Even my recreation turns into politics. Iâ??m at my familyâ??s house in Oliva, and had been planning to drive to Barcelona early this week. Originally, my motivation was to go catch The Strokes on Friday. But my friends JoseÃ¡n & Laura NuÃ±ez are in a band, “Laboratorio Funk,” and theyâ??re playing in Valencia the same day. So I figured fine: Iâ??ll still go to Barcelona for a few days just to check out the scene, come back Friday afternoon to see Laura & JoseÃ¡n, and then see The Strokes in Madrid on Saturday instead.
But the â??sceneâ? in Barcelona this week, as it turns out, is the European Union summit, and all the wacky activism that goes with such things. (Supposedly the Basque terrorist group ETA is also planning something, but that’s another story) Naturally, I wouldnâ??t dream of missing it, though Iâ??m still trying to decide whether to wear my Free-Market.Net T-shirt and get beaten up by protesters, or to wear something else and get beaten by police.
This should be especially interesting, because Barcelona is one of the few places where anarchismâ??s actually been practiced to some degree. Throughout Spain, you see plenty of circle-As painted on walls, and other political graffiti, but itâ??s in Barcelona that, in the 19th century, a fair number of people actually lived under a regime of workersâ?? collectives.
The modern descendants of that tradition at Indymedia seem to have made â??decentralizationâ? their buzzword. To some extent, I guess thatâ??s consistent with being opposed to the EU and the greater political union it involves. But as usual, the focus of the opposition is on greater economic union and interaction. Thatâ??s downright bizarre, because presumably the problem they have with â??centralizationâ? is that they donâ??t like the idea of having economic â??powerâ? concentrated; theyâ??d rather have it dispersed. Thatâ??s fine, but it seems pretty obvious that economic liberalization is the surest way to achieve that: instead of having to depend on local companies for products and jobs, people get an international smorgasbord. The problem is that when they say â??decentralization,â? they think that means each little geographic niche being on its own. Thatâ??s not decentralization; thatâ??s centralized power in lots of small packages. One manifesto decries the fact that privileges won by labor unions over the years are being eroded. In other words, it’s becoming increasingly hard to sustain local monopolies, so regions need to be isolated… excuse me, “decentralized” … once more. These guys should be glad Chomsky’s on their side: he’d have a field day with radical doublespeak if he were inclined to expose it.
Speaking of anarchists… I just saw this snippet from an interview with lefty icon Slavoj Zizek:
Interviewer: You describe the internal structure of anarchist groups as being authoritarian. Yet, the model popular with younger activists today is explicitly anti-hierarchical and consensus-oriented. Do you think there’s something furtively authoritarian about such apparently freewheeling structures?
Zizek: Absolutely. And I’m not bluffing here; I’m talking from personal experience. Maybe my experience is too narrow, but it’s not limited to some mysterious Balkan region. I have contacts in England, France, Germany, and more â?? and all the time, beneath the mask of this consensus, there was one person accepted by some unwritten rules as the secret master. The totalitarianism was absolute in the sense that people pretended that they were equal, but they all obeyed him. The catch was that it was prohibited to state clearly that he was the boss. You had to fake some kind of equality. The real state of affairs couldn’t be articulated. Which is why I’m deeply distrustful of this “let’s just coordinate this in an egalitarian fashion.” I’m more of a pessimist. In order to safeguard this equality, you have a more sinister figure of the master, who puts pressure on the others to safeguard the purity of the non-hierarchic principle. This is not just theory. I would be happy to hear of groups that are not caught in this strange dialectic.
I hadn’t known much about the internal structure of anarchist groups before, but this isn’t too surprising. Anyone who’s ever worked on a committee should’ve been astonished that any group which actually worked as these claim to could pull off such well coordinated actions so quickly and efficiently. And there’s always been something deeply fishy about putative anarchists whose primary concern seems to be keeping people chained by national borders.
As I was writing this, I had British CNN on in the background, running a story about some parents whoâ??d agreed to let photos of their daughter, dead after ODing on heroin, to be used in drug education programs. (The British press has apparently covered this extensively.) What caught my attention was that they kept saying (because this had been a â??good kidâ? with a bright future) that her story â??made you realize it can happen to anyone.â? Well, as the Brits say: bollocks. It canâ??t â??happen to anyone.â? In fact, it never â??happens toâ? anyone. You decide to do heroin. And then, even if you get physically addicted, you have to continue to decide that you donâ??t want to go through withdrawal. Addiction doesnâ??t mean that the heroin fairy comes in the night with a baggie and syringe. Youâ??ve still got to get your ass out of the house and go score. This girlâ??s death seems tragic, but letâ??s not pretend that sheâ??s a victim.
Paradoxically, though, the anti-drug educators have every reason to portray drug tragedies as the sort of thing that just â??happenâ? to you. Take the case of Leah Bett, a girl who died after taking ecstasy a few years back in the UK, and who became a posthumous poster-girl for the one-pill-can-kill mantra. What happened was that in an attempt to avoid dehydrating (a common problem with E), she drank much too much water, and died of over-hydrationâ?¦ but that little fact wasnâ??t trumpeted very widely. The reason is that to do so wouldâ??ve emphasized the fact that (with apologies to the NRA) drugs donâ??t kill people; dumbshits who are uninformed about or irresponsible with their drugs kill people. Usually themselves. The anti-drug crowd, however, doesnâ??t want people to start being more intelligent about drug use; they want them to stop using. But that doesnâ??t happen, and they end up missing an opportunity to reduce injuries and deaths. Which youâ??d think would be the whole point.
Apropos of nothing, I was listening to the Sheryl Crow song â??My Favorite Mistakeâ? and had the depressing thought that, best case scenario, thatâ??s probably the most charitable way any of the women Iâ??ve been involved with in the last 5 years or so would be justified in describing me. Never date me. And if you do, donâ??t say I didnâ??t warn you.