Community: An Elusive Term

ImageEveryone knows the terrible communities, whether because they’ve spent some time in them or because they’re still there. Or simply because they’re still stronger than the others, and so some of us have still partly remained in them – while at the same time being outside of them. The family, the school, work, prison – these are the classical faces of this contemporary form of hell, but they are the least interesting because they belong to a bygone depiction of commodity evolution, and are at present merely surviving on.

-Tiqqun, Theses on the Terrible Community

The idea of the community is reflective of an ancient form of social life, one that is intrinsically required by our being as much as sources of nutrition are required by our bodies. While this sociality is experientially significant for human psychological development, it would be a naive assumption to think that the remnants of that sociality found in the modern world have any redeemability to us. Inversely, it may be another false promise holding us captive, tricking our sense of togetherness by channeling those needs into modes of productivity and social domestication. 

To believe that any form of genuinely fulfilling community can exist within the confines of agricultural, and especially industrial, society serves only to affirm civilization – that such reforms to our current circumstances can be made accumulatively until we are again inhabiting a living world of substance. In John Zerzan’s, The Nihilist Dictionary, he writes, “The refusal of community might be termed a self-defeating isolation but it appears preferable, healthier, than declaring our allegiance to the daily fabric of an increasingly self-destructive world. Magnified alienation is not a condition chosen by those who insist on the truly social over the falsely communal. It is present in any case, due to the content of community. Opposition to the estrangement instead of celebrating it by calling it community.” He asks, “Why defend that to which we are held hostage?”

There is no community to be had here. The institutions and relationships that identify as such are mere shells, institutions set out to further the survival of a prison world by adhering to very real human affections. Only when one believes that the world of factories is the only world, and that the people who inhabit it are interacting in the only ways people can interact, does one resign to the conditions before them. Of course, most anyone at that point could never imagine a world beyond the neighborhood, nor relate to those in close proximity as anything but distant neighbors they wave hello to in between the activities of daily life, to the point that imagining anything else becomes totally bizarre and unthinkable. Yet, there is an anxiety, and that remainder stems from the absence of meaningful communion present, and with that acknowledgement the only life-affirming option includes a rejection of all representations of community, matched with relational engagement that is not condoned by Empire, yet undermines it, invigorating our senses and possessing us into the unknown. “Only a negative ‘community’, based explicitly on contempt for the categories of existent community, is legitimate and appropriate to our aims.” Let us utilize our rootlessness toward the dangerous, with ritual both criminal and bonding, foraging across cityscapes and landscapes, theft and communal sharing, interacting with one another with great and deliberate intention, to create a form of play or dance that animates us as an informal war party against Empire. When bands of people grow together, the scope and spectrum of their negating force increases proportionally. Dichotomous thinking would have us separate our subversive activity from the richening of our relations, yet these things create a feedback loop that allows us to maintain ourselves in a time that effectively amounts to war.

The question that arises for us, in a final manner, is more of an ethical than a political nature, because the classical forms of politics are at the low water-mark, and their categories are leaving us, like the habits of childhood. The question is whether we prefer the possibility of unknown dangers to the certainty of the present misery.

-Tiqqun, Theses on the Terrible Community

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