What Happens When We Do This‭?

Post-Anarchism Today‭
Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies‭ (‬ADCS‭) ‬2010.1
Edited by Duane Rousselle‭ & ‬Sϋreyyya Evren
Published and distributed by Little Black Cart

‬Underneath Anarchism…‭ ‬Post-Anarchism‭

Recently,‭ ‬I finished reading issue‭ ‬#1‭ ‬of‭ Post-Anarchism Today:‭ ‬Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies‭ (‬ADCS‭)‬.‭ ‬As the name implies,‭ ‬it is a journal of post-anarchist cultural studies encompassing articles on a variety of subjects‭ ‬-‭ ‬from architecture,‭ ‬identity,‭ ‬and morality‭; ‬all the way to film studies,‭ ‬black blocs,‭ ‬book reviews,‭ ‬poetry and the old faithful Karl Marx.‭ ‬Overall,‭ ‬the material is quite dense,‭ ‬although not surprising,‭ ‬being that much of the text comes from a rather academic standpoint,‭ ‬if you will.‭ ‬Academia aside,‭ ‬which has been one of the most prevalent critiques of post-anarchy so far‭ (‬supposedly rebuffed in this journal’s introduction‭) ‬-‭ ‬there are some really good articles,‭ ‬and then there are some that are not-so-good.‭ ‬It seems like a promising start and the future of what has come to be known as post-anarchism looks theoretically intriguing.‭ ‬In this brief review I plan to look at three of the more meaningful texts,‭ ‬including Alejandro de Acosta’s‭ Anarchist Meditations‭‬,‭ ‬Allan Antliff’s‭ Adrian Backwell’s Anarchitecture‭‬,‭ ‬and Saul Newman’s‭ Voluntary Servitude Reconsidered‭‬.‭

First off,‭ ‬a note on the medium.‭ ‬Like many great things in life,‭ ‬the contents of ADCS is available for free online at‭ The Anarchist Library‭‬.‭ ‬It has also been brought into this world in‭ “‬journal‭” ‬format,‭ ‬which is actually much more‭ (‬exactly‭) ‬like a book.‭ ‬As with most things,‭ ‬I recommend the book‭ ‬-‭ ‬but the simple idea of sharing these texts for free over the Internet in an age where‭ “‬print is dead‭” ‬is a thoughtful and a beautiful idea that should be noted.‭ ‬A quick note:‭ ‬I found that I really had to try and be on my toes while reading the journal if I was going to try to write a review‭ ‬/‭ ‬critique of it‭ ‬-‭ ‬unlike,‭ ‬say a work of fiction‭ ‬-‭ ‬non-fiction is something one just can’t breeze through.‭ ‬I’m also not that well versed in post-anarchist material,‭ ‬and it is something rather new to me.‭ ‬I read it once all the way through,‭ ‬but then reread some individual articles two,‭ ‬three,‭ ‬four,‭ ‬even fives times before I felt like I really had something to say…‭ ‬I’m still not completely certain I do.‭ ‬Is this a good summer time book‭? ‬In my opinion no,‭ ‬but it is still an intriguing read.‭ ‬Perhaps more well suited for the long cold solitary winter months,‭ ‬unless of course you don’t have winter‭ ‬-‭ ‬then well…‭ ‬I’m not sure what to tell you,‭ ‬other than you’re lucky.

‬I dreamed I turned off my cell phone‭

In‭ ‬Anarchist Meditations,‭ ‬or:‭ ‬Three Wild Interstices of Anarchism and Philosophy‭ ‬by Alejandro de Acosta he looks into the somewhat estranged relationship between anarchists and philosophy.‭ ‬According to Acosta:

philosophers allude to anarchist practices‭; ‬philosophers‭ (‬usually in search of theory to add to the canon‭)‬.‭ ‬What is missing in this schema,‭ ‬I note with interest,‭ ‬is anarchists alluding to philosophical practices.‭ ‬These are the wild interstices:‭ ‬zones of outlandish contact for all concerned‭ (‬p.‭ ‬118‭) 

Why is anarchism so intriguing then for philosophers‭? ‬Acosta points out that anarchism has‭ “‬never successfully manifested itself as a theoretical system‭” ‬and it is herein that lies the excitement of exploring the unknown.‭ ‬The text goes on to state that the‭ “‬apparent theoretical weakness of anarchism‭” ‬is perhaps one of its‭ “‬greatest virtues.‭” ‬While some may scoff here at this claim,‭ ‬I can find understanding in it,‭ ‬because after all anarchy in many senses is the idea of having no ideals.‭ ‬And what of these zones of outlandish contact for anarchist meditation that were mentioned earlier‭? ‬Acosta gives us three‭ wild styles‭ ‬-‭ ‬daydreams,‭ ‬field trips,‭ ‬and psychogeography to draw from.‭

The first zone of outlandish contact are‭ daydreams‭‬.‭ ‬What is a daydream‭? ‬A daydream is exactly what one may imagine it to be‭ ‬-‭ ‬a‭ meditative affirmation‭ ‬or even‭ negation‭‬.‭ ‬Acosta goes on to describe the differences between the two.

The difference between meditative affirmation and negation is that in affirming I actively imagine a future that I do not take to be real‭; ‬I explore its details to act on my own imagination,‭ ‬on my thought process,‭ ‬to contract other habits.‭ ‬In negation,‭ ‬as in affirmation,‭ ‬there is no future,‭ ‬just this present I must evacuate of its meaning.‭ ‬This meditation is a voiding process,‭ ‬a clearing of stupidities.‭ ‬It is what I do when I can find nothing to affirm in the present.‭ (‬p.‭ ‬127‭) 

Perhaps,‭ ‬I do too much daydreaming‭ ‬-‭ ‬perhaps even,‭ ‬not enough.‭ ‬But,‭ ‬the idea of thinking things through,‭ ‬mulling it over from various angles,‭ ‬and using your imagination to develop a deeper understanding of things can be surprisingly simple,‭ ‬but not exactly common.‭ ‬Touching on only the‭ ‬superficial,‭ ‬rushing around from place to place,‭ ‬hoping to find the joy of all philosophical pursuit becomes difficult when we fail to take the time and patience to look on a deeper level.‭ ‬This is not to say that being spontaneous is the problem‭ ‬-‭ ‬what it is saying though is that often,‭ ‬especially here in American society‭ ‬-‭ ‬we have too much going on,‭ ‬too many things to worry about,‭ ‬and not enough time in the day to find our joy and happiness.‭ ‬How often have you heard that before‭? ‬In affirming or negating these meditations‭ “‬the question is that of another attitude,‭ ‬another tone of thought,‭ ‬another voice.‭”

The second zone of outlandish contact are‭ field trips‭‬.‭ ‬Here Acosta looks into the act of adventuring to some significant unfamiliar location,‭ ‬engaging it,‭ ‬and creating an abstract‭ “‬thesis‭” ‬unto that experience.‭ ‬A field trip,‭ ‬is a field trip and I’m reminded of younger school days of going someplace far off on a bright yellow bus.‭ ‬What made these field trips important and exciting is that they seem to make meditations more meaningful.‭ ‬No longer are you just daydreaming,‭ ‬traveling the great expanse of the human mind‭ ‬-‭ ‬but now you are a doing-being…‭ err… or, something like that… whatever. ‬Digging your hands in the dirt,‭ ‬uncovering the past,‭ ‬and finding out for yourself what it means to be alive.‭ ‬Citing Frere Dupont’s‭ Nihilist Communism‭‬,‭ ‬Acosta states:

we always need new practices of thought,‭ ‬new contemplations,‭ ‬that habituate us to overcoming our profoundly limited common sense about what is human,‭ ‬what the human or its societies can do and be.‭ (‬p.‭ ‬131‭) 

The third and last wild style is‭ psychogeography‭‬.‭ ‬This can be thought of along Situationist terms in the dérive,‭ ‬although psychogeography is not strictly for the urbanlandscape‭ ‬.‭ ‬I imagine this almost like a field trip,‭ ‬but with less of a specific structure and aim.‭ ‬It is going out in the world‭ ‬-‭ ‬observing and experiencing.‭ ‬Acosta writes:

‬I am referring to what is collectively called‭ “‬hanging out.‭” ‬Going to the public library,‭ ‬for example,‭ ‬for no other reason than to witness what in it is anarchic‭ ‬-‭ ‬or again,‭ ‬to a potluck.‭ ‬This practice involves another way of inhabiting familiar spaces.‭ ‬It brings out what in them is uncannily,‭ ‬because tendentially,‭ ‬anarchic.‭ ‬It multiplies our sites of action and engagement and could shape our interventions there.‭(‬p.‭ ‬132‭) 

Psychogeography is the most appealing wildstlye for me.‭ ‬There is something about taking hours to wander through the woods,‭ ‬walk from one end of the city to the other,‭ ‬with no strong intentions other than to explore,‭ ‬to feel,‭ ‬to try and make sense out of your surroundings,‭ ‬and find the anarchic meaning hiding right in front of your eyes.‭ ‬Exploring by foot,‭ ‬bike,‭ ‬train,‭ ‬plane,‭ ‬car, and/or…‭ (you get the point).

Overall,‭ ‬I find that the point of these meditations is to find a deeper and more profound understanding‭; ‬or to find the joy and happiness that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning.‭ ‬It is far from easy,‭ ‬as the aspects of mental health in our friends and society have made it glaringly apparent.‭ ‬Something is not right,‭ ‬and there are some approaches we may be able to take‭ ‬-‭ ‬and this is the reason anarchist meditations are not only important,‭ ‬but necessary.‭ ‬Or as Acosta writes,‭ “[‬t]hese wild styles ought,‭ ‬eventually,‭ ‬to put into question every political project‭ ‬-‭ ‬first,‭ ‬as project,‭ ‬and,‭ ‬again,‭ ‬as political.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬135‭)

‬u mad? u jelly? When Nature Calls‭

Ever notice how all the airports look the same‭? ‬Where ever you go,‭ ‬it seems like you are always arriving and departing for the same location‭ (‬or is that just me‭?)‬.‭ ‬Is it the comfort of knowing your surroundings or has modern day travel and globalization lost their imaginations‭? ‬It’s not just airports,‭ ‬but the entire assemblage of society‭ ‬-‭ ‬gas stations,‭ ‬supermarkets,‭ ‬and restaurants all made to look the same.‭ ‬In the article‭ ‬Adrian Blackwell’s Anarchitecture‭ (‬see link for images‭) ‬by Allan Antliff the tension between capital and architecture is examined.‭ ‬Or in the words of Antliff,‭ “‬Blackwell has developed the antagonistic aspect of anarchist aesthetics by creating zones of tension enacted in the spaces between art and architecture.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬165‭)

The question is asked‭ ‬-‭ ‬how can one‭ “‬radicalize the social potential of architecture‭?” (‬p.‭ ‬167‭) ‬Growing up in the rolling ghost lands of abandoned farms and crumbling wooden red barns‭ ‬-‭ ‬I would dream of the possibilities of what these places once looked like and what their futures could hold.‭ ‬What if the grain silo that now lays empty,‭ ‬except for the dead bird bones scattered across its floor,‭ ‬had a glass staircase winding up to the top of it to look over the majestic country side‭? ‬What if that barn with old rotting hay in it,‭ ‬was turned into a workshop of sorts or maybe even an indoors basketball court-‭ ‬instead of just being an utter rats nest‭?

What happens when architecture takes the opposite approach‭? ‬When it aims to quell the social potential of individuals‭? ‬I’m reminded of the insane idea of staircases that are meant to hinder rioting,‭ ‬or if you will,‭ ‬insurrection.‭ ‬At least that is what I always think when I encounter stairs that are irregular and difficult to walk up‭ ‬-‭ ‬are they purposely designed this way‭? ‬I believe their actually may be some validity to this idea,‭ ‬however far off the truth actually is‭ ‬-‭ ‬after all I know I’m not the only one who has mentioned this before.

Antliff’s article on Adrian Blackwell,‭ ‬explores this axis of architecture and modern society.‭ ‬One that is
“constantly searching for avenues that break out of alienation,‭ ‬transparencies that bridge the gap between artist and audience,‭ ‬ruptures that draw us into contested social ground,‭ ‬where we discover our own freedom.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬177‭) ‬Thoughts of a giant tree houses and forgotten parks within the city,‭ ‬abandoned power plants and deserted subways tunnels,‭ ‬spiced with Frank Lloyd Wright all spring to mind.‭ ‬It tells the tale of the Canadian government and private developers who‭ “‬found common cause in the popularization of a familiar gentrification equation:‭ ‬poor people‭ = ‬danger.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬168‭) ‬Toilet humor aside:‭ ‬Blackwell installed a portable toilet,‭ ‬with a two way mirror acting as the door.‭ ‬This allowed those on the inside to see out,‭ ‬and those on the outside to see a reflection of themselves and the environment.‭ ‬The rest of the article goes on to document some of Blackwell’s other adventures in architecture,‭ ‬including some pinhole camera photography that is in color none-the-less‭ (‬at least the online version‭)‬.

‬Do I get paid for this…‭?

Last,‭ ‬but not least for this review is an article by Saul Newman entitled‭ ‬Voluntary Servitude Reconsidered:‭ ‬Radical Politics and the Problem of Self-Domination‭‬.‭ ‬The text asks the question of‭ “‬why do people at some level desire their own domination‭?” (‬p.‭ ‬33‭) ‬If information wants to be free,‭ ‬why don’t human beings‭? ‬Thankfully,‭ ‬this domination over us‭ “‬is a condition of our own making‭ ‬-‭ ‬it is entirely voluntary‭; ‬and all it takes to untie us from this condition is the desire to no longer be subjugated,‭ ‬the will to be free.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬33‭) ‬It all sounds easy enough,‭ ‬but like many things‭ ‬-‭ ‬it is often much easier said than done.

Newman goes on to state that‭ “‬democracy itself has encouraged a mass contentment with powerlessness and a general love of submission.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬35‭) ‬Lovers of submission is a bit strongly worded,‭ ‬but life under democracy definitely quiets a lot of people down.‭ ‬Then again,‭ ‬so does television.‭ ‬Some people have often asked me why I don’t vote,‭ ‬finding it difficult to understand why something so important for them,‭ ‬just doesn’t matter for me.‭ ‬Others have even gotten extremely angry with me‭ ‬-‭ ‬to the point of no return,‭ ‬were they don’t even want to be friends.‭ ‬Most of the time though,‭ ‬I think that people think it is just a matter of being lazy‭ ‬-‭ ‬but that couldn’t be further from the truth.‭ ‬Again for Newman,‭ “‬the state relies on us‭ allowing‭ ‬it to dominate us.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬42‭)

So,‭ ‬what does mean for those human beings who want to be free‭? ‬Newman writes:

We can take from this that radical politics must not‭ only‭ ‬be aimed at overturning established institutions like the state,‭ ‬but also at attacking the much more problematic relation through which the subject is enthralled to and dependent upon power.‭ (‬p.‭ ‬44‭) 

A little further one and more in-depth,‭ ‬Newman states specifically that:

This would mean thinking about what freedom means beyond the ideology of security‭ (‬rather than simply seeing freedom as conditioned by or necessarily constrained by security‭)‬.‭ ‬We also need to think what democracy means beyond the state,‭ ‬what politics means beyond the party,‭ ‬economic organization beyond capitalism,‭ ‬globalization beyond borders,‭ ‬and life beyond biopolitics.‭ (‬p.‭ ‬45‭) 

However simplified and full of catch-phrases these last two quotes may seem,‭ ‬I think it really puts the nail-in-the-coffin regarding what Newman is aiming for.‭ ‬While theoretically intriguing,‭ ‬the study rehashes a lot of ideas that seem secretly well-known.‭ ‬Like everyone knows‭ this‭‬,‭ ‬but is‭ this‭ ‬enough to push them over the edge‭? ‬Or are we just going in for a dip today‭? ‬Maybe even,‭ this‭ ‬will just have a drive there,‭ ‬have a look at the beautiful view,‭ ‬and return to work.‭ ‬If the majority of people honestly believe that they have everything that they need‭ ‬-‭ ‬what is there for them to be angry about‭? ‬I’m angry because more people are not angry; and also because not enough people can laugh at everything (not in a Lulzsec kind of way though, even though that is still funny… very funny [tm]).

‭***

On the whole,‭ ‬the future of ADCS looks promising.‭ ‬Recently,‭ ‬they released‭ ‬The Anarchist Turn‭‬,‭ ‬which is a collection of mostly audio and video from New York City about…‭ ‬the anarchists turn‭ (‬insert joke about anarchists taking turns here‭)‬.‭ ‬When I think of cultural studies,‭ ‬I think of something like a dialogue on hip-hop in the Caribbean,‭ ‬or and examination of Mexican migrant workers in the USA‭ ‬-‭ ‬or something like that.‭ ‬ADCS seems to expand upon the field of cultural studies,‭ ‬especially in a more theoretical direction.‭ ‬It works and the journal brings some good‭ (‬some bad‭) ‬discussions to the field of post-anarchism.‭ ‬As the journal has said,‭ ‬the toughest part is just starting because after all,‭ the secret is to really begin‭‬.

If you’d like,‭ ‬you can order the journal here:

‬Post-Anarchism Today‭

Or,‭ ‬if you are curious about more post-anarchist texts,‭ ‬you can check out the post-anarchism tag at the Anarchist Library:

‬more post-anarchism texts‭

Keepers of the Fire

The Strait: Book of Obenabi. His Songs
From the pen of Fredy Perlman
Black & Red, Detroit. 1988
399 pages, $6

The Strait by Fredy Perlman is a two-volume manuscript remembrance of the world changers. It is the songs and stories of colonization and resistance in what has come to be known as the Great Lakes region of North America as witnessed through the eyes of not only its humans, but animals, trees, and everything living. There are two volumes of the book, with volume one being the story of how things came to be, and volume two being the resistance. Sadly, only volume one of the book was completed (works in progress) when Fredy Perlman passed away in 1985.

Lorraine Perlman documents volumes one and two of the book in Having Little, Being Much: A Chronicle of Fredy Perlman’s Fifty Years, giving an eye-opening look into some of the unpublished material and providing an intimate view of Fredy’s ideas. It seems that the two volumes were not long from being completed and one wonders if they will ever see the light of day again. Prior readers of Perlman, can think of The Strait as being the narrative form of Against His-tory, Against Leviathan!, yet going deeper. Or, if you want to compare and contrast it to his other narrative Letters of Insurgents, you can think of it as the story of what came before all that. Actually, Fredy intended this, and his plan was to present himself as the translator of Robert Dupré’s manuscript. In 1851 Obenabi told (or sang to) Dupré (his nephew) these stories after they had both been jailed for opposing railroad construction across Michigan. Dupré’s great-grandson Robert Avis is Tissie’s cousin, who is friends with modern day “rememberer” Ted (the printer). Sabina is also the image of capital for volume two. And if that list of characters was to much for you, just wait till you try and read the actual book. Thankfully, also enclosed in the book is a fold out map that is around 24 inches long and 11 inches wide of all the characters in a “family tree” format.

Aside from finding it impossible to keep track of the hundreds of characters and happenings throughout the book, it is hard to find much else to complain about regarding it. Given, perhaps I’ve also said before that Perlman is one of my favorites, so of course there is some bias. Many parts of the book were extremely graphic and the reality faced by the original inhabitants from the Invaders leaves nothing out. It’s not all violence and rage though, as the book seems to make the point of leaving no stone unturned. While it may be considered fiction, the book is perhaps some of the closest fiction to ever being non-fiction, if that can make sense to you. Perhaps, if you are from the Great Lakes region or familiar with it’s history, it is not entirely difficult to recognize actual events, people, and places mentioned.

For me, this was the best part of the book. It tells the story of what happened, and there is not a lot to celebrate it seems, quite sad – but true. Perhaps it is the heartfelt wrenching that tears your soul out that you must be feeling. The world changed – the names and language, the places, environment, and the everything inhabiting it. It was like nothing before. If one pundit were to create a simile about the book, they may write: “The Strait is like a more in-depth, more critical and regionally focused A Peoples History of the United States, but just without so much of a people fetish.” Or maybe Glen Beck would call it the narrative form of The Coming Insurrection. After all, the bloom lives in the bloom, whatever that means.

But, what comes next? As mentioned before, in Having Little, Being Much Lorraine Perlman writes a magnificent review of the book, so good in fact, that another review almost becomes unnecessary, but since I’ve gotten this far there is no going back now. Her writing is insightful and full of some really interesting tidbits worth reading, even if you haven’t read the book yet. Here is the song:

In his notes Fredy wrote messages to himself about the crucial importance of the story being “oral.” His goal was to emerge with a song. He was surely aware that the hundreds of characters would not make the story easy to read, nor would the avoidance of the Invaders’ system of dates make the chronology obvious. But this story, emulating its oral predecessors, could not have recourse to the European establishment’s dating system. Births, deaths, plagues and battles correlate events described by Obenabi and Wabnokwe, the narrators of Fredy’s story. As setting, he chose the place in which he was living; the title of the work is the English translation of “Detroit.”

And, so it begins. I complained earlier about the seemingly never-ending list of characters in the book, so here is a quote from Lorraine that will give a little more justice to the cast. Pay extra close attention to one of the names towards the end.

The epic Fredy created needed all the individual characters. From his own experience Fredy knew that resistance to domination takes many forms. The choices made by a free people, individuals neither domesticated nor fettered by the dominators’ own ideology, fascinated him. He tried to put himself in their situation, hoping that their responses might help in his own efforts to resist. From fragments, he rounded out a personality and created a world of richly diverse women and men. Although some characters are taken as archetypes of their milieu, they never are mere representatives. Before choosing names, Fredy made for each “people” a list of names he had found while reading about their past. When a dictionary of words was available (as in History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan by A.J . Blackbird), he constructed original names. Many characters have European names in addition to the descriptive appellation given them by kin. Although never mentioned explicitly in the finished story, Obenabi also answers to Benjamin J. Burr-net, Wabnokwe to Rebekah Burr-net. Some historical characters who spend long periods among Rootkin have non-European names. Thus John Con-err is known to Obenabi exclusively as Bijiki. The Labadie family figures prominently in events on the Strait and in Mishilimakina; Baptiste, Antoine (Le Sauteur) and Paulette appear as Batì, Lesotér and Pamoko, respectively.

Coincidence? John Connor is also another character that was first mentioned in the 1984 now-classic Terminator movie. He is the leader of the future resistance against Skynet, and while the book’s character may be a little different – I thought it was a little funny.

As tempting as it is to just have blockquotes for the rest of the review, here are some brief thoughts. Perlman always a lover of languages and a speaker of four, conducted the characters in the book with many different languages that a keen observer may notice. The commentary is that of life experiences and everything that comes with living in a world that disappears right before your eyes. Never has anything vanished so quickly before and replaced with nothing but illusion. Asked if it is all a dream, the response remains unanswered.

I dissolve. There’s only water. Water with a dream in its depths, like moon’s reflection, a liquid yolk wrapped in a watery blanket, a seed in a womb, a dreams that’s roused whenever sun’s yellow hair caresses or moon’s cool tongue licks the water’s surface and makes it ripple. (p. 22)

Health is a world without Invaders; they love power and hate life. Stories of destruction and the spread of smallpox covered blankets with complete regions burned over and heads scalped is the slow spin into chaos that erupts from invasion. It becomes appallingly routine, almost so much that is seems everything is forgotten. Maybe this is the wrong sentiment, but the world changes so fast, that often it is hard not to forget. Or is it the things we only choose to forget? Lets talk about where we live and sometimes how we forget.

a great fear: they who for ages had celebrated and sung and recorded their event-filled trajectory feared that soon none would remember it, soon no living person would have ancestors who had followed that path, soon there would be no memory of Eastbranch Rootkin ever having existed. (p. 210)

It is about, gasp, finding out who you are, and your identity. Some of the most memorable scenes from the book are the dream lodges that the youths escape to. And thinking about who you are, not thinking at all, or simply using it as excuse to get out of responsibilities. Visions, illusions, animals, and some solitude deep in the woods dreaming. Trying to figure out who you are could have never been more relaxing. And then, contrast it with this description of the Invaders religion, which could plainly be described as “no fun at all”.

My fear made me listen carefully to everything the Robes told me: the earth where my ancestors lay was hell, the forest was the Devil’s lodging and animals were his creatures, festivals to regenerate the earth were orgies; enjoyment of earth’s fruit was evil, we originated in sin, our lives were a painful burden, our salvation was death, and after death we would be regenerated, but not all of us, only those whose who had believed the Word – that’s why we had to seek guidance only from the carries of the Word, the Blackrobes. (p. 42)

Peace and happiness have vanished. And, what if things had turned out a little differently? Is this too ridiculous to ask? Volume one leaves it at that and then some. The story feels incomplete, yet finished – maybe just like this review. The works were never intended to stand alone, perhaps that is why reading it is a little strange. And as winters blanket encompassed the night and the air became still, they listened to the sounds of the woods hollowing, and in the distance, the whistle of an oncoming train.

He told the Invaders that human beings weren’t made to languish in prisons of their own making. He told them no animals crippled and stunted its own kind, and no animals embarked on a war against any and all creatures that were unlike itself. He warned them that any who embarked on such a war would turn the very elements against them and would gag on the air, be poisoned by the water and be swallowed up by earth. (p. 303)

Fredy Perlman at the Anarchist Library

The Strait in Having Little, Being Much

Destroy What You Love

By Sending Them Letters

Is not indolence the pleasure of spending the morning in bed?

– D.A. (editor of Letters)

Letters Journal IV, the self-styled* “anti-political communist journal” coming out of Kentucky is a beautiful thing and that isn’t even to talk about the writing (which is also lovely). While I have never read the journal before, other than some small things on the Internet, I was excited to read it because this issue focuses on the topics of friendship, love, and fate (among other things). It kind of reminds me of another infamous journal that I’ve really liked lately because of this focus on relationships (and no, I’m not talking about New York City and Santa Cruz). It may seem a little cheeky, but I feel like these are important topics to discuss, and honestly they are probably easier to understand than pro-revolutionary theory (because I’m still not exactly sure I know what that is, but I want to).

What is the journal? In their own simple words:

With this journal we wish to better understand and analyze capitalism and its critics through the distorting lens of a rigorous anti-political experimentation and soul searching. We are not the expression of a political party or organization and seeks no adherents or official line, though we are open to offers of financial patronage. We are not afraid of paradox. Our aim is to bring maximum disorder to habitual perspectives.

By Sending Them Letters

Is not indolence the pleasure of spending the morning in bed?

– D.A. (editor of Letters)

Letters Journal IV, the self-styled* “anti-political communist journal” coming out of Kentucky is a beautiful thing and that isn’t even to talk about the writing (which is also lovely). While I have never read the journal before, other than some small things on the Internet, I was excited to read it because this issue focuses on the topics of friendship, love, and fate (among other things). It kind of reminds me of another infamous journal that I’ve really liked lately because of this focus on relationships (and no, I’m not talking about New York City and Santa Cruz). It may seem a little cheeky, but I feel like these are important topics to discuss, and honestly they are probably easier to understand than pro-revolutionary theory (because I’m still not exactly sure I know what that is, but I want to).

What is the journal? In their own simple words:

With this journal we wish to better understand and analyze capitalism and its critics through the distorting lens of a rigorous anti-political experimentation and soul searching. We are not the expression of a political party or organization and seeks no adherents or official line, though we are open to offers of financial patronage. We are not afraid of paradox. Our aim is to bring maximum disorder to habitual perspectives.



Sounds good enough to me, the soul searching is never ending.

Recently, some body or bodies encompassing Letters Journal went on a little summer tour, after all what else does one do during the summer when there is no CrimethInc. convergence? Anyways, there was a lot of water coloring happening and nothing doing going on plus some traveling, that neither here nor there. Before the tour the journal solicited a challenge to anyone to make a video about why or why not they are coming. One response, entitled Waiting for Letters Journal isn’t that much of a thriller and reminds me of some of the denser moments when reading the journal (snooze). But, I guess it can’t all be cherries and sugar now can it? [answer: not for communists at least]

The other video response entitled Letters Journal – Alfonso 1970 – Autonomia Italia is simply wonderful. This video deserves a review of it’s own, and I’m not sure if it is really possible to comment on it, other than simply laughing and watching it a couple of times. An anonymous spectator said this:

While simultaneously flashing The Coming Insurrection and Politics is Not a Banana I thought I also heard the phrase “Letters Journal” uttered like the infamous yell of “Mortal Kombat” (but, then again, maybe not).

Here is my one big critique of the journal – it is beautiful and lovely, but really difficult to understand at times. For hours last night, I read the entire journal and I came away from parts thinking that I have no clue about anything I just read, almost like it was in another language. Maybe, this is just my reading – but, I feel like part of it is because in order to understand Letters one has to be versed in a very specific set of other letters. For example, when I was reading the letter from Frere Dupont to Red Hughes I was totally lost, and while it is important to take your zen with your anarchy – I feel like I would have to read all of the archives at anti-politics.net and then a salon somewhere before tackling it again. Is Letters destined to become the next Politics is Not a Banana or has my understandability gone out the window? Whoever said communists and anarchists can’t be friends? Because we are. And just for the record PNB is great as well.

Love Your Destiny?

We were friends and have become estranged. But this was right… That we have to become estranged is the law above us; by the same token we should also become more venerable for each other – and the memory of our former friendship more sacred. There is probably a tremendous but invisible stellar orbit in which our very different ways and goals may be included as small parts of this path; let us rise up to this thought. But our life is too short and our power of vision too small for us to be more than friends in the sense of this sublime possibility! – Let us then believe in our star friendship even if we should be compelled to be earth enemies.

– Nietzsche – Star Friendship, The Gay Science (quote also printed in the journal)

The friendship of Letters begins. And, as a writer says it lasts for three weeks of Dionysus-esce wine and cigarettes. Coming from Letters which in a way seems to have come out of the vegan straight-edge zine Total Destruction, this is something. But, of course the editor doesn’t have to agree with everything, now do they? Soon, the three weeks ended, and they went separate ways – attempting to write letters the old fashion way. This slowly died, but the memory lives on. For some reason, this may sound a bit sad, but I love this. It is like learning to fall for something, whether it be in love, into a spell, or however you want to think about it and then just losing it. Kind of mysterious.

The journal talks a lot about things that used to exist, often abstractly it seemed, and from this we can mention the lost art of letter writing. After all, who writes real letters anymore? Although, in some ways I think this is too obvious of a loaded question, that has been asked and answered too many times before. But, let take a look at one of the greatest examples of letter writing ever to grace the pages of a book:

If I hadn’t been exchanging letters with you for the past months, I would have reacted to those headlines the same way they did. And I realized there’s no such entity as a human species, or rather that it doesn’t recognize itself as such; it possesses no faculty of community. Either it never had such a faculty or it lost it. The beings I was among, including me, were not species-beings but closed compartments. Maybe what we’ve just experienced on both sides of the world shows that the faculty of species-being is something still to be created, and that it’s not the abstract “community” I’ve always envisioned but something very concrete, as concrete as Mirna’s “excursions.” Maybe it’s nothing but the willingness to touch, feel, look at and listen to each other.

– Sophie [you say Sophia], in Letters of Insurgents

In another text regarding friendship, Le Garcon Dupont signs with love while earlier writing that “friendship and love do not exist in modern times.” It kind of feels like the jokes on us. It goes on to mention the bourgeois philosophizing of comparing Santa Clause and love, in other words – comparing two things that you can’t prove actually exist. But, I mean how can you actually compare Santa Clause and love? They are on two completely different scales. I guess that is why I appreciate the fact that Letters argues that this phrase is just bourgeois philosophizing. Though, it seems almost too seductive to not believe in love or argue/statements for it being only real in the past. How do you know? Why does it have to be sooo set in stone? Although, the tone of fun or death is appreciated – is a life without love one worth living? Didn’t Albert Camus say something like the greatest question is whether to kill yourself or no… He doesn’t sound like a very fun person to have at parties.

Words Marx the Spot

The meaning of a phrase can more accurately be deduced by its use rather that its origin. For example, the use, and thus, the meaning, of the statement “cisgendered straight white male” is the replacing, avoiding, and disrupting of argument.”

Yes! What is it about being so politically correct, if you will, or whatever it is, that saying this out loud just makes you want to blow chunks? For some reason, I’m reminded on the 2009 CrimethInc. Convergence in Pittsburgh and some comments that get made surrounding Bash Back! (RIP).

There is another quote that I really like about language and the subjects of teaching vs. being a student:

To teach is to open oneself to those demands and to seek the language to meet them. Or, to teach is to be contaminated with the demands of the student and to find that the threshold between the teacher and the student (between teaching and learning) is not a boundary but an open space of contamination, that we learn in teaching and teach in learning by maintaining the roles and rituals of teacher and student. (So in some ways the concept of teacher and student are interchangeable [meaningless?] but are only interchangeable, in this case, in our respecting the meaning and structure of teacher and student.)

This reminds me a lot of Paulo Freire. Students and teachers, teachers and students are one and the same. This seems kind of like an obvious statement, but is this really how it is? Schooling and education in North America today is crazy in a lot of ways and some thoughts on an experienced that many of us have lived is appreciated.

Later on in the journal one comes across, The Parallax Few, and this quote stood out for me:

Most human beings do not reflect upon what they are responsible for, most do not even arrive at the stage of having to forgive themselves and get on with life – we are “hard programmed” to evade the question of our involvement in unacceptable events, and therefore we also habitually evade the question of change.

Holding yourself responsible. But, are we really hard programed for not holding ourselves responsible? It feels more like a condition to me. Noam Chomsky may have said sometime during the 1970s that we are hard programmed for language. Is responsibility also like an innate ability? Or is it like that band said famously, some years ago – “Responsibility… FUCK THAT!”

And Finally… the Literary Supplement

Immediately, I noticed the mysterious torn out pages at beginning and end of the little hand held supplement. Is this just my copy or are the pages going to turn up with the missing Days of War, Nights of Love page somewhere in CrimethInc. desert underground headquarters? The supplement is a very nice touch though. I really haven’t read all of it yet, so I can’t really comment – but what I’ve looked through so far is interesting.

There is an interview which touches on some ideas regarding the translation of different language. Creating a good translation is difficult, but when done appropriately it is amazing. There are so many languages that we can probably never learn, but having excellent translations is something worth while. It is also something that should happen more often.

On that note, the journal has been publishing chapters of The Unseen by Nanni Balestrini each issue. I started reading it, but the abstractness and teetering incoherence of it made me pause. While this may have been the writers intention, to be experimental, like the writing of whatever and things that don’t make sense, I just didn’t like it. Perhaps, one just needs to be in a more Neoavanguardia frame of mind. Or maybe the translation is just that bad?

Letters Journal can be purchased from Little Black Cart(LBC) because supposedly they have around 1,000 copies and if only 100 people buy a copy, then LBC will get angry and burn them, sparking Libertian Communists worldwide to revolt against the anthropomorphization of books.

You can also read the Wikipedia page about Letters Journal if you’re curious for some more background knowledge. There are also some funny comments from a forum on Libcom (funny in a sad kind of way, because most of the posters just seem like jerks).

The journal can be contacted here:

Letters Journal
838 E. High St. #115
Lexington, KY 40502
USA

editor(at)lettersjournal.org

‘Cause Baby I am a Communist? (no final thoughts here)

*authors notes: don’t you just love the term “self-styled” or would you rather me use “self-proclaimed” like Tom Gabel (of Against Me!)? Seriously, do we have to be serious all the time, even when writing a review? Is this what Letters tells us? After all, the journal has explicitly stated that they are not anarchists, but rather some sort of “obscurantist communist!” [actually CrimethInc. said that… but, oh well, this is communism baby!] Sorry if this review isn’t serious enough, there will be more serious reviews coming seriously soon. besitos!

Jorge Luís Borges, Infinity, and the Internet

Jorge Luís Borges, an Argentinean writer who is well known for his many short stories, some of which discuss such fantastic themes like dreams, libraries, labyrinths, god, and the less fantastic –see also, more real – like los gauchos (imagine Argentinean cowboys). Borges’s works of fiction, intertwined with the metaphysical have made him one of the most well known writers to come out of the western hemisphere during the 20st century. For the sake of this review, we will look at the relation between Borges, infinity, and the Internet. Five different short stories by Borges which relate to these ideas will all be briefly mentioned; the stories include The Aleph, The Library of Babel, The Garden of Forking Paths, Funes, the Memorious, and the Theme of the Traitor and Hero [all of which are available for free reading on the Internet at the above links].

Jorge Luís Borges, an Argentinean writer who is well known for his many short stories, some of which discuss such fantastic themes like dreams, libraries, labyrinths, god, and the less fantastic –see also, more real – like los gauchos (imagine Argentinean cowboys). Borges’s works of fiction, intertwined with the metaphysical have made him one of the most well known writers to come out of the western hemisphere during the 20st century. For the sake of this review, we will look at the relation between Borges, infinity, and the Internet. Five different short stories by Borges which relate to these ideas will all be briefly mentioned; the stories include The Aleph, The Library of Babel, The Garden of Forking Paths, Funes, the Memorious, and the Theme of the Traitor and Hero [all of which are available for free reading on the Internet at the above links].



When Borges was younger his family moved to Europe (1915-1921), where he was introduced to the avant-garde Ultraist movement in Spain. Ultraism can be described as being in opposition to everything that is thought of as Modernismo. Some have even compared it to Italian and Russian futurism, Dadaism, and French surrealism. In 1921 Borges moved back to Buenos Aires, where he started writing for and distributing avant-garde Ultraist leaning publications/texts. Often this would include him wheat pasting the texts (broadsheets) all over the walls of the city. Sadly, as Borges grew older, he drifted away and came to regret these ideas – even going as far as trying to buy all of the old texts in order to make sure they would be destroyed. So no one could ever read them again. Like the maximum ultraists of today, who are ‘waging a life-and-death war against consensus reality’, I like to think of these younger days of Borges as some of my favorite. Honestly, we all grow old – it’s just to bad some of us become grumpy old fuddy-duddies.

Oh So Borgesian…

It is thought by some that Borges was one of the first ever to write (and think) about the future of the Internet. While this may be a bit of a loaded statement, because let’s be honest – it all depends on how you interpret it, and as a fan of Borges [for the most part], I find the statement to be an intriguing one. Being that his works are fiction, he does this writing in a round-about way; in other words, these gems are hidden beneath the surface. Just to be clear from the beginning, Borges wrote the above mentioned texts during the mid 20th century before the major developments in the Internet actually got underway.

In the 1960’s with the creation of ARPANET, a project created by the government of the United States of America (USA) whose aim was to create a network to aid communication. One common myth about the Internet, was that it was created to combat / defend against catastrophe [a silent spring] during the Cold War, however this tall tale isn’t exactly true. Because, later on, using the ideas from ARPANET, the Rand Corporation started developing ideas about how to use the Internet as a weapon (nuclear fail-safe). While ARPANET can be seen as one of the original projects in developing what has come to be known as the Internet; Borges was already writing about very similar ideas – like the infinite library, or a place/object where one can go to see everything in the world.

In 1949, Borges wrote The Aleph which speaks of “the only place on earth where all places are — seen from every angle, each standing clear, without any confusion or blending.” With the aleph, one is able to see the entire world from one place, almost exactly what computers and the Internet have become for many of us. While it is (thankfully) true, that not everything is on the Internet, ever look at where you live on Google Maps with street view before or belong to some social-networking site? When I looked up my residence in Google street view , it was kind of funny, in a very strange way – to see my family there, outside – “hey, this is our Internet fame! See how we work!”

An idea – is only as good, as it’s inspiration

Before The Aleph, Borges wrote The Library of Babel in which he states:

Infinite I have just written. I have not interpolated this adjective merely from rhetorical habit. It is not illogical, I say, to think that the world is infinite. Those who judge it to be limited, postulate that in remote places the corridors and stairs and hexagons could inconceivably cease – a manifest absurdity. Those who imagined it to be limitless forget that the possible number of books is limited. I dare insinuate the following solution to this ancient problem: The Library is limitless and periodic. If an eternal voyager were to traverse it in any direction, he would find, after many centuries, that the same volumes are repeated in the same disorder (which, repeated, would constitute an order: Order itself).

For Borges, the library is the universe and it is beyond count. It is composed of an indefinite number, perhaps even infinite, number of galleries. One can imagine, the Library of Babel being a place where you can find all the texts and works from the entire world – often organized in such a way, that makes it impossible to find what you are looking for. In 1894 Oscar Wilde quipped, “It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information”.

According to The Economist (Feb. 27th, 2010):

Wal-Mart, a retail giant handles more than 1m customer transactions every hour, feeding databases estimated at more than 2.5 petabytes – the equivalent of 167 times the books in America’s Library of Congress. Facebook, a social-networking website, is home to 40 billion photos. And decoding the human genome involves analyzing 3 billion base pairs – which took ten years the first time it was done, in 2003, but can now be achieved in one week.

they go on later to say:

Quantifying the amount of information that exists in the world is hard. What is clear is that there is an awful lot of it, and it is growing at a terrific rate (a compound annual 60%) that is speeding up all the time. The flood of data from sensors, computers, research labs, cameras, phones and the like surpassed the capacity of storage technologies in 2007. Experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, generate 40 terabytes every second – orders of magnitude more than can be stored or analyzed. So scientists collect what they can and let the rest dissipate into the ether.

How does this library compare to what we know of today as the Internet? Of course, it’s enormous. But, is it something you can just dump something on, similar to a dump truck driving around a giant tube, as some have formulated? Are search engines like the aleph for browsing the tubes? Have you ever heard of a yottabyte? It has been stated that it is currently too large to imagine – but to get somewhat of an idea, as of 2010 not even all of the computer hard drives in the world combined would equal one yottabyte of data.

In another short story, Funes, the Memorious Borges writes about a person who after falling from a horse and seriously injuring himself, finds that he is able to remember everything. How do we push the limits of our mind, our imagination, and our passions? In a sense Funes’s brain becomes more computer-like with his ability to remember things, and perhaps even machine like. Or is it more human to expand upon our ability to do things we once thought impossible? Is it true that we only use around 10% of our brain? And, what if we figured out ways to use more? Would we be that much smarter? More powerful? Is that what we want? For Funes, it seems the ability to remember everything turns out to be a curse.

There is actually a condition called Hyperthymesia, with four confirmed cases in the world. It is defined as an individual who has a superior autobiographical memory. For instance, in the case of Jill Price – her memory has been characterized as “nonstop, uncontrollable, and automatic.” Supposedly, she became aware of her ability at age 8 (1974) and since 1980 can apparently recall everyday. Like Funes, Price sees this more as a curse, than something positive.

Ghost in the Shell

In one of the more well-known short stories by Borges entitled “The Garden of Forking Paths”, the comparison between the ideas within and the Internet have been made many times before. For instance when we browse the Internet there are many different paths to see and perhaps follow, leading in the end to a distinct destination (or none at all). It has been mentioned elsewhere, that Borges arguably invented the hypertext novel from this short story. Along with the fact that hypertext is one of the under lying concepts behind the World Wide Web.

What does it say about free will if we are able to choose different possibilities like this while using the Internet or in real life? In another short story by Borges entitled Theme of the Traitor and the Hero it relates a fiction of characters who are all acting out a predetermined play (in a sense). History is seen as a combination of repeating themes, which is to say there is no free will. Interestingly enough, with the further development and exploration of computer technology, some believe we have been able to study the idea of free will more closely. Obviously enough, computers are much better at processing large amounts of data, and doing millions of mathematical formulas over short periods of time. Non-linear dynamics, or the theory of chaos – seems like something Borges might have written about. But, it is in this story that we are told of us all being actors in one giant play. I’m blissfully unaware of Borges exact sentiments on this subject matter, but one can take ideas freely from what he has written.

In all, Borges wrote a lot of different texts – the majority of which are short stories. Some have even criticized him for only writing short stories, believing that it takes more from an author to compose longer novels. However, the profound themes and different subject matters in his stories seem wonderfully woven together. And honestly – after all, who doesn’t like being able to read a story in 20 minutes or so, and have it leave thoughtful ideas churning, that never seem to be at rest. Also, obviously – I have chosen certain stories over others, more fantastic ones, and as a writer it can be easy to manipulate these ideas. With that, I hope it is possible to see that I’m not trying to say Borges invented the Internet or anything of that nature. Who knows though, maybe the inventors of the Internet and all that jazz were reading Borges…

Spanish Nombres and links:

“El Aleph” – The Aleph
“La Biblioteca de Babel” – The Library of Babel
“El Jardín de Senderos que se Bifurcan” – The Garden of Forking Paths
“Funes el Memorioso” – Funes, the Memorious
“Tema del Traidor y del Héroe.” – Theme of the Traitor and the Hero

[author’s note: this text was originally written in Spanish, and then translated back into English with a lot of tinkering, as well as a much need revision of grammar/vocabulary, thus making this text – pretty much, brand new.]

Quijote Against the World

“it’s not like it used to be… nobody cares about change… it don’t matter…” – My First Soul, by Auld Lang Syne

Published during the Spanish Golden Age in two parts (1605/1615) The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha[1] by Cervantes has become one of the most famous books in the world and is considered by many to be one of the most respected fiction pieces of all time. The story relates an epic adventure taken on by two main characters, Don Quijote and Sancho Panza. Quijote goes off adventuring, lead completely by his horse Rocinante, who goes where ever it wants, leading Quijote and eventually Panza to fight injustice, reclaim the world, battle everything that is “bad”, and (for Quijote) win the love of his life [Dulcelina]. The entire book, originally written in Spanish is quite lengthy and full of misadventures depicting the frequent failures (perhaps great success?) during the early 1600’s, Spain. There are many English language translations, but perhaps one of the best (that I recommend) is by Edith Grossman, published in 2003. There are also, some abbreviated versions of the story, with the editors choice of parts – so this may be more advantageous for the time strapped or for those wanting to get a feel for the book. Setting up for a complete and in-depth review, would be quite the research project due to the books length and complexity – this is a greatly abbreviated review of the book, and by no means are all things touched on. There have been many reviews before this one, and maybe many more after. The overall purpose of this review is to briefly compare and contrast the ideas and attitudes of Don Quijote and Sancho Panza surrounding their thoughts upon essential materials vs. that of spirit.

“it’s not like it used to be… nobody cares about change… it don’t matter…” – My First Soul, by Auld Lang Syne

Published during the Spanish Golden Age in two parts (1605/1615) The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha[1] by Cervantes has become one of the most famous books in the world and is considered by many to be one of the most respected fiction pieces of all time. The story relates an epic adventure taken on by two main characters, Don Quijote and Sancho Panza. Quijote goes off adventuring, lead completely by his horse Rocinante, who goes where ever it wants, leading Quijote and eventually Panza to fight injustice, reclaim the world, battle everything that is “bad”, and (for Quijote) win the love of his life [Dulcelina]. The entire book, originally written in Spanish is quite lengthy and full of misadventures depicting the frequent failures (perhaps great success?) during the early 1600’s, Spain. There are many English language translations, but perhaps one of the best (that I recommend) is by Edith Grossman, published in 2003. There are also, some abbreviated versions of the story, with the editors choice of parts – so this may be more advantageous for the time strapped or for those wanting to get a feel for the book. Setting up for a complete and in-depth review, would be quite the research project due to the books length and complexity – this is a greatly abbreviated review of the book, and by no means are all things touched on. There have been many reviews before this one, and maybe many more after. The overall purpose of this review is to briefly compare and contrast the ideas and attitudes of Don Quijote and Sancho Panza surrounding their thoughts upon essential materials vs. that of spirit.



First, I’d like to define a few things. The essential key materials are thought of as water, food, and rest – which lack thereof results in a deprived state and eventually death, they are the things you really can’t live without. Obviously on the other hand, you have non-essential material goods such as gold, silver, clocks, games/toys, ect. That aren’t truly necessary for survival. As for the spirit, one can consider it to mean belief in something, even if that something is nothing. Some more clear examples are things of the supernatural sort, like the belief in god, or even bits and pieces of ideas – like the existence of heaven and hell, ghosts, majik, and other oddities/occult. It is important to note and define these ideas because Quijote and Sancho each display varying characteristics and perspectives throughout the novel on these topics.

So, the story goes: Don Quijote begins reading books about the adventures of various 14th/15th century knights-errant and their “heroic” deeds. Quijote, who is an older man, begins to spend all his time reading, and literally cares for nothing else, other than those old tales about “saving the world” and “falling in love.” Food, water, and rest seem of little importance to him, and eventually his reading habits drastically change his life. He begins to sell his land and other property, in order to buy more books to read. After sometime, Quijote emerges from the obscurity of his house believing – that in fact, he is a knight-errant, and his mission is to save the world and win the love of his life. Imagine someone sneaking out of their residence, after weeks of reading, hiding away, and building the most absurd self-styled armor a la knights-errant, to confront the world with, kind of sounds like some funny friends you may know. Yet, in the beginning of the end, Quijote gallops, or more like meanders out of town unseen and hidden, with his most unlike battle ready horse – Rocinante[2], not to be seen in town until his uneventful, yet dramatic return sometime later. He has no clue where he is headed, as he just lets Rocinante blaze the trail of his life.

And so it begins…

”The reason of the unreason that afflicts my reason, in such a manner weakens my reason that I, with reason, lament of your beauty.” (from Don Quijote)

Don Quijote wants to create a more moral world, a model of the human effort, one many may think of as a form of utopia. He has a very pastoral view of life and society, a living anachronism against the encroaching modernity of Spain. In many ways Quijote is confronting the more modern economic approaches and technology that was happening in Spain at the time, and suggesting something more simple (yet crazy). For example, look at Quijote’s so-called insanity. How did this happen?The invention of the printing press, which allowed him to buy and read all those books about knights-errant, seems to be the main source of his insanity. It was also this easier and wider distribution of print that ensured Cervantes, the author of Quijote, made little to no monetary gains by writing the book during his life. “Pirated” copies would turn up throughout the region, with even the second half of Quijote being written by another author. Which, in turn prompted Cervantes to actually write the second half of the book some years later, because supposedly he was very angry with this authors take on a sequel to his original work. It should be noted, that Cervantes actually created a fictional Moorish author/chronicler for Don Quijote named Cide Hamete Benengeli. And in many ways killed Quijote in the end, so no one else could ever write about his adventures again.

In making the author Moorish, it seems Cervantes reinforces the stereotype of the time, that anything a Moor does is probably not true. Therefore, making criticism of the book impossible, since it has already been refuted as utter lies. Clever in a sense, but more so it seems to begin to show some of Cervantes negative attitudes that were reinforced by society at the time [and continue to be]. Cervantes lived his life, one failure after another – first as a solider being injured, then as a prisoner, and later as an “unsuccessful” writer who seems to have lead a rather difficult life. The book reflects these reoccurring themes of failure surrounding Don Quijote (maybe Cervantes?) as he fights the battle that can never really be won, because it isn’t real. It is sad, but it is also an unfortunate reality that many of us know all-to-well. Like the saying goes, “la vida es dura” (life is hard).

If we examine the idealism behind Quijote or what some have called Quijotismo (the movement of Quijote) it could be said that in many ways it is an idealism without respect for or sense of being practical. It is an ideal that doesn’t consider consequences or the irrationality of one’s actions. Quijotismo is most of all, a romantic idea or a utopia that is unattainable by the non-romantic sane, one can only truly realize it, if you refuse to identify between reality and imagination. At the heart, this ideal is created by the love Quijote feels towards Dulcelina, his dream lover. The love and companionship of Dulcelina is more important than food, water, and rest – something that perhaps dear readers are familiar with. Quijote refuses to realize that his love is imaginary, and that his love is perhaps not even interested in him. It is like he will never give up, trying to make the world a better place, yet deep down inside, what he just really wants is some love. Perhaps, Cervantes is again reflecting on some of his own life experiences.

In the final chapters of the book Quijote returns to his home and with that some sense of what some may call sanity. In this way, Quijote becomes like his side-kick Sancho Panza, or the Sanchification of Quijote. Because while Quijote is for many, the raving madman throughout the book, Sancho always seems to act along much more practical lines. It is like Panza is the stable foundation for Quijote’s rocking-and-rolling all night long party house, that will probably collapse when the dancing begins, or maybe end up puking in the toilet the next morning. On the other side of things, Sancho Panza starts to become like Quijote, or the quijotification of Sancho; in this way, the two characters feed off each other and become one another. Once home, Quijote writes his will and gives all his belongings to his family, and while he originally promised Sancho an island that he could govern in the beginning of the story, he now wants to give him an entire kingdom. Unfortunately for Sancho, Quijote doesn’t really have anything to offer him, other than gratitude – not even a salary for his services. Just some (bad) advice maybe, and the memories to last a lifetime.

While, it seems this whole time, perhaps all Sancho really wanted, other than protecting Quijote from danger, was his island in the sun. It is not even clear if Panza knows exactly what an island is, other than some form of payment. In a high contrast to Quijote, Sancho represents everything that is some-what rational and thought out (or what many call being normal). Food, water, and rest are the most important things in life, along with knowing that you’re going to be well-off tomorrow, the next day, and so on.

Even the infamous Bill “NOT BORED” Brown has wrote an essay on the subject Sancho Panza’s priceless coinages which I will steal a quote from here (that is from an English translation of the book) regarding how Quijote recommends paying off Sancho:

“I think you’re absolutely right, Sancho my friend […] I can tell you, for myself, that if you’d wanted to be paid for those lashes which will disenchant Dulcinea, I’d have long since, and very gladly, have given you the money […] Just consider, Sancho, what you might want, and then do the whipping and pay yourself, because you are guardian of my money […] Add up what money you have of mine, and then put a price on each lash.”

Quijote and Panza are two very different characters, yet at the same time they are similar in the fact that they both can create some pretty wild dreams and become one another. They each have a great effect on one another, like any friend may have on your daily experience, and while at first Quijote seems to be the only one struggling against everything modern – soon his friend joins him, although it is already too late for Quijote. He has already returned to the miserable grind of reality and material goods and will soon die.

Cinema

Among the many movies made about the book, Orson Welles’s Don Quixote is one of the more intriguing ones to take a look at, one that truly deserves an entirely separate review in order to touch upon everything. For the purpose of this review though, I will only focus on one aspect of the film. In Rolling Thunder: An Anarchist Journal of Dangerous Living #6 (fall-2008), the following page appears:

As you can see, there is the classic windmill imagery evoked by Don Quijote, however what is important to take note of is the text. Here is the text quoted from the image[sic]:

“The Most Beautiful Six Minutes in the History of Cinema”

Sancho Panza enters the cinema of a provincial town. He is looking for Don Quixote and finds him sitting apart, staring at the screen. The auditorium is almost full, the upper circle–a kind of gallery–is packed with screaming children. After a few futile attempts to reach Don Quixote, Sancho sits down in the stalls, next to a little girl (Dulcinea?) who offers him a lollipop. The show has begun, it is a costume movie, armed knights traverse the screen, suddenly a woman appears who is in danger. Don Quixote jumps up, draws his sword out of the scabbard, makes a spring at the screen and his blows begin to tear the fabric. The woman and the knights can still be seen, but the black rupture, made by Don Quixote’s sword, is getting wider, it inexorably destroys the images. In the end there is nothing left of the screen, one can only see the wooden structure it was attached to. The audience is leaving the hall in disgust, but the children in the upper circle do not stop screaming encouragements at Don Quixote. Only the little girl in the stalls looks at him reprovingly.

What shall we do with our fantasies? Love them, believe them–to the point where we have to deface, to destroy them (that is perhaps the meaning of the films of Orson Welles). But when they prove in the end to be empty and unfulfilled, when they show the void from which they were made, then it is time to pay the price for their truth, to understand that Dulcinea–whom we saved–cannot love us.

– Giorgio Agamben, Profanations

Leaving the actual text aside for a moment, concentrate on the author, Giorgio Agamben of the above quote for a moment. If one were to see the text in the Rolling Thunder journal (image above), you will see that the quote is attributed to the authors Brener and Schurz. To my knowledge, the truth is that the editor’s of Rolling Thunder were duped into believing the quote was from Brener and Schurz. Perhaps, as the thinking may have went, if they knew it was really from Giorgio Agamben it may have not been published[3]. Not to get too far off topic here, but it is interesting to note that it appears at least to some extent, that another joke may have been played in return here (although, pure speculation). Recently, a new Politics Is Not a Banana #3 was released, however many have come to doubt that this new issue was actually created by the original folks involved in the journal, leading some to point fingers at the Rolling Thunder journal (CrimethInc.) folks. Whoever is it, or whatever the purpose – the humor and funnies are certainly appreciated!

Moving back to the actual context of the quote, the lovely titled “Six Most Beautiful Minutes in the History of Cinema” regards a clip of the unfinished Orson Welles’s movie that was left out of early versions, but was included eventually later on in some versions. Overall, this cinema experience of Don Quijote is quite intriguing, especially when considered with the movie as a whole. In many ways, it is understand to be like the post-modern movie version of Quijote, instead of attacking ancient 16th century technology and society, he is battling 1940ish motorized scooters and movie screens. One interesting thing from the movie is some footage of a religious procession, framed along and sliced with footage of the Klu Klux Klan, which Don Quijote goes to attack. Overall, it is definitely worth checking, especially if you’ve enjoyed the book.

So What!!!?

Who knows, maybe this book may be of little importance to you. At times throughout it, I find it to be rather “fluffy” sprinkled with blossoming flowers that never end. Like, ever try reading some old Shakespeare alongside José Martí with some bananas thrown in. However, I do find some gems that are really good within the book for me. Perhaps, most intriguing – to playfully read the adventures against everything that life as we know it has become, to see through our imaginations, rather than with our misleading desires for the most trivial things in life. As someone wrote recently, the greatest thing of all is saving the world! A lot of the time, I find myself taking in and fully enjoying those moments of non-thought and thinking, where it has been shown that our brain is actually most active and full of energy. Don Quijote in a lot of ways, is the definition of tragic hero – even though I may disagree with what he actually fought against for the most part, (the Moors) and alongside (Christianity). Blame can be placed on Cervantes here, maybe not so much Quijote, after all he is just a character. Cervantes wasn’t exactly the most upstanding character, but still a tragic-hero in himself. It can be all be too confusing, seeing Quijote for nothing other than love, and against everything that might actually make sense – then applying some sort of reasoning to it. Quijote was certainly a radical in his time, just what kind of radical is up in the air…

Footnotes:

[1] please note that I decided to remain with “Quijote” instead of “Quixote” throughout the rest of the text, mostly because I prefer to leave names and locations in the original language / untraslated. Title originally in Spanish: Aventuras del ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha

[2]

Dialogue between Babieca and Rocinante A Sonnet
B: Why is it, Rocinante, that you’re so thin?
R: Too little food, and far too much hard labor
B: But what about your feed, your oats and hay?
R: My master doesn’t leave a bite for me.
B: Well, Senor, your lack of breeding shows because your ass’s tongue insults your master
R: He’s the ass, from the cradle to the grave. Do you want proof? See what he does for love.
B: Is it foolish love?
R: It’s not too smart.
B: You’re a philospher
R: I just don’t eat enough
B: And do you complain of the squire?
R: Not enough. How can I complain despite my aches and pains if master and squire, or is it majordomo, are nothing but skin and bone, like Rocinante?

[3] “The editor of Rolling Thunder has expressed his disdain for the works of the author of the aforementioned essay, however, when the essay was sent to him under the name of a more palatable writer, it was prominently reprinted in the magazine.” — from Life is Definitely Elsewhere-A Response to “Say You Want an Insurrection” [a Crimethinc. text] [ http://www.anarchistnews.org/?q=node/10435 ]