Kristian Williams is the author of Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America, Fire the Cops!, American Methods: Torture and the Logic of Domination, Hurt: Notes on Torture in a Modern Democracy, Between the Bullet and the Lie: Essays on Orwell, and Resist Everything Except Temptation: The Anarchist Philosophy of Oscar Wilde. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he is employed as a drawbridge operator.
What is the most important question (s) you need to know the answer to at this moment in time to empower you and our communities to reach a future you would be excited to live in?
In the midst of multiple overlapping crises — climate change, pandemic, economic collapse, armed conflict and creeping fascism — where can we, both individually and collectively, find agency to move the world toward the future we want to see? Where is both meaningful and effective action possible?
What exactly do you do and why?
I write about the police far more than I would like to, simply because it seems the knowledge I have assembled is relevant to questions a lot of people are asking themselves. I also write about literature, partly because I find it interesting, partly to keep myself sane, and partly because I think that the arts can help us expand our imaginations in ways that will be crucial if we are to address any of the problems we are facing. For a few years I have served on the board of the Institute for Anarchist Studies, a position I took in in hopes of improving the quality of anarchist theory. Politically, I mostly do work with my union. Labour organizing is extremely satisfying, because the victories are real and concrete, and even when you lose people appreciate you standing by them; but I largely got into it on the theory that you fight where you are. I have to work, and the workplace is a site of conflict; I don’t think that leaves any choice but to get involved.
What is your unique perspective or superpower?
Probably my skepticism. I’m good at challenging the accepted wisdom, including my own assumptions, and not jumping to conclusions. It also means I am good at finding alternative explanations and, relatedly, seeing a range of possibilities where other people only see a single, certain, inevitability.