Learning about “obnoxious” anarchists at Commie High

This morning, as Arlo and were making our way around Ann Arbor, I cut through an ally next to Community High, where I found three filing cabinets. Not being one who can just walk by a discarded filing cabinet without opening it, I slid the drawers out one by one, looking inside. The first few didn’t yield anything of value, but, eventually, I found something interesting. At the back of one of the drawers was a small stack of paper strips, each saying, “You are an anarchist.” In and of themselves, these strips, which were clearly intended for some kind of role-playing activity, might not mean anything. Given, however, that Community High, commonly referred to as “Commie High” in Ann Arbor, whether deserved or not, has a reputation for indoctrinating young people into radical politics, I thought that it was worth noting. I thought that it also might give us an opportunity, once again, to discuss how people, myself included, don’t really understand what anarchy is all about… I’m sure the Community High exercise was interesting, and valuable to the students who participated, and I realize that it’s difficult to distill a political doctrine into a few lines of text, but when I saw the phrase, “Have fun being obnoxious,” I knew that I had to share it here.

As for the filing cabinets, I didn’t have any way to get them home, but they looked like they were in pretty good shape. If you’re interested, they may still be there.

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  1. Kerri
    Posted June 24, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I did my student teaching there back in 1998. Best school ever.

  2. Eel
    Posted June 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    I thought that we’d already established that Anarchy is Stupid?


  3. jfsmith23
    Posted June 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Too bad that the person responsible for those paper strips isn’t actually familiar with anarchism, as rejecting “any conceivable form of organization” has nothing to do with anarchism. Sounds more nihilistic, to me.

  4. Posted June 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Interesting find and fun little read. I am wondering if the person who wrote that strip knew much about anarchism or if that was simply a student’s limited scope on the matter. Anyways, there are a few amazing books about anarchist politics as there is no one version of the anarchism. For anyone interested check out a brilliant and interesting read called “The Anarchists of Casas Viejas” written by Jerome Mintz. This book is by no means propaganda but rather excellent journalism and oral history from Spain. It gives a good sense of how anarchism emerges from places in ways that are situational, decentralized, and local. It’s interesting because anarchists are all too often the first to call someone or something not anarchism but really there are so many different versions of anarchic experiments its not really fair for me to question that strip of paper. Cool find though!

  5. ChelseaL
    Posted June 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    You may remember hearing that, in high school, I was an anarchist. I was also obnoxious.

  6. Edward
    Posted June 24, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    “Have fun being obnoxious.” I have to remember that the next time I find myself talking with an anarchist.

  7. Mr. Y
    Posted June 25, 2012 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I’d like to see the others.

    “Like Jesus, you are a Capitalist. You are a protector of freedom, and a believer in the goodness of man. You can do no wrong. Everything you say is correct, and, as such, nothing you say can be considered obnoxious. No one can challenge you. Everyone else around the table is a welfare queen. Act accordingly.”

  8. Aaron
    Posted June 25, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I consider myself an anarchist. Wow, whoever wrote this has less than a basic understanding of the movement, the lengthy history behind it, or the deep philisophical thought put into the way of life.

    And by way of life I don’t mean lighting things on fire and drinking 40s. Boo!!!

  9. Posted June 25, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    It sounds more like a libertarian, doesn’t it?

  10. Lynne
    Posted June 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I so love Commie High :)

    Anyways, I feel that obnoxious pretty much describes most anarchists I have met or at least those who have made their political views known to me. Maybe the less obnoxious ones tend to be more quiet.

  11. Arturo
    Posted June 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I am a capitalist. I am a god among men. Avert your eyes. Offer me your daughters. Prostrate yourself. I am deserving of tribute. I will take what it mines, for that it what God intended when he made me a tall, white, American male with a rugged jaw and broad shoulders. You are compelled to follow me. And, if I fail, it’s not my fault. It’s clearly something that was done to me by the government, and its oppressive environmental laws. I believe that any man in this country that pull himself up by his bootstraps and be a success. I learned that in boarding school.

  12. Elf
    Posted June 25, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Clearly this was left purposefully by the Community High administration in hopes of changing public perception of the school.

  13. Elf
    Posted June 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t be surprised if theY paid Mark to “find” it.

  14. Thom Elliott
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Anarchy, as I understand it, is the libertarian socialist endpoint of Communism, which is a material dialectic based on an inverted Hegelianism. This means; human history is a progressive development away from barbaric dehumanization and enforced alienation of Capitalism toward a unheirarchiacal direct democratic edifice. This progess is seen by Marx as an inevitable process of history. For Hegel, this natural historical progress was the Geist or Spirit coming to know itself in a teleological ascent through the struggle of human history, for Marx it is purely economical teleological ascent based on the revolutionary power of the prols to reappropriate the means of production from the brutal capitalist and have a connection between their labor and their lives. Its not a perfect idea, because without the Geist there is no reason for history to progress.

  15. Thom Elliott
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Also, unfortunately for Marx, he was writing at the apex of the industrial revolution, which was a particular formation of modernity which has almost nothing to do with our cybernetic posthuman technological dystopia, which emerged from the industrial revolution and its pitch black nihilism, but is a wholly different, unforseeable condition with its own set of deeply problematic dillemas different from those of Marx’s time. Also unfortunately for Marx, our people are little more then sacks of flesh that live to consume, even refering to themselves glibly by that term, like a Jew in Sobibor concentration camp calling himself an ‘eater’, there is no way our mentally deranged obese and technologically addicted ‘people’ would ever see the trap that is their own lives and want something else, they would need to maybe pick up a book first, but we all know; that ain’t gunna happen.

  16. Posted June 26, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    For Proudhon, the “father” of modern Anarchy, it was very simple “Property is theft” and the state protects the robbers and religion justifies the theft. As he stated, “In What is Property, published in 1840, he defined anarchy as “the absence of a master, of a sovereign”, and in The General idea of the Revolution (1851) he urged a “society without authority.” He extended this analysis beyond political institutions, arguing in What is Property? that “proprietor” was “synonymous” with “sovereign”. For Proudhon:
    “ “Capital”… in the political field is analogous to “government”… The economic idea of capitalism, the politics of government or of authority, and the theological idea of the Church are three identical ideas, linked in various ways. To attack one of them is equivalent to attacking all of them . . . What capital does to labour, and the State to liberty, the Church does to the spirit. This trinity of absolutism is as baneful in practice as it is in philosophy. The most effective means for oppressing the people would be simultaneously to enslave its body, its will and its reason.[19]

    Proudhon was a “mutualist” and a “federalist” he would have felt quit at home with many of the initiatives creative folks here in Ypsi are pursuing. Elliott’s philosophical ruminations are interesting, but I think we should look at what anarchist actually say, rather than their predecessors (Hegel) or its philisophical and intellectual opponent (Marx).

  17. Thom Elliott
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Oh yes please, don’t take my word, I’m not expert on economic systems, its philosophy I know. I would encourage anyone to relax your capitalist occultism, product fetishism, and industrial worldpicture and read some Baukinin, Goldman, or Proudhon. But I would encourage you anarchists however to read some Heidegger, Badieu, Lefebvre, Deleuze, Lyotard, Baudrilliard, Rawls, and Sartre. The problems of today are infact different, and only an understanding of the alien nature of modern technology and its framework for ruling human lives and blotting out being can possibly put people in the position for proper contemporary praxis.

  18. Posted June 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Our late Detroit neighbor Freddie Perlman did a pretty good job with much of what you address in his work, “Against His-Story, Against Leviathan!”.

  19. alan
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    wobblie: “Proudhon was a mutualist”

    …. an intellectual tradition now being carried on, very capably, by
    Kevin Carson:

    Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
    Mutualist.Org: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
    The Iron Fist Behind The Invisible Hand
    Corporate Capitalism As State-Guaranteed System of Privilege
    Center for a Stateless Society – Market Anarchism


  20. alan
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Study: “Progressive” is the new “Reactionary”
    Does progressivism point the way to a brighter future, or has it become the last line of defense for a failed political and economic status quo?
    In his latest research study, released today by the Center for a Stateless Society, Kevin Carson makes the case for progressives as the bitter-enders of a social project made obsolete by liberating technologies and the production and distribution methods those technologies make possible.
    “Thermidor of the Progressives: Managerialist Liberalism’s Hostility to Decentralized Organization” traces the development of managerialism in the political and economic realms, the history of progressive attachment to the managerial vision, and the siege mentality displayed by progressives as they confront what Carson calls the “Network Revolution.”
    “For liberals,” writes Carson, author of _The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low Overhead Manifesto_, “the American Golden Age was the ‘Consensus Capitalism’ of the New Deal and the first post-WWII generation. … This general affinity for large-scale organization and hierarchy, more recently, has been reflected in hostility to the new forms of networked organization permitted by the emerging technologies of the late twentieth century.”
    The study is freely available online and may be reproduced under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license

    Thermidor of the Progressives: Liberalism’s Hostility to Decentralized Organization.
    By Kevin Carson
    “‘Progressive’ intellectuals have become attached to the fortunes of the large bureaucratic organization in the same way that the politiques were attached to the court of the Sun King. … This general affinity for large-scale organization and hierarchy, more recently, has been reflected in hostility to the new forms of networked organization permitted by the emerging technologies of the late twentieth century. The reaction to decentralized and networked organization, among conventional liberals, seems to be uniformly and viscerally negative. The professional vs. the do-it-yourself, the hierarchical vs. the networked, the managed vs. the ad hoc, the large and the hierarchical vs. the small-scale — in every case, the antipathies are predictable to the point of stereotype.”

  21. Greg Pratt
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    thanks for sharing everyone.

    The text of slip of paper in the photo is more akin to “nihilist” rather than “anarchist.”

    but, that is too simplistic for some of you ;)

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