Monday 24 May 2010

Christianity and anarchism not necessarily leading to Christian anarchism

Paul Virilio considers himself to be a Christian.
He also identifies with anarchism.
He therefore - in English - may be referred to as a Christian anarchist.

Yet in general Christian anarchism, as taken stock of in Alexandre Christoyannopoulos' Christian anarchism should be seen as a synthesis between Christian belief/religion and anarchism. Anarchism being mainly a consequence of Jesus' teaching, and mainly again the Sermon on the Mount.
Does Virilio identify with this synthesis? If so, I have not read about it.

The word Christian in the English phrasing Christian anarchism may be read as an adjective but it could also be seen as a substantive, not referring to a belief but to a person. In the latter case Virilio might rightly be referred to as Christian anarchist. In the former case he should not.
Is he the only prominent example of someone combining Christianity and anarchism without being Christian anarchist?

Perhaps the maestro himself should speak out.

Saturday 8 May 2010

The shocking truth about the British general election...

..and perhaps elections in general in the hard core of Empire.
The opinion of the voters did not matter.

It is hard to believe for someone from one of the many countries in Europe where coalition governments are the rule and not the exception that anyone would consider that a party representing 36% of the electorate would be more entitled to govern than two parties, together representing more than fifty per cent of the voters. "Gordon Brown has been voted out." Oh no, he has not. If the Liberal Democrats would honestly believe Labour would work on proportional representation, then Gordon Brown stays as prime minister. He will have a bigger mandate than the other man. Get used to the idea of coalitions, in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland (in reality) they are the rule too.

But all this belongs to the spheres where the United Kingdom would be no longer an annex of some of its former colonies in North America. Much more telling than all the talk about the voting system is the panicky media noise about what really matters about the election.
How will the markets react, that is the most prominent question.

Either "the markets" are a natural phenomenon, like a volcano that is getting angry and will explode since its special god is not pleased with the outcome. The Market as an idol that wants reconciliation.

Or "the markets" have got something to do with human beings. What kind of human beings, and where do they reside?

Answer to the latter question: not particularly or mainly in the UK.
Just like in Greece, probably Spain, Portugal and whichever country is next, the voting public does not matter.
"The markets" matter. They are demanding stable government.
The kind of government that deals with welfare, schools and war, lots of war. War is healthy for markets.

Oh, and police. The Most Important Selling Point of all the main parties is that they are bringing out so many cops into the streets. Markets seem to like that too.

You see, I am not particularly the anti-voting kind of anarchist, and I am sincerely pleased about the first Green MP. I was a member of the Green Party in NL until they took a turn to the right after which they disappeared altogether. (And I am a bit infatuated with Caroline Lucas, I confess). PR, which will give the Greens and others more opportunities, can stop the rot for a short while - and yes, the racists too will have more opportunities, but why only think of them when considering PR?

However, the story of the Importance of Markets rather than the voting public is the final démasqué of what only can be called now parliamentary democracy on its dying bed.

Considering the alternative to parliament is no longer something for some vague future beyond a horizon that inevitably keeps fading. Rather than talking about voting or not or propagating voter apathy it is time to seriously consider the alternative(s).
It may already be too late.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Voter Apathy: Our only hope

One of the things that has amazed me about responses to my not voting in this election is that some people have chosen to be offended. There is a moral outrage. Quite a few people have said they think it should be illegal not to vote. In effect they are saying I deserve to be fined and if I don't pay I should be locked up. My crime would be refusing to comply with a system which is:

1. Unjust.
2. Creates political apathy
3. Creates losers.
4. Disenfranchises the majority.
5. Allows people to abdicate responsibility for the decision made in their communities.
6. Selects people to fund and organise violence against me and people in distant countries.

1. Unjust.
This system is unjust most obviously because it is a 'first past the post' system. But if that doesn't rig it enough, the boundaries mean that there are huge disparities in numerical representation. The New Economics Forum have published an index of an adults notional vote. The theory is flawed in that it relies on some fairly circular arguments: If 75% of people want a party then your vote doesn't count because it's a safe seat? One could argue that it has counted, you wanted that party. Nonetheless they make a good general point that voter power is a real postcode lottery.

2. Political Apathy
People talk about voter apathy as though it's a bad thing. Yet the only reason the three biggest parties began this election talk about reform is they fear voter apathy. You can protest the government; you can kick them out; but if you really want to scare them: ignore them. The angst in this unjust system is evident all around, people worry about far right parties that would get in if the model was more fair: all this tells us is that people are using voting as a short cut to deal with racists and fascists. So rather than challenging bigotry and violence where we find it in everyday life we vote once every five years and pretend the evil doesn't exist because it has been smothered by the first past the most: the seeming moral majority. If refusing to vote is 'voter apathy' then voting may often lead to 'political apathy'. I feel certain that the suffragettes did not simply fight for democracy so that we could make do with something so absurdly symbolic as 'the vote'. The story is not over.

3. Losers
Christians are to love one another. Not only one another: Christians are to even love the enemy. How unChristian then to vote against the wishes of other people. To put all this energy into trying to silence the views of a fellow citizen. The aim of a general election is not to find out the will of the people but rather to set up a competition with a stolen mandate as the prize. Voting creates losers and I can't believe that the Jesus-community is called to create losers.

4. Disenfranchises the majority
More than half of all votes will count for nothing in parliament. They will be, in effect, rejected. MORE THAN HALF. Not only that, but a fifth of the voters hold the balance of power in their marginal constituencies: and within those constituencies more than half the votes are thrown away. That suggests that less than ten percent of votes really matter in our current system. Even if this was not the case: the system locks us into a combative mode of government where party-politicians seek to disenfranchise one another.

5. Abdicating responsibility
Decision making, consensus building, and community organising are hard work. We vote because we choose not to do this work. This may be because we're too busy but we're often busy earning the money that pays the people who have taken our decision-making ability away from us. Meanwhile the richest keep their money and buy power at a fraction of the price because they don't have to vote. The majority get a free vote once every five years. Well, you get what you pay for. The minority spend hundreds of thousands on buying the MPs that we leave to get on with it on our behalf. 80% of Conservative MPs are members of a Zionist lobby - their biggest backer - and the Labour party aren't far behind. Refusing to vote can have a powerful psychological effect: it causes one to ask how else one might get power and what better world might be possible where this crazy machine stops being oiled by the ballots. Emma Goldman famously said, "If voting changed anything they'd make it illegal." So why isn't those who abstain who are having criminalisation waved at them?

6. Violence
This is a simple dilemma for the Christian who thinks voting might be moral. The Matthew tradition tells us that Jesus taught his followers not to resist violence by force/violence (Matt. 5) 'antistenai' if you're interested in the Greek. Some translators have it as 'don't resist evil' but this is too weak a translation. But either way - violence is out. Governments use our taxes to fund wars, and not only wars - all three big parties (yes, including the liberal democrats) advocate some form of nuclear deterrent - weapons that are deliberately aimed at civilians, that harm generations of innocents, that destroy all biological life in a given area. If I vote I am consenting to this violence being done on my behalf. If I vote I am saying I want my rights preferred to those of others because they live within different abstract borders. And I want my nation's rights to be defended with violence against the rights of any other nation. No wonder the politicians fear voter apathy but voter apathy is the only real hope of real change we really have.

Saturday 1 May 2010

The joy of history about real people

If anything more exciting than glancing through what we historians have to call "sources" were invented, I would still continue to do the former...

The history of Christian anarchism is not just about thoughts or stories of things left undone because they are too difficult. Peter Maurin, who said this, should have known better himself.

The story of Christian anarchism as a tendency is about real people. Striving for a communal life as true Christians, like the Diggers or the Christian Fraternity (Zwijndrechtse Nieuwlichters). Being hardworking - and I mean really hardworking, the phrase is being misused nowadays for right-wing propaganda -, downtrodden and poor and yet proudly cherishing own gatherings where the Spirit is considered to be present. Making the people concerned come alive and calling them into or back into some collective memory is one of the most beautiful things I can think of.

When I came across Christian anarchism as a tendency in the workers' movement I soon heard about the Children of God (Kinderen Gods, in Frisian: Berne fan God), somewhere in the peat-moor areas of Frisia. An area forgotten by official history. Ideological class warfare at university level these days comes with the story that peat workers were not really all that poor after all. Of course they would say that, since the socialist and anarchist movements were born in that part of the Netherlands, and socialism did not happen, apart from Stalin's Gulag, everyone should know that by now.
Socialism means: no Coke or hamburgers and long queues for clothes without logo - repeat after me - and it was defeated by the United States of America.

So the peat workers are left aside, being declared not even poor and rebellious after all.
Yet they were. And the area is still the poorest of the Netherlands, the riches made by digging up the soil and selling it as a fuel went somewhere else. And the Children of God were doomed to even more oblivion than the socialist and anarchist movement.

Then two years ago I decided to gather what scarce sources there were to be found and write about the Children of God as precursors of the Christian anarchist movement. Since the peat workers cherished their own mystic preacher who said that there is only freedom to be had in real lived-through love of God the idea of their being forerunners seemed appropriate.
I gave them a mention in my article in the reader Religious anarchism. I wrote about them in the Annual on Anarchism (Jaarboek Anarchisme) and put the article on the net.
I pinched the only biographical article on the aforementioned preacher and put it on my own portrait gallery [a project under construction].

Yesterday I found a comment to this article by someone who thanks me for putting information on the net about her "well-known" ancestor. "Well-known" may be taken with a pinch of salt. A bit puzzled by her reaction I put the name of the preacher in the search engine and found I had inspired someone to write a Wikipedia-lemma in Frisian on the preacher, Marten Jans van Houten, which specifically quotes my article on the scarcity of sources.

Sources may be scarce, but stories may be told and live on, and whatever sources there are should be brought to the light and to life to remind the downtrodden and seemingly voiceless that they have had a voice all along.
Knowing to be part of this effort is my joy and my payment (I never got to work at a university - they have Business to be studied, not working class people).
A story I wanted to tell this day, First of May 2010.

Illustration: typical Frisian bell-cage in De Wilp, the village where Van Houten preached. His church has been torn down.