It wasn’t an easy thing for me to decide to take a hiatus from the community that I’ve become a part of on Twitter. Twitter has become a part of the fabric of my daily life, filling a need that I don’t find in the morass of suburbia, office work, etc that has become much of my “IRL” existence. A need for conversation with people who feel as trapped by their awareness of “society” as I do. A need for comrades who understand the mental dissonance of on the one hand being an anti-authoritarian, and on the other to navigate the unfortunately necessary paths of daily compliance, work, bosses, etc, of modern life.
In short, in twitter I found that I wasn’t alone in feeling this dillema.
But increasingly, something else has intruded, maybe something unavoidable but no less in need of being called out: much of radicalism has become as orthodox and strict in its adherence to ideological anchors as the very systems we fight against.
For me, already suffering from depression largely linked to how much of a societal weight we all feel to conform, the radicalism that gave me an escape became one more sea of people vying to be thought leaders, ideological authorities, etc.
Some of this is inevitable. Look at the person who has just awoken to an ideology that is outside the mainstream, and clings to it like a life raft. Look at newly minted atheists, reveling in the feeling of freedom they have, though terrifying, in throwing off the mental bonds that their parents placed on them. Look at libertarians finally letting go of any pretext of a State, and becoming AnCaps. Look at far left liberals (if there are any, anymore) who let go of the last vestiges of liberalism and become communists.
All of these scenarios involve a revelatory change in perception. Yes it was gradual: it was the lecturer you saw that left you so troubled. It was your Party doing something that felt wrong to you. It’s watching as the majority of the people you formerly identified with take a position you find repugnant. But the actual moment when you look at yourself and declare yourself to no longer believe in God (wow I’m an atheist!) or no longer believe in the State (I’m an anarchist!), that moment of personal revelation is powerful, but it’s also terrifying.
And unfortunately that terror is of weightlessness, of not being bound, of not having an -ism to call your own.
This, I think, is what leads to the one thing that seems to doom the radical fringes of society to irrelevance a lot of times: the need to set a stake in SOMETHING that anchors you to an ideology. It’s this that takes someone who rejected the narrative that mainstream society had built and became an anarchist/communist/whatever by opening their mind, and made them simply close ranks (and their mind) on finding a new ideology.
We as humans are terrified of the unknown, but more importantly of being WRONG about the choices we make in the face of that unknown.
In Twitter, I see both sides of this. I see people’s minds expand, question everything, their own ideologies, their own comrades, everything, in an attempt to HONESTLY look at all aspects of life through a critical lense. It’s this side of twitter radicals that I cherish, which will at some point draw me back to it.
But the ugly side of it, the factionalism, the “only X is a real -ist”, is what I need a break from.
More than anything else, the radicals I most respect are the ones that do what they can to not get sucked into factionalism or wars of ideology. There are people who label themselves AnCap that I respect FAR more than people spouting orthodox anarchist ideas, even though I completely disagree with their ideology. I respect them because rather than using their ideology as a bludgeon or as thought police, it simply provides them a basis from which to evaluate new ideas… but they are always willing to abandon pieces of their own ideology as new information or revelations come to light. In short, they value ideology but abandon orthodoxy.
I will get back on twitter eventually, I really do see it as a valuable resource. But when I do, I’m going to begin culling out people in my TL who are so partisan that challenges to their ideologies are met with hostility. Real radicalism, the kind that overthrows empires, in my view can’t spend its time bogged down on ideological purity questions, and certainly not in pissing matches and name calling when those differences in ideology arise.
So to you my Twitter radical family, I love you all, I miss you all, and I hope you all can start to see the value in working together despite our differences. Remember, we may be anarchists, libertarians, communists, etc, but first and foremost we are ALL the termites gnawing at the support beams of empire, and it’s high time in my opinion that we all started focusing on that.