I would like to start out this post with Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching hexagram “Ko”, meaning revolution or molting:
The Chinese character for this hexagram means in its original sense an animal’s pelt, which is changed in the course of the year by molting. From this word is carried over to apply to the ‘moltings’ in political life, the great revolutions connected with changes of governments…
Revolution. On your own day
You are believed.
Furthering through perseverance.
Political revolutions are extremely grave matters. They should be undertaken only under stress of direst necessity, when there is no other way out. Not everyone is called to this task, but only the [wo/]man who has the confidence of the people, and even he only when the time is ripe. [S/]He must then proceed in the right way, so that he gladdens the people and, by enlightening them, prevents excesses. Furthermore, he must be quite free of selfish aims and must really relieve the need of the people. Only then does he have nothing to regret. Times change, and with them their demands. Thus the seasons change in the course of the year. In the world cycle also there are spring and autumn in the life of peoples and nations, and these call for social transformations.
As I was listening to John Zerzan’s 3/5/13 Anarchy Radio broadcast, I was glad to hear that so many refuse to back up the recent mauling of a postal worker by a bomb sent by Individuals Tending towards the Wild (ITW) down in old Me-hee-co. Apparently they put out a communiqué saying something along the lines of, “Tough tiddlywinks, we’re at war and there will be casualties.” I think that their lack of remorse is absolutely repulsive, and it deserves some thought. Most importantly for us here in the states, I think that ITW’s behavior is exactly what we would see from Deep Green Resistance (DGR) if they ever got some kind of faction off the ground. And that is something scary to think about.
First of all, ITW has probably seriously damaged their reputation among radicals with this lack of empathy for their unintended casuality. After all, if you make such a grave mistake, honor demands some remorse. Responding in such a callous, ironically robotic way, I doubt that ITW will garner the broad respect of anarchists much longer.
Personally, I find anarchy appealing because it is the most compassionate, sane way to live, and I believe that people will see that if you give them a chance. People are not stupid—everyone knows we’re royally screwed from every direction and we need some way out. I spend a lot of time just talking to people on the street, and more often than not I can find that anarchist inside.
People like to be empowered, and they like to think that there is a way of life with more substance, promise, and harmony. People worry about their children, their health, and their legacy on this planet. The core values that they base their lives around are usually better nurtured by anarchy than the pitiful conditions of industry and wage slavery. All in all, if there were a fork in the road they would choose the path of anarchy.
But that takes many feet standing on common ground, and a horizontal unity among lots of people saying, “Yes, we know there’s a better road and we will walk it.” ITW won’t achieve that by portraying themselves as ruthless, murderous revolutionaries. Those types have never garnered popular respect, nor should they. And furthermore, even if they did manage to overthrow the technological system in Mexico, or even in all of North America somehow, China or Russia or Europe—probably all three—would be right there on the doorstep, ready to recivilize the whole shebang. And that means more bloodshed, more suffering for the people, more loss of land and species… I just don’t see the endgame in it. And if instead their goal was to inspire global resistance to industry and domination, remorselessly maming a common postal worker should have been the last thing on their list.
I think that revolution should be the spontaneous response of a people with a common heart facing an unavoidable struggle. There is no hope or sense of victory in a vain resistance. However, people will rally around a just and selfless cause as though it were a tree bearing fruit and giving shade. The time must be ripe for it. The endless “Attack NOW!” rhetoric constantly bleated by anarchists has a foolish eagerness about it—perhaps even a self-destructive resignation to futility. There’s no reaping the harvest before it is ready. Some things take time.
That said, I understand the urgent desire for revenge and justice when such dire forces threaten life and liberty on this planet. But for all those forces’ might and prestige, they are only able to persecute anarchists because they have popular support. Someone entrapped in a bomb plot can get half their life in the dungeon in the blink of an eye because that satisfies the moral outrage most people feel when they hear that someone wanted to steal their sovereignty. I like to define “politics” as the act of making choices for other people, and I don’t think anyone has that right. It is always enforced by violence. Superior morals don’t give you precedence to take another’s life into your own hands—on the contrary, when you see everyone as equal, like you’re sitting in a great circle, only then do you have superior morals. When anarchists try to play the card of forced change from an intellectual, self-righteous high horse, it gets regular people looking at us saying, “What a bunch of heartless monsters!” when god knows we are anything but.
Now sabotage and direct action are different than militancy. That’s just putting a good ol’ monkeywrench in the gears, stopping the monster in its tracks, drawing a line in the sand—I think that’s great. Those are generally defensive actions, not offensive attacks. But what ITW is doing isn’t a defensive act (except in an abstract way), it’s an act of war—they are not just destroying infrastructure, artifacts, mechanics—they are destroying people. And for all that anarchists talk about class war, war on society, and war on the oppressors, I think in the heat of passion they often forget what “war” actually means.
Crimethinc, insurrectionists, and nihilists have all tried to make war sound romantic, even fatalistic, but anyone with common sense knows better. To me it seems that war-promoting radicals would have a thousand sparks fly into the night rather than slowly build a fire (no I’m not talking about Maoism here, keep reading). Constant emphasis on attack leaves little room for the intricate responsibilities that a holistic life must nurture, including maturity, patience, and accountability to the intricate relationships we have to one another (non-anarchists included).
All in all, I see anarchy’s strength in the elemental power of truth, not in its vain, often symbolic attacks. It has a power to not just talk to people but to speak to them, to embolden them to see things in a more wholesome, healing, and beautiful way. That’s where the payoff is. We won’t see any changes on this planet until we are together in the heart. That’s what spiritual people all over the world are saying. We need to speak to the spiritual unity that none of us can escape.
We really can’t live without clean water and air, and healthy ecosystems. What we do to our earth and each other really does affect us. Industrial civilization really is bound to fail. It really is a catastrophe on a cosmic scale that not only ruins the beauty of this planet, but goes against the will of all the stars in the sky. The earth really can heal itself if given the chance. And we really could be happier. That’s what people want, after all. Not a glorious revolution, just happiness. Sometimes they go hand in hand.
When people come together under the banner of truth, it is far more powerful than any force of retribution alone. Touching more hearts, hands, and minds—rather than just breaking windows and planting bombs—may be the most promising frontier for anarchists today.
PS! I opened “Basic Writings of Nietzsche” to a random page and got this passage from Beyond Good and Evil which seemed relevant:
Whether it be hedonism, pessimism, utilitarianism, or eudaemonism, all those modes of thinking which measure the worth of things according to PLEASURE and PAIN, that is, according to accompanying circumstances and secondary considerations, are plausible modes of thought and naivetes, which every one conscious of CREATIVE powers and an artist’s conscience will look down upon with scorn, though not without sympathy. Sympathy for you!—to be sure, that is not sympathy as you understand it: it is not sympathy for social “distress,” for “society” with its sick and misfortuned, for the hereditarily vicious and defective who lie on the ground around us; still less is it sympathy for the grumbling, vexed, revolutionary slave-classes who strive after power—they call it “freedom.” OUR sympathy is a loftier and further-sighted sympathy:—we see how MAN dwarfs himself, how YOU dwarf him! and there are moments when we view YOUR sympathy with an indescribable anguish, when we resist it,—when we regard your seriousness as more dangerous than any kind of levity. You want, if possible—and there is not a more foolish “if possible”—TO DO AWAY WITH SUFFERING; and we?—it really seems that WE would rather have it increased and made worse than it has ever been! Well-being, as you understand it—is certainly not a goal; it seems to us an END; a condition which at once renders man ludicrous and contemptible—and makes his destruction DESIRABLE!