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(en) US, Minneapolis, DAYBREAK #6 - Editorial: Long Term Resistance Means Culture War

Date Thu, 26 May 2005 10:58:25 +0300

Every day, on every channel of media, the Iraq War rages on.
Long after the huge protests have faded (is it a coincidence that
they stopped around election time?) Americans and Iraqis are still
dying. Saying ‘I told you so’ feels like such an empty
victory. But let’s not be too hard on ourselves (we’re not
Marxists or Christians after all). Not because we didn’t drop
the ball by letting liberals co-opt the anti-war movement into a
John Kerry stump speech, but because the ball, traditional
demonstrations, was never really that useful of a tool to take on a
war machine anyway. Even if the state machine collapsed
tomorrow there would be a million petty dictators to step into its
place. As long as the culture we’ve been trained in reproduces
violence at every level of interaction any political actions of ours are
useless unless we deal with the authoritarian culture that backs up
the system. As revolutionaries we need to throw ourselves into the
culture war that conservatives are always ranting about, to start
putting out our lived values as a functioning alternative rather than
relying on theory, rhetoric, and antiqued ritual. It would mean a
partial shift in focus from purely political organizing to community
organizing and a partial shift in perspective from focusing on the
authorities to focusing on ourselves. By defining ourselves largely
as a ‘protest movement’ we’ve focused on mediating
our relationship to authoritarian institutions instead of going to the
grassroots, the culture of how we treat each other, and building
equality, or to use a different word, anarchy, from the ground up
that can effectively confront and undermine authoritarian

In saner times, when people had beef with some illegitimate
authority, they would gather together and either burn the
motherfucker down or extract some sort of reparation from the
authority. A protest is like a 100th generation photocopy of a good
old fashioned king burning, where all the threat is extracted and all
we are left with is an empty ritual that we keep on doing out of
habit. The unspoken goal of anarchist protesters is not to lobby the
authorities but to transform protests into liberating experiences or
into insurrections that take down authorities. While it’s true
that protesters can be very successful in chasing out authoritarian
institutions by protest, it’s often overlooked that this occurs
only in situations where power is physically threatened — like in
Argentina where protesters stormed government buildings and
actually bodily removed the officials. This doesn’t mean that
violence is the single answer, but that these protests developed out
of deeply held cultural values that offered sustained opposition
stemming from fundamental critiques. These cultural values also
manifest themselves in the Argentine workplace occupations and
the wide public support for them.

The protest movement’s main problem is a severe lack of
vision. Even if this war ends, the next will come soon enough. The
authorities may become a little more reasonable for a limited
amount of time, but they will never willingly dismantle the
apparatus of violence that is the foundation, authoritarian society
and government. The real problem is the system, which is violent
on many levels – from one-on-one to country-against-country
violence. Until we get rid of it, military wars will always exist and,
worse yet, our social interactions will still be tinged with
normalized violence and aggression. If we’re really radicals,
then it makes a lot more sense to set our sights high – to tear
the system apart, for example – than to stand outside in the
cold with a sign until we’re jailed, or the governments and
corporations of the world succeed in their nefarious plot to murder
every living thing. But it’s more complicated than a mere cry
for revolution. We need to face the fact that as revolutionaries, we
were not raised in a vacuum and the culture inside of us is highly
authoritarian. Therefore, we still need to make a conscious effort
to interact in more anarchistic ways.

Every group of people on earth has a different culture with norms
of interacting that have developed over time according to the
circumstances faced. Humans are incredibly adaptable; we have
very few definite cultural traits that anyone can agree on. We can
be highly authoritarian or damn egalitarian and, obviously, as
anarchists we want to push the culture towards more anarchistic
relationships. This involves not only yelling ‘smash the
state’ at riot cops or people locked in office cubicles (from
hereon referred to as Dilberts) but by consciously promoting (and
inventing) a culture through our daily lives. There are lots of things
that we can do on the individual level to relate to the people we love
more anarchisticly. They are the mundane points of process that
nobody likes to hear about: speaking respectfully, discussing sexual
and other forms of consent, and getting off your high horse once in
a while, etc. If we can’t commit to adopting more egalitarian
modes of communication in our own lives, then anarchistic
interpersonal relationships will never become the norm. It is each
of our personal responsibilities to lead by example, whether that
means being a good listener or doing your god damned dishes!

But we also need to expand our expectations of the loose-knit
community that already exists and put more emphasis on instilling
lived values that are the antithesis of war and
government-sanctioned murder. People need to support the
temporary institutions that sustain our values in the face of the
highly authoritarian culture. They’re pretty much the same as
the projects you see listed on flyers now – free schools,
infoshops, independent media, and groups that provide helpful
services like Food Not Bombs and childcare. These institutions
strengthen the community whose core values are opposed to
authority and whose logical follow through is direct action. So it
isn’t an either/or question of whether we should make direct
action or build community. For so long we’ve skipped the
middle step between action and theory and no wonder we’ve
been stumbling. Culture is the step that nurtures the seedlings of
both action and theory. Out of a lived and healthy egalitarian
culture, resistance will naturally blossom.

Daybreak is an anarchist tabloid put out from Minneapolis.

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