Some belief systems demand you renounce drugs or alcohol; others encourage hedonistic indulgence; and yet others select specific intoxicants as holy sacraments or doorways to spiritual awakening. Each of those approaches has its reasons and merits, so we have to look deeper before ruling any of them out. Most societies enforce laws regulating some substances more than others. Where does Demonkind stand?
Demons recognize no gods, no masters, and therefore no oppressive laws, whether secular or religious. On the other hand, we want to uplift ourselves and each other, so we will behave accordingly and avoid causing harm. We discourage drunk and reckless driving not because it violates the law, but because we care about other people’s safety. Similarly we do not want you to take psychedelics before flying a plane or babysitting, nor to engage in BDSM while intoxicated, and we certainly do not want you to suffer from addiction or overdose.
If a person can consume alcohol or drugs without causing lasting harm to themselves or anyone else, or if it has medicinal or spiritual value to them, do not bother them. If you feel certain that they will do more harm than good, then find the most compassionate way to step in and avert as much damage as possible.
To the extent that we may accept any “laws” to guide our lives, those rules should be based on a balance of compassion and science, through the prismatic perspective. In other words, does your opinion about someone consuming intoxicants take into consideration their personal needs and abilities, their culture and context? Did you come to your decision by reading the latest research, or have you clung to an old entrenched belief? Does your position come from narrow source like a particular interpretation of a religious teaching, or from industry lobbyists? Does your own use of alcohol or drugs hurt the people around you?
Many prescription drugs have a range of unwanted side effects, yet every day people rationally choose to take them if the benefit outweighs the cost. The same should be true of psychedelics and cannabis. For every story of somebody doing something unsafe or lethal while on illegal drugs, we can quickly rebut with endless stories of equally dangerous and deadly events involving legal drugs and alcohol.
At the same time, humans have a poor track record of regulating their impulses to abuse themselves and each other. We cannot hand-wave addiction away by talking loftily about self empowerment and freedom. You can’t continually ignore the physical and verbal violence that addicts invariably inflict on their family and friends. And we know that the urge to destroy can overpower rational or healthy decision-making; it does so at all hours of all days around the world.
In theory, some laws could protect the vulnerable, and provide a greater social good than the negative of their intrusion into our personal autonomy. Unfortunately the enforcement of those laws often has an overwhelmingly racist bias (pdf), and this bias continues to run rampant today. Even in US locales that have legalized cannabis, where arrests for possession have dropped dramatically overall, non-white people still get harassed by police, arrested, and convicted at rates significantly higher than white people.
Often rebellious-minded folks (like us) respond to fascist and racist “law enforcement” by declaring support for anarchy. Ammon Hennacy, a major influence on U. Utah Phillips, defined an anarchist as “someone who doesn’t need a cop to make him behave.” In court facing charges for protesting, Hennacy said “oh judge, your damn laws: the good people don’t need them and the bad people don’t follow them so what good are they?”
But as self-satisfying as that position sounds, it falls apart under scrutiny. For one thing, how do we even define “bad people”? Should we let these bad people do whatever they want without consequence? Shall we each act as police, judge, and enforcer? Maybe you’d like to have that individual authority yourself, but think about all of the awful-behaving people we encounter online or at work — do you really want all of them to have the free power to punish or even execute you on their own judgment?
The same follows for the argument that laws restricting gun ownership only hinder law-abiding citizens, since criminals don’t obey laws anyway. This article does a good job debunking that claim. Amongst our peers we can discourage the paranoid fantasies, and broken logic, that lead to acquiring weapons designed to kill a large number of people with minimal effort. For everyone else, not a peer or not open to reason, we can push for laws to frustrate their efforts. Of course the authorities always use such laws to disproportionately attack Black and brown people, so we must simultaneously continue to lobby against that imbalance.
Activists call for the abolition of police and prisons because these institutions were built purposefully to protect the ruling class and their property, with the division typically formed along ethnic lines. You can argue that we need cops when someone assaults us, but how often do cops actually prevent or solve such assaults? Versus how often do they commit this violence themselves? And you can argue that we have to put criminals “somewhere”, so why not prison, but have you noticed that most prisons in this century are for-profit corporations, with vast lobbying power and financial motivation to increase their holdings? Absolutely we do need to disarm and abolish the police and prison apparatus as we know it; but we also need to plan for what will replace it.
Most crime revolves around capitalism. People rob because they need money. Gangs fight other gangs because they want to feel like they have some control over their own land. People buy drugs mainly to dull the pain of trying to survive in a system tilted against them. And corporate bankers defraud the public for trillions of dollars because our society defines success by profit margins. When someone says “abolishing the police is crazy talk”, it’s only because we will continue to have vast tides of crime for as long as we depend on capitalism and race divisions as the foundations of our society.
Ashanti Alston Omowali wrote “On the anarchist main tenets of MUTUAL AID AND COLLECTIVE COORDINATION OF STRATEGIES AND ACTIVITIES, you share what you’ve got (knowledges, weapons, expertise, resources of all kinds) to get what you want. This way People at all levels of consciousness and expertise have the opportunity to mix and grow, learn and become empowered Revolutionaries within Mutual Aid formations.” Demonkind absolutely admires this premise, an ideal society in which everyone looks out for the common good without needing the state or the cops. The biggest challenge in this ideal has always been how to stop assholes from banding together, seizing power, and putting the common good back in the trash heap.
In fact that is precisely how we got to the place we stand now. “Western civilization” came explicitly from assholes banding together to shit down the necks of any other population that had a less predatory mindset.
You can say we have to burn it all down and start fresh, but that kind of talk rarely leads to anything other than drinking another beer and tweeting in frustration. At the absolute most, a cop car gets burned once in a while, but then they send in the National Guard. Unless you actually have tanks, missiles, and tens of thousands of rebel soldiers willing to die for the cause, “burning it all down” remains a fantasy. And even if you did have all those things, what would you do to prevent the tragic outcomes of other rebel states like Cuba and Haiti, whose revolutionary ideals fell to dictatorship, and the iron boots of a larger capitalist empire controlling all trade? Historically, once you topple the power structures of a nation-state, another equally oppressive state rises in its place. This cycle will continue indefinitely as long as humans crave power over each other.
Instead we must find ways to improve the culture around us. It’s up to us to continue over the long term to challenge bad laws and cops, while steering policy toward protecting the vulnerable. So we don’t actually reject the entire idea of laws, per se, just to ones written unfairly and enforced cruelly. Omowali clarified “…it is not contradictory for me to say that Anarchism is about opening doors to greater learning and doing, even if it means its own death.” This gets to the origin of Demonkind, really, in that we recognized the value in having an organized moral code, while seeing the ridiculousness of dogmatic rules proclaimed by “god” through various power-obsessed men.
Mutual aid societies must agree on a code of values in order to operate fairly and justly, and they must include some means of dealing with bad actors. The laws of the State, enforced by lawyers and police, are supposed to perform that role, but they bear the added baggage of capitalist, racist, and dominionist agendas. If we haven’t got the firepower to take down the State, and history shows we probably couldn’t prevent the State from re-forming anyway, we should focus our efforts on burning down its foundational bad qualities and replacing them with affirmatively positive mutual values.
As mentioned in the article on storytelling, Sufis have used subversive and hidden teaching methods to keep their messages alive among repressive theocracies for centuries. They have long understood the necessity of operating in parallel with established society, and its absurd religious laws, rather than just dreaming about some future day when nobody will oppress anyone else.
We have to find a useful path that includes both the idealism of pure anarchy and grounded recognition of the real obstacles and repeated patterns of the context in which we live. In this way we can put the teachings of inspirations like Omowali and Audre Lorde to work. First we reject the oppressive mental and emotional limitations imposed by the people that want to keep us docile and weak. Next we must root out the toxic beliefs and behaviors inside ourselves, and our communities, that have allowed predatory assholes to achieve all the power they currently hold. Then by forming mutual support groups, both in neighborhoods and online, we can do a better job of taking care of each other than we could either by ourselves or through dependence on the laws of the State. THAT is the revolution.