Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eco-terrorists versus Into-the-Wild-ers versus Me

I'm reviewing and researching anarcho-primitivism for my new book, going over anarcho-primitivist material looking for things to frame my side of the debate.

Derrick Jensen's Terrorist Army

Derrick Jensen is one of the most powerful voices in American eco-terrorism. These videos show the relationship engine. First is this one which shows how charismatic Jensen is: Youtube: Derrick Jensen on Identification. Consequent to his charismatic and sloppy reasoning are the legions of sympathizers who operate as sleeper cells reconfiguring the Jensen memes into their own art and life mission: Youtube: Quote from Derrick Jensen's Endgame Vol II, page 662.

What is an Anarcho-Primitivist?

I found, copied and archived a definition of Anarcho-Primitivism here [Warning: Long Read]. The only new information in this for me was Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle (click to specific citation). So this is why so many at Evergreen were anti-internet -according to this meme all things done through mediation are illegitimate or at least of lesser value. Makes me angry just thinking about the masses at Evergreen who proudly stated they didn't know how to use a computer or refused to rely in internet communication. They even fought successfully to keep cell phone towers from being built so cell signals could work at the campus. Oh well, the anger is good, my hater-style book needs more of my brain cycles in that mode.

Living in Collapse

My big surprise today was finding the first anti-civilization piece I've ever respected. Living in Collapse by Jason Godesky [Warning: Long Read]. I lived amongst hundreds or plausibly thousands of eco-terrorist resonators while going to Evergreen State College, and I promise none I ever met were this academic. But I should stress this piece is not eco-terrorist. I did find it by a link from an eco-terrorist blog, but the gist of Living in Collapse involves no active violence to bring down civilization.

My questions and counters to Living in Collapse

Like Living in Collapse, I do believe the world is some sort of state of collapse. I am more in the John Robb school of Collapse. I diverge strongly from Living in Collapse by believing industrialized and informational civilization will become stronger, rather die like in the Living in Collapse vision. Still, the Living in Collapse gives me pause, and ultimately the only disagreements may be a simply a clash of what lifestyle Jason Godesky wants ( to live in nature without civilization ) as opposed to my sentimental preference for an electrical and computer-enhanced, literate human race dominating at least this solar system.

I find one assertion by Godesky hard to believe, that the great empires succeeded one another due to depleted soils, and that civilization is about to completely end due to all soil being depleted. Key paragraph from Living in Collapse:

There are distinct differences between our situation and that of the Roman Empire, however. While the Romans did face some problems of soil depletion and erosion, these were not acute crises that brought down the empire. Rather, the Roman Empire largely choked on its own complexity. More importantly, the Roman Empire, and all previous civilizations, were part of a general trend of escalating complexity. Each civilization in the past left fertile soils, mineral deposits, and other resources that future civilizations would need. The trend of Western civilization was a constant move west, to find soils not yet destroyed by agriculture—Persia and its attempts to conquer Greece; the Greek city-states and their Italian colonies; the Roman Empire stretching into Germany, France, Britain and Spain; the medieval kingdoms of Germany, France, Britain and Spain, and their eventual colonies in the New World; the United States after its revolution and the doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” pushing into the west; and finally, the Green Revolution once we ran out of new frontiers to coqnuer and to cultivate. Each one left less for the successive civilization, but while Rome fell, Teotihuacan, China, and even Byzantium could continue on uninterrupted, while soils and mineral resources untouched by past civilizations remained on the frontier. With the exploitation of fossil fuels and the emergence of a globalized peer polity, that trend has reached its inevitable conclusion. There are no more fertile soils that have not been exhausted; there are no more fossil fuel or mineral resources in economic quantities and close enough to the surface to mine without an industrial infrastructure; there is no corner of the globe where complexity can continue uninterrupted when global complexity collapses. From the long view, it is clear that civilization is a momentary blip in human history, an anomoly born from a very specific constellation of geographic and climatological factors.

With all due respect to the writer Jason Godesky, I doubt his fundamental assertion: I do not believe the soils are depleted. But hey, if I'm wrong, and the bedrock of all our problems is in this depleted minerals issue, then here is goal number one for civilization: mine the solar system. Divert money and effort that would have been spent on sustainability and equitable distribution of depleting resources, and put it into a race to colonize outer space.

Nature and Social Justice: 0
Space Travel and Mining: 1
Go Team!

There is a concluding vision in Living in Collapse -their are emerging gaps of opportunity in civilization, places such as the Appalachians, where people can drop out of civilization. Early adopters of the total civ collapse, you might say. The author seems hopeful that humans will start seizing this way of life as cracks open up in the great slow collapse.

I offer two subtext tangents from this Into-the-Wild ism. One is the author is pointing at The Big Complexity of human achievement, and saying it is eroding and their are cracks in it that provide opportunity. What if its not the whole Big Complexity that is collapsing, but merely parts of it. What the means of production, wealth, etc are being adjusted radically but The Big Complexity comes out stronger. My contention: what if The Big Complexity is going through much needed network hygiene (killing off under-performing nodes, making new connections, making new/better protocols)?

My second subtext tangent is to return to eco-terrorists. The writer of Living in Collapse offers something I disagree with, but god bless him, at least he offers a peaceful solution -where opportunity emerges, march yourself out of civilization and make your way in the wild. For this to work there needs to be a slow, several generation collapse. The eco-terrorist want overnight carnage type of collapse. In that scenario few to almost none will be prepared to make it a go in the wild. The eco-terrorist are actually pursuing the end of humans as much as they are pursuing the end of civilization. What a sick people.

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