Anarchy in the USA
By Cathy Kelly
Posted: 05/09/2010 01:30:23 AM PDT
John Malkin chairs Saturday's "Anarchy, Compassion and... (Bill Lovejoy/Sentinel)
SANTA CRUZ -- Last Saturday, anarchy was tied to destructive acts against businesses downtown, but at a Free Skool Santa Cruz class this Saturday, it was coupled with compassion and spirituality.
The class was held at The Abbey Coffee Art & Music Lounge at Vintage Faith Church on Mission Street. It was planned before the Saturday riot downtown that police say was a methodical and coordinated attack by masked anarchists who damaged 18 businesses by throwing rocks through windows and scrawling anarchist graffiti on buildings.
The teacher, author and journalist John Malkin of Santa Cruz, said the strategies of anarchists are "all over the board" and that anarchists do not necessarily engage in conflict, though that history certainly exists.
"My sense is that anarchy is rooted in freedom; in the freedom to choose where you put your attention and how you organize with others," said Malkin, 46, a UC Santa Cruz graduate who has a show on Free Radio Santa Cruz and is a board member of Non Violent Communication Santa Cruz.
People choose a variety of paths when they seek large shifts or changes in society, he said.
"People are sometimes surprised when I use the words anarchy and compassion in the same sentence, but there is a rich history of these things coming together," Malkin said.
He gave an example of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement as an example of nonviolent anarchy.
Malkin laughed recalling his early
run-ins with anarchy in Santa Cruz 20 years ago, which included anarchists versus socialists softball games.
Saturday's class drew about 20 people, who said they were interested in anarchy, radical politics and social justice. Several said they became interested in anarchy out of concern for the mistreatment of others.
One woman, who appeared to be in her 50s, said she has been politically engaged her whole life and is disturbed by the way people dehumanize those who are different.
Coral Brune, 54, of Santa Cruz, said she is interested in how people define anarchy. She said she didn't know why people were shocked that the May Day destruction occurred, as Santa Cruz contains significant societal disparity.
A young man who described himself as a part-time monk interested in radical politics said he understands how the question of whether to use violence in self-defense might come up in a place like Guatemala, where he once lived during a time marked by death squads and extreme violence, but that it seemed to make little sense in the recent riot.
"I thought, smashing windows, what good is that?' " he said during the group discussion. "There is no context to it, I don't understand it."
Jeremy Helm, 29, said outside class that the vandals are hard to understand.
"I hope people would be curious what is going on with whoever committed the property destruction," he said. "Violence is a tragic expression of unmet needs. I would suspect what is going on in their heads is that they want social justice and have these enemy images in their heads, of people making money by slave labor in other countries."
Malkin, who is completing a third book about anarchy and punk rock, drew widely from writings and his interviews with others and said he had recently interviewed the well-known professor and activist Noam Chomsky. Chomsky, he said, believes anarchy is broad but includes three main tenets -- awareness people are responsible for their own fate, a desire to have democratic control over every aspect of life and a belief that hierarchal structures are not self-justifying.