Sunday, January 15, 2012

Life is beautiful.

This week, it would be possible to focus on which candidate for the presidency wants to take away which of my and others' rights. It would be possible to mourn that the xenophobic jerk who is our state secretary of something or other got to move up the deadline for his voter-restricting ID required laws. I could feel frustration and anger that members of my own family believe that Muslim extremists will take over the Midwest and deprive them of all their Christian white people freedom, and that they make all their voting decisions based on that. One could be astonished and alarmed about all of those things, and also the reality that the US may or may not have assisted Israel and/or Great Britain in assassinating a nuclear scientist n Iran, which seems like a horrible and anti-peace kind of thing to do, as well as colonialist, as well as a gross assault on academic freedom (if you study things we don't want you to know, we will kill you).

But I spent most of the week focused on those things, so let's talk about some other things instead. The world is still a beautiful and diverse place, and even the best efforts of the enemies of joy have not managed to change that yet.

I am mentoring a young lady who is writing her first novel, and she turned in a beautiful draft of a new chapter this week. My scholars' bowl team had a good meet that they enjoyed, and if they did not quite win they did not quite lose either.

It turns out that I am not quite the only Christian anarchist in the world. I am aware of a few different groups now. I am part of a Facebook group on the topic, and I have been reading a lot of material from the Jesus Radicals site recently. One of their writers is authoring a series on Christian anarchism . I probably enjoyed the Second installment most, with its discussion of historical Anarchist Christian groups. He has this to say about o ur discontinuous history:

While some groups influenced later groups, there isn’t a successive chain of radical Christianity. The anarchic impulse isn’t passed down through the ages like a baton. Rather, it emerges. We should marvel and respect the reality that the Spirit of God creates anarchy. We should be open to it wherever it emerges, which isn’t necessarily in the places we’d expect. This, it would seem, requires a posture of openness and hope that, even in the most unlikely of places, life breaks out like a weed sprouting through a crack in a sidewalk.

Anarchy and Christainity both represent profoundly life-affirming traditions, at least in their finest manifestations. The effort to leave hierarchical relationships behind and interact with other humans, recognizing that God sees us all as equal in work, is a practice that transforms all of living. The other day, I was eating in a fast food restaurant (this was literally a requirement of my job at this point) and someone commented that they had never seen someone look so confused by a menu. This is true. Menus are no longer menus; they are complex representations of hierarchical relationships in both the natural and synthetic worlds. I don't know where that meat comes from; nor the oil that fries the potatoes; nor the lettuce in the salads, who was exploited din making it; nor do I know the specifics of how the workers at that restaurant are treated, nor how I can best help them have a not-awful time at work, or thank them for their labor. The very existence of such a place relies on my ignorance that those are even questions to be asked, and as such it is a place of horror. In contrast, I think about eating at a local food restaurant where they are very transparent about their food sourcing. The food is delicious and I do not feel guilty about it (well, the problems with knowing where your food comes from are solved, and the farmers were paid fairly for their labor. I don't know about the waiters and chefs, though, if they are treated well or have a voice in their management-and certainly both places share the same goal of making a profit). However, at the first place you can fill your belly for $3 and at the second place $15 will barely suffice. Questioning hierarchy in that way is expensive, especially when the critique is carried only to the means of food production and not to the means of service production or profit production. Is gardening the only non-hierarchical form of food production?

Last night, I learned of a neighborhood in Kansas City that is trying to grow 80% of its food internally. How beautiful. What wonderful freedom to be liberated from the demand to trade your labor dollars for food, and instead trade your labor directly for food.

Anyway,Christiananity and anarchism both hold out our crazy hope for the coming of a new world, ordered around cooperation, love, mutual aid, plenty, freedom. I will admit that the political order gives us precious little reason to form such hopes, but that is one reason why we must cast aside its constraints on our thinking. Sure, no current Republican candidate will bring forth the beautiful in the future, and probably no candidate at all. No, a hierarchical power cannot create a more beautiful world by fiat. Each of us must do what we can every day to bring that world about, treat each other with greater dignity and consideration every day, avoid encouraging monstrous injustice as much as we can.

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