Some Not Completely Aimless Meanderings
from "The Iconoclast's Hammer"
column in Anarchy Magazine
by Feral Faun
It's time to think about writing another column. There are a lot of topics worth examining--topics to which I have given a lot of thought and which are fundamental to understanding and opposing authority. But I have no desire to put energy into examining these topics right now. There are times when I know exactly why I'm writing. I get a real pleasure out of making my explorations coherent enough to express them to others. I look forward to the possibility of stimulating and challenging discourse...But at the moment, this isn't the case. Not I don't want to express myself coherently or be involved in challenging discourse. But, at the moment, I'm not convinced that my recent writings are doing that for me.
Recently, I was at an anarchist gathering in Long Beach, California. There was much that could be criticized about the gathering, but I got involved in several intelligent, humorous and challenging discussions-even in the context of workshops! Due to a lack of p.c. and process fetishists, it seemed much easier to get to the heart of what was being discussed, and most people did not take offense at passionate expressions of differences. But, around this same time, I learned that articles I had written were being thoroughly misunderstood. I came across responses to my pieces which described my writings as 'Marxist', 'economistic' or 'moralistic'. This reminded me of the time when a reviewer described two pamphlets I'd written as attempts to "create a new religion" when I was trying to reclaim for myself what religion usurps and places in the realm of the 'spiritual'. Although much of this misinterpretation of my writings can be attributed to projections of some people's ideological blind-spots, it is still frustrating to see my attempts to express an explicitly amoral, anti-economistic critique being interpreted as the opposite.
Language often frustrates me. Every language that exists in the civilized world developed within the context of authoritarian relationships. Those of us who wish to challenge such relationships and express the possibility of free relating outside the context of authority can't help but twist, contort and play with the language we use. In a sense, we create a new language, a language which we hope expresses the possibilities the old language tends to suppress. This is bound to lead to some misunderstandings. I know that most of the readers of my writings are either anarchists or anarchist sympathizers. I also know, from extensive interaction with anarchists, that most anarchists 'think' and talk in the terms of discourse created by society, by the system of relationships and roles that is authority. They are anarchists because they hate the government, the state, all bosses and hierarchy, but they haven't conceived of the possibility that authority may run much deeper than this--that it may be the entire system of relationships and values that is society as we know it, a system into which we were all integrated to one extent or another...and that it may be the very language which we've been taught to use to speak...about everything. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that my attempts to twist this language against itself, into a language that can express rebellion and the possibility of real life, a language that is my own, should be misinterpreted. It's probably far more surprising that anyone else ever understands what I write, even partially. But I'll try to clarify things a bit more by reiterating things I've said a million times as plainly as possible, which is to say, now I'm really gonna rant....
There are people who are anarchists in the sense of being believers in anarchism. Their anarchism consists of a moral and/or social system which they wish to create and expand into a worldwide system of relationships. This ideal forces them to morally oppose those aspects of this society which are in contradiction to their values. I am not an anarchist in this sense and have not been since 1981. But we've all heard of pianists, cellists and guitarists - so why not be an anarchist in this sense, one who plays anarchy? Let me explain. The simplest definition of anarchy is "no authority." Where there is no authority, a myriad of possibilities that cannot exist under authority suddenly open up. If authority is the entire system of relationships that produces, reproduces and is society, then to "play anarchy" is to create situations in which this system breaks down and to extend such situations as far as circumstances allow so that possibilities outside of structures of authority can be discovered and played with. I want to do this for no other reason than that it gives great pleasure and expands my life.
Several years ago, a friend of mine, who was not well-read in radical theory, but who knew she was fed up with the rules and moralities anarchists tended to make for themselves, said to me: "I'm not an anarchist! I'm a me-ist!" Kind of sad that, even among those who claim to oppose authority, it seems necessary to make an 'ism' out of living, doing and rebelling for oneself. But with all the moralistic drivel that passes itself off as anarchism, it is necessary to keep on harping on the fact that for me this ain't a question of 'good' and 'evil', 'right' and 'wrong', 'justice' and 'injustice'- though I may chose to play with some of these concepts if it pleases me; it's a matter of how I want to live.... Even freedom is of value to me only because the fewer restrictions there are on me as I pursue the possibilities I want to pursue, the fuller and more wonderful my life can be. If my egoism is expansive, it is because your pleasure gives me pleasure- not because I'm an altruist.
But what about greed, selfishness and wealth? One of the most banal falsifications of moral anarchists is their attempt to explain the economic realities of capital in terms of individual "moral failings." The only problem with greed as it exists in this society is that it isn't greedy enough! The capitalist, the corporate executive and the power monger merely take a huge chunk of the impoverished reality offered by society, and mete out smaller portions of the same to everyone else. In the process, they lose themselves by becoming nothing more than their roles and destroy the wealth they could enjoy by making it into resources and capital. Their 'greed' is much more the desperate addictive need of those who know they have become nothing - the need to make everything into nothing. I am pissed off at them, not because they are greedy, but because the limited and impoverished nature of their greed is destroying the world of real wealth for which I am greedy. You see, I want the universe to be mine. I want to encompass everything, every passion, every desire, every being into myself - I have a boundless greed! But no economy can make this possible. In economic systems, things can only be owned as property. Property means limited ownership of limited things. What is one's property is always far less than what is not one's property, so property always means poverty. Wealth can only exist where there is no property and where no economic relationships exist - where I can make everything my own and you can make everything your own - and included in what I make my own is your pleasure in making everything your own. In economic systems, greed is small, petty and contractive and generosity appears to be altruistic. But beyond economic relationships, greed is expansive and wants to have and enjoy the other's enjoyment, and generosity is the greatest form of selfishness as your pleasure becomes my pleasure.
So my writing, like everything I do, is an attempt to express an expansive selfishness - to get something I want I haven't the least interest in winning people over to the cause of anarchy, nor of winning other anarchists over to my opinions. What I'm interested in is participating in a challenging discourse that can be part of a radical practice that challenges society in its totality by creating an expansive, anti-economic selfishness. I am arrogant enough to say that such a discourse requires a certain minimal understanding to be truly challenging and that I'm not the least bit interested in wasting time arguing with those without that understanding. These meanderings touch on some of these matters. I'll be using this column to expand on this in the future.