Critique of the Farmer Neighborhood in Tempe, AZ
In Struggles of the Farmer Neighborhood in Tempe, AZ, I took a look at the neighborhood I had formerly lived in from the angle of anarchist, radical, and/or counter-cultural struggle. I concluded by stating that “I see it as a legitimate beginning and hope for the resistance there to sustain.” To follow up, I want to examine what some of the obstacles are from that angle, which by far is not the only or even the most popular angle to examine the situation from.
An illusory sense of ownership and satisfaction with realizing a somewhat ideal democratic culture are two of the more obvious and limiting factors about the results of these experiments. Though capitalist relationships between renters and their landlords, customers and local businesses, and work aren’t entirely comfortable, they are challenged less as relationships of domination and more in the quality of their products. The worst thing that local capitalists can do to this neighborhood is offer shitty products and shitty prices. Retaliation against capitalists that make poor choices regarding social norms they want to enforce exists, but price is more of a factor than anything else. This isn’t so bad when it comes to creating demand for caution form capitalists regarding rent and tenant agreements, appreciation for consistent customers and tolerance of customer’s social transgressions, and visibly highlighting the relationships between capital and social life that exist in the neighborhood. However, that relationship itself exists comfortably next to projects that attempt to dispense with waged labor, profit, and a separation between production and consumption. The result is a neighborhood that provides something of an illusion that its residents own it by offering more explicit say-so to locals than most other neighborhoods in exchange for the profit those residents bring to the owner’s ventures. At bottom, the landlord, the business owner, and the boss have been just as much if not more-so the beneficiaries of these cultural experiments as renters, consumers, and workers have.
Facebook as a medium for social organization is a popular choice for the Farmer neighborhood. What had once (to a lesser extent) been done with flyers and zines left at East Side Records, Zias, etc., word-of-mouth at bars and drum circles, and interactions while walking around the neighborhood has been sucked up into world that is controlled by a notoriously fucked up corporation. This is an unfortunate situation, but I’m not sure how successful any of these experiments would be without taking to FB. The local record stores are gone along with sitting/lying on the streets, the vibrancy of street-based activities (which have mostly been recuperated by the city’s arts/cultural projects), and a number of venues for music, open mic stuff, and hanging out. On the bright side, one of the fundamental disappointments with life in the neighborhood is the disappearance of these spaces and activities …which look to be on the increase the more that events are coordinated in the manner that they have been. It would be nice to see FB become less-and-less the standard medium for social organization and face time in meat space become the primary arena for communicating these ideas/events. Ultimately, I don’t think that transition will happen, thinking about the Tech No! Tuesday experiment as an example of resistance to such a shift …but I do think that in comparison, the Farmer neighborhood will continue to emphasize the importance of physical interactions as a defining characteristic of the culture it produces.
There’s a common question that comes up in anarchist space about the effects produced by alleviating the disasters that the State and Capital produce: whether or not alleviation creates a more comfortable status quo that prevents further revolt …or increases the chances of revolt to take place. From examining the Farmer neighborhood situation, my answer in relationship to this context would be that alleviation has lead to more revolt and not less. All of the above considered, activity against the police, against profit-based decision making, domineering personalities, State authority, and the values of capitalists seems to be increasing in direct relationship to the extent to which social activity comes out of collective neighborhood efforts to have fun (or whatever). No one knows where this thing will go, but the more structural relationships of domination that found the basis for the neighborhood’s existence may ultimately suffer from these experiments. It’s still a giant step to go from a sort of counter-cultural conscious consumerism to a clean break with these systemically authoritarian relationships, but if I were my enemies I would pin the Farmer neighborhood on my Google map as a definite ‘at risk’ neighborhood.