Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Tendencies

People need totems.

They really do. There's this primal yearning for a team to play on, with its own flag or jersey or ancestral god. Lots of kids' summer camps have a "color day," when the kids are divided into teams and get to run relays and stuff against each other. The kids get into it, and talk about it for years, ever holding their allegience to their bygone affiliations. Having a team is like having a name. It's humanizing.

Sneaky capitalists have used this to promote brand loyalty. When Coke and Pepsi, in the '90s, started bashing each in other taste-tests, it became clear to me that I was, in my heart, a Pepsi person. Because I'm not stupid, like those normal Coke people. 

I think there's an interesting thing that happens when you get too many people of the same totem together, though: it splits. Get a thousand professors together in a room, and no one will feel like they're on an elite task force with a special destiny just because they're a professor. A physicist will quip that non-physicists are glorified stamp collectors, and the teaming up will start.

Anarchism is a lot like that room of professors. It's split up into "tendencies," which can be defined, variously, by the goals of an adherents' anarchism, the methods they think will take us there, or what kind of party they're going to have afterwards.

Here are a few of our cool-ass teams:

Some goal-defined tendencies
"when we get there, there's gonna be no patriarchy"
"when we get there, it's gonna be like it was before governments"
"when we get there, we'll be free to change our bodies, and transcend this species, and  throw off the very shackles of death"
queer anarchism
"when we get there people, all genders and orientations will be able to do as they please"

Some method-defined tendencies

"we won't use violence or coercion to get there"
"cryptography can help get us there a lot faster, and we need to pursue the hell out of it"

So far, I can identify with every single tendency I've listed. I can wave the whole rainbow of flags. But here's where it gets hard. Here's where all the big fights happen. Get ready.

Afterparty tendencies

"when the state is abolished (or before) (or already!) I'm going to join a re-distributive syndicate"
"I'm not"

Team Edward, meet Team Jake.
"Why capitalism is what led to this mess!", the reds say. "Anarcho-capitalism is an oxymoron. Don't you know that corporations kill people and deprive them of their rights? Ever heard of Monsanto?"
"Re-distribution necessarily invokes the power of the state," the golds scream back. "Anarcho-syndicalism is an oxymoron. Don't you know that communists kill people and deprive them of their rights? Ever heard of Stalin?"

If you wave either of these flags, you are already spewing forth eloquence against the utter bullshit of one of the above statements. If you're really heavily methods-focused, and haven't signed up for either team yet, it's probably easier for you to see the malarkey in both.

I'd say this: lets beat Franco first. Let's even revel in the fact that we disagree. When we're all in some forum together, it becomes too easy to draw lines between each other. But when the sentinels are coming, even Xavier and Magneto team up. And it's sort of bad ass.


Addendum: Dear /r/anarchy, why are so many of you guys meanies?


  1. Pepsi? Ken. Come on.

    So glad to see you posting again. I needed a fix bad.

  2. Cool, I am really impressed by this because as a recent convert to reason, leaving the parties I do see this and believe that how people gravitate needs symbolic expression. The idea that it forms strange cults and clubs is only if a coercive element exists.