May 28, 2009

The snitch faces human nature

This week’s This American Life featured activist-turned-FBI-snitch Brandon Darby. If you’re curious about Darby, see Revolutionary to rat: The uneasy journey of Brandon Darby. I was more interested in Darby’s recollections of attempting to run an anarchist collective in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward in the wake of Katrina. Their task was to distribute what was needful to the needy. Anyone who has met anarchists knows that their utopian vision melts in the face of genuine attempts to recreate society from the ground-up. Often they produce a functioning order which replicates all of the faults in the societies which they yearn to tear down.

Darby recounts that some of the anarchists unilaterally decided to switch to a vegan kitchen. His response was that since all the food was donated this wasn’t practical, on top of which the people who were consuming the food produced by the kitchen were not vegans themselves and probably wouldn’t be too excited about being forced to eat only vegan food. I know that Left-anarchists produce a lot of literature, if you can call it that. But the tension between freedom & community is not something they can evade, but one which they do not seem to want to address. It is a conundrum which eventually led to Fusionism, the specific boundaries between these two values define the nature of any concrete order. Freedom always has constraints, but Left activist groups often don’t confront this because they are highly self-selected and strongly socialized toward the norms which are common to their subcultures. Their radical freedom of choice actually exists within the narrow parameters of the normative framework which they all share, and the illusion of ordered chaos is maintained through isolation and retreat from the genuine diversity of the world. When I have entered the premises of these sort of collectives I am generally struck by two things. First, the generalized squalor, since they often attract social parasites who shirk communal chores. Second, the peculiar rites and customs which they’ve internalized so as to “manage” their relationships with each other (e.g., a real example, what’s the appropriate etiquette to invite someone to an orgy? It was more complicated than I would have thought).

Subscribe to Taki’s Magazine for an ad-free experience and help us stand against political correctness.


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!


Daily updates with TM’s latest