Thanks to Everyone!Posted by Gardens of Resistance
When I was in college, a friend introduced me to critical theory and warned, “You will never be happy again.” He was sort of right, but being an eternal optimist, I managed to channel my feelings into anger instead of being depressed like my friend. Having grown up a shooting academic star in a working-class, union household, I thought that if I worked hard enough on the right project, I could accomplish anything. Work, work, work. My identity and political interests all revolved around work.
I read Bakunin, Goldman and other anarchist theory and started looking for ways of creating autonomous zones in my life and cooperative inter-dependencies. I channeled my energy into various projects – including humanitarian (Hugh), progressive capitalist (Art) and counter-cultural (Ted) – that I hoped would create new models for a different world.
I met Aragorn who introduced me to two books that were, and remain, influential in my life. Letters was the first. Critical theory had been responsible for stripping me of any faith in the system or the system’s ability to correct itself. Letters, on the other hand, was responsible for stripping me of faith in the ability of the leftists and radical projects to have any substantial effects in the world. Additionally, I began realizing the flaws in their methods and my own activism. All of the roads towards making change were suddenly unappealing because of what was sacrificed in the process, and the results could only reflect that.
For the first time, I also began to consider my desires without shame. While I didn’t really change my sexual preferences, I did reframe the morality in which they were ensconced. I had more understanding of the connection of my sexuality to accomplishing things, to my relationship with myself, and to being someone’s “woman.”
Additionally, Letters has resulted in some level of paralysis and jadedness, for me. (I do not minimize the contribution of my age to these retreats from so-called political engagement, either.) I am an optimist by nature and I continue to look for possibilities and connections, but my expectations of what they will accomplish are not the same as what they once were. While I do prioritize keeping in contact with my “comrades,” life is less of a movement and more of a holding pattern.
The second influential book was Bolo Bolo, by PM. This book presents a model for autonomous community living. After having had so much stripped away from my belief system and my hope, this was refreshing. As stated on Evolution Zone,
We have offered many of our own “realpolitik” observations as to how we might proceed instead of down the path and over the cliff with the left. Perhaps lurking over our shoulders is our “second reality” and we must consider both what the second reality can be and how to make the move from the reality we don’t want into the one we do want.
My background in geography has overlaid all of my studies and radical interests. Both Letters and Bolo Bolo have reinforced my belief that the only significant change will happen in the wake of catastrophe. PM presents a model for rebuilding the local when the current configuration of the global is no longer sustainable; it must be a local that can function within a genuinely revised global. I suppose the remaining question for all you Insurgent Summer participants is, “Will you be in my Bolo when it is all gone?”
I got a great deal out of this project. Like Artnoose, this is the first time outside of school that I had taken copious notes as I read. I was forced to pay more attention to the details of the timelines, characters and military actions. In my prior readings, the mountaintop scenes had remained an elephant in the room for me and I had done little to make sense of Lem or Vesna. I was also either unable or unwilling to criticize Perlman’s work.
My wildest dream was that this project would have hundreds of people following with a dozen participating, and would help popularize the book. We did fall short of that, but I am so glad that it happened. I think the participants got a lot out of it personally and the book did get a boost within the anarchist community.
What we ended up with was mostly a platform for folks who were already “into” the book to articulate why and maybe dissect it a bit more. I think it was an opportunity that we all wanted to have, and I am glad that the book and our discussion of it will take up a bit more space on the internet from now on. It also resulted in the hastening of the ebook and a prod in the development of local discussion groups.
Thanks to everyone who blogged, commented and discussed.