I keep my little toe in the subcultural anarcho-mud puddle, but I am wary. Not critical in exactly the ways I see a lot of people being. If I could find enough anarchists I liked and wanted to work with I would happily wallow in that mud. I don't.My criticism is that I often see it as being insular, and also temporal, being largely a youth-centric subculture. I know it isn't the case everywhere, and can pick lots of examples to disprove the premise, but they tend to be the outliers.The subculture becomes an echo chamber for itself. At one point anarcho-primitivism was echoing a lot. Later it was tiqqunista echos, insurrecto/strugglismo, anti-civ nihilism, and now the zeitgeist is antifa.Subcultures tend to be easily swayed by the breezes of the moment, and while I think it is important to understand the shifting realities of the world we live in, I find the constant chasing of one hot topic to the next tiresome and shallow.Or I just don't like people very much...
"I think most of the trash talking is meant for the scenesters rather than the subculture itself."
This is an interesting distinction that I hadn't really stopped to consider. Can you maybe say a little more about why you think 'scenes' and 'subcultures' are two different things? The implication here would seem to be that a subculture is shaped solely by the personalities of those involved. I'm not sure I agree with this, but I'd still be interested in hearing you flesh out the distinction between 'scenes' and 'subcultures' a little more.
Personally, I think that urbanism and the physical layout of cities plays a major role in the formation of subcultures. The striation of urban spaces into distinct 'neighbourhoods' that attract certain 'types' of populations and repel certain others plays a major role in determining how and where people choose to congregate together. Certainly, the level of insularity will vary depending on the personalities of the people involved, but the urban setting has a way of 'channeling' movement and weeding out 'undesirables' within particular neighbourhoods.
To my way of thinking, the fact that subcultures tend to be a largely urban rather than rural phenomenon is not by accident. Nor is the fact that what you rather humourously describe as "the Mecca of 'Murican anarchism" seems to be so tightly focused around the San Francisco Bay Area. I'm having pictures of Haight-Ashbury during the '60s flash through my mind - except the VW Microbuses have circle-A's spray-painted on the outside instead of peace symbols. ;) j/k
To be honest, there isn't a whole lot about the anarchist subculture (or any subculture, for that matter) that I would consider "good." I suppose you could argue that it provides people with a social circle and with an opportunity to discuss ideas with folks who look at the world similarly to themselves, but this can be considered just as much a weakness as a strength. Whatever limited positive aspects that the anarchist subculture might have are more than offset by the insularity that you referred to.
Does this mean that folks such as yourself who are critical of "the Scene" can't still participate in it in order to mitigate its negative aspects? No. However, simply resigning oneself to it or inflating its positive aspects into more than what they are is a huge mistake in my estimation. With that said, while I have made a personal decision not to participate in the anarchist subculture in any way whatsoever, I get the fact that not everyone is ready or even inclined to do that. I'm not going to tell anyone that they should simply stop participating in the anarchist scene if that's what they really really want to do, but I would only encourage them to not get too comfortable in that scene or too complacent about its problems.
A critical engagement with the anarchist subculture, even if one chooses to participate in it, should never lose sight of the need to explore possibilities outside its confines - with a view toward eventually getting rid of it entirely. Even if other options for anarchists to interact and co-ordinate projects with one another aren't immediately available, a willingness to explore possibilities outside the anarchist subculture and to walk away from it if necessary is an absolute must. That may sound blunt to some people but I think it's something they need to hear.
To what extent do you suppose it's even possible to make a categorical distinction between 'community' and 'subculture?' I wonder if the inherent slipperiness of this distinction is part of what makes it so difficult to have a critical discussion about 'subculture' that everyone can understand. Personally, I would suggest that the distinction between community and subculture is based on at least 3 factors:
1)The boundaries of a community are deliberately permeable to 'external' cultural influences rather than seeking to cut themselves off from them.
2) In a community, individual desires are not subsumed by the interests of an abstract group identity; and,3) In a community, interpersonal relationships are forged on the basis of voluntary reciprocity rather than mutual self-sacrifice to an alienated 'Cause.'
However, my distinction is obviously value-laden and in no way categorical. Communities always have the potential to devolve into subcultures and, in actual practise, usually exhibit at least some of their characteristics. While this devolution need not take place, I will suggest that, in the case of anarchists, it usually does. If I had a nickel for every time I heard an anarcho-activist scenester type speak off the cuff about the "radical community" when the word 'subculture' would have clearly been a more apt description, I would be a rich man.
md: i like your comment above (distinguishing between subculture and community), but i wonder about this:
"2) In a community, individual desires are not subsumed by the interests of an abstract group identity; "
it seems you are implying a use of "community" that seems idealistic but not particularly accurate in my experience. are you expressing your desires there, or your actual experience?
"are you expressing your desires there, or your actual experience?"
Definitely my desires and not my actual experience - at least insofar as anarchists and their efforts to create 'communities' are concerned.
"hey matt, sorry if the question irritated you."
There's no need to apologize. I wasn't irritated, I was just trying to provide a direct answer to a direct question.
"since you say that a community can easily become a subculture, isn't it also possible that a subculture can become a community, and that both change?"
It's certainly possible, I just think that, in most cases, it's not all that likely. Then again, maybe the anarchists that I used to hang out with were the wrong anarchists and my perception of the likelihood that a 'community' can emerge out of a 'subculture' is coloured by those negative experiences. If you've found a solid crew of people with whom you feel that you can have interesting conversations, engage in projects that you think are worthwhile, and not cloister yourselves up in your own little echo chamber, then I think that's great. I just have my suspicions that this is probably the exception rather than the rule.
"also, you have pushed the button in me that gets irritated when people talk shit about anarchists in a shortcut way."
From my perspective, I'm not "talking shit about anarchists," I'm just talking shit about the tendency of many anarchists to hole up in their respective subcultural bubbles and reinforce one another's prejudices. If you maintain an active awareness of this tendency toward subcultural insularity and are taking steps to push back against it, then I see no major problem. But, as I said in my answer to the original question, it's also easy to get complacent and think you're pushing back against this tendency when, in fact, you've just gotten too comfortable in your local scene. I'm not saying that this is what you've done, but that I suspect it's a pattern many well-intentioned anarchists have unwittingly fallen into.