A few weeks back I went to a anarchist curated fundraiser for an anti-civilization film. In lieu of my recent “fan mail” and the overall attacks I get from green anarchists, I’m very apprehensive about going to these kinds of events, but I wanted to show my support for the film and meet the filmmaker. I didn’t stay long. Why, in a room full of people who generally agree more or less with me about civilization, did I feel like I stood in the lions den? On my drive home I realized that the activist (and particularly anarchist) community that I have known and experienced has felt like a hate culture.
The anarchist “scenes” I have participated with differ very little from hate cultures like white supremacists. While their politics may differ, their attitudes look very similar. Think skin head. Now think straight-edge vegan. They generally have anger towards a particular group; perhaps they blame black people for all their problems as in neo-nazis, or perhaps they blame the empirical system that we live in as in anarchists. While one may have much more philosophical credibility and reflect a much more accurate perception of reality, their cultural attitudes of hate mirror each other.
Articulation of the problems we face in civilization create anger at the system. We instantly want to stop the system and we band together to fight the system. The classic “Fuck Shit Up” slogan reveals much about the hate culture in activism and anarchism. “Fuck shit up” implies revenge. Since anarchist cultures I’ve participated in stemmed from hating “the system” or the current president or corporations or laws or “all forms of government” or civilization for fucking up our lives, I think it attracts mostly people who want revenge. An injurious and punitive kind of justice. Not a restorative kind of justice.
These communities often have tremendous amount of judgment and a fear of judgment from others which leads to the harsh feelings of guilt; for eating meat, for voting for a third party, for not voting for a third party, for voting in general, not buying fair trade coffee, for calling the police when someone harasses them. A community of living in fear of judgment from one another. Great. Not to mention the constant paranoia of federal agents. Fear, mistrust, paranoia, judgment, guilt. Shit… anarchist culture rules!
All anarchist subcultures I have participated with have wanted to pretend that it doesn’t work this way. Often these activists avert the attention from cultural core of hate by trying desperately to have fun. “Everyone is so serious all the time! We need to lighten up.” Sorry, but music, dancing, potlucks, etc. won’t change the core of the culture. None of it feels like any fun to me because at the heart of it all sits a collective vengeful hate, fear and guilt.
A problem pops up in articulating the inherent violence and subversive threat of violence within the civilized social hierarchy. The problem lies in creating culture based solely on fighting this system, rather than creating a holistic culture separate from civilization. I recognize that this system makes it very hard to create alternatives and that we have tons of privilege in America in regards to this (that really only exists as long as those in power will let it). I recognize that it needs to come down, and I believe in resistance. However, I don’t believe in creating a “culture of resistance.” I want a whole culture. A culture that supports resistance.
A large part of the anger I think stems from the feelings of victimization. I see victimization as a phase of understanding that something terrible happened to you. Once you get that, you move past it into action. Victims like to sit around and talk about what happened to them. When you identify the larger oppressive culture as continuously victimizing you, you don’t allow yourself to move through that phase. With a particular abusive person, you can move away from them (or perhaps exact your own revenge) and hopefully, move on with your life. But living in an oppressive culture works differently, but only so long as you continue to identify with that culture.
The other day I watched a video from the Pittsburgh G20 protests. Watching the police in the videos made me laugh out loud. Especially at the parts with the automated police voice blaring on a loud speaker. It was so ridiculous it reminded me of that one Jello Biafra track “You will be shot!” I could laugh at the video because I no longer see myself as a victim, as a member of civilization. I have no illusion of freedoms. I have no illusion of rights. “OMG! Can you believe what the police did?” Yes, I can. Did you think they would act differently? I would not feel surprised if I woke up to police beating down my door for any reason they made up to do so. We live in a police state. Civilization stands at war against humanity. No more surprises, no more shock, no more hope it will change.
Yes, I have a job. But I don’t identify with it. Yes, I live in a city, but I don’t identify with it. Yes, police roam the streets of the neighborhood I live in, but I don’t think of them as “my” police (which doesn’t mean I can’t use them to my advantage by the way). My identity lies with the land. This can seem really hard to articulate because you have to feel it, not think it. I no longer identify with this culture. I don’t live in it psychologically. I don’t feel it in my body. Part of separating myself from perceiving myself as a victim is that I see civilized people as a different kind of animal, with a whole different set of expectations. I don’t see them as “enemies” but rather, insane “predators”. I can trust they will act a certain way. I think in order to create a healthy culture, this change of mindset needs to happen.
I don’t mean to say that I have an aversion to revenge. On the contrary, I can think of several people who have fucked me over that I would love to exact my revenge upon. I would love to see people take revenge on those in power, on a system that destroys life and the lives of people. The problem, I think, lies in the creation of a culture centered around revenge. I don’t see revenge as good or bad. It has particular consequences in particular cultures in particular ways. However, an entire culture centered around revenge looks and feels quite different to me.
While I generally agree with critiques against civilization, I don’t let my hatred for the system direct my actions and social culture. I hate civilization sure, but I don’t build a culture of hating civilization. I build a culture of creating life that we call rewilding; of which dismantling civilization forms a rather small (but absolutely necessary and increasingly complicated) part. I don’t mean to say that a “culture of resistance” implies a “culture of hate” but that it seems the people attracted to a culture of resistance get there out of their hate for a system. So you have a bunch of people all together because they hate something and want to destroy it.
I look guilty of fostering this hate culture too. I write angry, passionate rants about civilization often. Sometimes I wonder if I perpetuate hate speech in my propaganda. My rewilding vs. such and such stems I think from this kind of hate culture rhetoric. Some of the “vs.” work great, such as the agriculture, civilization and empire. All of those things oppose rewilding entirely. But why do I have chapters called “Primitivism vs. Rewilding” and “Permaculture vs. Rewilding”? Shouldn’t I have named them “Primitive Skills in Rewilding” and “Permaculture in Rewilding”? Yes. I should have. But I didn’t.
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