More than any other content, i enjoy a letter in which the writer touches on their own experiences. The synchronicity so often revealed in these letters, resonating with my life as well as letters from other folks, has a profound beauty which reveals new connections, where seemingly isolated incidents become patterns.
My interests are extremely varied and difficult to map out. i am currently studying anarchist pedagogies, Jungian psychology, Indology, feminism, depth psychology, toxicology, ancient Earth religions (especially that of the Maya, the Babylonians, and India), political anthropology (in particular, Pierre Clastres), and ufology/contactee experiences, among others.
The following are lists of interests in particular fields.
William S. Burroughs
Frederico Garcia Lorca
Thomas M. Disch
Philip K. Dick
John E. Mack
Robert Anton Wilson
and many, many more . . .
i am not as knowledgeable of visual artists as i would like to be, but among my favorites are Bosch, Van Gogh, Dali, and Michelangelo.
P-Model (and Susumu Hirasawa in general)
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Iggy & the Stooges
Lee "Scratch" Perry
The Statler Brothers
Simon & Garfunkle
The Velvet Underground
Warren Zevon's "Carmalita"
Zager & Evans
and many, many more . . .
THE EDUCATION OF AN ANARCHIST
(OR WHY I WON’T TRIM MY UNRULY BEARD)
BY CONNOR STEVENS
My yearning seemed to have been almost inherent within me. I can remember being no more than 8 or 9 years old and looking around, thinking something’s wrong with what we’ve done with the place. The incarceration of my father (and his alcoholism, combined with the fact that he grew up in a totally different world and let us know that), the constant working of my mother, the actually quite good teachers I had in those early years in Oberlin, and my unstoppable love of Nature doomed me to a life of questioning and confrontation. I started off liberal enough. I developed a keen hatred for authority, “order,” and especially “law” all before I had read Harry Potter ( the first novel I read). So, direct personal experiences, like empathizing with fellow students getting yelled at by unreasonable teachers, watching the cops arrest people including my dad (the simple fact they can put you in handcuffs and haul you off was enough for me to hate them at that adorable age), and, as I said, my mother worked, worked, worked, - eventually my general sense of “something ain’t right, no matter how many times I watch the original three Star Wars and regardless of how much time I idle away playing video games” began to move me to asking “Why?”
Now, I was(and still am) a rather “religious” child (I suppose the chic word today is “spiritual” to describe it more precisely, since already I felt a sense of personal quest, or intimate relationship with Creation, which due to my Christian upbringing I at the time only knew as God – the one true only God type thing). Not only do I mention this because I believe Christianity has a profound effect on one’s psyche for decades to come, sometimes the rest of your life (for good or ill), but more to the point because I ran with this thing the church folk and my parents talked about, a magical thing they called the Holy Spirit. I had sense there were many spirits floating around, and the sense I got from the woods was one of ecstasy and contentment, compared to being on a city street or in a building, which was boring and sometimes even downright violent. So I was looking for that-which-was-in-back-of-things. “Certainly this can’t be all God has to show me?”
Oberlin reminds me a lot of a greener version of the Truman Show, plus a lot of pot. Some folks would argue here I’m paranoid, but I think it’s a case of the chicken and the egg, and clearly the single-cell organism came first. Anyway, maybe this last rant was an unintended foray into my attempt to re-discover my roots as a mystic anarchist. (I’ll briefly defend myself: mystic in this sense would mean that I undergo symbolic experiences – who doesn’t undergo symbolic experiences? But I use the term to signify a something which logic cannot possibly grasp, and therefore i t is incorporeal to the modern mind, yet consists of this world here, “at our elbows” – as Wittgenstein said, “of which we cannot speak, we must pass over in silence”)… But I digress…
Early influences… Well, as far as people go I got my start on Michael Moore. In a drug mart one evening I was drawn to his “Bowling for Columbine,” got the okay from my dad to order it (over the protest of my oldest brother), and was hooked. Now, I was already a fuzzy democrat-to-be, at this ripe young age of 12 or 13, but Moore’s movie had the unintended effect of propelling me past liberalism. Don’t get me wrong, I stayed long enough to test the waters, that is, until about the end of the seventh grade. At this point I was calling myself a republican just to break the shallow mold of endless liberals I was surrounded by (although I could only debate with right wingers) and was seriously wanting to forget “politics” altogether. However it wasn’t the “politics” that attracted me, captivated or compelled me. It was a great big unbearable empathy for life. I knew the Columbine shooters didn’t just spring out of some mysterious nightmare, just as U.S. foreign policy had concrete reasons and causes leading to its implementation. I knew I had to go further than Moore… So in this critical year of 6th grade I moved to Strongsville and lost myself in nature (my grandfather’s house, where I then lived, was at least 2 acres situated up against one of the most beautiful areas in the metro parks) and video games. Separated from my friends, my already strong relationship with my younger brother Noah grew, as together we conquered cowboys and Indians in the woods, magicians and thugs on the TV., and the unbelievable intricacies of computers and internet so as to plumb the depths of knowledge about Star Wars EU (extended universe)… I say it was crucial because there was a clear distinction between two worlds, one of technology and the result of alienation due to the treacheries of income and the cost of housing (why we left Oberlin), and on the other hand Nature and intimate, raw, sometimes painful bonding and self-discovery with my brother Noah.
It was the 8th grade that we’re really interested in though. This year I was homeschooled and spent all my time on Wikipedia (and discovering herbs for the first time). The nature of Wikipedia is that I start looking into this guy with fiery eyes and awesome mustache (Nietzsche), and end anywhere, everywhere, studying mushrooms, Jung, Schopenhauer, Hinduism, Buddhism, Freud, Colin Wilson, etc.
Well, now I was living in Berea, and reading for the first time people like Mao, Che, Fanon, Lenin, Bakunin, Kropotkin, etc. etc. In these early stages they all attracted me because they seemed like they would all get shit done. At least, no more drowning in representative democracy for the next millennia. I started reading about them, and with a few exceptions, found them all quite dull. The only ones (with the exception of Che and a few others) who really seemed genuinely interesting to me were the anarchists. I also really liked their beards. It was the scientific mind of Kropotkin that finally connected my anti-authoritarianism with my love of nature, and it was Bakunin burnt the bridge over the Rubicon. So at this time I was soaring through whole new worlds, trying to bring it all together. After all, Jung and Kropotkin lived under the same sun, and Kurt Vonnegut and Goldman both danced under the same moon.
It was during my enrollment in high school in the ninth grade the burden of knowledge became obvious, and I began to sense myself sinking like a stone. I started off skeptical of everyone, keeping to myself, reading Noam Chomsky books and pages I printed off of Proudhon, Trotsky, and Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ,” among others. I fell in love with Kurt Vonnegut. Madly in love with his Cat’s Cradle. But anyway, I used to carry around a copy of the Communist Manifesto to spark conversation, but the only responses I got were from the teachers, and they all thought it was quite cute, a quaint little joke, this specter haunting Europe… The real evolution to my present self was when I read the autobiography of Malcolm X and discovered the Black Panther Party, and the “forgotten” chapter in this country’s yesterday. Here I felt I found the middle ground between the authoritarian communists and the anarchistic revolutionaries of the Paris Communes, etc. between, in essence, Marx and Galleani. Just as I began to throw off the communists, I found the Black Panthers equally lacking (they were communists after all). When I looked to modern Black Panthers (what became of them) a lot of them that are still alive and relatively sane had recognized the key weakness: dependency on leadership. There was a shift through the blood sacrifices of those brothers, to anarchism and the black radical community. It seems this shift went largely ignored by their white counterparts (who in many ways were undergoing a similar, albeit less bloody shift), and the larger black community. So, I was in danger of reverting back to Galleani if for no other reason than frustration. However, I maintained the importance of organization (without leaders, but necessarily with “starters” and “guides”), and attempted such an organization at my high school.
I had come up with the idea in middle school, and here I was hatching it in high school, and thus the Fighters for Freedom was born. The first meeting consisted of maybe 8 or 9 folks, moderate liberals with the exception of myself (unidentified at that point- simply “revolutionist,” as Kropotkin said) and my unread communist Puerto Rican friend. Well, it went nowhere and no one but me and my friend showed up to the meetings. I guess combatting imperialism isn’t appealing to high school kids. But we thought locally- we wanted to build our support among the student body to then have real power, and then, like a student union, we could demand to “run the campus or shut it down” (Mario Savio was a big influence on me). We wanted to start a radical student newspaper, we designed and made our own armbands, we started a “MySpace” page, etc. We started a rallying support against the presence of police and military recruiters on the campus (there were three or four of us at this point), and that’s when shit went down. To spare you the details (for now, and for the sake of my writing hand), I found out the cops had a dossier on us and the administration knew more about the group than I did… But not to worry, although I was thrown into a deep paranoid depression for quite some time, pondering how to proceed.
I was to slowly get back up on that horse and form a new group, and this time I was elected class president. However, I was told I had too low a GPA to be acting class president (at the end of the school year I found out this was incorrect), but I don’t let that phase me. With my Puerto Rican comrade as my elected Treasurer, we had a group called the United Student Front, and with this new snazzy title we figured we’d force the National Guard’s hand in a matter of weeks. Instead, it led to a series of suspensions for me and the threat of expulsion.
I decided to approach yet a third route and gave several lectures to classes with sympathetic teachers. The students were less sympathetic, and when I wasn’t laughed at I was threatened. By the end of my freshman year I had received five death threats, at least. I figured I was on to something, but my manifesto, “Conversations with a Socialist,” would have to be scrapped. I was done trying to recruit, educate, and conversate with the vulgar masses. And here began my second period, where I identified as an anarchist but spent all my time either pursuing a new crush of mine, having fun, partying in excess, or morbidly depressed (or some combination thereof).
A year or two goes by and I’m still an anarchist juggling a dozen different anarchist thinkers alongside naturalists, etc. But now I was also free. A high school dropout having left the tenth grade. And I was beginning to learn the “Good Red Road,” the Lakota Sioux Indian “religion” or life-path. This has proven to be an indispensible tool for me, saving me from suicide and other ruinous ends more times than I would care to (re)count. Basically, the Good Red Road is the full life view of hunting and gathering people, equipped with ceremonies (initiation, family making, birth, death, etc.) and rituals (praying with the pipe, sweat lodges, sun dance, etc.)
Perhaps this has something more to do with my identification as a “mystic anarchist.” If folks don’t believe in “the Great-Spirit-which-moves-through-all-things,” that’s perfectly fine, but I do, and often I feel not at home completely in either camp, the anarchist or the walker of the Red Road. Anarchists are all too often about cold hard logic, cause and effect, science, etc., which I find interesting. Science teaches us cause and effect, if it can even be called such, is so complex it would take quantum computers to determine some very basic prediction, like if I spit on a C.O. what is the effect? Cold hard logic kills. Granted, these things have their place, but they are not to be worshipped and made into the new religion, the State religion. Hence the beauty of the attempt of some scientific intellectuals in the 1700’s to break the State and liberate science. And on the other hand, “Sage and Lavender Tribe” and other beautiful folks I’ve met along the Good Red Road acknowledge and are deeply affected by the ecological collapse we bear witness to today, but their answer/response seems to almost entirely consist of “pray, pray more, and change one’s self, one’s way of life.” And that is fantastic! This is amazing, and maybe the only thing I ought to strive for (I hear the Zen Buddhist laughing – “the only thing?”), but for me it cannot be enough. First and foremost healthy humans require healthy community, and Nature must very much be a part of that community, living in harmony with creation.
George Jackson said, “Man is oppressed by his environment, not the reverse.” I see this as an issue of “cause and effect” – Aristotelian either/or logic. When the choice is between chicken or egg, Euro or Drachma, Muslim Brotherhood or Military, that’s not a choice. I -and you- were born into an oppressive man-made environment, which in turn produces men who further oppress their environment, they themselves being oppressed. So not only must we say down with civilization-as-we-know-it, and then pursue this, but also, up (or back) with the reverence for Nature, with the ceremonies and rituals, let us cover ourselves in the mud and find a new way! Many ways! As long as you don’t go fucking up my ways.
So now we arrive at the Final answer (avoiding the gist of how to get there) - the “perfect” world.
Hunter – Gatherer tribes with sweat lodges and egalitarian structures, lacking the very concept of the virus that is property. Basically…
This reminds me of a great quote that I can only paraphrase, from a source I forgot the name of, but a British Sociologist/Anthropologist on an island in the Pacific, amongst a tribe native to the island, observes there are no examples of some folks being wealthier than others. He asks, how do you avoid folks gathering up wealth for themselves? The native simply responds, when we see this starting to happen, we cut off their head. This is their operation/surgery for dealing with a disease.
The Good Red Road teaches us to live for the next seven generations, like we are preparing the earth for their birth. This is what I strive towards.
Somewhere along the way “primitive” and “civilized” got mixed up. As Levi-Strauss observed, when the “civilized” anthropologists go on about savages, they are in fact talking about themselves, the lens through which they are looking. Here enters “quantum psychology” – the relativity of the observer and the observed. For instance, the US government is accusing me of being a terrorist, but I respond, stop talking about your mother that way. Hoover may have never come out of the closet (try as I might, I couldn’t find a feminization of the name “Hoover”- Hoovetta? Hoovireta?...) but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t trying on Sundays.
It’s really difficult to begin to define my stance in terms of the positive. I am really against so little, the rest is fine and can work itself out… “Errors correct themselves,” Vane gem whispers, but how many beavers must die before we correct the Hoover Dam? Anyway, this species has a knack for creating evolutionary road blocks, and the perfect Sunday would be seeing what unravels when we lift these roadblocks, all the military-sponsored scientists be damned. What kind of future is born through the mutilation of 10,000,000 cute little bunnies? No future for me, I says, no future pour moi.
Can the censors read French? Ah, but they have photocopiers… We really outta take advantage of the fact that most people are decoys. They don’t think, not really anyway, and therefore if something occurs beyond their conception of “possible” and “ordinary” it may just bypass their attention. Like the militarization of the police force, the centralization of all wealth, and the death of the Amazon.
All my love, and a good deal of dignified rage, but certainly all of my love.
From Friends and Family
Connor is a beautiful poet, and an amazing, trustworthy, loving friend. You can always count on him if you needed someone to talk to. He is an artist. He loves chess, and reading, and studying. I heard he had a book actually published, and a good amount of his poetry published. - Justine
Connor can be visited every other weekend. All visitors need to be approved in advance by Connor. To get on his list, download the BOP visitaiton form and submit to: