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How to live as an anarchist in a capitalistic society?

+1 vote
Do you go and get a slave job like others? I don't agree with the idea of doing anything for money, including self employment and self promotion, I think people  doing things out of true desire and for the benefit of others is the way to go,

But since that the world is not as such, should one compromise to get by or is there a way out?
asked Mar 29 by anonymous
That is up to the individual on whether or not they should do this or that, or compromise with whatever your views are. It depends on if you have any standards for how you'd like to live among a bunch of other things, but you could get by without getting a job. There are many options like squatting, becoming a hermit in the woods, sleeping on the streets, collecting welfare...etc, and stealing/taking or dumpster diving for stuff like food, water, clothing, and other things. It's up to you in some ways. If your family is on the wealthier side of things it makes it infinitely easier on you employment wise. You can't really live full blown anarchically in today's world imo. Yep yep
i like the question and perhaps will give an answer.

to your secondary questions about compromising or a way out....i'd say unless you have tons of emotional, mental, and physical strength, along with lots of skills and anarchic relationships, and a total lack of fear, then yes, you will probably find yourself compromising....

but at the same time, you do have a way out - every moment that you do have the cunning and strength and imagination and relationships and skills to do so.

i live trying to increase the frequency, duration, and variety of those moments, and continuing to compromise less. for me that means acquiring more skills, keeping my mind and body as flexible as possible, finding people who want to live more anarchically, keeping aware of and understanding how the state and money systems operate, nurturing my creativity, and consuming cannabis.....among other things.... :)

i've also found that getting to know more deeply what i want to both give and receive has helped. i think the money system (the buying and selling of everything and everyone) led me to not really know what i want to receive or give to others - i thought i needed and wanted things and "services" that i now realize i don't, and what i had to give always came back to how i could make money, rather than what i really felt a desire to give.

to directly answer the part about a job...i had one for about 20 years (from age 15 to 35), but at this moment i haven't worked at a job for about 20 years (now age 56).
if you search this site for "work" you'll come to many posts that address this, including perhaps the single funniest one on hiring people to peel bananas. enjoy :)
Fuck. The banana peel question... that is one of the best questions ever asked on this site, IMHO.

2 Answers

+2 votes
Hi anon,

As dot commented, there are a lot of answers on this site relating to anarchists navigating living in a hostile world, and in particular, navigating capitalism, jobby-jobs, etc.

Personally, I don't think there is one right way to navigate. Some of us make do on disability compensation, some of us turn to criminality (which is so expansive it includes everything from scams, to sex work, to straight up robbery). Myself, I have and have always had a job, and I've come to grips with the fact that there will never be some point where I transcend the world I live in and exist exactly as I'd like to exist. If I did that, I wouldn't be on the web right now, I'd be swimming butt naked with my best-ever dog friend in a lake or stream, but that isn't going to happen.

I work for a non-profit, doing something that commonly gets the response, "Oh, it is so good you do that work. So important..." The truth is, I work there because I can tolerate what I do and get compensated okay and not feel shitty about myself at the end of the day, not because it is good or aligns with my beliefs. If I could get paid as much to deliver pizza, I would totally change careers.

I can't tell you how to navigate, and I don't elaborate on my situation because I think it is somehow better than the other options, but because it is the one I can elaborate on. I am curious what your thoughts are on navigating this terrible world?
answered Mar 30 by ingrate (21,890 points)
cliff notes on my so-called navigation:

- worked in bars/restaurants for tips in my teens into my 20s. partied hard.

- discovered i had an aptitude for computer programming, got various jobs  doing that until my early 40s, during which time i discovered my hatred for this world, capitalism, etc. partied less. tried to find work that felt less yucky, nothing really worked.

- made major life change, moved to uninhabitable land in the middle of nowhere that was free/squatable, created a super simple life that requires minimal cash. learned how to do a shitload for myself (grow food and medicine, build dwellings, catch and store water, live with minimal electricity from small solar setup, etc). got food stamps and medicaid. still make the cash i need (typically about $300 month) doing very occasional freelance programming.

my desires and priorities allowed me - or forced me, in a way - to live such a simple life with virtually no responsibilities other than those i choose to take on. the massive change i made was actually quite easy for me, and (as i have mentioned elsewhere) i have never felt as free. but i have no illusions that i have left capitalism and the state behind. i have simply found a way to minimize their impact on my life, and i continue to seek ways to reduce it even further.
ingrate, i like your answer. i feel the same way about elaborating on one's own situation because it's the one you know, and that each person needs to find their own way to navigate.....although i know it helps me to hear other peoples' experiences to get ideas for my life, and i frequently feel inspired to continue my journey to live differently by reading others' stories.

funky, thanks for sharing yours too....sounds like an answer to me! like you, i don't think i can leave the state/money totally behind (after all, i see it and feel it above, below, in front, and behind me!), but finding ways to reduce my interaction with it has made me feel much freer, more creative....and at times life feels sort of surreal....which i like.
I think it is also important to be clear that there are lines I wouldn't cross - I'm not going to join the military (they wouldn't have me anyway - too old), become a cop, run for mayor, work in a slaughter house...
i heard that, ingrate. early in my former life i worked on projects for some institutions that even then (as a not-so-good progressive) made me want to barf. aerospace and defense, hollywood, communications, education, ...

if only i knew then what i know now...

yes to personal stories for responses to this kind of question.

the only thing i'll add to the conversation is that i support taking jobs because they will teach us things we want to know, even if the job sucks in itself. learning things from hollywood about how we're manipulated (not that we're manipulated, but the techniques which include reflections on how to defend ourselves), learning things from the military about how they think, again, for purposes of defense or support of projects we choose... or working to smuggle resources (ideas as well as materials) out to our friends. that can be a hard thing, but definitely worthwhile.

edit: i guess part of my point here (so many points) is that the lines we don't cross (each of us with our subjective lines) are aesthetic ones more than practical. i believe the posters here recognize that social work (for example) is just as much a part of the system as the military is (for example), that this matter of lines is neither moral nor practical.

(also, aesthetics are important, some times more than other times...)

(final edit: ba@ i thought about eprime for that second-to-last paragraph, but couldn't figure out how i would write it. perhaps you could show me how it could be written?)

i'll give it a shot, dot....(i didn't know which paragraph you meant for sure, so i wrote the whole comment in eprime :)  )

"i’ll only add to the conversation that i support taking jobs because they will teach us things we want to know, even if the job sucks in itself.

learning things about how hollywood manipulates us (not that we get manipulated, but the techniques involved in manipulating, which include reflections on how to defend ourselves), learning things from the military about how they think, again, for purposes of defense or support of projects we choose…or working to smuggle resources (ideas as well as materials) out to our friends.  that can feel hard to do, but definitely worthwhile.

edit: I guess I partly want to make the point here (so many points) that the lines we don’t cross (each of us with our subjective lines) serve an aesthetic purpose more than a practical one. I believe the posters here recognize that social work (for example) comprises just as much of the system as the military does (for example), that we don’t choose lines for moral or practical reasons.

(also, aesthetics can matter a lot, sometimes more than other times…)          

(final edit: ba@, i thought about eprime for that second-to-last paragraph, but couldn’t figure out how I would write it. perhaps you could show me a way to write it?)"

my response to your comment:

i mostly decide not to cross certain lines because of how i feel when i relate or interact with other people based on money and/or authority. in a sense, you could call that a practical reason - i want to feel something else. :) 

i compare this motivation to something like why i don't buy plastic water bottles (and why i try to minimize my use of other plastic products)....

the practical: yes, i reduce my use of money, the money taken in by businesses, the amount of plastic ending up in the land or water lessened, etc. but practically speaking i know my actions make little difference.  i know those billions of pieces of plastic in the oceans will continue to pile up, i know the economy will continue to churn. at least in my lifetime.

the moral: i probably can sound moral at times, but i don't intend or want to. and i certainly don't think even if i do try to preach to people to not buy plastic that it will have any effect (my experience has shown me this already). and i don't "believe" in right and wrong. i don't consider it "wrong" to use plastic.

instead, my reasons (perhaps you would call this aesthetic?):

i hate the way i feel when i toss of piece of plastic in the trash (or even the recycle bin) because i know this land and water will ultimately have to absorb it, or give up a lot more of its richness and volume to recycle it, at minimum. i imagine what the land i live on would look like if all the plastic i used stayed there. i hate thinking about needing more money to keep buying the stuff. i don't want to interact with businesses to buy it. i want to know where my water comes from. basically, i feel the pain of buying and using so much plastic, and i feel better when i don't. the closer i get to the source of the stuff and people in my life, i usually feel more joy, or at least more intensity and direct connection that i desire. so, i don't know if i could sum it up in a word, but yes, not moral, not really practical (other than for me personally), but for some reason i also wouldn't choose the word "aesthetic". i have a hard time labeling, especially when it comes to what motivates me to do (or not do) something. 

anyway, i think the above applies to me when talking about jobs/money/authority and anarchy. i don't try to live anarchically because of morality or practicality, but more because of what i feel, what i desire, and my thoughts about what stands in my way or what might work for me to feel what i want or get closer to what i desire to experience.

also, i probably don't know what you mean by "aesthetic". like any word, each person can attach different meanings to it. perhaps i described what you mean?

i agree with your point about learning things from jobs despite  my distaste for them....and i've also learned a lot when interacting with people at their jobs when i play the role of consumer or citizen. 

(edited a couple of times for clarity and a bunch of other added stuff....)

thanks! ba@ :) yea, i'd say aesthetics is more or less what you're talking about.

dot, I don't think the premise to The Spook Who Sat by the Door would actually work in real life regardless if it's for defense, education, or support purposes.

" i don't try to live anarchically because of morality or practicality, but more because of what i feel, what i desire, and my thoughts about what stands in my way or what might work for me to feel what i want or get closer to what i desire to experience."

yes to that!

and yes! to dot's comment about working a job one hates to gain some skill or experience that can help them create the life they desire.  that's what i was referring to in my comment "if i only knew then..."
? you don't give much to go on to back up your rejection. i'm not talking about a movie/book, i'm talking about something people do all the time, which is use skills they learn from their enemies (or at least their not-friends) to strengthen their own projects.

dot, I didn't reject anything. I gave an opinion that your opinion is basically the premise of The Book Who Sat By The Door. Projects end and/or have an end. I do fail to see  one joining say the military helping a project, except screwing someone.

?: i don't know. what if joining the military was the only way someone could learn how to utilize various weapons or other tools - or obtain intelligence etc - that they found necessary for their life and autonomy?

we all do what we have to do to survive in this shithole. condemning what others do without full understanding of their context is just playing by the rulebook of the rulers.

if i had my current perspective 30 years ago when i was doing computer work for powerful institutions, i could have obtained knowledge that might have been very useful to me in combating those very institutions. would you have disassociated from me because of the job i chose, regardless of my underlying objectives?
yes, funky. i really haven't though much about this idea (working within institutions to either undermine them, or learn more about them for my own survival, etc).....but you and dot mentioning it got me thinking a bit. i think i probably did some of this without realizing it over the years, but unfortunately, for a few years i tried to "change things" within those places i worked....what a waste of my energy!

i'd like to hear more about peoples' experiences doing this sort of thing....or at least some ideas about what they could do.
ba@, so many ways -- i had friends who worked for restaurants and brought food home to share, same with grocery stores. when i did social work, i learned how to help people negotiate the bureaucracy around state assistance (unfortunately the rules have changed since then, as they do). i also learned first aid and emergency response skills that  would come in hand if i ever left the house ;) . i've heard a friend talk about two native anti-civ people who joined the military to learn what boot camp could teach them, including shooting. and of course medical and legal professional friends, who are usually the hubs of a circle of people they're helping for cheap/free.

i'm sure there are more creative ways to engage this idea, but those are real world examples off the top of my head.
thanks, dot.....i hope to discuss this more....perhaps a new question....although i think this one still fits....
0 votes
OP here,

It seems to me that to change a bad system it can be done by sometimes not being a part of it and sometimes by using the system itself, this can change from one person to another, so I agree with the idea of people having different best ways to deal with the system.

As for myself, my parents happen to be doing good financially, I live in the family house since my parents live abroad and take care of it, which means I don't worry about rent, they do understand and somewhat agree with my view on work, so they do help me financially, at the same time I try to do volunteer work, this way it's like I am getting paid for providing a service but not directly for the service itself, still this is not ideal, so I am trying to get to a point where I am making enough money on my own while at the same time continue with volunteer work, also charge less or nothing from people who can't afford what I can provide

Other than that there are some volunteer jobs abroad that provide accommodation and food and no money which seems better than most other options if one can afford plane tickets and have some extra cash
answered Mar 31 by AYFH (120 points)
If you can get by and engage in products by leveraging whatever familial privilege you have, I think that is totally legit. I do think it important to be cognizant of how inherited privileges might allow you some opportunities that other anarchists don't have.

If family wealth allows you to invest more time in projects you find worthwhile, that is (mostly) great. As someone who has worked at anarchist (ex. Food Not Bombs) and not anarchist (501c3) non-profits, I would just warn against this thing that can happen where sometimes folks other themselves as do-gooding providers of help as opposed to the poor down-trodden they are helping. Not saying that you are doing that, but I have seen that too many times (and have certainly done it myself in the past). I think this is potentially a very real pitfall of travelling abroad to do 'service work' type jobs.
i try to do as much as i can in life as a "volunteer"....in the sense that no one forces me to do it,  and also that i do it without money. so this can apply to anything, not just to what the hierarchical institutions call "volunteering". when i can see from this perspective, i find more creative ways of living, more moments of anarchy.....this includes feeling free to receive the "volunteer" efforts of others toward me.

and i don't mean to imply that i've even come close to figure out how to live totally without money, or that i even have the fortitude to do all the things i have figured out....so whatever job you can work at to get by in this bullshit i can understand...i don't know anyone who doesn't have that dilemma. but i can tell you that by putting my mind more toward living this way, i have reduced my dependency on money quite a bit. at one point in my life, i probably had some involvement with money on a daily basis (at times when i had a small business, i dealt with it hourly on many days)....and now i probably only use money 2 or 3 days a month on average.

(edited to add: when i said "without money" (in the first sentence when describing volunteering) i meant without buying or selling (stuff or skills) for money.....i don't mean just giving or receiving money to/from another person for no reason other than both of us want to do it).
(Mostly) great because it still depends on money?

Volunteer work is a duty when possible as I see it, so no problem there hopefully, I am actually aware of that condescending attitude and despise people who adopt it
I would also warn against the sense of duty. Not to say you shouldn't do shit, but there is a way where Doing a Good Thing becomes the reason, as opposed to actions being based on mutual aid or feelings of solidarity.

What feels like a lifetime ago, I did a Food Not Bombs project that was mostly focused on getting fresh produce to folks in what was a bit of a food desert. At some point, it was clear that the folks who got food from me and others expected that we would bring food to them, and at the same time I felt like I couldn't quit, because what would happen?

That's the pitfall of duty. I quit, but I don't regret the times and relationships I had up to that moment one bit.
ingrate, your comment about fnb brought to mind a time when i went to one in seattle a few years back, not long after i first heard of its existence.

i felt pumped to go, but what i saw when i arrived looked much more like a charity than i had anticipated. the people serving the food and those receiving it appeared to me to play the roles like they do in other charities - the givers who had no problem getting their own food, and the receivers of the charity who appeared to have a hard time getting it. i had imagined the lack of such a clear distinction, and thought i'd see much more of a mutual aid situation.

aside from what you mentioned about people expecting charity, i also have found that people who don't feel hopeless (and who have plenty of money to buy stuff) often have a difficulty in receiving stuff for free, i think for fear of feeling like they are the recipients of charity, a bum, etc

i think all this relates to what the concepts of money and authority do to the mind.....creating these binary distinctions that you don't want to end up on the "wrong" side of....rather than allowing yourself to both give and receive.
not sure if it is around online (eg, the anarchist library), but there was an article -rather controversial to some - in the old green anarchy journal that critiqued fnb from an anarchist perspective. it was targeted specifically at the fnb in eugene back in the early/mid 2000s. you might find it interesting, ba@. i'll see if i can find it.

not to belabor fnb, but it also it needs to be clear that fnb in different cities can be dramatically different in how they organize, cook (or obtain food otherwise), and distribute. back when i still periodically participated in demos/protests in san francisco (going back quite a ways), fnb often provided food, and it was usually much like a party, to me; no sense of "us and them" between serving and eating. plus they usually were able to get good prepared foods (burritos, sandwiches, muffins, etc) from various shops around town. the fnb in eugene, in contrast, made the worst, lowest-common-denominator, bland ass food i ever tasted. nutritious, usually vegan, but astoundingly (and unnecessarily) boring. especially given that they got weekly food donations from the best health food store in town. in eugene around that time, it was very much like a charity. organized by so-called anarchists.
thanks, funky.

i can imagine fnb varying based on the people and place.....and i sure would like to find that party atmosphere (and lack of us/them) that you mentioned.
the party atmosphere was more a factor of the street demo than fnb per se. i just happened to wind up near where fnb had set up, at the same time as many others with musical instruments, and we (i always had my small drum with me) just played and danced and ate and drank. almost like an rts (reclaim the streets) thing.

this is an aside, but maybe remotely relevant. there have been a few times, when i was driving and stuck in traffic with my funky music playing, that i would blast the music and get out of the car and just start dancing there in traffic next to my car. mostly, people looked at me like i was crazy; i'd see a few smiles. but once, a woman and her son got out of the car in front of me and danced with me! it was fucking awesome spontaneity, a flash of anarchic joy in the midst of the shithole drudgery of urban auto life.
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