Bigsley the Oaf

Anarchism – Brutal Vestiges

Posted in Uncategorized by bigsleytheoaf on February 6, 2013

At the Dharma talk I attended last weekend the Zen instructor spoke about global warming and suggested that we sign a petition to President Obama urging him to make changes which would help the environment. During the Q&A session I told her that her ideas made me feel alienated, because I believed that Zen Buddhism (and Buddhist philosophy in general) espoused a point of view which rose above conceptual understanding. Beside the philosophical inconsistency of her beliefs, on a pragmatic level her faith in Obama and the establishment gave me a nasty feeling. I argued that her attempts at fixing the problem were precisely the type of action which caused the problems we’re experiencing.

During lunch, a group of 30/40-somethings approached me and asked me to eat with them. During the lunch, I told them that I was an anarchist and explained some of my beliefs. There was a man named Rand with them, and he asked me the following question:

“Suppose you were living in an village, that you had five children, and that someone came into your house and murdered one of your children – wouldn’t you want them to be punished?”

I told him that no, I wouldn’t want the murderer to be punished. I would want to collectively discuss the murder in a conversation which included the murderer and come to a conclusion about why it happened.

He pressed, “well, what if it happened again? When do you stop and make a rule?”

Let me first say that I believe that if we are to have any hope at all in the decency of humans then we must have faith in the decency of all humans. Love is the only rule that I live by – it is hard, but it is my struggle.

I posed a counter-question:

Suppose that this man murders my child and I call the community together and ask for a Rule to be established – ‘thou shalt not murder’ – and for a system to be created to punish those who murder, to separate them from society. Now do you see the damage that we have let this man do? Not only did a child die, but we have burdened ourselves with the memory of this death in the form of a system which sets brother against brother, sister against sister.

Suppose that, after such a system is established, you begin to have murderous thoughts. Because murder has been established as an “outside activity” and thus murderers as “outsiders” you would rightly think that you should keep these thoughts to yourself. But perhaps these thoughts then grow in the darkness of their repression.

You see, by calling murder “wrong” or, equivalently, creating a system to punish murder, you have nullified the question of “why does murder occur?”

This idea that a trauma causes the creation of an oppressive system is critical to a constructive understanding of the mechanisms of law in a capitalist system. There are many examples – ranging from cases of drugs becoming illegal to the much more recent buckyball toy recall.

There has been a great deal of interest among critical theorists in the question of what happens to cultural systems once they’ve outlived their usefulness. What are the brutal vestiges of our conceptual entanglement in the practical?

One brilliant example is found in Tools for Conviviality by Ivan Illych, in which he describes the fallout from the establishment of a “healthcare system” in the United States. While at first the system did some good in the form of fixing basic problems in public health – curing various illnesses such as polio, increasing public sanitary conditions, etc. – after all of the low-hanging fruit were culled we had a class of educated folks with nothing to do. Never a good thing. This is his explanation for big pharma, etc. – basically, once the machine outlived its practical usefulness it became a force unto itself, unleashed on society.

Another example is found among the ranty ravings of lunatic-philosopher Slavoj Zizek. He talks at extreme length about how Capitalism itself has become a kind of meta-monster which feeds on the corpses of social systems. “Resistance is Surrender” means precisely that any way you attempt to resist the system must be in some way systematic/conceptual – but that the system feeds on systematic/conceptual resistance. Thus, there is no way to prevent the system from growing except for (paradoxically) doing nothing.

Perhaps my analysis is a bit off, as this Simpsons quote proves:

QUIMBY
For decimating our pigeon population, and making Springfield a less oppressive place to while away our worthless lives, I present you with this scented candle.

Skinner talks to Lisa.

SKINNER
Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.

LISA
But isn’t that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we’re overrun by lizards?

SKINNER
No problem. We simply unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They’ll wipe out the lizards.

LISA
But aren’t the snakes even worse?

SKINNER
Yes, but we’re prepared for that. We’ve lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.

LISA
But then we’re stuck with gorillas!

SKINNER
No, that’s the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

The point I’m trying to make here is that humans are pretty bad at judging the nth-order results of their actions. Make a law – go ahead – but don’t claim that you have any idea what that law is going to do. My anarchism rests in a reading of history in which we cannot prove that any law has lead to positive outcomes. As with anti-depressants, we have no FUCKING clue what they do, yet we keep creating them, at great expense.

Fuck that shit. In the immortal words of Tyler, the Creator: 

KILL PEOPLE BURN SHIT FUCK SCHOOL
KILL PEOPLE BURN SHIT FUCK SCHOOL

KILL PEOPLE BURN SHIT FUCK SCHOOL

KILL PEOPLE BURN SHIT FUCK SCHOOL

I’M FUCKIN RADICAL, NIGGA, I’M FUCKIN RADICAL

I’M FUCKIN RADICAL, I’M MOTHERFUCKIN RADICAL

I’M FUCKIN RADICAL, NIGGA, I’M FUCKIN RADICAL

I’M FUCKIN RADICAL, I’M MOTHERFUCKIN RADICAL

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