So here we are in day 4 of the challenge and I’m feeling proud of myself. Four commentaries in four days, it’s truly amazing...
Today’s topic: Are we addicted to rioting? Is a response to an article written by my good friend and fellow musician Ryan Harvey. I recommend reading his article here. The premise of the article is to explore the tactics of individuals in the modern anarchist movement using the metaphor of addiction. I’m sitting in a club (The Red Square) in Albany, listening to loud, but good music. I’m about to perform in an hour or so. As a result I will not be as in depth as Ryan.
First of all let’s get one thing clear. I am an anarchist. Yes I believe in lawlessness and bloody mayhem(Just kidding). I believe that people don’t need governments (i.e. The State) in order to have a flourishing functional society. I believe we can have an egalitarian society by utilizing a direct democracy model that encourages communities to create autonomous collectives that can collaborate to develop practices to serve the needs of the people. And require that all individuals wear black bandannas across their faces (kidding).
OK back to Ryan’s article. In answer to his question, yes we are addicted to rioting. Not all of us of course. Some of us are social rioters and others like me are in recovery. I really do think that there are a good number of people that are consumed by the rush. I know for me, going to A16 (The IMF and World Bank Protests in Washington DC, April 16, 2000) was amazing. Feeling the power of large numbers taking to the streets was certainly intoxicating. It was extremely exciting. I remember feeling like the revolution was upon us. I’ve only felt that type of energy a few times in my life and it’s extremely powerful. Are many of us in search of the next Seattle? I think so. I do not blame people for that. I would not be opposed to another Seattle but Ryan’s point is not that it is bad to wish for upheaval in the streets, or that it is morally wrong to fuck some sh** up. He wants to know if we are being productive.
If we are talking about the young anarchist/anti-capitalist movement that hits the streets during big wig gatherings like the g20, than I would say: no we don't seem to be extremely productive lately. It’s a valid point that we have to examine. At the same time it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go. We just need to first answer the questions Ryan is asking like:
"What is your goal?"
"Will it make you stronger?"
"Will it hurt your organizing efforts?"
"What do you need to do to achieve your goal?"
Questions like this can’t be asked enough. And when we ask critical questions of ourselves we will be have more successful outcomes. Now is as good a time as any.
There is one point of contention I have with Ryan’s article. I texted him saying that I think he over-generalized us anarchists. I was once a part of an anarchist collective that was provocative, passionate and extremely problematic. I became disillusioned and frustrated with the organization and would often find myself being extraordinarily critical. Most of my critiques were accurate but there was one problem. I was analyzing the privileged, racist patriarchal paradigm of our organization and the effects of white supremacy on our efforts and overlooked the positive contributions of our collective. When overlooking the brighter aspects of our work, it’s not a surprise that the contributions of women were the most under appreciated. Anarchist orgs across the country have positive vital contributions made by women that often get lost in the problematic actions of a larger whole. The same is true of Anarchist People of Color.
I think Ryan inadvertently doesn't clarify these distinctions. Luckily for us his music rarely makes this type of omission. I don’t believe that this discredits his overall point. It’s just important that all of us acknowledge the manner in which patriarchy and white privilege are responsible for the problematic tendencies of our movement.
And that's it for now. (I'm about to go on stage and have a blast.)