Sex Among the Zombies
Last seen in the print mag g.a. this is a damn good article, and another important refutation to all the "happy memories" of today's lefty flag-wavers.
SEX AMONG THE ZOMBIES by Arthur Evans
The following essay is being reprinted from the obscure underground classic "Witchcraft And The Gay Counterculture: A Radical View Of Western Civilization And Some Of The People It Has Tried To Destroy,Ó written by queer anarchist and anthropologist Arthur Evans in 1978. This groundbreaking book critiques civilization and industrialism from the perspective of queer and pagan peoples, and should be read by all anti-civilization anarchists. In the last few decades, it's become obvious to people active in the revolutionary struggle that the problems we are fighting are all tied together. The problems are all functions of the patriarchy in decay and spring from fundamental flaws in the most basic ideas of this civilization.
In this book, Evans talks about the suppression of witches and nature religions in Europe in connection with the rise of patriarchy there. He links the suppression of the witches, of gays and lesbians, with the rise of masculinism, militarism, and the patriarchal state. Like many feminist anthropologists and herstorians, Evans has had to rely heavily on myth and the oral tradition to reconstruct the story of his people - since patriarchy was so ruthless in obliterating gay and pagan culture - but this doesn't make his theories any less valid or thought-provoking.
We've chosen to reprint an abridged version of this particular essay because it deals with the militaristic origins of the Amerikan empire and seems extremely relevant to our current global crisis. Many original footnotes have been removed because we cannot print the entire bibliography, but quotes have been attributed where Evans did so.
SEX AMONG THE ZOMBIES
the zombie smile
of the sane
as we tiptoe past mirrors
cradling the grenades
of our truth. Claudia Reed, "Women's Work" in Plexus magazine
American civilization began in genocide.
When the early European colonists arrived in North America, they did not come upon a vacant land. Instead, they found a multitude of nature people who had lived there for years on end. These nature people had developed some of the highest cultures in recorded history. They lived full, long, healthy lives. Their societies had little hierarchy and no government superstructure. Organized warfare, in the modern sense, was rare or unknown. Labor was free. Women generally enjoyed a high status, and Gay persons of both sexes were regarded with religious awe. They developed beautiful arts and crafts, in which nearly everyone was skilled. They managed to satisfy all the basic needs of human existence with much grace and beauty, and were able to do so without the curse of cities, police, mental institutions, or universities. Although personal violence was known among them, it paled in comparison to the level of violence in any Western society during the past two-thousand years. The Indians loved nature and knew how to talk to plants and animals, whom they regarded as their equals. They were able to feel (and not just know) that everything that is, lives.
Onto this scene came the industrializing whites, burdened and propelled by over two-thousand years of patriarchal institutions. The whites denounced the Indians as "primitive," "savage," and "barbarian." They accused them of worshipping devils and ridiculed their Gay shamans. They taught them how to practice organized warfare. They plied them into violence against each other, stole their land, and succeeded in killing off nearly every one of them, quarantining their survivors in concentration camps called reservations.
The whites' genocide against the Indians affected how the whites thought about sex: They came to view sex as an instrument of imperial policy. For them, the purpose of sex was to breed as large a number of people as possible to push aside the relatively low-density Indian population and the population of colonists from other European nations. Colonial leaders eagerly looked forward to the day when fast-breeding white Americans would force their way over the whole Western hemisphere, both north and south. In 1751, Benjamin Franklin published his Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind. In it, he urged Americans to breed rapidly in order to take over new lands. He called upon the British government to forcibly displace the local Indians to make room for the growing number of rapidly breeding Americans.
One of the most outspoken advocates of the same policy was Thomas Jefferson. In 1786, when the states were under the Articles of Confederation, Jefferson stated: "Our confederacy must be viewed as the nest, from which all America, North and South, is to be peopled." Later, in 1801, after the constitution was in effect, Jefferson continued along the same line: "However our present interest may restrain us within our limits, it is impossible not to look forward to distant times, when our rapid multiplication will expand it beyond these limits, and cover the whole northern if not the southern continent, with people speaking the same language, governed in similar forms, and by similar laws." Jefferson continually pointed his finger at the retreating Indian tribes, whom he considered savages, and urged Americans to "press upon them" until they were pushed out of the way. He even urged rich Americans to get Indian leaders in debt "because we observe that when these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a cession of lands." The early French colonists had a similar view of sex as a tool for breeding. They vied with the Americans as to who could fill up the continent first with their populations. Such a twisted view of sex (which must have seemed totally incomprehensible to the Indians) came easily to the colonists. It had lain readily at hand for nearly seventeen centuries in the Christian religion. The various churches of Europe (both Catholic and Protestant) had long been imperialist institutions. They had advocated the very same view of sex for similar reasons. Such a view was also found in the ancient state of Israel, which had invaded the land of Canaan, uprooted the local population, and bred as rapidly as possible to fill up the land. This attitude became so entrenched that it was projected onto the Israeli god. Accordingly, in the book of Genesis, which was accepted by both Jews and Christians, the Israeli god gives this as his very first commandment to Adam and Eve: "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it." In New England, the Puritans were infatuated with the history of the ancient Israeli state. They regarded themselves as the founders of a New Israel in the American wilderness. They compared the Indians to the sex-worshipping Canaanites whom the Israelis killed.
Imperialism and compulsive heterosexuality go hand in hand, as was well understood by the ancient Israeli state, the Christian churches of Europe, and the American colonial leaders. In early America, this use of sex paid off. Due to rapid breeding and the continual invasion of immigrants, the colonial population grew from 250,000 in 1700 to 1,400,000 in 1750, an increase of well over 500% in only fifty years.
In view of the imperialist use of sex in the colonies and the dead weight of Christian tradition from Europe, it's not surprising that the colonies outlawed sodomy. Even the outbreak of the Revolution had no effect on changing these laws. The Bill of Rights spoke only of intellectual rights, such as speech, religion, and assembly. It had nothing to say about the rights of sex, the emotions, or the body. Jefferson, the originator of the Bill of Rights, helped write a law that Gay men be castrated. Moreover, the right to religious freedom was (and still is) considered to apply only to patriarchal religions. Public religious orgies using hallucinogens have never been permitted in the United States.
In the earliest history of Europe, the ancient worship of sexuality originated in a matriarchal agrarian society. The people lived in close emotional communion with the land. This was the ancient economic and religious fact that lay behind the latter-day cultural forces of witchcraft and heresy. This tradition managed to survive in some form or other in Europe until the 17th century. In America - apart from the Indians, who were killed off - no such tradition of relating to nature and the land ever took root. "The American farmer started off as a capitalist farmer from the very beginning." American farmers were entrepreneurs, interested only in getting as much cash out of the soil as quickly as possible, and then moving on when the land was exhausted. Because of their rapid exhaustion of land, they tended to become a class of land speculators. Hence from the very beginning we find the narrowness of American rural living and the repressiveness of its small towns. Land was not viewed as a manifestation of the Great Mother to be collectively worshipped and loved. It was a mere resource to be exploited and sold on a competitive basis in the markets of big cities. In American history, there was no historical counterweight to the sexually repressive, nature-killing forces of patriarchal institutions. The absence of such a counterweight has had staggering implications for America's sexual, religious, and cultural life.
From the earliest days of independence from Britain, American leaders joyously described the new society as an empire and called for a policy of vigorous imperialism. In 1773, John Adams called for the annexation of Canada and Nova Scotia, and said, "An empire is rising in America." In 1783, George Washington described the states as a "rising empire," a phrase that had become commonplace by then. The ruling class of landowners and rich merchants looked with covetous eyes on the vast tracts of land still held by the Indians, the Canadians, the French, and the Spanish.
During the American Revolution, there was considerable unrest among the lower classes, and many of the poor called for an annulment of debts and a redistribution of land. In several states, poor radicals even took over the machinery of the government. Some of them expressed anarchist views. But by 1780, the upper class began to re-assert itself. Upper-class leaders wanted a centralized government that would prohibit states from annulling debts. They wanted a government that would be strong enough to wage war and undertake a program of continental empire-building. Out of these upper-class interests emerged the constitution movement. Its chief spokesperson, James Madison, openly stated that the powers of the central government "ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority." In effect, the constitution movement became "a well-organized campaign by a coalition of America's upper-class leadership to establish the institution appropriate to an American mercantilist empire" (Williams). In the various elections for the new constitution, less than one-fourth of adult males were allowed to vote, and women had no vote at all. The new constitution was approved (though barely) by those select few. On April 30, 1789, George Washington was installed as President, and the world saw the birth of what was to become a terrifying new institution, the United States Government.
The single most striking fact of American history - a fact that has conditioned every aspect of the nation's life, including its sex life - is the militarism of the U.S. Government. Indeed, if the nature of an institution is determined by what it does rather than what it says, we would be close to the truth in seeing the U.S. Government as essentially a machine for making war.
The entrenched militarism of the U.S. Government throughout it's history has had a profound influence on American values. It has affected the way Americans think about nature, other people, their own bodies, and sex roles. One notable effect has been on the American concept of sanity, reflected in the American psychiatric movement. The father of American psychiatry was Benjamin Rush, who lived from 1746 to 1813. Benjamin Rush was the Physician General of the Continental Army. He was a stern disciplinarian who believed in using violence against mental patients. He condemned both masturbation and sodomy. He believed that being Black was a disease. He locked up his own rebellious son in a mental hospital for 27 years. Today he is highly regarded by many American psychiatrists.
The American Psychiatric Association currently publishes an official list of mental disorders, which, as most readers know, recently listed homosexuality (the A.P.A. was forced into an about-face on the issue due to action by Gay activists). This list, which is comparable to the Vatican's index (except that it applies to behavior instead of books), is of military origin. It was first developed by Brigadier General William C. Menninger, who was head of the psychiatric division of the Surgeon General's office in the U.S. Government during World War II. Before the A.P.A. adopted the list, it was put into use by all the branches of the armed forces. Its purpose was to weed out men who are not fit for military slaughtering. Today, at least one-half of all American psychiatrists are employed by institutions. The institutional nature of the A.P.A. itself goes back to its beginning. Its original name was the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions. The first proposition publicly approved by this group was a justification for the use of violence in "treating" the insane. Most mental institutions in America are governed on a military model (with lines of command, central control, the threat of forcible confinement, etc.). In 1964, more people were in mental institutions than prisons.
In the U.S.S.R., psychiatry has a similar militaristic coloring and is also used to suppress dissent. In Nazi Germany, the leading role in the development and use of gas chambers was played by psychiatrists, and their first victims were mental patients. An untold number of Gay people were exterminated in these chambers.
American militarism has affected the way Americans view masculinity, just as Roman militarism affected Roman views. All American men have been conditioned throughout their lives to think of disciplined aggressiveness as masculine, to look down on effeminacy, playfulness, passivity, and open emotionalism; to admire hardness in other men; to dread above all things being called a sissy; to enjoy relations of dominance and obedience; to get a thrill out of seeing pain inflicted on others; to get turned on by uniforms; and to be able to accommodate themselves to functioning in large, impersonal, hierarchical institutions. Men who internalize these values are considered admirably sane by American society. But this is a concept of sanity that supports war. When the orders come, such sane men are ready to kill other men on command. They are totally unprepared to deal with other men in an openly loving, warm, sexual manner. To them, that's insane. Until recently, most psychiatrists would have agreed.
The United States is a garrison society. The extension of Pentagon and secret-police control over American life has been the material equivalent of a military coup d'etat. As when Augustus Caesar took control of Rome in 27 B.C., so it is today: the Senate continues to meet, the tribunes of the people are elected, the courts hand down decisions, new Presidents take office, and all the proper outward forms are observed. But behind the show of the visible government there looms the overwhelming institutional power of the military and the secret police. True, there still remains a degree of freedom of speech and thought, especially for the middle class and the privileged professional classes. But if any group becomes an effective threat to the establishment - as the Black movement did in the 1960s - it will soon find its organizations infiltrated, its offices bombed, and its leaders shot. The history of militarism in the United States with its culmination in the Pentagon business empire is not an isolated social fact. Militarism is related to industrialism. Furthermore, militarism and industrialism are not unique in the United States. Similar phenomena can be seen in all "highly developed" societies, regardless of whether they are capitalist or communist. Industrialism, like militarism, has had a devastating impact on our sensual and sexual lives. Since the beginning of the Christian era, it has been the single most pervasive force in mutilating Gay culture. No understanding of the oppression of Gay people in modern times is even half adequate without an understanding of the power of industrialism.
Industrialism is the process by which people cease producing things directly for their own immediate needs. Instead, things are produced through specialized and centralized institutions. The producing institutions can be quite varied (for example, factories, universities, governments) depending on the things produced (automobiles, knowledge, law and order). In any given society, there are degrees to which such specialized and centralized institutions control production. Among the American Indians, for example, there were practically no such institutions. In modern America, on the other hand, nearly every aspect of life has been industrialized. When most of a society's production (of whatever nature) is controlled by specialized institutions, I call that society industrialized. There is no recorded instance in history where a highly industrialized system of life was voluntarily chosen by a non-industrial society. In every case, industrialism has been imposed on the people by the violence of the institutions themselves. In Europe, industrialism was an edifice built on the blood and gore of centuries of Christian violence. In America, it came to power through the annihilation of the Indians and the enslavement of the Blacks. In Russia, it was the fruit of Stalin's grim war of terror against the peasants. In the modern Third World, it is everywhere coming to power through the conflicting imperial ambitions of America, Russia, and China. In every case, militarism has been the means by which industrialism has triumphed. Industrialism, therefore, is not just a system of production. It is also a system of power.
Why do people everywhere resist industrialism? For one thing, industrialism is not necessary for a nature culture to survive (as long as it's left alone by "higher" civilizations). The classic example is the North American Indians, who managed to meet all basic human needs with a minimum of centralized institutions and without destroying their environment.
There is a second reason for this resistance to being industrialized. Industrialism, by its very nature, destroys the magic of human existence. Consider the way we, as industrialized people, relate to our environment. Everywhere we see huge cities, highways, factories, universities, airports. Everywhere the trees, the plants, the animals have been slaughtered. In 1969, the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center reported that there was no longer any uncontaminated air anywhere in North America. In 1970, Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Atlantic in a handmade boat. He reported that he could not find one oil-free stretch of water during the entire crossing. What kind of people are we that we do this to the environment? "Only those who have broken off their silent inner dialogue with man and nature, only those who experience the world as dead, stupid, or alien and therefore without a claim to reverence, could ever turn upon their environment and their fellows with the cool and meticulously calculated rapacity of industrial society." (Roszak)
We have seen in past chapters how the triumph of Christianity and the emergence of the industrial system resulted in the objectification of nature. What we must now realize is that this objectifying has resulted in the deadening of our feelings. Nature people everywhere believe that the earth, the trees, the moon are living personalities who talk to us and with whom we can communicate. We laugh at them and call them savages. Could they be right, after all? If so, when they talk to us about these things they must feel like people with vision trying to explain color to someone who is blind.
"Man was created to have room to move about in, to gaze into far distances, to live in rooms which, even when they were tiny, opened out on fields. See him now, enclosed by the rules and architectural necessities imposed by over-population in a twelve-by-twelve closet opening out on an anonymous world of city streets" (Ellul).
Industrialism continues to teach that humans are superior to animals and that "civilization" consists in getting as far away as possible from our animal nature. Wilhelm Reich correctly believed that the rise of fascism in industrialized countries was dependent on the repression of our animal nature within the bourgeois family. "The theory of the German superman has its origins in man's efforts to disassociate himself from the animal" (Reich). When alienated from their animal nature, people come to view it as evil, and then look for an outside authority-figure to keep it repressed. "The Leader," whether political or religious, suppresses from without what is feared from within. The Nazis associated homosexuality with animal behavior (which, like all sexuality, it is). They violently purged their own party of known Gay people, destroyed the early antecedents of the Gay Liberation Movement, and sent masses of Gay people to the gas chambers. Similar attitudes could be found among Russian Stalinists (whose overriding ambition was to industrialize Russia as fast as possible).
The industrial system has made us forget how to live. Nature people know how to make their own houses, food, medicine, clothes, religious rites, humor, and entertainment. These skills keep them from becoming enslaved by money. Since people always retain the skills of survival, it's very difficult for an aristocracy of money to get control of their lives. The people don't need money to survive. In an industrial society, however, we are never taught the skills of how to live. We become totally dependent on money for meeting our every need. If the money runs out, we have nothing to eat, nothing to wear, nowhere to sleep. As a result, we become totally dependent on those who control money. In capitalist countries, these are the huge business monopolies. In communist countries, it is the state.
Industrialism has degraded both labor and leisure. Most people in industrial societies are in fact wage slaves, working forty hours a week or more at monotonous, hateful "jobs" for the sole purpose of making enough money to live and enjoy life. When they come home debilitated from such alienated labor, they have nothing left to their souls except alienated leisure: television, movies, newspapers, all of which indoctrinate with industrial values. Like schools and universities, these media are part of the general anesthesia.
Workers in industrial societies tend to work longer hours than people in native cultures. And industrial work is far less interesting. Industrial workers are kept at their jobs through their dependence on money and through constant indoctrination by institutions. "The natural tendency of man, as manifested in primitive (sic) societies, is almost certainly to work until a given consumption has been achieved. The he relaxes, engages in sport, hunting, orgiastic or propitiating ceremonies or other forms of physical enjoyment or spiritual betterment. This tendency for primitive man to achieve contentment has been the despair of those who regard themselves as agents of civilization and remains so to this day. What is called economic development consists in no small part in devising strategies to overcome the tendency of men to place limits on their objectives as regards income and thus on their efforts" (Galbraith).
Industrialism has devastated our sexual lives. We complain that we treat each other's bodies unfeelingly, as so many objects, to use and dispose of. Yet we fail to realize that we treat everything (including ourselves) as so many objects to use and dispose of. We fail to see that the total objectification of our environment and of nature is a direct effect of the power system of industrialization. If we have been conditioned throughout our lives to objectify everything, how can we fail to objectify those who excite us sexually?
The industrial system has reduced sex to a procreative activity, just as it reduces all human functions to productive activities. Under industrialism, the purpose of sex has become purely economic: to breed consumers, workers, and soldiers for their proper roles in industrial and military hierarchies. Sexual relations have been reduced to productive relations. The basic unit of people-production is the monogamous heterosexual family.
Sex itself is locked up in secrecy, privacy, darkness, embarrassment, and guilt. That's how the industrial system manages to keep it under control. Among nature peoples, as we have seen, sex is part of the public religion and education of the tribes. It becomes a collective celebration of the powers that hold the universe together. Its purpose is its own pleasure. Any group of people with such practices and values can never be dominated by industrial institutions. That's why the first thing industrial societies do on contact with "primitives" is make them feel guilty about sex and their bodies. The historical tools for doing this have been patriarchal religions.
The whole industrial system is like one great night of the living dead where the entire populace has been reduced emotionally to the level of zombies. It has deadened us to our environment, deprived us of art, sterilized our animal nature, robbed us of the skills of survival, degraded our labor and leisure, and decimated our sexual lives. And so it has made us like the living dead - dead to nature, dead to each other, dead to ourselves.
All the highly industrialized nations of the earth, regardless of whether they are communist or capitalist, show the same effects of the impact of technology: concentration of political and economic power in the hands of a few; increasing regimentation of every aspect of life, including thoughts, emotions, and even fantasies; and devastation of the environment. "In spite of all the men of good will, all the optimists, all the doers of history, the civilizations of the world are being ringed about with a band of steel" (Ellul).
Of course, it's possible to divorce technical skill from institutional control, but then we no longer have industrial technology. Such a change would mean a new type of technology, something far different from any productive system that now prevails on the planet.
The industrial wasteland has come upon us from our past. It is the gestation of over 2,000 years of patriarchal rule, the last offspring of Christian/industrial institutions. It is vast. It is powerful. It has respected neither culture nor ideology. It has spread like a cancer over the whole face of the earth. It has ruined our work, our art, our environment, and our emotional and sexual lives. It has cost us the magic sense of life. If we are ever to rise up from the dead and regain our rightful place in nature, we will have to do more than put our faith in the state, the party, or technology - all of which are mere props of industrialism. We will have to tap the saving energies that now lie buried in ourselves and in nature. And that means we will have to summon forth powers that have not been known since the days of the shamans.
The God Of Ecstasy: Sex Roles And The Madness Of Dionysus by Arthur Evans
Critique Of Patriarchal Reason by Arthur Evans
The Faggots And Their Friends Between Revolution by Larry Mitchell
Trans-Gender Warriors by Leslie Fienberg
The Mass Psychology Of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich
Visionary Love by Mitch Walker
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