TOTW: Inititiation and Anarchyland

The focus here is not on ritual itself, but on opening up something in hearts and spirits that has been locked away so long that individuals can barely remember the source – Malidoma Patrice Somé

I remember on more than one occasion sitting in an Anarchist study group, hearing others discussing modern society’s lack of initiatory experiences, and never really particularly to that critique in any meaningful way. Although my disconnect or disagreement didn’t condense into words then, my mindset then was something like:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things

When you reach a certain age, surely you just leave behind what is old, through sheer will or natural maturity, it doesn’t have to be a whole ordeal or anything, it is both obvious and just simply happens. My thinking about that is quite a bit fuzzier these days, not only in relation to my own life, but also when looking at something like Anarchy.

It’s easy enough to see the hollowness of what passes for initiation in Modern/Western/Whatever Society. Getting a driver’s license, joining the military, the permission to buy and consume alcohol, rent a car, etc. While sitting behind the wheel of a large, very fast metal weapon is indeed a visceral, and perhaps even somewhat revelatory experience, I doubt it holds the same transformative power of something like capital-r Ritual. With that in mind, I’m interested in the ways that something like Anarchyland affords a kind of initiatory experience, and where it falls short.

There are some pretty clear ways Anarchy acts as a space of initiation. Facing death (even if not particularly consciously) while fighting cops in the streets, understanding your simultaneous power and powerlessness in the face of the state and institutions, finding elders to learn from, and perhaps even discovering something that feels like community, family or home, however fraught all those words and concepts might be; all these and more can be had in the Anarchies. And yet, in my own experience I’ve often felt in a strange liminal space between childhood and adulthood, no longer a boy not yet a whatever-comes-after-that. I imagine that others in Anarchyland have either felt similarly, or at least witnessed less-than-ideal behavior from others inhabiting that space.

And so, I’m interested in how others have thought or are thinking about ritual and initiation in the Anarchist space, with all the uncomfortable, cringey conversations that implies. How might we build out Anarchyland to be more conducive to rites of passage, and how do we conduct them? Is this all new-agey bullshit which, among other sins, doesn’t deconstruct notions of childhood, gender, or society enough? Are we far too fucked up to understand, let alone withstand, Ritual? Is there any way to bring ritual and initiation into Anarchy in a way that feels more appropriate than ape-ing Indigenous cultures to which many Anarchists have no connection? Or is ritual simply hiding just underneath the surface of Anarchy, and we simply need know where to dig?

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at least, in the scenes i've been in, have to do with a. cops, and b. making arguments, but that's just off the top of my head.
being in the streets was mentioned in the prompt, and that's real. writing something, especially under a recognized name, is also a thing, as is doing as presentation as an anarchist/at an anarchist event.
so is organizing something, and so is organizing something that fails for a variety of predictable reasons (racialized conflict, lack of resources/energy, etc). your first relationship/break up within an anarchist scene. your first call out as a bad actor in the anarchist scene...
maybe i'm making this too broad. but thinking kind of about how we have these things that we don't recognize as such, because of reasons.
probably being too broad.
i do think of initiation and ritual as different, but with lots of overlap.

i am pretty attached to the ritual of street action as an initiation, even though plenty of people seem to get stuck there/burn out from there. maybe that's just me though.

ive been to enough of these to know this. How easy it would be for a repeat of charles manson. Ive read some LBC pamphlets which claim undercover cops use sex to manipulate people.

Nice rollover pic... cleverly fitting with the title's typo/freudian slip.

I've always been struck by how it seems like you never really know somebody until you've been in a serious conflict with them, or gone through an emergency or crisis time with them. You get to see the real values underneath the rhetoric. Under pressure, it's a lot harder to present an idealized, fictional self. The mask cracks.

So I tend to think of ritual this way too? Intentionally creating or taking advantage of a crisis setting to see how people will cope. How they instinctively treat others, when pressed. Or maybe turn out to be sniveling cowards or completely unprincipled scumbags who fuck over their friends or whatever the case may be.

Point is, you can't trust people until you really know them but sometimes, you've known people a long time but never seen them under fire, so a "ritual" can be a shortcut for that.

i'm sorry, but that all just seems like the accelerationist doctrine. I dont think creating a crisis is anything more than conspirational authoritarianism!

Whoops, im in on it too!

uh, yeah? sure, despise society and will dance in the ashes and all that.
i'm a moderate accelerationist, draw the line at willfully spreading the plague

wouldn't say it's a doctrine tho, i barely defined anything here, let alone nailed down a doctrine.
but on the individual level? yes, clearly what's needed is to accelerate some people's development a bit.
did the same thing to myself! you can to! quit posting and go play chicken with death. it's fun!
but stay alive and out of jail tho... don't Van Spronson yourself.

i'm not much of a science nut, but there are certain developments that are not understood by quite frankly anyone. If you try to make people be more humanistic and compassionate, then they will become dependent on you, or whatever you have said to them. You're version sounds a lot more like a test than an initiation or ritual. If you set wierd traps for people to see if they will fall into them, they're totally going to notice later on. An intense situation only reveals certain things, and jobs in the medical profession or coppery don't necessarily create altruistic anarchists.

I do agree with you that people tend reveal things about themselves that other's notice about them, and that reading books isn't necessarily that important. And yes, really tough or traumatic situations do reveal certain things about people. For example, the whole pandemic thing has revealed how miserable people are, and it has also revealed how isolation tends to increase that misery.

I think accelerationism is complete bullshit, btw. It just sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel. In practice, it's progressive politics in wolves clothing. Your special, unique, and clever version of it sounds an aweful lot like saviordumb. Sitting on the internet trying to convert people's opinions is not something i EVER want to do, and it's really fucking wierd that the hoards of anarchists on twitter do exactly that. I've literally seen people say that it's justified to bully leninists, lmfao. Fuck off. Why are people so into fascism? Treating people like they're inferior absolutely does not have anything to do with anti-authoritarianism, and it only has to do with anarchists in the sense that they are victims of uncontrollable forces, desperately trying to entertain themselves.

I mean, that's fair and I see that concern you're pointing at but like, what about teaching tho? are you disparaging all mentoring, all exchanging of knowledge as "saviourdumb"? I mean, I know you're not saying that but my point is that there's ways to help cultivate growth in people that imho, definitely can't be written off in this way that you're trying to.

or, put another way, if you're not at least as arrogant as me, your ability to positively influence is being amputated for fear of being "authoritarian", which is weaksauce af imo. like, dare more than that ffs.

but that's just me. i respect that you're concerned about being too pushy. that's always good. but i'm not concerned in that way lol

The fear of showing too much weakness, so if you fall victim to that it also gets in the way of self development or getting over baggage. I dont fear being authoritarian and have long lists of things that I regret.

No, teachers are not evil, but they are part of a mind fuckery landscape, and adding up what they do and the praise they get, I don't see them as being any different from cops. Cop careers for women and genuine pedophiles.

yeah ... uh, I meant like people can teach each other things, not THOSE teachers. Hated school, came to class high a lot, I don't fuck with school. I meant more like, anarchists interacting with each other in ways that don't suck.

"If you try to make people be more humanistic and compassionate, then they will become dependent on you, or whatever you have said to them."

i don't see how that makes any sense at all.

I think you're on to something with this. How one reacts to / handles stress would tell one a lot about oneself. My understanding is that there is no correct way to respond but how one responds can give direction to one's life. I mean in more traditional cultural initiation processes. Under capitalism this process is broken, all bets are off.

initiation is not good for anarchists or their tendencies. Having only been a NPC on the anarchy web, i can tell there are just way too many assumptions clogging a future life without money, cops, bureaucracy. The appeal to ritual has a lot to do with secular primitivism, the foolish desire to "go back". We need spaces where rituals can develop without the megalomaniacal narcissism. The first step to this would be the removal of the first three things, making us into sysiphus.

Of course, the question may get turned back to me "are you an anarchist?". It depends how high you set the bar. Over the past several years, ive been fighting to stay sane, which is not so different of my more juvenile years. So no, i dont pass the test. Anyone want to program a whacky internet survery?!

For the individualist, rituals are fake gestures which demean the spontaneity of the unindoctrinated.

Forgive me for being pedantic but initiation and ritual are not exactly the same. Ritual is the broad category of which an Initiation is a type.
In our culture there are some ceremonies of initiation like Bar / Bat Mitzvah, Quinceañera or debutante balls. But I think we can agree that these do not provide the life & death experiences of other such ceremonies, from other older cultures.

One thing that initiation does is make explicit the tacit assumptions of one's culture, a thing which is not apparent when one is still a child. And it delineates adult responsibilities in a culture. Neither of which age provides automatically.

If that fetish to fight the existent is there, it is there and the initiation is finding others who really feel the same. It never ends for some of us. You just gotta find those who have that same desire.

What do you mean fighting the existent? Like everything that exists? Even the non-human, non-political existence? <—–- rhetorical ?s

Presumably if you are being initiated into a group you want to be in that group. Is there ever a point at which you start to care for what is? Or are you suggesting we just all die now, and fuck the future?

being mealy mouthed and extremely emotional. The one thing they are getting at is the fact that anarchists tend to hate a much broader range of things than any other political camp. The hardcore right wingers come pretty close, buy you will rarely find them complaining about racists, authority in general, hierarchy, or ruby tuesdays. They'll be gobblin up their ruby tuesdays salad and ranting about the mexicans in the same breath.

sitting in an Anarchist study group, hearing others discussing modern society’s lack of initiatory experiences, and never really particularly to that critique in any meaningful way.

Is there a word or two missing from this?

There sure are a few words missing, sounds like the commenter is drunk or high, should have a coffee lie down and practise punctuation and grammar.

Did you notice this is from the totw text? Or are you like the rest here, you didn't actually read the opening text?

Instinctively I'm completely against ritual and initiation but if it can be used to reduce tensions within the anarchosphere and develop a more constructive, viable culture then it's something worth considering.

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