In Turtle Island, Gary Snyder writes, “the ‘revolution of consciousness’ will not be won by guns but by seizing key images, myths, archetypes… so that life won’t seem worth living unless one is on the transforming energy’s side.”
This is important to remember. I’m against a lot of things. I’m against pipelines. I’m against racists. I’m against militarized and murderous cops. So much energy is spent opposing things that it’s easy to forget that there’s a vision of a better world motivating all that opposition. I’ve glimpsed that better world at DIY shows, community gardens, shared art spaces, and other endeavors meant to create collective utility and beauty rather than filthy loot for a few. These glimpses have been wonderful. They have propelled me onward in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles for decades now.
The current, dominant ways of being are actually pretty unpleasant. Living in fear of everyone unlike yourself and competitively clawing your way to the top of the capitalist shit-heap is not fun. Consider the following. Martin Luther King Jr. dodged bricks and rocks and was taken down by a bullet because he demanded equality and hated war. His life was fraught with danger and he had a lot to be angry about. But in archival clips of marches, he always seems to be laughing and smiling with those around him. But Fox News hosts always appear to be on the verge of rage-induced collapse. Bill O’Reilly, rich and comfortable, seems only able to yell. Possessing a love for the world, an attitude of openness, and demanding the best for everyone is a great way to live. Endless anger is unpleasant.
The left, and the anarchist left in particular, offer a way of being more wonderful and more enjoyable than anything else available. Just try reading Peter Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread without thinking, “Wow, that sounds nice.” We should transform self and society into something so egalitarian and open that anyone remaining on the outside looking in will have no choice but to want to enter. I wrote a book called The Revolution Will Be Hilarious. I wasn’t joking. A better world will be joyful and full of laughter. Bringing it into being should also be delightful.
People often object to philosophies like the one laid out in The Revolution Will Be Hilarious on the grounds that such openness and malleability is morally relativistic. Without an absolute “Truth” to appeal to, how can we (for instance) tell racists they’re wrong? Well, it will not be done by spouting our “Truths” and appealing to first principles. Racists have built their own seemingly sound bodies of thought on first principles of their own. They have their worldview. We have ours. There is rarely enough common ground to really have a debate. But worldviews are simply ways of describing and understanding. They are tools that allow us to navigate the world. We ultimately utilize or discard them, not based on their level of “Truth,” but because of their utility. So we don’t need to out-debate racists. We need to re-describe and re-structure the world in a better, more useful way.
When I first started working on what will be my next pamphlet, “Walking Each Other Home,” I was uncomfortable with where it was headed. It seemed so positive, so full of hope and demands for universal love that I thought I was losing my edge. Where was my catalog of complaints? A little voice in the back of my head declared me “The Mister Rogers of Anarchism.” I don’t know where it came from. Some deep recess of my own mind lobbed it out at my conscious self. It was meant as an insult. But it’s a compliment. I should probably make it a life-goal to get someone other than my subconscious to call me that.
Because beyond opposing every pipeline, every war, every ugly measure that ruins lives and despoils the planet, fostering love and positivity is among our most important work. I’ll admit I watched a good dozen different videos of Richard Spencer getting punched. I put one together myself.
It’s easy to get caught up hating and arguing with forces of fascism and regression. But building a world based on love would marginalize those hateful voices until they are rendered irrelevant and ridiculous. We can’t lose sight of just what it is we want. The transforming energy that will move humanity forward provides an intense and wonderful whirlwind to inhabit. Find it. Move in. Widen its scope “so that life won’t seem worth living unless one is on the transforming energy’s side.” That’s how we will win.
-Adam Michael Krause