Secession is often derided by liberals as some kind of cock-a-mammy right wing nut idea from Texas. But the idea of being free to leave an organization or union or union of states should not be dismissed out of hand. In modern times, thoughtful people have come up with pretty solid theories to support this kind of freedom that both right and left should think about. Continue reading →
I picked up a book at a student book store in New Orleans because it’s title leaped out at me. “Faces Along the Bar: Lore and Order in the Workingman’s Saloon 1870- 1920” by Madelon Powers. It’s an academic, well foot-noted but not dry analysis of the saloon culture that arose in the U.S. with industrialization. Various middle class progressive reformers like the “Committee of Fifty” comprised mostly of clergymen and academics studied this culture partially to figure out how to create substitutes for it. They tried to take the energy of the informal working groups in saloons and shovel them into union halls and temperance tearooms. But the saloons prevailed until prohibition. They served as a way of self-organization and a way of integrating into American life. They followed a tradition that Alexis de Tocqueville noted earlier. He called it “the art of association”. He observed that Americans seemed obsessed with material acquisition and individualism. The only thing tempering this dangerous self-interest was their equal tendency to form voluntary associations. And Powers includes saloon life as a form of voluntary association much like joining lodges, political parties, church groups, and Social Aid and Pleasure clubs like the ones that still exist in New Orleans. Continue reading →
I keep coming back to Steven Van Zandt’s character, Frankie Tagliano in the Netflix TV series “Lilyhammer.” His nickname is “The Fixer”. J.J. Abrams TV series “Person of Interest” (CBS Thursdays) also has “a fixer”; an armed and dangerous guardian angel played by Jim Caviezel. These guys are the opposites of what we call managers. Both of them encounter huge public bureaucracies with rules and regulations and they choose to help somebody in trouble by breaking those rules; going around authority. They don’t seek to control or manipulate the situation or keep it calm. They fix it. Okay, and I should add they are very good at cracking heads and are crack shots to boot.
I’ve been a bit obsessed lately with the idea of a “manager” and “management”. I don’t get it. Why manage something? You either fix it or you don’t. Okay, when somebody is feeling blue or just wants to vent, you can listen to them. But that’s called “being present”. You aren’t fixing it; or controlling or manipulating anything as per the dictionary definition of “managing”. You listen and you let them breathe. Continue reading →
The world is divided into two camps; those who maintain that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it and those who search for a better mousetrap. The mousetrap works, no doubt about it. But some of those questioners query; is it the only way to catch a mouse or rid yourself of mice? Why do you even need to catch a mouse? “Inquiring minds want to know”, said Socrates.
If you are in a jail in 18th century France or a lonely elephant, you befriend a mouse to keep you company. If you could train mice to use a mousy litter, you might be able to co-exist. (Amazing the way it most often comes down to questions of how to deal with excrement.)
I’ve got a very good mousetrap. It’s called “the cat”. Sometimes the old ways are worth another look.
Note: I am about to commit much injustice to Carl Jung by trying to use his theories in such a short essay. Continue reading →
Rage. Almost every adolescent feels at one time or another or most of the time a feeling of suffocation and expresses that feeling with rage. David Graeber in his on line essays on revolutionary social movements called “Revolutions in Reverse” , he focuses on this alienation. Why were so many American teenagers “entranced” by Raoul Vaneigem’s book “The Revolution of Everyday Life ?” he asked himself. Then he answers his own question. “It must be the highest theoretical expression of the feelings of rage, boredom, and revulsion that almost any adolescent at some point feels when confronted with the middle class existence.” The young see before then mind-numbing unimaginative work before them and it freaks them out.
I got to thinking about this. For a long time young working and middle class people were bought off. Not by the distractions of game playing, sports watching, or mindless movies although those activities helped the fragmentation of their social life. No it was more insidious. They were bought off by the myth of American freedom through ownership of your very own home. You could leave the nest and feather your own complete with mate and cute little chirpers. You were no longer subject to authoritarian education structures or parental controls. You were free.
But unlike a bird, you had little time to soar like an eagle or dart and play in the sky. To mix some metaphors, you got yourself saddled with debt and if you went to college, you piled on some more saddle packs full of anxiety and woe.
In the new AMC TV series “Hell on Wheels”, the railroad baron asks a couple of young Irish lads why they were in the middle of the U.S. tagging along as the continental railroad was being built. The brothers tell him of sneaking on a train when they were mere lads and going to the big city of Dublin. Their father found them and hauled them home, but it was the grandest time of their life. So for them a train was the symbol of freedom and they wanted to be a part of the building of that railroad in the hopes of capturing that feeling of freedom again.
For over 40 years we have been subjected to a bad version of “freedom” with its emphasis on the mythical rugged individual. But libertarians of the right should take a look at what left libertarians call “freedom” and maybe find some common ground. Here’s how the CrimethInc collective (who Graeber calls “the most inspiring young anarchist propagandists”) describes freedom:
We must make our freedom by cutting
holes in the fabric of this reality, by
forging new realities which will, in turn,
fashion us. Putting yourself in new situations
constantly is the only way to ensure
that you make your decisions unencumbered
by the inertia of habit, custom, law,
or prejudice – and it is up to you to create
Freedom only exists in the moment of
revolution. And those moments are not as
rare as you think. Change, revolutionary
change, is going on constantly and everywhere
– and everyone plays a part in it,
consciously or not.
Graeber calls this statement “elegant”. Direct action is, he says, “the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.” “Sovereign” may This is revolution and not some kind of “to the barricades” moment. This is releasing the barricades in our minds and unleashing our imaginations. It is pushing back against the elites who say that we need to get back into the boxes; the voting booths, the endless marches and rallies to petition our king for some gruel, writing letters to the aged satraps in the halls of congress, or sitting in the audience at public hearings of excruciating boredom. So-called “realistic” “pragmatic” choices are made in those boxes but “in an insurrectionary situation, on the other hand, suddenly anything is possible.”
This is what is called “reinventing everyday life.” So forget universities. Go sign up for a course in freedom at one of the Occupies. The tents may be gone for now, but the Forum is always open to those who choose to live as if they are already free.