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Contribution to a Symposium in Social Anarchism

by Bernard Marszalek

The Contributors to Social Anarchismís symposium on an Anarchist Agenda produced thought-provoking suggestions in several overlapping areas and oddly, by-passed some topics (concepts?) by a mile.

What struck me first were the similarities in themes. The most noteworthy being the call for more theory in several contexts, especially in the economic realm. Next, I missed the visionary element. Certainly it was present on the periphery in most of the contributions, but maybe subdued by your respondents so as to appear serious and not flaky? A few catch words like ìdreamî and ìdesireî had walk-on roles, but they didnít, unfortunately, achieve star billing. And in a similar way, situationist verbiage waved at us from the mezzanine.

Given the parameters of this exercise, treatises werenít solicited, but some of the most cryptic comments came close to being self-defeating in terms of clarity.

So to get down to it ó where is the debunking of the work ethic or, the flip side, the validation of the play element? And did I see Direct Action do a quick exit stage left? I respect the earnestness of your correspondents, yet while they represent a range of anarchist opinion, they arenít defining my agenda.

My focus is unabashedly cultural ó Iíll take no prisoners in here, however, (and let me be clear, I donít see my aims clashing with the concerns of the organizers amongst your group) I sense a tension amongst your respondents on this issue. Blatant cultural aims get fixed, legitimized, in a socio-political context. Or the necessary ìindividualisticî aspects of conscious existence are dismissed three sentences later. The challenge to authority stops at the theatreís curtain, behind which beckons an anarchist epistemology.

So what is my agenda? If asked to respond I would have been hard put not to send in a poem (not more that two pages, obviously) or a collage. If constrained something like the following would flow:

WE ALL SEEK a wholeness to our lives, whether we know it or not, acknowledge it or dismiss it. In one way or another we embrace it or flee from it ó this is basic. Given that to achieve this wholeness we need to know ourselves, as someone once said, and to truly know ourselves puts into question all authority, assuming that this knowledge implies critical thinking. The trick here is that there can be no self-knowledge in a vacuum. If not then we must introduce Ms. Community and Mr. Ethics to the project of creating our selves.

At this point, archeologically speaking, we are at the infancy of civilization, near a river somewhere, living a life with peers. Some speculate itís been downhill since then. Others think that for whatever reasons we find ourselves in another place, at a different time and need to cope at least.

Coping however with dumpsters full of the debris of power internalized masquerading as psychic complexity. Thereís no going back, but there are ways of going through. Voil‡! Here we are the Plains of Praxis, complete with numerous paths to follow, many leading to precipices (mental collapse) and dead ends (comforting roles) and a few ending in paradise, so to speak the garden.

Confronted with the maze we choose our thread so as not to be utterly lost. For me the silver thread, the strongest, is spun from the finest subversions of power practiced by those who preceded us on this journey. One strand values transparency in communication, another the force of humor to sustain the quest, still another the awe that all revelation leaves in its wake. What more can be said? As has been said before: Want to transform society? Change life?


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