I'm More Punk Rock Than You

Many years of observations and conversations with Anarchists of all stripes has brought to light ideas and actions that are very powerful, and some that are highly detrimental to the movement. Today I'd like to discuss some of the behaviors that I find to be detrimental to Anarchism in general. Not to be catty, but as a constructive critique so that perhaps we can move beyond these barriers.

The hyphenation of Anarchism has, in my opinion, led to the enabling of Anarcho-Elitism which is counter intuitive to Anarchism regardless of hyphen categorization. The syndrome of "I'm more Anarcho than you" increases divides between Anarchists and in fact establishes hierarchies as there are in authoritarian-capitalist cultures, only in the opposite direction. Instead of the status being determined by how much you have or how normal you are it's established by how little you have and how many times you've been arrested.

Now there's something to be said for respecting the people who work hard to practice what they preach and are willing to put their necks on the line to help move things forward. This is true no matter what political or economic system you happen to subscribe to. But there is also a fine line between "keeping it real" and being an obnoxious, preachy, shallow-minded person. You can see people cross that line in every group imaginable. The religious person who winds up annoying people by telling everyone else what they're doing wrong with their lives, the corporate ladder climbing executive who happily throws his coworkers under the bus rather than competing like they're supposed to, the Anarchist who lectures others about having too many material possessions....

It's everywhere - and in a political sphere such as Anarchism it is a huge detriment because it is exactly what we are allegedly opposing.

The question is....how do we put a stop to it? What is it that makes even people who are aware of the problems this behavior causes continue to engage in it? Is it so deeply ingrained in our psyches that we cannot escape it? Is it created by being surrounded by the environment steeped in the act of establishing oneself in any social circle by stepping on others? I don't know.

What I do know is that some things need to be discussed. For example: there is a difference between private property and personal property. The difference between wanting or having some nice things in your personal possession and continually buying things to be socially accepted is like enjoying a beer versus being an alcoholic. There is a time and place for all the types of activism from the most pacifist and gradual to the most extreme and violent.

for example, I'm going to use the more materialistic capitalism/anti-capitalism conundrum that Anarchists seem to face most often. Usually because it's the most readily used insult, the most easily confused topic, and one that seems to be of hot debate in certain circles. To have or not to have? This is one topic that is easily misconstrued by Anarchists and non-Anarchists alike. First there is a general confusion between private property and personal property. This confusion has initiated a backlash movement in Anarchist circles to not only oppose private property in economic terms but also the almost total abandonment of ownership of personal property as well, and, the lack of personal possessions has become a badge of honor among many Anarchists.

While the abandonment of possessions is a very Zen sentiment and one I respect - it is not, in fact, tied to Anarchism through the tenants and general beliefs prescribed by Anarchists. In other words there's nothing wrong with wanting a nice, quality product for your personal use. Of course There's something to be said for contributing as little as possible to capitalism - and obtaining your things through barter or buy making it yourself, however I don't think that straight abstinence otherwise known as "drop-out" culture is the standard to which we should all rise.

Or, more plainly, the desire for something nice be it a need or a want and capitalism are two mutually exclusive things bound only by the fact that we live in a capitalistic economy and simply can't escape it. It's OK to have "trappings" if you are of the homesteader mentality as opposed to the more nomadic mentality many Anarchists have. Both are preferences that should be respected by the Anarchist community - and yet they are not.

We are constantly pitted against each other by virtue of our lifestyles instead of cooperating with each other. There is something to be said for not being a complete hypocrite, and doing the best to live your life according to your values. But it would be prudent for Anarchists to remember that Anarchism is about freedom, respect, and equality even if you disagree with someone.


Anon-Paranoid said...


Hope you and yours has a very Happy New Year.

God Bless.

PS: Two posts down you have spam in the comments section you might want to clean up.

Once again take care and ...

God Bless.

Anok said...

Hey Anon! I hope you have a wonderful new year as well :) Here's to hoping that 2010 will better 2009! (And yeah I've been hit with spam pretty bad lately. oh well! LOL)