Black Seed Issue 2
Welcome to Issue #2
We've made the conscious choice to produce a print-only newspaper in an era where much of anarchist dialogue occurs over the Internet. We hope that our choice of a print medium allows time for slowness and reflection, both as a challenge to the immediacy of the Internet as well as to deepen the dialogue. Whereas so much of Internet anarchist discourse is based on quick dismissals and ideological echo chambers, we hope to foster face-to-face conversations based on reflective of specific articles we publish and the larger questions they address. Black Seed has already helped further conversations surrounding the roles of anthropology and resistance.
Despite these successes, we were reminded that this project and these conversations are very much a process. Professing to not have any answers, yet asking questions, has put us editors in a position of vulnerability. Holding everything in question, even the idea of green anarchy itself, provides a certain kind of provocation for those who have a stake in advocating for or defending their ideological positions and tendencies. When one makes grandiose claims about how an ideology must or must not behave a certain way, the only room for a response remains that of a statement of allegiance or opposition to those claims. By honestly opening up the conversation with a series of questions, we’ve begun an experiment in life and thought.
How do we pay homage and respect to those who came before, living against civilization and with wildness, without holding hands with racist anthropological practices and appropriating cultures that are not ours? How do we begin to discuss that the very way we live our lives is out of sync with so many basic needs for living (not just surviving) without fetishizing lifestyles? What will it look like to illuminate the horrors that have been wreaked on the wild worlds of all species without laying out a program for revolution or life? It is our aim to explore these questions and their implications on our lives, not to answer them. Lived anarchy is a process with no end in sight. It’s our belief that green anarchy helps us to think about these larger questions.
Looking back at the first issue, the conversation was somewhat scattered, just as we were. We put forth a lot of energy trying to make Issue One everything we’ve ever wanted a publication to be: personal, defiant, studious, news-worthy, convincing, and hilarious. We didn’t deliver on all those fronts, as some critics have pointed out. Of course, no publication can grab everyone, but we aim to constantly improve the project. One of the more substantive criticisms we received was in the form of a question: Who is this for? On the one hand, it’s a fair question. Who do we expect to read this newspaper? What we do hope they get out of it? On the other hand, we realize that there is no typical reader. For a publication with a print run in the thousands, readership and distribution are constantly evolving. Though we asked specific questions in our calls for submissions, the paper is subject to the content submitted. This is consistent with our goal of creating a space for conversation rather than an ideological box. Black Seed is clearly an anarchist project aimed at the anarchist space that nonetheless hopes to spill out beyond the milieu. We started this project to contribute something to the void of green anarchist publishing, a forum for dialogue, and dialogue is indeed happening. At the same time, there are questions about the limitations of this orientation: are we writing to some perceived mythical “green anarchist” audience? Are we just writing to our friends? What is the point? These are larger questions that will be answered over time; other criticisms of the first issue are addressed by the articles curated within.
In light of all this, we’re excited to present this second issue. We’re continuing several specific conversations about green anarchy and indigeneity integral to this project as a whole; related is the topic of anthropology and its relationship to green anarchy. Dialogues growing away from violence/non-violence debates into deeper and reflective questioning regarding eco-defense are raised in the responsive “Two Steps Nowhere” submission. The “Green Anarchy panel discussion” dives into anthropology critique and the green anarchist/anti-civ anarchist distinction, while also touching on the trendy topic of “hope.” “Anarchy in Flight,” takes a completely different approach altogether by pushing aside the usual jargon but bringing in something very new and inspiring. We are also excited to print continuations of two pieces, “An Interview with Klee Benally” and “A Voice from the Grave,” begun in the first issue.
As the days get shorter and the acorns begin to fall, we hope to provide fodder for late night talks ‘round the fire and letters sent over the miles that come between us. And when those conversations lead you to think you’ve got it, know that you haven’t, none of us do, but know that we want to hear what you’re thinking, what small ways you’re finding to get free.
A Discussion on Green Anarchy
At the Seattle Anarchist Bookfair this year in late August, a roundtable discussion on green anarchy was held as one of the workshops. The speakers included Ian Smith (the moderator for uncivilizedanimals.wordpress.com), Kathan Zerzan (who co-hosts John Zerzan’s Anarchy Radio show once a month), Aragorn! (publisher of Black Seed) and Cedar Leighlais (an editor of Black Seed). What follows is the transcription of the discussion, not including the last half-hour of Q&A. The transcription has been edited for clarity.
Kathan: Well, I’ve just been elected the MC up here of this discussion that we’re going to have up here. We’ve got some questions that I’ll put out that I think are the basis of what we’re going to talk about. and then people will introduce themselves. The questions we’ll be discussing are: A) What is green anarchy? B) How did you come to a green anarchist perspective? C) Are green anarchy, primitivism, and anti-civilization synonymous terms? And then two kind of topical terms: anthropology—how can anarchists interact with it? And hope: what is the role of hope when we can see that the world has been so fucked by civilization?
What Is Green Anarchy?
K: I’m not going to just repeat the term. I participate in a radio show with John Zerzan, I have since 2007, I’m certainly aware of ongoing discussions and hear phrases and terms of tendencies that over the years seem to be developing into positions... so for myself I have the question: green anarchy, anarcho-primitivism, anti-civilization, are these the same thing? I think there are probably different opinions here that we will flesh out. I tend to think they are pretty much synonymous. I think that there is developing theory about the world we live in and how to interact with it, and that there might be specific, debatable, kind of academic differences that to me are somewhat irrelevant. Then there are practical-based differences in organizations like Deep Green Resistance or say Ted Kaczynski’s writings, that there does seem to be some pull towards military-style, hierarchical, centralized organization; when you get into the topic of armed struggle, you’re probably going to have centralized organizations, so that feels to me (and I’m no expert, I’m just saying what I see) that that’s one thing where I think there are major disagreements. But in terms of anti-civ, and green anarchy, I think there are way more similarities than disagreements.
Cedar: My name is Cedar. I’m appearing on this panel as one of the editors of Black Seed. To me green anarchy is a political tendency within the larger umbrella of anarchy that doesn’t stop at anything. It holds the entire world ready for critique and attack. That is very attractive to me, since I found that most of a lot of other niches within anarchy stop short of going all the way to the root of where these systems of oppression (to use a buzzword) come from. Often times that what is lacking from anarchist analysis is a deep historical understanding of where these things come from. The most important thing to me about green anarchy is that everything in our lives that fucks with us, holds us down, keeps us from being free, can be tied back to civilization; everything goes back to this complete onslaught and domestication, turning everything into a commodity. To me green anarchy is the analysis of this world, not just looking at things in terms of ecology or the environment with an anarchist lens; it’s not just about rewilding or hunting and harvesting berries, for me that’s not even part of green anarchy. For me that stuff is personal interest, and I’m also excited about it… Green anarchy also takes into consideration ongoing violent clashes in city centers and suburbs - some people would call that class war. Green anarchy is calling into question everything that we know.
Aragorn!: I was a columnist for Green Anarchy magazine, I also wrote essays for the magazine. So I’ve been involved with public green anarchist projects for a long time. I’m the publisher of Black Seed, which means that eventually I will not be involved that much in providing content, but as part of Little Black Cart, I pay for it and make sure that people can get it into their hands. That’s my involvement with Black Seed.
So, anarchism as a beautiful idea, both a sort of impossible conversation to have, and a conversation that becomes one of preferences - meaning all of us. And I believe that most people we meet on the streets agree with us when we say, “I want freedom, and I want to be with people in interesting constellations of freedom,” rather than “I want to be oppressed and I want to be in uninteresting relationships of oppression or hierarchy.” The traditional forms of anarchism - which happened at the same time as the rise of the workers’ movements in the 19th and early 20th centuries - reflected the moment that it lived in, which looked like a progressive, historical, abstract, and Manichean political philosophy. In the 1980s and 1990s, then, it began to be common to differentiate between red and green anarchism. That, progressive, historical, abstract, and Manichean, that is red anarchism. Green anarchism is everything else. So, for me, green anarchism is an umbrella term, that we can now talk about as having distinct interests underneath it, that are usually not progressive, historical, abstract, or Manichean. Green anarchism, obviously, in the way it factionalized out in the past 30 years, has taken on a variety of different nuances, has become influenced by different people who have dogs in the fight. I think it’s worth mentioning some of them, who are not usually mentioned in the anti-civilization part of this conversation.
There are people who want to reconcile Hegelian thought with a conversation about ecology; they’re called Bookchinites. Those people still exist, they still have journals and people who follow their ideas. There are people who think that instead of talking about destroying civilization, that we should be talking about post-civilization. There’s the anti-civilization discourse that includes a variety of perspectives. Here we’re talking about taxonomy, rather than green anarchism in particular, so we can talk about those distinctions later on. But for me, the main point is that green anarchy is not the anarchism that came before, which is progressive, historical, abstract, Manichean.
Ian Smith: I write a blog called Uncivilized Animals, which is probably the vehicle that connected me with some of the people here. I think Cedar’s idea of green anarchy being the largest frame that everything’s up for grabs is a good way of framing it. Personally I’ve always used these terms interchangeably, but I’ve done that unthinkingly, so this is the question that we brought to this and I was interested to hear other people’s thoughts. When I first thought about it and tried to think about it more, it was that anti-civilization is a negative term, it kind of leaves the floor open for something positive. Moving on to the next question, which is...
How Did You Come To A Green Anarchist Perspective?
I: On a personal note, my step onto this floor was mainstream, consumer veganism, and taking the next step out and then the next... thinking about what does it mean to respect animals? And how radically different the world as a whole would have to be if we genuinely respected other animals. I think that ripples out to the furthest periphery of what that means.
C: I would say mine goes back, like Ian I’ve been thinking about this all week, I can trace it back to my childhood. Everything previously in my life has had something to do with where I’m at now. Part of growing up outside of a small town, running around in the woods, I mean it’s cheesy American youth bullshit but it’s real too. Running around in the woods with total abandon for the rest of the world. In high school I was incredibly anti-social and found a place within the more anarcho-punk hardcore scene. The lyrics in those bands really resonated with me and I found importance in that. Eventually I was vegan and looked at it in a larger context. But when I did away with veganism, that happened at the same time that I started to accept a much more negative view of the world, and to see that even the small, non-profit, organic farm I worked on was bullshit, even that was “domestication.” Taking wild and free places and manipulating them for money or surplus or whatever. Even these small things that I had found solace in as a late teenager turned out to be part of an entire system. As I realized that everything is worth pointing a finger at, that was also when I put down veganism, and came to have a very staunch position against everything else. This had a lot to do with understanding that there was an importance outside of civilization, and also being incredibly aware of this relentless anger I have at the forces that control my life and the lives of those around me, and that consistently put down struggles for freedom.
A!: I have always been a green anarchist, but I have yet to figure out exactly what that means. One of the problems with labels and especially labels that are wrapped up with politics is the way that they’re very confusing, because they seem to be used much more as weapons than they are as clarifying statements. So the reason I embrace the term green anarchism is because of how open the term is. In other words, green anarchism to me is a set of ideas that desire freedom, and that do not accept that a clockwork universe exists. For me, there’s much more to figure out, and one of my goals for Black Seed, one of the reasons I’m helping to make it happen, is that I really want help figuring out what it means to not live in a clockwork universe together, and the way these conversations have happened up until now have felt very troubling and I am very uncomfortable about them. That said, I do find the work of Fredy Perlman and an U.K. author named John Moore to be very inspirational.
I: I guess I jumped ahead in my first statement. The only thing I would add is that a key component of this transition is shedding old identities that you’re given, whether that’s as worker or consumer (or whatever the case might be) to an identity as animal, and trying to be humble enough to look to other animals for solutions to problems and to learn from others in that way. Grappling with these things I often feel that in a different time and place people would have learned just by breathing the air when they’re growing up and now we’re struggling to learn these things with the clunky brain of an adult at whatever age you are and it’s really not feasible, but you know, maybe some progress can be made, so...
K: And I have the longest history, so I’ll be abbreviating a lot. I appreciate very much Aragorn!’s distinction between red anarchism and green anarchism, because I would say that kind of encompasses my trajectory. So I was born in 1950, female, United States of America, my father was military. I grew up moving throughout my childhood... I think I attended twelve schools or something. I was in Puerto Rico before Cuba, stopped in Guantanamo of all things on my way to Puerto Rico with my family to be a good child of a colonialist in Puerto Rico for three years. Came back to the U.S.; was in Georgia’s civil rights movement; where we were considered northerners and federal-agents because the military was integrating. So I started having contradictions with the society I lived in, and being an outsider... my last high school was in Colorado Spring, CO; the Vietnam War was raging, it was ‘68. I was a good military girl and believed in America and freedom, the communists were the enemies and that kind of thing. I had two older brothers, one ended up in Berkeley, the other in Milwaukee marching with Father Graupee against the war. I went to Oregon University of Portland, started questioning the war, went from doing draft resistance and legal activity to helping people get out of the country, to joining an autonomous Students for a Democratic Society (S.D.S.) that was probably my first experience with working with other people in an anarchist fashion. We didn’t have connections to national S.D.S., they’d had the split with Weather Underground then. Anyways, it’s a long history. At University of Oregon I was arrested, and the lovely government that I believed in... it was really in my face, the contradiction was really in my face: the good Catholic girl was looking at 25 years in prison for inciting to riot. And I felt like I was being a good girl, I was doing the right thing. S.D.S. was a local group at University of Oregon, not connected with the national group. In 1970 I was arrested. There was a centralized organization in the Bay Area that was Maoist and expanded to Eugene, O.R., and my lovely group of people I trusted and who I had worked with all year, we all became secret members of R.U. and became very interested in armed struggle and the repression that was taking place and we got more secretive and more ingrown and that kind of stuff. Life went on, the war allegedly ended, the central committee in California was talking about assigning people to ... “well maybe we won’t fight the charges, maybe you need to go to prison and organize in the prisons.” I always had trouble with authority, never respected authority, but... when the central committee in CA, when... I don’t even know who these people are, are apparently deciding where I’m going to go spend the next 25 years of my life to organize a revolution that doesn’t seem to be taking place in Eugene, Oregon, so I decided to get the hell out of Oregon and go to the belly of the monster, which was Chicago. In Chicago I got involved with left organizations that split with RU into Sojourner Truth Organization (S.T.O.), which was probably the transitional organization. We were accused of being anarcho-syndicalist, that was very unpopular; any reference to anarchist, anarcho-, it was like “Pfft, you’re a bad person.” 1970s became the 1980s, Reagan got elected; the group I was with also became in-focused; revolution was not happening. A vanguard of white, theory-centric males began to develop theory that was hierarchical again. Even though we were anarcho-syndicalist and the majority of people were very opposed to the idea of any kind of vanguard party. So I was part of leading a split. Then I moved back to Oregon with my three girls to where my parents lived. Any hope of a new world that I had was fading. Then I became familiar with my cousin’s writings through a patient I met as a nurse practitioner. He asked me if I knew John’s writings. I got John’s books Elements of Refusal, which is a good book. I encourage people to read it. And I began discussions with him, became familiar with the Situationists, Adorno, more theoretical thought that had taken place since I’d left academia; and the 1990s began to see young people on the streets, and anarchy being a developing body of thought. Very unrelated to the Marxism, Leninism and Maoism that I’d experienced before. And as the female voice in all this, you know I’ve been a female player in many different groups that have largely been male-dominated. and the anti-civilization perspective, and the understanding of where domination comes from and what it means to be domesticated, to be conquered, paralleled very much with ideas I was beginning to think about. So that’s too long, but it’s a long history.
Are Green Anarchism, Anarcho-Primitivism, And Anti-Civilization Synonymous Terms?
A!: So this is probably where things will get a bit more controversial. Absolutely not. As I think we generally agree, that green anarchy is a sort of umbrella term that encompasses a variety of terms within it. Anti-civ is also a general term, a general critique of civilization. From my perspective, anti-civ shares similarities with Marxism, with any other -ism, because it provides an abstract solution to a variety of problems, in this case the problem that it provides an answer to is civilization, which is a very big and abstract idea that we may or may not agree with all the specific details of, and it says “be against this big abstract thing”. As far as I’m concerned, this world filled with abstractions is a horror show from beginning to end, and the particular terminology we use to describe that horror show, whether it’s patriarchy, capitalism, civilization, is much more a matter of aesthetics than it is of anything else. I’m happy to have further conversations about why people prefer to believe in one religion vs. another, but there’s a certain way in which anti-civilization has become a religious term. Anarcho-primitivism is an even more narrow term that builds from the idea, the common sense idea that 90% of human history - if humans have been around for a hundred thousand years it’s only been the last ten thousand that civilization has come into being - so using that common sense idea it uses the science of anthropology to pull back time, and ends the story of freedom with the story of civilization. Anarcho-primitivism is a fine story and I encourage people to read good stories, but I highly dispute using anthropology to make truth claims about the world, and about the past, and particular the way that primitivism has become a set of ideas that are written about by a very small set of authors and has become a sort of cult around those authors, which feels very antithetical to why I am an anarchist.
I: I think we all touched on this a little bit, but I said earlier I have used these terms synonymously but not for any deliberately thought-out reason, so I am interested to hear how other people answer this question. Maybe anti-civ being a negative term can clear the decks of certain problems that Aragorn! sort of spelled out, but then leaves it open for different positive solutions, which might be why anarcho-primitivism purports to be a more positive vision, something to look to, to fill in those gaps. Not a lot to contribute to that one, I guess.
K: I went with John on a speaking tour in 2007, to some Eastern European countries, and I was asking myself at the time what label, what am I? And the important thing to me is the understanding of civilization as a problem; what makes up civilization, domestication, domination, and how you apply an understanding of existence of humanity and the way of life that happened before civilization to the present era was what I wanted the term to encompass. Anti-civilization seemed like a good one. Primitivism, I thought “that’s an art movement, that’s fancy painting.” It was not a provocative term... “Ohhh I’m a primtivist.” Like, what does that mean? [laughter] I kind of liked anarcho-primitivism ‘cause it ties primitivism to a political body of thought, anarchism. I don’t see it as one of these is better than the other. There’s a lot to be said... in the 90s… maybe I’m overplaying what was happening in the 90s and before the “War On Terror,” but I think there was more.. you could get more conversation going, there was more understanding, talking about anarchists, anarchy... There was a presence in the general public, that I don’t feel is as much there any more. Like, outside of this room, if we just went out and started talking to the people out there, people know what civilization is, but do they know how and why it might be problematic, that’s a further conversation.
C: As with Kathan, I remember a very specific period of my life where I was questioning a lot of labels I was putting on myself about political ideas about the world, specifically there was a time where I was questioning whether or not I would identify as an anarchist. Looking back now, what I realize about what was going through my head at the time was what felt uncomfortable to me was the label “anarchist” seemed to posit a forward, positive momentum in the world, which was something I have always been unsure of, the idea that there is a pie in the sky that we’re marching endlessly towards; I have always been that way, hating everything. Can’t really help it. So, for me anarcho-primitivism, anti-civilization, and green anarchy are not synonymous terms. I think that anarcho-primitivism and anti-civilization are two very separate tenets of what could be maybe seen as an over-arching green anarchy. Anarcho-primitivism is very much this anthropological, anarchist look and analysis on how things got to be how they are now - as Aragorn! and Kathan said - about how some thousand odd years ago, civilization came in and took over and that’s when everything got bad. The way that I want to interact with critiquing things is a lot deeper than that, and also realizing that freedom has happened inside of civilization, since domestication, agriculture, and so on. I think the thing that irks me the most about primitivism is this assertion that there is a positive momentum forward that we can take. It does not seem much different from a Maoist program for revolution, or the church telling you how to get to heaven, or the anarchist telling you how to start a revolution. It all seems much the same and I think that green anarchy is a larger, more encompassing thing. If we were to posit these into opposite things: anti-civilization being the negative critique of the world, anarcho-primitivism being the positive place we can go. And my interest in being part of the green anarchy dialogue is to talk about that, and also talk about the idea of abandoning hope, and that there is a lot to lose when we hope for things... but that’s another question, so I won’t go into that now. The next topic we wanted to cover was of anthropology....
As An Academic Practice, What Role Does Anthropology Have In Green Anarchy?
C: It has a really heavy presence within green anarchy, specifically anarcho-primitivism, often times used as a historical backbone, to back up assertions that, like, “Oh, hunter-gatherer good, everything else bad. Agriculture definitely bad too, the beginning of the end of hunter-gatherer.” Oh, I lost my train of thought and I’m answering the question instead of asking it... This is another thing that I am excited about in facilitating with Black Seed, is the conversation about anthropology: does it have a place in green anarchy, where are the contradictions, and what are the positive things that people do get from anthropology...
I: I’m thinking of it as parallel to how do people of this persuasion interact with technology that we might find problematic, that we know has a concrete harm toward others. As a discipline it’s had this exploitative history, that is a reason to be skeptical of it. And it’s not something that we can necessarily hold on to if we think that we’re getting somewhere different. So how do we interact with it: it isn’t necessarily true that it has no place? We may need to employ it in the same way we use problematic technologies right now. The other point I want to make is that we recognize that getting to where we may want to go, to keep this from being completely utopian, we have to acknowledge the benefits and the positive things that will be lost. So there are certain ways of knowing about the world that might be powerful that won’t exist, that wouldn’t exist, in a world that most green anarchists would see as a goal. There are certain ways that we know about the world today that we wouldn’t have access to at some point in the future that we desire. Acknowledging that certain benefits are going to be lost is important to have any credibility. We can’t just say that “right now it’s this parade of horrors with no redeeming virtue and that at some point it will be completely utopian.” So continue the parallel of anthropology with problematic technologies, every technology, no matter how destructive it is, no matter how alienating it is, it’s sold because it has some sort of benefit to us. We’re complicit in it, and we might have to muddle along with it for the time being, but recognizing the pros and cons, and figuring out where the preponderance of consequences lie.
K: Whether it’s anthropology or history, and I’m not disagreeing, there is danger in cults and religion and this missionary kind of thing, but I think we’re all living in a present that is rather dissatisfying, to put it mildly. You try and construct from where you’re at: how can I live day to day, what can I eat, it’s not some future-oriented, come to find Jesus, we’ll all be hunter-gatherers... but it’s that if you look at what happens with language, what happens with writing, that was one of the early things I read, kind of a popular book about before written language... the whole dark ages, as they’re called, when civilization collapsed after the Romans, when in fact there wasn’t writing, there wasn’t history, people were just living for about 900 years, and then civilization rebuilt itself, whatever. So anthropology, history, whatever you have, you use what you have, and sure there might be a real danger of this stupid Fred Flinstone idea, of oh some future, we’re gonna be this and that, but the reality is that the resources aren’t there for the Chinese who want ‘em, to say it crudely. The whole devastation that’s happening right now with food resources, this kind of stuff, something is giving as we sit here, it’s not sustainable, it’s not going to go on... so it’s not some big future “things are gonna change” it’s the reality; food shortages, water... So anthropology has studies that give you some clues on other ways of being and living.
C: Well I kind of already put out my answer... it’s interesting because I feel... I’m constantly trying to figure this out for myself because... while I feel highly critical of anthropology, history is also something I’m very excited about and I think that where I have most often seen anthropology come into contact with anarchy, is when anthropology is used to posit a way of life that we could potentially have like after the collapse or the insurrection or the revolution - however it’s put. I think that’s very problematic, because time spent on fantasizing about how we might live one day, well like that can be a fun thought project if I’m at work and I have nothing better to do, it’s not something that adds constructively to my life project, of trying to create some kind of agitation against things that keep me from being free. Anthropology within anarcho-primitivism creates space for that to happen, it encourages it, and if anything, it limits the greater anarchist discourse from stepping outside of rewilding convergences and... Also ends up creating space for people to inappropriately adopt native and indigenous cultures. Which is interesting because there’s been a lot ... As soon as I start to talk about that I often get a lot of resistance from anarcho-primitivists who want to immediately write off that I’m critiquing them from a leftist position. Where I’m coming from is a position of wanting to focus on destruction and negativity, less on “this is how it will be someday.” So that’s why I find it a problem that anthropology has found a place within green anarchist thought.
A!: I’m thinking about this a lot right now because I’m writing an article for the next issue of Black Seed on this topic. And at the heart of what i’m trying to tease out is that anthropology exposes a problem that’s actually not about the particular discipline of anthropology, but is about sociology, history, anthropology, and the humanities in general. So really it’s a question about how do we think. To distill a big conversation into a small one, I would like to propose a new way of anarchist thinking that is distinct from what I’ll call critique. Critique is something that anarchists have pretty much borrowed from Marxists: the idea that the things that you despise, you enter into a dialectical relationship with, so instead of just despising these things, you become the person who fixes those things. So a lot of our friends who we call liberals end up in a critical relationship with the urban planning institutions, with the non-profit complex... with the variety of institutions that exist in the world, and throw their bodies into what turns out to be fixing those things. Many people, and one of the interesting responses to the hostility that Black Seed has expressed about anthropology, has been how many people have responded “since Man The Hunter, so many people have entered into anthropological fields and they’re doing the good work of repairing it, of fixing it!” There is a person in the Bay Area who’s probably one of the most tortured anarchists in North America. He is a desperate fan of the Spanish Civil War. He knows more about it than any other living person. I’m not exaggerating; he knows more about the Spanish Civil War than any other person and yet is a post-left anarchist. That position, the post-left position, begins when we failed in Spain. The reason I mention him is because I love him; it’s adorable that this thing that happened in history is so alive for him. And the reason I can be tolerant of his relationship to the Spanish Civil War is because it’s just the story of where he’d rather be. And I’m the last person to judge other people’s stories. I love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That’s where I’d rather be. [laughter] A world of imagination... that sounds fucking awesome, and it will involve candy. So for me what I propose is that, rather than critique, and rather than engaging in dialectics, and rather than improving our enemies to make them more powerful and more effective, that anarchists continue to be incredibly curious, that we attack the things that we have curiosity about, that we do it with hostility, that we do not fix them, we do not embrace these things, that instead we stand apart. So in the context of history and anthropology, we do not become historians and anthropologists, we become story tellers. We do not get paid for our work, we share it with each other. That’s it.
As Green Anarchists, We Can Easily See How Fucked The World Is. Is There A Place For Hope?
K: I’ll shoot off the top of my head: yes there is - knowing full well I’m gonna get shot down... [laughter], that nihilism, and no hope is the way to go, that these are all Marxist-Leninist ideas, morals…I’m a moralist, morality, [laughter]. I know on a theoretical level... there are fine, theoretical considerations, I say a lot of things are open questions... I shoot from the hip. Yea, the world’s fucked. When I listen to you talk, it reminds me of being 18 [looks at Cedar - howls of laughter] . I was into Nietzsche, I was into Dostoyevsky, I was into Sartre, how do I make sense of this fucked world I’m in? I was looking at kids my age, young men, who... half their body parts were gone, and I was coming from a very visceral place. Army hospital, half-bodied men my age, who... there is something seriously wrong here. What does that mean to me? Should I go jump off a railroad bridge? It’s not a joke, my point about figuring things out at 18. And if something in philosophy, or maybe anthropology for some people, just looking at what Western Civilization has provided for me, reading other angsty writers and trying to use my own problem-solving, how do I live my life? I would say there was a certain amount of freedom in existential thought that, it doesn’t matter, so you are free. What you do doesn’t matter, good, bad, whatever, that’s the ultimate freedom. That’s the context I take this discussion in, like yea, if you don’t have hope you go off the railroad bridge. And more intellectual thinkers can certainly provoke me to question the philosophy of hope and what that means for the future, and that gives me pause for thought and I respect it, and to me that is the bottom line of this panel and this discussion, that this is a growing type thing, there is a ... hope.
C: The way I first started grappling with the idea of hope was kind of a tactical mindset, looking at actions of groups and autonomous individuals, radicals, anarchists, generally the illegalists, and over the last 30 years or so there being a general trend of actions that have certain kinds of themes... whether they’re legal to try to convince political entities to do this or that, or actions where the communique about them speaks to gentrification and the mistreatment of poor people, kind of seeing a train of thought that says if we act or do these kinds of things, if we drop a banner that speaks a certain kind of message, we will get our desired outcome. Where I applied the brakes on that was the idea that there was a desired outcome that could be perceived, outside of the destruction of everything we know. What I mean by that, to be more specific, often times people are like, “So you say no hope. Are you advocating for doing nothing, because you’re arguing that nothing is going to happen, we’re never going to win.” That’s not the point that I’m trying to get across. I think there is a heightened sense of intentionality and integrity and intensity that come out of acting without hope. I think that when we step to this world without any preconceptions about winning, but when we fight like we’re going to lose can make what we do more ferocious and unmanageable. It keeps our actions farther out of the reach of recuperation, which is consistently the thing that happens to mass uprisings. Abandoning hope is one of the soundest weapons that anarchists can pick up when it comes to engaging in this world with action.
A!: I don’t think you can talk about hope without talking about faith. And in general because radicals eschew religious language, what they put their faith in tends to be something that ... it’s a sloppy term but I think generally fits... is humanism. The idea that humans equal good, an ugly corollary is that more humans are better, and most humans is best. So when someone says hope, in general, they’re speaking to their analysis of human nature, which makes me very nervous, and what they tend to be implying is that they have faith that human conscious activity is going to result in good things. and I just... I guess when we talk about hope we’re being challenged to prove that we should be hopeless, and my turnaround is “prove why I should have faith in conscious human activity as a source of good.” I don’t see that when I open my eyes in the morning. But everything that Kathan and Cedar said is totally appropriate; Kathan made the nihilist argument, and Cedar kicked it with some insurrectionary flair. So all I need to say is that human conscious activity isn’t the magic bullet to solve much of anything.
I: My thinking is that Cedar’s thinking was one thought too many. [laughter] Seems like what he was saying is that if people abandon hope, then we might pull this thing off. [laughter] If we abandon hope, our odds are better. That’s kind of a hopeful perspective. [laughter] The odds are increased, but we can’t in good conscience think that way. So, when I hear these discussion I end up agreeing with whoever is speaking. because the definition being used is self-serving, it all depends on what you mean by “hope.” There’s the Derrick Jensen line that when you don’t have any agency, that’s when hope comes into play... Well, if you look at it that way, then yea. But it gets parsed in lots of ways. I’m thinking of it as something on par with cheerfulness [laughter]. The way that… cheerfulness is a virtue because it makes you pleasant to be around [laughter] and I think that hopeful people are more pleasant to be around [laughter], although Cedar’s company has been delightful, so... [laughter] so present company excluded. I think it could be considered a moral virtue in that sense of the word, as a disposition; the important thing to say I suppose is that whether we’re hopeful or not, we’re not making any sort of truth claim. When you say you’re hopeful or not, you’re saying you think the odds are more likely than not that this will work or not, it’s not a claim about the world. It’s neither true nor false, more of a disposition, a personality trait.
Interview with Klee Benally
Editor's Note: The entirey of this interview has been posted here, although it originally appeared as two parts in Issues 1 & 2.
Klee Benally is originally from Black Mesa and has worked most of his life at the front lines in struggles to protect Indigenous sacred lands. Klee doesn’t believe the current dominant social order (read “colonial system”) can be fixed but should (and will be) smashed to pieces. When asked about his politics he says, “I maintain Diné traditionalism as my way of being in this world. I have affinity with Anarchism and identify myself as an Indigenous Anarchist.” Klee performed with the rock group Blackfire for 20 years and performs solo today. http://kleebenally.com/
Aragorn! - What would it look like for someone who has no spiritual practice to develop one?
Klee -That’s a very personal question and I think what ends up happening is that people start these centers like the ones in Sedona, or start these new age centers. They are seeking that answer from other people (as opposed to within or from within their own roots or asking the land what developing a spiritual practice means). To me that is what it looks like when people start appropriating from all these other sources. Or they go to the usual suspects who are exploiting their own cultures or just selling them or--even if it’s not for sale, even if there is no monetary exchange--sometimes these people have been kicked out of their own communities and are pimping out their own culture for their own gratification. People are seeking from other sources, and forget that mother earth is THE source. Ya know there is this sort of this cliché that mother earth is not a resource it is THE source. It’s actually very true though. I think it is part of like, almost all indigenous cultures that I know, they don’t fucking missionize; they don’t go out and try to convert people. When people start asking that question, it’s like.... Is that an answer we can give? Because then we assume some kind of responsibility in that relationship. I think where people expect it, you know just different expectations about that. I can maybe speak from experience to people I have known who have come to some kind of spiritual understanding but again that’s deeply personal on some levels. Of course we have culture, it’s a social cohesion; how we understand our relationship to each other and relationship to the land. There’s an anthropological definition of “culture” and there’s our own definition or understanding of that, what that term means and how we again understand our relationship to each other and the land. The discussion about spirituality can’t happen without a discussion about culture and what that means and there is context to that. I think there is a violent context that we have to come terms with when we start talking about those things. There is a lot of trauma that we have to address through that discussion as well. In the past when I would answer that question, when I think I was in a different place than today, for Diné people we have Hózhó’ji which is “beauty-way” or more well defined Hózhó’ji is a way of health and harmony. Beauty is this sort of fetish as well, that anthropologists are like “here is a great definition.” They sort of latched on to but it’s deeper than that. You know when we as Diné people understand that foundation and philosophy, for our identity and our relation to each other through K’é or through our clan system, our relationship systems that extend not just to people but to our natural environment, to other beings. It’s not something that you can just say “here’s what this spirituality means and I’ll give it you.” There is this whole deeper understanding of what our ceremonial practices are, for us to restore health and harmony with our mind, our body, our spirit, and our soul, even within that. So the problem that we face a lot is when we say that to people, it seems rather convenient just to take it, and just to do what they want and that’s exploitation. To me it just an abuse, the process that we carried forward. There’s a lot of indigenous people who don’t want to share their cultural knowledge of course, for good reason, ‘cause it has just been exploited and abused and people just misuse it or they just distort it, and they take different parts that are rather convenient for them when they have an answer that resonates for them at the time. And then they...
A! – “picking and choosing”
K- ... I think through my experience (this is why I picked on Sedona really quickly) we have people like James Arthur Ray who was selling Sun Dances for like $10,000 and you know people who were ultimately killed by his hand through his application, interpretation of sweat lodge, who were there for the “Spiritual Warrior Retreat” in very clear quotation marks and that’s an extreme but that is what we see. This exploitation continues, so, yeah maybe sometime along the way he asked those questions and people gave him answers. I don’t know but that is his application.
A- What I identify with that (I guess I want to talk through why it’s impossible) is that basically you are saying that anyone who wants to take this project seriously basically has to commit to multi-generations. In other words, indigeneity, whatever that means, will require that kind of time span. It’s not going to happen in your lifetime. So of course why that’s impossible is the american consumer is not going to accept that this is something they can’t buy. Even if the consumption we’re talking about is of an ideology.
K – For some reason what you are saying reminds of this discussion around the apocalypse that I have been having with friends (you know because things seem very apocalyptic and so forth). Through my research it became clear, and this is even Christians saying this, that Christianity is linear, with this Genesis, with the Christ sacrifice or whatever, coming of Christ’s sacrifice and then judgment day. Ultimately the logical conclusion of Christianity is apocalypse, or judgment day ya know, as opposed to looking at it from an indigenous perspective--which is cyclical, you know; we are part of an ongoing process. So I don’t see a beginning and end to it, I see it as an ongoing process.. I don’t see it like, “oh here’s victory over here, here’s a goal, I can see a way to achieve something that we want to accomplish which is liberation of our lands, the thriving, the cultural vitality of our people and hopefully abolishing these systems of oppression that are built up and reinforced through colonization.” But at this point, and I don’t want it to be interpreted as being abstract, ‘cause it’s not, it’s anything but abstract, it’s very clear in relation to the system, it’s is an ongoing process. To some degree I think that is part of the western mentality; it’s like linear thought, how change is gonna come about. When we look at the multi-generational projects, with the seven generation concepts (even from other indigenous nations, certainly it’s pan-indigenous right now that it can be interpreted very easily with other indigenous nations) in relation to the core of our practices is to ensure that cultural knowledge is transmitted and maintains its relevance or vitality. So for me that’s part of it, thinking in that way that we are part of a cyclical way of being. It’s not saying we are going to sit on our hands and wait for shit to change, it’s about doing the best we can now.
A! - Did you see that article on indigenous egoism?
K - Yeah yeah, I read that.
A! - Fascinating!
K – Yeah, I, well, it’s not fresh in my mind but part of the issue I had with it was, just this sort of like over focus on individualism and which to me is again is this extremely western concept, which is interesting I think because in Diné culture we have a very strong sense of the individual. Children are taught or treated as individuals when they are young, but in relation to each other, there is this sort of like separation of the sense of “community”. That’s what I wanted to ask the author, what was her upbringing, what was her experience. How can I take what they said about egoism and apply it to my community? I don’t think it connects. It is part of the reason I am guarded with my words or I am fairly choosy sometimes. I don’t want to speak in these generalities, because that is what people expect. It’s just like when talking to indigenous people, oh you speak for everybody. And people want some pan-indigenous solution. Even part of the whole Zapatismo fed into that to some degree; they were very smart about using that to their tactical advantage to some degree. But it’s, I’m at the point right now where I am still playing with all of these concepts ideologically and trying to reconcile how they work from a cultural perspective and then apply them, ‘cause I don’t want to ever get caught in that trap of the theory and shit. It’s always on the ground for me. .. I would like to talk to the author more just to get a sense of what their experiences have been. And I need to read it again. Like I said it’s not fresh in my mind. But that was like the first thing. It was just like oh great, another voice that’s like, for the egoists and reinforcing the hyper-individualism and wait there is like this stretch and connection to indigeneity and I am just like, I’ve never seen that. In every community I have visited and traveled to and
A! - Well you have given me a couple of things to think about. I think that this decolonize, anti-decolonization differentiation... I think there is something interesting there. First of all it is a fantastic way to break away from the decolonization, the way it is being framed right now is not quite toxic, but...
K – I think it’s highly toxic, cause from what I see from a non-indigenous perspective to these areas, patently white--for the most part--perspective. It becomes a personal project and we don’t need more people just running around with these...
A! - By which you mean a process of personal self-revelation?
K – Yes. And ultimate gratification.
A! - My question for you, and I will frame it in the form of advice. So this new project: my goal is to be the editor emeritus of this project. In other words, I make it happen from the perspective of resources and I open my rolodex to make sure good writers and people find the project, but I am very serious about this. I really want a transformation along lines that we have already discussed, specifically along the line of talking about Native stuff in a different way, in a not fetishizing way and having voices, varied voices...
K – Beyond the usual suspects..?
A! – Yeah, so my suspicion is that what that is going to have to look like is me doing a lot of interviews. We are talking about a green anarchist publication, but I really would like it to look like the Green Anarchism that I would like to create... I think you and I have a bit of a sense as to what that would look like, so how to do this correctly? Because first of all, I have to say, if you look at today vs. ten years ago there’s a hell of a lot more people to talk to. I mean it’s unbelievable. It’s really unbelievable how many more people there are that have come into anarchism. How would you do it if you were me?
K – I know how I wouldn’t do it, unfortunately that is a lot of my initial response. I think part of it is just being on the ground with folks and connecting with folks who are on the front lines and being open to a sense that not everybody’s gonna have the articulate academic voice and just making sure that people feel comfortable engaging and that it’s not just gonna be some type of hostile place for them. When I started doing media work it was partly out of just the frustration with folks just sticking this lens and exotifying, essentializing, and picking off the things they felt were sexy for other people to pay attention to without dealing with the full range of who we are in all our contradictions and conflicts as indigenous folks. Maybe establishing this sense doesn’t have to be that explicit but trying to develop that relationship. You want to dissuade the cultural pimps to some degree and you want to get the heart of this discourse/discussion cause it sounds like part of the objective is to amplify indigenous voices in to the larger anarchist milieu, to assert another direction or ya know just another option for folks to embrace their fights. I guess that’s like my initial reaction when I heard. What is indigeneity mean for other folks who are not indigenous to this area. There might be some people who want to engage in that discussion. Like I said before, I don’t know how interested I am in focusing on that as much as just drawing some boundaries, and saying “hey maybe this is a good place for you all to focus your fight” and making sure people aren’t just (for lack of better terms) Zapatista-fying all these external struggles without saying “oh wait, right, here we are on Tongvan (Indigenous folks of LA area) land, maybe we should build a relationship with them and maybe it is going to take a lot longer than we want and maybe they don’t have the articulated position that’s convenient for us to just transpose their politics and our politics interchangeably.”
A! - But I guess, that’s talking about fighting a fight with people on the ground. You’re answering that question already with what you’re doing here. It’s not exactly what I am asking. How many people do you know are confident to say something challenging, how many of those people could say it in print vs face to face, how many of those people would it take days to develop a relationship before they would say it? Cause if that is the only option then if you point me to the right person I am willing to do it.
K – Yeah, so how it could be done is establishing a network. But folks need to have a demonstrated sense that it’s not just some exploitative work or something that’s hostile. ‘Cause like I said. We have a lot of shit lessons. It’s part of the reason a lot of native folks don’t go to the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair. We have a lot of shit lessons. It’s part of the reason why a lot of O’odham folks outside of Phoenix don’t engage with radical folks. I know some communities where people have only gotten hostility. So there is not a good relationship. Starting in the Southwest, like you said there is this strong cultural base, and part of the history of that unfortunately is because a lot of the colonizers, I mean we fought off the Spanish for 350 years but a lot of the colonizers rushed past us for the gold in California. Honestly, looking at some of the sacred sites areas... Like I said, part of the reason people are so aggressively fighting for sacred sites and a lot of young people is because one, they are in areas where there is still an intact relationship so it meets some of the criteria that you established before. And those folks understand the risk and they are engaging on multiple fronts. I think maybe hitting some of those places or just reaching out to people.... Just focusing on the project first, your audience, again. Just to hear it a little more clearly.
A! -.. That’s a great question. I assume that the audience is the audience of the last magazine but perhaps that’s sloppy. So the provocation is how to make it better, how to reach a different set of people, and I would say in general that I have not done a particularly good job of... the term we use is marketing. This is a marketing problem. How do you find, especially since I am, like most anarchists, by and large isolated from the rest of the world, by the wall of them not caring about the way we put things and us being fine with that. So if I break out of that for a second and think, the problem with green discourse is that it’s, to use a loaded word, apocalyptic, and the influence of anthropology, green capitalism, and christianity.
K – I guess when I ask that question, part of it is about when you were talking about wanting to reach out to different contributors, find a range of voices. Part of that question is, what relevance is this to my community. It’s a question of distribution and dissemination and “Indian Country” too, maybe just looking at how that will work out and how that could look. There has been a range of different projects, the good ones being in Canada, the more a-political and more arts-focused ones here in the US and even them being somewhat limited and being a question. I don’t feel as well versed in bridging indegeneity (which to me feels still more like an academic term) and anarchism; you have a lot of interesting writings that explore that. More just your perspectives and what you have come to understand. Last time we talked you said you were an anarchist without adjectives. I don’t feel uneasy about saying I am an indigenous anarchist but indigenous always comes first; this is what I have to preface the discussion with. And my affinity with anarchism is through direct action, acting without mediation in the range of values, like mutual aid. Which sometimes reinforces that sense of community. To me it doesn’t have to be beyond the mutual here, but to me it connotates that to some degree. The range of other basic qualifications for anarchism. But I’m curious ‘cause you obviously dig deep, very deep. What’s your expression? I read something a while back, that I am pretty sure was written by you that was about Locating An Indigenous Anarchism and I went back and read that some time ago. It was more or less, it almost felt like it was a longing for something as opposed to identifying as much. Which I appreciated.
A! - It is also the nature of being an urban, mixed Indian. It’s a very different experience than yours. But, I think that where I begin, is probably in this space of having a suspicion that my own internal conflict is... on the one hand, I think that using the word “anarchist” has magic powers. That’s on the one hand. On the other hand I think that the anarchistic instincts are generalizable. The interesting part is in the specifics, but that many of the 500 had anarchistic sensibilities. So I’m not excited about the Iroquois (which some anarchists have become excited about cause they model after them their idealized organizational configuration or whatever). For me I am much more interested in the small stories of how one’s elders communicate ideas of how to behave and I think somewhere in those stories is something really different. I feel like I am not even a good enough storyteller; the older people in my life have been fantastic storytellers. It took me years to figure out what they were driving at. So for me the challenge to anarchists is, what does anarchism look like if it doesn’t use the word? The other part of this is that I have more influence than many people in the anarchist space. If I want to do a green anarchist publication I can and people are going to read it. So the political motivation here is that I want this story to be what the future of anarchism looks like. And the story is going to be a long one. It is going to be drawn out, and it’s not gonna be question then answer. I’m enough of a strategy person, up to now I have been able to fit pieces out, thinking a couple years out. This is more like a ten year fitting things together. And it involves a lot of strangers and a lot of suspicions but I’m not sure. ..The flip side in terms of the audience question is what do the people I am talking to get out of it. And that’s important. It’s not just important it’s a problem I don’t have an answer to. What I’m talking about would benefit anarchists, because they need it. So what is it that anarchists have that could actually benefit strangers? And the answer is the same that it always is. Ridiculous enthusiasm, a lot of laughter, but then, danger. So yeah I am going to have to think about that some more.
K – Yeah, that’s where we like Drew and Brian’s statements about wanting accomplices not allies. They’ve done a great job of deconstructing f ally-ship. Cause that’s part of what I hope gets sorted up front. It’s interesting with this current wave of liberal disillusionment, with the Obama administration, and Idle No more, the Keystone XL pipeline, that people are paying attention to native struggles and that there is a bit of a spotlight. And of course the non-profits are flocking, like the moths that they are, rather blind. Fitting the metaphor very well unfortunately. Yeah it will be interesting to see how that plays. ‘Cause there have been other times when indigenous struggles have been sexy, and then people just move on to the next interesting spectacle. And that’s what I would hope this base has some aversion to. So one question I had for you, I guess I’m still trying to extract some of your politics. So what is your reaction to the statement, we belong to the earth? Do you have an affinity for that?
A! - I do but it doesn’t have the sort of specificity that it does for you. A little bit about my story; so while my mother’s family is all registered Native people, my maternal grandfather was actually a Canadian, therefore his quantum did not count. So I’m not registered myself. But my father, a white man, loved Indians. Like he really really like Indians like he read all of Carlos Casteñada, he knows all the pipe ceremonies. I mean there is nothing about the western plains indians that he doesn’t know. That’s why he found my mother. So while I was raised by my mom, I spent plenty of time with this guy who very much fetishized this whole aspect of my life. So my mother’s spirituality was very quiet and not specific. And her mother was a catholic and pretty much everyone else was a catholic. I have one traditional relative, and she is still alive. She is actually why I am going to michigan, and she was raised by Catholics, so all this is very different from your experience. So it is much more on the level of platitudes than places.[?] Even though I can go to this Indian village, which is this shanty town outside of Traverse City, where generations of my people were. But that was a village of timber houses. Not what was there before. So my experience is post genocide. This is my language of course. You might not accept it but to me, my struggle, what does life look like, what does spirituality look like, my language is a couple words and my great great grandfather who died when I was six, who was the last fluent non english speaker that anyone in my family knows. So to me, the question is what does life look like in these sort of ruins. Which is kind of why I don’t talk about it so much, ‘cause that is what life in the ruins is like. But I know that something in here is very important and I know that something is missing. And I was raised with all the urban indian problems. Alcoholism, violence, etc. But those are the problems of urban people of color. Obviously natives have got a spin. But this isn’t a triumphant story. I don’t have a good to reflect against the bad. So while I am willing to go out and say spirituality is possible and I can even say there was a place where I spent a lot of my youth that was particularly important, I can’t bridge this sort of existential gap. I point to that gap as being the genocide gap. My language is harsh but that is the way that I would put it.
K – Yeah, that makes sense. It’s a lot to think about for sure. Thanks for sharing, appreciate it. Yeah I guess that part of it is what’s worth fighting for. When you talk about fatalism, that is part of the question for me.
A! - Of course, right. At certain points in my life, I absolutely thought there were things worth fighting for and over time I saw how thin and shadowy they were. So I fought against nazi-skinheads when I was a kid. I did a whole variety of irresponsible things in the belief that it had this certain resonance that it didn’t actually have or that it had for me only at that time . I’m not trying to demean my own experiences but what you’re talking about is different. Because of the three things or whatever.
K - I know you have challenged me with that question, of how unique intact indigenous cultures who meet those three criteria are. So you are engaging in this project and you put out some analyses sometime or just stories you share regarding indigeneity. I want to see what the chance is, ‘cause you put in my face a little bit about what can be done on a practical level. What are we asking or urging people to do or move towards, what are we inspiring. I guess that’s maybe in some way, shape, or form to just put that ball in your court and maybe hear your thoughts about that. Cause if we talk about how few indigenous nations maintain, that keep that fire burning...
A! - Have the capacity to.
K – Cause we look at some of the indigenous nations in California who have gotten just disturbingly rich off of casinos, completely removed from their language, spiritual practice, and so forth, not necessarily their land base, and so there are a couple of tribes that we met, or indigenous nations that we met that are just traveling to other indigenous nations and through a process that they just sort of developed, basically sharing and learning from other neighboring tribes but other tribes from other areas. And it was quite interesting cause they were just collecting to establish a culture, which is being done in a way, because they were up front with other nations people were sharing. And they’re doing in a way that wasn’t just constructing something false necessarily, because they are doing with a sense of--not necessarily restoring their connection but--restoring a connection to the land. I’m sure that from an anthropological perspective there is some kind of name for it or whatever. You know that’s just what they are doing to heal.
A! - That’s what they got. But the complication of course is that by and large this is part of the process they have to go through to get government recognition. Which in some occasions has been connected to casinos and other commercial enterprise... In Michigan it is about fishing rights. Fishing rights is big.
K - Yeah, it’s like, I guess you were asking, Where do you see things in 100 years or ten years or whatever. That’s part of it too I guess, just putting part of that discussion back in the mix.
A! - The way I approach this problem is somewhat different, and perhaps it is because I have read too much philosophy. Western philosophers have done a lot of good thinking about their enemies. I’m sure that there is someone who is waiting in the shadows against every argument that I could possibly have against them. But I basically desire the dismantling of the western project in all of its sundry forms and so specifically in this case what I am about to talk about, my language, is the causal chain that people create between action and spirit.
K- Causal alluding to causality?
A! - Right, cause and effect is one part of it, but also this idea that ethics is why I chose to sit here and talk to you rather than walk over to you and punch you in the face. I feel like all of this is... wrong is too simple, but there’s something in the way that all of these are constructed that I have a visceral revulsion to, and I’m not just going to pull it out and say that there is something just spiritual, but I could. But what I’ll say is that, a lot of questions that the western mind thinks are answered, for me are mysteries, and they are only satisfying and I can only be satisfied by them as long as they stay mysteries. And the extent to which one wants to answer them, I usually consider that person to be someone I am hostile towards. That make sense?
K – Absolutely.
A! - So, by and large when someone asks me the question, why are you doing what you are doing, my answer is fuck you. So I am a deep pessimist who puts out a book a month. Many of these books are about actions that happen on the street. Like one of our newest books is about street tactics. But I don’t believe in fighting on the street. But I put out a book a month. So there isn’t an answer to your question other than this mystery that is definitely my preferred mode. Yesterday I was talking with someone about the difference between social and anti-social activities and I more or less identified as being for anti-social activities. I was basically asked, “How can you be for infrastructure and anti-social activities?” And the answer that I gave them, different context, but whatever, spun my little story in a different way, but basically I said, I believe in the power of seduction. [both laugh] So. Yeah. [pause]
K – I wasn’t trying to ask you why you are doing what you are doing at all. I questioned earlier “what’s worth fighting for.” Is it in relation to just looking at some of the core values behind your thought. Sometimes that question about belonging to the earth irritates egoists. I don’t’ think they like to belong to anything, which is quite interesting. I like to concern myself with not just outputting or making lots of things but thinking about what the outcomes are. It’s like the strategic or tactical thing that’s been ingrained in me. Just like doing lots of ineffective things for so long, you just gotta try to consider other options. So sometimes you just gotta think about the project that you are working on and how I can put energy into that too, apply it to these areas and move my agenda, my project along, which I identify as essentially indigenous liberation, ya know, reinforcing resistance and ultimately liberation.
A! - I just don’t put things like that at all. There is something in that kind of triumphalism. I recognize how it’s a good communication skill to be able to talk like that. [laughs] I prefer to not be understood as far as that goes.
K – Yea, it’s interesting. I guess that’s why I keep revisiting some stuff cause it’s interesting and I’m trying to elicit a bit more understanding for myself and I appreciate your response of seduction and I appreciate reading stuff from the folks in Italy who are torching shit and talking about desire. I don’t like to fall into the trope traps and sometimes feel myself, like I said earlier, feeding into them. And I do need to have more discussions and read more about some of these things to some degree because I feel...
A! - Let me, I will maybe say what you are trying to get at from a very different place, maybe from a perspective you won’t appreciate. There is a reason why people are turning to you to talk as a spokesperson, and it’s because you know how to talk as a spokesperson.
K – Thanks for the insult, but yes, point taken.... I think that it is really interesting to see the tendencies in radical circles in relation to the anti-politic, and privilege theory, and identity politics stuff.
A! - When you refer to privilege theory what do you mean?
K – Well, primarily I am referring to folks addressing identity politics in relation to saying “we need to deconstruct this discourse around privilege” and just go beyond that and just focus on collective liberation. Essentially that, like Andrea Smith just wrote an essay that was talking about... essentially just arguing for collective liberation to occur, we need to stop having these discussions that turn into confessionals about each other’s privileges and people sort of atoning for their sins of privilege and just move beyond that. Part of what other folks have discussed too is just ensuring that folks are taking initiative and not just objectifying indigenous people or just objectifying even their senses of what the oppression is. ... I think the bottom line is that this theory based around “if we all come to terms with and own our own privilege and deconstruct it then we are going to get to wherever we need to be,” and ultimately that just turns in on itself and neutralizes people and ultimately the result is that whoever are the oppressed group are still objectified. We are just trying to move beyond that. That is my understanding, I think there is more to it.
A! - Yeah, I guess I am curious as to why you care about this?
K – I guess a lot of other people care about it and it seems like the terms to engage in allyship and support... The bottom line is that we can’t do this alone. Collective liberation means something else when I talk to other Diné people or other indigenous people and certainly when I talk about resistance and liberation struggles with the white folks we interface with here, or other folks of color, especially in the migrants rights struggle, the so-called migrant rights struggle. Especially in Phoenix, I think we see the problematic dynamics even worse with organizations like Puente perpetuating this invisiblization of O’odham folks whose lands they are occupying but also asserting this sort of indigeneity as well, recolonization as some people call it. This example should be built out more: Large budget non-profit migrant rights organizations like Puente are working for comprehensive immigration reform. Comprehensive immigration reform means increased militarism and “border security” in the form of drone flights, increased checkpoints, armed troops, the border wall, and more. Indigenous Peoples lands such as the Tohono’odham are bisected by the so-called US and so-called Mexican border. Some O’odham resist immigration reform as it means destroying Indigenous communities. Migrant rights organization and their “allies” invisibilize Tohono’odham and continue to rally for immigration reform perpetuating the destruction of their communities. Part of the basis of this intersectionality of oppression is tackling these issues and finding ways to make sure we are engaging people who can provide material support, cause our folks usually don’t have it at all... With the infoshop for example, from the get go we knew that the folks who have the time to volunteer are white folks with “privileged backgrounds”--they have a lot of resources and a sense of volunteerism as part of their social understandings. But for indigenous people it is just like, usually with families with young ages, and school and work and all these other things, it is a hard thing, to find a way to engage on a sustained level. That’s part of it; we have been forced to interface with folks who just show up. Then we assert our anti-colonial politic and then they don’t know how to navigate, so then we end up going through a bit of a process of orientation. Sometimes there’s static, sometimes there’s problematic dynamics, especially if there’s more white folks that are getting involved. So we have had a lot of growing pains with trying to process all this shit. And people have done it other places where it’s like everybody grew out of the identity oppression olympic games and shit, where the challenge has been to find a way to have each other’s backs.
A! - But you see, for me, that’s simple. And what you are talking about, you are willing to use a whole ton of jargon or discourses, and I know where those things come from... personally I would refer to it as “who I am willing to negotiate with, and on what terms” and that’s a pretty different conceptual space than kind of accepting the premise.
K – Yeah, and I think I have to give it more thought. Part of my initial response is that I’m not sure how much negotiation--as far as it is affirming and asserting like who we are and ensuring that other folks understand--and that’s establishing the terms and just proceeding, ya know? And certainly there has to be communication. We are not just gonna impose. I don’t think it has ever been the nature of the relationship, even though we have been imposed upon for so long... but I mean if we are going to have a discussion about indigeneity and what that means, there are certain terms that can’t be negotiated. That’s why I talked about the natural law before, there are things that... I guess it’s something I have to think about a little bit more. But yeah, I agree. I do get sucked in o the academic establishment sometimes. I get sucked into at least the periphery of the non-profit industry even thought I try to dismantle it at every turn and part of it is just navigating to survive. I am trying to find a way to be as effective as possible and sometimes that means asserting myself in a different way. When I first got involved in the peaks issue I had no idea what the National Environmental Policy Act process was or what an environmental impact study was or anything about The Forest Service decision-making framework, but I had to learn, to be able to navigate and understand. I always really deeply respect my brothers and sisters in the Native Youth movement when that was a really fiery movement, because they were fierce, no fucking question. And they wouldn’t have this conversation with white “allies”, there’s no point and I’m not gonna have this conversation with my elders cause there’s no point, and I say that not to dismiss their intellect, ‘cause their intellect is beyond this., I would offer them the respect to have a better conversation that’s direct on that level. I think part of it is a survival mechanism to some degree. Maybe I’ll grow out of it.
A! - I mean you’re not gonna be able to keep this space unless you are willing to do it and there is something there that is a realpolitic, that is something that I don’t accept but I get it... [laughs] Usually when I hear people say these things I don’t like them very much.
K – No, no it’s interesting. It’s part of a discussion I have had with other Native folks, ‘cause one, everyone on the outside presumes that Native people have all the same politics, which is the first fucked up assumption. Two, we do the same thing; we presume we are all on the same page too and I had this... I mean I’ve had tons of horrible experiences that have led people to either decide not to work with me or whatever, just because I can be really critical sometimes. And people are like “let’s start a campaign to get out the vote” and I’m just like “you’re presuming we are all on the same page politically and you just told me we didn’t have to have a discussion about politics before we talked about tactics that we wanted to use in a campaign.” There is definitely some deep things that we need to tackle. Yeah, sometimes I find myself dislocating myself from what I feel should be authenticity, who I am and the expression of who I want to be and honestly I think that’s part of the expression... Out of frustration is the differentiation between de-colonization and anti-colonial... I don’t think people are gonna get it otherwise. Unless there is a strong enough differentiation where people understand how to engage and how to not. I’ve told people through music, through work over the years, if they ask, things they can do to engage or not. I am just tired of doing that, I AM tired of sitting in those circles and trying to hold hands. And basically just getting frustrated with people who need that time to figure things out. Sometimes it’s easy to subscribe to that, what is it? It’s not a treadmill, it’s a hamster wheel or... (Sorry hamsters) of discourse and the jargon that goes along with it.
A! - Yeah. Ok let’s talk about some anarchist stuff. Weasel words, consensus, accountability.
K – Yeah ‘cause I do want to ask you more things.. Early on I had some issues with collective process; the quick response is just noting how people fetishize things easily. It’s just like the term “community.” What does that mean?
A! - Right. It’s a weasel word.
K - I mean we could have a long discussion about it. Yeah, people focus more on the process than the outcome sometimes and that’s the issue. Just like you can sit for fucking hours in a meeting or you can try to focus on getting shit done and doing the work, and sometimes that is the process. There’s that zine Fetishizing Process, which I think does a great job of sharing some anecdotes about how badly and how easily consensus process can be manipulated. We’ve had some great discussions... It’s the same thing with the word “accountability.” It’s still somewhat prevalent to fetishize accountability processes in communities and sometimes it is just as easily manipulated as consensus. To the point where we have seen people attacked through accountability processes. So here we have adopted a pairing of accountability and responsibility. There has always gotta be an element of that through whatever process. I think it’s great just anytime to throw out words sometimes, but there is also a danger in just deconstructing everything. Where do we stop? For me I have this point of reference, or points of reference which are always culturally based, which is sort of grounding for lack of a better term. Right now, you know like keh being our familial clan-based relationships, which to me I see, I use that interpretation of collective interchangeably, to varying degrees. One of the lessons I learned early on with the big mountain resistance was that everybody was just frustrated after the late 80s and early 90s. The fragmentation of some of the families in the resistance was just like, “Whoa, if we just had unity we would be effective and successful and have victory.” And I had some of my elders, some of my relatives, say, “Well if we were unified it might be easier for them to break us and sometimes we just need to be in our own camps, doing our things.”
A! - Forcing them to negotiate separate deals.
K- Yeah, and so I always took that with me and used it as a frame of reference when I thought about any joint or collaborative or collective effort. Just thinking about what are the terms of unity and what are the terms for working together, ‘cause sometimes people focus too much on the process and we forget about the outcomes that can be achieved in different ways. I really like having discussions like that... We just like the sense of experimentation and we like to take risks here sometimes, see what we can do based upon shitty experiences we have had everywhere else. Just having discussions with other people, looking at some of the methods that they have used and just being like, “yeah, fuck that, let’s try something else because it’s not working.” For years, every time I would get involved in any type of collective, one of the first things we talked about was modifying consensus if it’s necessary. There’s something to be said about over-focusing on the process and forgetting about what the actual desired outcomes are. So I agree with you on that. Obviously we’ve come to some conclusions from different perspectives. I would like to hear more from you about that though. I’m sure you have different experiences.
A! - Well I think I stopped... I mean, I was pretty into the process around consensus for a great number of years. I feel like every group I came into that had people less-experienced in these topics, I really walked people down the country road. Oh and partially that’s because I was in the Che Cafe (in San Diego), for a couple years and part of the process of becoming a core member was being educated... The Che Cafe is actually at the UC San Diego, and there were four other worker cooperatives at UC San Diego. One of them was a bookstore, they were the smart ones, and they actually, you had to go through a class where they taught you how to think about consensus and there’s a book called the “Red Doc”, it was a very thick binder and you had to go through the whole thing. I learned afterwards that those people were Maoists, but they were definitely teaching the Anarchists how to do consensus. So that was actually why, I mean I got the hard lesson, [Klee laughs] I got the full nine yards; they had very clear flow charts and the whole thing. They had created it out of a process of decades of big fighting. They did one thing that we actually replicated through my entire time in collectives, which was crit, self-crit. Do you know about this, from the 70s? It actually comes from China. I mean crit, self-crit is basically, we are in a collective together and you do something that is politically inappropriate, crit, self-crit is the process of you being thrashed over it, in public, within the group, within the central committee. To the point to you having to confess your mistake. This was seen as a way to even out power relationships. So in the context of the Che Cafe, every three months the fifteen of us would sit together and block out the whole day--with no one coming in or going out--to criticize each other. It was, I mean especially for me, this really was my, like, becoming an adult sort of thing. Prior to that happening, I threw temper tantrums. A part of my personality and my rage issues and all the rest. I threw temper tantrums. And boy after like two crit, self-crits I was cured. But of course, as you can imagine, there were maybe one or two other people who came from like a poor background. Everyone else... these were the children of rich people. I wasn’t a student, they were all UC San Diego students. It was a crazy thing for me to do, but that was... Whatever, that was part of my process; it was part of how I came to understand this stuff. And five years later I never worked with another group that did that because, actually that’s not fair. I have become increasingly critical of this over time. And especially what I feel is the sloppy use of language. Every anarchist group is not a collective. Anytime an anarchist decides to do something with another anarchist is not an example of consensus. But that’s, it’s kind of like a pet peeve, like when people say “very unique”, another pet peeve, but um... So I guess what it comes to is this point where there has become an obsession with process because anarchists don’t have particularly good answers to the questions “what does that mean?” Americans, by and large, are Protestants and the Protestants, they care about work a lot. It is part of their religion that they’re gonna work. As a matter of fact I grew up in Western Michigan; the neighborhoods in western Michigan were Black people, Poles (as the poorest of the white people they got their own ghetto), Indians, the Dutch. And the Dutch brought their type of Lutheranism to western Michigan, and they believe in pre-destination, so they work hard because they aren’t sure which way it is going to go [heaven or hell] but it’s already been decided. Anyways, big long story. The point is that...
K – I’m always interested in the long parts of the short stories.
A! - Yeah, of course. That’s where the flavor is! So the point is Americans by and large think very functionally. Anytime you share your crazy idea, the first question is always “How you gonna do it?” So the response that has really come through the peace movement of the 70s , but really of the 80s and the--not clamshell alliance but whatever it was called [the abalone alliance]--that was in the bay area. They are the people who brought consensus into the anarchist discourse. It wasn’t part of it at all before then. So that happened in the 80s and we have been burdened with it ever since. Basically I would like to have you join me in the resistance to it , but really it is joining the resistance to weasel words, ‘cause what has happened is that we just use these words to describe everything even if they aren’t necessarily particularly accurate.
K – Yeah absolutely.
A! - ‘Cause a group of people sitting around a table and more or less agreeing on doing something together, that still feels like a pretty good way to do things.
K – Yeah. Certainly the will of the majority or impositions are very challenging, but I think that is part of... at least the approach needs to be mindful of... I mean, indigenous organizing with the NGO non-profit world on an international level is focused on free prior informed consent, which I think makes sense to people. And it’s applicable I think. Right now there’s a bit of a monopoly on that term, in the international indigenous organizing spheres, but I think there’s different ways we can apply it beyond so-called human-rights struggles. There is something to be said about free, prior, and informed consent.
A! - The free part is the deception.
K – Yeah, right. Especially when defined by international institutions.
A! - ...and the violence all over the place there. Just because violence doesn’t look like violence any more.
K – That’s the thing. More recently I have been really fascinated with talking about legitimacy too, and just thinking about what that means in relation to... and I think it came out of one of the Rolling Thunders, there was a really good essay about legitimacy and I just took the word out of context. I don’t even remember what they were talking about but it was interesting. I think that sometimes if you have these terms and then you apply them you are legitimate, within these circles. And if you don’t have them, “What are you doing here?”
A! - Actually I was going to mention this earlier, I was always struck by the land bridge discussion.
K – Yeah, the Bering Strait.
A! - Specifically the idea of how, like I have challenged people a couple different times on the idea that... perhaps I accept that there were people who came out of the heart of Africa, the Euphrates and Tigris, the Euphrates Basin? I’m willing to accept that “POP!” People came. But you’re not willing to accept any other point of origin? In other words most people who are scientifically-minded and believe in evolution are very clear that everyone walked from there. It blows my mind.
K – Yeah. We did a tour with our traditional dance group and took our music up into those areas ‘cause there is an Athabaskan dialect, as it’s called, has always fascinated anthropologists and we were talking to them, and... You would have a much better conversation with my dad to some degree ‘cause he doesn’t... Like, he gets straight to the point. So it’s what we asked them up there, my dad was talking to them too and we were just asking them what they thought about this and my dad was saying, “Hey we’re relatives, in some way, shape, or form we know that in our history this is what we say. That there was a time of conflict here and some of our folks migrated up north and some folks came down and we have words or names for them,” and one of the things that folks up there, Dine said was that, if there’s a bridge, traffic goes both ways. And we were just laughing about it, because of their interpretation. I think the important thing for me, the main point I mentioned earlier, we have our origin story, our traditional history which is, that’s how we know ourselves in this world. It’s a challenging discussion when you have people dislocating that and taking that from us and calling it myths.•
Anarchy and Anthropology
by Kevin Tucker
One from the archives. The following is an article that we unearthed by Kevin Tucker which was featured in Species Traitor: An Insurrectionary Anarcho-primitivist Journal, Issue 3 (Spring 2003). The author looks at anthropology with a skeptical and sobering (no pun intended) gaze that offers many insights that we hope can spur further discussions on this particular school of “truth”, and maybe lay others to rest. The discussion of anthropology’s relationship to science and reason, and the author’s asking of whether or not anthropology is a tool that we can “use” without reproducing that system, were particularly good. Though this article was not submitted, it was certainly worthy of a reprint. If you can get your paws on the issue itself, there are some more gems in there that merit a gander. Perhaps Tucker’s views have changed since this article was first published 11 years ago, but maybe we can leave that question to the archaeologists.
As Theresa Kintz points out in her interview, anthropology (referring here to the general field that consists of biological/physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics), like all sciences, is a tool of the civilized. Radical anthropologist Stanley Diamond has written: “Civilization originates in conquest abroad and repression at home.” The role of science has been to justify and perfect that conquest and repression, and anthropology isn’t an exception. However, through the work of anthropologists (both unintentionally and intentional) we’ve come to a greater understanding of the human-animal and the anarchist state we’ve lived in for over 99% of our existence. We come against the problem of having to work with such tools of the civilizers while trying to destroy the entire mental and physical system that originated it.
Outsiders Looking In and Away
The original anthropologists primarily worked from the accounts of conquistadors, missionaries and travelers bringing back news of the ‘savages’ beyond the realms of civilization. The two options that the conquerors saw for the ‘primitives’ was to wipe them out or assimilate them, though as we have historically seen, both have led to similar outcomes. The assimilation was spearheaded by missionaries and those who found these people had more value alive (as labor) than dead, although the two are hardly separable. The hopes of the missionaries would be to pave the way for a ‘friendly’ relationship and to ‘civilize’ the ‘savages’ through their God.
The work of the time would predominately be self-serving accounts of the rise to civilization from ‘savagery’ and ‘barbarism’. The major turn would be with Franz Boas who focused on the need for direct field work around the turn of the century. Boas, a German immigrant to the United States, saw the natives of this country being slaughtered off and fast. His concern was that all of this knowledge would die off with these people and began the turn of anthropological work to recording the entirety of the knowledge being destroyed.
With Boas came the importance of describing and cataloguing aspects of people. This kind of approach is work of the scientist. Despite what good intentions Boas and his followers had, their work was entirely subjective. By describing everything that one sees, there is no kind of ‘objectivity’. There is only a situation that German philosopher Hans Peter Duerr calls “riding the fence”, meaning that there is a person trying to understand one reality to translate it to those in another reality. That person then is stuck in the middle, always a part of one culture and is therefore only capable of observing the other culture through their perceptions. What Duerr points to is that there is no kind of ‘scientific method’ that can even begin to bring about what it proposes it will . In this case, that is the field of anthropology acting as the study of humans, or as Stanley Diamond says, “the study of men in crisis by men in crisis.”
The process that Boas started was furthered by Polish anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski a few decades later after his work with the Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea. Malinowski’s initial fieldwork there ended up lasting longer as he moved onto a remote island to avoid deportation during World War One. Over this period he became immersed in Trobriand culture, defining what he would later call “participant-observation”. Duerr comes to mind as I can see Malinowski the scientist becoming somewhat emerged into this ‘primitive’ society to return to Europe. Knowing his situation wasn’t permanent he always had a foot out the door in some respects.
I don’t feel this wipes all validity from his work, I just feel that when looking at these cases, these are all things we have to consider. This kind of ‘observation’ carries with it the scientism of objectivity, believing that the wholeness of a culture can be observed and understood from neutrality. French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss has recognized that while science is still myth, it carries the possibility of finding a ‘factual reality’. He states: “Science will never give us all the answers. What we can try to do is to increase very slowly the number and the quality of the answers we are able to give, and this, I think, we can do only through science.” Through even this rather liberal assessment we are left with the belief in ‘hard facts’, and while Lévi-Strauss has denied ‘scientism’ he has none-the-less carried its underpinnings.
Through this, all of the positive outcomes of anthropology must also be understood in a way that is independent of civilized assertions. What we have seen from the field of anthropology and understanding the problems we face now is that “[f]undamentally we are people of the Pleistocene” , we are gatherer-hunters. The anarcho-primitivist critique takes this understanding very seriously, meaning that civilization is a recent invention and the effects of domestication are just a sign of our urging to return to the way of life that has shaped our being. With this, there is little reason why we shouldn’t uphold this kind of information, because it speaks directly to the repressed gatherer-hunter in all of us civilized peoples. What we should always be wary of is the dry scientism that underlies the specific search that anthropology takes on.
In his book, Red Earth, White Lies, Sioux scholar Vine Deloria Jr. opens up questions about “the myth of scientific fact”. His drive in this was to debate the well established theory that Native Americans arrived on this continent by crossing the Bering Strait within the last 20,000 years (one of the more modestly accepted estimates). In the eyes of Deloria and other Native Americans (though not all) this theory, established as ‘fact’, is racist. I’m concerned in certain ways about validity of some arguments which may be based on ‘land claim’ issues, which has been an accusation against this particular book. As an anarchist, I feel that nothing makes any specific ‘land’ someone’s ‘property’, although I understand this kind of legal assertion against governments. Regardless of this possibility, I find that a lot of the arguments are worthy of heavy consideration.
What Deloria draws upon in this book are the ways in which anthropology, as a science, will pick and choose what ‘evidence’ it will bring into its ‘factual’ reality (although Deloria is guilty of this as well). This is a serious problem of all scientific understandings, a conception of a kind of ‘absolute truth’ which underlies all of existence (this dependency on ‘absolute truth’ is the reason that I would qualify most religion as science). What happens is that the possibilities for what is ‘real’ are framed only within what is ‘known as fact’ for those who are observing. A lot of people have a hard time understanding that science is all just theorizing, in this way it becomes only possible to think of people coming into this continent through the Bering Strait. I can’t say I take the ‘science’ side or the ‘indigenous’ side (since neither really exist), but I think that scientific ‘fact’ has limited our ability to look to other possibilities.
The problem, as I see it, isn’t in trying to figure out what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but realizing that a system that carries such values and can impose them upon others is the problem. I, like Theresa, have little interest in battling myths with others, and as I will point to later, feel that a mythic, ecological consciousness is important to rewilding our lives, but I feel that anthropology can be vital only in deconstructing the universalized and institutionalized myths that underlie and maintain civilization.
The past of archaeology isn’t much different than the rest of anthropology. The kind of observation that Malinowski brought into the fieldwork of anthropology could be said to be the basis of archaeological digs. It wasn’t till after Darwin’s Descent of Man (1859) that archaeologists would even recognize the past as existing outside the 6,000 year span that the Church allowed since ‘creation’. In the new world it wasn’t till Boas criticisms came to reshape the way digs were done. Archaeological digs, as we know them now, didn’t take their current form till the 1960’s through the work of Lewis Binford after the 1947 origin of the Carbon-14 dating technique, explicit use of evolutionary theory, employment of cultural and ecological concepts, and the use of systems theory.
Archaeology is essentially the study of the past through material remains. The work of archaeologists can only really be useful when put into context with how certain remains are used by more recently observed peoples or common usage of similar materials. What archaeology really has to work with is finding the exact location of things in the earth. Their work is to literally dig up the past and theorize on the implications of their findings. In many ways this is working with a huge disadvantage and moving into a lot of speculation, but as Theresa points out, there is a lot that can be learned from this despite the handicap. Some have taken these findings and added to the critique of civilization, such as John Zerzan, Jared Diamond, and Clive Ponting to name only a few.
What I see as problematic here is the actualities of all of this. While I see no point in discrediting the effects of all the collected information that points to the inherent problems of civilization, I do think there may be a point when this becomes self-serving. I’m not interested in ever saying that we should stop looking, but I’m concerned that this search has overcome the possibilities that are being opened up. When I was writing these questions to Theresa, something was constantly coming into my mind; that we know that civilization is fucked up and that this is not the way of life that humans have become ecologically evolved into, but how much do we have to constantly reassert it before we do something about it. I’m not accusing these folks of not trying to do something, but I become concerned in general.
Looking into the fields of anthropology, I constantly see people like Boas who are concerned with constantly recording and cataloguing all the problems of civilization. What comes to mind is a photograph from the Vietnam War of three American soldiers raping a Vietnamese woman. The war photographer (as well as the photographer and journalist in general) have made it their work to constantly record the destruction that is occurring, possibly with the hopes that what they have recorded may spur others to action. How much does it take before we stop just recording hoping that someone else will come along before we act? In many ways the anthropologist is just like that war photographer, watching destruction take place right before their eyes and recording it. Perhaps this is the success of domestication in disempowering individuals to feel that they can have no impact on the situation, but my interests remain purely revolutionary. I again am forced to ask what it will take before we stop being mere observers as our home and all life is being destroyed before we do something about it. I feel anthropology can serve as a weapon against the civilized ‘reality’, but I’m afraid that so long as it remains within scientific understanding it will seek to only make us all participant-observers to destruction.
As Theresa has mentioned, the work of the archaeologists is the business before the bulldozers. This can be a tough situation. Knowing that developers will completely destroy the land without regard would it be doing something positive to try and pull out the pieces of human past that will be plowed away? Can it serve as a kind of deterrent against developers or is a dig just another method of clearing out the land, whether developers follow or not? Most importantly, I’m concerned with finding a way of trying to stop the destruction from the start, and not trying to make the best of a shitty situation.
The work of radical anthropologists like Theresa, Pierre Clastres, Marshall Sahlins, Richard B. Lee, and Stanley Diamond (to name a few) is vital to moving anarchist critique and action. What is being uncovered by anthropology is too valuable to be discarded, and it is inspiring to see people from within these fields realizing the potential influence of their work. However, it is equally important to use that evidence as not just ‘findings’ and ‘evidence’. To move beyond civilization we will need to use this kind of knowledge to reawaken the wildness that sleeps within us. Anthropology will remain vital only so long as it speaks to us and we are able to use it without becoming it.
The exact same applies to history and other sciences. I personally feel that the work of the evolutionary theorists was vital to overthrow the scientific mythology of the religious conquerors. However, as a rewilding human, I’m forced to question the potential of this finding. To what degree is it important that we ‘know’ the specifics of our entire past? What is important is a mythological (anti-institutionalized) consciousness that enhances who we are within the context of the community of life that we are a part of. The success of civilization exists in reducing our reality to a backdrop of things that we exist apart from.
What I’m referring to above isn’t a kind of intentional ignorance or turning the cheek on ‘knowledge’, but to question what is a part of the human-animal. From my own understanding, a mythic, unwritten view is one that is able to flow with the world and can achieve what we’d hope to get from history and science without subjective implications on the world that we are theorizing about. The problem that is being opened here is getting to there from here. I’m interested in a reawakening of primal consciousness that has been repressed by civilized domestication in order to justify and continue conquest and exploitation. We are constantly up against questions of how can we use these things that shape the civilized reality in order to destroy it. Towards this I can only point to what I think is problematic, in this case being any kind of complete faith in sciences like anthropology and using what speaks to my being without disregarding what I just don’t care for.
The point in extending on this discussion is to find a way of using these kinds of findings without using the system that has produced them. I feel that a revolt against civilization will require a revolt against the scientism of civilization (Reason). What Theresa has laid out here is a view from inside the field about what is going on. I don’t agree entirely with her view, but I can respect her attempts to overturn from within without preoccupation or delusions of anthropology as the ‘wonderscience’ (as Lévi-Strauss surely would see it). The path to anarchy will require calling into question all of the ‘sacred cows’ that have laid the path for rational dissent so that we can return to our primal being.
Don't Turn Away
by Diane di Prima
if you are working on something don’t turn away &
especially if it hurts don’t look away how many how deep the sore flesh eaten to bone by infection
don’t turn away like hyena Vulture waiting guardians don’t look away guardians of the edge, of
Port0au-Prince, don’t look don’t look away the wraiths of forbidden hope don’t forbidden love
don’t dust whose skulls we bury who and bury wehre shall we keep the dead don’t loook away
don’t blink don’t turn it is the same north for the old ones don’t look away south for the children
i thought they came to stay look now look thru yr tears if you have any if there are any tears left
look they magnify tears magnify what you can still see
what what look
do you know mud warm mud what breeds in it no don’t ook it up don’t study it’s all before your
yes it’s in your skin your memory you can taste it too don’t refuse your memories they ARE you
don’t look away don’t let that one lie face down any longer turn it over is it he or she IS there a
face part of a face look close eyeballs are delicious to many zero in don’t go we have only just
come to this place it’s not a horror show.
what does it mean to rot? a great healer asked h e looked he invited all to look. what does it mean
to ROT what comes apart in the moist air look in the rain look in the streaming mud
what is a mass grave? this is not a rhetorical question. stand on the brink & look look close as you
can never mind the smell this will only take a moment I promise how long do you actually think
you have? stand on the edge the brink who is rotting here? what falls to pieces? how do you
know a piece?
look in discover stumble by accident on a grave at the edge of town is it fresh? look closer is it fairly
new? the mud is alive with forms moving shaping self-destructing recombinant they are not fearful
any longer look bear witness look earth is mass grave in the warming air
Answers to Questions Not Asked: Anarchists & Anthropology
The issues with anthropology have little to do with anthropology itself. Wanting to understand and hear other people’s stories is a sound desire. It is arguable (but I’d side with it) that stories are one of the best things about humans and hearing new stories is one of the best ways to get to know new people. These things also have nothing to do with anthropology.
Those who confuse the specialization of an academic discipline with human curiosity are the ones doing the work of society, of the social order. Anarchists in general understand that one can observe, test, and propose solutions to any number of problems, in any number of areas of inquiry, without the stamp of approval of the institutions that discipline the curious into orthodoxy, that rely on their own logic, and that steer such inquiry for their own interests. When one eschews these institutions but continues their work, dividing daily life into narrow categories - even when one does it critically - then one is still doing the work of alienation and fragmentation.
Critique Isn’t Nearly Enough
By whatever name it is called: anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, etc. human experience has been fragmented into a thousand shards. Those who do the new ordering and the recombining of the shards will be the new managers. Whether these specialists are speaking truth is irrelevant compared to the process of dissection, isolation, and objective truth telling they are attempting to do. At some point the truth is in the details and those details are about something entirely different from the relationships I have and am capable of having, the details are about something only a specialist would know and understand. The devil-in-the-details is society and the bargain is that tomorrow will be much like today.
Our project here is not a critical engagement with anarcho-anthropologists. Fans of the Other (whether it’s anime, Native Americans, or paleolithic era hunter-gatherers) are fairly harmless as far as they go. Our project is with the thinking that may (but may not) underlie the rhetoric of some anarcho-anthropologists but absolutely buttresses the thinking about what the role of society is; i.e. it works to normalize the other, flatten cultural difference, and participate in truth claims.
To put this a bit differently... I believe that the destruction of the western project (what some call civilization and what I call society), is a goal that I share with many of these neo-romanticists but we absolutely disagree about not just how to do it, but how to think about doing it. Painfully, I don’t believe we are even at the stage of a debate about tactics, but are instead at a preliminary discussion on how to conceive of the problem, which at some point may turn into a sharing of ideas about strategy that may result in debates about tactics. We are tentative comrades who - if the current reticence towards examining basic ideas is any indication - probably have a long way to go before meaningful cooperation can begin.
What Is The Most Fundamental Of All
A sort of shared beginning where we can start a conversation could come from the lovely words of Against His-Story, Against Leviathan! (AHAL).
<em>Leviathan is turning into Narcissus, admiring its own synthetic image in its own synthetic pond, enraptured by its spectacle of itself.
It is a good time for people to let go of its sanity, its masks and armors, and go mad, for they are already being ejected from its pretty polis.</em>
This book spins a creation story of Leviathan and of an enclosure—that we can safely call Civilization - that has captivated us all. But it’s not a true story. It is not Truth. It did not happen the way Fredy writes in the book (not even close). One could say that his story speaks to greater truths than the actual things that happened, and that’s fair, but let’s be clear among ourselves that the story of AHAL isn’t a true one, it’s something else.
Truth is an insistence on a single interpretation of facts on the ground. It lays evidentiary claims to reality by way of disciplines like the experimentation and rational claim-making of the natural sciences. It may claim a tentative or partial nature but it bases all argumentation on the centrality of, and provability or belief in, a central thesis.
To bring this into a discussion about anarchism and anthropology, the central conceit of the anarcho-anthropologists is the theory that prior to the first granary we (humans) were free of coercion, hierarchy, patriarchy (and the toxic mixture of those and more that we call Leviathan). By fixing this line of demarcation in time, location, and import we orient our dreams of a better/different world. If that line isn’t real, either because freedom existed both pre- and post- Civilization or because Leviathanesque elements existed prior to priests and the first assertion of a monopoly of violence, then the entire orientation around the line should be seen for being as utterly subjective as it is.
Serious play requires serious thinking and commitment (and the ability to laugh every step of the way). The issue with truth is how it considers play: as what only children and the ignorant do. The issue with truth is that at some point it will always insist on being taken seriously and will punish those who ignore the evidence - usually first with scorn and eventually with force.
As we go mad here in the shadow of Leviathan our problems seem to fracture and multiply. Is there a way out? Where do we begin? Where does the shadow begin and end? Are we truly mad at all? I would propose that these questions, all of them, are absolutely normal and equally (not) true. The monsters around us thrive in our quiet misery, in our pretend calculations around tripping them up and rising above, and above all in the ways that we understand ourselves in their shadow. The idea of Leviathan as truth is another pernicious way of being framed by ideas (as in the old adage about it’s theory when you have ideas and ideology when they have you).
The reification of civilization was not the goal of AHAL. As I read it, the goal of AHAL was to tell a story about a strange and maddening Leviathan, to problematize our relationship with what has come before, but also to see ourselves in that history. As in Fredy’s story we are zeks (workers, slaves) but as most of us have no remembrance of elsewhere, of home, he makes it clear how few tools we will have to contest this new disaster.
But what if Leviathan isn’t the worst of it. What if it isn’t the end but the chapter before a new horrorshow, dominated by a different mythological framework, one that literally disembodies and ensorcels us all, one that crushes Leviathan beneath its hooves, that assumes our disconnection from place, from home, and from each other as fellow travelers, that assumes that we primarily interact with other zeks through screens and ASCII characters. That builds on us, not as zeks, but as consumers of a life that we fear to live. The story of this new Behemoth isn’t about the violent dispossession of us from our homes, but of us from our capacity to imagine and make decisions for ourselves. For our resistance to Behemoth will be even more marginalized from the order of things than seizing the means of production was against Leviathan, it’ll be utterly constrained by communication technologies and superficialities.
Which is why we must reject Leviathan and Behemoth, just as we already reject Capitalism and the State. We must do this not just as abstractions more alive than most of our personal relationships, but in the very ways that they serve to frame reality, and the difference between what we want to be (or used to be) and what we are. Truth claims are traps that begin with our critical facilities and force us to either remove them or be stuck.
Critique And Hostility
The tension I’d like to build here involves a sort of knowing, understanding details about how the triumvirate (spectacle, biopower, and bloom) works, while at the same time not becoming trapped by that knowledge. As things get more complex (which the operation of a seven-billion-zek-machine necessarily will) those who can wrap their heads around more and more of the whole operation will be rewarded with the perception of their participation. One can become a respected commenter on political events, make a headline or two themselves, or become a paid functionary of state or industry. By throwing oneself into one’s job or into correcting the ills that one can identify and address in the world around them, one can truly make no difference at all.
I assume a reader who is hostile to this arrangement from both directions. On the one hand a revulsion for the business-as-usual roles one is rationalized into becoming and on the other that “making a difference” makes any difference at all, hostile to the idea that we are all eager little producers - of ideas if not products - just waiting our turn to have our products be popular and trendy. I propose that this hostility be destructive; rather than expressing itself as an aloof brand of cool, it should embody attack.
This is a distinct operation from what is traditionally called critique. Critique is always a sort of loving embrace, a negotiation between peers, and a quibbling about details. One critiques an essay, book, or song as one who is also engaged in writing or singing on the themes involved. Critique is usually inside-talking where there is no outside. This is usually disconcerting to those trapped by the context of critique-critiquer (no one likes to be critiqued) but irrelevant, trite, and ridiculous to anyone outside of this insider relationship. These relationships are called dialectical because those inside tend towards a similar goal and agree, by way of reasoned dialog, about the truth of a subject or the goal of their shared project.
Attack, or destructive knowledge, is mostly about understanding terrain, capabilities, and timing. It is not about a pursuit of truth or a purposeful productive project. It is not about a barbarian charge against those things one despises (where would such a charge begin? Or end?) Rather it searches for ways around nodes of critique (aka dialectical sandtraps or clusters of truth negotiations) for its own ends. Attack as an anarchist form of knowledge-acquisition means those ends are likely connected to the destruction of existing systems of social, cultural, and material organization. As it is largely unclear how to resolve the central paradox of knowing as it relates to changing or becoming, attack necessarily becomes languorous, ambivalent, and idle. Entire industries exist to take advantage of this tension, stifling instincts and the energy of attack by way of converting it into simple consumption, partial activism, and ideological solutions. (We fail, therefore we drink. We succeed, therefore we drink).
How could this look different? I will take a specific example. In the Bay Area currently - but within radical politics generally - questions of race have been absolutely captivating. Both from the experiences of minorities who want to express themselves and their difference - in a world that just doesn’t seem to give a fuck - and from the experiences of those who know that they have been raised to, on some level, not give a fuck, are levels of anxious efforts towards... what? On the post-marxist side of radical race efforts are projects like race traitor (and the ideological schemes that have grown from its seeds) that claim that the key to solving the problems of our age is abolishing the white race. The liberal/occupy side of radical race efforts was exemplified by the proposal in December of 2011 in Oakland to change the name of #OccupyOakland to Decolonize Oakland. (This argues - put very simply - that the language of occupy is that of colonization whereas the terminology of decolonization is about growing, sharing, connecting to traditions, healing, and education. To put it differently, it argues that language matters and it has an action plan on how to achieve the results it desires.) A final example comes from the post-occupy decolonization movement, which demands that white allies speak about their racial privilege, that occupy activists address genocidal violence, and that future encampments be organized and led by those who need them most.
There are a thousand ways to critically engage with these three perspectives, all of which involve accepting basic premises that may, or may not, be antithetical to how one actually thinks, but how can one attack them? How can our engagement with interesting and serious problems embody hostility to pre-existing methods and thinking about them? Obviously the first step is to lay them out in this way, to expose their analytical frameworks and solution-based orientations.
Another step is to understand that the politics, the words on paper and claims to goals, are only one level of what is happening. Another level is one of social arrangement and relationships. Most politics is also cover for a social scene and the way its members communicate with themselves about good and evil, right and wrong, and what the order of operations should be.
Most jargons and frameworks are about creating insider-outsider relationships and forcing the discussion (what the good talk about) to live entirely inside the framework. There is no outside.
As a matter of political practice, the attacking anarchist always has to be outside. An anarchist never accepts the premise that forces one inside of other people’s assumptions. If these assumptions begin with a series of definitional exercises that constrain reality to essential categories and then claim domination over them... then reject it all.
What Is The Space Between 5,000 Nations And One
<em>Not even Indians can relate themselves to this type of creature who, to anthropologists, is the “real” Indian. Indian people begin to feel that they are merely shadows of a mythical super-Indian.
Many anthros spare no expense to reinforce this sense of inadequacy in order to further support their influence over Indian people.</em>
-Vine Deloria, Anthropologists And Other Friends
After the treaties were signed and the bloody marches completed the government of the US started a long game. To describe this game as genocide is fine, as far as it goes, but what’s relevant here is that it’s the game that states play by default. Destroy all distinct cultures and organisms. Eliminate all threats to the monopoly of violence (which is the bedrock upon which states are built).
There is a straight line from the mouth-foam frothing colonialism of the 19th century to the secular liberalism of the 20th. This line is drawn in the expansion of job titles like legal assistant, program specialist, coordinator, researcher, etc, (recent job titles drawn from BIA.gov). It’s drawn as straight as the railroad, telegraph, highways, and fiber optic cables are. We participate in this heritage (this straight line) when we accept their terms of engagement and that is particularly the case when pan-identities (synthetic amalgamated identities created in the past few centuries) are considered true and real. It is clear that the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians are not the same, do not have the same interests or daily concerns, as the Sicangu Lakota residents of the Rosebud Reservation or the federally unrecognized people of Ohlone descent scattered around California - but referring to natives as one singular thing, as a fixed singular identity is seemingly natural. It is the way 500 nations have been distilled into one, one that is oppressed sure, but that is fading into the sunset of history as a single noble savage slumped over his defeated mount slowly plodding away. It is one sad story in a world where there are a thousand of them, all competing for our attention.
But this pan-identification goes the other way too. White people do not, in fact, exist. There is no white culture, tradition, or material condition. White, in the context of current racial identity and discourse, is another way to express negation: it is the absence of good food, dancing, and song. It is the way of lamenting how exchange relationships have become confused and entangled with all human relationships and gives that lamentation a cause; white people. And this is true, the forces that have created a phenomena that is called “white” are the same that have confused us about our relationships to each other and forced us into believing that massive pan-identities are singular, true ones. But these forces are not specifically white - white supremacy (if that’s even a useful term, which I highly doubt) is a symptom, not a cause. These causes are something, and somewhere, else.
Anthropologists, sociologists, marxists, etc are in the trade of creating these categories and using them to dominate others. They are doing the post-modern work of something-like-genocide. They directly aided in the transition of thousands of tribal formations (in North America and elsewhere) into categories of citizens, and today into categories of consumers, sub-cultures, and counter-cultures. Whatever their motivations, the god they serve is society: not social relationships between peers, but an ordered hierarchical world composed of classes (abstracted tribes), politics (abstracted collaboration), and consumers (abstracted humans).
The Sound Of One Hand Clapping
Whether it is a little matter of the relationship between a cave and the shadow on a wall, the author and the reader, or the observer and the observed, there has been a deep concern since records have been kept between those who keep the records, write them down, keep them safe, and those who are the subject of those records. If one were critical of these mechanisms and techniques one could reconcile themselves to political partnerships with the subjects, perhaps would find themselves protesting the record keepers, the keepers of truth, and resolved to the ways that the Internet has reconciled the difference. The gap between the cave and the wall is now illuminated by the electric glow of information passing by. That gap, between the name and what is being named, is also what is powering the whole show.
“The European materialist tradition of despiritualizing the universe is very similar to the mental process which goes into dehumanizing another person. And who seems most expert at dehumanizing other people? And why? (...) And what the process has in common for each group doing the dehumanizing is that it makes it all right to kill and otherwise destroy other people. One of the Christian commandments says, “Thou shalt not kill,” at least not humans, so the trick is to mentally convert the victims into nonhumans. Then you can proclaim violation of your own commandment as a virtue.”
“For America to Live, Europe Must Die”
Prior to the rise of mass society, when you knew the name or family of every person you met, there was no Other. There were different families, tribes, and ways but they were recognizable. One way to account for the otherification that is the hallmark of society is pure numbers. Regardless, there is no going back. We now live in a world populated by Others, by other people and other ways of treating and considering the shared problems we all have. We are no longer able to consent to this othering, as it’s built into the economic arrangement and we live as victims of it rather than as agents.
The only way to fight the othering instinct is to keep your circles radically small, and resist attempts to be integrated into this society. Since integration is the alpha and omega of the triumviarate, this effort is nearly impossible. Every resistance is seen as seductive by the cooptive forces of commerce and pluralism. Becoming impossible to manage is one of the few human (by which I mean the inverse of mass society) instincts left. Mostly though, this instinct has been manicured out of existence and soon will entirely live in stories and histories, as life escapes into screens and flipping bits. ‘
The whole continent of North America appears to be destined by Divine Providence to be peopled by one nation, speaking one language, professing one general system of religious and political principles, and accustomed to one general tenor of social usages and customs. For the common happiness of them all, for their peace and prosperity, I believe it is indispensable that they should be associated in one federal Union.
-John Quincy Adams, 1811
Military power has severe limits. It implements violence against other recognizable forces and then retreats. This is more true now than perhaps it was in the 18th century but unless you are prepared to salt the earth, at some point forces that work with different forms of logic come into play. Society (especially as we understand it) does not operate by way of violence, or it does but the ways in which this is true are so obfuscated by the triumvirate that one barely notices it. Society operates by the simple mechanisms of going to work everyday, collecting your checks from your fixed income, traveling on the roads provided by taxpayers, etc. It couldn’t be more normal that one-step-at-a-time, one-day-at-a-time, one-choice-at-a-time society (fixed, post-modern, and (in)tolerant) becomes the way we manage ourselves. This doesn’t mean we have escaped a time of managers, but that even they have little power: their role is more as functionaries: oiling gears; filling out work schedules; making sure budgets are adhered to, rather than telling those beneath them when, where, and what to do.
Today’s managers require a sophisticated education in scandal management, communication skills, and timing, to maintain the operation of their little piece of machinery and their few entrepreneurial subjects. Few managers know that when they are training themselves in art history or anthropology, they are actually learning how to operate humans inside of organizational charts. But they are.
The End Is The End
Over the past six months I’ve had the opportunity to answer a question I never expected to have posed to me: “Why are you so hard on Anthropology?” The argument being that it’s just another discipline much like others and only a poor relative of the big social sciences. Moreover, say its defenders, anthropology has learned the lessons of [Man The Hunter, Clastres, Deloria] and no longer [believes in progress, sees the Western project as inevitable, aids in genocide] and should not be held responsible for its past. As a matter of fact - they say - it should be considered the best curator of that past, as it knows where the bodies are buried and - they argue - the cause of freedom & anarchy is best served by honestly and critically engaging with the cultures that have come before, which are only revealed through anthropology...
The anthropologist is Judas but is eager to redeem himself. The point is that the specifics - how humans interacted prior to the toxic abstraction of Civilization - matter. Somewhere in the details of what has come before will be the evidence of a crime, a universal, agreed-upon-by-everyone, evil that we can smash like we do the idols of Racism, Sexism, etc. Indeed we have fallen but our redemption story is the only story we can write, given the evidence of our crimes.
This argument demonstrates the romantic desire to return to Eden: Eden and the possibility of return has always been a central theme of Western thought and is answered in two ways by anarcho-anthropologists. One answer conceives of a future living in the shadow of the past (at least the written past) listing as superior and preferable examples and experiences from cultures and lifeways entirely different and disconnected from ours. This form of post-romanticism devotes a great deal of intellectual energy to extending the brutal lessons of techno-culture forward in time, while drawing lines back in time through the pasteurization of (other people’s) anthropology.
The other answer is a kind of cosplay. If this world is evil, corrupt, and if its failure is already happening and/or guaranteed, then we should prepare for the future by learning to gather, hunt, and forage. Instead of intellectualizing our way out of a world of terror and technology we can rewild (a set of practices that emulate hunter-gatherer lifeways) and check out of the rat race for once and all. This rhetoric boils down to an assertion that we must prepare prior to The Collapse by (kind of) living as if it’s already happened.
There is no need to directly criticize these practices or beliefs. They are, in fact, entirely beside the point. The point, if I were to conclude by way of a new beginning, is that we live in a culture that forces all political questions to be answered, especially the big and hard ones about desiring another way of life, of desiring anarchy. Most political people become ensnared by this cultural pressure and end up sounding like city planners, politicians in waiting, and in the case of our friends the anarcho-anthropologists, like a utopian Garden of Eden recreation society.
For the rest of us we continue to have, ask, and think about the hard questions: how to become free individuals in free communities in harmony with one another and with the biosphere; how to break from a world of abstractions and ideologies; how do we treat our fellows zeks in the time of Leviathan? How will that change as Behemoth approaches? But questions have that frustrating quality of running through our hands like water, quenching certain thirsts, but never ours to lord over, much like anarchy.
Against History, Against Leviathan
– Fredy Perlman, Black & Red Books
Society of the Spectacle
– Guy Debord, Black & Red Books
Theory of Bloom
- Tiqqun, LBC Books
Custer Died for Your Sins
– Vine Deloria, University of Oklahoma Press
Marxism and Native Americans
– ed. Ward Churchill, South End Press
The Undying Appeal of White Nationalism
by James Joshua
Originally only a portion of this essay appeared in the printed version of Black Seed Issue #2. This is the entire essay, originally posted to a website that is now defunct.
**** Neofascism in the Cultural, Artistic, and Ecological Movements
The earth is firmly enveloped in crisis. This crisis is at once material and existential. The economy can no longer support the human weight that bends it at its foundation. Can not, or will not. The aftermath of the recession has produced only one reality: an intensified stratification of global society.
The crises have created a world devoid of meaning. Everywhere, people question the bold political narratives of the present, exposing them all as being without purpose. Democracy appears as the ridiculous theater that it always was.
In much of the world, young people found solace in the lack of meaning. They embraced cynicism and insincerity as responses to the real situation. As time went on, they found that this ironic perspective failed them in the very same way as did the dominant paradigm.
The recession of 2008 propelled the earth into a state of delirium. Over the following three years, the world fought to materially answer the existential crisis; to existentially answer the material. These popular movements posed a question. Is it even possible, in the 21st century, to imagine another way of living? All of society was exposed for its repressive essence, and people began to appropriate buildings, parks, universities, vacant lots, and city centers to begin directly creating a different way of life.
The question of the people fighting in occupied buildings and sleeping in city squares never received a response. Echoes, but not answers. The militants of 2011 reluctantly returned to life in the void.
We are still living with the same crisis. Meaning has yet to be restored. Around the world a new movement is emerging.
Across the globe, a reactionary wave has presented itself as the answer to the question posed six years ago. In Greece, Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela, Russia, and Italy, neofascist parties have reemerged in the form of militant street-level uprisings. In the United States, fascist influences have begun to permeate the cultural, artistic, technological, and deep ecology movements.
In particular, the strong historical precedence of fascist influence on the legacy of ecological movements illuminates a need to take this situation seriously.
Esoteric fascism is growing in the ecology movement. This is nothing new. The term “ecology” was coined by the racist, white nationalist, eugenics enamored German biologist Ernst Haeckel in the 19th century . Haeckel founded the eugenicist and white nationalist Monist League in 1905 to propagate his racist views. Haeckel later joined the occultist Thule Society, a spiritual organization that sponsored and helped to develop the Nazi Party.
The German concept of “blut und boden” (blood and soil) traces its origins to the ethno-nationalist Volkisch movement. The belief insists that a people are connected to a historical territory, and that whites must protect the health of that land in order to ensure the continuity of the Aryan race.
Inspired by this view, German philosopher Rudolf Steiner founded Anthroposophy in 1912. Anthroposophy was a school of ethno-religious mysticism that promoted the idea of a race’s spiritual connection to a local environment along with the belief in a hierarchy of human races and the need to keep these races separate. These beliefs were heavily influential in the Volkisch movement of the 1920s.
The Wandervogel (wandering bird) youth movement was a strongly influential back-to-nature cultural force in Germany in the early 20th century centered around environmentalism, communal living, eastern religion, and staunch nationalism. Wandervogel youth believed political action to be incapable of correcting the deeply entrenched societal crisis, so they looked instead to personal and cultural transformation. The immigration of some Wandervogel youth to America in the early 20th century helped to inspire the Hippie movement . Initially, the Wandervogel movement was comprised of people from somewhat disparate philosophical backgrounds, but by the 1930s most of the tendency was absorbed by the Nazi Party.
The Wandervogel subculture was a reflection of the larger The Lebensreform (life reform) movement. Lebensreform advocated organic diets, sexual liberation, vegetarianism, and a deep respect for nature. The tendency was popular in Switzerland and Germany in the early 20th century. Anarchists were very influential in the Lebensreform tendency, people like painter Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach and poet Gusto Graser promoted liberatory ideas among the movement. Graser, along with cultural libertines Henry Oedenkoven and Ida Hofmann, founded the Monte Verita commune in Switzerland in 1900. The commune initially existed as an experimentation in living according to communist ideals, promoting a way of living modeled after “primitive socialism”. Anarchists from around Europe flocked to Monte Verita. The communards were largely vegetarian, and practiced polyamory and held a deep respect for the environment.
By the 1930s, many of the anarchists of Monte Verita abandoned their long-held ethics and joined the Nazi Party .
The same trend occurred in the Lebensreform movement in general. Richard Ungewitter, a white nationalist pioneer of the German nudist movement and advocate of cultural upheaval, wrote and distributed white supremacist and anti semitic texts. He insisted that the seemingly emancipatory cultural trends of the time would be the way that the Aryan race would reestablish its dominance over “the diabolical Jews”. This reactionary tendency within the Lebensreform movement later inspired leaders of the Nazi Party.
The environmentalism of the Third Reich largely came from the mystical and anti-rational fascist lineage promoted by Richard Darre, Alfred Rosenberg, Rudolph Hess, and Heinrich Himmler . It was Darre who introduced the blood and soil ideology to the NSDAP (Nazi party). As the Nazi movement was very dynamic in its early days, there was tension between the spiritualistic, anti-rational tendency and the cold, calculating, efficiently rational wing of the party.
Likewise, there was conflict between the ostensibly workerist and often openly gay wing of the movement (the Sturmabteilung, abbreviated as “SA”), and the rest of the NSDAP. The “blood purge” of the SA has become a focal point for some people in the current Neofolk subculture.
The neofolk genre is loosely based around traditional european cultural heritage, practices, and music. Many of the bands that popularized the genre have current or past allegiances to fascist politics. Death in June, perhaps the best known name in the genre, is the project of third-reich obsessed musician Douglas Pearce. Pearce named the band in honor of the SA stormtroopers who were violently expelled from the Nazi Party in the Night of the Long Knives blood purge of 1934 .
Death in June has a history of collaboration with Boyd Rice, a somewhat more obtuse performer whose usage of third reich imagery is equally unironic. Rice appeared as an outspoken guest on the television show of Tom Metzger, founder of the well-known neo nazi group White Aryan Resistance. Rice has toured the US extensively with Cold Cave, an act founded by Wes Eisold. Eisold was a well known figure in the hardcore scene; his band American Nightmare was very popular in underground music scenes in the early 2000s.
Both Death in June and Boyd Rice have had several of their shows canceled due to pressure from anti-fascists over the past few years.
For the most part, bands in the neofolk and neo dark-wave scenes eschew overt fascist politics in favor of “apolitical” stances and a fixation on cultural heritage and “traditionalism”. Artists often state their insistence on playing “white” or “european” music that is free of “negro” influences such as rock and roll, jazz, or rhythm.
Stella Natura is a large neofolk music festival held in the Tahoe National Forest of Northern California featuring dozens of acts and hundreds of attendees. Though the promoter, Adam Torruella, claims the event is non-political, he has invited the white nationalist publisher Counter-Currents to table at the event .
Counter-Currents (which recently had its San Francisco office smashed up in a late night attack) primarily sells white supremacist literature from esoteric fascist authors such as Julius Evola and Savitri Devi. Devi, a Nazi sympathizer who served as a spy for the Axis Powers during WWII, was born in France, moved to India, converted to Hinduism, and was an animal rights activist and deep ecologist. She promoted the idea of the supremacy of the Aryan race and the need for whites to respect other “noble races” such as Indians, who were believed by the nazis to be the racial relatives of white Aryans.
The festival is sponsored by the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA). Asatru is a pagan faith founded in the 1970s based on ancient Norse beliefs. Early on, there was a split in the Asatru movement around the issue of white nationalism. The universalists opposed racism, the tribalists focused on ethnic and cultural heritage, and the folkish tendency advocated an entirely racialized conception of Asatru . The AFA comes out of the folkish lineage, meaning that it is part of the white nationalist wing of Germanic Paganism.
The AFA provided security for the festival as the “Viking Brotherhood”; the original name of the organization. According to reports from concertgoers, the Viking Brotherhood roamed the perimeter with zip-ties on their hips while maintaining a diligent eye for anti-fascists.
The festival’s lineup has included several post-fascist acts and performers. Blood Axis, the band of neofascist author Michael Moynihan performed, as did Changes, a band founded by white nationalist Robert Taylor . Fire and Ice and Waldteufel have also played the festival, both acts having ties to white nationalist movements. Neofascist bands Die Weisse Rose and Of the Wand and Moon were scheduled to perform in 2013 but could not enter the country due to visa issues.
This cultural tendency has grown among the hipster crowd, many of whom naively believe that the fascist aesthetic is merely ironic or just an added effect for shock-value. It has also grown among young white people from black metal and dark-wave scenes who feel alienated by the emptiness of modern society and desperately reach back to a romanticized and fictitious ancestral past.
Nihilism as Question and the Suppression of the Hipster
The epoch of the hipster has been marked by an irrepressible irony; a tangible insistence on the meaninglessness of things. The entire world appears to rotate without purpose; the era of metanarratives has long since passed and history seems to stand still. This tendency’s ascension coincides with a social era widely referred to as “liberal multiculturalism”. This multiculturalism is widely seen, by white people at least, as having reached a state of hegemonic dominion over all societal affairs. In this context, nothing can truly be racist, as the institutionalization of political correctness has seemingly relegated the older, more blatant forms of racism to the margins of culture and of society.
Because of this, the era of the hipster is not anti-racist, in fact it has no need to be. The ideology of the present era is better understood as post-racial; the apparent suppression of the old forms of prejudice have rendered white supremacy a phantom of the past only seen presently in the most anachronistic vestiges of white provincial society.
Racism is thus perceived as being powerless and therefore either innocuous or ironic. The hipster appreciation of Boyd Rice and Death in June is the result of the assumption that the resurgent fascist movement cannot possibly be sincere (as sincerity is impossible) and that, if by some far-fetched chance it were, it would be incapable of attaining meaning, as such overt racism cannot be a threat in a post-racial world.
In the world of pop culture and in the world of the anarchist, nihilism has firmly taken root. The rejection of all values, with the exception of the interests of the self, stems from a dissatisfaction with the meaninglessness of modern life. The hipster nihilist surrounds himself with accumulated symbols of irony, as sincerity has become impossible in a world without direction, and true meaning no longer exists. The anarchist nihilist maintains a steadfast refusal to participate in any political activity other than the occasional online cheering for the smashing of windows, as activism reeks of leftist naiveté and fails to comprehend its own pointlessness amid the magnitude of the present subsumption of the world.
Until now, nihilism has been addressed as a solution. But nihilism is a question. It is a passionless cry into an indifferent distance that continues to await an answer.
What will bring meaning to the world? What force can again restore a sense of purpose to those without direction? For many, reaching back toward the dirt-covered hands of long-buried ancestors has been a starting point. A normative vision of the past harkens back to a simpler era. Young people everywhere are again discovering religions and the languages of their ancestors. Many have begun to experiment with the assumed eating habits of someone’s distant ancestors, and are convinced that the paleo diet will bring them back in tune with what humans are supposed to eat in their natural state. On trendy shopping strips in America’s cities, artisan boutiques are again emerging. Micro-brewing and woodworking are regaining prominence. Experienced beard trimmers and butchers skilled in charcuterie are again making a living as men once did in a bygone past. Young men in Red Wings and work shirts revive the wardrobes of white men before their supposed systemic emasculation by liberal feminism; they appear identical to their grandfathers walking to work in those old segregated factories. Levi’s commercials speak proudly of pioneers and territorial expansion into both the wild west and into the untamed and pre-gentrified neighborhoods of America’s rust belt.
The neofolk movement is merely the avante garde wing of this diffuse and growing cultural tendency that longs for a romanticized and uncorrupted past.
Radical Traditionalism, Revolutionary Reactionism
Presently, the mystical current of racist ecology is slowly gaining traction among some circles of former anarchists. Most notable is Olympia, Washington, where two former Green Scare prisoners and ex-anarchists have turned to white nationalism, citing a desire for white-only spaces, a respect for neo-nazis, and a pronounced disdain for “the Mexicans”. Nathan “Exile” Block and Joyanna “Sadie” Zacher were heavily influential in the green anarchist tendency prior to and during their incarceration for late-night arson attacks against industries responsible for massive environmental degradation. Disconcertingly, these two influential former Earth Liberation Front militants were initiated into the world of political violence while running through the streets of downtown Seattle in the anti-WTO Black Bloc in 1999 .
Several other people associated with the green anarchist movement in Olympia have followed their reactionary trajectory.
The quasi-spiritual works of ego-fascist Julius Evola and the “esoteric hitlerism” of white supremacist author Miguel Serrano  have been heavily influential in this growing circle. A webpage  operated by Nathan Block appears as a cascading scroll of imagery adorned with swastikas, black suns, and Anglo-Saxon runes complimented by an assortment of quotations from obscure neofascist theorists. This cult-like formation has expressed a sincere admiration for would-be race war instigator Charles Manson , particularly his environmental decree “ATWA” which stands for “air trees water animals” or “all the way alive” (the latter was used as the title of a 2012 public statement from Zacher published in the Earth First Journal). A 2007 communique written by Block and Zacher makes several vague references to the need to continue the ecological struggle in the name of the white race (often hidden behind double meanings) before concluding with an allusion to Manson’s environmental decree.
"[A]nd let those of us who heed the calls so often ignored stand upright, with clear vision, whether illuminated by the great Sun or by a more obsure Light, which rides with the night terror with all creatures of the hidden horse: the clawed, the winged, the hoofed, and also with those beings referred to by the euphemisms of 'the ancestors,' 'the fair folk,' or indeed, the 'elves.'
air trees water animals "
As with the Apoliteia tendency (explained below) and the Wandervogel movement, they claim an aversion to the political and a focus on individual and cultural pursuits such as touring in Neofolk bands and practicing Germanic pagan rituals.
Unfortunately, many green anarchists do not fully understand this resurgent white nationalism. Many assume that any apparent fascist sympathies must be purely aesthetic or symbolic. This willful ignorance will likely allow the trend to continue to grow, particularly in the white counter cultural enclaves of the Pacific North West.
Retreat from Politics
The current resurrection of fascism continues virtually unchecked due to the insistence of its authors and artists on their supposedly “apolitical” stance.
Apoliteia, as described in the early 20th century by the currently influential post-fascist author Julius Evola, is the rejection of compelled allegiance to the realm of traditional politics. For Evola, this did not mean that all political action is problematic, only that individuals should base this activity solely on their own personal interests.
Evola, promoting the concept of a hierarchy of races that placed blacks at the bottom and whites at the apex, also fixated on the mystical realm of race. He believed that race was manifested both in the body and in the soul, and that the ideal human being embodied the Aryan race both physically and spiritually .
“Our position, when we claim that race exists as much in the body as in the spirit, goes beyond these two points of view. Race is a profound force manifesting itself in the realm of the body (race of the body) as in the realm of the spirit (race of the interior, race of the sprit). In its full meaning the purity of race occurs when these two manifestations coincide .”
Evola promoted a sort of egoist fascism; the individual was to seek to become an “aristocrat of the soul” and to embody the brutality and order of the Holy Roman Empire within their own individual essence.
Evola objected to many of the visions of the PNF (Italian National Fascist Party) because of their focus on material conditions and relative lack of attention to spiritual and racial considerations. Though never a member of the PNF, he was an associate of Benito Mussolini and his writings eventually influenced the racial perspectives of the PNF hierarchy.
“And if Fascist Italy, among the various Western nations is the one which first wished for a reaction against the degeneration of the materialist, democratic and capitalist civilisation…there are grounds for thinking,…that Italy will be on the front line among the forces which will guide the future world and will restore the supremacy of the white race “.
Evola was a bizarre character. At the peak of WWII, he would walk the streets of the city during allied bombing raids in order to “ponder his destiny”. One one such stroll, he was maimed by a Soviet bomb and as a result spent the remainder of his life paralyzed from the waist down .
For Evola, as for many of todays’ esoteric racists, a retreat from the political realm is accompanied by a rise in the cultural and artistic worlds. Liberal social-democracy has dominated the globe and vanquished its opponents on a political level. Post-fascists advocate remaining in the cultural sphere until the moment that social-democracy begins to collapse as a result of its own decadence; this fall will be the moment to again emerge into the world as a material force.
Modern society is meaningless, directionless, decadent. A new way must emerge to once again give purpose to life. For many, this force will resurrect the spirits of the ancestors, a reincarnation that is starting to appear in the world of culture.
The New Force
Third-positionism is a political tendency that seeks to synthesize aspects of anarchism and communism with white nationalism or extreme ethnic traditionalism. This tendency has grown significantly in Europe over the past few years. In Italy, the neofascist squatters of Casa Pound are occupying buildings and organizing militant demonstrations against the proposed construction of a high-speed rail that would be heavily damaging to the local environment. In Russia, fascists have used the anarchist black bloc tactic to anonymously march through city centers.
Today, neofascism appears much more exciting and radical than did the far right organizations of decades past. The images of popular unrest in Ukraine during the winter months inspired people around the world. It was not long before it became clear that violent neo-nazi street movements were responsible for instigating much of the anti-government unrest.
The May 22 military coup in Thailand came as the result of months of reactionary struggle, with many militants finding an ideological base in third-positionist (though not white supremacist) inspired politics .
In America, some third-positionist groups have been bold enough to refer to themselves as “anarchists”. BANA (Bay Area National Anarchists) was a short-lived white nationalist organization based in San Francisco and Dublin California. The group dissolved shortly after members were publicly beaten by anarchists in San Francisco following BANA’s counter-protest of a May Day immigration march .
In New York, NATA (National Anarchist Tribal Alliance) members were forcibly ejected from the anarchist bookfair last year, making it clear that the presence of neofascism will not be tolerated in anarchist circles, regardless of what name white nationalists choose to hide behind.
Nothing Before the Earth
At the time of its inception in 1980, the radical environmental group Earth First! took its name literally, avoiding broader social issues and focusing exclusively on a militant commitment to the preservation of the environment.
A decade later, the dedication of Earth First! attracted many anarchists to the group. These newer members were interested in developing a movement that, in addition to defending the earth, fought against racism, sexism, homophobia, and capitalism. This new political direction caused a split in the group with some of the founding members eventually leaving the organization in disgust.
David Foreman, Earth First! cofounder, went on to cofound the Wildlands Project and later joined the Sierra Club’s board of directors. His virulent anti-immigration views have caused many people in ecological movements to distance themselves from him, however his reactionary ideas have a surprisingly strong following. He was described by anarchist theorist Murray Bookchin as a “macho mountain man”. Bookchin, on the Foreman tendency:
“There are barely disguised racists, , macho Daniel Boones and outright social reactionaries who use the word ecology to express their views, just as there are deeply concerned naturalists, communitarians, social radicals, and feminists who use the word ecology to express theirs. [...] It was out of this [former] kind of crude eco-brutalism that Hitler, in the name of ‘population control,’ with a racial orientation, fashioned theories of blood and soil that led to the transport of millions of people to murder camps like Auschwitz. The same eco-brutalism now reappears a half-century later among self-professed deep ecologists who believe that Third World peoples should be permitted to starve to death and that desperate Indian immigrants from Latin America should be exclude[d] by the border cops from the United States lest they burden ‘our’ ecological resources .”
Foreman currently acts as the President of the Board for Apply the Brakes, an anti-immigration campaign initiated by white environmentalists . Last year, he published a virulently xenophobic article for the green nativist “Earth Island Journal” obtusely entitled “More Immigration= More Americans= Less Wilderness “.
For some reason, Mexicans only become a problem for the environment once they cross over to the white-man’s land. On the other side of the line, their impact on those fields and deserts who don’t yet know of borders doesn’t seem to be of concern to these environmentalists.
In spite of their disdain for indigenous “immigrants”, even the conservative ecological tendencies often maintain a fetishistic reverence for “The Indian”. In this Jeffersonian view, indigenous people are the archetypal noble savages presently confined to history books; the current realities of most indigenous communities are of little interest. For many white environmentalists, indigenous people are a natural extension of the local environment much like a wolf or a tree. In spite of this exoticization, indigenous people from south of the Mexican border are often viewed as alien trespassers on America’s soil.
Paradoxically, indigeneity is conceived of within the confines of colonial borders.
For David Foreman, the earth’s population has grown to unstable levels, and people in the third world must be purged to bring humanity back into equilibrium with the environment.
From an interview with Bill Devall (author of “Deep Ecology”):
“When I tell people the worst thing we could do [during the famine] in Ethiopia is to give aid—the best thing would be to just let nature seek its own balance, to let the people there just starve—they think this is monstrous. . . . Likewise, letting the USA be an overflow valve for problems in Latin America is not solving a thing. It’s just putting more pressure on the resources we have in the USA .”
Foreman’s views are unfortunately commonplace in the deep ecology tendency. If anything they are merely an echo of an earlier wave of reactionaries who offer an academic counter to Foreman’s simple-minded, He-Manish, backyard wrestling, Macho Man Randy Savage approach.
Lester Brown, a renowned ecologist and prolific author, also speaks on behalf of the Apply the Brakes campaign. Brown is a staunch nativist and promoter of the reduction of human population in the developing world. Much of his focus has been on China and the role that its growing population may play on global food prices.
American zoologist, microbiologist, and ecologist Garett Hardin was fixated on the forced reduction of human population as a means to ensure the longevity of the environment. Hardin advocated for coerced abortions, eugenics, and forced sterilization until his death in 2003 . Hardin promoted a pseudo-scientific concept of a racial hierarchy of intelligence, and in 1994 he was one of 52 signatories to an editorial published in the Wall Street Journal on the genetic basis of racial superiority. In 1974, Hardin argued against sending food to people starving to death in the Ethiopian famine as a way to reduce the human population, decades before Foreman crudely parroted his ridiculous statements.
Like Hardin, Finnish ecologist Pentti Linkola argues that human population must be drastically reduced for the health of the earth. An advocate for eugenics and totalitarian state control, Linkola stated that the “massive thinning operations” of Hitler and Stalin were a step toward establishing an equilibrium between human population and the environment. He states that global chemical or nuclear warfare would be an ideal way of swiftly reducing the human population.
While Linkola’s wingnut ramblings are unlikely to develop directly into a global campaign of genocide, watered down variations of his ideas have a material base in the reactionary corners of deep ecology.
Left-Right Collusion and The Technocratic Future
Bizarre fascisms are starting to appear everywhere. Two of the three members of the board of directors of the Occupy Solidarity Network (Occupy Wall Street’s nonprofit wing) have at times publicly expressed vaguely fascist sentiments. Micah White, former Adbusters editor and cofounder of Occupy Wall Street, has traveled across the country promoting a populist left-right alliance, recently going so far as to advocate working alongside the violent Greek neo-nazi party Golden Dawn.
While it would be comforting to attribute this prospective collusion to naivete, it is clear that White is by no means unfamiliar with the dynamic nature of fascism. He has studied political movements for years and even authored an article exposing Pentti Linkola and other fascist influences in the ecological movements in 2010.
On August 12, 2011, a month before the start of Occupy Wall Street, White was interviewed by Nathan Schneider, author of “Thank You, Anarchy”:
The worst outcome would be to get there and they just fumble it by doing this whole lefty game we always play, which is self-defeatist. We go there, make some unreasonable demand, like, we want to abolish capitalism and we won’t leave until we do. And well, that’s like the war on terrorism; that’s an impossible dream. Or they just squander it by being some hipster, anarchist insurrection like, we’re gonna smash some stores and make a spectacle. And everyone’s like, ‘Why?’
Because we have something beautiful going here. So we’re trying to rise above the sectarian clashings of whether or not US Day of Rage is tweeting too much or whether or not the libertarians are – you know? And reach out to the Tea Party too. This is a moment for all of America.
I don’t see why this has to be a lefty moment or a righty moment, because this is a moment for us to reinvent democracy in America, because it’s getting to be too late. If we don’t do it now, we are reaching the end .”
While the far right Tea Party is not technically a fascist formation, White’s proposed nationalist left-right collusion is cause for concern, especially in the light of his statements about Golden Dawn. A proposed collaboration with the Tea Party is ridiculous, yet it must be mentioned that, in real terms, the Tea Party was the initial popular response to the economic crisis of 2008. This street-level conservatism spanned the nation with demonstrations against the bailout of Wall Street nearly three years before the left decided to occupy it.
While White’s dream of left-right collusion is disconcerting, it is important to note that he is not alone. Justine Tunney, creator of occupywallst.org and the Occupy Wall Street twitter account is also a member of the Occupy Solidarity Network board of directors. She currently works as a software engineer for Google. Recently, she used the official Occupy Wall Street twitter account to publicly advocate a corporatist political agenda:
"Ending poverty isn't a political program- it's an engineering problem ."
"I want to make clear that this is not an anti-corporate movement. This is an anti-wall street movement. "
In an interview with Business Insider about her role in Occupy Wall Street, she stated that “democracy never works “. From her personal twitter account she attempted to bolster her image of Google as a revolutionary force by insisting that “Silicon Valley is firmly post-capitalist” because tech companies like Google “expropriate ad money from capitalists to build a superintelligence & don’t pay dividends” to “entitled shareholders”. In March, she posted a petition to the White House website demanding the termination of all 4.3 million government employees, the resignation of Barack Obama, and the appointing of Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt as CEO of America .
Google, the largest collector of private personal information the world has ever known, acts as a giant data mine for advertisers and the state. The mere suggestion of granting the giant surveillance apparatus even deeper governing power is troubling.
Google’s rigid hierarchical structure has been (positively) likened to a monarchy by some reactionaries. Shareholders have virtually no voting power in the company as the company’s two founders control the vast majority of votes through the organization of shares. The workforce is organized into veritable castes delineated by colored badges. Most employees enjoy high pay (median salary $125,000), free gourmet meals, and a relaxed work environment. Lower-paid yellow-badge workers are confined to a separate building and excluded from the free food, limousine shuttles, or usage of company bikes. Their jobs consist entirely of tedious data-entry. These workers are not permitted to speak with the rest of the workforce. Filmmaker and former Google employee Andrew Norman Wilson stated that the yellow badge workers were mostly people of color .
According to its own numbers, Google’s overwhelmingly male American “tech” workforce is a mere one percent black and two percent latino .
Both Tunney and White have advocated raising funds to sustain a mercenary “non-violent militia” to take to the streets. Recently, Tunney suggested that her twitter followers “read Mencius Moldbug” referring to the pseudonym of computer programmer and aspiring writer Curtis Guy Yarvin. Yarvin, along with English philosopher Nick Land, is among the best known names in the “Dark Enlightenment” movement. This tendency, also referred to as the neoreactionary movement, promotes a pseudo-scientific notion of the racial superiority of whites under the guise of “human biodiversity”, opposes egalitarianism and democracy, and supports autocratic governance .
“Human biodiversity [HBD] is the rejection of the ‘blank state’ of human nature. Creepily obsessed with statistics that demonstrate IQ differences between the races, the darkly enlightened see social hierarchies as determined not by culture or opportunity but by the cold, hard destiny embedded in DNA…
Cue the adherents of The Bell Curve, eugenics enthusiasts, believers in white supremacy and sympathizers of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. In the Dark Enlightenment, we seem to have stumbled across a place where pseudo-intellectually grounded racism is flourishing in a way it hasn’t since before World War II.
In our discussion, [Nick] Land was explicit in his view on this: ‘HBD, broadly conceived, is simply a fact. It is roughly as questionable, on intellectual grounds, as biological evolution or the heliocentric model of the solar system. No one who takes the trouble to educate themselves on the subject with even a minimum of intellectual integrity can doubt that’…
Is this fascism? Desire for genetically determined ruling classes, distrust of popular democratic reform, distaste for the aesthetic standards of mass culture, and nausea over the political correctness of modern life—the Dark Enlightenment does have all the markings of a true neo-fascist movement. It’s here that the dangers of the Dark Enlightenment are hard to dismiss .”
They advocate a return to feudal city-states as a counter to democratic governance while maintaining an almost religious reverence for technology.
Yarvin advocates a form of total corporate domination of society he calls “neocameralism”:
“To a neocameralist, a state is a business which owns a country. A state should be managed, like any other large business, by dividing logical ownership into negotiable shares, each of which yields a precise fraction of the state’s profit. (A well-run state is very profitable.) Each share has one vote, and the shareholders elect a board, which hires and fires managers .”
While ridiculous, the ideas of the neoreactionary tendency have attained some degree of support in the world of Silicon Valley tech workers.
Balaji Srinivasan, Computer Science lecturer at Stanford University and current partner in Silicon Valley venture capitalist firm Andreesen Horowitz, promoted “dark enlightenment” inspired ideas during a speech to a crowd of tech entrepreneurs last fall. He encouraged the dawning of a Silicon Valley secessionist movement that would break away from the United States and establish authoritarian city-states run by technology firms:
“We want to show what a society run by Silicon Valley would look like. That’s where ‘exit’ comes in .. . It basically means: build an opt-in society, ultimately outside the US, run by technology. And this is actually where the [Silicon] Valley is going. This is where we’re going over the next ten years …[Google co-founder] Larry Page, for example, wants to set aside a part of the world for unregulated experimentation .”
The contrast between this hyper-technological conservatism and the right-wing traditionalist ecological movements highlights the pluralistic essence of fascism. Throughout history fascism has been a movement that is at once rational and anti-rational, secular and spiritual, traditional and futuristic, capitalist and socialist, authoritarian and anti-statist, social and individualistic, luddite and technological, nationalistic and international. Fascism is a rigid paradox that does not fall in the face of contradiction. The Third Reich was at once the mystical and environmental perspective of Hess, Himmler, Rosenberg, and Darre and the hyper-rationalist and industrialist reality that flattened much of Europe. Mussolini was as influenced by Julius Evola’s esoteric traditionalism as by Filippo Marinetti’s rejection of of the past and advocation of a technological and artistic “futurism”.
The commonalities shared by these ideologically diverse reactionary movements are concerning: the belief in racial, ethnic, or cultural superiority, the revival of The Nation, the concept of a superhuman ubermensch at the individual or the racial level, fearsome disdain for groups considered “inferior”, an aversion to collective desire, and a reverence for force and brutality.
Realization and Confrontation
Autonomous from the directives of any centralized institution, neofascism exists as a single point in a perpetually expanding galaxy of state prisons, renegade police, urban developers, realtors, Sheriff Arpaios, minutemen, neo-nazis, militaries, psych wards, public education, and George Zimmermans. The new fascism is merely a third position of domination, another knot in the repressive net of state, patriarchy, and racism. Its hegemony comes not from its own virtue, but from its position in the wider network of white supremacy. It does not walk alone, but travels through the night guided by the spirits of overseers and pioneers, its path illuminated by fiery crosses and the barrel flash of vigilantes’ guns along the border.
Although the beneficiaries of American reactionary politics are almost exclusively white and gender-normative, it is important to remember that the token mouthpieces need not fit these descriptions. While the spokesmen of green fascism are mostly male and exclusively white, it is notable that Micah White is black, Justine Tunney is transgender, and Curtis Yarvin is Jewish.
While neofascist ideology does not appeal to most Americans, white supremacist and corporatist rhetoric has a clear resonance among powerful people with substantial means at their disposal. The whims of such people have always yielded a profound social impact.
Although the technocratic aspirations of Justine Tunney and the Dark Enlightenment scene seem far fetched, the social implications of the currently thriving technology industry must be taken seriously. In the Bay Area, the influx of highly paid mostly white Silicon Valley programmers and software engineers into low-income black, brown, and broke communities has dramatically altered the urban landscape. Around the Bay, a racialized reconfiguration of urban neighborhoods is occurring; blacks and latinos are being forcibly relocated or incarcerated to make room for the Justine Tunneys and Curtis Yarvins. When not exiled from their communities, the immiserated populations live stacked atop each other in overcrowded units while the wealthy newcomers build their technocratic dystopia.
Like virtually all Silicon Valley empires, Tunney’s beloved Google is wholly unapologetic about its role in steamrolling California’s cities, as are the majority of the high-paid workers who have no problem participating in the expulsion and confinement of black, brown, and broke people.
In a global sense, the role of blacks in the tech industry has been most clearly represented in the coltan mines of war-torn Congo, excavating the precious minerals necessary to power Silicon Valley’s digital bubble.
At times, the vast displacement of black residents has been accompanied by a more blatant racism, though generally this position is obscured through the lens of economics.
Bill White, prominent third-positionist and former national spokesman for the National Socialist Movement, owns nine properties in a low-income black neighborhood of Roanoke, Virginia. As a landlord, he engaged in a project of harassment and gentrification that he referred to as a “ghetto beautification project” . He raised rents, evicted tenants, and was alleged to have patrolled the neighborhood carrying a shotgun to intimidate local blacks.
In more general terms, the whitening and gentrification of black and brown communities is materially congruent with neofascist ideology. The vaguely liberal sentiments of a handful of landlords and developers does nothing to change the real situation.
While the most recent waves of resistance in America have been leftist and at times even revolutionary, modern history has made clear the entirely unpredictable nature of white-majority subcultures and movements. Much of the 60s generation that shut down America’s thoroughfares in opposition to the war in Southeast Asia grew into the right-wing formation that elected Ronald Reagan in 1980. The America of Golden Gate Park’s drug loving hippie acid freaks metastasized into the war on drugs within fifteen years, with many middle-aged former leftists leaving their convictions behind with their youth. For the most part, white America sat by and watched as military-style raids into black and brown communities fed the expansion of a draconian prison slave-society that expanded over 700% since 1970.
From a global perspective, the socialist sensibilities of Mussolini and his associates transformed into an uncompromising fascist state, just as many the libertines of the German Lebensreform movement eventually joined the Nazis.
In May, the European Union’s parliamentary elections saw the rise of fascism in traditional politics. In France, the National Front won the parliamentary election, while in Greece Golden Dawn received enough votes to enter the European parliament for the first time . Fascist representatives were also elected in Denmark, Germany, England, Austria, and Hungary.
As fascism views itself as a revolutionary tendency, it will not cease its attempts to disfigure the beautiful trajectory of radical movements. The current momentum of the New Right will smash up against a blockade of material resistance. The Tunneys and Whites, affixed to the most senseless fringes of the Occupy movements, along with the washed up Earth Liberation Front militants currently agitating in the ecological scenes of the Pacific Northwest, will not turn popular resistance into reactionary foolishness.
Implications of an Anarchist Spirit in the Salmon Run
by Cedar Leighlais
One day in the height of Autumn, my friends and I went to a secluded place in the Pacific Northwest to fish for salmon at the beginning of their spawning run, and we were nervous because we weren’t sure if they had arrived as far inland as the place we chose. Due to the thick undergrowth of sword fern, devil’s club, and heavy cedar branches, catching sight of the creek was impossible until we were standing on its banks. As soon as our feet were upon the tiny pebbles of the creek-side, we could hear that the splashing and turning of the creek was not just running water and could see countless large salmon making their sprints upstream. Our hearts delighted at the mere sight of the powerful fish, finishing their eternal cycle of life and death.
We all began to take our shoes and socks off, rolling up our pants and very reluctantly stepping into the water. The creek was so ice-cold and biting, I actually thought that if I stood in the creek long enough my toes might sustain serious nerve damage. Quickly losing feeling to my feet made it even harder to walk in the creek; navigating rocks, logs, the current, and constantly having large salmon swim through my legs was incredibly distracting.
To say the setting was beautiful is an extreme understatement. The forest seemed to be radiating that day. When I think back to that experience and truly recall everything about it: the feeling, the sights and sounds, the rare moment of felt-presence, I seem to remember seeing and feeling the forest’s pulse as I suddenly became aware of all of my surroundings. This is the opposite of what it’s like to live in the city. I find myself constantly shutting out so many things: the sound of traffic and the train that permeates through my backyard and house, shouts from incoherent drunks on the corner, annoying conversations seemingly coming from all sides, ugly housing developments, police, the list goes on. This prevents me from being present, from seeing and experiencing intense sensorial occurrences. But in the forest in that moment, I wanted to attach myself to everything happening around me.
Seeing that there were a handful of salmon hiding under a log and caught in a whirlpool of currents in a little off-shoot of the creek, one of my friends and I slowly walked towards them from opposite sides, not wanting to scare them off but wanting to have as far of a reach as possible between the two of us should they dart off.
My footing and balance were compromised by cold and uneven terrain when I found myself practically standing right next to a group of hiding salmon. Bending over with my hand waiting just above the water’s surface, I paused before striking. What was about to happen? I was so close to this fish it felt too good to be true; my heart was racing. Without a moment’s more hesitation, I plunged my hand into the water, aiming for the end of the tail where it joins with the fin. It happened almost too fast to recall, yet I found my fingers grasped around the slimy scales of the salmon’s fin, which acted as a sort of hilt to prevent it from sliding out of my hands as it wriggled, squirmed, thrashed and turned, attempting to get back into the water.
Without even thinking about it I placed the salmon on the log that it had been hiding under, plunged my free hand back into the creek, and grabbed a rock that was slightly smaller than the size of my fist. Holding the fish down with my palms on its gills with one hand, I proceeded to bring the rock crashing down on its head three to five times or so. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins and I can’t remember all of the specifics, but I did not need much more than intuition to tell me when the salmon was dead, the blood from its eyes and mouth mixing with the blood coming from my fingers that had ended up too close to where my rock was striking.
Breathing heavily and unable to tear my eyes away from the salmon’s, I announced, “I got it!” to my friends who had stopped their attempts to watch mine. Upstream, my friend shouted to me “You gotta drink its blood!” Without even questioning it I lifted the salmon up over my head, tilted back as if it were a giant vase full of something worth drinking all at once, and opened my mouth under the salmon’s, letting its still warm, salty blood pour into mine. I walked over to a downed tree that lay across the creek and crawled on top of it to get my feet out of the freezing water and to stand in the rays of sunshine that had sneaked past the clouds, cedars and Douglas firs and just stood there. Adrenaline rushed through my body. I was equally amazed and thrilled at what had just happened. I also felt total awe and wonderment. To this day, I am struck with total fucking joy when recalling this moment in my life. I am grateful for every time I retell the story, because it allows me to feel that experience all over again.
Processing the fish later on in the day, we laid out our catch on stumps and began hacking off the heads and tails and pulling out the spinal cords. I took the fish I had caught home, even though I was living by myself at the time, because I wanted the experience to be complete, to eat my entire catch and to allow this fish to give me its gift of sustenance throughout the winter.
My reflections and analysis of this experience has not stopped here, however. Often the discourse around hunting, fishing, and wild-food harvesting does not go much farther than its economic implications; these are wild resources untouched by capital and civilization and if we are to live wild and free we must learn how to use them to our advantages. I found that the reward for having caught, killed, processed and eaten a salmon from the wild went much farther than economics for me; for the first time in my life I believe I had what some may call a spiritual experience.
What does this even mean? I had the luck of not having grown up in a religious home, and the most experience I had with church was having gone to a week-long bible-camp in the summer out of my own volition that focused mostly on hiking in the woods or kayaking on the sound. The only religious teaching I was ever given at that camp was that God would love and accept me for who I was, no matter what, even if I arrived at the pearly white gates of heaven proclaiming “Fuck god in the face!” Organized religion failed to bring me under its grasp then, and it did not take much more than reading Sam Harris’ Letter To A Christian Nation at the age of 16 for me to foment an unbridled hatred towards western religion and all of its affiliates.
So spirituality for me had a negative connotation for a very long time, and it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I began to accept the idea of experiencing spirituality divorced from any kind of practiced religion. However, I still have no idea what that could look like today, hundreds of years after the genocide of so many earth-based spiritual practices.
What I do know, however, is my experience. Intense sensorial engagement, complete joyous fulfillment, incredible awareness of presence, and the sense of wonder and awe that can only come after one has engaged with the cycle of life and death. Every time I retell this story, I can feel all of these things in my body, not just remember feeling them but actually go through the emotions all over again.
There are so many things that I feel must be taken into consideration when embarking on a journey into this conversation. First and foremost, that there were and still are many indigenous tribes in the Pacific Northwest that have celebrated and relied on the return of the Salmon Run since pre-history. Since the arrival of the colonial West and the signing of land treaties at the Nisqually River, the United States has systematically fucked with every Indigenous person’s access to traditional fishing practices. In my act of catching salmon, am I merely just taking advantage of my ability to drive out to a wildlife refuge and spend the morning in a creek with my friends, effectively latching onto a traditional practice that I have no experience with as a white person? Am I participating in the act of defiance that Indigenous people throughout the Puget Sound and coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest who, since that fateful signing of land treaties at Nisqually River, “poached” their salmon catch, disobeying orders of Fish & Game Authorities? Or am I partaking in neither of these, simply creating a new practice for myself of relating to wildness, of the self and the other?
Another thing I’m aware of is the disconnect between the telling of these traditions and the people who have traditionally practiced them. The only reason I am allowed any insight into any of these traditional practices is due to books written by historians and social anthropologists. Not only does this put me in an incredibly alienated position in relation to these practices, it also feels greatly appropriative, and thus inappropriate. I cannot in good faith pick up these practices and call them my own “tradition,” I cannot say I do them because “it’s how it has always been done.” Due to the uninhibited reaches of civilization and it’s efforts to destroy all earth-based spiritual practices, I have absolutely no ties whatsoever to any traditions or rituals that build spiritual connection to the earth. Furthermore, I have no elders with whom I can consult. I have older family members who do hunt and fish, yet the farthest my conversations have gone with them on the personal rewards of these endeavors does not venture farther than, “Damn, there’s really nothin’ like sittin’ on the lake with a fishing pole in one hand and a beer in the other!”
So I am left with improvising and creating a practice or rhythm of my own. I am a lost child seeking entrance into a world of interconnectedness, yet I consistently remain detached from myself and others. So what is the space that I inhabit, neither here nor there? This is where I find the struggle to determine some kind of spirituality in relation to the earth and away from civilization, if we are to use two polarized catch-all terms, in confluence with anarchy. As an anarchist, I find myself in a position between a world I cannot live in and an idea of a world that I want to live in. The impossibility of both of these raging rivers inevitably brings them crashing together.
This is why I find importance in the searching and questioning of a “spirituality” within an anarchist discourse. Understanding the historical implications of conquest and colonization and attempting to understand what has been taken from every grouping of humans since the onslaught of organized time and forced worship, we can continue to expand our understanding of how it is that the material conditions under which we live are unbearable and banal. When we realize what has been taken from us, we can begin to know what we must take back. I am not advocating for a new earth-based anarcho-religion, but for the lived-hatred of the systems enforced on us to be evermore total.
There is an ethereal high that accompanies the attack. When one shifts the emphasis from thought to feeling and action and utilizes their intellectual disdain for one’s enemy, the reward is far greater than words can express. It is my wish in writing this to spark a dialogue within an anarchist context around the spirit. What is it, how can we interact with it, how can we reawaken our own? How has it been damaged? It is also my wish that through these dialogues, anarchists can begin to again become aware of an age-old saying, “healing is a form of fighting is a form of healing is a form of…” Our enemies deserve to feel the brunt of our rage and sorrow, and we should also grant ourselves the chance to revel in and celebrate our unleashed spirits wreaking havoc on the material world.
Points For Further Discussion in the Digital Era
In an issue of Green Anarchy published in 2004, Sphinx responded to one of the early Internet-based social networks, Friendster, declaring “You Won’t Find Me on Friendster.”* The article, while obviously now dated, was an early attempt to develop an understanding of modern networked computer communications. Its historical overview of the development of computer technologies and the ways that they had (at that time) changed how we interact with each other and the world were important insights. Sadly, this is a topic that needs further elaboration and discussion. The computer-based forms of communication and mediation have only increased in the years since 2004 and have done so at an incredibly rapid pace. The objections to Friendster from ten years ago—the concern about legality and a commitment to human communities—while still true, seem almost quaint as the proliferation has increased to a level that seemed almost unimaginable just a few years ago. In the past, the idea of abstaining from Friendster or a particular digital social network seemed plausible, to do so simply meant not going on the computer and/or limiting computer use. Computer use largely took place at a specific site, something that we could essentially choose to interact with. In many cases, that is no longer possible. Over the past few years, the Internet has essentially become all pervasive. Through smart phones, the Internet is everywhere. While there are exceptions outside of so-called “industrialized” countries and among those who cannot afford smart phones, for the most part the discussion is more a question of when people will get the capabilities, not if (see for example, all the efforts to get computers to everyone across the world and to enclose the entire world in the web).
This has all had a real impact on how we relate to each other. Seemingly everything is mediated or interrupted by computer-based communication. There are relatively few private moments left, as shown by the numerous studies that track the phenomena known as “sleep texting” or the numbers of people who admit to checking their phones during sex. The particular studies matter relatively little, what is important is the way in which this activity has more or less been normalized. Few people seem to care and indeed for those who have an issue with it, there seems to be nothing that can be done. The rather laughable digital utopianism has proven to be untrue—we haven’t arrived at an equal society as a result of equal access. Even in the best cases of open source tools, their challenge is a drop in the bucket and they can often be just as easily mobilized towards non-liberatory ends. Moreover, the Internet and computer technologies have contributed to a situation of information overload and the fragmentation into a seemingly unlimited number of different identities, making it harder than ever to be seen on the digital networks, arguably the ultimate goal. Added to this, the increasing fragmentation and personalization—enabled through sophisticated forms of behavior and browser tracking—assure that there is no universally accessible network that one can simply have access to, but rather a series of largely closed and overlapping networks. These technologies extend the logic of computers into all realms: success is the documentable and quantifiable number of “friends” or “connections” we have on various sites, future activity, preferences, and “personalization” are predicted by algorithms informed by massive amounts of stored personal data, and everything is ranked and rated.
In the present, more and more of our interactions are mediated by computers. The social networks are built on representation and presentation – we don’t necessarily show ourselves (assuming that there is somewhere an authentic self), but rather a representation that will do the best in a particular situation. The potential employee deletes last night’s drunken party photos to present a serious tone, while the frat boy eagerly shares photos of the previous night’s debauchery. Moreover, depending on the particular social network, the presentations differ. While “compartmentalization” is something we all have done in civilized social contexts for quite some time, the speed and frequency at which it happens is different. The constant maintenance of how we present ourselves results in a compulsive “need” to “check” everything, seeing what is “happening” on “social media” at all times. There is always something better “happening” elsewhere, whether that be the cool event that we didn’t know about or something “happening” entirely in the digital realm. Consequently, the real “event” may not be the one that we are physically at, but the “conversation” that happens online. “Reality” is increasingly redefined as that which is documentable online, and “conversation” is the “discussion” which happens through social media. Something is always happening elsewhere and we are never really present anywhere (while at the same time, we are stuck in a seemingly ahistorical constant present). The constant need to be attached, to be checking what’s going on, to be instantly accessible, is beneficial to the system, not only in terms of pacification but also in making us ideal workers. The maintenance of social networking profiles and other such activities is essentially free labor; and “always on, always reachable” isn’t just about “convenience.” While the networks are about others, especially in terms of quantifiable audiences and visibility, they are paradoxically also about the self. There is a built-in form of narcissism with constant pressure to act as if you and what you are doing is all that matters. There’s a striking sense of self-referentiality and praise, digital greetings from our “friends” always tell us how beautiful we are or how strong we are. In many ways, the new forms encourage a celebrity-like performance, where one assumes that at any point some of our “friends” might catch a glimpse of what we are doing—in many ways life becomes a constant performance for a real, imagined, or potential digital audience.
The technologies have also encouraged a further separation from the natural world. An already distanced populace has become further separated. Much of what we see—if we actually take the time to look—is filtered through screens. The “nature scene” is potential background for a “selfie,” the flower the perfect fodder for a photo blog. The aspiring forager need not learn through direct experience or shared knowledge, but can simply point the phone and determine what a particular plant is. The more attached we become to the phones in our pockets (or, let’s be real, in our hands because for some even the one-second delay in retrieving a phone from a pocket is too much), the less we actually see and experience on a day-to-day basis. Our separation from the wild increases, as does the domestication that comes in the form of virtual chains. Computer technologies are presented as compatible with the natural world, with much of the rhetoric invoking natural images. We have “cloud” computing, “green” “server farms,” and pledges that buildings containing thousands of computer servers are environmentally neutral because they are powered by solar energy, wind, etc. At the same time, the environmental impacts of these new technologies are largely ignored. This isn’t a call for green computing, but rather, a recognition that the environmental costs of a digital society are quite high, in terms of waste, water used in manufacturing microchips, and in minerals extracted. Moreover, just as there is always something happening elsewhere on social media, much of the creation of computer technologies happens “elsewhere” with the productive consequences made invisible.
As it has in the larger world, the proliferation of computer technologies has had a considerable impact on the anarchist space. Much of the discourse that happens within the anarchist space is mediated through computers. News websites, blogs, and social networks have gained a hold within the space, becoming virtual sites through which we come together. In a networked society, it is relatively obvious that the use of many of these technologies allow one’s enemies, be they the state, fascists, or others, the capacity to map activities and track specific individuals. The possibilities of this—while always hiding in plain sight—have become all the more obvious as more becomes known about the extent of government surveillance and the willingness of corporations to share data with the state. Despite this, many of us continue to use these technologies and participation in the various social networks, dating sites, photo sharing services, etc, barely raises an eyebrow in most circles. Even when using “open source” tools and those that respect privacy, the proliferation of these technologies has had a major impact. The snarky comment, the photos of the cool banner seemingly crafted for dissemination on the Internet, and the rise of “scannable” text and 140 character Tweets attest to this. As with any technology, modern computer technologies have a certain logic and ideology embedded within them and when we “use” them, we often internalize those values. Moreover, attachment and allegiance to (as well as dependence on) digital technologies makes us less likely to criticize them.
In terms of both the anarchist space and the larger world, the proliferation of these technologies has ramifications for how we act. If everything we do on the computer is tracked, if every movement is logged thanks to our smart phones, every person a potential cop, and every corner adorned with an Internet-enabled surveillance camera, what are the possibilities for action? If—as is increasingly the case—to abstain from the social networks is to mean to “not exist”—what does it mean for those of us who choose to abstain? What does it mean to assume that these technologies will exist “after the revolution” and/or that they can somehow be “democratized”? How does our willingness to use the platforms constrain our interactions and alter our forms of communication? With the ever-increasing expansion of Internet-access into previously “unconnected” spaces, is there even a possibility of abstention? Owing to the importance within the economy of the new communications technologies, are there new targets for attack that can be identified? How does one “oppose, “resist,” and/or “attack” something that is literally everywhere and seemingly nowhere at the same time?
To a large degree, many of us are complicit in these systems in varying ways. Perhaps there is way through which we can maintain a critical engagement via distance, using these systems and technologies to the extent that we feel we have to, i.e. using them for some forms of outward communication while making our priority face-to-face communication and discussion. At the same time, there should be more efforts aimed at directly and indirectly combating these technologies (i.e. attack, lessening reliance on them within the anarchist space, and assuming a position of hostility towards them). Additionally, more discussion and theorizing is needed to explore the ways in which these technologies function and how they have changed the terrain, both on an inter-personal level and a system-wide level. In a so-called post-industrial economy, the reliance on these systems—however much they may invoke seemingly intangible images of “the cloud”—ultimately depends on physical infrastructure and as such vulnerabilities exist. We should be looking for these weaknesses, both physically and rhetorically, and advancing an anti-technological practice and critique.
- “You Won’t Find Me on Friendster” is available on the Internet at http://blackseed.anarchyplanet.org
Anarchy In Flight
by Ron Sakolsky
<em>I sing as the bird sings.
I sing because—I am a singer.
But I use you for it because I need ears.</em>
<em>At home (in California) I used to play, and the birds used to whistle with
me. I would stop what I was working on and play with the birds.</em>
<em>While living in London I had an apartment with a small garden. During the
summer around 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning, just as the day began, birds
would gather here one by one and sing together, each declaring its freedom
in song. It is my wish to share this same spirit with other musicians and
communicate it to the people.</em>
When jazz improviser Dave Holland entitled one of his early recordings Conference of the Birds, he was drawing upon the deep well of mythical thought about the “language of birds”. Some see it as a perfect language. Others as a magical language used by birds to communicate with those humans sensitive to its cadences. In the Talmud, Solomon’s proverbial wisdom was reportedly due to his being granted understanding of the language of birds. In Kabbalah, Renaissance magic and alchemy the “green language” of birds is a secret language which is the key to perfect knowledge. In Sufism, the language of birds is analogous to the mystical language of angels. In a poetic rather than a mystical sense, surrealist writer Rikki Ducornet would give her highest praise to the radical nature of Penelope Rosemont’s book, Surrealist Experiences, by proclaiming: “In these writings, critical theory embraces the ‘language of birds’ and poetic language reveals open secrets of thought that is revolutionary thought at its wildest and brightest.” And perhaps the essence of the foundational surrealist practice of automatism itself can be most brilliantly rendered in Ducornet’s alchemical language of Birds of calcium and mercury, of lead and sulphur.
In further examining the depth of the surrealist affinity for birds, we might consider the passion of post-Second World War Paris Surrealist Group member, Vincent Bounoure, for “objects that speak in bird cries.” And in relation to bird song, we can make an analogy between André Breton’s praise of auditories over visionaries, and his ecstatic reveries on “free flight” expressed upon encountering the seabirds of the Gaspé peninsula during his wartime exile in Québec. As he so emphatically stated, “There can be no more valuable and far-reaching hope than in the beat of a wing.”
Beyond the musings of philosophers, poets, artists and musicians, within the culture of the Kaluli people of Bosavi in Papua New Guinea, everyday human singing is intimately connected to the rising and falling songs of rainforest birds (with the Kaluli even “becoming” birds on ritual occasions). Within this tropical setting, the human voice finds expression in relation to nature by being “in sync” not only with these rainforest birds, but with the fluid sounds of creeks, streams and waterfalls. All of these sonarities are connected to one another as participating “voices in the forest,” fading in and out, thinning and thickening, over the course of a day, with seasonal variations over time. Kaluli singing is characterized by what participant observer Steven Feld has called a “lift-up oversounding,” a dense multi-layered aesthetic and ecological soundscape which he considers to be consistent with anarchy as a lived experience.
As he explains:
Lift-up oversounding, like harmony, is both a grand metaphor for natural sonic relations, the way tones come together in time, as well as for social relations, for people doing things together in concert. It is the pattern of fluid but tense egalitarian social life, where an anarchic synchrony of energy and assertion takes prominence over fixed categories, in a social order without political or economic hierarchy.
As a result of his fieldwork in this Bosavi sound environment, Feld underwent a kind of poetic metamorphosis himself from academic ethnomusicologist to “echo-muse-ecologist.” Of course, the Kaluli sound mosaic is only one possible soundscape for anarchy. The egalitarian society Feld observed in Bosavi should not be exoticized as bucolic or pastoral. Rather, in his words, it is “fluid but tense.” Lift-up oversounding then is one site-specific Kaluli approach to striking the delicate balance between individual freedom and community in practice. Therefore, in a creative problem-solving sense, it provides a way of resolving the same kinds of anarchist tensions that flutter throughout the more familiar writings of both Kropotkin and Stirner, who each wrote on the relationship between birds, freedom and mutuality.
Too often, our conception of the anarchist soundscape is unilaterally forged on the barricades of social war and rebellion against authority. We experience the carnivalesque rhythms of an anarchist marching band in the streets or the dramatic thunder of the martial soundscapes associated with urban insurrection. We immerse ourselves in the sonic environment of a noise demo in defense of the winged resistance of the Individualist Cell of Birds of Fire or kick it to the beat of a punk-edged rap soundtrack by P.O.S. in the midst of a black bloc throw-down. Yet, we can likewise discern the broad musical sweep of anarchy by recognizing the anarchist trace of birdsong embodied in free flights of jazz improvisation, sound collage experimentation, deejay mash-ups and the naturally-layered soundscapes of indigenous peoples living on the land.
For Feld, both city-based and rainforested anarchic soundscapes are of sonic interest. Accordingly, in 2002, he recorded the songs, chants, speeches, and parades of anarchist May Day as celebrated in Carrara, Italy under the title, Primo Maggio Anarchico. When I first heard about this difficult to find 2002 recording, I’d never had the pleasure of hearing it, but since these outdoor festivities are held in the Merry Month of May, I assumed that on such occasions birdsong would always be a part of the mix. When I finally did get to listen to it in 2013, my hunch was confirmed on lucky Track 13.
When Nature Attacks
Attack is never inconsequential. When we do it we often justify our actions by rhetorical flourishes and calls to history, greed, or the correctness of some position or other. Fuck that shit! Our attack should never be reconciled to language but to velocity, sinew, and the ground we launch from. We share the passion that our non-human friends have against civilization and howl alongside them in rage.
Cop Hit By Falling Tree During Traffic Stop
from http://gawker.com, May 11th
An Centreville, Iowa cop had pulled over a driver for not turning their headlights on when a 30- foot oak tree cracked and fell, totaling the car and slamming the cop to the ground. The police
chief said there was no wind in the area that night and the owners of the tree said they had no idea it had rotted because it “appeared healthy” and continued to sprout green leaves each season. Both the driver and the cop walked away without major injuries, and the driver managed to not get a ticket.
Soldier Mauled By Bear At Base In Alaska
from Yahoo News, May 18th
A soldier was badly mauled as she jogged on a trail and encountered a bear and her two cubs. The soldier said she didn’t scream or fight during the attack, and the bear left her bleeding in an embankment. She sustained cuts to her neck, arms and legs, a torn ear and neck fractures. She was rushed to a hospital by a soldier who was driving by when he saw her walking down the road holding both hands to her bleeding neck. Soldier Mauled By Bear At Base In Alaska, Again from Yahoo News, July 21st An Alaska National Guard soldier was mauled by a bear while participating in a training exercise at a military base, officials said. The female brown bear was defending her two cubs when it mauled the Alaska Army National Guard soldier Sunday morning at Joint Base Elmendorf- Richardson. The exercise involves giving soldiers compasses and maps and timing them as they make their way alone to hidden locations on the course. The soldier was going through the woods when he encountered the bear and her cubs late Sunday morning. The bear approached the soldier, swatting at him and biting him before retreating after about 30 seconds. The soldier blew a safety whistle, alerting medics stationed nearby, Olmstead said. This was the second mauling at the base in about two months.
Small Town Mayor Killed By Wasps
from CNN, July 23rd
The mayor of La Prairie, a small town just outside of Montreal, Canada, was killed when she was attacked by 15 wasps. The spokeswoman for La Prairie said that the mayor was not allergic to wasps. Otter Attacks Swimmers In Pilchuck River, WA from Associated Press, August 1st A grandmother and grandson duo were swimming in the river when a 4-foot-long otter emerged and attacked the 8-year-old boy. Both had to be treated for their injuries at a hospital. ‘All of a sudden I just heard him scream for his life. He was just bobbing up and down in the water and as he came up there was something all the way on top of his head,’ she told King 5 News. The otter continued to attack as they left the water. ‘Even after it got into the river and out of our way it stood on its hind legs looking at us like, ‘Don’t do it again; don’t come in here.’’
Boy Attacked By Mountain Lion in Cupertino, CA
from www.ktvu.com, September 8th
A child was hiking about 10 feet in front of his family at the Picchetti Ranch Zinfandel Trail when a mountain lion jumped and attacked him from a hidden position. The large cat bit his neck and head and attempted to drag him off before two adults from the group scared it off. The boy was taken to the hospital under serious, yet non-life threatening condition. The authorities claim that the mountain lion followed them back toward their vehicles after the attack, and that they will kill the mountain lion “in the interest of public safety” when found, yet the mountain lion remains free and at large as of this publication. “This is the leanest time of year for all wildlife,” Rebecca Dmytryk, president of the Wildlife Emergency Services, said. “There is less out there to eat and this is the driest season we have had in decades… We should expect more and more of these encounters just the way the cards are stacked.”
Two Men Killed in Bull-Running Festival, Won’t Stop Festival
from huffingtonpost.com, September 14th
Authorities say two men, aged 46 and 27, were killed in a bull-running festival where the bulls are let loose inside barricades throughout a city and people are allowed in the barricades to taunt the bulls. People are warned of the dangers of this “festival” and it continued the next week.
Black Bear Kills Hiker in New Jersey
from huffingtonpost.com, September 22nd
A small group of hikers found themselves being followed by a black bear while hiking in the Apshawa Preserve and without knowing any better, decided to run and split off in different
directions. Two hours later, one of them was found dead with the bear enciricling his body even while authorities attempted to scare it off. The bear was killed by authorities, and wildlife officials claim that the attack may have happened due to a shortage in acorns and berries, integral parts of their diets.
A Voice From the Grave
Editor's Note: The entirey of this article has been posted here, although it originally appeared as two parts in Issues 1 & 2.
by S-kw'etu? Siceltmot
On occasion I have made the acquaintance of travellers who come from the lands that lay across the shqwun’u. It is customary on my territory to receive visitors with respect and courtesy, to make them feel welcome, but not too welcome, in light of the behaviour of their predecessors. What unfortunately occurs during some of these exchanges is the very awkward confession from the visitors that they are very much surprised that I am not dead because they have been encouraged to believe that I had died long before I was ever born. This myth—that the genocide of the indigenous people of North America is a historical event that, although sad and possibly wrong, is a reality that cannot be altered—is quite chilling when it is you and your family are the people who are still being annihilated.
My name is S-kw’etu’?, I am not dead, that is a myth, and I am not actually even an Indian, that too is a myth. I am a Salish Warrior. I have the great honour of being a descendent of my ancestors who have existed on our territories for well over ten thousand years, something that is very sacred to me. We are of the Mother, without her nothing would exist. It is my responsibility as a Warrior to protect my territory and the life that exists on her, including the settlers. I put myself at risk to protect people being assaulted as well as to prevent resource extraction that is doing harm to the Mother.
Many people would not understand why I would even include the settlers considering all the misery they have created and continue to create. However, if I excluded anyone that would be assimilating to colonial culture which would require that I discard my belief in equality for all and become a racist myself. This I cannot do. Not only is it not physically possible being I am not ‘pure anglo stock’ (nor is anyone else), but settler culture requires me to despise myself and my family, which is out of the question. I am very proud of my family and love them dearly, in fact I cherish them, and will long after I join the ancestors. No, I cannot even pretend to be a settler, not even to prolong my life and even if I did it would make no difference to the state who is occupying our territories, because with racial genocide nothing you do will alter the attitudes and beliefs of those who are the perpetrators or the state. Basically, assimilating to the dominant, oppressive, Aryan culture will not change your race; ergo assimilation will not save your life. It will, however, cost you your soul, which is too high a price to pay when it comes to your own racial extermination. Colonial Canada has established itself as very much active in the genocide of indigenous people, despite the cover-ups and denial that have caused most people, even some natives and the larger percentage of the settler population, to be unaware of this fact, or, due to the horrors of this reality, stay sane through its denial.
Admitting to or facing something as horrific as racial extermination is not easy for anyone, least of all me. Writing about my own experiences is in fact very difficult. However, allowing the truth to be continually swept under the rug will in no way alter that reality. Is it safe to assume, or even intelligent to believe, that what is being told to you is the truth, even though it contradicts what is occurring right before your eyes. Are the lies more cunningly told any more believable than the ones more commonly uttered? Are untruths and myths made any more factual based only on the quantity of voices repeating what they have been told of tale? Not at all. But from their point of view, putting a positive spin on genocide is not a very easy thing for even the greatest wordsmith to do, so best we just shh, keep that quiet, the economy may suffer if we don’t.
Secrets. I dislike secrets a great deal. The whole nefarious world has secrets, and relies on them to continue plaguing all life with destruction for economic reasons. And we keep these secrets, only because for the most part it is too dangerous to speak the truth or to cry out for help. Instead, we whisper in each others ears, which excludes many from ever knowing who preys upon the vulnerable in their communities. The children, the elderly, the disabled, women, men—it makes no difference when the mandate is ethnic cleansing.
The differences at times are subtle, indiscernible to the untrained or disinterested eye. The superior eye of course see things through their own narcissistic blinders, other times they see things that are vile, sensational and extreme but if ignored or discredited these things will eventually go away so things can get back to normal. Canada’s “normal” being getting our genocide back on track and progressing. I am a genocide survivor who is not Jewish, nor am I hundreds of years old. I am not even close to reaching one hundred years of age, and there is less chance of me living to that age than there is of my dying a violent death. These are the realities, not the myths.
So what then does genocide look like when not being perpetrated by Nazis and the SS? What does it look like when not on the television, edited and formatted for the viewers’ entertainment or pleasure, heroically portrayed by Hollywood’s finest actors, who are very willing, for money, to provide everyone with steady streams of indisputable evidence of all that is right and just in the world? This caters to its advertisers’ needs for money, nothing more. Genocide and racial cleansing are not known to generate much interest in car financing or electronics so don’t expect to see much footage on the subject, but do expect to see a great deal about money and its importance.
For those of you who are unaware, or kept in the dark due to systematic racial intolerance, I will tell you what genocide looks like. It looks like apathy. It looks like deliberate marginalization based on race. It looks just like Canada, the multicultural home to racial oppression, human rights violations and injustice in North America.
It looks like Timmy. Timmy is also not century old (this I can attest to because when I was a child not long ago so was he). He had the most amazing smile. Crooked teeth only made his face that much more handsome, and that smile made it easy to want to be his friend, to play with him, except by the age of ten Timmy was already incapable of playing—or much else. Before Timmy was transferred into the settler public school system he, as a status native, had been receiving his special privileges so he had been educated in a private school, unlike the common settler rabble. The special privileges are designed by Canada who assumes legal entitlement to natives by making them Canada’s wards. This is due to our racial inferiority and the privileges are kind of in lieu of rent on the property which colonial Canada now occupies.
Timmy’s privileged lifestyle meant that he had been kept as an inmate of the settler government on the remote Penelakut Island. The residential school on Kuper Island, as the settlers erroneously referred to it, first opened its doors 1890 and operated up until 1975. It is better known by its nickname, Alcatraz, due to its location and the fact that so many children drowned while trying to escape from the institution. Catholic-run under the watchful eye of the settler government, the inmates ages four and up were starved, beaten, raped, murdered, and tortured, many to death because their emaciated state made them wonderful subjects for Canada’s medical experiments. Of course, these private school educations that the modern multicultural settlers now accuse Natives of being ungrateful for (or in Canada-speak, ‘Taking the free educations we gave them and using them against us’) were funded by the slave labour of those students—another couple myths down the toilet.
Thirty percent of all the inmates who were condemned to exist at that institution did not survive the torture and abuse. They died. Was Timmy a survivor? No. He was technically alive, but his future after all that education was not looking too rosy. Have you ever met a person, a child, who had been so severely starved from an early age that their body and mind simply stopped developing?
Someone who was denied the right to grow, speak, interact or respond, to mature and have children of his own? This is the point of racial genocide. There are many like Timmy who I have met. It is extremely disturbing that a government would do such a thing, much less one that delights in condemning other people’s human rights violations despite the fact that they pale by comparison to Canada’s ongoing crimes. Calling them out on it also has no effect. The Chief Medical Officer of Indian Affairs, P.H. Bryce, called them out in 1907 when he saw what they were doing and how they were manipulating the records to cast the blame onto the parents. His book on the subject, titled The Story of A National Crime, was published in 1922 and sold for thirty-five cents a copy. It is now available free online for anyone who is interested in the truth. The fact is that none of this has been a secret, genocide is a cultural reality that many settlers accept and even justify to this day. If exposing the truth was all that was required to end the horrors then Timmy would have never been like that, he would have been healthy and happy. He attended one of those institutions fifty years after the first book exposing Canada’s deliberate abuse and slaughter of children was published.
Timmy was not his real name, his real name was unknown to me and is likely that no record of it exists, because the settler government began to destroy the school records in 1937. It is unlikely that anyone will ever know who he was. Timmy, you see, was not returned to his family. He was instead put into the care of a lonely, elderly, white spinster, which was not unusual. It still isn’t. Native children are still removed from their families and put into foster care, and are still often abused in those situations as well. The parents of the children who perished while receiving their special privileges never learned what happened to them. It is safe to assume that his family believes he is one of the many children who now lay in one of the mass graves at the school site or drowned in an attempt to escape. This is the norm. Many parents still have not found out what happened to their children, or whether they became grandparents and lost their grandchildren as well. Many of the girls who were raped in those institutions did bear children, and those babies were dispatched to hide the evidence. They did not hide Timmy though, not after what they did to him, because as he was he served Canada and settlers, he was evidence of their racial superiority and of our inability to take care of our own children without their generous ongoing help.
Dr. Bryce must have been a rare exception as a doctor back in those days. My own doctors, who operated half a century later, had much poorer attitudes towards healthcare and children than he did. Shortly after my birth, I became afflicted with a common baby malady: an intolerance to cows milk. Due to that simple problem I was incarcerated in the hospital for an extended period of time. My condition in the hospital has been described to me as wretched. I was uncared for and covered in bed sores. When my grandparents expressed concern about the open sores, they were promptly informed that the wounds could not be felt because I had no feelings. At that point they, along with all my family members, were banned from entering the hospital when I was a patient. This ban extended far beyond that initial hospital visit, and extended beyond my family members.
I can still clearly remember spending days, weeks, and months on end in that place, in total seclusion. The doctors or nurses would come to me, but did not often speak to me. They jabbed me, examined me, and left. During all those incarcerations I was not permitted to exit my room, or crib, if that was the only place they had for me. I spent many days confined to a crib at seven and eight years of age when I was shuffled out of the way when a non-native child was admitted. I was not allowed in the playroom, so I had to sate my boredom by watching while all the other sick children played with their family members who were encouraged to visit. Those people were not Indians, they were white and uncomfortable having us around. In those days segregation was common, still is actually.
In all that time I had two conversations. They were so unexpected and rare that to this day I remember them very well. One with a nurse who was trying to make me eat my hospital food, which was crap. She promised me pudding if I ate it all, so I did. My reward, the pudding, was far worse crap than the meal. I still remember the gross texture, taste, and my disappointment as that was the only offer of anything child-friendly I got there. Now I always refer to it as settler pudding, a lie, some blatant manipulation followed by a generous serving of crap as your reward. The second conversation I had was with a nice lady whose baby was occupying another crib. Her baby, unlike myself, fit the bed. She spent a lot of time up there with her baby, and my lack of company bothered her to the extent that she finally made the effort to make her way to my crib and visit me for a bit. On reflection, my lonely state aided those who deliberately and calculatedly harm us. By banning my native family members, they provided the anglo parents with evidence of the neglectful behaviour of native peoples, reinforcing their belief that the genocide is a wholesome and righteous act.
My ailments, whatever they were, where never disclosed to me or anyone else. My health is extremely poor, although I pay it no heed most of the time because being ill with an unknown problem that baffles medical people is not the most comforting position to be in. It is so bad here that often we turn away from ourselves, if only to remain sane in this multi-generational deliberate genocide.
The state and corporate paid media often spin the situations of at-risk people to appear as something that they, usually dead, must have surely created themselves. They should have known better or they would not be dead. Race and sex are both powerful elements in this colonial design, which they wield quite effectively. This is no surprise, the European elite mastered it through religion thousands of years before these colonizers ever stepped foot on our shores. It is a carefully crafted bias which colonial politicians use effectively. Can people who have not been permitted to be exposed to any other cultures can even hear them? Having nothing to compare their own culture to is a form of blindness that is very hard for the afflicted to remedy when it is so rampant and they have been taught to distrust and hate everything different from what their leaders tell them. They do not understand that the never-ending accusations and mudslinging that they believe is a proper democracy is little more than a corporate plutocracy. They could have easily looked to Iceland, an indigenous community of anglos who are not suffering like they are with the never ending enslavement to the capitalistic machine and elite. They instead prefer to blame us for their colonial reality, they blame us for the economic woes that their government creates and uses to justify their need to take more from everything and everyone. Their tax system was not created and is not managed by indigenous people. We don’t even have the right to raise our own children on our own land, to exercise our rights. We don’t even have human rights based on your government’s racist view points. Their own leader has stated that ‘human rights are a threat to democracy.’ One would think that would raise a little suspicion at least as to who they are allowing to control their life.
There is seemingly no practical point in creating biased spin against natives except to further bring about our extermination. Settlers are so incensed that their government treats natives differently—although they don’t know how or why—that they do not hesitate to inflict violence, often fatal, on any natives person they come across on the native territory they illegally occupy. Unprovoked, or government-provoked violence is common here. Be warned if you are not white; our territories are not safe for visitors. The sound of a bullet whizzing past my ear is another early childhood memory that I doubt many settler children have. I had been learning to fish. The shot was fired from across the lake from someone concealed in the forest. The bullet struck the water with a plop. I remember the ripples clearly, ripples that were first created by a colonial government determined to kill the Indians. Those words are in their own documents and the British Aryan Nation of North America is also found there. “Canada” is the theft of a native word that they use to describe their British Aryan Nation. Accidents do happen: had that person been a better shot, then I, too, would now be ‘just another dead Indian’ and the blame would have been mine somehow.
I bring history in to point out that this history is also present and alive today. This genocide is unlike the ones people understand better, the ones that rise up suddenly and are extinguished. Our genocide is past, present, and future because it has now gone on so long that it is accepted as rational or just the way things are and have to be. Many settlers and natives accept it because they were brought up with it. To them it is normal, unhealthy and destructive, but normal. The settlers who call themselves ‘white men’ do not want to look at what is going on because it is extremely unpleasant and they have grown used to nice, gentle, positive consumer messages. Natives cannot look because that only brings us more despair and hopelessness. The potential for suicide is another reality that has to be considered. In fact, I just found out that three days ago that another beautiful young person took their own life. Again, this is our normal. The onus is on the settlers to look. It is not up to us to tell them. They need to free themselves and learn to think for themselves, to become human beings again, not higher status slaves to oppression.
Violence and abuse has been a huge component in my existence and such accepted practice that it was not until I was in my early 20s that anyone bothered to even try to inform me that there were laws that prevented people from assaulting each other. That was news to me. That was my normal, and their reality was not much different—less, due to racism—but they, too, had suffered assaults that had not been addressed or remedied. The settler who told me that this was against the law was correct. The law somehow made them feel safe, except they refused to acknowledge that laws are applied on a sliding scale and never on my and many other people’s behalf due to their race, sex, or position in society. I am not a criminal. I behave in a moral, respectful manner towards all life. Technically, I break their laws constantly, but what I do is harmless; the laws I apply for myself are those of my own people not theirs. Even in their system I have no criminal record. My own arrests have been due to civil orders, they are deliberate violations of my rights as the inherited land owner, allowing businesses to remove resources from my territory against my expressed consent. Arresting natives for resisting the theft and destruction of their property is not a simple matter—they constantly have to break their own laws to do it—but they seem to have no problem managing it. The process is stupid: the province decides to sell some of your forest without your knowledge or consent. You object, as it is technically your land. You are arrested. You are released. You then have to go to court to have the charges dismissed because they are in violation of your rights and should not have been pressed in the first place. The fact that the police, judges, lawyers, and government agents conspired to create the illegal civil order in the first place is never addressed. Actually, I don’t know what they talk about at those trials, I never bother attending. No justice is ever served, it is all just a corporate subsidy. On criminal matters, however, they are very lax and prioritize their responses by their busy schedules: “Sorry, we can’t help you with that assault. We have a pre-scheduled appointment on behalf of the economy. You should be getting yourself to the hospital anyway, you are bleeding all over the place.” That is the response for non-native peoples. With native peoples who have been assaulted, it is often: “Hey, come back here. I noticed that they missed a few spots.” There is plenty of evidence of police assaulting native peoples: beatings, sexual assaults, starlight tours, the list is endless and because there are no repercussions for this, it continues today. Not knowing this can cost you your life if you are native. Reporting crimes is risky. Many people have gone in to report an assault only to be arrested. This behaviour, too, has been documented and sometimes is even reported in the press, but only if it is horrific and will sell media time and advertising. Depending on the level of nastiness, books, plays, and movies could bring in even more revenue. After we become dead Indians they pick apart our corpses because there is still a little more left to take and put in their own pockets. The true crime entertainment business is in no way suffering from a lack of consumers or material in the modern free world where whatever is good for the economy is the only thing that matters.
As the result of the police’s refusal to enforce the law and investigate and charge people who have assaulted other people, I have had those people come to me for shelter and protection instead, people whose faces are bloody messes, yet have been turned away and denied not only police aid but any other aid such as medical assistance or shelter as well. Finding themselves just sent back out and still in fear of whomever it was who hurt them, they come to me and stay with me until the violent party has had time to cool down and it is safe for them to be out again. Usually three days is adequate, depending on the nature of the problem. Actually, now that I reflect back a bit, I have done a considerable amount of policing on behalf of the people they are supposed to be aiding, and for no remuneration. I have broken up brawls, prevented assaults, corrected the behaviour of sexually deviant males, aided people in distress, helped temporarily homeless human beings re-establish themselves in securer, more fulfilling environments, simply because it needed to be done. However, I do not racially exclude anyone from this. The non-native people are extremely shocked, declaring that no one had ever done such a thing on their behalf before, not even the people their government pays to do it, pays with the money generated from the stolen resources from my people’s land. The truth is, the people being paid to take care of other people would probably arrest me for doing their job of helping people because that steals from the white man, instead of doing what they are supposed to, which is to do their job and respect my cultural rights. (These rights go beyond harvesting and hunting; culturally we take care of everyone and everything.) This does happen. They have created laws specifically prohibiting indigenous people from competing with them in the labour and resource market, which effectively set the norm in modern hiring practices. This took some time and effort as many of the settlers did not hate natives, that had to be ingrained first. Simply doing the opposite, creating a law in order to make amends while painting natives as the enemy, accomplishes nothing. Racists do not simply stop being racists because a law was created. They simply ignore the law, beyond complaining about it, and continue their racist hiring practices, because that is how it is done in the mythological land known as Canada. If natives find employment it is because the employer has chosen that person, not because of any laws—even many in the government still discriminate when hiring.
The fact people chose myths over facts is very concerning. The foolish narcissism of adopting this attitude is not only detrimental to the people you choose to put beneath you and stomp on, it is also detrimental to yourself, your family, and those who are yet to come. People determined to believe that Canada is legit and perfectly wonderful in order to fulfill their mandate of feeling happy always at all costs to everyone else, blind themselves to the truth. The truth is, whether you like it or not, that the failure to recognize and see the truth can kill you. We all have to die anyway; I have almost expired more than a few times. Death is inevitable, that is, unchangeable. How we appreciate the gift that is our life by using it is our decision. We have the ability to change a lot of things, including our lives and our deaths to some extent. We can chose how we do not want to die, we can put a little effort into that I think: we can chose not to allow ourselves to be poisoned by businesses, industries, drug companies, doctors, and food-producing industries. We can also chose not to be killed by mentally ill people who are not receiving treatment or support. We can choose not to be killed by members of other racial groups who are supposed to be our enemies. We can choose not to be killed by the gangs who are taking advantage of corrupt systems and unhealthy social conditions for profit (they are not all on the street either). We can choose not to be killed by state police agents or military who are being paid to protect us. We can choose not to fall prey to a sexual deviant or predator, of whom there are many alive and operating in the land of myths.
Very recently, Maryanne Pearce published a book titled An Awkward Silence: Missing and Murdered Vulnerable Women and the Canadian Justice System. She took this task on herself, researching and compiling a database of all murdered and missing people in Canada. She now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, which she should, she took the onus and learned the truth, and these truths have to be known. The reality that Canada is a safe place is another myth. There are currently many dangerous and violent people wandering around free and at large and no effort is being put into apprehending or imprisoning them. This I was already well aware of, because the predators know that native and other minority women are marginalized by Canada, which means we are excluded from receiving the same rights, protection, and benefits many do receive only because of their race. For many years now, voices have risen in protest stating that there are six hundred missing or murdered native females who the police and government do nothing about because we are excluded. Six hundred missing or murdered is astronomical if you consider we are only two percent of the population that Canada claims to be responsible for. The number of six hundred was provided by an organization that Canada shut down in 2010 in response to the this fact coming out. Canada and the police have publicly denied this. Maryanne Pearce’s database proves there is now 824 missing or murdered native women, which means from 2010 to 2013 at least 224 more native women and girls were allowed to be murdered due to the Canadian government and their police agents’ deliberate attempts to sweep the problem back under their rug of nasty.
Even the United Nations condemned Canada for this ongoing crime. Canada’s response at the last crown speech? They stick by their prostitution laws. Of the 824 missing or murdered, she discovered that 659 were not prostitutes. Some were high school students, some even younger; many were young mothers, many were university students. The government, police, and media always apply the standard racist, colonial-logic formula (native + female = prostitute), claiming that consent was given for all abuse and violence, so these women had it coming. This is the same formula the police and the judicial system apply to any violence perpetrated against any indigenous woman or child. The male formula differs slightly (native + male = drug and alcohol crazed savage). He was the instigator of the violence, so had it coming. This is law by stereotypes, or “We reserve the right to judge any person who has been savagely violated and murdered based on our biased racist criteria before addressing the behaviour of the criminal who committed the crime, no matter how heinous the act.”
Only six were murdered by their significant others, which is quite low and deviates from the norm with non-natives. Thus, we dispose of the myth that it is native males who perpetrate the crimes. I do know more than a few native men. It is true that we have been subjected to never-ending streams of sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse from the colonial occupiers, which has resulted in us having numerous friends and family members who are now suffering with severe emotional and trauma issues. This will happen when the priest or foster daddy routinely shoves it in you from an early age in order to demonstrate what his god/culture thinks of your race.
Unless they have assimilated to ‘white culture,’ which is brought about through torture, I have no fear of native men. I actually admire them a great deal to have endured that and still come out of it sound, wonderful, and supportive. Native men are good men. They respect and admire us as well, something people who identify as being ‘white’ do not comprehend. Their culture does not promote equality between the sexes and they accept that as natural.
So what Maryanne Pearce discovered was that there are currently a large number of killers and more serial killers free and at large in Canada. The RCMP and police show little interest in the problem which everyone should be well aware of by now. Maryanne Pearce’s findings were used by several journalists to compose stories expressing the urgency of the problem. More than a few people are condemning those stories for being racist because they are not about white women who have been murdered. Dead white woman syndrome is a reality for racist cultures: twenty-seven times more news coverage is rewarded to missing white females than to missing native women and children. The deliberate racial bias in the coverage is also significant in that missing white females receive heartfelt, positive and impassioned coverage, designed to get that person back to their loved ones safely, whereas native females and girls who go missing get little more than “Missing native female, age, missing from, missing since and oh yeah did we mention she is brown?” Mug shots taken from previous arrests, if available, are the preferred images that accompany these messages. Many self-described ‘white’ people are now complaining about all the racism they have to endure because of these news stories. It is so tragic how these ‘white people’ have to suffer from so much racism which is due to the fact that other races do still exist and some journalists, especially Caucasians, actually have the audacity to remind them that there are still natives actually living on the territories they have been occupying. The very idea must chill them to the core: if that is true then there may even be other kinds of brown people out there too. Oh, will the horrors never end?
Maryanne Pearce’s work does include all women. She, like many people, had had enough of the vile racist, toxic attitudes within the Canadian government, police, judicial system and far too many of the settlers who continue to deliberately and remorselessly pursue their god-given right to harm the people whose lands they continue to occupy. I thank her for having the courage to to stand up and say, “Although I did not begin this, that is not the point. I am still a part of it and do want this to end.” The reality that over two percent of native women and girls in this population are being slaughtered indicates that racism is a serious factor behind this. This is very important to be aware of, especially when the foundation of your society and your claim to our territories is based upon ethnic cleansing.
Not every Caucasian who was born on our territories is a racist, despite the government and media’s continued anti-native propaganda. In fact, a steady growing number are beginning to stand up against it. Not every Caucasian wants the blood of innocent people on their hands, or on their conscience. No one should be comfortable with any government that sees human rights as a threat to democracy, or as something that is only given to those they allow to have them. One day you too may earn yourself or one of your grandchildren some of the ‘special privileges’ we have been receiving from your government. No one is immune to violence and horrors just by their superiority complex and lack of empathy for others. Even the self-described white people can just as easily be taken unawares, actually more easily due to their insisting on wearing ass hats. Whether or not you are the one who is subjected to being physically restrained, vilely and sickly tortured, raped, degraded, and slaughtered in order to sate a sadist’s urge depends not upon you, but upon them, they chose the prey. A high percentage of predators are racists, being that Canada is a racist culture, but some predators are ego-based. For them, whites are more suitable because they get the bonus of all that publicity. Many are opportunists, watching, waiting for the right moment. Only they define who they are and only they know what they need as far as a victim goes, what kind of suffering will sate their desires.
The predators who have been caught are primarily white males and strangers to their victim, Sometimes they even work in teams; four men gang-raped and murdered a young student. Only one of them, years later, received a five-year jail term. The racial motive has been repeated by killers and serial killers repeatedly. The response by police and the justice system is racist but what is all this racism actually achieving? Canada is condemning children and young women to death because of their race. Their handling of the long term violent sexual offenders is shrouded in secrecy. The names, charges and sentences are all kept hidden under legal publication bans. They selectively chose who the public is allowed to know about and that is a very rarely done. They have the power to allow the public to know if the person they are releasing is still a threat to the community, which means it is likely that the racist killers’ releases are not ever disclosed. They also take great pains to cover up the truth about the deaths of native children whom they have removed from their parents’ care and placed into foster care. This is another high-risk factor that is behind the missing and murdered native girls phenomenon. The criminals are often not even known to the victims in racially-motivated attacks. How are young girls, 13, 14, 15 years of age, who have been removed from their families and placed in strange communities for educational purposes, supposed to protect themselves from sadistic sex killers?
Youth and young women are targeted because they are naive, friendly, and their innocence makes them easy prey, but that is okay with Canada. There have been documented and published cases like that of a young native woman who was forced into sexual solicitation and the police being aware for over a year that the pimp was advertising her over the internet. They even arrested him for assaulting a male and recorded him threatening her on their jail system. They knowingly allowed him to force her to continue selling her body in order to pay his fines and provide him with canteen money for months. Not only did they not intervene, but the prison system and judicial system took the money. They knowingly accepted money generated from the forced sexual exploitation of a minor child. When they released the pimp after his fines were paid off, he physically assaulted the girl in the jail parking lot before driving home. They did nothing until a member of the public who saw the extent of the injuries on that child’s face phoned to log a complaint. Only then did they decide to obey the law. This was published in the mainstream press but publish any story about a native, the accusations against natives, and defense of the RCMP, and other police agencies rise up in a clamour. Clearly, the secrets have a purpose and the laws are deliberately ignored by police and the justice system. What happens when a child is sexually abused like many native children still are in their foster care or group homes where the state places them? They are severely traumatized and without support turn to drugs and alcohol, and prostitute themselves so they can afford their relief. By being forced down this path by the systematic racism that defines Canada, they eventually end up as bait for the steady stream of sexual predators and sadists.
Janet Henry, one of the many missing women and girls, is from the KwaKawQueWak Nation. She had two loving parents, her father was employed full time in fishing and logging, and they were living happily on their traditional territory until the Canadian government seized Henry and her siblings and placed them into the residential schools or foster care homes. While in foster care, she was abducted and drugged but not murdered for reasons only known to serial killer Clifford Olson, who slaughtered many children. One of her sisters was also murdered and another sibling committed suicide. Despite this, she finished high school, became a hairdresser, married, had a child. When her name was put on the missing persons list for women who disappeared from the DTES Salish Territory, it was assumed she was just another prostitute who fell victim to the pig cannibal killer Robert Pickton. However, no evidence has ever been found of her whereabouts or remains. It is quite likely yet another unknown serial killer took her life, or perhaps she is just vanished for her own protection; that also happens.
Three times in my life I have had encounters with known and released violent offenders, one of whom worked as a performer for children. That encounter for me was not traumatic; he tried to scare me, failed, and because I was clearly not frightened, simply went away kind of scared himself. It was not until a couple of days later, when I told my employer, that I found out how nasty he really was. She repeated the story to a female neighbour who he had attacked and violently assaulted years before, who had a severe PTSD attack just hearing that he was residing in the area. It kind of made me wish I had known his identity before. Then the police showed up. I hate those guys. They were annoying, but they seemed to be aware of his potential for violence, although did not confess anything to me.
The second violent offender I encountered had done time for breaking and entering a couple’s home and threatening them with a hand gun. He began showing up wherever I would; after work I rode a bicycle for a bit to the store, then out for dinner and he clearly knew my schedule. He found out where I lived, knocked on the door, and pretended he had been looking for my neighbour. I was not amused and sent him away. After telling the neighbour (who had not invited him over), and that same neighbour overhearing his conversations in the pub about me, let’s just say the boys got together and went to have a talk with him. Whatever was said stopped him.
The most recent offender I encountered, however, is by far the worst. He is a confirmed, listed sexual predator who has been convicted many times of sexual assault, assault, and also of sexual assault of a minor. His first juvenile conviction was for attempted murder. His famous attempted murder charge (which he got off) included several assaults of people with a weapon and unlawful confinement. The intended victim was thrown from a third story window into a dumpster, which saved his life. Fortunately for that person the police showed up just in time. The man was unknown to me when I first encountered him. I was unaware at that time that I was not unknown to him. When I refused his invitations to spend more time with him, he physically grabbed me and began to force his intentions on me in a busy public park. I had to force him off of me which was not easy. During our grapple apparently my elbow struck his penis and that was taken by him as consent. That was the beginning of my long game of cat and mouse with potentially deadly consequences for my children who he has promised to have sent to me a piece at a time. He is not posturing. I was watched constantly for well over two years, I was sexually assaulted more than I like to remember, and this has been the first male I have ever come across who could best me. Of course, I am getting old now, always have been physically challenged due to my early childhood illnesses, and he is twice my size. The scope of bizarre and twisted things that have taken place is beyond belief. Eventually he did find out where I lived. My neighbours witnessed and called emergency services because they feared for my life. He had a habit of shouting threats in front of my home in public, some of these episodes woke the whole neighbourhood. Despite the fact that he was on probation and had a restraining order against him from another woman, as well as being classified as a serial sexual predator, they refused to arrest him. They also decided that I really had no grounds for fear: why should a one-hundred-pound, ill, middle-aged woman fear a younger, two-hundred-pound, fit, athletic sexual offender after all? I had been suffering from pneumonia that day, which tends to happen sometimes due to whatever is wrong with me. I found myself alone with a family to protect, so we left the city and went into hiding for a few days to give him a cool down and eliminate the potential for murder.
Upon returning, I found I still had an amorous, potentially deadly admirer but now was also being harassed by police. The next thing that happened is that the police came and hauled me in for questioning about my ‘husband.’ They call him my husband. I have never been married and he was on probation from charges stemming from an incident with his wife which had occurred not even five months before. Finally, they told me that they would provide me with a no contact order. I wondered just how many women in the area that I was not aware of also had one. The loud public verbal threats continued, people witnessed him trying to enter my home on several occasions. They witnessed him hiding under my stairs in the early hours and after dark. I recorded the times and dates for several calls which came from his residence and provided them to police who made up excuses that were false as to why they could not be used as evidence of breaches against my no contact order. They basically put the onus on me to prove to them that he was in fact the party on the other end of the phone. My word alone was not enough evidence. Then, they literally tried to convince me to speak to him, which is absolutely the wrong thing to do with stalking and harassment situations.
He is an erotomaniac. One does not engage with an erotomaniac. The point of a non-contact order is not to have contact with the mentally disturbed individual because that will only make matters worse, but apparently the experts are not aware of this. Not long after, strangers were approaching me on his behalf, neighbours started receiving phone calls and having their windows knocked on, more midnight threats came, along with more harassment from police trying to pry into the sexual assault business. The man, as I saw on his record, is charged annually. He gets off on the rough sex defense. They know he is a rapist and stalker and all they want to do is get me to tell them about the sex bits, like that is not creepy. Eventually, because he was now harassing my neighbourhood and everyone was pretty much terrified I moved my family out of the city far away. Three months after I moved, the police found out where I was and called, not to see how I was or if I was alive, but because they had a warrant for his arrest stemming from the initial 911 calls that were made on my behalf by several people. What they wanted to know is if I could tell them where he was presently, very comforting. Sexual offenders are supposed to be supervised. They are supposed to report their addresses, working locations, car, and all other information that the police require, and his probation officer was supposed to have that information also. He did some time. Around six months later, I found out that my new home was now under police surveillance, which was kind of an obvious give away as to our location in the community, it was quite rural. I confirmed he was again at large, the surveillance continued, the RCMP kept coming to question me, but would not tell me what it was all about so we moved again, and again. That was a few years ago, we have had to completely disappear, to leave the community where we had lives and friends, to create new lives while he continues to terrify those people. But I guess at least they got rid of a few more Indians. There are children and people back there who relied on me to take care of them and now I can no longer do that. That is what hurts the most.
The male does not worry me as much as the police. When the whole business began, I did as I always do, I went to the library and researched the problem thoroughly, and I am very glad I did. What I learned, written by a police officer from the US who did not have anything nice to say about his colleagues in this area, prepared me for not only what the pursuer was doing but also how the police would fail. His advice did save a life, that I will attest to. But the police’s attempts to get me to engage with the stalker were very disturbing. They were trying to set me up and put myself at risk by encouraging me to talk to him and they had a twisted interest in trying to get me to speak about sexual assaults. I did search out and find the procedures manual they are supposed to use in situations like this. They clearly did the opposite, so basically I have to wonder how many other native women have been set up by the police? And one final note: there is a name on the list of missing and murdered women which was brought to my attention by a certain admirer several times. I haven’t read the new one through, I wonder if my name is on it now too. I have gone missing, but once again my death is actually a myth, only because I am one of the very few lucky ones.
This has to stop. No person, especially a child, should be allowed to be tortured, much less slaughtered, for the betterment of the economy. Please do not buy stolen native resources, do not buy from Canada. I do not want my grandchildren to endure what we have had to suffer for so many generations. We need sanctions now!
The Dark Mountain Manifesto
We have published an excerpted version of this manifesto with the hope that we were faithful to the tone and intent of it, here it appears in its entirety. Dark Mountain is a literary group based in the UK that is arguing for a kind of /dark ecology/ that is pessimistic towards activist approaches to “saving the environment” and optimistic about the possibility of us telling stories to each other. You can learn more about them at http://dark-mountain.net/
These grand and fatal movements toward death: the grandeur of the mass
Makes pity a fool, the tearing pity
For the atoms of the mass, the persons, the victims, makes it seem monstrous
To admire the tragic beauty they build.
It is beautiful as a river flowing or a slowly gathering
Glacier on a high mountain rock-face,
Bound to plow down a forest, or as frost in November,
The gold and flaming death-dance for leaves,
Or a girl in the night of her spent maidenhood, bleeding and kissing.
I would burn my right hand in a slow fire
To change the future … I should do foolishly. The beauty of modern
Man is not in the persons but in the
Disastrous rhythm, the heavy and mobile masses, the dance of the
Dream-led masses down the dark mountain.
— Robinson Jeffers, 1935
I: WALKING ON LAVA
<quote> The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilisation.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Those who witness extreme social collapse at first hand seldom describe any deep revelation about the truths of human existence. What they do mention, if asked, is their surprise at how easy it is to die.
The pattern of ordinary life, in which so much stays the same from one day to the next, disguises the fragility of its fabric. How many of our activities are made possible by the impression of stability that pattern gives? So long as it repeats, or varies steadily enough, we are able to plan for tomorrow as if all the things we rely on and don’t think about too care- fully will still be there. When the pattern is broken, by civil war or natu- ral disaster or the smaller-scale tragedies that tear at its fabric, many of those activities become impossible or meaningless, while simply meeting needs we once took for granted may occupy much of our lives.
What war correspondents and relief workers report is not only the fragility of the fabric, but the speed with which it can unravel. As we write this, no one can say with certainty where the unravelling of the financial and commercial fabric of our economies will end. Meanwhile, beyond the cities, unchecked industrial exploitation frays the material basis of life in many parts of the world, and pulls at the ecological systems which sustain it.
Precarious as this moment may be, however, an awareness of the fragility of what we call civilisation is nothing new.
‘Few men realise,’ wrote Joseph Conrad in 1896, ‘that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings.’ Conrad’s writings exposed the civilisation exported by European imperialists to be little more than a comforting illusion, not only in the dark, unconquerable heart of Africa, but in the whited sepulchres of their capital cities. The inhabitants of that civilisation believed ‘blindly in the irresistible force of its institutions and its morals, in the power of its police and of its opinion,’ but their confidence could be maintained only by the seeming solidity of the crowd of like-minded believers surrounding them. Outside the walls, the wild remained as close to the surface as blood under skin, though the city-dweller was no longer equipped to face it directly.
Bertrand Russell caught this vein in Conrad’s worldview, suggesting that the novelist ‘thought of civilised and morally tolerable human life as a dangerous walk on a thin crust of barely cooled lava which at any moment might break and let the unwary sink into fiery depths.’ What both Russell and Conrad were getting at was a simple fact which any historian could confirm: human civilisation is an intensely fragile con- struction. It is built on little more than belief: belief in the rightness of its values; belief in the strength of its system of law and order; belief in its currency; above all, perhaps, belief in its future.
Once that belief begins to crumble, the collapse of a civilisation may become unstoppable. That civilisations fall, sooner or later, is as much a law of history as gravity is a law of physics. What remains after the fall is a wild mixture of cultural debris, confused and angry people whose certainties have betrayed them, and those forces which were always there, deeper than the foundations of the city walls: the desire to survive and the desire for meaning.
It is, it seems, our civilisation’s turn to experience the inrush of the savage and the unseen; our turn to be brought up short by contact with untamed reality. There is a fall coming. We live in an age in which familiar restraints are being kicked away, and foundations snatched from under us. After a quarter century of complacency, in which we were invited to believe in bubbles that would never burst, prices that would never fall, the end of history, the crude repackaging of the triumphalism of Conrad’s Victorian twilight — Hubris has been introduced to Nemesis. Now a familiar human story is being played out. It is the story of an empire corroding from within. It is the story of a people who believed, for a long time, that their actions did not have consequences. It is the story of how that people will cope with the crumbling of their own myth. It is our story.
This time, the crumbling empire is the unassailable global economy, and the brave new world of consumer democracy being forged worldwide in its name. Upon the indestructibility of this edifice we have pinned the hopes of this latest phase of our civilisation. Now, its failure and fallibility exposed, the world’s elites are scrabbling frantically to buoy up an economic machine which, for decades, they told us needed little restraint, for restraint would be its undoing. Uncountable sums of money are being funnelled upwards in order to prevent an uncontrolled explosion. The machine is stuttering and the engineers are in panic. They are wondering if perhaps they do not understand it as well as they imagined. They are wondering whether they are controlling it at all or whether, perhaps, it is controlling them.
Increasingly, people are restless. The engineers group themselves into competing teams, but neither side seems to know what to do, and neither seems much different from the other. Around the world, discontent can be heard. The extremists are grinding their knives and moving in as the machine’s coughing and stuttering exposes the inadequacies of the political oligarchies who claimed to have everything in hand. Old gods are rearing their heads, and old answers: revolution, war, ethnic strife. Politics as we have known it totters, like the machine it was built to sustain. In its place could easily arise something more elemental, with a dark heart.
As the financial wizards lose their powers of levitation, as the politicians and economists struggle to conjure new explanations, it starts to dawn on us that behind the curtain, at the heart of the Emerald City, sits not the benign and omnipotent invisible hand we had been promised, but something else entirely. Something responsible for what Marx, writing not so long before Conrad, cast as the ‘everlasting uncertainty and anguish’ of the ‘bourgeois epoch’; a time in which ‘all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.’ Draw back the curtain, follow the tireless motion of cogs and wheels back to its source, and you will find the engine driving our civilisation: the myth of progress.
The myth of progress is to us what the myth of god-given warrior prowess was to the Romans, or the myth of eternal salvation was to the conquistadors: without it, our efforts cannot be sustained. Onto the root stock of Western Christianity, the Enlightenment at its most optimistic grafted a vision of an Earthly paradise, towards which human effort guided by calculative reason could take us. Following this guidance, each generation will live a better life than the life of those that went before it. History becomes an escalator, and the only way is up. On the top floor is human perfection. It is important that this should remain just out of reach in order to sustain the sensation of motion.
Recent history, however, has given this mechanism something of a battering. The past century too often threatened a descent into hell, rather than the promised heaven on Earth. Even within the prosperous and liberal societies of the West progress has, in many ways, failed to deliver the goods. Today’s generation are demonstrably less content, and consequently less optimistic, than those that went before. They work longer hours, with less security, and less chance of leaving behind the social back- ground into which they were born. They fear crime, social breakdown, overdevelopment, environmental collapse. They do not believe that the future will be better than the past. Individually, they are less constrained by class and convention than their parents or grandparents, but more constrained by law, surveillance, state proscription and personal debt. Their physical health is better, their mental health more fragile. Nobody knows what is coming. Nobody wants to look.
Most significantly of all, there is an underlying darkness at the root of everything we have built. Outside the cities, beyond the blurring edges of our civilisation, at the mercy of the machine but not under its control, lies something that neither Marx nor Conrad, Caesar nor Hume, Thatcher nor Lenin ever really understood. Something that Western civilisation — which has set the terms for global civilisation—was never capable of understanding, because to understand it would be to undermine, fatally, the myth of that civilisation. Something upon which that thin crust of lava is balanced; which feeds the machine and all the people who run it, and which they have all trained themselves not to see.
II: THE SEVERED HAND
Then what is the answer? Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know that great civilisations have broken down into violence,
and their tyrants come, many times before.
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose
the least ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one’s own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted
and not wish for evil; and not be duped
By dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will
not be fulfilled.
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear
the whole remains beautiful. A severed hand
Is an ugly thing and man dissevered from the earth and stars
and his history … for contemplation or in fact …
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness,
the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty
of the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions,
or drown in despair when his days darken.
— Robinson Jeffers, ‘The Answer’
The myth of progress is founded on the myth of nature. The first tells us that we are destined for greatness; the second tells us that greatness is cost-free. Each is intimately bound up with the other. Both tell us that we are apart from the world; that we began grunting in the primeval swamps, as a humble part of something called ‘nature’, which we have now triumphantly subdued. The very fact that we have a word for ‘nature’ is  evidence that we do not regard ourselves as part of it. Indeed, our separation from it is a myth integral to the triumph of our civilisation. We are, we tell ourselves, the only species ever to have attacked nature and won. In this, our unique glory is contained.
Outside the citadels of self-congratulation, lone voices have cried out against this infantile version of the human story for centuries, but it is only in the last few decades that its inaccuracy has become laughably apparent. We are the first generations to grow up surrounded by evidence that our attempt to separate ourselves from ‘nature’ has been a grim failure, proof not of our genius but our hubris. The attempt to sever the hand from the body has endangered the ‘progress’ we hold so dear, and it has endangered much of ‘nature’ too. The resulting upheaval underlies the crisis we now face.
We imagined ourselves isolated from the source of our existence. The fallout from this imaginative error is all around us: a quarter of the world’s mammals are threatened with imminent extinction; an acre and a half of rainforest is felled every second; 75% of the world’s fish stocks are on the verge of collapse; humanity consumes 25% more of the world’s natural ‘products’ than the Earth can replace — a figure predicted to rise to 80% by mid-century. Even through the deadening lens of statistics, we can glimpse the violence to which our myths have driven us.
And over it all looms runaway climate change. Climate change, which threatens to render all human projects irrelevant; which presents us with detailed evidence of our lack of understanding of the world we inhabit while, at the same time, demonstrating that we are still entirely reliant upon it. Climate change, which highlights in painful colour the head-on crash between civilisation and ‘nature’; which makes plain, more effectively than any carefully constructed argument or optimistically defiant protest, how the machine’s need for permanent growth will require us to destroy ourselves in its name. Climate change, which brings home at last our ultimate powerlessness.
These are the facts, or some of them. Yet facts never tell the whole story. (‘Facts’, Conrad wrote, in Lord Jim, ‘as if facts could prove anything.’) The facts of environmental crisis we hear so much about often conceal as much as they expose. We hear daily about the impacts of our activities on ‘the environment’ (like ‘nature’, this is an expression which distances us from the reality of our situation). Daily we hear, too, of the many ‘solutions’ to these problems: solutions which usually involve the necessity of urgent political agreement and a judicious application of human technological genius. Things may be changing, runs the narrative, but there is nothing we cannot deal with here, folks. We perhaps need to move faster, more urgently. Certainly we need to accelerate the pace of research and development. We accept that we must become more ‘sustainable’. But everything will be fine. There will still be growth, there will still be progress: these things will continue, because they have to continue, so they cannot do anything but continue. There is nothing to see here. Everything will be fine.
We do not believe that everything will be fine. We are not even sure, based on current definitions of progress and improvement, that we want it to be. Of all humanity’s delusions of difference, of its separation from and superiority to the living world which surrounds it, one distinction holds up better than most: we may well be the first species capable of effectively eliminating life on Earth. This is a hypothesis we seem intent on putting to the test. We are already responsible for denuding the world of much of its richness, magnificence, beauty, colour and magic, and we show no sign of slowing down. For a very long time, we imagined that ‘nature’ was something that happened elsewhere. The damage we did to it might be regrettable, but needed to be weighed against the benefits here and now. And in the worst case scenario, there would always be some kind of Plan B. Perhaps we would make for the moon, where we could survive in lunar colonies under giant bubbles as we planned our expansion across the galaxy.
But there is no Plan B and the bubble, it turns out, is where we have been living all the while. The bubble is that delusion of isolation under which we have laboured for so long. The bubble has cut us off from life on the only planet we have, or are ever likely to have. The bubble is civilisation.
Consider the structures on which that bubble has been built. Its foundations are geological: coal, oil, gas — millions upon millions of years of ancient sunlight, dragged from the depths of the planet and burned with abandon. On this base, the structure stands. Move upwards, and you pass through a jumble of supporting horrors: battery chicken sheds; industrial abattoirs; burning forests; beam-trawled ocean floors; dynamited reefs; hollowed-out mountains; wasted soil. Finally, on top of all these unseen layers, you reach the well-tended surface where you and I stand: unaware, or uninterested, in what goes on beneath us; demanding that the authorities keep us in the manner to which we have been accustomed; occasion- ally feeling twinges of guilt that lead us to buy organic chickens or locally-produced lettuces; yet for the most part glutted, but not sated, on the fruits of the horrors on which our lifestyles depend.
We are the first generations born into a new and unprecedented age — the age of ecocide. To name it thus is not to presume the outcome, but simply to describe a process which is underway. The ground, the sea, the air, the elemental backdrops to our existence — all these our economics has taken for granted, to be used as a bottomless tip, endlessly able to dilute and disperse the tailings of our extraction, production, consumption. The sheer scale of the sky or the weight of a swollen river makes it hard to imagine that creatures as flimsy as you and I could do that much damage. Philip Larkin gave voice to this attitude, and the creeping, worrying end of it in his poem Going, Going:
Things are tougher than we are, just
As earth will always respond
However we mess it about;
Chuck filth in the sea, if you must:
The tides will be clean beyond.
– But what do I feel now? Doubt?
Nearly forty years on from Larkin’s words, doubt is what all of us seem to feel, all of the time. Too much filth has been chucked in the sea and into the soil and into the atmosphere to make any other feeling sensible. The doubt, and the facts, have paved the way for a worldwide movement of environmental politics, which aimed, at least in its early, raw form, to challenge the myths of development and progress head-on. But time has not been kind to the greens. Today’s environmentalists are more likely to be found at corporate conferences hymning the virtues of ‘sustainability’ and ‘ethical consumption’ than doing anything as naive as questioning the intrinsic values of civilisation. Capitalism has absorbed the greens, as it absorbs so many challenges to its ascendancy. A radical challenge to the human machine has been transformed into yet another opportunity for shopping.
‘Denial’ is a hot word, heavy with connotations. When it is used to brand the remaining rump of climate change sceptics, they object noisily to the association with those who would rewrite the history of the Holocaust. Yet the focus on this dwindling group may serve as a distraction from a far larger form of denial, in its psychoanalytic sense. Freud wrote of the inability of people to hear things which did not fit with the way they saw themselves and the world. We put ourselves through all kinds of inner contortions, rather than look plainly at those things which challenge our fundamental understanding of the world.
Today, humanity is up to its neck in denial about what it has built, what it has become — and what it is in for. Ecological and economic collapse unfold before us and, if we acknowledge them at all, we act as if this were a temporary problem, a technical glitch. Centuries of hubris block our ears like wax plugs; we cannot hear the message which reality is screaming at us. For all our doubts and discontents, we are still wired to an idea of his- tory in which the future will be an upgraded version of the present. The assumption remains that things must continue in their current direction: the sense of crisis only smudges the meaning of that ‘must’. No longer a natural inevitability, it becomes an urgent necessity: we must find a way to go on having supermarkets and superhighways. We cannot contemplate the alternative.
And so we find ourselves, all of us together, poised trembling on the edge of a change so massive that we have no way of gauging it. None of us knows where to look, but all of us know not to look down. Secretly, we all think we are doomed: even the politicians think this; even the environmentalists. Some of us deal with it by going shopping. Some deal with it by hoping it is true. Some give up in despair. Some work frantically to try and fend off the coming storm.
Our question is: what would happen if we looked down? Would it be as bad as we imagine? What might we see? Could it even be good for us?
We believe it is time to look down.
Without mystery, without curiosity and without the form imposed by a partial answer, there can be no stories—only confessions, com- muniqués, memories and fragments of autobiographical fantasy which for the moment pass as novels.
— John Berger, ‘A Story for Aesop’, from Keeping a Rendezvous
If we are indeed teetering on the edge of a massive change in how we live, in how human society itself is constructed, and in how we relate to the rest of the world, then we were led to this point by the stories we have told ourselves — above all, by the story of civilisation.
This story has many variants, religious and secular, scientific, economic and mystic. But all tell of humanity’s original transcendence of its animal beginnings, our growing mastery over a ‘nature’ to which we no longer belong, and the glorious future of plenty and prosperity which will follow when this mastery is complete. It is the story of human centrality, of a species destined to be lord of all it surveys, unconfined by the limits that apply to other, lesser creatures.
What makes this story so dangerous is that, for the most part, we have forgotten that it is a story. It has been told so many times by those who see themselves as rationalists, even scientists; heirs to the Enlightenment’s legacy — a legacy which includes the denial of the role of stories in making the world.
Humans have always lived by stories, and those with skill in telling them have been treated with respect and, often, a certain wariness. Beyond the limits of reason, reality remains mysterious, as incapable of being approached directly as a hunter’s quarry. With stories, with art, with symbols and layers of meaning, we stalk those elusive aspects of reality that go undreamed of in our philosophy. The storyteller weaves the mysterious into the fabric of life, lacing it with the comic, the tragic, the obscene, making safe paths through dangerous territory.
Yet as the myth of civilisation deepened its grip on our thinking, borrowing the guise of science and reason, we began to deny the role of stories, to dismiss their power as something primitive, childish, outgrown. The old tales by which generations had made sense of life’s subtleties and strangenesses were bowdlerised and packed off to the nursery. Religion, that bag of myths and mysteries, birthplace of the theatre, was straightened out into a framework of universal laws and moral account-keeping. The dream visions of the Middle Ages became the nonsense stories of Victorian childhood. In the age of the novel, stories were no longer the way to approach the deep truths of the world, so much as a way to pass time on a train journey. It is hard, today, to imagine that the word of a poet was once feared by a king.
Yet for all this, our world is still shaped by stories. Through television, film, novels and video games, we may be more thoroughly bombarded with narrative material than any people that ever lived. What is peculiar, however, is the carelessness with which these stories are channelled at us — as entertainment, a distraction from daily life, something to hold our attention to the other side of the ad break. There is little sense that these things make up the equipment by which we navigate reality. On the other hand, there are the serious stories told by economists, politicians, geneticists and corporate leaders. These are not presented as stories at all, but as direct accounts of how the world is. Choose between competing versions, then fight with those who chose differently. The ensuing conflicts play out on early morning radio, in afternoon debates and late night television pundit wars. And yet, for all the noise, what is striking is how much the opposing sides agree on: all their stories are only variants of the larger story of human centrality, of our ever-expanding control over ‘nature’, our right to perpetual economic growth, our ability to transcend all limits.
So we find ourselves, our ways of telling unbalanced, trapped inside a runaway narrative, headed for the worst kind of encounter with reality. In such a moment, writers, artists, poets and storytellers of all kinds have a critical role to play. Creativity remains the most uncontrollable of human forces: without it, the project of civilisation is inconceivable, yet no part of life remains so untamed and undomesticated. Words and images can change minds, hearts, even the course of history. Their makers shape the stories people carry through their lives, unearth old ones and breathe them back to life, add new twists, point to unexpected endings. It is time to pick up the threads and make the stories new, as they must always be made new, starting from where we are.
Mainstream art in the West has long been about shock; about busting taboos, about Getting Noticed. This has gone on for so long that it has become common to assert that in these ironic, exhausted, post-everything times, there are no taboos left to bust. But there is one.
The last taboo is the myth of civilisation. It is built upon the stories we have constructed about our genius, our indestructibility, our manifest destiny as a chosen species. It is where our vision and our self-belief intertwine with our reckless refusal to face the reality of our position on this Earth. It has led the human race to achieve what it has achieved; and has led the planet into the age of ecocide. The two are intimately linked. We believe they must decoupled if anything is to remain.
We believe that artists — which is to us the most welcoming of words, taking under its wing writers of all kinds, painters, musicians, sculptors, poets, designers, creators, makers of things, dreamers of dreams — have a responsibility to begin the process of decoupling. We believe that, in the age of ecocide, the last taboo must be broken — and that only artists can do it.
Ecocide demands a response. That response is too important to be left to politicians, economists, conceptual thinkers, number crunchers; too all-pervasive to be left to activists or campaigners. Artists are needed. So far, though, the artistic response has been muted. In between traditional nature poetry and agitprop, what is there? Where are the poems that have adjusted their scope to the scale of this challenge? Where are the novels that probe beyond the country house or the city centre? What new form of writing has emerged to challenge civilisation itself? What gallery mounts an exhibition equal to this challenge? Which musician has discovered the secret chord?
If the answers to these questions have been scarce up to now, it is perhaps both because the depth of collective denial is so great, and because the challenge is so very daunting. We are daunted by it, ourselves. But we believe it needs to be risen to. We believe that art must look over the edge, face the world that is coming with a steady eye, and rise to the challenge of ecocide with a challenge of its own: an artistic response to the crumbling of the empires of the mind.
This response we call Uncivilised art, and we are interested in one branch of it in particular: Uncivilised writing. Uncivilised writing is writing which attempts to stand outside the human bubble and see us as we are: highly evolved apes with an array of talents and abilities which we are unleashing without sufficient thought, control, compassion or intelligence. Apes who have constructed a sophisticated myth of their own importance with which to sustain their civilising project. Apes whose project has been to tame, to control, to subdue or to destroy — to civilise the forests, the deserts, the wild lands and the seas, to impose bonds on the minds of their own in order that they might feel nothing when they exploit or destroy their fellow creatures.
Against the civilising project, which has become the progenitor of ecocide, Uncivilised writing offers not a non-human perspective—we remain human and, even now, are not quite ashamed — but a perspective which sees us as one strand of a web rather than as the first palanquin in a glorious procession. It offers an unblinking look at the forces among which we find ourselves.
It sets out to paint a picture of homo sapiens which a being from another world or, better, a being from our own — a blue whale, an albatross, a mountain hare — might recognise as something approaching a truth. It sets out to tug our attention away from ourselves and turn it outwards; to uncentre our minds. It is writing, in short, which puts civilisation — and us — into perspective. Writing that comes not, as most writing still does, from the self-absorbed and self-congratulatory metropolitan centres of civilisation but from somewhere on its wilder fringes. Somewhere woody and weedy and largely avoided, from where insistent, uncomfortable truths about ourselves drift in; truths which we’re not keen on hearing. Writing which unflinchingly stares us down, however uncomfortable this may prove.
It might perhaps be just as useful to explain what Uncivilised writing is not. It is not environmental writing, for there is much of that about already, and most of it fails to jump the barrier which marks the limit of our collective human ego; much of it, indeed, ends up shoring-up that ego, and helping us to persist in our civilisational delusions. It is not nature writing, for there is no such thing as nature as distinct from people, and to suggest otherwise is to perpetuate the attitude which has brought us here. And it is not political writing, with which the world is already flooded, for politics is a human confection, complicit in ecocide and decaying from within.
Uncivilised writing is more rooted than any of these. Above all, it is determined to shift our worldview, not to feed into it. It is writing for outsiders. If you want to be loved, it might be best not to get involved, for the world, at least for a time, will resolutely refuse to listen.
A salutary example of this last point can be found in the fate of one of the twentieth century’s most significant yet most neglected poets. Robinson Jeffers was writing Uncivilised verse seventy years before this manifesto was thought of, though he did not call it that. In his early poetic career, Jeffers was a star: he appeared on the cover of Time magazine, read his poems in the US Library of Congress and was respected for the alternative he offered to the Modernist juggernaut. Today his work is left out of anthologies, his name is barely known and his politics are regarded with suspicion. Read Jeffers’ later work and you will see why. His crime was to deliberately puncture humanity’s sense of self-importance. His punishment was to be sent into a lonely literary exile from which, forty years after his death, he has still not been allowed to return.
But Jeffers knew what he was in for. He knew that nobody, in an age of ‘consumer choice’, wanted to be told by this stone-faced prophet of the California cliffs that ‘it is good for man … To know that his needs and nature are no more changed in fact in ten thousand years than the beaks of eagles.’ He knew that no comfortable liberal wanted to hear his angry warning, issued at the height of the Second World War: ‘Keep clear of the dupes that talk democracy / And the dogs that talk revolution / Drunk with talk, liars and believers … / Long live freedom, and damn the ideologies.’ His vision of a world in which humanity was doomed to destroy its surroundings and eventually itself (‘I would burn my right hand in a  slow fire / To change the future … I should do foolishly’) was furiously rejected in the rising age of consumer democracy which he also predicted (‘Be happy, adjust your economics to the new abundance…’)
Jeffers, as his poetry developed, developed a philosophy too. He called it ‘inhumanism.’ It was, he wrote:
a shifting of emphasis and significance from man to notman; the rejection of human solipsism and recognition of the transhuman magnificence…This manner of thought and feeling is neither misanthropic nor pessimist … It offers a reasonable detachment as rule of conduct, instead of love, hate and envy… it provides magnificence for the religious instinct, and satisfies our need to admire greatness and rejoice in beauty.
The shifting of emphasis from man to notman: this is the aim of Uncivilised writing. To ‘unhumanise our views a little, and become confident / As the rock and ocean that we were made from.’ This is not a rejection of our humanity — it is an affirmation of the wonder of what it means to be truly human. It is to accept the world for what it is and to make our home here, rather than dreaming of relocating to the stars, or existing in a Man-forged bubble and pretending to ourselves that there is nothing outside it to which we have any connection at all.
This, then, is the literary challenge of our age. So far, few have taken it up. The signs of the times flash out in urgent neon, but our literary lions have better things to read. Their art remains stuck in its own civilised bubble. The idea of civilisation is entangled, right down to its semantic roots, with city-dwelling, and this provokes a thought: if our writers seem unable to find new stories which might lead us through the times ahead, is this not a function of their metropolitan mentality? The big names of contemporary literature are equally at home in the fashionable quarters of London or New York, and their writing reflects the prejudices of the placeless, transnational elite to which they belong.
The converse also applies. Those voices which tell other stories tend to be rooted in a sense of place. Think of John Berger’s novels and essays from the Haute Savoie, or the depths explored by Alan Garner within a day’s walk of his birthplace in Cheshire. Think of Wendell Berry or WS Merwin, Mary Oliver or Cormac McCarthy. Those whose writings  approach the shores of the Uncivilised are those who know their place, in the physical sense, and who remain wary of the siren cries of metrovincial fashion and civilised excitement.
If we name particular writers whose work embodies what we are arguing for, the aim is not to place them more prominently on the existing map of literary reputations. Rather, as Geoff Dyer has said of Berger, to take their work seriously is to redraw the maps altogether — not only the map of literary reputations, but those by which we navigate all areas of life.
Even here, we go carefully, for cartography itself is not a neutral activity. The drawing of maps is full of colonial echoes. The civilised eye seeks to view the world from above, as something we can stand over and survey. The Uncivilised writer knows the world is, rather, something we are enmeshed in — a patchwork and a framework of places, experiences, sights, smells, sounds. Maps can lead, but can also mislead. Our maps must be the kind sketched in the dust with a stick, washed away by the next rain. They can be read only by those who ask to see them, and they cannot be bought.
This, then, is Uncivilised writing. Human, inhuman, stoic and entirely natural. Humble, questioning, suspicious of the big idea and the easy answer. Walking the boundaries and reopening old conversations. Apart but engaged, its practitioners always willing to get their hands dirty; aware, in fact, that dirt is essential; that keyboards should be tapped by those with soil under their fingernails and wilderness in their heads.
We tried ruling the world; we tried acting as God’s steward, then we tried ushering in the human revolution, the age of reason and isolation. We failed in all of it, and our failure destroyed more than we were even aware of. The time for civilisation is past. Uncivilisation, which knows its flaws because it has participated in them; which sees unflinchingly and bites down hard as it records — this is the project we must embark on now. This is the challenge for writing — for art — to meet. This is what we are here for.
IV: TO THE FOOTHILLS!
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
— William Wordsworth, ‘The Tables Turned’
A movement needs a beginning. An expedition needs a base camp. A project needs a headquarters. Uncivilisation is our project, and the promotion of Uncivilised writing — and art — needs a base. We present this manifesto not simply because we have something to say—who doesn’t?—but because we have something to do. We hope this pamphlet has created a spark. If so, we have a responsibility to fan the flames. This is what we intend to do. But we can’t do it alone.
This is a moment to ask deep questions and to ask them urgently. All around us, shifts are under way which suggest that our whole way of living is already passing into history. It is time to look for new paths and new stories, ones that can lead us through the end of the world as we know it and out the other side. We suspect that by questioning the foundations of civilisation, the myth of human centrality, our imagined isolation, we may find the beginning of such paths.
If we are right, it will be necessary to go literally beyond the Pale. Out- side the stockades we have built — the city walls, the original marker in stone or wood that first separated ‘man’ from ‘nature’. Beyond the gates, out into the wilderness, is where we are headed. And there we shall make for the higher ground for, as Jeffers wrote, ‘when the cities lie at the monster’s feet / There are left the mountains.’ We shall make the pilgrimage to the poet’s Dark Mountain, to the great, immovable, inhuman heights which were here before us and will be here after, and from their slopes we shall look back upon the pinprick lights of the distant cities and gain perspective on who we are and what we have become.
This is the Dark Mountain project. It starts here.
Where will it end? Nobody knows. Where will it lead? We are not sure. Its first incarnation, launched alongside this manifesto, is a website, which points the way to the ranges. It will contains thoughts, scribblings, jottings, ideas; it will work up the project of Uncivilisation, and invite all comers to join the discussion.
Then it will become a physical object, because virtual reality is, ultimately, no reality at all. It will become a journal, of paper, card, paint and print; of ideas, thoughts, observations, mumblings; new stories which will help to define the project — the school, the movement — of Uncivilised writing. It will collect the words and the images of those who consider themselves Uncivilised and have something to say about it; who want to help us attack the citadels. It will be a thing of beauty for the eye and for the heart and for the mind, for we are unfashionable enough to believe that beauty — like truth — not only exists, but still matters.
Beyond that… all is currently hidden from view. It is a long way across the plains, and things become obscured by distance. There are great white spaces on this map still. The civilised would fill them in; we are not so sure we want to. But we cannot resist exploring them, navigating by rumours and by the stars. We don’t know quite what we will find. We are slightly nervous. But we will not turn back, for we believe that something enormous may be out there, waiting to meet us.
Uncivilisation, like civilisation, is not something that can be created alone. Climbing the Dark Mountain cannot be a solitary exercise. We need bearers, sherpas, guides, fellow adventurers. We need to rope ourselves together for safety. At present, our form is loose and nebulous. It will firm itself up as we climb. Like the best writing, we need to be shaped by the ground beneath our feet, and what we become will be shaped, at least in part, by what we find on our journey.
If you would like to climb at least some of the way with us, we would like to hear from you. We feel sure there are others out there who would relish joining us on this expedition.
Come. Join us. We leave at dawn.
THE EIGHT PRINCIPLES OF UNCIVILISATION
‘We must unhumanise our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.’
We live in a time of social, economic and ecological unravelling. All around us are signs that our whole way of living is already passing into history. We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.
We reject the faith which holds that the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of ‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions’.
We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves. We intend to challenge the stories which underpin our civilisation: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from ‘nature’. These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we have forgotten they are myths.
We will reassert the role of storytelling as more than mere entertainment. It is through stories that we weave reality.
Humans are not the point and purpose of the planet. Our art will begin with the attempt to step outside the human bubble. By careful attention, we will reengage with the non-human world.
We will celebrate writing and art which is grounded in a sense of place and of time. Our literature has been dominated for too long by those who inhabit the cosmopolitan citadels.
We will not lose ourselves in the elaboration of theories or ideologies. Our words will be elemental. We write with dirt under our fingernails.
The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop. Together, we will find the hope beyond hope, the paths which lead to the unknown world ahead of us.
Ways of Casting Wishes
by Vira Hawthorn
We all have ways of casting wishes. In the anarchist milieu, one of the most common of these practices is the communiqué. Written as a story and shared in our world, communiqués attach a group of intentions to their departure. Each intention cannot be known, but every communiqué at least wishes for connection. It is the desire for resonance, a sharing of inspiration. The communiqué carries the wish for feeling and perceiving between people, for speaking in the space that alienation strangles into silence. Green anarchists know that civilization is responsible, at root, for alienation – the impassable distance between all of life. When we write about an event that has occurred, especially an event that breaks with normalcy, we aim with our intention for that barrier. We hope (despite our hopelessness) that even the slightest tingle of a real feeling will be felt.
In “Naming All Of The Names,” Cedar Leighlais continues the great tradition of criticism in our milieu. But, thrust into empty space, their blade has a blunt edge. That is to say: We should critique their criticism–even if only to make caricatures of ourselves-because they have not only missed the point, they have articulated a position that will only aid in the maintenance and growth of alienation, and the weakening of the wish for communication.
Leighlais’ article argues that if – in a communiqué - you do not name civilization as your enemy, explicitly, you have watered down your ideas, and will fail to build authentic relationships. Despite the fact that the communiqué they are critiquing in no way excludes civilization as an enemy, and that Leighlais’ argument is simply a bad faith criticism, we should still examine this position. Because there is a tendency in the anarchist world to equate every effort at communication with liberalism. Especially if the style of our communication uses description rather than jargon.
I have a sister. She isn’t an anarchist. But she does care deeply about the ways that society affects her and her loved ones. We talk about that. We talk about it because it is a place where we connect. If I said to her, “you feel alienated from yourself all of the time because you’re domesticated, because of the modernist separation of mind, body and spirit, because of the Leviathan and all of its limbs. We must attack the limbs for the sake of freedom!” – she would say, “What?”
This does not mean that my sister and I cannot be comrades or co-conspirators. There are places where we connect and can collaborate if we so choose. This does not mean that my sister doesn’t understand the world. She understands it in different terms. And this does not mean that my effort to connect with her is in any way liberal, proselytizing, or strategic. It means that I value the quality and content of our communication. I care about her, and I care about communicating my ideas to her, and I care about hearing what her ideas are, too.
If anarchists only communicate in jargon, our relationships will be built on style rather than content. With the intention of keeping our messages “pure,” we will find all else hollow. This is how the enforcement of anarchism as a subculture (and all subcultures create their own internal languages) contributes to the maintenance and growth of alienation. There are many ways that we insulate ourselves in the anarchist subculture, weak and shallow communication being second only to non-communication. And there isn’t much difference, in effect, between non-communication and poor communication.
To preemptively rebut an expected reaction here: I have a real, genuine, longing desire to meet and connect with people. This desire cannot be equated with the intentions of politicians and churches who, in an effort to amass popularity and power, seek to collect people and impose beliefs upon them.
For the communiqué, for conversation, for the wish of connection, honesty and clarity are far more creative powers than the classic anarchist or anti-civilization vocabulary. “Naming All Of The Names” directly requests of anarchists a hollow and rhetorical style of communication. Leighlais also writes in the style they are so encouraging of. For example, referencing Os Cangaceiros makes little sense in the context of the article. Os Cangaceiros was not the first, the most recent, nor the most similar example to Seattle’s context of anarchists putting their bodies in the way of labor to slow capital and share messages. However, A Crime Called Freedom is probably one of the most popular anarchist texts in circulation, and seems to be referenced here for its popularity over its relevance. The same type of reference is made to Against His-Story, Against Leviathan. I love that book, but just calling civilization “The Leviathan” out of context makes no sense, except that it’s hip in anarchist and anti-civilization circles.
Finally, there are three main pieces of writing that I found in relationship to the Microsoft and Amazon transportation blockings in Seattle. Two were the communiqués referenced in Leighlais’ article, and one was an analysis and history of gentrification from the last 10-15 years. The analysis and history described the correlation between gentrification, racism and colonialism, including an intimate story of someone’s lost relationship with nature. “Naming All Of The Names” is – to be blunt – a jaded, thoughtless, poorly researched straw-man argument.
But the article did initiate a series of inquiries for me, and my wish is that this response asks at least this question: How do we choose to communicate and what are the intentions behind our communication?
In the course of my growing, I have experienced communiqués and other forms of sharing as small openings into the unknown. Little splinters in the skin of the existent. It is in practice and in actions that I’ve searched for those pinholes and have attempted to tear further. As an insurrectionary anarchist, I communicate with the desperate urge for those moments. As a green anarchist, I believe that the material torn is the spiritual body of civilization.
If we don’t know our intentions, our wishes easily become curses. It feels likely to me that jargon and rhetoric belong to the capitalists. Let us speak truly and aim our intention with care: toward the heart of civilization.
It's All Falling Apart
The end of the world will not come in a bang, a clarion call of trumpets, and the dawning of a new era. The end of the world will be decades, if not centuries, of immiseration and degradation that will humiliate and starve us. This starvation will be of the body and the soul. This humiliation will be because at the same time we are taught about God and Country we, especially North Americans, will wait by the shore for our next barge of products from distant lands, believing the promise that the next gadget will fill the void we paved over, cut down, and wrapped in plastic in the first place. The end of the world isn’t going to be exciting or heroic, it’ll be bright, flashy, and mediocre.
Liquid Food To Replace Eating Called “Soylent”
from the New Yorker
Three men living in a small apartment in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, CA were forced to come face to face with the inconveniences of food when their startup failed (a startup is a project to create some kind of new technology service that is funded by big-time investors before it is even created, much like the companies and people who funded colonial expeditions into North America in the 1500’s). Not having any time nor facilities to tend to their cooking needs, one of them isolated the nutritional needs required from food, ordered them over the internet as supplements, blended them into one drink, and is now calling it “Soylent.” Soylent’s production has been funded by Silicon Valley and heralded by the press as “the end of food.”
DNA Company To Track Dog-Poop-Perpetrators
Dog poop is enough of a problem at an apartment complex in Plano, Texas that the management is deploying DNA tracking to find the pooping-perpetrators. Residents are expected to bring their dogs in to a lab to have them “registered”, and then they can be fined up to $250 if their dogs are found linked to retrieved “samples.”
Driver posts Facebook Update Collision
from globalnews.ca, April 28th
A woman in High Point, N.C. is dead after a head-on collision with a truck literally right after posting an update to her facebook that said “The happy song makes me HAPPY!” Authorities said “The facebook text happened at 8:33 a.m., we got the call on the wreck at 8:34 a.m..”
Google’s next data collection project: Human body
from Russia Today, July 25th
Google’s research arm is planning an initial study of 175 people to collect anonymous health data from biological samples like blood and saliva in the process of creating individual genome
databases that could eventually help fend off illness or disease. For Google’s Baseline Study, researches will track one’s genetic history, metabolic processes, and other aspects of an
individual’s body in efforts to create a baseline health standard. This is reminiscent of many futurist science-fiction stories where characters are plugged into a computer and diagnosed.
How far off are we?
Kid Climbs Trees With prosthetic arm
from Russia Today, July 29th
A 6-year-old boy has now been given the ability to catch balls and climb trees from a 3D Printer and a group of charitable university students in Florida. The boy was born with “right arm deficiency” and is missing his right arm from just above the elbow. An engineering doctoral student heard about the boy and decided to print a replacement arm with a 3D Printer, a piece of technology that runs with off-the-shelf materials and batteries. “We’ve already heard from another family who needs an arm. We’re committed to helping who we can. I think 3-D printing is revolutionizing our world in many ways. I believe changing the world of prosthetics is very real. There’s no reason why this approach shouldn’t work on adults too.”
River in China mysteriously Turns Red Overnight
from Russia Today, July 29th
A river in Eastern China has mysteriously turned red. Residents remarked on how clean the water has been for as long as they’ve known it, “We have always been able to catch fish and you can even drink the water because it’s just normally so good.” While there’s no chemical plant upstream, a professor of limnology (the study of inland waters) says “It looks like a pollutant phenomenon, water bodies have turned red very fast in the past have happened because people have dumped dyes into them.”
“Occupy Hong Kong” Kicks Off, Demanding Democracy
Happening at time of printing
Many news outlets have been announcing the arrival of a large protest movement in Hong Kong, some calling it “Occupy” yet all of the reports differing in some degree. It seems that this is
a student movement demanding democracy, violently fighting police in the streets and blocking avenues of traffic while all on their iphones, not looking at each other. “Movement leaders”
stepped out of political negotiations with government officials after protesters were physically attacked by people who were either “neighbors who opposed their tactics” or “thugs hired
by the government.”
Two Steps Nowhere
by Tommy Brock & Dire Wolfe
(Caveat I: Communication Is Impossible)
There is much to be said about the differences and potential collaboration between the green anarchist and eco-defense milieus. However, nearly everything stands in the way of honest communication. Critiques are both written and received in bad faith. There are those too jaded to contribute anything but snark to our struggles and those who take themselves too seriously to receive well-intentioned, thoughtful criticism. There are those so caught up in who they are as radicals, activists, militants, that they have completely lost the ability to stop and think or to reflect critically on their own activity. Our milieus are populated by so many personalities vying for social capital, attention, meaning, purpose, or adventure that it’s difficult to actually keep an eye on the thing that brought us into these spaces in the first place.
There are those who try, though. There are those who critique because they are frustrated by seeing things they care about fall into the same traps again and again. There are those who are risking failure by trying new things, by experimenting with new ways of resisting despite the constant gaze of naysayers. And there are those who are keeping their eye on the impossibility of total freedom while trying to throw themselves fully at their own limitations in everything they do. It is in this spirit that we write this—with an appreciation and respect for those who are pushing back against the onslaught of civilization but also with the knowledge that civilization is far too good at absorbing any attempts to resist it.
(Caveat II: Labels Are Useless)
The anarchist milieu seems to have become increasingly distinct from the space inhabited by people who participate in eco-defense. In other moments, there has been much more overlap. These days, eco-defenders (anarchist or not) have a network that feels mostly independent from the anarchist milieu (whatever that is).
Green anarchists, in one sense of the term, are those who make up a constellation of tendencies, all of whom, at the very least, situate themselves against The Left and against Civilization (both very ambiguously defined). Green Anarchy Magazine, along with others, elaborated a diverse and broad series of critiques that drew from insurrectionary, individualist, post-left, nihilist, anti-civilization, and indigenous thought.
A common problem: if you don’t happen to live on the West Coast, “green anarchist” is probably more often used in reference to a sort of ‘eco-focused’ anarchism that can be found in the radical environmentalist movement. Usually big-tent anarchism with a particular soft-spot for radical environmentalism: Noam Chomsky-reading, pro-democracy, left anarchists whose main concern is the environment. Some are perhaps more skeptical of cities and production, reading Derrick Jensen instead of Murray Bookchin, but still lack the expansive critique of domestication, colonization, morality, revolution, and politics that characterizes green anarchy.
While some who fall under the Green Anarchist umbrella (anarcho-primitivists, for example) propose courses of action (rewilding, attacking the grid, etc.), what unites green anarchists is perhaps a particular theoretical orientation to the problem of civilization—a series of critiques and questions. Although these critiques have inspired exciting actions, struggles, and moments of revolt, they can be seen as experiments and gestures—not ‘correct practices’ that all green anarchists engage in because they are implied by the theory. From this point of view, it’s anyone’s game as to how we might resist our situation.
Radical eco-defense, on the other hand, is a milieu that has coalesced around a practice or set of practices. Usually centered on particular campaigns (Tar Sands, Keystone XL, Mountaintop Removal, Logging, Fracking), all sorts of people come together to protect this or that parcel of land from those who would destroy it. Those indigenous to the threatened land, bleeding-heart activists whose consciences just can’t bear to see another tree cut down in the name of corporate profit, and everyone in between gather under the banner of eco-defense. The same people who attend a Earth First! Rendezvous can also be seen at Power Shift or giving workshops for the Sierra Club.
That’s what makes the eco-defense space so complicated. There are lots of different people with radically different critiques, goals, strategies, and relationships with the current order working together on a single campaign. Usually with predictable results: the people with the highest stakes and those taking the greatest risks get sold out while the NGOs and liberals pack up and go home, happy to have ‘made a difference’ by compromising with those who are destroying the land.
Because everyone is, on paper, working toward the same immediate goal, real differences in perspective and strategy are suppressed in the name of unity, access to resources, or mass appeal. People who, from my point of view, shouldn’t ever be on the same team, are. And there’s little recourse to draw meaningful lines when there’s also an immense repressive apparatus breathing down your necks and the only thing protecting you from it are the well-funded NGOs and progressive organizations.
Recently, Black Seed featured a critique of the radical environmentalist movement generally, and Earth First! and Tar Sands Blockade specifically. The article critiqued the way that Non-Violent Civil Disobedience (NVCD) has become central to the rhetorical and tactical arsenal of many direct action campaigns. Many anarchists share this complete disinterest with any struggle that so severely limits itself from the outset. However, the call for an increase in militant tactics or harking back to the good ol’ days of black blocs and summit shut-downs doesn’t feel very useful. An increase in militancy would likely bring down the full force of the repressive apparatus—to up the ante would almost certainly mean to go the way of the ELF.
Our struggles exist in the impossible space between absorption into liberal activism on the one hand, and the crushing might of the state on the other. Anarchists know this double-bind well. Many have learned the hard way that working with individuals and organizations whose interests lie in the perpetuation of this world leads to co-optation and exclusion at best and at worst, the firing squad or the grand jury. As the dust settles, the ones doing the heavy lifting on the front lines are swept aside by the bureaucrats and career activists who take credit for all the work and eclipse the possibility of further spontaneous, wild resistance.
We live in a country that has crushed every struggle that it has deemed a threat. The state unscrupulously murders or imprisons those who go toe to toe with the forces of control. Any movement or group that enjoys some amount of success is torn apart from the inside—it’s most radical factions disappeared and the rest channelled into liberal activism.
The radical environmentalist movement is living with the legacy of Operation Backfire and the reality of the green scare, of domestic terrorism watch-lists, of FBI, state, and local police collaboration, of snitches and informants, of trumped-up charges and constant surveillance. Even the most liberal environmentalists are looking over their shoulders more and more. In this light, it makes some sense as to why the rhetoric of NVCD has become so central, why the protective shadow of NGOs is covering so much of the landscape.
But it seems as though for most, the situation has escaped them. The reasons given for infiltrating NGOs, for playing nice with movement leaders, or for concealing their ‘real’ politics go beyond simple tactical considerations. We have inherited a history of repression, the implications of which don’t seem to have fully sunk in. Meetings are attended, coalitions are formed, and internships are taken while talking shit and having a laugh about how liberal and problematic everyone else is. But, despite rhetoric that says otherwise, the whole situation runs along smoothly—NGOs have little trouble finding interns and coalitions usually find themselves with those willing to go to jail for a few days. All this in exchange for a paycheck and the satisfaction of knowing that you and your friends are the real radicals. For all the talk of using resources for underground resistance, it rarely goes that far. The defeats and recuperation of the past 40 years are still with us. It has made us docile. Most are satisfied with patting themselves on the back for being more militant, radical, and correct than others, while doing little more than reproducing the subculture that makes us all feel like we’re important, that we’re really doing something.
Much of what happens in the radical environmentalist movement both lacks the capacity to accomplish its goals and the ethical commitment to autonomy, spontaneity, and the constant undermining of authority that allows revolt to flourish. On the one hand, many eco-defenders continue with the strange ritual of lockdown-arrest-bail out while waving the banner ‘No Compromise In Defense Of Mother Earth!’ all the while becoming more and more entangled in the web of compromises weaved by the non-profiteers, activists, and advocates who seem to be everywhere these days. Victories for people with the most to lose are rarely won.
For many anarchists, the terrain is murky. The mostly smooth gradient between liberal activists and militant eco-defender is confusing—it is difficult to know who is a potential accomplice and who is more interested in making a name for themselves (or worse, the organization they are a part of). Alliances can form in unlikely places and it’s important to be open to these, but it is also important to know your enemy.
It is clear enough to most anarchists that when at a demonstration or action, the police are our enemies. In other moments, we might find ourselves at odds with the loggers, surveyors, and construction workers unfortunate enough to be working their respective careers at those respective moments. More subtle, and for that reason all the more deserving of our hostility, are those enemies among us: those who would manage us in our struggles, those who would have us be little more than foot soldiers in their campaigns, those who define the appropriate ways to resist, those who need our energy to feed either their own egos or the swollen organization that, in turn, feeds off of them.
There are those whose participation in environmental campaigns amounts to little more than a desire to speak for others, to do ‘good’. We know them well: the many activists, advocates, social justice organizers, and career revolutionaries who spend their entire lives bouncing from one injustice to the next, always for the fame, for the paycheck, or for the peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that they’re dedicated to something more important than themselves that populate our worlds. These characters are the mechanisms by which Politics reproduces itself. They are the agents of Progress, channeling the energy and potential of a moment into the familiar avenues of spectacular activism.
This moral backdrop is a barrier for many anarchists’ enthusiastic involvement in campaigns. From where we sit, people are far too ready to sacrifice themselves on the altar of deep ecology with little but some moving photographs and an FBI file to show for it. There can be little affinity between anarchists and the martyrs caught up in their own narratives of spectacular self-sacrifice and pseudo-militancy. This isn’t to say that there aren’t things worth risking arrest (or death) for and I’m not really talking about tactics either. Lockdowns, for example, have been an important tactic in winning campaigns. Rather, I am trying to get at the strange moral logic—the peculiar desire to sacrifice oneself for The Good, to suffer— that motivates so many radicals.
Morality is only part of the problem. For so many, our milieus are our own specialized identity-machines. We become so caught up being ‘anarchists’, ‘militants’, ‘allies’, ‘activists’ or ‘eco-defenders’, so captured by micro-economies of social capital that we care more about appearances and our own stories than the things we say we’re committed to. We are ensnared by the logic of the milieu: moved to action by the reproduction of our selves as radical subjects, as individuals who know who they are by virtue of a particular kind of belonging. Despite our attempts, our desire to be something never amounts anything more than being this world’s loyal opposition, always ready to play its game by believing that it’s possible to belong or to honestly communicate who you are to others within the logic of civilization. Whether by the causes you are committed to, the clothes you wear, the news stories you share, the words you use (or don’t), or who you hang out with, insofar as we are motivated by advertising ourselves to strangers, we are being managed, controlled, disciplined.
“And we forget everything but the minutiae of struggle, this struggle which has become a way of life, and an end in itself. This struggle, which we kid ourselves is about the world, is now no more than the means of legitimising a microcosm, a milieu, a particular way of life that is wholly reliant on its own defeat and the continuation of the world as it is as the condition for its perpetuation.”
- frere dupont, Why Is It That Others Feel No Interest For Us?
The terrain is also populated by many organizations, each weighed down by their own tendencies to expand, accumulate, and absorb. Every organization—whether grassroots or multinational—falls into the same trap. What might start out as a genuine attempt to formalize a group dedicated to tackling a problem or issue quickly becomes its own monster (Leviathan, anyone?), concerned primarily with it’s own growth and permanence. As a group’s membership swells, as it enjoys a small parcel of influence or success, as jobs are created or contracts signed, it becomes increasingly concerned with securing more contracts, gaining more influence, recruiting more people. Until you have Greenpeace. Or the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Or Epitaph Records.
The most energetic and rowdy eco-defenders are put in the spotlight, offered jobs, invited to write articles, and flown around to give trainings—slowly sapping their energy as their commitment to a particular set of ideas comes into conflict with the organization that is keeping them fed and housed. People who once knew better end up working for the same organizations that sold out other campaigns a generation earlier. If campaigns are to maintain any autonomy, lines must be drawn (and redrawn and redrawn) between those committed to total freedom and those whose interests lie in Politics, their identities, egos, morality, or the organizations they work for.
As was said earlier, we live and struggle in the shadow of the Black Panthers, of Project M.O.V.E., of the American Indian Movement, of the ALF and ELF. This is a history of inspiring moments, but also of defeat at the hands of an unscrupulous enemy. What does this mean for current eco-defense campaigns? For those who want to do-the-damn-thing (you know, win), they must free themselves of any illusion that the state can know their face or name and actually let them pose a threat to something with as much capital behind it as the KXL Pipeline, for example.
What would it take to successfully defend an area of land? Do we have the capacity to accomplish this? Are we willing to accept the risks or consequences for our actions? Will it be worth it? We must keep in mind the possibility that campaigns in response to the biggest, most egregious assaults on the natural world will not be winnable unless eco-defenders are willing to go seriously underground. We might be tactically out-gunned. And if those campaigns aren’t winnable, what is to be done?
There are a number of different ways to think about struggle. For many anarchists, any struggle worth participating in happens on the level of everyday life. They admit that we are not, and can never be agents in something as inhumanly large as History, Politics, or Progress. To aim our interventions at the level of meta-narrative is to admit defeat before we start, but continue out of sheer stubbornness or sacrifice.
The activities of Nations, multinational corporations, even your own city council (to say nothing of Capitalism or Civilization) are probably out of our control. It is unlikely that a small minority of anarchists, eco-defenders, or activists will ever manifest a force powerful enough to save the environment or destroy the existent. Our activity matters, but not really in the grand scheme of things, at least probably not in the way we wish it did. Yet many continue to speak, write, and act as if this weren’t the case.
A turn away from politics and from the constant defeat of activism and revolutionary struggle would mean shifting the scale with which we concern ourselves. We can disconnect the activity of our lives from fighting an all-or-nothing war against some perceived totality. We can instead find opportunities to be agents in our own lives and, occasionally, in the towns, neighborhoods, or land that we call home. We can understand that our situation is close to total but see our surroundings as made up of fragments of power—a multiplicity of connected but discreet apparatuses of control that can, in turn, be interrupted and in some cases destroyed. While there is no clear escape from civilization in sight, there are certainly lives and struggles that are more wild, less domesticated than others. And there are certainly enemies and weaknesses in the modes of control that order our lives.
This means a shift not necessarily in what we do, but rather, why we do what we do. It has less to do with actual actions/ practice and more to do with how we’re conceiving of our activity, struggles, collaborations. We can do these things to play, to learn more about our surroundings and how they’re controlled, to strengthen bonds, to form new ones. We can find each other and build relationships in the context of a shared project or deep affinity. We can engage in a relentless series of experiments to find the limits of what we’re capable of and, each time, push beyond them. We can explore the mechanisms of power that envelope us, find the weak points, and celebrate in the pockets, cracks, micro-ruptures that we’re able to momentarily create.
“As for civilisation, so for anarchy and anarchists — severely challenged, sometimes vanquished; possibilities for liberty and wildness opening up, possibilities for liberty and wildness closing. The unevenness of the present will be made more so. There is no global future.” - Desert
Moments of intense struggle and revolt seem to appear rarely and when they do happen, it seems clear that they are the result of years and years of groundwork, of careful relationship building between different groups (anarchists, eco-defenders, farmers, those who live in neighborhoods poisoned by fracking, etc). Our milieus are transient. We are rarely capable of sustainable relationships or long-term commitments. Our infrastructure is difficult to maintain and few are willing to do the unglamorous behind-the-scenes activity that allows the most intense struggles to flourish. We might find ourselves faced with different questions were we to stop chasing fire for the moment and imagine ourselves engaged in something that will last generations.
What would it mean to develop relationships that both last decades and are increasingly incompatible with the current order? How can we weaponize these relationships, remaining invisible enough to power to survive, but visible enough to others to be seductive? What if the goals were to connect with one another through our projects, to attack and get away with it, to engage in activity that is worth doing for its own sake— regardless of the consequences? What if we elaborated modes of struggle that don’t rely on the hope of certain victory or the despair of “well, we’ve got to try anyway, right?” What if we pushed ourselves to become as wild, chaotic, and unpredictable as possible—not with the goal of winning any particular campaigns necessarily, but to see how far, how strong, how sustainable, and how broadly we can extend the fight, while taking great care to disappear as the omnipresent repressive apparatus closes in on us and reappear when they least expect it. No faces, no names, no photo-ops, except perhaps of fire, defended territory, and broken machinery.
Are sure arrests and the consequent no-fly lists, felonies, and FBI files worth it if victory seems unlikely? Are there more liberatory and empowering ways to struggle against the machinery of civilization? Perhaps making some new enemies would be useful—maybe new generations of eco-defenders will tell Sierra Club and 350.org to go fuck themselves. Maybe we’ll see new relationships emerge between anarchists and eco-defenders who aren’t accountable to NGO stakeholders. And maybe we’ll be able to be more honest with ourselves and each other about who we are and what we are doing. Perhaps we’ll figure out how to do it more patiently, carefully, and without compromise. To the future conversations, the forging of new alliances, the fierce new conflicts, and the relentless expansion of those parts of us that are wild.
Review: Green Syndicalism: An Alternative Red/Green Vision
These days, everyone from corporations to the government are “going green.” There has been an almost endless barrage of “greenwashing” campaigns aimed at painting everything with a shiny new “green” veneer from chic eco-friendly cafes to “environmentally friendly” dog food. Moreover, as the ecological crisis becomes ever harder to ignore, even political groupings are getting in on the act, with socialists and mainstream liberals suddenly discovering this fact and trying to dress up progress as “green.”
In light of this, its not surprising that some anarchists would adopt a similar approach, especially with many anarchists still clinging to the vision of mass society and mass industrialism. A few years back, the Northeastern Federation of Anarchist- Communists (NEFAC, since renamed to Common Struggle) published a snazzy green-colored edition on “The Environment, Industry, Crisis, and Alternatives” while the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) launched an “Environmental Unionism Caucus” and this year organized a campaign called “Towards an Ecological General Strike: Environmental Sustainability Through Economic Democracy.” In many ways, they are efforts designed to “green” the industrial-focused vision of anarchism expressed most often through anarcho-syndicalism, with some re-branding it as “green syndicalism.”
For those of us coming from an anti-civilization perspective, this is perhaps worthy of some attention as it is helpful to understand the ways others approach the crisis of civilization. I hadn’t encountered these theories until a few years ago, although I must admit to some small glimmer of hope when a Wobbly organizer in my hometown told me that there are currents within the IWW that envision the destruction of the industrial system, not just the wage system. As a means of exploring this idea, I sought out Jeff Shantz’s Green Syndicalism: An Alternative Red/Green Vision (Syracuse University Press, 2012). While it was rather dull and hard to read at various points due to its rather cumbersome language, it did offer a good introduction to the theory.
Green syndicalism advocates for increased connections between anarchists and other radicals who come out of what could broadly be called “the radical environmental movement” and “the labor movement” (46) arguing that both are incomplete without recognizing the other. Shantz argues in Green Syndicalism that the two perspectives have considerable overlap, a point that he makes by looking at Judi Bari’s role in building connections between Earth First! and the Industrial Workers of the World in the 1990s, as well as examining the historical reliance of both movements on direct action tactics including sabotage. Moreover, Shantz argues that the workplace provides a critical site of struggle (165) and that workers are uniquely positioned to put a literal “stop” to the destruction wrought by industrial society. Most interesting to our perspective, Shantz comes out strongly against the productivism of Marxism (xlvi) and argues that syndicalism is not simply a vision of a worker-centered world (xlviii), but is a counter-cultural movement that moves beyond pure economic concerns (108). He repeatedly asserts that green syndicalism is a multi-faceted approach that recognizes that “the mass-production techniques of industrialism cannot be reconciled with ecological sustenance, regardless of whether bosses or sturdy proletarians control them” (164).
When it comes to envisioning what a green syndicalist future would look like, Shantz—like many anarchists—says that there isn’t a specific plan, but rather it would grow out of the struggle (172). Still, in reading the book, there are some indications of how this future would look. Whereas previous visions of syndicalism may have seen industrialism as containing some liberatory potential, green syndicalists do not believe this (168). Instead, Shantz articulates a vision of producers against industrialism (169) and argues that the goal (to some degree) is the dismantling of factories. The theory includes “both a literal destruction of factories and their conversion toward ‘soft’ forms of small, local production” (54). According to Shantz, this would be decided by the workers themselves who would make decisions about the future of their workplaces (129). Beyond this, he speaks of the potential for voluntary federations (171) and de-centralized bio-regional communities (170-171) as potential ways of organizing society. While talk of the destruction of factories is appealing, the more one reads, the less certain this seems. There is a lot of talk of keeping production going, for example: “...certain industrial workshops and processes may be necessary (how would bikes or windmills be produced, for example)” (169). In other cases, he asserts that capitalist production would be replaced with “socially necessary production through means that are ecologically sensible” (167).
Like many theories, when it comes to practical applications, green syndicalism gets a little hazy. For the most part, Shantz argues in favor of traditional syndicalist tactics and those that have been developed in recent years such as “rank-and-file workers’ committees, flying squads, and precarious workers’ networks” (161). He argues that workers’ control is essential to stopping ecological destruction (113). In getting to that point, tactics include “such direct, nonbureaucratic forms of action as shop-floor sabotage, boycotts, green bans, and the formation of extra-union solidarity outside the workplace” and the ultimate weapon, the strike (130-131). Of course to do this, considerable time must be spent organizing workers. Green syndicalism rejects the concept of “boring from within” mainstream unions (131) and instead advocates developing other structures. He asserts that anarchists within the labor movement have been especially visible in building rank-and-file power in recent years (133), through processes including “building rank-and-file workers’ committees, flying squads, and precarious workers’ networks” (161). For Shantz, this power is what is ultimately important, not whether or not the structures are specifically anarchist (160). As workers “reach the consciousness of their own power and exercise this power in their daily lives” they are “in a way consciously adopting the ideas of anarchism” (160). Arguing the semantics of what is and isn’t anarchism is not all that exciting, but a question that remains is how will workers arrive at the conclusion that the factory system (or at the minimum suggested by green syndicalists, certain components of it) need to be dismantled. Obviously toxic forms of production might be easy targets (i.e. a company polluting the river running through the center of a town), but how would workers arrive at a more comprehensive critique of industrialism? In a global economic system where the most destructive forms of production are outsourced and obscured (for example, when using an iPhone, the average user likely has no idea how and where it was made), many modern consumer items seem to have relatively few environmental costs. Similarly, the idea that “production” could be organized by workers in a particular location is out-of-date, given both the declining number of workers in such positions as well as the reliance on raw materials and technologies from elsewhere.
While informed by radical ecological critiques, Green Syndicalism does not spend a lot of time engaging with anti-civilization and primitivist critiques. At one point, Shantz writes about “...anti-technology/anti-civilization discourses arguing quite persuasively that humans must abandon not only industry and technology, but civilization itself,” but then moves to a discussion of the abolition of work and/or its reconstitution along democratic lines (128). Such a position is seemingly at odds with the statement, and if the arguments are so convincing, why limit the discussion? Elsewhere, he describes anti-civilization perspectives as being “fundamentalist,” including those of “Earth First!, neoprimitivism, and Green Anarchy” (21). He argues that those advocating such views neglect the importance of class and “collapse capital and labor together” and fail to see how working-class power could contribute to a radical ecological movement (22). In keeping with this line of thinking, he argues that there cannot be “an immediate break with industrialism” (168). Interestingly, while Shantz says that “attentiveness to ecology means that entire realms of work, leisure (work’s accomplice), sustenance, need... must be brought into question,” his discussion does not raise civilization as an item of particular concern (184). Moreover, in accepting the possibility of some forms of industrial production, green syndicalism ignores the deeper questions of what industrialism does to us and our worldview. The interconnectedness of various forms of technology and methods of organizing production are not explored, therefore it is hard to imagine how one could have wind turbines without the entirety of the industrial system. These forms and processes are inherently complex and interrelated and we can’t generally have one technology without accepting the entire system. Moreover, from an anti-civilization perspective, it is important to understand that industrialism, factory production, small-scale production, etc. are part of an interrelated whole that is civilization and that its component parts cannot be isolated. In other words, we can’t have “production” of bicycles and windmills without the domestication, separation, division of labor, etc., that removes us from the land.
Overall, Green Syndicalism doesn’t offer much to those of us coming from an anti-civilization perspective. While it might be refreshing to see anarcho-syndicalists coming out against some forms of industrial production, the idea of “green syndicalism” falls short of fully indicting the present order. Its examination of industrialism is relatively limited and it leaves the larger question of civilization unexplored. In the end, the book was indeed trying to paint a “green” picture of a somewhat downsized future, while largely lacking in its exploration of the consequences of industrialism and civilization. At the same time, its tactical and strategic suggestions—largely more workplace organizing—were not convincing. We obviously cannot ignore the way in which workers are alienated in the current era, but at the same time, we need to go deeper in our critiques if we want to get to the root of that alienation and really reject industrialism. If anything, Green Syndicalism is a reminder that we need to argue more forcefully for our perspective and that in the absence of an anti-civilization critique, efforts will continue to recast some version of the current mass society as ecologically sustainable, whether that be green capitalism or green syndicalism.
Jeff Shantz, Green Syndicalism: An Alternative Red/Green Vision, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2012).
Pulling on the Threads of Representation
A communique on the release of pheasants from a Game Bird farm in Gervais, Oregon by the Animal Liberation Front ends with “For anarchy and animal liberation.” The insurrectionist group Individualists Tending Toward the Wild (ITS) state that “what moves us is reason and instinct, the defense of Wild Nature (including human) and consequently Freedom and Autonomy.” Part of the description for a talk at the 2013 Boston Anarchist Bookfair says “Natural anarchists see plants and nonhuman animals as allies in a shared struggle for peace and freedom for everybody.”
Once, this was an inspiration, during a time I tightly held the label veganarchist; honestly, deeply believing in the revolutionary potential of the animal and earth liberation movements.
Time passed and with time came an uncertainty I could not ignore, a question that lurked inside. And now as I consider participating in an action for anarchy and animal liberation, I am forced to pause. Eventually, I turn away.
In whatever language is used, no matter how their ‘solidarity’ is framed, I cannot get past the question.
“The problem of the head is the problem of representation, the problem of the existence of a body that represents society in so much as a body, of a subject that represents society in so much as subject.”
The anarchist critique of democracy, political leadership, identity politics—all are the critique of representation. Representation flattens. Individual interests are universalized into dangerous ‘truth claims’ that cannot contend with the volatility of the world. The critique is the rejection of all acts that characterize individuals as a certain kind of being or that allow one to speak on behalf of another.
“Practices of telling people who they are and what they want erect a barrier between them and who (or what) they can create themselves to be.”
Representation is a form of alienated power. Individuals are separated from their ability to act and forced to work through an intermediary. These individuals are left behind as their representative barters with other influences, making compromises for some greater good. Responding to the will of majorities and other alienated powers, desperately attempting to keep their sacred standing, the representative exploits the bodies and spirits of those they claim to stand for.
Against all representation and mediation, this is what it means to be anti-political.
Through the critique comes a new anarchist vision. My past was bound to the current, viewpoints expressed as against that which exists: anti-capitalism, anti-sexism, anti-speciesism... Our negativity must be more: “that which breaks from such orientations in the most absolute sense: the negating prefixes a-, an-, anti- ... anti-politics as a provisional orientation, branching out into countless refusals.” It must think not only of the formulations but also the forms, a negation of politics, morality, historical progress, and all of the other backgrounds that act as our starting points. “We do not wish to run society, or organize a different society, we want a completely different frame of reference,” a negativity that can only lead us to places unknown.
I approach nihilism. My anarchist thought becomes more than a radical or militant politics, it cannot be defined simply as a position against hierarchy or against domination. It grows into a rejection of all universal claims – moral and political.
The ground quivers. Old ideas are a comfort in the uncertainty—they are difficult to move past. Still, I am willing to ask the question nihilism brings, the question that lurks, that cannot be ignored.
What now of animal and earth liberation? What of these movements remain for me?
Obstacle 1: Against all hierarchies, earth and animal liberationists are against the human domination of animals and earth. In order to confront these oppressions directly, they become representatives of animals and earth.
Animal liberationists educate people about the experience of non-human animals, describing the conditions on factory farms, slaughterhouses, research laboratories, etc. (sometimes never having had first-hand experience with these institutions themselves). Earth liberationists become the ‘helpers’ of the wild and introduce words such as “defend,” “save,” and “protect” to the dialogue. Actions such as veganism, protest, or sabotage communicate a message about the desires of animals and earth; assumptions are made about how other living organisms want to be treated.
A Thanksgiving pamphlet from the Black Paw Collective (a “crew of punks and anarchists”) tells us to fight alongside the turkeys who are protesting their death until their last breath. We are told that connecting to the land can put one in touch with the ‘suffering of the earth,’ culminating in statements of “the personhood of plants… beings who can emote and feel pain or respond to other stimuli.” All these claims to knowledge of animal and earth subjectivity…
These representatives then remind us that animals and earth are not the only ones harmed by animal and earth exploitation industries, hoping to bring more people over to the side of animals and wild nature. They may even expand their claims, that their actions begin to represent all of the ‘dispossessed’ (the actors sometimes simultaneously believing they epitomize the ideas of the human majority yet must guide this unconscious mass—as one communique states: “This was just a reflection of what millions of people already know and feel”).
It is no trivial point that non-human living species cannot communicate verbally, they cannot speak their interests to any human, including those who represent them. The people involved in animal and earth liberation movements have no choice but to speak on their behalf. But representation is a political act, always. What is politics if not the belief that one can influence others in the name of some collective interest?
“On this point, it is important that we define our anti-politics as refusing all political logic: representation, mediation, dialogue with power. And so, once again, we must abandon queer academics and their easy answers.”
Obstacle 2: Morals and ideals are asserted, often implicitly, hidden beneath statements of plurality.
When individual interests are defined by another, they are often shrouded in moral claims. Sometimes these moral codes are overt, and most anarchists are willing to critique (and mock) these blatant assertions (such as “veganism is an obligation and not an option”).
But the anarchist critique of morality is more than just the critique of strict moral codes, it is a critique against universal statements and against the concept of the Good.
When animal liberationists fight for a world in which animals are no longer oppressed by humans, they are making statements about what is good, often involving a total rejection of any way of living that involves animal exploitation, as defined by them. Earth liberationists, particularly those with anti-civilization and primitivist leanings, often demand a certain style of living which may not be possible or desirable for others. Actions and communiques for animals and earth are laden with claims to good and bad behaviour.
There is no one ‘true’ way of living with the earth (and animals). Expanding the argument to say there are many or a variety of true ways of living with the earth does not make the argument any less moralistic. To flee from a definition of the Good only to be recaptured by arguments of many Goods misses the point. It is a nihilism that denies the validity of the singular Good at the heart of universalism, as well as the distinct senses of the Good at the heart of pluralism.
In order to upset the foundation of anthropocentrism, in Animal Dreams John Zerzan reminds us of the ‘gifts of animals,’ describing the complexities of animal lives. He even references scientific experiments that demonstrate ways in which animal capacities outstrip humans. Establishing that all animals (including humans) have exceptional abilities may help decenteralize humanity but it does nothing to negate morality—it still relies on the concept of the natural as the Good. The same argument can be applied to primitivism in which the Good (living in harmony with nature) is distributed into multiple goods as they acknowledge the variety in indigenous ways of life.
To be against morality is a negative act. There is (are) no Good(s). We should be shaking the ground of others’ moral claims, not creating new ones.
The step towards the anti-political has created obstacles that have kept me from the animal and earth liberation movements. I cannot find a way around the barriers, perhaps there are some things that cannot be reconciled.
I have not abandoned green anarchy. I want to contribute to a project building connections between the beginning of civilization, the development of gender, the production of science, the destruction of the earth, and the domination of animals. I am not ambivalent to the acts performed by animal and earth exploitation industries – they are vivid examples of why I want to see the current social order dismantled. The links are not trivial. Capital takes all of life, human and non-human, commodifies it, and alienates it, forcing the reproduction of hierarchical social relations. The domestication of all life destroys possibilities, forcing us to submit our bodies and minds to fixed modes of being. When we talk about changing the ways in which we relate to the world, our relationship with animals and earth should be a part of that discussion.
I don’t want to ignore the issues. I want a completely different frame of reference.
I am no longer interested in discussing the “animal problem” or the “ecological problem.” I do not want to be a representative for animals and earth. I do not want to speak in political or moral terms. I want to escape politics, not reproduce them. I am afraid there is no reconciliation. I’ve pulled on the thread of representation, and the whole sweater has unraveled.
There are a hundred reasons to attack industries that harm animals and the earth but we should be honest about where our motivations lie. I have no critique for the individual who sabotages a factory farm that is contaminating their water source or a worker who destroys the machinery at the slaughterhouse they work at. But as for me, I will not lie so that I can continue to challenge these industries—I will not pretend my actions are the realization of my desires when the real motivation remains my intention to save animals or the wild. I want to be honest about my experience. There is no animal or earth liberation movement left for me.
I am not sure what this different frame of reference is. I am not sure what a nihilist practice will look like, at this moment I only have an idea of what it is not. An anarchist friend asks me to join the Animal Defense League to stop trophy hunting in B.C., and I am forced to pause. Eventually, I turn away.
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 Of course, the job of the representatives of animal and earth is much less complicated than most, as there are no individuals able to contradict their claims.
 You can find the pamphlet at: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/story/no-thanksgiving-leafletting-toward-total-liberation/13289
 Bison Wilder (2012). Wheat is Still Murder; Agriculture is Still Rape: Veganism, Post-Veganism, and Anarchy. You can find this at: http://earthspiritandanarchy. blogspot.ca/
 I would like to point out non-human animals can, of course, communicate with humans non-verbally. When I cut my cat’s nails she makes it very clear to me that she does not want to be there. Despite this ability, humans are left to speak verbally for animals, making various claims regarding their desires and interests.
 Baeden #1 (2012). The Anti-Social Turn.
 John Talent (2013). Leftistis and Animal Rights: Why Veganism is an Obligation and not an Option. http://veganarchismaintnojoke.tumblr.com/ post/50418819697/leftists-and-animal-rights-why-veganism-is-an
 Ibid. 3.
 John Zerzan (2014). Animal Dreams. Black Seed Issue #1