When one crafts fiction, one does it, no matter how fervently fidelity to real life may be desired, with a certain narrative elegance and coherence that life itself often lacks. When one attempts to describe true events, it is often the case that a jumble of occurrences present themselves which have minimal to nonexistent relationships, but which, because human behavior is arbitrary, must nonetheless be related.

For instance, if a cohort of Wal-Mart shoppers became incensed by a price increase on a favorite item in the store and chose, as a form of retaliation, to smash the windows a local Mosque, their behavior could be said to be entirely without justification. Should, however, some ill-starred author choose to write about this topic, they might find themself almost straining to attribute coherence or validity to the events, in order to produce some kind of semblance, however tentative, of a logical narrative.

walmart

Admittedly, a legitimate source of anger.

This is, more or less, the position I find myself in. Where to begin amidst a jumble of facts which appear to my eye to be so utterly disconnected? Can these events properly be said to have a sequence? If not, and I am simply going to arbitrarily reach for something reasonably distant in time, I suppose it would be justified to start with the Nazis.

The Nazis were, for anyone not familiar, an early-to-mid-20th century political party that came to power in Germany, initiated wars of aggression in all directions, and enslaved and killed millions, before being destroyed by their many enemies. I want to make a personal note here, because this rather obvious sentiment could very well be called into question later on, should someone take offense at this writing, that I think the Nazis were very, very bad.

Really. I do.

It just doesn’t get much worse than the Nazis.

A great deal of the writing on this blog is devoted to assessing the destructiveness and brutality of things I often refer to as “industrial civilization,” or “modern society,” and I just want to make abundantly clear that the somewhat general nature of these terms is deliberate, and that I don’t, for even a heartbeat, consider adding qualifications like “industrial civilization except for Nazi Germany.”

You can always tell who the bad guys are, cause they wear uniforms and carry guns around.

You can always tell who the bad guys are, cause they wear uniforms and carry guns around.

These are, of course, all seemingly rather stupid and unnecessary things to say, or at least they should be. But I’m going really, really far out of my way to avoid any confusion here, because apparently we live in confusing times. Either that, or some people have elevated being confused to an art form.

The last thing I should say about the Nazis is that they adopted as their party symbol the swastika, a symbol that shows up in artifacts from various parts of the world dating back to the Neolithic. At the time of the Nazis, the swastika had been dormant in Europe since antiquity, experiencing a brief resurgence in Europe before they took power. It is still common in other parts of the world. If you look up the swastika on Wikipedia, you get images of swastika windows in Egyptian churches, swastika coins from ancient Greece, a Hindu child with a swastika painted on top of his shaved head, swastikas engraved on combs from Iron Age Scandinavia, and a Native American basketball team from an agricultural school in Oklahoma with swastikas on their uniforms. Oh — there’s also a swastika made out of Hebrew letters from a Kabbalistic text. Jung wrote, rather eloquently, in my opinion, about the swastika before World War II. He was — at least according to the introduction to an edition of his work I’ve been carting up and down the West Coast for the past decade — horrified that it was adopted by the Nazis.

The filename is "Jewish Swastika," which, as far as simplicity and clarity goes, can't be fucked with.

The filename is “Jewish Swastika,” which, as far as simplicity and clarity goes, is hard to beat.

So now that we have the Nazis out of the way, I think we should move on to Christwire. For those who don’t have the pleasure of already being acquainted with the site, it’s a website of satirical right-wing Christian news and commentary. A recent article, for instance, argued for the repeal of the two term limit to the US presidency, so that former president George W. Bush could again lead the nation. All I have to say about Christwire, at least for the time being, is that when I first stumbled across it I thought it was real. Am I hopelessly credulous? I don’t particularly think so. The problem with satire is that it’s virtually impossible to conceive of anything more unreasonable or stupid than things that people — often very large numbers of them — actually think and say.

Bush 2016.

Bush 2016.

Having dealt with Christwire rather more concisely than Nazis, it seems natural to move on to the Earth Liberation Front. There’s a vast, impossibly complicated terrain here that I most assuredly do not have the time to address, so I must make a heroic effort at summarization. Industrial civilization came along to kill everything. Earth First! came along to try to stop it.  Some 15 years later, in the mid-1990s, the ELF came into public prominence, continuing a tradition of ecological sabotage that already existed within the EF! movement, but adopting what had been up to that point primarily an Animal Liberation Front tactic: arson.

To again make a personal note, I want to mention that, unlike the Nazis, I have tremendous admiration, at least in principle, for the ELF. At the time of the arsons, I questioned the efficacy of some of the targets, but overall, I’ve got nothing but appreciation for people burning evil shit to the ground. And between the mid-90s and 2001, a lot of bad places did exactly that. Like a wild horse slaughterhouse. And the offices of timber companies. And a ski resort, whose owners were expanding their development into lynx habitat in Colorado, where the animal was in particularly dire jeopardy.

The last thing I’d say about the Earth Liberation Front is that lots and lots of ELF people went to jail, some of whom are still there, many of whom would have likely evaded capture for the rest of their lives were it not for epidemics of snitching that swept through various populations of conspirators.

I love it when this happens!

I love it when this happens!

We’ve now touched on Christwire, Nazis, and the ELF; this seems as good a place as any — which is emphatically not to say it’s a particularly good place, just as good as I can possibly hope to find in this absurdly tangled web — to bring up folk music. In the broadest strokes possible, folk music refers to at least two very distinct things. One is music traditional to a culture, the kind of stuff that gets transmitted generation to generation, is associated with an entire people rather than an individual artist, and is typically aesthetically far superior to modern music. The other is music that is produced within modern societies but is acoustic or otherwise has some kind of traditional orientation. In a liberal definition, this could be anyone playing an acoustic guitar and singing — this latter kind of “folk music” lacks any of the near-guarantees of aesthetic superiority one finds in the former kind of folk music.

We’re concerned with the latter kind of folk music, and with a far smaller subset of it than everyone who plays acoustic guitar and sings — neofolk. Neofolk, as I’m using the term, has been around since the 1980s, where it developed out of the context of, and in association with, industrial and noise music. It’s a thriving genre, and far too much has happened in it in the intervening decades to make any real attempt at a rigid definition. Ultimately, it has no more ideological or aesthetic cohesion than punk rock — which is to say, none. A cursory and somewhat random list of themes that have occurred in it over the years might include: Norse mythology, nature worship, mystical Christianity, Western occultism, anti-modernism, ecological destruction, love, hate, death, fear, and Nazis.

Not this. The other kind of folk music.

Not this. The other kind of folk music.

Obviously, the list of themes could have been chosen more haphazardly, because while some are superfluous to our discussion, others provide a tentative indication of how all the subjects discussed thus far could end up in the same disjointed text. If you’re one of those people who read Bruno Shulz’s Street of Crocodiles, (and by the way, wasn’t it a tragedy that he got killed by the Nazis?) and got to the end and thought, “wow, that was well written, but not much actually happened,” be assured — we’re getting somewhere.

In early August of 2014, a folk band called Ekstasis, from Olympia, Washington, or at least the general vicinity thereof, was scheduled to play a show in Oakland, California. At the last minute, the show was cancelled by the venue because of allegations that they were Nazis, or if not Nazis per se than fascists of some other persuasion. I wish I could say I was incredulous, but I wasn’t. Recall that when, a week or two later, I stumbled in a late night delirium upon the satirical website Christwire, I didn’t assume it was a parody. I thought it might be real because I am unconvinced that it is possible to say anything more ridiculous, on purpose, than the things people actually say in earnest. I thought it might be real, in other words, because I live in a world where people actually, seriously engage in campaigns against fascism that target bands like Ekstasis. It’s a world where parody is simply obsolete.

Now, I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do — which is, in my opinion, a good thing — but really, if you never have, you should listen to at least one song by Ekstasis before reading further. Here, try this one, Angels with Flaming Swords.

Not this. The kind of angels that are holding flaming swords.

Not this. The kind of angels that are holding flaming swords.

For those of you who didn’t follow the link (or weren’t already familiar), you’re missing half the joke, but I’ll do my best to compensate with a brief description. It’s gentle, foresty acoustic music — flute and string melodies drift and swirl around a rhythmic core of guitar and percussion, I might say if I was trying to write a music review — with lyrics about moving past the nostalgia and regrets of the past and embracing the present as an equally fertile moment.

Really.

Seriously.

In case you think I’ve cherry picked here, and the link is to the band’s one and only song that isn’t about deporting illegal immigrants or maintaining the purity of the white race, you should really just go check out the entirety of their recorded output on the internet thus far. But be prepared for some of the most brutal, hate-filled a cappella harmonies you’ve ever heard.

A couple days later, the band released a statement, which read, in part:

“To be clear: we as individuals and as a band actively strive to stand against systematized forms of oppression, whether based on race, gender, sexuality, or any of the other forms of identity in the modern world. Through our music we seek to speak to that which is highest or deepest: the in-dwelling spark that unites us all and connects us to the unbroken spirit of the universe, beyond individual identity. Racism, fascism, and manipulative pseudo-politics are the opposite of this aim. We refute them with every fiber of our being.

To those who masterminded this passive-aggressive scheme: congratulations. You struck a severe blow against us, the two of us who are practicing Jews and lead High Holy Day services on the Bima every year, we who are queer and radical and wild. Against us and our ancestors. We who are actively working to dismantle systems of oppression within ourselves and our communities (one of our members is in the anti-oppression Playback Theater company Pasajer@s Playback). Yours is a blow against those who wish to come together to explore the mysteries of the world. We who would prefer to openly communicate (and even respectfully disagree) as equals rather than manipulate amongst enemies. We who would like to trust each other rather than live in a world of fear. You shut down the show we invited our friends and family to, invited our rabbi to, without a way to argue for or defend ourselves. You have appointed yourselves as the arbiters of what is permissible to think or read, as the shadow jury that decides who should or shouldn’t have the right to perform in this town. You have allied yourselves with the snitches, the McCarthyites, the secret police forces of the world. Congratulations: you are the fascists.”

In a still-ridiculous-but-somewhat-less-ridiculous world, this would presumably have been the end of this odd conflagration of nonsense. But in this world, the statement had the extremely peculiar effect of seeming to exacerbate the sentiment that the band was a medium for expressing fascist ideology, and increasing the vitriolic hostility with which this sentiment was expressed. It’s probably a good thing that the event page for this cancelled show, where page after page of heated dialogue occurred after the statement was released, is either no longer on Facebook, or if it is, I can take pride in not knowing how to use Facebook well enough to find it. If it was still there, I would likely not be able to resist the temptation to quote it.

To go any further into this tale requires that we enter a domain of what is, for me, genuine ambiguity. The scenario thus far has been difficult to relate, to be certain, but familiar — this next portion involves considerable uncertainty on my part about what actually happened. You see, the reason the show was cancelled was because one of the band members, a certain Exile — or Nathan Block to the bank, the Social Security Administration, and the United States Bureau of Prisons — is a known fascist.

Ambiguous, but more ambiguous than Foucault?

Ambiguous, but more ambiguous than Foucault?

Naturally, one might wonder how this curious state of affairs, where a known fascist is a member of a band which makes such heartfelt statements against “systemized forms of oppression,” came to be.

One’s wonder might progress to a state more akin to bewilderment upon learning he is not in the band.

After the band clearly stated this, over and over again — there was a distinct impression people simply didn’t believe it at first — a line of questioning emerged about peoples’ friendships with the aforementioned fascist, Exile. But I think it’s important not to venture too far away from what is to me this very central point, that the initial, core premise of peoples’ objection to this band was entirely false. There are, unless there is some category of falsehood that is neither a lie nor a misunderstanding of which I am not aware, only those two possibilities: people were either terribly misinformed, or people were lying. I was never able to figure out which is the case. People claimed the show’s promoter sent out a mass text message billing it as “Nathan Block’s Ekstasis,” but that would be a really weird way to promote a show even if he was in the band, and none of my friends in Oakland — people who are actually involved in the small music subculture Ekstasis inhabits — got it; the show’s promoter, apparently, chose to text only anarchist kids with a bone to pick with neofolk. If I had to choose, I’d say that at least some deliberate misinformation was spread.

So now that Exile’s clearly in the picture, we are almost ready to integrate two aforementioned themes, swastikas and the Earth Liberation Front, into our story. But first, let’s at least briefly acknowledge, before returning to it in more detail later, that This Sort of Thing Keeps Happening. There’s a long, dubious history of bands who publicly state they are not ideologically aligned with fascism getting their shows cancelled because other people say they are. This happened, for instance, in 2010, when the Austrian band Allerseelen was targeted by Rose City Antifa and others for ostensible fascist inclinations. A show they’d booked in Portland — in an anarchist space that featured among its recurring events meetings of the group Anarchist People of Color — was cancelled when the space’s curator was told by local anarchists the space would be “blacklisted” if the show occurred. When she contacted the band, and a fellow named Gerhard Hallstadt, the only consistent member, stated that he had no sympathy for the Nazis and offered to sit down with whoever had concerns and explain his art, he was turned down by Antifa.

Let me very briefly mention, to save the opposition, should it emerge, from having to do a bunch of research, that I hosted a show featuring this band shortly after the aforementioned cancellation, in a venue space I lived in outside of Olympia. There you have it. My sordid confession. There will be more.

Do you ever find yourself thrilled by traversing the very edges of your knowledge of the universe, the dim boundaries of your perception wherein you can almost make out the shapes of things inconceivable? Do you ever, for instance, smoke weed and contemplate abstract mathematics? Or marvel at how many structural similarities brains have with ant colonies, and wonder if all complex phenomena share some universal properties? If so, you might want to take a break and get yourself good and mindblown before reading further, cause this shit is about to get truly wild.

Go look into this hole or something.

Go look into this hole or something.

The dialogue around fascism in neofolk has always hinged on not believing people when they say they’re not fascists. We enter into this territory of claustrophobic suspicion: “Sure, you say you’re not a fascist, but anyone can just say they’re not a fascist; what are you going to do to prove it?”

Where it might be suggested that, if one wanted to establish some kind of credibility for themselves, burning a bunch of shit down could be a good place to start.

I don’t know Exile intimately, but I get the sense that he’s not terribly involved in any kind of political world these days. But this wasn’t always the case. And it’s not like he hung out with Stormfront or White Aryan Resistance back in the day; no friends, he spent his days — or his nights, in any case — with the Earth Liberation Front. And when people started getting arrested, and the snitching began in earnest, he was one of what ultimately turned out to be a tiny minority of the accused who held fast to a principle — a principle that is arguably deeply and fundamentally human, rather than political, per se — and didn’t snitch, despite facing the prospect of life in prison. Happily, the government fucked up its case, in its overzealous application of surveillance, and when their mistake was revealed, hastily offered the four non-cooperators pleas for vastly reduced sentences. Arrested in 2005, Exile was released from prison at the end of 2012.

Not these guys. The other resistance.

Not these guys. The other resistance.

So then, of course, comes the question of what he has done, post-arson, to so thoroughly sully credentials which would seem, in theory, to be a pretty ironclad guarantee of basic human respect, perhaps even twinges of admiration, on the part of anarchists and other political radicals the world over.

The answer is the swastika, with which his blog, Loyalty is Mightier than Fire, is copiously populated.

And boy, are there swastikas, all kinds of them — there’s swastikas from Buddhist iconography, swastikas with the anarchist circle-A inside of them, swastikas on Hindu prayer shawls, swastikas next to Orthodox crosses, a swastika made of bullets, one in brickwork, and even one made out of cocaine!

Right. So that’s awkward.

There’s lots of other stuff, too. Actually, lots of the images that appear in this blog post I am writing, the ones most people wouldn’t associate with fascism, I took from Loyalty is Mightier than Fire: the statue of Christ in the ruined church, the Moroccan folk musicians, the painting of Mary and the infant Christ, the image of Michael Foucault talking about the penal system, and the solitary man standing above the epic chasm in the Earth. And this does not even begin to summarize the scope of the blog’s subject matter, as far as imagery is concerned: there’s Asian shamans, Black Bloc anarchists, alchemical manuscripts, dancers in the Nijinsky choreography of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Viking runestones, horses, Persian mystics, Paleolithic cave art, Ayatollah Khomeini, and a woman eating a strawberry.

Loyalty is, truly, mightier than fire.

Loyalty is, truly, mightier than fire.

What do all these images have in common, or what, when they are taken in the aggregate, do they collectively signify? I’m not sure I know the answer to that, and if I did, it might be prohibitively lengthy, but if you answered “they are all inducements to the cause of white supremacy,” or “they all articulate a clear vision of a resurgence of fascist ideals in modern politics,” I’m going to have to go ahead and say you’re very, very wrong.

If you’re wondering what the blog’s “message” is — which of course makes the pretty bold assumption that in peoples’ Tumblr pages there is to be found a singular, cohesive idea — maybe the caption for the man-and-chasm picture on Exile’s blog can provide some elucidation:

“For leaving behind everything that is observed, not only what sense comprehends, but also what the intelligence thinks it sees, it keeps on penetrating deeper until by the intelligence’s yearning for understanding it gains access to the invisible and the incomprehensible, and there it sees God. This is the true knowledge of what is thought; this is the seeing that consists in not seeing because that which is sought transcends all knowledge, being separated on all sides by incomprehensibility, as by a kind of darkness.”

If you’re having trouble making sense of that, imagine what it would do to the mind of someone stupid enough to believe that white people are superior to any other human population. Seriously. Imagine trying to sell this paradoxical mysticism, as an inducement to action, to people who believe that Tampa, Florida, Jell-o salads, the Vietnam War, and the New Kids on the Block are the work of a master race.

Übermensch, or moron?

Übermensch, or moron?

So if not an expression of racist or fascist ideology, what’s with all the swastikas? Maybe this quote from Rene Guenon, featured on the blog, offers some insight:

“Such is the true significance of the swastika, a symbol found everywhere, from the Far East to the Far West, and which is essentially the ‘sign of the Pole’; … contemporary scholars have employed all manner of fantastic theories in their vain efforts to explain this symbol, the majority of them, obsessed by a sort of fixed idea, having been intent on seeing here, as almost everywhere else, an exclusively ‘solar’ symbol, whereas, if it has occasionally become such, this could only have been by accident, as a result of some distortion. Others have come nearer the truth when they see in the swastika a symbol of movement, although this interpretation, without being false, is quite insufficient, for it is not a question of just any kind of movement, but of rotational movement around a center or immutable axis; and it is this fixed point, we repeat, that constitutes the essential element to which the symbol in question is directly related.”

So there you have it — there’s at least one plausible theoretical framework in which someone could, conceivably, become obsessed with the swastika, a framework that’s got nothing to do with Auschwitz or invading Poland.

A complex discussion could, of course, ensue. One could offer any number of challenges to someone utilizing this symbol, especially in a public venue like the internet, as a locus of esoteric thought. A central question would, of course, be: at what point does something become irrevocably associated with the forces of evil? Which might turn out to be a point people define differently. Brutal, despotic empires around the world have utilized the theme of freedom, for instance, but presumably freedom is too fundamental a condition of existence for any particular empire to revoke forever our right to speak of it, to appeal to it as a thing worth striving toward.

Eagles have been associated, through iconography, with the Roman, Nazi, and American empires--but let's keep in mind they're also birds.

Eagles are associated, iconographically, with the Roman, Nazi, and American empires — but let’s keep in mind they’re also birds.

What about the American flag? It’s hard to argue that the design is, in any sense, fundamental to the experience of being human. There is no meaningful application anyone has ever devised for it other than representing, with great specificity, the nation state of America — a blood-soaked empire if ever there was one. The stars found on the American flag, on the other hand, are versatile, often symbolizing, among many other things, actual stars, which are intrinsic in the universe, and will populate our skies long after the war planes and plumes of air pollution of the United States have vanished from it. So maybe one tentative framework for discussing whether a given symbol is acceptable or not is the extent to which it has exclusive associations with, or exclusive applicability to, evil.

But what about the Guns ‘n’ Roses shirt I used to wear around when I was a young, drunk forest defender that had an American flag on it — where does that fit into all this? Is it okay to use an evil symbol once removed, to promote not a bloody empire but a rockin’ band? What about Earth First! Rendezvous in the 80s, back when there was an American flag on prominent display? Is everyone who was involved in Earth First! in the 80s bad by association? Am I bad for being friends with some of them?

Negating this line of inquiry, of course, is the esoteric conception of the swastika, wherein, whatever a given culture associates with it, the symbol has an inherent, immutable, non-substitutable relevance; it is not a symbol simply devised at random to express an idea, like the word “tree” arbitrarily signifies a tree, but an actual feature of the universe, which we are no more capable of changing than we can change the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

If we were going to talk about this esoteric conception — if we were going to discuss whether the perceivable universe is an ever-circling, ever-fluxing field of illusory change emanating from an immutable center in which all ostensibly disparate entities are one; if we’re going to talk, in other words, about whether the universe is a swastika — we are essentially in a realm where we are talking about something very much like “magic,” and whether or not it is, in fact, real. Talk about complex discussions. This is a subject on which people of all political persuasions remain divided.

An alternate, somewhat less ambitious, proposal, which could also be relevant to this complex discussion, would be that the universe is not a swastika, a tree, a serpent eating its tail, or any other such thing it has been characterized as in various mystical schema, but that the human mind is innately structured to perceive the swastika as possessing some great meaning. Again, this would be a circumstance we would not be at liberty to change, anymore than we can change peoples’ desire to have sex or their tendency to find objects adhering to the golden ratio aesthetically pleasing.

Behold the indwelling swastika, which has illuminated your vision since birth.

Behold the indwelling swastika, which has illuminated your vision since birth.

I want to make clear that this is not a blog post “about” swastikas per se, anymore than it’s really about the Earth Liberation Front or whether or not magic is real. And even if swastikas were the ultimate subject of this writing, I would not be arguing for their indiscriminate use. Far from it. My feelings about the swastika are complex. It is a symbol with some meaning for me, which has featured somewhat in my private life for a number of years, since I read the aforementioned texts by Carl Jung. But I’m very cautious about where it shows up, and to what extent anyone would ever recognize it as a “swastika.” I do think people have a responsibility to balance their personal interest in something with the general, public effect it might have (even when that effect is essentially predicated on misunderstanding). Cause remember — in case, in the intervening couple thousand words since I last said it, you’ve forgotten — I really, really, seriously, actually don’t like Nazis. I never have and I never will. And if you say otherwise it doesn’t make it so.

And that’s what is the point. That’s what this writing is about. It’s about complex discussions, and how they’re indispensable to anyone who wants to have a fleeting chance of even the most elementary understanding of this universe we occupy, because this universe is, itself, profoundly complex. It’s about how complex discussions are no longer allowed within radical culture, because they’re oppressive. It’s about radicals’ hair-trigger mechanism for shifting to treating someone like the enemy, rather than treating them like a comrade with whom they share broad, fundamental principles, but lack 100% agreement about more specific things.

There's just more going on here than will fit in a slogan.

There’s just more going on here than will fit in a slogan.

Does that make you feel a little unsafe? Feeling a little triggered? Perhaps even oppressed, or if not oppressed, at least incensed on behalf of someone else who you imagine probably will feel oppressed by this writing? Well, TRIGGER WARNING: I’m about to restate the preceding paragraph in somewhat stronger terms.

The reason I’m writing this blog post is to discuss how radical culture has become, or perhaps always has been, a petty, vicious, small-minded, self-obsessed clique in which the same tired conventions repeatedly echo off the same impermeable walls that define the narrow corridors of acceptable thought; a thing tragically lacking in warrior spirit but rich in behaviors far better suited to cops — or perhaps more accurately, to degenerate sub-cops, to security guards, for instance, or grade school hall monitors — than to revolutionaries.

It would be eminently reasonable — indeed, the sort of thing I’d personally encourage — for someone to question Exile’s motives for the swastikas on his blog and, upon hearing his response, to ask questions, to level critiques, to, perhaps, point out what they regard as flaws in his reasoning, or aspects of the use of the swastika he hasn’t considered. It would be eminently reasonable to decide you disagree with him, and to express this however one saw fit. All these things would be reasonable because they’d be predicated on a dialogue, and that dialogue would involve listening to what someone says about their thoughts and motivations, and taking it seriously, rather than, say, disregarding it and attributing to them instead the most vicious and horrible thoughts and motivations imaginable.

What does it mean to call someone a fascist, or a Nazi, who says they aren’t? It might mean quite a bit in, say, 1941. It might mean someone is a spy for the Nazis, for instance, in which case one wouldn’t really expect them to be terribly open about their political convictions. But what does it mean today? Is there a way to be a “fascist” but espouse publicly that you are not? What does it mean when someone has no involvement in mass politics — when indeed, ala Allerseelen or Exile, it is somewhat difficult to imagine them descending from the inner mountains up which they strive, those great snowy peaks that transcend space and time, and entering the mundane world in which politics inherently takes place — gets called a fascist? At that point, what other means are available, involvement in politics and/or public promotion of fascist ideology having been taken off the table, for someone to do something that makes them a fascist?

Beware the Mussolini that is not Mussolini, the hidden Mussolini that is shadow-and-yet-light, fascist and yet not political, inscrutably pure and yet a source of vile contamination, for he is the Mussolini of the modern age.

Beware the Mussolini that is not Mussolini, the hidden Mussolini that is shadow-and-yet-light, fascist and yet not political, inscrutably pure and yet a source of vile contamination, for he is the Mussolini of the modern age, the New Mussolini, with which the antifascists must do combat.

What did New York City Antifa mean, exactly, when they, a day or two after the cancellation of the Ekstasis show, decided to publish a post called “Former ELF/Green Scare Prisoner “Exile” Now a Fascist” — since they didn’t accuse him of saying so himself, and they didn’t accuse him of involving himself in any sort of political activity? Did they simply mean that somewhere in his inner core, somewhere inaccessible to direct scrutiny by any outside observer, in some hidden landscape lacking any means of ingress or egress to or from the world at large, he is a fascist? If so, they are likely well-equipped to understand the more abstract forays into philosophy and esotericism found on his blog.

All life is related, and the point at which a species emerges, distinct from all other species, is ambiguous. But at some point it becomes inevitably more useful to give something its own name. Bears and mountain lions share a common ancestor sometime approximately 42 million years ago, but evolutionary changes have taken place subsequently; it is useless to simply refer to both as carnivores from the middle Eocene. Something similar seems to be happening with the fascists of yore and those of the present-day.

What is happening, so far as I can tell, is that groups like Antifa are doing combat with the extremely heterogeneous — and virtually impossible to define — aesthetic, philosophical, and cultural currents which are, or historically have been, associated with fascism, rather than with “fascism” as an organized force in mass politics. I feel confident making such bold assertions because they say so themselves.

Let’s start with Rose City Antifa’s statement of opposition to Allerseelen from back in 2010:

“Linked below you will find an article describing Gerhard Petak’s far-right political views and associations—while Petak has had contact with some people who could be fairly described as Nazis or neo-Nazis, Petak has also criticized the Third Reich in print, and we do not describe him personally as a Nazi. We place Petak’s viewpoints and advocacy on the terrain of neo-fascism and the far-Right, especially that of the European New Right. Some other ideological influences will be discussed in passing. If at times Petak’s viewpoints appear as a jumble of varied and even opposing influences, it is worth noting that fascism has always been a syncretic ideological movement—one that attempts to fuse differing elements into a single whole. Indeed, this syncretic nature has given rise to one of fascism’s primary qualities, that of simultaneously being “A and not A” and often harboring diametrically opposed impulses, such as attempting mass political mobilization while also vocalizing contempt for mass society. These contradictions unfortunately do not render fascism or fascist politics harmless.”

If one bothers to really dig into the history of fascism — or the 20th century in general — one finds Antifa’s characterization of fascism, as an assemblage of extremely varied ideological and aesthetic impulses (I say “assemblage” here rather than “synthesis” on purpose; like Walt Whitman, fascism contradicts itself, contains multitudes), to be absolutely correct. It’s also worth enumerating a few of these diverse impulses which a particularly relevant to our discussion:

1. A generalized longing for/idealization of the archaic.

2. In overt contradiction of 1, hyper-modern industrialism.

3. An inherently non-egalitarian (because it presumes that people do not possess identical innate capacities) ethos of the superman, the spiritual aristocrat, the hero, etc. — an individual who rises above society and achieves a state of awareness/being impossible from within society’s confines.

4. In overt contradiction of 3, hyper-authoritarianism, and the mobilization of the collective based, in a still-familiar script from today, on the demonization of others.

5. Reverence for nature, and a belief in living in intimate relation with the land.

6. Contra 5, cutting down forests, building factories, and bombing shit.

7. Traditional religious and spiritual forms pre-dating Christianity; general esoterism.

8. Contra 7, adopting Christianity as a state religion.

He just looks like some nice blonde guy who wants to grow wheat until you notice the Nazi emblem in the lower left.

He just looks like some nice blonde guy who wants to grow wheat until you notice the Nazi emblem.

What’s necessary to point out about this list of traits/themes is that they all show up — often in the same bewildering, contradictory juxtapositions — in all manner of cultural, artistic, and political milieus.

Let’s actually step back a moment — for just a paragraph — and broaden the scope of this discussion. Industrial civilization in general, and the massive social and technological changes of the 20th century in particular, have been, to indulge in gratuitous understatement, difficult for people to adapt to. There was never a moment of true acquiescence. We never believed in this dream. It was born dead. The moment science began to explain everything, massive resurgences of mysticism and anti-rationalism spread among educated people. The moment technology offered us a way to never touch the soil again, people began to flee to the forest. Our current epoch of hyper-mechanized warfare, hyper-mechanized work, and growing distance from the land gave birth instantly to many counter-currents. These counter-currents have taken an incredible diversity of forms, but if one bothers to peer just a little ways beneath their exteriors, beneath the simple classificatory schema, one finds a wealth of commonalities.

Virtually all major 20th and 21st century avant-garde artistic movements — which, let us recall, because people so often forget, have at their conception often been thought of as actual assaults on society at large, as war, and only later became entertainment — share fascism’s simultaneous archaism and hyper-modernism. The Dadaists had their performances with “primitive” masks covered in bull’s blood, but they also dressed up like robots. The Nazis had their parades with maypoles and garlands of flowers, but also their parades with tanks.

And if one finds “diametrically opposed impulses, such as attempting mass political mobilization while also vocalizing contempt for mass society” to be troubling, what could be more alarming than punk rock? If Friedrich Nietzsche and Julius Evola are dangerous for their anti-egalitarianism, for their appalling sense of superiority to the masses, then what are we to make of Crass, when they tell us, in “End Result”:

“I hate the living dead and their work in factories/They go like sheep to their production lines/They live on illusions, don’t face the realities/All they live for is that big blue sign, it says, it says……….I’M BORED, BORED, BORED, BORED.”?

Far more plausible candidates for Übermensch are to be found in this photo than the one of Ronald McDonald--I remain, nonetheless, skeptical.

Far more plausible candidates for Übermensch are to be found in this photo than the one of Ronald McDonald–I remain, nonetheless, skeptical.

What was evil about the fascists, and the Nazis, was not the hodgepodge of mystical ideologies, the nature worship, the resurgence of pre-Christian spirituality, the anti-modernism, the esotericism, the contempt for the collective: these are common roots which have borne the flowers not just of totalitarian regimes but also of every mode of opposition to the modern age conceived of thus far: surrealism, punk rock, and radical environmentalism, to name a few I happen to like personally — but the list would also have to include aesthetic travesties like New Age.

What was evil about the Nazis — and I mean really, really fucking evil; let’s try not to forget all the parts of this document where I’ve already said I don’t like Nazis, okay? — was the oppression, violence, and ecological destruction. As a side note, the list of things that make Nazis evil is one they share with every other manifestation of industrial civilization that has ever existed.

All this has been written about before. I myself — with perhaps a slightly less weary tone — wrote on some of the similarities between avant-garde art and more traditionally “left” political movements and fascism in an essay called “Primitive impulse and mechanized slaughter: Rites of Spring.” And it’s not like I’m the go-to guy for this sort of thing. I felt compelled to write the essay because I’m more familiar with contemporary artistic obscurities — like neofolk, for instance — than most mainstream writers, but a lot of the essence of that piece is presented with far greater detail in Modris Eksteins’s book Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age.

Doing battle with “fascism” as an eclectic jumble of ideological and aesthetic impulses — doing battle with artists and writers, with broad conceptualizations of the cosmos and society — rather than with fascism as an organized political force capable of doing violence to people and land, seems to miss some of the essential spirit of “anti-fascism” as it was originally conceived. One who studied critical thinking might possess some particular term for mistaking superficial similarities with similarities of substance. Lacking any such formal nomenclature, I’ll simply call it ridiculous.

Remember how I said you could expect further sordid confessions as you continued to traverse the absurdly-ever-shifting terrain of this text? Here’s my next one: I’ve got a swastika tattooed on my arm. I am not kidding. Look, here’s a picture.

Don't hate me for the swastika. Hate me because I take selfies.

Don’t hate me for the swastika. Hate me because I take selfies.

I mean, it doesn’t look that much like a swastika, and that’s on purpose — cause I am pretty eager not to be associated with the evil things swastikas are associated with, and I know that’s what would happen — but that’s what it is to me. Got it after reading a heavy dose of Jung. Made the center (remember that’s the immutable, universal part — that part from which the apparent world emanates and all that) deliberately a lot bigger than in most traditional designs, cause evidently I think the part of the universe we don’t comprehend is vastly greater than the part we do.

You’ve got all sorts of options. You can decide not to believe me. You can decide to believe me but critique my thinking. You could even believe me and think my tattoo’s swell. Let’s talk about the first of these options: you do not believe me, and conclude the swastika, despite my repeated, fervent disavowals of any such ideology, must be an expression of fascism. If you choose this route, I can not make a statement directed at you with anything remotely near, despite my considerable talent for mockery and condescension, adequate levels of derision.

And some of you will. There is nothing I can do to dissuade some of you that my true motivation for writing this is that I am a fascist. The actual work I do in defense of all life on Earth — humans of every kind most certainly included — will do nothing to insulate me. No one possesses adequately impressive anti-fascist credentials not to get accused of all manner of evil if they stray from the discourse that is acceptable within “radical” circles. I mean, take for instance when Rose City Antifa released their statement on Allerseelen, citing as evidence of Gerhard Hallstadt’s loathsome ideology his appreciation of Ernst Jünger:

The Conservative Revolutionary movement was characterized by fervent nationalism following the German defeat in WWI; a view of the nation as an organic whole; glorification of hierarchy, militarism, industrial mobilization, as well as “folk-community;” plus deep anti-liberalism and anti-egalitarianism . . . Allerseelen has directly paid homage to the Conservative Revolutionaries Ernst Jünger (the Allerseelen track “Käferlied” is a tribute to him) and Friedrich Hielscher . . . “

Remember how awhile back I told you the tale was going to get a little wild, and you might want to smoke some weed or delve into complexity theory for awhile to get into the right frame of mind? Seriously, smoke a lot more of that weed.

Ernst Jünger was — along with Nietzsche, the anonymous authors of the Poetic Edda, and eagles — admired by the Nazis. But unlike Nietzsche, miscellaneous Icelandic poets, or eagles (who in their defense were, in the former two cases, already dead, and in the latter case, birds), Jünger, at some risk to his wellbeing, published numerous works critical of the Nazi party, both during and after its reign, and, at considerably greater risk to his wellbeing, peripherally took part in the Stauffenberg bomb plot. In case you are not familiar, this plot, named after the German military officer who carried the briefcase bomb into the conference room where it detonated but failed to assassinate its primary target, is colloquially known as “the plot to kill Hitler.” They made a movie about it called Operation Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise: the Ündermensch.

“Ündermensch” is probably not how you actually say “Underman” in German, but I’m just gonna roll with it.

In case you’re thinking he might’ve wanted Hitler dead because he wanted to accelerate the pace of the Holocaust, here’s an excerpt from Jünger’s The Forest Passage, which is intended to discuss the notion of “the forest rebel” as an eternal resistance figure transcending any particular political or historical situation, but is clearly deeply influenced by his experience of the Nazi regime:

“In our present age, each day can bring shocking new manifestations of oppression, slavery, or extermination–whether aimed at specific social groupings or spread over entire regions. Exercising resistance to this is legal, as an assertion of basic human rights, which, in the best cases, are guaranteed in constitutions but which the individual has nevertheless to enforce.”

I was born in 1978, and I started listening to punk rock when I was 11, so that makes me just old enough to really remember what it was like when Nazi skinheads were a constant, violent threat at punk shows and the like. I have stood my ground, as a rail-thin 14-year-old, against gangs of grown-ass skinhead men. This is a history I doubt I share with many of Rose City Antifa’s members. So there’s a few points in my favor, I suppose. But you know what I never did? I never once — not in my punk rock youth, nor at any other point in my 36 years of ecological anti-authoritarianism — tried to kill Hitler. And if trying to kill Hitler doesn’t get you a pass with today’s anti-fascists, nothing I can ever hope to do or say will.

Now, regarding the other two options — believing my motivations for getting the tattoo I have on my right arm but critiquing them, in some fashion or another, or just thinking my tattoo is swell — the second of these doesn’t really leave much to talk about. If that’s the case, thanks. My friend Megan gave it to me. People from Rose City Antifa called her a “Nazi goth bitch” last night at a Death in June show, but I think she’s great (and since she’s faced down trucks carrying giant crazy pieces of tar sands equipment and industrial logging operations with me, it’s unsurprising she’s able to withstand such withering verbal critiques). But the other option leaves open the prospect of dialogue: a vast, horizonless, uncharted terrain before us — terra motherfucking incognita — in which we might actually hear something other than the ideologies we’ve already accepted and heard reiterated endlessly by the people we surround ourselves with.

I believe in open dialogue, but watch out for the sea serpents.

If our conversation doesn’t involve the possibility of being devoured by sea serpents, I just don’t want to have it.

Cause remember, that’s what this writing is really about. Just like I said before that it’s not really about swastikas, the Earth Liberation Front, Nazis, or magic, it’s also not really about Ernst Jünger, dada, punk rock, or Tom Cruise. I mean, if I’m going to make another confession — perhaps slightly less sordid than having a swastika tattoo or having once run sound for Allerseelen — it would be that this writing is essentially an escape. It’s long and rambling because I’m sick, and feeling the kind of self-pity that makes me want to avoid more onerous and obligatory tasks. But the way I justify it — the way I make this about more than a hyper-obscure countercultural dispute — is that the common theme underlying all these digressions is the utter failure of anarchist/radical circles to engage in dialogue, critically evaluate shared assumptions and conventions, and, as experience and analysis yields new results, modify paradigms. And it’s not about how we’re failing at this because we’re not smart, or we lack the right analytical framework — it’s about how we’re failing at this because we’re scared, because there’s things we’re not allowed to talk about.

I will say this as simply as possible, because if anyone actually bothers to read this they will likely misconstrue and recontextualize what I say, and the simpler I am the more ridiculous and elaborate their convolutions of logic necessarily become (if I’m going to be called a fascist, or a fascist sympathizer, or any other terrible and hurtful thing, I wanna see you motherfuckers work for it). None of us really has any idea what is going on. The thing someone said — was it Isaac Newton? — about our science being a drop and our ignorance an ocean is true. When a group of people get together and decide they’ve figured everything out they always get it wrong. This is no less true for you than for anyone else alive on the planet. And when groups of people become so convinced of the Absolute Truths they have determined that they manage to quell dialogue, and inhibit perfectly reasonable courses of inquiry with fear, they are engaging in behavior inimical to the work of creating a liveable world.

It does not matter how legitimate your core principles are. Modern history will never be clean of the blood that has been spilled in the name of legitimately noble values which were perverted into their antitheses, frameworks of opposition to imperialism, or class inequality, or systematic oppression, which became in and of themselves vehicles for imperialism, inequality, systematic oppression. There is no system of values so innately virtuous that it can not be used for evil, and the first step down the road toward that evil is no longer being amenable to dialogue or self-reflection.

You can always rethink your actions, but you just can't un-smash a Buddha statue.

You can always rethink your actions, Cultural Revolutionary, but you just can’t un-smash a Buddha statue.

I am completely and utterly overwhelmed by the horrors of this world, by living at a time when industrial civilization is ushering in the Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction and resistance, while often brave, is so utterly futile, in a time when the world’s languages and cultures are vanishing along with its species, in a time when the baseline levels of inequality and mass cruelty we have been inflicting on one another are about to get, as the planet heats up and ecological collapse begins to destabilize our societies, a whole lot worse. And you know what? As horrifying as these realities are, as utterly and desperately as I would like to reach out and grasp at some shred of reassurance, the simple truth is that I don’t actually know what an alternate world would really look like. I don’t know how much of what we are doing — for all the ink I’ve spilled over the years, and for all the innumerable texts of anthropology, behavioral ecology, history, and analysis I’ve read — is a cultural contingency, and how much is deeply built into us. I don’t know what a society that didn’t horrify me would really look like, because I don’t know where the parameters of human nature actually lie.

And neither do you.

We just do not have this shit figured out. None of us actually knows how a just, sane world would would really be configured, or how we can get there from here. The only way any of us could possibly know such things is if we had succeeded in averting the current crises and transitioning to something else, and none of us have. A big part of this work involves acknowledging this profound shortcoming we all share. It should beget a fair amount of humility. The other part of this work is fighting like hell in what little time we have left before systemic ecological collapse creates a scenario of endless crisis and precludes what options we have now. “Fighting like hell” doesn’t sound easy, but it sounds a whole lot more plausible with a lot of friends around you, which is another great argument for trying to achieve some semblance of cohesion amongst people who share broad values rather than striving for the nth degree of ideological homogeneity, and hence another fact that should beget a fair amount of humility.

In a (presumably hopeless) effort to clarify What the Fuck I’m Talking About, I’d like to distill this whole post to one central tenet, one essential point which I’m trying very hard to make: I would like to suggest that we restrict our antagonisms, our organized political efforts, to forces that actually wield anywhere near the scale of political and economic power to really do massive harm to animals, the Earth, and other people. I would like to suggest, in other words, that people who share broad values find each other and work together, and more or less not worry about what people in other tiny, obscure subcultural echelons are up to, because I see no possible scenario in which it could possibly matter as much as what the people with all the guns and money are doing.

Here's a picture of some of the people who will still be my friends after this blog post is published.

Here’s a neat picture of some of the people who will still be my friends after this blog post is published. Love you guys!

Cause when we get into the level of hyper-scrutiny of our peers ostensible “antifascist” organizers engage in, we could all probably think of something our friends are doing that perpetuates unspeakable atrocity. I mean, I know you guys all really hate Julius Evola, but the most dangerous philosopher on Exile’s blog has gotta be Michael Foucalt, right?

From NYC Antifa’s previously mentioned piece “Former ELF/Green Scare Prisoner “Exile” Is Now a Fascist”:

“If you are unfamiliar with the more obscure references to Nazism and the postwar fascist movement, except a few decorated swastikas, Exile’s blog might look like a creepy spiritual goth kid’s elaborate art project. However, if you understand the references, it is immediately obvious that Exile is going out of his way to promote a slew of fascist writers and imagery, especially those influenced by Esoteric Nazism and other forms of mystical fascism.

The most prominent is Julius Evola, an Italian Traditionalist philosopher who attacked the “modern world” as decadent and corrupt. (Evola is the go-to guy for fascists who want a Situationist, Frankfurt School, or anarchist-style critique of capitalism and the consumer society.)”

I have no idea when it was decided what was okay to read/quote, or who got to be there for the decisionmaking, but if we’re going to talk about philosophers whose ideas contain the seeds of atrocities, let’s just start with Foucault and the whole litany of other social scientists and producers of hyperliterate textual opacities — a good deal of the intellectual heritage of the modern age — who reject the very idea of human nature. Lots of the people who have zealously promoted this idea — most of them, perhaps — have been left/anarchist types, but ultimately, it’s a justification for every excess of totalitarianism imaginable.

We are told by Foucault that "language is oppression," which is unsurprising when once considers that, according to Genesis, it's how god made the world. Cause you know who could really use to sit in on an anti-oppression workshop or two? Yahweh.

We are told by Foucault that “language is oppression,” which is unsurprising when one considers that, according to Genesis, it’s how god made the world. Cause you know who could really use to sit in on an anti-oppression workshop or two? Yahweh.

If there is no innate human nature — if everything we desire, or fear, or love, or have an aversion to is simply a construct of the society into which we were born — than why on Earth should we trouble our pretty little heads if society tells us not to be gay, or that we deserve to make less money because of our skin color, or that all other forms of life are commodities for corporations to do what they want with? What substrate of human experience would be left to conflict with these social constructions except for human fucking nature, a hard, irrevocable core of our being, inherited through millennia of evolution in which certain traits prevailed over others, that says “no”?

It is not as if I’m speculating about an alternate universe. Time and again the core premise of “antifascist” antagonism to underground music and writing projects has been someone’s propensity to quote the wrong author, an author who was liked by the Nazis, or who was a Nazi, or whose principles vaguely echo some sentiment that was once also vaguely echoed by a Nazi, and to claim that the historical atrocities of the Nazis render any such quotation inherently oppressive — indeed, inherently “fascist.” But when it comes to other of the 20th century’s worst monsters this hypervigilance undergoes a precipitous decline. For if Evola or Junger are unacceptable because the Nazis thought along same lines, then what are we to make of the historical atrocities undertaken by regimes that did not believe in human nature — why should it be acceptable to read everyone from Clifford Geertz to Margaret fucking Mead? If Nazi horrors supposedly manifested the principle of the Overman, how can we possibly forget that the horrors of the USSR and communist China (when it was still communist) were undertaken on behalf of the New Man, a being in whom good anticapitalist values could be instilled without resistance from any troublesome innate inclinations, who we are told by Wikipedia was emerging in the Soviet Union “irrespective of the country’s cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity, creating a single Soviet people, Soviet nation”? How can we forget that the ideology of the human mind as a blank slate, so chic amongst contemporary anarchist intellectuals, has been used to justify the re-education camps and programs of mass extermination of regimes that ultimately claimed more lives than the Nazis?

By what logic is this any more or less acceptable than liking Julius Evola? By what metric do those lives lost in the pursuit of a humanity infinitely malleable in the hands of the state matter less than those lives lost to other, equally stupid misconceptions?

When I grow up I wanna enforce structural racism!

“I agree with Chomsky in almost nothing. When it comes to innate structures and so on, I’m very skeptical.” –Clifford Geertz

And for that matter, if we’re really gonna talk about taboos on liking things associated with historical atrocities, we could step out of the realm of philosophers and critical theorists and anthropologists for a moment and ask ourselves: if it is inconceivable that someone could like Evola or swastikas without wishing to perpetuate the atrocities of the Nazi regime, by what alternate logic, in what parallel universe, is it suddenly conceivable to imagine that someone embraces socialism as a wholesale ideology but does not wish to perpetuate the atrocities of historical (or current) socialist regimes? How is it anything but an appalling double standard that people whose aesthetics or philosophy can be tenuously connected to one historical form of tyranny, with many feats of bizarre linguistic agility about “A not being A,” are automatically accused of secretly harboring the most vile interior motivations, when your friends get to walk around calling themselves socialists and its taken for granted they’re not that kind of socialist?

One can only imagine, despite that there’s no real logical distinction that I am aware of, how it would be received if someone said that they embraced a hypothetical Benign Nazism as their political paradigm. Actually, one can do a lot more than imagine, because according to Rose City Antifa’s webpage on the Death in June show that happened last night, the band manifests some obscure left-wing variant of Nazi ideology that was exterminated in the Night of the Long Knives. (I have no idea if this is true, but for purposes of this writing I’ll assume it is, which is giving Rose City Antifa a whole lot more credibility than I think they’ve really garnered for themselves).

And that didn’t go over so well: in fact, someone screamed at a friend of mine last night, as she was entering the venue, that she “killed their people.” Now of course, she did no such thing, but somewhere along the long and circuitous path from the kind of resistance to fascism where you live in the forest and get in firefights with soldiers to the kind where you assault people at concerts (last night a random audience member waiting in line for the concert got thrown into the street in front of a moving car, which managed to stop in time, and a number of people got punched, one of whom was told by protestors as police were taking her statement that they “hoped her mouth wasn’t as loose as her cunt”), a few crucial distinctions like this got lost.

Yes, Saddam Hussein wrote romance novels. Yes, Saddam Hussein was evil. No, romance novels are not, therefore, evil.

Yes, Saddam Hussein wrote romance novels. Yes, Saddam Hussein was evil. No, romance novels are not, therefore, evil.

But of course, I’m not actually going to go on an ideological rampage against all the people I know who read what are, to my mind, pretty unassailable tracts of critical theory and philosophy about how everything is a social construct and equate their readings with various brutalities and injustices. Because I know that anarchist intellectuals, in common with neofolk artists, might have some crazy ideas, but those ideas are not materially harming me, or anyone else, or the planet I live on.

And don’t get it twisted, you who so readily seize on even the slightest opportunity to completely misunderstand what someone is saying. I’m personally no more excited about benign Nazism than I am about benign Socialism or the likely response to this fucking blog post I’ll have to deal with.

I’m just not too freaked out by either because I live under a different form of domination, industrial capitalism, and it’s got a virtual monopoly on killing and destroying and enslaving these days. And since you live here, too, it means neither you or I is innocent of things much worse than liking questionable music. Even if the very worst things about all these underground artists that have ever been said were true, is it really conceivable that it would still be a good expenditure of effort and resources to fight them? Wouldn’t there be a terrible mismatch between the extent of harm they do and the extent of harm lots of other things that I, and the people protesting underground music, routinely patronize? Every time one of us turns on a light, we’re drowning Pacific islands and killing coral reefs. I’ve got money in a bank, for god’s sake. Who do you think our children will look back at this crucial moment in history and curse — neofolk or banks? I see people who ostensibly oppose all forms of oppression eat factory farmed meat regularly. If we’re going to yell at each other, rather than yell at each other about the books we read or the music we listen to, couldn’t we choose something a little more tangibly insidious?

In March of 1943, a French resistance group, receiving reports of the death camps to which Jews were being sent by the Nazis, issued a publication which read in part:

“Use every hour of your life to wound the Hitlerian beast! Strike it wherever you can! Smash the machines! . . . This is the programme that can be summarized in these words: STRUGGLE AND VENGEANCE!”

The Hitlerian beast seems, for all appearances, to be more or less dead, but a similar imperative now exists for the beast of industrial capitalism. I would like to see a little more wounding, a little more striking wherever you can — a little more STRUGGLE AND VENGEANCE, if you will — and perhaps a little less nonsense. And while we’re engaging in struggle against the immediate, physical threats that exist to our and the world’s wellbeing, perhaps we can engage in dialogue about what the world we are striving for will look like, like adults, knowing full well that only experimentation and open inquiry will reveal even the faintest contours of what is possible.

You go blow up the Nazi-controlled rail lines, I'll take care of the folk musicians.

You go blow up the Nazi-controlled rail lines, I’ll take care of the folk musicians.

But it is actually precisely this, open dialogue where ideas compete and intellectual exchange occurs without recrimination, that Antifa claims, in statement after statement, to be fighting against. On Death in June:

Creating cultural space has political meaning on its own. Meta-political fascism in an aesthetic context is important to oppose. Fascism had to take many roles after WWII and venturing into apolitic aesthetics was one of them. So even if it is “just art” it’s damaging to the cause of anti-fascism.”

I always think I’m a huge art snob, but I gotta give these cats props for straight up saying we should “oppose” aesthetics even when they’re apolitical, and backing that shit up with violence. That’s taking avant-garde to the next level.

On Allerseelen:

“Two other aspects of the European New Right are important to note, especially as they relate to Allerseelen: the ENR’s pagan aspect and its stress on fighting a cultural war. In contrast to the American New Right of the time, which was generally a Christian movement, the ENR’s identity was strongly pagan and anti-Christian. Christianity is presented as an alien force that imposed itself on indigenous European peoples; the universalist aspect of Christianity is seen as a major enemy. The ENR also sees the capitalist market as spreading the pathogen of universalism, and hence adopts a sort of fascist “anti-capitalism.” In terms of strategy, the European New Right borrows from the Italian Communist leader Gramsci, who argued that lasting political and economic change would have to be preceded by a major shift on the cultural terrain. The ENR therefore focuses on creating a cultural environment favorable to their political ideas flourishing—especially culture that popularizes (imagined) “indigenous” European cultural/ethnic identities and lashes out at universalism and Enlightenment values.”

As far as Italian Communists go, this Gramsci fellow doesn’t seem half bad. There are wars we have to fight in the here and now, of course, that are innately physical. But as far as figuring out what a long-term, quasi-stable configuration of human society might look like, I’m all for that being determined through cultural experimentation. Cause remember the part where I know the limits of my knowledge, and suspect yours are similarly bounded? If radical subculture were a little more amenable to honest, thoroughgoing dialogue, for instance, I might quote this other passage from the Allerseelen dossier:

“In the place of biological racism, the New Right began to present itself as a defender of cultural diversity and “ethno-pluralism.” What this amounts to is a form of cultural racism expressed as difference: when cultures come together, this apparently breeds homogeneity, and therefore the ENR argues for a plurality of cultures precisely through separation and the cessation of pluralism within cultures. While renouncing at least in theory any authoritarianism and conquest between different cultures, in practical terms New Right politics would necessarily lead to neo-Apartheid and bloody Balkans-like carve-ups.”

and then I’d note that these notions that different people are no better or worse than one another, but innately belong in different landscapes and that monoculturalism should retreat to allow for historical cultural heterogeneity, in a spectacular ideological Ouroboros you don’t get to see every day, are precisely the notions that a different subculture refers to as “decolonization.”

This is what excessive political theorizing does to otherwise perfectly legitimate dragons.

This is what excessive political theorizing does to otherwise perfectly legitimate dragons.

But instead, I live in a world where, rather than facing the prospect that someone might explain to me how I’m wrong, or offer a modification of my original premise, I will be treated as an enemy for failing to meet someone’s standard of ideological purity. Maybe someone will even try to beat me up, like they did a bunch of people going to a show last night.

Yes, I’d like a little more striking back, a little more wounding; I’d say a little more of what they had going on during the French resistance, but of course, as with political movements in general, if one reads the history of the French resistance, one sees that the vast majority of the time people could have spent in legitimate struggle they spent holding pointless meetings and engaging in petty rivalries and absurd, narcissistic posturing.

And little has changed. I initially wanted to write this ending on a note of reconciliation. I wanted to say it’s time for us to dispense with nonsense, time to fight or die, time to overlook our differences and focus on what we share in common that makes us strong — and in that spirit, I wanted to say, let me emphasize that I would much prefer to work with you all, including those I’ve critiqued, rather than further petty rivalries. Actually, I was so thoroughly feeling that spirit that, a few months after having written the vast majority of this piece during a binge of self sympathy brought about my ill health, I wasn’t sure I’d ever publish it, thinking perhaps it would be counterproductive, that I was only manifesting the very tendencies I was describing by engaging in ridiculous subcultural feuds.

And while all that’s true so far as it goes, last night another episode of antifascist action took place, this one involving a band I don’t know all that much about, but an audience who included a number of my very dearest friends in the world, and punches were thrown. And I thought: fuck it. Not “fuck it” purely in terms of the consequences for me personally, like the moral imperative became so great, but more “fuck it” like you people make me realize there’s no goddamn hope whatsoever anywhere in the world, so why twist myself in knots trying to make nice with a revolution that doesn’t fucking exist? That kind of “fuck it.”

Yes, instead of the note of reconciliation, the note of noble-minded sentiment for the possibility of the better world we can all create together, I’ll just say that. It’s not the overwhelmingly superior physical force wielded by “our” enemies that makes me feel hopeless. It’s not the incredibly limited amount of time we have before the world is irreversibly on a trajectory to shit. No, even taking those things into account I could feel a modicum of fucking hope if I could sell myself on the narrative that people could band together and try their best to overcome the odds.

But we won’t. You’ll keep engaging in ridiculous protests, and I’ll thoroughly debase myself by writing about it, and in the end, when we are forced to look into the eyes of those who inherit this world from us, and they demand to know what the fuck we were doing that was so important we couldn’t get it together to rise up and beat the bad guys, I imagine our sins will be reckoned as equally grave.

 

 

 

 

In the thin light of a colorless winter afternoon, the raven not speaking, the fencepost unrattling, we stumbled upon an ant hill by the dirt road adjacent to the high-tension powerlines, and we watched their inexplicable silent frenzy of motion with horror, realizing the patterns of their movement seemed to match the pulses and lulls of the insidious humming sound the powerlines emitted. Were the powerlines a deity to these ants, did they dance in worship of the humming sound, like the sun was a deity to our own kind long ago, and perhaps will be again in some distant future? We stood there staring for a long time, failing to comprehend their logic but sensing nonetheless that it existed and we could discern it from this neverending motion if we stared long enough, that we could perceive the faint outlines of a reasonable interpretation, sensing the sun swelling our minds, sensing that we were losing our grasp on the cold and non-sentient essence of the day, going insane and hearing the speech of the unspeaking world. Finally the ants spoke:

THE SKY IS BURNING. THE RED BIRD WILL BRING RUIN.

Metal_Bird_Art_by_printsILike

We could outline no procedure by which any other could derive this message, but its existence was clearer to us than the featureless sky, in which clouds had once formed but had now diffused to such an extent that they had become a homogenous translucency, revealing nothing, concealing nothing. We thought: what context exists for this moment? To what afternoon of our childhood does this refer; what sense memory pervades us? And we found nothing.

The ants, we thought, must have a messiah, who, although we hear nothing, is in his or her silence screaming at them, a screaming that invokes in them a relentless energy, a capacity to be transformed by crisis. Perhaps he is a monster. Perhaps he screams at them that the high-voltage powerlines demand sacrifice, claiming that only he can understand their humming.

Once it began, we knew, of course, it would never end. There was no limit. As we walked home we could read augurs in the yellow leaves of bigleaf maples scattered—at random, by all appearances to any other—on the dirt and gravel road and we could hear secret messages in the croaking of the frogs that occupied the wetlands by the railroad tracks. We went into our home, lay down on the floor, and listened to music in another language—I think it was Estonian; choral music of some kind—and we heard the voices chanting our ruin as we stared out our window at the season’s weak memory of the once-warm sun.

THE SKY IS BURNING. THE RED BIRD WILL BRING RUIN.

In our home there were warm hazelnuts, their skins dark from fire; the vague smell of cedar from the wood piled by the stove; a disarray of blankets and clothing on the bed to weather the incessant chill; field guides, ethnographies, natural histories, and novels on every surface in small piles; and in the corner, leaning up agains the wall, a gun.

We did not know the moments from our life that are so rich with nostalgia would be so when they occurred, but now as the moments fleet past our eyes, each one unbearably rich with meaning, each one glowing with a golden excess of warm light, we see with certainty the shape of the scars that time has etched in our skin, and we whisper to ourselves those things we did not know defined us until now: “I am sorry I hurt you . . . I never should have left here . . . I do not know what I was thinking . . . I was so young . . .”

Drummer+Boy+with+Drum+--+Charcoal

I can not even claim to know of whom this “we” consists; I do not know you, my companion, or companions, can not tell if you are friend or foe. I can not see you, have no means of proving your existence to myself or any other, only sense your presence. Perhaps I have seen, or at least heard described, your vague outlines. Once, a lover told me that while I was away working for the day three elongated figures came and stood above her in bed—shrouded, colorless men, faceless but nonetheless recognizable as my kin—and evaluated her, intimidating, perhaps, but not threatening. One of them held a seed in his long dark fingers. Perhaps these men are you. Perhaps you were warning her of something that can’t be spoken about, and so you tried some means other than language, or perhaps you, like ants, are mute.

THE SKY IS BURNING. THE RED BIRD WILL BRING RUIN.

A thing said is ephemeral, diminishing with time, diffusing in the currents of air, bending into nothing in the wind; a thing said thrice, however, is indelibly etched into the world somewhere, like our actions, a thing we may come to regret or to cherish as we lie on some bed in some distant moment losing our minds and sorting the events of our lives.

We have not been sleeping. You will offer no narcotics; no warm milk, even; no kind words; your gentle hands will not soothe my furrowed brow. That is not your purpose, you three. Were you, my three fathers from long ago, stronger in whatever lands you lived in than you are here? Did you still have the power of speech before you followed me across the sea? Or is the notion that a man belongs to a place untrue, like so many other things for which people will offer their blood?

As I grow older I grow more solitary, and I notice, if not that your presence is more palpable, that I am becoming more like you, and thus your nature is easier to infer from my own. You are not here to close my eyes. You are here to guide my hands in what comes after my eyes have been open for unbearably long and the visions come.

kukeri-1

Inside my dark room, a sun is rising, its light golden. My bed is overrun with vines. My face, once young and pale, is bearded and obscured by its own shadows. The rivers of my memory run with dark waters. Above me, a painted wood bird hung from the ceiling in some moment of my infancy, when my perception was still emerging. Beside me, a red monster, shrieking obscenities, of impossible fragility: one gaze and it will shatter. In the sky, a god. In my quiver, tiny arrows, which I fashioned from sticks and fired with bows made of rope and branches when I was a boy.

Guide my hands now, fathers, as I take aim at this god who has claimed dominion; guide my hands as they in a single motion snuff out the candles, rattle the windows, shatter the mirrors, slay the bull like Mithras and spill his fertile blood. I want to extinguish the stars this tyrant, this petty demiurge, painted over my eyes, tear the fabric of the sky he imposed, and craft a new world, one fertile of soil rich with the red blossoms of opium, one where the heaving tides of the ocean always deliver strange wreckage from far-off lands, and the serpent wends its way across the valley and through the seasons and I, oblivious to its undulations, sleep.

KNOTS

To look on a single fallen cedar tree rotting by a river is to look on a structure of exquisite beauty and structural intricacy—the wood hued deep red and brown in the cloud-muted spring light, the blanket of bright green moss that clung flat to it all winter now sending the tiny stalks of sexually reproductive organs into the air, the hemlock seedling that sprouted on its rotting wood growing where no direct sunlight falls, the river shaded by the tree, providing water cool enough for the spring Chinook to spawn.

The tree has boundaries, to be certain. There is an internally cohesive, spatially discrete entity that is the tree, a collection of cells that each contain its unique DNA and not that of moss, hemlock, or salmon. But the dead cedar also is integrated into its surroundings, providing a structure for new life, feeding soil, providing cover for animals who will range through the mountains far beyond, providing habitat for salmon who will journey into the sea. All these things to which the tree is connected are in turn connected to myriad other entities occupying other echelons of time and space.

In this sense, the tree is boundless.

If one looks at any complex structure, like a dead western red cedar lying on the banks of the Salmon River, or the wild valley in which it lived and died, one finds that it is a component of ever-larger complex structures which eventually comprise the entire world; every web consists of interconnected nodes which in turn consist of webs.

Such is the elaborate, seamlessly integrated, all-encompassing complexity which civilization destroys.

salmon fishers

UNRAVELING

To know this requires no metaphor or capacity for reckoning that which is beyond the immediately sensate, no uncanny insight, no sense of the inscrutable. Machines come, they crush the blossoming stream violet and salmonberry, they cut down the trees. Explosives are detonated, the mountain is leveled, coal removed. Oil is burned, the world warms, corals lose their color and crumble to the ocean floor. These things are true. They are simple and palpable. No one possessed of their senses can fail to perceive them.

But in terms of the the significance one attributes to this destruction, one must acknowledge that there are factors which confound a simple characterization of civilization as a diminishing of the world’s complexity. It could perhaps be roughly characterized as a predator of a complex system—life on Earth—whose predation allows it to fuel the development of its own complex dynamics. Ivory-billed woodpeckers, boreal forests, and gray whales are obliterated. In their place come prisons, styrofoam, and Stockton, California—or, depending on the polemic one wishes to write, Kafka’s The Castle, Chopin’s Nocturnes, and the scientific knowledge that informs the first paragraph of this text about the ecology of a dead tree.

And so we could, operating within the parameters of a purely logical inquiry, be permitted to ask, looking on a web of forest life negated by feller bunchers, or a mountain denuded of its top, or an ocean made dead by greenhouse gases: Is this wrong? We could ask if one form of complexity is indeed superior to another; if civilization, with all its functionally interrelated subcomponents and emergent properties, is not unlike an organism or an ecosystem; if in broad, conceptual terms its emergence, and the destruction of the substrate of the living world it was formed from, is not a continuance of an evolutionary trend present throughout the Earth’s and indeed the universe’s history, not a trend in the evolution of organisms per se, but of complex systems in general . . .

It’s an interesting avenue of inquiry, but, imagining its application to the real world, one progresses down it with a growing uneasiness. One gets the sense that they are venturing down ever-multiplying corridors, bounded by walls of torturously strict logic, corridors which always promise to lead to insight while they obscure an immediately apparent truth. What is most intuitive, most manifest, is frequently the most difficult to define in rigorous terms.

Euclid’s postulate that any two points can be joined by a line can not be proven in the same explicit terms as a geometric theorem. One must simply accept it based on the evidence provided by one’s senses. In many domains of existence, the provable is built on a foundation of the simply known. Biology can specify the complex sequence of events involved in cellular respiration, but has a far less strict definition, despite that we can all readily recognize it, of life itself.

The wrongness of destroying the living world is a fundamental truth, one too simple and too clear to be readily proven. But if this truth is intuitive, then by what means do we account for the fact that our global society fails to grasp it?

At which point we may ask another, related question. In the external, physical world, industrial civilization destroys rainforests, fills wetlands, kills frogs. Are its effects on our internal, subjective world similar? Is the human mind like a wilderness, and is the psychosocial environment we occupy akin to a bulldozer? In which case, do we possess the perceptual capacity to understand our own actions? Our journey down this path may be self-reinforcing, a feedback loop, in which the more we destroy the more we lose our senses. I imagine us operating a machine that negates the existence of the world around us and, as that operation progresses, our awareness of it becomes dimmer and dimmer, our eyes growing ever duller, until eventually the features of our own faces begin to deteriorate, the contours of our hands become indistinguishable, formless from too many repetitions of killing.

And those who resist, however nobly or feebly, are we not, in our own manner, also poisoned? In attempting to confront the machine—a machine we must acknowledge we reside in, however fervently we criticize it—do we not gaze the longest on the horrors it commits? While we attempt to diminish the pace of its physical destruction, is something in our own minds accordingly degraded, diminished, perhaps ultimately destroyed? Some manifestation of the human psyche that withers when one can not take their eyes from their enemy, when one is wholly occupied by oil infrastructure statistics, by accounts of open pit mines, by political meetings, by filing lawsuits or locking oneself to trucks?

In committing oneself to struggle, does one forget the songs of their ancestors, the lighting of fires, the howling at the wild infinitude of the unconquerable sky? And if we are speaking of what is forgotten by minds shaped, whether through acquiescence or resistance, by the machine, would gods and monsters not be among the entities that occupy places of great prominence in the wild psyche, places of prominence from which they are being thoroughly banished?

harlow monkey clutching effigy

DREAMS

We may speak of the wild as a totality, the sum of the mountains, rivers, deserts, and oceans that comprise wilderness physically and the perceptions, dreams, emotions, and cogitations that comprise wilderness mentally. If a wilderness is occupied by a bear, that wilderness does not stop at her fur, nor does it stop at her skin; it consists also of the representation of that place that exists within her, of the infinite tangle of bear dreams, fears, and memories—dreams experienced beneath the ground during long winters, memories of ancient springs and the awakenings they engender—that her ancestors bequeathed to her. The wilderness is not only the savannah, fires, or large predators that shaped human evolution, it is also the spirits we imagined to inhabit those large predators, the stories we told about them in hushed voices around fires, the deities who occupied forbidden mountains, their peaks obscured by clouds, upon which we gazed for millennia in fearful reverence.

As the physical wild dies, jaguars, sage grouse, and green sturgeon lose their habitat and thus die; as the mental wild dies, the habitat of the Trickster, the axis mundi, and the Sky Father are accordingly destroyed.

It is perfectly reasonable to ask—more pointedly, it would be radically amiss not to—if these perceptions are indeed useful to us. The question is not necessarily a proxy for whether any of the gods and monsters we have forgotten in our march toward some terminally civilized mind (which, at least according to civilization’s current trajectory, would correspond to some some hypothetical state of a terminally destroyed Earth, an Earth no longer possessing a single unpaved surface or a single undomesticated species). To my mind, an argument that any of the river spirits, half-women half-swans, or horses pulling the sun across the sky that populate humanity’s mythical heritage actually, physically exist would be too agonizingly convoluted, too hopelessly quixotic, to even warrant dismantling. The question is not whether the spirits of winter are real, but whether, as spring approaches, it helps us to be human to put on a mask and bang furiously on a drum in order to scare those spirits away.

In some regards, gods and monsters are undoubtedly a detriment to human wellbeing, in that a belief in them may compete with another explanatory framework which has the appealing quality of actually being true. (I will not, for purposes of this writing, attempt to refute any of the academic narratives that there is no objective truth and all narratives are equally valid—such discussions are, to my mind, so manifestly absurd as to be completely uninteresting). But the mythical world can have this adverse potential while still having a crucial place in the human psyche which we would do ourselves great harm by denying.

For instance, as is the case with Old World primates in general, humans have an evolutionarily inherited fear of snakes. It is valuable that we know that this fear relates to ancestral environments and is disproportionate to the threat of snake mortality we face today. This knowledge, however, does not entirely negate a visceral response many people have to snakes. Simply pretending that this dimension of the human psyche does not exist would have a significant traumatic potential.

Likewise, in common with much of the animal kingdom, humans have a cross-cultural aversion to sexual contact with close relatives. This aversion—called the Westermarck Effect after the Finnish anthropologist who first described it—has a very legitimate biological basis, in that reproduction with close kin has negative consequences for offspring. Of course, in many modern sexual scenarios, one is hardly intending to reproduce—indeed, one may be doing everything possible to avoid it—and thus one must acknowledge that there are no tangible, physical impediments to having sex with close relatives. This acknowledgment does nothing, however, to negate our psychobiological predisposition to avoid such contact. We could choose to ignore it because it does not refer to any external exigency, but the result would doubtlessly be a great deal of psychological turmoil for those who did so.

The question is not, therefore, whether it is a tragedy we have forgotten ancestral mythical narratives—narratives which comprised a good deal of the environment in which the human mind functioned throughout deep time—because they are true. The question is simply whether the human mind works better when these narratives, in some fashion or another, form part of the world it perceives.

Dismantling a literal belief in dominant mythical conceptions of the world, such as Christianity, is crucial to humanity’s wellbeing. Such literal beliefs, with which we are so easily enamored, have done nothing throughout history but tether the human genius—a genius born to ascend into the sky and encompass the wild and boundless complexity of the universe—to ignoble rocks of absurd conviction. They have chained minds capable of knowing infinity to a flat Earth orbited by the sun, an Earth crafted through no particular mechanism by a stupid, petty, vengeful god, a god who, if he existed, would be humanity’s paramount duty to destroy rather than to worship, to rid the world of a cruel and capricious oppressor.

As these systems of belief are abandoned, however, the tendency has been to replace them with absolutely nothing. This impulse is understandable, but a fair amount of evidence indicates it works poorly for the human psyche. Many sophisticated minds, born into modern environments and apprised of and convinced by scientific ways of accounting for reality, still find themselves orienting toward mythical modes of perception.

Dore_joshua_sun

EXTINCTION

One can walk in landscapes and feel a palpable presence of the ghosts of what used to live there. One can walk in mountains and feel the aching absence of wolves, grizzlies, and—accounting for losses further back in time—saber-toothed salmon, mastodons.

Just like the ghosts that haunt a forest denuded of its large predators by civilization, the vestiges of similarly potent, mysterious forms populate the damaged wilderness of the human mind—women who can become birds, demonic elk, gods dying on trees.

Of course, the Earth is far from static. It is relentlessly dynamic. The mountains I walk in have been changing ever since they were born, and the species that occupy them have come and gone with those changes, and, over time, some of them have disappeared altogether.

The mythical world is likewise dynamic. The gods and stories that have occupied a given people’s mind in a given time and place have constantly shifted, changed in subtle ways through permutation after permutation, story after story, until, in a process very similar to biological evolution, they have taken on new forms altogether; and, in some cases, just like species throughout deep time, disappeared altogether.

For the most part, a dynamic equilibrium has prevailed. Species inhabit and disperse from landscapes, gods likewise rise and decline in minds, new forms emerge and old ones die, but their diversity, the complexity of interrelations between them, remains.

Now gods, like biological species, are going extinct at an unprecedented rate, a rate which threatens to undermine the very fabric from which they are formed, extinguishing the capacity of the mythical proto-material to generate new entities. In the great extinction at the end of the Permian, it was not one, or even many, sea scorpions that went extinct. It was the entire class Eurypterida, eliminating the genetic pool from which new species could emerge. It is likewise not just Odin or Inanna dying; it is the very dream world in which they took shape, the equivalent of their DNA that is dying, or their habitat, or both.

euryptid

RESURGENCE

What was the first word ever spoken? The question is simultaneously potent and futile. It is doubtful that such a moment in prehistory clearly exists, but it is a useful moment to speculate about nonetheless. The same is true if one asks what the first myth was, or who the first god.

If it may be assumed, just as the words of every living language have been produced from gradual, largely inadvertent modifications of a primordial lexicon, and just as these first words are unknown to us, that all deities which exist today are evolved from mysterious and forgotten ur-gods. Did these initial, primordial manifestations of the divine impetus suit the needs of their creators better than those that exist, products of a prolonged series of haphazard modifications, presently?

For as much ink has been spilled on the nature of the religious psyche—and by extension, the deities it creates—the pervasive sense remains that something is right there, staring us in the face, that is being overlooked. If one were to seek out first gods, one would of necessity journey deep into the mental wild, a journey as far from human habitation, and perhaps as perilous, as those that took humanity out of Africa to the far corners of the Earth.

A tension exists. The narrative may be compelling in and of itself, but does it have any real purpose, or is it merely a literary conceit? Would such a venture, were it indeed possible to travel so far into our collective internal space, to negotiate an inner wild populated with bird-headed men and talking serpents—forms faded from the contemporary mental landscape, if not entirely forgotten, like wolves and grizzly bears have faded from, but are not entirely forgotten by, the physical landscape—actually be useful? Are these deities so much more potent than modern ones that they will, unlike those to which so many of us uselessly pray with such heartfelt fervor, break down the walls of prisons, or stop tar sands machines in their tracks?

It is doubtful. But in making such journeys, in connecting with those vestigal, primordial forms that haunt the far horizons of human memory, one is also, hopefully, freeing oneself from the constraints placed on the human mind by civilization. One should recall that aphorism of Nietzsche’s about taking care when fighting monsters, lest one thereby becomes a monster. The nature of civilization dictates, to a large extent, the methods used in, and the logistical parameters of, the fight against it. This is an inexorable truth. One can not simply pray to forgotten gods and hope that, contrary to all the evidence the world presents one with, it will suffice to halt the machine. An equal danger, however, lies in becoming lost in the small-minded and dead-eyed quasi-logic of the world killers.

It is necessary to fight on the terms dictated by the present moment, but a fatal mistake to acquiesce to those terms on any deeper level, particularly to make the final and most terrible mistake of confusing those terms with reality itself. One can easily be consumed by the logic of politics, of economics, of conflicts with police, corporations, and governments. These things are ugly. These things are not the wild beauty that resides, the product of millennia of evolution, in the human psyche. A resistance that only dreams is futile, but a resistance that has stared for too long at the vulgar and petty horrors of international summits, trade agreements, and pending legislation, never remembering the totality of being on which resistance is predicated, until finally its own thinking comes to emulate the vulgarity and pettiness of the very horrors on which it gazes, is likewise doomed.

Do not be your enemy. All weapons are useless that are not wielded by your wild self. Look upon, in the farthest reaches of your memory, in those same distant lands you first felt the warmth of fire or wrapped yourself in another creature’s skin, this face: It is horned, coarse-haired, wild, shrieking. Gaze upon it until its fury shapes the features of your own face and you return to this place which has grown pale with forgetfulness and fat with the the blood of faceless, mechanized slaughter; return with your fist raised, return monstrous, return ravenous; return howling with the voice of the first god who ever stalked the forest or raced across the stormy sky and brought terror to our kind as we took shelter from the howling wind and the knives of light it threw down; return with this visage and take your revenge on the civilization that robbed you of your primordial strength.

wildman

From suffering, birds

July 30, 2014

Our hands agents of mercilessly, inextricably predetermined courses of fate, veins etched into the universe in the process of its inexplicable self-birthing from nothingness, inherent in its existence, veins through which the blood of events flow, confined to one and only one path which came into existence at the beginning; these paths are the ones along which our hands move as we wrest birds from our anguished breasts, which contorted along complex trajectories as we suffered our lives, the intricate shapes of the shifting muscular tracing the anatomy of a bird until it came into being and we tore it from inside of ourselves and our pain, thus transfigured, from sensation within us to bird taking wing, flooded the sky, incomprehensibly numerous—for great, after all, were our agonies—their superabundance blackening the sun a thousand times over, white-feathered bringers of an artificial night which gradually lessened as the birds continued their trajectory upward, growing less dense as they achieved impossible altitudes, until we lost sight of them and they were consumed in flames as they approached the all-seeing, nothing-comprehending red brilliance of the relentlessly burning sun.

Then we walked on an Earth made new by our liberation.

white_bird

Looking at images of Paleolithic cave paintings—at Lascaux, perhaps, or Alta Mira—who can fail to be struck by an uncanny sense that the undulating and potent forms of rhinoceroses, mammoths, horses, and bison they depict are both eminently mysterious and intimately familiar? They present scenes that feel exotic, remote, almost inconceivable; but they are simultaneously more intuitively comprehensible than the technologically-intensive environments we occupy today.

Such familiarity is come by honestly. The human mind evolved in Africa, a land of breathtakingly large animals, and humans came into existence in a world where megafaunal assemblages like Africa’s existed everywhere. As we emigrated from our ancestral homelands to extend our range throughout Australia, Eurasia, and the Americas, large animals—giant ground sloths, camels, dire wolves, mastodons—simultaneously disappeared. The timing is certainly not a matter of sheer chance. Only on the continent where humanity evolved, and large animals thus had an extended period of time to adapt to increasingly sophisticated hunting techniques, did a reasonable semblance of the faunal diversity of the pre-Homo sapiens landscape persist (Barnosky 2009; Martin 2007). One can feel their absence in places like North America.

Prolonged exposure to humans may have allowed elephants, giraffes, and gorillas to evade extinction wrought by the advent of the spear thrower or a more refined stone point, but it has done nothing to prepare them for the effects of habitat fragmentation and high-powered rifles. Human pressure on populations of African megafauna takes its most immediate and obvious toll in their simple decline, in their absence from places they formerly occurred or reduced numbers where they still exist. But the same forces that have diminished the presence of the continent’s large animals have also radically altered life for the survivors.

Altamira-1880

Social animals are not simply “social” in the sense that they prefer to be around others of their kind. They are embedded in a matrix of social interactions like a cell is embedded in a body—outside of the context of the group, any one individual who comprises it can not function. African elephants (Loxodonta africana) live in matriarchal groups where young elephants are nurtured throughout their prolonged developmental stages by both their mothers and a network of other older females. In adolescence, males leave their natal groups to live for a period of time in all-male groups, where they undergo a second major stage of brain reorganization (Bradshaw et al. 2005).

Social connections beget neural connections. This is a truth with numerous and multifarious manifestations, documented throughout a wide range of animals. In our own species, maltreated children develop into adolescents with lowered connectivity in brain regions such as the amygdala and the hippocampus, resulting in a lowered capacity to regulate fear (Herringa et al. 2013). Isolation from the mother and siblings of infant degu, a close relative of guinea pigs, results in a significant change in the quantity and character of synapses in the anterior cingulate cortex (Helmeke et al. 2001). These examples are chosen more or less at random. Other cases of early trauma and resulting neurobiological impairment, which in turn results in behavioral disturbances later in life, thus illustrating a common, evolutionarily inherited set of responses to trauma across a broad array of species, are too numerous and too depressing to enumerate.

Humans’ war against elephants has not just taken its toll in the wounds inflicted in the bodies of those who are shot and subsequently mutilated. By leaving juveniles motherless, by leaving mothers without the extended groups of experienced females who assist with raising young, by leaving males without groups of older males to assimilate into, it is also leaving scars in the minds of those who evade the bullets. It is depriving surviving elephants of the social connections which are necessary for neural connections to form, of the socioecological context which allows elephants to develop into elephants.

neurons

The result has been numerous behavioral anomalies becoming widespread in elephant populations. From the vestiges of habitat, physical and social, that humans have spared, elephants are reciprocating the injuries that have been inflicted in them. Attacks on humans, once relatively rare, have become a common phenomenon: 300 people died from elephant attacks in the Indian state of Jharkhand between 2000 and 2004, and 605 in Assam in a 12 year period; in Africa, reports of human-elephant conflicts are a near daily occurrence, with 300 people evacuated from villages to evade their rampages in 2005 (Siebert 2006).

Lacking older adult males to guide their development, young males are entering musth, a state of heightened hormonal activity, aggressiveness, and sexual activity much earlier than normal, resulting in their attacking and killing white and black rhinoceroses: 58 in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, South Africa between 1999 and 2001, 50 in Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa between 1992 and 1997 (Slotow et al. 2001). In numerous cases, the elephants forcibly copulated with the rhinoceroses, or attempted to do so, before killing them. Heightened aggression is also directed at other elephants. While elephants killing one another has historically been an uncommon cause of death (accounting for 6.1% of adult male deaths in one estimate), in some protected areas, lacking species-typical social structures and occupied by individuals who have witnessed the death of family members, the shock of early weaning, and other developmental traumas, elephant-elephant killing has become the source of 70-90% of adult male mortality (Bradshaw and Schore 2007).

Elephants’ aggression toward humans is certainly justified. Far less behaviorally complex creatures are perfectly aware of what species pose a threat to them, and not infrequently—as in the case of birds mobbing the owls that prey on them when they encounter owls in daylight—will endeavor to take some form of revenge. Certainly, elephants know that humans are systematically eradicating them. Their attacks on members of our species are arguably resistance to their own extinction—elephants destroying, as the phrasing goes, what destroys them.

In the case of elephants’ hypersexuality and aggression toward one another and towards rhinoceroses, however, it is unequivocally clear we are witnessing behavioral pathologies engendered by an environment that does not accommodate the animals’ development along a species-typical trajectory. In such cases, does their behavior, while not a direct resistance to humans’ indiscriminate aggression toward the living world, nonetheless illustrate a great deal about the nature of this aggression? In suffering the chronic trauma of life in a socioecological setting for which they are not adapted, in suffering the thwarted developmental trajectory such a setting creates, in lashing out in a pathological frenzy at the surrounding world, are such creatures not an enraged, indiscriminately violent, rhinoceros raping mirror of the human violence from which they suffer?

Wood_neurons

I am writing this on Saturday, November 23rd. Tomorrow, a massive piece of equipment intended for use in the extraction and/or refinement of bitumen—tar sands, as it is frequently known—will begin a prolonged and convoluted journey by road from the Port of Umatilla in Oregon, stopping traffic in both directions as its obscene bulk occupies entire state highways, to a surreal wasteland in Alberta, Canada. The tar sands mines are of such a vast extent that there is nothing recognizable as intact earth, nothing living, with which to contrast it. As such, seen in photographs it can lose any connotation of destruction and take on a strange and alien beauty—an exotic and convoluted topography one might associate with the moon of a distant planet or an insect’s eye magnified hundreds of times by a microscope. Certainly, it is not a beauty one associates with the living world we occupy. It is the antithesis of life. Boreal forests are decimated; the ground beneath them is torn to shreds in turn as the bitumen is extracted; the surrounding watercourses turn to poison; the bitumen itself is burned to choke the sky with carbon dioxide.

While egregious, this particular shipment of tar sands machinery is by no means remarkable. It is a more or less random example, chosen simply because I live in a community that is mobilizing against it. Still, a question as profoundly simple as it is salient could be asked of this situation: what sort of person would do such a thing? In one sense, of course, there are any number of fairly simple answers that could be given. One might say, for instance, a person involved in the fossil fuel industry would do such a thing, or a person who is alienated from nature, a product of a culture that does not respect life. One might say a capitalist. One could simply say—quite correctly—that the people at Omega Morgan, at 23810 NW Huffman St., Hillsboro, Oregon, would do such a thing.

If we think of ourselves in terms of elephants, we might ask: what sort of elephant would be more likely, were they capable, to do such a thing? One that developed in an intact, complex group structure for which evolution has adapted it? Or one whose developmental trajectory has run awry? Is killing everything—including, ultimately, ourselves—simply human nature? Or is it a product of a human nature misshapen by an environment for which it is not adapted—civilization, or in any case, aspects thereof?

Certainly, researchers such as Gay Bradshaw and Eve Abe have noted the similarities between the deterioration of elephant society and the psychosocial dysfunction of humans who, in the same African countries, have suffered the effects of chronic warfare, displacement, and social disruption. These are certainly legitimate and important similarities to note, but the point remains the same—with far broader applications—in the global context of colonialism, Cold War proxy conflicts, and neoliberal economic policies in which armed conflict in Africa ultimately occurs. No war orphan hastily recruited into an armed conflict could ever hope to equal for violence and cruelty people who have always lived amidst unparalleled prosperity and privilege.

As such, if we are to seek after root causes, we must acknowledge that civilization as it has thus far manifested, even when—or perhaps especially when—it affords individuals tremendous wealth and physical security, is psychosocially traumatic in such a way as to beget hyperaggression and a lack of empathy uncharacteristic of our species in more natural settings.

Syncrude Aurora Oil Sands Mine, Canada.

As late Pleistocene extinctions demonstrate, it has certainly always been the case that humans, even in minimally technological cultural milieus, are perfectly capable of eradicating other species, and indeed, of doing so on heartbreaking scales. But at a certain point, a distinction of quantity becomes a distinction of quality. Moreover, it is difficult to discern to what extent a hunting society could really know it was causing an extinction. Would a foraging people be willing to knowingly cause the planet’s sixth mass extinction for the sake of accumulating a few more trinkets?

Human nature before civilization can be a murky subject of inquiry, with characterizations ranging from the wantonly brutal to the inveterately beneficent and peaceable. No doubt, the lives of modern hunter-gatherers are instructive, but they, while not living in civilization, strictly speaking, are certainly affected by it—after all, they occupy the fragments of the world civilization has not destroyed. Much ambiguity can be attributed to the fact that the modern condition and its destructive impulse developed over the course of millennia; elephant society, in contrast, remained stable until recent times, and thus the changes in elephant nature we are now observing are unequivocally attributable to changes in the mental and physical environments elephants occupy.

As such, elephants, and their increasingly destructive tendencies, provide an accelerated view of what happens when fundamental social—and thus neural—connections are severed, and thereby do much to illuminate the radical disconnect humans must feel from one another and the world around them to build megadams, clearcut forests, and put others in cages.

Interconnectivity is self-perpetuating; likewise, disjunctions create further disjunctions. The psychosocial damage we have suffered as our lives are lived in a context increasingly remote from the one in which we evolved is mirrored in the damage other creatures suffer at our hands. Injuries beget injuries. By examining the wounds of elephants, we can better see our own scars, and therein discern the path to liberation—elephants’ liberation and our own.

Barnosky, A.D. 2009. Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming. Island Press. Washington, DC.

Bradshaw, G.A., et al. 2005. Elephant breakdown. Social trauma: early disruption of attachment can affect the physiology, behaviour, and culture of animals and humans over generations. Nature 433(7028):807.

Bradshaw, G.A. and A. N. Schore. 2007. How Elephants are Opening Doors: Developmental Neuroethology, Attachment and Social Context. Ethology 113:426-436.

Helmeke, C., et al. 2001. Juvenile Emotional Experience Alters Synaptic Inputs on Pyramidal Neurons in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. Cerebral Cortex 11(8):717-727.

Herringa, R.J., et al. 2013. Childhood maltreatment is associated with altered fear circuitry and increasingly internalizing symptoms by late adolescence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(47):19119-19124.

Martin, P. S. 2007. Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of North America. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA.

Siebert, C. 2006. An Elephant Crackup? The New York Times October 8, 2006.

Slotow, R., et al. 2001. Killing of black and white rhinoceroses by African elephants in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, South Africa. Pachyderm 31:14-20.

The Slumbering Tongue

November 16, 2013

My tongue slept all summer but the rest of my body maintained constant frenetic motion and my senses reeled.

I left Oakland for Portland. I moved into a house I’ve lived in three or four times before. My friend was sick. I went with her sometimes to radiation therapy and we tried to stay on a schedule of taking half hour walks every evening to keep up her energy. She got better.

I took trips to the wilderness, clambered up mountains, slept in the rain. My muscles grew from exertion. Above a granite cliff face overlooking the Sandy River valley, my knife broke off at the hilt while I was digging beargrass root—probably long after it was overmature for consumption—to eat that night. The event seemed monumental, epoch-defining: after years of ceaseless anxiety about my ability to stay in one place, after years of knowing I was homesick but not being certain for where, had I now put down a root of sorts into this very mountain? I took the knife handle home with me, bereft of blade, and examined it for a very long time. It gave no answers.

beargrass

I studied my surroundings intently, ate berries as they ripened throughout the summer, learned the names of many new plants—still, I did not write. It was a season of wanton, inveterate physicality. My exertions—work, wandering, music, sex—taxed only my muscles. Every muscle but my tongue.

I should qualify that I did not stop writing out of any sense that my capacities were faltering, out of any paralysis or confusion. I did not hover in terror at the precipice of the blank page’s infinite abyss. I simply made virtually no effort to write.

There is no doubt for me that words have, if not a will of their own, an innate potency, an inherent trajectory: they possess a capacity to shape their very maker as they are spoken. In the process of writing, my intentions are constantly violated, revised, and again violated. The words veer off of the course I intended to put them on. They take their own shape for which they have been inwardly longing. I only realize my thoughts on a subject by attempting to write about it.

Have you read the Finnish epic The Kalevala? It is beautiful. One could analyze its numerous and at times only loosely interconnected narratives from any number of perspectives—the archaic religious significance with which virtually every page is pregnant, subject to only the most trivial of modifications by the onset of Christianity, for instance, or the strange combination of loathing and awe with which other ethnic groups are portrayed—but I mention it only because the narrative consistently portrays words, in the form of songs, as inherently effective, capable of shaping external events:

The old Väinämöinen sang:
the lakes rippled, the earth shook
the copper mountains trembled
the sturdy boulders rumbled
the cliffs flew in two
the rocks cracked upon the shores.
(Kalavela 3:297-302)

This is as words are being deployed, spoken or written. What happens, as was the case over the summer, when they’re sleeping? Do they then still have some agency, some capacity to shape or determine the behavior of their vessel in which they lie dormant and dreaming, or the surrounding world?

perchten

Complex things emerge from the cumulative interactions of smaller and simpler things. In the most mysterious case of all, the universe emerged from an unknown state ancestral to it. From the interactions of simpler molecules came life. From life, cooperative breeding, symbiosim, territoriality, consciousness. It is hard by examining the smaller constituents of a complex system to predict the emergent behavior of the whole. I am not sure if “hard” has a scientific definition, and I know for a fact that “complexity,” despite the existence of a field of science devoted to its study, lacks a precise and generally accepted one. This is perhaps to no one’s discredit: biology has a similar shortcoming with regard to “life.”

So my question is this: do all of the actions, experiences, and sensations of the summer somehow emerge as more than the sum of their parts? Are there, within the pattern of sunlight that fell on my skin, the course of salmon I saw swimming upstream, the recurrent rhythms of the nights and days, the shapes of words emerging, even if I gave them no thought or voice? Have I been writing without setting pen to page?

Sometimes a problem with which one concerns oneself, if neglected, simply atrophies and dies in one’s mind, like so many self-strangled vines bereft of sun. Sometimes, however, a problem is somehow active in parts of one’s mind of which one is not conscious, a solution or response still precipitating in the murky depths to which the pale sun of awareness does not reach. Once, as I began to teach myself algebra years after I neglected to do so in high school, I fell asleep puzzling over a problem. I dreamed I was a Russian soldier on the front in winter during World War II, remembering the summer previous spent with his wife and young golden-haired son back home, and woke with the solution. Somewhere in my imagined child’s playful nature, in my imagined wife’s smile, was the answer.

So has something analogous happened on this larger scale of life, this wordless summer and the subsequent season of elongating shadows in which I now write? If some truth is particularly clear to me now that was not when summer began, it is that I am fervently and unrelentingly pursuing synthesis. I am intent on integrating aspects of the world that are generally approached separately into an emotional-analytical-experiential whole.

The world in which the peacock angel Melek Taus is revered as an emanation of god by the Yazidi is the same world in which the shape of a protein determines whether it can bind to the membrane of a cell; the world in which the symbiotic algae that live in coral reefs are dying as a result of global warming, leaving the reefs to crumble colorless to the ocean floor, is the same world in which the foraging lifestyle of the !Kung is disappearing from the Kalahari, the landless of Brazil are occupying the agricultural estates of the wealthy, and Arthur Rimbaud wrote “Drunken Morning”:

We have faith in poison.
We will give our lives completely, every day.
FOR THIS IS THE ASSASSIN’S HOUR.

I am uncertain if the boundaries between politics, art, and science are meaningful; if they are, I wish to find that meaning by transgressing them to whatever extent I am capable.

Warsaw_Uprising_-_Christ_of_Holy_Cross_Church

What does the behavior of drug addicts, or infant monkeys deprived from contact with their mothers, tell us about the world-devouring pathology we call modern capitalism? What do the symbols and rituals of the long-abandoned Slavic thunder god Perun tell us of the capacity of art to transform reality? Needless to say, such inquiries will sometimes—perhaps usually—result in fruitless absurdity and hideous chimeras; on some occasions, however, systems-level truths will become apparent that could not be perceived by examining components of that system in isolation.

You and I live in a dying world. The current rate of species loss is greater than that of any of the planet’s previous five mass extinction events. The intricate interconnected web of human cultures that previously inhabited the globe is unraveling at the hands of a single worldwide one in which a tiny minority accumulates an absurd surplus of resources while others starve. In mere years, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases may reach levels such that climate change becomes irreversible even if all emissions cease, a self-propelling apocalypse that would render a vast proportion of the planet’s species extinct and engender such severe weather, precipitously changing ecologies, and unpredictable food production that ceaseless disaster and resource wars will cripple modern civilization and cause death, displacement, and incalculable suffering for huge numbers of people. This makes climate change of paramount significance, but of course, it only encompasses in a single massive catastrophe what human activity is achieving regardless: if it did not exist, we would still be entering the earth’s sixth mass extinction and hovering on the brink of ecological and thus social collapse.

Perhaps no better question exists in the world than: why is this the case? Advanced technology and its resultant social complexity would seem, in principle, to have breathtaking potential. Could not scientific inquiry provide its unprecedented insights into the workings of nature in the context of a civilization that was not destroying nature? Could not the ever-increasing complexity of modern social and artistic forms flourish without erasing traditional ones? This modern era should be one of awe-inspiring potential, accelerating discovery and complexity, peace, and prosperity. Instead, civilization has only ever managed to brutalize people—both those external to it and its own members—and destroy the physical basis for its existence. Unless it radically alters what has thus far been its lifelong course in the very immediate term future, it will become a permanently failed experiment.

I believe it is meaningful to say a lack of experiential synthesis is partially the basis for civilization’s pathological behavior. I believe that in order to do grievous harm to the world around oneself, one must remain eminently isolated within a very limited and immediate sense of oneself. If you allow yourself to experience the thoughts and sensations of another person, can you put that person in a cage? If you experience that part of yourself that is not confined to your body but is also an Appalachian mountain, would you still blow up that mountain in order to extract coal from it?

It is good and necessary to fight civilization’s immediate assaults on life, beauty, and freedom—to fight roads into wilderness, factory farms, oil pipelines. But it is equally necessary to attempt to understand and address the radical experiential compartmentalization that is required to even think in terms as absurd as making individual profit at the expense of the earth.

501px-Mangum_dancing_bear

This compartmentalization, these missing connections, are I believe largely the result of wounds inflicted by aspects of civilized life, aspects which are fundamental, but perhaps not inevitable. While these wounds may manifest differently in me than in others—I certainly don’t operate any massive mines or for-profit prisons—I am certain they are present in me. I am searching for the missing connections in my own body. Finding and repairing the disjunctions of my own psyche will make me better able to confront the dire peril we face, but it also, hopefully, will illuminate the very source of that peril.

The ghost flower is a plant that does not photosynthesize, deriving nutrients instead by penetrating with its roots the mycorrhizal fungi which in turn penetrate the roots of trees in symbiotic nutrient exchange. Polar bears are losing the sea ice on which they live. As the Baka, formerly a foraging people of Southeastern Cameroon, become sedentary and adopt agriculture, they nurse their children less frequently and spend less time in physical proximity to them. The rain outside is slight and steady. Everything is too beautiful and terrible to be denied. With boundless love, I wish to cross all borders.

Spring Speaks Truth

June 23, 2013

I have made a website. All writings appear as PDFs. There is a fair amount of material on the website that is not to be found on this blog, including fiction. That is all.

Spring Speaks Truth

stl_gfx_handknives

 

VENGEANCE

June 9, 2013

Only capitalists can truly starve. Only cops can truly be beaten.

You, the earth’s oppressors, devour mountains, suck the breath from the mouths of children, choke the sky with black poison. Unthinking, unknowing of anything other than constant, wanton sensory gratification, you revel in the narcotic pleasure of the destruction of the living world, your insipid black eyes shining with idiot joy. Your trembling lips glisten with the milky venom your mouths exude as you chew on vanishing species and dying stars. The bones of screaming birds shatter between your teeth, the blood of frogs swells your tongues.

Your gluttony is exceeded only by your blind idiocy. You do not even see that your ravages extend into your own bodies, that the wounds you inflict mark your own skins.

We die every time you kill something. We fall with forests. Our blood turns to poison with the ocean. We grieve at everything you destroy in your senseless rapture of satiation. Our suffering is the world’s suffering. It is boundless and all-encompassing. And yet, for this very reason, we are free from the bonds of agony—our capacity to endure the pain of mountains liberates us from the confines of our own skins.

Know this: as you inflict your brutalities upon us, as our broken bodies bleed before you, it is you who are truly dying. You who do not feel the anguish of others are trapped in your skins, trapped in your sensations. We are everywhere and in all things. We are all the creatures for which we fight. We are the first light of morning waking a cold mountain. We are serpents embracing roots that extend deep into the soil in an infinite tangle. We are hungry fires whispering lovers’ secrets to the wood they devour in the dark of night. Even when our bodies die, we can not be killed.

Though we weep as you tear at the fabric of life into which we are woven, though we weep as your weapons pierce us, we are dancing above you in the sky. We are the stars.

When you fall and die, you will die in the same stupid and hungry state you were born in. Your agony will be true agony. Though you touched the ocean, you did not become it. When you die you will die absolutely, since you will be nothing but your extinguished desires.

You never will have known the world you poisoned. You never will have seen the beauty of the creatures on whose flesh you choked.

You will fall into our arms and we will reclaim what you have taken from us.

We are the soil by which you will be devoured.

Carriers of Seeds

April 29, 2013

dead horse

Ghost Birds Empty Skies was conceived of as a performance project that utilized speech. The shows I planned languished or were cancelled; the texts I wrote for them grew to monstrous proportions, devoured the context that gave birth to them, and demanded to walk upright in the world on their own accord. I think of them like children who ate their own mother. They exist in relation to the performances that brought them into existence as industrial civilization exists in relation to the earth. Greedy and stupid, they have killed what gives them life.

Carriers of Seeds” is one such text. Here it is on Soundcloud: not a show, just my disembodied voice, speaking in its inevitable weary, slightly ominous monotone, the sounds of bone scraping on bone and dead bigleaf maple leaves being crumbled, the occasional flourish of harmonium or analog synthesizer. Until we find ourselves in the same room, and I tell you these stories while I’m looking into your eyes, and you can judge me by the conviction with which I speak, I hope you enjoy the humble proxy of this recording.

 

 

 

 

The Diaspora

April 16, 2013

rockwell kent 4

The first moment of the universe was a moment of absolute unity; no separation of matter into different types of particles, no separation of forces into categories like gravity and electromagnetism, no separation between matter and the forces that operate on it—only a single, monstrous potentiality.

Then came the diaspora, and the stars illuminated the sky, differentiated from one another, capable of being perceived in terms of a boundary, separated by vast distances—and we rose up from the ground to suffer beneath the stars.

We have separate bodies where once we only had one. This first breaking, this primordial disjunction, is the first and only injury, the pain of distinctness—all pain that has ever been subsequently experienced proceeds from it. The word that made us is also the word that broke us.

Now there is a subject and an object. Before we were here, when we were together, you and I, were we a subject or an object? Did the initial, undifferentiated proto-universe know of its existence? Was it aware of only its body, a body that could not occupy anything because nothing existed which did not comprise its body? And were this first moment of existence aware of itself, would it have lacked for our pain, our wounds of separation, or felt them all the more acutely? Did it long for a companion, knowing that nothing else existed? Did it differentiate out of loneliness, choosing to forget its own name?

Alternately, it was unthinking. It felt neither love nor the lack of love. If so, you and I here, under these separate stars, are bleeding from new wounds, blood flowing from hearts that ache with a pain the first moment of the universe could not have conceived of as it became.

And if this is true, and if you and I are made from this original, unloving, unknowing, all-encompassing substance, and we make the final cuts with this knife, severing ourselves into two separate bodies, has the universe gained or lost in love?

mountain and i