When I meet enthusiastic documentary directors at festivals, I think how they can be today’s new anarchists. Why? Because many show their motivations connected to both freedom and solidarity – and not just the first (neo-liberalists) or just the second (socialists). I am not talking about the violent anarchists of the 19th century here, or the revolutions suggested
by Kropotkin or Bakunin, but a more pragmatic post-anarchistic, social-liberal, or dissident mentality in our modern society – more suggested by direct actions and reforms.
While the first anarchists wanted to abolish the three monumental powers – state, military, and capital – today many of us want to make them less monumental, to let civil societies and horizontal cooperation grow vibrantly more. In this editorial, let me describe the three mentioned powers, by what directors do – as you can read in our reviews.
State colonialism is exposed in Kenneth Sorento’s The Fight for Greenland where its youth want to get rid of Denmark – and their protests against the coming Chinese-sponsored airports and investments.
Another is Boris Gerrets’ Lamentations of Judas, on the end of colonial rule in the former Portuguese colony Angola. The soldiers were forced as teenagers to fight as rebels in the civil war. Or they became soldiers since they got guaranteed meals. Today they are accused of rape and murder – we see these soldiers now in their 60s talking about their pain and guilt. One of them says with tears, that there is no meaning in his life: «I am just on a journey to death.»
As we anarchists say about such state-initiated wars – often started by politicians who never go out there on the battlefield – do we really need these wars?
Puk Damsgaard and Søren Kloborg show in Secret Slaves of the Middle East* how migrants are suppressed as maids when working in a wealthier state like Lebanon – beatings, rapes, unspeakable abuse. Tomáš Rafa’s Refugees Are Welcome Here exposes nationalism and neo-fascism in Central European nations like the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Refugees there witness horrors like in a «post-apocalyptic movie». Islamophobia is just the latest incarnation of ethnic othering. Isn’t this far from an anarchist international solidarity – which should be in line with European long-developed humanism?
Hubert Sauper’s Epicentro shows how a state is formed by acts of collective imagination – besides the events and wars that determine new structures.
What about the ideological nature that the majority accepts as a nation’s storytelling? A fight for «truth» can also contain fake news. With the populism of the majority, which we anarchists don’t subscribe to, presidents like Trump blur reality – as seen in the book Surviving Autocracy* (p.39) by Masha Gessen. They show how Trump severs – by lies, self-glorification, and contempt for expertise – the ropes that keep a democratic system in place. And director Alex Gibney – the impatient anti-corruption fighter – shows in his Totally under Control, how the American president lies about the pandemic – hospitals flow over with sick people.
As we anarchists know, egotism and incompetence make a deadly combo. Why do we need one man at the top or the ever-expanding state governments? We in civil society don’t like governmentality.
As mentioned above, soldiers usually experience a troubled life after being involved in war atrocities. Why in 2020, are governments still using such destructive means – to achieve «peace»? Read our review of Guerra by José Oliveira and Marta Ramos on the Portuguese colonial war and how empires change.
The military-industrial complex also infects us through the new security state mentality: For example, Todd Chandler’s Bulletproof* shows the consequences of the American 2nd amendment – now schools are weaponized. Why should we really arm teachers, like one Texas school which paid $40.000 for 22 AR-15 automatic rifles to 19 of their staff? Or do you think that bulletproof hoodies will help? This is the land of the free…where white right-wing thugs carry military-grade weapons in counter-demonstrations against minorities or blacks…
As we anarchists know, egotism and incompetence make a deadly combo.
And what about the Israeli military state, where children are put into prisons for throwing stones or «symbolically» demonstrate against well-armed Israeli soldiers? Take a look at the film Children by Ada Ushpiz.
The ideology of the «pride of war», «the urgency of war» or the logic of the fatherland – is for us anarchists not a real justification for war. The military and the new security complex are making a dead-end downwards spiral, and mass media contributes with saleable fear-driven topics on «terror».
Well, who gets the profit when a school pays $6.5 million for guns and hundreds of security cameras (Bulletproof)? Just look up the trillions of dollars spent globally on the enemy-driven militant ideology, every year – and you will understand capitalism better.
And what about the around 40 million modern slaves that live in really suppressive situations (Secret Slaves)? Three of four are children or women. Would this have happened with the global solidarity of political anarchism?
And what about the missing solidarity as seen in the short Waste* by Valentin Thurn – in the «WHY Poverty» programme from the organization The WHY. Today, 1/3 of all food is wasted in overly abundant supermarkets and restaurants in the rich West. What goes into the garbage could feed the globe’s 800 million always hungry – three times over!
An ecological attitude
But will the political and ecological documentaries we at Modern Times Review put forward have an impact? Will our dear new «anarchists» who fight for freedom and solidarity, obtain a change? A point here is the on-going modernisation:
If we look into the lives of simplicity, dry landscape, and simple huts – as the director and anthropologist Inês Ponte did for eight months in her Making a Living in the Dry Season* – we can just guess how satellite phones and generators soon will change their lives out there. Modernisation is also the topic when miners have to be re-schooled at old age into the information society, as Jindrich Andrš shows in his Ji.hlava IDFF opening film A New Shift.
But what about eco-anarchists, who criticise governments that control the money and consequently the climate? How do you decompose 17 German reactors, as director Carsten Rau shows in Atomkraft Forever when it means really long-term destruction of 600.000 barrels of radioactive material?
In the book Collapse by the anarchist Carlos Taibo we are reminded that fascist projects run contrary to most of the requirements for an eco-social transition such as decentralisation of power or demilitarization.
Anarchists and critical-minded people have to understand and dissect the «truths» delivered to them by parents, traditions, or governments. It also means to think ecologically, in solidarity with people and nature. Mads Ellesøe shows in The Campaign Against the Climate (p.12), where the world’s biggest oil companies make misleading campaigns – which leads to self-deception, feigned doubt, the willful distortion of facts, and wretched hypocrisy.
Today we need more than ever you brave ones out there, the film directors that are doing the investigative journalism that the press was better at before. You are willing to work with a film for 2-3 years for little money, to investigate against the powerful with the risk of threats and harassment. And also your protagonists dare to step forward.
Should we keep up the European democracy, it needs at least anarchistic traits – to be healthy.
Featured Image: Refugees Are Welcome Here, a film by Tomáš Rafa
*Forthcoming on MTR online.
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