The Gospel of Anarchy has already been reviewed by major places like the New York Times, I don’t think there is any need to give a real review of the book. Here are my thoughts, while reading it:
Thought 1. When I was 20-years-old, in 2001, I spent a summer in Eugene, Oregon. Eugene was full of pamphlets advertising everything from lectures being given by the University of Oregon, lesbian-only poetry readings, and things about the local anarchist group. I have always loved politics, so I walked down to the local anarchist house. You could just walk right in, no one cared, it had a name like Fishgut, but I don’t remember the name now. I walked in and found five dirty looking kids in their early 20s sitting around doing nothing. I didn’t look cool at all, I wasn’t wearing black, my hair was washed and I had a job. They had a small room with books that you could borrow. I sat in the room and read through zines and looked at the endless amount of books by Marx, Lenin and Howard Zinn. I gave them five dollars and they let me take some zines. Even though they were very inviting, I didn’t like them. They seemed unwashed and not existential or alienated or anything. They seemed like lost children.
Thought 2. I remember AOL chatrooms and trading for porn. Those were horrible times in internet porn.
Thought 3. The Parker character is some anarchist messiah, which is really funny. I have always thought that anarchists were just Christians from circa 80AD.
Thought 4. I have met political kids like this my whole life, they don’t know what they are talking about, they don’t care what they are talking about, they just want to talk. The scene where the girl doesn’t know what a comptroller is, blew my mind. Here Taylor shows that he understands his subject with a sense of maturity, that politics is way more complex than just yelling about “tearing down the system.” Because even if you tear down the system, you have to build a new one, and the new one will require comptrollers, accountants, welders, tax brackets, revenue services to collect those taxes, schools, everything that goes in schools from chemicals to dry erase boards. Running a government is no joke, it takes a lot of work, done by a large amount of people who have specific skills and training. It can’t just be done by a college dropout who has a good weed connection.
Thought 5. I liked how Taylor involved sex into the initiation process. That anarchism is like a cult, and if you get in, you can get laid. Which is awesome for 19-to-21-old kids because that is what that age group wants, to get laid.
Thought 6. I was 19 once, everything seemed amazing and bright. I wanted to experience everything: sex, drugs, music, travel, new ideas about politics, new philosophies never mentioned in my hometown, new new new.
Thought 7. Taylor vs. Cometbus. I think if you have read Cometbus, then this book has a different light to it. Cometbus thinks the wild life is cool, that having a house full of weirdos is generally exciting. Taylor doesn’t take this view. His view is that anarchism is not a movement at all, but something 19-to-22-year-old kids do to get laid and gather new life experiences. Then eventually if they are smart, they go back to college and get their lives together. Cometbus, on the other hand, prefers this existence as a way of life.
Thought 8. By writing about 20-year-old anarchists and how oblivous they are about what politics really is, Taylor makes a strange point: he shows that Americans in general don’t know what politics is, that most of America are like these kids: running around, expounding ideas they don’t understand and don’t even care about knowing. One could look at the teabaggers and see how a whole group of people became obsessed with stopping a public option, a simple device that would allow low-income Americans to get health care. I recently witnessed a 24-year-old woman tell her parents, if you vote Republican and the Republicans want to take away Obamacare, you are voting for me to lose my health care, her parents didn’t care. And then there are some of the OWS Protesters who want free college. I understand the societal necessity of having more nurses and engineers, but for sculpture and art history majors, seriously? I think what Taylor is trying to show is that there is a disconnect between the details and application. Yes, we would all love to end the wars and our constant interference with the middle-east, but what if we brought all the troops home, gas prices might be 10 dollars a gallon the next day. Politics is no joke, it involves dealing with a lot of evil people, doing evil things, and a lot of specialists doing very specific work.
3 thoughts on “Guest Post: Noah Cicero: Thoughts on Justin Taylor’s The Gospel of Anarchy”
I liked this, Noah. I’ve have this book on my shelf since it came out, but I haven’t read it yet. I read Taylor’s collection of stories, and though it was pretty solid, it didn’t grab me by the balls. Maybe I’ll take a look at this novel sometime soon.
I can’t speak to the book itself, but it seems odd to criticize a bunch of teenagers for not knowing every level of municipal beauraucracy while you base your entire condemnation of a centuries-old political movement on some people you met once who were, like, totally gross. This whole post reads a lot like the kind of internal monologue of someone justifying their political inaction with “politics is complicated, and everyone who wants to change the system is crazy and stupid”.
But maybe you’re right. Maybe we shouldn’t stop bombing weddings in Afghanistan because, if we do, the price of gas might go up.