The next reading for #nrg is up! This one should be quite insightful. See you theeereeeee!
Nudists have a hard time getting taken seriously, I think. This is true in the world at large, but it's also true among anarchists.
I have personally had the benefit of friends who actually take me a little too seriously. They're mostly nice about the nudism thing (as a conversational topic, at least); I do get teased occasionally, but it's typically pretty good-humoured and well-intentioned.
But there are some some people who aren't my friends, who dislike me as a result of one thing or another. Some of them, who might generally be on board with the idea of nudism themselves, would never cite my own inclination towards nudism (if they know about it) as a mark against me – and I appreciate that! But others, who are less into nudism, might indeed talk about that inclination as another reason that I'm a creep, that I have bad politics, that I shouldn't be trusted, etc., even though it is certainly completely unrelated to the reasons that our relationship is not completely amiable.
Most people in most anarchist scenes should, I think, be able to relate. Shared investments – into collective living situations, into projects of mayhem and mutual aid, into strong friendships and other intense relationships – often lead, at some point, into disagreement that metastasizes into bitter conflict that, oftentimes, either can't be resolved or at least doesn't. And then, particularly among the assholes who love gossiping about comrades and shit talking perceived enemies (which is probably the majority of people in most scenes, be they anarchist scenes or not!), other details start getting added to the story, all of which paint a picture.
Most people are assholes – at least sometimes, to some (sorts of) people. I'd like that to change, and I really do think there are deliberate things that can be done to help people not be assholes, to blunt that the tendency towards being asshole that exists in so many people, but all that is kind of separate from the concern of this post.
In this world, where people are assholes, what does that mean for people who have eccentric interests? For instance, nudism?
My assessment is that, in North America at least, an inclination towards nudism is considered eccentric at best in anarchist scenes, and considered perverse at worst. In this respect, too, I don't think that North American anarchists have very different attitudes about nudism than is the case among the larger population of basically secular liberals. The attitudes might even be more markedly negative among certain subsets, e.g. the Marxist, quasi-Marxist, and otherwise workerist anarchists who understand nudism, and perhaps a few other things, as a bourgeois affectation or, at the very least, somehow unstrategic with respect to serious political objectives of one kind or another.
Anarchists, of course, are very much of a part of the mass society in which they grew up and in which, in most cases, they continue to live. Even if they manage to escape to some kind of remote and autarkic existence, they still carry that history with them. The best things about anarchist subcultures, though, is that sometimes (not always, never perfectly) they are markedly more accepting of various kinds of differences between people – or certainly less actively shitty about, say, looking like a freak, being into weird shit, having specific issues, and so on.
This isn't really the case with nudism, though. I am sure there are amny reasons for this. First off, to be a nudist is hardly a sacrosanct identity – and I wouldn't want it to be. Second, there is very little in the way of good analysis circulating in anarchist scenes, or in society at large, about nudism and what it can do for you or nudists and why anyone is trying to live their life that way. Third, there's really not a whole lot of possibility for people to be naked in “normal situations” insofar as this causes a lot of friction with laws and police or, even in ungoverned spaces, with established norms and with the attitudes that at least some people may have with respect to sex, nudity, and ethics.
All of this has real effects, and not just on whatever minority of conspicuously nudism-inclined people there are who might have some interest in participating in anarchist scenes.
Like, sure, we exist. But everyone is occasionally inconvenienced by the obsessive and compulsory attitude around wearing clothing. There are health consequences, financial consequences, ecological consequences, and fun consequences – the importance of which need not be exaggerated, but they still exist. This is also true whether or not anyone recognizes that this is, or may be occasionally, a problem for them personally. Just because the problem feels normal doesn't mean it isn't real.
Anarchists also have a hard time getting taken seriously. It's not that it never happens, but most of the time, anarchists either need to water down their politics to the point that they are effectively just democratic socialists (at which point I wonder why you call yourself an anarchist at all, other than to give yourself some edgy cred) or they just need to omit the fact that they are an anarchist at all (by lying, avoiding the question, using a headscratcher of a euphemism, whatever). There are many reasons for this, a number of which could warrant whole essay in and of themselves, but the thing I want to bring attention is the manifest incuriosity of so many people – journalists, neighbours, partisans of other dogmas – to learn anything about the anarchist tradition and anarchists. They are content, instead, to know nothing, or to just “know” the things that they have been told by the police (on Twitter or in cop shows), by patriarchal figures of all kinds, or by their own unexamined assumptions.
It is unfortunate, then, whenever anarchists are themselves incurious about the lives, experiences, and ideas of others. I find it curious, too, that anarchists can often muster a great deal of interest in fascist, nationalist, and otherwise objectionable ideologies – with some mind to countering those ideas, of course – but they take no interest whatsoever in other perspectives that one might consider benign, compatible, or at least a little interesting.
I want to emphasize that all of this has consequences. An ascribed quality of eccentricity or perversity is really just the same thing, viewed from different angles or maybe through a different lens. In either case, they terminate the possibility of a serious conversation about the why of it all, the ideas or experiences that motivate a given behaviour, etc. I don't think that's ever a good thing in and of itself, even with respect to ideas and/or associated behaviours that I truly think are awful (e.g. not the ideas that are the topic of this blog), because when there is no conversation, there can be no understanding of how and why some people end up with these ideas and/or doing the shitty things they imply. The eccentric, the perverted, learn to be cagey about what they think and feel – which, to the extent they have something bad going on, is likely to lead to more bad shit in a way that is more unpredictable for everyone else.
And as for nudism, well, among anarchists, a refusal to take this stuff seriously might prevent our scenes from being a little more interesting, easygoing, and accepting – for more or less everyone involved – than they otherwise could be.
I’m the luckiest
On now get in while it’s not!
We’re partnering with ABOLISHmke (abolish-mke.com) and will be producing zines of their articles, which we can distro on our table and also send into prisoners who want to keep up with local prison actions and analyses.
A couple people who volunteer with us started this side project a few months ago, and we’ve decided to support them on this endeavor, grow their readership, and (hopefully) help spread abolitionist thought in our communities and behind the prison walls.
We will post printable pdfs of zines produced from their articles, as well as links to articles that we are not intending to reproduce in that way.
In the meantime, check em out! @abolishmke
There were so many species of animals I saw so much as a kid that I don’t see at all anymore. Everything is headed straight for extinction and we don’t even notice except as the occasional article that relegates all of this to a symbolic abstraction and data. But I haven’t seen a monarch butterfly in a decade. That isn’t an abstraction.
Tidied up the piece I read during May Day reading group and posted it on my blog. Nothing fancy.
Hi I'm bugs. ni.hil.ist admin. Ⓐ
Cool with most things, I'll let you know if I'm not.
ni.hil.ist is a server run by anarchists who are friendly to a nihilistic worldview.