by Simeon Becker
I am a syncretic anarchist. What this means is that, if you identify
as an anarchist, and are reasonably intelligent and nonviolent, I will
do my absolute best to not try to tell you that you are not one. This
goes from anarcho-communists/libertarian socialists/anarcho-syndicalists (I like to call them “Chomskyites”) to anarcho-capitalists/voluntaryists/free market anarchists (whose thinkology to which I personally am admittedly more partial*). I even believe there may be a place in Anarchotopia for anarcho-primitivists, as long as they don’t force me at obsidian spear-point to live naked with them in a cave wherein we will communicate by grunting and flailing our arms and shun the individual oppressive enough to dare reinvent the wheel. But we’ll have to wait and see how that goes.
*Whilst touring the egalitarian community Twin Oaks yesterday, I made
myself out to be a bit of a “that guy” by repeatedly asking questions
with dirty words, such as “Can you BUY clothes from the community
closet?” and “Now, when you claim a community bike, how much does it
COST?” And then everyone pointed at me and made a raspy shrieking
noise before devouring my soul like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Okay, no, they chuckled and politely encouraged me to think outside
the mercantilist box for a few hours. I obliged.
I do not imagine that the circumstances under which I first began to
consider that I might be an anarchist are typical to most anarchists
(though, is anything, really?). At the age of 13, I read Alan Moore’s
incredible graphic novel V for Vendetta (and yes, the book is better
than the movie), whereupon I immediately hopped on Wikipedia to learn
more about this “anarchy” of which the flamboyant protagonist extols
the virtues. This naturally led me to explore the plethora of books,
people, and inevitable awkward schisms which make up the history of
anarchism, and at some point in this, the making of a teenage
anarchist, the name Paxus Calta leapt out at me. Hence why it is kind
of an astronomically big deal for me to be guest-contributing to this
esteemed blog. (Let that hopefully serve as my first, last, and only
moment of unabashed fanboyism to be documented for posterity within
the archives of funologist.org.)
I was extraordinarily fortunate enough to have a philosophical
tradition spanning roughly 200 years laid out before me in digital
form, to be perused at my own discretion. And, since I am for whatever
reason fascinated by all forms of conflict and what drives people to
them, I naturally was compelled in particular by the various conflicts
among self-proclaimed anarchists concerning what, exactly, an
anarchist society would necessarily be and not be. It is
etymologically self-evident that “anarchy,” Latin for “no rulers,”
does not mean “no RULES,” but when one attempts to delineate what
rules are legitimate, how they ought to be enforced in the absence of
rulers, and by what means we as individuals can coax society at large
toward such ends, one will likely incur the ire of no small number of
diametrically opposed thinkers all shouting at each other, “NOT REAL
ANARCHISM!” Especially if one makes the horrendous blunder of starting this conversation on Facebook.
(Tangential to that last sentence, if you are an anarcho-anything,
please do your mental state the huge favor of avoiding the Facebook
group Anarcho-Capitalist/Anarcho-Communist Debate like the plague. I
say this as a reluctant administrator of this group who has concluded
many a coffee-fueled morning holding my head in my hands over
something astoundingly rude and/or insanely idiotic posted by someone
on either side of the issue, usually myself.)
A conversation with Paxus yesterday highlighted a perfect example of
such a fundamental split among anarchists, one in which I
uncomfortably find myself slightly to the right of the middle. Allow
me to allegorize:
Mr. X runs A Very Big Smelly Corporate Factory. AVBSCF, Inc., on a
daily basis, dumps roughly 666 gallons of oobleck into the Idyllic
River, which runs past Happytown. The prolonged exposure to oobleck
begins to make the residents of Happytown, well, not so happy. Maybe
even sick, or dead. How shall an anarchist society penalize Mr. X for
his callous irresponsibility? The most common Chomskyite answer in my
experience, which I personally do not find satisfactory, is that there
simply would be no AVBSCF, Inc., to begin with; in its place, there
would be A Harmonious Eco-conscious Worker-Owned Collective (Inc.?),
as society will presumably have somehow evolved past such ridiculous
constructs like “money” and “economics.” Failing that, some kind of
Harmonious Consensus-Democratic EPA will step in to decide what to do
with Mr. X and his henchpeople. The anarcho-capitalist answer, on the
other hand, is not particularly satisfying, either: If people don’t
like the oobleck problem created by AVBSCF, Inc., they should not be
perpetuating it by buying AVBSCF, Inc.’s widgets. Failing that, the
relatives of the deceased Happytownites should sue Mr. X, and in a
just market of laws, would win. And yes, I just used the phrase
“market of laws.” Unless you are an anarcho-capitalist, your mind is
probably irreversibly blown.
It seems to me that, if the general public is too willfully ignorant
to give the logical and ethical superiority of a stateless society
over a statist one a second, or maybe even a first, thought, they
probably shouldn’t be relied upon to collectively resolve, “Let’s put
the Idyllic River before our lovely widgets!” But doesn’t the
Chomskyite solution presuppose, well, a government? Even a supposedly
kinder, gentler government? Mao Tse-tung was unfortunately right on
the money when he pointed out that “political power comes out of the
barrel of a gun.” Whatever their aims, governments necessarily claim
epistemologically unjustifiable monopoly over an essentially arbitrary
section of the planet. That doesn’t sound kind, or gentle. Or
anarchist. Is the question we should be asking ourselves how to
prevent the problem, or how to resolve it after the fact? Is the
problem even preventable? Can any model of society suppress the human
nature to oppress?
Anarchy is a priori. To paraphrase Alan Moore, the most common statist
objection to anarchism, that the biggest gang would take over and
negate the entire concept of anarchism, is literally the exact state
of current affairs. We live in a badly developed anarchist society in
which the biggest gangs have taken over and declared that this or that
area within these or those imaginary lines is not really an anarchist
society, but a capitalist society, or a communist society, or a
democratic socialist society, or a fascist society. As far as I am
concerned, anyone attempting to deny anarchism outright is probably
not worth discussing politics with, or sociology, or economics, or
much of anything except maybe the weather. Maybe not even that,
either. This is the attitude that has restricted my circle of friends
almost entirely to anarcho-capitalists and a very small handful of
very patient anarcho-communists. And even these friends I have a
tendency to horrify/annoy/confuse/weird out, the former by saying
things like “I’m spending a month in a commune! Isn’t that awesome?”,
the latter by saying things like “Don’t you just love the free
market/money/private property laws/the Ludwig von Mises Institute/the
Supreme Court ruling on corporate personhood?”
It is clear to me that SOME kind of anarchist society MUST be the cure
for the majority of society’s ills, but what exactly I mean by
“anarchist society,” I guess I can’t say. I don’t think anyone can.
But if you’re not an anarchist…sure is cold at Acorn Community today.
Twin Oaks is an established income sharing community in central Virginia of 93 adults and 15 children. Now located on a 450 acre farm, the commune operates 6 businesses, grows most of its own food–organically–builds it’s own buildings, teaches it’s own kids, and repairs it’s own appliances and vehicles.
Here is some of the mainstream and alternative media coverage of us:
Russia Today circa 2012
CNN circa 2010
Frequency555 circa 2010
Mojo Productions circa 2009
Voice of America circa 2009
Central to the community’s operation is the idea of sharing resources. Twin Oaks has developed robust systems for sharing cars, bikes, clothes and businesses. These systems are in sharp contrast to the casual sharing practiced in the mainstream where brittle agreements generally lead to failure.
One of the many advantages of sharing resources is dramatically reducing our negative ecological effect and carbon footprint. The numbers below demonstrate we are already near the 80% reduction in carbon emissions that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is recommending by the year 2050.
[Note: It is unclear if the below numbers include our income generating businesses or not. My guess is they do, and thus we are even more sustainable. But i will check and indicate here what is true.]
Gasoline: The average Virginia resident uses about 530 gallons per year. Twin Oaks consumed about 15,267 gallons of gas in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of population of 96, that would put our consumption at 159 gallons per person. That is 70% less gasoline consumed.
Electricity: The average Virginia resident uses 13,860 kWh of Electricity per year. Twin Oaks consumed 268,065 kWh in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of 96, that would put our consumption at 2,792 kWh per person. That is 80% less electricity consumed.
Natural Gas: The average household in Virginia uses 767 therms of natural gas. Twin Oaks consumed 16,221 therms of natural gas in 2007. With an adult population on average of 87 adults, that would put our consumption at 186 therms per person. That is 76% less natural gas consumed.
Solid Waste: The average American produces 1,460 pounds of trash a year. Twin Oaks produced 18,780.00 pounds of solid waste in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of 96, that would put our production at 196 pounds per person. That is 87% less solid waste produced.
The cultural aspects of community life are as important as the economic ones. We develop our own holidays. Almost all our operations are run by volunteers. We don’t use money internally and there is effectively no crime.
In many ways , the community is an island, culturally and economically separate from it’s immediate surroundings. This cooperative model, however, is one of the very few solutions that can actually avoid the climate catastrophe the US is hurtling toward at breakneck speeds.
The original data for comparing Twin Oaks with US average consumption of electricity, natural gas, gasoline and solid waste were researched by Alexis Ziegler of Living Energy Farm.
Over the years, they’ve been hired by a long list of impressive and, for an anarchist collective, unlikely seeming clients. Then, in 2006, they were approached by one the biggest banks in Latin America and Spain. It was suffering from organizational malaise and wanted help for fueling innovation in its ranks. Las Indias took the job and, after analyzing the situation, decided, like the good transnational anarchists that they are, that the bank was suffering from two major ills: they had too much hierarchy and they were too divided nationally. The prescription was simple and radical. They insisted that the bank stuff -more than 120,000 workers- should learn to talk and work out of the hierarchy with a focus in internal open conversations rather than communication segregated by nation or department.
As part of this wave of rediscovery, with workers rediscovering their own environment and the future living inside and around it, the bank financed the first book series of collected of essays by living authors released under Public Domain in Europe. The books, on such at-the-time arcane subjects as P2P systems, the sharing economy, and workers’ transnational cooperativism, were both free for download as ebooks and as a paper edition. The commercial success of the print version was a rare and surprising success in the Spanish editorial scene: even though everybody had the option to have them for free as e-books, thousands of copies of every single title were sold in traditional bookshops.
However, anarchist transnationalist organization was a bit too much for the bank in the long run. The “Innovation Department” who contracted las Indias closed (their members were all promoted) and the bank turned progressively towards a flashier policy of buying dotcom businesses and trying to integrate them into the existing organization. Emphasis on internal conversation was decreased and emphasis on promoting external blogs and marketing was increased. In 2010, after a few years as a successful but then orphaned experiment, they closed the internal blogosphere, the first massive conversational space in a big worldwide organization.
The bank weathered Spain’s financial crisis in 2008 relatively unscathed. Las Indias suspects that the reflection and innovations fueled by the open conversations had outside of the structure of the hierarchy helped them to avoid dangerous policies then common in other banks. Las Indias walked away from the project, but with a recognized and salable experience that later opened doors for them to more big institutions and businesses of the European Union and Latin America.
A British racing green jaguar convertible sports car pulled up next to me as I was hitching outside Boston. I am surprised to see the door of the expensive vehicle pop open and the driver wave me over.
“Come on get it!”
“Thanks I needed a ride from here” I hop into the leather bucket seat.
“Where do you want to go? My wife says I am too drunk to be home”
Some years later I was driving in Los Angeles and picked up one of the quite rare hitchhikers inside the city limits.
“Thank you so much, I have been waiting there all day and I just got out of jail.”
In case you are unfamiliar with prison culture it is considered poor form to ask an excon what they were in the slammer for. If they want you to know, they will tell you. So assuming you are familiar with the culture, this statement (and the following lack of clarification) is basically saying, “i need you to trust me right now, and I am not giving you much info on why you should.”
In the original myth of Prometheus, the hero ascends mount Olympus, where he fools the gods and steals fire from them [The myth then morphed into him going to the underworld.] Returning to the surface world, this fire is given to humanity and used to build civilization. But Zeus becomes angry with Prometheus and condemns him to be tortured for eternity.
Recent information made available thru the Freedom of Information Act indicates some important details of the myth have been left out. It turns out the gods knew Prometheus was coming and was planning to rob them. So the gods hid all of the good fires and left only the worst one behind for Prometheus to steal [Prometheus wrongly assumed there was only one kind of fire]. Thus Prometheus returned to earth with the wrong fire and with the wrong intent and correspondingly built the wrong society.
There is now a place for a new kind of Prometheus. One who works with the gods instead of stealing from them and uses the best fires, which the gods hid from Prometheus in the places we have only now started to look for them – in the wind, in the sea and in the sun.
It is time we started working with nature – instead of stealing from it, harnessing the power of renewable resources in wind, solar and sea-based technology. And with these we can build a new civilization.
Mostly real progress is slow. It took decades to end slavery (which gave way to wage slavery in many places). It took longer to get even some of the most basic rights for women in this country. It took a decade of protest to end the Vietnam War. Decades for gay marriage. I am doubtful multi-partner marriages will be legalized in my lifetime.
Early in my clean energy campaigning career (the 1990s), a renewables expert explained that they preferred we not call it “alternative energy” because this was not our long term objective. And for decades we have heard “wind is not ready from prime time” or “solar is too expensive for utility scale application”. But when someone says that to you these days, you should respond with the same incredulity you would if someone suggested we strip women of the right to vote. “Hey, have you been living under a rock?”
The triple meltdown at Fukushima hit the accelerator for clean energy solutions in a number of countries. Perhaps most dramatically in Germany, where parts of this shift have been underway for decades. If you stay closely on top of the German energy transition (called Energiewende) you will have no doubt heard that in the early stage after closing reactors after the Fukushima disaster the country was actually opening more coal fired power stations.
But as the bar chart above shows, the “Fukushima means more coal in Germany” story is old news. These distortions were caused in part by their being a number of incomplete high tech coal plants in the pipeline when Fukushima hit and distortions in the European carbon tariffs which (hopefully temporarily) were favoring coal. As the longer term graph above shows, unlike many countries, Germany is serious about reducing it’s carbon footprint. Central to it’s success is that more than half of the renewable investment in Germany in recent years has been from individuals (including farmers) rather than large utilities or governments.
Japan is arriving later to the party, but is still showing up in significant ways. Most recently there has been an explosion in the number of companies registering to sell electricity. These include Honda Motors, Panisonic, Softbank and some giant Japanese homebuilding companies. This is critical, because unlike Germany, Japan has 10 nuclear power utilities which have had a monopoly on electricity sales. The government for it’s part has (like Germany did) created above market pricing for power which is generated from renewables. Even before the opening of the market, Japan has seen a surge in home/business electric generation for personal/industrial use. The Japanese court just handed anti-nuclear activists a rare victory in stopping the restart of 2 reactors.
Japan, unlike the US, does not have a single authority to restart it’s currently closed 48 reactors. Even the newly restructured safety authority is telling the Abe administration that they need to check with local governments before restarting reactors, even if the safety authority says it is okay. Recently elected anti-nuclear provincial governor Taizo Mikazuki of Shiga prefecture on July 13th, indicates that the Abe governments plans to restart reactors are far from secure. The longer Japan continues to function will all of it’s reactors off and without blackouts, the less plausible the utilities arguments are that they are completely necessary to run the country.
Germany has the solar profile of Alaska. Japan has very few conventional energy resources. Both countries are using tax structures, market mechanisms, feed in tariffs and public education campaigns to change the ways they produce energy. Germany is ahead of schedule to close all it’s reactors by 2022. Japan currently has all its reactors closed. These were the number 3 and number 4 nuclear countries in the world (after the US and France).
It is far form a done deal, but the above graph shows an important trend. It is worth pointing out that at a 25% capacity factor, the installed wind power worldwide represents the equivalent of 35 full size reactors – which is still a long way for replacing the almost 400 operating reactors worldwide, but if you compare it to 6 reactor equivalents in place in 2009, you can see that this real progress in energy is moving right along.
Comrade Tikva has penned a great piece for Elephant Journal [Which posted my review of the Movie Wanderlust] If you want to see this article on EJ , with it’s links (and odd image) it’s here. She also does a brilliant comic on polyamory.
Many romances begin with wordless flirtation, stolen kisses and vague communication.
In a culture where disinterest is often interpreted as shyness or “playing hard to get,” men are encouraged to think women need to be skillfully interpreted and convinced, instead of taken at their word. Even the clearest “no” is still up for debate.
I’ve had men tell me I was “asking for it” by making eye contact with them on the street instead of averting my gaze. And when they discovered that my polite smile was not a request for sex, they reacted in outrage as if I was purposefully leading them on.
A stranger misinterpreting our smile as an open invitation to our body sounds ludicrous, but watching any romantic comedy will show us how our culture views consent.
How many times does the woman turn the main character down before he grabs and kisses her—and doesn’t she secretly want it all along, perhaps without even knowing it herself, until he figures out how to prove that they are meant to be?
It may be entertaining to watch awkward fumbling and forceful passion on the screen, but this kind of indirect communication seeps out into our actual romantic encounters far too often and can be very dangerous.
When men identify with that main character who wins the girl in the end, they feel cheated when their own efforts aren’t achieving the same results. They can sometimes decide to take it forcefully if the woman isn’t catching on quick enough, because “no” just means she hasn’t been convinced yet that this is what she really wants.
Most women have encountered men who feel entitled to have access to their bodies. Just look at the recent gruesome events involving Elliot Rodger and the resulting stories on Twitter with the hashtag “#YesAllWomen.”
Clearly there are a lot of men out there who think they deserve the girl, regardless of what she has to say about it.
In polyamorous relationships, unclear communication will have us drowning in a sea of interpersonal drama much more quickly than it would in a conventional, monogamous relationship.
One reason for this is that monogamy is the expected norm, so if we’re monogamous, it’s pretty easy to coast through the beginning of our relationship without putting any effort into communicating our intentions or expectations.
If we say nothing at all about what we want, it is assumed that our eventual goal is a monogamous until-death-do-us-part with someone. Polyamorous relationships are more complex and less understood, so therefore require explanation right from the beginning and skillful communication throughout.
Poly folks will often discuss their specific intentions with people they are attracted to and even sit down with everyone’s other partners and discuss it with them as well, way before the first date is even considered. It is very likely that a first kiss won’t come with a silent assumption of consent, but after it has been discussed with everyone involved instead.
Clear communication is a must for long-term poly relationships, so this is a skill that gets exercised often.
But what does this have to do with rape culture? Rape culture is fed on silence and assumptions. By insisting on communicating clearly every step of the way about any intention of sex or romance, we kill those old ideas of romance being about silent flirtation and stolen kisses.
We make consent sexy.
We might think that clear communication is overkill, boring and that it will stifle the romance—but the opposite is true. When people are open and vulnerable in relationship to each other, expressing the full extent of their desires and (most importantly) wanting to hear and understand the desires of their partners, there is absolutely nothing sexier than that.
I used to think that stolen kisses were sexy, but now I see them as a sign of emotional immaturity and dissociation. I would much rather my partners be obviously interested in what I want than trying to see what they can get out of me.
I would much rather be telling them what I want than waiting for them to guess.
Margaret Atwood’s quote, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” illustrates why it is more important that men take on the task of communicating clearly and receiving consent, but it is incredibly empowering to take on the task as a woman as well.
We don’t need to be in a polyamorous relationship to get our clear communication groove on, obviously. But if we’re in a polyamorous relationship we need to communicate impeccably, just to keep up with what’s going on.
Making clear communication and consent sexy is a huge part of what’s needed to feed the revolution of consent culture. So whether we are monogamous, polyamorous, monogam-ish, or poly-curious, we need to push ourselves to communicate more openly with everyone and see how it affects our romantic life.