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The Believer | 28.02.2002 11:46

A short piece of critical writing

There is no point in pretending that what you are about to read is anything other than criticism aimed toward many of the readers of this site. I think that whether criticism is constructive or destructive is not only determined by the content and form of the criticism itself but by the way people react to the criticism. What you are about to read could be taken as either constructive or destructive - it depends on the attitude the reader takes. You might say "Well if all you can do is knock us down then fuck off" - and it is true that the critique takes a somewhat negative form. But surely we can't have critique without at least some negativity? And perhaps after all it is possible to react to a negative comment by saying "Well that's negative, perhaps even too harsh, but it does set off a chain of thought..."

And so that's all I intend with this - to spark some thoughts.

One last point - in pre-emption of replies: please don't suggest that since I am offering criticism I have to come up with positive alternatives. The whole point is that you think independently enough to reach your own conclusions.

With those corollaries in place I will begin. *Clears throat*

As an adult in an early 21st century Western society I feel isolated from the many millions of people in the society around me. Most people feel this either consciously or unconsciously and they have different ways of dealing with it. Myself I go to a meeting once a week or so of people who have similiar beliefs to my own. Sometimes I go much more often. We usually meet for a couple of hours and then have a social time. We feel some sense of community in doing this and it prevents the alienation permeating society from wearing us down. It is good to have a place where I don't have to constantly defend my beliefs.
On first going to these weekly meetings one begins to learn the things that should and should not be said/done. Some of those taboos are things that should not be said between any decent people, and some of the 'shoulds' make good sense, but some of them - such as the selection of favourite enemies for example - are less obvious and on initial consideration seem to have more to do with embedded orthodoxy than actual principles. On joining such a group though one needs to feel a sense of 'belonging' - after all that is one of the reasons for going. Conformity to the norms of acceptable speech and behaviour is therefore necessary at first. As time goes on it feels more natural. In fact such norms can't equate to conformity anyway because the entire ethos of the group is counter to prevailing culture. Clearly then it is a group of non-conformers and so I am a non-conformer. It is nice to be able to view myself in such a way. It makes me feel like I am truly an individual and that I have chosen my own path in life.
Occasionally I feel I ought to act more on my beliefs than I do - I certainly ought to do more outside of meetings. Sometimes the group I meet with helps me to do this, but I do sometimes get a creeping sense of guilt when I realise that the group is a bit insular and self-indulgent. Other people in the group feel the same way because we often talk of the need to 'reach out' to people. We feel the world would be a much better place if more people believed (at least approximately) what we believe. Indeed, sometimes it seems like that getting the message to other people is one of the main reasons for our meeting and acting together.
At other times I am more pessimistic and suspect that (a) ours is too difficult a message to get across, and (b) we aren't very good at 'outreach' anyway. At such times I allow myself to simply enjoy the community in which I have placed myself. I know there is nothing wrong with us enjoying ourselves even if there is so much wrong with world - occasionally though I feel that such enjoyment is becoming too important to me. I am after all 'committed' to my beliefs. I know that others in my small community feel the same because sometimes people hint that we need to be 'serious' about certain things; that is, our personal pleasure should be placed a bit lower on the agenda. This might be slightly painful but it is good to get serious sometimes because it focuses our minds on the action and outreach we ought to be doing. I hear that some groups have moved on from this dilemma by making sure that all their meetings and action and outreach are fun while still dealing with the serious issues. This is good because now there is nothing to stop them doing what they ought to.

You may have guessed the question by now. Here it is:
Do I go to a christian church or an anarchist activist group?

Yours in hope

The Believer

[Note to Indymedia people - if discussion results from this and you don't want it all on the newswire could someone think of an online forum it could be transferred to? If discussion does start feel free to copy it over without my permission if that is what you think should happen.]

The Believer


Display the following 14 comments

  1. Oooooh a riddle! — UN
  2. important distinction... — hs
  3. Agreed — leftism
  4. Ahem — The Believer
  5. sad — Andy
  6. you must make that decision for yourself — Acorn Tributor
  7. Righty ho then — The Believer
  8. Believe — agony aunt
  9. blah...blah...blah... — @nonymous
  10. Closed belief systems — Old Nick
  11. Tum te tum te tum... — The Believer
  12. You ignorant peasants — Jay-B
  13. well said... — d@ve
  14. More funds for public education NOW! — Walker