In my song “thoughts on fucking and the system” I wrote several lines that might indicate to people that don’t know me, that I think of love, and especially romantic love, as somehow a negative thing from a revolutionary perspective.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the song is intended as a satirical wake-up call to revolutionary activists who have become so jaded that they have abandoned even the concept of love, replacing it with the more abstract, less emotional notion of “mutual aid”.
The song also seeks to highlight the very real forces acting on us as human beings, and perhaps especially as revolutionaries, in a society based on hatred deliberately sown by the greedy and deceitful. When government agencies orchestrate terrorist attacks on symbols of particular ethnic or religious groups in such a way as to make blame appear to lie with members of another such group, solely to increase profits for a select few corporations and banks, it is difficult to maintain a loving attitude towards humanity.
But then, life itself is difficult. If there were no challenges in life it would not be worth living. Abandoning love, whilst still looking at the world through the prism of a perspective that see’s ignorance, greed and hatred ruling society and corrupting all our minds, is tantamount to suicide. Indeed this is the route taken by many of us who understand the basic functioning of the global system but feel powerless to change it, often indirectly through substance abuse.
If revolutionaries cannot see ourselves as morally superior to our enemies, our struggles cease to feel meaningful. For revolutionaries guided by religious faith, this moralising is perhaps easier than it is for more atheistic people. But you do not have to believe in God, the Astral Plane or the Immortal Soul, to believe in Love.
Love, as I also wrote in the above-mentioned song, is made of chemicals, or perhaps more accurately electrical signals travelling down neural pathways that are created, ultimately, by chemical reactions at the level of DNA. For our brains and bodies to have developed the multitude of parts and processes that we call “Love”, there must have been an evolutionary advantage for our ancestors to have done so, if you accept the theory of evolution by natural selection.
As Kropotkin sought to demonstrate in Mutual Aid, animals that evolve cooperative instincts towards members of their own species tend to stand a better chance of survival than those that don’t. It is easy to understand why: many hands make light work, and thus the overall expenditure of energy for a group in order to survive is less when they cooperate.
But talking about animals having cooperative instincts is still outside the realm of human emotion. Kropotkin may have been excited when he saw a crab trying to help it’s companion in Brighton Aquarium, but normal people are not usually satisfied with observations of the behaviour of other species when trying to resolve their own emotional crises.
We may, however, feel happy, even deliriously, overwhelmingly so, when another human being that we feel love for shows some sign that they love us too. Everyday, all over the world, billions of nods of encouragement, hugs, kisses and caresses of reassurance, and loving words are given out by human beings to one another. If this were not the case, would our societies function at all?
And yet, displays of intense emotion or preferential treatment of loved ones are not considered professional in today’s world run by machines and people who aspire to think and act like machines. Officially, the business world is held together by webs of direct personal financial interests which coalesce and converge at dizzying rates, and are measured in terms of numbers, graphs and longwinded jargon on pieces of paper and computer screens.
For human beings brought up in such a world, whether they are the ones acting like machines or being acted on by them, it is hard to imagine learning to love at all. Luckily, however things are not quite so bad yet.
I used to scoff at revolutionary rhetoric that referenced love, even though it was probably revolutionary messages coated in the language of romantic idealism that most influenced my early development.
Now I wonder why I was so cynical. What was I trying to prove? That I didn’t need love?
Falling in love for the first time with someone who loved me back came much earlier in my life than my involvement with political activism. If I hadn’t have had that boost to the spirit, would I ever have had the gall to think I could take some kind of meaningful action to change the world?
I do not currently have any sexual or romantic relationships going in my life, and yet strangely don’t seem to care as much as I used to. I used to feel such a desperate longing in my soul for someone, usually female but sometimes not, to be some kind of soul mate, and release my from my inner anguish.
But I always remembered the concept of the “anima” I’d read about whilst working a terrifying job in central London for a fat, bald tyrant, that there is a figure that recurs in the dreams and art of almost all human beings of a beautiful woman, representing all kinds of good, pure and gentle qualities, but still somehow bound up with lust. The more relationships I had with women the more I realised I just kept on projecting that image onto them, trying to force them to be what my subconscious felt I was lacking.
The anima is based on an internal separation in the mind, reinforced by all the sexist and heteronormative bollocks that our brains are bombarded with since birth. Whenever I was with a girl who resembled the female archetype, it brought out negative traits in me that are usually associated with masculinity.
I aspire to make these concepts meaningless in my own mind, a task I know to be impossible, but a worthwhile pursuit nonetheless. It means not identifying with any gendered identity.
If you are macho, you’re macho, regardless of your biology, and if you are sensitive, you’re sensitive.
All of us have to be sensitive sometimes and put on a front at others. If half the population only knows how to do one and not the other, what kind of ridiculous pressure does that put on romantic relationships?
Relationships aren’t meant to be about people compensating for each others’ flaws. They’re meant to be about love. Unconditional love would preclude conditions like “you must pretend to be exactly opposite to me in all the ways society dictates we must be”.
But then, it’s no wonder that in such a dictatorial society people are ill-equipped with wise teachings to help them balance out all the contradictory aspects to their being. For society does not have as it’s aim our spiritual development, if it can be called that. Societies aim is the self-expansion of capital, by murder, deceit and the poisoning of the earth if so be it.
That is the primary dictate to which all others have been brought in effect to more efficiently enforce: poisoning minds for generations with racist, sexist, classist crap to create this family unit, this class structure, these racial and gender classifications. This inequality.
This alienation from everyone around us, even people we see and talk to everyday.
Except for those happy souls who are able to project love at almost everyone they see, and so constantly see it reflected back at them in the faces of others responding in kind. They do not necessarily see the world as such a dystopian place.
Two people in a different mood standing on the same street might observe two almost entirely unrelated realities, which if they were to relate later to a mutual friend would sound nothing alike.
One might observe the buildings, reflecting on why they had been built in such a way and what purpose they were currently being used for, and see the people scurrying past like labrats running through mazes constructed by higher powers completely disinterested in their wellbeing.
The other might simple see a street full of crazy characters, each with their own backstory, with love interests, hope and dreams, and quirky little mannerisms that make them each adorable in their own special way.
The people who can only see their fellows as cogs in a machine, are themselves guilty of being so much like a machine, that they have started to think like one. Without love.
These crazy quirky characters are the people of the earth. They are who society is built from, and who any future society will have to be built from too. When I look at them, and imagine the society they could build if they were only liberated and empowered enough to do so, I see a world I would risk my life for.
It would be a world not exactly based on love, but one where it would certainly be easier, because everyone would be happier within themselves, following their own dreams and desires, instead of having to scrape together whatever magic or fun they can in the few hours between working and fitful sleep.
People who are exhausted physically and emotionally do not make the best lovers. They do not really make the best workers either, but that’s what being a worker makes of them, especially when the system keeps trying to make them better and better, or at least more efficient at turning time into money.
Don’t we all want to be happy within ourselves and able to feel loved by, and love towards other people and things? Some perhaps would answer no, but I suspect they would mainly be lying to themselves, or else are seriously fucked in the head.
Don’t we all feel that the power structures and associated cultural restrictions we have now are making it harder and harder to be happy or to feel love? To feel anything but loathing and despair?
To change things we need a lot of collective action. Fucktons of it in fact: toppling governments, regrowing rainforests, educating new generations not to be as stupid as our current leaders are, all kinds of shit. People need to unlearn all the programs that have been fed into them, deal with their twisted views on race, gender, sex and material objects, and to support one another while doing so.
What else could tie all that collective action together except love?
Ideology? Collective recognition of long term benefit? Incentive schemes?
Human beings are not designed for such mental gymnastics and self control. Set a system up and watch it fall, that’s our species’ favourite sport.
But we are all born with an ability to love. If we were not our species never would have survived. If the first human mothers didn’t love their children why the fuck would they put up with them sucking at them and not just leave them to die in the jungle? Why would they have protected them until they were old enough to reproduce themselves?
Men and women are not physically so different as people always go on about. Maybe mothers can love more than anyone who isn’t a mother could ever know, or maybe we all can love anyone with that same strength with which a mother loves a child.
In a world where collective organisation ensured a decent standard of living and respect for individual and social freedom, maybe we wouldn’t even have to speculate about such things, for everyone would have so many different examples of love around them that they would know pretty much everything about it, and we could get on with something else.
Like trying to find aliens. And then fall in love with them.