In the lack of a dialogue about political economy and its effects on individual psyches, capitalist nations instead indulge the delusion that these things are unrelated. We are tacitly encouraged, as a society, not to see corruption as the product of elitism and power— not class-related, in other words— but accidental every time, a result of the personal weakness of the powerful individual, who we are encouraged to view as an aberration— mentally ill, an addict— an exception to the rule, rather than the norm.
The super-rich are so over-engorged, so coddled, so disgusted with themselves, they are turning into demons, because they have lost all touch with reality and all faith in the boundaries of a sane world. And when tyrants and stars, nation-states and classes believe they are Nietzschean übermenschen, beyond good and evil, there is, quite frequently, a body count.
The impassioned claim that there exists an unemotional, value-free scientific method (or context of justification) may be interpreted as an emotional rejection and repudiation of the feminine and, if this is so, it would mean that scientific practice carried out (supposedly) in an “objective,” value-free, unemotional way is in fact deeply and emotionally repressive of the feminine.
— Brian Easley, “Patriarchy, Scientists, and Nuclear Warriors”
Galen forwarded me a reading for his feminist men’s discussion group and I laughed out loud at this part. The rest is here: Patriarchy, Scientists and Nuclear Warriors, by Brian Easlea.
How do I protect [my disaster supplies] from the unprepared and desperate have-nots if I don’t already have a fort-knox style bunker?
Obviously the first priority will be to avoid conflict in the first place, if possible. The cause of conflict in your question was a shortage of supplies, and the potential aggressors are disorganized. So the easiest way to avoid conflict in that case is to make sure that there are enough essential supplies to go around for your neighbours. . . . That’s why I think that community sufficiency is much more important than just self-sufficiency.
I often feel self-conscious reading (and liking!) a certain type of anti-civilization literature. I’m trying to come up with a concise way to explain the appeal without just making a joke out of it (crazy survivalists!). Part of it is this struggle to take care of oneself in a cooperative way. The whole anti-civilization argument, at least from the people I’ve been checking out, comes from the premise that civilization makes cooperative self-care impossible, because the civilized are always destroying and overshooting their (our) landbase and depending on imperialism to survive. It’s that situation where one competitive person can ruin a whole group’s attempt to use cooperation and consensus.
So there are a whole lot of ideas in there about resisting a hierarchical, destructive culture without creating a new hierarchical culture in its place.
Edible gardens have been part of human culture for thousands of years. Along with harnessing fire, developing the wheel and domesticating animals, cultivating food is one of the benchmarks of human advancement. Growing plants that provide food and learning to store it for times of scarcity were advancements that allowed humans to develop civilizations.
— First paragraph of the introduction to The Canadian Edible Garden: Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits & Seeds by Alison Beck.
It’s been awhile since something like “the benchmarks of human advancement” would have slipped by me as a neutral measurement (when you define everyone’s progress by how similar they are to you, you can assume have problems with privilege), but I think I am noticing more assumptions now about the value of civilization and technology. I’m also noticing that the author’s list of “advancements” that allow humans to create civilizations skipped over colonization, slavery, militarism, genocide and all that.
I recently read Endgame: The Problem of Civilization & Resistance (thanks for the tip, Sarah), which is a thorough take-down of the assumption that civilization is an advanced way of living (vs. unsustainable and terrorist), that the point of technology is to become advanced (vs. to maintain a relationship with your landbase), that agriculture is an efficient way to gather food (vs. temporary and destructive). I think that was the book that got me reading about destroying agriculture. I’ve been reading a lot of books at once; it’s hard to keep track.
I am seeing this garden book as much more oppressive than I would have before, with a Eurocentric, anti-indigenous, environmentally unconscious position.
This is good, it gets me thinking about my love of gardening. I’m realizing that what I care about is getting to know plants and soil and living systems, resisting consumerism and capitalism by gathering my own food, and taking time to physically experience and love a patch of the outdoors. None of that actually requires a garden. I could be wildcrafting, or working more with local plant permaculture and forest gardens. Those are difficult when land is privately owned and violently policed, and wilderness is mostly destroyed and constantly under threat. Wild forests don’t need me in there taking all my food right now. And it’s hard to conceive of perennial ecosystems on temporarily rented space.
So… how could I be talking with my neighbours about guerrilla permaculture and land reclamation?
In the spirit of spitting things out rather than polishing them forever and driving myself crazy, I’m going through my archives and publishing drafts.
p.186, regarding WWI vets.
The Frankenstein pictures continued to be a cultural dumping ground for the processed images of men blown to pieces, and the shell-shocked fantasy of fitting them back together again.
That was the first idea I ever heard about horror as a mirror of culture, from a Chuck Palahniuk interview. It doesn’t make me want to watch horror movies, particularly. But this next movie is something I would like to see.
For his unnerving final sequence— completely irrational, but nonetheless a devastating moral statement— [Abel] Gance recruited actual members of the Union des Gueules Cassées, and created a nightmarish montage of all the ruined faces that had been haunting the world’s cinemas for the past fifteen years in the guise of “horror entertainment.” The actual men are nameless, but they could easily be the living models for the masks worn by Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, Lionel Atwill, and others. As a conscious antiwar statement, J’Accuse is superior; as an unintentional revelation of horror’s major subtext in the twenties and thirties, it is breathtaking.
I went curling after hours at a rink owned by some friends of my cousin, out near Sidney.
- It was surprisingly fun, in the way that bocci, billiards and croquet are fun. Minimally-confrontational exercises in physics.
- So far I’ve never once been a fan of flattening large areas of land (parking lots, malls, golf courses…), especially land where I understand something about it having been colonized and occupied. It’s extra absurd when the flattening is done for sports. Non-cooperation overload.
- If I were actually into playing sports, I would set up a beautiful place to play for once. Rinks, fields, courses and courts are all so ugly! Wow. I wonder if spending time in artificially lit, flattened out, weirdly-proportioned, echo-y, energy sinkhole type spaces might be damaging on its own, even without the formalized competition and violence and the addiction to contrived adrenaline rushes. (Hi, I have fun ideas about sports!) Certainly people say that about office cubicles, that the ugliness is demoralizing, even without the bureaucratic hierarchy crap.
- And, curling was really fun. Pushing heavy things across ice with measurement marks is basically sensory play. Balance, momentum, angles, stretching, muscles. I bet curling kink parties would be fun.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being violent and hitting people, because of learning kung fu. The validity of using force in self-defense is so obvious to everyone in the world except me that I haven’t been able to have a discussion about this with anybody, really.
“I can’t see how I could justify hitting someone in the face.”
“Well, if they were going to hurt you otherwise, it just makes sense.”
After eating too many Penguin caffeinated mints yesterday, I finally figured out why I was so hung up on this. I’m happy about this for two reasons!
- Problem solved. I am suddenly really grounded about hitting people in the face. This feels much more stable and honest than my previous inner turmoil. (More below.)
- I think my caffeine-induced revelation counts as a junior Vision Quest, which I’ve been wanting to add to my problem solving repertoire for awhile.
Why I couldn’t just hit people, already
I think my hang up was that most rationalizations of self-defense would require me to either believe in the law of the jungle (eat or be eaten, man!), or some kind of means vs. end justification, both of which options run directly into the hardest part of my hard-ass ethical instincts (the part that says “TRY HARDER”).
At first I tried to go with the dog-eat-dog strategy, on the grounds that life is not fair. Man, do I love to get down with the unfairness of life. (It’s the core of atheism for me, and why I love it so much. I’m not the apple of god’s eye? Hot.)
But. Despite my addiction to Hard Truth, being allowed to punch somebody back seemed like a cop out. Does someone else’s violence really give an excuse to me, a separate person who believes in being peaceful?
Relationships are magic.
And there you go. An attacker, and a defender. Two separate people… who are having a relationship. It takes two to fight. If I’m being attacked, I’m already in the fight, and that relationship already has hitting in it.
For some reason, this relationship perspective makes a huge difference to me. I think I can defend without adding any violence. (Sure, I could escalate with really disproportionate defense, like explosions. But also I could do something appropriate.)
This really jives with one of the things I like about wing chun— it is focused on ending the fight, rather than having an extended battle or taking revenge. The point is just to bring the relationship back to a non-violent state. If either person can run away at any point, it’s done. I can live with that.
A separate hard truth that has been popping up lately is that I can’t get friendly with octopods, even though they are so interesting, because they are ruthless killers. I am intrigued by my potential to be a tough bitch. What would happen if I got to the point where I could take an octopus? (This is silly.)
At Kung Fu class tonight I was forced to conclude that I really am a pacifist. Or at least a coward. Even if someone were trying to rape me or murder my baby or perpetrate some other excusable motivation for self-defense bordering on vengence, I can’t imagine actually hurting anyone on purpose.
Skipping all ethical discussions for the moment, this makes studying a martial art really weird. As you’d expect, none of the instructors gives the impression of violence, just power, and the focus of the classes is always on defense and response, rather than attacks or abuse. And it’s all fascinating and efficient and really cool, and has lots of side benefits for mind and body.
But it’s still absurd to me, even in this responsible context, to learn how to elbow somebody repeatedly in the face and then knock them out with a blow to the back of the neck. Wing Chun is all about overkill; this kind of exercise comes up a lot.
I think I’m happy that I don’t actually want to punch anyone in the face, ever. My concern is only with how to stay motivated to kick hard and train my muscles to respond to any opportunity to break an attacker’s elbow. Because I do want to get good at this, for some reason. I’d rather learn Kung Fu than soccer or distance running or whatever.
Actually, I have a second concern, too: to stop laughing awkwardly whenever I realize what we’re about to learn, and stop needing to give my partners little pats to reassure myself that we’re cool. The “I’m not actually trying to hurt you” disclaimer is supposed to be covered when we bow to each other at the start, and I’d like to get into that “we have an understanding” mindset. But I can’t settle on an understanding. Everything we do in class sets off major cognitive dissonance in my mind: “Why would I ever even pretend to do this to someone?” vs. “This is so awesome!”
My bow/disclaimer needs to include something about how I’m about to enter a strange altered state induced by my rich inner life.