This article about a DC anarchist dog-walking collective called Brighter Days comes by the way of Political Junkie Mom, who should charge me a research fee, who found it on Kathryn Lopez’s blog.
Why would anyone trust his dog to an anarchist is beyond me. It took us, college kids, a few days after starting Berkeley to figure out that punks on Telegraph Ave smoke out their dogs.
Telegraph Ave “kids” and their extra mellow canine. Presumably that’s dirty “bad” anarchists, whereas Brighter Days collective are clean “good” anarchists.
Plus, anarchists have a well-documented habit of bringing their dogs to the frontlines.
This one is from Athens, Greece where people were killed in recent riots.
Anarchists are known for applying their lofty political theories to their canine companions. When DH was touring Europe, he has the misfortune to play in squats. In one such squat anarchists brought their dogs to see the show, and the dogs, which were quite large, started to fight. DH’s drummer asked their hosts to stop the fighting dogs, to which they replied that the dogs need to learn to sort things out themselves.
On the subject of anthropomorphizing dogs, since many anarchists are vegans, is it ethical for them to demand veganism of canines? Methinks it’s reasonable to suspect that the anarchist dog walkers will attempt to feed carrots to their client’s child surrogates.
And yet somehow the anarchist dog-walking collective in DC is grossing money. What makes them a collective is that all decisions have to be unanimous — which is not an effective way of running a business. Neither is distributing profit equally, which they claim to do. Dog walking can be a lucrative operation, paying anywhere from $50 to $200 an hour, and grossing an individual walker as much as $200,000 a year. According to the article, Brighter Days earned 250K last year. Looking at the pictures of a collective’s meeting, I counted seven members. Presuming each one worked a full year in 2010, I calculate that every member made just under 36K. Not exactly a spectacular success.
I’m not sure why a seven-employee dog-walking business needs to hold weekly meetings, unless it’s an anarchist dog-walking enterprise. Because anarchists are the kind of annoying, boring people who are obsessed with meetings, rules and regulations. The free spirits would have a meeting about how to clean a refrigerator, and develop procedures and post them on said refrigerator. It won’t get cleaned, of course, so another meeting will be commenced.
A founding member explains the pitfalls of running an anarchist business:
A founding member explains:
Stephens left Brighter Days after a bitter falling-out with the collective’s other members. “I think these people felt like stripping away the bosses and stripping away the hierarchy was a way of minimizing obligation,” he says. “It became evident that it was becoming a tool for people to have slacker lives, and I didn’t want that.”
So did Stephens learn from his Brighter Days fiasco or is he an unreformable loser?
Stephens went on to start a second anarchist dog-walking collective that encompasses Washington, Baltimore and New York, where he now lives. Members of the new collective don’t get to participate in decision-making for a year while they take a course in animal behavior and study texts on cooperative business management, the politics of revolution and alternative economics.
Dictator for a year, he.
Washington posts mentions a few dilemmas facing an an anarchist business:
If you oppose the idea of a state, should you pay taxes? Is it ethically sound to care for the animals of professionals while they are at work at institutions such as the International Monetary Fund? And if you don’t believe in corporations, should you buy health insurance from one?
IMF employees trust anarchists with keys to their houses? It gets better:
In the beginning, when Stephens fielded the calls from Hill staffers, lawyers and bureaucrats who needed dog walkers, he would always take time to describe the collective’s mission, how it was employee-owned and their generous benefits, he said.
“Nine times out of ten, the answer I got back from people was, ‘Can I come work for you?’ ” Stephens says. “There is no better endorsement of anarchist politics than that.”
No, it’s not an endorsement of anarchist politics. It’s a condemnation of the federal government in its current reincarnation. In fact, anarchism and federal bureaucracy are birds of a feather. Somebody should make a movie about a love affair between a federal government employee and an anarchist. She: a lawyer and a first college grad in her family. Hails from a red state and works for a Democratic Senator. Ticking biological clock. He: a trust-fund baby and a dog-walker from a liberal family of hereditary anarchists. Will end up as a stay-at-home dad.
These days anarchy is all about big government. American anarchists consistently support presidential candidates, like Nader and Obama, who promise dramatic expansion of the federal government. They are in awe of Europe, where anarchists live on the dole. They dream up ways to transfer taxpayer’s wealth to themselves; Jello Biafra, for instance, is on record proposing state subsidize of punk bands. The US anarchists settle in localities, such as Berkeley or New York, known for meddling municipal government. When they move to the free states of Pacific North-West, they grow government there.
Bureaucrats and anarchists have similar goals. Both wish to engineer a perfect society via government intervention along the lines of Nader’s car safety regulations and welfare for all. In fact, the two groups need each other. Richard Fernandez explains that anarchists are cannon fodder in European intra-left battles:
Rectification is not an electrical term. On the Left it means “power struggle” or purge. In the beginning it will take exactly the form we are witnessing now [this essay was written immediately after murderous riots in Greece]: a signaling exercise on the Left ostensibly directed at the mythical right but essentially aimed at sending a message to leftist politicians and semi-respectable activists that they haven’t been militant enough. It is an open political letter from one faction to the other. In the case of Greece the message is simple. Keep spending, the hell with austerity. The warnings to get clear of bombs suggests the “anarchists” still regard their targets as broadly fraternal, but the subsequent real explosions say their forbearance will not last forever unless the moderate left gets serious. The USA Today article continued, “”Anarchists-insurrectionists work to try to raise the level of clashes when there are problems’ said Marco Boschi, a criminologist who teaches a course on terrorism at the University of Florence”. The anarchists themselves are ineffectual but provide the symbols around which the larger Left can rally.
In short, anarchists are there to keep more moderate lefties honest. Bureaucrats, for their part, dole out the goodies. Government people might be intrigued by anarchists’ exoticism and apparent dedication to the cause. A bureaucrat may feel that she compromised too much on the road to government expansion. Anarchy reminds her of the Utopian dreams she had when she first entered government service. Anarchists might talk a good talk of individual autonomy, but it all comes back to his “right” to play and smoke weed. So he needs somebody to take care of him.
A proper article about anarchists must involve some sort of a gross-out, so here it is:
“I might be one of the grossest ones with it because I don’t really use bags,” Miller [one of the members] says. He prefers to grab a piece of litter from the street for environmental reasons.
“Occasionally, I’ll get it on my hands or under a nail,” he says while hurling just such a package into a street garbage can. “If anything, I think it boosts my immune system.”
If anyone is wondering what kind of Utopian future anarchists have in mind, here it is: picking up dog excrement with bare hands. One might think it’s crazy talk, but it might just be that Miller is a harbinger of our future. Maybe he’ll get his government clients to legislate it.