For regrets and all those who struggle.
Before I begin, I want to be clear: this is not a call for pacifism. It is not a call for non-violence in the face of the almost unimaginable brutality of the police, the prisons, the state and its accomplices in lynching. Rather, the purpose of this essay is to call for a clearer attack on our enemies, a more direct confrontation with the institutions that suffer, and a more conscious integration of resistance to these atrocities into our daily lives, until that resistance becomes, such as breathing. second nature.
I believe we should fight back with whatever we can, but I'm tired of the continued obsession with guns in the radical (especially anarchist) space. I am sick of admitting that marginal failure leads to a reactive attitude in which we lose our bearings as to how to restore our place in the world around us. This post is an attempt to critique what I believe is a culture of delusion about what guns are, what they do, and how they affect our relationship with the world and those around us. My goal is to shed light on the larger conflict attitude so we can better prepare ourselves to bleed and be the destroyer of this world.
Survival is not enough.
I still want to win.
I want it more
What the hell do you want?
hallucinations and delusions
We live in a world of unspeakable, deliberate cruelty, where the most is directed against the most marginalized. The institutions that cause our pain are vast, they permeate almost every part of our lives, and they are growing. The police are on our doorstep, their vigilantes eager to take part in the ritual that keeps the capital flowing is framed by their opportunity to crack skulls. Sometimes on the subway, sometimes in front of a Walgreens.
As abortion becomes less and less possible, our bodily autonomy is stripped away and the presence of trans people is criminalized to the point where the toilets we use have become a game of Russian roulette. With every law passed, every threat of drag stories, every display of violence filmed, I see many people who I believe relate to some version of a similar refrain:
"That's why you need a gun"
Every time I see that chorus, I stop and sit back as the discomfort rises from my gut, down my throat, and out my nose. I sat there anxiously until a question came up: "What do you think the guns will change?"
I've been around guns my whole life. I learned to shoot at an early age, first with a shotgun, then a carbine, then a pistol. I learned how to clean and maintain firearms. I learned to make eye contact and verbally confirm control when someone handed me a gun. I'm comfortable with a gun in my hand. I say all this with a certain bewilderment in mind, to assure the reader that your criticism, as strange as it may seem to you, is not motivated by irrational concerns or fear of guns. They are targeted and as accurate as possible.
To put it bluntly, to believe that gun ownership is a meaningful response to acts of violence against marginalized people is to reinforce the illusion that gun ownership increases the distance from “safety,” while having more guns equals “safer ». Owning a gun will never keep you safe because in this world, for the marginalized, black, targeted non-white, poor, visible gay, immigrant, disabled, homeless, incarcerated (in prison or similar mental ward).
If you want to keep breathing, you don't have a gun to stop the sheriff from doing the eviction. No weapon can rekindle your passion. If someone really, really wants you dead, no gun will keep you alive unless you turn into a mere vigilante machine and sacrifice your life in the hope of survival that is not guaranteed.
If there is a way that even remotely compares to "security", it does not lead to arming us individually, even in large numbers. It will emerge from a culture of general hostility to formal and informal power structures. It will emerge from a culture of spontaneous resistance, from the possibility of rebellion. Weapons may be part of certain behaviors in this culture, but they are neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve this and (as I will explain later) can prevent their persistence. Our only chance to protect each other is to make progress in the social wars of our time.
But when activists, especially anarchists, recognize their place in a social war, understand the stakes and costs, and begin to build this culture of confrontation, it means they are taking incredible risks. Facing what we have to be willing to lose is scary enough when we are really willing to gain. Many people are simply not exposed to this risk. You look elsewhere, differently. Instead of taking an aggressive stance to articulate and implement worthwhile actions, many are turning to a defensive (even if reactionary) stance, arming themselves and waiting for the genocide to come, for the collapse to come. You may be busy with other projects, but their main purpose is to pass the time. They are not trying to gain an advantage, so they are not in danger of losing it. However, they believe in their radicalization because they are armed and willing to protect marginalized groups (which may include themselves), which is the most radical thing a person can do.
But the genocide didn't come, it was there. It is located in the billing department and in the hospital waiting room. They are in classes at lunchtime too. It is located in the registry office and in the church hall. He's in the interrogation room, he's in the cell. They are no better able to fight back now than they were before they were armed. Their position or orientation has not changed, only their expression.
We cannot walk the path to liberation if liberation means being able to decide for ourselves what life is worth living. A few shots may help, but they will never be enough to deal with a world based on the logic of central authority, of which guns are the primary expression.
The concentration of power and the reproduction of everyday life
At this point I point it out. I don't think the illusion of safety is the main reason people take up guns, although I think they convince themselves otherwise. I think people have guns because they have fantasies of very concentrated power. We live in a world of incredible alienation and disempowerment. We look outward and believe that we are largely incapable of influencing those around us. In this context, it is easy to fetishize machines that can irrevocably change our existence at the push of a button.
For activists disillusioned with the prospect of revolution or mass movement, guns became a way to assuage the existential dread of such disillusionment. With such a machine at their disposal, they are able to maintain the belief that they can truly make their way in the world if they choose to.
These imaginings are so ingrained that even when those good moments of real resistance do break out, armed combatants become de facto police forces instead of preying on the exposed weaknesses of our enemies. These imaginaries of power inevitably prevent radicals from recognizing the experimental spaces open to them, and so these radicals actively suppress the experimental and revolutionary potential of others in those spaces. I have seen so many "aggressive" police forces like this in 2020 that I will never trust a man who shows up at riots using AR.
I feel compelled (especially in a relationship defined by colonialism, blackness, racism, etc.) to attend to the experience of self-proclaimed radicals and anarchists policing so-called anti-police spaces. world) ) to question the role of machines that subtly concentrate power in our space.
As we seek and end the police, we must also seek and end the relationships that make policing possible.
Fetish as a smoke screen
Perhaps the most pressing consequence of the continued fascination and imagination is how it is transforming our relationship with the gunmakers themselves. Rarely, if ever, have I seen these manufacturers considered viable targets for immediate action, even at the height of the anti-police mobilization, despite the only reason the police can use force in such a large-scale exercise, these manufacturers are distributors supply them with an almost unlimited arm.
I invite you to sit and think about this for a moment. Bring it with your friends to your next gathering or reading group. Is it because you don't care? Is it because you think the goal is too abstract? Too dangerous? How does gun culture in activist circles affect the way we talk, or don't talk, about gun manufacturers?
If you don't care, screw you.
If you think this goal is too abstract, I ask you if you would say the same about the police, the prisons, the capitol, or any other unsafe system that we condemn in the banners or in the communiques that we put up.
If such an action is too dangerous, I ask whether you have adequately considered the risk of inaction. Does your risk assessment relate in any way to your current proximity and comfort prioritization?
The fact that anarchists have remained almost silent on these views in recent history shows to me our utter unwillingness to engage with the actual conditions of social warfare in which we find ourselves. If we are not willing to think about how to cut off the supply of weapons to the police and military, then we assume that it is inevitable that they will be armed as they are.
That's as good as admitting defeat, because we'll never be able to match the police or the military in weapons supplies, and even if we could, the only way we'd be able to merge them into one is to be able to keep up with the weapons -centric conflict, turning into an army and losing all autonomy and life along the way.
I refuse to admit defeat, I refuse to serve in any particular capacity in a revolutionary army unworthy of the name. I long for life and I long for a life worth living.
Expropriation, use, destruction
As I said earlier, guns may have played a role in some operations, although they are neither necessary nor sufficient to create a culture of hostility to the existing world and all its brutality, and I think they are useful.
We expropriate (personal weapons and the means of their manufacture) to avoid the greed for profit of the arms manufacturers, while depriving our enemies of the means to brutalize us.
When we believe such action is justified, we use the resources we consume in a way we believe is appropriate.
We do our best to destroy what we ask for.
Most importantly, we destroyed the means of manufacturing these weapons. As long as there is a way to quickly mass produce weapons, there will always be a ticking time bomb waiting for the next police or military to show up.
In its simplest sense, a gun is a machine designed to kill. Most handguns and rifles manufactured today are designed specifically to kill people. I reject the normalization and fetishization of such machines in anarchist spaces.
While I'm not naive enough to believe in an idyllic future where no one will hurt anyone, I'm certainly very idealistic and believe that a world without these machines is possible. If you disagree, you can join the gun factory and even show me a gun while I strike a match.
As I said at the beginning: I want to win. I want it more
Victory to me looks like the ashes of every compound and prison mixed with the ashes of every factory, including those that make weapons.
Victories act as concentrations of power that are constantly contested wherever they occur.
It seems that children play and adults play.
It looks like breathing, free breathing, whatever that means to each of us.
It can't look like everyone has a gun while we wait for the next cop to show up.
I will never be able to breathe in this world.
i need to breathe
So get a gun if you feel the need. Learn how to use it, how to clean it, and how to pass it on properly. But never let it become more than it is, a killing machine. It's not about security, it's not about defense, and your desire for it doesn't replace the need to disrupt their production. One day it must go, like every other vestige of police and prisons in the world. I just hope you understand when the time comes.
"The most useful thing a man can do with arms is to dispose of them as soon as possible."
~ sword drawn