trixtah: (Default)
So, I was at a kinky party last night, and there was a lengthy quote written on a board from Proudhon, the anarchist, on the nature of being governed (controlled). Now, I assume it was there as an homage to the joys thereof in an interpersonal sense. Of course, unfortunately, Proudhon himself was defining it in order to diss it.

It did make me laff. To myself. Of course, if it was intended as irony, AWESOME.


Aug. 14th, 2006 07:27 pm
trixtah: (Default)
There's just been a fairly frank exchange of views over on the polyamoryaustralia list about the old chestnut of ranking relationships as to primary/secondary/tertiary ...and not. The original discussion was sparked by Mistress Matisse's article on the very same topic, which I rolled my eyes at and disregarded, as I normally do when that subject rears its ugly head.

I briefly said onlist that I was "allergic" to my relationships being defined that way, and that it made me "foam at the mouth" when people used heirarchical language to describe my situation. Well, apparently I didn't acknowlege the fact that relationship heirarchies exist (goodness!), that it's dishonest not to admit that, and that obviously people who believe they don't have such a heirarchy want to live in some hippy utopia.

I got a little cross at this point, hee!, but I didn't use any swearwords in any of my responses! But what it boiled down to for that and at least one other person onlist (the proto-fascist wanker) was that the labels help describe where everyone stands in a relationship structure.

And this got me thinking of the wider issue of people conflating heirarchy with structure. There is a reason these words are not synonyms in English - they are not the same. But many people appear to conflate the two, or say that without the one, the other doesn't exist. Bollocks.

I personally like structure. I'm naturally a very lazy person. If I didn't have to get up and go to work in the morning, I wouldn't. I'd doss around the house all day on the Internet and would generally do sweet F-A. I like to pay my bills so that I continue to get supplied with shelter, food and fun. I like the fact that those organisations I pay money to to supply these things are in fact obliged to do so. I carry out my own obligations (virtually all of the time), and I like people's obligations to me to be fulfilled. All that requires structure, both for the delivery mechanism and for the expectation that things will be carried out as arranged.

A heirarchy is a model for defining inter-personal relationships in any structure that involves people. You know your place, and your boss knows their place, and their boss does theirs... and so it goes. It's a way of assigning authority and obligations. I have authority over the email systems. I'm obliged to my boss. He has authority over 6 staff and the email and storage systems, and is obliged to his boss and his financial reporting. It's very clear as to what place in the structure we're in. We know the rules for each of our positions.

What that doesn't confer, however, is certainty or security. And I think that most people who enjoy heirarchies believe those things are precisely what you get from "knowing the rules". If you're in the military, someone tells you where to point your gun. You don't have any moral dilemmas (well, they're trained out of you), because that is someone else's responsibility. You know you're doing the right thing, because you're following orders. The trouble is, when the orders are wrong, things can fuck up in a bad way. Or they're not applicable. You can't go around saluting people at a cocktail party.

It seems that people who rely on certain kinds of external structures for certainty and security get really fucked-up when they lose them. So, why do some people insist on them, while others are "eh, that's all there is" and others again are strongly allergic? Perhaps there's a genetic component. Heh.

I strongly believe that heirarchies are the 4th Form maths of interpersonal relationships. You have a simple equation, and when you know that x = 5, it's very easy to solve y = (2x + 1)². What if you don't know the value of x? What if it's i? Bugger.

And really, personal relationships are all about i, as far as I can tell, leaving aside other kinds of relationships. Which means there is a limit to how well rules and heirarchies can model what you should do and how you should do it. IMO, of course. :-)
trixtah: (Default)
If you've read my user info page, you know that I espouse anarchism as my ideal political philosophy. I was chatting about it to a colleague last week, and explaining the concepts of mutual aid (my being an anarchist of the socialist persuasion), no laws, no state, etc, and he goes, "Wow, that's very idealistic, isn't it?"

You know, it's not, it's totally selfish. What's the best way to get someone to do something for you? Help them out first. Ok, with some tossers, you'll never have the favour returned, but most people can understand the concept "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours". Virtually the entire sum of human knowledge has come about through collaboration and co-operation. There may be the occasional lone genius who can come up with a concept that will shake the earth, but it takes other people to disseminate the idea, put it in practice and enhance it.

We are told that the main motivation for these kinds of co-operative endeavours is profit, but that's a crock. Anyone who's ever taken or stayed in a job despite a drop in potential pay (because of the location, or the work, or the team) knows how little money can count once we have enough. And for some people, all the money in the world isn't enough. You read of multibillionaires who don't care about the money they make, it's just the fact that the extra zeros give them a sense of achievement. Speaking for myself, using money to measure one's sense of achievement seems rather pathetic.

Look at the internet, for god's sake. Look at the people here on Livejournal, of all parts of the political spectrum, who put up art and comment and ideas for no gain whatsoever, other than that of acknowledgement. Once we have the basics of life (food, shelter, fellowship/love, fun), profit is pretty much the least of the reasons we do anything. And one could argue that gaining profit is just a means of having fun for some.

Getting back to the idealism, what political philosophy is not idealistic? Even our so-called representative democracy is idealistic. Unless, of course, one day 100% of the population does happen to voluntarily vote. A good proportion of the population is so ignorant that their vote consists of what name they happen to recognise on the day (the power of advertising). Another growing proportion of potential voters have so lost faith in the ability of their vote to achieve anything that they don't bother. I struggle myself every election with the futility of voting, but I remind myself that the alternative is worse.

My view on anarchy is fairly much to the left-left. I don't believe in ownership of the means of production, including land. I don't believe that the state or the soviet or the Crown or the lord of the manor should own it either. The nice thing about living in this modern age is that we have fewer hoops to jump through than Marx did when it comes to defining the price of something. Given the efficiency of manufacturing today, we all have to acknowledge that the cost of labour is almost the least part of the price of goods. Marketing those goods is most of the price. We need fewer production means to create goods for anyone who needs them. In the Western societies, how much of our work is crap work? Call centre drones, burger flippers, all manner of service work? How many hours would we actually need to really work to make and repair goods enough to survive on, and to have some luxuries as well? Worldwide? I don't think anyone's worked out that particular sum, but I'm quite sure it's much less than 8 hours a day.

I do however believe in possession of one's personal goods, which is pretty much defined as what I use. Various political philosophers have gone on about it being a fuzzy concept, and complain that you would have idiots walking off with your clothes as soon as you left the room. Well, that happens anyway, in our wonderful capitalist system. However, if you've moved in with a partner, you know exactly what I mean about being able to identify what is yours. That is "mine", those are "hers", that is "ours". As time goes on, those boundaries get fuzzier, and you certainly accumulate more of "ours", but that's a mark of trust, really. You can still identify what is "yours" and "theirs" once it comes time to separate. (It's the "ours" that's the problem). I think that concept can be extrapolated to the macro level.

The thing I've struggled the most with over the years is how to get from here to there. How do we get from a regimented, law-riddled, selfish society to an anarchist one? The most famous option from anarchists at the turn of last century was to chuck bombs around. Well, that achieved a lot. I can't stand the idea of violent revolution, because as soon as you pick up a gun and start coercing people to do what you want, you're doing precisely the thing that you're supposed to be against (if you're an anarchist). That's one of the main problems I have with communism. Oh, and the fact that the "educated elite" are supposed to lead "the proletariat" into the promised land. The proletariat has become the sweatshop workers in third-world countries, while the rest of us on this side of the world are managing them (directly or not) or else we are part of the non-working underclass. That last statement isn't about "woe, we are teh oppressors!"; I'm just pointing out that the classical communist means of deliverance is not that relevant any more. If it ever was.

But I've been reading up on dear old Leo Tolstoy, and he had a bloody nice "evolutionary" mechanism that avoids throwing out the baby (culture, industry, innovation) with the bathwater. As he says, "All the attempts to abolish slavery by violence are like extinguishing fire with fire, stopping water with water, or filling up one hole by digging another. Therefore, the means of escape from slavery, if such means exist, must be found, not in setting up fresh violence, but in abolishing whatever renders governmental violence possible..."

Avoid the things that don't measure up to one's view of how things should be organised. Tolstoy talks about avoiding military service, refusal to pay taxes, refusal to follow the law. But he also says that taking the extreme actions are not for everyone. So, you do the things you can. Don't send your kids to a state school; pay a teacher yourself. Don't buy goods from big business, if you can. Get into barter and recycling. Participate in co-ops. Minimise the amount of tax you pay. Minimise the amount of resources you consume. Don't take jobs that perpetuate the system (for example, I was tentatively offered a job with Australian Defence. Like hell would I take it.) Don't take the dole, and as few state handouts as possible. Try justice methods that don't involve the police or courts (mediation and the like). Treat others as you would like to be treated. The more we avoid the system (whichever system), the less relevance it has. The more of us who engage in that kind of avoidance, the more that the oppressive parts will wither away. I hope. And really, life is about hope, isn't it? And think about how things have progressed since feudal times. It is possible for society to move towards more equitable arrangements if some or all of us agree.

Final word to Tolstoy: "Between the existing order, based on brute force, and the ideal of a society based on reasonable agreement confirmed by custom, there are an infinite number of steps, which mankind are ascending, and the approach to the ideal is only accomplished to the extent to which people free themselves from participation in violence, from taking advantage of it, and from being accustomed to it..."

Many anarchists would call the foregoing a cop-out, but I don't believe that oppressing other people (the middle classes, the bourgeoisie, whatever the scapegoat) in turn is the way to reduce oppression in general.
trixtah: (Default)
was yesterday. No post, as I was dying of PMTness. So, yes, Emma Goldman, anarchist, feminist and bloody interesting all-round person. Someone I would love to have at my dinner table in some alternate universe. She was famous for saying "If I can't dance, it's not my revolution". Great sentiment, even if she didn't exactly say that.

But this was something I read of hers early on, which got me on the anarchy-convert path: Rather would I have the love songs of romantic ages, rather Don Juan and Madame Venus, rather an elopement by ladder and rope on a moonlight night, followed by the father's curse, mother's moans, and the moral comments of neighbors, than correctness and propriety measured by yardsticks.

That so holds true for me even now, twenty years after first reading it.

On a more political note, this is still vastly applicable as well: There is no greater fallacy than the belief that aims and purposes are one thing, while methods and tactics are another, This conception is a potent menace to social regeneration. All human experience teaches that methods and means cannot be separated from the ultimate aim. The means employed become, through individual habit and social practice, part and parcel of the final purpose; they influence it, modify it, and presently the aims and means become identical.

This was a dig at Russian communism in particular, but it is still relevant for many political activities. Unfortunately.
trixtah: (Default)
I'm a member of the [ profile] anarchafeminist community, which I joined because I'm into the anarchist political philosophy and I'm a feminist.

But I just tripped over their definition of the term, which they got in turn from the Wikipedia article:
Feminist anarchism, or anarcha-feminism (a term allegedly created during the 1960's second-wave feminism), views patriarchy as the first manifestation of hierarchy in human history; thus, the first form of oppression occurred in the dominance of male over female.

And you know, I don't agree with it. The first form of oppression was when someone used their strength (physical or otherwise) on someone else to gain something that the other person wasn't willing to share. Whether it was a man over a woman, an older person over a younger or whatever.

If they're talking about systematic oppression, I don't know about that one either. I think the economic kind of oppression (you cannot gain access to resources unless you're X or Y) probably came first. But no-one can possibly know.

I hate it when people extend definitions past what a word apparently means. I got bit by that as well with "lesbian-feminist" in the 80s. Ok, I'm a dyke and I'm a feminist. What I didn't know is that lesbian-feminists are supposed to think that all women are naturally superior to all men (roots in cultural feminism), and that the only way to be a real feminist is to be a dyke. I even met a couple of "political dykes" (who would possibly be bi, but they felt that lesbians were "more oppressed", therefore they chose to be lesbian), and quite frankly, I'd be glad if the pair of them returned to straight-dom. (There must be a word for that kind of über-earnestness. A word for that sense of absolute moral superiority which is guaranteed to get instantly up my nose.)

Anyways, getting back to the technical description of anarcha-feminism, what a bugger. Maybe we should invent a new language of academe (since that is where these mutated definitions seem to originate), where they don't use English words, and define their own terms how they see fit. Bring back Latin as the language of academics, I say! :-)


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