My Political Journey: Margo
Posted by <Margo Bergamini> on 2021-09-15
I got an iPod touch for my 5th grade graduation. Then I got an iPhone in high school, and built a gaming pc soon after. This journey takes place almost exclusively within the confines of these devices and the confines of my head. It rarely even made it into speech.
I’m transgender. I was basically aware of that fact from puberty onward, around the age of twelve. Sometimes I tried to repress my feelings, sometimes I tried to embrace them, but I didn’t act on them until my early twenties. The resulting pain drove me into radical politics. As did, of course, my real awareness of growing downward mobility, political tension, and ecological instability.
Through a series of algorithmic recommendations, I found folk-punk in middle school. After just a few months of fandom, I wanted to be a crusty DIY anarchist like my favorite artists. Their open abjection felt radical.
Although I admired these crust-punks, I still spent most evenings gaming and looking at 4chan. I started by lurking in /lgbt,/ but branched out in 2013, when I temporarily gave up on my gender troubles. Soon, the spectacle of Gamergate swept me up. I even told my mom about “our movement.” God knows how much she understood. There are probably mean youtube comments of mine out there, my first marks made online.
That phase didn’t last long. I continued to prefer the aesthetics of anarchism, and projecting self-hatred onto cartoonish liberal arts majors got boring. At the time, late 2014, my sophomore year of high school, 8chan’s /leftypol/ was growing. Leftypol anons would start arguments on /pol/ and include links to their board in every post. They never converted their opponents to leftism. That wasn’t the point. This strategy drew to their side uncertain and politically frustrated lurkers. People like me.
By 2015, some tripfags had started YouTube accounts. I watched a lot of videos made by Xexizy (a leninist) and Rebel Absurdity (a libertarian socialist and existentialist). When these content creators and other intelligent-seeming anons referenced essays, I’d go to the school library during a free period to print them out. If you looked under my bed in my sophomore year, you’d find a binder containing The Ego and Its Own, Desert, Endgame, The Conquest of Bread, the Communist Manifesto, The State and Revolution, various Tiqqun essays and more. You’d find underlines and tiny, insecure annotations. I tried talking to these YouTubers and to some of the anarchist trips whose posts I liked. It was obvious to everyone that I was young — I said deranged things and probably ID’d as some new obscure ideology every week — but people were kind enough to engage me briefly or ignore me.
By late 2015, I migrated to fringe anarchist and deep-ecology subreddits like r/COMPLETEANARCHY and r/Collapse. This year brought a particularly bad bout of depression. I finally made friends that year, but mostly by making myself the butt of every joke. On top of that my parents found me my first job — deli cashier — and I really hated it. Any hope for long term change and mass politics stopped appealing to me because I just wanted to know why everything hurt and how to make it stop. I kind of bounced around between egoism and anarcho-primitivism at this point. The pairing gave an ideological structure to my loneliness and anhedonia.
I read Max Stiner and thought that one was free to do whatever one pleased, because only the self was real. Primitivism taught me that one is trapped in the prison of civilization, even in our words and abstract thought, so trapped that one could only hope to dismantle these structures and ensure that future generations lived without their tyranny. It shouldn’t surprise you that I was suicidal at the time. A typical weekend looked like this: harming myself, getting high with non-friends, going on long solitary walks, then returning home to post a meme I found about Stiner to an egoist subreddit for 100 upvotes (caption: REAL EGOISM HAS BEEN TRIED; image: stock photos of men and women shoplifting) before reading something terrifying about decreasing insect biomass.
At the time I was too depressed to find Trump surprising. I knew he was going to win from the moment I saw who supported him. After the deplorables speech, both my parents asked me to explain what the alt-right was. (On some level they knew what I looked at all day.) It felt nice to know that my internet knowledge was relevant, but that feeling didn’t last long.
Jordan Peterson did surprise me. I was the target audience — depressed, lazy and resentful, with just enough political vocabulary to confuse myself. Peterson said that the world was messed up and the mess started in my bedroom and in my mind. During that couple month period of Peterson-devotion, I watched the dirty laundry pile up atop my desk and never got around to washing it. Instead I tried to figure out how the decline of Western Civilization produced in me a yearning for womanhood.
In the summer of 2017, after exhausting the backlog of Peterson’s lectures, I turned to his reading lists. Little of what he recommended excited me, but I found I quite liked Dostoevsky, his stories of dramatic falls and redemptions. In the hope of finding more of that I read more widely — beyond the recommendations of Peterson or anyone else in the discourse — encountering unanticipated beauty in writers like Faulkner and William Carlos Williams. This new interest didn’t make me happy or relieved or optimistic about the future of the world or of myself, but I was happy to drop out of the internet after years of frantic self-redefinition. After one half of a disappointing education in literature, I got into avant-garde poetry. In 2019, a poet friend introduced me to leftist poets like George Oppen, Jack Spicer, Lyn Hejinian, and many others. In 2020, this friend and I got our friend-group to do biweekly Bernie phone-bank sessions. Afterward, he and I would talk about Bernie’s slim chances or the successes of the communist and socialist parties across the global south.
At about that time, a random perfunctory google search for “post leftism memes and irony” brought me straight to the work of Joshua Citarella. Then Covid happened, and I became terminally online again. Now I’m here.