This Is War- From Cuddle Puddles and Hot Pants #5

17 Oct

<!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>This is an essay from the 5th issue of Cuddle Puddles and Hot Pants. If you want to get the whole zine you can mail me 2 bux to Mo Karnage P.O. Box 6025 Richmond, Va 23222

This is War

 

This is War. We exist in a state of war. I strongly suspect that stating “This Is War” is going to be taken by some as a declaration of war. It is not. This is an observation of war. This is an acknowledgment of war. Anarchists are at war. People of color are at war. The poor are at war. Women are at war. Queers are at war. Animals, the environment, differently abled folks, and the elderly are at war.

This war was declared on us. And I think it might have always been a factor, since the beginning of human history, at least for some of these groups. Capitalism is a major factor in the way that today’s situation is played out- it defines the format of the struggles/war.

Let me break it down some. War is defined as- 1- a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations or -2- a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism- a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end.

Without even stretching the definition of war it is clear that the capitalist/straight/white/rich/male powers that be are at war with the rest of us. The capitalist system, as well as the governing system in the United States of Amerikka, depend on hierarchy to exist. And hierarchy is maintained by keeping certain people down/oppressed.

Memes like the War on Terror and the War on Drugs make this situation even more explicit. The bottom line is that for centuries people have been enslaved, hurt, tortured, harassed, sexually assaulted, imprisoned, massacred, murdered, executed, assassinated, assaulted, and generally speaking really fucking oppressed. Our side is losing and it hurts.

Memes like the War on Terror and the War on Drugs are also important to understand as meaning more than simply fighting drugs and fighting terror. Because there are basically certain groups of people who are more effected by these concepts than others. The War on Drugs is basically a cover for a racist and classist war against people of color and poor people. The War on Terror is racist, colonial and Islamaphobic, as well as clearly an oppressive political tool.

Why does this matter? Might be the question running through your head. I strongly believe that we need to conceptualize this situation as war in order to understand fully the gravity of it, as well as in order to develop appropriate and effective tactics and strategies.

It is extremely unpleasant to realize or think about the fact that we are at war. It is daunting, depressing, and scary. We are all traumatized, hurt, and damaged by this world. Trying to find it in us to get past that to fight an uphill battle is one of the hardest things we will ever have to do.

Comfort has a lot to do with this. When we have the privilege of comfort we choose not to deal with our terrible reality. To not realize how dire the situation is can be the result of privilege. But alternately, realizing that we are at war does not eliminate the daily reality of privilege.

I think that privilege is what allows certain people to think that the situation is not so bad. Privilege makes things like pacifism, reform, voting, etc. seem like effective tactics. Privilege blinds people to the extent of the problems we face.

If you want to know more about the stance of privilege that I am citing, please read Pacifism as Pathology by Ward Churchill. In fact, I recommend reading lots of things written by Ward Churchill!

Realistically a lot of people who are outside of the anarchist/activist/radical explicit scenes have a really good understanding of how dire the situation is. I have had conversations with my neighbors where they bring up how prisons are perpetuations of slavery. People have seen first hand the murderous actions of the police. It is very clear to many people who directly face oppression that the situation does indeed have sides. Lots of folks recognize the War on Drugs as racist.

I believe that we need to understand that our opponents DO perceive this situation as an us vs. them. They see us as enemies, and as a real threat. We have to realize that we are so it doesn’t come as a surprise when they knock down our doors and take us away. Security Culture, security culture, security culture. It is during the aboveground and formative stages that the folks in power initiate their investigations into any group that challenges their power. We need to understand the threat that challenges to their power represents, so we take ourselves seriously.

Examples of how the powers that be do see us as enemies and work to eliminate us: American Indian Movement, Black Panther Party, Alien and Sedition Act, Patriot Act, MOVE, AETA, etc. This is a conflict, this is war. Their tactics clearly show just how seriously they are taking this situation. We painted a giant mural on the 2nd floor of the Wingnut in time for Memorial Day this past year. The mural says at the top “In Memory of People Murdered By the State” and then we have images of oppressive state forces, police brutality, and then people from a variety of movements fighting back. Our neighbors loved it. Liberals hated it. Guess who I see as allies. The general sentiment that liberals who didn’t like it seemed to give about the mural was that it was ‘too aggressive’ or militant or brutal or confrontational. As if genocide and slavery aren’t the real problems. I think that people are just more comfortable ignoring reality than trying to talk about what has and does happen and then what that must mean.

In Virginia, the 2009 Terrorist Threat Assessment report was leaked on to Wikipedia. In 2009, in the state of Virginia, the number one domestic terrorist threat? Anarchists. (wooo go team!) We joke about it, but it is serious, they know we are their enemy. This is significant! If the ideas of anarchists were not directly in conflict with the existence of the state we wouldn’t be such a threat. Being against oppression or for social justice places one in opposition of the people in power.

I know, the liberals and the nice people, and even fellow anarchists are not down with the us versus them concept. I can see where it is problematic, on a personal face to face level. But I think that systematically it is something we have to deal with. If you are being treated as a ‘them’ you need to know that you are being treated that way. Understand the situation you are getting yourself into. Trying to understand is the only way to be able to prepare as best as possible.

I don’t think the reality of war means we have to engage it in standard ways. We need to be creative and smart and resist the recreation of hierarchies and oppressions that we are fighting. We have to take it seriously. We can try to be a more personable ‘them’. And we can do our best to have more and more people understand who we are and what we fight for. But that does not mean we should waste our time feeling sorry for cops, or that we should put ourselves or our comrades at risk by thinking that we are the special people who can make cops understand and change. (This relates to the MICE acronym for reasons why people violate security culture- Money, Ideology, Coercion and EGO. We’ve got to check our egos).

Saying that cops are just workers ignores the function of the police, and the choice that one has before choosing such a job. It sucks that people get brainwashed into that career. But my empathy for them on the level of workers should not get in the way of doing what needs to be done to protect my allies and my friends. I have about as much pity for a cop as I do for a Nazi soldier. Excuses don’t eliminate accountability- and a stack of excuses don’t make up for what they do on the job.

I also want to point out that this is not a promotion of ‘insurrectionist’ ideas. War doesn’t mean that isolated insurrectionary tactics in North America will be effective. There may be and will be times and places where these tactics are useful, but I don’t think it is necessary to embrace insurrection as a strategy at this point.

Just to clarify, a tactic is an action taken in a particular instance, a maneuver. A strategy is a long term plan of how to achieve one’s goals. We don’t have to be dogmatic about the tactics that we use. In fact, that frequently makes strategies fail. Employing a variety of tactics at the right times and in the right situations has a much larger chance for success than dogmatic clinging to non-violence or insurrection or anything else really.

The reality of war doesn’t mean we don’t be as creative, loving, queer, sexy, gender bending, trashy, serious, careful, consensual as we have been. In fact, lets do all of that harder. But not without meaning. And while being conscious about serious issues like privilege, passing, consumerism, communication, and accountability.

Our allies and friends and mentors and neighbors and environment and non human animals are being murdered and imprisoned. The United States of Amerikkka has more people imprisoned than anywhere else. Folks involved in movements that were at all threats to white male power and capitalism were assassinated, harassed, and are still locked up. (Support your local Anarchist Black Cross, or start one in your town- prisoners need your support).

I don’t know what you think the anarchist movement should look like. At the Wingnut Anarchist Collective in Richmond, Virginia we are taking the approach of building local community. It is slow, but I think has more potential than, say, summit hopping ( I know, 90’s reference).

There aren’t really enough serious anarchists here to honestly expect much of a just anarchist movement to occur. And I think that working in communities to talk about anarchist ideas has the potential to grow a genuine movement that is not vanguardist and doomed.

I feel like it would be irresponsible for me to not in someway discuss the ideology of pacifism. I will say that I think any tactic that becomes dogma seems problematic to me. I also think that pacifism in particular is often employed dogmatically by people who are not directly affected by state violence.

Basically the long and the short of it is that I take the Ward Churchill approach to Pacifism. I think pacifism as dogma is dumb, ineffective, and frequently the result of ignorance and privilege. I think being peaceful or non-violent should be a tactic, and when used intelligently can be useful. But I don’t think pacifism should be assigned some moral high ground.

I feel like I have experienced being called violent because I am adamantly against non-violence or pacifism as dogma or ideology. However, personally, I am usually very rational and have never been in a physical fight with someone over any inter-personal problem. I prefer different solutions to the problems that come up between me and other humans. We have to be smart about our behavior and tactics- both personally and politically, cause lord knows the two are intertwined.

I do think it is difficult to promote being peaceful or non-violent when in many situations folks who behave ‘violently’ do so for self defense. We are being attacked- violently. I believe that striking back against the corporations and government and their minions is self-defense.

I also can not emphasize enough the difference between violence and vandalism. I think both are frequently justifiable. But you can not be violent to a non-living thing. Calling vandalism violence is usually a form of propaganda employed by the ruling classes to villify anarchists, activists, the poor, etc.

ISMS vs. Prejudice

And now I am going to have to take a minute to talk about the very important difference between racism/classism/sexism and other isms and prejudice.

As someone with white skin and class privilege, I had a hard time understanding the difference between racism and prejudice. When this idea was first brought up to me I was definitely resistant to even trying to understand it. I had so many individualist ideas that had been crammed in my head that I really did not want to understand how and why I was part of the systems of privilege and what that meant.

The difference between and ISM and a prejudice is institutional power. Prejudice + Power = Racism. etc. Prejudice against people of color has institutional power supporting it, thus making it racism. A person of color being mean or prejudice towards a white person does not have the support of white privilege or institutional power, thus is not racism. The same goes for sexism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, speciesism etc.

It is complicated- yes. And there are many intersections of things like race, class, sex, sexuality, etc, that mean there are not always clear lines drawn.

I think it is also vital to distinguish between the justified anger and feelings of folks in oppressed groups and the unjustifiable greedy prejudice of those with power. Similar to the distinction of violence versus self defense. Learning to distrust and be angry at rich white men is different than hating black people.

 

A lot of really liberal concepts have been invading my life lately. People getting upset and offended at judgements being made. People telling me anarchism is about love and tolerance. People avidly against hate as a concept.

I know why people feel these ways, and I know they want to avoid ugliness- both confronting it and reproducing it.

However, fuck that shit. Judgements have to be made. I’ll judge a nazi, I’ll judge a neo-nazi, I’ll judge a cop. Judge a racist, judge a sexist, judge a homophobe.

A song that has always made me think seriously about our global situation is Rebel Diaz’s “Which Side Are you On?”. I’m not mentioning this because my politics are extracted from song lyrics- they are not. I’m bringing it up because it so simply and eloquently expresses how I feel.

We are in a war. A situation in which I need to know, Which Side Are You On???

There are sides. People can change sides. And it is important in some situations to leave openings for people to have enough dialogue to leave the possibility of changing sides.

However, at certain points, there is no more time for talking. I think assault, sexual assault, murder, assassination and other times when people feel direct physical threat that self defense is more effective. Times where you have to take a side (because if you don’t side with the oppressed you are inherently siding with the oppressors, by maintaining the status quo).

Which Side Are You On?

 

Direct Physical Threat.

What does that mean to you? People who are oppressed face direct physical threats more often than folks with more privilege do. There are many ways to interpret this term, and I think we all could benefit from thinking about what threatens us physically, directly.

People who worry about making judgments often also worry about morals and making moral judgments. People worry that there is nothing that exists on which to base our morals- no framework. Historically speaking a lot of folks have used religion as their framework. As an atheist, I agree that using religion to create a moral code sucks.

For me, I base my morals off of something more tangible- suffering. Who is oppressing who? Who is suffering because of whats happening. If someone is suffering because of oppression and exploitation that is bad. Stopping oppression lessens suffering and is good. Simplistic? Yes.

So I judge these that cause the suffering, and I won’t feel bad about the pain or discomfort they feel in order to wrench the power and wealth from them. I feel like this is a rational approach to figuring out realistically what can and should be done to improve the world.

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