Archive for October, 2009

Hope Is A Burning Rage

Posted: October 30, 2009 in Uncategorized

    Hope. illusion. redemption. These are the kinds of things on
the minds of Anarcho-Primitivists that ascribe to the Christian
tradition. They are theological words, and they are the most important
words of our time. As Coal River Mountain is being destroyed and people
are calling Obama to beg that he make it stop (see previous post),
these are the words on my mind. My friend Jeremy wrote a great essay in
the "Anarcho-Primitivism and Christianity" zine, In The Land of the Living that poetically and theologically addresses these issues. I am quoting at length because I think it's really important:

    How do we act out our role? Whatever it is
that we must do (and it's scary to admit this) it seems that it
involves suffering. Through spirit-filled insurrection against the
dominant culture we take up our cross as our Lord did. Christ lived as
a witness of the Truth against the rising tide of civilized lies and
illusions and they came down to crush him. But he cut their victory
short by spurring on a movement of resistance. Not that we may be
sparred suffering, but that we may learn how to suffer in a way that is
actually resistance to evil, not being overcome by it… And then the
early church gained ground as a resistance movement by the blood of the
martyrs and the ship was preserved for a time as the Roman Empire
collapsed. The resistance movement has continued through the ages
despite the many subversions of Christianity by collaborating with the
dominant culture, and so turning wild faith into domesticated religion.

    Yet everywhere we look everything is still messed up. Nothing
is alright. And what can we really do that is going to fundamentally
change anything if nothing we have tried so far has worked? It's
hopeless. Perhaps this is the suffering we are to endure, not turning
our eyes away from the abyss to believe the illusions. Allowing
ourselves to understand and feel the pain of modern life deep in our
bones until it forces us to act in sincerity, whether it is effective or
not. Things are hopeless, but to admit that is to open ourselves up to
redemption.

   
The question that pops up in my mind after reading this is a scary
question to ponder. Am I willing to suffer? What does it mean for this
movement to suffer? I think of Marie Mason who was just sentenced to 21
years and 10 months in prison for defending her bio-region from
impending destruction. She'll be seperated from her 2 kids throughout
their formative years. Is it worth it? Is her martyrdom supposed to
make me more willing to stand up for the earth? Or is the CIA winning
by threatening the movement with such harsh sentences, the program many
are calling the Green Scare? I feel that her sentence has probably
spurred on those she was close to, causing them to see the desperation
of the times even clearer, yet it has effectively made me scared to
act. 'Hope is a burning rage,' yet the hopelessness of the situation
has quenched the Spirit's fire. Perhaps those close to Jesus were
spurred on because of their intimate friendship with him. Of course,
most of his disciples fled as soon as he went to confront the powers.
Yet after his death, they organized stronger than ever. They were
filled with the Spirit. Perhaps that means the spirit of Jesus rose
again in them, causing them to act, and not despair. Just as Archbishop
Oscar Romero predicted before his death, "If they kill me, my spirit
will rise again in the people of El Salvador." They did kill him, and
it did spur on a resistance movement in El Salvador and a resurgence of
Liberation Theology in America. This is how I understand the
resurrection of Jesus.

I think the missing link in all this is
community. If we build close enough community, they won't be able to
take us down. When our friends are imprisoned, or silenced, our
communities will hold the weight and the intimacy we built will be what
spurs of the movement. It's different when it's your friend, or your
bio-region that is threatened. It makes it more personal and it causes
more of burning rage to boil up inside you, spurring on action.

Yet
let us not see the illusions as solutions. We need to accept things as
they are and not make things look prettier than they are in actuality.
This is the key to radical change. Things are hopeless. Our culture is
caught in an addictive game of vanity, and the solutions proposed are
choking wires used to silence deep, radical change. We cannot settle
for illusory solutions, yet we cannot despair. Hope ignites us. Just as
we hold faith in what we cannot see, we hope beyond sight, beyond hope.
Our "cross to bare" in these times is to not give into the easy
solutions, the easy way out, to not trick ourselves into thinking that
everything is okay. Everything is fucked and that's reality. Our hope
is in a future unseen, perhaps one we will never see in our lifetime,
but one we know will come. The earth will rise up. Let us not fall
victim to the illusion that we are powerful enough to destroy the
earth. Let's not give ourselves so much credit. It's quite
anthropocentric to think we have the ability to destroy the earth. It
is alive. It will rise up and overcome. Yet we do have a part to play.
The earth waits in eager anticipation for the faithful to rise up, in
the meantime being subjected to the depravity of humanity. (Romans
8:19-21) So let us not despair, let us act. But let us put our hope and
our efforts into deep solutions, even if they seem unpromising, or
hopeless.

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Don’t Worry

Posted: October 28, 2009 in Uncategorized

Last year, after the first 'Anarcho-Primitivism and Christianity' gathering with Ched Myers called Questioning Progress, I went back to Florida and presented some of the ideas to the Catholic Worker community there. I was unsure of what the response would be. Yet when I was done talking, I was happily surprised at the positive reaction that was shown. They were totally on board. One comment has stuck with me throughout this whole year. It's something I think about often. Dave, a retired professor, began talking about our culture's fear of death. He spoke of how technology offers alternatives to early death through miracle medicines and surgeries, but how this is problematic, and symptomatic of a larger problem. He said he'd be happy to die younger if he could also live healthier. Lung transplants, open heart surgery, these things are to be questioned.
At this years conference Ched Myers unpacked a verse out of the Gospel of Luke to reveal something profound. "You cannot add a day to your life by worrying," says Jesus. The implications of this verse are particularly relevant to our culture when we look at the greek word for "add." It is the same greek word from which we get the word "prosthetics," you know… fake legs, fake arms. This insight blew me away and confirmed the suspicions of Dave that there is something deeper going on here.

Img_0321-2

As a student of plant medicine, this passage is even more interesting as Jesus continues by saying, "Talk to the plants, they don't worry about a thing." I have talked to trees many times about my worries. Their stillness, tranquility, and the fact that all of their needs are taken care of by the sun and the rain, has caused me to think that they are answering me. They gently whisper, "Don't worry." It sometimes makes me feel crazy. But this verse makes it seem that all along I was actually doing just what Jesus said to do!

The Coal River Valley in West Virginia is the spot slated for
Wind Energy. Mountain Top Removal coal mining has recently been the
primary way of providing energy to power the country, and because of
the destruction that exploding mountains causes to the land and communities, people have been rallying to STOP IT!
Critics and haters blame these activists for taking jobs away from
people, since the coal companies own a monopoly on the WV economy. So
residents and activists have researched other energy solutions to offer
an alternative to coal and to pick up the pieces of the broken
Appalachian economy. The Coal River Mountain is one of Appalachia's
tallest mountains and years of research has shown that this is the most
ideal place for wind energy. But it's being blown up my Mountain Top Removal! Obama promised to diversify Appalachia's economy with alternative energy. This is it Obama! Which side are you on?
Coalriver_call_graphic
You
can take action to help by calling the complaint line at the White
House. I know it's a desperate move, but we have to use all means
necessary. We've locked down, blocked roads, held discussions in the
community, but all to no avail. Maybe pressuring Obama is our only
hope?? Or maybe it's silly to still have hope?

This mess would have never been created if we didn't
build an infrastructure that required so much damn energy.
'Alternative' energy can often be a sham in itself if doesn't call into
question a culture that is going way overboard with consumption. Think
about the 6,000 acres of Coal River Mountain that will likely be
destroyed, the black bears and graveyards that will be blown away right
along with the trees and herbs. Think of the residents that will eat
toxic dust and the 8.2 billion gallons of coal slurry waste that are
sitting in a sludge damn, threatening the community with instant death
if it were to break. Think of the asthma attacks, the black lung, the
homes and nests that will be destroyed all so that we can continue to power
America. Alternative energy is nothing new. The sun has been the
primary form of energy for all of existence. There was just never so
much technological infrastructure as to necessitate these destructive
nonrenewable energies that we have been so naive to become dependent
on. Think of coal and other nonrenewable energies as our desperate
attempts to keep up our consumptive behaviors, our addictions. Coal is
our drug. We can't get off of it.

(reflections on the Unhewn Stone will continue tomorrow)

Ancient Paths: The Way Forward

Posted: October 24, 2009 in Uncategorized

This is what the LORD says:
       "Stand at the crossroads and look;
       ask for the ancient paths,
       ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
       and you will find rest for your souls. 

Jeremiah 6:16

    Many secular and religious scholars alike are
beginning to read the Hebrew-Christian bible from an
archeological/historical perspective. Instead of reading the stories as
metaphors or "lessons of old," many are starting to take them more
seriously and view them as factual. The Paradise of Eden is then
understood not as fable of moral decline, but as a historical
recollection of a time when human animals lived in balance with the
earth. As ecological disaster ripens, it becomes fascinating to read
these stories through this lens. As we look at it more closely, the
bible begins to read like a manual of Anarcho-Primitivism. Of course
that term wasn't around back then, but the principles are so similar
that it is incredible. For those unfamiliar, Anarcho-Primitivism is a
form of anarchism that takes it's critique of society all the way back
to origins, citing civilization as the culprit of our current crisis.
This brand of thinking values indigenous cultures and earth-based
people groups as teachers and elders who hold wisdom long forgotten (or
violently silenced). Our hunter-gatherer ancestors laid out for us a
way of being that is truly sustainable. It was the norm forever, until
the rise of agriculture, which changed the landscape of things and
paved the way for civilization. As the towers rose and power
centralized, most people got the short end of the stick. This is the
context in which the Hebrew-Christian tradition developed. "We remember
the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the
cucumbers, the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic".
Numbers 11:5.

    The origins story of Genesis
1-11 is less about where we came from and more about where we went
wrong… historically. Our primordial state of constant communion with
Creator and creation was taken away as we 'fell' into civilization.
Eating from tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents our
thirst for power, to be like god and to be the creator and manufacturer
of our own destinies. This thirst of ours was wet as we began
domesticating plants and animals, using them for our purposes instead
of trusting that God (or the earth) would provide. Yet our thirst was
not satisfied, so we built towers to the heavens, symbols of all we
could accomplish. Yet even as we thought we could reach past the
heavens, God was still looking down on us… "Come, let us make a city and a tower, that the top may reach to heaven; and let us make our name famous before we be scattered abroad into all lands.
5 Yet the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of Adam
were building." The curse for our greed was that we would have to work
the land (agriculture) and that women would have pain in childbirth
(the number of children women had, as well as the pain entailed,
severely increased after humans became sedentary).

  
  This cosmic tale of the fall reads like a tragedy, and as the curtain
closes in Genesis 11 and reopens in Genesis 12, the elders of our faith
appear on stage and receive the call that spurs on the Hebrew-Christian
tradition: Abraham and family are told to leave the city and go into the wilderness.
Later in the tale, as Moses leads all of Abraham's descendants out of
the slavery of the city and into the wilderness, they receive from
Creator what is to be the guiding principles of their tribe:

16 This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer (about 2 quarts) for each person you have in your tent.' "

 17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18
And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not
have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each
one gathered as much as he needed.

 19 Then Moses said to them, "No one is to keep any of it until morning."

23 He said to them, "This
is what the LORD commanded: 'Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy
Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you
want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.' "

-Exodus 16

These commandments are guidelines that hunter-gatherer tribes have followed forever. They represent a way of harmony and balance, a way that we have fallen far away from. Ched Myers calls this 'Sabbath Economics' and has written extensively on it.

Gather daily, (16)

don't gather extra or store anything, (18)

make sure it circulates and doesn't just sit and go to waste, (19)

limit your activity (sabbath). (23)

As we look for a way out of this mess we have created, we have to
look this far back, all the way to our origins. This is the only way to
develop a truly radical critique of society. Progress is a lie. I
think we are all aware of that by now. Perhaps the first step is to
reconnect with the land and with wildness, yet we can't stop there. We
have to rethink not only our way of being, but our way of organizing
society. The Anarcho-Primitivist critique is a powerful alley in this
process, and seems to be a fast growing movement among Christians. And it's
amazing to discover that the bible, of all things, has so much to teach us
about this!

As I said, this will be the first in a series of posts about the Gathering Around the Unhewn Stone (see previous post). Here is a really good report back by Nekeisha of Jesus Radicals.

I just returned from The Gathering Around the Unhewn Stone in
Philadelphia. It was the latest gathering of folks exploring the
connections between the hebrew-christian faith and anarcho-primitivism.
For the next few weeks I will be posting my thoughts on the gathering,
probably in the form of random blurbs since there is just so much to
work through and think about. I can't begin to tell you how 'at home' I
felt and always feel around this group. It's so encouraging to be in
the presence of people who share a similar disillusionment with
civilization. Even upon returning home, I again started to feel like I
am crazy and just too hopeful, or 'idealistic' as they call it. Yet the memories of this gathering, the songs learned, and the
conversations shared will stay with me, constantly reminding me that I
am not crazy, but that I am 'surrounded by a cloud of witnesses' who
are moving in the same direction: out of the city and into the
wilderness. Theologian Ched Myers, one of the elders of this movement,
said that the three main pathologies of civilization are Anxiety,
Alienation, and Addiction. This critique becomes more clear the more I
exist in the city. Upon returning from the gathering, I was invited by
my friend to take an 'architectural boat tour' through the Chicago
river, during which all the buildings were pointed out and discussed
from an architectural and historical point of view. It was such a
juxtaposition to the gathering I was just at. When I got back home I
was looking over my notes and the material I gathered in Philly and saw
this verse out of Mark's gospel story,

As he was leaving the temple, one of the disciples said to him, "Look
teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!"
"Do you see all these great buildings?" Jesus replied. "Not one stone will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."

Sure this sounds sort of nihilistic or negative, and maybe it is. But
it is all an appropriate response to the madness we find ourselves in.
We are angry and disillusioned, and as we look back deep into our
cultural and ethnic heritages as white people, we find no grounding, no
roots, just stories of domination and exploitation. We have no songs,
no stories, no culture. Our path becomes clear. We must re-create
community and humbly borrow wisdom from those cultures our people have
destroyed. The hebrew-christian faith is a movement of resistance led
by a people well acquainted with the pathology of civilization. The
call of the gospels is one of re-wilding (going back into the
wilderness) and re-tribalization (forming egalitarian communities to combat domination and
alienation). These will be the kinds of things I will explore on this
blog during the next few weeks. I hope it can spark some good
discussion!

I have been reading Dorothy Day's autobiography, The Long Loneliness, and making some delightful discoveries about a movement I seem to come to love the more I hear about it. Dorothy Day is the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, along with Peter Maurin. The Catholic Worker is a fascinating movement that started in the 1930's in the wake of the Great Depression. Dorothy was a radical who worked closely with communists, socialists and anarchists, mostly writing for and editing radical papers. Her experience in the world led her to focus on the rights of workers, aligning ideologies with the Wobblies and anarcho-syndicalists. That is why the movement took on the name Catholic Worker. Yet after reading Dorothy's biography, I've come to find out that Peter Maurin's ideology was much more aligned with something like the 'back to the land' movement of the 60's. Dorothy would often refer to Peter as the 'green' revolutionist. In the midst of mounting unemployment, Peter was fed up with the fact that the state would always be the one to ease the burden of economic hardship, through social programs and the like. He proposed the opening of 'houses of hospitality' throughout the country that would act as decentralized social centers for all those in need. Disgusted by the impersonal charity of the state, Peter and Dorothy would make these houses truly hospitable to all who walked in. Peter also envisioned a return to the land, where people could work for their immediate needs with their own hands. This would ease the problem of unemployment as workers shifted from reliance on the economic system to living and working for themselves. Schools to teach radical ideologies and a paper to distribute far and wide would be the mediums to forward this movement. The paper was started right away, and houses of hospitality were opened all over in an impressively short time period. This is mostly because the unemployment opened up opportunities for jobless young folks to give their time. Yet the schools and the farms never really took root. There were a few farms opened and today a handful of them still exist, including the one in London that started in the 30's. I know of one house/farm that is trying to open up a Catholic Worker School in Iowa, but it is still in the works.

It's fascinating to find these things out about the Catholic Worker Movement as my ideology has begun to shift to a perspective similar to the back to the land movement (yet with the understanding of the many mistakes that were made in that movement). Apparently there were more Catholics than just Peter thinking these things back in the day. He once brought over a copy of Father Vincent McNabb's Nazareth or Social Chaos to Dorothy's house and made everyone there read it. It's a book written by Father Vincent and comrades after they, "realized that the great Jewish movements of reformation and
redemption were movements out of complex, organized city life to the
simple life with God on the land, or even in the desert."
I hope to see more of this kind of thinking within the radical christian movement as we face a similar unemployment fiasco and  rising environmental disaster. Again I will plug the 'in the land of the living' journal, a publication that is part of a wider movement that has begun to think this way. "Retreat" doesn't seem like much of a solution to many and is often demonized as way to sell-out, but if we think about retreating back into the wilderness in terms of a larger movement, I think we can begin to see it as a viable alternative to the current crisis system.

Mug shots

Six of my friends are in jail with bogus, ambiguous charges
for allegedly 'attempting' to mess with an Olympics banner. This system gives them no chance to defend themselves, embellished
stereotypes and Mayor Daley's dominance over this city have already
convicted them, as the banner they "destroyed" hangs untouched downtown.

WHO?

Jeremy and Jason Hammond
Brian Brown
Jeremy Sorkin
Johnathan Clark
Anna Stafford

WHAT HAPPENED??
6 people were arrested Tuesday, September 29th during an anti-Olympics
rally protesting Chicago's bid for the 2016 games. Around 150 people
were taking part in this peaceful demonstration, surrounded by lots of
police, media, and curious bystanders. At the end of the rally, some
protesters allegedly grabbed a pro-Olympics banner that was to be hung
from Daley Center's Picasso statue and attempted to put it in the fire
of the nearby "eternal flame." There were several people there and not
nearly everyone present, nor everyone arrested, was taking part in this
spontaneous action. The six arrested are being charged with "Mob"
Activity (felony), and all but Brian are being charged with resisting
arrest (misdemeanor). Property damage and assaulting an officer, the
charges they were initially arrested on, have been dismissed after
detectives reviewed the video. Yet, with no chance to plea their case,
they are being held in jail on bail. The bail is 25,000 each, minus
Jeremy Sorkin and Anna, who are being released today tied to electric
monitors which prevent them from leaving their houses until the trial.
(yes, like cattle).

WHY OPPOSE THE OLYPICS??
Everywhere the Olympic Games go, they drag a path of destruction behind
them. It costs a lot of money to put these games on and the city pays
for it. There are so many things more important to be throwing our
money into other than games. Houses are being foreclosed on, schools
lack sufficient funding, the list goes on. This is a waste of money and
85% of Chicago has said that Mayor Daley's promise to the IOC to front
a 'blank check' assuring he will cover any unanticipated costs of the
games is crazy! It's absurd to use money like this. And apart from
that, the Olympics will displace poor families by skyrocketing property
values. It's gentrification on crack. The police surveillance
infrastructure will become top-notch and we will watch our already
over-policed city become something out of a sci-fi movie. The
structures built, stadiums, bleacher, tracks, etc are to be here
permanently, despite that they will only be used for the weeks of the
Olympics. There's no room for this, so several parks and neighborhoods
will be destroyed to house these throw-away structures. And besides all
that, the Olympics in and of themselves promote competition and
capitalism, pillars of our western society that we all hope will soon
collapse.

(Everything stated is my opinion and no one elses, for the record)