What Pirates Taught Me About Anarchism (Anarchism for Civilians series)

Lesson 4: Civilization does not protect us from violence. Civilization is itself violent.

The violent nature of civilization is everywhere around us, if we are willing to look. In the homelessness of people sitting and standing on city streets. In the shootings of Black men by police. In the burning of the Amazon rainforest. In the poisoning of the drinking water in Flint, Michigan. In almost two decades of American occupation of Afghanistan. In the incarceration of 1 in every 140 people in the U.S. In an industrial agriculture system which destroys biodiversity, topsoil, and human health.

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What Midwives Taught Me About Anarchism (Anarchism for Civilians series)

Lesson 3: Civilization does not make our lives better. Civilization robs us of the the good things in life.

What about all the benefits of civilization? Of large-scale, complex social organization? We’ve all been taught the story that the history of humankind has been a progression from barbarism to a civilization and from less civilization to more civilization.  And we’ve been taught that this is a good thing.  But what if it wasn’t?

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What Bonobos Taught Me About Anarchism (Anarchism for Civilians series)

Lesson 2: Anarchism isn’t about hyper-individualism. Anarchism is about community and cooperation.

When people think of anarchists, they often have in mind a loner, a rebel, somebody who rejects all social norms. This is because we wrongly associate the absence of hierarchy with the absence of social order. Though there are some individualist forms of anarchism, many are actually communalist. Communalist forms of anarchism recognize that no person is an island, that we exist a priori (“always already”) in society, that our identities are formed in relation to one another. 

This runs counter to the hyper-individualist philosophy that informs much of American politics today, which assumes that individuals exist prior to our relationships and that human relations are inherently adversarial. This belief be traced to the philosopher John Locke, who theorized that individual human beings exist “naturally” outside of society in a state of war of all against all. Eventually, he imagined, individuals enter into a “social contract” in which they agree to respect the individual rights of others in exchange for the same respect of their own rights. This view of social relations is atomistic and adversarial. …

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What Unitarians Taught Me About Anarchism (Anarchism for Civilians series)

For a while, I’ve wanted to write a short introduction to anarchism for folks who have no background in the subject. It is inevitable that there will be some people who will disagree with my representation of anarchism in the series. I’m still learning about it, and in any case, I could never do justice to the complexity of anarchism. 

So rather than attempting any kind of authoritative definition of anarchism–which would really be contrary to the spirit of the thing–I wanted instead to dispel some of the myths that I had to unlearn in order to grasp what anarchism is about. In each part of the series, I used something unrelated to anarchism to elucidate some aspect of anarchism.

Lesson 1: Anarchy does not mean chaos. Anarchy does mean the absence of hierarchy.

In the minds of most people, “anarchy” has come to mean a state of social chaos. But anarchy is not chaos. Anarchy is simply the absence of social hierarchy.[FN 5] It is the absence of domination of some people by other people. This includes all forms of hierarchy, including authoritarianism, classism (which capitalism is a form of), racism, sexism, hetero- and cis-normativity, and even anthropocentrism. Anarchism recognizes the interconnectedness of all of these forms of oppression and, thus, how opposition to these different forms of hierarchy must also be connected.[FN 6]

Contrary to what some people may believe, there are ways to order society that don’t involve hierarchy. In its essence, anarchy is simply pure democracy. It means letting people make decisions for themselves in community with others, without abdicating power or responsibility to a group of elites. This necessarily requires keeping things small, because the bigger things get, the more people are involved, the harder it is to maintain real democracy. …

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“Befriending Our Despair” by Joanna Macy

“This allows the world to become more vivid … because we had the courage, the strength, to speak of our despair. Precisely because we speak it, we don’t stay there. Because that despair is the covering of our love for our world. And we crack it open, by speaking it, so the love can act, be felt. …

“The key is in not being afraid of your pain for the world, not being afraid of the world’s suffering.”

Why I am not a “Doomer”

Slaughtering the Sacred Cow

Ever since Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Planet of the Humans, came out, progressive environmentalists have been on a rampage. There have even been attempts to censor the film. (It seems that, for some progressives, liberal values like free speech are a matter of convenience.) The reason for the outrage is that the film attacks the biggest “sacred cow” of the mainstream environmental movement: renewable energy.

I wrote my own review, “Damn Dirty Humans!: ‘Planet of the Humans’ and Progressive Denial”, in which I defended the film’s underlying message: that renewables cannot “replace” fossil fuels. The reasons are twofold: (1) renewable energy sources are themselves dependent on fossil fuels, and (2) the energy-return-on-investment of renewables is very low compared to fossil fuels. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t transition to wind and solar (and that’s not the message I took away from Moore’s film). What it does mean is that wind and solar will not be able to sustain our industrial capitalist economy.

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Part 5 of the Halstead-Green debate

This is part 5 of an ongoing conversation between myself and Mark Green about Michael Moore’s latest documentary, “Planet of the Humans”. The conversation actually started on Facebook, but then moved to the blogosphere. I’m pretty sure only Mark and I are the only ones reading these posts at this point, but if you care to, you can catch up on the conversation here:

  1. “Damn Dirty Humans!: ‘Planet of the Humans’ and Progressive Denial” by John Halstead
  2. “Why The Doomsters are Completely Wrong” by Mark Green
  3. “Beyond Doom: A Response to Mark Green” by John Halstead
  4. “The Doomsaying Simply Isn’t Helping: More on My Exchange with John Halstead” by Mark Green

In what follows, Mark’s response is italicized and my reply is in bold.

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Beyond Doom: A Response to Mark Green

Slaughtering the Sacred Cow

Ever since Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Planet of the Humans, came out, progressive environmentalists have been on a rampage. There have even been attempts to censor the film. (It seems that, for some progressives, liberal values like free speech are a matter of convenience.) The reason for the outrage is that the film attacks the biggest “sacred cow” of the mainstream environmental movement: renewable energy.

I wrote my own review, “Damn Dirty Humans!: ‘Planet of the Humans’ and Progressive Denial”, in which I defended the film’s underlying message: that renewables cannot “replace” fossil fuels. The reasons are twofold: (1) renewable energy sources are themselves dependent on fossil fuels, and (2) the energy-return-on-investment of renewables is very low compared to fossil fuels. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t transition to wind and solar (and that’s not the message I took away from Moore’s film). What it does mean is that wind and solar will not be able to sustain our industrial capitalist economy.

My defense of the movie brought out many progressive critics, and none of them was more vociferous than my friend and fellow naturalistic pagan Mark Green. Mark recently posted an essay entitled “Why the Doomsters are Completely Wrong”. Though the post takes issue with an earlier article I wrote a couple of years ago, the issues are the same.

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