Alright! Here is the new call for submissions, on the theme Anarchism and Romance. We at the LV Night Review are very excited about this topic and can't wait to read the submissions! As an extra incentive, we've really stepped up the distribution and will be sending the next issue out to distros and infoshops around the world, in fact if you want to get on the mailing list, send us your address! Also, feel free to shoot us any questions at email@example.com about the topic or the zine in general, or pass this on to anyone you know who might be interested and remember you only have 2 and a half weeks to complete the assignment! Make it work!
Anarchism and Romance
It is said that anarchism is the only true calling for hopeless romantics, and we at the LV Night Review tend to agree. It just seems, with their mutual affection for lofty sweeping philosophies and starry-eyed idealism, anarchism and romance were destined to be together. But what does that relationship look like, and, more importantly, by what terms do we define romance? If you consider the romantic rituals that we take for granted, long walks in nature or candle-lit dinners, it starts to seem like romance is a strange and mysterious religion-like practice. Not failing to take into account the widely accepted gender assumptions of corporate romance such as Valentine's day or the hetero-normative "rom-com" behemoth, its clear that the idea of romance poses a problem. But let's not get too hasty; let's take a minute and really think about romance and its connection to anarchism. Here's the challenge:
Write a 700-1000 word piece on the connection between anarchism and romance. Deadline: JUNE 20.
Just in case you're lost, here are some ideas to lubricate your whistle, so to speak.
Short Non-Fiction or Fiction:
*Anarchist Love Stories: Not to get too crimethinc-y, but everyone loves a good anarchist love story - we're humans after all and why wouldn't we like reading about love!
*Anarchist Erotic Love Stories: Self-explanatory!
*How can romance be revised to be less hetero-normative and more libratory, or conversely, is romance an antiquated notion that anarchists should dispense with completely?
*Is romance a crucial element to anarchism and if so, how can we incorporate it into our daily lives?
*What is the connection (if any) of romance and romanticism? What does anarchist romanticism look like and how does it avoid, or fail to avoid, the pitfalls of nationalist and fascist romanticism, which use "folk" music, "folk" logic, and "folk" morality to construct racism, homophobia, xenophobia and patriarchy?
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Mental Health and Counter-Culture
- Madi, Bloomington, IN
I know demons are real because I can see them.” I’m sitting in my mother’s car alone with my sister; outside snow falls slowly to the barely too warm pavement. “We can’t always trust what we see, Paige,” I offer back. After that it was over, I’d lost her trust for the remainder of my visit home. She wants to be dropped off at her apartment, she won’t hug me goodbye. Malice, fear and hatred is the look of farewell I receive from my beloved sibling. It had been the most she had said to me in two weeks and I was stuck in a hard place; try to help her recognize her delusions or enjoy the brief moment of connection she was offering me. I chose the former and proved myself untrustworthy. What was I doing wrong and why does my own sister not recognize me anymore?
My sister is crazy, paranoid schizophrenic, an extreme case. She was first hospitalized and put on meds after she kicked a cop in the nuts at DIA. She was twenty-three at the time. God spoke to her and told her that her home was going to be bombed and that he was going to give her France to rule over. Paige kicked the cop because he was thwarting her escape, and she feared for her life. This was a real and terrifying experience for her. My mother and I drove behind the ambulance where she lay in four point restraints (she had also assaulted several medical staff) on her way from emergency room to mental hospital. Her face was the only part of her visible through the small rear window. Her eyes were wild and hair disheveled. She wore her mouth in a grin twisted to the side. I sat passenger next to my functionally schizophrenic mother, trying to hide my tears, my face contorted into an expression similar to Paige’s. Even through the bitter pain, we were relieved that Paige would now be getting the help she so desperately needed.
The onset of the disease, “the blossoming” as they call it, is a difficult time for any family. It signifies the death of your loved one as you know them. Most people however, can find solise in their unshakable faith in western medicine and the mental health industry. I, as a radical, had a much harder time. I’ve always preferred herbs, diet and stress-free living over drugs and medications. My lifestyle worked for me and I only heard stories from those whom had survived western medicine’s sordid version of mental health and now rallied against it. I had no reason to ever challenge my mistrust of the mental health industry. From my experience psychologists existed to pump money into the pockets of unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies. I couldn’t stand the idea of my darling Paige, my best friend, being turned over to these predators to be used as just another lab rat, pumped full of meds to feed the machine.
That was before I saw her inperson, that was before she shared with me just what was in her head and what the consequences of these thoughts were. That was before she proved she was literally unable to care for herself.
People, friends who are fellow radicals, mostly, ask me about Paige. They tell me how sorry they are that she is medicated, tell me that the side effects are worse than the symptoms. They say things like, “Who are we to deem her thoughts and her reality false.” Well intentioned though these people may be, they infuriate me. Where does this deep understanding and knowledge of schizophrenia come from? Have they ever intimately known a schizophrenic? Have they ever been one? Or are these just ideas free-floating amongst the radical “free thinking” populace about what the disease is. People often confuse schizophrenia for multiple personalities disorder, or think that schizophrenia is akin to the last time they took mushrooms and saw pretty pink ponies and silver snow flakes. Why medicate that?
My sister sees demons. She believes people are trying to kill her. She has told me that she has felt someone stab her in the chest, watched the blade enter, felt the blood trickle out. She hears birds demanding her to kill the sinners, dogs bark of god’s anger towards her. Paige has seen her boss pour her a dose of poison, then drink it for fear of loosing her job. These are her hallucinations, not pink ponies and silver snowflakes, but rather a living nightmare. They are terrifying, painful and debilitating. She cannot hold down a job; she leaves home in the winter wearing nothing but a shirt and jeans and is an easy mark for predators. I’ve watched forty year old ex-cons, scum fucks and generally unsavory folk drawn to her like flies. I’ve had to assemble groups of friends to chase abusers out of her life. Paige’s disease renders her scared, pained and vulnerable. However, once on medication her delusions fade, hallucinations lessen and she begins to trust her family again. Her outward behavior improves, and on a good day she can pass as a little awkward. She even smiles sometimes.
It is for these reasons I advocate for medication. Sure, Paige has suffered side effects such as lethargy, weight gain and depression but the positive has by far outweighed the negative. I’m not saying that I’m endorsing the rampant prescribing of depression and anxiety medications. The industry is still corrupt, but there is a basis for it’s inception and sometimes it gets something right. I will never trust the western medical institution implicitly, the way the majority of Americans do, but my ideas on it have turned around, considerably. I have no choice to trust the doctors, as they have held together the most broken of people, and because, without them, my family would crumble.
Work With What You Got
- mac, Denver, CO
I am the kind of anarchist who associates Science with technology, progress and change. The word reminds me of industry, academia, efficiency and productivity. Western medicine, chemical mining and interstellar exploration. Science represents a desire for more. Nothing is sacred. Bigger, faster, easier, stronger, thinner, deeper, better, more. It means everything should be broken down, isolated, separated or combined. Science tells me that anything can and should be “improved” and that whatever it is that we have right now, it ain’t good enough. I don’t know how exactly I developed these associations (for I am also the kind of anarchist who took AP Physics as an elective), but they are troubling to my fragile, socially-conscious sensibilities and so in my daily life, I try to avoid the grandeur of Science all it carries with it. While I don’t want to take my resources for granted (the ones I have directly because of science or merely from my wealth, whiteness and other privileges that this *grand* civilization has bestowed upon me) I try to live simply. I try to honor things for what they are. I try to be resourceful, practical and responsible. Ya know, I try to work with what I got.
I collect water where it falls from the sky. I fix salvaged bicycles with abandoned tools. I read books from the library. I repair plumbing leaks with rubber bands and fabricate hinges from tin cans. I don’t carry a cell phone. I lift with the muscles I have. I learn history from my neighbors. I try to trust and lean on the people near me. My favorite flavor is the one in front of me. I patch those pants. Glue those shoes. Eat that trash.
And moreover, when my team of big shot Endocrinologists suggest that I transplant insulin-producing cells into my pancreas, I say “hey man, thanks but no thanks. I wanna work with what I got.”
Okay. I am a Type 1 Diabetic. For 15 years I have been unable to survive without multiple daily injections of bio-engineered insulin and regular monitoring of blood glucose levels with hand-held electronic machines that read in milligrams per deciLiter. That’s right. I order medications online from international pharmaceutical companies. My closet is full of sterile-wrapped plastic syringes, alcohol swabs and computerized strips. The only expiration dates I regard are those on my insulin vials. For seven years while I used an external insulin pump I could occasionally be caught excusing myself to go “change my batteries.” My glucose meter is the first thing I see every morning and the last thing I see before I go to sleep. I get my retinas scanned, kidneys screened, blood work drawn, and Hemoglobin A1C checked every few months. I have lived this way for as long as I can remember, and (until industrial collapse) I always will.
So how is it that I imagine I can “work with what I got” when exactly what I got is a deadly auto-immune disease? And where do I get off condemning Science when I won’t last more than two days without my medication? And even if I merely tried to avoid the unsustainable forces of Science in my daily life, when would I take my insulin injections? And what, Mac, exactly is the point of this article?
Are we to conclude that hypocrisy of this magnitude is inherent to lifestyle activism and angsty privileged anarchists like myself? (Or is that another article...)
Do we simply sigh, “Science: Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.” Or more accurately “Science: we can’t live with it, I can’t live without it.”
Or is the conclusion more personal? Is it that I fear and distrust the things I am forced to depend on—hence I dislike Science—and I would rather distract myself with 101 Uses for a Busted Bicycle Tube than acknowledge my own powerlessness and denial?
Or maybe, dear reader, the conclusion is that my attempt to “use what I got” is the real bad science. The idea that life can be distilled into a slogan (or many slogans) is the worst hypothesis. There are no proofs or formulas or truths for this. Not everything can be described as cause and effect, a constant or a variable, a hypothesis, then experiment, then result. Maybe it’s Science that taught me I should have no variables or unknowns in my life, that I should adhere to a consistent process, that I should isolate all the parts until the original whole doesn’t make sense anyone. The same Science that objectifies people by making them subjects, creates poisons first and antidotes later, and just won’t accept belief without proof. The Science that told this little girl it would cure diabetes. The Science that promised to take care of us all. Yup. That’s the one. So fuck you, Science. Take your desire for more, your race for progress, your future plans and your fucking islet cell transplants and shove ‘em.
Sure, we conclude that I am grotesquely reliant on Science—its most wasteful, unequal, capitalist aspects. But just as my body cannot support itself, the systems that support me now are unsustainable on the most global scale. AND I want to know and honor that reality every day. I don’t want to ignore it or justify it away. I don’t want to break it down, compartmentalize it or dilute it. I don’t want to desire something different, something bigger, better, easier, stronger or more. I want to know that this world--with all the problems and sometimes even-more disastrous solutions--and this body---with this fucking disease--is what I got. And I want to honestly and truly use it.
Or maybe the point of the article is just that I wanted to talk about my diabetes. Seriously, LVN you could pick any topic and Mac would turn it into a rant about diabetes.
My Conversion to Chaos
- Meg Spohn, Ph.D., Denver, CO
Something wasn’t right. If the model was going to work, the numbers had to be simpler. If they were simpler, though, they were too artificial or something — the model wouldn’t predict jack-all. For days, I kept setting the work down, doing something else, coming back to it...from what I could tell, the model was actually working the way it was supposed to. It just, well, sucked. It sucked out loud, it sucked in nine keys, Marvin K. Mooney, it sucked, sucked, sucked.
The trouble was that the Cold War was over, and the field of international relations was suddenly without any grand theory (and still is). The bipolar order had melted away, a fifty-year historical fluke, and the last generation of scholars to have studied and understood anything else could not be reached for comment. As a young grad student, the Cold War models I had inherited were crude linear statistical ones, and they worked okay a little more often than they didn’t. With only two variables to deal with, that was probably good enough. But the world had become messy again, and those models could barely handle the two poles they had—they were not set up to handle a mess, otherwise known as reality. Plus, the field of international relations attracts people with superior analytical skills, but who fear math. I thought it showed in the models, but being old enough to have had my teachers tell me that girls were good at English while boys were good at math, I had giant cavernous holes in my own mathematical education and I didn’t really know what was wrong. I just knew why. And that the models sucked. That much was obvious.
Old-school game theory (like the Prisoner’s Dilemma) had brought me to dispute resolution systems design: trying to find new patterns and methods of resolving conflicts. I had been doing largely qualitative research, but some patterns are only visible in the numbers, and they stay hidden within the purely qualitative, like those dot tests they use to figure out if you’re colorblind. Being numberblind was keeping the insights—and the solutions—away.
I remembered hearing about chaos theory, and someone recommending James Gleick’s Chaos to me, so in an effort to fill in some of those educational holes and understand what was exactly wrong with the models (besides glaring suckitude), I read it. It changed my life.
Algebra hadn’t made sense to me because I didn’t understand what the applications were. Why the hell did I need to know what the slope of a line was? What, for the luvva Mike, was that ever going to do for me? Fix my car? Make me a sandwich? Get me laid? My teachers wouldn’t tell me what it was good for, or they couldn’t. Many years later, I learned that you could use it to determine things like how steep to build bridges, but by then it was too late. I was already a heretic.
Life is messy, Chaos taught me. It is not bipolar, and it never was. Natural and human systems don’t behave in a tidy, linear way—but they are also far from random. We can look at complex patterns that appear random (if only until we know what we’re looking at), and glean insights from them. We don’t have to look at little scraps of the system, we can look at the whole thing and process the patterns, large and small. Chaos was (and is) a new science, but it’s heading toward things like math that could be used for building clouds, and I thought, the holy grail of analysis: real-world predictive models.
The question was whether I really bought it. It made a lot of sense to my head, but at one point, so had parachute pants. I asked the professor who was holding my hand (in a dignified, helpful, scholarly way, not in a priest-and-Cub Scout way) in my forays into dispute resolution systems design. He said I was wasting my time and I shouldn’t bother with it. The few others I cautiously consulted didn’t think chaos had any value at all, and discouraged me from continuing to look into it. But the theories they did value didn’t make sense anymore. They were theoretical dead ends in the “new” world order, leftover pieces from a lost board game. Cold War Monopoly had only had that one set of dice, too. I had to test whether chaos worked—at least better than parachute pants.
I found one concept I thought I would be able to test without a huge computer, which I didn’t have access to, then, and that I could probably even test by hand: the Cantor Dust. It was used to understand the pattern of noise in data transmissions. They scale: that is, they are self-similar — they form similar patterns and shapes of noise and silence whether you look at them from the perspective of the whole transmission, or a piece of it, or a piece of the piece. It reminded me of what soldiers say about conflict: months of boredom followed by minutes of battle and violence and raw terror, followed by more boredom. Essentially, I wondered if battles scaled like Cantor Dusts. It seemed like a good test.
I went deep into the bowels of Widener Library, many floors underground, where you could go to do research and not see another living soul, and began to look up the details of conflicts. I decided to measure intensity by battle deaths, because they were the easiest number to get. I checked out a number of different (U.S.) conflicts over time, plotted them with graph paper and a mechanical pencil, busted out a calculator when I had a fair amount of data points, and lo and behold, the battle deaths did seem self-similar: they had the same kind of pattern over the century, over a part of the century, over the course of a conflict, over the course of part of that conflict, a year, a month... and sometimes that was about as close as I could look at it with the information I could get. Still, the results gave me chills. I was already in this spooky old library with retrofitted electricity and the smell of bookbinder’s glue in the stale air, of course, but it was eerie in itself nonetheless. An underground door next to me opened and air pressure moved a sort of stale wind through it whose molecules had maybe been fresh air when George Marshall delivered his famous keynote address on the ground above.
It all made intuitive sense to me: the colliding eddies in air and history and thought, and I found my way back up from the dry, dark underworld into a crisp autumn day full of fractals. I still had to do my frowned-upon research in secret, but I was a true believer, newly converted. I’d have to go elsewhere to complete my graduate work, or to declare jihad on sucky models. I had also become a lot more interested in the beginning of conflict than I had ever been in the end of it. I was a heretic. So be it.
Eventually, I found enough other chaoticists, chaoticians, fuzzy logicians, topologists, complexity theorists, and other nonlinear dynamicists of one kind or another that we could actually have conferences that were legit enough to get reimbursed and stuff. I guess that makes me more of a cultist or a zealot than a heretic now (legitimacy in numbers and all that), but it has really helped with making less sucky models. My most recent article, which appeared in the January 2008 issue of Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology and Life Sciences, is about how societies’ stability unravels into violence. I used a method called orbital decomposition to coax the patterns out of four qualitative case studies. Each of the analyses turned up interesting things that weren’t obvious in the qualitative data, like a good non-sucky model should. I hope it helps. Because that, by definition, would also not suck.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
***CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS! ANARCHISM AND SCIENCE!***
Anarchists have long discussed the role of science in our politics, ranging from arguing that anarchism is the highest stage of science to arguing that science is the root of oppression, hierarchy and authority. What does anarchist science look like in the 21st century, and how would it fight disease, promote the differently-abled and support those with mental illness?
The LV Night Review is the companion publication of Louis Vuitton Night, a bi-monthly variety show, aka: "Denver's Most Pensive Anarchist Variety Show." For more info on the show, check out myspace.com/louisvuittonnight. The LV Night Review is published monthly, so, if you can't make this deadline, don't despair! Just email us to get on the LVN Writer's Email-list and we'll keep you posted on themes down the road. Moreover, if you would like to check out articles from previous topics make your way to anarchyisforeveryone.org!
April 1st, 2008!
Classical anarchists like Emma Goldman discussed anarchism as a rigorous scientific method, and theorized that authority and oppression were derived from a mystical/un-scientific world view. However, in this day and age, where we've seen the horrors of modern science, from animal testing to the atom bomb, and seen the implementation of science in furthering racism, homophobia and patriarchy, we cannot afford to be so optimistic. In fact, it is completely understandable why many anarchists today view science with contempt and disgust, positing a future where people rely entirely on folk knowledge and common sense to construct our daily living.
But like it or not, modern science is responsible for the survival of millions of people through agricultural advancements, medical technology and even things we might take for granted such as plumbing, heating systems and clean water. Are we as anarchists ready to accept the consequences of throwing out all the scientific achievements of capitalism? Or, is there an intersection between science and anarchism, and what does that intersection look like?
Your submission can address the topic directly or be related in whatever way you see fit! We are especially interested in any anarchist science experiments that people might have and a great scientific diy project would be lovingly appreciated!
*In your opinion, what would an anarchist science look like, and how would it fight disease, promote the differently-abled and support those with mental illness?
*The DIY movement (when not being co-opted by capitalists) has created a foundation for an anarchic-science methodology, but is it enough to provide the medicine and technology necessary for a complete withdrawal from modern science?
*Have any scientific developments/experiments from your experience living in an anarchist co-op? Share them!
*Cyber-punks: love them or leave them?
*How about any personal reflections or stories about a scientific anarchy or anarchic-science? We would love to hear 'em!
***HOW TO SUBMIT***
Simply email submissions to: firstname.lastname@example.org!
We will not edit content in any way, but we will edit all pieces for grammar, spelling and length, if necessary. Also, we generally get more submissions than we can print, at any one time so if your fabulous piece doesn’t make it in the review, we will definitely include it in the online version.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Direct Action Decadence
- Carrie Bradshaw, The Queen City of the Plains (and don’t you forget it!)
In our great philosophy of big dreams and bigger hopes, is it too much to ask that anarchists carry themselves with grace and elegance? If I think back to all the time I’ve spent as an anarchist, my fondest memories are the ones where we managed to combine anarchy with the absurdly decadent. The feasts that took three days to prepare, the dance parties in decrepit palaces, champagne in that sketchy-ass hot tub, or the general un-governability of passionate hope (and by passionate hope, I might mean idiotic optimism!). Those times, when against our better judgment, we gambled it all and won!
Anarchists Need Decadence:
Yes it’s true. Anarchism is too wet and wild to turn into another moral caveat or a code of behaviors! Unfortunately, anarchism is stuck in the box of aesthetic dirtiness and homebum soup (and whose to argue with fashion!) but let’s step it up a little! Adventuring doesn’t have to always be macho-macho-manarchy, nothing’s wrong with an elegant adventure - frolicking in a field or something, and by field, I mean free store! Anarchy has a long history of celebrating beauty and artistic freedom, sometimes we just forget it. Decadence forces us to get off our pedestal and frolic in the streets. Basically, no one frolics anymore.
Decadence Needs Anarchy:
Without a pragmatic approach to creating a world without hierarchy and authority, decadence is only another choice of consumption patterns. Yes it’s delightful to appreciate a fine wine and an exquisite cheese, but there’s nothing decadent about indulgence for indulgence’s sake. It’s meaningless, worthless, and in a word, base. Decadence has so much more potential to be thrilling and liberatory, but it needs to be placed in a radical context. Otherwise, instead of a dandy, you’re a yuppie, complicit to a system of strict moral codes and behaviors. There is nothing decadent about playing by the rules, or, for that matter, rules at all, is there?
Direct Action Decadence, a Primer:
1. Anarchist Vomitorium: The Romans created the delightful community building activity of eating, drinking, and fucking until everyone pukes into a trough of flowing water. People, now is the time.
2. DIY Spa: Spa refers to a water-centered medicine, which makes your own diy spa, easy breezy covergirl. Most spa recipes involve hot water and some soothing herbs, and if you are interested, you can always check out a book or two from the library. Give yourself a foot soak! Rub a little olive oil on your tootsies and soak in hot water, with herbs if you so desire. Afterwards, lugubriously rub lotion on feet and put on some cozy socks!
3. Tea Parties: No more f’n potlucks! You can still bring your burned peanut butter lentil mush but we’re drinking tea and champagne and eating cakes, no if ands or buts, just f’n butts!
4. All Night Dance Party: Self-explanatory, but here’s a few words of advice. Food not Bombs turns trash into fine dining, so try turning trashy music into an amazing dance party! Think Latoya, Just Wanna Dance. You absolutely must set the stage! Gone are the days of high school dance parties where everyone awkwardly shuffles around, in full lighting, whilst leering at one another. Eliminate the problem, in this case, light. You will need to either turn-off all the lights, or make a disco ball out of dumpstered cds that have been cut up and glued to a sphereical item, strapped to a slowly rotating motor (probably stolen from a craft store) and illuminated with a flashlight. It’s just got to happen.
5. Sex in Public: Be safe, be courteous, when you RSVP to a party, always be sure to come.
6. Art Swaps: These days plenty of a-political hipsters have these, but they were once an anarchist mainstay, something to look forward to and give you incentive to make something beautiful. You know you have some crappy painting of a deer with a banana in its antler sitting around somewhere, so why not trade it for something worth a damn!
7. Combine them all and see the beauty, touch the magic!
The Last Subway Car to Coney Island
- A Conversation between Roxanne Alive and Cookie Orlando
Typed up by Cookie Orlando, NYC
I was just talking about the party, like…
So this was on the train?
It was an 80s dance party on the train. And it was gonna be on the N train going to Coney Island. I wish I still had the flyer because the flyer was so good.
Did you organize it?
Yeah. I put it all together. My friend helped me make the flyers. Then we took over the last subway car on the N train, the infamous last subway car on the N train to Coney Island. So we all got onto that subway car, and there’s like complete absurdity because at first we all meet up at the subway and Dave isn’t there. I brought the boom box but Dave was supposed to bring all the music. He had made all these 80s mix CD’s and he was late.
So we were waiting on the subway platform and we were all in taffeta and lace and teased-out hair, plus all the kids who lived at KFC, all the squatter kids are there just like covered in patches and Mohawks and everyone’s just like totally fucking ludicrous looking, just waiting on the subway platform waiting for fucking Dave and we’re playing tag across the subway platform. And finally he shows up at the wrong stop and so we had to take the train to his stop. We finally find him and get on the train, and we’re going to take the train to Coney Island, get out at Coney Island, play skee-ball at the arcade, get back on the train and continue the dance party.
We get to Coney Island. We all pull out of the train and the arcade is closed because it’s winter and it’s midnight! So we get back on the train and we’re like “What the fuck are we gonna do?”
You could just do the dance party on the boardwalk.
But it was like cold. It was like January. So we keep dancing on the train. And we’re like hanging upside-down from the bars and everything… We get off at Atlantic Avenue ‘cause we decide we’re gonna go back to Fort Legit, which is like a house that a bunch of kids lived at way out in Brooklyn.
We had to transfer from the N train to the 4 train to get to the house, so we get off at the N platform at Atlantic Avenue, and I’m carrying this huge fucking boom box and wearing fishnets and high heels and tons of taffeta, and I’m carrying a boom box and just blasting lots of really terrible 80s pop music. And we go from the N platform, to the 4 platform, up the stairs, to the top of the 4 platform. There’s like an old lady, MTA workers, all on the platform, and everybody on the platform is into it. The old lady’s into it and the MTA workers are nodding their heads with their arms folded.
And we’re full-on spazzing out and dancing on the platform and I’m just like holding the boom box and having a great time and the fucking cops give me a ticket. And so the police come and they take me away from everybody else with my little boom box. They make me press the stop button on the tape, ‘cause of course it was a tape! Anyway I put down the boom box. I have to go down the stairs with the cops. And this is when I was squatting at the KFC, right? And so of course he wanted any mail we had to confirm our identity as a location. But I also didn’t have any address aside from the address of the KFC, but I couldn’t remember what the address at KFC was ‘cause we all just knew where it was. We knew how to get there by the hole in the fence that we took to the hole in the building that we took to the stairs. But I couldn’t be like “Hey officer, I live right on the other side of Mars Bar, through the hole in the fence behind the car, through the hole in the building. Can you write that on your ticket?”
Of course not! So the cops separate me out and they bring me down the stairwell and they’re asking me where I live. And I had to yell, I was like, “Andy, Andy Soda-Pop, where do we live?” And the cops are like “You’re not allowed to do that. You can’t ask somebody where your address is.” And I’m like “I just don’t remember my address, sorry.” So they write me a ticket with this ludicrous address. And then my friend Mark snatches it out of my hand and she’s like “It’s okay. My parents pay my rent. I’ll just tell them we had a really high energy bill this month.” So she made her parents pay my ticket.
But the best part was, that little old lady on the subway? When the cops took me away, she turned to one of my friends and she said, “If that were my daughter, I’d just kill those cops! What jerks!” This is some 60-year-old lady talking about killing cops on the 4 train platform! So then of course we all get back on the train and as soon as the train doors close, we hit the play button and start the dance party again. Then we got to my friends’ house and it was just this room of red lights and smoke and spilt booze and people making out all over the place and people dancing all over the place until morning. It was absurdly beautiful and it was absolutely amazing.
It also was my going-away party before I went and hitch-hiked around Mexico for a couple of months and the entire time I was gone, I didn’t bring my cell phone and the outgoing message on my voicemail was my friend Andy and my friend Mattie singing really really loud the chorus to some terrible Belinda Carlisle song. It was the most adorable thing in the world.
I think I may have heard that.
I’m pretty sure you did.
Anarchism & Decadence
- David Tacium, Montréal
If there is a line of continuity between anarchism and decadence, it would have to be read under the common current of romanticism and its notion of the counter-cultural hero, whose losing battle with industrialism has been well charted. Yet I cannot make the link without discomfort, considering the solitary disbelief of the decadent individual in light of the revolutionary dimension of anarchism, its vision of the possibility of a world moving forward into a transformed world where government will be abolished.
What, first of all, is decadence? Is it the primitivism in pop culture today, of which the signs go all the way from piercings to medieval combat? Does it mean getting wasted on ecstasy? It might, but let’s recognize first of all that like anarchy, it is not something which this generation invented. In fact, both currents gained their modern day momentum some 120 years ago (I’m being a bit arbitrary in giving 1890 as a date, but it was certainly a moment of flowering). I’m confident that readers know enough about the origins of anarchism. But what did Decadence mean back then?
Herbert Bahr, a prominent Austrian critique of the time who grappled with the question, was hardly alone in laying emphasis on the aesthetic dimension of experience, to which he added the value of mysticism and close attention to the changing states of the soul. Other-worldly preoccupations, surely. The decadent was one who sought to alter his own life, and at most his immediate surroundings, and to hell with the larger picture. It was the bourgeoios “gentleman” who was prone to decadence. He still is: witness the stereotype of consumer-oriented gay urban male, for instance, whom the American Right is forever damning even while a significant sector of the economy is all too happy to know exists.
It is safe to say that decadence carried a predominantly negative connotation. However, regardless whether the decadent be a hyper-consumer who helps keep the economy afloat or a “burden on society”, it would be reductive to see the decadent simply as a self-indulgent egocentric. This would miss the point that at the same time, there was a strong current of culture critique in embracing decadence, especially as someone like Baudelaire did. For the latter, the decadent figure countered his society’s blind reverence to positivistic progress, machine technology. The radical critique of decadence, in Baudelaire’s thought, is to expose the artificiality of all human endeavor. In embracing decadence, Baudelaire takes a swipe at Charles Fourier and the socialists of 1848, whom he accuses of buying into the ideology of progress, the Western ideal par excellence.
Baudelaire too was once an activist, in his early years (he even mounted the barricades alongside Blanqui in 1848), until nature took over from history as the ultimate reference point and the dandy came to stand for the modern day apache, an underground hero made up of transgression and subversion. In his opposition to the world as it was leaning and not moving, a world which he saw as pure spectacle, he saw the value of reformers like Giuseppe Ferrari not for their belief in progress but for their capacity to observe politics as an aesthetic show lacking internal coherence. Indeed, the first decadents turned the sword the other way, accusing the progress-mongers of being themselves decadent. They were culture critiques first and foremost, using their own decadence as a way of nay-saying a world they meant to refashion.
The decadent project put the individual first , aiming to establish the human person in all his uniqueness and beauty against a society that reduced the human being to a uniform, to a mere fragment of a larger project. It was a society based on privatization that gave its subjects the illusion of freedom while it simultaneously reinforced the value of competition. Precursor of today’s anti-imperialists, Baudelaire discredits the Paris of his time for failing to see outside the box. He takes part in the Romantic discovery of the nobility of the North American native people, who stand for reality, not in spite of but because of the transparency of their artifice, their maquillage, their ritual and the like.
Now, none of this, so far, contradicts the anarchist vision of one like Pierre Kropotkin, whose pamphlet “Anarchist Morality” denounces the straightjacket of contemporary religious, political, legal and social education by positing the basic motive for all human activity as the lust for pleasure. “We recognize the full and complete liberty of the individual; we desire for him plenitude of existence, the free development of all his faculties.”
The decadent project of Baudelaire’s fictional hero Samuel Cramer, in La Fanfarlo, was to exaggerate the signs of personal eccentricity in a desperate attempt to imitate a natural style. His successors, such as Huysmans’ Des Esseintes (À rebours), continues the quest by resolutely subverting whatever is taken for natural in the society in which he lives, a determination that leads him to such “bizarre” experiments as the attempt to eat with his anus. Moreover, he justifies his conduct by illustrating all the ways in which nature itself is deviant, perverse, full of deformation, abortion, degeneration. All this is a profound critique of mainstream society’s reduction of nature to a machine that works.
Decadence is bound up directly to sexuality, and Baudelaire was hardly the only among “first” decadents to have understood the power of sex as a medium of cultural critique. In short, the full potential of the human person requires a breaking out of the restrictions of genre. All the ways in which genre is used to manipulate people into remaining obedient political subjects would lead me to write another paper. Conversely, deviance as an expression of revolt has a long tradition, leading to the early modern period with writers like Oscar Wilde, Jean Genet and critics such as Fritz Fanon and Michel Foucault. Jonathan Dollimore’s Sexual Dissidence (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991) develops the notion of a perverse dynamic whereby self-identity is seen for the fragmentary ploy that it is, and abandoned in favor of a fuller being that discovers its interconnectedness and enters the arena of repression and liberation, which is a political realm.
Here is where we can pin-point the important affinity of decadence to anarchism. In this realm, the decadent is not merely “against” in the sense of being opposed to something but also “against” in the sense of being close up , in proximity to, i.e., “up against”. Decadence is a position assumed within normativity – in fact, it is what the “normal” people call those whom they condemn – which enables the decadent to call normativity into question.
Decadence thus offers the possibility of social and indeed political involvement in the very trenches of the contemporary world. The decadent has the chance to make every minute of his life a struggle, not with the enemy but with potential allies. For as Kropotkin says, while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying life, ultimate satisfaction comes with the exuberance of free thought and feeling. He cites Guyau as summing up the whole question of anarchist morality when he says, “We are not enough for ourselves: we have more tears than our own sufferings claim, more capacity for joy than our existence can justify.” The decadent subject summons the full arsenal of human experience, from suffering to wit, in a sublime expression of revolt.
Decadence, My Frenemy
- E. Sebastian Snowflake Newyork, Syracuse
Anarchism and the specter of “the anarchist” will always haunt authoritarians on the Right and Left as decadent. We will forever represent to them the corrupting uncontrollable, excesses of sex and violence, perversion and moral breakdown. For some of us, we couldn’t be happier. At least someone’s getting it right, in fear if not in fact!
Decadence can be a marvelous weapon against the cops in your head.
For someone committed to what some anarchists more influenced by individualism critique as outmoded social movement forms of organization, decadence sure brings out the ego and my own! Fashioning our lives as art, playing out our tragedies, following our dreams of excess and pleasure are all incredibly personal and social acts. It’s about recreating yourself, and for we decadent queer anarchists, doing it against our oppression and fucking flaunting it. In decadence, queer anarchism finds its practice to be both individualist and communist. It subverts and bitches out the social and touches the dangerous and beautiful. It is destructive and creative.
Dandyism, tragedy, criminalized sexuality, addiction, excess. In the 1890’s Oscar Wilde disappeared and took the name Sebastian after St Sebastian, who became a queer icon, beautiful and martyred, portrayed in orgasmic death with arrows penetrating. For the 1990’s our decadent children feigning astute skill in angst, rebellion and flannel found ourselves scratching K U R T in our arms after an angelic white trash wanna-be Olympia scenester offered his delicate ending for our consumption with lead arrows. Decadence feels stupid, and contagious.
I can track my path of queer decadence Seattle to Seattle: alterna rebellion coaxed the queer outta me, fagged it up with punk attitude and proudly encouraged me to slack, whack and act like I’m on smack. In the mirror appeared a bi-queer grunge boy who relished confusion. 20 times wittier than Wilde: school sucks, work sucks, fire. Courtney Love, queer core punk, John Waters and trans/queer/feminist theory offered me subversive glittery ammunition against the regime of Natural Order that wanted to kill me as angry fag. Surrounded by the Puritan anti-feminist spectacle of Syracuse STRAIGHT edge hardcore calling for firestorms to eliminate the excessive classes, queer anarchist hedonism felt as good as your cat is lazy and twice as smart as your cat is for sleeping through work. Queer youth fucking attack! Meetings, make-outs, music!
With Seattle, a new world in the US anarchist movement, stumbling from meeting to action drunk with (im)possibility. Dancing in the street. Cops. Despite my attempts to be queer fabulous, I found myself “straightening up” for the movement and to connect with people outside it. Resistance/repression.
Writing this, I realize I’m unfortunately a lot less decadent than before. Syracuse, NY is a cold town and its not just the weather. Workplace conflicts, being alienated from local queer bar scenes, no radical alternative, lingering damage from Syracuse hardcore on queer participation in revolutionary politics have taken their tolls.
There’s so much we want from the anarchist movement that we don’t have. Queer anarchist decadence has to be and is a part of any liberationist social war against all hierarchy and interrelated oppressions. I want a fighting movement capable of theorizing the decadence of this horrible society and able to also build spaces of pleasure and excess that terrify the ruling class with our ferocity and wit. I want styles, affects, dramas produced collectively.
Again, no, Revolutionary Communist Party, I will not go to your creepy meeting at your gross bookstore to get recruited at the same place you threw queers out and sold your program against decadent homos. Bob Avakian looks like a Family Ties extra insultingly trying to be a Castro clone with that hat on his head, which we’d love to take off. And the hat, too!
As queer and otherwise anti-normal anarchists we are decadent to the Right because our sex isn’t organized around reproduction, but also because we threaten and refuse to (re)produce the identities, power relationships, consciousness that imperialist racist hetero-patriarchy necessitates in so many ways. Our “weakness” is our strength.
Authoritarians on the Right and Left analyze the decadence of a given society based upon the extent to which it has become economically “unproductive.” But fuck that - yeah, capitalism can’t fulfill its own goals. But productivity must be destroyed. Queer anarchist decadence is proudly counter-productive.
And what theories describe as “decadence” is in some ways a perpetual feature of oppressive systems on a world and local level; power dynamics are constantly decaying and reinventing themselves through struggle, losing grip of some sectors and gaining control over others, changing to co-opt insurrectionary moments into manageable parts. White supremacist capitalist patriarchy and US Empire thrive on crisis. Systems survive when what appears to be an unarguable decline today becomes a celebration of stability tomorrow, like rock’n’roll and 70’s economic shifts.
And GLBT decadence isn’t necessarily revolutionary. Acceptable notions of white queers men as “progressive,” entertaining, book-smart Dandies justify the ethnic cleansing through white queer gentrification. Settler white supremacy has race-d the Dandy and decadence “white” along with GLBT and queer. Anarchism is not The Answer. In a world of Perez Hilton VH1, John Waters re-makes, and ironic detachment hip, how do we make a revolutionary anarchist decadence that defies recuperation back into the System? How can we queers not fall into its traps - drugs, isolation, self destruction?
I haven’t dug into the theories out there, there’s pieces by Aufheben, International Communist Current, Fifth Estate, Rosa Luxemberg, threads on libcom.org. There’s the Right and fascists crying decadence to prepare for the fall of the Empire. Let’s get on this. Decadent anti-authoritarian promises can be found in the insurrectionary pieces by Alfredo Bonanno, calls for pleasure in feminist struggle by Dorothy Allison, Laura Kipnis, the parties of the Hedonist Liberation Front, the punk subversion of holidays, the regenerated threat of youth, fears of the insatiable Other. Queer anarchists, let’s take this on.
Collapse, rapture, whatever, things are getting interesting when they’re falling apart.
Anarchism is Decadence
- Marcoco, Paris
While the glorious history of anarchist struggles nourishes our daily lives and gives us inspiration for our future battles, one question that seems to go unasked is why have anarchist ideas remained so unpopular, despite their obvious attractiveness as both individual and collective liberation? Most anarchists I know would say that capital and the state have collaborated and dedicated incredible time and effort to keeping the anarchists at bay, because they know that these revolutionary ideas spell their end if they were ever to get out of hand.
This idea is pure self-agrandizing fantasy. Except for FDR’s new deal (where there is an argument to be made about an official state policy of ostracizing radicals for fear of their revolutionary potential) there is not a secret homeland security roundtable holding top-level meetings to infiltrate anarchist co-ops. I’m sorry, to believe this is the worst of blind egoism. Anarchists have almost always been unimportant – that is to say uninfluential outside their immediate circles – and they remain so today.
So, I ask again why? Why isn’t anarchism spreading like a virus through the homes of disillusioned suburban youth? I’d humbly like to propose that anarchism as it is widely practiced has developed into the opposite of its central tenants. Instead of encouraging each and every individual to express themselves, to think freely, to develop their own opinions and act upon them as they see fit, anarchism today encourages conformity, ideological orthodoxy and ostracizes anyone who doesn’t tow – and yes, I’ll say it – the party line.
When we look at historical anarchist figures like Oscar Wilde who were supposedly able to combine their radical thoughts with a bourgeois lifestyle, we say that anarchism is not overly rigid, and that within the school of thought there are a variety of positions to be had, more or less extreme, more or less ‘pure’.
But this doesn’t reflect the reality of how anarchism is and has been practiced. Anarchists have shown themselves to be ideological purists, refusing compromise on principle as a form of personal oppression, and refusing discussion as a form of pollution in the movement. This rapidly creates an arms race to the bottom of who can be more radical, and who can ‘out’ other ‘anarchists’ as not really living up to their principles.
Well, wake up people, we live in the triumphantly (and some would say late) capitalistic world of the 21st century, and, I’m sorry, but a couple of anarchist co-ops and squats, food not bombs projects and urban vegetable farms spread thinly around the world are not going to rot away the leviathan from within – regardless of what the cyberpunks say about the networking capacities of the internet. A more apt metaphor would be sprinkling water on a bonfire – if you think that the small centers of resistence we have are going cool this raging capitalist exploitation, you’re underestimating the heat of the fire.
Anarchism is a luxury. It’s already a decadence to have the education and personal liberty to make decisions such as ‘I don’t believe in the system’ and ‘I refuse to participate in the capitalist exploitation of others’. But then to go further – as many anarchists do – and reject anyone’s position not as radical as one’s own, is not only counter-productive, but orthodox in the worst sense of the word. It keeps anarchism a fringe radical movement. It prevents those drops of water from becoming torrents.
If anarchists are to be at all influential in our world. If the ideas of autonomy, egalitarianism and liberty are going to spread, then we’ve got to stop requiring ideological purity of everyone we associate with. If not, we are doomed to remain an uninfluential fringe underclass, dismissed out of hand before we ever open our mouths.
Compromise is a dirty word amongst us hardliners, but those who practice ideological purity are decadent in the worst sense of the word. Decadent like the late Roman empire was: self indulgent and blind to the word around it. Time to take revolution seriously and realize that people who take to the streets are our allies, even if they wear nike shoes, eat meat, and drive SUVs.