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Strategic logic falls on deaf ears

our-gang

Strategic logic falls on deaf ears; upon ears that have heard enough strategic logics. From birth through youth, daily we are barraged with appeals to buy sugar cereal, candy, toys, and the latest gadgets. And before long we learn the essence of an elaborate manipulative logic whose central goals are private profit and power. We are repulsed by a logic that penetrates and colonizes most everything it touches, leaving injustice and alienation everywhere in its wake. Against this logic we attempt to scrap together art and poetry and, most fundamentally, community. We build a scrappy little alternative clubhouse near the perimeter of the always advancing logics of capitalism and bureaucracy. Our little clubhouse sometimes serves as a makeshift base of operations for our scrimmages with the authorities. Occasionally when the scrimmages heat up, the authorities will raid or burn down our meager fortifications. But we always rebuild. For the most part we are permitted to keep our little clubhouse. Defending it—its culture and meanings and rhetoric and symbols—becomes our prize.

And somewhere along the way we seem to have lost faith in the possibility of really winning against these logics and systems in the world beyond our little clubhouse; the possibility of gaining ground again in the terrain of society. The clubhouse becomes our starting place—the source of all of our reference points—and society is written off as a lost cause. And the logic of strategy? We don’t want to hear the logic of strategy in our clubhouse. This is a liberated, prefigurative and post-political space. We don’t need strategy or organization or leadership or money in our clubhouse. All those things remind us of the insidious logics against which we define ourselves and our projects.

3 Comments

  1. Craig Collins says

    No need for strategy if you’re not trying to change the world, but just escape it. We called it “dropping out” in our day.

    • Yes, that’s basically what it amounts to, but it’s a little murkier than straight-up “dropping out.” The latter term implies disengagement, but here I’m also talking about dramatized scrimmages—e.g., protests, direct actions, occupations, etc.—when these turn more into group identity-affirming rituals than strategically-oriented political engagement. On the other hand, identity-affirming ritual can be important; nurturing the group’s meanings, culture and identity is an essential component of strategic political action. But to the extent that it loses its orientation toward the broader society, such a group is in danger of becoming insular and functionally depoliticized, even if it remains quite visibly active, in a self-involved manner.

  2. Beautiful piece of writing Matt! Love the clubhouse at the edge of colonizing logics.

    The problem with clubhouses is when they become exclusive enclaves for cool-kids, not so much the radical alternatives they allow people to imagine. Of course the spatial metaphors that posit an outside don’t quite work: the logic of exclusion, of defining a community and giving it a territorial limit is part of the colonizing logic of that has its roots in the european system of nation-states and the fiction of a sovereign culture. Also, the clubhouse might never be able to really escape those logics and no great soul of revolt will be found… Yet I don’t give up hope, Imagining a clubhouse with no borders, based on political affinity, yet open to accepting new members and working together to learn sounds pretty good.

    Thinking back on my own process of politicization, the gate keepers who welcomed me into the club house and made me feel at home despite my unfamiliarity with the shibboleths seem pretty important.

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