The Alternative Education of a Chinese Punk

The Alternative Education of a Chinese Punk

Translation by Husunzi of “一个小朋克的基础另类教育” (Basic alternative education of a little punk) by Tang Shui’en (唐水恩), originally published in a mainland magazine called Chutzpah! in 2009, translation originally published on the China Study Group (CSG) website in 2010.1 We’re reposting this here for archival purposes now that CSG seems to have disappeared permanently.2 Scroll down for the original Chinese. Also see “我们家 : Desiree Social Center : A liberated space in Wuhan” from Black Rim #1.

Tang Shui’en, mainland left-libertarian musician and activist, recounts his path from childhood in 1980s rural Hubei to participation in Wuhan’s pioneering punk scene since the late 1990s, interaction with overseas radicals, and experimentation with independent media and an “autonomous youth center.”


Among the common masses, how many of us are aware of the oppressive forces that push us to society’s margins?

Apart from a small minority, most people – even if at every moment they feel discomfort – are unable to determine the source of this pain. The word “marginal” itself is so abstract that it can only serve as a code of recondite academia and mass media. As the radical Brazilian educator Paulo Freire has shown, the masses are the “object” of development. We do not exist within the active process of naming things, but only within the theories of education and behavior created by our oppressors, which have fostered a “culture of silence” among the people.

In addition to silence, this process has cultivated us to be a “mass” with minds focused on the mainstream while our bodies are marginalized, and it has created a market to profit from this situation. Clearly, the vitality of today’s consumerism is related to “materialism” – a word the Party (Communist Party of China) has helped redefine from its philosophical sense [唯物主义] to mean commercial materialism [物质主义]. Meanwhile, social movement activists and mobilizers are attempting to rouse the masses’ sense of social participation.

The obstacles we face stem not only from the combination of a “culture of consumption” with a “culture of silence,” but also from the violent and totalitarian shadow left behind by history, the Left, and “utopianism.” That shadow is even more threatening to that elite consumerism which tries to play the role of world-savior, promising to help individuals realize their material desires. This is probably why the tradition of patriarchal education has only served to reinforce the warning, “Do not discuss politics!” [莫谈国事].3 This point may be helpful in analyzing the current impasse of activism. Some “postmodern activists” have calmed down since the ferment of Seattle and Genoa. They’ve begun to reread Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and are trying to set in motion a more fundamental movement – that of radical education. But what does the self-education of the oppressed entail?

This article doesn’t attempt to sort out the various theories of radical education. Instead, I would like to briefly introduce my own story. As a “punk,” I experienced a kind of alternative education that could never develop within a classroom. And it is this enlightening (and irrational) education that became an average person’s impetus to action. Although this story is perhaps unique, it may provide a reference for those who have undergone similar transformations. What I should first say is that, only after attending college did I venture into the city – which had never aroused any feelings in me before. Only in college did I come across punk music, the internet, and the library (although, in the Chinese world, these channels still tend to shut out alternative perspectives). Before this I had spent my life in a village in the hills, intoxicated with nature. I had a “peasant’s mentality” of self-deprecation. Once I witnessed bell-bottoms being fiercely cut by red-arm-banded zealots. I would listen to Cui Jian’s “Nothing to My Name” and be filled with a profound longing for a better future.

For activists, our greatest dilemma at present is akin to what the leftist scholar Hannah Arendt meant when she said that “acting is more difficult than thinking” [知易行难]. She came to this conclusion once authoritarianism had already spread throughout every inch of the power structure. As a rational intellectual, Arendt advocated “civil resistance,” but also worried that utopian resistance would degenerate into an abyss of violence and lead to another form of totalitarianism. Is there a third path through which to change the world? John Holloway, professor of sociology at the Autonomous University of Puebla in Mexico, argues, in his 2002 book Change the World without Taking Power, that we must rethink and resist the idea of revolution as a seizure of political power rather than an opposition to power itself. Experience with traditional methods of reform and revolution have shown that a reliance on power and government leads only to new programs of idolatry, and to the recasting of social relations into new rigid forms. New movements of social resistance should not walk down old paths. Instead, we should focus on trying to establish open, responsible communities and social relations.

Holloway lives in Mexico. He has been on close terms with the Zapatista movement in the jungles of southeastern Mexico. In order to resist the “terroristic” encroachment of neoliberalism, the indigenous Maya of Chiapas, with their “spokesperson” Subcomandante Marcos, embarked on a poetic “postmodern revolution”; a “guerilla war of symbolism” and “of cyberspace” (The Masked Knight [蒙面骑士], edited by Dai Jinhua and Lau Kin Chi), whose supporters can be found throughout the world.

The Zapatistas’ new form of revolution has inspired a whole generation of social resistance movements, including the recent mobilization against the G8. As for the dangers of ossification and idolatry, I think a reminder is in order, not only to Marcos, but even more so to his numerous followers and supporters. I couldn’t help laughing when I learned that Marcos has already been called “Che Guevara the Second”!

Although I had heard of the Zapatistas before, my first encounter with their supporters was in 2004, when my band and I toured Europe. 40 days, 35 locations – nearly all of which were abandoned buildings and fields squatted by anarchist punks. Books and pamphlets about the Zapatistas, along with “anti-G8,” “no borders,” “feminist” and “anti-racist” movements, were neatly displayed in the various infoshops for people to read or purchase. In addition, through concert fundraisers and by adhering to the principles of “fair trade,” these infoshops were purchasing coffee beans directly from the indigenous peoples of Chiapas, thereby making sure the money went to the farmers instead of middlemen. It seemed to us that these Zapatista-supporters in the squat scene were not just playing around.

From Birmingham to Barcelona and from Copenhagen to Prague, squats seemed to be beacons of social warning and calls to action for anarchist punks. They were nestled throughout the large cities and small villages of the European continent, becoming important centers of social resistance. Squatting is an old tradition in Europe, especially England (it’s said that 54% of English residents are the progeny of squatters, who believed the commoditization of land to be a crime against the laws of nature.) People occupying unused buildings owned by the rich is in itself a kind of resistance intimately connected to land rights. Today squatting is different, however. It is no longer condoned by flexible laws that leave room for dispute. Now the law uses all its strength to protect private property, to the point that even previously public property has been privatized. So, because of their squatting activities, anarchists naturally become a thorn in the side of the police and property owners. Often facing the threat of eviction, all sorts of protests and confrontations occur regularly.

Xinhua news agency once published a series of illustrated reports about such a confrontation in Germany. The words chosen for the title were simple, and rather humorous: “Police Suppress Rioting Youth.” Another darkly humorous incident occurred in Vienna, when a group of anarchists stormed a building that was being put up for sale by the Austrian Communist Party. The anarchists took in and protected “illegal” immigrants who had been displaced or were considered unwelcome by the government. I personally witnessed how anarchists went about building fortifications to hide and protect these foreigners, safe-guarding them from police raids.

To me, this whole scene was truly novel and exciting: confident that such action is just [理直气壮], to squat wasted real estate and turn it into strongholds for planning and participating in social movements, supporting other disadvantaged people (punks themselves being a marginalized group), combining discussion, reflection and action, and creating open and egalitarian interpersonal relationships. Ever since the British pacifist-anarchist band Crass, with its DIY ethos, got involved in serious issues of music and society (like the anti-war, anti-nuclear, and anti-authoritarian movements), there opened up a new scene quite different from the romp [嬉闹] of the Sex Pistols’ “culture shock.” This new autonomous scene blossomed throughout Europe and, later, Southeast Asia. Despite constant debates over issues such as the use of violent or non-violent tactics and ideological disputes between sects, generally speaking, activism has been vigorously pushing forward a deep bond between musical resistance and social resistance.

For someone like me, coming from an environment where DIY culture has been stripped of its original aesthetic/social meaning and turned into a marketing ploy by the likes of IKEA, this new punk-DIY culture opened a real window of understanding. I know now that punk is not merely noise, that it is interwoven with a profound alternative sociology and philosophy. The moment this window opened, all sorts of ideas relating to activism and social resistance came rushing forth, such as anti-authoritarianism, direct democracy, direct action, anti-consumerism, anti-neoliberal economic globalization, anti-eviction struggles, and “participatory media” [人人皆媒体]. The regions of Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia conjoin culturally in Hong Kong and Taiwan – separated from China only by a strip of water. I began to understand the history of social movements in these places. More importantly, I began to regain the individual energy I had nearly lost to the clutches of patriarchy and social hierarchy. My friends and I started to believe that, by changing (or “revolutionizing”) our everyday lives, we could change the world, or at least change ourselves through study, going from modern slaves to social actors with a sense of dignity.

We began by letting our imaginations run wild in the pages of DIY zines. Like the boundless affection I felt for punk music when I first encountered it, I developed a similar enthusiasm for all kinds of activism related to social resistance. I sought out and began to translate whatever materials I could get my hands on, about “new ideas” such as “direct democracy” and “autonomy,” and through comparison, I began to clarify my own positions.

Eventually, the social propositions of pacifist-anarchists, and the concept of “I” promoted by certain media activists, left the biggest impression on me. Inspired, I decided to explore the possibilities of peaceful acts of resistance. In China, the present system does everything in its power to prevent us from exploring even those fads that have already grown way out of proportion, and from effectively expressing ourselves in those public places that uniformed powers tightly control – like avenues and parks. We must find a place within our own lives, a space to serve as meeting ground and intermediary, to circulate information, to discuss the “symbols” of action we have encountered, to share the connectedness of our plights, to interpret it, and to attempt to act to the best of our ability. Certainly such a place could not be a state-run “cultural palace for the young” – those are places that put on a show of peace and prosperity, teaching the young to passively accept the status quo. Nor could it be a bar or a coffee shop either, whose consumerist atmosphere makes us uneasy. A squat would be even less realistic: the moment buildings are occupied in China, both the money-grubbing landlords (materialism having already destroyed social trust, and landlords having no sense of security regarding their property) and the autocratic police (there’s no way to ensure you won’t become another victim of a “hide-and-seek” game [i.e. be killed in jail]4) get angry, and the consequences could be serious. But where there’s a will there’s a way, a loophole in which the authorities would show no interest. We decided to rent a house. If you want complete control over a place, the only choice is to rent. Fortunately, we were able to find a secluded house outside the city that had been basically abandoned. The rent was next to nothing.

Although the house was a bit old, the surrounding scenery had a natural beauty we found invigorating. After cleaning out the dust and pulling the weeds, we decided on the various functions the house would serve. First, the house was to be an infoshop – a place to supply all the various alternative writings and information on social movements we could gather. Second, a conference center – from that day forth all workshops, debates, and film screenings would be held at the house. Third, a stage, set up in the courtyard – to provide a space for rock, experimental, and wandering street musicians to perform. Fourth, a guest house – to provide free accommodation for those in need, and an outdoor fire pit, for friends to relax by. Finally, on a pillar of the outer wall, we mounted a red and black five-pointed star, and gave the house a name: “‘Our Home’ Autonomous Youth Center” (“我们家”青年自治中心).

So long as you put forth the effort, physical space will arrive rather easily, and transformation will proceed smoothly. What we didn’t expect was that the moment we hung up the sign with the word “autonomous,” everyday social relations would have to be redefined. From that moment onward, the destructive and constructive sides of change began to collide with each other. New relations have no blueprint. We already had no choice but to change our disorderly pace of action and become more serious. We discussed the question of relative freedom vs. absolute freedom, whether it was necessary, in this mixed house of activists and hippies, to have written rules, whether to rely completely on individual initiative when working together or to assign specific tasks, whether or not to have “restrictions,” whether or not and how to adopt consensus decision-making, and so on.

But the peculiar name “autonomous” caused controversy within a matter of seconds – to the point that it was almost abandoned from the start. Since names associated with “collectivism” have plagued our history with bad memories, it is easy to cause misunderstandings, which can be quite destructive. It was then that I realized that those undercurrents of internal contradictions, which I had regarded as a mere curiosity in European squats and social movements, were now appearing in our own backyard, and they were even more severe in our case. We have our own history, you see. In particular, that one catastrophic utopian rhapsody. In any event, the moment we entered into an autonomous “procedure,” the meaning of our actions, our collective form, and various other social relations contained in our newly unfettered imaginations, all had to go through serious introspection and redesign. Otherwise we would continue to be stuck in the memories of past enslavement, with no way forward.

First, the word “autonomy” has political implications. The German journalist and professor of literature Victor Klemperer, as early as the Third Reich, understood the political implications of language. He wrote diary entries which analyzed how language had been manipulated and dehumanized by the National Socialist Party, who had turned language into “an authoritarian code in the subconscious communication of victims, criminals, and spectators.” But whether it is the Third Reich or a modern empire in the name of “democracy” or “republic,” this kind of political technique has always proven useful. Our parent’s generation endured such hardship.

The “violent storm” that was the Cultural Revolution tragically redefined everything related to power and politics (this, of course, including terms associated with critical thinking as well). As for our generation, manufactured consent and thought-control have not only continued unabated; they have become even more severe through the use of material incentives and public-relations techniques. Regardless of whether communication is being carried out within our collective or with outsiders, we have no choice but to work on redefining terms we will inevitably have to use – such as the word “politics.” Politics is not state administration by parties or special interest groups, it is our participation as subjects in the construction of social relations.

The most unfamiliar term in need of redefinition is “autonomy.” Autonomy does not mean “secession” from the whole, but an escape from external authoritarian control. At both the individual and collective levels, autonomy is the realization and upholding of self-governance. Perhaps the most common term in need of redefinition is “DIY.” DIY is not only about economic mutual aid and cooperation, and resistance to the inhuman aesthetics of industry; it is also a mode of organization for grassroots social action. Other terms in need of redefinition include “anarchy,” “utopia,” “freedom,” “democracy,” “public,” “society,” “citizen,” “consensus decision-making,” “hierarchy,” “revolution,” “mutual aid,” “education” and “consumption.” At almost every level there are terms that must be redefined toward the restoration of our dignity as subjects. This task is not just the duty of intellectuals, but also an obligation for everyone to carry out in our daily lives.

Of course this is an enormous and lengthy project that could not succeed right away. Even if the meaning of such terms – while possessing a degree of loose, common understanding – was repeatedly explained and communicated, still the political terrors of the past have successfully prevented people from attempting to live as anarchists. The subjective “call” to activism is usually ignored, and those who take interest in such things are equated with the coercive “mobilization” of the past. And in a little autonomous room, the most vocal are suspected by the silent of harboring plans to force some kind of ideology upon them.

An “observer” (most people prefer to be observers and not participants – at least in the beginning) once noted that nihilistic hippies and militant activists make for a bad partnership. At first glance such a statement seems reasonable. There is an ancient proverb that says, “those with different principles cannot make common cause” [道不同不相为谋]. After more reflection, however, are we not all seeking a purer kind of freedom? If those whose goals are so similar cannot find common ground, then how will those with more diverse goals ever cooperate? If even a small collective cannot tolerate dissent, how can we hope that a society of 1.5 billion can truly respect cultural diversity?

Another observer once noted that, while the goals of activism may be positive, one’s style of writing should not be too austere. This too has truth to it, but the models this observer held up as examples were merely the most popular foul-mouthed bloggers at the time. It‘s not that I despise crude language, I just think it’s a pity that “serious” expression makes people so uncomfortable. Why do we take self-conscious reflection to be a burden? Extending this further, perhaps this is not simply a question of language, but something that should be traced back to the idea of “utopia.”

Recently I’ve been looking through the thick pile of yellow-tinged Red Flag newspaper clippings that our landlord left behind. Inside are words such as “friendship, camaraderie, solidarity, struggle,” and other utopian phrases – the sense of design and drama is superb. As soon as the idea of communist utopia was discovered in China, it became a disguise for totalitarianism. Who would not completely detest it? To throw the baby out with the bath water could not be a more normal human reaction. So it appears this may require some time, using action itself to explain.

But political opinions and the meaning of language are not the only obstructions to the third path. Other hidden dimensions of society – closely woven and tautly stretched – may thrust up a sword of greater or lesser brightness in order to injure those anarchists who are accused of wanting to “play God.” One such example is our mechanisms of social reproduction. Wanting to get rid of corrupt power relations by adhering to a logic that has already been institutionalized is like “the royalists” (dramas glorifying emperors and heroes being fashionable these days) trying their hardest to resist change, incessantly scheming to re-throne the emperor, messing up, and sending themselves to a guillotine of their own creation. Take for example the ideas – whether apparent or not – of male chauvinism, patriarchy, and hierarchy. These ideas creep up on us, causing those who strive for innovation to fall under false charges the moment they drop their guard – even though such innovators are more sensitive to authoritarian control and try to eliminate it. These mechanisms are like an assembly line for making bombs. It produces and accumulates a constant stream of bombs, until one goes off, then everything’s covered in a thick cloud of smoke. No matter whether you’re inside or outside of the cloud, you’ll be thrown into an awkward situation where you can’t see anything. This isn’t one of those demolition scenes from the movies where the smoke dissipates. No, this will congeal into a permanent trauma. But for those who “want to play God,” such a situation isn’t inevitable. It can be avoided, not by seeking out a non-existent god to re-create the system, but by learning how to learn through listening, and how to change through learning.

Once during a workshop on “sexual freedom,” a “queer” comrade threw us supposedly “free” anarchists for a bit of a loop. Several of us felt that many lesbians in China were treating homosexuality as a subcultural fad, and they were being flamboyant about it. We assumed this to be a consequence of the muddled state of personal values in China. Hearing this, the workshop’s moderator immediately retorted, “Who are you to doubt and criticize the sexual orientation of others? Even if they are pretending, it is within their freedom do so. First of all, they have not interfered with your life in any way. And second, they most certainly have their own reasons for behaving in such a way. Maybe they are undecided about their identity.” The moderator continued, “Flamboyant? Imagine if we didn’t display our inclinations, how could we find a partner?” Surprised and ashamed, I felt as if I were being mocked by myself. While claiming to be disciples of “active freedom,” we could not even accept the passive freedom of others. What was the difference between ourselves and those guys in bars who slander people for being gay? But if we look to the positive side of this face-to-face confrontation, such an experience is actually one of the most typical forms of “radical education.” As Paulo Freire wrote, “the more radical one is, the more he will engage reality, the more he will understand reality, and the better equipped he will be to change it. He will no longer be afraid to face, listen to, and observe the world around him.” At the very least, we now have a better understanding of our shortcomings and have been given the opportunity to improve.

What is of interest is that those who participated in the discussion on sexual freedom were all male, while the participants in the discussion on Serpica Naro and the Milan Fashion Week—with the exception of one guy who came with his friend—were all female. Perhaps this is merely a coincidence. Or perhaps there is no need to intentionally use gender in drawing distinctions. Either way, we were left with a feeling that we need to create more appealing activities and encourage women to use their own ways of participating in “hard political” activism. But this is getting a bit off subject. We can return to this later.

In regard to workshops, people are either afraid they will result in political disaster or criticize them for being too disorderly (words left by a reader at the bottom of a flyer for one of our activities). Others pessimistically suspect workshops dealing with indymedia, social media, globalization, feminism, migrant workers and other such topics may cause a bit of commotion, but will never bring about any real change. For those who would like to quickly plan a blueprint for the future, discussion forums ) appear as merely a chessboard for games of language. Such people ignore the forces of activism that can be evoked through human cognition.

Whenever we touch upon the meaning of so-called radicalism, certain problems arise. These problems are no longer relegated to history, but instead become a reference for our current reality. From the perspective of an activist, such problems go one step further in drawing forth the forces of action. But from the perspective of those less resolute, at the very least these people can receive a kind of understanding they could not anywhere else. The sad part is that many people my age have been duped by a mass media which pretends to be omniscient. They think they know everything. One of the effects of the mainstream media’s rather scary reportage is that people feel satisfied at the level of “knowledge.” This is also one of the reasons why “mobilization” efforts are often ineffective. While we complain about public indifference toward political participation, Paulo Freire’s attempts at radical education in South America (it is the opinion of some that China should learn from the experiences of South America) remind us that “education”—the most basic social bond—has largely been ignored by activists.

This not only causes us to get caught up in the traps of isolation, but also guarantees that the results of action will sink into a state of passivity. So there is a pressing need to focus our attention and efforts on education—whether that be an education of self-reflection, or one of dialogue with others. It follows that workshops are extremely helpful in the redefinition of terms, as well as in engaging in self-introspection. Workshops are themselves a process of reconstructing meaning through self-reflection.

For instance, it’s hard for people to avoid associating the word “radical” with “violence.” Even if you clearly profess pacifist principles, if you pose new concepts and call on the people to change their own state of affairs, the word “radical” is easily equated with “coercion” and “oppression.” Even if it is mere discussion, the word “radical” seems to evoke the language and thoughts of violence. Those involved in indymedia are often seen as “radicals.” People’s understanding of independent media has never been able to escape the horrific shadow of the historically violent Left. Its whole ethos of fraternity [博爱] (perhaps trust in one another has already completely vanished, so not only do people not believe in each other, but the “tragedy” that is love is simply laughed at) is hard for most to relate to. How can we get indymedia to attract more people and have it be accepted? Experience suggests that radical independent media attracts people’s attention only during big events (such as the anti-G8 summits in Seattle and Genoa). But such events that attract the world’s attention don’t occur every day. Is it possible to create our own events, and, with the help of indymedia, to make them a part of people’s everyday agenda?

At our second gathering, a media activist from Genoa named Simone chaired a workshop called “Don’t Hate the Media, Become the Media.” He left us with some inspiring things to reflect upon, and an experience from which to draw lessons. What’s worth mentioning is that this workshop was divided into two parts and held in separate places. The first part was held in a university, the second in “Our Home.” At a time when the corporate media is fighting “vulgarity,” getting such a “natural enemy of the state” as “indymedia” into a university lecture hall is quite difficult, but not impossible. Although the professor seemed a little worried, we were able to use the label of “left-wing media” as a disguise, bringing the ideas of independent media before students who knew nothing about the subject. It would seem that students, through their own efforts, carry out a degree of autonomous education in the university, so to guide them toward a more cognitive direction is not impossible. As for the workshop itself, Simone’s experience with indymedia in Italy was not successful. This may have been due to the combined influences of Italy’s history of violent anarchism and the death of Carlo Giuliani in Genoa. Italian indymedia was not only suppressed by the government, it was feared by ordinary citizens and gradually became reduced to a small circle of self-referential radicals. This left them with no choice but to change their strategy. They began using mass symbols to which people were more accustomed, in order to give indymedia a new orientation, and to endow it with (or perhaps we should say, to wrestle back from the mainstream media) a new image and meaning. In a country with such a deep-seated religious atmosphere as Italy, they first had to invent a character by the name of St. Precario to serve as the guardian of precarious workers. Then they substituted the 12 signs of the zodiac with the subsistence problems and forms of resistance of precarious workers. They made statues and cards and handed them out in supermarkets. This successfully attracted a number people who had previously remained unpoliticized. It enabled such people to be exposed to a realistic analysis of labor conditions in Italy.

Later, they invented another character—the half-British, half-Japanese fashion designer “Serpica Naro” (a rearrangement of the letters of “San Precario”), who uses symbols of resistance as elements of design, and who managed to become a participant in the 2005 “Milan Fashion Week.” At the same time, they launched a protest against Naro as a way of criticizing the exploitation of underprivileged groups by fashion designers. Without a doubt, this type of incident is the stuff mainstream media adores. The mainstream media from Italy and other European countries, as well as Canada and Japan, all began to report on this “theatrical event.” In the process, the problems of precarious worker groups that the mainstream media had ignored were spread out on the table for more people to see. This ground-breaking cultural activism (or, as the Italian media activists dubbed it, this “strategy of popularizing the precarious worker as a brand name”), the ingenious use of mainstream media publicity aside, can avert the animosity and barriers that exist between the politicized and the unpoliticized. It can also highlight social problems through everyday forms of struggle.

We, too, are trying to carry out this kind of action. Although the problems we face are not the same, we are nevertheless trying to use cultural activism to communicate ideas and overcome stereotyped opinions. For example, getting rid of the tacky electronic character of our stage and setting it up in the yard, under the shade, near the vegetable garden. Aside from becoming closer to the earth, such an act proves that not all art requires the investment of commercial capital; that we can organize our own activities as a community. Before a concert, we try to organize a discussion. Usually, independent musicians and the audience talk about music and its social significance. We also plan to invite bus musicians to come and perform. These musicians are usually from the countryside. They come to the cities, where they squeeze onto crowded buses and play pop music, earning a small income from the donations of passengers. Because there is a degree of coercion to it, such performances—which are viewed as a form of begging—are usually despised and seen as contributing to the destruction of the urban social order. We have invited a woman to perform and talk with the audience about her life in the countryside and the city. This way the audience, we hope, will understand the social origins of this kind of performance and no longer view it as an act of greed by lazy people.

The village where “Our Home” is located had been plagued by a garbage problem for four years, and no on had done anything about it. So we decided to organize a “garbage concert.” This helped us raise money to build a garbage pit and clean up the trash. This was not the chivalrous behavior of a Zoro, but an attempt to bring people’s attention to the worsening garbage problem, the increasing paralysis of local government under the rule of the Party, and our own social responsibility as citizens. At the same time, this helped us merge with “the village as a community” (previously the villagers having viewed us warily as strange and dangerous outsiders – students, bohemian types, even thieves stealing their firewood).

This redefinition of terms, or this transformation of strategy, was the first step in our attempt at activism, an unavoidable step. Whether it is for ourselves or for those who are interested but uncertain, this redefinition is a foundation for developing a common understanding. The promotion of a common understanding cannot rely on direct action alone to “mobilize” the masses. Of equal importance is the transformation of old terms, old habits, and old meanings. This seems to have already become a consensus in the global justice movement. Thus, Freire’s “radical education,” such as the subversion of corporate logos such as Nike and the creation of new meanings, has been understood as a new strategy.

We, too, must move from the innocent experience of memorizing books to that of reality. We must get in touch with the natural language of the earth, and understand the forces and pitfalls of power behind our activism. Only in this way might direct democracy and consensus decision-making become pertinent. Only in this way might the ideas of Asian media activists on issues such as the internet, anti-globalization, anarchism, activism, and land rights become meaningful. Only in this way might alternative cooperative projects (such as cooperative publishing and community participation) come to fruition.

In a recent workshop, a young man who had spent his life listening to rock music and had never asked questions about world affairs came by. He was just like I was originally—things felt wrong, but he wasn’t sure why. We played the documentary Good Luck, Comrades! [洞爷外传之祝君安好] and then began our discussion. The guy seemed a little embarrassed, and a little upset—just like I was in the beginning. Suddenly he asked, “but why should we be opposed to globalization?” …Why?





《Chutzpah!》 2009年;《天南》第6期,2012年


如何才能够意识到自己被各种统治性力量放逐到了社会边缘?又如何才能够追溯时时刻刻感到的不适之根源?“边缘”这个词本身,很大程度上,从它所在的地理、政治以及经济具体情景中被抽离,它原本微碎的重要性与效力好像又被某一种发展的力量所试图填塞、加强。“边缘人”如何才能发现自己的位置已被划分?或者说被划定为各种“边缘”?对于一个经常问及此等问题的个体,首要的是寻找到一次认知的启示。此处我想到巴西激进教育家保罗·弗莱叶(Paul Freire)所揭示的“语言使人无能化”的事实:民众不过是发展的“客体”,我们并不在事物命名的主动过程中存在,而是在压迫者制造的教育与行动理论中存活,这造就了人民的“沉默文化”。除了沉默,这个过程还培养了身在边缘、心向主流,为“无所不能”以及“行动主义”所激励的“大众”,这种激励自从Nike的“Just Do It”以来,已涌出了多种变体,比如营销领域的各个角落。另一方面,社会运动的行动者则试图复苏大众积极的社会参与意识,但它要直面这样一种阻力:“消费文化”与“沉默文化”的现实交合。不仅如此,还要避免踯躅于历史、左派、“乌托邦”们所留下的暴力与极权的阴影,相对于扮演着能够帮助个人实现物质利益之救世主的政治精英和消费主义而言,这种阴影通常更令人恐惧,这大概就是为什么家长式教育的传统更坚定了“莫谈国事”训诫的原因之一。这些现象有助于分析行动主义者们的行动僵局。这也是为什么,一些“后现代的行动者”,要从西雅图与热那亚等等大事件的狂热中冷静下来,重捡弗莱叶的《被压迫者教育》进行阅读,并开始尝试发动一场更基础的行动:激进教育。被压迫者的自我教育又该如何?本文并不尝试对激进教育的学说进行整理,倒是想讲讲我自己身边的故事,作为一个“小朋克”, 如何进行了一次在课堂里不可能发生的另类教育,而这种启示性(并非真理性)的教育正是一个尝试行动的普通人的动力来源。虽然这样的故事不具普遍性,它却也能够为其他与我类似的普通人的自我改变提供一种可能性参考。需要说明的是,直到入大学我才来到武汉这个从未让我产生热爱情感的城市,才接触到朋克乐、互联网和图书馆—尽管在中文世界里,这些渠道对另类异见总是遮遮掩掩。在此之前,我一直在家乡的丘陵地里陶醉于大自然,听老人讲《三国演义》与“文革”的故事,巧遇喇叭裤被红袖章狂剪,听到《一无所有》,并对一个美好的未来充满了乡愁。

对于行动者来说,当下最矛盾的,正如左派学者汉娜·阿伦特所说, “知易行难”,她下此结论的前提是专制主义自下而上贯穿了权力的金字塔。作为一个理性的知识分子,她推崇“公民反抗”,但又担心乌托邦反抗堕入暴力的深渊,堆积起另一尊威仪极权。是否有第三条道路可以改变世界?墨西哥普埃布拉自治大学(Autonomous University of Puebla)人类社会学教授约翰·霍洛维(John Holloway) 2002年出版了《无需夺权便可改变世界》(Change the World Without Taking Power),提出我们需要反思并抵制意在夺权、而非反对权力本身的革命。传统的改良与革命经验说明,依赖权力与政府只会将革命导入另一套偶像崇拜的程序,浇铸出另一种僵化与偶像化的社会关系的形式。新的社会抵抗运动,不该再重走老路,而应将重点着眼于尝试建立一种开放的、有责任感的社区/社会关系。


虽然此前已略有所闻,但我近距离接触萨帕塔的支持者,是2004年的事。我与乐队去欧洲巡演,40天35个演出场地,几乎全部是安那其朋克盘踞下来的空房子或者郊区空地,后来我才知道,我们进入了欧洲著名的占屋者的“社会”之中。与萨帕塔抵抗运动有关的海报书刊与其它诸如“反G8”、“无国界”、“女权/LGBT”、“反种族主义”以及自治社区等运动的信息和出版物被整齐地摆在他们的Info Shop里,供人翻阅,或交换、捐卖。与此同时,他们/她们通过表演募款支援,并秉持“公平贸易”道德,直接购买卡帕斯印第安土著种出来的咖啡豆,以避免代理商等中间流通环节的利润盘剥。盘踞的朋克们在占来的屋子里,与那些曾被或正被殖民的南美原住民们进行了“团结”(solidarity),试图创造一种另类的交往网络。


从荷兰阿姆斯特丹的“挑衅者” 所发动的对既有体制进行干预的“城市权力”运动,到法国五月风暴中的占领工厂与“让想象力夺权”,到意大利工人自治运动,到“重夺街道”、占领马路与森林等临时自治空间,最后再回到占屋(地)运动,他们/她们尝试在体制之外创造新的(政治经济与个人的)自治社区与交往网络,个人与社会的关系不断得到“实验”。这其中的一个关键问题,与其说是如何定义(如果定义是可能的),毋宁说是对一个已经在此的“自我”进行“去蔽”,追溯这个或者那个可以最大程度地从压制的创伤中恢复另一种潜能的自我。我们无法说清楚这种潜能的具体内容,但是我们知道这一冲突过程中,比如,自治的个体再次被形式化为新的景观,正如“挑衅者”所介入过的阿姆斯特丹现在成了旅游经济的模范,原东西两个柏林的边境地带生机盎然的占屋运动,其部分创造被当作“创意文化”的先锋元素收纳入士绅化的城市文化,另一部分,占屋者个人则被(政治)污名化,并被以法律的符码与暴力从这个场所驱逐。有媒体曾报道过这种对抗,只不过以一组图片新闻简单地将它形容为“警察镇压镇暴乱青年”。这组图片所遮蔽的是,这些暴乱青年本是抵制暴力者,例如在维也纳,一群安那其人占领了奥地利共产党准备出售的房产,在那里,他们/她们收留并保护那些试图在一个普世自由价值观训导的世界里进行自由流动(逃脱控制)、却被其目的地的政府排斥或驱逐的“非法”移民,我曾亲历了他们/她们如何为隐藏并保护那些来自异乡的飘零人,构筑工事,预防警察的突袭。

无论怎样,于我,这实在是新鲜事—理直气壮地盘踞在被长久空置的房屋,将它变成网络中的阻点,在此讨论、反思各种问题,并付之行动,追求开放而且平等的人际关系,整个场景生机勃勃。自英国和平安那其朋克乐队Crass通过Do It Yourself文化介入音乐与社会严肃议题如反战、反核、反威权,并与占屋者Zig Zag合作建立自治空间,开拓了不同于Sex Pistols“文化震惊”之嬉闹的另一种场景,这种朋克反文化的自治场景就在欧洲以及后来的东南亚“遍地开花”了。尽管他们/她们对诸如和平或暴力,以及如何在日常生活细节中进行革命等等争论不绝,总体而言,和平行动主义者已在极具活力地推动着音乐抵抗与社会抵抗的深层联姻。

在中国内地,DIY文化已被宜家家居、电脑代理商等工业部门剔除了其美学/社会抵抗意义,令它沦为广告促销手段。对于一个从这样的环境中出来的小朋克,欧洲的朋克DIY文化无疑在此刻才真正为我打开认知的窗户,令我认识到,朋克不仅仅是噪音,还交织着深厚的另类社会学和哲学纹理。此窗一开,各种行动主义的社会抵抗观念便汹涌而至:反威权,直接民主,直接行动,反消费主义,反新自由主义经济全球化,反“驱逐”, “人人皆媒体”。在地理上,我的认识也从欧洲、南美洲与东南亚连接到了文化上一衣带水的香港与台湾,开始了解他们/她们过去以及现在正进行的社会运动。更重要的是,此前几乎被家长制和社会等级制所剿灭的个人能量又复活了,我开始相信通过日常生活的改变,或称之为革命,我们可以改变生活,至少在学习中改变自己,使自己从“现代奴隶”恢复成为一个具有自觉人格的社会人。



此屋虽然老旧,但环绕着的景致却颇具自然美,让人有一股子清凉的干劲。立马清扫尘埃,斩除野草,给房子分配功能:Info Shop,提供我们所能收集到的社运情报和另类著述;会议室,此后一系列工作坊、讨论会、放映会都在此处进行;舞台,设在院子里,为摇滚、实验、街头流浪艺人提供场地;客房,为有所需要的人提供免费的床铺;院子,提供篝火供朋友聚会。然后,在外墙的柱子上镶上一颗半红半黑的五角星,取一个名号—“我们家青年自治中心”。

只要出力,物质空间就来得颇为容易,改造也颇为顺手,但超乎预料的是, “自治”招牌甫一挂出,社会关系就需要立马重建,此刻破与立的冲撞就显出其厉害来了。新的关系还未有“蓝图”,我们已发现自己被卷入一系列的冲突当中,譬如如何处理个体与集体之间的关系。首先便是关于规则的“书写”问题:在这个行动者与嬉皮混居的地方,是否需要“成文”的规章,完全借由自觉还是通过分配来合作,是否有“禁止”条文,如何施行一致决议等等。自治的特殊名义,刹那间就引来争论,甚至在一开始就差一点令它解体,且不说自治的具体方法,单就诸如“自治”与“集体”此类的名词,就已着实地触发了我们对历史的不良记忆,而老、庄的幽灵更是频繁地闪现在我们对未来的构想里。这才真正意识到,欧洲占屋运动对于我个人而言,原来是一种脱离了情景的景观被我所观看。一段时间之后,我知道,类似的冲突同样也是奔腾于它内部—我们常常无法“看见”—的潜流,同样地,它也要不停地调整逃离的方向,比如,是遁入山林,建立小型的原始主义的安那其部落,还是在一个“已经在此”的现实场所里面对“他者”,在自我与社会之间星丛般复杂的关系网络中进行自相矛盾的重构。这些冲突在我们身上重复,而且有过之而无不及。究其原因,至少这块土地上的失败的历史,尤其是那一次以乌托邦面目出现、尔后演变成灾难的“文化大革命”,对个体之间的关系造成了消极的破坏。但与此同时,这令我们意识到,自治,并非简单地意味着,将某一种预设的公正程序书写、建立并运行,问题便得到解决。因为这里的问题是,自治首先意味着,那些原本“不存在”的问题的浮现。

首先便是与政治相关的“语言”。德国记者与文学教授科伦佩雷尔(Victor Klemperer)早在第三帝国时期就意识到了语言的政治工具性,他以日记的形式分析了语言是如何被国家社会主义纳粹缩略化、非人格化,使之成为“犯罪者,旁观者和受害者潜意识沟通之授权代码”的。无论是在第三帝国,还是在呈现着其它诸如民主或人民等名义的现代暴力国家,这种基于符码的治理技术非常受用。我们的父辈祖辈也饱受其苦,“文革”的“暴风骤雨”将所有与权力和政治有关的意义(当然也包括其它跟批判性思维相关的词汇)都灾难性地篡改了,而到了我们这一代,各种共识制造与意识控制不仅没有减轻,反而借由“政治化”所制造的恐惧,以及随之而来的“非政治化”选择,为国家资本主义的管制扫清了障碍,创造出一个理想的运行空间,“唯物主义”借此顺利地滑入了“物质主义”。所以,无论是在空间内部协商或者是与外部沟通时,我们都不得不花费气力重省这些意义不断被缩减、规整与重设的词汇。最严肃的如“政治”,它并非理所当然地指向哪一种政党与特殊利益集团的国家治理,比如法西斯极权,及其理所当然的“胜利”(因为它的力量过于强大),它本是“公民”(共同体成员)与“城邦”(共同体治理者)之间的互动,而在一个没有治理者的微小共同体中,或者我们所谓的非个人主义 安那其社群中,政治将离开这一治理的等级结构,而指向共同体成员共同参与涉及到所有成员生活的公共事务的平等参与;最陌生的如“自治”,这里最为关键的问题,并非是自己管理自己,而是同时脱离(如果可能的话)“唯我”和“总体性”;最平常的则是“DIY”,显然,它并非是对异化的再次异化,以“创意”重构“工业”,而是背离结构性的生产与流通,指向在各个领域比如生产与话语等空间中一种新的互助与流通。



语言与想象力霸权并非是第三条道路上的唯一阻碍,构成这个社会底纹的其他细密而且紧绷的经纬线都可能会弹射出或明或暗的利箭,穿透这些常常被批评幻想做“上帝”的安那其人,其中一种就是我们自身的社会性复制机制。譬如,当我们试图从个人父权体制化的思维中将基于父权的权力独断驱逐时,却遭遇到复辟。 在第一期“性自由”主题的工作坊中,同性恋人便让自以为自由的安那其人遭受到了一点小小的挫折。当时,有几个人认为有一部分女性同性恋人误将同性恋当作了一种时髦的亚文化加以追逐,且过分招摇,是中国个性价值观混乱的恶果之一。这立马遭到了主持人的愤怒反击:你有什么资格怀疑和批评他人的性取向?即便是假装,那也是她们的自由,一方面因为她们并没有妨碍你生活,另一方面她们定有自己的理由,更有可能是因为对自己的身份不确定。“过分招摇?假如我们不显示出我们的特殊取向,我们何以找到同类?”具有双性恋取向的主持人如此戏问。震惊与惭愧同时袭来,令我感到自己被自己嘲讽。然而,我必须得说,从自治的“自我再定位”来说,此类面对面的碰撞恰恰成了最典型的“激进教育”,也即保罗·弗莱叶所说的,“他愈激进,他就愈进入现实,以致他更加认识它,更好地改变它。他不畏惧面对、聆听、观看他所接触的世界。”起码,我们更明白了我们自身的缺陷,也获得改善的机会。

说到工作坊,人们或者担心招致政治祸端,或者斥其乱七八糟(读者在我们的活动介绍下面的留言),更多则是怀疑此类关注独立媒体、社会媒体、全球化、女权、农民工等等议题的工作坊只是“闹眼子”(武汉方言,即胡闹),不会带来任何实际变化。对于急着规划一幅未来蓝图的人来说,“讨论会”与“实验室” 的命名,并不(只)是语言文字的游戏,而是因为我们相信,自治首先基于认知,认知则以命名为基础。命名的改变,意味着对“定义”的否定。试图超越原有定义,即意味着接近所谓的激进的概念,引发出新的问题,使它偏离历史所预设的问题及答案选项,再转变成现实参照,而对于行动者来说,这有可能进一步转换成行动力量。另一方面,留言者的斥责与怀疑,正好将自治者的视角从反文化领域里的力量以及更多潜能引向经济与政治领域,因为这些是无法绕开的问题。比如,到底“经济全球化”与生活在中国的一个个体有着什么样的关系,产生了什么样的影响?“全球化”究竟是基于怎样一种“必然性”逻辑,以怎样一种“不可逆”的方式运行着,穿过全球、区域、国家、社区以及个人的亲密关系这五个层面影响着个人?以至于,我们甚至没有必要去“讨论”?

第二期工作坊“莫恨媒体,成为媒体”,由来自热那亚的媒体行动者Simone Pieranni主持,他给我们带来了一些有启发性的反思与值得借鉴的经验。值得一提的是,这次工作坊是分为两部分在两个地方举行的,第一次是在一所大学,第二次是在“我们家”。让“独立媒体”此类主流媒体的反抗者进入大学学术报告厅,目的在于让学生也尝试对教育进行某种程度的介入,这虽然很难,但并非没有可能。感谢秉持自由原则的教授以“左派媒体”为它换装,使它能够来到先前对此知之甚少的学生面前。回到工作坊本身,Simone们在意大利的独立媒体尝试并不太成功,可能因为历史上暴力派安那其人和热那亚死亡事件的双重影响,独立媒体不仅为政府所扫荡,也为普通群众所忌惮,逐渐沦为“自我指涉”。这使得他们/她们不得不改变策略,运用大家习惯的大众符号,重新给它排序,赋予(或者说,从主流媒体中夺回)它新的形象与意义。在宗教氛围浓厚的意大利,他们/她们先是虚拟了一位圣人San Precario,称其是不安定工人的保护者,然后将这些不安定者的生存困局与反抗形式代入十二星座的行运预测,制成塑像与卡片在超市等地方散发,它很成功地吸引了大量先前非政治化的普通人,将他们/她们引入现实分析。之后,他们/她们又虚拟了一位将社会抵抗运动的符号当作设计元素的英日混血时装设计师Serpica Naro(San Precario的错位排序),通过竞赛,成为2005年“米兰时装周”的参展者。与此同时,他们/她们发动一场针对Serpica Naro的抗议,指责时装设计师对弱势群体的利用与剥削。这种事件无疑是主流媒体喜欢的“料”,于是,从意大利到其他欧洲国家甚至加拿大、日本等主流媒体开始报道这一“戏剧性事件”,而在此过程中,主流媒体先前所漠视的不安定工人群体的问题被呈现在普通人的早餐桌上。别出心裁的文化行动主义,或者如意大利媒体行动者所称谓的“不安定工人的社会品牌传播策略”,除了巧妙利用主流媒体替它发声,同时也可以消弭与非政治化人之间的敌意与障碍,以日常生活的形式将问题展示出来。






  1. The original was republished in《天南》magazine in 2012. A different translation by “ezapata” was published on
  2. Thanks to aNtiDoTe for preserving this translation by reposting it before CSG went down.
  3. This phrase was popularized by Lao She’s play Teahouse.
  4. The hyperlink supposed to explain this reference is now broken:

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