Submitted to It’s Going Down
This letter (or rant) was originally meant as a therapeutic stream of consciousness for an existentially confused revolutionary anarchist. It is now being presented as a letter or call out requesting written contributions on the subject of ‘burning out’, or a broader community goal of creating a diverse and revolutionary dialogue in opposition to the drop out culture that can be associated with the term.
The letter below was not necessarily written by those coordinating this project. It was anonymously submitted at a political meeting somewhere in the United States.
We expect and desire a diversity in the responses made, both from the perspectives of those writing them, as well the advice or reactions shared. This letter is being shared both privately and publicly. It is being sent to comrades in the states and abroad, and we hope to put together something that can both help strengthen the confidence and passion of existing anarchists, and help to create a dialogue that will aid in preserving the strength of revolutionary communities and individuals of the future. The deadline is November 21st. All responses and submissions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org . If you have questions about your writing or concerns about the project or deadline please also write this email. You will be told if your response will be included in the eventual print edition of this project: conflictual wisdom.
To my comrades:
What is it mean to grow older as an anarchist; feeling the same feeling of discontent, yet, only growing to see even more confusing challenges in not surrendering to it? I have always privately explored these types of concerns and questions with peers who share the years of being in permanent conflict with this society that I myself have. Those who with time I find affinity with in facing the inevitable existential challenges that come with such a stance in everyday life.
Publicly, in writing or propaganda, I have never imagined myself using the attention of our movement, community, or milieu (whatever you call it) to help solve such a personal, and potentially whiny internal strife. But in contrast to the hyper-academic and escapist “Nihilistic”* trends sweeping specifically American anarchist circles, I am asking these questions with a goal of making my sight more clear and discontent less debilitating. I ask these questions with the goal of overcoming the counter-revolutionary considerations of this volatile “realist” thinking, to become a stronger anarchist; stubborn as ever.
I do not expect victory; rather I recognize that to be an anarchist, to advocate for the destruction of all facets of domination, is a far fetched desire, that doesn’t consider winning or losing. Struggle is defined in a refusal to forfeit a stance and side, especially if the odds are against you. But with growing older, with repeated loss and depression, my stroll down this trajectory of struggle could use a helping hand.
I have been active for over half my life. Well we could say I have identified formally as an anarchist in some way or another for over half my life (which does not mean always being active). I became an anarchist at a very early age. I have been imprisoned, assaulted, and harassed by an array of everyday life enemies and high figure authorities over choosing this stance and staying true to it. I don’t regret one moment of this. I feel that through these years there have been times where I have been forced to question my own sincerity. When I had to ask myself would snitching ever be an option before prison. Where I needed to find the strength in myself beyond the social scene pressures of my politics (or anti-politics) and overcome the privilege of considering fear before action. Times where I had to set a line in the sand as to what I could and could not allow into my life from this coercive fascist civilization regardless of it’s inconvenience. I have worked through these obstacles concluding only that I truly am an anarchist, and the position is deeply important to me and my character. At this point, to even consider regret based on what a mathematician or scientist would call futile goals and efforts would only humiliate over half of my existence, and more disturbingly disrespect the friendships and experiences that have grown from my anarchist life. But when you see the same stories again and again, personal and political, positive and negative, what do you do when your mind faithlessly wonders how to keep onward? Is our community one that can support each other through these mental and emotional challenges?
I do not have children or property, and with years of saving from an array of (conventionally speaking) modest to premium service jobs, I have the luxury to travel a bit and take off work. With this privilege to travel, I see the same fucking thing all over the world. Capitalism is truly winning almost everywhere on earth, displaying the same excesses of the wealthy across the board, and extreme poverty of everyone else (It really is fucking only different based on inflation and different degrees of social diversity). I see the world getting rapidly worse, technically and socially, at the expense of the natural world, non-human species, and the health and sustenance of most of humanity (the less “fortunate” portion of humanity, that is overwhelmingly most of it.). The internet doesn’t help me to feel any better. I watch poor and people of color murdered, on video, almost weekly. Only to see the same varying reactions by both those protesting and those repressing. I read about ISIS crucifixions and it’s booming sex-trafficking market while I am bored on the train. And when I really become obsessed with understanding how fucked and miserable this global capitalist dystopia is, I just start to research the realities of nuclear waste and nuclear maintenance. These things make me feel small, they make me question myself as an anarchist. They are the thoughts that cut the time short for victorious feelings I may have from a cathartic experience in the streets, or the inspiration I would feel from discontent communities and individuals resisting the oppression/repressions of the world today. They bring me back to a feeling of private humility, I am not ashamed of, but concerned is a counter-revolutionary instinct not to share with my revolutionary community. The feeling that highlights the grim reality of lottery odds that my anarchist desires face.
I have pride as an anarchist, but pride for me isn’t something I can always use to keep my head up simply surviving everyday life, with all it’s compromises.
This year I have had the opportunity to observe some of the most beautiful street-demos I have ever seen. They were both far from my home, and expected. They were amazing, truly cathartic, but by the next morning, I quickly returned to the harsh reality of normalcy. It seemed that that is all they were, cathartic or therapeutic (which is maybe a good thing, but it can’t be the only thing, cause I am not fighting just to feel free in my life, but to be free), a refreshment, like a night out that was unusually fun. But as I traveled to both instances of demonstrated rage and joy, I thought in retrospect that I was experiencing an almost choreographed play. A violent theater in the streets tolerated and expected by both my comrades and my enemies. That with my foreign participation and selfish contributions I was simply embracing a controversial tradition as opposed to pushing insurrection against capitalism and the state. I would leave and start to question projections on the experience I would make as an anarchist, versus realities of my being there as a tourist and the array of tensions and histories going on that do not stem from my everyday life back home. I felt that I was appropriating these acts of planned and annual resistance to the state for my own existential interests (a much less annoying appropriation then something like yoga or eastern spirituality by the west, but still an appropriation in a way), even though I simultaneously firmly appreciate the violent display of solidarity and horizontal social bonding (something I truly feel and wanted to express to my unknown friends in the streets) that I tell myself took place. I walked away feeling like an accomplished tourist in my eventual confusing retrospective analysis; like I got to go to a great party and have great sex (these comparisons are awful but I am trying to expose my thoughts and feelings). I don’t regret either moment though of course. In fact the memories of these instances will forever make me smile and help cope with my thoughts that accompany this consideration of failure or stagnation. The return to normalcy that follows once this moment of revolutionary catharsis resides, again and again, year after year, is something that can rot in the back of your mind; coming out in the form of panic attacks, drinking, or depression.
Right now in 2016, I do believe that since I started to consciously identify my frustrations and desires as anarchist, there is a real yet subtle growth in displays of anarchist activity and tensions we have solidarity with in North America; most importantly not just by or with self-proclaimed anarchists. I feel that anarchist methods for displaying discontent is being generalized by the grassroots efforts of proletarian and non-politicized oppressed/repressed communities. I believe that anarchists are reaching a broader audience, whether it be due to the internet or the re-surfacing of american riots and strikes. But this is in comparison to when i was born in the 80s, during the Reagen years.
With reading about what is happening now in the states and comparing it with periods throughout the 20th century I have this awful idea that I am witnessing a society repeating itself. These riots resemble the 60s, just with inflated damage estimates, politically correct reporting, and a far more equipped police force (Clearly riots such as the Detroit and LA riots of the 60s had far more destruction created by proletarian communities. This most likely is just due to the advancements in american policing and punishment). Additionally the earth seems to be one giant fucking cigarette for the industrial capitalists to smoke before us all, until they finally get cancer and bring us all out with them. You then look outside the west though, and realize that while there are exceptions, we are a serious minority in this world. I also can’t help but fixate on the lengths our enemies that acknowledge us will go to ruin our lives. Of course we would pursue the same depths in regards to our goals for them, but you can’t help but feel intimidated by the depth of their resources. Resources that surpass any logistical capability of anarchists if it came down to it. These are a few thoughts I contemplate when I search myself for new motivations to feel optimistic (Or not become victim to self-imposed normalcy).
These are considerations I can’t help but to ponder. Yet I want to push for a non-cynical reaction to them. Problem is, I am finding that harder and harder to do so. I have this lingering depression about my conscious obliviousness to a most likely epic fail. Also I face a constant anxiety of not doing enough, or anything at all. And whether or not I find a balance in that regards, I will always have anxiety about the constant and tenacious threats of the state for simply choosing this subversive stance.
I do believe in community and solidarity. I think these are the most crucial things that anarchism in reality has contributed to my life. I will never turn my back on either, and for this I reach out to the anarchist community and express my solidarity as a committed enemy of the state, yet ask if anyone has any words of wisdom on my belligerent hope shattering contemplation?
I am wondering if this is clear, I hope it is not too clear in a way; to reflect the confusion I am trying to share. However this is interpreted, I am writing anonymously, not sharing my race, gender (or lack of), or ethnicity. I am not sharing my particular political team or ideological association when it comes to my anarchist rhetoric. I am reaching out believing that I am not the only one going through this. Also that I am not the only one going through this or has gone through this that looks for answers that help to stay the course, retaining my anarchistic passions, and not seeking a way out by passive Nihilism or sub-cultural escapism.
Maybe your gut reaction is to tell me to get a therapist or quit your whining, but it is important to realize that I am as dedicated as I can be to our movement/tension. To dismiss me would in a way set a precedent to perpetuate a drop-out culture in anarchism that we have seen repeated throughout our history. A drop-out culture that has enabled snitching, sexual assault, resource theft, and exposure to the state.
This is an experiment. I am writing this with the intention of putting together a publication of responses to these thoughts. I am seeking responses that can contribute to a dialogue that will help our minds and hearts to stay free of counter-revolutionary Nihilism and cynicism. We have beautiful voices as anarchists in this world. We reserve the only true liberatory position among a wretched humanity. I believe that we can create a dialogue within our communities that can start to help answer these questions and prevent a re-occurring dropout culture or the neglect of emotional dialogue that can strengthen ourselves and our subversive communities. I have been very broad here, but I am reaching out just as widely. If you think you have something you would like to write on burning out, or just in response to these words and so forth, please send them this way: email@example.com
*I have always felt that these folks claiming to be Nihilists in the states specifically have misrepresented Nihilism. Something such as complete negation of society and its reified institutions is something that i consider very much to be an important position for anarchists to take from or embrace completely. On the other hand it is being used not in the way it was materialized by Russian Nihilists a hundred and fifty years ago, or interpreted by Situationists contributing to a push away from their leftist origins; it is being used as an academic discourse that excludes individuals who are without the proper rhetoric, belittles manifestations of negation that are not in line with the fantasies of those advocating for this post-modern(ish) approach to Nihilist thinking, and pushes for a discourse that is insular in it’s nature; incapable of being generalized to other humans. While Nihilism today has done some interesting things in places such as Chile or Greece (Of course it is important to note that Greek Nihilism while having fantastic actions and beautiful writing, and I myself feel a sense of solidarity with due to these things, has not been an entirely positive element of the overall Greek anarchist movement, and not to be put on some pedastal.) the states is not comparable. We are left with a simpsons-comic-book-seller-type-pretension of Nihilism in the states.