Monday, September 1, 2014


I just re-read a piece that I originally wrote back in 1999 about how I view and relate with pacifism. This piece was printed in the anarcho-pacifist publication "Ahimsa" and then later on was put up on their website as well. I find it interesting to read this piece, because I still basically believe the same things that I say in it, although I would frame it a bit differently, I could elaborate more on things now that I could then, and would not put words IN ALL CAPS as I often did in that piece.

I also find it interesting that I wrote it back before I knew about and got into Nonviolent Communication, Focusing, Vipassana Meditation and Buddhism. These four sets of practices, among others, provide practical real-life "how-to"s for applied pacifism, which is something that I openly admitted to not knowing about in my original piece from 1999.

I definitely see it as being a worthwhile project for me to update my thinking on pacifism, both in writing as well as for myself. And the field of anarcho-pacifism in general is also something that I see as being in great need of an up-date and revamping. Before I can move further with that, however, I do feel as if I personally have some more learning and exploring to do. So in the meantime, I present to you my original piece on "Pacifism" here.



My version of pacifism is very inter-connected with many of my other views and philosophies, so if you want just my pure isolated "pacifism" explained here, you're probably not gonna get it.

Does my pacifism mean that I am against all war? Yes, of course it does. Does my pacifism mean that I am against all physical violence? Yes, of course it does. Does my pacifism mean that I am against all hurting of people? Yes, of course it does.

The very fact that I include these three already is enough to count me as being a pacifist extremist. But, as the rest of my site shows, I am certainly not one to shy away from "extremism".

My form of "pacifism" basically means universal love, respect and solidarity with all people everywhere, no matter what. If you truly do LOVE someone, if you really do RESPECT someone, if you really have SOLIDARITY with someone, it automatically places you in a mind-set that is the furthest thing from that which commits acts of violence and hurt against others. Being in such a mind-set, you make yourself INCAPABLE of hurting others, because you can never seek to hurt that which you really love. My form of pacifism means seeing the beauty, uniqueness and commonality within ALL people. It means the elimination of ALL concepts of "goods guys" and "bad guys". It means the elimination of the entire "Us vs. Them" mentality. It is the recognition that ALL humanity is already the "Us" and that to solve our problems we need to change OURSELVES rather than seeking to change OTHERS. The minute you view another person as an "outsider", as a Them, then you automatically write off their humanity and make them become expendable in your mind. By mentally distancing and alienating people in such a way, you instantly loose the ability to empathize with them, thus making yourself capable of hurting them in various ways without feeling a thing.

My form of pacifism is an extension of my anarchism, or, my anarchism is an extension of my pacifism, you can look at it from either angle. I believe that it is a basic human instinct, an innate psychological defense mechanism, to resist forms of authority being imposed on you. To fight back against being controlled is natural. I view Authority as being a kind of spiritual disease. The minute Authority invades our psyche, we are willing and able to do anything to fight back against it, no matter how insane or violent it may be. Therefore a kind of spiritual self-healing needs to take place, where all forms of Authority are eliminated from your mind and soul, and from your actions with others as a result. Once you eliminate your authoritarian actions towards others, you make their self-healing process easier as well, as well as eliminating some of the roots of violence and hurt in the world.

So, getting back to "the real world" and "practical matters", what does one do about "self-defence" and dealing with the violent and hurtful behavior of others? Well, in terms of the hurtful and antagonistic behavior of others, I think that an approach of love, acceptance, and trying to understand the other person's side and where they are coming from is necessary. It does not matter how others' response to this is. Regardless of if they change their hurtful behavior or not, what is important is that you maintain your positive peaceful and loving stance no matter what. One person's hurtful attitude never justifies yet another hurtful attitude to be taken. As long as you are doing all that you can within your own personal boundaries to add love, compassion, etc to the world, that is all that matters. To feel otherwise, and be let down by the behavior of others is ultimately an Authoritarian attitude. Because, by doing this, you are seeking to CONTROL other people's attitudes, actions and feelings, which is intrinsically wrong and leads to more violence and hurt, as I said earlier.

As far as "Self-defense" goes, I think that EVERY POSSIBLE EFFORT should be strenuously put into making a non-authority-based, peaceful, loving and respectful social relations, society, culture, environment, etc. But, when the "inevitable"(as the pessimists call it) act of actual real-life violence actually occurs and is right there in front of you, what do you do? Well, I do not know, to be honest. Life is to a large degree a SITUATIONAL and CIRCUMSTANTIAL thing, each particular individual instance is unique and different in it's own way. I say that one's own personal individual judgment is needed in such situations, but that a primary non-violent, non-authoritarian ethical code should ALWAYS be in place as the foundation for all actions and decisions. A variety of different options exist for actual violent cases.

- Number one should be talking and communication.

- Then there is always the "wimp" tactics of hiding and running away.

- There are also a number of non-violent martial arts self-defense tactics and disciplines that one can use.

- And there is ultimately the "human shield" and "martyr" options that one can take, which is always noble, but not necessarily always "practical".

The choice is always YOURS, but I say that a basic non-violent foundation to ALL your thoughts and actions is always necessary.

So, how do you "get things done" with pacifism? How do things really "work" if you operate in such a way? My answer is, I really don't care. I view the ETHICS of pacifism and non-authority as being of primary importance, and the nitty gritty of getting things to "work" as being secondary. If we all die in the process, so be it, as long as we have lived an ethical life. "Give me liberty or give me death!"

I think one of the greatest mistakes of many pacifists and radicals is the using of pacifism as a "tactic," as a way to get others to do what you want. I think Gandhi started a lot of it, and many radicals have taken his example and have even put themselves in harm's way to get others to do what they want. Many people call this kind of pacifism "leading by example". I think that this kind of pacifism is bullshit. Pacifism to me is primarily an ETHIC, a way to live your life. If you look at it in terms of "tactics," you miss the very ESSENCE of what it is all about. It does not matter IF you get there, what matters is HOW you get there. Also, using pacifism as a way to control people, as a way to "lead" people (albeit non-violently) is also inherently wrong, since it is wrong to control people in ANY form. To try to do so naturally leads to counter behavior from those who are trying to be controlled. Controlling people, whether initially using violence or no violence, inevitably leads to violence.

Also, I do not see pacifism as necessarily being detached from "reality" and "practical" life. I think that people naturally respond positively to behavior that is non-threatening and views and treats them respectfully as equals and does not seek to control or manipulate them in any way. I think that the only time when people do NOT respond naturally positive to such behavior, is when they are personally in the midst of dealing with the spiritual disease of Authority and are not left in the most "social" of moods as a result. Sort of like how when one is physically ill, you do not think and inter-act with others in the best of ways, the same goes with the spiritual disease of Authority and the symptoms of hurtfulness and violence that is causes.

Pacifism, love, empathy and anarchy are the natural state of people, it is this commonality that we all share that we need to go back to, broaden, understand - and most of all LIVE in our own personal lives and with others, in order for us all to have peaceful and loving lives.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Individualist @

For the past few months I have been grappling with questions of identity and belonging, "What am I?" and "Which group of people am I a part of?", that sort of thing. I have discerned no real clear answers to this, however the term "anarchist" seems to still stick with me, since the philosophy and beliefs which dates back to at least 1840 still speaks to my heart. However, it is really difficult for me to wholeheartedly consider myself to be an anarchist these days because of the words and actions of my peers and contemporaries who are also associated with this word. I have already written about some of this stuff on my blog here last year.

However, things continue to happen. Take for example, May Day of this year, which is traditionally considered to be a radical leftist holiday and is personally one of my favorite holidays. In Seattle the anarchists there made themselves publicly come across as being, at best, complete fools (a video of this can be found here). And in Minneapolis, at an event that I happened to be attending, a public fight broke out as a result of a longstanding conflict/controversy carried over from last year (a video of this can be found here and another one here). And of course the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair has had another big ugly controversy this year as well.

Once again, I am left with feelings of disgust, exasperation, and complete repulsion towards the whole anarchist scene. "To hell with these people", I think. I'm done, it's over, I'm out. I feel such strong feelings of contempt towards the anarchist milieu, and over the past few months I have spoken with a number of other different long-time anarchists who have also been feeling similarly towards the self-proclaimed anarchist scene. And after that most recent incident in Minneapolis, another local long-time anarchist person wrote a public statement saying that he has disassociated himself from the anarchist scene.

At the same time, a person recently told me that he and another person both want me to continue being a part of the anarchist scene. He said that this scene needs "elders" to be present and that I would count as being such since I have been an anarchist since the mid-90's. I have also recently spoken with a friend of mine who says that she wants to continue being a part of the anarchist scene, and being a positive support to it in some way, even though she is well aware of the various faults and drawbacks associated with the whole thing.

This whole thing leaves me wondering: who or what exactly is the anarchist scene anyway?! The person who told me that he still wants me to be a part of it also told me that he personally does not consider himself to be an "anarchist". And when I think about it, I believe that most people who are a part of the "anarchist scene" would not actually consider themselves to be "anarchist". Likewise, a lot of people who I know that would consider themselves to be "anarchist", or at least who have an affinity for that general worldview, are actually pretty isolated from other people who think and believe things similar to what they do. So there is a social scene that exists, but it is not necessarily "anarchist", and there are anarchists who exist, but they are not exactly a part of an anarchist social scene.

One of the things that was written recently as a result of that incident in Minneapolis was that one side of the conflict said that the people who are on the opposing side have "no right to consider themselves a part of any progressive or radical community". I find this to be interesting, since it assumes that considering oneself to be a part of such a thing would actually be desirable. I suppose that it would be desirable if one wants to have that particular kind of identity, or if one wants to have one's social needs met through certain people, but it is hard to pin any of this stuff down really, since the whole area seems to be so very vague and amorphous.

For example, what does it mean to be "a part of the anarchist scene"? Does one have to consider oneself to be "an anarchist"? Perhaps the phrase "radical scene" would be better, but then that opens the door to those who consider themselves to be "radical libertarians", which most people view as belonging to a separate and distinct social scene. One could then say "radical leftist" instead, but then there are those who consider themselves to be "post-left" (and not "libertarian"!) and who are not "left", but they are still a part of the same general milieu. That phrase that I quoted earlier used the word "progressive", which I don't think fits at all, because that opens the door to Obama-voting liberal Democrats, who most people acknowledge are a part of a separate scene altogether.

And what does it mean to be a part of the scene, no matter what label you call it? Does one need to see certain people once a week in order to be a part of it? How about once a month? Is once a year too seldom? And how many people at a time does one need to see with such regularity in order to be a part of it? And which people does one need to see? Do online or long-distance interactions count, or does it need to be face-to-face? Does one need to be involved in particular projects, or does just going to parties and social events count? If you only speak with other radicals who feel similarly isolated and estranged from the scene, is one then still a part of the scene or is one instead a part of a separate parallel scene? At social events that are considered to be a part of the scene, if one is silent during the entire event is one still a part of it? What if one is talking the entire time and the others present are annoyed with your presence and are wishing that you would leave? In other words, how exactly does one retain or revoke one's membership with "the anarchist scene"?

I think that ultimately there really is no such thing as "the anarchist scene", "the anarchist community", and certainly not an "anarchist movement". I think that what really exists are various overlapping cliques and clubs, friendships and acquaintances. All notions of there being something greater than that are illusions and delusions that obscure the truth and cause unnecessary conflict and turmoil.

Thinking of this then reminds me of individualist anarchism, which is defined as being a kind of anarchism that "that emphasizes the individual and his or her will over external determinants such as groups, society, traditions, and ideological systems." Remembering this whole tendency is a relief for me, a breath of fresh air, since it reminds me that I (and everybody else) is free to choose what they want, what they believe, what they think, what they do and who they associate with, and are not beholden to anyone or anything else. So often, especially in the midst of these big conflicts and controversies, this is simply ignored or forgotten. If ideas of there being things like "an anarchist scene" are to exist, these ideas should serve the purpose of there being more clarity of thought. These ideas should not serve as yet another notion that dominates or intimidates people.

So that leaves me here in this situation, where I know a bunch of people, some of whom I feel closer to than others, some of whom I share more political beliefs in common with than others, and some of whom live in the same geographic area as me and others who do not. When I really think about it there are no people who I feel really close to who are involved with any of these big controversies that are taking place out there. My sense of cognitive dissonance comes about only when I conjure up notions of there being "an anarchist scene" and when I consider myself to be a part of such a thing. "The anarchist scene" does not exist, and I am not a part of it, although I know others who think otherwise. If people were to make specific requests to me personally, I would consider them, but I do not want to act out of a vague abstract sense of duty and obligation to some idea. All of the various dramas and foolishness that other people choose to engage in does not concern me, at the moment.