Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Anarchism & Decadence (2)
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.