TOTW: Crisis

Crisis is the flavor of the week for politicians and the news media: opioids, borders, student loans, Venezuelan elections - to name just a few recent ones. Calling something a crisis does a lot of things - it mobilizes people towards a goal, opens up funding streams, allows policies to be implemented in the name of health, defense and democracy, and gets people to click on links. It’s a way to get people talking, and more importantly, to get some of them moving.

Yet it’s also hard to deny that the term crisis may have some substance beyond these cynical uses - for example, many people are killing themselves with opioids for reasons that are widespread and often systemic. And those who fall on the receiving end of many of these crises (opioids, student loans, foreclosures, etc.) are often the poor and exploited. It’s also true that the mobilizations called forth by official crises will almost inevitably hurt those same people with border walls for border crises and new laws for drug crises.

For this and a variety of other reasons, anarchists have often chosen to engage with crises. Yet do we not also risk something by playing by the same games that politicians do? How equipped are anarchists for dealing with problems conceptualized in the order of thousands of people, or even hundreds or tens for that matter? How do we prevent our projects from falling into pure service provision or evaporating as soon as the next big headline appears (if not even before)? Do anarchists even have a role in providing relief to strangers?

So here are my questions for you - should anarchists intervene in a crisis? Is that even a useful category for thinking about problems? What are better or worse ways you’ve seen this done?

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It's a job.

There is a discussion of suicide in this comment a bit later on, just so you aware.

Anyway, for the purposes of her job, a crisis lasts 2 weeks. After that point, a person just gets used to whatever their new situation is. They adapt.

What characterizes a crisis, here, is a loss of stability, which indicates either an increased uncertainty of the outcome in a general sense, or an increased likelihood of a specifically undesirable outcome from the perspective of things that we, or that person, might value. So either an actual loss, which causes instability, or a projected future loss which would drastically reduce quality of life. Or both! Think of a sudden loss of income, which might mean a person can project that they won't be able to pay rent, and will lose their shelter as a result.

The use of the word "crisis" to mean "bad situation" is a definition drift that depletes the term of its analytic value. So, for instance, the opioids epidemic in North America is exactly that, an epidemic, and not a crisis. The word "epidemic" means a widespread disease that affects many individuals in a population. It is also normal. I suppose a crisis might last longer than 2 weeks when we're talking about society, but I am pretty damn certain that society has adapted to this thing at this point, and the term "crisis" does not shed any light in the situation in a way that is superior to the more precise term "epidemic". Even from the perspective of sloganeering, rhetorical moves to mobilize populations, and so on, I don't imagine that the overused term "crisis" has any more punch than "epidemic". When you're trying to come up with anti-capitalist slogans, it's even worse, because it's clichéd. (The slogan "capitalism is the crisis" perhaps made sense in 2008 and 2009, as an immediate response to ongoing events in the financial world that were described, understandably, as a crisis. It doesn't make any sense right now.)

THE QUESTIONS.
1. Should anarchists intervene in a crisis? Well, it depends on the kind of crisis. It'd be nice if anarchists intervened in folks' personal crises, if they actually had something to contribute. If the crisis is for people who suck, though, then no - let that crisis happen.

2. Is that even a useful category for thinking about problems? Yes, if the problems are crises, i.e. temporally limited situations in which a stable system has lost its stability, and not simply perenially bad situations that we are calling crises because our lexicon is too loosy-goosy.

3. What are better or worse ways you've seen this done? A better way, in the sense that it was cool, is when I was 15 and my friend threw the frisbee into the creek but I dived in and caught it before it went too far downstream. A worse way is when a friend of mine was left by his girlfriend and he was threatening suicide and we considered it pretty credible and so a few of us went along with the ex-girlfriend's plan of kidnapping him so that we could admit him to a psych ward (that was problematic of us) and fortunately we didn't quite get to the point of institutionalizing our friend but he was pretty upset with us all and he killed himself a few weeks later anyway.

Well said.

Really sad about your friend. : (

A crisis is essentially a problem that kept intensifying and to a point where "time" cannot resolve it; where things don't settle with time, so it requires an extra leverage or leeway (no pun intended) to overcome or solve. I don't see how crisis can be seen outside of hegelian dialectics, no matter how Hegel sux. But perhaps someone can englighten me on that...

So if they say a crisis gets stabilized after two weeks that's fucking dumb, senseless and reflects the sheer incompetence and shallowness of contemporary psychology... but was that discipline ever more than a political science of control of the individual, serving the systemic needs *du jour*?

daily basis. I ask myself, how come most people seem to 'accept' the last 40 years as 'could be worse' so-to-speak? It's like (extreme) individuals (Stirnerites) reckon they can live without: is the dire situation just another spook: not real? No deal Brexit is coming and so is rising cost of living in one fell swoop!!!

Uhmm, Stirnerians have formidable mental powers, especially if they have undertaken LSD therapy, which can cure many modern ills.
This is not the end, only a non-linear cycle whereby it is possible for you to return to your previous state of unadulterated euphoric joy of life.

As a Stirnerian I can testify that I forever abolished the thought of suicide out of my idea, but even that abolition is condition to my health situation. I am entitled as the sole possessor of my life, which means I got the sovereignty to decide to end it under extreme circumstances. Anything else, any other motive for suicide -especially depression- would be abdicating to the daily onslaught of society against me (like against all other living beings). Everyday I remember how I am led to believe in my worthlessness and loss. This is the result of social identification. This is all just bullshit in the end, that works against you.

"my idea"... I dunno how I came to this typo but I meant to write "my head". Damn!

Weeeell, your head is where your ideas come from isn't it? Or have you been plagiarizing books for your ideas?
Shame on your uniqueness to not actually own its own ideas, Or is this just semantics?

Is something risked by playing the same games that politicians do?

When I was more amenable to politics I sometimes had the turd of "You should be a politician" thrown at me. Even though a retrospective, I must assume I have an aptitude toward playing the games of a politician. However, I know now what I risk in indulging politics—As pulling a nail does for the finger, I feel the equivalence in conscience and spirit; that is, something of myself is destroyed, a protection is removed, I am injured, liable to infection and pained.

How equipped are anarchists for dealing with problems conceptualized in the order of thousands of people, or even hundreds or tens for that matter?

As an anarchist I am inclined to act in a certain direction, and if asked to aid I will likely try. When it comes to how equipped I am, I am suspicious of inferences extending beyond individuals and their appeals. Having no resource beyond conceit to suggest a problem can be dealt with conceptually, I can only be sure of my actions, and those I am with, to evaluate any resolution.

How do we prevent our projects from falling into pure service provision or evaporating as soon as the next big headline appears (if not even before)?

As far as I can tell, some anarchists have no desire to prevent themselves falling into pure service provision or evaporation. It seems a symptom of the wider disease that service appears catharsis for deferred more pointed attacks.

Do anarchists even have a role in providing relief to strangers?

Assuming the stranger is the individual I have no experience of, it is probable I provide some ignorant yet serendipitous relief as a result of my acting/role (though with equal probability accelerating the torment of others).

Though the last 3 questions of this TOTW made the explicit request, I don't feel enthused enough to answer each directly. Instead I'll assert my understanding that intervening in crisis is inherent to the nature of being anarchist, and that increased abstraction and remoteness malign more immediate actions.

dope

was a beautiful moment in anarchist history. So yeah crisis remediation is propaganda by the good deed, so get to it!
http://occupysandy.net/

"How do we prevent our projects from falling into pure service provision or evaporating as soon as the next big headline appears (if not even before)?"

Just do like me... attack society where it keeps developing or improving, deface its facelift. The opportunities for it are all over the place and it'll never grow old as a subversion. But if only I could get paid for it, like these soft fascist idiots who get paid to clean graffiti, but for the ontological opposite...

"But if only I could get paid for it, [...] but for the ontological opposite..." my exact sentiment for every idea i get

"Do anarchists even have a role in providing relief to strangers?"

Yes, definitely, as anyone might, out of empathy, or need, or reflex, or circumstance, or any number of reasons.

"Yet do we not also risk something by playing by the same games that politicians do?

Yes, definitely, so