Discovering an anarchist in your home can be like finding a ginormous, terrifying spider in the toilet- the kind where you can see it’s teeth and watch it blink. You might be alarmed at first, but, if you can tolerate their presence and don’t scream and throw shoes at them, you will soon learn that both anarchists and spiders are an essential addition to any decent household, and get rid of the really nasty creatures that might lurk nearby, such as mosquitoes and Tory canvassers.
We have a reputation for being a pack of mad, radge bastards, ready to smash up the nearest Starbucks at the drop of a face scarf. And in some cases this is certainly true. But almost without exception, no matter how big or bad we may or may not pretend to be, lies a badly kept secret:
We anarchists are hopeless romantics.
This might be reflected in our politics sometimes- god knows the amount of times I’ve been told “yeah, it’s a lovely idea in theory, but it’ll never work”- but it is certainly evident in our relationships as well. People with the ability to dream of a better world have definite ideas about how we envision our lives. We are empathic. We can see horror and injustice but we can also see what needs to be done to make things better.
Since for many of us the very foundations of anarchism is based on mutual cooperation we also have expectations of accountability not just for ourselves, but the people around us.
And it is here, quite often, that our activism or values can bring conflict into our relationships, particularly if our partners do not share our drive. We take ownership of our actions and responsibilities and expect others to do the same. When there’s a problem, we immediately look to how we can fix things, which can lead to us doing all the work when we attract those that would take advantage. Activists of all kinds, not exclusively anarchists, often develop close relationships with other people that aren’t really like those in the rest of the population. Our world can take us away from home to plan, provide or just play and that means developing a deep sense of trust and camaraderie with our co-conspirators. They are pure friendships which can create jealousy with the wrong partner. The way we envision the world we want to see is reflected in the way we engage with others and society. Being led to believe we have to choose leaves us feeling torn between our passions and responsibilities, and accusations of neglect or distracted priorities abound. Sometimes love for so many beautiful things worth fighting for leaves you exhausted and lonely.
Core beliefs of both autonomy and mutualism can seem like a tricky alchemy to implement, but we must find the right balance in order for us to thrive and be happy. Personally I was surprised the day it dawned on me that everyone doesn’t think this way. We will never accept state or societal sanctioned versions of love. We don’t want to live in someone’s pockets, or be given dying flowers or blood diamonds on state designated days of the year. It’s not about being tied to someone through marriage, obligation or debt. It’s about freeing each other, and revelling in that, but for some reason it seems rare that we find others who share this. And why sometimes we are better off alone.
We anarchists love differently to the rest of the population, I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life. That’s not to say we always love better, or more wisely, but it’s certainly unique. Because we will keep fighting fiercely for something or someone we love and believe in, even when we know we are sure to lose. This is our greatest strength but can also be our greatest weakness. We are like violets when we are in love. Saturate us and we drown easily, but in the right conditions we’ll flourish, and with that transform the environment for the better.
So please, don’t throw shoes at us. We’re not all that scary.
Have some Against Me and don’t treat each other like a Starbucks window. X
Credit for comic strip at the top goes to the brilliant Lise Myhre. If you haven’t discovered Nemi already, make sure you do.