Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pursuing Practical Anarchism

The epidemiologist David Coetzee recalls walking through Zurich in the wee hours of the morning and finding himself at a crosswalk next to two punks. These were punks of the old style: anarchists covered with tattoos and swathed in leather and denim clothing adorned with discarded tartans and safety pins.  And yet, they stopped alongside him and waited patiently - without a car in sight - until the light turned green.


As always, the Swiss are to be commended on creating a society that functions so beautifully. The anthropologist of power knows, however, that everywhere that there is a social structure, there is someone rebelling against it.  Even that rebellion is inevitably shaped by its culture; so it is that even in Switzerland, the anarchists are still, well, Swiss. 

We might consider James C Scott's descriptions of the everyday rebellions of the marginalized, fighting to stake out a tiny piece of symbolic turf in the perpetual dance of oppression and resistance.  For the Alpine ruffian, outright insurrection isn't just unlikely: it's not even in the vocabulary.  Instead, he must find ways to comment on the Swiss system without fundamentally destabilizing it.

Therefore, what matters more here than the content of his resistance is its appearance: this explains why graffiti is such a hugely popular form of creative resistance among young Swiss. Like dressing up as a punk and then acting fairly decorously in public places, this is a form of defiance that aims to accomplish nothing more than to advertise itself as defiance.

The arms race of social rejection among the marginalized is a redundancy in Helvetia: by the time he has left the house, the Swiss punk's rebellion is already complete.


No comments:

Post a Comment