Monday, August 20, 2012

Wheat is Still Murder; Agriculture is Still Rape: Veganism, Post-Veganism, and Anarchy

Now available in Russian at

 Trigger Warning: References Rape

I recently encountered a term that I'd never heard before. In the context I heard it, it was intended as pejorative, but if someone wants to refer to me that way, I'll wear it like a badge of honor and I don't even mind self-identifying in this way. The term I'm talking about is "post-vegan." So where do these two, veganism and post-veganism, diverge? Where do they cross over? What does this mean for us as anarchists?

First of all, I want to start by clarifying that I'm not trying to write a radical version of "The Vegetarian Myth" or anything like that. I'm not going to tell you that my two years of veganism destroyed my life. In fact, I really have no regrets about my veganism itself (though I do regret the hurtful ways I sometimes treated non-vegans) and in fact I believe that veganism was a great step for me towards understanding what I eat, how I should eat, and why. I proudly carry with me many of the ethics I held as a vegan although I have followed those "conclusions" that I came to on to deeper and farther reaching questions and a more radical (root seeking!!) analysis.

Further, I do not wish to present myself as being a superior anarchist who eats a perfect diet. I strive to eat paleo, local, and wild but am having intense personal struggles with that transition. I am no authority on ethical eating and I struggle to even eat a suitable human diet (that is to say a paleo diet) for even a few days straight without reverting to eating domesticated beings and other semi-edibles that humans are not evolved to eat.

I also want to be very clear that my intent is not to demonize vegans. For purposes of this essay I am definitely giving vegans the benefit of the doubt. I'll assume that they aren't vegan because they enjoy the clear cuts and other ecological devastation that veganism requires from petroleum intensive agriculture to the animals killed by the industrial machines used to rape the land through planting and the enslavement, abduction, and murder of plant people. I will assume they don't relish the power, control, and dominance they exert over the bodies of those plant people. I'll just assume they are interested in animal rights and putting and end to dominance and cruelty. My experience has been that post-vegans aren't given the benefit of the doubt on this issue and are generally assumed to be apathetic or rationalizing some desire to dominate non-human animals. Our worst possible motives are generally assumed. Seeing how reductionist, dichotomous, and lazy that approach is, I feel like my response should not be in kind. As such, I will address mostly "veganism" rather than "vegans." I understand that veganism isn't a being with intent or purpose or even unified reasoning, but for the purposes of this essay, it makes more sense to challenge the ideology than the complex and nuanced individuals that identify with it.

I admittedly have a hard time having a calm, logical, rational, abstract discussion about ecocide, whether it is greenwashed as alternative energy, veganism and other consumer politics, or anything else. The Earth is my Mother and to have someone explain to me why their preferred method of dominating and raping my mother is not only acceptable, but morally superior to my attempts to end those practices is absolutely infuriating. As such I feel like writing an essay is a more effective and meaningful way for me to engage this topic, at least in some ways.

The Myth of "Compassionate Consumerism"

"Vegan" is essentially a capitalist/socialist and thus consumerist identity based on consumption patterns and moralism (at least as it is mostly practiced in the west.) There are eastern cultures that are vegan for explicitly religious reasons, but since I don't know many vegans who are non-western or people of color, this essay is largely geared towards the practice of veganism with which I am most familiar, that of white westerners. A critique of religion covers most of the other ideological practices of veganism. There may be some vegans somewhere who wildcraft only wild foods, but even if so they are the exception to the rule. 

Veganism is often presented as a "compassionate" form of consumerism. This posits that some forms of industrialism and consumerism (or "capitalism" for those uncomfortable with critiques that go beyond those churned out by way of leftist ideology) are good while some are evil. This says that to hunt a deer or elk with respect and gratitude, perform a ceremony in honor of the life that was taken that another may continue, and to use all parts of the animal possible is considered to be evil, murderous, and hateful. However, eating a tofu sandwich made of domesticated, enslaved GMO Monsanto plants grown with petroleum fertilizer on a clear cut, destroying the homes of many animals, planted by industrial machinery that kills animals in the process of raping the soil to plant the slave plants and rounding up and killing the plants which are then shipped on vehicles powered by fossil fuels to a restaurant in a gentrified part of town which is owned by a capitalist where workers are wage slaves is considered compassionate. I don't think I have to point out the extent to which this is unadulterated bullshit. 

Animal Rights or Animal Liberation

Veganism often posits an animal rights position. The problem with "rights" is that they are the result of a political structure and a hierarchy granting or allowing certain privileges. Rights are given, not taken. Prisoners have rights. Workers have rights. Renters have rights, but these people are far from liberated. That is why we differentiate between rights and birthrights. Animal Rights, in this context, can only mean privileges handed down the hierarchy from humans to non-human animals. Rights and liberation are mutually exclusive. If someone is granted or allowed rights, they are not liberated. Rights can easily be discontinued or taken away by those higher up on the hierarchy than those being granted or allowed those rights.


Veganism often posits that eating non-human animals is a form of speciesism. Most beings tend to live on a diet that is made up of beings or other organic material (feces, blood, etc) that is not of the same species or constitution as them. With this definition, all beings are speciesist, including vegans. To avoid this logical conclusion, veganism must deny the personhood of plants and invalidate their existence as conscious beings who can emote and feel pain or respond to other stimuli. They must be seen as inanimate and unworthy of respect, dignity, or liberation. With this in mind, we should admit that the act of eating another species isn't speciesism but the web of life, the natural anarchy (small a, not Anarchism TM) and disorder of things.

Where speciesism starts is when we begin to differentiate between what other species we dominate, enslave, control, and eat based on anthropocentric criteria. Often times veganism sites the ability of non-human animals to feel pain, captivity, slavery, and abuse in the same way that we do or in ways that are easily recognizable to us as humans. It is certainly easy to see the horrific conditions of the factory farming of animals, to hear their screams, to see the fear in their eyes, to be able to relate to the way that they feel pain, fear, sadness, etc. It is not so easy, however, to see these reactions from plants. Since we can't hear their cries or relate to their pain response, we can pretend that they don't exist and invalidate and negate their suffering. The end conclusion: "you don't remind me of me as much as non-human animals do, therefore you are less worthy or unworthy of respect, dignity, and liberation."

Eating other beings isn't speciesism. Creating a hierarchy based on how similar other beings are to ourselves or denying/disregarding the beinghood of other beings is speciesism.

Veganism also uses moralism to validate its speciesism and to attempt to place humans outside of and above the web of life. (Moralism is a loose ideology which states that the moralizer is right and that everyone else can only be right to the extent that they agree with the moralizer, i.e., "I am right and good and if you disagree with me you are wrong and evil.") Besides distinguishing between animals and plants and placing animals higher up on the hierarchy, veganism often makes distinctions between animals and humans, sometimes even implying that humans are not animals. It is further posited that we can choose to be "more than mere animals" and "rise above" our animal nature and constitution as morally superior creatures who are placed above all other beings, as stated in some religious texts. This creates a paternalistic relationship with other beings. That is to say that unlike these morally inferior beings, we can play god and alter the web of life and make determinations regarding the food cycle (often referred to by linear thinkers as the "food chain") and even to destroy the food cycle by imposing an anthropocentric order.

Ecological Devastation/Sustainability

Veganism often presents itself as being a "green" alternative to the consumption of meat. Like all greenwashing, however, there are much more complex analyses to be found. A vegan diet requires not only the domestication/dominance of and enslavement of plant people, but an extremely petroleum intensive means of fertilization. Veganism often responds to this with a relativist or dichotomous approach, something to the tune of "well, it's better than meat production through factory farming," something akin to the idea raping your mother while wearing a condom or using another object is so much better than/morally superior to raping her with a naked penis. This is, of course, another discussion completely. The perceived merits of one form of ecocide over another are essentially if not completely (though I try to avoid reductionism through absolutism) irrelevant to anyone seeking an end to ecocide. The point is the end of ecocide.

Annuals tend to grow when perennials fail. As such the earth must be repeatedly shocked into believing that perennials have failed. Since annual grains don't grow naturally every year, humans who feel an entitlement to these grains must engage in exploitative practices to satisfy that sense of entitlement.

Veganism also posits, in many cases, the entitlement of all humans (because veganism says that humans are either righteously vegan or murderous psychopaths) to whatever non-animal foods/products they desire regardless of season or bio-region. If a human wants tofu, the argument goes, they should be able to consume tofu regardless of whose home has to be destroyed to eat it, what plants (because fuck them anyway, right?) are being denied the ability to live and grow so that they can have genetically modified soy to eat in vegan/vegetarian restaurants (again, often located in gentrified neighborhoods and employing wage slaves) regardless of when or where that soy has to be domesticated, grown, controlled, and killed and the amount of petroleum based fertilizer required to keep these beings alive in their prison rows and how much fuel/energy is required to maintain this practice.

A vegan diet (again, as it is most commonly practiced by self-identifying vegans) is based on agriculture (again, if there are vegans who eat only wild foods I don't know about them and they are definitely a tiny, tiny percentage.) Agriculture takes more from the soil than it gives back. Agriculture is exploitative and unsustainable, ergo veganism is exploitative and unsustainable.

Conclusion (of this essay, not ideological conclusion)

If someone doesn't want to eat meat, they shouldn't and they shouldn't feel pressure from non-vegans to do so. However, veganism should not attempt to present that decision as morally superior, particularly on such shaky or non-existent ground. Vegans, vegetarians, and post-vegans can find affinity on many issues. Anyone who is critical of the food industry and food production from an anti-dominance, anti-hierarchical intent has, at the very least, some common ground. However, if we are seeking liberation, an end to the institutions of control, then we can't only strive for liberation for white people, men, humans, or non-human animals, but TOTAL liberation for ALL life. No Cages. No Rows. No Compromise.

Until the Earth is Wild Again,
Bison Wilder

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wild Roots Feral Futures 2012 Report-Back

I have sat down several times to try to write this report-back from Wild Roots Feral Futures 2012 and have found that putting such experiences into an essay while sitting in front of a computer is fairly difficult. To try to represent our time together in written word and place the experiences we had in the woods of Occupied Ute Territory (in a part now called southern “Colorado”) into the context of an article to be read on the internet by those of us living in techno-industrial society is quite a challenge, and so I begin by conceding that my efforts to describe my experiences are severely limited, more so even than the usual limitations offered by the written word. 

After having to miss last year’s gathering as a result of my own poor planning I swore to myself that I would make it to Wild Roots Feral Futures 2012, so when offered the opportunity to travel with a group of anarchists heading there from Oregon I jumped on it. After about a week on the road, I arrived at the trailhead pretty exhausted and drained. The hike in, though long and hot, forced me out of my head space and into my heart space by the time I got to the encampment and met up with others in attendance. Upon arrival I was met with a calming, loving, caring, and generous presence. It was as if people had checked a lot of their baggage at the trailhead. Politics and ideology faded into the background and real, communal, lived experience took a turn at the wheel in a way that is rare in so-called radical spaces. It didn’t matter if someone was an old school Earth Firster!, DGR, anarcho-primitivist, hillbilly, or hippy. We were there to learn, to grow together, and to build a community (albeit a temporary one) and when that is really the goal, politics, economics, and ideologies have to return to their rightful place in the theoretical and the abstract. 
I was so overjoyed to discover the heavy emphasis our temporary community chose to place on personal, communal, and ecological healing. While primitive skills and eco-defense are definitely essential to the pursuit of anarchy (not to mention the survival of our species and many others) healing must hold a prominent place of importance in our lives and in our communities. We are constantly traumatized, triggered, and retraumatized by life in civilization. Through the profoundly anti-life and anti-community institutions of civilization, our natural and healthy social relationships are destroyed and rebuilt. What was once natural, wild, organic, free, and anarchistic becomes organized and ordered. However, Mother Earth’s natural tendency and our individual bodies’ natural tendency is towards restoration and healing. All we have to do in most cases is to stop engaging in activities that are destructive to ourselves and to our Mother and the healing process can begin immediately. It is largely because we continue to inflict wounds upon ourselves and our Mother through civilized living that we find her and ourselves in a state of disease and pain.  
Another pleasant surprise, and certainly closely related, was the emphasis on spirituality that so many brought. Traditionally, radical circles have been dominated by the same stale, lifeless, scientific fundamentalist atheism. The folks at this gathering, however, brought many different spiritual (though not religious, at least not that I encountered and if there were any religious folks they didn’t impose it upon anyone else) beliefs to the table. Some were more pagan, some more animistic/shamanic, but nearly all having a personal spirituality influenced by many different beliefs and/or traditions mixed with their own personal experience. Ceremonies were more or less general and allowed for people to engage or not engage as they chose. If someone was actively seeking something to be offended by, they could find it or manufacture it because spirituality is so personal and because the dominant culture says that if someone else is freely expressing a spirituality that is different from yours then they are oppressing or dominating you in some way. For true seekers, however, space was definitely created where each person could engage or not engage according to their own heart and consciousness.
For me, personally, a moment that really stood out was when I had the opportunity to co-facilitate a discussion about invisible disabilities. As a result of scheduling and the fire ban that came into effect during our time there, the discussion ended up being held around some glow stick and head lanterns. I had originally worried that the darkness and the inability to see who we were talking to might be a trigger for some, or at least detrimental, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The dim light allowed people to open up and make themselves vulnerable in a way that might have been impossible were we all able to look one another in the eye or stare at the speaker. At one point I invited everyone who identified as having an invisible disability to stand and raise a fist with me. It was so empowering to see all of those with conditions including PTSD, fibromyalgia, traumatic head injuries, learning disabilities, and more share their experiences, their anguish, their struggles, and their strength with the rest of the group. 
It is incredible the change that simply living a different way can bring to one's heart and spirit. I heard a saying once "If you want it bad enough you'll find a way, if not you'll find an excuse." I began to realize that my life was a series of excuses. I want my life to be like a group of 70-year old white men! No buts! Before heading to feral futures this year, a lot of what I believed only existed to me in the abstract. However, actually laying my hands on wildness, immersing myself in it, living in anarchy, swimming naked in wild water, dancing around and jumping the fire (an old european pagan ritual, the idea is that your demons can not follow you through the fire) to the pounding of drums, and living in a community of humans and non-humans alike attempting to reconnect to our Earth Mother and Sky Father in such a profound way... one simply can not walk away from such an experience unchanged. When I needed water, I went to the river. When I needed to shit I dug a hole. I didn't go to a faucet or a toilet where I would abuse water, my relative, by fowling her up with my waste and making her carry it to a cesspool. I didn't wipe my ass with slaughtered rainforest trees. I didn't carry a phone or a computer. I had a profound meeting with a wild moose. I ate bugs right from the ground or from my own body as they crawled on me. The simple act of pulling an ant off of your leg and eating it is really quite the experience.
Even in the short time we were there, we began to develop a relationship with that land base. Because the Pine River was where we got our water, we didn’t want to dirty her up and pollute her. She put us to bed at night as she flowed over the rocks in the riverbed. She cleaned us off and offered communal recreation during our group swimming times. She kept our bodies hydrated with her crystal clear body. Many of us used local plants and herbs to heal wounds. Some successfully treated allergies by eating local plants. This is a relationship one can not have with a washroom, grocery store, or pharmacy. This is reconnection. 
One of the most surprising things for me was the ease with which this temporary community came together and the cohesiveness of that community. Community life was relaxed and pleasant, often with banjo or guitar music, friendly conversation, and laughter wafting through the air along with the sounds of the dogs who were in attendance running and playing together. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the community was able to address specific needs for specific groups and individuals without getting into the Oppression Olympics or identity reductionism. Though it is often presented as being nearly impossible to build such a community, we did it. Granted it was only for a short time, but from what I experienced I truly believe that it is both possible and necessary to keep what we were building there alive and not allow it to die at the close of a gathering, but help it to grow and spread. 

I found that I am a completely different person in the wilderness. When I am not listening constantly to electrical hum, when I don't have to hear cars driving by or the air conditioner kicking on or the refrigerator running but instead hear the rush of the river, the call of the birds, the wind rustling through the trees... then and there I am myself. I am human. I feel parts of myself that I have rarely or never felt. I hear the forest and her children speaking to me in tones no longer silenced by the leviathan. The change I experienced, however, was not something that only changed while I was in the woods. I walked out a very different person than I was when I walked in. My time there made living in civilization intolerable to me.  
Each of the technological devices and civilized norms that we are sold as conveniences and ways of staying connected are in reality chains that weigh us down and keep us isolated. To me it is no longer a matter of "lifestyle choice" but a literal fight against the forces of domestication and civilization for my life, my humanity, my existence. For so long I have been complicit, albeit perhaps as a squeaky wheel, but the squeaky wheel is still part of a functioning machine. We must find other ways of life while dismantling this civilized way of death. It is no longer enough for me to be merely a dissident, a squeaky wheel. Our Earth Mother and all of our relatives are already engaged in active, direct resistance and they need warriors fighting in solidarity with them. If I am not one of those warriors then I am simply walking dead. Without community, without my connection to my Earth Mother, my Sky Father, and all my relations, I am simply a shell, a drone, a cog in a death machine bent on genocide, specicide, ecocide, and ultimately omnicide. This I can take no more. Give me wildness or give me death. 

Until the Earth is Wild Again,
Bison Wilder

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

America Is Already Occupied! It's Time to Decolonize!

The Occupy Wall Street movement is growing around the United States. I’m not going to throw in with total support, but I’m also not going to throw in with total cynicism. I don’t intend to discourage participation in these events or call for any kind of boycott of these dissident currents. In fact, I think these currents need to be infused with more and more radicals and radical ideas. I would, however, like to ask participants to take some things into consideration and refocus, to break from the groupthink approach of mass movements and to think outside of themselves and to stop marginalizing the voices of those most adversely affected by the status quo. 
As settlers, we have inherited a false notion that there is no longer any difference between being a settler and being indigenous, and that we are no longer even settlers. We are fed the lie that there has, at some point, been some sort of unification and that “we’re all in this together,” that bygones are now bygones, that the genocide and land theft is just (contaminated) water under the bridge. While it is true that civilization oppresses all people, all species, and the land itself, we can not equate the standing of settlers and Indigenous People in the context of a settler colony. 
We must first consider that Wall Street, along with every other site to be occupied, is already under occupation. I point this out, not to demonize the term “occupation” to describe this tactic, but to provide some context that seems to be sorely missing from these movements and actions.  The land on which these actions are taking place belongs to Indigenous People and was stolen from them by European settlers and held through a process of colonial occupation and genocide. As such, any change that takes place upon this land should begin with decolonization and manifest organically under a Native paradigm as opposed to being politically and/or economically driven under a colonial/settler paradigm. Anything short of decolonization and an end to the genocide of Native People and the ecocide of their land is simply another leftist attempt to put a friendly face on colonialism.
The illusion of the political left and right, or left and right of capital, is a Eurocentric construct coming out of pre-revolutionary France. In legislative bodies, the aristocracy would sit to the right of the speaker and the capitalist class, or bourgeoisie (then referred to as “common” people) would sit to the left. Of course now the bourgeoisie is considered to be the political right, and the political left, just as before, dishonestly portrays itself as the vanguard of “the common people.” This is what allows white settlers to simply claim to be part of “the 99%” and then go about speaking for those most affected and most marginalized by the 1%. By confining discourse to the false left/right dichotomy, more organic, more creative, community based, earth based currents are co-opted and brought under the paternalistic umbrella of the Left and thereby civilization and colonialism, maintaining the current order with minor changes in rhetoric and organization. 
In some circles I hear references to “the White Left” but this is redundant. The left is a white construct, by whites, for whites. Leftism is simply an ideology and a method of organizing the political, economic, and social order of white society. Prior to European invasion of places such as Africa and “the Americas” there was no left or right of capital. The political left and right are Eurocentric means to Eurocentric ends. They are a false dichotomy that serves to limit discourse and confine us all to a civilized, Eurocentric paradigm. Considering this, it isn’t surprising that people are beginning to notice, identify, and call out the racist currents within these “Occupy” movements.
Many times leftist movements seek direct democracy as their form of government. How is majority rule justifiable by a people who have committed genocide? How do we call for majority rule after we have stolen land and killed off most of that lands’ first people? If the majority of people on this continent are settlers, and direct democratic rule is imposed, it isn’t difficult to see where the power would lie. Majority rule in a settler colony means “settler rule.” The list of demands presented on had this to say: 
“Opinions do not help our cause.

The numbers in the polling will naturally resolve your feelings democratically.  If you strongly agree or disagree with proposed Demands, lobby your cause and get the votes up to represent your opinion.  This is what democracy looks like.”
Indeed, this is what democracy looks like. Needs and desires are disregarded in favor of some homogenized, sanitized platform. Those with the most influence and/or the most power can get their “cause” pushed through and formalized into platform or policy. Those on the margins, those most adversely affected by the status quo are once again marginalized by the very same system, the very same dynamic, and the very same structures that marginalized them in the first place: civilization itself and its outcroppings such as work, production, economics, politics, and colonialism. The message is clear, those attempting to streamline and homogenize the thrust of these currents seek to silence those that are most marginalized.
Formal “Occupy” lists of demands (which could be more accurately described as requests) contrived by the co-opting leftist vanguard tend to be essentially a list of liberal reforms and a prime example of recuperation. These reforms do not include anything about honoring treaties with First Nations, ending “development” (better known as destruction) of sacred sites, recognition of tribal sovereignty or autonomy, release of Indigenous political prisoners such a Leonard Peltier, toxic dumping and other ecocidal practices on reservation lands and sacred sites, or anything of the sort. As such, they effectively shut out what should be the prime concerns of any currents seeking liberation, once again forcing Indigenous issues to take a back seat or become invisible altogether, continuing the genocide. 
The idea of demands itself is a capitulation. A demand is part of a dialogue. Those in power have the option of not acquiescing to demands. There needs to be no dialogue with power, but a dismantling of the power structure. We can not rely on those in power to work against their own interests, and the mere idea of doing so is a disempowering notion. If change is to come, it will be through the collective action of the people desiring that change, not through the reluctant acquiescence of our overlords. 
Changes may be rebranded by the Left as “social democracy”,  “direct democracy”, “participatory democracy,” “socialism”, “communism,” “social anarchism”, or any other number of Eurocentric ideologies but the end product is the same, a mere altering of the details of civilization and colonialism. The decisions made and the changes implemented by settlers under a settler paradigm ultimately serve to maintain civilization and the existing white colonial order. We are told to “be realistic” and to take “baby steps.” This is a euphemism meaning that those most affected by the actions of the top 1% need to suck it up and tough it out while those at the top of the 99% fight for the opportunity to sell their labor at a higher price, to get free college education, to fulfill their white settler fantasies at the continued expense of and through the continued genocide of those whose land they occupy. 
If we are truly seeking a change, a move away from the status quo, why aim so low? Why settle for the least common denominator? Why not attempt what we all know needs to be done? Calls for us to “be realistic” are euphemisms for discouraging radicals from challenging the white settler paradigm. As white settlers, collectively, we need to stop ignoring the fact that we are settlers. We need to break with our drive to control and colonize everything including dissident currents. This land is not ours to manipulate with our politics of paternalism, be they derived from the left of capital or the right of capital. The settler paradigm and the indigenous paradigm can not exist side by side. The settler paradigm and civilization in general are parasitic and based on conquest, infinite growth on a finite planet, and disconnection from the natural world. They require continuous access to parts of the earth commonly referred to as “resources” and earth-based communities stand in the way of access to those resources. For civilization and colonialism to be perpetuated, extermination of such communities is inevitable.  
Decolonization is not a political process. It is not an economic process. The United States government could not, even if it so desired, legislate decolonization. Economists could not construct an economic formula for decolonization. Philosophers and academics can not synthesize a philosophy or an ideology for decolonization. It is not a matter of communism or fascism, socialism or capitalism, left or right. It is a matter of dismantling civilization and thereby the colonial structure, eliminating the existing paradigm in favor of one that is wild, decentralized, non-homogenized, and earth-based. 
For settlers, decolonization includes uncivilizing ourselves. We too are descended from land based tribes, albeit much farther back, but we can not assume after years of colonization and genocide that we will be welcomed into indigenous communities. So if we are to be truly dedicated to decolonization, that means reconnecting with a land base and land-based life-ways.   It includes decolonizing our hearts, our minds, and yes, even our rebellion. It includes creating communities and life-ways outside the walls of civilization, outside of the confines of economics and politics. It means giving up this cheap, plastic, throw away existence and embracing our humanity and our wildness. It means not settling for being just a settler. America is already occupied. It’s time to decolonize. 
Until the Earth Is Wild Again,
Bobby Whittenberg-James

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Battle Cry

I write today in unprecedented times. As we speak, the fetters that have bound us for the last 10,000-12,000 years are being rattled and shaken. The existing order is crumbling. For so long we have been robbed of our dignity, robbed of our humanity, robbed of our knowledge of how to even be human. The dam is cracking, the prison walls are beginning to shake. We, as humans, have become a domesticated species, but even the most docile domesticated dog will strike back when beaten and cornered long enough.
All over, we see evidence of people and the earth revolting. Between the increase of “natural disasters” (many if not most of which are a result of our Earth Mother seeking to restore balance, countering destructive activities) and political uprisings the evidence is mounting that the existing order, the leviathan, civilization is in its death throes. There is a pervasive darkness that has overcome us all in these days. Many of us are reacting differently, the reactions of a domesticated species striking out in the best ways we see fit. Demonstrations, sabotage, hacking, occupations, these are all results of a people who have had enough, a people seeking nothing more than to be able to live as humans.
When we look around, we see only the false existence we have created for ourselves. “Nature” or “the environment,” names we have given to our home to make it seem like something separate from ourselves has been relegated to city parks, state parks, national parks, and nature preserves. We have created a synthetic environment of concrete, plastic, steel, and social networking. Where there were once forests, deserts, jungles, and prairies, there are now malls, factories, stadiums, cell phone towers, car dealerships, and factory farms. 
In our attempt to control everything we come into contact with, to codify, homogenize, and linearize, through domesticating everything around us, we have domesticated ourselves. We have constructed the prison in which we are now prisoners. We have built the plantation upon which we are slaves. We have designed and completed the concentration camps in which we engage in our own genocide.
The Left tells us that if only the prisoners ran the prison, if only the slaves ran the plantation, if only those to be exterminated ran the concentration camp, that this would solve all of our problems. But, they say, we are never to question the existence of or seek to dismantle the prison, the plantation, or the concentration camp themselves, because without them we would surely die. And so we stay in our prisons, on our plantations, in our concentration camps. Since the dawn of civilization, the civilized have been told that life outside the prison, the plantation, the concentration camp is harsh, brutal, dangerous, and scary, that only within the walls can we find security. Where though, is the security in a way of life that is based upon taking more, far more than it ever gives back? Where is the safety in a suicide mission?
We are born into a safe, sterile environment, placed in little rows in a nursery, taken home to a manufactured domicile, surrounded by plastic, processed wood, concrete, and more plastic. Our food is grown in rows, sprayed with chemicals, genetically modified and pumped full of preservatives and other chemicals, pickled, packaged, preserved, and stocked in little rows on shelves in grocery stores. We are sent to school to have our imaginations strangled out of us, robbed of our childhoods, as we spend 8 hours a day for twelve years regurgitating facts, our lives and our experiences homogenized, manufactured, and produced for us. “Raise your hand to talk.” “Do what you’re told.” “Sit down.” “Shut up.” We learn to only ask safe, non-challenging questions, we learn that the things we love, our gifts, our talents, are best put to use for an employer, or for employing others. When we are done with school, it’s off to the workforce, where we are to sit down, shut up and do what we’re told. Some of us go off into the military where we are told to line up in little rows, shut up and kill, occupy, brutalize whomever we are told. Then after that’s all over, we are placed in a box, and one more time, placed in little rows with just a stone to tell the world that another little drone was once here. Is this the world we want to live in? Are these the lives we want to live? Is this really all we are?
Regardless of one’s political stripe, gender, class, race, or nationality, we all have quite a few things in common. Included among these things are the fact that we all need nutritious food to eat, clean water to drink, and uncontaminated air to breathe. We all need to live in healthy communities where we are able to live in a way that benefits us and those around us, human and non-human alike. We can not achieve this through one or the other political ideology, organization, party, program, or platform.
Many of us, particular those of us in the United States have been told that there are easy answers for everything, that we don’t have to put in the blood, sweat, and effort, to achieve what we want or need, but that some external entity will provide that for us. We are taught that if we just pressure our government enough, if we just “vote with our dollars” and buy the right products, if our protests are peaceful enough, if we have enough people at our marches, if we just allow the system to work, if we just do what we’re told and follow the rules, then everything will turn out right. We are told that if we want to change things, we are to build organizations, unions, parties, movements, etc. However, such institutions are merely a shifting of the details of the current order and do nothing to strike at the root of the challenges that we face. 
However, a system based on a path of infinite growth on a finite planet, of ever increasing complexity necessarily ends in a collapse of that system. This, we are told, is something we must ignore, that the cornucopia is truly endless. There are endless “resources” to be extracted, manufactured, and produced. Despite this utopian fantasy, every day we are finding out that the ecological destruction is “worse than anyone thought.” We are told that the problems brought about by politics can be solved with more politics, that the problems brought about by economics can be solved with more economics, that the problems brought about by domestication can be solved with more domestication, that the problems brought about by technology can be solved by more technology. We are force fed the disempowering myth that human experience is linear beginning with a primitive existence, and going on to something that looks like Star Trek or the Jetsons, and that we have no control over what is commonly referred to as progress, that we are just along for the ride, and the best we can do is to continue this destruction in the safest way possible. 
Search as we may within these constructs, however, there is no savior. We have traded our freedom, our humanity, and our connection to the world around us, we have traded our spirits, our essence for video games, for Starbucks, for McDonald’s, for gasoline, for cell phones, and for Facebook. There is no one but us that can save us from this. Capitalism will not save us. Fascism will not save us. Socialism will not save us. Social democracy will not save us. Another revolution will not save us. Only we can save us. If we are to change the existing paradigm, to bring about new ways of being, new ways of living, there is no shortcut we can take, no ideology that we can map out, no blueprint we can follow, no party we can join, no protest we can orchestrate. We must go about the creation of our own communities, the birthing of our own, new, wild and wonderful ways of living. 
I don’t have all the answers. I may have some of the answers. I may just have a few good suggestions or questions, but I know this:
I am not a "consumer" or a "citizen" or a "man." I do not want to press 0 to speak to a customer service representative. I do not want to open a can, a box, a wrapper, or go through a drive through to eat. I do not want to find my "community" behind a screen. I do not want to stay off the grass. I do not want to fill out and return this form. I do not want my ethnicity to be used as a weapon. I do not want my water to come from a bottle or a faucet. I do not want my understanding of the world to come from what someone inside a box or wearing a lab coat tells me. I do not want to do what I'm told. I do not want to live in a way that kills everything around me. I do not want to wipe my ass with the rainforest. I do not want to live among that which is produced and consumed. I want to hug you. I want you and I to be able to love one another without fear, reservation, or pretense. I want to eat food directly from the earth and act directly from my heart. I want to live and laugh and cry and love in a community the way our ancestors did for millions of years. I want you to be there with me. I want us to stop destroying everything. I need you. You need me. We don't need any of the rest of this shit that we manufacture, and produce, and throw away. Beneath the concrete, and alcohol, and uppers, and downers, and anti-depressants, beneath the fashion trends, and social networks, and cell phones, and TV shows, and gender roles, and street lights, and gas stations, deep within this cage we call civilization you are still wild. I am still wild. Inside of me beats the feral heart of the animal that I am. I am flesh and bone, blood and spirit, earth and light. I long to be a part of the earth on which I live, to drink from clean rivers, and breathe clean air. I don't want to be a cog in a machine. I want to dismantle the machine. I am a human being and I want to live as one. As such, civilization is my enemy and this is my battle cry. If it is yours as well, then let us go about creating the world we want to live in. 
Until the Earth is Wild Again,
Bobby Whittenberg-James

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Down Graded Resistance: A Critique of DGR

Originally published on Veter(A)narchy on May 30, 2011. 

There's been a lot of talk in anti-civ/primitive anarchy/deep ecology circles of late about a new organization called Deep Green Resistance and I haven't really weighed in very heavily on it yet and after a few conversations I decided to throw my hat into the ring. If you are unfamiliar with DGR I recommend checking out their website ( before reading this. Don't depend on my explanation of who and what they are. It's better that you form you own opinion before engaging my critique.

In reading through the intro, the (DEW), the Code of Conduct, the Statement of Principles and Why Do You Want Me to Sign the Code of Conduct and Statement of Principles, I found no critique of domestication, sedentaryism, technology, work, symbolic culture, mediating institutions, or agriculture and the only references to dismantling civilization specified industrial civilization. This abbreviated critique of civilization put forth by DGR may very well be a key reason for many of the problems within the organization's framework, theory, and program. If one's critique is sorely lacking, then most likely their resistance will be as well.
Through their calls for democracy, hierarchy, organizing (as opposed to autonomous coordination), and leftist rhetoric they are an explicitly anti-anarchist group, so I'm not really sure why so many anarchists are rushing to their defense. This reminds me a good bit of red anarchists who are sympathetic to liberal or socialist parties or regimes.

One of my initial concerns is the idea of organizationalism in general. It's important to distinguish between organizations and groups or networks and between organizing and cooperating. We don't need rosters and codes of conduct, programs, democratic rule, and recruiting to build a solid resistance. I think many times, as a result of our civilized minds, we tend to equate organization and standardization with expedience and effectiveness, with a quick and easy solution. This have proven not to be true on many occasions (The USA, National Syndicalist Italy, the USSR, North Korea.) We don't need a quick and easy solution, we need an effective solution.
A visit to their website starts out with their explanation of what Deep Green Resistance is. It starts off talking about the rise of civilization, the ineffectiveness of the mainstream activist scene, and building human communities inside of restored landbases. This is all good stuff. My first point of concern comes in the 5th paragraph. “Industrial civilization can be stopped.” This, to me, is concerning because we went from talking about how the problem has been 10,000 years of civilization to stopping industrial civilization. Civilization and industrial civilization cannot just be used interchangeably. Opposition to civilization is opposition to all civilization. Opposition to industrial civilization is opposition to one type of civilization, which carries with it tacit approval of other types of civilization.

My next concern comes in the next paragraph where it talks about the creation of “participatory institutions.” Shouldn't the resistance against civilization be about the abolition of institutions, rather than their creation? Shouldn't de-institutionalization be a part of an anti-civ resistance? A critique of civilization and authority certainly needs to include a critique of social institutions in general.

... any strategy aiming for a just future must include a call to build direct democracies based on human rights and sustainable material cultures.”

Sustainability is definitely a necessary aim, but I'm curious about the rest of this. Anarchy is a condition of no rule with each individual having autonomy as opposed to democratic rule and a human rights model offered by civilization. Democracy is a form of rule, a form of government. There is an easily observable standardizing and homogenizing affect that comes with democracy. There must be a certain amount of uniformity to maintain social order and production. The process itself tends to discard and eliminate minority ideas and alienate minority groups, as well as challenge personal autonomy and subjugate the individual to the collective, forming a hierarchy.

As far as human rights, prisoners have rights; GI's have rights. Rights, as they are commonly understood, are a concept that rose up out of civilization. Rights can be given or taken. In a democracy they can be voted away. We can't equate a rights framework with liberation, as rights are something granted or recognized by a mediating body. Some people consider marriage to be a human right. California voted away the right for same sex couples to marry. The majority makes the rules. These ideas certainly aren't unique to DGR.
I'm also curious, would trans people be granted “human rights” by these democratically ruled communities? Lierre Keith is openly anti-trans. With her occupying a leadership position in DGR, I really wonder what the plan for trans people is. Would cis people be able to democratically vote these “human rights” away from trans people? Under democratic rule and a rights framework as opposed to liberty and autonomy, the majority can use the democratic institutions to crush the minority. This isn't just true of trans people. This could be any race, people group, gender, or culture that the majority in a democracy wants to dominate.

The end of that section links to their strategy that is referred to as Deep Ecological Warfare or DEW.
I'm incredibly skeptical of any grand strategy designed to be THE strategy. There can't be a “the strategy.” An organic resistance can't be synthesized. There can't be an umbrella organization for dismantling something as complex, nuanced, and layered as civilization. From the language in their program and the structure of the organization, I'm seeing a plan for the structure and program for building of a revolutionary vanguard.

Industrial systems disruption requires underground networks organized in a hierarchal or paramilitary fashion.” However, if we follow this a bit further we find that “The above ground activists are the frontline fighters against authoritarianism. They are the only ones who can mobilize the popular groundswell needed to prevent fascism.”

I find the specific mention of fascism particularly perplexing. If we are opposed to civilization then we are obviously opposed to fascism. Should we not be fighting capitalism and socialism? Perhaps the answer lies in the next paragraph.

Furthermore, aboveground activists use the disrupted systems as an opportunity to strengthen local communities and parallel institutions. Mainstream people are encouraged to swing their support to participatory local alternatives in the economic, political, and social spheres. When economic turmoil causes unemployment and hyperinflation, people are employed locally for the benefit of their community and the land. In this scenario, as national governments around the world increasingly struggle with crises (like peak oil, food shortages, climate chaos, and so on) and increasingly fail to provide for people, local and directly democratic councils begin to take over administration of basic and emergency services, and people redirect their taxes to those local entities (perhaps as part of a campaign of general noncooperation against those in power). This happens in conjunction with the community emergency response and disaster preparedness measures already undertaken.”

Apparently the reason for specifying a fight against fascism is to facilitate the creation of some sort of democratic socialist idea. Is this suggesting that there is a progressive path to a post-civ world?
I'd also like to key in on this part of their Code of Conduct:

Liberty: DGR groups have a zero-tolerance policy for abuse of anyone, human or nonhuman. Physical integrity and emotional safety are basic human rights that DGR is sworn to defend. DGR will banish any members who rape, batter, or abuse any living creature. Masculinity, with its militarized psychology and its violation imperative, has to be abandoned personally and dismantled globally.”

While this is a good standard for banishment, there is a loophole. If you want to rape, batter, and abuse living creatures but still want to help out with DGR, you can become a police officer and provide security.

2. Civilization, especially industrial civilization, is fundamentally destructive to life on earth. Our task is to create a life-centered resistance movement that will dismantle industrial civilization by any means necessary. Organized political resistance is the only hope for our planet.”

Political resistance is essentially worthless in combatting civilization. Even a full scale political revolution couldn't abolish civilization. At best it could only alter it. Civilization does not just exist in the political sphere. It is a complex and overarching institution and system of oppression that requires a holistic approach to dismantle.

This is something that really makes me think that the change in language might not just be coincidence. We see a distinction drawn between the broader “civilization” and “industrial civilization.” It is understood that civilization is destructive to life on earth, and yet the stated task is to dismantle industrial civilization. Civilization was ravaging the earth and enslaving living beings long before industrialization. If we limit our resistance to the political sphere, or political revolution, we have already defeated ourselves.

I also went to a section called “Why do you want me to sign the Code of Conduct and Statement of Principles?” which includes the passage

Your signature on that document shows that you made an agreement with DGR and all its members to follow the code and principles. These can serve as proof in court that DGR did not support, condone, or accept the actions of anyone who would do something like blow up a daycare center, or some other horrendous action.”
DGR is an organization. As an organization with identifiable leaders and a member list, they want to be able to drop you like a hot biscuit if you get in legal trouble that might make the organization look bad (to those in power and civilized society.) It's clear that blowing up a daycare is horrific, an act unworthy of our support. But what if we replace the words “daycare center” with “dam” or “police car” or “cell phone tower” or “bulldozer?” If you get caught in a situation where you are doing something that's in your conscience to do, will your comrades have your back, or are they telling you right up front that they'll drop you if you end up in a situation that might be bad PR or legal trouble for the organization? Make no mistake, the organization is more important than you. It's not going to stick its neck out for you. An organization's #1 priority has to be its own existence or else it will cease to exist. To an organization you are totally expendable, particularly in comparison to the organization itself.

All societies–including the most peaceful; especially the most peaceful–have understood the necessity of codes of conduct, which are nothing more than behavioral norms.”

This is a conflation of two very distinct things. Behavioral norms might be nearly ubiquitous but they are not institutionalized and generally non-authoritarian. It is a behavior norm to not burp loudly or yell in restaurants, but there is no Code of Conduct that people sign before going into a restaurant. Most people just generally don't do those things because it's understood as a behavior norm. Many times there aren't even any consequences aside from some disgusted looks, or someone might ask them to stop. Rarely do people have to be forcibly removed from a restaurant for such things. In people groups that do not have official written law or Code of Conduct there is still personal accountability. When we get together with friends, there is no code of conduct to sign but we can still hold one another accountable and make sure everyone is safe and taken care of.

All serious organizations have codes of conduct by which people are meant to abide. The Spanish Anarchists did. So did the IRA. The Freedom Riders had a code of conduct, as did Nat Turner’s fighters. Codes of conduct are even more important in militant resistance movements who have a history of behaving badly.”

The IRA was also in favor of the Catholic Church, an institution that routinely rapes children and covers it up and they kill people because of their nationality and/or religion. This is not an organization after which we should pattern our resistance, particularly concerning matters of conduct.

"There is a strain of modern anarchists who believe all codes of conduct interfere with their feral freedoms, or are otherwise inappropriate. These people have done a lot of damage to modern anarchism. And they’re ignorant of anarchist history and the history of social movements. Anarchists throughout history have understood the importance of codes of conduct. Emma Goldman for example. And the Spanish Anarchists. (The men were not allowed to drink, violence against women was unacceptable, men using prostituted women was unacceptable, brawling was unacceptable: they were to comport themselves with dignity and respect).”

It seems that most hunter-gatherers groups, the only to have ever achieved anarchy for any extended period of time, seem to agree with us modern anarchists. The Mbuti and the !Kung don't have Codes of Conduct, but they do have behavior norms and ways of protecting members of the tribes' dignity and autonomy.
Our disagreement is not about whether there are certain behaviors and actions that are unacceptable in a community setting. The discrepancy is whether we want to foster respectful interactions through authoritarian or anarchistic means.

I assume that when they refer to “the” Spanish Anarchists that they are referring to the famous CNT-FAI. These organizations are certainly not ones that should be emulated or idealized as iconic of anarchy. They were organized in a hierarchical fashion, authoritarian in nature, and even took seats within the Spanish government. Their end state was not even anarchy, but socialism. Let us also never forget that their revolution failed to result in the socialist utopia they sought, much less anarchy, something completely different. This argument is similar to saying that since Murray Rothbard called himself an anarchist and advocated a free market capitalism which included a child market, that it's ok for anarchists to sell children and that it is an anarchist practice to do so. Anarcho-capitalism and anarcho-syndicalism are both hierarchical, authoritarian schools of anarchist thought, and therefore we are going to find authoritarian tendencies and ideas within them. This doesn't justify their use in anarchist practice.

The modern, Western, individualist, capitalist, code of conduct is that there can be no such thing as a code of conduct other than what benefits an individual the most.”

Capitalism is not individualist. The rhetoric may be that of the rugged individual, but in practice it is dependent upon a hierarchical class system, which is a collectivist arrangement. There is a Code of Conduct in capitalist society. It's commonly referred to as “the law,” and it generally prevents individuals from getting what benefits them the most.

What DGR seems to be saying is that in capitalist society, the individual is free to pursue what benefits them most and that there is no law to restrict that. That sounds like anarchy, but that is not the reality of the capitalist society I live in. The society I live in is designed to benefit a very few at the expense of the very many and any individual who dares to try to take more than they are allotted and is caught doing so is met with the full force of the Code of Conduct.

Most human societies before the rise of civilization, were based on mutual responsibility and cooperation.”

Yes, there was mutual respect and cooperation but NO formal Code of Conduct.

But freedom in a capitalist society is based on atomized, alienated individuals within a rights framework; as though we are not all interdependent.”

Doesn't DGR advocate a rights framework under democratic rule for its communities?

What I don't see is what vision of the world DGR proposes. I don't mean a blueprint or anything. I just don't understand what the overall goal is. I understand calls for a democratic, participatory socialism and autonomous communities. I understand the goal of bringing down industrial civilization. This makes me curious as to whether we might be talking about an autonomous agricultural or horticultural democratic socialist civilization. I hear a call for a rights framework and disdain for individualism. I hear a plan to dismantle industrial civilization, but what then?

I keep hearing that since we have a common enemy we should unite to fight it, but the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend, something that anarchists generally find out in socialist revolutions once the socialists have gained power and no longer need the anarchists.

DGR says that it exists because there is a dire need for a targeted resistance and I hear many in the current discussion of DGR defend the existence of such an organization on the same grounds. I don't think anyone in the anti-civ/deep ecology/primitivist milieu denies that. That isn't in question.

The questions we face are more like: “What do we want our targeted resistance to look like?” “How will it manifest itself?” “Do we want our resistance to be based upon organization or voluntary cooperation?” “Do we want it to be anarchistic or authoritarian?”

I can't help but note a parallel between the principles of civilization and organizing/organization. DGR and other activist organizations or vanguards, like civilization, take something wild and organic and organize it, codify it, and maintain that order, giving authoritative direction to something that was once fluid and autonomous. We do need greater numbers, but we don't need recruits or activists. We need autonomous warriors and dissidents and who are ready to come together in an organic way and cooperate to bring down that which oppresses us all and destroys our source of life.
Fighting for Anarchy,
Bobby Whittenberg-James