TOTW: Kin & Kinlessness

How do anarchists define family? How big is your family? Has it grown or shrunk across the years? Who took care of you when you were growing up? Who takes care of you when you become ill? Are you currently taking care of an old family member or friend? Who will take care of you when you’re old? We’re all born from someone, but kinlessness refers to the experience of being apart from your would-be relatives. Various demographic trends make it so that there’s a good chance you will end up living to be old all by yourself.

In the modern world, the notion of the nuclear family is tied to domesticity and tenancy of the housing unit, in contrast to the traditional extended family, clan or tribe associated with a particular place, a niche in what’s now known as bioregion. How does this set the (family) table (over stolen land) for discussion (on Thanksgiving)? What notions of kinship are being erased? Nowadays people commonly claim they can’t leave social media because it’s the only convenient way to stay in touch with family, and online friends are often the flimsy substitute for kin and community. Do you keep in touch with your family? If so, how? How much is enough quality time? Does a text or videocall count?

The state and capitalism shape families in countless ways: by acting on them as reproductive and consumer units; ICE, cops and social service workers separating children from their parents; banning things like polygamy, despite the recent inroads towards the normalization of so-called “non-traditional households”. Anarchists have developed critiques against nuclear family and against coupling. Is the alternative a notion of extended family, a friendly close-knit neighborhood, an integrated community, an intentional community, a commune, flatmates, random people coming in and out of a squat or occupation? What is the difference between friends and kin? Is one better or more important, more flimsy or robust than the other? Obviously it’s all relative, there are many different ways to relate to one another.

Anarchists value freedom of association and seek to bond with those akin to them. Affinity over consanguinity, contrary to notions of “blood and soil”. Do anarchists choose their family as well as their friends or is it mostly a crapshoot of fate? Many anarchists yearn to form an affinity group with which conspire, yet often we see people complaining online that it's hard to find someone and build trust. Anarchists also appreciate that it's better to be alone, than in bad company. Enjoying solitude is an important part of living freely and autonomously. How did you permanently, or regularly escape the claustrophobic family drama in the confines of domesticity? Do you have stories to tell of literal or symbolic acts of patricide/matricide/fratricide/infanticide or of worship of elders?

Holiday season is associated with group and family gatherings, save for the Scrooges and Grinches who spend it alone due to kinlessness, their own unkindness or that of others. This year the pandemic might have flipped the script, leading people to skip the gatherings as a show of kindness. As the weather becomes colder in the northern hemisphere, and the second peak of covid makes people shut-in more again, who did you choose to spend this holiday season with, or who are you stuck with, if anyone at all?

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Family: The denial of love, life and liberty.

it is from these ruins of god, of society, of family and of humxnity that the new humxn mind could be born flourishing and festive, that new humxn mind which — on the rubble of all the past — will sing the birth of the liberated mxn: the free and great “I”.

i’ve separated myself from the family i was born into decades ago although most are still living and infrequent, remote pleasantries are still exchanged.

instead, i surround myself with a family of my choosing.

life is too short to spend it with people i find mostly uninteresting for a series of reasons that i find absurd and intolerable.

and society will fall

With the ageing of the population in many developed countries (due to more longevity, lower birth rates, and in some cases emigration -or even circulation if far way enough- of youth) a lot of people will be kinless when they're old. Family members and friends drift off or die off, there are other trends in lifestyles and tech that tend towards isolation, except for some virtual 2nd life simulator that's proposed in San Junipero. Are anarchists, due to their ideas being against the grain, more likely to have a falling off with their family and due to arguments or disagreements about so many things? And does scene/milieu drama lead them to be banned or cancelled from spaces or lead to nasty spats that end up in burning bridges? If you don't have kids, who will inherit the debt of care?

In some countries with disproportionate amount of lonely old people, the government has come up with things like housing projects for old people with incentives for young people, students, to come and live for an affordable price in exchange for some hours of care for the elderly. How would such arrangements look under covid, when the youth are blamed (wrongfully and rightfully in cases) for going out to have fun while endangering older people? In a mass culture everyone is an anon irl, less care for one another, even a blanket disdain for those in the "public space" left, lines at stores and traffic in roads or sidewalks, symptoms like road rage and mass shootings.

With unemployment and automation and UBI, will amazon warehouse old people? Will the dream of cryogenics be revived not as a promise of future life but as an euphemism (just like baby farming was used in some cases as an euphemism and cover for infanticide) to kill off the elderly and provide for easy storage or maybe the brain data will be downloaded/uploaded, instead of an urn?

Thing is people handled and herded as populations by governments and corporations, en masse are seen as a problem, aspects of biology and life cycle are treated as problems. Charitable and empathetic anarchists, if they're delirious utopians like Fourier, might imagine or even propose a world in which no person is unloved and everyone has a roof over their head, where no one is abandoned in illness or old age. It's hard enough to care after one person, have they arranged for their own care at old age and that of their old comrades and friends? How are prisoner support efforts examples of how anarchist organize care? What state and corporation technocrats with cold utilitarian logics will produce are "care systems" (alt. grassroots "support networks") like the health care system, making everyone a patient, like a machine that will put old people in an assembly line and wipe their asses and inject them with love and care.

But this trend and fate to a kinless old age is written since childhood as well. Kids moving around, put in a school, changed from classrooms, then off to job college, all different places, a miracle any relationships are maintained from skip to skip, specially when the focus is not on that but on goals and metrics. At least they have peers and friends, but what about the kids that will have grown with their critical years of development under the covid measures, the digital classroom, their microcosm of a bedroom or house? I'm not considering any other aspect other than the prospect of kinlessness in this stream of consciousness ramble.

Are these "social problems" which anarchists are tasked to resolve as a core part of their mission statement as kooky utopians or just the context in which they will live and decisions will be taken? In the end, a lot of the time is not so bad to be alone, maybe even specially as an anarchist. But what about being alone in caring for one person when it becomes so labor intensive that there's no room for all the other aspects of your life? As the % of old and unemployed increases the bulk of the population will be seen as a burden.

From my observations of some indigenous societies there is an uninterrupted flow from birth to death of nuture and care connected through their extended family thoughtfulness. I'm not saying that these values and processes don't exist elsewhere, but its logical to assume that location and density of population are factors. In the rainforests of the Amazon river there are no air-conditioned age-care facilities located where its tributaries the Caquetá, Vaupés, Guainía, Morona, and Pastaza rivers join it, and so the elderly are often cared for by the grandchildren in a reciprocated exchange of baby-sitting and chores. Poverty is a major and ironically positive factor in some cases, though the availability of medicines is nil, and therefore a healthy active lifestyle, which goes with indigenous easily, means the old may enjoy their hesperian days.
Youth can be excused for temporarily disconnecting from family routine and the boredom of over-familiarity and embark upon exciting egocentric travels to exotic lands. Some become addicted to this vagrant lifestyle, others hit it rich which enables them to live luxurious childless existences with multiple other singles in a whirlwind neverending party, finally sobering up at midlife with a crisis, hopefully with some money left to retire on, overlooking a beach or valley, with empty rooms, silences, a cleaner/gardner, an accountant sending up to date emails on interest rates and investment portfolios, no laughter, lockdown.
Other return home, poor, but now travelling to universes inside their heads, fishing down by the old river with the children, growing older, telling stories always laughing into the depths of the swirling dark water, taking some fish back to the old folk, then sleeping and dreaming of the eternal river of life which the city people he had once visited had forgotten.

some families weather conflict better than some friends, and vice versa. choosing the people we want to commit to is lovely, and it's what i've chosen (also my family is crazy small and was already alienated from itself), but my relationships with folks, as deep as they are, don't keep those folks from planning on moving away. it is entirely possible that i, someone with deep anarchist connections and roots, will age and die more or less alone. i wouldn't change anything i've done (although i continue to realize mistakes i've made), and maybe that's a hard thing about this question.

how intentional can any of us be about these questions? we leave/stay with blood relations for emotional and contextual reasons that aren't mostly (or at all, maybe) so subject to rationality. we leave/stay with affinity relations sometimes from luck or vagaries of fate. i'm feeling that more than ever in these times, and as i age, which makes it hard(er) to address these questions that are live *right now*.

"How do anarchists define family?"
Those closest to you who you spend most of the time with and who you would die for or donate an organ, ostensibly you chose each other.

"How big is your family? Has it grown or shrunk across the years?"

It grew, but then it will shrink. My grandparents had less children than my great-grandparents, my parents and aunts/uncles had less children than my grandparents, my siblings and cousins will have less. Due to longevity, as long as they're still alive, it's additive, a big extended family. As the elders die off, it will be smaller. Also, the elders are the ones that bring it together, in specific, the grandmother. When she dies, the generation of my parents will try to keep extended family together, but do not have the power of convocation to consistently gather all sons, siblings, cousins and their sons. It will become separated modern nuclear family units or isolated single individuals.

"Who took care of you when you were growing up? Who takes care of you when you become ill?"
My mother and grandmothers took care of me growing up, luckily I've never been ill in a way that required any special care.

"Are you currently taking care of an old family member or friend? Who will take care of you when you’re old?"
I'm not currently caring for anyone, but I remember throughout my childhood how my grandmother cared for all the elderly in her family. I did help in caring for different ill or moribund family members in different occasions. Large extended family helps in spreading the burden of the care among many if a the person that needs care is close to all.
What will happen if and when I'm old is a mystery to me and I'm not worried about it at the moment. I know I will not couple nor have children so I am not speculating on that as a source of care if I live to be 130 and need someone to check up on me.

"How does this set the (family) table (over stolen land) for discussion (on Thanksgiving)?"
Displacement is not just the loss of sustenance, of property, of belonging, not just a material impoverishment from lack of resources, but a from a breaking of social links and relationships that had a common gathering place.

"What notions of kinship are being erased?" Many aspects of cultures and lifeways less noxious than this one are being erased. I wasn't all idyllic and perfect before, no doubt, maybe not even "better" than now, but the truth is they're being erased so we'll never know and could only speculate onward.

"Do you keep in touch with your family? If so, how? How much is enough quality time? Does a text or videocall count?"
Everything counts, but virtual means count less, it's just a way to put the real thing on hold and put it off a bit, if the real thing is not delivered on, the real relationship takes a toll and vanishes. Relationships that were virtual can vanish at any moment through ghosting. Younger generations never really cared or loved their grandmother, everyone irl is just an interruption of their media stream to them, an annoyance.

"What is the difference between friends and kin? Is one better or more important, more flimsy or robust than the other?"

A friend could be a trial period of someone you really like before they become family. Building trust and a deeper relationship takes years of continuous intense contact. A friendly acquaintance remains at a distance if encounters are infrequent and superficial.

"Do anarchists choose their family as well as their friends or is it mostly a crapshoot of fate?"
I think luck plays a big role, you don't choose who you're born as, or where you're born, surrounded by whom, and many other things that can happen. You still have agency, moving around and engaging people, while incredibly tough for some, is the easy part, the hard part is forming a real relationship with people and place that can last years and is a way of thriving and enjoying life and not a prison or a crutch.

found family > birth family

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