Monday, February 23, 2009

Michael Benton: Pantheist Anarchists -- Should We Fear Them?

(This a response to a kind, but condescending person who mistakenly believed that I am not what I say I am: a pantheist/anarchist... my reply is to an email which I will not produce, but I think you can get the drift of the original statement)

I appreciate your considerate response.

I am an anarchist. Anarchist philosophy is considered to be one of the four major public philosophies in the US: along with socialism, conservativism and liberalism. It has nothing to do with a desire for a violent, chaotic anarchy and everything to do with a belief in small, mutable collectives working toward the public good (with a heavy dose of skepticism toward dogmatic systems--religious or political). In this we celebrate personal responsibility, intellectual integrity and moral complexity. We do not believe that it is ok to excuse our actions onto a controlling narrative like: christianity, communism, profit-line margins, and, yes, democracy. We believe that we must develop our moral complexity through interaction with the world (peoples/places/beliefs) and that we are responsible for our own actions. In other words you would never hear an anarchist say I did it because I was ordered to do it, or god commanded me to do it, or we had to sacrifice workers for the good of the corporation. Personal responsibility (authenticity) is probably one of the driving forces of all of the many weird and wonderful anarchist collectives. We can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but we are struggling to make sense and will always seek to engage with other ideas. Can we say the same of the other three major public philosophies?

Don't buy into the gross stereotypes of anarchism perpetuated by our controlling capitalist narrative (it probably didn't help that the communists also marked anarchists out as an enemy). The problems in Africa are symptomatic of the after-effects of the earlier European colonialism and the continuing American imperialism. It is a form of Darwinian free-market capitalism in places like the Congo (later referred to as gangster capitalism) and a destructive duel of controlling monologic political and religious narratives (Zimbabwe/Sudan/etc). Anarchists do not support these types of systems.

The French revolutionaries were not anarchists. Perhaps you might look into the later history of the Paris Communes who we would look to for inspiration--are you familiar? Once again I appreciate your concern, but your history is very flawed. Have you actually researched these things or did someone tell you about them?

I would discuss anarchism, revolutions, the cause of the African chaos, problems with the American political system, radical pedagogy and utopian possibilities with you (or anyone else).

Pantheism has nothing to do with the worship of nature. Take the word apart--simply "many beliefs". It is Bakhtinian dialogism in its essence. A belief in the power/benefit of multiple perspectives. I do not subscribe to any one religion, instead I seek wisdom-from/engagement-with all belief systems. I am simply ideologically becoming and desire to rub up against other modes of perceiving the world. When will I be a complete being--as I die, until then I am always learning, studying, engaging and researching (for simplicity's sake... "becoming"). We could think of it as a "being as becoming"

I do not agree we are all pagans. For instance, the email from the tech person professing god this and god that as if we all will simply understand what god he is ranting about. Obviously he is referring to the god of the Christian church that dedicated itself to eradicating pagan thought and beliefs. The Christian leaders did this because they were unable to reconcile themselves with the fact that some group of people may not want/desire to follow their "way". Like any good monologic, dogmatic, controlling narrative the Christian leaders decided these beings that defied the Christian narrative of the world through simply living their own lives had to be destroyed for everyone's good. For if others live a different way they challenge their controlling way of life. This is the same problem tyrants and dictators have with free-minded folks. Suppress all opposition. If that doesn't work... Eliminate all opposition. A truly dystopic reality for all involved (master and slave).

I guess you might also call me an anti-theist (because there are those who seek to trademark pantheism). Now before you get worried that I have slid into a nihilistic conception of a meaningless world, let me explain...

Anti + theism = against institutionalized religion and dogmatic systems and controlling narratives

No good has ever come of them. If you think the French revolution was bad you should have traveled the French countryside during the 100 yrs war and the 30 yrs war and all of the other religious wars that ravaged that nation.

I prefer my spiritual intoxicants uncut and unfiltered, I do not need a priest or a preacher or a prophet or a church to outline my connection to the higher forces of the universe. However, I do appreciate mediation through my interactions with art (in all its forms), philosophies (all belief/knowledge systems), peoples (all peoples), places (the physical world), but they must be put into "play" with each other... play, in the fullest sense of the world. Against controlling narratives, for the free play of multiple perspectives, so that we can learn and experience as much as possible... does this sound dangerous?

If you hear anyone complaining about the crazy pantheistic anarchist teaching in our college I would appreciate it if you pass this along to them.

Pura vida!


Anonymous said...

Kudos to you on your very articulate explanation of your beliefs. I believe the answer to your title question is undoubtedly "NO!"

Michael said...

Thanks Liz, I value your input and it is good to know that it all makes sense :)

Anonymous said...

Found your blog via google alerts. Happy I did.

Michael said...


Pura Vida!


PS: I have no idea what a Google alert is?