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Manifesto of the Dionysian Socialist Collective

Manifesto of the Dionysian Socialist Collective

Preamble – in order to establish a free association artistic community based on the affirmation and cultivation of desires, the heightening of overflowing life, creative collaboration, mutual aide, and the eventual overthrow of capitalism we do affirm the following:

Founding Principles

1. All desire is holy.

2. All expression is creation is divine.

3. There is no god but nature. There is no god; all the gods exist.

4. There is no purpose in nature; it is all just matter and energy arranged in various ways.

5. Because there is no purpose in nature, the only value and meaning that exist is that which is created by those with the capacity for desire.

6. It is via the work of art, taken in the broadest sense, that desires are capable of establishing and communicating value.

7. By communicating value, art forms the basis for collectively shared meaning..

8. The values art creates are neither universal, nor necessary, and are therefore not unconditional.

9. Via a diversity of artistic styles, conflicting and contradictory values can coexist.

10. Human flourishing consists in the capacity to create, experience, and celebrate freely created art which is capable of enacting and celebrating a diversity of values that reflect the multiplicity of desire in a non-uniform community of mutual aide.

11. Desires and values enter into relationships of power with one another; thus every relationship between those who value and desire is a differential relationship of power. Power in itself is neither good nor bad, but all power is productive.

Politics

1. Suffering that produces art has value. Pointless suffering that does not produce art or meaning is ugly and cruel.

2. Capitalism and nationalism produce suffering and inhibit artistic creation for all but the wealthy and powerful, and therefore capitalism and nationalism must be resisted in the service of art and meaning creation for all.

3. The work day, private property, wage labor, the nuclear family, enforced monogamy, and the nation-state are all enemies of desire, art, culture, and human flourishing.

4. There is no necessary conflict between an individualism which allows for self-autonomy and a collectivism which provides for the common need and the collective good.

5. We reject idealistic utopianism and pragmatic reformism in equal measure.

6. Instead we seek to establish a community capable of affirming a plurality of desires through artistic creation and mutual aide against the power structures that inhibit the formation of such communities.

7. In such a community, working for incremental improvements exists side by side with principled revolutionary goals.

8. We seek broad solidarity without compromising our vision. This requires acceptance of ambiguity, comfort with lack of certainty, and acknowledgment that a balance must be struck between adherence to principles and acceptance of a diversity values and viewpoints. Neither principles nor diversity take priority, and there is always a constant interplay and dialectic between the two.

9. As a few individuals with little power or money, we seek first to create locally and small, while nevertheless maintaining world-historical, radically revolutionary ultimate goals.

10. The elimination of class hierarchy, the nation-state, and imperialism allows cosmopolitanism and globalism to combine with local autonomy to allow for productive cultural exchange and mutually beneficial cross-pollination of ideas instead of cultural appropriation and continued oppression.

11. Oppression and inequality on the basis of race, gender, sexuality (among others) are especially corrosive to the collective good and produce an excess of pointless suffering. They must be resisted.

Artistic Creation

1. Art is the transformation of desire into perceptual and conceptual content via an act of creation.

2. Art, in our sense, is broad enough to include the traditional fine and performing arts in addition to folk arts, outsider arts, the entirety of the literary arts and creative uses of language, public gatherings, festivals, celebrations, and… The list cannot be exhausted.

3. Any theoretical or practical engagement with art requires acknowledging and taking into account artistic creation, artistic experience, and most importantly the intersection between the two.

4. Therefore, even the most individual and personal artistic works and creations are also at the same time communal.

5. Truly communal festival celebrations, intentional intoxication, sexuality, limit experiences, and the joyful destruction of established values and pieties have the capability of intensifying feeling and allow for new creations and new interpretations of existence.

6. Art must be independent of commercial values and the interests of the ruling class to adequately express the desires of the artist and not become commodified in a way that merely reproduces the political-economic power system it seeks to resist and overcome.

6. The independent artist requires the means to acquire the necessities of survival and the material conditions of artistic creation. The artist also requires time for rest, for the activity of creation, for developing relationships, and perhaps most easily overlooked, for experiencing life as intensely and freely as possible.

7. Artistic creation requires the physical space for crafting, assembling, producing, performing, displaying, and experiencing. The independent artist requires such spaces that are free from conservative and reactionary pressures that inhibit desire and censor its expression.

8. In conditions of late-capitalism and the pressures these conditions put on artistic free spirits, revolutionary and liberating art and living must be cultivated and maintained against the pressures that seek to undermine these possibilities of radical change and human flourishing.

Existential Communal Individualism

1. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” needs to be appended with “and no more than is necessary than each requires for the opportunity to thrive.”

2. Unless we cannot account for and recognize the importance of small and simple pleasures—like the enjoyment that an old man sipping a glass of wine experiences at the end of the day, our activity and goals are worthless.

3. After the imperative “Do no irreparable harm,” the next and only other imperative is “Do not be boring.” Being interesting and taking interest in the world are more important than avoiding all harm. This is a dangerous ethic, however, because for it to be successfully and decently implemented requires having a careful and nuanced understanding of “irreparable harm.” Being willing to harm someone in order to avoid being boring could conceivably be used to justify awful cruelties.

4. Still, don’t be boring. Be curious. Do not avoid danger; seek it out in order to experience new limits and the joy in overcoming these constraints.

5. As Kant observed, two things fill the mind with wonder, the immensity of starry sky above and the moral law within. It must be added that the moral law within is a law only to oneself and is neither necessary, unconditional, nor universal. Experiment with your conscience. Experiment with your heart. Practice being maximally indifferent and maximally concerned at the same time.

6. Nevertheless, we counsel this maxim for universal application: care about the significant things. Do not care about the insignificant things.

6a. Be creative with what you call significant and insignificant, for there can be no objective criteria that determines what counts as significant and insignificant.

7. Avoid the workday as much as possible and live on as little money and resources as possible to still be able to enjoy and create.

8. “I prefer not to” as the key to living significantly and resisting the oppression of capitalism and the nation-state.

9. Abolish marriage, one and two-person parenting, gender norms, and the precarity of individual self-reliance for the means of survival.

10. Conceive of new ways to express the self. Experiment with style, affect, worldview, and identity.

Practical First Steps:

1. The political is a macro-relation comprised of a collective of individuals. As individuals we cannot directly choose the direction and configuration of political change. Therefore, politics at the existential level is a practice of and an attempt to live well.

2. To live well requires that one have access to the material conditions of survival and flourishing and connection to a community of shared values.

2a. Once an individual life is lived with others in a community of shared values, the possibilities of being intentionally political are magnified.

3. Communal living and cooperatively owned and operated spaces (until Capitalism falls) are the best means for finding the same time leaving time for creative, intellectual, and hedonistic pursuits both in solitude and with friends and comrades.

4. First practical proposal: seek out like-minded individuals until the resources and individuals that are needed come together to occupy, reside in, and operate a communal space with the means for self-sustaining flourishing under the current conditions of late-Capitalism.

5. We will seek out a combined residential and commercial space in an urban area. Living areas will be communally shared by enough individuals to collectively operate the commercial space as a leftist artist cafe which will be communally owned and operated and will feature music, visual art, philosophy, and spoken word as well as provide a space for political and community groups with shared values.

6. We seek to operate a publishing wing out of this space, which will maintain a web presence, publish a quarterly review as well as books under its imprint. Its scope will be broad enough to include leftist politics, accessible non-academic philosophy and theory, art, fiction, poetry, and other works of interest to the Dionysian Socialist movement and those with whom we have solidarity.

Long Term Utopian Goals:

1. Transform a low occupancy neighborhood into an artist commune without displacing the current residents or locally owned businesses or otherwise gentrifying the neighborhood.

1a. Thus the creation of such neighborhoods must be accompanied by a fight for radical housing rights, rent control (or the abolition of rent), abolition of the police and prisons, and resistance to development that exploits current residents in order to enrich Capital.

2. Incubate conditions under which artists (in the broadest possible sense) can operate outside the pressures of consumerism and late-Capitalism.

3. Eventually form confederations of free-association with other communities and neighborhoods seeking compatible goals.

4. Expand the power of such neighborhoods and communities both in their own sphere and collectively until they are capable of replacing exploitative capital and the state to provide individuals, neighborhoods, cities, and towns with the material means of survival and flourishing.

We, the Dionysian Socialist Collective, do affirm these principles and goals in order to affirm life and create the conditions under which we are able to flourish and live well with one another. In solidarity with all free-spirits and those whose desire is inhibited by the scourge of capitalism, we seek to create a new world out of the old, affirming the whole as we go. And so we drink to the Dionysian festival to come.

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A statement on the Greatness of America for this July 4, 2019.

Yes, this land is a great land, if by “this land” you mean the Ohio Valley or the Midwest or North America or even the giant plot of land that is the current territory of the United States of America. This is a continent of riches, riches that could sustain the many. But if by “this land” you mean the Republic for which the Stars and Stripes stand, there is no sense in which this land is great. It was built on Slavery and Genocide, expanded by War and the completion of that genocide. And currently it maintains a fragile global hegemony by exploiting its workers, importing cheap goods to appease those workers from counties that have outlawed slavery only in name, and is now putting the indigenous people who are migrating away from wars and violence that we helped to create in concentration camps. No, this republic is not fucking great. We happened to be on the “right side” of WWII. Great, some moral accomplishment. All we can say at this point is that we fought the Nazis 75 years ago. We outlawed chattel slavery and said that brown people have formal equality to whites. Great, we have done the barest minimum of making this a land for all. This republic encompasses some of the richest land in the world, land capable of providing for the human flourishing of multiple millions more than we already have, but instead the greatness of the land can be enjoyed only by the few. This land, in the sense of this country, this republic could have been great if our fore-bearers from Europe had encountered the indigenous people of this land and asked permission. For everything. Come to this land as guests and only moved here on invitation. But instead we have that stain of slavery and the theft of this land. This land is great; it is bountiful; it could provide a happy life for many multitudes for generations, but instead we turn the brown people looking for this land’s bounty away at our gates. No, we don’t just turn them away; we put them in cages to rot. Because for whatever greatness this land has, there is a rot in this land. Do you not realize that this isn’t the beginning of a possible future genocide. This is the latest phase of the European genocide of the indigenous people of the Western hemisphere. Do your fucking history. First as a tragedy, then as a farce. The tragedy at our foundation is obvious, but the farce is that no one understands how this is the repetition of that history. For us who remain inactive, their blood is on our hands, and when we think about what we would have done in 30’s Germany were we there, now we know. Now this land can only be great again if it becomes the land that is cared for by everyone for everyone in a way that generations can count on. The camps must be liberated. Then we must bring about justice. That won’t make America great. But it’s where we have to start.

Indigenous land in the Little Miami Valley
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The Three Books that Ruined Me

Three books ruined me for living a comfortably boring middle-class life among the petty bourgeois. Before I tell you what those books are, I have to confide that it tickles my sappy romantic soul that books can still ruin people. How many people are ripe for being completely molded by a book? I cannot say. But we exist, and as long as there are a few of us, writing books and reading them will still be worthwhile.

The first book that ruined me was Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings—which is itself three books, but no matter. The tale about Hobbits, Elves, Rings of Power, Dwarves, Dragons, and Wizards, told in an almost mythic voice, gives the reader a taste of what it would mean to live in a world where actions have moral weight, where identities matter, where who we are and what we do have ultimate meaning and significance, that they affect the fate of all good creatures in an enchantingly beautiful but fragile land. Good and evil exist, and there is satisfying and exciting adventure and peril in fighting for the good and resisting the evil, all for the cause of freedom and contented happiness of the small and the weak. Meaning. Weight. Death not in vain. But Tolkein’s books are a mere taste of weight because it’s not real; it is pure fantasy, and only the insane or those obsessed with cosplay would say otherwise. If a person is sufficiently taken with the life of meaningful adventure in a fantasy world, real life with its lack of apparent meaning seems dull and weightless, lackluster, and so as I child I would lose myself in play, pretending what I did was exciting and that it mattered. Playing with the idea of moral significance in Tolkien’s fantasy world was the perfect way to prime a child for what came next.

The next book that did me in was the Bible, the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament. All of that make believe and play in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth that sustained my meaning-craving as a child failed to satisfying my developing reality principle as an adolescent. I needed something serious enough that it could withstand an adolescent coming to terms with the real world and the increasing pressure of the social world. With the Bible, that meaningful and exciting struggle between good and evil was both real and something I could be a part of. Though the meaning that the Bible finds in the world isn’t actually real—there are no gods, no afterlife, no redeeming drops of blood—I could pretend they were real, and I could surround myself with people who would tell me they were real. And oh, I believed in God and the afterlife and the redeeming drops of blood! I organized my life around them. I gave my life to them. Every action, every thought, every deed, every conversation mattered; the fate of the souls of the lost were always at stake.

There are still works of great sublimity to be created

If the Lord of the Rings showed me what it would be like if things mattered and the Bible showed me what it would be like if I believed it that they really did matter, then Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil taught me how to live meaningfully after learning that nothing could ever matter in the way Tolkien hinted at and the Bible promised. God is dead. God’s been long dead, at least from the perspective of a single human life, and most people have no idea what that even means. It’s not that god doesn’t exist; he never did, and besides that’s not the point. The point is that god no longer matters. We have ceased to understand cause and effect and the natural world in terms of a creator. We no longer believe sickness and health, good fortune and bad are the result of the providence of a beneficent yet inscrutable creator. We no longer believe that morality depends on the will and command of the Lord our God. At the same time nature has become disenchanted. No sense of destiny. No sense of mission. No sense of fate, character, good, or evil. But weight exists nonetheless. Weight depends on the will and health of the one for whom things are heavy. Mattering, significance, and moral weight are nothing more than the way each person relates to their world. And yet each of us are the kinds of beings who, seemingly inevitably, find ways to make things matter. Just because things don’t matter on their own, just because there is no god and no good and no evil out there in the universe, doesn’t mean that we can’t find things meaningful.

And here is where I return to that average, middle-class, contented life among the petty bourgeois. A house. A car. A husband or wife. 2.5 kids. A career. Health insurance. Security (or so we believe). A 401k. Since there is no meaning written into the nature of things, it’s perfectly possible to find value and meaning in these particular things; nothing’s stopping you. I just can’t do it. I was primed by these three books — Tolkien, the Bible, Nietzsche —for a more mythic, heroic, and morally sublime sort of meaning. What ever happened to the liberty and happiness of all free creatures, even the weakest? Whatever happened to the fate of souls (including the fate of one’s own soul!)? There may be no ring of power to destroy or Great Eye to defeat. Souls may not be fated for all eternity. There may not be any redeeming drops of blood. But there are still compelling enemies to fight and still satisfying battles to be won. Things to be overcome. Works of great beauty and sublimity to create. And if enough of us can see it, there are still free peoples whose liberty and comfort can be secured from their oppressors. One only has to have the vision for it. And the courage.