What My Anarchism Is Not
At a site called Global Politician, a writer by name of Angelique van Engelen has written a two part series called "The Possibilities For Anarchy" (part 1) and (part 2). As usual in such pieces, Ms van Engelen confuses "anarchism" with a dictionary definition of "anarchy" and thus fails to grasp the reality of her subject.
She begins her exercise by proclaiming that "[g]oing about researching the possibilities for anarchy as a viable alternative to a current system of government ought to be as chaotic as we can make it if we want to keep in line with the subject's concept." In other words, she immediate aligns anarchism with chaos. Continuing along this path of inaccuracy, she claims that when "anarchists are seen 'live' in action, they are -- true to the nature of their political inclination -- not organised in any way"; once again linking anarchism with disorder. While it is true that she mentions Proudhon's proposition that "Liberty is the Mother, not the Daughter of Order," she fails to follow up this more promising line of inquiry.
I guess it is hard to criticize her position because, as she says, most anarchists only make themselves known through their nihilist actions fueled it seems by little more than inchoate anger. However, that is not anarchism to me, nor to many other mutual aiders.
I have said it before and I'll keep saying it: For me, anarchism does NOT mean an absence of rules or societal norms; rather it is that such rules as exist are (a) accepted voluntarily, and (b) contain no coercion of any kind on those who choose not to voluntarily accept the rules. I assume that my anarchist society will be a sea of overlapping "clubs", each with their own sets of rules. There will, of course, be some form of advantage to accepting the rules (access to some resource or knowledge or companionship, perhaps), otherwise there is no point in setting rules at all. But loss of access to that "advantage" is all that happens if one doesn't accept the rules. This is the very opposite of the situation within modern capitalist-consumerist-democracy. No rules in the present society are voluntary. You have to accept all of the rules or they will take your possessions or lock you up or kill you.
In answer to one obvious question ("Isn't there a real form of coercion if the advantage is some part of the necessary life-supporting environment -- water, for example, or food production?"), yes there is. But what you describe in the question is not an anarchist society. When the means of life are held by one group and denied to another except at a high price, that is called capitalism.
I'll go no further now as I merely wanted to lay the canard once again that anarchism must = chaos.
National Liberation Day
30 years ago today, ordinary folks all around the world celebrated National Liberation Day as the patriotic Vietnamese Army overran Saigon and the last American invaders fled, cringing, from the roof of their embassy.
If they had any sense, the current American Administration would celebrate today as National Defeat Day, and meditate on the fact that the Empire can be beaten, can be pushed back whatever its apparent strength.
Whether it represents defeat and/or liberation, April 30th, 1975 is an important anniversary.
Last night, we went to listen to a speech by Tariq Ali. I have been aware of him since the anti-Vietnam days in London in the late 60s and I have followed his career with interest ever since. He had been here in Vancouver for another rousing speech in April 2003.
Last night's speech was a fairly standard anti-American Empire pro-Palestine pro-Venezuela outpouring -- but in Ali's unique style. Speaking without notes as usual, he covered a broad spectrum of events from Vietnam through Iraq, with detailed coverage of the Middle East and Latin America. He knows his material cold -- what might be a standard pitch is larded with both historical and realtime anecdotes -- and the fluidity of his delivery invites a close emotional attachment with his audience. A marvelous performance, really.
For those who are not familiar with his writings (essays in New Left Review, numerous political books, novels and plays) I urge you to get hold of some and start reading. As an anarchist I certainly don't agree with all of his conclusions, but his writing style is generous and flowing and he brings in a wealth of important detail.
A fine writer and speaker, and an impressive man.
"Why Can't We ..." -- Because We Can't!
Speaking of George Wallace's simply bigotry, today is the thirteenth anniversary of one of those incidents -- the Rodney King verdict -- that indicates America's multi-centuries long systemic racism is still alive and well.
Does anyone really think anything has actually changed in 13 years?.
What Year Is This Again?
And Americans wonder why they are so often the laughing stock of the civilized world...
Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen says homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.
"I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."
Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" has lesbian characters.
Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can't define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama's public and college libraries.
First Amendment advocates say the ban clearly does amount to censorship. But in book after book, Allen reads what he calls the "homosexual agenda," and he's alarmed. "It's not healthy for America, it doesn't fit what we stand for," says Allen. "And they will do whatever it takes to reach their goal." He says he sees this as a line in the sand.
Nazi-style book burnings in Alabama? Makes me almost nostalgic for the straightforward days of George Wallace's simple bigotry.
A Watching Brief
I've read what seems to be an endless stream of opinion pieces about Ratzinger since his election as Pope Benedict XVI, and the best I've read was in yesterday's Globe & Mail. The article makes clear that Benedict's papacy may be a lot more interesting than some of us may have thought. The crux of the argument is here:
As for Benedict's appeal to the cardinals, several church scholars pointed out that his background as an academic theologian — and a first-rate one — needs to be understood.
The Canadian theologian who spoke off the record explained that Benedict's Vatican job as guardian of Catholic orthodoxy and the instrumental role he played in shaping some of the theological advances in the church's great reform council of the 1960s, Vatican II, are two distinctly different things.
As John Paul's prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, his job was to enforce church teaching. But as a theologian, his role is to explore new understandings and interpretations of church teaching.
"Theologians push the envelope," the Canadian theologian said. "It's their job to think out of the box. These are two different roles, prefect and theologian. And now as Pope, he's going to occupy both positions.
University of Toronto's Prof. Silano emphasized the same point. He said that even though the past and present Popes were close, Benedict's style of thought as a theologian is going to make him very different from John Paul, who was a philosopher.
We'll see, but I am intrigued how the difference between philosopher and theologian plays out in practice.
Another ultra-conservative old white European guy as Pope!
Art as Fart
This weekend we went to see an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The exhibition was of the photographic, musical and video outpourings of a Canadian artist called Rodney Graham, described as a "conceptual artist". It was a real disappointment.
This exhibition displayed everything that is wrong with so much of "art", and epitomised why many people are driven away from any appreciation of modern works. This was a collection of mediocre artifacts surrounded by a wealth of intellectual bullshit designed to make the works seem "important" or "conceptual" or "good". Some artists can get away with this, I guess, but the majority of Graham's works are so mediocre (or worse) that the surrounding documentation is simply ludicrous.
A fine example: A series of a dozen or more small photographs took up one wall of a large room. They were all of upside down trees, out of focus, boringly composed. Reading the attached plaque, one learns that these pictures were taken by Graham using a small pinhole camera. Fine. So what? One still ended up with a dozen out-of-focus static and boring shots of trees. Another room was filled with similar shots of very similar upside down trees, though this time they were at least in focus and printed to twenty feet high. Nothing -- and I mean nothing -- that could not be accomplished by any amateur photographer after a lesson or two.
His conceptual movies were equally mundane and essentially boring -- even intellectually.
The exhibition's signature pair of photographs, "Fishing On A Jetty, 2000", make for a magnificent piece of work; that I cannot deny.
But that was it. The rest was weak, forced, and uninteresting. Like a fart, it was unpleasant to be around, but the memory quickly fades in fresh air.
The Bay of Dead CIA Pigs
Forty-four years ago today the heroic Cuban people began to throw back the illegal invasion of their country by US-sponsored and armed mercenaries.
Such great days are the ones we need to remember and celebrate at this time when the American Empire believes it can just sweep across the world as it wants!
Now this is important stuff:
"Thousands of previously illegible manuscripts containing work by some of the greats of classical literature are being read for the first time using technology which experts believe will unlock the secrets of the ancient world.
Among treasures already discovered by a team from Oxford University are previously unseen writings by classical giants including Sophocles, Euripides and Hesiod. Invisible under ordinary light, the faded ink comes clearly into view when placed under infra-red light, using techniques developed from satellite imaging.
The Oxford documents form part of the great papyrus hoard salvaged from an ancient rubbish dump in the Graeco-Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus more than a century ago. The thousands of remaining documents, which will be analysed over the next decade, are expected to include works by Ovid and Aeschylus, plus a series of Christian gospels which have been lost for up to 2,000 years."