Anarchism & Christianity: Fruits for the Spirit

Submission by Ross Martinie Eiler

I am a Christian Anarchist.  I have been for fifteen years.  As a founding member of the Bloomington Christian Radical Catholic Worker Community, my faith has been instrumental in arriving at a revolutionary criticism of modern capitalism, and my politics have been instrumental in developing my religious beliefs.  I want to share some particular gifts that Christianity can bring to anarchist thought and practice.

These gifts are gifts of emphasis; these elements can be found both in people of different religious traditions and in people with no religious traditions at all.  But they have a distinctiveness within the Christians tradition, and they can enrich secular political radicals. I share these reflections not to convert anyone to Christianity or to get folks to join the Catholic Worker, but rather to encourage reflection and dialogue on these ideas and also to build awareness and comradeship between my Catholic Worker community and Plain Words readers. Continue reading “Anarchism & Christianity: Fruits for the Spirit”

Interview: The Police Murder of Ricky Ard

In August of 2017 Evansville, Indiana resident Ricky Ard was gunned down by an EPD officer and a federal security guard outside of the federal courthouse in downtown Evansville. We spoke with three people involved in the response to Ricky’s death.

Can you start by walking us through what happened at the Denton Federal Building on August 29th?

Respondent 3: Ricky Ard is reported to have gone to the Federal Building the day before he was killed to “complain about the government.” He was removed from the building without incident. He returned the next day with a bat, shouting at the building and broke some of its windows. Ricky retreated away from the building and sat down for several minutes before walking toward the building a second time. EPD officer Kenny Dutschke approached him from behind, shouted orders and deployed his taser, which was “ineffective” according to a police statement. Ricky responded to the officer’s aggression by swinging his bat and moving toward the officer. Dutschke and a federal security guard whose name has not been released shot Ricky Ard 6 times, bringing him to the ground and killing him.

What was the response?

Respondent 3: Ricky was murdered around 11 a.m. The mainstream media covered the story pretty immediately. A friend heard about it and sent out a text. People in our neighborhood were talking about the police shooting and killing someone at the Federal Building. People were saying that his body was still laying there and asking, “what are we going to do about it?!” We began checking all the coverage and our facts, and several people went to the location to get more insight. I mentioned we have to be there tonight, to not let this go without challenge or notice if nothing else for his family. We met up in the early evening, piled up supplies for posters and a vigil, shared our plan with other neighbors and decided to act after sundown. Almost twenty of us met and occupied in front of the Federal Building where they had washed away all evidence anything had happened. Throughout the night, about sixty people trickled through. We lit candles and spread our signs along edge of the property and scratched messages in chalk along the sidewalks; we talked and sat and waited. Continue reading “Interview: The Police Murder of Ricky Ard”

Coping with the End of the World

Submitted anonymously

The day after Trump was elected President, news reports circulated images of young people at college campuses gathering to cry and mourn together. At these “cry-ins” or “self-care events,” students reportedly colored in coloring books, played with play-doh, met with therapy dogs, drank hot chocolate, and of course, cried together. These stories were met with ridicule, supposedly showcasing the oversensitive millennial generation as a bunch of snowflakes who can’t handle the world. But just like how, to Baudrillard, the existence of the uber-commercialized and artificial Disneyland gives cover to the rest of society pretending not to be both already, these spectacular stories of human coping hide the fact that society is already coping all the time. Continue reading “Coping with the End of the World”

A Theory of Destitution and Trolling

In the grip of modern capitalism we face destitutions both material and social. Precarious employment, debt, exorbitant rent, and a diminishing welfare safety net are complimented by ubiquitous information technology that hinders the development of real life social skills, perpetuating neurotic anxiety and self-loathing which follows perceived failures to meet expected social roles. Both destitutions can be seen as “falling through the cracks,” where people fail to meet society’s norms in achieving a middle-class income, and/or fostering relations of affection, friendship, and love. One can imagine that these destitute people see themselves as losers, and hence gravitate towards opportunities to be in power relations where they are the ones on top, or at least higher than they are now.

In revolutionary times, the collective power inherent in massive and combative struggles may be seductive enough to draw these people in to the anti-politics of liberation. But with no horizon of revolution in sight and the limits of current collective struggles, the destitute will take what they can get. The easiest and most accessible opportunity for power, especially seductive for men with lighter color skin, are the sectors of the internet where far-right trolls specialize in tormenting marginalized people through social media. As the popular adage about bullying goes, the weak become the strong by preying on others that are weak. At the moment, and conceivably in the future, the formula is:

Privilege – Power + Humiliation + the Internet = Far-Right Trolling

In the past, those who capitalist society shaped to be losers and nerds would rectify their powerlessness by becoming an authority on a commodity or spectacle of their choice. Developing encyclopedic knowledge of video games, music genres, and Star Trek episodes while being condescending to those not in the know replicates a feeling of authority, and instills a fleeting sense of confidence about something, regardless how pathetic. This way of asserting power over others is passive and somewhat harmless, adopted only because it’s within reach.

Contrast this with the typical images of racial hatred in the post-war period: southern brutes drunkenly assaulting civil rights demonstrators, or a horde of working-class whites in the urban north converging on a house newly moved into by a black family to harass and attack them. The aforementioned losers, having too little confidence in themselves and their strength, would likely not be participants in such blatantly confrontational acts.

But different opportunities arise with the internet’s anonymity and everyone being “within reach” due to social networks. Every powerless person who occupies a position of even marginal privilege now has the easy ability to go to 4chan, participate in a coordinated harassment, perhaps of a black celebrity or any visible Trans people, and feel the deranged psychological benefit of asserting power over another. Similarly, men who have been trained to see women as objects, intimidating ones they are incapable of talking to without being creepy, can use social media to lash out in their impotence by tormenting, doxing, and threatening them.

The internet has created an easy pathway for the powerless-yet-privileged to become monsters in a vain reach for power. Who would have thought that hell would be participatory and decentralized?

Good TV as a Roadblock to Becoming Ungovernable, or Anything Else Really

“Become ungovernable” is a slogan anarchists like to use these days. It sounds cool and fits the anarchist aesthetic of revolt and spectacular conflict. It doesn’t immediately mean much, but that’s the beauty of it, the meaning shifts with each person and the specificities of their lives. With no revolution and lots of environmental catastrophe, state violence, and “active shooter situations” on the horizon, rather than despairing at our no-future future, it instead contains a path forward: to refuse submission to law, duty, and passivity in daily life. Continue reading “Good TV as a Roadblock to Becoming Ungovernable, or Anything Else Really”

An Introduction to the Affinity Group

Coyote crew

From 1890’s Spain to present day Bloomington, anarchists of varying stripes organize ourselves and take action together in what’s called an “affinity group.” Central to anarchy is not only respect for autonomy, but the belief that without stifling systems of control, people are capable of creativity, beauty, and courage. Because it is flexible, leaderless, and informal, the affinity group is one way to facilitate these drives. Continue reading “An Introduction to the Affinity Group”

June 11, 2017: Communication is a Weapon

From June 11: International Day of Solidarity with Marius Mason & All Long-Term Anarchist Prisoners

Express Yourself: Liberal Democracy’s Trap

We receive and transmit…

It was the night after Darren Wilson was acquitted for the murder of Michael Brown, hundreds of people were gathered in the heart of downtown in a medium-sized Midwestern city. After arriving with some comrades, I decided I needed to do something to counter the cold. Walking through the edge of the crowd, I saw not only the usual friends and activists, but faces I didn’t recognize. Some appeared angry and militant, others deeply sad, but the crowd generally seemed confident, and there was a charge in the air that I hadn’t felt at a demonstration in the many years I’d lived there. Years of apathy and tame liberalism had taken their toll on my sense of optimism, but this night I sensed that things were about to change. Continue reading “Express Yourself: Liberal Democracy’s Trap”

Floodgates: The Urge to Obey, A Flight from Initiative, and Identity Politics

We receive and transmit:

Traditional systems of authority are dead or dying. It matters increasingly less whether one identifies with their job, loves their country, kneels before God, or worries about tarnishing the family name. In the past, anarchists have fought to the death against these institutions, believing that if people rose up and destroyed them, humanity would be free. While these relics are decaying, it is due to many different forces, rebellion not being primary. As a result, daily life is still bound to alienation, livelihood tied to the whims of the precarious market, and obedience maintained by the threat of the justice system or the normality of habit, or both. Humanity is still submissive, but our rulers are faceless abstractions: invisible flows of capital, imagination-killing technologies, the justice system, etc. These systems have their agents in our midst: police, prison guards, CEOs, judges; but they no longer solicit respect, they just do their jobs to keep the system running, and they are interchangeable in our minds. So we are followers without leaders, waiting to be led. Continue reading “Floodgates: The Urge to Obey, A Flight from Initiative, and Identity Politics”