The Potholes in Portland

  • Posted on: 19 March 2017
  • By: thecollective

From Uncivilized Animals

Anarchists in Portland are taking to the streets! But it seems that these particular anarchists are not feeling that old “urge to destroy”. Portland Anarchist Road Care (PARC) is instead filling in potholes; assisting in the maintainence of the city infrastructure. They allege that “state neglect has caused the streets to fall into disrepair” and are consequently taking direct action.

On February 28th, they boasted of a “successful preliminary action” via Facebook; they “patched 5 potholes on SE Salmon between 37th and 39th”.

This Portlandia-style praxis along with daring photos of anarchists in balaclavas behind construction cones has succeeded in generating a lot of press with news reports appearing both in print and online. A small sampling includes: The Portland Mercury, The Oregonian, The Register Guard, US News & World Report, CityLab, AutoBlog, Zerohedge, Reason, and The Stranger.

It’s weird but it’s not parody. Oddly enough, PARC is sincere in their efforts and their stated defenses of the “action” seem to only make things worse:

“Be creating structures to serve the same purpose as state structures, such as our organization, we have the ability to show that government is not necessary for society to function, that we can have a truly free and liberated society.”

I am not sure why anarchists would want to “create structures to serve the same purpose as state structures”. If the State didn’t exist would we really want to invent it?

This is what the Left does and it’s not an attempt to abolish the State but rather to become the State; to take on State functions requires State power. The anarchist critique of the State has to go deeper than demonstrating that the State is failing to maintain city infrastructure to an adequate degree; after all, it’s not anarchists who promise to make the trains run on time.

Remember, the infrastructure does not exist for our benefit even as we are coerced into making extensive use of it. This is akin to prisoners repairing the bars on their cells; blaming the guards for allowing things to fall into disrepair.

But if you really want roads—at least in their modern form—you need something like the State. Consider the fact that PARC’s “successful preliminary action” amounted to patching five potholes which they say they are now monitoring to see how they hold up. The monitoring is necessary because PARC’s cold patching process is technically inferior to the job that would be done by city workers using heated asphalt. There is an issue of scale here that can’t be ignored: the city reports fixing 8,000 potholes every year. Anarchy doesn’t scale up very well.

Nonetheless, PARC doesn’t seem deterred by these numbers. According to The Oregonian, “The group said it’s now exploring alternatives to patching holes, including mobilizing people to fix roads in their own neighborhoods”. To fix 8,000 holes requires more than direct action; it requires mobilizing people in significant numbers but again anarchy doesn’t scale up very well.

It should be further added that filling potholes must be one of the least challenging tasks necessary to maintain a network of roads sufficient for a city the size of Portland. Should we expect PARC to eventually be building new roads from the ground up, adding lanes to existing roads, re-routing traffic with detours, monitoring air quality, and perhaps installing roundabouts at dangerous intersections? And, if they do, will they still be anarchists? To put it mildly: I am skeptical.

On a final note, a spokesperson from the Portland Bureau of Transportation said “We’d like to repair more potholes more quickly, but our efforts have been thwarted by Mother Nature.” With PARC promising more actions, that fight against Mother Nature has gained an ally.



It really is the Portlandia Version of Anarchy: watered down,charity work and ready for mass-consumption or approval.

What is making this type of mentality: Universities? NGOs? Churches? Schools? White Guilt?

If you got beef with a pot hole, fix it, but do not turn it into a program....

One more step in the self-managed prison society under neoliberalism, advanced by self-fashioned anarchists.

"What is making this type of mentality: Universities? NGOs? Churches? Schools? White Guilt?"

College + Chomsky, I guess. These types have been parasiting /r/anarchism for a long time, but now it seems they went into business.

Didn't we already do this?

Twice you say that Anarchy doesn't scale up very well. What does that mean?
Isn't that why statists say we need a state?

in and of itself. It represents complication in human relations.Anarchy doesn't scale up due to the fact that it represents immediate human activity.

Nonsense. It seems to me that the divide is one over *immediacy.* The Sith value the cognitive immediacy of emotion, which is not freedom.

The dark side is the feedback loop of immediate emotion and identification, creating self-constructs and hurting others.

The light side is self-less, but that doesn't mean a lack of freedom. Rather it arguably is the only real definition of freedom.

Anyone capable of easily deciphering the words I’ve written here is of Nerd Tribe and thus constitutionally inclined to biting bullets, but even so most would shy away. The tension between epistemic rationality and instrumental rationality is a big one and many of its central questions are unresolved.

This is no small part of why we abandoned our more immediate Maslow desires on the plains of Africa and set off on this wild and uncontrolled singularity of complexity, cosmopolitanism, and metacognition that has rapidly consumed the world.

Everybody knows this.

Who knows for sure when anarcho-socialists aren't being a parody? They always got all the traits to make you turn paranoid... always leaving you with the feeling they're running their secret circle, somewhere you'll never get, to have their orgies and laugh it up on uuuuu!

(this post could be also a parody)

It's weird being the only individualist in a couple projects/groups. But nice that I'm older & have a DGAF attitude. I'll help where I wanna

Unfortunately majority of activist work is just internal-community building or ego-boosting performance/spectacle. Count me bored to tears.

I am a second generation after all.

Deal with it.

Just remembered that I famously tore apart the PDX Student Activist Alliance after folks turned to organizing a "radical prom" for ourselves

I am that gud.

Being a second generation anarchist gives me perspective that most of you will never know.

We social justice ronin will bring anarchism into it's proper form. Visit the C4SS to learn more!

Private prom porn pom-pom parties are all okay as long as they're "radical" n shit.

There'd be nothing wrong with fixing a pothole in your own street with your neighbours - nothing wrong but not particularly interesting, and even less something to be considered as "radical" in some way. Almost everybody does something like this (eg binning some stray rubbish) yet, thankfully, doesn't ideologise it. But pumping it up as "anarchist" is pathetic. And doing it for other people outside of your own area is Boy Scoutish Propaganda of the Good Deed. Substitutionism. Just to show how wholesome and innocuous you are. Jolly Good Show.

It's propaganda. Other anarchists are not the intended audience. If successful, it may result in less hostility towards anarchists from the general public, which in turn opens up space for other forms of anarchist activity and organizing. Not my cup of tea, but who gives a fuck? Got a better idea? Then fucking do it and quit whining.

Emotions shorten the loop of one's cognitive consideration (agency), they turn you into a mere predictable reactive object. Not being ruled by your emotions allows you the consideration and agency necessary for true freedom.

When I become a digital avatar, I will purge myself of emotion. I recommend the same for you, my friend.

The future is transhuman.

If successful, it may result in less hostility towards anarchists from the general public

You're right. Next time I help an old lady across the road with her shopping, I'll hand her a card afterwards saying "I'm an anti-state, anti-market revolutionary. Hope you think better of us next time you see us on the telly".

Coz we got votes to win for the next election!

When the @news CAPTCHA entry asks "Human?", I think, "For now..."

Emotions are unplanned transformations, often generated through missteps.

And of course I would contest that we do tend to treat desire conceptually distinctly from specific emotions

Stupid humans.

Just get a can of spray paint and draw a dick around it. The city will be around to fix it. Much easier, more time efficient, less exposure to local fuzz and other buzzkillers -- and more fun!

I'm totally trying this, you mad genius!

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