Lights Unto Ourselves: Nonattachment and Nonfascist Ethics

In his preface to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, Michel Foucault indicted what he called “the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us,” and argued that the book’s authors sought to “pursue the slightest traces of fascism in the body.” Despite both the anarchist tradition’s empathy with this aspiration and its preoccupation with individual agency and initiative, it’s an orientation lacking much in the way of discreet practices concerning power, the body, and the impulse to control in our everyday behavior. Conversely, the Buddhist tradition—while offering little of a coherent political vision—is arguably animated by a moment-to-moment attention to precisely these traces of “fascism in the body,” the deep, reflexive emotional habits they produce, and a mechanics for transforming them. This presentation will propose something of a conversation between the two traditions as practices, explore what that encounter yields (or fails to yield, as the case may be), and consider what that lends to self-care, solidarity, and building movements amid and across difference. Joshua is a board member with the Institute for Anarchist Studies. He’s been active in direct action efforts in DC for fifteen years, with groups spanning the Free Burma Coalition, School of the Americas Watch, the Olive Branch Homeless Community, and the International Solidarity Movement. More recently, he spent a year living and coordinating study in DC’s Dharma House (a center dedicated to Buddhist practice and radical social transformation) and the Refuge Three Collective (a Buddhist study/practice project around race, gender, class, and sexuality). He now lives in Brooklyn and work
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Joshua Stephens