|On second thoughts, let me explain. You could make a fairly coherent argument that NAMBLA is not a 'pedophile association', but an organisation that in the 70's and 80s was engaged in trying to think imaginatively about age of consent laws. It's oversimplifyng in the extreme to argue that NAMBLA, by definition, is simply disgusting because it supports intergenerational sex/love. As far as my knowledge of NAMBLA goes, and it's quite limited, the NAMBLA folks are mostly engaged in making intellectual arguments that young people should be able to sleep wih older people legally.|
From what I understand about their position and their supporters, it seemed that a lot of their support came from people who were in favor of legalizing pederasty (relationships between adults and post-pubescent adolescents) and not so much pedophilia (which involves pre-pubescent children). I had been under the impression that many NAMbLA supporters had something in mind like the ancient Greek tradition of the erastes-eromenos relationship. The Greeks saw such a relationship as a sort of sexual and moral apprenticeship, where the older man would guide an adolescent male into adulthood.
It can certainly be argued that the pederasts within NAMbLA did themselves a disservice strategically by associating their cause with that of the pedophiles, and you could certainly argue that pederasty is ultimately not acceptable either. However, I think the issue of whether or not adolescents and adults should be having sex is, I think, a much more complex issue than the issue of pedophilia. One is clearly universally damaging and exploitative, whereas I think one could make the argument that a relationship between adolescents and adults is not necessarily so in every case. As such, I don't think it's fair to condemn everyone associated with NAMbLA as a wild-eyed child molester, and I don't think it's reasonable to dismiss all their arguments as being beyond the pale of legitimate and serious discourse.
Whether or not Bey himself falls more on the pedophile or pederast end of things is another issue, and I think this goes back to the distinction between the author and his work that others have been arguing for. I think his work does deserve some degree of serious consideration.
What is it you find profound or original about his writings, Eggs? I find it hard to see what people get from Bey, beyond purple prose and a vague sense that life can be creative and fun. It strikes me that one can find both in other writers, without Bey's hopeless political analysis and general lifestylist politics.
I think a lot of my issues with Bey's critics is the way they use "lifestylist" as a pejorative. I think that, in general, a revolution in lifestyle and day-to-day activities and forms of life is almost always a significantly more effective strategy than direct political action. Overt actions against the Powers That Be are relatively easy to counter and neutralize, and the mechanisms of power are a too diffuse and abstract to attack directly. Most anti-Bey anarchists and other political radicals who define themselves as "serious" as opposed to have generally struck me as puerile, ineffective, impatient, and entirely too caught up in the flash and drama of supposedly "serious" political action.
Living differently on a day-to-day basis, however, is a much more effective strategy in the long term. Simply by existing and going about your business living by a set of principles that the dominant paradigm defines as abnormal/unhealthy/immoral you are accomplishing more than any number of marches on Washington. You could look at the gay rights movement for an example. Obviously, direct protests and political action have made huge contributions, but I think that the biggest impact has been made by ordinary queer couples living together visibly and by queer communities existing openly. Slowly, over the course of decades, people have seen two men kissing in the street enough times to know that the sky's not going to fall if LGBT people are allowed to live openly in peace.
Real and lasting change, in my opinion, isn't driven by legislative action nearly as much as it is driven by cultural change, and that process can be accelerated and consciously shaped primarily by building a subculture and nurturing it until it consumes the dominant culture from within. The problem is that takes time, and patience, and throwing a brick through the window of a Starbucks or marching around chanting and waving signs feels like its accomplishing something worthwhile, even though it generally isn't*. The illusory comforts of direct action allow "serious" radicals to sneer at the mere "lifestyle" radicals, but "serious" radicals, in my experience, are looking more for a shallow sense of immediate gratification and something tangible to justify the enormous chips they carry on their shoulders than they are for actual change.
But then I haven't read him exstensively - am I missing something, or being unfair?
Bey's most important contribution is precisely the shift away from overt political liberation towards psychological liberation and the injection of a sort of loosely-defined spiritual element to the whole thing. Clearly, that's nothing new. You could boil it down to a few lines from a Bob Marley song: "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery / None but ourselves can free our minds."
However, I think Bey's key insight, for me, in that respect, is into the nature of power and surveillance - basically, that you're already free if no one's paying attention, and the important struggle is not to overthrow the government and replace it with a better one**, but rather the struggle to realize that we are already free to the degree that we can change our state of mind. The liberation struggle then moves into the realms of mysticism and the like, which I think is generally a productive turn. It also moves into the realm of cultural change, which I think is also a productive turn, and when this gets fed back into the surveillance thing, you get the idea of the TAZ, where a collective of people carve a space of invisibility for themselves within the Spectacle and nurture a community with values and practices more conducive to liberation outside of the watchful eye of authority.
It's not that any individual element of Bey's work is particularly original. However, his particular synthesis has been quite powerful and engaging, partially because it's so focused on practical DIY action.
I think his most serious limitations are his knee-jerk technophobia and his reactionary emphasis on the outdated dialectic of authenticity vs mediation/alienation, neither of which is particularly realistic, helpful or liberating. I'm of two minds about the flipside of his technophobia, which is the whole Romantic tendency to glorify the primitive. On one hand, it's all based on the work of people like Margaret Mead, Gimbutas, etc., and it's a bunch of neopagan/New Age bullshit with no grounding in reality. However, there are hints that he seems to acknowledge that it is bullshit, but indulges in it anyway because the myth is empowering. I think the strategy of intentionally deploying mythic tropes semi-self-consciously and post-ironically as a means of facilitating psychological transformation can be a sound strategy. Basically, if indulging in neo-primitivism as a fantasy helps people transform their lives for the better, I'm more-or-less for it, even if it's stupid.
In any case, neither those issues nor the whole sex-with-boys thing prevents me from finding the rest of his work useful.
* I think public protests had more impact in the early days of mass media, but as we moved increasingly towards a niche media society, and as people came to expect protests and demonstrations, they became less and less effective until they became the useless feel-good sideshows they have essentially become. As the psychological shock wore off and emerging technologies made protests easier to marginalize, public civil disobedience ceased to be an effective tactic for social change.
** As long as I'm feeling like trotting out overused quotes, "To fight the Empire is to be infected by its derangement. This is a paradox; whoever defeats a segment of the Empire becomes the Empire; it proliferates like a virus, imposing its form on its enemies. Thereby it becomes its enemies."