We Will Displace Scarcity

At a socialist meeting I went to a couple years ago, there was a young woman of color who was new to the group. Facing down any anxiety about being in a new social setting even inadvertently dominated by seasoned, academic and male voices, she gave an impassioned response to the defeatism which began rearing its head in relation to the state of the world we were discussing.

We can create our own economies, she insisted. You need food? We can share. You need a place to stay? We can share. We can be our own security. We can be our own childcare and schools.

She spoke with an exhaustion at wars of persuasion and theory. She imagined with reckless abandon. Her concern was not with how we would gain supporters to our cause, but who among us would stand in our way of enacting the culture of our cause at once.

Her words have stuck with me as a compass point leading out of the organizational and state projects Leninist groups seem nostalgic for. She disappeared as quietly and suddenly as she’d appeared, and my patience for dues-paying and compartmentalized party-building left not long after her. After all, what has any party produced with all of anyone’s donations that’s more useful than collectively applying that money towards meeting the long-term common needs of the proletariat? A handful of books and newspapers to hawk at students? Provocative signs to dispose of as soon as liberals continue their protests inside the political machine? When the Charlotte Uprising broke out, our vanguard was pounding back beers while trans folks and people of color physically took back the streets from cops less than 100 miles away. And what did any of us have to offer as police retaliation and exhaustion took their toll on the revolutionary spirit? We have book clubs and articles explaining your motivations to the moderate white liberals afraid of you.

Nevertheless, her message was not just a critique of Leninist bureaucracy. It was an urgent reminder of the Now. It was a revolutionary sermon for this era of artificial scarcity, false dichotomies, and their material consequences on people and planet alike. She shied not away from a normative should but boldly asserted what it is we should do. We should—and we must—displace scarcity.

We need not wait until the state project is under our control. We have the power to act and build community now. Solidarity must accompany meaningful action. Mutual aid must be a revolutionary reorientation of the way our society is structured and help is distributed. The bourgeois fog of the possible must be exorcised and the proletarian imagination invoked in its place.

On ‘Dr. Bones’

But this isn’t really an essay on Leninism or any of the contemporary socialist movements in the States. It’s an essay of disappointment with our collective response to episodes of interpersonal violence, and a call to remember and reclaim our agency in creating something better.

I am livid about the professional leveraging and predatory behavior of egoist journalist (and fellow contributor to Gods & Radicals) ‘Dr. Bones’. The outing of this behavior follows a shaky community reaction to another G&R contributor, Sean Donahue, being outed as a predator, and should likely also be read in the future within a context of the liberal feminist #MeToo movement and contemporary pagan conversations around manipulation, sexual violence, and other abusive behavior in Pagan communities by those with relative power over others.

Read: So Long And Thanks For All the Abuse, and For Sale: Neopaganism ‘As Is’ by Sarah Anne Lawless.

Within no more than a couple days of the accusations first coming to light, the man behind ‘Dr. Bones’ deleted his virtual presence with podcasts, websites, and distros hosting his books, articles, or opinions following suit. The persona—or egregore—of ‘Dr. Bones’ is more or less gone now. The Guillotine podcast which he co-hosted has shut down. And G&R’s editor has released an official statement on the incident.

To many observers within his sphere of influence, the demise of the ‘Dr. Bones’ persona has led to concern over the preservation of his ideas. At the same time, a public autopsy of sorts is happening where countless people express their long-held belief that ‘Bones’ was toxic, an alcoholic, self-aggrandizing, and yet either very important or a detriment to various anarchist tendencies all at once.

For me, the outing of both Donahue and ‘Bones’ presents a peculiar pattern. Both men were writers for G&R and both men’s targets included trans writers for G&R. It seems to me, either it is simple coincidence, there is something specific empowering this behavior among this sample of leftist Pagan men, or G&R is effectively serving as a platform through which trans people can more easily report behavior just as common elsewhere. With the sociopolitical cause of this pattern still a mystery, I am thoroughly unconvinced anyone can promise it won’t happen again. Likewise, beyond the digital walls of G&R, I am unconvinced the man behind ‘Bones’ can live up to his short-lived, no-longer-public promise to ‘retire completely from both writing and politics’, or presumably, to stop engaging in this sort of predatory behavior.

Doxxing the man behind ‘Bones’ is a contested strategy to assure greater accountability on any of this. In recent years, outing sexual predators has become an act of empowerment and feminist solidarity by survivors. In some circumstances, women like Savannah Dietrich have faced down jail time for defying court orders protecting the anonymity of the men who attacked them. On the one hand, revealing ‘Bones’ common identity potentially exposes his family to financial hardship and racist violence. On the other, protecting his common identity potentially leaves other people in his proximity vulnerable to sexual violence. He has lost his protective mask which leaves him with one of two options: get clean and become accountable, or continue as a destructive force without the security of his revolutionary drag. By my reckoning, doxxing him demands he act from accountability.

This is not to say I am apathetic to the plight of his family, or even to his own apparent personal struggles. Rather, to return to the story I opened with, I am striving to see through the bourgeois fog of the possible. I mean, I am trying to see and push us through to strategies beyond perceiving solidarity with any of these community members—his family, past/present/future victims, or even ‘Bones’ himself—as being innately in opposition to the others.

I am quite terrible at nihilism. To a fault, I’m an optimist, more at home in utopian fantasies and solarpunk daydreams than the bottom of a beer can or staking out my aesthetic from behind the Freudian slip of a weapon. In that naivete, I refuse to believe our solidarity is a scarce resource to be spent on artificial trolley problems when the train itself can still be detonated.

Photo by  Harry Grout  on  Unsplash

Photo by Harry Grout on Unsplash

Acts of Solidarity & Acts of Mutual Aid

In ‘Anarchy and Violence,’ Malatesta writes about how anarchism only ought to win through a ‘contagion of benevolence’ and about how the use of violence must ‘go behind the material instrument which wounds us, and to attack the hand which wields the instrument, and the head which directs it.’

Although his work rightly focuses on the oppressive forces outside us, I do not believe such a focus necessitates abandoning an adequate response to the infection of bourgeois divisiveness, inter-class violence, and pragmatism within our own communities. To believe ourselves unable to escape the artificial realisms of capitalism, utilitarianism, or patriarchal violence is to invite within ourselves submission to the powers that wound us. We are no longer in the worlds of Malatesta or Goldman or Marx. And we cannot be in position to ‘go behind the material instrument’ when our minds are still enshrouded by the roles and relationships capitalist realities dictate to us.

One of my takeaways from the spectacular implosion of ‘Bones’ is that for all our podcasts, for all our revolutionary posturing and debate of theory, for all the Patreon dollars sent to keep our wonderful community creators alive, we still collectively have not enacted a world where networks of solidarity and mutual aid allow us to protect and heal one another beyond carceral models of social exile and allegiance bargaining. The very real predicament of danger around both outing or protecting ‘Bones’ identity has for me made clear the lack of solid community building (perhaps explicitly in the context of pioneering the digital landscape).

There is no inalienable law of the universe that we cannot simultaneously support multiple parties in any given conflict. With dedication to our values, we can protect ‘Dr. Bones’ family from right-wing terrorism and financial hardship while also empowering potential future or present victims of his with knowledge of his name and undisguised face. With the courage to call-in rather than exorcise, the radical community could empower his journey into sobriety or sexual accountability when he’s ready. With belief in the healing of mutual aid, others of us who have survived similar circumstances can be there for other survivors in their own journeys after this. With the power of union organization, trans folks everywhere can collectively reclaim the power to respond to situations where the autonomy of any of us is threatened or violated, or where patterns of abuse and manipulation emerge, even from within our radical projects.

There is no scarcity in our capacity to love and care for one another. And I do not mean that our capacity to labor in this regard is unlimited. Rather, I mean that our ability to bring into physicality the abstract values we hold is limited by the ways we commit to organize and build community. We have failed so many comrades already, and we will likely fail others too. I am devastated by this and praying that our light is never extinguished by our perceived limitations in transition to the worlds we are creating for all to thrive in.

The revolutionary spirit is not just a movement towards better apologies when we fail, but a renewed appreciation and a rejuvenated dedication towards worlds we can imagine. To misplace our agency in creating these worlds is to position ourselves within the same spectacular system as the ‘Dr. Bones’ egregore. It is to appear, to perform, to seem. It is to present an echo of radicalism, of revolution, for consumption not challenge, for social capital not social ecology. It is drinking and guns twirling to get laid, as threatening to the human powers that be as the soliloquies of dead Marxists proclaimed to a revolving door of fair weather student socialists.

Between the planet Earth and the world’s laborers, all wealth is made possible. It is by the various capitalist realisms that we become bunkered in the false choices of scarcities. Civilization is already in our hands. What networks we design—whether for protection, healing, and accountability, or for food- and medicine-growing, wild-tending, seed-sharing, and more—as well as the borders (if any) we restrain our solidarity to are powers we ought not relinquish, that we ought to fight for, and that we ought to rekindle within each other.

You need food? I know how to design and grow gardens.

You need medicine? We will take back the means to make and distribute it.

You need safety from racists, transphobes, and sexual predators? Let us do everything in our power to neutralize them all and not cede one comrade’s life for the benefit of another.

We will displace their scarcities.

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Pat Mosley (NC LMBT #16882) is a licensed massage and bodywork therapist in the Winston-Salem area. His work is rooted in compassionate touch, permaculture, and deep ecology with the resilience of all Earth's children in mind. Connect with him via email to info@pat-mosley.com