Home > General Comment > Occupy and association: a conversation between Jehu and Kirsten Tynan

Occupy and association: a conversation between Jehu and Kirsten Tynan

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

In response to my post, The case for welcoming racists and gun nuts into Occupy”, Kirsten Tynan, who participates in the Missoula Occupy General Assembly, had this response on Twitter:

The nutty case for welcoming racists and gun nuts into Occupy (fixed that for ya! you’re welcome!)

She followed that up with this comment and question:

I believe everyone else has the right to identify for themselves whose participation is less in their own lives than others’. Does welcoming have a different implication in your mind than merely tolerating?

Her question sparked an almost week long conversation between us on the significance of the Occupy movement and the General Assembly as an association embracing anyone who wanted to fight the state. I am reproducing the entire conversation here (it really is very long and desperately needs an editor) because Kirsten not only challenged me on this issue, but forced me to think about and express my views on a host of issues, not the least of which is the nature of a post-state society itself, as well as the actual object of occupying the public space. To anticipate the entire discussion, my response to her relentless questioning gradually teased out of me that this object is nothing less than compelling each of us to take control of our own relations, and asserting control over our capacities as individuals. I was not able to express this at the beginning of the conversation.


Jehu: No. No difference at all. Politics is playing on divisions, whether real or imagined. A stateless society treats such divisions as what they are: a personal problem. If someone is a racist, that is a personal problem — peculiar to her. Not a matter of general concern. Moreover, in a stateless society, there is no way for her to make it the problem of anyone else.

Kirsten: I don’t think that answers my question.

Jehu: Like I said — none.

Kirsten: I’m asking if you personally consider those two words to have different implications. We’ve talked about tolerance before, but to me welcoming someone is an entirely different thing than tolerating them.

Jehu: Our fight is not with racists, it is with the state. Anyone who want to fight the state is welcome to join. I really have no concern about their personal thoughts and attitudes.

Kirsten: Now that’s just not true. She certainly can make it many kinds of problem for many other people. Is it not a problem if a movement is decimated because many people individually leave due to feeling unwelcomed by her? Sure, you may not. Many people do, however.

Jehu: I know, and so they focus on individual attitudes, not the state. That is probably where I differ from you in analysis. My analysis leads to the conclusion that racism is a political structure, not an attitude.

Kirsten: Let’s say I go to a party to hang out with a bunch of my friends. There’s a completely trashed drunken asshole there. He starts making hurtful comments about the people I’m there to hang out with and they leave. Now it’s just me at a party with the drunken asshole. Why should I stay at the party rather than leave with my friends to do something we think is worthwhile?

Jehu: Then they are stupid. They should have thrown his ass out. That is what I would do. But, I have the courage of my convictions. Why would you stay with this asshole and abandon your friends?

Kirsten: I don’t know that that is even important to what I’m saying. You also have a lot of contradictions. You’re saying throw the drunk out but not the lady whose behavior has similar effect? Why would I stay at a GA with someone like this woman and abandon the people I find valuable but who leave due to her behavior?

Jehu: Of course it is. Is a party the people or the place?

Kirsten: The people. As is the GA, isn’t it? Okay, what do you mean by welcoming them then? Specifically? You seem to be making the case that she should simultaneously not be kicked out nor be tolerated.

Jehu: I did not say you have to tolerate someone telling you an offensive thing. But, if you do, that is also your problem. The GA is not a place, it is people. Do I have to repeat this? I mean, if they want to fight the state, they are welcome to join. What is difficult to understand about this? Really, I must know what is so difficult to understand about this? You know, people have so little experience with non-political association, they have little conception of how to act socially.

Kirsten: I think I just said what is difficult to understand about this. She cannot simultaneously be welcomed and kicked out, can she? Is there something I’m missing?

Jehu: Yes. She can. I meet people who a racist everyday and conduct business with them. Someone’s private opinions have no impact on you if you do not let them. I did not say kick them out of the GA. I said I would kick them out of my party.

Kirsten: I agree. Explain it to me. Details. Feel free to explain it to me like I’m a four-year-old. I will not be offended. So how is that tolerating them while SIMULTANEOUSLY kicking them out? That sounds to me like tolerating them while NOT kicking them out.

Jehu: So, you favor prosecuting people for thought crimes? You, who can’t even stand voting?

Kirsten: I reject that line of thinking. I think you know that is bullshit. There’s a big difference between refusing to associate with someone and prosecuting them. There is no reason I should have to give up an important piece of my humanity to remain in the presence of an abusive person.

Jehu: I did not — LET ME REPEAT THIS — I did not say you had to tolerate an abusive person. I am going to say this again so there is absolutely no question: I did not say you have to tolerate an abusive person. I am going to say it for a third time, so everyone else understands: I did not say you have to tolerate an abusive person. If someone is abusive to you, you kick their fucking ass. If someone is abusive to you, you kick their fucking ass, and then you stomp on them. That is how you treat an abusive person. If, however, they just don’t like you, that is their problem. Fuck ’em. What about what I said do you not understand? What ambiguity is there in the words I used?

Kirsten: Okay, walk me through this then. I am [at] a GA. This woman gets up on a soap box and starts ranting about running Jews out of the country. She picks out someone near me who she has somehow determined to be Jewish and starts screaming about them in particular. I should go kick her ass and stomp on her because she’s being extremely hurtful and nasty toward a friend of mine? But I should not ask her to leave?

Jehu: That is your decision. You have to own your own choices. That is what you do when there is no state.

Kirsten: I don’t disagree with that. But we’re not talking about what I would choose. We’re talking about what you’re making a case for.

Jehu: Who died and left you the movement as your personal property? Can I see the deed, the title. Some evidence that you own the commons? I made the case that everyone must learn to create their own associations.

Kirsten: Who died and left this woman’s ass as my personal property to kick?

Jehu: She doesn’t exist. She is your hypothetical example. So, we can very well assume, [you have] has no title to [her] ass.

Kirsten: Then neither does the hypothetical GA. That I could probably agree with [“everyone must learn to create their own associations”]. Your title, on the other hand, seems to be something different.

Jehu: It was deliberately provocative, because there are people who think they own the movement. Some on the Left think this movement is for them. They think they can use it to realize the perfection of the state.

Kirsten: Let’s go to a real world example then so you’ll have a harder time wheedling out of addressing it. Let’s take what has been going on at my local GA. I don’t own this GA, nor does anyone else who participates in it. By your argument, we should not kick out of the GA the drunk guy who crawled into a woman’s tent while she was sleeping. Nor should we kick out the 29 year old who was recently arrested for getting an 11 year old drunk in the middle of the night. Even though other occupiers woke up to the sounds of the 11 year old puking outside their tents. But we SHOULD kick both of their asses even though we also don’t own their bodies. How is this NOT confusing?

Jehu: How do you get that from what I said? I did not say anything about “we”. I said if someone is abusive to you, you should kick their ass.

Kirsten: Only the person being abused can kick the abuser’s ass? The puking 11 year old should have ass-kicked the 27 year old?

Jehu: No. But, you have to own your decision. You cannot ask the GA to provide you cover. Frankly this discussion is making you sound like just another statist. Did you not realize these questions would come up?

Kirsten: Name call all you want. I’m looking for practical and sensible advice here. How is a drunk and puking 11 year old supposed to kick a much larger 27 year old’s ass?

Jehu: I will give you an example: As a local leader in a political organization, it was once brought to my attention that two members, both in long term relationships of their own, were nevertheless engaged in hide the sausage with each other. Folks wanted me to do something. I said it is none of my business. And, I said this to the two people wronged by the act. It was none of my business as a leader in the organization. It was a personal issue.

Kirsten: If everyone in the GA except the abuser comes to consensus to kick the guy out, how is this not owning our own decisions?

Jehu: Then why kick him out? Since obviously you can’t and should not try. You are occupying public property, and he has as much right to be there as you. All you can do as a whole is refuse to associate with him. But, each of you must make that decision as individuals. No. You just want everyone else to validate your opinion. You want to turn this into a popularity contest, an election. Soon, vets returning from Afghanistan will be investigated by the COMMITTEE to see if they committed war crimes.

Kirsten: This seems to be a very circular conversation.

Jehu: Okay, assume the GA is running Missoula (sp.). Now what? This guy gets a kid drunk. You now have no prisons, no courts, no jailers. How do you handle this then?

Kirsten: Honestly, I have given that a lot of thought. My participation has been consciously limited because I literally do not feel physically safe at certain hours at this GA. And I am not the only one. We literally lost a number of occupiers because of these safety issues. How is the GA anything meaningful if we each make our decisions individually to leave except for the bad apples who remain?

Jehu: If the GA is so fragile one drunk can drive you all out, I suggest you all vote Obama in 2012. He’s a known quantity. People really have to learn how to form associations on their own. It is new and difficult, but it has to be learned. Okay, pretend association has replaced the state: now how do you handle things like this? Can you kick the guy out of town?

Kirsten: Where did you get the idea that this was one drunk? Oh, no. We’d be glad to be so lucky. I think you were spot on when you said that people have little conception of how to act socially. That is why I’m asking these questions. Your answers aren’t particularly satisfying, though. So far as I can tell, the options you’ve proposed are: 1. Deny one’s own normal human feelings and remain in the presence of the offender with no regard for one’s own mental state. 2. Walk away, self-excluding oneself from the benefits of the GA, while the offender retains them all. 3. Kick the offender’s ass. BUT UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD WE EVEN CONSIDER ASKING THE OFFENDER TO STEP OFF!!! BAD!!! STATIST!!! EVIL!!! WROONNNNGGGG!!!ย  First off, it’s a horrifying idea to me that this association would “replace the state”. If I thought anything was replacing the state as some form of governance, I’d want out. What I would like to see is voluntary interpersonal associations replace involuntary governance schemes. And I don’t think a GA is a voluntary interpersonal association if there’s a precondition that the only way to form one is to include everyone who wants in regardless of whether or not they repel everyone else.

Jehu: That is precisely the point: if this association replace the state, there is no governance! So, why do you want to begin [it by] expelling people? Without governance you have no power to do anything like that. Yet, you are trying to erect precisely such a scheme here now in real life. So, how does that get you any closer to your goal? No governance means you can now decide among yourselves who is excluded? Welcome to Washington — they already have a system in place. The GA is fine, as long as you can select it members? Americans are always ready to form a fucking mob to lynch someone. Thinking and acting on their own however, not so much.

Kirsten: If there was no governance, then we wouldn’t be forced to include everyone. I don’t think we’re getting anywhere right now. I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall, and I would not be surprised if you felt similarly. So I think I am going to stop talking about this for now. I will sleep on this a while, listen to the podcast when it comes out, and then probably revisit this after that. I take it back. One more quick question for clarification: When you say “the” GA, are you literally referring to one single GA or do you mean the in a general sense referring to any of multiple GAs?

Jehu: I mean the form itself. I am beginning to think it necessary to argue against GAs taking any position on anything at all. Everyone should act on their own. We are fucking adults and should begin to act like adults; not school children changing rooms on the bell. Americans appear to have lost all ability to think or act on their own. Too much fucking American Idol or quadrennial equivalent. Who the fuck needs the GA consensus to know this society is fucked? You already knew that shit when you walked the fuck into the thing. But, you are just cowardly bitches who refuse to own up to the implications of what you already know.


Kirsten: How specifically do you define “political means”?

Jehu: Any means by which one portion of the population coerces another to a desired ends.

Kirsten: The only thing I can figure out from Jehu is that we should’ve kicked the guy’s ass, but we’re statists for calling cops. [Here is] another #OWS case for your consideration: nycga.net/groups/safer-s In the real world we live in today, how should this be handled? Either the accused is or is not guilty of what he’s accused of. Hopefully, how to handle the situation would take that into account. If a sexual assault was, in fact, committed, how should the offender be dealt with? Exclude or don’t exclude from the GA? Call the police and pursue prosecution or no? Other actions? … Should they have been called? I suspect Jehu would say no, they should not have been… Emotional support? Security for the victim? Security for other potential victims? Public relations to explain the aggressor’s relationship to the movement to those outside of it?

Jehu: [Are you asking me to judge the actions of the alleged victim?] If you are, I would not do that. She handled it as she saw fit. If she contacted the police to press charges, what role does anyone else have in this? As for the GA: the collective body have no power to include or exclude anyone. Individual members have the power to decide whether to associate with either party in this incident or not as they see fit. At a minimum, the GA would need organs to establish the guilt or innocence of the alleged offending party — they do not. They could undertake to establish this, but they would have to decide how this is to be done. Beyond this, the GAs in most areas are occupying public property — even if they could establish the facts, they cannot exclude persons from occupying this public property. Given the limitations of the GA, the simplest route is for each to decide for herself. Moreover, there is absolutely no need for anyone to wait on a consensus to do what they think is right. And, the only power any individuals has with regard to another individual is purely personal — they can associate or not. Although I don’t have the facts at hand, it appears to have been an ugly incident and I can imagine the alleged victim is upset The GA, however, can not remedy this. It lacks any power to address it — all power rests with the individuals themselves. This is not just true in this incident, it is also true for every challenge faced by the Occupy movement. There is no way even to remedy the domination of state power by financial interests on Wall Street — none at all. All power to affect events, from this incident to the corruption and dysfunction of Washington, rests with the individual. If my view on this was not clear to you before, it should be now.

Kirsten: It’s cute how you think you’re being very clear. ๐Ÿ™‚ Really, this raises more questions in my mind. What do you think the role of the GA should be?

Jehu: There is nothing here but each of us. And, association is the only basis of resistance in any case. But, let’s not leave the question there. Suppose, in this case, the GA decided to remove or exclude this person. The GA has now acquired a power it did not have before, granted to it by a consensus of those present. Now that it has this power, how is it to be used? Who decides? toward what end? Everyone has their own opinion on these questions and they must be settled in the way all such things are settled: We will vote on it. Rapists are easy, so we all agree rapists must be excluded. But, what about those young anarchists who broke windows in Oakland last night? What about that guy with the rifle in Atlanta? What about that Jew hating anti-Semite in Los Angeles? Do you really want to be associated with Jew haters? I don’t. So, I vote to exclude all the Jew haters, and, for good measure, all the birthers and antiabortion folks. Once you have given the GA the power to exclude people, you now convert it into a political power. And, as such things are wont to happen, you now set off a scramble to determine how this political power will be exercised.

Kirsten: With all the things you’ve ruled it out of doing, I’m not clear what you think the point of it is. That sounds like saying it has no point at all. Is that what you’re getting at?

Jehu: Yes. As an association, it is only the form this association takes at any given moment — nothing more. Tomorrow, this association will take some other form, existing alongside it, or altogether in opposition to it. It is not magical. It is not some mysterious other thing. You have not figured out yet that the GAs have no “point” beyond that of the individuals who compose it. The GA is an association of individuals; not a political organization. It has no agenda beyond its member taken as individuals.

Kirsten: Let’s say everyone in the GA- except for one member all the rest object to- decide to quit the GA. Then everyone who quits the GA decides to form a new association. They call it something else- the selective assembly (SA). The SA permits no new members. Do you find this new assembly objectionable?

Jehu: Only as objectionable as I find US laws determining who can legally be in the US. And, to that extent Since, we already have this so-called special assembly [Congress], which determines those [who are] not citizens cannot vote. I would think it unnecessary to treat your SA apart from this. Or, did it not occur to you that this is precisely what you are proposing?

Kirsten: It seems to me that you’re simultaneously: 1. Suggesting people associate with those people they freely choose to associate with who also choose to associate with them; and 2. Suggesting that people may not associate with some people while excluding others. Those two things seem very much in conflict to me. So it seems to me that either you are not actually suggesting one of those things, or you are suggesting contradictory things. And I’m trying to sort out this confusion.

Jehu: Number 1 is correct. 2. is correct insofar as one may not associate with someone else, but then you add “excluding others”. Why did you add this? One can only associate or not associate with someone else. Isn’t this right? So, from what is this other person being excluded?

Kirsten: I think it’s a fundamental element of free association that I not be forced to associate with people in groups or not at all. It seems to me the way you are defining the relationship between me and everyone else is that I am free to associate with Chris and Terry so long as I don’t refuse to associate with J. Random Schmuck as well. If I don’t want to associate with J. Random Schmuck, you seem to say, then I may not associate with Chris or Terry either. I have to accept the association with all of these people as a package or walk away from it as a package. No selectivity. Am I misunderstanding what you’re getting at here? I’m not sure I agree with this.ย  One can only associate or not associate with someone else. Isn’t this right?

Jehu: Okay, show me a third choice that is within your control. There are 7 billion people on this planet. You cannot associate with them as a package.

Kirsten: Okay, how do I freely associate with all members of the GA except for a hypothetical one who I detest? How does that work? I would like to hypothetically disassociate myself with that person while maintaining all other associations. With regard to the GA, the only way I know how to associate with some of its members and not others is either to remain a member of the GA and convince the rest of its members to exclude the objectionable person or to disassociate myself with the GA and form associations with the non-objectionable members outside of it. But you have said that neither of these routes is acceptable. What is a third alternative that is acceptable?

Jehu: Yes. For you that may be the only way. I think that is valid for any individual. You cannot make your personal antipathies a condition for everyone else. In capitalist society, you may not like black people or gays, but you are forced to associate with them because you are both employed by the same employer. You may not want to associate with a racist or homophobe but you have to for the same reason. You have no control over your relations, you are an object. Now for the first time you can freely associate. What is your beef? Did it ever occur to you that the CEO of Goldman Sachs can also join the GA and cannot be excluded? You already know how to not associate with folks you do not like. What you have to learn is how to not make your personal dislike a condition for all associations among individuals. Your personal antipathy with another person, no matter how well grounded and important for you, is a personal problem.

Kirsten: I don’t see that I’ve suggested that anywhere.

Jehu: Yes. You do not see that you have made your purely personal antipathies the condition of association for others. I agree. But, can you see the GA is, at best, only society? You cannot expel people from society simply because you do not like them. Properly developed, and with a little luck, the GA is the future society in microcosm. You cannot throw people out of society. Do you understand this? You cannot define by any means who is a member of the species. You can only choose to associate with them or not — as you please and without external compulsion.

Kirsten: Okay. Can you show me what you think I’m not seeing? You don’t seem to acknowledge the species and society as two different things. Do you consider them one and the same?

Jehu: Yes. That is the reason why I would rather not use the term society. In large part it distorts meaning. The first thing any mob does is turn its foe into a non-human — as was done when Ghadaffi was sodomized with a knife.

Kirsten: In that case, of course, I am not trying to kick anyone out of the species. And, yes, I agree that would be physically impossible short of murder which I don’t at all support. Although I do make an exception for immediate self-defense or immediate defense of others. That is, if someone is trying to kill me or someone I care about, yes, I may try to kick them out of the species. But yes, I do think that there are places in society that certain people don’t belong. I think society is different from the species. Individual members of the species may participate in society in varying degrees. I think a GA is also different from a species. Most people do not associate with a GA, yet they are all members of the species.

Jehu: Are you really an anarchist? You sound more like a Democrat. ๐Ÿ™‚ Or, perhaps, Country Club Republican. Are you prepared to identify those whose participation is less than others? In Germany they just tattooed folks. Do you realize what you are saying here? Who decides who gets what level of participation in your society?

Kirsten: Oooh! Below the belt! Ideally, I would like to see each of us decide with one another on a one-to-one basis what level of participation we have in each other’s lives. If you think I’m an asshole, then ideally you shouldn’t have to deal with me. Unless, of course, you like assholes. On an individual level, I don’t think we have a disagreement on this, do we?

Jehu: Yes. What you seem to be arguing is far more than simply not associating with some detestable character.

Kirsten: Where we seem to come apart is when we integrate, mathematically speaking, over all individuals in the world. When we mass all individuals together into a group- whether you want to call it a species or society or something else- I don’t believe my right not to deal with assholes magically disappears. And if other people share my opinion of who is an asshole, I think they have the right not to deal with them either. And I think we have the right to still maintain associations with one another if we mutually agree to. I don’t understand how being members of the same species or same GA seems to negate those individual rights in your view. So to answer your question, yes, I am prepared to identify whose participation in my life is less than others’. I have done so in my life already by ending or scaling back friendships, family relationships, and so on. And I believe that even if many of us similarly scale back someone’s participation in all of our lives we still [have] the right to associate with each other as we see fit without people we choose not to associate with being involved. I see absolutely no conflict between that [and] anarchy. Where do you think I’ve gone wrong in that line of thinking?

Jehu: The power of the GA is that it has no power against its members. The GA cannot determine its composition, nor impose some collective obligation on those involved in it. In this, it is exactly like the species. Moreover, it proves the common affairs and concerns of its members can be addressed without individuals giving up their personal capacities or being forced to fix their associations by some external compulsion. This is why the GA, if it continues in this form, must bring down the state: it proves in practice the state is superfluous.

Kirsten: Let’s just take a step back for a minute here. You’re implying I’m a Nazi for not wanting to be in the company of people who commit rape and assault. Does that seem reasonable to you?

Jehu: Anyone excluded from one GA can always move to another. How do you propose to keep track of them? Ankle bracelets?


Kirsten: I wouldn’t put it that way. I am trying to understand what is the problem with multiple people simultaneously agreeing simply not to associate with some detestable character. If each individual has that right, how do multiple individuals suddenly lose it if they all agree on who not to associate with?

Jehu: There is nothing wrong with individuals deciding together not to associate with someone, but this is not the same as exclusion. Multiple individuals have the same “rights” (as individuals) that any individual has. There is no difference here. Any individual can decide not to associate with another, but their personal decision does not apply to the whole. These are personal decisions, they do not apply to the whole of society.

Kirsten: Let’s distinguish between can and should here. The GA in Missoula certainly has- by mutually agreed upon consensus- imposed collective obligations on those involved in it. Specifically, at the very first GA, a non-violence policy was decided upon by consensus in which we voluntarily imposed obligations upon ourselves. As to whether or not we can determine our composition, I don’t see any reason we couldn’t.

Jehu: Of course, it is altogether possible for a GA to impose such a decision; this is not my argument. But, by doing so, the GA is no longer what it was; it is now a political body. And, as such, it will fail.

Kirsten: What would prevent a GA, even operating under 100% consensus of all attendees, from excluding non-attendees from membership?

Jehu: Nothing. But, this act has consequences. The GA can “decide” anything, including suspending the law of gravity.

Kirsten: In this, it seems to me it is very different from the species. You would have a much harder time taking away my DNA than you would telling me, “You’re not a member of this organization.” I agree that anyone excluded from one GA can always move to another. I have no idea why you would think I would have a need to propose a way to keep track of them.

Jehu: Yes, in each case a GA is only a slice of the whole. If it attempts to limit itself to that slice, it is doomed. I’m not talking about exclusion you are. I raise the question how this exclusion is enforced when we are speaking of the commons. What are you excluding someone from, if not the commons and public discourse? You want to create a third solution where the GA is limited, but not political. Of course you would not put it that way. This cannot be done. The power of the GA is that though it we can strip the state and money of the power to determine associations. What you take to be a limit on the GA is exactly what makes it powerful: people can no longer be coerced into associations. Not for any reason; no matter how ostensibly moral.


Jehu: Yes. I think Hegel was right on this. Which is why I don’t jump off roofs. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think his observation is obvious. Don’t you?

Kirsten: If I thought that, I would not be an anarchist. I think the first requirement of any reasonably functional society is that it must not require humanity to be other than human.

Jehu: Now, that is odd. Because I am against the state precisely on account of this. I think you just said the same thing in a different form. Being human and recognizing necessity are the same thing to me. Which is why we don’t have to run down our food.

Kirsten: It is an endless source of amusement-and frustration-for me how differently we process information. No, I think it is obviously wrong. I think there will ALWAYS be some number of people who eschew responsibility and engage in anti-social behavior. I think it much more likely that a stateless society would figure out how to deal with this than to eradicate it. How could anti-social behavior be eradicated? To me they are very different. Mind you, I am hypersensitized to Republicans *cough* @dawinship *cough* saying silly things like a reasonably functional anarchist society depends on everyone being decent people to begin with. (my own paraphrase)

Jehu: I agree with that as well. Which is why I state a new society will be built by damaged people.

Kirsten: I don’t know what you mean by this… I don’t understand what you mean by ‘recognizing necessity’ in that tweet.

Jehu: There are material prerequisites to living in a society without a state; one based solely on voluntary association. We can imagine there are two classes of things: natural and social. In the first category, for instance, are things necessary for human life itself — food, water, sewer systems etc. If we are not willing to recognize the need to maintain and/or expand these things, eventually society will be uninhabitable. No one can impose these things on us in a stateless society. We must learn to recognize them of suffer the consequences. The other class of necessity arise from our living together: we must behave socially. No one can impose this either. If the absence of the state is going to lead to an atmosphere of generally anti-social behavior, social breakdown will result. If people generally behave anti-socially, some level of coercion will be necessary. But, let there be no question on this: this residual of coercion is political.

Kirsten: So would you say that anything political is then also statist?

Jehu: I think that any form of political relation is an attempt to impose on actual relations some ideal form. And, this ideal form can be considered at least a residual state. I think we should not fool ourselves on this. I think even the socialist creed, “to each according to his work” is a state. Since it imposes work on members of society. But, this imposition of work arises from scarcity, not idealist notions of human behavior.

Kirsten: I do not expect the absence of the state to lead to an atmosphere of generally anti-social behavior. I simply think that there is some level of anti-social behavior that will always exist in society. I assume we’re always-or at least for a really long time-going to have things like mental illness, drugs and alcohol, etc. Not to mention that some people have different ideas of what is anti-social behavior and what is not. I have a shotgun because a fellow I know in Montana came down to my house one night drunk off his ass with a buddy and spent quite some time banging on my door, yelling, etc. His then wife, when I called her to find out how best to chase off her husband suggested that nothing puts the fear of god into drunk men like the sound of pumping a shotgun. After the incident, when I was making clear to him that it was not going to happen again, it came to light that he considered his behavior to be neighborly. So when you suggest someone should kick an anti-social person’s ass, you’re just as much of a statist as I am? ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess that makes you the war hawk Republican and me the bureaucratic Democrat? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Jehu: I am not sure how you come to that conclusion. How is directly dealing with an abusive person political?

Kirsten: Is it not one portion of the population using coercion on another portion when one person beats another person up?

Jehu: Let me make an analogy: two people can cooperate in a project to produce something. In one case, they cooperate directly; in the second case, they cooperate indirectly through money exchange. The two forms of cooperation are not the same. The first requires no intermediate act of exchange to produce the commodity. While, in the second, there is an intermediate act which can become an interruption of their cooperation. The fact that, in the second form, cooperation must first take the form of money creates the possibility that cooperation is not realized in the final product. The need for exchange itself creates the potential for crisis. The same problem concerns political versus directly dealing with an abusive person. By forcing folks to go through some third intermediary to resolve their purely personal issue introduces a new element into the equation. It is not clear to me that this does not result in this third thing becoming the mediator of social relations generally — i.e., the state.

Kirsten: So it would not be statist if I simply instructed someone to leave but if I consulted with and agreed with other people and we did so jointly, now it is statist? I don’t think this is right.

Jehu: Politics does not arise from the fact that people employ violent means to defend themselves; it arises from the fact that these means are employed by this third thing, through which they now have to act. This is what almost every anarchist never seems to grasp: it is the alienation of personal capacities that is the problem. Whether that alienation takes the form of the state or money it still has the same effect. So, it is typical that the simpleton anarchist rails against political relations, but praises money relations; as if handing over your capacities to the state is a problem, but handing them over to gold there is no problem.

Kirsten: The conclusion I draw from this is that the most powerful dictator who can act alone is somehow not the state. That seems incredibly wrong. It is also saying that the weakest person, whose only hope of protecting himself is to get help from others, is a statist. And the conclusion of whether or not one is a statist has nothing to do with the reasons for action, but only but whether or not one acts alone.

Jehu: Oh, so Obama actually goes out and personally murders those children and pregnant moms in Afghanistan? Netanyahu personally slaughters Palestinian children in their beds?

Kirsten: How about an example that fits my actual description? Say a batterer or child abuser? From your description, I must conclude that the man who beats his wife is not statist because he has the capacity to act alone. But his wife who seeks shelter from his abuse by cooperating with an organization who does not permit him near her is statist. From your description I must also conclude that a parent who sexually molests or physically abuses a child is not statist because she or he acts alone. But if the child seeks shelter with other people who will not permit the abuser to harm the child, that child is statist. This seems quite backward.

Jehu: That is a complete distortion of my argument. Remember, you propose that the GA can exclude people. I did not say people had to act alone; I stated it was a personal problem — not a matter for the GA. I stated, people can as individuals take whatever action they deem fit, but must own that action as individuals. Actually, all the member of the GA — as individuals — can tell him to get lost. The GA, however, does not have any such power.

Kirsten: Right. So from what I understand of your comments -and maybe I don’t understand them- you are saying it is wrong for the GA to tell J. Random Anti-social Person to get lost even if all members except him agree but GA member Sue who he tried to rape can tell him on her own to get lost. She should not ask anyone for help to protect her from J. Random Anti-Social person because then she’s being political.

Jehu: She can ask anyone, but each can only speak for themselves — even if all respond together.

Kirsten: If everyone else besides Mr. Anti-Social wants to get rid of him due to his behavior, they should just keep out of it.

Jehu: When did I say this? The GA is not a state. People make decisions, but they must also implement them — as individuals. This is what makes the GA unique, individuals not only make decision, they must also implement them. Their individual decision are not binding. The next night an altogether different decision can emerge. It is the difference between legislative action and jury action. The jury can only speak for itself. This does not mean they cannot come to a decision, but it is not binding on anyone else.

Kirsten: I do not see a difference between what I have suggested that before you said was wrong and you now seem to be saying is okay. Let me pose two scenarios here. Scenario 1: A group of people on the courthouse lawn say to one anti-social person present: “We are aware that you have harmed one person in our group, and that you pose a continuing danger to all of us. Leave now, or we will kick your ass.” Scenario 2: The General Assembly is meeting on the courthouse lawn. The anti-social individual is also present. One person invokes the People’s Mic and makes the following statement: “We are aware that you have harmed someone in our group, and that you pose a continuing danger to all of us. Leave, or we will kick your ass.” This is echoed by all in attendance, complete with supportive finger wiggling. Not only do these scenarios not seem functionally different to me in any way they certainly do not illustrate for me the difference between statism and anti-statism. In any way I can think of that Scenario 2 could be described at statism, so could Scenario 1.

Jehu: You said the GA should be able to exclude the anti-social person. I said it should have no such power. What individuals decide is their personal decision and they must own that personal decision. Even if there were no consensus on what to do about this problem, folks are not bound by this lack of consensus. So, if they want to kick the rapist’s ass, they should go ahead and kick his ass. The GA has no power to tell individuals what to do — none. So, when, for instance, the Boston GA could not come to a consensus on the OWS resolution because of a block, It had no power to prevent individuals from supporting that resolution. The whole thing begins with self-management. The GA should not be allowed to become the necessary form or premise of individual action — this goes both ways. What you see in Egypt is precisely the existing forces of Egyptian society trying to elevate themselves to this necessary form. They are trying to impose their interests on Egyptian society as its necessary form. This effort is doomed at the outset. Suppose there is no consensus? Does this mean the dangerous person stays? Suppose there is consensus. Does this mean the GA can kick someone off public property?

Kirsten: Well, yes. Functionally, whether or not there is consensus, people could physically remove this person from the venue. Even though it is public property. They would, of course, risk legal problems, but it could certainly be done. If there isn’t consensus, whether or not the person stayed would depend on the actions of those who supported the idea. Supported the idea of getting rid of him, I mean. In fact, I don’t think anything I’ve ever said on this topic negates that.

Jehu: So, consensus at the GA is not the premise of individual action — people are free to act as their conscience demands?

Kirsten: I don’t think that I said that. When I say the GA, I mean the people assembled. I think I have been saying that the people assembled should be free to exclude someone from the group or to leave the group and form another which does not include the anti-social person. And my understanding-perhaps an incorrect one-of what you were saying is that neither of those options is acceptable.

Jehu: I understood you to say a consensus could be taken to exclude an individual. I have been arguing it should not. My first argument was that a consensus is not necessary. My second is that the GA would be changed by this from an association. I think there should be no other force at work in the GA than the conscience of the members. I think, and this cannot be emphasized enough, this can only take place at the individual level. Individual ownership of action is an absolute premise if this thing is to be successful. I think there should be nothing to present the idea that anything other than individual conscience is at work here.

Kirsten: I have to give this some more thought. What I think you mean by “the individual level” has changed this morning. Which is not to say that you’ve changed what you mean by it, but that I think I understand what you’re saying differently.

Categories: General Comment
  1. Threecrow
    November 19, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    If I may, Jehu and Kirsten. Let’s just say, first, all three of us have, at one time or another, caused the asshole of one or more knuckleheads to squeeze tight to the sound of a pumped shotgun. Second, of the three of us I can only speak for one and suspect that at least one other would find no need to consult with anyone else in the GA, the PA, the BBC or any other fucking entity before the afore mentioned asshole the two of you have been discussing at some considerable length would be pistol-whipped within an inch of his life and would feel at once that his ragged ass body ought to be anywhere other than a thousand miles away from where I was standing. And I would take full ownership of my decision. I believe that was the point Jehu was making very early on in this matter. Does that at all help?
    Loved the discussion, by the way.


    • November 19, 2011 at 9:46 pm

      Ha! I was trying to be circumspect, Threecrow!

    • Kirsten
      December 5, 2011 at 9:05 am

      Why would you beat someone up before asking/telling them to leave?

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