Beyond the Neighborhood

Erasmo Calzadilla

Havana park.  Photo: Juan Suarez
Havana park. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Society fits us with the chip of normality and the overwhelming fear of stepping over the line when we are very small.

Humanity comes together as a herd by casting out the black sheep. The latter react in different ways: some will dye themselves white in order to be accepted, others will seek revenge or resign themselves to being outcasts, a tiny little group will try to put together an independent community and a handful will Awaken.

Waking up means maturing, and it happens in stages. In the first stage, we break with the herd and cast off the uncomfortable mold they seek to squeeze us into – it is the lone-wolf stage. The second has more to do with understanding why the society in which we grew up keeps such vile chains in place, why it continues to worship idols, prescribe arbitrary taboos for itself and treat dissidents so cruelly.

All social systems – utopian or real – deal with those who go astray in accordance with their principles.

Capitalism, which extols the enterprising individual and dismembers communities, makes life easy for the rebel. Capitalism likes people who think outside the box because they are agents of change and, as such, they stimulate the market. If the attack is committed, sustained and aimed at the foundations of the system, then the incendiary individual is left “without coverage.”

Real socialism, which addresses the masses as the “subject” of the revolution, has been far clumsier with those who Awaken. It tends to uproot or impose harsh punishments on dissidents in an effort to push them to the “enemy” camp.

These types of purges fuse so organically with the system that it need not mobilize its repressive apparatus: the masses take care of the dirty work in a surprisingly efficient manner.

What about anarchism?

One would expect those who have Awakened to embrace anarchism and for anarchists to orbit around this Awakening. This isn’t always the case.

Several anarchists I know show a kind of reverence for the neighborhood which I find extremely odd. The community is to them what the Amazon region is for ecologists: a space that houses a highly rich tissue of human relations, a stronghold threatened with extinction by the economic development policies of both capitalism and “socialism.”

It sounds pretty, but, to complete the picture, they would have to add that patriarchy, meanness, violence, alienation and consumerism and authoritarianism have a permanent embassy at the heart of the neighborhood as well.

The same network of human relations that some anarchists dream about also works as a means of perpetuating asymmetrical power relations. It is the barbed wire standing in the way of emancipation, the cobweb in which the solitary enemy of the status quo gets caught.

Could it be the neighborhood is good, at root, but that our rotten systems contaminate it? Or is it human nature, which is inherently flawed? Such questions lose all meaning if we frame these issues from an eco-social perspective.

Everything seems to indicate that in a matter of years (a few decades, at most), the System will collapse. The most likely scenarios are a holocaust, a return to the Middle Ages, forms of eco-fascism and the emergence of a totally new system.

Europe is already suffering some of these things and its neighborhoods have stood out for their resilience, but the establishment of a fundamentally fraternal system, well integrated into the environment and based on higher levels of consciousness (it sounds a bit New Age, but it needn’t be), will only be possible if a “critical mass” of people manages to overcome the barrier or common sense.

My proposal is: let us bet on the neighborhood without succumbing to it.

2 thoughts on “Beyond the Neighborhood

  • Very good article my friend.

    I only disagree with you about capitalism and repression. If you really “think outside the box”, you’ll be useless for the market. If you can be trapped by it (as many of us we are) you aren’t really thinking outside. In any case, repression is everywhere, with arash, torture, etc. and everywhere the medias are in charge to make it up as justice, reason and all this shit. Do not idealize this side please.

    And even if for mi the neighborhood is an usefull tool, I’m not dreaming, it’s clear that the average people just reproduce (as we do lots of times) what we are fighting for. But I think that we must be able to consider its potential.

    Hugs from the other side.

  • Despite the overuse of mixed metaphors, Erasmo managed to arrived at the right conclusion. Let the “neighborhood” or what we capitalists call the ‘market’ decide. Socialists try to substitute central planning for the market and, invariably, they end up with condom shortages and $300,000 Peugeot sedans.

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