a l a m u t

the mystic brotherhood

Bey defines a Tong as "a mutual benefit society for people with a common interest which is illegal or dangerously marginal--hence, the necessary secrecy" (Radio Sermonettes). The secret society--the Tongs being one interesting example--has a long & intricate relationship to that of political struggle. Rocker cites the Luddites; in 1812, British secret societies brought about a general strike of the weavers in Glasgow (Rocker 46). The Tongs were, as Bey himself notes, allies of the anarchists in the 1911 Revolution. But Bey's "Tong Aesthetic" is not about a political struggle per se.

Instead, Bey's Tongs function as an example of the TAZ--they exist as somewhat formless social entities providing a societal space on the margins. The primary goal of the Tong is the existance of the Tong; Bey notes that meeting regularly in the constrained conditions afforded by real life--work, family, other entertainment all interfering--will produce its own set of justifications.

I feel that Bey is missing a bet when it comes to use of computers to create communities; my experiences with local bulletin board systems in my early teens, then later with AppleLink (in its days before it became America Online) demonstrate--to me, at least--that a virtual community is every bit as real and as "difficult" as a flesh & blood one. I understand his desire to avoid mediation but, as he notes, the flesh and blood interactions of "work and family" do not a Tong make.