First We Take Flavortown: Anarchism In Action

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Being an anarcho-communist amidst the leftist revival in America is great; it’s like getting to relive my early years of gender transition again. An off-handed outing of myself to an acquaintance chisels away apprehension to reveal a bleeding, well-meaning heart that yearns to give words of concern and comfort.

Oh gosh, darling, you’re so brave for living your truth. I know someone like you, and I just can’t imagine how hard it is out there. People are so small sometimes. If you need anyone to teach you how to file your nails or explain the need for a vanguard, I’d love to do that for you. I support you in your journey. I’m very open-minded.

For someone looking for a “phoenix from the ashes” narrative, I am consistently disappointing. I don’t think my transness is part of some beautiful spiritual or neurological path to my true self. I’m not interested in talking about my childhood and even more dispassionate about discussing biological factors of transness, because your investment in knowing what “caused” me will inevitably be co-opted by someone who would want to stop people like me from coming into being.

I don’t want a vagina, and don’t think having one will make me “full or complete”, though I support other trans people’s genital (re)construction to the hilt. Because that’s how solidarity works.

Similarly, I don’t have some heartfelt, grandiose explanation for why I’m an anarchist. I believe the State exists to preserve itself, and this compulsion is at odds with the safety and well-being of the people. No impassioned poetry. Not yet, at least.

I don’t believe in a State, but I will work with other socialists and communists to co-opt the apparatus of the state to improve the material conditions of the people. Whether it’s canvassing for single payer in California, or pushing the City of Oakland to defund the Oakland Police Department. Because that’s how solidarity works.

A lot of activists and ideologues are wont to gloss over the “earn the proletariat’s trust” step of revolution. They have the takes, you have the bodies that can block roads and the submissive, semi-formed political awareness to endure being condescended to day in and day out; we should be able to make this work, right?

I understand people have their apprehensions about anarchism (or socialism, or communism)—some of it’s warranted. I’m willing to own that. It’s a difficult, maybe even a scary, concept to imagine living without the State, especially if you’re someone who relies on the State in some fashion for a livelihood. It’s okay to admit that. The work we have before us will require all of the resources we possess, and some we have yet to commandeer. I’m committed to not abandoning you  if you don’t get my politics.

However, you’re closer to a realization of an anarchist society than you realize.

I’m sure several of my readers are familiar with Flavortown, that sovereign sanctuary of Guy Fieri’s depraved indulgence.

flavortown united

 

There are no borders to Flavortown, no conditions for entry. You can go to any of Guy’s restaurants, or his food truck, where you can get the “Welcome to Flavortown” experience, but anyone, anytime can be a part of Flavortown, no official channels necessary. If you feel you are part of Flavortown, you’re already there, whether you’re stirring jalapeno poppers into your oatmeal or you’re instagramming yourself eating a bowl of ramen.

Flavortown is an intentional community for people who share a lifestyle aspiration and ethos.

People, including Guy himself, may see himself as the focal point and night-watchman statesman of Flavortown. But by his own admission, Flavortown can only exist with through intentional free association.

“On camera, I once said, ‘This pizza looks like a manhole cover in Flavortown.’ Willy Wonka had a chocolate stream, you know? So it’s taking these iconic food items, these iconic food moments, and giving them a home. They all live in Flavortown. It’s like one of those things in The Matrix: You can only get down with Flavortown if you believe in Flavortown. I have people walk up to me and say, ‘Hey, I’m a citizen of Flavortown.’ I have people that want to pledge to be a city council member of Flavortown or the mechanic. It doesn’t stop. What would be the airline of Flavortown? Sausage Airlines? It just doesn’t stop. I just said it, and then people heard it. Of course, there’s no Flavortown—unless you believe in it.” — Munchies (Vice)

This leads to the question of why would anyone want to live in Flavortown? Surely, even irony has its limits.

I can think of two explanations for the persistent desire for mutually assured clogged arteries.

1. The economic devastation bequeathed us by the baby boomers—unpaid internships, insurmountable debt, the gig economy—has helped generations of people to identify and articulate how their lives are under the coercive command to produce non-essential goods and services to maintain wealth for a non-essential class of people (the bosses and landlords).

Flavortown is an experiment to explore a society built on literally anything else. An ethos built on greasy, fried food reflects the working class backgrounds of its imagineers and a fundamental grasp of one of the primary means that capitalism oppresses us: the withholding of food. To feed people is power. The Black Panthers understood this. So must all the leftist movements arising today.

2. Guy Fieri is a favorable leader figure because he seems easy to push back against. Everything about him is intentionally coded “irritating but harmless”—if you’re someone typically targeted for violence by white men, he’s safest bet you’ve been offered in a long time.

The latter point has allowed him to almost singlehandedly destroy the TV chef industry and make a good living for himself in the Bay Area, despite an open dislike of the queer people who the Bay Area attracts and a glib compulsion to mangle and desecrate any food brought to the Bay by the immigrants who gave us the food scene we have. He doesn’t scream at people like Gordon Ramsay or cross his arms intimidatingly like Robert Irvine. If you called him out on something and told him to stop putting up a front and disrupting the water sanitation committee meeting, he’d call his friend from across the room to come “hold him back” and then he’d just sulk a bunch outside, saying “fucking whatever” under his breath a bunch in a desperate attempt to convince himself that his cover and decades of building this sniveling, boot-licking persona was just blown to bits by someone who’s never even tried his hoisin-blasted swedish meatball casserole.

If you fantasize about a government you can bully, then it’s probably best to just not have a government. Be your best self.

There, is of course, the nagging counter analysis: that Flavortown is an example of anarcho-capitalism, a community build upon the consumption of a good—even if you aren’t eating at one of Guy’s restaurants or buying his frozen dinners, you are engaging with businesses that provide something of a counterpart to the product Guy does.

You could just as easily say Flavortown is an example of Valhalla, the ice-planet colonized by humans in the Warhammer 40K universe.  Why not. If you write it down, you must be able to make it reality.

 

Without a state to assign artificial value to fiat currency, you’ll all be buying vape pens with chickens and sacks of oats  (which isn’t capitalism).

The most optimistic scenario is you create small communes with a common currency, and then whoever ends up with the majority of that money at any given time becomes the de facto leader (which isn’t anarchism).

I don’t even want to hear about BitCoin; without net neutrality, internet money will be functionally useless. But the good news is then your mothers won’t be able to buy any diarrhea medication.

I do, however, want to hear about your plan to feed 100 people with a giant pizza topped with kapsalon, with crusts stuffed with fried pickle spears and crab rangoon filling. What materials, labor, and skills would you need—not just for making the pizza itself, but to meet your material and emotional needs in the meanwhile—so that creating and distributing was a mutual benefit to all 100 people who ate it without it being an undue, unreasonable burden on those of us who made it? Assuming, of course, that money is no object.

That collaborative connecting of source to need in a sustainable framework, removed from the logistics of earning money to pay rent somewhere you can work out of or come back to when you’re done earning money for the day—that is the map of Flavortown.

You’re damn right I’m gonna end a screed about how capitalism sucks with a link to my Kickstarter. Help me create the first Marxist cooking show!

Author: Jetta Rae

Founder of Fry Havoc. Can be found on twitter at @jetta_rae

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