Watering the Tree of Liberty, and Other Cliché Tropes

The radical environmentalist movement seems almost fatalistic in its assumption that Industrial Civilization has historically been tied to cheap oil (which has or is in the process of peaking) as well as the rapid ascent in population, and it must therefore be “all downhill from here” for western civilization. A logical consequence of this scenario might even be that a significant population die-off is inevitable, so that energy collapse presents humanity with a unique opportunity to deviate from the death march it is on. For many, it is these premises that justify confrontation and resistance to those aspects of civilization determined to be both unsustainable and detrimental, even when instances of direct action become violent.

Yet when two mutually exclusive worldviews compete for control of the same territory, both choosing violence as an employable tactic, one can see that battle lines are essentially drawn and the dominant paradigm is steadfast in repressing those who subvert what is considered to be crucial for its existence (technocratic culture, wage-system, mass convenience, etc…). I attribute this fundamental dichotomy to similar feelings of oppression—on one hand, humans are dependent on the land and environment for their sustenance, and utilize technology to exploit that landscape so as to more freely survive and flourish as a species; on the other hand, that same exploitation is contributing to habitat loss, species extinction, and global climate change, threatening the very foundation that supports the life predicated on this process.

In both instances however, there is a sense that a subject (whether person or animal) is being oppressed by an objective, outside force (wilderness or industrial society). Thus, those perpetuating structural violence or violence done against the fascistic tendencies defended by the armed state similarly maintain violence as necessary responses to perceived threats of death or poverty, their constructed “higher ethical directives” simultaneously serving as points of moral supremacy. Whether these justifications are sound is of little importance, as individuals experiencing the emotional distress of loss or oppression may dismiss public relations as irrelevant when resorting to violence for personal gratification.

Still, for radicals seeking to disrupt and dissolve what is considered to be corrupt political power and an economic system founded on imperialistic ideals, they may take heart knowing that such a system of oppression is itself scientifically proven to be unsustainable and so, as food prices go up, supply lines are halted, states fail, industrial civilization grinds to a halt, and the effects of climate change begin to manifest, expediting the destined overthrow of civilization will become much less pressing than simply surviving the collateral damage done in the transition to a future society influenced by visions of anarcho-primitivist philosophies. Far from administering population reduction, individuals will have to reconsider their roles in communities, reskilling and empowering themselves to filter what should be kept from the otherwise “insane” civilization that will eventually break down on its own.

If democratic channels have been exhausted and corporate international free trade neo-liberal western banking (insert adjective here) elitism destroys the ecology and life-support systems needed to survive, then Law has outlived its usefulness and is no longer compatible with the value systems of a population who cannot in good faith abide by the enforced rules given to it by an unrepresentative authority. In such a case, only those arguing for freedom at the expense of the wellbeing of others would oppose the elimination of this malignant death urge, allowing the sheer ignorance of attempting to subordinate all nature to the ego to prevail over reasoned cooperative being. Mere nihilism and destruction is only so effective, and eventually a reassertion of the primacy of the creative commons will have to be instituted so that a safe place can be constructed to allow for conversation, organization, and perhaps even militarization if people warrant the necessity of its application.

In the end, ideologically driven radicalism may erupt into global insurgency far exceeding even the scope of the Underground Railroad’s liberation of slaves, or the Warsaw ghetto’s uprising against extermination. This, I think, can be attributed only to a complete breakdown in communication. Indeed violence, as with “terrorism,” may simply be a tactic to this end, its use determined only insofar as other nonviolent methods don’t work, justified as a last-resort in confronting the oppression of malevolent dictatorial control.

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