Everything Is Just Dandy!

A Newsletter?

anarchistnews.org
thecollective
2022-09-15
https://anarchistnews.org/content/newsletter

From Surviving Leviathan with Peter Gelderloos

by Peter Gelderloos, Sep 14

I feel contradicted about this newsletter, but really, it’s the simplest thing: every fortnight, I’m going to do my darndest to write a short essay or missive about anticapitalist theory, anarchist history, movement strategy, pop culture, mental health, the ecological crisis, patriarchy, the unfathomable travail of being. You know, that topic.

The simplest thing about it is, it’s not a newsletter. I rarely have any news that I’ll share, because I’m not used to blogging, I didn’t come up on social media, and I feel acutely awkward sharing details about my life with strangers.

And here I double back on a contradiction: I believe personal life, theory, and social movement strategy are indistinguishable categories, that the ideas we promote, communicate, and enact are indelibly informed by our lived experiences and we need to be more explicit about those connections and framings. And, as anyone who has wasted their time following me on Twitter these past two years might have noticed, Petey is missing some filters and sometimes just blabbers cryptically about personal life.

Here’s another simple thing: as this convoluted prologue no doubt suggests, these not-newsletters will not be short, not even by (not)newsletter standards. I like pulling on threads, seeing where they lead, what other threads they cross with, following those awhile. Those who don’t enjoy my writing might prefer another metaphor: that I can rarely resist another turn of the screw.

On top of that, and because I do sometimes tend towards the pedantic, I also believe we have a political responsibility to encourage, to defend, long form communication, whether that means listening to a grandparent tell a four hour long story or considering an essay that pushes four pages a reasonable afternoon read.

I don’t think that longer is necessarily better. Poetry is sacrosanct, but let’s be honest: not all of us are poets. And there is no doubt that capitalism, at the present moment, is waging war on our attention spans, and that the alibis of oppressive systems can more easily retain their masks in a tweet than in a weekend long debate.

Another contradiction is in my motivation. The fact is, I write a lot, too much, and some of the platforms on which I used to share my essays are either defunct or have shifted away from essays, whereas I am shifting towards an honest, open, (terrifying) acknowledgment of the things that make me, that make me think what I think, that I am responding to. And this kind of essay fits more in what the kids are calling a newsletter than it does on the standard radical news site these days. (To further set the scene, I’m nervous and evasive while writing this, beans and rice are cooking on the stove and having to get up periodically to stir or add new ingredients helps me constantly rethink this piece, and someone I love is sitting across from me but I haven’t decided yet if I’ll show this to her for feedback before I publish it).

Another factor: I’ve been spending too much time on Twitter. A couple years ago, a few friends made a concerted effort to get me onto social media; I never had been up to that point, not even a Myspace. What was the point, they asked (the demagogues!), of spending so much time writing if I wasn’t going to do a little more work getting my writing out there? And getting the word out, these days, is done on social media. Twitter has been an exercise in brevity, in being captive to an apparatus and making a promethean (or quixotic) effort to resist the architectural tendencies of the apparatus, in this case towards crass superficiality. I certainly fell into my fair share of superficiality, but I’ve also been expending increasing effort on crafting pretty damn long threads. So, I thought, why not engage with a medium that actually allows me to develop thoughts a little more.

This is all true. It is also an alibi. Here’s the rub, the sticking point, the contradiction that makes me feel like a well polished bible salesman: I’m also asking for money, and that’s why I’m here on Substack sending you this missive.

I will spare you all the Really Big Feelings and virtuous nail biting I have around asking for money (I had squelched ambitions as a theater kid in high school; the drama lives on in my internal ethical debates), so let me just say, more simply. It feels gross. Money is gross. That’s why we want to abolish it.

I don’t want to live in a world where our possibilities for survival are subordinated to money. I don’t want ideas and stories or even convoluted essays to be given a price.

But I do need money to survive. And I spend enough time writing, and also deal with certain health differences, to put many jobs beyond my reach.

I am not the most deserving person to be asking for money. I grew up solidly middle class. Not like, a trust fund and my parents pay for college middle class (do people these days consider millionaires upper middle class? because that seems obscene to me), but like, I grew up in an apartment and then houses and always had access to food and a highly rated public school system middle class.

On the other hand, since eighteen I’ve had to engage in wage labor, squatting, or theft to have access to food and housing. That’s still the case, and my income still puts me well below the poverty line, but as I get older there are more people I need to take care of and more health problems I need help taking care of.

Again, that is true of the vast majority of the world’s population, most of whom don’t have access to many of the advantages I got growing up. So: if you are not regularly giving money to a prisoner or a person with more health problems or fewer structural privileges, please do not give me money.

This newsletter or whatever it is will go out into the world for free. I don’t want to put a price on my writing. But since my friends are increasingly nagging me to get over my damn hang ups, and they say this sort of thing is so common these days as to be mundane, I am offering subscriptions for people who want to pay. Folks with a paid subscription will get a video or audio as a supplement to the newsletter, in which I go behind the scenes a little to talk about my thought processes or motivations, why I felt a need to write the newsletter, where it’s coming from. They can also send me questions or feedback and I will try to respond in the next installment.

And that’s the long and short of it.

Well, this first edition of my newsletter is certainly verbose, but not too too long in the end. In any case, I’ve gotta go: dinner is about to burn.

Until next time, take care of each other,

peter

Links and Citations:

I hyperlinked to this piece, “Golem in the Catacombs,” for anyone who wants a semi-poetic, wintery exploration of what it means to be the captive of an apparatus.

Recommendations:

Hollywood has decided it’s time to forget George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, and they’ve put out a new TV show about a funny, sassy FBI agent. Don’t watch it. Instead read this:

Assassination: Anarchism and the Birth of the FBI, by William C Anderson

It was recently the birthday of Leslie Feinberg, and I remembered how good Stone Butch Blues is, a historical novel with a strong element of autobiography that helped bring visibility and awareness to the movement for transgender liberation.

It was also recently the 51 year anniversary of the Attica Prison Uprising, which authorities repressed by murdering 33 prisoners. Tangential to that, and a good end-of-summer movie to watch, is Dog Day Afternoon with Al Pacino and John Cazale.

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