August 04, 2010
It's tough to be a self-confident anarchist in the 21st century. After all, we're living in times that are so dominated by radicalism on behalf of the powerful, that to choose a radical position on behalf of ordinary people, marginalized people, or the earth is seen as foolish, crazy, or criminal.
When endless preemptive war, unchecked government spying, accelerated ecological destruction, and spiraling casino economics are discussed as casually as this year's Oscar nods, and even the corporate-centered policies of President Obama are described as a potential trojan horse for a Marxist regime, those of us with any actual socialist or leftist ideas are written right off the political map.
It's no wonder then, that anarchists--who are already isolated enough within socialist and progressive communities--are often so shy about what we believe.
We're anarchists. Intersections is an anarchist publication. So why is reading Intersections like reading one of those "Where's Waldo" books, hunting for the elusive "A word" or any explicit mention of anarchist ideas?
It's because of jokes like this: "Organized anarchists - isn't that an oxymoron?" We've chosen to take a radical position on behalf of ordinary people, marginalized people, and the very earth we live in, but the media paints us as foolish, crazy, or criminal. When endless preemptive war, unchecked government spying, accelerated ecological destruction, and spiraling casino economics are discussed as casually as this year's Oscar nods, our viewpoint is written right off the political map.
But just because we're ignored or ridiculed doesn't make us wrong. On the contrary, our problems we're facing now have happened precisely because people with the worst ideas, most wrong, dehumanizing ideas have been the loudest, most consistent, and most unapologetic. Anarchists have been consistently at the forefront of social change from the fight for the eight-hour day to the legalization of birth control to the more recent fight against the WTO.
In my view, anarchists have three key things to offer the world:
A clear and unflinching rejection of abused power and systematic oppression. Anarchists aren't afraid to call it as we see it, and what we see is a world that is still organized for the benefit of a few, at the expense of the rest of us. We see a continued legacy of institutionalized racism, ongoing gender and sexual violence, "democracy" that is democratic in name only, increasingly rabid global capitalism, and the snuffing out of millions of species and ecosystems with no consequences or accountability. We don't accept this reality. We don't think it's normal, or moderate, or sensible. That's part of being anarchists.
A passionate belief that we can build a society around our the best qualities. Anarchists know that we are all works in progress, and we are painfully aware of how easily power and insecurity can corrupt even good people, but we also know and see the incredible potential that we all have- especially when we work together and hold each other in check. We are willing to believe that cooperation, listening, empathy, and sharing can actually become the bedrocks of our communities, workplaces, and decision-making structures. Contrary to popular myth, we don't believe in chaos, but rather in bottom-up self-government, from the block to the job to the capitol. That's part of being anarchists.
A political strategy that entrusts billions of us to build change in our own ways. Anarchists believe that the means are the ends, and that the best way to win a new society is to start building it right now while we fight the worst aspects of the old one. We believe in focused community work, in presence, listening, humility. We believe in winning people over through communication and shared values, and in toppling the power structure through massive collective action, rather than through charismatic leaders or top-down policies. That's part of being anarchists.
These are the reasons I keep going as an anarchist. And I hope also that these are some reasons why you'll keep reading Intersections, why maybe you'll write us or engage us at a local event, and broaden your own political perspective. Because it's not crazy to disagree with today's norms. When today's norms are brutal, cynical, and radically unjust, the only sane act is to oppose them, to speak the truth, and to strive, always, for justice and liberation.