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That Isn’t Anarchism January 7, 2021

Filed under: Cranky Rants — BrujaHa @ 11:59 pm
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I am disturbed by the use of ‘anarchist’ to describe those storming our U.S. Capitol yesterday, and want to point out that they were not actually Anarchists, but Trumpists.

No self-respecting anarchist would pull down the American flag just to replace it with a Trump flag. Anarchists bow to no human structural authority: the anarchist tenet for creating a better world is everyone acting from a place of ‘freedom plus responsibility.’ Each person ideally aids the community according to ability, and therefore also everyone mutually benefits.

“An-archist” literally means no hierarchies. It does not mean doing whatever you want simply because you want it. The Capitol’s violent raiders are instead minions of a mad racist, sexist, wanna-be totalitarian Emperor, so exactly the opposite of anarchists. I’m actually surprised Trump’s ploy of stirring them up into a violent froth didn’t win him the ability to invoke martial law – again, the opposite of anarchy.

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I posted the above paragraphs on Facebook this morning. They got a lot of comments and fomented interesting discussion, so I decided to share it here too, with yet! more! additional context. If you’re interested, read on for more about Anarchism, followed by my personal experience as part of a contemporary anarchic collective.

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Anarchism is a system of government that is non-hierarchical in nature. (The suffix “-archy” refers to that sort of linear up-and-down power structure. Think hierarchy and patriarchy.) Contrary to popular belief, though, anarchy does not equate with violence, disorder, or chaos. True anarchy depends upon its citizens subscribing to both freedom and responsibility.

You might argue that you’ve never seen an anarchic group that fulfilled its visionary potential. Freedom plus responsibility is indeed a hard thing to pull off on a large scale, since few people actually want to do the dishes. 🙂 But we could argue the same about pure capitalism and communism too. If you can find an example that has actually worked as ideally envisioned without corruption setting in, please tell us about it.

Anarchy was an important movement in the late 1800s-early 1900s, with such famous proponents as the Russian “anarchist prince” Pyotr Kropotkin and Emma Goldman helping to wake up, rile up, organize, and empower workers and women in America. Kropotkin collected examples of empowered individuals helping one another in community, each according to their ability, in what he called “mutual aid.” My favorite chapter illustrates forms of mutual aid enacted by other-than-human animals. Collaboration among free agents seems to be a foundational principle to life in Earth.

Anarchists were also active in the Resistance during the rise of fascism in Europe and WWII.

But it is far from a new idea: anarchic themes can be readily found in the writing of 6th-century Taoist philosophers Lao Tze and Chuang Tzu.

It is also not simply a historical curiosity: witness contemporary ‘green anarchists’ such as Derrick Jensen and John Zerzan. They say that rather than meaning ‘out of control,’ anarchism actually means ‘not under their control’ – in other words, not allowing oneself to be controlled psychologically and physically by the currently dominant hierarchical, patriarchal paradigm. Instead, an anarchic system is self-organizing, self-regenerating, and mutually beneficial for all involved instead of only benefiting a powerful few. Even while sometimes using violent means to get there, anarchy is, at the heart, a utopian movement.

Food Not Bombs: My Experience

I was part of a self-designated anarchic collective during the early 1990s, Food Not Bombs. This loose-knit band of volunteers successfully fed hundreds of people for free on the streets of San Francisco every day. A regular distribution site was in front of City Hall – in part because that’s where a lot of hungry working-poor and homeless people lived, and also just for visible orneriness. We ran this operation solely on coins donated in a can, when the city itself struggled to do the same in its official capacity on a fat budget. FNB delivered at least one and sometimes two or three meals a day, all made of delicious organic produce and bread that would otherwise have gone to the landfill due to being slightly bruised or past its ‘sell-by’ date. The vegies were collected from food stores in a raggedy van, then cooked into soup by groups gathering in volunteers’ home kitchens. All tools were meticulously cleaned, the cooking was joyful and fun, and the soups came out hot and delicious. We volunteers regularly partook too – a blessing in the life of an impoverished grad student.

FNB volunteers were regularly arrested, due to not having a permit to distribute food. As this costly inconvenience didn’t stop us from continuing the practice, I suppose the commonly held view of anarchists being lawless and out of control proved true. But this was a classic Catch-22 situation: we couldn’t get such a permit because our home kitchens were not regulation restaurant standards. And there was of course no way to make even one of them regulation standard, especially on our donation-can-based budget. I actually felt quite disappointed to never be among those arrested. It was just bad timing, I guess: I was never serving on a day the tables got raided. As one of the group who most loved words, story and rhetoric, I really hoped for the opportunity to speak in court, in the city named after St. Francis, about the ironic, painful injustice of being arrested and facing jail time for the horrible crime of feeding the hungry.

Making decisions with Food Not Bombs wasn’t always easy nor fast, as they were all made by consensus at weekly meetings. This offered my first exposure to decision-making processes that weren’t based on the usual straightforward hierarchical power structure where the ‘boss’ made the rules, nor a nominally democratic voting model that being win/lose, still winds up excluding the minority voices, desires and needs. Decisions at FNB were entirely based on a non-hierarchical consensus model, so were discussed until everyone could agree. You might not get your original first choice, but you would gladly agree to another choice now because it had become clear that this was the best decision for the group at this time.

I loved learning the consensus model of decision-making. I found its formal structures very usable and its processes and outcomes profound. People had their differences, natch, and tempers could fly. But still the soup got made and people got fed. And naive youth like me learned a lot. Leading through example, one elder homeless woman with a keen mind, ratty hair and few teeth who also served as a volunteer helped me recognize and challenge patriarchal norms as they were happening on the ground – even among comrades. I began waking up to ways in which I habitually gave away my own personal power to men. I have also since brought the formal principles of consensus decision making to many other groups.

Food Not Bombs was begun in San Francisco, California by Keith McHenry. It has since grown to have chapters in many cities all over the world and a presence at numerous direct protest actions, music festivals, and other change-making events.

I am proud to say that I have taken part in a successful mission-driven anarchist collective. The experience made me a better person. And I can attest that no bombs were in sight, except in the name. The logo of this peaceful band of anarchists offering “free soup for the revolution” features a carrot in fist instead.

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References you might enjoy following up with:

  • Food Not Bombs the organization’s website
  • Goldman, Emma (1908, March 17). A Beautiful Ideal. NOTE: This is a short lecture which Emma Goldman planned to give before the Edelstadt Social at Workingmens’ Hall in Chicago on March 17th, 1908. But she was prevented by Captain Mahoney of Maxwell Street Station, with a squad of about fifty police. Free PDF, courtesy of The Anarchist Library. (Who knew that existed? Finding stuff like this is the best part of writing blog posts!)
  • Kropotkin, Pyotr (1902). Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. NY: McClure, Phillips and Co. NOTE: Please note the age of this publication and forgive him for examples of non-inclusive language that we now have, thankfully, moved past. Free PDF
  • Skirda, Alexandre (2002). Facing the Enemy: A History of Anarchist Organization from Proudhon to 1968. Edinburgh, Scotland: AK Press. NOTE: I just came across this book whilst searching out a free version of Kropotkin for you. So I haven’t yet read it, but want to. Blurb: “Skirda argues that the core problem for anarchists has been to create a revolutionary movement and envision a future society in which the autonomy of the individual is not compromised by the need to take collective action. How anarchists have grappled with that question in theory and practice make up the core of the book.” Free PDF

Finally, thanks to my friend CL Morden for the observation in discussion that anarchy “does not mean doing whatever you want simply because you want it.”

 

Sounds of the Forest January 6, 2021

An interesting project is afoot: people submitting homemade sound clips from their local forests to contribute to a sound map of the world. The map and attached soundclips are linked below. Maybe folks reading this blog would also like to play? Go out into your local trees and let your phone listen along with your ears. One-minute recordings seem to be the norm.

https://timberfestival.org.uk/soundsoftheforest-soundmap/

Some of these are also played on tree.fm where you can listen to a random forest instead of human talk radio.

I like this use of technology to inspire people to get outside and be silent, listening deeply. Silence is one of those ways we can most easily touch the holy.

“We were taught to sit still and enjoy the silence. We were taught to use our organs of smell, to look when apparently there was nothing to see, and to listen intently when all was seemingly quiet.” — Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Dakota

“May we all grow in grace and peace and not neglect the silence that is printed in the center of our being. It will not fail us.” — Thomas Merton

If we had a keen vision of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. — George Eliot, Middlemarch

Regardless if you want to participate in the recording project, please go outside today and listen to the voices of more-than-human world. Even in cities, we can often hear the winds, birds, rustling leaves of trees, and sometimes small beings like crickets. For those of us who love using words in abundance (like me), this simple act can blow your mind and change your life. Entire worlds can be revealed by just listening — and that naturally goes for listening to humans too, especially those who don’t look or think like us. My wise mom used to say we should listen twice as much as we speak; that’s why we have two ears and only one mouth. 🙂

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Great Election Signs 2020 November 2, 2020

Filed under: Arts,Humor — BrujaHa @ 9:41 pm
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In situations of dire consequence, I appreciate the use of gentle, yet pointed, creative humor. It seems to give me back a bit of clarity and life force.

Here are some of my favorite USA 2020 Presidential elections signs. A few are from the ‘net but most are from around my neighborhood; I took the photos.

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This one is my all-time favorite:

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Halloween “Trumpkin.” made by Patricia MacQueen.
She reports that local deer ate the toupee first.

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Keeping the bar low:

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An oldie but still a goodie – now with new layered meanings.

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What I love about this next one is its subtlety and stealth. I suspect many of those who wouldn’t like it won’t understand it. (Meow.)

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This one is a bit hard to see from the street. The small print below Biden/Harris says, “Our best days still lie ahead.” A vision of hope!

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Then there are the alternative candidates:

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Best reason ever:

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Here’s one we can likely all agree on:

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I wanted to give equal opportunity to the Republican side here, but honestly, I could only find one pro-Trump sign that showed a sense of humor. That’s kind of telling in itself.

Here it is. You’ll notice its humor is based on cruelty and divisiveness. This carries scary implications for our country, and it’s not actually even funny.

I also recently received this horrifying email that confirms how in a Trump administration, “We The People” means only his unquestioning supporters:

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USA 2020: Please Vote!!

“Vote as if your life depends on it.” You can still sign up and vote, even on election day. Given responses to Covid-19, the increasing effects of climate change, systemic racism, the alienation of our country’s historic allies and exaltation of dictators, nuclear escalation, the decimation of EPA protective guidelines leaving us vulnerable to pernicious toxins, the fomenting of hate and jeering at integrity we’ve seen so much of lately, etc., etc., etc., our lives may literally depend upon the outcome of this election.

And even afterward, we must stay vigilant. Recent breaking news gives evidence of Trump needing the position of US President to protect him from his many debtors and lawsuits, not to mention our collective coffers for his ongoing personal plundering. These conditions can make a person desperate. Then there’s the proven matter of his not liking to lose. Trump will not want to let go. And the boy has proven he clearly only cares about himself and his own wallet, certainly not about any sense of service, collaboration, dignity or integrity. Therefore, no matter who wins, the upcoming interregnum period holds potential for being one of the most dangerous periods in US history.

For a detailed analysis of this, you may wish to read Barton Gellman’s exceptionally well-thought-out essay in The Atlantic: The Election That Could Break America.

As the Boy/Girl/Youth Scouts encourage, let’s be prepared. We will be called to respond to the many upcoming changes in both external and internal ways. To keep it a response instead of reaction, I invite you to join this call for one radical intervention on the personal level, no matter what happens in the short term or on a large scale: remember your innate goodness, and repeatedly act from that place.

That doesn’t mean being all perfect or ethereal; it just means being a good human. And IMO, this includes the skillful, non-mean application of humor. Friends, we’re in rough waters and have to row this leaky boat together. Please be as kind and compassionate, honest and real to all beings as you can now — including yourself. Let yourself dare to feel, really see others, and be seen yourself. Speak out about what you find important at the core so we can find our similarities underneath the surface differences. Together, we can make this a country to be proud of once more.

…Okay, dharma talk/sermon over. 🙂 Which signs did you like best?

 

Beneath snow, seeds still remember

Happy Hallowe’en, Samhain (a.k.a. Celtic New Year), All Souls Day, and Dia de los Muertos, y’all.

After all the difficulties that 2020 has brought, at this turning of the year toward the even darker half in the Northern hemisphere and the crucial upcoming USA election weighing upon many, here is a thought meditation I hope will be useful to you as it is to me:

Seeds below snow, no matter how heavy or thick, still remember their flower nature.

Be a seed. Stay the course, friends. No matter how hard things get, may we all remember and allow ourselves to express our own innate basic goodness. Joy and compassion can be radical interventions these days. Please enjoy your life and be kind to one another. Allow your flower nature to blossom in the most unexpected places.

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(The above gorgeous art is by Travis Bedel, a.k.a. Bedelgeuse.)

 

Taming the Tyranny of Time September 29, 2020

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Are you feeling the pressures of chronic time urgency or “hurry sickness,” with too many tasks on your plate and far too little time to do it all in? Do you know which chronotype you are, so you can choose a schedule optimal for your own body and psyche? Are you curious about other modes of relating to time than the one-way linear “arrow of time” we in the industrialized west accept as a given? Then you might enjoy my short book chapter.

Summary from the Intro: The stress of ever-increasing pressure to rush that characterizes industrial growth societies is having detrimental effects on the health of individuals, communities, and the planet. This chapter illustrates the need for change and introduces alternative cultural modes of perceiving and interacting with time. Its final section offers simple, practical exercises based on these models, as viewed through the lenses of transpersonal psychology and ecopsychology, for experiencing time as sacred rather than as a tyranny.

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If you read it, please share your thoughts in the Comments! Thank you.

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Reference: Taming the Tyranny of Time. Shadows and Light: Principles, Practices and Pedagogy of Contemporary Transpersonal Counseling. Chapter 5 (pp 61-82). Francis Kaklauskas, Louis Hoffman, Carla Clements, & Dan Hocoy, eds. Colorado Springs, CO: University Professors Press, 2016.

Image: from the fabulous movie Hugo.

 

Free Ecopsychology Webinar this eve July 30, 2020

From Ownership to Belonging: Ecopsychological Models of Relationship with the More-than-Human World of Nature

It’s becoming increasingly obvious how our collective behaviors are bringing the living world as we know it to the brink of destruction. Ecopsychology teaches us that understanding the implicit ideas beneath such behaviors can help us shift them. The currently dominant industrial growth society contains several deeply-seated cultural assumptions that have contributed to our shared situation. This lecture unpacks some of these, then offers alternative models of relationship with the more-than-human world of nature that are often found in older cultures worldwide. Inspiring stories will be told, and participants will be given an easy contemplative nature-connection exercise to do at home.

In this lecture, we will learn (3 points):
• Largely unquestioned dominant cultural assumptions that have led to widespread environmentally destructive behaviors
• Three alternative models of human-nature relationship, some held by older cultures across the globe
• An easy contemplative exercise to come into more conscious, joyful, and mutually beneficial relationship with the more-than-human world right outside your door

7 pm EST. 1 hour, plus perhaps a bit more for Q&A. Free!

https://www.embodiedphilosophy.org/from-ownership-to-belonging

 

Trees in Early Irish Law and Lore: Respect for Other-Than-Human Life in Europe’s History June 13, 2020

trees tall

My article, “Trees in Early Irish Law and Lore: Respect for Other-Than-Human Life in Europe’s History,” has just been published in the peer-reviewed journal, Ecopsychology.

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Here is the article for download in plain document form (per the publication agreement), available in perpetuum or at least as long as the Internet stands:
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Abstract (summary of contents): In contrast to modern Western society’s treatment of plants as non- sentient beings to be used or killed at will for our own benefit, the complex legal system used in Ireland from prehistory up until the 17th century delineated penalties for mistreating trees that were not dissimilar to the penalties for mistreating other humans. The early Irish relationship with trees as described in Brehon Law and extant lore was not only utilitarian but also deeply spiritual and tied to the peoples’ identity. Brehon Law provides an example from European history that illustrates traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and animistic relationships with the more-than-human world of nature. This paper explores some ecopsychological and environmental benefits of applying its principles today.

 
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From the Journal’s announcement:

“Ecopsychology invites you to read this special issue dedicated to bringing forward insights from wisdom traditions, such as those from Indigenous peoples, and those from contemporary science, to more clearly inspire and guide actions that care for the Earth.

“The issue was co-edited by two leaders in their fields. Cheryl Charles is Co-Founder, President, and CEO Emerita of the Children & Nature Network, and an educator, author, and long-time advocate for connecting people of all ages with nature. Gregory Cajete is a scholar, educator, author and elder in his Indigenous tribe, Tewa, and served for many years as director of Native American Studies at University of New Mexico.”

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Due to the timeliness of this Special Issue’s topic (Wisdom Traditions, Science and Care for the Earth), the publisher has offered a special link that contains free 30-day access with the request to “please be sure to share your work openly with your colleagues.” You folks reading this, feel free to share more widely as well if you know someone who might be interested.
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Link to my article:  https://bit.ly/2XIeutw
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(available free from mid-June through mid-July, 2020 – and perhaps longer if you’re lucky)

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I hope you enjoy it!   Please let me know what you think in the Comments below.
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