One of the impetuses for starting this blog was this realization: anarchism is my faith.
I have been anti-“organized religion” and unable to convince myself of the existence of any kind of deity for my entire life (it’s easy when you are unbaptized and raised by people with vaguely Christian, undefined belief systems). I have never considered myself a person of faith, and the word “spiritual” never speaks to me. I didn’t embrace the identity of atheist for a long time because I rejected the idea of defining myself at all in terms of religion (atheism meaning that theism is the standard and I am the exception). I felt that religion, spirituality, and faith were essentially irrelevant to my life; I have a holistic view of the world and how it works that simply does not include (or need) a deity or other belief system to make it work.
But one day I realized that my view of the world is profoundly anarchist. Anarchism, for me, is the way I imagine how religion must be for other folks. It is a belief system that shapes the way I act, how I interpret events on both a macro- and micro-scale, and is my moral grounding. It is an irrevocable part of my identity in the most basic ways.
I can’t help it, and I can’t change it, which is one of many reasons why I spend so much blog space talking about anarchism as a thought crime. I cannot live my life attempting to not be an anarchist, even if being an anarchist makes me ‘illegal’ in some sense in the U.S.
One of my favorite passages in sociological writing is from Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religious Life. A lot of the book is full of offensive racist garbage, but the conclusion describes my anarchist ‘faith’ profoundly:
…“we can say that the faithful are not mistaken when they believe in the existence of a moral power to which they are subject and from which they receive what is best in themselves. That power exists, and it is society.”
Today I was thinking about a few changes I have made that have improved my life the most in the last few years. Though it’s my understanding that many anarchists are suspicious of psychology/psychoanalysis/etc. as a whole because of its individualist tendencies, I find psychobabble both essential for coping with my life in the world that I have been given as well as incredibly helpful in allowing me to dream about what it means to be really happy. For me, this harmonizes well with an anarchist desire to be fulfilled, in this world and not the next.
(Aaron Fermer - SFWeekly)
First, I have learned to be kind to myself (or at least I have learned that I should try to be kind to myself). Being kind to oneself doesn’t need to contradict being kind to others, nor do I want to go down the slippery slope of yuppie justification for materialism. Kindness isn’t manifested through consumption. For me, being kind to myself comes in the form of asking what I need or want from a day or a given situation. If I am feeling unhappy, asking what I might need in order to feel better and then not feeling guilty if I place those needs first and foremost in my day. Anarchism is a lot about creating genuine interconnection with others, and I am a lot more capable of doing that when I feel satisfied and at peace with myself than when I feel guilty or angry.
The second is the power of an open mind (which has some nice parallels in what I think works best within anarchism itself). I only learned to meditate, for example, when I figured out that it wouldn’t work if I tried to actively shut out all my thoughts. Rather, I have to recognize and accept that how I feel is how I feel, and what pops into my mind is uncontrollable. It does no good to try to stop either. What I can control is how much time and attention I give to these thoughts, just as I can control how I act on my feelings. Once I figured out the key to meditation was opening rather than closing my mind, I was able to relax for possibly the first time in my life.
Just some thoughts I wanted to throw out there since in my experience, those who feel the most committed to radical kindness to others are often the worst at practicing this with ourselves. Recognizing privilege can make us being kind to ourselves feel indulgent and selfish, but what are we working so hard for if not a world where we can ALL feel fulfilled? And we’ll never get there if we’re all burnt out.