait...


"There are any number of circumstances where violence is the least appropriate response.

Perhaps the lines of support are not well developed. Maybe labor is disorganized. It might be that there is no popular environment which can serve as a ground for unrest, insurrection or revolt. Perhaps it's as simple as lacking the ability to protect a fragile housing environment, food source or child care network.

In many cases, violence is counterproductive."

Since Quin and Justin are making cases for pacifism, I'll try to address that later.

Jack Crow said...


"...It's not just the EPA. The US Forest Service is basically the handmaiden of timber extraction industries. The Bureau of Land Management is the butler/houseman to mineral, gas, oil extraction and to cattle grazing interests. The National Park Service is about putting a happy "eco" face on "development" of park lands, Disneyfying wherever possible..."

It comes down to faith. Does a person have the quantity of faith, or disbelief suspension, which will allow him or her to ignore history and instead operate as if there's a brand new next time which will and can be different.

It depends on one's view of what "history" means, I imagine.

And while I lean more to the red than the black, and accept as fundamentally true the premises of historical materialism, I think it takes a devotion to or faith in a mystical view of history to believe that it proceeds towards a resolution.

Events are not, despite the neatness of the model, dialectical.

History is a palimpsest. The light from the big bang is still "out there." The background radiation didn't resolve into something else.

And every stone you kick is the past at your footsteps.

Jack Crow said...


The discussion on pacifism (and I think, passivism) has evolved far enough that I'd like to take it all up in one reply, later.

But, I think you answered the question in the spirit it was asked.

I used a non-violent originating event for a reason - namely, that there is an assumption that all the "good" done by states can be separated from the coercive powers of those states.

I would suggest, in return, that they cannot. So, where does the violence actually begin - and does that matter?

(more later, thanks for patience)

d.mantis said...

Tee Vee,
Perfectly said! ignorantia legis neminem excusat!

Or maybe "ignorance of the state does not excuse". My latin maybe a little rusty since highschool.

Cuynet, Quin and Karl...excellent discussion. Even if you gents don't think so.

I think Justin's contextual pacifism is completely justifiable. As someone who trains in self-defense for the last 6 years, it sums up my position perfectly.

Agreed that the MLKjr example is incredibly dicey. However, what is your response to a broader argument that non-violence (not pacifism) was utilized as a tool to build a movement of sufficient size to sway a modicum of political action on civil rights (even if the oppression simply went from overt to covert)?

You know what...fuck it...never mind.

Cüneyt said...

Mantis, I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm having a ball.

Joe said...


My "redefinition" changes things if the dispute resolution body isn’t also an arm of a larger entity that has the power to tax, and throw people in jail, and steal their land and give it to politically connected developers or corporations which, with the help of subsidies, literally profit at everyone else’s expense. Etc. Also, as long as this body is truly independent and both parties voluntarily consent to its “authority” then there’s no force being used. Yeah, the loser may not be happy with the outcome, but no system is going to solve that problem. If you’re talking about a situation where a husband is beating his wife, then we get into an area where self-defense would come in, and I don’t see that as an illegitimate use of force.


Re the difference between Afghans and Americans, I agree. I didn’t mean to suggest that the American govt rules by the consent of the governed—the opposite, actually. In the context of a mega-state with a few hundred million inhabitants, the idea that anyone’s actually consented to this monstrosity is a joke.

"In this scenario, I feel that the poisoners are under jurisdiction of the avenging actors. That is the point of war--political control of another. To differentiate it from a state is to ignore the nature of conflict, force, "power over," which forms the kernel of all this as I see it."

In this scenario, the poisoners are aggressors and the response of the avenging actors is self-defense. To my mind, there’s a difference between force used in self-defense and force used to exploit others for your own gain.

Cabeza de Vaca said...

what the Tee Vee taught:

It's true that the public workers in Wisconsin were partly protesting in order to "get what's theirs" (ie wages, benefits). But I'm sure they were also excited and motivated by the knowledge that they were part of a bigger political moment -- indeed that they were in many ways *generating* that wider political moment. I'm not sure what more you can expect of people who actually take the trouble to organize, take to the streets, and protest in collective fashion. It's easy to wax theoretical about the propertyless society -- but waxing theoretical is not enough to actually get political coalitions, and motivate the people in those coalitions to take action.

At any rate, I'm still interested to hear what Jack Crow has to say about this.

Cüneyt said...

Joe, in my estimation, self-defense ends at the point* when you stop the attacker's ability to harm you. Once you start repaying in kind, it may be justified, but it's not necessarily self-defense. It's offense in turn.

*This point may pass in the blink of an eye, but it's worth thinking about nevertheless.

Again, in battle power may be contested, but who can dispute that at the moment of victory, one has gained some measure of mastery over the other? That is the birth of the state. Most of the states around us are the children of conquest, and what Mr. Crow describes is a just conquest indeed, but a conquest nonetheless.

David K Wayne said...

The non-violence argument is convenient for schools and youth clubs, but the its threat of a volatile population at breaking point is what makes it a movement effective. This applies to Ghandi as much as it does to MLK. Neither figure was murdered for being too darn nice. I confess my ignorance of Indian sectarianism, but when King started talking about Viet Nam, corporations, imperialism and its relationship to class oppression as a whole: bang. And anyway, the Civil Rights movement wasn't 'peaceful' - people were beaten, bombed and lynched all through the struggle, and continue to be if they're still at it. The point was they didn't give up. This is the case when its relatively bloodless, as with Egypt.

Apart from that, a sad fact is that revolutions - even significant reforms like welfare states and voter enfranchisement - mostly emerge from bloodshed. This applied to the English Civil War as much as Napoloeon or WW1. Either total war or murdering dictators pushing it beyond breaking point.

David K Wayne said...

PS. pardon my typos.

Justin said...

Ok, well, I thought about this vexing problem of where the mob ends and state begins. Accepting that this is angles on the head of a pin dancing, I tried my best to think it through.

In short, I would say that a State of government is the sustained threat or actualization of violence over time, combined with a system of tribute to support it, and an emergent will directing it toward some end. The difference between a State and a Government is a distinction in time, and the ability of the State to convince people that it provides some necessary purposes goes toward becoming a government.

Justin said...

"I would suggest, in return, that they cannot. So, where does the violence actually begin - and does that matter?"

Jack, I think that you are again coming up on one of the most devilish facets of a diffuse system of control like ours where since no one appears directly responsible for violence, exploitation, and injustice, then its easy to believe that no one is from top to bottom. I think the women and men metaphor is a bad way to express the idea, however, because while you are abstracting the use of violence into a depersonalized story, it is still violence from one individual to another. This occurs quite often in our system, but a second component is the diffusion of oppression, like it takes a series of small actions and coordinated decisions to evict a poor person onto the street. At only one or two of those points is the actual threat of violence present; when the sheriff comes to throw their shit out on the lawn.

what the Tee Vee taught said...

Cabeza de Vaca:

I find waxing theoretical about a property-less culture to be difficult, not-at-all easy (except in welcoming digital spaces like this) as most people I engage with on the matter challenge me to enter the "real world" or (for some very strange reason) want to talk about the Soviet Union. I am a public employee, and everyday I talk to people about ways to bring down the social and economic structures that plague us (needless to say, I'll be canned eventually for my trouble-making — I've made it this long because I'm so ignorable, I suppose... and funny and otherwise amiable).

I want to talk to people about Anti-Civ, and that just fucking baffles/infuriates many of them, because they're oh-so-sure that "we can make it" and that we should keep trying to fix the irreparable shit-wagon that we rode into town on.

Leave the shit-wagon, and walk... not something people want to hear.

And, I don't make suggestions towards a property-free society: people may own a shelter, or a few acres... and I really mean "use" not "own"... within a networked community that plans together. If you can use something, great. But no capital for profit — no growth (certainly not financed by debt) and voila, there is an immediate reason to share and cooperate and not have more than you need. But I don't wish to move into these theoretical discussions, rather, to return to the Wisconsin workers:

If you accept that this culture will produce freakish "winners" and disfigured "losers", and yet you still want it to exist — with the unknown being so frightening and all — then you're fucking bullshit: the functions of the state ARE the irreparable shit-wagon, and to not abandon it is to accept that it will continue to fail life on this planet. So spread your Anti-Civ message far and wide, try to destroy any trade that isn't happening locally (gifts and barter are really where it's at, read Orlov on the topic), and have a pleasurable day, if you can.

Jack Crow said...


"...Then again, maybe my brain was warped at a young age by watching too many superheroes say 'Remember kids, violence is never the answer', generally after saving the day by throwing a supervillian like a bowling ball through a human pyramid of their own henchmen. So, if you can, do you mind pointing me to historical examples which might assuage my misgivings?"

I have no assurance, Quin.

How do we separate "necessary" violence from "unnecessary?"

Case by case, situation by situation, step by step.

But, I think it's impossible to assure anyone that violence itself will not take on its own momentum. The French Doctor's Remedy became the Terror, and I was aware of that in using it.

The question - and it may really come down to personal history and temperament - is "can you stop the Terror once it starts?"

Perhaps, an even better question (which Wayne hints at far down this most excellent comment chain), is can you ever really prevent it from starting without preventing change itself?

I don't know, Quin.

I know there are any number of circumstances where I would not use violence. I also know that were I a Ramapough Indian, it would take me considerable withdrawal and deliberation to eschew it entirely.

Which brings me back to a post I publish May Day-ish of last year. My eldest son has chronic Lyme Disease. Which means jack shit, because there are only a few physicians willing to even make that diagnosis.

He rec'd a course of -cylcins and a fare thee well.

And I have a case of wrath which is impossible to temper, because people with power thought it was a good damned idea to weaponize ticks as a bacillus delivery system.

If I had the opportunity to answer that original decision with a requital, I would be hard pressed not to follow through to a logical conclusion.

And I'm fine with that.

That's my comfort level. I don't expect you to share it. I wouldn't ask it of you, either.

But, when push comes to shove, I think the pacifist posture is a retreat into bourgeois or spiritualist affectation.

It's no different from the vulgar libertarian* "I'm in the lifeboat, now you fuckers can learn to swim."

* - that's not a blanket statement about all libertarians...

Jack Crow said...


I have a difficult time understanding the recommendation to withdraw.

Here's why, in brief:

Only those who can afford to, get to. The rest of us can't. My own family is always about two weeks away from losing our utilities, our ability to afford food and were it not for a good damned friend who rents us a flat at about $400 below market, homelessness.

Towards where are folks like us going to withdraw? What free food and housing is available to us? I live in New England and I can't afford to migrate anywhere else. Winters are brutal, summers unbearable. And the state and national parks quite resistant to squatters.

Jack Crow said...

d mantis,


"There is a difference between the communal act of recompence and the exertion of power by a state-like entity."

...is a far better formula than I would have conjured. Well written, well said.

As others (Joe, Karl, etc) have noted, in reply to Cuneyt, the state cannot be defined as any aggregation of persons seeking some common outcome.

It has to identified by its form.

Jack Crow said...


"There is no such thing as being too far out there when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable..and those who have no voice or power."

I tend to agree, but I think we always have to caution ourselves to remember that we are not gods, kings or other arbiters of the fates of men.

Jack Crow said...


"...so what about all the public workers in Wisconsin? Is Jack Crow saying that since these are public employees in the service of the state, they should say, "look, we're all wrong for fighting to preserve our own jobs and for greater public funding. After all, we're government employees and instruments of the state! Therefore we should be fighting to destroy our own jobs! We should be forming anarcho-syndicalist communes where we work without a proper wage, and without healthcare, since to fight for things like public pensions and the rest is to fight for the murderous state itself, etc. etc."

is that what you're saying? This post is not intended as a form of snark or saracasm -- it's a genuine question because I can't figure out how your anti-state rhetoric helps to build a coalition with people like Wisconsin protesters..."

Anon, Cabeza, D'Angelo -

It's a valid question. The best way for me to answer that is to divide the Commons from the State, at least arbitrarily at first.

Since the State is not a producer, in its own right, but always the monopolized capture of force and proceeds, the State represents the ability of the ruling class to form factions (which have a surprisingly stable form, over time and region) in order to vie for control of captured labor (which includes managed violence), land, resources and memory (where legitimacy "resides").

The Commons represent, in our own time at least, the captured quantities of labor, land and resources.

As Tee Vee does well to explain, the striking public workers are looking to preserve the Commons, or at least to delay their complete privatization, but they do so by seeking position within a disciplinary apparatus.

A teacher in a public school, for example, is not merely an instructor of children. He or she is also an enforcer of state history, a person with the capacity to punish, and ultimately a person who seeks a share of the Commons which is denied to the mass of people whose labor and stolen lives produce it.

If the public union struggle were one to expand the Commons, to include health care, housing, transportation and the delegitimization and abolition of the punitive powers of the State, I would have no personal problem taking a more resolute position with regards to and in support of them.

But, they are not doing that. They are fighting to preserve their portion of it and acting as if this were an effort to help all labor.

The Wisconsin (and Ohio) union fights are fights for the preservation of a weakened status quo, and are essentially conservative and reactive.

Jack Crow said...

I'm hoping to answer more later, or starting again, tomorrow.

Thanks again to everyone.

Cabeza de Vaca said...

I guess what I find confusing about your commons/state distinction is that what you call "commons" many would call "state functions."

So, it still seems to me that your beef may not with "the state" per se, but rather with the groups (the CEOs, the high-ranking technocrats, the media moguls, the career politician-lobbyists, the military-industrialists) who, in our particular society, get to dominate the state.

Justin said...

Jack, "Only those who can afford to, get to. The rest of us can't."

I think you misunderstand me somewhat. I am not saying withdraw completely, I am saying that where ever you are now, if you can withdraw more, then do so. If you cannot, ask yourself why not, and work on whatever is preventing you from doing so. If there is nothing more that you can do, that is always a personal decision and dependent on circumstances and context of your life.

I am not worried about homelessness in a strict sense, the idea of it makes me a bit afraid and nervous, but I am ok with trying to figure it out. However, that is a luxury afforded to me by being young, physical, and without the prospect of dragging my wife and kids into my bullshit of voluntary poverty. I am much more suited to go that far. The point is, not everyone is as suited, and that is not something I would ever judge anyone about. We all do what we can, how we can to push ourselves towards withdrawal. Withdrawal is a process, not a terminal destination. It is a trajectory.

I also do not think this is an alternative to what you are saying, but necessary as a means of being able to follow your advice. By withdrawing, you force yourself to become less dependent on the largesse of the system, the bribes of material comfort in return for moral degradation become less appealing and tempting. If it comes time to forcibly put an end to this system, it is going to be done by people who have begun to be able to imagine existing without it. I think this is where our ideas converge.

I think you mistake me for preaching something that makes sense for me personally as a universal catch all. I hope you understand that you are a role model for withdrawal for me, in the limited biography you have shared. You have gone far deeper into the system than I have, and you have come much farther out.

I think what you run into with progressives, what sparked this thread, is what happens when you run into people who have more limited imaginations than you for what is possible, because they are less withdrawn from the system, they have a harder time envisioning its absence. Most of our angels on a pin dancing, whether it be in the context of environmentalism, politics, or industrialization, begins with this sentiment, "assume things must remain as they are, now how can we have meaningful change?"

A nation of people who are wholly dependent on this system for everything they need to live are not going to think outside of it until they are no longer dependent upon it. The best way to become independent of it is to determine in what ways you depend on it, and becoming more independent. You are already a lot closer to being there than most, which is why you have no problem referencing the guillotine and why others can't get why you hate the state.

Hope that makes sense.

Cüneyt said...

"As others (Joe, Karl, etc) have noted, in reply to Cuneyt, the state cannot be defined as any aggregation of persons seeking some common outcome.

"It has to identified by its form."

With all due respect, Mr. Crow, I didn't say that a knitting circle or a book club would be a state. I said a posse might be the beginning of one.

Josh said...

That's not a blog post, Jack, that's a fucking manifesto.

d.mantis said...

I'm not convinced of this slippery slope scenario. But shit...yeah, could be.

Those knitters sure like to talk about how Obama is a closet Muslim. Maybe the circle will attend a few rallys...

Hell, the book club could start reading The Anarchist's Cookbook...

The tipping point is the moment when a communal group of consenting individuals is organized for a singular purpose and then decides to expand its operations to unconsenting individuals.

Hence Justin's 5:53pm comment. Seems pretty clear to me. But i'm an idiot, so yeah...

Cüneyt said...

It's not a slippery slope. It's an attempt to show what is labeled a dichotomy or an opposition is actually a continuum. Let me be clear: I think that in Crow's scenario, it is right for citizens to take matters into their own hands.

In this case, the poisoned are unconsenting. So are the poisoners, if the avengers of the poisoned come to them and inflict force upon them to effect a desired outcome. If you make someone do what you want through force or threat of force, whatever that someone might have done in the past, I see it as an exercise of power-over. It is the building block of the state, distinct only in scale. Indeed, tribal warfare may have started from very similar and justifiable grievances, rectified through use of force.

d.mantis said...

And furthermore, Jack's scenario was obviously very clearcut and the actors were blatent in their guilt/innocence.

This is far from reality.

But I think he proposed this as a means to understand those individuals "less withdrawn from the system".

It made me re-evaluate my connections to what I percieve as the protection the state provides me as it concerns my well being.

Just cause I drive to work, pick up my kids, go to the park and go to sleep all without being attacked by a vigilante group, dosen't make me less likely to be brutalized by any state apparatus. For fucks sake, they got all the best equipment!

If we (in any collective context) are doomed to be the beginning of a state, then fuck it. Then the earth should vomit us up like some bad thai food.

Devin Lenda said...

This is the best comment thread I've ever read. Justin, Quin, Cuneyt, and everyone else, thanks.

Great post as always, Mr. Crow. I'd like to express one criticism that's unrelated to the main issues in this thread. In some ways it's a pretty minor issue but for me it's a big one because it's everywhere. So...

Liberals are idiots, morons, etc. They're stupid. OK, well, first of all, everyone says this about everyone, but why? I know it's one of the first thoughts in my mind whenever a political opinion pisses me off. I also think it's a 5 year-old's reaction. "You're stupid" means not only "shut up" but also "disappear." You and your opinions go somewhere and stop existing. It's too painful to listen to them. Well, that's some psychologizing speculation but there's more.

I see two basic problems with "you're stupid." First, it's very rarely accurate. So, for example, your thoughts on politics are far closer to mine than they are to Zizek, Henry-Levy, or notorious Nazi apologist Martin Heidegger, but I have no reason at all to think I'm smarter than those guys. Geniuses can be fascists. I'm not convinced, actually, that there's any relation at all between intelligence and the accuracy of one's depiction of the world. I suppose if you define intelligence very broadly so that it corresponds perfectly to accurately describing the world, where something like emotional intelligence (whatever that might mean) is included in the definition, this is less of a problem. But most people don't use the term that way and you might also have to call Plato stupid at that point, since he was clearly wrong about lots of things. And you might have to call the average 21st century college graduate smarter than Plato.

My second gripe with calling liberals (or any other group of opinionated people) stupid is that I think it's ethically indefensible (even if it's not such a big deal and fuck them and whatnot). Stupidity is generally a result of genes or environment. I don't see much choice involved. So calling someone stupid is the moral equivalent of making fun of their crooked yellow teeth or their bow-leggedness.

What I think can be criticized (about liberals for example) is the refusal to look at the world honestly, to have the contradictions in one's beliefs decisively exposed and persist in defending them. I mean anyone who follows politics and objects to the statement "Obama is a terrorist" is being dishonest. I'm not sure how much choice is involved or whether it even helps to assign moral responsibility this way or any way, but if there's moral responsibility, it's this. And if there's no moral responsibility, it's hard to justify ranting at someone.

All this is a way of saying that liberals (and anyone else who substantially disagrees with me ;-)) aren't retarded, they're emotionally retarded.

Cüneyt said...

Mantis, I think you get it, but I don't see it as doom. I mean, maybe in the old way, in that doom means "fate." It is inevitable that from local exercises of power will come the potential for the undoing of said locality. But that doesn't invalidate the reassertion of local autonomy and individual liberty. We must simply acknowledge that the right we assert will be asserted by all others and in the real world, Mr. Crow's posse will need to be wary of reprisal and may likely take on longer-term organization in order to prevent such. It only takes so many challenges to one's power before one seeks greater and farther-reaching ability to project force.

what the Tee Vee taught said...

Devin Lenda (I'm going to give you a hard time, it might be useful to you, who knows, I hope it is):

Your critique is not well applied here because Jack Crow did not do the things you're concerned about. His is a well-crafted, rhetorically enjoyable strumming of some of his greatest hits — this was not a hit-and-run name-calling... not at all — it is a symphony of Jack-ness... from the cadence to the shape... it's hilarious and beautiful — not something to be pedantically cracked on for concerns about bad form (I suggest this to you).

The whole spiel about what is and isn't ethically defensible is wrought with problems, and I'd suggest you give it a second thought. Also, I'll take a brief moment to mock — both your genes and environment — for your thoughts on intelligence, and the possibility of a right and wrong, the absurdity of an accurate and not-accurate description of the world (any claims to a hierarchy of knowledge, as opposed to examining ways of knowing as being fundamentally different):

If one can fashion a definition in which the "average" 21st century college graduate is "smarter" than a specific man (a man who composed The Phaedrus, at that)... well, that's very very amusing, in quite a few ways.

ergo said...

This is one of the greatest threads to one of the greatest posts in the history of blogdom. I don't have much to add, but I will say that I think there should be a distinction between the axis of pacifism/non-pacifism and the axis of resistance/non-resistance.

As far as being a pacifist, I would like to live in a less violent world. How can I begin to try to set an example without hypocrisy if I participate in violence? I would like to think I would take a bullet for my best friend or my worst enemy, but I don't think that makes me superior to anyone. I don't judge anyone who doesn't share these conclusions, which are undoubtedly the view of maybe 1% of the population? Also I think it is considerably less relevant than the following:

Resistance to the state and the powerful is crucial. I think we all agree on that. That resistance can be violent or non-violent, and can take many different forms. Even Gandhi thought violent resistance was superior to passive acquiescence. I do tend to the view of Cuneyt that the posse contains the seeds of the state, though. Let's take the guillotine. At that point, we are no longer talking about self-defense. When the head is on the chopping block, who has power in this dynamic? I understand why the oppressed could find catharsis in this, but Justice is a fantasy. It's the propaganda of the death state, and the powerful, because it gives their crimes a humanitarian patina. Furthermore, it is a fantasy that the most powerful will have their heads on the chopping block. And not just because of the transference in power dynamics that takes place prior to execution. But also because the real battle will be between the underclasses and the powerful's long line of defense by hired goons. At that point, is there any way for violent resistance to not recreate military battle hierarchy? How is that different from the state?

Unknown said...

but I will say that I think there should be a distinction between the axis of pacifism/non-pacifism and the axis of resistance/non-resistance. Spot-fucking-on! I think acknowledging this would put most of this thread mute...but I could be wrong..ain't unusual for me to be wrong, being a Leftwing Nutjob and all.

davidly said...

Justin said:
I am not saying withdraw completely, I am saying that where ever you are now, if you can withdraw more, then do so. If you cannot, ask yourself why not, and work on whatever is preventing you from doing so. If there is nothing more that you can do, that is always a personal decision and dependent on circumstances and context of your life.

This explicates my position on the specific matter of disengagement very well. Over at smbiva, op inferred that I was living in a mudhut somewhere, having gathered up my privilege, ignoring the plight of those without it.

It's really about a "first do no harm" approach, extending it to include "contribute to no harm" and seek, through non-violent disobedience, to achieve that aim the best way you can.

As to pacifism: There's a difference between punching a motherfucker and forming a band dedicated to the process of punching motherfuckers. Everything in between, from spontaneous lynching to a well-regulated militia, should, imo, instruct the approach to the former.

Anonymous said...


Joe, in my estimation, self-defense ends at the point* when you stop the attacker's ability to harm you. Once you start repaying in kind, it may be justified, but it's not necessarily self-defense. It's offense in turn.

How much experience do you have in dangerous physical combat, where lives or corporal injury are directly in issue?

You seem to suggest that when people fight, offensively or defensively, with mortal threat perceived in the gambit, that time slows down and force is measured out in micrometer-increment doses, this is just enough to not kill, etc.

I submit that such cool detachment and precision of fighting is reserved to maybe 1% of the populace, those who spend a lifetime training in the use of lethal and potentially lethal force.

It sounds much more like a law school discussion regarding the use of deadly force to defend your house... the spring-gun case, for example.

It sounds almost nothing like reality, however.

Anonymous said...

Devin Lenda,

It's obvious you've been slighted, and I assume you consider yourself a "liberal" or "progressive" and thus the perceived insult you feel has you lashing out.

I'm sorry, but if you profess intelligence but continue to believe a delusion, the intelligence may be there, but it's not being used.

So you can have your MENSA IQ, Devin. You can have it forever. You may have a higher IQ than I do. You probably do.

You aren't giving evidence of it, though.

Why is that?

Anonymous said...

Part II in response to Devin:

I'll tell you why I think I'm not seeing evidence of intellect.

It's because you IDENTIFY as a "liberal" or "progressive" and you perceive that insulting illogical positions is the same as a direct existential insult to your life... your identity.

You ought to be able to separate the parsing of ideas, and the identity you derive from fastening your mind to an idea and forming an identity around that idea.

If you're all that smart, I mean.

Which you suggest you are.

Cüneyt said...

Karl, with respect:

"You seem to suggest that when people fight, offensively or defensively, with mortal threat perceived in the gambit, that time slows down and force is measured out in micrometer-increment doses, this is just enough to not kill, etc."

I may seem that way to you. That's not what I was suggesting, however.

Anonymous said...


How else can one determine, in the heat of combat for one's life, whether the force dealt is lethal or not?

I'd wonder your experience in such situations. I'm not interested in the academic side of that. I finished law school a long time ago and haven't been interested in useless hypotheticals since that time.

I mean no offense, I just don't like waltzing around a mulberry bush when there are berries to pick.

Cüneyt said...

Karl, I figured our conversation was done. You declare me abstract, not based in reality, and I move on. But very well.

First off, I didn't say that one could or need necessarily determine the lethality of one's blow. You have me backwards. I wasn't drawing a line between justice and injustice; that hasn't been my intent the entire fucking thread. My intent has clearly been the opposite.

As far as my experience, alright. Let's get to the testicle show. I have never been in a truly life or death situation. I've fought back as if my life depended on it, but it probably didn't. I've been fortunate, and it's been years since I've been in a fight. Also, all my fights were with people I knew. That changes things. My meager experience with violence certainly outweighs my experience with law school, at the least.

So again, you declare the hypothetical useless. I feel like you've had your conclusion in hand for some time and that's why I haven't bothered carrying on with you. In any case, what I said was in response to--and I did not make this clear enough--Mr. Crow's ostensibly useful hypothetical, which depicts not self-defense, but retribution, perhaps justified.

If you have any more questions, feel free. I doubt any credential will suffice where my arguments fail.

Jack Crow said...

Utah Phillips once mused (well, thousands of times mused) that the armed faction lies and in doing so recreates the state.

I think there's always the possibility that moves from poetry to sad reality.

But, I cannot help but wonder if pacifism is really just academic.

How many people would allow an interloper* into their homes, to injure or capture their children, rape their spouses and/or command their labor?

And of those who would allow it, how many of them would or could you trust in the future?

I find the pacifist untrustworthy, however fraught with self-betrayal lies the path to and through resistance.

I know there are some who would argue that resistance ought suit the practitioner of it, and I can almost agree. Until I reckon on the reality which faces us, and to which we will commit (those of us who have them) our children: those who rule, and yes their power varies according to place and position, are fully engaged in an increasingly cooperative effort to render the rest of us moot.

It is, I believe, a thrust at our existences. Perhaps even a war. Austerity is not merely policy. Perpetual war not just for profit.

For four hundred years, we have nots have pushed, clawed, pulled and gained against the wealthy, and even more, have held those gains.

Until World War Two - when the real victors (it wasn't that nation states - they were the undoubted losers, on either side of the conflict) emerged uncontested, and have (using very stable platforms of power, the corporation) spent the better part of three quarters of a century rolling back the gains of the prior four.

They are ready to liberate themselves from us, and if all it takes is a poisoned planet and food priced out of reach, by all their vain and ugly gods, they'll do it.

So, why not stop them?

And how is running to the hills ever going to accomplish that?

* - And does it really matter if the interloper is a newly met stranger, or the son of a son of a son of an original taker? Does it matter if it's a new evil, or an established one?

Jack Crow said...


The error probably lies with me, but I wrote "you're dumb" to mean "you're mute."

A play on words, certainly. But I explained it immediately after:

...And you are dumb. And I don't mean C minus average, but can fix a motor, run a team of oxen and whip up a meal for twenty on a budget "dumb."

I mean, actually dumb. You're mute about all the wrong things. Because, well, you're compromised people. And I don't mean, "ah fuck, I shouldn't have taken that job, but I have to feed my kids" compromised...

That's the condition of the progressive. He or she can identify any number of problems with "the system" but is utterly useless to address the construct itself.

Because, being a propertarian, the progressive is wholly invested in it.

He wants a kindlier, gentler empire. Maybe even one with the audacity to field millions of soldiers in hundreds of countries, for the advantage of a very few, but call itself yet a res publica.

The progressive may not be as aggressively wrong as the conservative, but he is also less honest when the chips are down.

And I don't see how that merits him any respect.

Anonymous said...

It's not a dick-measuring contest, Cuneyt.

It's a practical question.

I'm an athlete who focuses (nowadays, that is) on mountain bike riding and alpine & backcountry skiing.

If, in a discussion of skiing, someone talks about how to make a turn in choppy snow, and begins to say "you need to angle the ski in this manner, apply force to it in that manner, keep your body articulated just so..." I'm going to be inclined to ask, "could you please give some precision to your general statements, so that I could try to put them into practice and thereby assess whether the theoretical movements and postures actually work?"

I can play around with theory right along with the best thinkers of my generation, and have spent plenty of time doing so, and received awards and accomplishments for it. I don't lack the facility when it's just a discussion of abstraction for abstraction's sake -- I just don't like doing it unless someone's giving me money, or food, or other sustenance in exchange for it. Because I don't see the utility otherwise.

People who talk about the limits of violent force in self-defense often do so without ANY experience in having to defend themselves. So their discussions are, excuse the bluntness, BULLSHIT.

I don't care what you WISH people would do when threatened with mortal harm. Really I don't.

Especially if you've never been in the situation yourself.

It's like an armchair skier trying to tell me how to make a turn.

Anonymous said...

Jack --

July 22, 2011 3:14 PM

as good as the original post!

ergo said...

So, why not stop them?

This question raises another question of "Is it possible to stop them?" To which the answer is "yes with enough people." Well here is where you get into the issue of whether or not violence is going to alienate more people than it attracts to the cause. I think it tends to alienate as well as give the state reason to crack down hard (why else would the FBI constantly have agents provocateur instigate violence back during COINTELPRO?), but I guess I am not the ideal candidate from whom to extrapolate what people think.

Cüneyt said...

No, it's not a contest Karl, when you routinely declare yours the biggest.

You dismiss me time and again, you ignore what I say by declaring it abstract, useless, unreal, and bullshit. And then you can't even read the most basic point I make. I didn't say anything about how people should act, how I "WISH" they should act. I didn't say that people should do anything less than kill their oppressors and violators, so take your awards and shove them up your ass, you conceited piece of learnedly lazy trash. Project your snobbery on somebody else.


"And does it really matter if the interloper is a newly met stranger, or the son of a son of a son of an original taker? Does it matter if it's a new evil, or an established one?"

Jack, hence your valid argument about property. It's either evil or maintenance of evil.

Justin said...

It's a little ridiculous to me that pacifism and anarchy cause such seemingly circular discussion.

I'll step back a second and make a further claim; the seeming difficulty people have with rather simple concepts is that we live in a Cartesian Age. The underlying assumption of this age is that with a good enough model, every problem has a convergent set of solutions.

In the cases of physical systems like physics, chemistry and planetary motion, this is a pretty good approach. As an approach toward human interaction, its a very bad assumption.

Pacifism is a principle of non-violence. It is the rejection of violence or the threat of violence as an acceptable solution to social problems. I define the alternative as voluntary and involuntary participation. The voluntary non-participation is the hard part, but it is, to me, the very heart of personal responsibility. Its up to each of us to stop participating on our own free will, however hard it is to do so. Threats cut two ways, the party making the threat, and the party responding to it. If some parties won't stop making threats, its up to the threatened to stop responding to them. If they actualize those threats, its up to the non-responders to defend and neutralize those follow up attacks until the threats of violence and violence ceases and some other way is found.

For me, that means that if someone breaks into my home, whether I successfully fight them off or not, the original act of aggression on their part was unjustifiable, and my reciprocal action, even if necessary, is also unjustifiable. It doesn't mean I shouldn't have done it, or that it didn't need to be done, but sometimes you are compelled by circumstances to do that which is unjustified. We do it every day, or at least those of us who believe that American wars are wrong, that global warming and other environmental degradation threatens our species existence and still get up every day to go to work because we have mouths to feed, or don't know what other options we have.

The deep discomfort people have with this is that no one wants to trust human judgment. We believe that if we can just devise a sophisticated enough system of labyrinthian rules and sub-clauses of a perfectly Cartesian social order, then the defects of humanity can be zeroed out.

Its really annoying to sit around wondering when the mob begins and the state begins or whether total and complete (unthinking) commitment to the principle of non-violence when there is a murderous leviathan State eating the globe right now.

Cüneyt said...

Just for the record, who are the pacifists in this thread?

Jack Crow said...


I set out to write a rant because three someones over Corrente way thought the best response to my doubt in their pet project - Modern Monetary Theory - was to (a) call me stupid (b) tell me I had no credibility for using "death state" (I was only quoting Art Silber) and (c) imply that I intended the murder of everyone who disagrees with me because I have argued that uncompromising resistance to obvious evil invariably requires some violence.

This dismissive disdain was something I experienced as far back as the 2000 election. I'll just get it out now: I was working Elizabeth Dole's campaign, here in NH, mostly because a friend asked me to, and because I was good at it without being emotionally invested enough to care about the outcome. After Dole's campaign ran aground on the Bush behemoth, I rec'd an invitation to meet the then candidate Bush, at a posh greet in Bedford, NH. Another friend, an assertive Democrat, insisted that any support for anything but liberalism (they were still using that term them) was literally contributing to the murder of black people in poor neighborhoods.

The question I asked my friend was, "Have you ever lived in a poor, black or minority neighborhood?"

I had, in Boston, Springfield, Holyoke and New Orleans. She had not. She had only ever lived in places like Bedford, Windham and Milford.

But, she couldn't resist stating, with remarkably unearned confidence, that even meeting then candidate Bush was an act of murder.

I know this probably seems unrelated to anything you've written, but please bear with me.

When you argued that the progressives have good intentions, I was reminded of all the times I've taken the superficial tolerances scribbled atop a progressive policy or argument, and ignored them, to examine the underlying position.

I can't help but conclude that the liberal argument is exactly what Seymour called it - a defense of murder.

Which borders irony, I know, because there are any number of circumstances where I could sleep well knowing someone who deserved it got it.

The difference - and I think it's a big one - is that liberalism is the studied refusal to admit its central argument: power must be wielded for a net good which ceases to exist the moment power is wielded.

All the victims, minorities and lesser parties a liberal wants to save are justifications for liberal power. The liberal isn't going to share that power, or unreal gods forbid, devolve it.

The liberal is going to go looking for someone else to save, and she's going to do it with judicial murder.

I prefer a more honest, and cleaner outlook.

I too side with the victims. But, I really side with them. I have been one. I have scars on my body where very bad people have poked holes in my flesh. And scars in my memory, where rape and child abuse cannot be erased.

But, unlike the liberal, I'm willing to call violence by its name, and further, help to arm the victims in preparation for their own moment(s) of decision...


Anonymous said...

Cuneyt, your snark is juvenile and pathetic.

I really abhor the holier-than-thou stance of "progressives" like you, because there's so much fraud in it. So much artificiality, abstraction, triangulation. When called to the carpet to be pointed and personal, the "progressive" can only snark while running away, tail between legs.

You said you thought you were done discussing, then you posted a snark. And feigned surprise when I responded to the goad.

Forgive me, flying spaghetti monster, but I respond to goads like most humans.

My dick is as big as it is, and no bigger. Yours probably is longer and girthier and pleases more men/women than mine. So what?

I'm talking about what happens, dude, in the realm of self-defense.

And you want to make THE VERY SUBJECT YOU WERE DISCUSSING irrelevant in favor of snark about dick-measuring.


Progressive too.

I can only guess you're still insulted by my anti-feminist stance and hold a grudge about that. You're gonna have to deal with that, bubba. I hate feminists!

Jack Crow said...

I'm not pretending I'm a good person, here. Or that my position is philosophical and universal.

Quite the opposite:

There was a little girl I met, many years ago. She was a Bosnian refugee and she lived with her family in the flat above my own. Her parents would invite me up for some awful Turkish coffee and over the course of those evenings, I learned that each of them bore wounds from Serbian or Croatian weapons. The girl was then very, very young. She was also missing two fingers on one of her hands. Being a tad indelicate*, I asked her father how she lost her fingers.

He didn't get a chance to reply.

"Szreb, Szreb!"

[That's how I heard it, at first.]

She was staring at me, or through me. Bad teeth, maimed hand, and a hatred I really don't have the language to describe.

She was the one answering. She made a chopping motion with her other fist.

Later, her older brother, who'd been stabbed and burned with cigars, explained that Nadia's** fingers had been chopped off in an effort to make her tell where the family kept its rifles. She had bad teeth because that effort led to the knocking of a few of them out her head.

Her brother later explained that it was her sister's fingers which got them an exit visa, and that although he was grateful for her sacrifice (he said with a fierce hatred equal to his sister's) he was going to go back to Sarajevo one day and teach "those animals" what happens to men who maim little girls.

I felt a kinship with them, especially the little girl and her brother (who I still see from time to time, though they've long moved out of the city), because of the purity of their hatred.

I understood it. I still understand it. I'm not making a virtue out of it, but I don't think it's a vice, either.

It's just one emotional state among many - one which is discouraged in our society, I think, because it's so often justified.

* - not really. It'd take forever to explain how the course of the conversation evolved to the point where I was comfortable asking.

** - not her actual name

Jack Crow said...


I don't understand how voluntary non-participation helps people who have no place towards which they can retreat, and no room for the moral wriggling.

I think it's an ethical position which might suit people who can afford it, sort of like veganism and co-op shopping, but how does it help a mother trying to feed her children?

I'm not asking from hostility - I just don't understand the argument as anything but a boutique position.

Cüneyt said...

Karl, you made this about man-to-man combat when it is very clear that Joe was talking about Crow's scenario and I was too. I still don't know how you get that I'm judging the person who uses strength to repay a blow rather than merely arrest it, and as I understand from limited training and much more extensive discussion with those who have more experience than me but might still not know anything, many times the only way to ensure the latter is to practice the former.

Anonymous said...

I have a wonder about the pacifist/passivist stance:

how would the pacifists counsel the Vietnamese to behave during French and US forces occupation?

...in response to US troops slaughtering innocent men, women, kids because that's the American way to deal with guerrilla warfare: kill everyone.... how to counsel them?

be like Gandhi?

watch your friends and family slaughtered, maimed, raped, burned, tortured... because Gandhi supposedly counseled non-violent resistance?

did the USA finally leave Vietnam because of non-violent resistance being persuasive?

Cüneyt said...

Pacifists merely support the winner of the last war.

Jack Crow said...


I guess what I find confusing about your commons/state distinction is that what you call "commons" many would call "state functions."

So, it still seems to me that your beef may not with "the state" per se, but rather with the groups (the CEOs, the high-ranking technocrats, the media moguls, the career politician-lobbyists, the military-industrialists) who, in our particular society, get to dominate the state.

Public property is retained by the State, as a later form of the Commons. But, being now captured, has less of a shared value than earlier forms. It is nonetheless distinct from state function. The White Mountain National Forest exists whether or not the Feds patrol it. It's produce by common effort (tax receipts and labor), though the State retains control of it.

People could produce collective sewer, water, recreation, educational or transport systems without the disciplinary and property defining powers of the state. They cannot organize to enforce laws without one. That's how I differentiate between the Commons (even in a captive state) and the powers of the State.

It's not perfect, and it can be inexact, to type the least, but I think it's a useful enough distinction.

Anonymous said...

Cuneyt, that's a more graceful return.

I'm not saying you're "judging" anything. I'm asking you: what do you know about using self-defense when a life is at stake.

Shit, dude... we could theorize over anything, but in a discussion about pacifism, passivism, violence, and social change... you're surprised that someone asks you what experience you have in the area where you're pontificating?

You're really, seriously surprised by that?

If so -- I'm glad I don't hang out with you in person. I tend to like the world of action and admire those who speak from experience. Any fucker can theorize. Clever fuckers can theorize in a way that sounds informed and experienced. So I wonder... is the theory informed and experienced... or just a clever fucker's gambit?

If that offends you or makes you defensive, then maybe you should not have uttered that goading post here:

July 22, 2011 1:54 PM

and then said "I thought we were done."

It's sorta contradictory, that practice. And I pick up on contradictions.

Jack Crow said...


...Justice is a fantasy. It's the propaganda of the death state, and the powerful, because it gives their crimes a humanitarian patina. Furthermore, it is a fantasy that the most powerful will have their heads on the chopping block. And not just because of the transference in power dynamics that takes place prior to execution. But also because the real battle will be between the underclasses and the powerful's long line of defense by hired goons. At that point, is there any way for violent resistance to not recreate military battle hierarchy? How is that different from the state?

I don't think you're wrong, here. I'm just not sure the conclusion you reach is inevitable.

This is a bit of a simplification, but:

A man enters your home and kidnaps your child. You gather a few trusted friends, pursue and capture him. He has, over the course of his flight, injured your child.

What is your responsibility?

Does it extend beyond the immediate moment of recompense?

At what point, to ask a leading question, does extending your response beyond its original object become the re-creation of a state-like entity?

What, then, if you restrain yourself to the original recompense?

Jack Crow said...


I think Quin and Justin have made pacifist arguments. I'm not suggesting these are always their positions, or that they are exclusively pacifist.

It's also a bit of a sidereal refrain, for the Correntian lurkers.

Cüneyt said...


You took that as a goad? I didn't know how to be more succinct. You read into what I said more than I intended. I never suggested that time slowed down. As I have said, I believe--believe, assume, assert without proof--that in fact, that point is illusory, and sometimes purely theoretical.

I have never killed a person, but I have hurt them, and I have been hurt, and I have struck others, but I have never fought for my life. I cannot have more experience than I have, and on that grounds I have been told by you and by many others that I should not discuss the war, or violence, or many subjects, really. I'm sorry if you're offended by my lack of experience. But if you say that I must have a certain level of experience X in order to discuss Crow's scenario, then that's your read. I'm not leaving until Crow judges me a troll and asks me to fuck off.

And as far as saying "I figured our conversation was done," that's the truth. Read contradiction into it if you like. I did indeed figure that our conversation was done because I stopped responding to you. You carried on, however, I reflected your statement of what I "seem"ed to "suggest," and again, went on my merry way. It's clear you don't like me, it's clear I have nothing to say to you of weight, so dismiss me or engage me, but be done with it either way.

Jack Crow said...


In re-reading your last reply, I think I understand our point of divergence.

It's "justification."

I'm not concerned with it. I think it a spiritualist conceit. And by conceit, I don't mean "you're conceited." I'm not approaching it as an antagonist.

If someone is actively working to destroy those I love, I am not compelled to justify my response. That doesn't mean "I can do whatever I want, because the stakes are high." That's another kind of justification. I mean, there's no justification or non-justification which matters.

"Justification" is a species of ethicism, which is almost always personal, a seeking to distinguish the idealized self from its imagined worst case, as a self due some moral consideration, or reward. I'm much more interested in collective response, and a disregard for the pitfalls of ethicism.

Perhaps "destroy" is too strong a word. Then again, deliberately poisoning people with paint sludge and dioxin because it's cheaper after fines and fees than disposing of waste properly, or weaponizing bacteria and ticks, sure reads like "destruction" to me.

Jack Crow said...

Karl, Cuneyt -

If we could take an hour or so, and just step back, I think all parties involved would realize they have much more in common than not.

I'm not interested in policing anyone's opinions, or tone. Or asking anyone to fuck off.

This is a damned excellent discussion, and nary a troll in sight.

Cüneyt said...

Thank you, Jack. I wasn't keeping close track and wasn't entirely clear on the factions that were emerging. And God forbid someone confuse mine as a principled position.

Justin said...

"I don't understand how voluntary non-participation helps people who have no place towards which they can retreat, and no room for the moral wriggling."

Jack, I don't take it as hostility. In fact, I still feel like what I mean is not coming out right, but the fact that you are not quite getting it does not make me think you are being hostile or dumb, its more making me question what I am saying and look for what I think we could call arguing from priveledge.

In short, it doesn't help them one bit. In fact, the last person in the world who needs to withdraw as far as they can is the working mother who has almost nothing. Who needs to withdraw are people like me, educated, comfortable, productive members of our middle class (I am a software programmer) participating in what we call our service and industrial economies. Even better would be upper middle class and rich, but whatever. The woman in your hypothetical has already been forcibly withdrawn from the system.

All of us out here in computer land refusing to begin to figure out what it will take for us to act because we'd rather have pedantic debates about where the mob ends and a new state begins (meaning why bother do anything, we'll just be more of the same) are those who have to withdraw.

In the case you give me, the second part of what I am saying is the hardest part. Withdrawal is not just stopping to support the system as it is in the way it wants you to, because we are also highly dependant upon the system. So one way to withdraw is to go live on the street and root through dumpsters. That's a free fall. Another way to withdraw is to begin making yourself more independent. We can begin by redefining what it is that makes our lives satisfying, and figuring out as many ways to achieving that satisfaction as we can before removing that dependency from ourselves onto the system.

Again, in my case, I'll give an example. This is not meant to be universal, its what I am comfortable with. Do I need shelter? Yes. Does it have to be an apartment or mortgage? No. Can I still sleep on the street or in a tent? Yes. Do I particularly want to? No. Is an apartment more comfortable, more secure? Yes. Is that more important to me than withdrawal, and do I believe that I could give up an apartment and still be ok? Yes, then make yourself uncomfortable. You'll get acclimated.

Other questions arise immediately from this, mainly concerning food and water, and larger questions that follow; part of the reason I believe I need to climb down is to prepare for what I think will become necessary to stop our civilization. I'll be in a better spot personally to be ready for that if I have some experience sleeping on the hard ground and moving around in a tent. So, if I can live in a tent and still continue expanding my capabilities in other ways, then I should do so. If starving on the street sucks up all my energy because I am so clueless, then I have stretched myself to far.


Justin said...

Returning to your point and what I am saying, you need some resources to be able to climb down. That is the boutique. I have some 401K money to liquidate, I have education to know how to go to the library and look up information to help me figure out stuff I think is going to be important. I have a healthy enough body that I can endure some minor illnesses and such that are a consequence of not having a climate controlled environment all the time. Yes, I am not throwing away those resources for aesthetic reasons. Yes, they are a by product of the very priveledges I have come to realize has been bought and paid for by the blood of others, that doesn't mean I should not use them, nor does it mean that anyone else who has whatever they have shouldn't use their own.

When I use personal examples, that is all they are. I figure that whatever your circumstances, there is something you can do more than what you are doing now. Is this a fair assumption for everyone? Maybe not, but the more true it is, meaning the bigger your boutique, then the less excuse you have for waiting around.

Voluntary participation is the dream, not the reality. Act in your reality toward the dream. That is all I mean.

Justin said...

And when I say 'you', I don't mean specifically you, Jack Crow.

And this -

"At that point, is there any way for violent resistance to not recreate military battle hierarchy?"

By the same mechanism that sparked the violent resistance. Every individual in that mob made a choice to fight back whatever it would cost them. If their choice ends in their ruin, then its a moot question. If their choice achieves its objectives, then they have another choice that is no harder than the original choice to begin resisting; whether to go along with the isnstitutionalization of a military or say no again. That choice may also result in personal ruin, but its no different. There is no system or rules that are going to keep a state from arising again, its going to be a shared set of internal assumptions and axioms about personal agency, and prioritizing comfort vs. what the individual believes they should be doing.

Of course, that could mean that they choose to keep the military intact, that's the cost of being human. The game for the people at the top of the hierarchy is to make that choice as hard as possible with various threats and incentives. The game for the rest of us is to challenge and ignore them, respectively.

Joe said...


the original act of aggression on their part was unjustifiable, and my reciprocal action, even if necessary, is also unjustifiable

I think this goes too far. As I see it, your action is automatically justified because it's in response to the intruder's aggression. Now, if you see the guy the next day at a convenience store, and you jump him in the parking lot in retaliation, that would be hard to justify. I guess I'm more of a believer in the principle of non-aggression than non-violence, though I agree that violence should be avoided whenever possible.

Justin said...

"In re-reading your last reply, I think I understand our point of divergence.

It's "justification."

I'm not concerned with it. I think it a spiritualist conceit. And by conceit, I don't mean "you're conceited." I'm not approaching it as an antagonist."

I don't see this as a point of divergence, necessarily.

I buy into a false set of assumptions quite knowingly; one of them is that all men and women are equals. That is obviously a joke, but I choose to believe in it even though it is revealed to be a transparent lie by every aspect of our world. Nonetheless, when I say something is justified or not in this context, I mean to say that if we are beating on each other physically as equals, that is not justified in this sense.

However, justified or not, sometimes we have to do what is necessary.

Where I think the point of divergence rests is in the longer paragraph above. You see the obvious lie of what I am proposing too, but you don't choose to believe in it. I don't believe in it in a normative sense, I believe in it as a hope for a way forward. Its an admittedly vain hope, but its the one I have and maintain. A lot follows from that for me.

For instance, I would honestly rather die than kill someone to have them come around to my point of view. As I withdraw, sickness and death are possible consequences.

Right now I am attempting to get all the way out of this country, but industrialization is global. Its in Thailand too. Not only that, but the state of Thailand doesn't want me to withdraw from this system either, they want me to have either a pile of money or some kind of industrial contributing job in their country. I may have to jump through that hoop, it may trip me up.

Whatever happens from that though, I will continue pushing myself toward withdrawal with the above hope in mind, accepting that I may never have any reason in the world to think that hope is anything other than you describe it; a delusion and conceit. I've certainly not seen any reason to date to see it for anything else, but that is not relevant to me in this case.

Anonymous said...

July 22, 2011 4:32 PM


Here's what I see has happened in this thread.

I'm interested in the contours of where and when people who profess pacifism would find it necessary to defend themselves with force, violent force, perhaps even lethal force.

I'm interested in moving from the theoretical to the practical.

At the same time, some people in this thread want to continue flogging a theoretical equine corpse, in what appears to me to be a contest of Who Is Ethically Superior.

I'm trying to suggest: if you're life's on the line, sir, madame, missy, junior... you don't have the luxury of engaging in hair-splitting theorizing. Not even close.

And if you think you have that luxury, you're just showing to me that your life is muy facil and essentially yuppified luxury. You're cushioned, comfortable, and unfamiliar with dire threats of any type except perhaps verbal or monetary or status.

None of which are real threats, however you may perceive them. In fact, this really is about perception -- what is perceived, in contrast with how things actually work when the chips are down and your ass is on the line, literally, honestly, existentially.

Pacifism-bar-none is a stance convenient to those who aren't threatened with violence, not now, not in the past, not ever.

It is an easy way to feel superior.

It's also misperceiving what's going on in America right now.

We're not going to keep having yuppie luxury, despite what you may see on TV or in a movie, or on the Internet's waypoints like Salon or Truthdig or OpenLeft or Democratic Underground.

People who are presently engaged in worrying over who maintains ethical superiority in an internet argument... clueless! Out of touch!

The more you ignore what's really going on in America right now, the harder will be your fall from comfortable yuppiedom or well-cushioned intellectual elitist.

And some falls are fatal.

ergo said...


how would the pacifists counsel the Vietnamese to behave during French and US forces occupation?

I can only speak for myself, but I wouldn't counsel anyone anything on how to resist oppression and violence directed to them, certainly not the victims of the largest death-dealing empire the world has ever known and one of its predecessors. I do not believe that I have that right, furthermore, I would trust another's judgment to my own in a situation of this kind that is personal to them. By all means I fully support their resistance as would anyone with a conscience. My only observation I can offer is that yes it is true they expelled the invaders through the use of violent resistance. We also murdered 3 or 4 million of their people and they are still dying from chemical warfare. I do not have the ability to make any sort of judgment of what they should think of that. Only they have the ability to make that decision. Achieving independence and self-determination is nothing to dismiss, and I certainly don't. But there are other costs of the use of violence.


At what point, to ask a leading question, does extending your response beyond its original object become the re-creation of a state-like entity?

I say this with a great deal of uncertainty, as I am trying to fashion a definition useful to me (and I greatly appreciate your questions in this regard), but my instinct is to say when there is the use of force against a person in which the power dynamics are in the favor of the user of force. Obviously this is a subjective judgment and see my above comments to Karl about Vietnam for how I feel about that. Again, I am not sure that ad hoc vigilante bands should be measured by the standards of the Westphalian disasters we have today, but if I have a single root objection to the state and hierarchy, it is that.

Justin said...

"I think this goes too far. As I see it, your action is automatically justified because it's in response to the intruder's aggression"

I refuse to accept the justification of it even if I find it understandable. Whether its legal, or generally agreed upon as understandable given the context are separate questions for me than justification.

We can come up with hypotheticals all day. For instance, is rape wrong? Imagine that there is one woman left in the world, and she refuses to have sex, but to continue the species you decide you have to rape her. Are you justified? Fuck no. That is still aggression. Is that a more understandable crime than date rape? In some sense, yes. Ok, now what if someone held a gun and told you to rape her or he would shoot both of you. Is that still a crime? Again, yes. We can always construct more and more ridiculous hypotheticals to make something that is unjustifiable more understandable. In these hypotheticals, it is more justified to do the less understandable thing. Tell the gun man to go ahead and shoot you because you aren't doing it.

I think where we get hung up is that we want to feel righteous, we want to think that whatever it is we do, we had cause and reason to do so. Well, its not always the case, but sometimes we have to do what we have to do. Axioms like violence and murder are wrong are most useful as poles to gravitate toward. If they are situational ethics, meaning sometimes they are justified, then you have exactly what we have now where everyone creates their own personal rationalizations for their violent behavior. Those are norms, and no different than the latest fashion sense and trends in music.

Justin said...

"At what point, to ask a leading question, does extending your response beyond its original object become the re-creation of a state-like entity?"

I don't think its a specific point in time, its a duration of a particular type of arrangement. It is an arrangement of cooperation over time. The duration of the states existence leads and is sustained by the state's efforts to perpetuate itself; the mob becomes a militia. The spokesperson becomes a professional politician. And on.

When the arrangement changes from voluntary participation to coercion, then we begin having modern states.

And again, one way for a state to perpetuate itself over time is to make voluntary participation seem more and more impossible from a number of different angles. States want to Shanghai you if they must, but even better than that because it is cheaper, is to have you believe you've already been Shanghaid.

An easier question than a hypothetical mob becoming a state question to answer: at what specific point does a fetus become a human being? Maybe a more important question is this, what kind of men and women do we want our babies to be?

Cüneyt said...

This is a bit of an old one, but it's a strand I missed.

"At that point, is there any way for violent resistance to not recreate military battle hierarchy? How is that different from the state?"

Battle hierarchies have differed over time. According to military historian J. E. Lendon in his awesome "Soldiers and Ghosts," even the ancient Greeks maintained a more democratic apparatus than modern militaries. Now, does that mean it would satisfy a staunch anarchist? Probably not. These were still implements of empire. But that said, there is variability in military strategy. One can imagine a military in which desertion is acceptable so long as it is declared, or in which even the coercion to maintain a plan in agreed upon in advance and contracted upon mutually... All this is dreaded theory, of course, but look up some military history as we vulgarians understand it. The little we understand is enough to give the cynic hope in the changeability of human life.

In any case, is that different from "the state"? Well, it depends on what we call state. I'd say there's better and worse, from my position. More or less authoritarian. Any seizure of territory is going to allow for imposition of new oppression, and that's why it would be important to conduct oneself as an anarchist first and throughout rebellion, rather than fight--gain power--and liberate later, as we have seen in so many modern ideologies. In the past, people have argued that an alternative would consist of revolving leadership, soldier democracy, immediate recall of leaders, decentralized authority, blah blah blah.

Very little separates the logic of anarchism in war from the logic of anarchism in work or business or family relations, honestly. Power is everywhere to be devolved, and it's got to start with you.

(And in the ongoing history of humorously barbed word verifications, I just got "shill.")

Anonymous said...

Whether a military needs structure depends on the extent to which participation in the military exercise is coerced, or voluntary.

So let's ignore the systems of the past which were mandatory or coercive. They are irrelevant to anarchist study, except as negative example.

Why the quarrel over or mystery regarding what is the "state"? What does that gain us?

Why not start from the premise: anarchism is the absence of overarching authority, central authority.

And go from there.

What frightens people about this concept?

And why the fright, or hesitation, or concern, or whatever?

What, specifically, is an anti-anarchism person afraid of?

My submission: afraid of being fully responsible for him- or herself... a desire to return to the womb, despite adult status.

My 2dary submission: arises from never spending time alone in the woods, being too accustomed to modern urbanized life, too comfortable with Stockholm Syndrome.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who's spent time on a multi-day backpacking trip can tell you: it's comically simple and highly rejuvenating to spend time alone in the wild, taking care of yourself without a copper or fireman or TSA agent or social worker there to wipe your ass, change your diaper, clean your bib and tucker.

Most flatlanders and city slickers I know can't bear to imagine a night in the woods. They fear bears, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions. They assume the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a more regular occurrence than the USA murdering a foreign national or imprisoning a domestic citizen without cause, without due process.


If you live in an urban or suburban coccoon, the idea of the absence of Daddy/Mommy State and its affiliated trappings probably makes you pee your pants and shit your drawers.

"Who will protect me from those horrible criminals I hear about, read about?"

Ever stop to wonder how the media spin "horrible criminal" stories to put them first, and to never report on the criminal behavior of Daddy State against His Own Kids?

Hmmmm. Wait a minute. Karl, are you saying that the real criminals run the State?

No, of course not! The real criminals are those pot dealers! They are the ones that pretended to need a bailout and stole your money! They are the ones who spend your money killing innocent foreigners for oil and gas and land! They are the ones who imprison people without due process!

The pot sellers!

They're evil!

Trust the State! Trust it! It's your FRIEND!

Cüneyt said...

Well, there are also the people who think they've found the great outdoors and rely on the products of industry, the gas grills and the trucks just out of sight, but your point holds. I found that riding for an entire day in the Rockies gave one a great sense of perspective. Slip on the rocks in a stream and there's no fucking handrail. It was fun, but I also knew how much the experience depended on civilization, even if we were pretty far out from its ugliest signs; one day I'd like to go out farther, but I've never gotten the chance.

In any case, there are plenty of people whose reliance on civilization is due to no character flaw... We all have our reasons, and our own cords to cut. What good comes from speculating on the perceived weakness of the unliberated?

Anonymous said...

Who's talking about "weakness"? Not me.

I'm skinny and weak compared to most every adult male. I have no room to talk about "weakness."

I'm talking about being a victim versus being self-sufficient. That's not about "weakness." Not to me, anyway.

Anonymous said...

And the description of the yuppie pseudo-outdoorsy person... I don't know if that's a veiled attempt at describing me, or not. But it's not what I'm talking about when I talk about being self-sufficient, and it's not anything close to how I do things.

A person who depends on industrialized society probably would be better off dead, IMO. That's where he or she is gonna be when the collapse hits hard. Maybe study Dmitry Orlov's work and the trajectory of Russia, if you don't believe me.

We could all lay down and accept the corrupt collapse, and get disappeared like Chileans and Argentinians. That would sure be sweet!

Cüneyt said...

It's not your word, Karl, that's true. I didn't mean physical weakness by any means. I meant a certain defect in character, a character weakness, or a weakness in will. I interpreted, perhaps wrongly, that you judged yourself and those who are self-sufficient, who break away from society, to have a non-physical strength that those gripped by "fear" and "hesitation," those who live in the "cocoon," lack.

Anonymous said...

If your outdoor experience "depends on civilization," then it's not an outdoor experience.

Point blank.

End of discussion.

Cüneyt said...

I was not describing you. I was describing the tailgate-hunters and pseudo-liberated among whom I was raised. That was personal experience on which I was drawing.

Cüneyt said...

Well now I'm interested. How'd you get your food? Hunt/gather it all? Build your own tent? Fires? Carry any knives? I know all of that is possible, but I'm wondering how you broke free.

Anonymous said...

It's not about strength vs weakness, cuneyt. You have misjudged my character very badly.

You seem to project onto me a persona who believes he is almighty and powerful.

All I am is self-reliant, capable of self-reliance. Not just mentally capable. Existentially. Not concerned about being "alone" without a daddy state protector. Not troubled by lacking modern health care. Not obstructed by having to feed myself. Not bothered by having to find my own shelter.

Again: what is the fear or problem or discomfort arising from considering an anarchist system?

What are the worries? The trouble spots?

Cüneyt said...

I don't mean to project, but I infer when I read someone talking about people not being able to do what he does without pissing and shitting themselves. Not that I disagree with the characterization. I know people just like what you're talking about.

As far as the fear or discomfort arising from considering anarchism, I can't tell you. I don't feel either.

Anonymous said...

You asked how I "broke free" enough to be self-sustaining... I guess the answer is, I wasn't really all that trapped or enslaved before.

Throughout my post-collegiate life, I have lived more simply and anti-consumer than any of my friends, acquaintances, or family members. It has shocked my family how I live. It has driven girlfriends away, cut relationships dead. So it's not for everyone -- definitely not for someone who is highly extraverted or deeply interdependent.

I don't know why I'd need a weapon on a backpacking trip. For what? The bugi-man? I know how to avoid and/or co-exist with the animals that most urbanites fear. I admire and love animals more than I like humans, to be honest. I'd rather be among them, than among humans.

Which probably makes me "odd" or the like, at the very least, in most peoples' eyes. It does in my family's eyes, for sure.

Am I completely off the grid right now? No. But working toward it. I'm about to cash out the end of my savings from being a lawyer in favor of preparing for total self-dependence... not too unlike what Justin is doing.

So I'm further down the road to self-sufficiency, but not totally there yet. In any case, I'm far more excited by the transition's prospects than I am concerned about them.

Which causes even more concern among friends and family.

I suspect it's because many people define themselves externally and find my attitudes threatening... maybe that's wrong... maybe it's just my fantasies talking.

I would prefer to see the full collapse of America happen right now. I welcome it, honestly.

I realize that's opposite how most feel.

Anonymous said...

I know people just like what you're talking about.

Most of the humans I've met in my 50 years would piss or shit themselves if they had to spend a week in the woods.

After that week, if they survived, they'd be less inclined to soil their pants, sure. But most are terrified by the prospect of detachment from industrial society for that long.

They like their White Man's Fires, the great majority of humans I've known.

ergo said...

Again: what is the fear or problem or discomfort arising from considering an anarchist system?

None. My fear is reconstituting the imperial death state via coercive military structures that result from violent resistance in the absence of widespread anarchist practice. Also the rivers of blood that would result. Is there a historical basis to doubt that this would occur? Though I agree it would be more moral for us to kill ourselves than kill others.

Incidentally, I think anarchist sentiment is fairly broad among the population, even if it's not often articulated in those terms.

Anonymous said...

Also, cuneyt:

Remember the Blair Witch Project movie?

Did you watch that?

Did it scare you?

I submit the whole premise of that movie's "horror" or "scariness" is the average American's total fear of being in the woods for 3 days. If you know the areas around Seneca Creek in northern Montgomery County, you know: there is NOTHING threatening or dangerous around there, and it is IMPOSSIBLE to get lost: walk to the stream and head in either direction for a mile or so and you'll find "civilization." So what's scary about that setting and story? Nothing.

Yet it was successful as a "horror."



Totally agree with that 8:46pm post, especially the "Incidentally" part. Especially that. I think the corruption of the State is being highlighted terrifically now.

But I still think people don't talk openly about it because there's some bizarre drive to use the Chris Hedges definition of anarchism, rather than the literal and fleshed-out one. In other words, I think people tend to automatically see McCarthy's The Road as a certainty if we don't have a State to protect us.

ergo said...

But I still think people don't talk openly about it because there's some bizarre drive to use the Chris Hedges definition of anarchism

I think that's mostly a function of ignorance and years of indoctrination about "leaders", "leadership", etc. I can say from personal experience I was almost completely ignorant about anarchism until the past three years or so, and I'm not the only one. I'm kind of surprised how sympathetic people are to it when I talk about it with them for more than a couple seconds. Most people just haven't ever heard the word discussed in any context except maybe dismissed with the usual claptrap equating it with chaos or molotov-cocktail-throwing youth in black masks. I think to the extent that people expose themselves to it (which will be known immediately through data-mining technology), there will be a greater public campaign to demonize it. But it's difficult to put anti-authoritarian leanings back in the box after they have been released. Especially if (I would argue, without any real evidence) those leanings were latent since birth.

Jack Crow said...

Since this conversation has moved far abreast of my last batch of replies, a question from history:

To what extent was the "Makhnovist" experiment a success?

And if it wasn't, why not?

Also, can there be a conception of anarchist/anti-authoritarian resistance that preserves its own biases without also betraying them?

I think the communist critique - going back to Marx, and continuing through to Senex, is valid to some extent or another, depending on time and place.

But, where the communists fail, I think, is in their rather blind faith in future devolution.

I prefer them to the progressives who are now only the nominal topic of this discussion, but I fear they would gladly settle accounts after any lasting success.

So, echoing Lenin, what is to be done?

Our friends over SMBIVA way have, in their own rights, grasped the futility of active resistance, which explains the preference for contrarianism and economism.

And Monsieur IOZ retreated to a delightful nihilism.

Are these the alternatives?

Or should all our effort be directed towards the tools-to-build-the-tools stage?

Will that buy us (assuming we are even a cohesive lot) enough time to withstand the criminalization which is coming, alongside the fall out from austerity?

Or will it prove a terribly stupid gamble to abide too long and then feel the bite of history as from an asp or traitorous lover?

Jack Crow said...

Or to put it more briefly: Was John Brown wrong, or just too early/late?

Abonilox said...

OK. I just haven't had time to read this whole thread, but I can't pass this by and not say, yes yes yes. So what to do, what to do, what to do...

It's rotting already. We don't have to kill it. It will die one way or another. Question is, will it take us all with it?

It's the culture, Jack, right? That's where the poison is, isn't it? We have self induced brain damage. Compromise is what we do. Just to get through the day in a thousand different ways. And if it's the human race we care about, then bugging out ain't gonna make any difference.

Coldtype said...

I would prefer to see the full collapse of America happen right now. I welcome it, honestly.

I realize that's opposite how most feel.

Particularly those of us with young ones to raise. A disorderly collapse sounds like a mighty river of blood to me...

ergo said...

Or to put it more briefly: Was John Brown wrong, or just too early/late?

As I would say before, resistance to oppression is "justified". However, let's look at the cost of violence and ask some questions if we want to evaluate this.

What effect did John Brown have on escalating tensions between the North and South? Did this have any effect in precipitating the civil war? Were the 600,000 killed worth the change in designation for imported Africans from slave to freeman? Was the degradation of Jim Crow superior to the degradation of slavery following the collapse of the unsustainable occupation of the South? Was the centralization of the federal government in the hands of banks and later robber barons as a result of the war that led to the corporatization of America worth it? Has the association of secession with slavery deprived decentralists of their most valuable tool in the eyes of the masses?

If it sounds like I have an easy answer to those questions, I can assure you I don't.

Anonymous said...

Was John Brown wrong, or just too early/late?

As the second clause suggests: it was his timing, or his choice to remain an American, that was wrong. His impulse, the motive to seek equality for those who were being enslaved, oppressed, maltreated... definitely not wrong!

Assuming America in its societal pre-adolescence would be less selfish, that's what (in hindsight, at my present waypoint in time) was wrong.

As a culture, America is like a 16-year-old boy with a new driver's license and a very fast, powerful car. Prone to destruction and damage because of poor judgment, lack of experience, and way too much self-interest combined with a new flush of hormonal energy and drive.

That's America, right now.

Can America make it to adulthood, or will it die in a reckless crash caused by seeking too much of everything way too soon/fast?

I think we see what's happening. The car is going about 90 mph, straight for a hefty concrete bridge abutment. And the driver, he's drunk off his ass and getting a blowjob from an equally stupid and hormonally charged other human. (The other human can be a boy if you're gay, or a girl if you're hetero.)

The blow-job-giver would be our culture, what surrounds us, and what most of us Americans allow to define us despite our conscience saying otherwise when in private self-counsel.

Anonymous said...


I don't get that drive, honestly. If things are collapsing, they are collapsing whether you are a parent or not. Whether you'd like them to be collapsing, or not.

It's just what's going on. To use that modern cliche that I really hate,

it is what it is.

Whether you want things to not collapse, or prefer more order in the collapse -- well, tough toenails! That's not how life works.

Parents who raise their kids today to think we have the Land O'Plenty Forever... wow. I can't begin to describe the poor judgment of such parents.

Well, actually I can begin to describe it, but I won't insult them by doing so. I'll only observe that most parents are shitty at being parents because they have kids way before they should, because of horniness + poor planning, or eagerness to fit in with the American cultural model. You know the model: finish college (or HS if lower class), get married, have kids, enslave yourself to a boss while raising kids you barely see and tell yourself your workaholism is "for the kids, to give them a better life." ETC ETC.

Not an accusation there. Just an observation, watching as my friends have kids they never see and watching them try to make up for it with expensive vacations, expensive toys, expensive schools... status symbols, not nurturing.

As I said: America is a randy teen, as a culture.


I made my choice long ago to not be a parent, largely because I recognized Malthusian carrying capacity issues and wanted no part of that game, and because I knew I wouldn't be ready to raise a child until... well until right about now, at age 50.

I'm not patting myself on the back here. I'm simply explaining my view. And I realize it's not exactly friendly or familiar, this view of mine. Ahhh well. We can't all fit into or follow the same pattern, can we?

Just don't act like SOME parents and feel the urge to destroy me because my view threatens you somehow... please.

Anonymous said...

What effect did John Brown have on escalating tensions between the North and South?

One man can't really cause that much havoc. It takes a whole lot of people working together to cause that much havoc -- except in rare cases like one man with his finger on the button of a nuke-packed missile, for example. But merely by working for emancipation, John Brown was not the sole motor of the Civil War. That's just what we're taught in school, to teach obeisance and subordination to bigger authority.

John Brown at Harper's Ferry is probably the most salient lesson taught to discourage anarchist sentiment. Especially when one considers how it's taught in most schools: as a sad idealism, or as the fulcrum for the start of the Civil War.

If you ask me: the Civil War was made inevitable by slavery and industrialization... the indicia and emblems of individual selfishness being primary, and community interest being "naive" (or whatever people of America's first century called it). The South wronged humanity with slavery; the North with industrialization... both rooted in selfish greed, arrogance, and a will to impose an individual desire upon an entire nation.

Can't really blame John Brown for that.

It would be like trying to blame John Hinckley for Reagan's in-office Alzheimer's.

ergo said...

Can't really blame John Brown for that.

I don't. I'm mainly asking what has been accomplished through the use of violence. I'm not really asking that rhetorically either. I am open to historical examples.

Cüneyt said...

Thanks for the explanation, Karl; I wish you luck.

I don't see anarchist sentiment, unless you consider it egoist anarchy to tout self-reliance as a virtue. As Karl puts it, self-reliance can be anarchistic, but most people mean it as a propertied security maintained by the society they claim not to need, but merely dominate.

Karl, again:
Its "boo" moments and supernatural atmosphere creeped me out, but I'm not scared of the woods. I like humanity, for all its flaws--that's why I want to work in and on it--but I don't have the fear you talk about which has probably been part of American culture since 1606. The Christian impulse taught that the wilds were dangerous, too. The Europeans had of course destroyed their forests and had forgotten how much the wilds had helped the Germans escape Roman domination. More on civ's relationship with wilds in a bit.

I don't know if that's rhetorical, but my answer is this: Makhno would be rejected by most bourgeois anarchists, and egoists, and anarcho-capitalists and so on. He would be not be termed as a "true anarchist" by them because he was a collectivist.

I feel Makhnovism was a success because it was one more chance to experiment with devolution. If we reject the allegations that he was himself a despot, he seems to have tried to wield power in a war zone without forming the rigid hierarchies and dictatorship that followed.

As a symbol, it was a failure and a success; it, along with the Paris Commune before and the Spanish Civil War after it, can be taken as Lenin and Mao and Castro would have it, as proof that authoritarianism is necessary to wage a successful revolution. But I would say that the true interpretation of the symbol is to be wary of liberals and authoritarian leftists. Makhno was betrayed, just like Barcelona was betrayed. Where to go from there, I don't know.

I need to read more about Makhno; I'd always assumed he died with his stateless region, but I see that he survived and wrote more about his experiment. Perhaps that is also a success; when people get out and say "this is what is possible," be they Makhno or Blair/Orwell, it can broaden the mind. I know that when I first read Homage to Catalonia, I was shocked that I hadn't read it earlier. My mind opened quite a bit, and I felt embarrassed at how cynical I had been, how convinced I was of what was and was not possible.

To be continued.

ergo said...


I don't see anarchist sentiment

Obviously there is little to none in those invested in partisan politics of the duopoly. Among the rest of the population, the 40-50-60-70?% of the population that does not and will not vote because they know it is pointless, there is a lot, if we define anarchism as radical skepticism to authority, the state, power systems, control. Like I said, it's not articulated that way, and people have a lot of unquestioned authoritarian conceptions as a result of ignorance and years of indoctrination. But the extraordinarily low approval ratings of congress, political parties, institutions, etc., popular opposition to military interventions, bailouts, Big Business, the TSA, etc. Maybe that isn't latent anarchist sentiment, but what do you call it?

Cüneyt said...

States are serial entities, most times. We can't say that it is inevitable that "the state" will die. Sure, this or that state will die--they all do. But as you say, the question is what happens to us; as I've heard in many discussions about Israel/Palestine, states do not have rights to exist, but people do, and that's where I concern myself. But goodness; "it's rotting." What you see as rot, I see as state function. The machine's not broken. The media, the military, the government, the economy--they're not broken. They are working as designed. So let's not wait for history to do our work for us.

The easy answer would be to say that the state harms a great many young ones. And it is true, but I think your concern deserves more thought. And to tell you the truth, it's a concern I have, too. I've got a couple children of my own (and I agree with Mr. Crow's hatred of the possessive there).

I know that the limits of my imagination are not the limits of the possible, but as I see it, I cannot imagine the great numbers of people who currently exist can survive without some elements of industrial production. I can imagine a lot of industry's problems stripped from it. Consumerism, glut of disposable products, advertising... It is hard to imagine, but I don't think any of these are essential. Great numbers of people can survive without them.

But they need food. And currently, industrial agriculture appears the only way that billions of people can exist. Much can be achieved through better distribution, of course, and industrial agriculture still fails millions of people at the bottom.

So can there be an industrial anarchy? Can we devolve power in the factories and the workplaces and not threaten your and my children? Perhaps the war would still threaten them--war always hits the weak hardest. But I also think about what comes after. And that's why I'm sympathetic to anarcho-primitivism, but it's not my main plank. I believe that Karl and others should be able to live off the land and support themselves, but I don't believe that billions can live in that way. Hunting and gathering will not work for billions, and it is not their fault to have been brought into this tyrannical nursery.

BUT--I believe that taking to the wilds should be permitted, and that's why I am still concerned about any attempt to wed anarchy and industry. Even if it is possible, then we have one of my favorite statements of Nietzsche with which to contend. I'll paraphrase, because I can't be bothered to look it up exactly.

In short, what is suppressed within a group is externalized. If a group is made up of equals, it will still project its power outside. An ostensibly anarchist society may run the risk of dominating others, and that is why I fear for the men and women of the woods and wilds. Even if we liberate the factories from within, how do we prevent the numerous from swamping the few? Anyway, I'm spinning in circles. Pardon my thoughts.

Cüneyt said...

"Maybe that isn't latent anarchist sentiment, but what do you call it?"

A good start. Potential, maybe?

I don't believe that dissatisfaction or skepticism alone represents anarchist thought. Anarchism is not just an absence of some things; it must also be something positive. I don't just want to talk about absence of tyranny. I want to talk about freedom. (This isn't a response to you, really. Just another declaration.)

This is going to sound snobbish, and I hope I can say this without sounding like I believe theory conquers all. There is a lot that theory cannot do. It cannot be a substitute for action, or for experience, but I do believe that principles matter. Disciplined thought matters. Right now people are profoundly depoliticized. They don't just reject the political show; they reject the political altogether, and a big part of that is, as you say, the acceptance of official marketing.

I don't blame anybody for the way they organize their thoughts and life, however. I want to be clear about that. Plenty of people organize their thoughts and do NOTHING. And plenty of people are indeed working very hard, perhaps too hard to think about power seriously. But there are many as well who claim they have too little time and work too hard to give such matters any thought, but a more honest answer is that they're not interested in it as much as they are in certain pastimes. Of course, that difference in priority is their right, but I wish people didn't claim weakness as much. The people I've met who earnestly lack power are usually much more courageous in advancing themselves than those I meet who are comfortable and uninspired.

Okay. I'm taking a fucking break; I tire of reading my own words here and need to get back to other writing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Cuneyt. Nice to have bridged the prior antagonism!

Thought: the extent to which people see industrialization as needed depends largely on the extent to which they grew up on industrialization.

Why have numerous "superpowers" been unable to conquer Afghanistan, a non-industrial country and people?

Do Afghanis hate their fellow human more than Americans do, simply because of living in a non-industrial setting?

I think there are some loaded and perhaps flawed assumptions in the conclusion that industrialization is needed to "feed everyone."

I also think that not every human born deserves to live to old age in luxury and comfort. Humans are not different from dogs or wolves in this sense: the weak die before adulthood or old age. That's just how it is. Human empathies try hard to conquer that sad fact, to obliterate it. Our whole industrialized "medical" system is built around the fear of mortality and the desire to overcome biology.

Hubris, baby! Hubris!

ergo said...


Anarchism is not just an absence of some things; it must also be something positive. I don't just want to talk about absence of tyranny. I want to talk about freedom.

I don't disagree really, but, as with op's "treading water" post at SMBIVA, I wonder if that is necessary. Do we need anything other really than to "say" no to imperialism, warmongering, plutocracy, etc.? In other words, does anarchism need to be anything other than the restriction of authority and power to nothing?

But yeah I agree with the rest of what you said.

Cüneyt said...

Likewise, Karl. I'll try to behave myself.

As far as Afghanistan, I don't know if how sparsely it's populated or how representative it is of global fertility, blah blah blah. It does, with minimal industry, do well, all in all. Freedom there is not a matter of industrial or agricultural modes, whatever the Western dominators seem to believe.

But I don't know how well pre-industrial modes of consumption work. Maybe I could do some fucking math and figure out what kind of bean we'd need to cultivate to feed us. There is definitely a lot of fat to trim, and the vast majority of industrial ag is to fatten people and fatten wallets. But could we cut it all down and support 6.7 billion? I believe we have too many people, but I can't shrug and leave it at that. That's my weakness, perhaps, but in my theory, I'm not willing to go where my personal fantasy certainly sits, which is anarcho-primitivism.

But as I said, I don't know. I just suspect that some big bit of the so-called Green Revolution depends on industrial production of chemicals, genetic engineering, and so on... I don't mean to justify Monsanto and the behemoth, but it's of great importance to me that we find a way to devolve power and allow the people who live right now to escape famine. You are right to be skeptical of the assumption that industry is needed, and if it can be cut without sacrificing either result, I'll go for it. That's my issue, though: I can't support an outcome that results in the death of billions.

In fact, that's one of the reasons I'm opposed to industrial capitalism in the first place.

And you're also right to question our excessive fear of pain, but I wonder where we draw the line. I like glass grinding so my nearsighted ass can see. I might be happy to live without new glasses if I could have clean air and water and spend most of my time with friends and telling stories around a hut, but I also know that people with other conditions have, well, other conditions... It's a question I haven't answered yet, but I can't say that your answer is wrong, even if I don't think it works for me.

It may not be necessary for the process of demolishing power, but to keep it that way for any length of time, you'd better have some idea. That may not be anarchism, but it has to be some kind of companion piece, because maintenance of power devolution is not going to be as simple as saying "don't do this, don't do that." Natural law is opportunism, and when power-over is present even in the womb, I say that maybe it is something essential and which can be avoided only with discipline and positive philosophy.

Coldtype said...

Now worries Karl, I don't see how your views could threaten me. You answered honestly and in good faith.

I recognize the type of parent you describe and they are indeed legion but it doesn't apply here. I was 33 and my wife 39 at the birth of our firstborn and we were ready. While I have to acknowledge the current trajectory of our death star of a nation that's still a long way off from being at peace with it given my responsibilities. Your life choices have given you the luxury of a dispassion on this matter that I cannot share from where I stand.

Devin Lenda said...

My bad, Jack. "You're dumb" is such a commonly used attack even in this part of the internet that I assumed you meant it in both senses, even though you clarified it. Lazy reading and my misdirection of annoyance that's meant for IOZ and some others.

Anonymous said...

Coldtype, glad the description is inapplicable. Wasn't meant as personally accusatory; was just babbling about where your comment took my mind on the subject.