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+4 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.
by (52.6k points)
edited by

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.   

by (840 points)
edited by

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.
by (440 points)

"I too posted a definition but, for some arbitrary reason, you don't seem to think it occupies equal footing with your own simply because I didn't get it from Merriam Webster or wherever yours came from."

It's not "my definition", it's a consensus. I know words change overtime, but the definition you use is esoteric and quite frankly not applicable to what he or she said. Dude, it seems like you are looking through the proverbial rose tinted glasses. It is like you just like arguing for arguments sake.

Philosophers philosophize but where has that got humanity? At least we can all understand language without understanding philosophy, and as you are so much in the habit of asking, which philosophy, as there are just so many differing schools of thought. So who is right? Who is wrong? And when right becomes wrong, what then? That is how nonsensical it seems to me. Probably delusional is the correct word here.

"He didn't "go into" anything whatsoever, he just stated it as a fact and then moved on".

Seems to me, if you take the totality of what he or she wrote it is a clear follow on; fleshing out "fact" with the example of the tree. How can you say that is not an example of a totality?

"And I don't understand the logic of clinging to what's "established" just because stepping outside it might be uncomfortable".

The word is just a word, it is not about my comfort zone, just what applies to a given situation. Rejecting things due to them being "established" just seems so infantile. You were taking the persons words out of context even after they pointed that you.

"What I think is that this entire conversation has pretty much run it's course and I kinda feel like I'm getting dumber by even continuing to involve myself with it."

Yeah, whatever. Ever read Wilhelm Reich, the Right Man?

In the immortal words of Dieter on Saturday Night Live, "this conversation has grown tiresome. Now is zee time on Schprockets ven vee dance!"

*cue artsy-fartsy German techno music*


In response to curious bystander: the issue is that there is no such thing as "right", "wrong", "errors", "mistakes" except within human thought systems. Philosophy is really only useful as an exercise,  it is useless for discovering the truth because the only truths that can be discovered are obvious ones. In the broadest use of the word, all human beings are philosophical...i found this conversation im commenting on to be a little too rediculous and esoteric

"i found this conversation im commenting on to be a little too rediculous and esoteric"

Is that really such a bad thing? You said yourself that philosophy is useful is as an exercise. If people just keep defaulting to the assumption that such conversations are "too esoteric," then they'll never take place.

...it is useless for discovering the truth...

At no point during that conversation was I under the impression that it would result in anyone discovering any sort of "truth." My reasons for engaging in it were entirely different.

i wasn't saying that you were, im just saying that philosophical conversations make my head spin sometimes, i can get pretty anti-intellectual