On Rojava, Young Kurds & Old Gringos

Rojava, Young Kurds, Old Gringo, Gringo Viejo, Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

I (“BD”) have long been an ardent if not unconditional supporter of the revolution in Rojava. And as what some now call a post-left anarchist, I was both intrigued and inspired by the recent El Errante Rojava Dispatch series written by Paul Z. Simons (“PS”). After reading Paul’s final dispatch at AnarchistNews.org, I was almost ready to mount up and charge once more into the fray! But having reached an age where I can upon occasion see discretion as the better part of valor, I first posed some questions to the seasoned activist who had already been there and returned. What follows is the essence of our exchange:


The Rojava Plan Goes Live 11/5

Hi Paul,

What advice do you have for those considering answering this call-to-action from Anonymous, “The Rojava Plan“?


The Rojava Plan?

This looks to be the same folks (roughly) who run the Lions of Rojava website. They are anarchists and the needs they outline are pressing. I should also say that these folks also assisted with my crossing the border and setting up my press contact. If someone is interested in going there and helping, this is one reliable way to get to Rojava. I also encourage anyone with any technical skills/training at all, especially engineers, technophiles, cultural folks to go. This is may be a once in a lifetime chance to experience a revolution, and help it grow and mature. It won’t be easy, and it might not be 100% safe, but anything worth doing usually falls into that category.


Are Young Kurds simply the new Young Turks?

Our concern is that anarchists who go to fight for a stateless Rojava may die creating the “independent” state of Kurdistan:

The “Kurdish Question”, ISIS, USA, etc.

( Alternate Link )


And that concern is valid. Two things, first the PYG/J don’t need anymore fighters, they need weapons (the big kind), ammunition, logistics and communication hardware. So for folks who want to go and fight, unless you’re really committed to it, you may want to reconsider. As I indicated above what the KAR does need are engineers (esp. the electrical and civil type), technicians, medical personnel, computer geeks, cultural workers. Basically anyone who can help build and maintain social infrastructure.

There is always, and will always be, the possibility that Rojava may slip, or be dragged out of its revolution and into the neoliberal nightmare. I would argue all the more reason for anarchists to support what’s happening there and to go and help, if possible. Our presence may, in the instance of counter-revolution, be important. Finally, and this is a personal note, if I used possible negative outcomes as a criteria to decide whether to act or not, I believe I would find myself immobilized in a gelatinous inactivity. I take the spontaneity and impulse that anarchism has always implied very seriously. In the last analysis, I’d rather die fighting for a lost cause as opposed to choking to death on strained carrots whilst watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island in a rest home. But that’s just me.


Gringo Viejo | Old Gringo

Thanks Paul,

Speaking strictly for myself and no others…

I published my first “Letter to the Editor” at 15; organized and got parade permits for my first peaceful protest march at 16; first engaged and exchanged gunfire in what a racist corporate fascist media called a riot at 17; was first arrested for disorderly conduct and failure to obey an officer of the law five days after I turned 18; accepted my first statewide political appointment at 19 – and resigned from it in disgust before I turned 20.

I have spent a good portion of the ensuing 40 years in various guises fighting for causes I believed to be “right” – as in the right thing to do, and with no reference to the false Left/Right political paradigm fabricated to keep the Have-Nots fighting each other over puppets rather than attacking the kleptocratic puppetmaster Haves pulling all strings Left and Right.

In retrospect, I have chosen the right causes more than 80% of the time – but the causes I have chosen have been successful less than 20% of the time. I say that with more pride than shame. But like so many other graying activists, my life experience has taught me that no good deed ever goes unpunished.

Do I have regrets? Yes. But would I do it all over again? YES!

If I was twenty years younger, spoke Kurdi/Kurmanji/Sorani/Pehlewani, and was as good of an architect or engineer as I once was an agitator (by Saul Alinsky’s definition), I’d probably already be planning my route to Rojava. But that is not the case…

The Zapatistas of Chiapas – for whom I do not speak – stand in solidarity with the revolutionaries of Rojava. But IMO they should make that stand in Chiapas, as to physically deploy en masse to Syria would assure them of no homeland when (or if) they ever returned. And in this context I doubt if ours, or any other fledgling autonomous resistance collective, would fare any better.

Personally, I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m far more concerned about dying well than living long. But like the aging and ill but ever-defiant Ambrose Bierce (Gregory Peck) in the movie “Old Gringo” (from the novel “Gringo Viejo“), I suspect my last undocumented border crossing is more likely to be at the Rio Grande than the Tigris.

All my best wishes to the Lions of Rojava!

P.S. I hope we get a chance to meet some day. As we say in Texas, I like your cut.

“Experience is a revelation in the light of which we renounce our errors of youth for those of age.”–Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (1842-1914?)

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