Posts Tagged ‘ anarchism

The State and Other Oppressors

I’ve said it before, and I doubt you’ll be spared me saying it many times again: for most people on this planet, the state isn’t the primary impediment to their freedom and happiness.

Not to downplay the millions of victims on the receiving end of US “foreign policy,” or caged in global or domestic gulags–the withering away of the state will mean life instead of death or imprisonment and that is, of course, a very good thing.

A component of that withering, both underestimated and inestimable, is the recognition and dismantling of systems of oppression besides those enshrined in state institutions.

While the parallels between the violent nature of the state and the violent nature of other power structures are striking, they’re hard to address because, like state violence, their pervasiveness makes them difficult to identify. Highlighting the true nature of these systems to someone who has grown up within them is nearly impossible. Enlightenment, if and when it happens, usually comes when the “violence inherent in the system” manifests itself on the soon-to-be-enlightened, or perhaps a loved one thereof.

The other path to seeing the previously unseen is repeated exposure to the idea that the system is based on violence, founded on inequality. This requires profound patience on the part of all involved and a waiting out of the bluster and bombast and whatever other defense mechanisms are in place to prevent one seeing what is in front of one’s nose.

Anarchists get that the state relationship is based on violence: not just the wars and the prisons, but every law. The proof of this is trivial and it’s an axiom, literally, of all post-highschool political science, yet most Americans refuse to see the violence in the system. They believe that they are voluntary participants in institutions necessary for civilization when the truth is actually the opposite.

Outside of the persistent targets of state violence: immigrants, the poor, and racial minorities, only the disobedient get a taste (or more, depending on how quickly they relent) of what stands behind every law, every ordinance, every statute.

I have some rudimentary insight into a particular non-state parallel that I’ve written about before. Prepare to detect in yourself the defense mechanisms that will attempt to force your mind away from a very clear and obvious truth: women are oppressed, not primarily by the state, but by men.

Yes, there are exceptions; yes, the state historically supported the dominance of me; no, not all men are violent oppressors; no, not all women are victims of physical violence. Neither are all citizens victims of state violence and neither are all state agents perpetrators of violence. As Charles Johnson and Roderick Long point out in their must-read paper, Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved? regarding a common non-feminist reaction to the claim that we live in a rape culture:

Libertarians rightly recognize that legally enacted violence is the means by which all rulers keep all citizens in a state of fear, even though not all government functionaries personally beat, kill, or imprison anybody, and even though not all citizens are beaten, killed, or imprisoned; the same interpretive charity towards the radical feminist analysis of rape is not too much to ask.

The analogy I’ve used is the experience of being approached by a policeman. In a given encounter, it’s very unlikely that the cop will beat, cage or kill you. The anarchist analysis, felt in the gut of virtually everyone even if it can’t be put into words, is that the policemen could beat, cage or kill you and would almost certainly get away with it.

If he wants your name or ID or for you to disclose the contents of your pockets, it’s considered by most to be a normal social interaction. Your resistance to his desires is considered unnatural and potentially risky. Anything that happens to you if decide to break with the social norm is going to be seen by most people as your own fault, by one twisted rationale or another.

Women are in an analogous position vis-à-vis an encounter with a man. A woman is expected to make conversation and be cordial if approached and can reasonably be asked her name, phone number, and what she’s doing this weekend. None of this is considered socially invasive. It place in a context where violence could very well be the result of refusing to participate. In most cases, barring sufficiently enlightened witnesses, alot of people will bend over backwards to blame the woman for whatever ills visit her as a result of the encounter.

Denying that this is the case, especially denying it to people who have had that very subjective experience, is, well, fucked up.

I’ve got alot more to say about this, but in the interest of actually posting something, I’ll break it off here. This feels rambly anyway, so I’d be happy if somebody focused my thinking on some aspect of the above.

The Bikecast Episode #52: Race, Gender, and Anarchism

The status of women as 2nd (3rd? 9th?) class members of the societal hierarchy receives stunningly little attention from male libertarians and anarchists–the folks that claim the greatest desire to eliminate institutional hierarchies of all types and to live in a society of equals.

This incongruity fits a larger pattern. The most strikingly barbaric and absurd social norms are all but invisible to the majority of people and are certainly never spoken of except in the most trusted of conversations. Anarchists know this because barbaric state power is one such social norm. Shrieking rage-filled prophesies of doom fill the air (at least eventually) anytime the dissolution of government is discussed in a public forum, thus indicating that someone has begun to question things that should not be questioned.

Multiply the viciousness and sensitivity of this reaction by a few orders of magnitude and you’ll have arrived at the vitriol that is aimed at those who criticize society’s treatment of women. God forbid the critic is herself a woman.


Download this episode of the Bikecast

As with many bikecasts, the “show notes” and the audio sort of diverge and end up covering different facets of the topic. This is compounded by the double recording session in the podcast. I still think it has alot of value, but it ends up trying to cover alot of material perhaps a bit too thinly. I appreciate feedback :)

An Illustrative Example at the Gonzo Times

Case in point, an article by Gonzo Times journalist Punk Johnny Cash titled A Problem Of White Male Anarchism and Libertarianism We Must Confront.
It’s an excellent read that dares wonder why it is that liberation movements–anarchism and libertarianism specifically–are so radically devoid of non-white and non-male participants.

As interesting as the article, though–at least from the perspective of this post–are
the comments. They are very civil compared to what we’ll see further along in the post, and consist of two categories of response. The first is a thoughtful, interactive dialogue among a fairly diverse group of people, many of whom are (or seem to be, it is the internet after all) non-male/non-white/non-straight. Here are a couple examples:

  • I’ve talked to several other anarchist women who won’t participate in anarchist groups any more because of their general hostility and emphasis on destruction. So they work outside of explicitly anarchist venues.
  • I’ve had “libertarian” men post the nastiest comments to me when I point out the sexism in their commentaries. Part of the reason I’m selective about where I post, which people I e-associate with, etc., is because I’m sick of having misogynist slurs hurled at me,sick of the defensive crap that occurs whenever you ask someone to check their privilege
  • Maybe it’s not the beliefs, but the behavior of many of those who hold them. The libertarian movement could use a drastic reduction in assholery.
  • The online anarchist community has quite a few trolls and jerks, and after I connected with other anarchists I liked, I chose to spend less time online because it’s more fun and productive to spend time with people in person.
  • In my experience, however, some of the most anti-queer and gender-fascist remarks I’ve heard have come out of the mouths of straight white cis male anarchists

The second category of comment is entirely divorced from the thread of the first. It claims international fabian socialism, historically rooted cultural differences, and, believe it or not, the incredible benefits that women and minorities receive from the state as reasons for the dominance of white male voices in anarchist spaces[1] That’s not to say that this category of comment is devoid of any truth or value to the discussion, but nowhere are the clearly stated and repeated reasons given by the other commenters addressed.

Let me jump in here and add a note related to the podcast and the rest of this post. I ended up, because I’m riding my bike and babbling from the top of my head, inadvertently focusing on the issue of women. I will sort of mirror that here. The issues of race, gender identity, sexual preference, etc. have many clear parallels, but I don’t address them to the same degree.

In the last week, a facebook discussion took place with a slightly escalated tone. Again, voices speaking about being shut out, shouted down, and verbally attacked were ignored (or countered) with commenters claiming that race and gender weren’t issues that required their attention. The discussion was started by a woman and the first three to five dismissive posts were white men. Again, largely civil, though maybe slightly more agitated, and though there were reasonable points among the comments, the crux of the matter, again, was ignored.

Punk Johnny Cash followed up this week with another good gonzotimes piece
This time, for some reason, the comments start with

Feminism is essentially Big Brother with a vagina.

proceed to

What the hell is so wrong with patriarchy, anyway? People assume that dominance is wrong, but if you like being dominated, why shouldn’t you be able to cede control?

and end up with

The “issues” of race and gender are really non-issues. . . except from a statist or wannabe-statist point of view.
“Abuse” is a statist creation, brought about mostly by economic meddling which forces a man to work overtime or take a second (or even third) job to support his family.Add to this, women who can’t keep their mouths shut, who use their words as surrogate baseball bats to bludgeon their man into submission; or women who stand in doorways to prevent the man from leaving the room/house so as to DE-escalate (caused mainly by the rise of “Feminism,” another statist invention). . . they kind of deserve what they get.
Stress someone enough, and eventually they’ll break.

And other than a heroic effort from PJC and Scott F (another gonzotimes journalist) to bring some semblance of sanity to the comments, there are no other voices present.

And yet even this is unicorns and rainbows compared with much of the shit directed at women on the internetz.

A Brief Reexamination of the the Historical Relationship between the Sexes

As a brief interlude, let’s reexamine the history of the sexes[2]. For something between 10,000 and a few hundred thousand years, women were property. They were bought, sold, traded, captured raped, killed, and otherwise disposed of without consequence[3].

It’s only been in the last 100 years, something less than 1% of human history,that any women at all were anything but man’s possession. I, having a finite life, can only grasp the enormity of this fact in the abstract, but we move around in a reality saturated by this history. And just as would happen if one’s car or microwave oven gained sentience and started making demands for equality, when one-time property began attempting to assert independence, men went (and most are still going) apeshit.

Perhaps the freshest modern example of this development in the middle east where women are routinely beaten, sexually assaulted and killed for having the temerity to learn to read, travel without escort, drive a car, or leave the house at all without complete physical cover. This isn’t some distant and bizarre alien culture. These conditions prevailed throughout the west until the last hundred years or so (minus the cars).

In the west, when conditions of near anonymity prevail, men will let their bigotry flag fly high, as we’ve already seen. When we move out of the realm of internet forums based around the premises of non-aggression and human equality, shit gets ugly(er) real goddamn fast.

Obviously this is just scratching the very privileged internet surface of the all encompassing poisonous atmosphere that is bigotry against women. From rape apologia to physical and sexual assault to just about any topic or by any metric conceivable, it fucking sucks to be a woman society.

At the root of it is the physical, violent domination that is a constant threat and pervasive reality for every woman. That this isn’t constantly acknowledged and constantly opposed by the folks who want a hierarchy, dominance-free, stateless society shows just how far we have to go.

Oh yeah, and it’s even worse for children.

Notes:
I made mention in the podcast, for those who justdon’tbelieve this shit exists–by the metric shit-ton–that I’d post some good starting points on the blog. If you’re a woman, I gently recommend not visiting them. They are certainly triggering in any case.

While looking around, I found that someone is actually cataloging this stuff as a blog. Rather than link directly to the shit, I’ll just point to a couple pages where the analysis might take some of the edge off
http://www.manboobz.com/2010/11/further-reading-worst-of-mens-rights.html
http://www.manboobz.com/2011/02/new-low-in-victim-blaming-part-2-in.html”>http://www.manboobz.com/2011/02/new-low-in-victim-blaming-part-2-in.html
http://www.manboobz.com/2010/12/rapists-are-apparently-being-oppressed.html

http://www.manboobz.com/2010/11/ladies-stop-assaulting-us-by-dressing.html

http://www.manboobz.com/search/label/violence%20against%20men%2Fwomen

In my last minute audio edits, I realize that I specifically talked about citing examples of women being attacked for “stepping out of line” in forums and advocating for themselves. I’ll try to get back to digging some of that particular type of gross up and adding it to the post, but I don’t want to delay publishing. Sorry for the shoddy quality of the research around here.

  1. [1] I’m treading a thin line here, but I want to contrast the simple claim that women benefit from the state with the more nuanced claim that women, as the societally constructed care providing gender, are “stuck with” the state.
  2. [2] Again, there are clear and strong parallels with other oppressed populations.
  3. [3] Although in some of the more enlightened cultures, if a rapist was caught, he had to marry his victim–so that’s a big win (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NLT).

The Bikecast Episode #1: Introduction to the Bikecast

Lately I’ve taken to carrying a voice recorder with me on my commute to work.  I think I’m going to attempt to make a podcast out of it.   I’ve been playing around with it for a couple of weeks now and I’ve had mixed results, but I think the idea is workable. With a combination of materials engineering and editing software, I think I can make a podcast that is physically listen-able.

This first podcast is actually one of the worst as far as sound quality, but it makes the most sense as an introductory podcast, so I attempted to make-it-work via heavy ham-fisted sound editing (using Audacity). The quality of future shows should be much better.

Whenever I release a podcast, I’ll also post show notes here with references, relevant links, and the like.

Final textual apology for sound quality: after my off-bike introduction, the volume drops a bit. It won’t get loud again. You can feel safe amplifying.

Download this episode of the bikecast

Show notes:

Anarchism and atheism are the inevitable consequences of enlightenment thought. Two ideas, in particular, stand out as logical precedents to atheism and anarchy.
The concession that reason and evidence “trump” personally held opinions. That physical evidence “wins” in any conflict with concepts in the mind. This principle eliminates God, in addition to unicorns, pixies (not The Pixies), and other superstitions as factors or explanations for anything real.
The equality of all people. A radical concept then and now. Radical equality eliminates the possibility of the legitimate use of physical force in human interactions. This, in turn, makes the state impossible.

Radical equality also declares that there is no “hidden” structure that divides humanity into castes or groups, one which “should” have authority over another. All of human history is the narrative of opposing thoughts: the divine right of kings, the dialectical materialism (which I incorrectly refer to as the “historical dialectic” in the podcast, republicanism, meritocracy, and good old fashioned racism and sexism.

Of these, racism and sexism have the most impact on individuals on a daily basis.

Humankind is moving inexoribly toward anarchy and atheism and will reach them unless first rendered extinct. As the principles and concepts of these two positions is encoded in media and spread, the memes will begin to catch hold and push out the antiquated ideas of religion and authoritarianism.
Atheism has a head start on anarchism. This is the result of a disarmed church. Previously, religious “belief” was near %100 because the penalties for non-belief were physical and harsh. Being an avowed atheist was not an option. Now, the atheist population is booming, because religion is a choice–and not a very attractive one–protected only by indoctrination, social ostracism, and extra-legal violence.

Repudiation of the state still carries the penalties of expropriation, prison and death. Like religion, it’s also enforced by indoctrination and the threat of social ostracism. Therefore, the advancement of anarchist ideas, while also growing rapidly, lags far behind the spread of atheism.

These aren’t my ideas, or at least, others thought of them first. I’ll use this website to provide show notes and point at the resources I’m using as the basis for my arguments.

The purpose of the podcast, currently, is to plant a flag and provide another channel of information, light in the darkness, voice in the wilderness, what-have-you. Since the positions of atheism and anarchism are wildly poisoned wells, I’d also like to clear up any misconceptions that might be out there as to the content of the positions.

Thanks for listening.