from Dark Nights 35 via anarchistnews

A text was recently published called Neither Oblivion nor Ceremony: Against the Cult of the Carrion. I am sure I recognise the tone, the style, and I certainly suspect its origin, but I could be wrong, and for the purposes of discussion, which they hoped they’d spark, I write these lines. Some of the aforementioned text I have some empathy with: I too am sometimes frustrated by the winks and nods, the self- referentialism and the litany of names too numerous for me to remember that accompany actions and communiques. I am frustrated by it because I know how meaningless, how excluding it can be to readers outside certain circles. But I also suspect it arises from a particular meanness in myself, and a particular moment in my life where I feel alienated from nearly everything. And it is a peculiar meanness and miserliness, in Against the Cult of the Carrion that I cannot help but want to brush off, as if I had suddenly entered a dark and ugly attic and was covered in cobwebs, exoskeletons and dust. Every so often it seems, from the shadows that they say they love, come the squeaking wails of these protestant mice, preaching silence and greyness whilst crying out, Remember us! And so even though there were points that perhaps under different circumstances I would agree with, and think worthy of discussion, this latest exhortation from the authors is the dreariest and rudest of all, repels me and forces me to reconsider.

It is very often the case that only upon someone’s death are we really able to celebrate their life. In death someone we love is stripped of their flaws. Suddenly, the individual is seen for the good things that they were. Finally, all that there really is to remember is what was wonderful about them, what qualities they – and they alone – held for us, and for the world. It is only at the moment of death that Uniqueness, that unabashed, glorious Individuality is allowed to flourish. But not for some anarchists, it would seem. No heroes, no martyrs, they cry! To admire, to find greatness, in a fallen comrade is Un-anarchist and we must speak out against this ideological offence! How the rest of us wish they would keep to the silence they constantly promise!

In that moment, when faces and pens leap up to flourish abundant love and recognition of a fallen comrade, why do the leaden ideologues put mud on the flaming amber hair of the children of anarchy who insist on standing out no matter what? Why pour water on those who want to remember the greatness, the charisma, of their heroic sisters and brothers in words and action. Greatness is catching.

Ah, I despair of this anarchist nit-picking that we have come to lately. Why shouldn’t we have our heroes if we want them? Heroism is not leadership, and role models that are chosen for hours, days, months, years or a lifetime, by an individual who feels that another person reflects their life and desires and inspires them further, is not a tyranny. A figure emerges from the grey mass of struggling humanity, a figure of respect and inspiration, and we do not celebrate it!? The hero is by definition an ordinary person who has performed an extraordinary act. And we know there are others who commit the same acts as the fallen, but there are also many who do not. And sometimes we need reminding. Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we seem so surrounded by the unheroic, by the cautious, the bound, the unfree, the selfish, the greedy, that yes, such people – even if it was only their death that showed them to us – are important to keep alongside us and to name when it seems good to us to name them. Every individual is not heroic, that is every individual is not heroic to everyone. If we hold someone up as a hero – if only for a single deed – then we are also reinforcing our own dreams and desires.

Again and again, I am told what to think by the writers of this text. I am even told categorically that there is nothing beyond death! Well, I am no Christian nor any other colour of religious person, but I have had my experiences in life and I cannot say there is nothing beyond death because I simply do not know and am also prompted sometimes to wonder about whether the binary of ‘life’ and ‘death’ is simply a crude example of human ignorance. Anyway, what comes next is a question my imagination plays with frequently and always will. But whatever the subject and whether or not I disagree with their conclusion, I guess the real point is that I am sick of being told what is correct anarchist thought and what is not, sick of feeling like my legs are more shackled after the anarchists have spoken than before! And I wonder how we think there will ever be a way of spreading our ideas when the ideas become so cold and inhuman that we are not allowed to make a little garden to a dead friend without being accused of being part of some unrevolutionary force, where nostalgia, whimsy, and imagination are to be crushed, and we are not allowed our Supermen and women?

Let us be proud. Of both the living and the dead. And also not argue about who owns them! They only ever owned themselves, but it is also true that we do not own what we mean to others. Often we do not even know. Who cares if we have heroes? Who cares even if we have martyrs? Surely the lesson is not to be mealy-mouthed and to bury the dead in the ideology of invisibility, but to recognise that none of us should ever be invisible, not for a second. There is certain tendency which seems to have internalised and made good the requirement for anonymity. I am also anonymous, partly because as an individual I am naturally reserved and do not like to take centre- stage and partly in order to avoid state repression. This latter is the most powerful reason. But I do not like the anonymity that is forced upon me, until death, injury or prison rips off the veil I carefully wear. Let us all shine, and yes, like stars in a dark sky! Why not! I sense that even the secret squirrels reveal in their little note to the world an itching need for recognition. They are very proud of their humility but it arouses jealousy in them – they are in a double-bind because they have made an identity out of having none, but feel the need every now and then to remind us all that they are there. They have made an identity out of disappearing into the mass from which they are no different, and yet despite this are clearly attached to those who do differentiate, nodding and winking to each other, whose behaviour they feel reflects on them – except that no one knows who ‘them’ is, so it is only amongst themselves that heroes, militarism and communiques are troublesome. They turn envy and discomfort into petulant ideology. And I ask, where is it that you find “values of a religious and military origin”, because I do not find them.

Perhaps the reason for attacking what they describe as the culture of the hero is to maintain the pretence that “everyone is doing the things the hero did”? Actually, it is both true and not true that everyone is attacking the state, and I am perfectly capable of applauding silently those that have never been caught, and recognising them in the figure of the one who was or the one
who died. It is also true that not enough people are doing such things, and so in the figure of the one who did and the one who died a certain heroism does, for me, exist.

Maybe my character has a streak of difficult-to-shake romantic hedonism which is still happy to embrace both heroes and martyrs, who knows! But I say, really, why must we all crawl in the same mud? Why can we not allow ourselves the childish treat of admiring another, allow ourselves to be dazzled by those who are unveiled, revealed, in their singularity, if only for a moment? We are not in fact children any longer, though we can benefit from keeping a young heart beating in us, and we are conscious enough not to establish gods, nor to forget the existence of countless unknown individuals, but surely we are human enough to allow ourselves to pay respect where it is due. Instead of saying that no act is heroic, that no one is a hero, let us instead say that we are all heroes and we are all permanently involved in acts of heroism. Instead of pissing on someone else’s grave, why not aspire to the heights they momentarily challenge us to rise to, why not find new admiration for ourselves in our admiration for another, why not draw on our memory of the dead to inspire us in life, why perpetrate some false modesty? This is a religious idea, this idea of modesty. And true humility does not assert itself as such. It simply is. This ‘but who am I to…’, this tyrannical coyness, has been beaten into some of us since birth. Apparently, anarchists ‘should not seek greatness in others’, to which I reply, first that I will do what I please as an anarchist and dig my heels in when a rulebook is thrown at me by anyone– and second, that I seek out many qualities in others in order to learn about myself, about the world, about affinity, and I will dedicate myself in fact to seeking out exactly that greatness in others that I seek it out in myself and pour my own quiet ceremony on any hero and heroine I choose.

Against the clan of the dreary mice, I raise a fist to every hero with a thousand faces!


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