Joint statement by Saana, admin of ABOC, and Cass, head of ABOC. In this document, “we” refer to the both of us.
So, 2020 came to a close recently, and we can say with little exaggeration that it was a rough, rough year. We were both exhausted, and it’s not a stretch to say that everyone, worldwide, sought comfort, calm, and peace in 2020.
The chiptune scene wasn’t exempt from this. Even without considering how the real world affected us individually and the scene as a whole, we saw events that made chiptune “history” in May. Almost back to back, Chiptunes=Win, arguably the largest chiptune community at the time, and CheapBeats, a well known label in the Chipscene, both shut down.
This left musicians and listeners astray and confused. For some, the ABOC community was a comforting alternative. Its values of openness, inclusiveness, decentralization, promotion of diversity, both in individuals and in arts, were praised. They attracted like-minded people who helped this community grow. We are glad, and proud, that we were able to provide such relief to those individuals.
ABOC never grew as fast as it did since these events. The existing staff at the time felt overwhelmed by the influx of people, and recruited new volunteer staff. In turn, this growing number of both members and staff prompted ABOC to adopt a new set of rules, channels, new clubs, and new processes which were put in place.
We felt like we were at the center of the scene. Some of the staff felt like we needed to be ready to be a space able to provide warmth and comfort, especially to marginalized folks. We felt the responsibility to provide a space for the unheard voices. We were under so much light, so much scrutiny, that we couldn’t make a single error without the finger being pointed at us, while other groups could be cesspools and nobody would bat an eye. That’s, sadly, something that’s not unique to our situation. It applies to many spaces that promote our values, for any community, at any kind of scale.
The current ABOC is not the ABOC of a year ago. ABOC used to be a much smaller space that effortlessly existed for and by marginalized (mostly queer) people who did not have a space elsewhere in the Chipscene. When, suddenly, many more people also didn’t have a space in the Chipscene that fitted their needs, we accepted a flood of members. Many of these members reflected the core spirit of ABOC, and many did not. We went on to accommodate as much as felt reasonable because that’s what the scene needed at the time.
The “respectability” that ABOC gained as a result is something that we did not wish to have. Being under so much scrutiny made us question every bit of action that we took, every word that we put out. When a member of the staff (yes, it’s Saana) acted without consultation, the staff felt uneasy. Of course we should question ourselves, everytime. But because of the sheer extent to which we did, ABOC became tame. “We run that space, some people need it, so must protect it at all cost’, the staff told itself. “We have responsibilities now”, “We can’t risk doing this”.
The staff have their voices and opinions, and we’re afraid of voicing some of them. We feel like we must act as a single mind each time we speak, and it severely limits us.
In 2020, we accommodated a lot of people, and quite frankly, some people we wouldn’t have accommodated to in 2019. By fear of being seen as intolerant, we became less assertive. We let debates go on and on, because we didn’t want to silence any voices, even when they were clearly against either the rules in place, or our values, both those open and those unspoken.
We’ve been lenient in the enforcing of our own rules in the discord server. We went so far as letting a known abuser stay for longer than they should have by fear of being seen as dictatorial.
“Accomodate” is to us both how we handled ABOC this past year. “Tame” is how both of us would describe ABOC today. Fuck that, we want to be wild. 2020 was a shitty year, and we get that. We did our best. We truly did. It exhausted us. These past few weeks, when passing down Cass’s responsibilities, we came to a tipping point.
One of our values that our community often forgets is “decentralization”. We expected new communities, so that the load would be shared between all of us. That didn’t quite happen in the way that we wanted. So we’re going to make it happen.
We are not gonna make 2021’s ABOC be the “leader of change” by being very respectable and civil. We’re not going to be a centrist space and we’re going to be awfully clear about that, because this community was founded by and for marginalized folk who are disempowered by that mentality. If you’re not a “””radical leftist anarchist,””” we are obviously not going to be against you. We won’t be against you for existing as someone who is cis, or white, or otherwise privileged either, in fact, a good number of our users who fall under these categories have been a joy to have in the community. But at its core, ABOC is not meant to center on those people the way that other spaces often do.
We expect users in ABOC to be people who genuinely look out for each other. People who are open to making personal sacrifices or real change to better support folks who are unheard or disempowered, and doing so in a way that isn’t performative, controlling, or patronizing.
Helping each other out is the heart of our values.
We have to implement those values into community policies in meaningful ways, so, by structure, we are and need to be a leftist space. It’s common for communities to avoid mention of politics, but in the same sense that communities are often “governed” every community space has a political mark whether or not it intends or wants to. In our case, our political mark is and must be left to achieve our goals and stay true to our values.
We believe in these values, and if you’ve got an issue with that, we can kindly show you the door. There are other chiptune communities out there that you would probably align more with your worldview. In the end, if we’re going to lead some kind of change, we’re going to do it by being as free as we wish to be, by making the things we want to do, while not catering to people we don’t want to cater to, and without any fear of optics.
We do not want to be a respectable, civil moral compass anymore.
Make your own communities. Learn from past mistakes of chiptune spaces, including ours. If you share our values, let’s work together to make digital scenes better and wilder. If you wish to help us run an unburdened ABOC, drop by our DMs, we’re accepting new volunteer staff. We’re gonna have our hands full, now that they are untied.