Conversations for this year’s East Bay Anarchist Bookfair:

At 11:00 AM:

An Anarchist Exploration into Mass Murder and Self Annihilation

The year before killing 26 school-members, his mother, and himself in Newtown, Conneticut, Adam Lanza called John Zerzan’s “Anarchy Radio” show to offer commentary on Travis, the “killer chimp.” Lanza put forth that the highly domesticated chimp who mauled his owner’s friend “was profoundly sick,” because of “what civilization did to him.” “It had the same effect on him as it did on humans.” “He very well could have been a teenage mall shooter.”

Similar ideas about the ways that civilization makes us profoundly sick resonate throughout many, if not most recent mass-murder manifestos. It’s not a coincidence.

In our discussion of these incidents, we will explore anarchist takes on recent mass-murders through the manifestos and media associated with the Sandy Hook shooting, Anders Breivic’s massacre in Norway, the Aurora shooting, Columbine, Virginia Tech and Chris Dorner’s rampage.

As well as looking at mass-murder, we will also discuss self-annihilation as it manifests itself in today’s society, from the Foxconn nets to the suicide clusters at Palo Alto’s Gunn High School.

The Revolution in Rojava

Paul Z. Simons, writing under the pen name, El Errante, is the author of a series of recent dispatches from the liberated territories of Rojava in Northern Syria. Currently on a tour across the Bay Area, Simons has just returned from a region besieged by war yet is also in the midst of one of the most far reaching social experiments of the 21st Century: the ‘Rojava Revolution.’ The liberated territories of Rojava are a thriving example of stateless democracy and of a people who are overturning traditional institutions such as patriarchy and social hierarchies. Simons talks about his experiences including crossing international boundaries under false pretenses, attending commune meetings in Kobane, high-velocity detours around ISIS sympathetic villages, and the camaraderie of the YPG militias. Simons had full access to the various revolutionary organizations and militias and will discuss their mandates and implementation issues associated with realizing a stateless society. Weaving together ideas of anti- authoritarianism, feminism, ecology, and a rejection of the state, Paul Z. Simons’ report, which is part adventure and part political journalism, on the Rojava Revolution is not to be missed by anyone working for sweeping social transformation in the current age.

At 12:30 PM:

The Spiritual Crisis of Anarchy

At some point, many Anarchists in North America will eventually cobble together enough experiences to gain an actual sense of self. At that point their lives will cease to be a desperate scramble to create and defend an insecure social identity, and the deeper question of how to relate to a complex universe will emerge. Their place in a reactionary teenage subculture will be revoked or refused, but sadly, most will turn to some mixture of politics, religious or secular monotheism, and humanism to seek answers. What would it mean to cultivate an amoral, anti-humanist spiritual practice that places one in direct relationship with a living world and offers the possibility of an actual Anarchist adulthood?

Self Care for the Damned

Self care. It’s a phrase we hear too often. Yet when we are aware that the only commonalities we share with the vacuum of reality are violence, horror and doubt, what then? How do we care for a self that is imaginary and plastic? How do we care for our selves when our selves are poisoned? How can we become more authentic in our ugliness? How do we weaponize our trauma? How do we blot out all hope, that most insidious evil, to live and die for something different? Amara and Søren will present a brief presentation with some practical ideas, then invite discussion and experimentation towards new methods of self care.

At 2:00 PM:

Rejecting Transhuman Eutopias in Favor of Primitivist Paradises: A Discussion of Tropes.

A discussion on transhuman and primitivist futures comparing and contrasting Michael Moorcocks “Dancers At The End of Time” and Tanith Lees “Biting The Sun”. Both primitivism and futurism will be critiqued, so please come regardless of your sectarian preference. You do not have read the books to come to the talk, but listener beware: thar be spoilers ahead.

Anarchy and Punishment

The aim of this conversation is to present one of the practices of anarchism in Brazil and open a discussion on the subject of anarchy and punishment. Libertarian Penal Abolitionism is a concept developed by Nu-Sol, a group which the facilitator has been associated with since 2003. Nu-Sol is housed at Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, since 1997. In spite of the fact that this is an Catholic institution, it had been know for its struggle against the dictatorship in Brazil, and its fight for freedom practices.

Some of the theoretical foundations of the fight for the abolition of punishment come from Louk Hulsman (who invented the term penal abolitionism in the Netherlands), William Godwin, and the some struggles in the 60s – such as the anti-psychiatry movement, and GIP (The Prisons Information Group, in France).

In Brazil Nu-Sol focus its efforts against the imprisonment of youth and Children, working together with groups such as TNM RJ (Tortura Nunca Mais RJ, group that fights against torture in the daily life since the dictatorship).

At 3:30 PM:

Progress and Violence

This will be a critical discussion of the much discussed work of Steven Pinker (Angels of Our Better Nature) and the claim that we as a species are becoming more peaceful and less violent. One huge critique of his argument is that the evidence might show that we are indeed becoming less violent towards each other but only at the cost of increased inter-species violence. This critique also targets his optimism about the role of free market economies (his notion of zero-sum versus plus-one economies) and scientific driven technologies in the pacification process.

Post-Modernity and the Appeal of Anarchism

Once upon a time, there existed an animal with an essence called Man (or the Human). Since the Enlightenment, this animal’s essence became defined with shared conditions, inalienable rights, a moral capacity, and a common good to be fought for. As mass production and mass communication encouraged revolutionaries to envision new societies for this animal that were no longer based on divine rule and feudal organization, Man became modern. Much of anarchist propaganda targeted Modern Man as its audience, pointing out the failures of the Republic to deliver on its promises of liberty, egality, and equality …unable to fight against wage-slavery and the contradictions of representation.

However, Modern Man is dying and has been long dead for many of us that live in a world of office and service work, social networks, and digital communication. This is the world after modernity has ended, the post-modern world. Unlike in the mass society of the modern period, with its masses of workers and its messages to the masses, post-modern State and corporate messaging targets the consumer, the individual, the creator of a personal brand. This conversation is about exploring both the audience for, and the assumptions of contemporary anarchist propaganda. What it has been like and what it could be like.

At 5:00 PM:

The Poodle Bites, the Poodle Chews It: Negative Dialectics from Adorno to Zappa

This presentation concerns the thought of Theodor Adorno (Critical Theorist, Frankfurt School curmudgeon) and the music of Frank Zappa. Adorno: Scourge of Instrumental Reason! Zappa: Slayer of Bogus Pomp! Inspired by the Radical British writer Ben (Zappologist Extraordinaire) Watson and his book, The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play.

Why Support Radical & Anarchist Print/Media: An Interactive/Participatory Discussion

Should radicals & anarchists be getting all their news and information about what’s happening in the world through mainstream media and related forms? Or, should forms of media that support their ideas/ideals be given more prominence and support? The world of radical & anarchist print/media culture(s) represent the hard work of people wanting to see another world and spreading those ideas in text, audio, video, and other formats. This will be an interactive/participatory discussion where I will briefly introduce some of the radical media projects (some of them will have tables at this bookfair) that inform my perspective and why they should be supported. I encourage people to come to the talk and discuss which radical print/media informs them about the world around us.

I will be giving out free copies of Fifth Estate magazine, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. For a majority of its existence, Fifth Estate (FE) has promoted radical & anarchist ideas and only exists because people promote and support such radical publications and forms of media like FE. I strongly encourage people to participate in the discussion to help break down the usual speaker/audience dichotomy, as I do not want to see myself as an expert on anarchist & radical print/media. I hope to hear a wide variety of perspectives to become better informed myself.