Anarchism, Primitivism, and Its Discontents

As a self-avowed minarchist, I have had a few interactions recently that led me to take a look at my political history and to contemplate the future of my political growth.  I will take up these events in the order in which they occurred.  But first a brief history.

Like many, I had a public education.  This is really not an education at all, it is a dumbing down to the lowest common denominator, an indoctrination that would make Stalin proud.  I was raised in a small farming community, I witnessed very little that promoted individuality, creativity, or any sort of thinking outside the box.  Instead of nurturing growth, I received anesthesia and was forced inside, like the proverbial turtle I was forced to seek protection by retreating into a shell. My self confidence shattered, drugs and alcohol became my refuge.

It took years to recover from this…the process yet continues.

After some time, I traveled…I met folks that were still free, I slowly emerged from my shell.  The first thing that really made sense to me was  deep ecology.  Deep ecology appeals to anyone who does not think deeply.  In the early nineties I met some who had thought just a touch more deeply than I, they were anarchists.  We argued, we debated, I was too ignorant to know that they ran circles around me intellectually.  Years later, their arguments finally sunk in and I was won over.  It was a blast of fresh air…I walked freely, with my head up, for the very first time.  I no longer sought the refuge of mind numbing drugs or alcohol.  Over many years I adopted a view that a minimalist state may be necessary.  With anarchism as the goal, minarchism became the path.

A few weeks ago I was leaving California and heading for Michigan.  I found a rider on Craigslist to help with gas and to provide conversation.  She was/is a self avowed radical queer anarchist.  Over the course of the three day drive we had hours on top of hours of conversation.  We discussed whether one could be considered an anarchist while accepting handouts from the government (they can’t.)  Her view of the trip probably differs from mine, but I recall it as a time of self-discovery and personal development.  As opposed to the early nineties, I am now the older more thoughtful one.  I did not attempt to bludgeon her with this information, but to lead her, let her make the discoveries on her own.  To at least some degree, I feel that I was successful.  While I don’t think that she made radical changes to her world view, I think seeds were planted which will one day take bloom.  That is the way that self change happens.

Here is the lesson, in a nut shell, that I tried to plant the seeds of.  It is hard to shrug off a system of government that we are dependent on.  If one wants to end (or even decrease the scope of) government, then one must end her/his dependence on it.  You cannot be an anarchist while collecting SSI or foodstamps or any other form of governmental welfare.

The first steps toward anarchy are to free yourself from dependence on government.  Once that is done, then you help free your friends and neighbors from their dependence.  This continues in a widening circle until government ceases to be a necessity and dries up and dies of its own accord.  That’s it.  No masks, no violence, and no hatred required (in fact these things are all counter productive)…the means must justify the ends or the ends become unattainable.

The other interaction of which I wish to write was with someone I have never met and assumably never will.  It is an essay by Theodore Kaczynski entitled “The Truth About Primitive Life: A Critique of Anarcho-Primitivism.”  I read the essay in  a book entitled Technological Slavery, but it is also available online.  A damning and irrefutable indictment of such shallow thinkers as Derrik Jensen and John Zerzan.

I have a friend doing 20+ years in Federal prison because she listened to such people.  All the while, these folks are living like fatted calves on the west coast.  These authors incite, they make up history, they urge others to action; but they avoid the risks, they rake in the cash, and they never take responsibility for their own words. Yes, words can have the same or more consequences as deeds.  The only difference is that words are cheap and deeds can be costly.  Like snake oil hucksters these folks preach a past that never was and a future that never can be, all the while ignoring the present and the way the world is.

Zerzan particularly wanted to sidle up to Kaczynski.  It is nice to see a man of strong character stand up to these intellectual (and character) light weights.  Kaczynski gives a damning overview of the so-called primitivists, and individually calls out Zerzan for his blatant mis-representation of the facts.  Zerzan is laid bare as the opportunistic huckster that he is.  While it may seem that I wish to specifically call out Zerzan and Jensen, this is not the case and only appears to be so because I have read there works and have somewhat of an understanding of their philosophy.  They both appeal to the young and disaffected, and neither has the intellectual honesty to admit that they owe their cushy lifestyles to those mal-adjusted enough to believe in them.

It is nice to earn intellectual development from someone half one’s age, and also from one whose convictions are undoubtedly true.  While his actions were not what I would choose, he led with action and took the consequences for them.  Of humanity we can ask nothing more.

Happy Earth Day.  It is not She who needs saving, it is us.

[T]here is about anarchoprimitivism a distinct flavor of early Christianity. The anarchoprimitivists’ hunting-and-gathering utopia corresponds to the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve lived in ease and without sin (Genesis 2). The invention of agriculture and civilization corresponds to the Fall: Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree of knowledge (Genesis 3:6), were cast out of the Garden (Genesis 3:24), and thereafter had to earn their bread with the sweat of their brow by tilling the soil (Genesis 3: 19,23). They moreover lost gender equality, since Eve became subordinate to her husband (Genesis 3:16). The revolution that anarchoprimitivists hope will overthrow civilization corresponds to the Day of Judgment, the day of destruction on which Babylon will fall (Revelation 18:2). The return to primitive utopia corresponds to the arrival of the Kingdom of God, wherein “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be.any more pain” (Revelation 21:4).

–T Kaczinski

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Happy May Day

While May Day has early European pagan beginnings, it is the 1886 Haymarket Riot that really got it going here in the US.

Like the latter 1968 police riot, this too had its roots in over zealous police and a government bent on suppressing dissent.

In 1884 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions set the goal of an 8 hour workday to be implemented by May 1, 1886.  When that day arrived there were rallies across the nation, 10000 in New York, another 10000 in Milwaukee, 11000 in Detroit, 80000 in Chicago…One hundred and thirty odd years before the tea baggers, up to half a million rallied around the nation.  In Chicago a general strike was called to aid the workers locked out of the local McCormick Harvesting Machine Company plant.  On May 3, police and pinkertons fired on the crowd killing-accounts of the time say-between 2 and 6 workers.  The following day workers rallied in Haymarket Square.

As the rally wound down, someone threw a pipe bomb killing a police.  The police opened fire on the crowd, some in the crowd were armed and fired back.  Eight police and four workers died, sixty police were injured (mostly by friendly fire) and an untold number of workers were injured.

Eight anarchists were rounded up and put on trial–the trial never linked them to the bombing, but convicted them simply for being anarchists.  All eight were found guilty and seven were sentenced to death.  Two of the seven had their sentences reduced on appeal.  The night before the planned execution Louis Ling killed himself, leaving four for the state to hang:  August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer, and George Engel.

Never were any of the eight connected to the bomb, they were selected only to set back the labor union.

Today as we leave work after our 8 hours, we should pay a special tribute for the 8 martrys who helped us win it and we should look forward to the 6 hour day and the 4 day workweek and our cry must be FULL EMPLOYMENT NOW.

Besides remembering these 8 and the sacrifices they made for us, we should also take time to get down on bended knee and smell the flowers…happy May Day.