We’re all gonna die

So I read some more of Deep Green Resistance. I’m still getting through this book really slowly, even though I like to read, because it’s so bloody depressing that I can barely make myself pick it up.

The first half of the book is theoretical and the second half is practical. It’s the theoretical part that is depressing, and I finished it last night, so I think it will be smooth sailing for the rest of the book now. The next section will be on strategies and organization, so I’m looking forward to that.

The last part of the theory section is about other environmentalists and why their plans aren’t going to work. The main reasons are because they believe renewable energy sources are more efficient than they are or because they aren’t working to end capitalism. There is a whole detailed explanation of why wind and solar energy cannot power civilization, and how if you are not stopping capitalism then you aren’t going to succeed in stopping the destruction of the earth, nor are you creating a world worth living in.

We are going to reach the end of fossil fuels soon, and we cannot replace them with any other fuel without continuing to destroy the planet. Not only will we not be able to keep civilization going, but we will run out of food, too. When topsoil is dead the only way to make plants grow is with fertilizer made from fossil fuels. Our food system is dependent on fossil fuels, so when we reach peak oil we will also reach peak food. The human population is way over carrying capacity and we are headed toward widespread starvation.

DGR recommends reducing the human population by lowering the birth rate, which can be accomplished by raising the status of women. When women can control our own fertility, we have fewer children. It’s men who cause overpopulation by controlling women’s bodies and forcing us to give birth to more soldiers for their wars. Human males are the most dangerous and destructive force on the planet. They are absolutely not qualified to be in charge and they need to be stopped.

If we are going to survive, we have to stop capitalism and patriarchy. Unfortunately, all the progressive movements have been taken over by neo-liberalism, causing us to degenerate into apolitical navel-gazers who no-platform anybody who actually understands what is going on and what needs to be done about it. The ability of human beings to be stupid, incompetent and useless is just astounding. I honestly don’t have any hope that we are going to save the planet because people are too goddamm stupid to get their act together. I find myself feeling a constant underlying despair that I can’t do anything about. Being a member of the proletariat, and having no assets, I have to work for capitalism in order to earn enough money to meet my basic needs. Every day I go to work knowing that what I’m doing is pointless because the whole system is going down anyway,  but I have to pretend like everything is normal so no one thinks I’m a crazy person. In fact, I am completely crazy and should be wearing a tin foil hat.

It feels like being in the zombie apocalypse, honestly. I’m surrounded by drooling idiots stumbling around consuming everything in their path with no awareness whatsoever of what’s going on around them. When I meet people who are still alive and not turned into zombies, I’m overjoyed!

I’m not going to turn into a zombie. I’m going to keep my eyes and ears open and pay attention to what is going on and do whatever I can to help the resistance movement. I will not go down without a fight.

Separatism part 2

In this post I started talking about separatism and how it can be seen as an approach or a strategy that one applies to many areas of her life and that it generally has to do with saying no to men. This presents separatism as a much bigger topic than just the idea of lesbian-only communities.

If separatism is a wide range of strategies to resist patriarchy, as Marilyn Frye described it, then I am somewhat of a separatist. I have a female partner and I no longer have sex with men, I rarely invite men into my home, I have very few male friends and I spend most of my time with women friends, I interact with male coworkers as little as possible, and I even interact with male relatives as little as possible. I remain focused on women as much as I can in my thoughts and actions. I try to ingest female culture rather than male culture as much as possible—I read books and blogs written by women, I listen to mostly female musicians, and I avoid most TV shows and films that focus on men. I’m not super strict about separatism—for me it’s more of an instinct that a hard and fast rule. I am involved in my community and I work with men sometimes, because they are there and I can’t really avoid them.

In Chapter 3 of Deep Green Resistance, Lierre Keith talks about withdrawal as a political strategy and this conversation intersects with lesbian separatism. Keith says that withdrawal can either be effective or ineffective as a political strategy and she gives examples of both.

“The main difference between withdrawal as a successful strategy and withdrawal as a failed strategy is whether the withdrawal is linked to political resistance or instead seen as adequate in itself.” (p85)

When withdrawal is an end in itself, then a community only has to leave society, set up their own farm, and live on their own, and their work is done. They don’t actually change the dominant culture, they just withdraw from it. This is a failed political strategy because it doesn’t create systemic change, it is only a personal lifestyle choice. The funny thing about this is that there are lesbian separatists who believe they are the most radical of the radical feminists and they are ironically promoting a liberal strategy of personal lifestyle changes. The true radicals are the ones whose strategies make material changes across society, not who just change their own lifestyles. Lesbianism cannot be chosen by all women, so this is not a far-reaching political strategy. To really emancipate women from male control, we need to acknowledge that most women are heterosexual, and we need to make heterosexuality safer for women by creating a world where women can control their own reproductive capacity and have equal relationships with men.

Withdrawal can also be an effective political strategy when it’s used to resist those with political power. Lierre Keith uses the example of the American Revolution to explain an effective withdrawal strategy. The American Revolution was when the American colonies rejected British rule and formed their own country. Keith describes the strategies used by the colonies to withdraw from Britain, one of which was resistance to the Stamp Act. The British created the Stamp Act to help them pay for their military, and it was essentially just a money grab where the colonies would have to pay extra for stamped paper. The colonies revolted against this by making it impossible for anyone to sell the stamps. Mobs of people committed property destruction and physical violence against anyone who sold the stamps, so that no one was willing to sell them anymore, the result being that the Act could not be enforced. That’s one example of the strategy of withdrawal that is not just withdrawal for the sake of it but withdrawal for a political purpose.

When you look at the goals of the feminist revolution, which is to emancipate women from male control and give us sovereignty over our bodies and our lives, you can identify withdrawal strategies that would work in a feminist context. One such withdrawal strategy is to reject the male-run medical establishment and put female health care in the hands of women. This is work that radical feminist midwives are currently doing. In addition, women need to learn how to perform abortions and teach each other this skill, like feminists did in the 1970s. Carol Downer was a part of a group of women who did just that, and in this article she talks about the importance of female-run health care clinics in emancipating women.

“A robust network of women’s health centers throughout the nation, staffed by women trained through self-help, would make it possible for any woman to use safer methods of birth control, or terminate an early pregnancy without having to go to a clinic.  And when a significant number of women have access to this body of knowledge and use it, the State would be deterred from arbitrarily depriving women of access to health care.  There would be general outrage, and the State would know that large numbers of women could defy it successfully.”

A combination of women doctors, midwives, and activists could work together to set up women’s health clinics so that women can bypass entirely the male-run medical establishment which is continuously seeking to limit women’s access to abortion. This would be a withdrawal strategy that works.

Separatism can either be effective or ineffective. Setting up your tent in the woods and staying away from society can feel good, but it’s a personal lifestyle choice, not a political strategy. Separatism that creates opportunities for women as a class to take control over our bodies and lives is an effective political strategy.

Culture of resistance

In Chapter four of Deep Green Resistance, Lierre Keith talks about the difference between alternative culture and oppositional culture, which I wrote about here. Then she describes what makes a culture of resistance. I’ve been thinking about this and placing it in the context of feminist activism, because that’s the kind I understand best.

Keith explains that a culture of resistance requires a few people who have the courage to take militant action, and then a whole community of support surrounding them. This community of support provides loyalty and material support. She also notes that militant groups require leaders, because often enough people on the left reject hierarchies which means if anyone emerges as a good leader they get taken down by their own group. She says that there’s a reason why the government tries to take down the leaders first—it’s because the group needs a leader, and without the leader they will be ineffective.

There are not many people who have the right personal character to do front-line work and underground actions, and we have to accept this. The rest of the group creates a culture of resistance, and provides material support to those doing the front-line work. She talks about the group of suffragettes called the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) as an example of an effective activist group. This group had leaders who were willing to go to jail and endure hunger strikes for their activism, and it had a group of loyal supporters to help the leaders.

“Over a thousand women endured “solitary confinement, hard labor, brutality, broken health and ultimately death.” Even more women committed acts of physical courage that didn’t result in arrest, ranging from confrontations with police to stealth property destruction. And then there were the foot soldiers engaged in constant, daily tasks like fund raising, educating, public speaking, printing newspapers, door-to-door lobbying, organizing rallies, and prisoner support. All of these women supported their militant comrades. There were also between 500 and 600 non-militant women’s suffrage societies across Britain, and it’s interesting to note that the increase in militance by the WSPU resulted in a reinvigoration of those groups as well.” (p171)

The hunger strikers were sometimes released from prison to recover, and were expected to return to prison again once their health improved. But some of them were protected by “a network of loyal supporters” so that they managed to escape returning to prison. There was also a house set up where hunger strikers could go and get nursing care. Groups of women bodily defended each other against police. It eventually took “battalions of police” to arrest suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst because she was surrounded by bodyguards. When police offered money to community members in exchange for help in arresting Pankhurt, no one would take any money.

This is how militant groups must operate. Communities of support need to make sure that activists have the ability to do their work, and we must remain loyal to each other and the cause no matter what.

I’ve been thinking about where I’ve seen this kind of community support play out. Women’s shelters are an example—they are run by front-line workers who give women counselling and support leaving abusive relationships but they cannot do the work alone. It takes a whole group of people to do fund-raising and to raise awareness of the need for support for these shelters. The shelter will thrive when the whole community understands the issue of violence against women and therefore helps by donating money when fund-raising campaigns are going on. Not everyone can be a front-line worker, but lots more people are needed to be the helpers.

I’ve met survivors of prostitution who travel to conferences speaking about the realities of prostitution, and they are supported by a whole network of feminists. Because there are women who hold events and speak out against the sex industry, and because the testimonies of exited women get shared amongst feminist groups, when a survivor sets up a Go-Fund-Me account to raise money to attend a speaking engagement, everybody chips in, because we know the importance. Not everyone can be an activist, but each activist needs a community of support providing them with the resources to keep doing their work.

This understanding of what a culture of resistance looks like does give me hope. I’m not a militant person myself—I’m an introvert who hates confrontation and conflict. I’m better suited to raising awareness and making donations to activists who are doing things. I’m starting to understand my role in the revolution, which is to help create the culture of resistance, and provide support and loyalty to activists. I’m not likely to actually blow up civilization, but I am likely to talk to other women in my area about who our local activists are, what they are doing, and how they can help. Women with the courage to do activism need to know they have a network of support behind them and they will be helped along, and in fact, a strong culture of resistance will breed more activists.

There is no left in North America part II

Tonight I had the night off so I got to read some more Deep Green Resistance. I went back to Chapter 3 again, which I read once before but didn’t write about yet—I felt I needed to read it again before it could really sink in. This chapter is called Liberals and Radicals and it’s written by Lierre Keith. It’s really full of thought-provoking stuff—just reading about four or five pages makes me sit back and think, then take some notes, then think again. At one point while reading, I started enthusiastically pounding my fist on the table. My partner, alarmed, asked “What’s wrong?” and I said “Nothing’s wrong, I’m just agreeing with Lierre Keith.”  😉 (My partner thinks it’s rather amusing that I have begun claiming that I want to blow up civilization. She knows I am a lazy ass who can barely get off the couch, so what are the odds I’m going to blow anything up? Anyway…)

Part of this chapter explains what liberalism is, especially the liberalism of the United States. Liberalism believes that the individual is the basic unit of society and promotes the sovereignty of the individual within the free market. The United States of America was built on liberal ideology and white male landowners who stole other people’s land and labour to create private wealth. The government exists to protect their private property and to enforce their contracts. Keith did an excellent job describing the liberalism of the United States and this helped me to understand why there is no left in North America. Here is an important quote from this section:

“The big split between liberals and the true left came in the 1940s: as liberals took up an anti-Communist position, the actual leftists were purged from liberalism, especially from labor unions and the New Deal coalition. From the beginnings of classical liberalism, liberals have embraced capitalism. Indeed, classical liberalism was foundational to a capitalist economy. Hence, unlike in Europe, there is no real left in the U.S., as a true left starts with the rejection of capitalism. There is no political party in the U.S. that represents a critique of capitalism. Congress is essentially filled with two wings of the Capitalist Party.

After the disaster of the Great Depression, liberalism shifted to the idea of government intervention to regulate business in order to assure competition and to enforce safety and labor standards. This was an attempt to make capitalism work, not to dismantle it. This approach is very different from state socialism, in which the state owns (not regulates) the means of production (and which has produced its own environmental and human rights disasters)” (p.68).

Like, holy fuck, actual leftists were kicked out of unions in the 1940s? No wonder there is no left in North America! Can you imagine kicking leftists out of unions? This explains so much about the state of unions around here. And after that came the McCarthy era where anyone suspected of being a communist was imprisoned or fired from their jobs. This totally makes sense when you consider what we have now, which is, indeed, the two wings of the Capitalist Party. When citizens of North America go to the polls, they have a choice of voting for either someone who wants to completely deregulate big business or someone who wants to make capitalism a tiny bit nicer. There is no such thing as actually naming capitalism as a problem and organizing against it, except for in radical groups. And of course, since the entire government is in favor of capitalism and exists to serve the interests of the ruling class, there is no such thing as voting an anti-capitalist politician into government. A true left will never be electable in North America.

I still know hardly anything about what it means to really be on the left. In high school I read Les Misérables, and I was full of rage at the class system, and I decided that Jean Valjean was completely justified in stealing food to feed his sister’s children, and that his imprisonment was a crime perpetrated against him by the ruling class. I do not consider it theft if a poor person steals from the rich. The only thing that is morally wrong is that he was poor in the first place. When I turned 18 and an election came along, I read the platforms of the three major political parties, and I knew immediately that I was going to vote for the one that wanted to strengthen social programs. I remember getting into an argument with a friend who claimed that the only incentive people have to work is the possibility that they could get rich; that without the possibility of wealth, no one would have any motivation to do anything. I thought this was a load of fucking bullshit, and I argued that rich people are lucky, not hardworking, and that they don’t deserve to have way more than the rest of us. Eventually I figured out that my opinion was called “left” and my friend’s opinion was called “right.” But around here, the farthest to the left we get is the people who want to make capitalism a little bit nicer by strengthening social programs, and I’m beginning to understand that this is not left at all. Social programs merely make capitalism work—they give the working class just enough stability that they can continue to work for capitalism, but we are still oppressed by the system. A real left is built on an anti-capitalist foundation and its goal is not to make capitalism work, but to make it stop.

I really, really, really need to read some Marx. I don’t think I’m a communist, I think I’m a DGRist, but I definitely need a Marxist education to understand what the left is supposed to be. It’s terrible that I’ve never been taught this before. And someday I need to get my ass off the couch and get around to blowing up civilization. 😉

Alternative vs oppositional culture

I’m really enjoying chapter four of Deep Green Resistance, “Culture of Resistance.” Lierre Keith talks about alternative vs. oppositional culture and it’s a very necessary and well-written analysis. In an alternative culture, the social norms of the dominant culture are rejected and personal lifestyle changes are made in order to live outside the established norm, but no material changes are made to the rest of society and there may not be any political analysis. An oppositional culture is an organized political resistance that takes concrete steps to dismantle systems of power. Keith summarizes the differences between alternative and oppositional culture, while also noting that real life is not this black and white and people are often somewhere in the middle:

Alternative vs Oppositional graphic

She then explains all of these points using examples from various alternative cultures from Europe and the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. When reading the characteristics of alternative culture, I kept seeing transgenderism over and over. Alternative culture names social conventions as the enemy and seeks to make personal changes in order to subvert them. Transgenderism names the “gender binary” as the enemy and seeks to make personal statements with hairstyle, clothing, and pronouns in order to resist this cultural convention; however, none of these personal lifestyle changes can challenge the real power that men have over women, and so the cultural construct of “gender binary” is slightly tampered with while the real problem of sex-based oppression remains intact. When you try to talk to transgenderists about the material reality of sex-based oppression they stick their fingers in their ears and sing ‘la, la, la’ to avoid engaging. They are an alternative culture who exist to make members of their group feel good about their personal identity. They are a politics of emotion that does not care about effective strategy.

Keith began chapter four with the sentence, “The culture of the left needs a serious overhaul.” I totally agree with this. In North America, the left has dissolved into a neo-liberal cesspool of identities and navel-gazing and no longer has any interest in challenging systems of power. I laughed at the sentence: “The contemporary alterna-culture won’t result in anything more sinister than silliness” (p124.) Indeed. Instead of trying to overthrow capitalism, we are sitting around fawning over men in dresses and calling political analysis “phobic.” We couldn’t possibly get any more pathetic at this point. Keith has excellent suggestions about the values and strategies the left should actually have. We need to be brave, committed, and loyal to each other. We need to create material support for our comrades who are resisting capitalism. (Sitting around talking about our pronouns is fucking daft!)

While talking about the Romantics, the Bohemians and the Beatniks, Keith makes some really excellent comments that, again, totally remind me of the transgenderists. They value “emotional intensity that rejects self-reflection, rationality and investigation,” (p130) and although they claim to reject the bourgeoisie, they also reject the radicals who attempt to create social and economic change.

“Their main project was to “reject…the conformity and materialism of the middle class,”* mostly through experimentation with drugs and sex, and to lay claim to both emotion and art as unmediated and transcendent.”(p131)

*(The quote within the quote is from Keith Melville’s Communes in the Counter Culture.)

This is so familiar. Alternative cultures are full of members of the middle class who claim to reject middle class values, but instead of dismantling the class system, they just hang around indulging in personal fun (“drugs and sex”). In other words, useless fucking wankers.

Keith goes on to explain that alternative cultures have always been created by youth and they reflect the biology and psychology of adolescence. Alternative youth cultures are focused on “the endless project of the self,” (p135), and believe that society’s main offense is suppression of their “always-authentic feelings” (p135). Their main activism is in breaking rules and crossing boundaries, sometimes just for the sake of performance and shock value. She really drives this point home when she gets into a criticism of how men on the left embrace pornography. When your alternative culture is based on breaking social rules rather than seeking justice, then there’s no reason why you can’t have the freedom to do what you want with women and children. There are many quotes in here that made me put down the book for a moment and say “Wow.” One of them is this:

“On a global scale, the naked female body—too thin to bear live young and often too young as well—is for sale everywhere, as the defining image of the age, and as a brutal reality; women and girls are now the number one product for sale on the global black market. Indeed, there are entire countries balancing their budgets on the sale of women. Is slavery a human rights abuse or a sexual thrill? Of what use is a social change movement that can’t decide?

We need to stake our claim as the people who care about freedom, not the freedom to abuse, exploit, and dehumanize, but freedom from being demeaned and violated, and from a cultural celebration of that violation.” (p148)

We need to therefore reject the adolescent aspect of alternative culture—such as the pursuit of personal freedom at the expense of others—and instead promote adult values such as responsibility, respect, and the serious pursuit of long-term goals toward a fair and sustainable culture.

I’ve been reading this book very slowly. In fact, I have read TWO fiction books since I started on DGR, probably as a way of procrastinating. This book requires me to do a lot of thinking and I often have to read passages more than once. It’s not light reading—it’s a book that will permanently change the way I think and it takes time to process. One of the things it makes me think about is how will I become a radical activist? How can I fit into this culture of resistance? I have no idea yet but this book is a great resource for getting me thinking.

My first impressions of Deep Green Resistance

The book opens with a preface by Derrick Jensen where he summarizes the problem, which is that industrial civilization is killing the planet. He quickly names the strategy of Deep Green Resistance which is: “to deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet (p.15),” as well as “defending and rebuilding just and sustainable human communities nestled inside repaired and restored landbases (p. 16).”

Then Chapter 1, “The Problem,” by Lierre Keith, expands on that introduction, by explaining some necessary facts about civilization and the dying planet. Two hundred species a day are dying, the oceans are losing their plankton and filling with plastic instead, and global warming has “passed the tipping point (p. 22).” Civilization is inherently unsustainable, because it’s based on the consumption of resources that are running out.

This book is very hard to read, and I’m getting through it very slowly. It’s well-written and well-researched of course, but it’s not an uplifting book—it’s a book that cuts through the denial and puts the ecological crisis right in my face where I can’t look away from it. It makes me question my own role in this. Could I actually become brave enough to do what it takes to really defend my own landbase from environmental destruction? So far I have done nothing but play my part as a cog in the Capitalist machine. I get up every day and go to work for Capitalism, and I consume its products and pay interest to its banks. I do this because I don’t have much of a choice in the matter—if I didn’t then I wouldn’t have a roof over my head or food to eat. And even if I had the means to buy some land, live off the grid and grow my own food, that would be an individual solution that would not stop civilization—it would only remove me from it. What DGR is calling me to do is to actively participate in stopping civilization, and that is not an easy thing to think about.

One of the reasons I wanted to read this book is because I know that the Left is lost and confused and ineffective at fighting capitalism, to the point where I don’t even know what the Left is supposed to be for anymore. The Left party in my area has completely alienated me by pandering to neo-liberalism and promoting the agency of the individual instead of a material analysis. In a desperate bid to be electable, the Left has become the Right. I am politically engaged but in the last election I couldn’t even vote for anybody. The Communists have all but disappeared, and now even the social democrats don’t look any different from the center-right. (The social democrats used to be at least left of center, even though they were never very far to the left.) I’m always searching for strategies and analyses for improving and creating a real Left—one that truly poses a threat to capitalism. I think I may have found it in DGR. I haven’t read the whole book yet, but something that I’ve been thinking about is that, if industrial civilization is killing the planet, then it doesn’t really matter if the proletariat seizes the means of production, because we will still meet our end eventually when we run out of natural resources from which to produce our consumer goods. We need to actually end production, not just change ownership of it. I have no doubt that the implementation of Communism would slow down overconsumption and put us on a more reasonable track, but a culture that is based on the consumption of non-renewable resources is going to have to end eventually even if materials are shared equally while they last. What this means is that I have turned out not to be a Communist, even though I think their analysis is excellent and they have some really great ideas.

In Chapter 2, “Civilization and Other Hazards,” Aric McBay talks about the negative characteristics of civilization. To name only a few of them, civilization is globalized, mechanized, militarized, patriarchal, hierarchical, and capable of making the planet uninhabitable. I found his writing very refreshing in the sense that he tells the actual truth about what is going on in the world and it is rare to see this sort of truth being spoken. One of the points I found most interesting in this chapter is the point about civilization having to import resources from other, non-civilized lands. Any city has to import resources from the surrounding land, and any civilized country has to import resources from less developed countries. As McBay explains,

“Further, any way of life based on the importation of resources is also functionally based on violence, because if your way of life requires the importation of resources, trade will never be sufficiently reliable: if people in the next watershed over won’t trade you for some necessary resource, you will take it, because you need it. So, to bring this to the present, we could all become enlightened, and the US military would still have to be huge: how else will they get access to the oil they need to run the economy, oil that just happens to lie under someone else’s land? The point is that no matter what we think of the irredeemability of this culture’s mass psychology or system of rewards, this culture—civilization—is also irredeemable on a purely functional level (p. 59).”

Radical feminism names the oppression of women as a system where men use their power over us to extract resources from us—whether it is domestic or sexual labor or reproductive labor or the actual children that they impregnate us with. Deep Green Resistance takes this analysis a step further. The extraction of resources from women goes hand in hand with the extraction of resources from the Earth. The powerful extract resources from the oppressed, in every situation where there is oppression. Because civilization must take resources from other lands in order to survive, civilization is inherently oppressive. It cannot operate without extracting someone else’s resources. It cannot operate without oppression and destruction.

McBay mentions the Aral Sea being destroyed by the industrial irrigation of the USSR. It’s interesting that a Communist government can do just as good a job as Capitalism does at destroying the environment. It won’t really matter who’s in charge any more when we can’t drink the water or breathe the air. In addition, male Leftists can be just as misogynist as men on the right because they don’t necessarily listen to feminists. A real, effective Left needs to take into account not just the sharing of resources and the re-distribution of wealth, but also care for the environment and equality for women. I am not interested in a Left where equality is for men, and where exploitation of women and the environment goes unquestioned.

I’m very much interested in Deep Green Resistance though, and I will keep on getting through this book, no matter how unpleasant it may be to face these things.