Monday, May 25, 2015

Artisans




Artisans




“I consume, therefore I am” the radical poster humorously proclaimed, satirizing the more famous philosophical dictum “I think therefore I am”.

But there is no human essence, no defining kernel of fate and determination.  We contain multitudes. We can create ourselves.

Under the rule of coercive authority, we have become stunted and shrunken. But we are nevertheless not just consumers. What’s missing in order to form a more accurate picture of what primarily defines a domesticated person today is the other side of consumption: production. “I produce, therefore I am” seems as accurate as “I consume, therefore I am”. In fact the two descriptions, combined together, are nearly the whole personality picture, unfortunately, for the conscripts of capitalist civilization. Each of us is expected to produce and consume, this is what citizens do.

Human the tool-user we are taught. Homo Habilis. Somewhere along the way we lost our abundance of defining characteristics, our multitudes. Are we not dreamers and fornicators as much as we are producers and consumers? But urban civilizations spread their reductionism until all the dreamers and naked savages were taken hostage behind the walls, absorbed into a living hell. From now on, they were told, you must divide your organic lives into measurable units. Dream time will no longer melt into conscious time. From now on you will labor for the Pharaohs and the Kings. Accountants and landlords and priests will rule your world, not grandmothers and shamans and your own imaginations. Whatever skills you have will no longer be used for the family, the clan, the tribe, but will be used to produce commodities for the Market or products for the Empire. The Market became dominant and colonized imperial strengths. Thus today humanity has as its main adversary the Imperialism of the Market. From being wild women of the jungle and wild men of the forest, we eventually became wage slaves in the cities.

And the once free peoples stopped singing as they wove their fishing nets, stopped lying lazily, happily, in their comfortable hammocks, smoking their medicine, telling stories, fornicating. From now on they would chant sad songs as they broke and hauled stone for the hierarchs pyramids, tilled the soil and sent their children to war for the King and Queen or huddled on small reservations, dispossessed. At least until they too became forcibly integrated into urban civilization. And so the uncivilized became the civilized and went out and conquered other free people.

But there was a beginning when work didn’t exist, when play and community were basic ingredients in lives freely chosen, when reciprocity assured equality.  A time when ungoverned individuals knew that selling one’s labor for a wage is a form of slavery. And there was resistance to the spreading Empires of the urban hierarchs everywhere they came to impose themselves, to elbow the natives out of their habitats.

     I am an artisan. I make objects out of clay. I make vessels of every shape and size: boxes and cylinders and three sided bottles. I make tea-pots and bowls, cups and plates and candlestick holders. I also create individual pieces, intended for contemplation or for inspiring conversation.

     Does this make me a mere producer for the market? Is my pottery, the product of my labor and imagination, of my sweat and time, left with any meaning, beyond that of a commodity? Do the ones which I give away, to friends, family and neighbors, for free, escape their place in the capitalist scheme of things? Naturally I hope that somehow there is a separate value, a use-value that transcends its exchange value which gives my work, and therefore a big part of my life, meaning, regardless of whether it is given or sold or even stolen. And the joy in the process must count. Or is all the positive really just self-delusion?  Isn’t the whole things just a job?

      I ask because I like conversations, because I want all of us to think about our place in the social order.

     Clay play existed before horticulture, before the dawning of cities and ruling classes, before the market and private property.  Among the more sedentary peoples, those who used a delayed-return system, vessels were created for medicine, to keep water cool in the hot sun, to store food for another season and to collect salt.  And among both the nomadic and semi-sedentary peoples, figurines were fashioned as magical amulets and talismanic objects, jewelry beads materialized from the imagination for the living and the dead. Beautiful and mysterious creatures made for blowing air into so that music could lull and soothe the ears.

      No one signed their creations, no one left their imprint trying to make a name for themselves, seeking personal immortality or wealth. The creators contributed to the greater good or made offerings so that the gods might smile down on everybody.

     But what of the later humble village-based folk traditions, which survived for millennia and in fact still exist in some places today? Could they not offer inspiration, an opportunity to help us leave behind the fame seeking, shallow celebrityism and pretentious claims to intellectual and creative superiority widespread in art milieus? Why not encourage village potters, village weavers ? No need for galleries and curators and lifetimes spent deciphering arcane vocabularies and fetishizing producers of cultural artifacts. No need for anxiety and self-doubt if one isn’t accepted into a sub-cultural scene.

     And yet there is something unpleasantly proletarian and dull and self-sacrificing in the image of the humble artisan dedicated to producing only what is utilitarian, ignoring the opportunity to experiment, to play and explore, to manifest expressions of the marvelous and the impossible. Sensual and creative skills are all non-alienated languages. They offer the opportunity to use non-verbal methods for communication and inquiry.  Creative skills provide both a look through a different opening as well as a language to communicate what is perceived, thus sharing with others a different facet of our experience.

     Ultimately, mustn’t we refuse to legitimize market imperialism dictates of social roles, like “artist”? Shouldn’t we be creating for our friends or clans or communities and not for the market? But here we are. Trapped in an era, inmates of our atomized and privatized lives, conscripts of planetary institutions of domination. And it’s not just artist/artisan that are problematic, all roles and labels that we choose from are pre-cut clich├ęs formed by the interests of urban civilization. Drug addict, tourist, rock star, vegan activist, laborer, soldier, mayor, religious believer, they’re all scripted characters, costumes we choose (or are given) from the small wardrobe offered by the current social order.
 
      The masters have made it so that living costs money, and money is our congealed labor, our imaginations and life energy spun into commodities.  And so I answer my question: indeed even an artisan, like everyone else, is but a component in the reproduction of capitalist social relations, an example  of the dictum that: “I produce therefore I am”.  But I am ready for a world without commodities, to join with others to terminate this social order so that we can use our creative skills as methods of inquiry and exploration, and voluntarily and joyfully create what is needed and desired by our kin, not what is demanded of us by the Market and Authority.

Artisan X




Sunday, May 3, 2015

insurrectionary subsistence





Regeneration as an anarchist vision

Toward an OCCUPY LAND movement
There were many aspects of the Occupy Movement that were praiseworthy: its decentralization and internationalism, lack of a reformist list of demands, the explorations of collective decision making and of course its goal of helping human societies become less hierarchical. But what were the Occupy protesters occupying?  Wasn’t it essentially urban space as a means of temporarily reclaiming some property to use as a media-like base to complain about social and economic inequality?

How might someone looking through the lens of insurrectionary subsistence consider Occupy?  I think that it’s worth wondering if Occupy would have been more powerful and threatening if there had been a more personal and immediate goal of occupying land.  In a city this might mean occupying a park and a nearby building, for instance, not to use as a space to become either engaged citizens or drop outs, but to use as infrastructure in a real attempt at exploring new social relationships. The park might be used for planting an orchard and a garden, building a hen coop and setting up ponds to attract wildlife, as simple examples, and the building used for shelter and defense from hostile forces. Of course, urban inhabitation offers more opportunity for destroying the enemy’s infrastructure than it does the creation of liberated space that could support some sort of sustainable urban permaculture zone. But the points must be made that we are dispossessed and that access to land is essential for any group of self-directed people.

Or imagine if the protesters had marched out of their city and brought their considerable numbers and resources to support the nearest indigenous land re-occupation effort. What an incredible opportunity to be allies and co-conspirators with folks who have been on the front line against capitalism and colonialism for centuries. There are such efforts all over Canada and the U.S. Or if each encampment had gone out into the nearest public or corporate lands to set up their own land occupation camps, as attempts at creating places to self-organize and survive in a non-urban setting and as a way of opening new fronts against the nation-state in solidarity with indigenous fighters and communities.

Urban living has to be abandoned in order for any truly anarchic set of living practices to succeed. With that as a backdrop belief, then insurrectionary subsistence becomes clearer as a specific revolutionary perspective. It involves trying to take steps that help further access to land for communal groups; either indigenous people reclaiming their traditional territory or non-indigenous people accessing land to create their own authentic bonds, free of the forces of either the market or the state.

How does one describe the freedom that anarchists are yearning for? Is it freedom from-as in oppression, domination, mediation, domestication, colonization? Is it freedom to-as in to explore, imagine, experiment and dream? It is both and therefore I wonder how these two might intersect, and how our means to this intertwining might contain its ends.

Insurrectionary subsistence practice is identifying one’s potential habitat and making attempts at dismantling existing industrial activity and doing our best to stop industrial expansion there. Unlike direct action ecology which advocates attacking industrialism in order to protect wilderness, insurrectionary subsistence attacks industrialism generally, wherever one lives, in order to help the local ecosphere regenerate not for abstract spiritual or ecological reasons, but in order to protect one’s potential home.

Like primitivism, insurrectionary subsistence encourages attacking industrialism not only to protect wilderness areas but also as part of a greater goal of destroying mass authoritarian civilization so that humanity can ultimately return to lives centered more or less around hunter-gathering. But insurrectionary subsistence also aims to secure access to land in order to begin experimenting with different green ways of living here and now, without any predetermined destination in mind.  We trust that truly free, self-organized, self-directed people will end up where they need to be to fully realize themselves. Life is full of spectrums and grey areas, like the undefinable boundaries between the hard and the soft, so it’s important not to get stuck on specific expressions and mental constructions, like “bio-regionalism” or “nomadic hunter-gathering” or “paleo” or “permaculture” or “cultural materialism”. There are gradations everywhere, disagreements about definitions, new information and insights that continually ask us to reconsider our perspectives. This is important for anarchists, who must be guided by the desire to fight for dignified lives as well as by the ecological principles of regeneration and renewal. Chaos and paradox define our surroundings and our histories as much as any rational template.

I’ve been around long enough to know that eventually all sets of analyses, like cultural materialism as an example, will seem outdated and inadequate and will need revisions and rethinking. All over North America, for instance, the non-civilized experimented with and integrated many customs and activities that would be considered outside the limits of nomadic hunter-gatherer lifeways: some had dogs that lived among them, some planted the odd crop, others maintained specific conditions to encourage food or medicine sources through fires, many lived in permanent, if seasonal, villages, etc. Hierarchy did not always accompany the lives of those who engaged in these practices or experiments. And what some outsiders, like anthropologists, could describe as hierarchy in some instances, might from the subjects themselves not be considered coercive or alienating or having any basis in domination whatsoever.  There are simply so many varieties of gathering/hunting cultures and of the non-civilized generally, that the description seems to fall short as sufficient to adequately encapsulate our destination. Best from my point of view, is to start by getting access to land with the crystal clear desire to begin experimenting with free ways of living.

In terms of where I live, fairly close to large areas of land, I do know how to hunt and have hunted, but civilization has made widespread gathering-hunting an impossibility for the time being. This doesn’t mean that occupying land is pointless, it just necessitates conceptualizing and accepting a practice that has only a few stepping stones in some places to a green anarchist lifeway while in others the stepping stones required would be so numerous that one has to accept some transitional time period of helping re-naturalize a habitat. It does seem true that the more sedentary the people the more likelihood the existence of rank and privilege. But there isn’t a causal connection. Other factors also come into play. And based on my reading of anthropological evidence, permanently located villages, established within fairly small habitats, with seasonal subsistence campsites, are also sufficient for experiencing completely free, undomesticated and healthy existences.

              The participant in an organically self-organized subsistence movement wants to be embedded in a habitat. They don’t aim toward an exclusive means of providing food or set of living arrangements. They just want to be free people rooted in a dynamic and healthy environment. I think that a settled village of ungoverned individuals, (or even cluster of them), for instance, perhaps divided in smaller groups within it along some affinity or blood relation, one that also supports seasonal subsistence camps, is as ideal a setting for humans to experience complete freedom and direct experience with our surroundings as a nomadic group of gatherer-hunters. These people would sustain themselves by fishing, maintaining berry patches and wild starches, perhaps even planting a simple crop like squash or encouraging oyster production through subtle interactions. The destination is a place where we are free to experiment with our social configurations and we have the habitat to support us as we do so. If that leads to nomadic hunter-gathering, or nomadic gathering-hunting or village based gathering-hunting or village based hunting-gathering supported by squash crops and domesticated cannabis and valerian root medicines, then so be it.  Most concepts seem to break down into ever smaller units or even to completely liquefy into infinite constituent parts once we try to pin point and confine and set apart from all other concepts. What precisely is nomadic and what sedentary? What exactly is domestication? Where does the hierarchy anarchists are opposed to end to make room for notions of old timer wisdom?  
 
 While I am overjoyed when spontaneous and broad proletarian insurgencies and uprisings occur, like they have recently (2012 to 2015) in Montreal, Ferguson, Baltimore, Greece, the Bay etc., I believe that each of our lives counts, each of our undertakings potentially contributes. Some of our activities quietly chip away at the dominant reality while others are more dramatic. I don’t care if at times my actions accomplish nothing. I want to live and try and experiment, and of course there remains the possibility that in a coalescing of all our small attempts something greater might occur, that perhaps one day some might actually help liberate an area. In this sense I support and encourage everything from the formation of intentional communities to clandestine sabotage of industrial projects, from the setting up of wilderness camps for a few friends or helping out at an indigenous land re-occupation camp to disruptions of normalcy in riotous behavior at anti-police brutality marches. All of these activities create bonds between comrades, highlight what and who our enemy is and build experience and wisdom. Hunting and fishing and gathering wild food is as important as writing to prisoners.



Insurrectionary subsistence is the attempt, successful or not, to wrest a little territory from the nation-state and the market. This land base might be a stepping stone toward eventually reaching a habitat or it might be taken with the intent of becoming part of a habitat itself, say through re-naturalizing efforts.

This is not just a call to “green” our revolts, although this is one way to speak about it, but to make more of our activity aimed toward accessing land or protecting potential habitat for anarchist living experiments here and now.

It is a call to consider the implications of realizing that without access to land, no group can sustain itself.
Free people living in healthy habitats is the destination, insurrectionary subsistence is one of the means.



For more on organically self-organized subsistence movements or insurrectionary subsistence, check out the following web sites and literature:

Warrior Publications
Warrior Publications is published in occupied Coast Salish territory (Vancouver, Canada).  Its purpose is to promote warrior culture, fighting spirit, and resistance movements.
In addition, this website seeks to function as an historical archive of Indigenous anti-colonial struggles and resistance, and to provide analysis of these struggles.”

Land and Freedom an open invitation by Seaweed available from Little Black Cart or Black Powder Press

BC Blackout~ Social War Against Industrial Expansion, a very informative web site
About BC Blackout
“The purpose of BC Blackout is to foment anarchist agitation and action throughout the colonial province of BC and promote self-organization and social conflict against industrial development. We express our solidarity with indigenous rebels who are protecting their homelands, sustainable ways of living, and who are at the front lines of the war against the colonial capitalist Canadian state.
For us, there is no distinction between ecological resistance and class war. The same rich bastards profiting from our dispossession are profiting from destroying the natural world. They extort our consensus with the bribe of jobs, but what good is money on a dead planet? We want to get all the cops and bosses out of our lives, to destroy the capitalist economy and regenerate respectful relationships to the land, ourselves and each other.
We encourage you to develop your own analysis, find accomplices and decide for yourself what is the best way to attack the system and take a step towards control over your life…
As Vancouver is home to some of the largest international mining companies we wish to draw the links between our own battles here with those of comrades fighting BC based mining operations around the world. All around the world indigenous people, anarchists and other grassroots land defenders are rising up and saying, “No More!” Attacking industrial resource extraction while defending radical ways of living and liberating autonomous space.
Against this miserable global system, our struggles are one.”

There are also plenty of existing examples of insurrectionary anarchist action. Some of the activities and outlooks of the Zapatistas for instance. As mentioned in this article, there are also many indigenous re-occupation camps throughout the world. I’ve come across and have participated in more personal and small scale examples of radical withdrawal that would fit within insurrectionary anarchist practice, like building wilderness camps as places to hide from authority, gather food and medicine, renew one’s relationship with nature, etc. There are many other interesting groups, for instance an intentional paleo community that is buying a few small nodes of land that border vast public lands. Their idea is to combine the security of small legal land bases with access to a larger habitat. I think it’s important to support all attempts because they help create a wider radical culture that might ultimately support a broader insurgency.








Friday, November 11, 2011

simple phrases and parables

Ponds and oceans

For freedom and nature lovers.


Simple proverbs and phrases intended as

broad hints and insights for the rebellious.





Habitats


The dispossessed will occupy land for habitats.

Cities are not habitats.

Adapt to nature.

The people of the land are our elders.

Nature has no political boundaries.

Industrialism kills habitats.

Industrial production must be permanently dismantled.

The village can learn from the traveler.

Our minds are not separate from our bodies. Mind is matter.

Habitats create us as we create them.

Defend your habitat.


Withdrawal


Withdraw to organize.

Withdrawing is attacking.

Withdraw to experience communal subsistence.

Insurgency and withdrawal coexist.

Withdraw to train.

Withdraw to heal.

Withdraw to occupy.

Withdraw now to attack later.

Refusing to participate is an act of sabotage.

The state will use violence to enforce reintegration and assimilation of group withdrawal.

Pursue collective experiments in living.


Anarchy


Free individuals cluster together organically.

Secessionist regions and enclaves can experiment with anarchy.

Kinship ties facilitate anarchy.

Anarchy will bury anarchism.

The ungoverned individual is the basis of anarchy.

Decentralisation prevents new states from emerging.

Desire for the inherent benefits of harmony and successful subsistence activity encourages efforts to create pleasurable coexistence.

Federations can break away from the nation state.

Anarchy is a fight for experimentation in living.

Freedom is a set of social relationships.

Peace is achieved through the revolutionary abolition of nation states.

Replace statist laws with agreements between free people.

The group is stronger within a federation.

The anarchist federation is an organic body.

The organic decays and disappears to make room for renewal.

The artist experiments. The anarchist destroys. The animal embodies sensual knowledge.

The federation is a weapon of insurgency.


Revolution


Global revolution cannot be planned but local secession can.

Organic self-organization can precede secession from the nation-state.

Seceding from the nation-state makes room for organic self-organization.

Authentic revolution creates authentic human bonds.

All politicians are obstacles to revolution.

Revolution is organically self-organized.

Revolution is complete renewal.

Complete renewal requires an organic dimension.

Federations of communes can break away from the nation state.

Occupation sites federate.

Allies federate. Ponds become an ocean.

Revolutionary foresight creates revolutionary futures.


Urban ways


Abandon cities in groups.

Atomization is the chain that binds us.

Uprisings must destroy the relationships called city.

Without destroying the city, complete renewal will fail.

The city is an authoritarian institution.

Numeracy and literacy are urban technologies.

Temporary gatherings of thousands of people are not cities.

Technology can’t solve social problems.

Using technology is not a consensual activity.

A collection of villages is not a city.

Urban civilization is a necessary condition for capitalist civilization.

Coercive hierarchy is a necessary condition for urban civilization.

Agriculture makes urban civilization possible.

The destruction of capitalism will include the destruction of urban ways.

The rural will be buried alongside the urban.

Resist atomization.


Martial traditions


Communes defend themselves.

Animals don’t have hospitals.

The women make the machetes.

Even fragile, peaceful snowflakes acting together can sometimes quietly suffocate the dominant reality.

Some will die.

No one can see the whole mountain.

Beneath the surface, the roots live in darkness.

The state prevents the emergence of federations with violence.

Martial skills can defeat military ones.

During unrest the state will use police or rebels as human sacrifices, the first to justify law and order, the second to reassure the bourgeoisie.

Act as a group without appearing to be a group.

Insurrectional events should threaten the bosses of the dominant reality.

Without risk we fail.

A community of resistance has an arsenal.

Makhno, Durruti, Pontiac, Geronimo, Gabriel Dumont, Zapata, Crazy Horse.

Collective fury is the invisible weapon of the disarmed.

You’re only disarmed if you think you are.

A mutual shaping of ideas and action begins before genuine revolt and continues during it.


Capitalism


Capitalism is a violent crisis.

No roles or identities created for capitalist civilization are worth preserving.

Capitalism is a river of blood.

Capitalist civilization stunts its populace.

The market is the world’s imperial master.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cities or villages?

Cities



Cities are not habitats. City folk can, indeed must, participate in a momentum against urban living because city ways are one of the roots of our predicament and it is city inhabitants who will suffer the most in the coming years. Millions of people obviously can’t move out to the countryside or the wilderness tomorrow morning. If you can’t bring the village to the mountain, then bring the mountain to the village. This might be part of a solution. Bring some wilderness to the city. Cities must be de-citified. It will take insurgent imagination and imaginative insurgencies. Cities can become partly abandoned, partly re-created into a collection of autonomous villages separated by vast tracts of gardens and re-emerging forests, the whole region healed by becoming a sort of vast permaculture zone. Paradise paved need not be permanent.

What seems insurmountable often isn’t in reality. There is an urbanizing trend spreading across the continents, it is proletarianizing our brothers and sisters, threatening our fellow creatures, it is polluting and exploitative and unsustainable.

Cities don’t end where the suburbs dissipate into farmland. Rural living presently is but the flip side of the same coin of capitalist civilization. Rural people also work and shop and pay rent or mortgages and live out atomized lives. The air is cleaner and at least one might spot a deer and watch the stars at night, but private property, work and cops also control the countryside. There too habitats are invaded, plundered, polluted. Country folk are also incarcerated, carcinogized, monitored and punished. Our destruction of urban life entails the destruction of rural life. The goal is a geography where villages and clans and groups of friends dominate the social landscape, not vast tracts of farmland that feed cities or country estates that the privileged and lucky retreat to. The goal is healthy habitats, the creation of healthy environments and the healing of sick ones that can sustain all the life forms that live within them.