This is possibly maybe one of my favorite things I’ve ever made (besides the occasional three pointer). Consequently, I think it may be the only work of art I’ve ever been paid to make. You see, I did it all on the clock when I was supposed to be painting over the slime and muck left behind in the dorms by crappy college kids like myself. I was on the interior paint crew at TESC. Rebel days yo. At the time, I was consuming lots of anarchist literature. One of those pieces was entitled The Abolition of Work, by Bob Black. You probably won’t read it yourself because anarchists are annoying white kids with irrelevant politics. And, honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it because there’s tons of other more relevant stuff to read. But it’s a nice thought. And a good guiding slogan. Here’s some sentences I liked arranged in no certain order that basically make as much sense in context as they do without any:
In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working. Liberals say we should end employment discrimination. I say we should end employment. My minimum definition of work is *forced* *labor*, that is, compulsory production. This is the real world of work: a world of bureaucratic blundering, of sexual harassment and discrimination, of bonehead bosses exploiting and scapegoating their subordinates who — by any rational-technical criteria — should be calling the shots. Discipline is what the factory and the office and the store share with the prison and the school and the mental hospital. Such is “work.” Play is just the opposite. Play is always voluntary. But the core reward is the experience of the activity itself (whatever it is).
Work makes a mockery of freedom. You are what you do. If you do boring, stupid monotonous work, chances are you’ll end up boring, stupid and monotonous. Socrates said that manual laborers make bad friends and bad citizens because they have no time to fulfill the responsibilities of friendship and citizenship. The Kapauku of West Irian, according to Posposil, have a conception of balance in life and accordingly work only every other day, the day of rest designed “to regain the lost power and health.” Their “labor,” as it appears to us, was skilled labor which exercised their physical and intellectual capacities; unskilled labor on any large scale, as Sahlins says, is impossible except under industrialism.
As Smith observed: “The understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments. The man whose life is spent in performing a few simple operations… has no occasion to exert his understanding… He generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.”
Between 14,000 and 25,000 workers are killed annually in this country on the job. Over two million are disabled. Twenty to twenty-five million are injured every year.
It is now possible to abolish work and replace it, insofar as it serves useful purposes, with a multitude of new kinds of free activities. Then all the artificial barriers of power and property could come down. Creation could become recreation. And we could all stop being afraid of each other. Only a small and diminishing fraction of work serves any useful purpose independent of the defense and reproduction of the work-system and its political and legal appendages. I refer to *housewives* doing housework and child-rearing. By abolishing wage-labor and achieving full unemployment we undermine the sexual division of labor. We need children as teachers, not students. Only play can bridge the generation gap. What I really want to see is work turned into play. I doubt our everyday artifacts will fare as well in the future, if there is one. The reinvention of daily life means marching off the edge of our maps. No one can say what would result from unleashing the creative power stultified by work. Anything can happen.
Did you read all that? Call me and let me know and I’ll buy you a Big Mac.
Now obviously work is the dumbest. Being forced to sell your labor in order to survive is no way to live. Personally the most productive time of my life has been when I was on unemployment. With access to all 24 hours of the day, I had ample time to exercise, go to therapy, laugh with friends, take chances, waste time drinking, visit family, fail at relationships, take naps and swim! And that was all within less than a year. I don’t even count the first few weeks of unemployment because it takes some figuring out in the beginning. After being so used to the daily grind, it’s a bit confusing trying to figure out what to do with all your time. However, I persevered and by the end of third extension I was pretty much an expert. I went to all the meetings I wanted to. I spent at least two hours a day at the gym. I went to bbq’s like they were going out of style. Some days I’d just listen to democracynow repeats and do LOTR puzzles. I rode my bike to the co-op and loaded up on citrus beet salad and would bump into a Critical Mass along the way. I played beats and rhymes and political discourse on the pirate radio. Life was good in a way that can only be fully appreciated by a young anarchist cis-dude living in Olympia, WA (re:privilege).
However, time passes and as an older anarchist I tend to look at things a bit differently now. Partly because I want to but more so because I’ve been forced to. People grow up you know. Families are established. Friends move away. No one invites you to parties anymore. And when you somehow end up at one you just creep people out because you can only talk about Derrick Rose and the weather if you talk at all of course mostly you eat chips and wish you still smoked blessed cigarettes. I maybe even look at my old self and thoughts with a little bit of resentment. What kind of dickhead uses such idealistic philosophy so irresponsibly? Seriously bro what do you actually know about “open relationships”? Anyways I think about these anarchist ideals more often lately. I think about them in a much different context however. For example, I think about them as an anarchist alone in an apolitical ocean because I don’t know any other anarchists who live in Napa, CA. Anarchist life is different when you don’t have crusty punks around making it all seem legitimate. It’s compounded differently when your grandpops watches at least a couple hours of fox news a day. Which if you haven’t watched lately really amounts to televised hate speech. So the political climate is different. Critical Mass has been replaced with Grey’s Anatomy.
When I was a younger person I remember tossing words like conformist and reformist and sell-out around a lot. Which are funny words for a kid who really never got his hands dirty but whatever dude it’s America and that’s how I grew up. I always had a hard to time understanding where all the above 25 year old anarchists were. And since I only met crusty old ones at bookfairs or permitted marches, I was pretty disillusioned with their existence. I think mostly correctly I assumed they had moved on with their lives and found jobs and started families and forgot about their anarchist heydays. It’s an unfortunate perception. Two of the great detriments to anarchists in America are guidance from older anarchists and the unwillingness of younger ones to listen. We know the old adage, don’t trust anyone over 30. Know that my body is dying instead of growing, I’ve come to realize maybe we really shouldn’t trust anyone under 30 because what the fuck have they done. Well at least I’m fucking trying.
Every year or so I’ll go through all my old anarchist literature and zines that sit in dusty boxes in my father’s garage. It’s nostalgic and the paper still smells of condescendation. I read the words of revolutionary struggle and see the graphics of flames and upheaval. Riot porn. I could’ve told you then that it wasn’t so simple but I wouldn’t have really understood what that meant. Holding such idealistic beliefs, it’s hard to come to terms with the reality of the long grueling process of meaningful struggle. Life is so much easier when it’s full of protests and meetings. You don’t have the time and/or in my case the maturity to realize that revolution means forever. Like a shitload of seconds and minutes of boring revolutionary contemplation and minutes and hours of counter-revolutionary going with the flowing.
Anarchist ideas at their best come from an unwillingness to accept the tragic reality of so many generations of colonialism. Of challenging the boundaries often set by other ideologies. Re-imagining new strategies to destroy old power structures. Anarchy isn’t a philosophy it’s that nagging kid you used to be demanding you to succeed on your own terms. I understand anarchist approach now much less literally. Fucking the police and smashing the state doesn’t happen in an overnight street battle. Anarchists love the words solidarity and ally. I think I’m just beginning to actually engage with those concepts. I haven’t given up on the misguided radical ideals of my twenty something self but I interact with them now more as guiding principles than ultimatums. I can’t figure out if I’m actually further away from anarchy now because it’s exhausting and trying to be an anarchist in a capitalist word is much like trying to fit a square peg into a triangle hole. Or perhaps anarchy has always been a much cooler thing than the way it was imagined in those white Green Anarchy magazines. Perhaps there is room for a reclaiming of anarchy as thirty something person of color. I don’t know, feels really The Matrix-y and I’m trying to watch the Rockets beat the Blazers to extend the series to Game 6.