Monday, November 19, 2012

What the f**k is anarchism?

Roger Benham dispels one of the most common myths about anarchy - the myth that without the state, people will go crazy and eat each other’s children, among other things.

“To me, anarchism means the absence of a coercive authority and people acting in the absence of that authority. So what we’re seeing now played out in the wake of Superstorm Sandy we’ve seen before in the wake of other disasters:

When there is the absence of a coercive authority or something/someone telling them what to do, people automatically tend to act in co-operative ways to help their community. We’ve noticed this before with disasters. They really do seem to bring out the best in people. The best in people, to me, is anarchism, and that’s what we mean when we talk about anarchism - the idea that when there’s not a cop or a priest there to tell you what to do you are going to act in ways that are beneficial not just to yourself and not just to your immediate family but also to your community.

In the immediate wake of a disaster all human beings tend to exhibit anarchist principles. When there isn’t a disaster around there are some of us who want to advocate for that kind of organisation all the time in that belief that as humans we can organise ourselves without a coercive force and on principles of mutual aid.  But the institutions of our society are obviously completely opposed to that. The prison industrial complex, capitalism, the state. These institutions have top-down organisations and hierarchies that are very slow to react to new realities on the ground. One of the best things about anarchism is that we are decentralised when we’re doing anarchist practice. We’re trying to be responsive to ourselves and to our communities and this enables us to be more nimble than the state and corporate responses. Another very important thing is that it enables us to go into communities that are directly affected immediately and not be afraid of them. That’s also something that the state depends upon - the fear that if the state didn’t exist then all of us as humans would be at each other’s throats. So you’ll constantly see this narrative deployed in the wake of a disaster:

“There’s no police! There’s no food! There’s no public utilities! People are out there pillaging and looting and raping!”

Time after time after time we find out that this is not the case, that these stories are false. These stories make it so that the state wants to reconstitute itself through its most basic function, which is that of a monopoly on violence and this is what happened in Haiti after the earthquake. In Port Au Prince, the US military took over the airport there and actually stopped aid shipments for two solid days so that they could get elements of the 82nd airborne on the ground with all of their security assets.

I responded to the disaster in Haiti with some other anarchists and anti-authoritarians. We were going into areas of Port Au Prince that we were told “You cannot go in there with anything less than a battalion-strength security force”.  It was ridiculous. There were all these stories of people looting and burning and roadblocks with bandits. When we got there, that wasn’t the case. It was neighbourhoods of people in dire situations and they were helping one another. It was found out that the crime rate in Port Au Prince actually went down after the earthquake. We see this over and over again. The same thing happened in New Orleans in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. All of those stories the police and the press were spreading about rapes and pillaging. That wasn’t happening. The violence that happened was perpetuated mainly by the police and by private security forces, who had this idea that people were going crazy and assaulting each other because they didn’t have a coercive presence there. As anarchists, we don’t believe that the coercive presence of the state is what prevents people from being at one another’s throats. So this enables us to go into disaster areas immediately after they’re affected.  Because we’re not waiting around to make sure that we’re safe or that we’re secure. I saw this in New York. An aid organisation in New York was very concerned that we were going into darkened public housing in New York City to check people’s needs. They said “You need a police escort to do that”. Even when the power is on you need a police escort to go into those buildings. Organisations like the American Red Cross… my understanding is that they are not allowed to deploy their resources into evacuation zones. They have this obsession with security. We don’t have that as anarchists. The people that we are going to treat are our comrades and our neighbours and our friends and our fellow human beings. We don’t see them as possible threats. We also are self-directed and very invested in the idea of small autonomous groups that are able to see a need and respond to it. We don’t have to go back to some chain of command and fill out paperwork.

'Hey, there’s a problem here. Let’s go ahead and respond to it directly.'

There are five or six of us together who can work together and we don’t have to check it out with some kind of hierarchy."

Roger Benham, Mutual Aid Street Medics Collective

This quote comes from a fantastic edition of Stimulator's "It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine"   -

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Walls Still Stand by Wolfi Landstreicher

I came across this great poem in Green Anarchy Magazine. I couldn't find a decent copy on the internet so decided to post it to my blog. Enjoy!

Sometimes it seems we could not be

stopped; we were crazy feral children,

our eyes ablaze with polymorphous lust.

Our intensity demanded eternity, an

unending flow.

There was no turning back. Reeling,

dizzy with joy on the edge of a cliff, our

lives so full of now, there was no


We flew burning through the night

finding toys with which to create the

wonders of our lives.

Bricolage symphonies, cacophonies,


Our madness was intentional, a

godless rite to break down the walls

and dams.

The moments of our lives seemed like

forevers so full of this life they had

We lost ourselves in flows of desire, in

wandering currents of sensation

stronger than the channels that would

keep them in constraints.

Our hearts pounded, we were wild-eyed

with our energy, flaming tornadoes

dancing zig-zag through heaving


Smashing the walls...

Smashing the walls...

Smashing... smashing... smashing the


But the walls still stand and I am tired...

Set me aflame once more.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My Dream

I’m sitting in lotus

A waterfall thunders behind me

Fish swim peacefully in the crystal clear water

I’m unclothed with long hair and a beard

My body is firm, clean and strong

My skin glows with a healthy tan

My mind is still and I am completely in the present

I have let go of my past and my future

I am truly happy and enlightened

I no longer need words to express my love for everything and everyone

It is an energy that permeates the air

Around me the jungle is filled with the sounds of wild nature

Birds sing and leaves rustle peacefully

A snake slithers by

I am unperturbed

I am at peace with my mortality and unthreatened by anything around me

Nature provides me with all the medicine I will ever need

After a while I rise from my position and return to camp

Children are playing

Adults are going about their daily business

There is much laughter and conversation
Money does not exist

It was always an illusion that is now all but forgotten

Without money, all relationships are voluntary

So much fakeness has been cleansed from our spirits

We joke about the concept of work

We wonder how people were ever tricked into it

I join a few men and women who are preparing for a hunt

It is a sacred practice, an honoured ritual

We walk down a jungle path

Monkeys watch us cautiously from the trees as we pass

We move through the remnants of a city

The buildings and streets have been reclaimed by wilderness

Vines creep up the buildings and grass grows from cracks in the tar

Antelope run across the roads

There is a thick cloud of mist around the dilapidated buildings

Some abandoned cars litter the streets

They’re of no use to anyone anymore

We pass through the city

We walk a few more kilometres before coming to a clearing

A few metres away lies a crystal clear pond

A warthog is drinking quietly

I kneel down and pull the string of my bow

The hog is aware of my presence

But he knows that his time has come

I thank him for his sacrifice and let the arrow fly

I whisper a blessing for the pig as I kneel over him and slit his throat

Yes, a degree of violence is necessary in the life cycle

But long term suffering and torture are not

I thank him for giving his life force so that my life can continue

Everything is a cycle of give and take

When I die, my body shall feed the soil

Any carnivore that comes by may feed upon my carcass

The air is so clean

It is purer than a civilised man could fathom

I am invigorated with every breath

My lungs thank Mother Nature for her blessing with each inhalation

With each exhalation memories of civilisation are released and forgotten

On the way back to camp I kneel by a stream and sip life-giving water

The other villagers welcome us upon our return

Other men and women have been out gathering wild fruits

There is no agriculture here

There are no pesticides

We take only what nature provides for us and we thank her for her generosity

I am greeted by a beautiful woman

I have loved her for some time now

I do not know for how many months or years we have been in love

Time is no longer recorded or symbolised

It was only ever useful to help our bosses control us

Now we live in the moment

There are no laws

Sometimes conflict is solved with violence

It is the same with all animals

But there is no punishment for uncivilised behaviour

We acknowledge ourselves as wild beings

My soul mate and I wander to a hilltop

We hold hands and behold the awesome view

My soul is free