For a number of years, this blog has hosted my work on intellectual history outside the “libertarian labyinth,” work posted for my students and posts on material that is simply interesting, without being particularly relevant to current issues and struggles. The long silence here suggests how little I have focused on those concerns lately. In part that is because I have been very focused on recovering material from the anarchist and libertarian traditions, but it has also been in part a result of my broadened sense of how for that “labyrinth” really extends. The next time I treat the struggles over Rhode Island’s charter, or the antinomian crisis, or even the hollow earth, it is likely to be In the Libertarian Labyrinth, as part of my work on “anarchism and American traditions.”
That leaves a space open, one marked with a title that always expressed more audacity than anything that appeared on its pages. Time to change that. If you’re reading this, chances are you also read my post, in the aftermath of the RNC police riots, “Time to free ALL the political prisoners,” but here, for the record, is the immodest proposal with which it ended:
It’s the sort of thing you feel stupid saying out loud, but, once the bail is raised for protestors, we need to figure out how to bail each other out, of stupid jobs we hate, that only prop up a system that feeds off us. Once the pepper spray burns have been treated, we need to figure out how to provide for one another’s daily health needs. After we feed the homeless, we have to tackle how we feed one another, globally, without being forced to take part in a food economy that depends of disrupting local agriculture and profiting while people starve. Once we reclaim the stolen pamphlets, we need to finish the work of making sure our written heritage is never “out of print” and beyond the reach of everyone. The things that stand between us and our own institutions would probably not withstand any sort of concerted assault, unlike the riot police lines guarding worthless functionaries and would-be despots, and they’ll have to come up with new offenses if they want to beat us up for trading with one another, educating one another, supporting one another.
Despite all of the constant machinations, all the so-called “intelligence” at its disposal, all the money and power behind it, the state constant reveals itself as, well, sort of stupid, committed, with all of its force, to lying, cheating, killing, stealing, and then kidding itself about the whole bizarre, self-perpetuating routine. If there’s a way off this roundabout, I would be happy to take it. I’m guessing, if you’re reading this, that you would to.
There’s very little reason, it seems to me, that we can’t have our own economies, our own schools, libraries, media, churches if we want them, our own industries, etc., etc., and that the “us” is one that could grow and grow and grow, if once we could get off the suicidal track that most aspects of our lives are on. I must have a bright idea a day, to address some aspect of all of this, but, honestly, radical circles are pretty good at nitpicking bright ideas to death, when we don’t smother them with indifference. But it’s becoming clearer to me all the time that holding this stuff in does nothing but increase my indigestion (that has, of course, also often been the result of airing the ideas.) I’m contemplating remaking my old intellectual history blog, The Very Idea!, into a place for running mad, half-mad, even relatively sane and sober libertarian schemes up the proverbial flagpole. If nothing came of it but a collection of anarchist “Rube Goldberg” institutions, that wouldn’t be the end of the world. So I guess I’ll run that up the flagpole. There’s a fine old tradition of anarchist inventors; who wants to join?
I’ve set up a discussion list, and I’m throwing the doors open to collaborators. But I’ve also redubbed this blog in a way that, I hope, suggests the way that I would like this particular space for counter-institutional invention to work. We have a grand old tradition of anarchist inventors, who have produced things as mundane and practical as Alfred B. Westrup’s mop bucket, or as ambitious as Stephen Pearl Andrews universal language and universological science. At the moment, we probably need both better mousetraps and grander visions of the future, and a lot of practical-visionary work that hovers somewhere in the middle distance between those. What I would like to explore on the list and present on the blog, is projects, germs of projects and calls for projects, that seem to address present needs, but I would like, for a change, to unfetter the discussion a bit from a priori judgments about practicality. I expect participants and respondents to make their own judgments about which schemes are the best idea since sliced bread and which are pipe dreams. What I would like to suggest as an ethic for discussion is that we refrain from purely negative responses, that, if at all possible we try to expand, contract, remake, remodel, develop, simplify, amend one another’s proposals, but always with an eye to moving forward. And those things which seem to have no forward-moving potential will be pretty quickly identified by their failure to “get a pulse.” I’m suggesting more of a general ethic than hard and fast rules. I certainly don’t want to discourage constructive criticism, or to encourage anyone to waste time. But radicals are pretty good at talking ourselves out of things. I would like to try to open up a different kind of discussion.
So. . . mousetraps to lemonade seas. . . I’ve got a couple of educational proposals that I’m putting together, and I’ll be doing a semi-regular feature on radical inventors, but nobody has to wait for me to find time for that in order to get this thing rolling. I’m probably not the only person choking on ideas that I just haven’t quite dared to float more broadly. All aboard!