2007 Convergence Coverage

We have completed a comprehensive reportback from the 2007 CrimethInc. convergence in the form of a list of discussion questions:

Under the Big Tent:
Discussion Questions following the 2007 CrimethInc. Convergence in Athens, Ohio.

We humbly entreat anyone who was involved in the convergence to read this and offer their own perspectives in the comments for this post. Thank you!

11 thoughts on “2007 Convergence Coverage

  1. [B. Traven here. I'm going to post a couple of the different reports-back that have come in over the past month, to get things started.]

    To accomplish organization and ‘movement’ tasks we must act with in the framework of politics, division of labor, and “natural leader” (that is, doing ‘the things we are good at’, which creates a hierarchy which corresponds to real backgrounds). Success, understood in economic and political terms, demands this.

    I am, however, skeptical of this success and the relations that make it possible. I want to present thoughts toward a different approach, one that I find potentially more “human” but also very prone to failure.

    1) Humans and relationships betweenhumans are an end in themselves, not a means to reaching a goal. This is a necessary beginning.

    2) Rather than focusing on logistics or ‘how can this event be productive’ I think a more pressing question ought to be ‘how can this event be open-ended? how can we replace capitalist values (efficiency, productivity) in practice and what shall we emphasize or ‘value’ instead? (perhaps: honesty, spontaneity, personal experience rather than political strategy, collective psychology, sexual freedom)

    3) What if the presense of ‘the marvelous’ and breaking down hierarchy (creating a space where we allow each other to do what we do not know how to do), rather than logistical considerations or perpetuating the event were the greatest concern to those involved? (This shift in priorities would most likely mean the event would face logistical failure or be extremely inefficient or irrational in its organization)

    4) The future of an event organized along these lines – even if it fails – has more potential to be interesting/affirming/challening in its ‘dangerous
    open-endedness’ than the success of a dozen more variations of what has come before.

  2. [Here's a perspective from another participant, initially composed as a response to a question about the dynamics between people of different ages. For context, she was one of the older people present.]

    Right off I want to say that during the time that I was at the convergence I thought everything went amazingly well given the circumstances (people trickling in and needing to figure out what was happening, which could have led to alot of confusion/tension but most everyone was pretty laid back). People were generally polite, respectful and helpful.

    There are a whole host of personal and social issues that impact how comfortable we feel with other human beings, which you are probably well aware of, such as: are you an introvert or extrovert, experienced being in a large group of people where a large portion of attendees are unfamiliar with one another, used to mixing with a variety of ethnic, social or age groups, etc. Throwing all of this into the mix in a setting like the convergence made me conclude that all went amazingly well during the time that I was there.

    I felt that there was some discomfort with my presence among some people (not everyone) at first but as time wore on this lessened. Whether the discomfort was age related or due to something else about me I can’t be sure (more than likely age since many young people are rightfully mistrustful of older people for various reasons–tired of hearing moralizing about their behavior one among many issues I am sure). I could tell that some people were more or less uncomfortable in situations where I was not the primary focus, so I was just one among many potential sources of discomfort.

    It takes time to build trust among any group of people and I noticed an increasing comfort with me even as the workshops I attended progressed, as group members heard me speak and learned that I shared many of their concerns and wasn’t there to use my age to any advantage. Being willing to give some time to get to know one another and not jump to conclusions about one another is something I try to practice. Understanding that we sometimes misread nonverbal cues so should not jump to hasty conclusions about what we think others are communicating helps too. Not everyone is proficient with the English language so giving people the benefit of the doubt or asking for clarification in what you think you are hearing is good, especially when talking to people you are not familiar with or are from a different cultural or class background.

    I think there were good efforts on the part of the organizers and some participants to communicate the need to be respectful of others during the initial circle gathering of the convergence. Maybe it would be useful to repeat something along those lines each night or to post some of the “ground rules” that are agreed upon at the first gathering (find a better name that is less alienating) in a prominent location so the newcomers can see them. Also, offering people a way to comment on what they do or don’t like about the ground rules (comment board like the cardboard ride board) allowing those who disagree but don’t want to disagree out loud, might help relieve some tension.

    Some of the more verbal participants did a good job (in my mind) of explaining why things would work better a certain way (example: drug free). Talking, disagreeing, arguing and hopefully coming to terms with each others needs is a positive way to learn how to get along.

  3. I just read moxie0’s convergence report as well as this one, and was thinking what about a sort of “Barn Raising” model for a convergence. We could pick a big project and invite people from across the country to come together and make it happen. Instead of workshops we could have skill shares that would be practical to the task at hand. If – for example – we were actually building a barn, someone could give a skill share on basic carpentry, someone could give a workshop on electrical work, etc. Of course it would be best to have a project that had some radical relevance. Then perhaps in the evenings there could be more creative activities, or discussions about topics not related to the task.

    This model could help make the convergence more participatory, it would make workshops immediately relevant and could help build the kind of friendships that you can only develop by really working hard next to someone.

    Well, that’s an idea that immediately comes to mind, there are a lot of other possibilities. I’m interested in hearing what folks have to say.

  4. I wasn’t at the convergence, and don’t have the time to address any of the questions posed here, but the questions are really good ones, and are incredibly heartening to read; very honest, inward-looking, thoughtful. Thanks.

  5. While I admit to have not been present, I must say that there -are- sound reasons why some people are interested in 2012. Not as some sort of ‘fate’ that will magically make things better, but as more of a ‘1, 2, 3, go’ sort of plan. I’ve heard it discussed such that people will, essentially, begin to live their lives in a -completely- anarchist way as of winter solstice 2012, disregarding external authority, with the idea being that if we all do it at once, it has a chance. No magic required.

  6. MASS:

    A widespread notion at Direct Actions I’ve participated in is the need for Security Culture to ensure the safety and crucial ability to rely on our fellow activists during pressured moments. We thus found ourselves requiring each person to have at least 2 fellow attendees vouch for them.

    However, such a cold system of monitoring seemed to erode openness, especially as vouchers came further and further away from our personal social circles. As CrimethInc, and the Convergence, swell in vision and attendance, perhaps it would benefit as we did from a Culture of Intimacy.

    As Security Culture emphasizes safety from without our boundaries, Intimacy Culture regulates the integrity of the group. Since we attend to engage and actively learn from each other, actively engaging each other as individuals beyond the limited roles of presentor and passive audience.

    Discussion circles naturally thrive in our community and we found that if each audience member were prompted to provide one declarative statement before general discussion commenced, the tendency of the talking heads to steer conversation was less likely to relegate the less outspoken into obscurity.

    Additionally, CrimethInc may wish to place some focus on regional gatherings, thereby fostering a branching point for when attendees arrive at the national convergence. A further benefit would be social proof-reading of presentations, as well as potential generation of new ideas particular to that bio-region. A workshop originating in a college-town community may vary vastly from the agendas and means of urbanites, thus further uniquely tailoring the Convergence to increasing variety of attendees.

    “On the other hand, what if it proves impossible for the convergence to serve its current function as attendance increases?”
    It’s always good to think about where we might travel, though we can certainly only cross this bridge if we arrive at it and we don’t yet have a notable indication that we will.

    ETHNICITY & AGE

    Encouraging Bio-Region Convergences will increase accessibility points for those of us who lead more regimented lives than the young and privileged often do. Generally, we attend Convergences to share anecdotes, wisdom and lore of potential niches. As we find our niche, we perceive less need to attend convergences for the purpose of discovery. To this end, CrimethInc may wish to invite past attendees of significance, providing more niched presentations which may light the sort of path-specialization which current flockers are hoping to locate.

    “Last summer, anarchist people of color were actually disproportionately represented in organizational roles—but this doesn’t seem to have resulted in more general attendance by people of color.”

    As it shouldn’t. The interests of anarchist humans do not vary between epidermal tones.

    There remains to this day a disproportionate number of caucasians raised in circumstances which facilitate the means necessary for mobility and developing the self-awareness required to make informed choice of anarchy as lifestyle. The nature of the system is what enabled us to realize its shortcomings, and this initial disproportionality is more indicative of that nature rather than any cultural bottleneck. When the means and information become more widespread, we can expect to see a mass exodus of the working class from mandatory menial positions to subsistence positions.

    FESTIVUS:

    “If it took place in an urban setting, for example, would the ubiquity of capitalist consumer culture inevitably undermine the possibility of an atmosphere of autonomy?”

    Yes, as many contemporary cultures do. We are not so weak as to have our souls eroded by a weak of staring the dying beast in the eyes as we teach ourselves {perhaps passerbys} how to resurrect our potential.

    PROCULTURE:

    “As I understand it, the Rainbow Gathering is more associated with pacifism, New Age spirituality, and drug use than with the all-out war on capitalism and hierarchy called for in most CrimethInc. literature. Are there more common threads than I realized connecting CrimethInc. and the whole Rainbow thing? Is it mere bigotry that punk subcultural norms go unquestioned, for example, regardless of the political implications of those norms, on account of punk having long been associated with anarchism—while others are regarded with suspicion?”

    Yes. The parrallels of concsious engagement with political and religious paradigms are undeniable and simultaneously climaxing. Transliteration is currently the challenge of proximity as these two branches converge. The social norms and mores of both can successfully blend where people are flexible and patient.

    To tell the newcomers, ‘This is nothing like Rainbow’ would be caustic and disingenuous. As we indoctrinate them to the minimums of our protocol, they as well as we will unearth new complements and vitality in multiple arenas.

    “Are there disturbances in the Rainbow ecosystem that are driving people from those circles to our convergence? Does it make a difference that the convergence is a sober space, while the rendezvous is similar to the Rainbow Gathering in that it often hosts a lot of substance use?”

    Yes. Aspire as we might to reach a holistic existence of un-compounded naturalness, we potentially condition our psyches to believe in otherness with each psychoactive experience. Some feel this transept is a paradigm to be reconciled on a conscious level. Others seek to incorporate ubiquitous sober liberty into their lives. Many do both. If punk and anarchy were able to shake paradigms through music and intellect, then perhaps we can understand our ethnobotanist brethren as having found these same principles through emotional intelligence; now they seek how to transform the outer space to reflect the inner space.

    SOBRIETY & GIFT ECONOMICS

    “Q. How do we create sober environments in which no one feels uncomfortable about or judged for their personal relation to substance use?”

    “A. When it came out that the pigs found no illegal substances in those searches, somebody shouted out “The policy works!”

    Demonstrate there is a time/space and purpose for it. Then employ the policy only in those time/spaces.

    “Besides intoxication and exchange economics, are there are other aspects of contemporary society we might try doing without?”
    Clothes. Such a {sadly} radical notion could only be attained with a high intimacy culture. It may rub some individuals’ personal emotions which may not be worth incorporating the mental elevation of acknowledging our natural, free selves.

    PRISONER SUPPORT

    “Does this reflect simple ergonomic shortcomings on the part of this year’s support station—the absence of a table and chairs for writing, for example—or a more ominous deprioritization of prisoner support on the part of participants?”

    To know this, we would have to ascertain the relevant participation in alternative events. If we have a dozen different prioritized workshops each day, why would any un-prioritized event be included? Hopefully, we are an intelligent and compassionate community that can make beneficient decisions. Especially when we have chairs.

    “What would it look like to have a convergence that was designed to fulfill the specific wildest dreams of the individuals involved?”

    Gather requests. Enact them. Let’s find out.

    TOMATO. TOMATO.

    I would like to head a ‘2012’ workshop next year, discussing how our personal beliefs affect {and do not affect} our methods, intention and vision of anarchistic activism. One focus would be on end-times adherents, for why work very hard when you just have to work hard enough to not get fired from existence. Another focus would be on languages and techniques of reconciliation and mutual principles between various camps.

    Given the potential sensitivity of the topic, please contact me to let me know of the unappropriateness or any suggestions you would appreciate I follow.

  7. our group attended this years convergence, excited to finnaly all be going together. most of us had been to previous convergences, and hailing from the cuyahoga region of ohio, not only could we all go, but it was close to home. so needless to say, we had high expectations, that were overly filled. we all agreed that it was the biggest convergence yet, but yet still comfortable, and very effectivly organized for its size. we all had a lot of fun, met some great people, talked to old friends, learned, and shared.

    i personnaly really enjoyed the blue sailing conversation/workshop, it was a very inspiring story. we’ve been scheming a boat since. got a bus somehow, but no boat yet. and the prevalance of good attitude was refreshing.

    now, i find it very funny to have the 2012 workshop called out for not being worthwile. that is what we first expected. although that wasn’t our experience.

    i have to first say that regardless of the fact that i took part in the presentation of it, the way that this workshop was treated by the “official” blog account, is not justified, and is down right rude. it reads like a hit job, like an ignorant attack on something new that scares you. seriously, i would feel more compelled than not to see what this “2012” thing is about since you seem to blindly hate it so much. we always welcome constructive critisism and argument, but please don’t sound like wingnut yourself. like i said, we’re not upset, but if your going to call us wingnuts, offer some proof. that said, i’m glad to see that someone has allready mentioned the one thing i must have said 100 times that evening. that, “at worst case , what we talk about, and propose ect. is just a story to propell us to live the world we want, RIGHT NOW.”

    we also have half a grin on our face most of the time. most comments i’ve read about our workshop were from people who weren’t even there, or if the were, they stayed briefly, and absorbed little. i don’t feel they have enough of an idea of what we were saying to really paint the picture they do.

    2012 is a fucking wingnut idea, so is/was capitalism, so is/was punk, so was/is anarchism. so was/is crimethinc. to us, crimethinc has always stood for the wingnut, but the one with a smile, who knew they were asking for the impossible, but didn’t care. we don’t want a revolution of the heart and mind, we want a revolution in reality. in the reality we live, that we create. if you had listened to anything that we, or the tons of others who contributed, had to say, or even at least watched its affect on people. it was an empowering conversation.

    i think we answered our own question at the heart of our presentation, which was, “how many other people at this stage in the game are feeling like there might be more to the picture than we’ve been talking about?”. these are the kind of questions that need to be asked.

    EVEN IF THEY ARE WINGNUT IDEAS!

    until intelligent conversation about the impossible sounding exists, we won’t ever overcome what we think is possible. we have to wait unitl we “stumble” upon something that makes it undeniable to us, then we’ll except it.

    a new idea, that is also on open source story about how to live your life, that says anything is possible, that is half fun and games, and half the tip of a blade, that blends a little of this, and a little of that, to create something new. a new idea that flys in the face of organized and conventional spirituality/religion. a new idea that dares to start asking those questions that it seems most of us have forgot. Why are we here? i mean REALLY why are we here? a new idea that is half the biggest wingnut piece of shit to ever be tossed out there, and half the long last secret to really understanding the reality we deal with and try to change.

    sounds like the kinda magic that crimethinc has been talking about for years. i hope that thoughts like this aren’t surpressed, because that’ll be the day crimthinc really puts a foot in its mouth.

    as they say, the proof is in the pudding. we here are involved in every “anarchist” project you can think of, we are all very serious about making change in this world, with concrete ways for people to live, not in wingnut ideas, but in new worlds. we can talk all the finer points of politics and social responsibility, if you want. but we also noticed that there was a story missing here. are we taking ourselves to seriously?

    please don’t tell me crimethinc has come to the point of not even recognizing its own tail.

    with love for every noble cause we fight for,

    tower2012

    ps: oh yeah, and does this “official” report back, bother anyone else? if it was just a hey, this happened, that’d be fine. but one persons opinions? maybe make the section on convergence reportbacks link to a big bunch of them, as oppose to only one, with others hidden in comments and links. that is all.

  8. I am continually mystified by the antipathy that urban, politically active, “punk” types often express for the Rainbow Family. In my travels and adventures, there have been many occasions when I’ve been hanging out with likeminded people, dumpstering and exploring and camping in abandoned places and the like, all of us getting along famously… then I mention that I ally myself with the Rainbow Family and all I get is scowls and nasty comments, always preceded by the caveat: “I’ve never actually BEEN to a Rainbow Gathering!”

    Here’s a valuable suggestion for anyone who tries to live outside the system, ESPECIALLY if they are involved in putting on any sort of outdoor convergence, and DOUBLY ESPECIALLY if this convergence is to take place on public land: GET THEE TO A RAINBOW GATHERING and get acquainted with the people who make it all happen!!!! The Family has been doing this stuff since 1972. They have workable strategies for putting on peaceful public gatherings with an explicitly anarchist ethic, dealing with the authorities who DON’T want it to happen, and all the rest. Learn the techniques that are already known, and you won’t have to start from Square One every damn time.

    Seriously: do you really think that a bunch of unintelligent, flighty, fuzzy-headed, wingnut, drug addicted, “non-political”, “hippies” armed with nothing but outdated, irrelevant, New AGe Spiritual, ideas could successfully and continuously create Temporary Autonomous Zones for 35 YEARS RUNNING?

    If you don’t like the idea of the National Gathering, which typically involves thousands of people and, increasingly violent police repression, then go to one of the many smaller gatherings that happen throughout the year and are organized by local cells of Rainbows. These are more likely to top out at a couple hundred participants and are more akin to the Convergence, only without the planned schedule of workshops. Of course, if you want to have a skillshare or what have you at the Gathering, you are welcome to do so. A Rainbow Gathering is, literally, whatever the participants make it. And you might be pleased to find that the Rainbow Family is much more diverse than your Crimethinc. convergence probably was; although most Rainbows are white, at least there’s a large variety of people of different ages, religions (or lack thereof), and political philosophies.

    Best of all, since the Rainbow Gatherings seek to create an environment that is intentionally positive and supportive and nurturing (this is the meaning of the joke about it being “home”), you are very unlikely to find a culture of self-righteous posturing and dangerously rigid notions about what the Movement is or should be, like the author of the original blog. Instead, people will be nice to you and open minded about the other things you do in life. We in the Family believe that EVERYONE has something valuable to offer the Movement.

    Revolution is negatively reactive and based on anger;
    Evolution is positively active and based on love and the pursuit of happiness.

    I’d like to see the punks become more evolutionary and supportive, and the Rainbow Family become more politically relevant and less “escapist”.

    The best people in both worlds need to come together and share ideas and strategies. Now is not the time for false divisions among allies.

  9. I’ve been to rainbow gatherings, so maybe I can comment on where I think some of the rainbow critique is coming from. Personally, after hearing a lot about it being an intentionally positive, supportive, anarchist-minded space, I was pretty surprised by how false this rung.

    The first thing that struck me was the emphasis on exchange relations. While money as such is taboo, exchange relations are very prominent. “Trade circle” actually seemed to be the dominating feature of most days, and it was clear that many people had imported “cash crops” beforehand: many many cartons of cigarettes, candybars, chocolate, etc… I got the feeling that for many people, the rainbow gathering was “their market.” A place where they could, in essence, become the robber barons that they don’t have the chance to be in non-rainbow spaces. This “niche” microcosm of capitalism seemed to express itself in hundreds of other ways as well: from sexism to conflict resolution to the roles that the new age rituals played.

    But I think that perhaps the most relevant part of this discussion is the “welcome home” mentality. It seems identical to the way that the burning man crowd thinks of their event. Rather than existing as a space where people come together, make plans, make connections, and share ideas for what they can do to strike out against capitalism — it seems like the rainbow and burning man crowds live from gathering to gathering and mesa to mesa. That the gathering is, in essence, “it.” While I definitely want the crimethinc convergence to be a place where people feel like they’re amongst friends, I don’t want it to be just another stop on the hangout circuit. Not to mention that, yeah, I’m angry, and yeah, I’d like to talk with people about revolution.

    So sure, the rainbow gathering is what we make it, but so is the world. And I didn’t feel like I was up against any lesser odds while I was there.

  10. a quick note from a long-term participant in anarchist actions and organizing, rainbow gatherings, earth first rendezvous, and a lot else.

    1) rainbow gatherings are decidedly (imho) the largest, longest-term, and most inclusive demonstrations of dense human cooperation without money or state (or centralized, bureaucratic power) in the (colonial) u.s. if we as anarchists can’t learn from them, we’re blind and foolish.

    2) this doesn’t mean they’re perfect, of course, particularly in the persistence of a variety of patriarchal holdovers from 60’s culture. certain other subcultures have been known to have challenges in that regard as well.

    3) trading circle is a rather controversial accommodation to a small subsection of the gathering, primarily the traveling kidz. it may be a main focus for them (and it’s telling that moxie saw it as such), but certainly not for the vast majority of rainbows, especially those that actually make the gathering happen year after year. there has been at times a push to “outlaw” trading circle, but that hasn’t happened. the sense is that most kidz, eventually, wake up and realize what’s going on.

    4) “welcome home” refers not to the gathering, but to the “family”, the sense of solidarity. agreed: many folks treat rainbow (and other gatherings) as a refuge from the empire, and what we desperately need is a set of practices and projects that allow us to leave the empire in everyday life, and bring our communities with us. but core rainbows want that as much as crimethincers do.

    5) rainbow certainly has a new agey vibe, a bunch of widely divergent (and some shared) rituals, and a number of other less-comfortable features for most punx. i appreciate the spirit of questioning in the original report-back, regarding the ways in which subcultural assumptions and biases affect attitudes. best would be a spirit of diplomatic engagement and mutual aid, as well as frank sharing of strategic perspective.

    love and rebelion,
    .b

  11. As far as the 2012 thing is concerned, and I don’t know what was said in that tent, I would like to clarify my experience. The date 2012 is not so important as the wisdom to be taken from a peoples that are completely disenfranchised by western civilization. Our sense of linear time, like any other institution, has been ingrained in us. Everything proceeds on that one straight line. It is never ending, and there is no turning back. But we know that’s hog wash. I mean, history has always repeated itself. Sometimes people have enough strength to break out of the mold, but it is in retaliation. The most successful revolts have been done with a simple idea, generally love or freedom. The one revolution that we haven’t had is one where we just start simply living the way we want to. We have
    not had that vision, that strength in self to just live brazenly, outside of all the confines and institutions that western civilization has created.

    Anarchy is on a right path, and you feel deep in yourself that these institutions are bologne. But you forget time, and you throw out the spiritual as hog wash. I’m sure you still see monks and now they’ve got something. We have to find balance within ourselves to create the real change that we want to exist. We can’t use force if we really want to bring change. All this system knows is force. It has been destroying and conquering since the first city, and you can’t bring down the master’s house with the master’s tools.

    As an anarchist, you desire to go down an uncharted path that leads to a wide field of fellow way wanderers. We need a common backbone that can give us a clear and open possibility, but that unites us at the same time.

    The mayan calendar is beautiful. COmplex and fine tuned to the magical wow’s of coincidence we feel when we let go and you know you’re on a core wavelength. I know it feels ridiculous to think that there is a mapping of such a thing. Our sense of time is so numb and static, and we are so disenchanted by organized anything, that we don’t want to trust and try something new. But you have to learn the rules before you break them. We especially only know such a narrow set of rules. There are so many colors to life, and it’s a pity that we have to only focus on the black and white. It’s not as if you dont have control over yourself. If you start to really feel it, and don’t like it, you can always do whatever you chose.

    Jose Arguelles started keeping the dreamspell. It is the mayn calendar fused with various other tid bits, so as to be user friendly for anyone in any particular thought bubble. You want to be revolutionary? It means trying new things. I believe that we need to try whatever we can, and if there’s something that
    someone somewhere got right down the line, I’m not going to pretend that I’m better just because I live now. I’m going to check it out.

    The date 2012, is when the calendar ends. It is when time will no longer matter. When either there is chaos or unity. Or rather, when fate for that will be set. Who knows if it’s true. All I know is that I’m alive now, and here’s a goal time that I can feel, without knowing how, that something big will happen in the next few years. I’m not so set on the bang on time. But I know that I’m young and have a lot of energy and desire for beauty and love. This backbone gives me a nice open breeze to be active and helpful. To remember that I live on this living earth that I am apart from, but that my species believes that we are above this natural cycle. I’m going to do what I can to tread lightly and sprinkle seeds where I go. Unlike Johnny Appleseed, I do not claim them as my own. This is the gift the dream spell gives me. I think that your tent did so well because it calls to us. It taps on our shoulder and we perk up, but a lot of the time we tune out because ya, a lot of people are focused on the wrong part of the message. Anarchists pride themselves on looking outside the box. Please just delve a little deeper.

    I hope that we can all wake up to the beauty that is every day.

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