A whole lot of years ago I went to the North American Anarchist Gathering in Lawrence, Kansas. While I had been to anarchist assemblies and teach-ins locally, this was the first large and non-regional, but explicitly anarchist event I ever went to. Being from the west coast, it was interesting to encounter anarchists from other parts of the country (this was 2002, before the internet is what it is today).
In the old days we used to call up citizen tribunals to determine guilt or innocence. Or perhaps that was just in movies. I guess we don't know an awful lot about how truth is determined in this world but the news, and the nightly stories about the news seem to have decided that a lot of conjecture and politicking seems to be involved. It is unclear how much that is true but it sure seems to be true and that is more than half the battle.
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.
Someone once told me that I should only begin projects I can complete by myself.
Organizing is the antithesis of such advice. The preferred method of bringing ideas to life for the organizer is a church-like mass.
The focus becomes the abacus. The task itself is secondary, and as a result leaves a vacancy easily filled by fantasy. The greater the fantasy, the more powerless the individual, and the more reliant on the organizer they become.
One of my favorite quotes is the following: 'If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.' Too often I find that the projects I'm interested in participating in suffer one of two fates: They either are too disorganized to ever get off the ground and never last longer than the initial phase of excitement, or they are too structured to be enjoyable, and the 'bossiness' of the organizers kills all motivation to participate. Is there something unique and useful that anarchism can bring to the concept of 'collaboration'?
Anarchists have never existed in a vacuum. We are a part of the world we live in as much as we might want to destroy that world. We interact with the (not anarchist) world in ways that both influence it and are influenced by it. While this is true on every level of day-today life, it is especially true in how we engage with writing and thinking from outside anarchist spheres.