When I became an anarchist, I was 18, depressed, anxious, and ready to save the world. I moved in with other anarchists and worked at a vegetarian co-op cafe. I protested against student tuition, prison privatisation, and pipeline extensions. I had lawyer’s numbers sharpied on my ankle and I assisted friends who were pepper-sprayed at demos. I tabled zines, lived with my “chosen family,” and performed slam poems about the end of the world.
In the pages of Quillette, Conor Barnes, a woke apostate, recounts his time among sad radicals:
Radical communities select for particular personality types… They attract hurt people, looking for an explanation for the pain they’ve endured… However, radical communities also attract people looking for an excuse to be violent illegalists. And the surplus of vulnerable people attracts sadists and abusers ready to exploit them. The only gate-keeping that goes on in radical communities is that of language and passion—if you can rail against capitalism in woke language, you’re in…
Abusers thrive in radical communities because radical norms are fragile and exploitable. A culture of freewheeling drug and alcohol use creates situations predators are waiting to exploit. A cultural fetishization of violence provides cover for violent and unstable people. The practice of public “call-outs” is used for power-plays far more often than for constructive feedback… Having somebody yell at me that if I didn’t admit to being a white supremacist her friends might beat me up, and that I should pay her for her emotional labour, was too much for my ideology to spin.
Update, via the comments:
Several commenters have suggested that, if you’re feeling anxious and depressed, it may not be entirely wise to join a “radical community” in which “deconstructing monogamy” and “freewheeling drug and alcohol use” are favoured activities. Especially when membership entails being surrounded by intersectional conspiracy theorists and borderline personalities, and when the stated aim of the “radical community” is to “destroy society because it cannot be redeemed by its own means.” But as we saw a few days ago, unstable people are often drawn to the kinds of activities and social groups that practically guarantee further deterioration.
And it occurs to me that the account above may also explain Laurie Penny’s sour and outlandish view of men, which doesn’t remotely describe any of the men I know, or the kind of men that any of the women I know would choose to associate with. Judging by Laurie’s own writing, her social circle seems to consist largely of far-left activists, fellow “anarcho-communists” and polyamorist suitors who presumably share her taste for disdaining bourgeois proprieties. If, as she claims, the men she associates with are so prone to dysfunction and obnoxious behaviour - more than chance alone would seem to allow - perhaps that’s less to do with men in general and more a feature of her chosen sub-culture.
Which is to say, if you play the cartoon radical and hang out almost exclusively with other cartoon radicals, you will run into a remarkable number of misfits and creeps.