Monday, August 30, 2010

Don't Target the Fist

I just finished reading Ted Kaczinski’s collected writings.  Some pretty powerful stuff.  I think his critique of modern technology is spot on.  I found particular resonance with his “fist” metaphor.  As anti-civ warriors, we need to be clear about what our true target is.  We should avoid aiming for the fist and find ways to get to the vulnerable organs behind the fist.   

He also offers a pretty scathing critique of anarcho-primitivism.  However, the anarcho-primitivism he attacks is a version that I don’t quite recognize.  He says the problem with anarcho-primitivists is that they idealize the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, falsely believing that hunter-gatherers engage in little violence, or that that they have little in the way of gender inequality, etc.  There may be a few soft-headed eco-radicals out there who think that when we abandon civilization and re-adopt a primitive lifestyle, we will be stepping back into the biblical Garden of Eden, but OldDog is neither soft-headed nor operating under any delusions regarding the idyllic nature of hunter-gatherer societies.

To me, the essence of anarcho-primitivism is the call to return to modes of living that are more consistent with our evolved predispositions.  Right now there is a dramatic mismatch between the ways people are being forced to live in our global consumer society and the lifestyles our DNA has prepared us to expect, both physically and psychologically.  Anarcho-primitivism is about removing the mismatch.  It is about re-collecting human dignity.  It’s about reclaiming an ancient and more meaningful definition of human freedom.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Consumer: [kuhn-soo-mer] -noun. 1. Domesticated human.

Something happened to a small group of subsistence hunter and gatherers 10,000 years ago.  A mutation?  A tiny congenital malformation of the prefrontal cortex?  Brain damage from exposure to a botanical neurotoxin?  Or maybe it was a chance side-effect of the capacity for symbolic representation, part of our linguistic development, and the fact that it happened 10,000 years ago instead of 100,000 years ago or yesterday is just a statistical detail.  Whatever the initial source, the resulting lifestyle changes spread like a potent contagion, rapidly out-competing all other modes of being in the world, to the point now where the drive to domesticate has become a defining feature of human action.  Human history is a story of the domestication of the world.  The rise of the global technoindustrial complex is very likely the final chapter in human history, threatening the end of wild nature, and the conquest of all that remains wild in the human soul.     

It is to government’s advantage that people think of themselves as citizens.  It is to the corporate world’s advantage that people think of themselves as consumers.  Globalization has led to the corporate assimilation of all world governments, which leaves only consumers.

For those of us who would be revolutionaries against the system, the advanced state of domestication of the human mind can be turned to our advantage.  As consumers, “civilized” people are sheep who are largely controlled by corporate propaganda, a fairly unsophisticated from of psychological manipulation. 

We might start by resurrecting the idea of human dignity.  But the idea of human dignity has leverage only when people think of themselves as human beings.   And there is some considerable volatility in convincing people to see themselves as human beings.

The system has no use for human beings. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Civil Rights versus Human Freedom

Suppose there was a group of Jews in a concentration camp during the holocaust that became angry and upset because there was another group of Jews in the same camp who were given slightly better access to bread and water.  How would you go about convincing them that their anger was misplaced?

Further suppose that some of the Jews who were experiencing the (very relative) bread-water deprivation, perhaps along with some sympathizers from the group with better access, pooled what little energy and political resources they had to petition the guards for more equitable bread distribution.  If you were a guard, what would you do?

If you were a guard who had to deal directly with the prisoners on a day-to-day basis, you might acquiesce to the prisoners’ demands, and take the steps necessary to ensure more equitable circumstances in order to keep the death machine running smoothly.

Conversely, if you were a particularly savvy guard concerned with keeping the prisoners from actually confronting the reality of their situation, if you wanted to keep them from actively revolting against their loss of freedom and dignity, if you wanted to keep them from directing their energy and intelligence toward the true source of their troubles, you might actually encourage the presence of differential privilege and make use of the ensuing perceptions of inequality as a potent means of distraction.

Modern civilization is a corporate death camp.  Civil rights issues are red herrings.  While we struggle for gay rights, women’s equality, minority access, etc., the gas chambers become increasingly efficient.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Domesticating the Human Mind

You are free to think independently, so long as you can justify your independent thought with historical precedent and the appropriate application of predefined rules of logic.  Think for yourself, but make sure you cite your sources.  The college classroom is just another venue for propaganda, helping to ensure that the machine has the right kind of friction, helping to weed out the outliers that could cause potential damage to the system’s smooth operation. 

And even nonconformity becomes a kind of participation, a service to the system, a lubricant to ensure the gears remain sharp.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Drinking the Koolaid

Lemmings don’t really commit mass suicide.  It’s an old myth that was popularized by a staged sea-plunge in a Disney movie in the late 1950s.

To my knowledge, humans are the only animal capable of purposely ending its own life—and certainly the only species capable of mass suicide.

Why is that?  What could drive a creature to engage in collective acts of self-destruction? 

I suspect that collectivist social activities such as mass suicide, organized warfare, professional sport spectatorship, and Christmas shopping are not part of our genetic heritage, a manifestation of some evolved primate herd mentality.  Chimpanzees have been observed engaging in cooperative behavior that includes gang killings and small-scale “warfare;” but there is nothing that would suggest that the participants in these events are not acting independently, as individuals.  And we are, after all, 98% chimpanzee.  But maybe there is something in that remaining 2% that makes us prone to mindless acts of self-destructive conformity.

Again, to my knowledge, subsistence hunter-gatherer societies have not been observed engaging in mass activities of this sort.  They have individual suicide (although at a far lower frequency than occurs in our “civilized” society).  And they have warfare.  But the warfare is not organized in a way that comes close to comparing with the zombie hoard-soldier approaches seen with agrarian and industrial societies.  Modern military combat is predicated on the careful coordination and timing of mass action: an approach reflected in the image of men in identical uniforms marching in lockstep.  And our war narratives are laced with tales of selfless bravery: a soldier who jumps on a live grenade to save his comrades; whereas a Plains Indian warrior in battle is a “free agent” who takes orders from his own intuition and experience.  He is very unlikely to intentionally take an arrow for a fellow warrior—in some circles, such an act would be an insult to the intended target.       

It is difficult to support the idea that mass suicide—or collectivist behavior of any kind beyond that found in the family unit—is part of our DNA.  And if the propensity to engage in mass suicide is not genetic, then what is its source? 

Thursday, August 12, 2010


In previous posts I have suggested (and written explicitly) that corporations are anti-human.  That’s not to say that corporate entities never act in ways that appear on the surface to be in humanity’s best interest.  Corporations, as parasites, have a stake in the short-term wellbeing of their hosts.  It is my understanding that many spiders don’t kill their prey outright.  Instead they paralyze them, immobilize them and keep them alive so that they can siphon off their fresh body fluids at their leisure.   

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who is We?

I was reading an article in a “green” magazine recently about the changes we need to make if we want to save our planet for future generations—nothing surprising, enlightening, or particularly useful.  Old news.  I’ve probably read over a hundred of these kinds of articles in the last few years, and each one leaves me with slightly less patience for then next.  They appear to be increasingly preachy or trite or both, but it is not the tone of these articles that is sapping my stamina.  Nor is it the all-to predictable content. 

It’s the use of pronouns. 

Specifically, it’s the liberal use of we, us, and our as if there were actual meaningful referents for these words.  “It is up to us.” “We have to change the way we think about our relationship with the environment.”

Who the hell is we?  Which us?  Who is the owner of our?  

If the authors are intending these terms to refer to some generic “everyone,” then they’re talking nonsense.  Everyone did not just release a quarter of a billion gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  Everyone is not harvesting old growth forests or draining sensitive wetlands to build condos.  Everyone did not strew depleted uranium munitions all over northern Africa.  Everyone is not marketing disposable razors, beverage and processed food containers, and tampon applicators that end up in a giant plastic vortex in the Pacific Ocean.  Everyone is not gouging mountains into oblivion and sending endless coal trains to CO2-spewing power plants.  Everyone is not killing the planet.  Very specific people with very specific agendas operating within very specific power structures are killing the planet.  In fact, a good argument could be made that it’s really no one at all, that it’s the power structures themselves—and not any specific group of individuals—that are squeezing the life out of the biosphere.

Or perhaps the authors really believe that individual people, you and I, are responsible for our ecological woes.  Because my kitchen toaster uses electricity from coal, I shoulder part of the burden for the destruction of the Appalachians.  In my greed for crisp jam-covered bread in the morning, I share the blame for global climate change.

Claiming that individuals (you and I), are part of the cause suggests that individuals (you and I) have some actual power to effect a solution.  This line of reasoning is, of course, delusional.  Neither you nor I have ever had any meaningful choice in the matter.  True, some people in economically “advanced” countries have some trivial options with respect to the volume and nature of their consumer behavior, how much and what type of energy they use; they have some limited say about how actively and how directly they participate in the despoilment of the planet.  But such control is always exercised over the omnipresent backdrop of a large-scale industrial consumer-based system.  It is only because the society you and I live in is the highly advanced planet-killing monster it is, that we have the freedom to titrate our consumption in the first place.  .

But there is something more insidious about the idea that individual people acting with free will are responsible for civilization’s destructive nature.  It is a well-used diversionary tactic that helps to ensure that those entities that are actually responsible are never made to atone for their transgressions.  To put it in psychological terms, it is a subtle form of “blaming the victim.” 

The Keep America Beautiful Campaign was launched In the 1970s and funded largely by beverage and fast food companies in response to the threat of bottle-bill legislation requiring beverage manufactures to reuse their product containers.  It was as a well-planned and highly successful corporate diversionary tactic with the dual goal of equating environmental pollution with litter (effectively diverting attention from less visible but far more deadly industrial pollutants) and convincing the public that a handful of uncaring individuals were responsible for the problem (thus eliminating corporate responsibility for the environmental impact of their over-packaged consumer products).  In many ways, the “green” movement of the last decade is just a larger and more ubiquitous iteration of the Keep America Beautiful Campaign. 

Ecosystems can be saved, the impact of climate change can be diminished if only we would take the initiative and do something about it!

But if by we is meant the everyday citizens of our global corporate civilization, there is absolutely nothing we can do.  Civilization is a hierarchical system for consuming and concentrating resources.  The global corporate industrial complex is a machine designed specifically to consume the planet at an ever-accelerating rate.  That is its purpose, its unspoken prime directive.  And the microscopic proportion of the global human population who temporarily occupy the apex of the system’s power hierarchy, the ones most responsible for our situation, are not free to act in any way that is counter to the prime directive.  You can’t change the rules and play the game at the same time.

There are some things that we can do to that might actually have an impact on our situation—things that you and I can do acting together or alone.  But they are not the kinds of things that will ever find their way to the pages of any magazine that solicits corporate advertising.