the first three chapters of straw dogs are the readings for this and next week. this week just the first chapter, next week the following two.
the official reading is abolition of work — to prepare us for an event of lbc hosting bob black on friday 8/7/15.
a short entirely optional addition is this piece by bob, published in black eye (out of new york), in which he displays a joie de vivre, his vaunted word play, and a twisty fun sensibility that one could almost call prescient.
It was at work that I was driven into gridlock on the Damascus Road. Researching nuisance law (as if there was any other kind) I discovered People v Amdur, 123 Cal. App. 2d Supp. 951, 267 P. 445 (1954). In this 1954 decision, the court held that an anarchist who sets up a literature table near Sather Gate in Berkeley campus is guilty of creating a public nuisance. Although over thirty years have elapsed, as I contemplate anarchists like Jeff Strahl and Kevin Keating doing the same thing on the same spot today, I cannot gainsay the essential justice of this ruling. This insight, though, does not begin to exhaust the riches of the decision. When lawyers get their hands on a historic case they are wont to say ‘this is one for the casebooks’. People v Amdur is one of the mental-casebooks, for it asks the burning question: ‘What is a Watsonian anarchist?’ Is he a follower of the Watson who invented misbehaviourism, such as B. F. Skinhead? Or the Dr Watson who came under the influence of his good friend Morlock Holmes? First the facts.
On February 6, 1953, a police officer accosted Reuel S. Amdur as he manfully manned his table, stocked with literature decrying the Smith Act and the trial of the Rosenbergs. As Amdur had no permit, he was told to move along or face arrest. Whereupon Amdur uttered the words which would make him a criminal and forever a part of the law of the land: ‘Go ahead and arrest me. I am a Watsonian anarchist and will stand on my constitutional rights.’
A Watsonian anarchist! Right then and there as I dawdled in the library of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California I knew that I, too, was a Watsonian anarchist, whatever that was, come what may. (I always felt a bit out of place among the earnest activists of the ACLU. No member of a minority or deviant subculture feels more alienated than I did the day I joined the only other occupants of the library, a transvestite, a lesbian, and a dwarf.) But if I was the first to follow the Bigfoot tracks laid down by Amdur (since lapsed into the obscurity from which the police briefly raised him) I now know that I am not alone. Before Amdur was, I am.
A Watsonian anarchist spurns all the other hyphenated anarchists, mutualist-, syndicalist-, capitalist-, etc. A Watsonian anarchist is her own man. He is outside of and arrayed against the anarchist milieu in every form. And she thinks punk anarchists are, to paraphrase Celine, “much better firewood than a violin.” (Even a little better than an electric guitar.) Genetically he sports the signature ‘Z’ chromosome. She is a pathological truth-teller and so he is viewed with suspicion and hatred by anti- authoritarians. He declines whatever role the Invisible Government assigns her in the ideological division of labour, even the production of “biting fliers” for the amusement of anarchist jades. Indeed, Watsonians don’t play roles, they enact schiz. They regard Little Hans as a political prisoner, they delight that Dora survived the rapist Freud’s joyless ministrations and grew up just in time for her attentat against Lenin. Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.
On a scale from left to right, the Watsonian is off on a tangent. She is almost as anathema to the authorities as he is to the anti-authoritarians. Neither an individualist, capitalist, right-wing ‘type 1’ anarchist nor a collectivism socialist, left-wing ‘type 2’ anarchist, he is a type 3 anarchist and nobody’s fool. She wrote The Anarchist Cookbookchin, he promises a chicken in every Kropotkin, if you prefer Ravachol with cheese, Spooner in, it’s the Most! God damn, I De Cleyre, that’s a Comfort if I Read you alright. A dead dogma makes her Thoreau up. A Watsonian is a loose cannon, he is over the edge. Any other anarchist can be trimmed to fit, the Watsonian throws one. The Watsonians are an aristocracy of egalitarians, they are Taoist overachievers, when yuppies tout workers’ councils they smell a Rat.
The small minded might quibble that Watsonianism is nothing but an error in transcription. The opinion of the Superior Court (it had to be, to handle a Watsonian) admittedly does not recite Amdur’s testimony, only the cop’s. A pedant might piddle that the officer, who was perhaps ideologically unsophisticated, misunderstood Amdur who really said: “I am a Jeffersonian anarchist, and…” —echoing Benjamin Tucker’s definition of an anarchist as an unterrified Jeffersonian democrat (Watsonians are the only remaining unterrified anarchists.) Or perhaps the officer unconsciously imputed to Amdur his own puzzled blurt: “A what-sonian anarchist?” Not every Watsonian has the gift of gab, but she always makes every syllable count. It matters not. So majestic and evocative an expression surely has some objective referent with which I, for one, am proud to be associated. If Watsonians did not exist they would have had to invent themselves. And they do, over and over again. A Watsonian is a moving target.
A Watsonian doesn’t have to be a leftist, a feminist, j modernist, a humanist or anything else but himself. She stands by his friends, unlike other anarchists, and he knows her ideas have practical implications no matter how often they have to be changed, hers is the purism of mutability. He treats everyone equally, hence egalitarians denounce her elitism. Because she is always consistent, no one ever knows what he’ll do next. She’s not a quitter, but he Knows when to quit. She is a Watsonian anarchist. Beep beep!
the third week of lew’s stream of consciousness presentation style, involving myth, religion, millenarianism, cross-cultural anecdotes, etc.
the reading for this time (hard copy is available at the long haul in the study group mail box: ask a staffer if you don’t know where that is) is the preface from The Secret Life of Puppets, by Victoria Nelson. (link is to a review of the book, not the preface. be not confused!)
we’re doing a month of lew’s readings, which will be available at the long haul in the reading group mailbox (you can ask a staffer if you don’t know where that is).
the first week we’ll be reading aloud from the reading, so no preparation is required.
names of future readings will be forthcoming.
also, this week is POTLUCK! woo hoo?
we’re reading the first section of To Our Friends, available for free at the long haul. (it’s long, so get started early!)
Notes from the Underground (will be selecting parts):
Suggested reading is all of Part I (and II if anyone feels motivated to)
thanks to squee for the planning, inspiration, and execution!
Existentialism is a Humanism