TOTW: Family

We’re entering a time of year when many of us will be having a higher-than-usual amount of contact with our families. Desired or undesired, the holidays present us with more contact than usual with “normal” people whose presences in our lives preceded our concept of the political.

My sense of many anarchists is that their initial sense of rebelliousness came from a “fuck you mom and dad” that carried over into adulthood, and that their rebellion was born in part from a resistance to parents who were/are disapproving, disappointing, domineering, abusive, etc. There’s no shortage of radical critiques of the bourgeois family as stifling, disciplinary and depressing.

Yet the family may be felt as a positive influence as well – for myself, I’d say the trust I felt and the freedom I was given in action and expression as a young person helped inculcate an aversion to authority. And while the oppressive bourgeois family may persist, some of us may be the products of alternative parenting styles, conscientious liberal households in which science is real and black lives matter, or even black diaper babies.

For this topic, I want to focus on the people who were responsible for raising you as well as the people who were being raised around you during your childhood and teenage years – that is to say, parents and siblings, or people you considered to be in those roles.

How much has your family influenced your politics? Did your relationships with them change after you became an anarchist?

There are 41 Comments

“How much has your family influenced your politics?”

Conservative by imposition, suppression of lively desires to be loud, gregarious and to explore.

“Did your relationships with them change after you became an anarchist?”

No, I was always angry and resentful at them, while at the same time loving and understanding. It’s the same still. It averages to a somewhat cold and distant, yet helpful and dependable.

I’m tired of their bs, specially their dynamic as a couple.

What were trying to get at with the topic besides me bitching about my parents?

My mum hated the cops as her brother had been beaten to death while in custody. And after my big sister died my mum became highly strung and closed. So as soon as I was trusted to come home, I was chucked out of the house. The kids were rough and there was dereliction all around, still it was my playground. My dad worked for the city as a caretaker and was also a union rep. My mum and dad were chalk and cheese most of the time I knew them. The politics of my mum were basically work to live; money not love. My dad had the ethic the boss is always wrong, always a bastard and never let yourself get bullied by anyone.

Though politics wasn't really discussed, it was overtly implied in the conversations I heard regarding the characters he was dealing with. It was always Labour! Fuck the Tories and liberals...

The first time he opened up to me about the ins-and-outs of what he stood for was after five union/company stooges threatened my 8-year-old well-being as an attempt to coerce him into not representing a colleague. My dad reacted to the threat and made a mess of them with his hammer. After witnessing that, he thought I desrved a little deeper explanation beyond don't let yourself be bullied. I took it on. My dad eventually got stuffed by the union and blacklisted.

All while this was happening and before was an easy capitalist criminality. Things "fell off the backs of lorries" and everyone I knew was there to catch them and sell them on at a fraction of the cost. This was probably one of my biggest cultural stumbling blocks as I began to develop my critique of capitalism. I was a good and proud thief.

My extended family had a big part in growing up. There's a hackneyed conception of the culture in the East End when I was a child. A culture of families as tribes. A large family who stuck together had social capital. I played with and knew my cousins as I did my friends. Everyone knew my name. And though at the time I never recognised them as such, I knew their deprivations and they knew mine.

Though we never spoke much, my grandfather was a war-wreck and an alcoholic who hated Winston Churchill and was haunted by the cruelties inflicted upon the Indians under the British Empire. His hair had whitened from shock before he was thirty. I was close to my grandmother who was the matriarch of the family. She was a strong, stern and joyful woman who I miss dearly.

Things changed when Margaret Thatcher sold the social housing stock to the tenants. All of a sudden, there were terrible snobs in my family. The renters who the bank manager once wouldn't have entertained had suddenly got mortgages. The camaraderie disappeared. My uncle bought my grandmother's house. My aunts and uncles, my mum and dad eventually sold up and disappeared as the prices went up as gentrification and finance took hold of the Isle of Dogs and the rest of East London. All sold to landlords, with no new houses on the horizon.

Without critique, my cousins turned into little Englanders, sycophants, bigots and racists. My little sister has become a sucker to the middle-class malaise. My parents are now old, pilled up and stuck in front of the TV. They have given up the fight and become wisps of who they once were. I saw the hustle happening. I still harbour a resentment for them, their fallibility and participation.

I'll joyfully undermine their capitalist festival and cook the dinner. No presents other than myself and the seeds of rebellion.

from the u.s. i'm about as different as could be, at least on the totally-isolated/alienated front, have barely any family at all, and my family didn't really have family either (mom was disowned by her parents, etc). sometthing about all the ways we're fucked, from the uk to the us...
still manage to be angry at both mom and dad, for different reasons, i know folks disagree now but seems like an important part of being anarchist but maybe i'm confusing that with punk...

Yeah... Holy shit liminal D, your writing hits like a truck there. Ouch. Good stuff. Historical summary in anecdote form.

My fam mostly got spat out the bottom of the middle class, leave it up to the Marxists as to whether that was "structural" or because of their stupid financial decisions. The divorce lawyers got rich and then they were drowning in debt forever.

That's most of the boring story, people who slowly acclimated to permanent debt-servicing instead of ever getting anywhere. Always sprinting to make the minimum payments so we don't have to live in the car again but barely questioning if society should be this way because they're too burnt to think much. More like drink much.

Here's to the holiday ritual! *raises glass*

I'm glad the anecdote was highlighted in this thread. It's too easy to see these experiences and recollections being over-stated when isolated away from all other experience. To me, they merely comprise part of the geography as I look over my shoulder.

To the end which is now, it is true to say my family were/are emotive propaganda. They supplied some insight into the diversity of direct human relationships and their responses to narrative and material change.

Similarly if this TOTW had been about pals, best friends, loves, lovers, comrades, teachers, partners in crime, affines, enemies, nemesis⁠—perhaps even as far as tower blocks, rottweilers, dandelions, fids or 1984⁠—I don't want any of them compacting the ground where I am as I smell the soil and trace my fingers upon the horizons.

My family relationships with the adults is mostly jolly sarcasm, but for presents I am getting guns and cars for the little boys, and dolls and fluffy things for the little girls, because I get the biggest hugs out of all the relatives from them.

It was a very difficult childhood that I endured against my hyper religious puritan family. Of course we havè no memory of the early years, I did find out later that I was fed for the first 2 years out of sight in the pantry, because breast feeding was considered a sinful and tempting act which was not be exposed to public observation. The physicality otherwise comprised of healthy organic foods grown in the collective garden, many hours kneeling in pray to the grand father, reading and instruction was around the scriptures and carpenter skills along Joseph's calling. Fishing for catfish with my brothers and sisters was the only enjoyable free time that I had.
When I reached adolescence, the real problems began. My father suppressed my hobby and study of the Dark Arts, and confiscated my oija board and released my pet field mice which I had been breeding for my weekly sacrifices to the great serpent spirit who lived in the dark swamp surrounding our homestead.
I pleaded to him and my mother for the freedom of religious belief, and told them that the earth spirits were part of the cosmos and Manchean binary aether and continuum, but in vain. They had involved the local county sheriffs in organizing a cordon and curfew about me until I reached 21 years of age. I bided my time, working out in martial arts and sacrificing raccoonsI trapped in the barn. Life was very very hard for me without the usual friends, particularly my inability to procure a dark priestess to join me in my Crowleyan pursuits, BUT I BIDED MY TIME!!!
I only gained my full spiritual freedom on the day of my 21st birthday, when I cornered my father in the barn after chur h service on a Sunday afternoon. I had pinned him up against the barn door with my forarm under his chin and my face 6 inches from his, staring into his trembling eyes. I hissed at him.
"Don't you ever tell me to get down on my knees ever again, your god is a psychopath and should be destroyed. I am leaving now in you pickup truck, do not notify the sheriffs, or I shall return with the wrath of the earth serpent behind me. You will never see me again, and do not attempt to find me."
I released my hold and he skulked off wringing his hands and glancing timidly as he left the barn.
I have not seen the family in 4 years now, and life is good living an individualiß lifestyle away from the cultish family and their parental authority.

So are you saying that the family is no different to a cult, that it hinders individual liberty?

Family structure is patriarchal and religious basically. The Father represents God, the chief creator and bearer of The Seed, who gives life by impregnating the mother, who is like Mother Earth, the womb and nurturer, the priestess of magical recipes and healing powers of procreation. The children are the Flock, who obey like sheep, who are like lost fools needing guidance. Originating as natural organic events with universal translation, the symbolism of the family is rich and easily and conveniently transformed into institutionalized systems of authority and control.

So you've replaced your family's obsessive religious faith with an equally superstitious belief, and you call yourself an individualist yet you sacrifice harmless little animals to your substitute god, your own eccentric spook? You are no different to your moronic family, maybe even WORSE than them.
The only liberated individualists are not attached to any spirit or family ethics, you may have succeeded in escaping the latter's values, but you are a long way from being psychologically free of invasive concepts.
I pay no attention to the vicinity of disgusting people to myself, I can mingle with the most repugnant religionists and fascists as if nothing is untoward. I wear a poker face or joke with my family members while at the same time harboring the most loathing and critical views about them and their values. I have attempted to discuss Stirner's writings with them but they are herded and ignorant morons who have no self-awareness. I do not let my anarch feelings interfere with my Machiavellian tactics to turn events in my favor financially and personally with them, after all, they are my family. I AM THE SECRET KING AND SUPERIOR OF MY FAMILY although status wise I am the poorest. They are all boring.

why does this read like "I was a teen satanist" fanfic?

swords and fnords.



high school, class/race segregation in my home town, and the institution of psychiatry (and later employment) were more influential in pushing me toward anarchism than my parents. but learning to be resilient against my parents' disapproval of whatever i was doing was definitely a significant part of it. another part of it was understanding that they would always take authority's side and prove it through violence if they had to, and that i couldn't trust them, no matter what they claimed. in this way, my parents were a lot like cops.

once i learned more about anarchism and its way of articulating things, my relationship with my parents and other family actually improved a bit, perhaps just because my energies were more purposefully directed. (but i still don't trust them! lol) i'm in my 30s btw.

This is a good TOTW in comparison, "the family" is an inversion of the most organic and intimate forms of human relationship, being pressure cookers for stress and wasteful consumerism.

When I was a kid, on some levels I felt everyone was a control freak asshole as I behaved the same in response. My parents overall helped me a lot in terms of my personal development, they shielded me from the school system's desire to drug me, my dad even went to the principal's office and chewed her out. My parents also taught me to loath racism and bureaucracy, even though they also taught me to be somewhat of an obedient pushover with their affinities with Christianity and pacifism. And yeah, a lot of my decision to be more of an anarchist came from my hatred of their controlling liberalism. I'll still love them both till the end.

Mafia, nepotism.

Overprotective parents.
"Family man" as provider, or single-parents
Care-taking as a burden on long-lived women,
taking care of her parents, here husband's parents, her siblings, her husband's siblings,
as they all age, fall apart and die.

Giving somber connotations to something wholesome sounding is the theme, right.

Alzheimer's, dementia, cancer. Diseases as family ordeals.

Wiping butts. Baby's and elderly's. I've wiped my grandfather's and my father's butt.
Was there throughout hospice care of a grandma and saw her dying breath.

In the same way that couples are sometimes a contractual relationship that's mainly economics, so is family.
"You owe them everything."

Of course, we could focus on the good things, and be grateful..............................................

Happy thanksgiving!

Yes!! The sun shines out of the grandparents asses, I RECOMMEND BIDETS, make aged care enjoyable rather than disgusting!

it seems so remote, given my family and childhood surroundings, how I arrived at an interest in anarchy. perhaps it was due to feeling like a shy outsider with a persistent skepticism and aversion to joining clubs/organizations/etc., over time melding with a curiosity of the fringes, exposure to a variety of people, and disinterest of the status quo during my time in universities.

my parents luckily gave my sister and I freedom to make our own decisions, and helped whenever they could, even with financial instability and taking on debt, to offer us a hand in experiences they never had. we both ended up not really living the type of life they imagined, or how they were told college graduates would fare. these days much of their time is spent bickering with each other. my father is either oblivious and/or dismissive of anyone else. my mother obsessively polices his behavior in attempt to control any triviality she can, feeling trapped by his refusal to let go of the wheel steering their lives. being as old as he is, his character has intensified, almost to the point of incommunicability. frustration seems to dominate the days.

perhaps Ive been driven to escape from a way of life like that of my parents, and most everyone else, but it seems hubristic in thinking I can learn from their failures. an anarchistic approach has helped me to come to terms with our differences in seeing/acting in the world, to shed expectations, and not feel the need to change their minds (enlightening them so to speak) as I felt motivated to when I was younger. in spite of their trappings, Id still appreciate and would like to carry with me my father's recalcitrancy, and my mother's earnest willingness to listen.

Most of the description of your mom and dad is that the poor things are hopelessly neurotic, that the system has molded them so severely that they are living a life of petty soap operatic melodrama. Be gentle with them, they a like thin crystal glass wine goblets in the middle of an interstate highway.........

Yes, as Wilde said, Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.
Is not forgiveness an anarch trait, because it requires a psychology of detachment from the processes of moralising and blaming? That is why the anarchist world has no prisons, it would stomp on the malignant ressentiment before it emerged, the State is at fault, not mom and dad.

in my case forgiveness is more a function of time and distance from the offense or hurt. if it's an ongoing thing, continuously making the wound sore, or the rash irritated, then "forgiveness" (even though you do forgive them, meaning you hold no ill will towards them) is not possible, because then you will still be on the defensive to protect and nurse the wound, so to speak (so your feelings will not be of openness and trusting)

with an abuser or someone who really gets on your nerves continues, then forgiveness is impossible, there are times when an anarch needs to cut off ties or to escalate a diplomatic effort, but i agree with what's said above about blame. When i got really into anarchism and stirner, i realized that i would need to radically remove myself from any moralizing, and i couldn't have gotten anything better except maybe enough money to never work that's ever gonna happen!

and of course i don't say this under the illusion that i have removed all moralizing and blame from my heart, but i've certainly made progress. Being an anarch is simply too radical for practically anyone to imagine in todays world, but once you see that it's a clear path out of misery and suffering, you can't help but pursue it at all costs.

"When i got really into anarchism and stirner, i realized "
I wannà be an amoral TaoistMachoman so you can be my amoral TaoistBitch ;)

Bitche's bitch, ya gotta let me crack the whip sometimes, YOU MYSOGINIST


one of the traps Ive tried to avoid is holding my parents accountable to expectations. sure, it hurts when say your father never has taken effort to care about who you are becoming, what youre interested in, how you see the world, but I dont want to resentfully hold on to that expectation. I cannot force one to care, nor would I want to. correspondingly, if I hypothetically had children, I could have no expectations of them, I forced them into this world. I prefer a coming to terms or having no expectations (living my own life not out of obligation, but love) instead of the christian notion of forgiveness of transgressions. it seems somehow too close to tolerance, or duty. if there are no expectations, is there anything to transgress?

"the State is at fault, not mom and dad."

this raises the perhaps impossible question: how much is one personally responsible for who they have been, and are becoming?

"the State is at fault, not mom and dad."

while i would never deny the role of the state, that just sounds like giving a "pass". the same way abused partners protect their abusers. responsibility is not limited to a single actor in any given situation.

No, it WAS the State at fault, NOT my neo-Nazi mom and dad. I should know, I have been recommended for a medal by anarchists for living with them. But I will refrain from describing the horrors I have endured living under the State. Thankyou for understanding us.

Simon, don't listen to the others on here, PLEASE, tells us the stories of your father's abuse, so that we may move on as an anti-authoritarian family! PLEASE! Don't stay masked by silence any longer!

Old couples are typical human tragedy... but more grandiose than trivial actually. Seems like the old pattern of a women espousing some guy just because he was super-confident. A male's confidence is the golden bait for any women in North America, as they often, so often end up with careless assholes who grow a conscience way too late, if at all. Of course many dads are good guys even with their shortcomings, but women tend to get confused in their early 20s between goodness, and its expression through self-confidence.

Being from a household where the father was regularly violent against my mom, throwing his frustrations from his work and abnormality (he was handicapped) on her, this badly effected my relationship with women, especially the self-confidence side. At some point I tend to often see myself as my dad when loving a women, and this becomes way too close to the horrific image I got of him as a father.

So I went queer, even and especially in the way I love women. But given I don't wanna be one of these hacks that wear skirts to give themselves social credit in progressive subcultures, and also not being a skinny, frail type, that's hard to get the message through to females who'd be open to these sensibilities.

My parents were kind to me. Allowed me autonomy in most things.

I grew up to be a physician.

I've always been resentful of compulsory schooling, but the difficulty of in the process of overcoming the barriers of entry into the medical profession turned me into a staunch anarchist.

My parents gave me the intellectual confidence as an adult to know my position was wise.

I hesitantly offer my situation, but feel that this is not the suitable site to retell my family story. You see, my parents were zealous neo-nazis, and any discussion of my childhood with them, and my incredible resurrection, would still nevertheless taint the essential benefìcial discourse this site engages in. I suppose it comes down to srength and resilience, sigh?

for not tainting the discourse simon! we need to keep our discussions pure! And you say you were parented by NAZIS?! Gasp!

Yes, a harrowing adolescence for me and my sister, who also survived. She a tough radical. Thankyou.

My neo-Nazi family were no different to the average American family, they blended so well into the suburbs. But I won't trouble you all with the cruel taunting I received from my father. I'm over it after all these years. Life goes on.

You do understand Simon that every culture reaches a point of genocide within the binary framework of the Other rival, that all civilization is built upon the corpses of the previous collective schizoid .

he is a true soldier for refusing to taint the anarchist dialectic with tales of his neo-nazi father, he deserves a medal

Thankyou, it can be pinned beside the iron cross my father gave me for lawnmowing the garden on time everyone Sunday morning at precisely 9:05am. Culture is to blame.

In this conference Gelderloos says something about kinship organization pre-state vs territorial organization under the state.
Something about status of charismatic figures sometimes dying with the person, but then other times it confers status to family.
Also some pre-state societies consider all their members to be family to some extent and state does not like that.
In order to enslave a whole group, people have to be conceptualized as foreigners/distant others. The closeness in family relations would ostensibly impede that. In western/westernized modern cultures family is more nuclear and less extended, less words to make distinction for different kinds of family members. The focus is on merit and meritocracy and interchangeability and independence of everyone as roles or delegates or whatever.

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