photo by SG

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pondering

So I think that it's probably the biggest waste of time for me to criticize an action by an anonymous underground cell of a radical organization, because 1. who cares what I have to say and 2. what they're doing is pretty radical and I should try to support it.

But I'm going to do it anyway, because I think that it's important to constantly be critical of ourselves and our comrades, otherwise we develop a kind of groupthink that only leads to our own ineffectiveness.

I saw this reportback from an underground cell of Bash Back! who trashed a Mormon church the other day. I've been really excited by BB!, they're the only long-standing network that has emerged out of the RNC/DNC organizing. For those like me who thought that was part of the reason for organizing against the conventions, the fact that BB! is a post-convention network is really important. I like their sexy actions and their aggressive rhetoric. They target oppressive institutions who don't expect to be targeted and then they fuck with them in a very media-friendly way. They also just straight up confront evil, homophobic jerk-offs, which is also great.

But I'm still not sure how I feel about this recent action. On one hand, the Mormon church is a really fucked-up organization that lots of queer people are feeling a lot of rage against since the passage of Prop 8. On the other, I don't know how I feel about anarchists attacking mainstream churches.

This is a paradoxical situation, because I am a Bakuninist atheist and believe that religion is inherently and at its core oppressive. However, I have no problem working with religious folk or even religious organizations if they are fighting for liberation. I tend to see the God contradiction as considerably less pressing than the class contradiction or the state contradiction. So I do think that fighting religious orthodoxy is great. But I'm not sure if trashing a church is exactly doing that. I think it's revenge. Revenge which is perfectly justifiable after the passage of Prop 8.

But confusing revenge and politics is a recipe for disaster.

Needless to say, I'm still not convinced about this action. And obviously, one action doesn't mean much in the larger scheme of things, but I guess what I'm pondering about more generally is the tactic of anarchists/radicals attacking churches. Is this a good idea, because it strikes against oppression and might possibly (though I highly doubt it) open up the flock's minds? Or does it accomplish nearly nothing and simultaneously make us look like absolute jackasses? Thoughts?

3 comments:

Nate said...

That action strikes me as a really bad idea, even though based on a legitimate sense of outrage. It's like when some idiots spraypainted an SEIU office - a local, for fuck's sake! - over stuff in Puerto Rico.

This kind of thing seems to me to rest on a fundamental confusion between attacking *oppression* and attacking *oppressors*. If I beat up someone who owns a sweatshop I have not fought exploitation, I've fought an exploiter. If that boss then responds by making conditions even worse then I have arguably aided exploitation rather than fight it.

It's also not at all clear that this was really something which would hurt the Mormon church as an oppressive institution - it might just was well cause the members of that church to become more devout and dedicated to their faith and their institution.

I mean, can you think of anything less conducive to opening someone's mind to a message than trying to communicate that message in the form of an attack on something a person cares a lot about? Like, my mom's got some problems. If you wanted to talk to me about that then I'd be way more receptive to almost any other approach than I would be to spraypainting "this person has major problems!" on my mom's house.

This strikes me as par for the course for the convention protest stuff, though, and isn't at all surprising.

I also think that attacking a church is bad news for anarchism - it makes us look crazy and anti-social to most people, the type of people who the state needs to protect people from. That's fine for anarchists who are relatively privileged as they'll be less likely to face repression (or will have recourse to support networks, money, and white privilege if the do), but it could have worse consequences for less privileged folk.

Nate said...

I read a bit more on that web site. What do they mean when they say "Pride events have been crashed"? (here - http://bashbacknews.wordpress.com/about/ )

And this:

"Fight for liberation. Nothing more, nothing less. State recognition in the form of oppressive institutions such as marriage and militarism are not steps toward liberation but rather towards heteronormative assimilation."

Does that mean steps toward gay marriage are not something we should fight for, or does that mean steps toward gay marriage are things we should fight against?

Either way, seems wrong to me. I'm not excited about working for state recognition of marriage, but I think it's obvious that gay marriage would be an advance. Sure, it's not everything we want, but it's better than the current condition. Just like legalization of inter-racial marriage was an advance.

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