(This draft is old and I'm publishing it as is, uncompleted, because it had a lot of personal political musings that came from me starting to post a bit more on feminist blogs and forums than anarchist spaces. Now that the only blog I'm a regular on is Pandagon, I thought it may be of interest to people who want to learn more about me and my political evolution.)
During my stint in academia, I think my most valuable lesson was learning that specialization of knowledge is shit. It's the excreted waste of a process that has, mostly, beneficial results. This process is called progress (all the po-mo objections can wait until the end of this expose, thank you). People push the current state of knowledge in a field, they push and push and talk to one another to innovate new knowledge, until this field has become an entity in itself, separate from the rest of humanity, with its own language and evaluation grids. At the same time, another group of people are doing the same thing in another field. Unbeknowndst to all of them, they have encountered, at different places in their path, the same problems. Some of them developped the same solution in parallel. Some of them developped alternate solutions. And some of them are still stuck trying to figure out how to get past that roadblock. And ALL of them are speaking different languages, and probably not even agreeing on what the problem actually IS.
Someone, at the end of the day, has to shovel all that shit. I did a little bit of it during my studies for my Masters degree, going through 50 years old works on statistics, trying to find solutions to problems we had in the field of computer vision. My research director was pretty big on the idea that shovelling shit was valuable work, and he did teach me that. Right now there are certain trends in academia which sort of devalue that sort of work. I mean, if I told people that my research director's greatest work in the computer vision field was in fact lifted straight from old statistics text, I'm guessing most would see it as parasitic or devoid of innovation. But the results were very useful to many people. In my opinion, it's the results that count.
So a lot of my rising political awareness has been related to shovelling shit. Understanding intersections between different 'fields' in politics, learning where we found the same roadblocks, how we solved the same issues in the same, or different, ways. Sometimes understanding where we disagree, vehemently, and why that might be.
The richest vein (taking a break from shit analogies) to me was feminism, and how it relates to anarchism. We specialized, a long time ago. Feminists tend to care about gender issues. We deal with class issues. This does not mean that anarchists don't care about gender issues. A comrade at NEFAC Mtl (I'll call her A.), wrote a paper called "Feminist critique of anarchism, and anarchist critique of feminism", and I've been involved in the discussions regarding the NEFAC position paper on patriarchy/feminism, though I've parted ways with the NEFAC since that time. This also doesn't mean that feminists don't care about class issues. But our language, our priorities, tend to focus more on these particular struggles.
Now this week there was a certain controversy on feminist blogs, which basically boiled down to competing definitions of the concept of consent. And I realized that one thing I often struggled with while explaining anarchist principles was related to the political equivalent of that war around 'consent' and what it means. And feminism has studied the definition of consent A LOT. Their language is often highly evolved regarding the concept of consent, whereas our language regarding the equivalent issue in the political sphere is a bit poor, or prone to hyperbole. Well, my language, in any case.
As anarchists, we usually talk of the state and capitalism as agents of violence. This is not entirely false. As institutions, they result in deaths and health issues in the working class, as well as other oppressed groups. But in my opinion the violence is in fact just a part of the problem.
Feminists also tackled the problem of violence. Patriarchal violence takes the form, amongst other things, of rape or domestic violence. But an important thing is that they went beyond a critique of violence, and into the issue of consent. Physical violence, or the threat of violence, is the most naked form of attack against a person's faculty to consent. But it's not the only one. Feminists have explored issues of consent, and over time concepts like "date rape" have become more mainstream. Though in actuality I would say many people still don't find any problem with certain forms of attacks on women's ability to consent, some sort of progress has happened since the days when it was believed a married man could not commit rape against his wife (consent to sex being considered implied by marriage).
I'm no expert, but I've gleaned from feminist blogs and workshops that consent, as a concept,
(This is where the original draft ends, it's been three years so I can only guess at what I was getting at, but I think the point was that I was going to make a parallel between the concept of enthusiastic consent, as explored on Pandagon, and the unenthusiastic consent that is the lot of voters under a representative democratic state system... I'll probably explore these ideas further when I have some time. Basically, I reject the liberal premise of the social contract, in that it is to me evident that contrary to Rousseau's assertions, there is no true consent of the governed under representative democracy. People give in because they feel there is no alternative, but it does not follow that they have entered freely into a contract.)