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connecting dangerous ideas to anarchy...

+3 votes
i know this site tends toward egoism mostly, and egoism emphasizes that individuals are responsible for our own decisions. but i'm pondering the insistence that many many people have that being exposed to Certain Ideas is dangerous, or maybe that connecting Certain Ideas to anarchist thought is dangerous? theoretically i can see that because anarchy is a continually-being-redefined body of ideas (within quite broad parameters), if someone says all anarchists must wear blue (for example), anarchists might be considered more vulnerable to that than other systems of thought?
put another way: what kind of publishing automatically promotes?
just wondering if folks here have thought about this much, and if so, then what?

edit: sigh for being unclear. so yea, inspired by recent events (a tabler being attacked at the seattle book fair, for carrying a book on ITS that is not clearly and explicitly against some of ITS most extreme excesses). but this is not limited to a single event. this is a perspective that people have had for years: showing bad things is dangerous. it might not even count as an anarchist question, but i'm curious what (other) anarchists have to say about it--divorced from the specifics of what happened in seattle, as much as possible.
asked Sep 9 by dot (50,790 points)
edited Sep 10 by dot

i guess i've always had a distaste for "culture" (of any kind) itself....not sure why...i think most people don't. so if people dislike the culture of statism, religion, money, etc...and consider anarchy, maybe they still want a sort of "culture" to exist....for me, i've always wanted to do what i felt like at the moment, and culture and norms most often get in the way of that.
** Edit: Never having posted here before, I didn't realize that "answering" and "commenting" on a question were two different things. Gonna repost this as an actual answer to the question. **

Matt D: 

Up until that point, it had just seemed intuitive to me that anyone who adopts a consciously "anarchist" perspective would necessarily be an open-minded person who is receptive to all sorts of unconventional and subversive ideas that the average person would shrink away from in fear. The sense of culture shock that I experienced when I finally got involved with the anarchist subculture cannot be overstated. To my surprize, there was a whole slew of unwritten rules about things you can't say and ways you can't behave if you want to be accepted as "one of us."

this interest me a lot. i assumed as you did....and hearing your story (and others i've read here) makes me not want to get involved in any type of anarchist "sub-culture" or group. i do, however, still desire to meet more individuals who want anarchic relationships....but how to find them...?

but it also doesn't surprise me.... i think people have had so much immersion in "culture", that even when seeking to live and relate differently and uniquely, the same type of patterns repeat.

i have enough trouble critiquing myself and all the various ideologies....the last thing i feel like i need is another sub-culture (or ideology) to judge, or to judge me.

This is exactly why I no longer spend time in anarchist subcultural spaces. I basically just got fed up with all of the Orwellian groupthink and moralistic PC guilt trips. I'm at the point now where I'd rather just cut them loose and set them adrift on the sea of their own irrelevance than waste my time trying to debate with any of them.
i can see how you would feel that way....and i feel much the same way in any other group "or culture"...and i also try to cut people loose....which leaves me more isolated, because wherever i turn, ideology, conformity, and guilt trips abound, regardless of the flavor....luckily i found a mate to experience life with who also seeks anarchic relationships....just ranting here, i guess...but sometimes the whole fucking thing feels overwhelmingly crappy!

2 Answers

+4 votes

It might be useful to approach this question from the perspective of "call-out culture." As someone else remarked on Episode #27 of the @news Podcast in relation to the idea of sexual consent, the entire framework of "Anti-Oppression Politics" within left-anarchist subcultures assumes that people (typically women) are frail and in need of protection. This leads to setting up what basically amount to anarchist bureaucracies in which disputes can be addressed through a formal 'process' where offending parties are "called on their shit." Within these formal gatherings, the rhetoric of "safety" often comes up in the context of discussions where it really isn't relevant to the subject at hand - e.g. "I feel really unsafe right now because you're challenging my ideology rather than passively agreeing with it." In response to such statements, one might reasonably ask, "In what sense do you feel 'unsafe?' Does the mere fact that I disagree with you make you feel that I pose you some sort of physical threat? And, if so, on what basis?" But, within the left-anarchist scenester cult, such questions just aren't kosher - and are a quick route to excommunication. More often than not, the words "I feel unsafe" are just shorthand for "My worldview feels threatened."

Anti-Oppression Politics have become so pervasive in the North American anarchist subculture that every disagreement has become a safety issue. As is the case with so many people of my generation, I am old enough to remember when the internet first started to become popular but not so old that my initial exposure to anarchist ideas was able to come from from any other source. That being the case, I was already well steeped in my own particular version of anarchism (at that time, a pretty much orthodox "anarcho-communist" perspective) before I was able move away from the rural community where I grew up and become involved in the local anarchist scene of the city where I went to university. Up until that point, it had just seemed intuitive to me that anyone who adopts a consciously "anarchist" perspective would necessarily be an open-minded person who is receptive to all sorts of unconventional and subversive ideas that the average person would shrink away from in fear. The sense of culture shock that I experienced when I finally got involved with the anarchist subculture cannot be overstated. To my surprize, there was a whole slew of unwritten rules about things you can't say and ways you can't behave if you want to be accepted as "one of us."

The anarchist subculture has a very low tolerance for heretical ideas. Granted, it is fine with rattling the cages of people it deems part of "mainstream" culture but, when it comes to critiquing itself as a social entity, everyone involved suddenly becomes really thin-skinned. Not being from the West Coast, I wasn't at the Seattle Anarchist Book Fair when the whole Atassa Journal incident when down, so I can only rely on the second-hand information that I've heard. While I think that the critical encounter between anarchism and eco-extremism could have potentially posed some interesting questions about the messy realities of resistance to the social order that most anarchists don't want to face, I think that the left-anarchist subcultural bubble has proven itself wholly incapable of exploring these questions in anything other than a hyperbolic and reactionary fashion. Whoever this person was who ripped up the copy of the Atassa Journal at the LBC table clearly had it in their head that they were engaging in some sort of "militant direct action" that would gain them 'cred' among their fellow scene kids. What this person failed to understand is that even direct action can be a form of sanctimonious whining.   

answered Sep 12 by Matt Dionysus (250 points)
edited Sep 12 by Matt Dionysus

The anarchist subculture has a very low tolerance for heretical ideas. 

i'd say that almost any "culture" or "subculture" has a low tolerance. to me, that is one of the characteristics of culture. i thought maybe anarchist circles would differ....and perhaps they do to a degree, but it sounds like often they function much as any other group, especially when organizing.

It is pretty disheartening that when first meeting social anarchists types that there is a certain way you have to behave and self-censor yourself around them or else banishment from the cult. I would say it's a toxic environment to put yourself in and I personally avoid it. The anti-oppression dogma policy really never made sense to me. Who is the arbiter on when my behavior, existence, or words is oppressing someone? They treat a lot of people as a victim that needs to be protected and it's very paternalistic, which is ironic, imo. It's like that online on a lot of sites, for the most part. Like reddit, facebook, and other social media.

I wonder if the person that ripped the book up and got beat up was put up to it by someone else or did it for cred, as you stated? I mean, seriously, how many people have heard of the Atassa Journal, let alone read it? My guess is not that many and even less have read it. I never heard of it, nor read it until this drama unfolded, and now it has me curious about what it's all about. I guess, you could say, their actions turned into the "Streisand effect" and backfired.

I used to find it disheartening but now I'm basically just relieved to be done with that whole scene. It opens up a lot more possibilities in terms of relating with others as individuals rather than cloistering myself up in a little enclave of people who all think the same way I do.

As someone who enjoys music, film, literature, and art, I wouldn't go so far as to say that I reject "culture" as such. I'm definitely critical of symbolic mediation to the extent that it alienates me from my capacity to think and act for myself, but I remain skeptical of the extent to which it's either possible or desirable to have done with "culture" as a general concept.

i enjoy music, film, books too...and games and sports...but i like to view each creation on its own, and how each experience makes me feel or think...but "culture" feels like an abstract generalization to me, as some sort of "thing" that diffuses or flattens or homogenizes, that takes me further away from the particular experience....not that i can't think in terms of generalizations (sometimes i find it hard not to, when most people i encounter do),  but using that word (or concept) almost always creates a sense of alienation and dullness for me. i'd rather describe what i see and hear and feel in any given instance.

I guess the only question I would pose to you would be this: does adopting an oppositional stance toward the very idea of "culture" amount to an escape from its confines? There are lots of things in this world that I am "opposed" to but it doesn't stop those things from existing or exercising an influence over how I perceive the world around me. Granted, I can recognize that certain cultural narratives exist to reproduce the current social order by "manufacturing consent" (as much as I hate to quote Chomsky) among the general population, but merely having this critique does not automatically exempt me from their influence.

yes, and no.

but what i mean is that i don't get influenced (or affected, or constrained) by  "culture", but rather by a particular person(s) or place or experience. the "culture" doesn't exist except as an abstraction or generalized thought. i get affected by the person or situation i encounter. whether i deem that person or event as "part of the culture" seems mostly irrelevant to me.

so i wouldn't even describe my view as "opposing" the idea of "culture", but more like a letting go process....more of an increase in my awareness of the present moment, and less engaged in abstraction.

Ah, human asked a question that may clarify things in regard, in regards culture and stick to positions. The Brilliant also had a great discussion on this:



0 votes
In relation to humans relating, ideas are pretty much unnecessary. In some situations we can toy around with whatever to see if it has some form of validity or usefulness, but how much better would the world be without ideas?

Every religious, political, and scientific idea has brought with it death and destruction. All of which is absolutely unnecessary, and yet within the framework of the idea very much an integral necessity.

An idea has to be defended. That which is defended is opposed. That which opposes is defended, and opposed, and so on, and so on, and so on. Even when there is no defence nor opposition it may be perceived to be so, and perception makes all real! So ludicrous.

People identify with ideas as a form of identity due to the conviction of the idea that they are somehow lacking. Not realizing that the conviction is just that.

So in the case of "a dangerous idea", it is not merely dangerous to those who hold the idea as their identity, for they set themselves up for all manner of trouble, but to all.

So, there can only be a "dangerous idea" to those in the grip of an opposing idea, to those in the grip of fear.

Anarchy is not an idea, but a fact of Life. The very nature of Nature is anarchic.
answered Oct 9 by edclear (360 points)
As I have said, I have no goal, no stance, I'm exploring while typing, no fixed ideas here; Not attempting to compel, convince, etc. As was said, mental comprehension is quite different from awareness.

Maybe I'm not seeing things as they actually are, I may have some form of fungus in my brain causing all sorts of delusion;

However, let's see if we can clear a few points up.

When you say "an idea is a phase shift in consciousness in response to various stimuli", what do you really mean by that? Any more than I've been saying... "reactionary thought"? To me, we are not that far apart.

I have been suggesting we understand idea. Just... idea, the actuality of. I simply can't figure out a way to put it. It's like saying, look at that bottle. So all I'm saying is, let's look at what an idea is in its totality.

Essence is a basic English word. As I mentioned concerning the word anarchy, the essence is the actuality behind the mere word.

So does an idea have an essence? That is, do ideas all have a similar action, a quality which is quantifiable, predictable?

It's like asking, does a sample of sea water contain the essence of the sea from where collected? We can get into arguments about exactly how much of the sea, or what level of sea water, etc, however that is going beyond the basic principle is it not? Allowing ideas to overlap the simple original question.

You said above that an idea is an effect. For every effect there is a cause, which you would say is: "consciousness encountering its environment and representing various aspects of that environment to itself". So, what is consciousness?
i think of "an idea" as someone imagining something, and then describing that image or feeling with words.
Hi bornagainanarchist, what I'm probing is more than just the process, the outcome. Looking from beginning to end, if you know what I mean... the origin of an idea, the whole action of such.
hi edclear,

it seems to me you said three things in that statement about "ideas"....the process, the origin, and the outcome.

when it comes to origin, i think ideas come in different ways. for example, sometimes i get a feeling, or an image flashes into my mind, a sensation of various sorts come over me, or through me. then, i might (or might not) begin to think about that image or sensory perception, and form an idea by using language. so i suppose that might describe an origin and a process. other times, an idea comes to my mind while thinking about something else, or mulling over a problem, or thinking about something i desire....

as far as outcome goes...well, that can lead anywhere, or nowhere. :)

"So all I'm saying is, let's look at what an idea is in its totality."

Why assume that an idea even has a totality? The very nature of 'Thinking' is such that each thought flows into the next, which flows into the next, which flows into the next... and so on ad infinitum. There is no basis on which you can draw a clear dividing line and say, "Here's where one idea stops and another begins." Thought doesn't move in a straight line. It's constantly branching off in multiple directions at once, oftentimes based on very loose associations between different objects and past experiences. This is what the philosopher Gilles Deleuze referred to as "rhizomatic thought."

"When you say 'an idea is a phase shift in consciousness in response to various stimuli', what do you really mean by that?"

I mean precisely that: I experience something in my environment that causes my thinking to transition or 'shift' from one 'phase' into another. It can be something as simple as sitting on a bus thinking about the lyrics of a song that I'm listening to and then seeing a billboard that makes me think about food; or something as complex as thinking about the nature of Thought itself and then picking up a book that makes me think about it in a new way.  

"Essence is a basic English word."

You need to understand that, while you may be using the word 'essence' in a more colloquial sense, it has a very loaded connotation in the Western philosophical tradition that traces it's roots all the way back to Plato and his idea of "the Forms." It is generally taken to mean an idea as a reified "object" or ideal "Form" of a particular concept - i.e. the very thing that you have been criticizing for much of your time here.

That is, do ideas all have a similar action, a quality which is quantifiable, predictable?

No, they don't. Which is as it should be. Making things quantifiable and predictable is what techno-industrial civilization does to keep people in line. Why should those who claim to oppose coercive authority have any interest in making things quantifiable and predictable?

"For every effect there is a cause..."

Really? Just one? Why only one? And can't "effects" also function as causes which give rise to other effects which, in turn, can branch off and cause other things to happen? To me, it makes more sense to say that "causes" interact among themselves to create other causes, and that "effects" are just the indirect result of this interplay of causes among themselves.

"So, what is consciousness?"

I'm not as interested in figuring out "what consciousness is" so much as how I experience it in my daily life. If the purpose of asking such a question is to establish a 'universal' definition of consciousness, then I think you're wasting your time. If, however, this question is just an oversimplified way of asking, "how is consciousness lived," then I think it might be worth exploring.