Thursday, January 10, 2008
Call for Short Articles on Anarchism and Decadence: Deadline January 17, 2008
***CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS***
Calling all Anarchists and Anarchist-Friendlies! You are invited to submit a short (500 words or less) article for the next LV Night Review on the topic of the intersection between anarchism and decadence. Feel free to address the topic directly or simply write to whatever feels relevant to you. We have all sorts of people writing all sorts of things, from diy spa recipes to celebrity gossip to gentleman etiquette to theoretical anarchist analysis so don't be afraid to just submit something. This is an anarchist publication, so write whatever you fucking feel like, just send it to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 17th!
The LV Night Review is the companion publication of Louis Vuitton Night monthly variety show known as "Denver's Most Elegant 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 about the next theme.
If you're still lost here's a little background and focus questions:
For anarchists during the last turn of the century the debate between anarchism and decadence was a point of serious division.
Everyone knows that Oscar Wilde represented the union of decadence and anarchism best. But, did you know that he believed that decadence was the best expression of elegance, art and politics free from moral, political and religious coercion? He purposely emphasized the term "decadence" because he embraced all the negative connotations of the Dandy (or the vapid artist hipster) and felt that it was in the interest of anarchism to be the worst possible "citizen." The Dandy was the extension of this theory, a wholly depraved and self-centered person that was, in a word, ungovernable. The decadent movement surrounding Wilde helped to create a dynamic cultural movement that was pivotal in the anarchist rebellions of the 20's and 30's, in helping to create a social atmosphere that was anarchist friendly to providing material support for anarchist projects and anarchist uprisings. On the other hand, many anarchists criticize this philosophy as leading to an apolitical hipster-like population that is more apt to profit off revolution than contribute to it. Where do you stand?!
You may choose from these questions, but don't bite off more than you can chew. You know what you think, so just make it work!
Which is more relevant to you, anarchism or decadence, and is there a time or a place when the two merge?
In an anarchist society what would decadence look like, or would it exist at all?
What are some specific strategies that anarchists can learn from the decadence movement?
Are there any failures that you have witnessed within the anarchist movement that could be avoided with a little dandyism?
When does decadence go too far and should anarchists be worried about the message of decadence?
Or simply write about personal examples of decadent anarchism or anarchic decadence.
Murder Most Foul!
Healing after Homicide
The best bit of perspective I ever received concerning anarchism and the problem of murder came from, ironically enough, a Denver circuit-court judge.
I was awaiting arraignment some years ago, sitting in my pew (those benches are rather pew-like, don't you think?), not paying too much attention to much of anything, when I clued into the fact that the current defendant's explanation of his actions was well beyond the grasp of reason. I tensed up, fearing that the judge would come down harshly on his paranoid and anxiety riddled recounting of the path that had led him to court that day (which, although this is beyond the point, but for those who are curious, had something to do with an evil twin on a crime spree). I hate watching others humiliated, or squirm, or end up embarrassed, so I prepared myself for the blow, figuring, no way in hell is this judge going to put up with this level of ridiculousness in her court room.
But, I was in luck. Instead of puffing up and delivering some sort of version of "Order in the Court!" this particular lady justice gave a rather eloquent speech that came to an indictment of the ludicrous amount of resources allocated to the incarceration rehabilitation system, which does anything but rehabilitate. She posited that we should instead expend our energies on therapeutic means and mental health resources. It's not that I hadn't thought that mental health care was a key component when confronting transgression; it's just that I hadn't heard this path endorsed by someone who watches the machinations of the law every day. Circuit court judges probably don't think the way I do, or believe what I do, but they have done a lot of field work. It was so encouraging to know that a woman who works with 'crime' on a consistent basis can believe in therapy over isolation, in care over condemnation, in people before prisons.
While it's worth noting that I'm of the camp that believes the ravages of violence meted out in our culture are largely due to coercive and oppressive social structures, and that an anarchist approach to those structures would alleviate much of our suffering, it's best not to pretend that violence can be ever-eradicated. And, since my totally incongruous Aha! moment, the solutions for an anti-authoritarian approach to coercive violence and homicide have begun to flesh out.
I see communities who meet murder and violence with discussion, therapy, and reparations. We can come to anarchist therapies that let the recipients maintain dignity, while addressing root causes of violence. We can address the deficits of violence and murder as communities and heal through communication. We can arrange reparations for the victims of violence whereby an offender will compensate for the human loss incurred. We can do so much.
An ethical, anarchist, way towards dealing with violence and murder exists. That way is through compassion, patience, and ingenuity. It comes to this: Locking down a human creature for the rest of its existence may well be the worst kind of torture, rarely is violence solved with violence. Anarchist mental health therapies is a way past that. It's time that we stop blaming things on our evil twins and recognize that might, truly, never makes right…
Some Thoughts on Murder
I've been asked what an anarchist might think about murder.
I suppose my first response to the question would be (in smart-ass anarchist tradition) to ask more questions. What is murder and who defines it?
Is every death a murder? Is every "unnatural" death a murder? What deaths are worthy of the designation "mortal sin" and which can be excused or ignored? Is there a difference between the death of a person who is shot point-blank on the street and that of someone by state-ordered firing range? What of death called "collateral damage"? Death by starvation after natural resources have been stolen or destroyed? Death by malnutrition where health is cost-prohibitive? Death by pollution-related illness? Death by flood or draught in an unsteady climate? Death by suicide after a lifetime of institutional, personal and internalized oppression? Death by car culture or drug culture? Death by wage-slave-labor?
Clearly we (both those who do the defining and those who are merely complacent) have a lot tied up in believing some deaths are not murder, eh? As defined by my culture and government now, it seems that murder includes only those deaths of individuals that can be blamed on another individual or group. All other deaths--whether or not they were avoidable, unnecessary, cruel, pre-meditated, or even a clear by-product, aftereffect or consequence of any other act--are not murder. All the deaths that result from the actions and beliefs of a system, institution, corporation or culture are also not murder.
That is the first problem with the question of murder. If it is to be thought-about, discussed, "dealt with," or solved, first the definition must be amended. Don't exclude all the ways that people lethally effect each other in this giant, interconnected global village (yes, I just said "global village") because they are too complicated or because too much depends on our collective denial.
There. Now that that has been taken care of, let's tackle the next part of the question. How should we *anarchists* respond to murder? Well, there are as many ways to respond to murder as there are people in the world. And I would hope that the choice of response will be left to those who are touched by a murder—that the survivors and communities impacted will be able to decide what they want and need to deal, to heal, to find accountability, take responsibility and make sure it won't happen again—in whatever way they see fit.
I know what you're thinking: Nice rhetoric, Mac, but what does that have to do with reality?
So maybe the question is less "how should an anarchist respond to murder?" and more "why the fuck doesn't my culture and my government respond to all this murder we are a part of?!" The murder that I am culpable of in my life right now (because of the energy I use, the medications that keep me alive, the food I eat, the systems I have not brought down…) is so far removed from me. How could I possibly be held accountable by the communities, families and nations of those I have had a hand in murdering? How can people in this giant fucked-up mess have the power to respond to death in the way they see fit? I can hardly find the victims of my murderous culture on a map, let alone find the survivors and bow at their feet to ask their forgiveness.
And you're right: that reality is totally terrifying. And I am enough of a realist and cynic to know that murder will probably be around as long as humans are. But here's one human hoping that in the future murder looks less like globalization, and more like someone stabbing another with a shiv—two people fighting close enough to look in each others' eyes—in a world that is small enough that we can 1) define reality for ourselves, and 2) hold each other accountable for our actions.
Violence & Murder, An Anarchist Perspective
by Madilyn Windson aka Madi Mayhem/ Corny Gas/ Fat Stick
Anarchists are always trying to sort out the anarchist perspective on things, but well, anarchist perspective, blah blah, whatever. I'm no authority (ha!) on the anarchist point-of-view, but still, I'm an anarchist and I have a perspective on things, I have to right? At any rate, anytime someone hears you're an anarchist you get immediately barraged by what if scenarios and you, as the minority, must explain each fear away. So, I'll be indulgent this time and get down to it, what if someone was to kill another person?
Maybe surprisingly, this isn't a scenario I have played out much in my anarchic daydreaming. Whatever thought I had paid it was loose and hard to communicate. Perhaps it is because Anarchism forces us to look at everything for the entirety of what it is. Nothing is so cut and dry as it is in law. Law supposes that everything can be fit into it, guilty or innocent, legal or illegal, but those definitions are often too narrow for every
situation, for every person. So rarely are murders committed in total cold blood. There are a great many underlying motives and elements, which led to the incident, most of which, I would say, are directly related to symptoms of a sick society. When property damage is punished more severely than rape and homicide, is it any wonder that human life would be seen as less than precious?
Money is the end all be all in our society. We value the dollar over human health and well being. When we put an end to capitalist and dogmatic thinking, I believe, we can put an end to a great number of violent crimes. When people learn to respect women and are no longer subjected to a barrage of advertisements of women being placed into degrading gender roles, when coercive and demeaning internet porn is no longer an actual addiction, when people have enough money to feed their kids and pay their bills, when people eat food from gardens and not factories, when animals are viewed as equals and not test subjects, when communities cease to be racially and economically segregated, violent crimes will dwindle.
I could go so far as to say disappear, but I am not a utopian. Violence is part of nature and tempers will always flare no matter how happy and healthy a community is. When this happens, all elements of the event must be taken into consideration. The range of punishment could go from shunning, to forcible ejection from the community/region, to, in the most extreme of cases, a return of violence upon the offender, as an act of self-defense and protection. Violence is a tool nature has used for millennia, it can be overused and inappropriate, but other times it can be necessary for self-preservation. When language and reason do not work, one must communicate in other ways. We must be able to protect ourselves and preserve our well being.