A few thoughts on comradeship and friendship
From Seaweed blog
As I’ve said many times, the enemy does not occupy every inch of our lives. There are many fissures in the dominant reality, and places where the patrols and henchmen are few. So we can, if we choose, as individuals or in groups, take advantage of these weaknesses. We dream, we make love, we play, we fight, we speak our minds, we break, we join indigenous traditionalists in their re-occupation camps, we sabotage, we romance, we learn sensual skills, we withdraw and we attack, we analyze, we laugh, we try, we experiment, etc. In all these areas we experience freedom, possibility, potential, joy and meaning.
The fact is that authoritarian civilization, structurally, is a global grid of institutions, a vast network of impersonal social structures that consists of the inherited capacities of the first priests, aristocrats, bullies and their sycophants and toadies. That is a lot of capacity. However I choose to believe that there probably is a critical mass of ungovernable individuals who could theoretically push back these ideological bases of authoritarianism and thereby claim some space to experience freedom in a much fuller degree (if not in its fullest). If that ever happens, then perhaps the whole nightmare will come to a close because death blows, whether from external punches or internal failures, become more possible when the enemy is weakened.
For some of us this possibility is what makes us keep a foot or an ear or an eye in milieus, even if only to varying degrees throughout our lives. It feels good to know that there are others who share all of the same emotions triggered by my outrage and humiliation stemming from my understanding that we are inmates of an authoritarian social order and extra good to know that some of them have the fighting spirit! When I feel inspired to take direct action or to initiate a project, I draw from this well of potential allies and co-conspirators.
But in terms of my friendships, and I have a few, they tend to be with like-hearted people, not like-minded people. Most of the deeper aspects of my relationships with comrades have withered and dissolved over the decades. It isn’t that a comrade can’t be a true friend or vice versa. But in my experience, sharing a rational perspective with someone isn’t enough of a foundation to build a lasting friendship on. And while my intellect is often stimulated by the milieu, my emotional state often suffers from it. Within the milieu, I am a comrade among comrades, not kin among kin. Anarchist milieus are social/psychological places where it is easy to become one dimensional as beings- demographic scenes where anger is the primary fuel that powers our days, where the main emotional consequence of our powerlessness is brought to the fore: the daily reminder that as inmates of civilization our dignity is under constant abuse and attack. This can lead to a tiresome negativity, defeatism, self-destructive behaviors and a lonely sense of oneness that is the opposite of the fierce ungovernable individual or the embedded individual who feels supported and safe among true kin that I aspire to.
Most of my friendships with comrades ended over political differences: in one sad instance over whether we should support the Nicaraguan Sandinistas or not-I was opposed and he wasn’t. That was it, a five year history of co-operative resistance, mutual aid, building infrastructure for rebellion, laughter, shared creativity, etc., just evaporated. When I look back at this loss of a friend, I wonder whether that was just our individual immaturity. Or is it a way for scenes as entities-in-themselves to constantly rearrange the pack to keep like cards with like cards in order to avoid chaos and self-destruction? Or yet perhaps it is simply because comrades aren't really friends, and there should be no disappointment - milieus are after all just places where people choose to associate based on quite limited affinities. Once those affinities are weakened or become non-existent it makes sense to move on to new comrades.
One of my closest friends of the past 25 years is a born again Christian. Our feelings for each other verge on the gushing. This is partly because we long ago agreed that real friendships suffer or die within the political realm. We share our outlooks, with the deepest honesty and lucidity we can muster, but never try to colonize the other with our beliefs and opinions, no matter how passionately we feel about them. Politics and friendship are just too prone to cancel each other out.
Friendships thrive in some of the same cracks and fissures where the dominant reality is weak; that is primarily in our hearts, where love-making, romance, forgiveness and humility exist, especially the last two. And as most of us have probably come to notice, tolerance and modesty are often viewed as flaws in anarchist milieus where bravado and swagger are pervasive.
Expecting genuine friendships primarily through milieus and scenes can easily lead to disappointment just as often as hoping one’s friends will all enjoy the same authors and share the same opinions will. This doesn’t mean true friendship isn’t possible among comrades or that friends never come to the same conclusions, but generally the words comrade and friend refer to distinctly different relationships. Milieus aren't places where any level of genuine community can be nurtured, they are temporary, fluid social spaces where relationships are based on fleeting affinities largely based within limited and similar demographic groupings.
Comments spurred by Aragorn!'s blog As much as I hate you work is worse