Thoughts & Stories of Mike Straight #72

    I swear, it read like a fairy tale. We were reading Abel Paz's journal from the Spanish Civil War, and that is exactly what it sounded like. Maybe it was because we were in Barcelona, maybe it was the hash ... but still it read as a dream - of a magical occurrence, long ago in a far away place. Stories not of dragons and castles - but of collective transit systems, autonomous decision-making, and the slaying of evil, fascist beasts. I commented on how unreal the book felt, and she whispered back "Lebkuchenhauser fur traurige, kleine krusties" (Gingerbread houses for sad, little crusties).
And it was true...
    We came here, from Berlin and West Philly, on a pilgrimage to Barcelona. Pulled by the history and the activity that now lives. We came because we dream, wonder about what life could be, think about what could happen in that mythical time, "after the revolution". We wanted to see what once was, what now is, and to think how tomorrow could be...
Flashback, a year before...
    Emily and I developed a taste for Jehovah's Witness propaganda, Not only did it bring smiles to the faces of the kind old ladies because we actually took it, but it gave us hours of entertainment - laughing at their predictions. So, it was when we were sitting on the front stoop of the Farm when Emily turned to me and Sean Digger saying, "You know the Watchtower really isn't that different from a lot of the Anarchist fanzines, from their tone, to the predictions of a new society..." The ironic thing was, that I was just thinking the same thing - if you only changed some of the words, like revolution for second-coming... I laughed, thinking how Marx says that one day the proletariat will develop a consciousness for cooperative living, and in the minds of the Witnesses, Jehovah basically says the same damn thing... The Christians blame the problems of humanity on original sin, the Anarchists blame the system, and after that falls ... a new spiritual rebirth will come over the mass and.... They live for their dream, as we do for ours, different mechanisms, words, and reasoning's, but a similar goal never the less. Is it that easy to make Christian/Anarchist comparisons? Of course not, but there are scary similarities...
    I was raised by an Atheist father, who also has a low opinion on Marxist views, so I know it is my conditioning to be skeptical, but lately ... lately this skepticism has become a forefront of my thoughts, This was clear as I was sitting on the Ramblas, as almost every Anarchists I have known talks with affection of Barcelona in 1936 (like Christians talk of the garden of Eden). It was the golden time, and the Paz book reflects this. The utopic time, before the evil communists ruined it, and then the eviler fascists took it all over. All of these thoughts flooded me mind while sitting in the Spanish sun ... awww.. So this was the place, this is the setting that the infamous event took place ... In the 20th century, we have one large-scale place, in a duration of less then 3 years, to look for as inspiration ... hummm, this is pretty minimal, hummm and now the situation here looks even bleaker, as investment capital is flooding into this neighborhood, gentrifying and displacing the current squatting movement at an amazing speed. My father conditioned me to be cynical, the world hasn't done much to help overcome that.
    We left Spain, ended up back in Deutschland. When we were there, she picked up the Hakim Bey book about Temporary Autonomous Zones. It was a German translation, but she described parts and concepts as we traveled through the east. She loved it, as it considers with her existing philosophy of life. Basically the idea revolves around the idea that in this society, you must live in the cracks that one can find. The appreciation of the daily victories, of taking back the spaces you can.
    (On another note, elsewhere in the zine I critiqued the Evasion book, but I forgot to mention the one descent concept that it had to offer. The author may be oblivious, privileged, and naive, but at least he realizes and appreciates taking control of his life and maximizing the moment. )
    I do realize that life is a series of moments, constantly changing with new possibilities, and I have the power to fulfill each of them. I do see the reverence, and empowerment that this idea refers to, but personally I don't find it enough - I want something more, something more permanent, and I am doubtful I can have it. So I live with the vague hope, of a new, more fair society emerging in the future. Because these days I don't want to keep moving, I want a foundation, I want to find a place to nurture and build ties, to raise children, a place to call home.
    (I was reminded about a passage I read in a zine once ... I think it was Doris ... on the reasons not to have children - She asked her friend why she should not have a child, and he commented that if she did, they could not do their lifelong plan to squat in Berlin ... well that excuse is out, as German Kapital has moved quicker then you. Kopi is the only squat without a rental contract left and its years are numbered. Sad, but true.)
    So what to believe in ... hummm. OK, I know I should end this here, now how did it start? Oh, the Abel Paz book. Yea, it reads like a fairy tale - with excitement, optimism and he leaves off when things are still on the upswing. It is a good read - especially if you are a sad, little the krusty who dreams of Anarchistic utopias. It is short, with a lot of pictures of Spain during the glory day. Now I know I should end this column with a definitive ending, some clear conclusion ... but I have none. No, all I have is unanswered thoughts and I know they aren't the most uplifting ... but this is what I leave you, these thoughts on a rainy Montreal day...
—Mike Straight