Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Young anarchists

You've seen it before, I'm sure, many times. Very respectable parents telling enquiring journalists that their child would never have been involved in that kind of (illegal) activity.

The latest focus of attention is on fringe politics. 'Oh, Imogen would never get involved with anything violent.'

Well, Imogen would actually, especially if she gets carried away by the sense that the established order is racist and sexist and rotten to the core and hell-bent on destroying the environment and precipitating climate chaos in pursuit of profit and the maintenance of hegemonic power.

She has no religious scruples (what are they?); no sense of love for or identification with Western civilization (dead white males, etc.); nothing in fact to hold her back.

Take Felicity Ann Ryder. She is apparently hiding out somewhere in Mexico after the arrest of her presumed boyfriend Mario Antonio López Hernández who seriously injured himself when his improvised explosive device went off prematurely on a Mexico City street in June.

Her mother Jenny has told the press that it was 'beyond comprehension to think that our daughter would have had any involvement with violence... We as her parents, and her family, have the utmost respect for her beliefs, her commitment to social justice which we know is very close to her heart.'

Typical doting parents. (In denial?)

Felicity Ann Ryder, a politics and history graduate and a 'talented linguist', is described by friends as 'quiet and quite serious', 'not someone who drew attention to herself'. She is interested in animal liberation and environmental protest, and is said to have worked (as what is not clear) in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

After the arrest of López, Ryder posted a statement on a Mexican anarchist website thanking 'everyone who has worried about me and my situation [and] those who have shown solidarity with Mario and I.'

Ryder, López and their revolutionary friends probably genuinely believe that the old power structures and those who benefit from them are in fact soon to be swept aside and replaced by a new, just and glorious social order.

Don't count on it.

I would counsel young anarchists (old ones are too far gone) to do a bit of reading on the fate and effectiveness of earlier anarchist movements; to note the parallels between their ideas and groupish ways, and religious ideas and structures; and consider the possibility that the ideals to which they aspire are ultimately unrealizable on any significant scale.

Sure, what you are doing feels good and right (and just a little bit exciting). But it is based on myth and fantasy.

In the end, you are fooling yourselves. And doing harm rather than good. Society is more complex than you think, and fragile in ways you do not understand.

Yours is a comic-book view of the world, of good and bad, of black and white. And your sense of solidarity is as fatally restricted and limited as your understanding of history and the human condition.

We are all – all of us – just stumbling around in the dark until death takes us. Base your sense of solidarity on that.