The story of the Society of Masterless Men, which included women and children, began in the 18th-century settlement of Ferryland, in Newfoundland. In order to colonize Newfoundland, The British Empire created plantations. These were settlements of primarily Irish indentured servants, many of them very young -thus their name- the Irish Youngsters, abducted from Ireland either by force or guile and brought to the South Shore of Newfoundland where they were literally sold to fishing masters. Their price: $50 a head. In 1700ís Newfoundland the British Navy wielded its authority over its seamen with zero compassion and nothing but discipline enforced by abuse and violence. Because there wasnít a local police force, they also helped reinforce the authority of the local fishing masters. These masters were essentially the Lords and Ladies of the villages, living in luxury and security while surrounded by dozens, even hundreds, of indentured servants who fished and labored in the camps processing the catch. These village plantations were primarily set up by consortiums and cabals of wealthy merchants in England. British frigates were stationed in the harbors and marines patrolled the town. The workers in these fishing villages were barely a step up from slaves. Corporal punishment was routinely used and everyday life was harsh and brutal. In the small settlement of Ferryland, for instance, there were a gallows and three whipping posts, in separate regions of the town. When a man was sentenced to be flogged for stealing a jug of rum or refusing to work for one of the fishing masters, he was taken to all three posts and whipped so the whole town would have an opportunity to witness the punishment as a warning.
The settlement of Ferryland was founded by Sir George Calvert around 1620, and was also partly intended as a "refuge for ÖCatholics." Iím not sure if this meant strictly for the Catholic servants or if there were any "free" Catholics as well. This was a time of penal law in Britain and at least some Irish Catholics voluntarily came to the New World to escape persecution. Unfortunately the laws in Newfoundland were the same as in the Old World. The orders given to the governor from 1729 to 1776 were: You are to permit a liberty of conscience to all, except Papists, so they be contented with a quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the same, not giving offense or scandal to the government
This order wasnít always strictly followed but around the mid 1700ís there was a crackdown on Catholicism. In 1743 the governor of the time, Smith, wrote to the magistrate in Ferryland, John Benger, instructing him to be mindful of the "Irish papists" in the area. William Keen the chief magistrate of St. Johnís was killed by a group of Irishmen in 1752. Following this penal laws were strictly enforced for the next thirty or forty years. Court documents from the Renews area (the nearest settlement) show there was growing fear among the authorities of an insurrection. In fact about fifty years earlier the French war ship Profound attacked Renews where there were seven Ďresidentsí and 120 servant fishermen, many of whom were Irish. These servant-slaves were recorded as not caring who owned the place, that is they didnít jump up to protect their masters from the attack. Life wasnít much better for those in the Navy. Food rations were slim and flogging was common. For instance keelhauling -dragging a seaman on ropes under the keel of a ship, thereby shredding his flesh on the sharp edged barnacles- was still a legal punishment even though it frequently resulted in death.
Some like to refer to the Society of Masterless Men as lore or a traditionally told story, one for which there is little documentary evidence. But there does seem to be a fair amount of facts that are known about the Masterless Men. And, as a matter of context, we know a lot about the injustice of the British Empire and of the cruelty of many of its Eichmans and enforcers. We know that indentured servants were brought to Newfoundland and treated with brutality as were the seamen in the Royal Navy. We also know that one Irish-born Peter Kerrivan was among those young indentured servants and abused seamen. Some say he was a reluctant seaman, having been pressed into service.
Some time in 1750, while Kerrivanís ship was docked in Ferryland, he escaped (historians usually choose deserted) . Together with two or three escaped indentured fishermen, he helped establish a lookout and base in the Butter Pot Barrens, a wild area of the Avalon Peninsula, for the outlaws to hide Hunted by the authorities, the Masterless men soon learned a way of life based on subsistence and sharing. They came into contact with Newfoundlandís aboriginal peoples, the Miíqmaq and the Beothuk, who taught the rebels survival skills. They learned how to hunt for food based on the caribou herd on the Peninsula.
At the time one could be hanged for running away, but nevertheless many young men escaped from the plantations and took up lives as outlaws. In 1774 for instance, a petition written by Bonavista merchants, justices of the peace and others, and sent to Governor Shuldham complained of a number of "masterless" Irishmen who had gone to live in a secluded cove and "were there building fishing rooms." But Kerrivans band of young companions were among the luckiest and best organized.
Naturally word of the well organized free men spread and fresh runaways from coastal settlements came to join them. Eventually their numbers swelled to between 20 and 50 men. There were also women, but their numbers are unknown. The literature I found mention the women simply as "wives", although I imagine them as strong, rebellious women sickened by the misery and cruelty that surrounded them who also yearned for a freer and better way of life and who joined their outlaw husbands voluntarily. After a while the group of comrades began trading caribou meat and hides with allies in the remote villages, receiving supplies such as flour, tea and of course bullets. They also organized stealthy raids against the fishery plantations. By this time the British authorities, without a police or militia of their own, were beginning to fear that this group of anarchic rebels would inspire too many others to desertion and ordered the navy to track the freedom loving band down and make examples of them.
However some years passed before the first expedition against the Masterless Men was organized and by then the rebels had become skilled wilderness inhabitants. Anticipating the attack or somehow being forewarned, Kerrivan and his comrades cut a series of blind trails which confounded their pursuers. The party of marines sent to capture them often found themselves lost and dumbly led into bogs and impenetrable thick bush. Eventually the navy did manage to close in on the rebels camp near their lookout, but they found the log cabins deserted, "with every rag and chattel removed". Taking advantage of their pursuers confusion, Kerrivan and his friends had moved off towards the north and west. The navy set fire to their little village but had to return to their base without any prisoners. The Masterless group rebuilt their cabins and the navy burned them down again. Over time the navy burned down their cabins three times and each time they were rebuilt.
Two, possibly four, of the rebels were captured and hanged, but the state never did succeed in destroying the Society. In fact the captured young runaways had joined the band only a few weeks earlier and had been taken by surprise away from the main body of the rebels. They were hanged with great dispatch from the yard-arm of the English frigate in Ferryland. No other Masterless Men were ever captured after this incident presumably because this only made the outlaws more cautious. Some of the tracks that had been carved partly to support their wilderness ways and partly as subterfuge became Newfoundlandís first inland roads. In fact their road system had eventually connected most of the small settlements of the Avalon Peninsula.
For more than a generation the Masterless Men roamed free over the barrens! Over time, perhaps as military rule began to relax or for reasons unknown to this author, their ranks began to dwindle. In 1789, 39 years after escaping, four men gave themselves up on condition that their only punishment would be deportation to Ireland, which was agreed upon. Many of the other rebels settled in remote parts of Newfoundlandís coast and survived as independent fishermen. Kerrivan, who was never captured, is said to have had a partner, four sons and several daughters and is believed to have remained on the barrens well into old age, never returning to civilization.
The children of the Masterless Men gradually drifted out to the coast and settled down in small coves never visited by the navy. They married the children of other outlaws who had settled there generations earlier and together they raised families.
The story of The Society of the Masterless Men is exceptionally inspiring because they succeeded. A group of people voluntarily joined together in common cause and broke free from their masters, most never to be captured or to return to their work prisons.
There is a lot of land out there. It isnít nearly as overflowing with abundant wild life as at one time, nor are there as many skilled aboriginal people waiting to teach us essential skills, but a group of people with a similar world view could perhaps leave the brutal, empty world of the civilized behind and live their lives according to principles of voluntary association and mutual aid supported by subsistence ways.Sources: Alexina Reid from The Newfoundland and Labrador archives
The preceding was a comment I wrote which was published in our local monthly newspaper last year, addressing a proposed development on a two thousand acre property located in the northern part of our island, thus the 'North Lands' references. The developer offered one thousand acres to the community in return for a substantial increase in residential density. The offer was ultimately turned down after great debate among the local population. Some of the most active opponents were a couple of local anarchists who published a number of researched articles, letters and responses and made other interventions at the local community hall meetings.
The vast majority of the worldís population consists of defeated peoples in this war. And in fact, we are more than just defeated. We are kept. Kept in fear, kept in awe, kept out of touch with each other and the earth that gives us life. It has been said that our chains are long and our cages big, yet this still implies that we are prisoners. Coercion is everywhere, including the necessity to sell our labor for a wage, forced obedience to laws, conscription in imperial armies and compulsory moralities and schooling.
The occupying physical forces are essentially the police and the army. Over the centuries weíve internalized much of the values and ideas of the conquerors. Most of us have now been assimilated into the ways of the obedient and the domesticated. But Iíd like to explore our physical occupation, not the various skins that we must shed and the fears we must lose. If people want to claim space then they have to be prepared to fight and defend it. This space could be permanent (a liberated region or village) or temporary (squats, wilderness camps, legally and illegally built shelters or autonomous neighborhoods). It could be based in village or regional secessionist movements, access to land by popular movements or indigenous assertion over traditional territories.
Those of you familiar with the events in Kahnesatake for instance, a Mohawk reserve outside of Montreal, in which the cops were physically chased out of town a while ago, are aware of how successful an organized martial action can be. Canadian anarchists and other insubordinates have an incredible amount of insight and inspiration to glean from that event. People can claim space if they get organized and arenít afraid to lose a few teeth.
With this in mind, perhaps a look at history generally will help us discover how others in this predicament have successfully organized themselves martially, because there are countless examples of rebels organizing themselves along martial lines and winning.
Official history is written by the conquerors. Their self-congratulatory folklore is that we (rebels) have always lost because the conquerors were superior (and thus had superior weapons). Most of us assume that this is true, so we might as well not even try a martial approach, because weíre sure to lose. But this isnít the case. In North American history for instance, the dishonest image of the technologically advanced Europeans overrunning primitive savages needs to be re-examined. All over this continent the indigenous peoples rose up and used martial skills to repel the invasions. In most instances, at least initially, they had some success.
Letís look at an example from one of the very first invasions. In 1521, in what is now called Florida, the Calusa and Timucua defeated experienced conquistadors under Ponce de Leon and Hernandez de Cordoba. In fact, both of these conquerors died of wounds inflicted by the Calusa! For half a century the indigenous tribes repelled the Spanish in that region. The invasion by de Leon and de Cordoba was in fact the fourth invasion by Spaniards repelled successfully by local tribes-people.
Throughout the successive invasions, there were countless examples of success. Furthermore, Europeans would not have ultimately won without adopting some native technology and skills while throughout the centuries the indigenous peoples also adapted European technology and tactics. For instance, in his excellent book, Warpaths, author Ian Steele explains that: "Spanish crossbows had failed to compete with Amerindian longbows that were six to seven feet long, thick as a manís arm, and very accurate at two hundred yards. Although Spanish armor had been effective against most arrows encountered on three continents, these Ö arrows penetrated six inches of wood and even Spanish breast-and back plates." In many instances the indigenous successfully defended their territory for decades, some even succeeded for generations.
It seems clear to me at least that any successful resistance needs to be organized in a broad way, it needs to be organically self-organized based on entire communities. We should be aiming for a period of regional and village-like secessionist movements. Centralized authority can not control a veritable multitude of rebellious regions, villages, reserves and neighborhoods, each with its own focus, its specific expression of anti-authoritarian self-organization. Also, by collaborating with or at least acknowledging indigenous actions for autonomy and territory, we can be part of something much larger, something quite close generally to what many insurgent communitarians, radical ecologists, anarchists and other rebels are aiming for.
As mentioned earlier, we still have to shake off the chains that we ourselves willingly carry, like crucifixes, because we are believers. Part of breaking out involves shedding all those ideological skins grafted onto us through schooling, the mass media, living in nuclear families, etc. But my involvement with rebels over the past 20 years tells me that we already know that this is important. What we donít seem to inventory is the means available to us to counter our physical occupation. We know that it is only by ridding ourselves of organized coercive authority that we will truly begin to have real opportunities to profoundly transform ourselves. Can a local area succeed against this coercion and against the imperialism of the market? If so, what are some of the first steps?
Part of being an insurgent today could involve acquiring martial skills. Martial traditions include everything from fighting techniques, military theory, group cohesion and earth knowledge to skill with a weapon. Weapons include rifles, shotguns, handguns, sling shots, knives and various bows and arrows, among others. These could be used for acquiring food as well as for self-defense or to chase away adversaries. This isnít a call to "armed struggle" but for inclusion of a neglected aspect of a holistic approach to rebellion. Most simple weapons are also useful tools and we should make use of them in that context, for instance by learning hunting skills, then bringing home some wild meat to share with friends so we can stop relying on dumpsters and food banks and jobs. The bonus is that our possession and familiarity with them could be extremely useful in a crisis situation or during a popular revolt.
The war rages on. The prisons are full. The factories and mines are full. A small class of people calls all the shots. A wave of extinction is denuding the planet, a tsunami caused by a system that is imposed from above. Entire populations are on anti-depressant and anti-anxiety pills. We need to regroup and strategize. Encouraging individuals and groups of rebellious people to get some training in survival and martial skills seems like common sense at this time. These various individuals and groups would help create a new anti-authoritarian culture that includes a widespread acceptance of a martial component. Rhetoric and politeness have ruled us for too long. A more martial approach should be given an opportunity to contribute significantly to attempts at creating imaginative, healthy cultures.
The support for martial skills could translate into anti-authoritarian "warrior societies" or "militias", semi-formal groupings that exist over time, or it might manifest itself spontaneously and informally when the need arises. Either way, the intention is that there are groups of individuals able and perhaps willing to help their neighbors, comrades and friends claim space to express anger, resist the plundering of their habitat and help various grassroots initiatives to fight back through the practice of martial approaches. They would likely practice survival and martial skills. When a squat is about to be evicted or a wilderness camp burned by authorities, they might show up to give moral and physical support with their training and ability to act strongly as a group. Whether groups form or not, by being inclusive and encouraging as many friends, neighbors and comrades as possible to explore martial ways, an exciting new culture will be given the opportunity to emerge.
Canadian rebels can take advantage of the relative freedom and openness of our society and get these skills and tools before the chains shorten and the cages shrink. The reaction to the September 11th events in the USA proved just how quickly an open society will bring in draconian laws to protect the elite, the system they depend on and the values that allow such a system to exist in the first place.
We are all occupied peoples. The occupation is partly maintained militarily and our response should therefore be, in part at least, a military one. But I donít want a warrior ethic to be the central aspect of my community. I want the wisdom of the elders, the spontaneity, playfulness and brutal honesty of the children, the careful chiding and questioning of the fools and pacifists to also be essential aspects of my resistance, otherwise weíll end up with martial societies rather than societies with martial skills, or worse, warrior aristocracies. Iím not suggesting a separate warrior class, but an anti-authoritarian culture that values martial skills and tactics. Community wide training in self-defense, widespread use and knowledge of weaponry, popular study of conflict and confrontation, general encouragement of fighting back and standing up, etc. would all be central. Iím encouraging a grassroots acceptance of martial skills and approaches.
The warriors we want to encourage are partly motivated by a concern and caring for others in their community. They arenít based in small sanctimonious cliques. However, they care about others because they care about themselves, about life generally, about freedom. Our fighter exists to claim space for herself and others. In this newly freed up space genuine living can have an opportunity to express itself.
Part of preparing ourselves for secession and revolt includes the study of military history, the principles and ways of warfare, mostly because our adversaries are well schooled in it, but also because these offer insights and principles valuable to anti-authoritarian rebels as well. Many of us are familiar with some of the classics: Sun Tzuís The Art of War, Musashiís Book of Five Rings, Che Gueverraís writings, Maoís musings and analysis and the works of Clausewitz for instance. But these are only some of the works, many from an authoritarian or vanguardist perspective, and clearly inadequate for an emerging martial culture wanting to resist or to claim and defend space.
We could also look at the history of anarchists, like the Makhnovchina or the Durruti Column, for instance, at how they got started, how they were organized as well as at some of their specific battles and how these were won or lost. We can learn from the mistakes of countless past attempts. Anti-authoritarian rebels donít have an elitist leadership and arenít centrally organized. Federations of independent camps could be encouraged, but these alliances should be fragile agreements. Ultimately it is in not becoming too formally linked that we will succeed in permanently breaking the existence of political monopolies and large-scale infrastructures that tend toward congealing into authoritarian organizations. The notion here is to be a small part in helping create a world of free individuals, of healthy ecological environments where self-organized groups of free humans can live.
This new focus of rebellious people on military history and strategy would obviously be well complimented by also including the struggles of indigenous and other insurgent groups. In this respect we could also look at the Metis rebellion around the Red River Valley and the Society of the Masterless Men in Newfoundland, for instance. Of course weíd benefit as well from a study of the battles of war leaders like Crazy Horse, Tecumseh, Chief Joseph, Pontiac and Geronimo, as well as events like John Brownís attempted seizure of the armory at Harperís Ferry and countless other examples.
A study of the military attempts of anti-authoritarian and indigenous rebels that focuses on specific battles and the strategies that either won or lost them the fight, can lead to many useful insights of the art of revolt. A look at the struggle of the Potawatomi for instance, a people who lived according to open and free principles, to survive while caught up in the conflicts between the French and English colonial powers, reveals secrets of successful warfare. Here is just one example. In the spring of 1755, Major General Braddock assembled a large army under the British flag. He was leading colonial militia and regular troops from Virginia to destroy French forts on the Ohio River. His guide and adviser was a young colonel, George Washington. Hereís a description of what transpired from James Cliftonís book The Potawatomi:
On June 8 the British were approaching Fort Duquesne in western Pennsylvania, site of present day Pittsburgh. Seeing that the British were camped and on the alert, the Potawatomi war leaders persuaded the French not to attack. Instead, they planned to attack the British troops the next day while they were on the move, stretched out in mile-long files along a narrow, forest-shrouded trail. Their surprise attack was a complete success. Colonel Washington tried toÖcounterattack in Indian styleÖbut was defeated. They suffered nearly 1000 dead and wounded out of 1500 on the trail that morning. They abandoned most of their equipment and suppliesÖ Braddock was mortally wounded. Washington barely escaped with his life. He learned a life-saving military lesson from this disaster, one that he would regularly give as advice to his own generals when sending them against British and Indian forces: "Beware of surprise!"
In military theory, surprise is one of the most potent weapons available. We should keep in mind that a study of historical combat shows that surprise increases the combat power of fighting forces. It is the greatest of all combat multipliers. Surprise, combat effectiveness, defensive postures, these are all multipliers that can help. Shouldnít this knowledge be generally available and understood among anti-authoritarians?
The following are just a few examples of using martial tactics to succeed in present day struggles.
Opening new fronts as solidarity with other rebels engaged in a confrontation or action. Encouraging defection within enemy ranks. Avoiding capture. Blockades. Unarresting a comrade. The ambush. Spying. Interrupting the enemiesí means of communication. The surprise. Raids on enemy stores of food and weapons. The siege. Physical battles that expand territory. Freeing captives from enemy prisons. Destruction of enemy arsenals. Destruction of enemy wealth. Regrouping. Hiding. Secret codes and other means of communication. Bolder actions. Creating clandestine camps in which to hide friendly fugitives. Insurgencies. Fleeing to areas outside the enemiesí control. Increased ability to fight as groups.
Like all strategies involving territory and occupation, the defeated have myriad choices in terms of how they live out their lives. But the choices are more limited if we agree on what our aims are, on what would constitute success, on what constitutes living. Were the Warsaw Ghetto inhabitants who rose up against their Nazi tormentors ethically reprehensible for killing? Should they have continued to accept daily humiliation, suffering, violence and death? Yet at the time, there were those among them who argued against the uprising on various grounds, including moral ones. Oftentimes it isnít a question of who was more successful, but agreeing on what success is. In the case of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, those who participated in the uprising felt it was more successful to stand up to their oppressors and die with dignity, than to continue to live in Nazi hell. For others success was measured simply by staying alive at all costs, even if that meant being a traitor or accepting defeat. For others still, success was measured by being morally superior, by never adopting the means and ways of the enemy, even if that meant suffering or death. All rebels who want to overthrow the present social order in favor of a more just and imaginative one, need to ask themselves what success means for them. I believe it means standing up to the bullies who run things. It means asserting some territoriality within which we can learn to live in harmony with each other and the world around us. To achieve this we need to listen to the hot headed, impatient and courageous warriors as much as we do to the cautious, negotiating and compromising survivors.
We are all damaged people who need to heal and not just fight. We partly do this with others with whom we share affinities and openness for intimacy. We also need to analyze civilization (or domination generally) and share our insights through debates, pamphlets, publications and discussion. And we need to help create communities and/or cultures of resistance by contributing to the various projects that fellow rebels are involved in. Yet personal healing, propaganda and putting our energy into community projects, no matter how worthy, still donít acknowledge the military occupation we are presently living under. Even attempts at "re-wilding" are vain if we donít push for a generalized, effective, long-term momentum against militarily protected centralized authority.
History is not only the story of imperial civilizations targeting and conquering others, it is also a chronicle of the resistance to that conquest. I have allies and kin that extend back millennia. They have won countless battles. There has been successful resistance in every area and every era. In order to honor our ancestors, and I use this term broadly in the sense of ancestors by blood or worldview, we need to give them thanks and keep up the fight. In military theory, it is said that for the conqueror to really succeed the losing population must accept defeat, otherwise the conquerors only win after every single person has been killed, which isnít normally in the conquerors interest, because they need slaves and soldiers, etc. A very large part of our population unfortunately has accepted defeat. So I want to repeat that sharing our unique world-views and critiques and creating community are as essential as acquiring martial skills. A martial component is simply one part of a holistic approach. But we also must remember that a small band of rebels can accomplish a lot, even succeeding in leading relatively free lives away from capitalist civilization.
In Ireland, in the early nineteen hundreds, small local militias with not even enough rifles to go around succeeded in thwarting the designs of one of the most powerful empires on the planet for decades. They were successful partly because they used many martial skills, from spying to engagement in actual battles but also because they had widespread support. The fighters could melt back into the population. Disadvantaged fighters need widespread support to win. With this in mind, itís essential that rebels stay put in one region and make strong bonds with the land and the inhabitants there. Perhaps, over time, the embers of authentic communities with martial skills will begin to glow and maybe these seemingly isolated embers will one day gather themselves into small local fires. And hopefully, youíll be a rebel around one of those fires.
While conflict, even armed conflict, is as natural as a rainy day in the Pacific Northwest, war, or large-scale invasions in the interest of an elite or ideology, that is, violent brutality as a continuation of politics seems to only begin with urban civilization. I have read a great deal about the exploits of Hannibal, Alexander the Great, Caesar, Napoleon and so on. There is much to learn from them, but little to be inspired by. Theirs is the story of wretched masses impoverished by the scale and insanity of the conflicts in their lands, of obedient soldiers dutifully following the orders of their superiors. It is the story of plunder and rape and pillage, of senseless slaughter and bloodshed. War has little to do with real courage and more to do with a superficial heroism based primarily in self-preservation, although one does find examples of extraordinary bravery and solidarity, a humanity that asserts itself in the midst of the inhumane. Calls to class war, from my point of view, represent an ignorance of the realities of war or an example of a general lack of vocabulary among radicals who want to overthrow the present order. These calls are a shallow romanticism, often the privilege of those who live in peace. I am interested in the re-awakening and celebration of the warrior spirit. The call is not for war, but an end to war through revolution. Tecumseh, Pontiac, Zapata, Makhno, Gabriel Dumont, Crazy Horse, Durruti, the uncontrollables everywhere, these are my "heroes". Perhaps these examples are too militaristic. Iím sure you have friends, neighbors or acquaintances who have the fighting spirit, who stand up to the bullies around them, who arenít afraid to speak their mind, who give support to rebellious practices, be they attitudes or actions. This is the warrior spirit that should be acknowledged and encouraged, especially when it coincides with anarchic desires. Martial skills are useful for everyone, including those who simply want to irritate, to vandalize, to commit small low level attacks designed to make public their hatred of the institutions and managers of this culture. And a clandestine group of friends that creates beauty by destructive means or that spreads subversion using playful methods, can also benefit from and help inform the martial approaches I am advocating.Thoughts of revenge
Many rebels are tired of laying in bed at night sweaty and angry and filled with impotent thoughts of revenge. They are anxious to explore the possibilities that resisting and (re)claiming offer. And outside of these milieus, there are others whose communities or friends are threatened and havenít the skills to act on their desires. Is it possible to resist or to defend? Can we engage with the world around us and not get caught? Might we ever win? Ongoing ecological catastrophes cascading into a potential collapse make the situation urgent. Institutions of domination are global, but this doesnít mean that to overcome this planetary regime local confrontations and occupations are futile. Perhaps the mega-monster can be torn apart limb by local limb. Low intensity insurgency based primarily on unconventional warfare techniques is one possible avenue to pursue. This doesnít mean a resistance dominated by a sea of berets and humorless "revolutionaries". Rather these insurgencies would be primarily based among groups of friends, in geographical or genuine communities. This usually implies some degree of a mutually beneficial and trusting relationship between the actual fighters and the folks around them. Presently there seems to be widespread interest among anarchists in exploring a variety of martial arts. There is also interest in destructive actions, occupations of shelters and of food producing land bases, in survival and wilderness skills, etc. The urgency brought on by the shredding of the green world has helped create a rebel milieu anxious to fight for a future.
And this era has also helped rebels back into our bodies. There will always be philosophers; incisive people who can easily juggle ideas, but hopefully we will now begin to honor those with sensual wisdom among us as well: more women, the indigenous traditionalists, those with survival skills and earth knowledge, maybe even rednecks, with whom we should be building bridges. A more holistic approach seems necessary if we are going to succeed in our desires for healthy communities and individuals. So perhaps once our philosophizing is complimented by an equal degree of pursuit of sensual knowledge, including martial skills, a more significant threat will begin to emerge. And the more that we integrate martial skills into our ideas the more confident and healthy we will be and the more likely will we begin to see opportunities that we were previously blind to.Against militarization
Being organized along martial lines doesnít imply a hierarchical structure of arrogant superiors and obedient ranks. Obviously we donít want to militarize rebellion. Rather than the art of war, this is about the art of revolt. The hope is that potential insurgents will develop a richer vocabulary and experience around conflict. There is for instance an enormous difference between attacking, invading and fighting or between claiming and occupying. We can explore these and many other differences and concepts. Training camps, or anarchist madrassas, places where radical theory, survival skills and martial arts are learned and shared, could be very useful at this point. A martial component will be a healthy aspect of a holistic approach to rebellion. And having an awareness of military history, of martial approaches, could be helpful, even life saving. Luckily, it isnít necessary to reinvent combative skills, because there are timeless truths and principles that apply to all combat.Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu is actually an honorific title given to Su-n Wu( (c. 544 BC Ė 496 BC), the author of The Art of War. There is some debate about the original title of this famous text, which some of you may be interested in because it seems that the author intended to suggest martial arts, rather than war. In any case, Sun Tzu looked at both the philosophy of conflict as well as the conduct of military operations, especially maneuvers and combat, making his writings as they stand useful to anarchist rebels. The Art of War is an important text and should be widely read by potential insurgents. This isnít to say that Sun Tzu was an anti-state communist, rather that his writings are poetic and open ended enough to be used by just about anybody interested in being victorious in "combat" or "conflict". This means that many, many people have read them, including your adversaries. Therefore to succeed, study this text, among others, and aim to be on equal footing with your opponents, at least in theoretical knowledge.
The Art of War is widely available, but I thought Iíd share some of my favorite quotes from one of the translations:
In armed struggle, the difficulty is turning the circuitous into the direct, and turning adversity into advantage. Therefore, if you make the enemy's route circuitous and bait him with advantages, though you start out behind him, you will arrive before him.Our own parables
One of the ways that I understand Sun Tzu and make his work relevant, is through the use of the genre in which he expressed himself. While there is no reason to reinvent useful philosophies of combat and conflict, we can pass on new parables, ones that grow out of our own experience and insights. For instance, based on some of the discussions that friends and I have been having, new ideas have begun to emerge which might be helpful to others. The notion here is that we can all contribute to philosophical meditations on revolt, based on our own study and experience. This sharing might help our projects and attempts and make each of us more worthy opponents of the megamachine. I think that it is safe to say that anarchist insurgents are a small minority within almost every given population, it is certainly true where I live. For many reasons, mobility, lack of kinship ties, etc., we are a dispersed group of people. Yet, it is important, from the perspective of the art of rebellion, to at times concentrate oneís forces, especially on a vital point of an opponent. Naturally those in control of the repressive apparatus are aware of such things and have planned and trained accordingly. Riot control techniques, for instance, are an example of this. So rather than remaining inactive out of fear of losing a direct, collective confrontation as a group and thus remaining defeated, we can find ways to act as a group without appearing to be a group. Remember Sun Tzu: "subtle, subtle, they become formless." We can concentrate our forces, we just canít let our enemy know that we are doing so until it is too late. Every potential rebel exists in different circumstances, regardless of the fact that we all live within various prisons of capitalist civilization. Therefore it is up to you to decide if it is best for an in-the-street, prolonged, collective confrontation at a counter summit all dressed in black, for instance, or whether it is wiser to avoid uniforms, appear to be unconnected individuals, and coordinate an action that occurs quickly, following which the participants melt away. The latter would be an example of acting as a group without appearing to be a group.Napoleonís campaigns
Since Sun Tzu there have been innumerable treaties and theoretical works on war. For instance in the 1st century AD Sextus Julius Frontanus wrote a book called "On Military Affairs." Byzantium produced both Strategikon by Mauricius and the Tactica by Leo the Wise. There are many such books, but I believe that overall they have little benefit for our purposes although a historian or a scholar could find much value there.
Much later, in Europe during Napoleonís reign, and in fact inspired by his successful campaigns, Carl Von Clausewitz (1780-1831) wrote "On War". This is the only text that compares in importance and originality to Sun Tzuís. As pointed out, many treaties on various aspects of war and military approaches had been written after Sun Tzu, but Clausewitz was the first to introduce a philosophical perspective on it and he did so thoroughly. His contributions are enormous. I wonít attempt to summarize his ideas, but will mention some of the areas that he explored and some of the terms that he used.
Clausewitz wrote about the essential unpredictability of war, explored the asymmetrical relationship between attack and defense, came up with the useful concepts of "fog" and "friction" in war and emphasized that there must be a culminating point of an offensive. Commentators also remind us that he used a dialectical method to present his ideas making them sometimes difficult to understand. If you are truly interested in military theory, then Clausewitz is a must read. It would be difficult for any writer on these topics to claim to not have been influenced by him. We will introduce a few of his ideas later.
By the way, Clausewitz had a contemporary, Antoine Henri Jomini, who was also largely stimulated by Napoleons campaigns into a search for a theory or a collection of laws on war. He is worth investigation for a fuller understanding of the development of the theory of combat.
Finally there is JFC Fuller, one of the greatest military thinkers of the 20th century. He is nearly as important as Clausewitz, if only because his influence is also widespread, but his ambition was not as great. The Principles of War, as they have been known for nearly a century, were first codified by him. The US Armyís list of the principles of war, found in one of their basic field manuals is almost identical to the list first compiled by Fuller. Letís have a brief look at these.The principles of war:
All apply to organized anti-authoritarian rebellion. We should also keep in mind that these are the guiding principles of literally every military organization in the world.Timeless truths
The timeless truths of combat, while having been derived from a careful study of centuries, even millennia, of human history, can also, with a little imagination, be applied to social struggles as well. These truths seem to apply in all combative situations, regardless of changes in the technology of conflicts. Keep in mind that these principles and truths are not necessarily intended to be used in direct military battles against state forces, although they could be used in this way. They can also be used in fighting against gentrification, protecting your autonomous space from being destroyed or its valuables taken, to stop developments, to occupy or reoccupy land, etc. And you will notice that the truths of combat often coincide with the basic principles of war elaborated on earlier.
The first and most important truth is that "defense is the stronger form of combat". This is a quote from Clausewitz, but he was not the first to make this realization. All things being equal, it would seem that the side with the defensive posture will likely succeed. And a defender with well placed and well protected forces, even with less weaponry or less experience or fewer people, can still have an enormous advantage. The practice here would be to dig in, make fortifications, donít yield for as long as possible, and your opponent will surely take heavy losses, and may even retreat.
An example: a group of friends has spent the last several years building a wilderness camp as a place to hunt and fish from, to go and gather medicines and food, to escape from capitalist civilization, in short, to practice green ways. Somehow a group of "opponents" (forestry officials or whatever) has not only discovered the camp, but has decided to "remove the squatters." These officials are intent on evicting the camp dwellers. Luckily, one of the camp occupants was doing a regular peripheral sweep and spotted the officials on their way up. She returns to camp and warns everyone. Because the camp dwellers have studied and practiced martial skills, they donít just panic and abandon their camp and its valuables. Rather they are confident from the knowledge that because they have the defensive posture they enjoy many advantages and will put these advantages to maximum use by combining them with other skills they have acquired through collective study and practice. In all likelihood, the officials will soon give up and return home or retreat to seek reinforcements, giving the rebels a chance to hold onto their position long enough to gather their stuff, avoid arrest or injury and hopefully escape to another camp.
The defensive posture is the strongest, so it makes absolute sense to focus on where one can have an impact, namely where you live, here and now, with the confidence that comes with knowing that should you manage to wrest even a small area from authority and the market, you have a good chance of holding onto it for a long time, perhaps long enough for other areas to accomplish the same, join you or open new fronts.
In fairness, however, the second truth must also be remembered: "an attacker willing to pay the price can always penetrate the strongest defenses."
Some military theorists have noticed that superior combat power always wins. This is the third truth of war. All other things being equal, fate smiles on the side with the greatest combat power. For this reason it makes absolutely no sense for a minority of revolutionaries in North America to contemplate attempting an outright military contest against the police and army. The states combat power is simply overwhelming.
Better to focus on making friends within the military and hoping for mutinies or at least treasonous acts (like providing gear or information to outsiders). In any event, destroying the imperialism of the market is not a military exercise. Martial skills are primarily helpful when occupying (reoccupying for First Nations people) and/or defending territory, for building the confidence to initiate small battles and to act as a grounding influence for dreamers. There will be times, however, when the insurgents will have the superior combat power and this would be the time not to be afraid, but to push and succeed.
The fourth truth of combat is what Clausewitz referred to as "friction in war". During any combat operation, most activities are hindered by mistakes, the dispersal effects of firepower, disruptions caused by confusion and fear in a potentially lethal environment, etc. Practicing in the safety of your local wilderness or in a camp or dojo, is just not the same as the real thing. The pace especially suffers and therefore allowances must be made during the planning stages for this friction. Keep this truth in mind when planning to disrupt a gathering of economists or politicians for instance, and you will less likely be thrown off by the "friction" and its effects.
Achieving surprise in a combative situation is extremely important. This is the fifth truth. Analysis of historical military confrontations has shown that surprise actually significantly increases the combat power of the side that achieves it. In fact, as mentioned in part one, surprise is the greatest of combat multipliers. As noted above, it is included in the US Armyís list of the Principles of War.
T.S. Dupuy writes that offensive action is essential to positive combat results as his first truth. Defense and strength and surprise are important, but ultimate combat success involves offensive action. Even should a strategy of overall defensive posture be the plan, (for example successful local upheavals which are surrounded by hostile adversaries), offensive tactics and operations must be selectively employed for final victory.
While the purpose of this chapter is to encourage the study and practice of martial skills, my focus is on strategy and tactics generally and, when specifically "military", on ground combat. I have completely ignored air and naval theorists. Such thinkers do exist and any insurgency would have to deal with aspects of each.
Many if not most state forces today use a combination of land and air combat. For instance high tech, high performance helicopters will often do reconnaissance that directs far away tanks, with extremely specific GPS coordinates, to their targets. Land Combat today is rarely unsupported by fixed wing aircraft, drones or helicopters. Thus we should more accurately speak of Air Land Battle in many instances.
As for Naval combat, these ideas can be applied effectively to deter and harass navies or to initiate very small scale naval combat, although we mustnít forget about the power and potential of a sailors mutiny.
However I do think that what you can learn from these introductions and ideas, especially followed up by your own study and practice, can be applied to all areas of conflict.Tactics and strategy
One important and useful exploration is the distinction between tactics and strategy.
Clausewitz believed that strategy belonged primarily to the realm of art, while tactics belonged primarily to the realm of science.
From a military point of view strategy is the planning and managing of the resources available in warfare. The military and political elite, i.e. those with national power to influence these matters, do this.
Just below strategy, the military uses the term operations when the direction of armies or large forces in military (usually combat) activities within a clearly defined theater is involved. Therefore conceptually operations lie between strategy and tactics when engaged in combat.
Tactics are the specific techniques used to achieve your strategic ends. They are influenced by local conditions, or you can say that context determines your choice. Tactics are the detailed maneuvers and offensives used to achieve the objectives of your strategy. They are often plans and moves that gain advantages in the short term, while strategy is the larger-scale framework of direction and control. You can practice your tactics, but you must use intuition for your strategy.Sieges
One might think that studying the techniques of sieges would only be of interest to hobbyists or scholars of medieval warfare, but this is not the case. In fact, Iíve noticed that many of the most significant conflicts that occur tend to have siege qualities to them. If we look at Oka, Gustafsen Lake, MOVE, Caledonia, squat evictions, etc., we find sieges and siege techniques used by both sides.
"A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by force or attrition, often accompanied by an assault. A siege occurs when an attacker encounters a city or fortress that refuses to surrender and cannot be easily taken by a frontal assault. Sieges involve surrounding the target and blocking the reinforcement or escape of troops or provision of supplies (a tactic known as "investment"), typically coupled with attempts to reduce the fortifications by means of siege engines, artillery bombardment, mining (also known as sapping), or the use of deception or treachery to bypass defenses. Failing a military outcome, sieges can often be decided by starvation, thirst or disease, which can afflict both the attacker or defender.
Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of low-intensity warfare (until an assault takes place) characterized in that at least one party holds a strong defense position, it is a highly static situation, the element of attrition is typically strong and there are plenty of opportunities for negotiations."Variables
Whenever considering an action it is important to reflect on what Clauswewitz called "the variables representing the circumstances of combat". Letís look at an example.
A group of friends decides to destroy a couple of bridges in a nearby wilderness to prevent logging and other industrial activity.
The first step is to look at the many basic security considerations to follow: donít tell anyone outside the group anything ever, have alibis, donít use or carry any techno-devices to communicate, document or brainstorm, etc.
Back to our example. You want to destroy some bridges. Security measures have been undertaken. You have used your knowledge of strategy, operations and tactics in making plans. You were conscious of some of the principles and truths of conflict: surprise, movement, economy of force, etc. But what we havenít looked at yet are the variables that typically come into play, (the concept of friction does take into account these influences to some extent).
Trevor Dupuy breaks down the variables into a few simple categories, although Iíve tweaked these somewhat. There are many that are sure to influence the outcome and smoothness of your action, so please make sure that variables are considered before pursuing your objective.
The variables are Environmental, Behavioral, and Operational. Under environmental we find primarily the weather and terrain, although I would include season, time of day and even lunar cycle as important. Secondly we find behavioral variables. These relate to the psychology and nature of the human participants. Morale, training, emotional well being, stability, drug and alcohol use, experience, etc. Finally, operational includes vulnerability, mobility, fatigue and posture. It should be noted that we have easy influence over these and should take advantage of this fact.
The environmental: Itís cold and rainy. Will this affect your terrain enough to make any changes? Do you need to make a fire, perhaps to burn the bridge, if so can you make a fire in the rain? You were counting on the full moon to help, but the clouds will inhibit this, got your flashlight? Heavier clothing can slow down your escape. The area is primarily a deciduous forest, so in spring there will be plenty of coverage from the leaves, but itís autumn, and you canít hide behind bare branches, or can you?
The behavioral: if it is going to be a rainy and cold night and one of your group is inexperienced or weak, you might want to make sure that his backpack is checked for proper clothing, that he is rested enough to do the action, perhaps consider pairing him up with a stronger or more experienced participant, etc. If you expect to be confronted, who has the most training to stand firm, who is likely to flee?
The operational: will the rain make it muddy and slow down your vehicles? Does everyone have the proper clothing? If you have to sit still and hide for a long period of time in uncomfortable circumstances, has everyone trained in this long enough? Variables and the reality of friction generally, are essential last steps to take before setting out to "battle". Good hunting.Note: The paragraphs on sieges came from Wikipedia, as did parts of the description of the Principles of War. Your local library or bookstore might have a section on military history or theory. For the sake of brevity, I had to ignore many other useful concepts, so consider this an introduction only.
Many people now assume that a pitiless chaos is on the horizon. A chaos birthed and driven by a social system based on hierarchy and exploitation. Our fragile biosphere is sick. Its health is deteriorating fast. The symptoms are desertification, global warming, diminishing sunlight, widespread cancer, mass extinction, etc. Our planet is obviously in peril. This crisis has been caused by the urban ways of industrial capitalism and by centralized authority. It is maintained by our belief in ideologies. Our way out is to collectively de-massify, de-industrialize and de-commodify. We can feed and shelter ourselves without governments, without markets and private property and the Way of Seeing that these institutions and means are rooted in. It is to create our habitats as we are simultaneously created by them, thus reestablishing a healthy relationship with our environment. Unfortunately every crisis is compounded by the existence of yet other crises on our horizon: nuclear waste waiting to sit up like a corpse and spread its death, the ongoing possibility of nuclear war, the disappearance of the protective ozone layer, complete ecological meltdown, global illness by new viral strains. The warning lights are blinking wildly, the alarms are getting louder, the elders are warning us; itís urgent. Our future is shrinking. Is resistance futile? No. Is all intentional action reactive? No. Will there always be seeds of the old world in the revolt for the new? Perhaps, but a genuine rebellion wonít be fertile ground for them to get established. Liberating cities, towns, islands and regions from mass, authoritarian civilization is possible. We are all potential agents of change. By emphasizing local resistance, our strengths become more obvious and defeatism wanes.
This isnít to say that mass upheaval doesnít happen, we know this would be untrue, it is to say that a small group canít simply decide to create them. They are born of external conditions and uncontrollable variables. These ruptures, as a strategy, find their basis in waiting, and Iím exploring willful ruptures among friends, neighbors and comrades.
Where do rebellions originate? They originate where people spend a lot of time together and therefore know each other enough to have shared their misery and their desires, to have built some trust: ghettos, neighborhoods, prisons, reservations, along tribal or kinship lines. Of course any individual who wants to make a break, who wants to live an intense life can. This is making oneís life a cause sufficient unto itself. These folks can inspire others, can implicitly give others permission to stand up and shine and flourish, but everything is left to chance as far as a conscious strategy is concerned. At least when such individuals are embedded somewhere, are surrounded by friends and neighbors with whom they have tried to have real relationships, the virus can take hold, the contagion can spread. If they are embedded only in a milieu, then the infection will likely be contained by its extremely narrow demographic limits. In general, subcultures, tendencies and milieus consist primarily of mobile participants with shallow roots and thus will never be the basis for anything other than short-term, limited expressions of rebellion: demonstrations, zines, internet forums, discussion groups, conferences. Occasionally these radical elements can intervene in a genuine opposition, one that they themselves did not instigate, in order to expose and confront its directors and representatives. But again, Iím exploring the possibilities for collective, conscious refusal that has some long term potential.
The endless stream of ecological and social catastrophes wrought by authoritarian civilization can be stopped. When youíre in a battle you donít have many choices: continue to fight, surrender or retreat and regroup. It would probably be wise to honor all the paths that can take us to an oasis, that offer us euphoria, that refuse coercive authority and exploitation, that will help end our rule by a Humorless and Unimaginative ruling ideology. If we exclude surrendering, whatís left?
Fighting includes riots, sabotage, insurrections and other forms of self-organized revolt. Some may be spontaneous, like waves that seem to swell up suddenly wherever you live that you can participate in. Others might involve instigation and intent like blockades and occupations.
We can withdraw, drop out, encourage absenteeism, stop participating, refuse various forms of conscription. We can regroup, build trust, come to some agreements, and then lay some plans. Weíve been barely escaping with our lives, but we can do more.
We can also plant seeds for the future. This sometimes involves making attempts at creating a different world here and now. Other times it means acquiring skills and tools that may be useful for sustenance should a cataclysm turn the world upside down. This would help ensure that the Old World doesnít immediately return, preventing genuine New Ones from taking hold. It often prioritizes withdrawal over direct attacks. Deskooling, growing your own food, hunting and fishing, permaculture, studying, learning convivial skills, temporary autonomous zones, pirate radios, Ďzines, gatherings, shared child rearing are just some examples of this approach.
Finally we can share our world views, put alternative perspectives in the public arena for debate. There is no strategy that guarantees that we can realize a more just and authentic world, a world without commodities or money, without states or wage labor, without prisons and politicians. In fact, the most we can likely hope to intentionally accomplish is to free, temporarily or permanently, our home, the place where we live, of these institutions and ways and values. Of course we want our rebellions to be global because our adversary is global, yet we must avoid being paralyzed by an attitude that views all local attempts and activity as marginal and ineffective.
One thing for sure, waiting, either for ecological or economic collapse, for global rebellion or local insurrection, for objective conditions, shouldnít be the main choice. We can change the world because we can change our world, the place where each of us lives.
Life consists of spectrums and organic patterns, not engineered grids, predictable patterns and axioms. Those are the ways of the civilized, of the domesticated, of the kept. No person or world view or ideology has all the answers. By trusting our instincts and our desires, new possibilities will open. We can make public what Power wants to keep private: our dreams, our visions, our unhappiness and our anger.
The thousand-mile journey begins with the first step. An old truth.
Authoritarian civilization is founded on our systematic self-enslavement and self-exploitation. Humans are at the helm, our fathers, brothers, sisters and mothers are at the helm. Almost every one of us contributes to reproducing this planetary authoritarian, destructive, unjust, oppressive and unimaginative world. One persistent mutiny on this global slave ship called civilization could open all the doors. Any generation can change the world. But one generation must soon, because there may not be a future one healthy enough to do it. This transformation would create the possibility of authentic, intense lives lived in genuine, autonomous communities embedded in healthy habitats.
Having a healthy habitat in which to live offers the possibility of having a sense of place. A sense of place in turn offers the opportunity for rediscovering the very human feelings and experiences of awe, reverence and wonder.
The simple proposal is this: a widespread insurgency, based on a multitude of local rebellions, each one demanding enough land to sustain its inhabitants. More specifically, occupying or re-occupying territory with the explicit view that it becomes our habitat. And these withdrawals, while ends in themselves, as far as flourishing under adversarial conditions goes, are also only a means to a much greater vision. We withdraw to build strength, to succeed for ourselves but also in order to offer assistance to other revolutionary projects and attempts, to intertwine our liberated spaces with the struggles of others who want to make a final break with global institutions of domination.
Yes, we have much anger and rage toward the class of rulers, yes we are inspired by expressions of hatred and destruction aimed at the bullies who organize society. But here I suggest that we emphasize, among ourselves, fraternity and cooperation. This proposal is about intent, about not waiting for the right conditions, about consciously taking advantage of the cracks and fissures in the dominant reality, prying them open, creating space for ourselves. It is from many of these free camps that capitalism might potentially be attacked and destroyed as they join with others for whom life under the civilized order is unbearable.
In the long term, acquiring a home, a habitat, is essential. This means freeing up colonized land, rehabilitating plundered land or seizing land. In the short term it might mean rent strikes or squatting or tax refusal. It could involve wilderness camps, fishing shacks, shared berry patches, collective harvesting of wild foods and group gardening and permaculture, etc. Learning from and being in solidarity with people of the land, elders and traditionalists among indigenous people for instance, who may live nearby, might be a priority. It seems obvious that acquiring food in groups, sharing food among many, are possible foundation stones. From every angle, a land base becomes essential.
Urban ways demand a hierarchical infrastructure, impersonal institutions, sacrifice zones to feed them, etc. We want to get together with others and create space, make genuine imaginative lives, defend our anarchic ways and the habitats they depend on. In a small but significant way it is a proposal to take the initiative, because we canít win if we are always on the defensive. These organically self-organized subsistence movements are autonomous but linked, small but many, local but together spread out and therefore occupy great amounts of territory. They donít want new popes or Lenins, better governments or better representation, new countries or new republics. They aim for a world of clans, tribes and villages, freedom and community. These secessionist movements want healthy habitats for all life. This strategy doesnít aim for a mass movement, but for a momentum of local rebellions. This momentum offers to sweep up everyone who allows it to carry them to a New World. There are no books necessary to read, no leaders to follow, no traditions or jargon or vocabulary to adopt. You donít have to live in the country or in the city. It is homegrown, like a euphoric weed that grows everywhere and spreads easily. It is against the laws of the unjust, the arrogant and the elite, the powerful, the intolerant and the unimaginative. It is strengthened by critical observation. It has no room for cops. It is intuition and rationality hand in hand. This momentum would be courageous and celebratory. A momentum in which cunning, stealth, humor, courage, bravery, wildness, love, nurturing, play, community, individuality, autonomy, sensuality, sensual wisdom, would all be encouraged. It would succeed by a strategy of persistent autonomous activity by people without labels.
It promises to be an incredible voyage and you are invited!
Of course this assumes that no one wants to be a commodity, that wage labor is viewed for the slavery that it is. It assumes that we are all tired of being ruled. There is room for wandering lone wolves, nomadic families and hobo tribes as long as free villages and liberated zones arenít viewed as mini welfare states for them to depend on.
The coming long emergency, when the oil runs out and the food stores are empty, will leave most of us profoundly unprepared. Do you know how to grow or gather food? Do any of your neighbors? I donít mean a weekend garden, but enough to sustain you and your extended family over a winter. When the capitalist market collapses, and the stores have all been looted, what will you eat? Do you have seeds, a fishing rod or a hunting weapon? Do you know how to use any of these? Is there a place unpolluted enough that you could go to for food? Are you part of a tribe, a community or a clan? Are you woven tightly enough into any social group that would be willing to help each other out in a time of crisis, or are you an atomized individual whose social group consists mostly of your immediate family, with a few friends you see occasionally at work or at play? The vast majority of Europeans and North Americans, and of urban dwellers everywhere, are just like you. They have no seeds, no survival skills and no fishing rod or hunting weapon, belong to no genuine community, havenít a garden or access to an unpolluted place from which they can gather food or medicine. You arenít alone, at least in your predicament. One doesn't always have the option of joining in social upheaval, most often you have to take responsibility and help create it. This isnít as difficult as you might think at first. It involves taking time away from work. It means saying hello to a stranger. It asks you to stay away from Disneyland. Where possible it involves exploring the wilderness and countryside closest to you. Revolt requires being optimistic in the face of the nearly insurmountable. It means viewing privacy not as something to preserve and protect, but to unburden oneself from. It demands that you spend more time with children, not only yours, but children in general. It requires you to imagine a world without wage-labor, politicians, commodities, banks, mortgages, factories, automobiles, nuclear energy, chemical fertilizers, polluted rivers, depleted ozone layers, global corporations, prisons, police, toxic waste, morality, aristocracies, taxes, money, sweatshops, governments, imperial armies and widespread coercion. Sadly there are no guarantees. Self delusion is everywhere. Good intentions don't prevent us from reproducing the Old World.
What seems insurmountable often isnít in reality. There is an urbanizing trend spreading across the continents, it is proletarianizing our brothers and sisters, threatening our fellow creatures, it is polluting and exploitative and unsustainable.
Cities donít end where the suburbs dissipate into farmland. Rural living presently is but the flip side of the same coin of capitalist civilization. Rural people also work and shop and pay rent or mortgages and live out atomized lives. The air is cleaner and at least one might spot a deer and watch the stars at night, but private property, work and cops also control the countryside. There too habitats are invaded, plundered, polluted. Country folk are also incarcerated, carcinogized, monitored and punished. Our destruction of urban life entails the destruction of rural life. The goal is a geography where villages and clans and groups of friends dominate the social landscape, not vast tracts of farmland that feed cities or country estates that the privileged and lucky retreat to. The goal is healthy habitats, the creation of healthy environments and the healing of sick ones that can sustain all the life forms that live within them.