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In which I engage in some capitalist chest-beating - Tactical Ninja

Nov. 2nd, 2010

09:54 am - In which I engage in some capitalist chest-beating

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I appear to have broken out in a rash of bruises. Really, there should be a RateMyBruise.com website, because some of these ones are pretty artistic, especially the ones from whacking myself with the wheelbarrow legs while shaking it out on Sunday. Why is it that bruises to the fatty bits that don't really hurt always come up beautifully, but the really painful ones like the ones on ankles and knees don't really have much colour? Enquiring minds want to know. And garner sympathy. Naturally.

Anyway, I've been reading this book. It apparently started life as a zine and ended up getting published because it was so popular. At least, that's what the blurb in the front says. It's about two girls who are vaguely anarchists, wandering around Europe and 'living off the map.'


They share the writing so it gets a bit confusing, but after a while their individual styles settle in and you can tell who's writing - one of them is idealistic and poetic, the other is more practical and slightly cynical. From what I can gather they are originally from the US, but it doesn't give any information about how they got to be in Europe or what their background is. The cynic in me says they're OC trust fund babies but that could be completely wrong of course.

So anyway, they're travelling about, checking out the squatting culture and other groups who have opted out of the standard capitalist lifestyle. This seems to involve quite a lot of not washing and sleeping under the stars, but apparently it's summer in Europe and so far, it hasn't rained (I'm about half way through).

I have to admit that the hopeless romantic inside me is being stirred to drop everything and run off to have adventures. Imagine going wherever the mood struck you, sleeping when you felt tired, eating when you were hungry, and just living instead of striving. It really does sound appealing and I can see why people are drawn to it.

But..

There are a couple of things that are a bit off about this writing. For a start, these girls seem very judgemental - anyone who isn't opting into their lifestyle is described in negative terms - they look miserable, they trudge instead of walking, they are blank-faced filler to the shining backdrop, as if they were merely put there to illustrate the point of anarchy as a wonderful alternative to The System. They are not to be trusted, they want money above all else and have become soulless in their quest for it. I am not kidding, this is the way on-the-map people are described by these two. So they kind of set themselves up in a false dichotomy where it's anarchists vs everyone else. Those people are Not Like Us so we will make them Other so we don't have to deal with them.

But then they need something. Something like food, or a ride somewhere, or a coffee, or help to find a place. And the universe miraculously provides this to them. The whole book is a treatise on materialising the things you need so that you can focus on Living In The Now. But part of that materialising seems to involve graciously accepting the goodwill of others - and those others are the same people who are described so negatively for buying into the system. That guy with the car who just drove you through southern France? Yeah, he probably worked to pay for that car, and he's probably shouting the gas to you with money he got from selling his life in chunks. Those ears of corn you stole from the field on the side of the road? Yeah, the farmer probably won't miss them, or suffer unduly because you took them, but there comes a point where it's important to understand that without those other people buying into the system, those ones that are all soulless and untrustworthy and trading their happiness for a buck? Without them, those ears of corn wouldn't be there for you to 'materialise' when you're hungry. The universe didn't provide, that farmer did. The coffee you cadged that was left over from the shop that's closing? Was grown by someone trying to make a buck, brewed by someone trying to make a buck, and only available to you through that process of people trying to make a buck.

And to me, I think it needs to be acknowledged that at every step of their carefree way, these women are living this lifestyle on the backs of people who have chosen not to live this lifestyle. So while they are patting themselves on the back for their resourcefulness, they are busy consuming rescources produced and offered graciously by others.

Don't get me wrong, I also believe capitalism is broken, exploitative and somewhat soul-destroying. The utopia in my mind has happy hippies milking cows and growing veggies for each other, tilling the soil and making baskets and generally sharing in whatever kind of communal effort is requred for the communal good. I guess that makes me a communist hippie! Except that I know a couple of things - first, that sort of thing only really seems to work in small groups. Once you get a large group of people doing it you end up with organisation requirements, then you get bureaucracy, then you get corruption. Also, I've put a lot of thought into intentional community - I even bought a book. And in order to pull it off, you really have to own the land you're doing it on.

I've done it the other way - the renting way. I did all the cow milking, veggie growing, chicken rearing stuff - I could have been self-sufficient. Except I had to pay rent because I didn't own the land. Now, our intrepid adventurers from up there *points* would probably say "Squat the land". Which effectively demonstrates how little concept they have of how much, and what quality of land would be required to self-sufficiently support a community.

I think it'd be neat if the system that requires money and consumerism did not exist in the form it currently does, and I'm all for subverting it and working towards a better future -but I'm not convinced that living free on the backs of other people is actually doing anything to work towards a better future. Especially not when you're smugly judging the people you're living off at every opportunity.

Is my protestant work ethic showing or do I have a point?


Anyway, I will finish the book - it's serving a purpose in that it's helping me shift my mind from being security-oriented to adventure-oriented in preparation for chasing off around the globe for the sake of love. And it might surprise me at the end with a comprehensive, watertight plan for a new system and how it can be implemented.

I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, on yesterday's goal list, I sorted some photos into a semblance of order for this family history book thing I'm trying to make, and discovered a postcard from 1908 commemorating the demise of the York horse trams. That would have been a sad day for my blacksmith grandfather. Today, I'm gonna plagiarise some performance review stuff for my CV and plant some plants on a roof. I won't talk to the uni till after I get the result for the last course, since the lecturer I'd like to speak with is marking my essay right now. I've done three courses with her and at least 2 of them have got A+s, hopefully this one will too.

I predict that the Melbourne Cup will be won by a horse.

Comments:

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From:anna_en_route
Date:November 1st, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
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Them and libertarians are two sides of exactly the same coin. There ideas would all work so well if there weren't these pesky humans getting in the way.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 1st, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
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Which is really weird considering that most anarchists and libertarians I have met think that everyone has* the personal capability to get everything right, all the time. Or at least they think they do, and can't figure out why others don't.

* Or maybe they mean 'should have'
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From:vernacularity
Date:November 1st, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
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"Especially not when you're smugly judging the people you're living off at every opportunity."

Cue every goddam "political" benefit-bludger...
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From:tatjna
Date:November 1st, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC)
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The people in the book take it way further though, because they are not paying tax at all, and are merely consuming.
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From:vernacularity
Date:November 1st, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
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Well, I am thinking benefit tax is arguably false tax since govt provides it in the first place.

but I am thinking of the pocket anarchists spraypainting A symbols, and Fight Capitalism slogans and all that.

I guess it makes it easier to 'steal' from people if you can rationalise hating them :)
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From:tatjna
Date:November 1st, 2010 11:16 pm (UTC)
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I don't begrudge the benefit because I'm a filthy socialist and believe there should be a universal minimum income. But yes, being sneered at for choosing a different lifestyle is unlikely to cause me to want to hand said sneerer my sandwich.
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From:vernacularity
Date:November 1st, 2010 11:30 pm (UTC)
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i don't rail against people on benefits. I rail specifically against peopel on benefits ridiculing and harassing people not on benefits who provide said benefit via their tax.
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From:richdrich
Date:November 1st, 2010 11:35 pm (UTC)
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There are of course plenty of people who receive "state benefits" and harrass others who don't. Warner Brothers, the NZRU, South Canterbury Finance and the real estate speculators they bankrolled, etc, etc.
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From:vernacularity
Date:November 2nd, 2010 12:08 am (UTC)
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waaaall, ah'm agin thet too!
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From:tatjna
Date:November 2nd, 2010 12:11 am (UTC)
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WARNER BROS NO CAN HAS MAH SAMMICH!
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From:morbid_curious
Date:November 1st, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
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"Sorry, you can't have these sandwiches. These are State sandwiches. They were made and supplied with government-built infrastructure paid for with taxes. I bought some of the ingredients off the corporations, too. I know you're hungry, but your political ideology is too important to let The Man feed you. I'm supporting your anarchy!"
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From:tatjna
Date:November 1st, 2010 11:42 pm (UTC)
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"I might be a lesser person because I've sold my soul to The Man, but I'm a lesser person with a sandwich."

*munch munch*
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From:richdrich
Date:November 1st, 2010 11:33 pm (UTC)
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I would recommend reading about the Spanish Revolution. Much of Catalonia was successfully run along anarchist lines. Even today (after Franco and modern capitalism), one of the largest enterprises in Northern Spain is Mondragona workers co-op where the highest paid employee typically earns no more than five times the wage of the lowest paid.

What did for anarchism in Catalunya was not internal breakdown, but being attached by Fascists (actual ones with black shirts and stuff) and Stalinists (also actual ones, led by Stalin). This meant that they needed to redirect their efforts from production to trying to kill said Fascists and Stalinists, at which they lost. But even organising an army was shown to be feasible under anarchism.

Those women, BTW, sound like hippies, rather than anarchists. They don't seem to be cooperating with anyone, just bluding off capitalism. Also, even if they don't have credit cards in their back pockets, they're still privileged (as are most of us). They have the backup that when they stop living on the road, they'll be able to get jobs/get an education/live off book royalties.
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From:morbid_curious
Date:November 1st, 2010 11:42 pm (UTC)
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I did find myself wondering just how much a book about being anarchists and living "off the grid" sells for.
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From:anna_en_route
Date:November 2nd, 2010 12:17 am (UTC)
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Let's hear it for pratical Anarchy!
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From:khaybee
Date:November 1st, 2010 09:54 pm (UTC)
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I have a very artistic ring-shaped bruise from slipping off the ladder and sideways into the end of a scaffolding pipe. I think it is one of my lifetime best!
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From:helianthas
Date:November 1st, 2010 10:57 pm (UTC)
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Re: Bruises

I'm going to assume that it's b/c the fatty tissue has more blood vessels in it, so you break more blood vessels and more blood leaks out into it.

When I had ITP (basically: low platelet level so yer blood doesn't clot well) I had STELLAR bruises. Apparently this was b/c I had tons of blood just pooling beneath the skin, hence lots of colors and laaaarge surface area. Goth Rainbows, I called them...

Of course, I'm sure you could google a much more accurate answer, but I like mine.
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From:vernacularity
Date:November 1st, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)
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also, I reckon knees and ankles hurt like a bastard because you are hitting through the skin onto bone, pinching the nerves between skin and bone and/or bruising the bone itself.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 2nd, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
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Speaking as an anarchist, anarchists are not against working for a living or trying to better oneself materially. Anarchism is opposition to hierarchy, not opposition to materialism.

Unfortunately like many other left wing ideologies anarchism attracts a lot of people who proclaim their adherence to it simply as a way to say "Woo, I'm different!" These girls seem to be of the type.

If you're interested in anarchism I'd recommend reading some of Piotyr Kropotkin or Mikhail Bakunin's stuff. It has a lot to address the way resources can be obtained and distributed without hierarchy.
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From:megapope
Date:November 2nd, 2010 11:04 am (UTC)
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I am currently reading up on anarchy as a political system and will refrain from opening my yap until I've learned some things. ;-D
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From:tatjna
Date:November 2nd, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
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Hehe yeah, from what I gather there are two kinds of anarchy - the kind advocated by people like the ones in the book, and the kind that might actually work.

Still not giving sammies to folks wot sneer at me though. ;-)
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