D.G.R. report-back. |
Before anything else I feel that some terms used in this piece should be defined.
-"Civilization" is used according most directly to its etymological roots, having to do specifically with the social and ecological relationships of consumptive destruction necessitated by and fundamental to cities.
-"Security culture" is a complex of cautionary practices intended to lessen the likelihood of being persecuted for illegal activities.
This October (2008) from the 24th through the 26th I had the pleasure of attending a convergence called "Deep Green Resistance" (DGR) just outside of Lincoln City, Oregon. Several previous DGRs have been held on the east coast and other locales.
In many respects, the works and theories of eco activist-turned-radical author (and Cascadian resident) Derrick Jensen have inspired these events, which are intended to accelerate the actuation of and preparedness for the collapse of civilization, as a means of halting current trends of environmental/biological disaster. Though he had attended earlier DGRs, Derrick was suffering from a flare up of the chronic Crohn's disease, and thus couldn't attend this one.
A main point of interest for me was to feel out the general concerns and specific emphasis of the (however loose) community which would be participating in the event: the individuals and groups who, most of which not having previously reserved for themselves task primarily educational in character, are likely to be more active agents in coming change. Also of interest to me were the activities of the main logistical organizers of this event; activist/authors Lierre Keith and Aric McBay. Both proved themselves to be extremely competent, capable and interesting organizers and theoreticians and helped keep the event moving along at a surprisingly efficient pace, considering the complexity of the subject at hand. Activities during the weekend generally involved breaking up into smaller groups for discussion on various topics.
Concerns and guidelines pertaining to security culture were reviewed several times, regarding conduct within the actual convergence, and also generally for higher-risk actions in society at large. This was explored using discussion and a rather humorous improvisational stage performance depicting possible situations that activists might find themselves in.
The bulk of activities revolved around a set of analogical scenarios relating to the hypothetical continent/nation of Feralia, once inhabited by indigenous Feralians with traditional, Earth-centered customs, but which is now controlled by the occupying and terribly destructive transnational-corporate/governmental force Omniv. The industrial economy of Omniv is almost entirely dependant on non-renewable Dylithium Crystals, and the vast majority of the once Feralian population now overwhelmingly identifies more with the Omniv lifestyle of excessive consumption. The implications of this scenario should need no explanation.
Discussion prompted by three volleys of questions regarding specific facets of resistance to Omniv felt to me to be refreshingly liberated from some of the more obvious constraints of security culture (like when discussing attacking thankfully hypothetical Dylithium crystal refineries and pipelines as a means of seizing up the Omniv infrastructure), but also, and maybe more fundamentally, from a paralysis which sometimes seizes those confronting such a vast mess of problems as our current society, due to its seeming hopelessly tangled complexity. The whole idea of somewhat abstractly representing our predicament in order to more clearly begin the process of analyzing it strongly reminded me of Paulo Freier's suggested pedagogical work, and I found its realization to be rewarding. Afterwards, a game that scored the achievements of various segments of the Feralian resistance according to reactions by Omniv, the general public, and their effects on various environmental indicators served as plenty of fun food for thought.
Of particular interest to me, being somewhat of a self-professed philosophy nerd, was a series of social/political definitions outlined by Lierre Keith. Particularly, radicals were defined as materialists, in direct opposition to liberals who were labeled idealists. This definition was credited directly to Marx, and as such I initially took it to mean that this particular philosophic current of resistance has not significantly diverged from or come into opposition against the modernity of enlightenment Europe.
Through my encounters with various radicals and critical philosophers of the non- and anti-modern strain, i.e. Ward Churchill and Fritjof Kapra respectively, I had come to believe something sounding quite the opposite. In fact, I feel that liberalism is so odious precisely because it had lowered itself from the "lofty" social concerns of truly philosophic politics to the realm of the purely materialistic; subsuming concerns of morality and social justice to those of a more "obtainable" type, namely material standards of wealth, property etc. In my thinking, then, radicals are the idealists in that they are attempting to re-politicize society, making ideal relationships matters of higher concern than petty consumerism.
Ultimately I realized that this discrepancy is probably largely one of semantics, however, and that Lierre may use the word materialist to mean 'concerning verifiable, actual circumstances,' thus implying a healthy pragmatism and concern for real injustice, and idealist negatively to describe 'idealism: an overriding belief in unworkable daydreams' instead of being driven by high but obtainable ideals.
Thus I can agree with this wording, though I suppose ultimately it still really doesn't clear up their feelings on modernity or its opposition.
Indeed, it seems rather obvious that this particular current of the 'anti-civilization movement' (if such a thing can be said to exist) deals predominantly, in practice, with the material aspects of resistance to civilization, and surviving it's downfall. That's not to say that I disagree with that emphasis, in fact they defend it quite logically- but it's still worth noting.
At the ends of both the 24th and 25th, Q & A sessions were held with Derrick via web-cam. The familiarity with which many of the attendees addressed Derrick (many of whom are members of an online forum dealing with the author's ideas, and are thus already to some degree acquainted) during these sessions was at times surprising for someone unacquainted with the forum.
In volume II of Endgame, Jensen writes that he doesn't want "a flock of Jensenites. I don't want to replicate the same old model on which civilization from the beginning has been based: God/King/President/Priest/Scientist/Expert/Author reveals the Holy truth... " (887) All I can say is that I hope his readers take him seriously in this regard.
In general I was not thrown any major surprises with regards to the (at least public) attitudes of those who attended the meeting. It seemed that many who were there (like myself) had more experience picking through conceptual scenarios of resistance than concrete ones.
I was rather unpleasantly confirmed in my prediction that a few of us would at times slip into the perplexing liberal tendency, attempting to interject an odd brand of pacifism/public-education-uber-alles into situations where it obviously had no place whatsoever. Certainly the mood was not tolerant of this blind insistences and bad timing, when it did appear.
One notion generally consented upon which has direct implications on my life at the moment, was that many had experienced insurmountable difficulty in attempting to get collective projects and efforts 'off the ground,' so to speak, and instead would now be looking into more individual initiative in order to jump-start successful activity, which might in turn be more successful in attracting and engaging co-conspirators (ahem!)... I mean collaborative partners, in the future.
Overall I left feeling quite refreshed, having witnessed (at least sort of) strangers coming together to honestly and safely appraise techniques for bringing down civilization, in a not-overly-romanticized, positive (but not hopeful!) manner.
Derrick Jensen has published a number of books, including Endgame and The Culture of Make Believe. His website indicates that he has two more written but as of yet unpublished; Songs of the Dead and Lives Less Valuable.
Lierre Keith is author of Conditions of War and Skyler Gabriel with The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability, plus others, coming soon.
Aric McBay is author of Peak Oil Survival: Preparation for Life After Gridcrash.
All three writers are also currently collaboratively working on a book.
Work cited: Jensen, Derrick. Endgame: Resistance. 2 vols. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2006.