Anarchism in Interesting Times
Where’s my head at? Well at the moment I have nine other unfinished blog posts in my drafts folder, a rake of unfinished short stories and two unfinished novels, but I decided to start writing this instead of finishing any of them. Why? Because this topic is what I feel particularly passionate about right now and when I feel passionate about writing something, the words flow as if being passed to me from some exterior source. My hands type, the words appear on the screen, and though obviously they originated in my head somewhere, it feels like they bypassed that particular stage of development. If I could harness this feeling and direct it towards everything I did I’d probably have written a few books by now, but anyway…
I have ADHD – heavy on the inattentive side, but with some of the hyperactivity or rather, impulsivity. The inattentive side means that I often start projects but get distracted by something new and move on to that instead, even if I have the whole project mapped out in my head. When faced with a boring task or something I think might challenge me but bore me, I can be utterly mentally paralysed. In this state, I can often experience loss of time – as I can when I am hyper-focused on something I am intensely interested in. Repeat that roughly fifty two times over and you have a year in the life.
So what does this have to do with anarchism/libertarian communism? In a libertarian communist society, wage labour – the compulsion to work a job that is of no interest to you in order to get money to cover the necessities of life – is taken out of the equation. When you have ADHD, unless you work at something that is a passion of yours, or at least enjoy parts of it, work is not just boring, it’s a hellscape. Under no circumstances can you imagine Sisyphus happy. Sisyphus hasn’t even started pushing the rock up the hill yet. He’s staring through it while thinking about something else. Several something else’s.
Life with libertarian communism would be more in tune with the way people with ADHD’s brains work. We need to be able to change up what we are doing several times a day, we need to have the spare time to pursue our passions lest we die of boredom, and as Guy Debord wrote, “boredom is always counter counter-revolutionary.” In marked contrast to life under capitalism and hierarchy, Marx wrote that “in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.” Of course those who prefer to specialise in one sphere and stick with it would be free to do that too.
You will find that Marx quote, from The German Ideology littered throughout articles and essay’s I have written. ADHD often calls for the repetition of phrases or ideas we find appealing and that single sentence, from the moment I read it transformed the way I looked at the world and its possibilities. It is not that I wish to be a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman or a critic, but for an endless vista of opportunities to be anything I wish. I have suspected for a while that Marx himself had ADHD, going by the sheer number of unfinished works he left behind and the amount of procrastination that went on when he was writing capital (see Francis Wheen’s biography), not to mention his theory of alienated labour which looks like something someone with ADHD would think of. .
Apologists for capitalism claim that at its best it gives equality of opportunity to all citizens. The reality though is that opportunity under capitalism is based on what you already have. Only the very rich get to live Marx’s vision of communism where work and play are intertwined and one can change ‘occupation’ at the drop of a hat. Capitalism’s answer to this has been the gig economy, but here, changes of occupation are not based on your own needs and desires, rather the needs of the capitalist economy. As I wrote in Irish Anarchist Review number six in 2012 “The precarious worker has no exclusive sphere of activity but becomes accomplished in none either. It is possible for one to be a barista in January, an office clerk in April, a tour guide in July, a shop assistant in December and a job seeker for the rest of the year, without ever becoming a barista, office clerk, tour guide or shop assistant.“
We have a very superficial equality of opportunity. We all go to school and study the same curriculum (within a single state) and do the same exams. But all of our schools aren’t as well equipped and all of us are not in classes of the same size or as well fed. We all don’t have the same opportunities for third level education nor do we all grow up with the same expectations. Regardless of this, the education we receive is one that prepares us for a regimented subservient life, one that insists we serve capitalist society in whatever way required, not in the ways required by us. This education makes square pegs of round ones to ensure they fit the square hole.
Peter Kropotkin wrote in Law and Authority that “we are so perverted by an education which from infancy seeks to kill in us the spirit of revolt, and to develop that of submission to authority; we are so perverted by this existence under the ferule of a law, which regulates every event in life — our birth, our education, our development, our love, our friendship — that, if this state of things continues, we shall lose all initiative, all habit of thinking for ourselves.” For people with ADHD, being regulated is intolerable. This cannot stand.
Based on various studies, between 5% and 11% of the population have some form of ADHD. 1% have been diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorders. 15% to 20% have a language based learning disability – of which dyslexia is the most common. Add in ODD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, various forms of generalised anxiety disorder, chronic depression, seasonal affective disorder – and though there will be crossover amongst people with these conditions, at least a large minority is not what we’d call neurotypical – yet the society we live in is built around that neurotype, to suit and serve the straight white cis male neurotypical, especially the wealthy ones, which is a minority of the total world population. Maybe instead of neurotypical we should call them neurodominant – the neurotypical only seem typical because the rest of us are silently ashamed of not being like them and not fitting in. Let us speak up. Let us rise.