Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Million Gardens

[Stan has graciously agreed to let me share this article with you. The solution he proposes is one that should be put into practice immediately: unlike other post-collapse solutions that will only become competitive after collapse has largely run its course, opting out of industrial agriculture is something that doesn't have to wait.] 

I love OWS and the Slogan “99%”

It is a great slogan that puts in bold relief the immense power of the one percent of humanity that exists parasitically on the rest.  “We are the 99%.”  It is a declaration that in some significant way, people are more awake to their circumstances than they were.  Around this slogan, we have seen courageous and principled people take to the streets in a great shout of “No!” at the powers and principalities of late neoliberalism; and we have seen that this outburst resonates with far more people than the ruling layer of society expected.  We have seen the protestors demonstrate with their bodies that under their façade of civility, this ruling layer relies in the last instance on truncheons, teargas, guns and jails.  This unmasking is more important in many ways than what will come afterward, because without it, we accommodate – and we all accommodate in one way or another, even those protesting – without any clarity.  Let these thousand flowers bloom.

Still, the 99% are not actually protesting.  99% of the 99% are just doing what they do to get by in the world the best they know how, far from the demonstrations.  We know this is true, and we know the reasons are as numerous as the people who do not protest in the street.  And so we are required to acknowledge that the movement, such as it is, is representative of its claim, not the number 99’s actualization.  And therein is one seed of mischief.

In Latin, it was once said, perversio optima quae est pessima.  The perversion of the best is the worst.  Some protesters will come to believe they are representative of those they do not know.  Some will try and formalize that representation as power.  Many are already spinning out programs (God, save us from parties and programs!) that purport to represent the 99%, though they are mostly utopian projections cobbled together by handfuls of people who still believe something called the “future” can be subordinated to human management schemes.  Some will begin to articulate what it means to be an “authentic” representative; and the divisions will begin.  Nothing stays the same, and this won’t either.  Lord, have mercy.

I am one of the 99% of the 99% this time around.  I had my day in the sun as a protestor; and if I’d have stayed a day longer, I would have taken up more room than one person should, because movements privilege clever talkers and angry writers more than they ought to.  Now I am one of the 99% of the 99% who is restricted in my movements by personal duties and obligations, the lack of money, and the lack of time.  I am far from any urban center, far from the big schools, far from the cohorts and committees, far from those places where people debate social theory and movement strategies.  And I love it out here in the sticks.

I love the Occupy movement, too.  I repost everything I see on Facebook that is not downright offensive (thickheaded sexism in this movement is alive and well, sorry to say).  I promoted the movement in my church with a supportive article in the bulletin, which generated a whiff of controversy that promises a dialogue about this thing we have named “economic inequality.”  I attended a rally in Lansing, though the mayor there agreed with the protest, so we didn’t generate any hostility from the police.  Sherry sports bumper stickers that say “OWS” and “99%.”  This is what we can do right now, so we are glad the demonstrators (I like the Spanish term “manifestantes” better) are out there keepin’ on.  In so may ways, you are speaking for us.  I get a little giddy at how long it has already lasted.

I love the movement’s sense of satire.  My favorite video was a bullfighting spoof around the Wall Street bull statue, with two capering clowns and a matador who mounted a police car and snapped his cape at the 7,100 pound bronze bovine.

I love the energy, and the courage, and the general understanding that the power of the movement is pacific.  Movements succeed when they inspire violence, but only when they inspire the violence of the oppressor that accomplishes this unmasking.

Whether the vandalism and violence of a few protestors is from fools or police provocateurs (probably a measure of both), it has been thankfully minimal.  Those youngsters who got pepper sprayed at UC Davis were more morally effective in their non-resistance than 10,000 macho-boys throwing rocks and setting fires.

I love the way OWS stays unpredictable.  That is absolutely this occupy-thing’s greatest strength.

I have questions, and ideas, however, about what happens next, about follow-up, about what the 99% of the 99% can do and, more importantly, should do.  I’m not proposing, as many leftists will, that the movement “get itself organized,” select leaders, develop a strategy, etc.  In fact, I vigorously oppose strategies on principle, because I believe most of them are simply designed to put a few people in charge of a lot of people who are then charged to carry out the strategy.  More on that further along.

Before I can explain myself, I need to at least describe the premise for these ideas.


The premise begins that all the changes that are implied in the demands – such as they are – of the movement are not applicable to all people in all places at all times.  The greatest value of this movement is not in its ability to expose certain sufferings and change certain policies, but in its ability to expose – with no unified intention to do so – all the reasons we need to abandon the entire system of which “policy” is only one essential working component.

This is an argument that is not won in this movement yet, because many people who are supportive of OWS et al still maintain the sincere and good-willing belief that governments and other policy-making institutions are somehow independent of their actual actions, like machines, and they can be taken over – like exchanging a bad driver for a good one in an automobile.
I respect that belief insofar as it is a belief people cleave to out of genuine good will.  These people are not collaborators or sheep; and those who characterize them that way are both wrong and mean.  I love the people who want to change the policies, because I am convinced that they want to do it out of a genuine sense of care about others.

My argument:  Even machines cannot be made independent of their makers and users.  The problem with the system is not the driver.  It is the car.
This is my premise.  If I am wrong, then ignore everything hereafter.

Failure of the Future

I think this car that is breaking down might be named “The Future.”
The deeply-parasitic infrastructure of society is coming apart, not temporarily, but in the face of some real trends that put real limits not only on the autocratic futurism of the right, but the “progressive” futurism of the left, too.  I ripped off Ivan Illich above with his reference to perversio optima quae est pessima.  I’m quoting him again when he said, “To hell with the future.  It is a man-eating idol.”

I agree with that.  A lot. This car is breaking down and there is going to be a wreck.

Illich wrote in 1973 about the energy infrastructure crisis.  What he said has proven prophetic in both senses of the word.  Prophets are wrongly believed to be people who simply foretell the future.  In fact, prophets are those who speak truth to power and who have visions, not predictions, that forewarn us of dangerous possibilities in the future.

Every generation has some.  Illich showed in 1973, in a pamphlet entitled “Energy and Equity,” that our faith in technology as redeemer of humanity is a terrible mistake.  Now we see the big secular trends that prefigure the collapse of many infrastructures.  Climate change.  Peak resource extractions.  The very economic crisis that spawned OWS.  War for the fuel to make war.  That’s next, and not far off either.

This crisis is not short-term, and it will force people to adopt new tactics for everyday life.  It represents both a trauma and an opportunity; but that opportunity, in my opinion, is not available through policy.  Policies may alter and change in response to material changes.  What has to change is not policy, but our entire built environment based on some more personal and less abstract narratives than Progress and The Future.

This is where the 99% of the 99% can do something, and they can begin doing it right now, without leaving their hometowns.  Let’s put this in another context before explaining why and how the 99% of the 99% can make some of those changes.

Devolution & Design

All social orders eventually devolve and are forced to reorganize, and the globalized world we live in is witnessing the devolution of the social order.  These periods of discontinuity never last forever, because society eventually self-organizes out of these devolutions, and a new order is established.  When an order collapses, there is an accompanying crisis of ideas.  More and more in our own period, we are seeing the de-legitimation of our ideas not only about capitalism and socialism, or their ugly merger into neoliberalism, but about what they held in common that have proven to be dangerous idols.  Progress.  The Future.  Technological Salvation.

When I was part of the organized activist left, I cooked up an alliterated recipe for resistance: de-legitimate, disobey, disrupt.  For the present, I will add a fourth D.  Design.

We are not going to force policy-makers to remake the world.  We have to do it ourselves.  We have to take our entire built environment, one piece at a time, and re-design it.  This will take everyone, because where you live is different than where I live; and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  To hell with policies.  They are people-eating idols.

The Money Grid

One nub of the whole situation at the end of 2011 is a longstanding fact.  People have been captured by their dependency upon a vast, technocratic apparatus that has de-skilled them and rendered them 100% (not 99%) dependent on money.  The technocratic apparatus makes all our stuff, controls our climate, fixes our boo-boos, educates us, feeds us, moves us around, lights our homes, and puts us to work – all inside our most excellent technocratic life support system – and the only thing that makes the system respond… is money.  As it is in 2011.  As it was in 2010, 2000, 1990, 1980…  it just got worse with time.

Money is generated by banks and printed by the government.  It is designed to work a certain way to benefit governments and banks, which are run by the rich.  Governments and banks are never going to be the ally of any movement like OWS, so there is little likelihood that activism will change the nature of money any time soon.  Money is designed to transfer power; and it does it very well.  Money is not a morally-neutral sign any more than a gun is a morally-neutral tool.  Each is designed for a purpose.  Guns are designed to kill.  Money is designed to commodify, that is, to make everything into a thing for sale.  Including you.

The anthropologist Alf Hornborg said that money dissolves cultural and natural systems in an ecosemiotic process.  “Viewed from outer space,” says Hornborg, “money is an ecosemiotic phenomenon that has very tangible effects on ecosystems and the biosphere as a whole.  If it were not for money, nobody would be able to trade tracts of rain forest for Coca-Cola.”
That’s a lot to think about.  Think about it.

The Institutional Grid

Institutions are required to administer the technocracy upon which we all abjectly depend.  Institutions are always somehow imbricated within the system of money that benefits banks and government.  There is probably nothing controversial about saying that institutions can be corrupted by money.  What I am about to say is that institutions – all of them, even your favorites – are inherently and unavoidably corruptible.

If OWS develops “lists of demands” and programs and the like, there will be predictable appeals to target institutions for particular policy changes.  Money controls the institutions.  Money controls the policies.  Money will come to control the institutions that are created to fight the institutions.  As it ever has been and ever shall be.  The movement will become “focused,” it will deploy a strategy, and let the games begin.  The movement will be placed under management to oversee and coordinate the strategy.  The movement will come to depend on money.

Policy games controlled by money will be able to frustrate the original objectives of activists, either by crushing them or co-opting them.  Then the demoralization will start anew, amid more nihilism because the devolution will have advanced throughout the process.

If OWS itself begins to unravel over time, which it hasn’t so far but certainly may eventually, the follow-up options may appear to be (1) play by the rules for scraps or (2) to argue for more direct force against the system.  The latter will increase the probability of outright destruction, and the former might lead people to believe that nothing, in fact, can be done.

Welcome to the institutional grid.

Relations On and Off the Grid

I believe there is a way out of that impasse.  To explain it, I need to make reference to an anthropologist named Robin Dunbar.  He calculated that human beings have the cognitive capacity and the time to sustain a very finite number of caring relationships.  His guess was around 150.  I give this a lot of leeway, but I accept the general idea.  Finite brain.  Finite time.  Finite capacity.  Got it.

These primary relationships are built on trust and empathy, requiring no formal agreements, no contracts, no administration by a third party.  Most close family relations fall into this category, as do friends.  My own trick for categorizing these relations is to think of them as covenantal as opposed to casual or contractual.  Your relation to your boss is contractual.   Your relation to a grocery clerk you see once a week is casual.  Your relation to your friend, lover, child, mother, etc, is covenantal.  These covenantal relations are built on care, on trust and empathy.  They imply certain non-monetized, highly personal duties and obligations to one another that are accepted out of love.  These relations do not require formal rules; and in fact, formal rules would have a deleterious effect on these relations.
“A contract is an agreement made in suspicion. The parties do not trust each other, and they set “limits” to their own responsibility. A covenant is an agreement made in trust. The parties love each other and put no limits on their own responsibility.”
-Wambdi Wicasa
Once a group exceeds this fuzzy cognitive limit, this “Dunbar’s number,” it begins to require third parties to administer, manage and resolve conflicts.  This is the genesis of administration and management, and it becomes inevitable with greater scale, more people.  This new layer of relations is more impersonal, first by some small degree.  With more people and more administrators come greater degrees of impersonality.  The uprooted impersonality of administration is inevitable.  The tendency of these social formations is summed up in the way we can refer to administration as an “apparatus.”

A remarkable moral shift occurs with the emergence of this apparatus.  Doing the right thing because you care for someone is superseded by doing the correct or legal thing because of an impersonal rule.  The rules are necessary because the third parties of these apparati have to be seen as disinterested parties.  In this single moral shift, those who administer the rules gain a new kind of social power that makes them inherently corruptible.

This applies to a corporation, a club, a rifle platoon, a progressive non-profit, a church, a school, a hospital, a town, the water supply system, the food system, everything… because our technocratic society is administered by an apparatus that is approaching perfect impersonality.  Plain size can begin this pernicious process, so small “organizations” beware.  Simply calling yourself an organization carries this risk of impersonality.  The corruptibility of these institutions inheres in the enormous power they accumulate purely through the authority to administer and manage.

The Fetishism of Bureaucratic Competence

So while we are unmasking ideologies – those constellations of ideas that simultaneously conceal and reproduce power – let’s look at this ideology of “progress” and the “future.”  It is entirely built on force, and that power has accrued to the one percent, and we have not unmasked what Alasdair MacIntyre calls the “fetishism of bureaucratic skill,” part of the ideology of progress that both reproduces and conceals this administrative power.  Most of the left and the right have fallen prey to this fetishism.
“The modern American is culturally conditioned to think of nature as nothing more than matter-in-motion, as a standing reserve that through technological and entrepreneurial prowess is converted into a consumer’s cornucopia.”
-Max Oelschlaeger
To this adds MacIntyre:
“The fetishism of commodities has been supplemented by another just as important fetishism, that of bureaucratic skills… the realm of managerial expertise is one in which what purport to be objectively grounded claims [e.g., to the knowledge of the good society and how to achieve it] function in fact an expression of arbitrary, but disguised, will and preference.”
Power.  His qualification is at the heart of it, “to the knowledge of the good society and how to achieve it.”  This is a delusion of the ideology of progress, this notion that people can render the future predictable and manageable.  Experts, managers and administrators take full advantage of this ideology to exert will and preference behind a mask of special competence.

MacIntyre continues, in 1984, that “we know of no organized movement towards power which is not bureaucratic and managerial in mode, and we know of no justifications for authority that are not Weberian.”

As the power of administrators grows, an ethic of care becomes more and more antithetical to the rules-regime of administration.  Impersonality metastasizes, and we wake up to find ourselves not living in the world but moving plugs around on a switchboard to get what we need from the technocratic grid.

Management makes rules that help management.  Management is the administration of administrators.  Administration makes rules that benefit administration.  As Haitians say, ti tig se tig.  “The child of a tiger is a tiger.”
The original purpose of a rule – often created out of good will – is subverted by the administrative application of the rule.  In common parlance, “the tail starts to wag the dog.”  The letter of the law is administered against the spirit of the law.  This dog-waggery leads to the incomprehensibility of the rules and resentment of administration and management, which in turn becomes defensive, setting up a power struggle in which administration is already advantaged by the growing dependency of the administered on administration.  Remember that Stalin accrued his immense power through control of an administrative apparatus.

One of the reasons we have so little power to act creatively in the face of so many crises is not just that we are fragmented, but that we’re cut off in a much deeper way by the lack of social cohesion that can only happen in the small, intimate group.  Covenantal relations are strong bonds.  Contractual relations are weak bonds.

Every infantry squad leader knows that.  Every good mother knows it.  The rest of us ought to, too.

Management is the enemy of social cohesion, because it substitutes secondary (weak) bonds for primary (strong) ones. By re-strengthening primary bonds, we develop a greater capacity to resist power, but also to creatively adapt to (without direct resistance) rapidly changing circumstances.

Strategy and Tactics

Strategy and tactics as they are commonly understood are war terms, and they can’t escape their conflict implications.  Michel De Certeau, however, draws a distinction between them that leaps over some of the martial interpretations of these ideas.

In military parlance, strategy is the identification of key campaigns that are necessary to accomplish the main objective – in most cases, winning the war.  Operations is a level of planning that determines key battles necessary to win campaigns.  Tactics are those techniques that are required to win battles.  So the tactic is subordinate to the campaign, which is subordinate to the strategy.  In other words, “In the beginning, there was Strategy, and without it the world was shapeless and void.”

De Certeau wrote about people in their everyday lives, not conditions of extremity and conflict, in a book entitled oddly enough, The Practice of Everyday Life.

Strategy, notes De Certeau, is always the purview of power.  Strategy presumes control.  Strategy is self-segregating, in the same way administration and management is self-segregating, setting itself up as a barricaded insider.  The strategic leaders become the Subject; and the led become — along with any enemies — the Objects.  Strategy presumes an in-group that executes the Strategy.
“Strategy is the calculus of force-relationships; when a subject of will and power can be isolated from an environment.”
-De Certeau
The financial masters of the universe at Wall Street oversee the strategy.  They are the institutions.  In many ways, the rest of us cannot escape their Grid.  They are the subject, and the rest are the object. They are inside; and we are outside.  They live behind guarded walls.

De Certeau calls tactics, on the other hand, the purview of the non-powerful.  His version of “tactics” is not as a subset of Strategy, but adaptation to the environment (which has been structured by A Strategy).

The city planning commission may determine what streets there will be, but the local cabbie will figure out how to take best advantage of lived reality of those streets.  This making-do is what De Certeau calls bricolage, and it often implies cooperation with others as much as competition with others.
While the masters of the financial universe at Wall Street protect their guarded walls and ensure the system keeps paying the imperial tribute, we are making do.  We do things that they can’t control or fully account for.  We barter, clip coupons, work under the table, trade labor, share tasks and expenses with friends… all those little cheats to bypass the more disadvantageous routes along the Grid.  Making do.  Bricolage.
Bricolage is so detailed, so numerous in instance, so adaptable, that much of it escapes the notice of the Big Strategists; more importantly, it is beyond their power to control.


Strategy makes two presumptions:  control and an in-group.  The contradiction of strategy is that the control is never perfect and the situation upon which the strategy was constructed is always changing, making aspects of the strategy obsolescent.  The self-segregation of in-groups magnifies these myopic aspects of strategy, because the walls that keep others out also obscure their view of the outside.  Strategy becomes self-referential.
Tactics, on the other hand, or bricolage, is action in a constant state of reassessment and correction based directly on observations of the actual micro-environment.  Tactical theorist John Boyd rather schematically diagrammed this process as an OODA-loop, meaning people observe their surroundings (O), orient on the most important developments in the environment (O), decide on an immediate course of action (D), take that action (A), then revert immediately to observation (O) of the environment to see how their last action might have changed it (orienting again, deciding again, acting again…and again).  There is no presumption of how things will turn out, as there is in strategy.  There is, in fact, readiness to take advantage of unpredictable changes; this is called tactical agility.

Ignore that Boyd studied aerial combat for a moment, and we see that this is sense in many other scenarios.  It just requires recognizing the radical limits on our ability to control something called “the future.”  That future has always and always will remain unpredictable. As it should.

Strategies are undermined by unpredictability.  Tactics (bricolage, OODA-loops) can make an ally of unpredictability.

The intrepid street manifestantes of the Occupy movement can benefit from the OODA-Loop.  They are in a tactical contest with the authorities to perform their prophetic tasks.  For those among the other 99%, what kinds of bricolage can begin to directly and intentionally reduce our degree of dependence on the technocratic grid?

Strategic Without Strategy

Nero – both an emperor and a sadistic misanthrope – is said to have wished humanity had one throat so he could have the pleasure of cutting it.  This is the statement of a strategic principle.  The centralized structures of one’s enemy are considered strategic targets.

Sherman’s great arson campaign was principally aimed at Atlanta, where both the railroads and telegraphs of the Confederate forces converged.  His march to Atlanta prefigured what would later become strategic bombing.
As the United States Armed Forces, to their chagrin, discovered in Iraq and Afghanistan is that when there were no longer centralized political structures to attack in Iraq, there was a complete loss of tactical initiative.  The US forces were metaphorically reduced to fighting off a swarm of hornets.  Their strategy became incoherent.  The problem was further magnified in Afghanistan, because there even the material infrastructure lacked centralization.  Rumsfeld’s first complaint about Afghanistan, when the Bush administration was preparing its war, was that Afghanistan presented the US with “no good targets.”

One thing this might be telling us, if we are listening, is that we are safer from the strategies of ill-wishers in decentralized groups.  The more the merrier.

In nature, decentralized diversity generates resilience.  Centralized monoculture, on the other hand, is vulnerable precisely because it is centralized.  One electrical failure can plunge 50 million people into opaque helplessness. One new fungus can wipe out a monocropped food staple.
I bring this up, because I want to suggest a mode of strategic decentralism.  Being strategic without developing A Strategy.  The 99% of the 99% need to have some answer to the question, “What can we do?”  My answer is make new facts on the ground.  Start re-designing the built environment, especially in those spaces that are being ignored or abandoned during the process of devolution.

I want to propose a strategic goal without any general staff, without any hierarchy of any kind, part of which almost anyone can accomplish.  No requirement for management, and no implied requirement for conflict (some will always find you), and no one-size-fits-all instructions on how to get it done.

I want to propose that we begin a systematic effort to reduce our dependency on the technocratic grid, by a lot of people working at or near their homes.  One of the most powerful dependencies we have on the grid is food.  The power of the food institutions is already well known and well understood, from Monsanto, to ADM and Cargill, to the Food and Drug Administration.  Our very survival has been lashed to this grid by food-production monopolies.  The entire world is groaning under the depredations of the food giants.

I have witnessed food riots firsthand.  It is an unforgettable experience.  Our dependency on food is a terrible weapon in the hands of the one percent.
I want to propose we build a million food gardens.  Two million.  However many.  However many conditions.  However many designs.  There is the strategic direction:  make food, and not just for the same reasons Gandhi made salt.  Make food because it puts that much of our lives back into our own hands, and the hands of our communities.  Into the hands of our friends, our families, our covenantal relations.  We can meet one of our own needs without any bureaucratic apparatus.

Making Food

In the town where I live, with around 20,000 souls, we built a garden this year.  A group of people built the first of several food donation gardens on what the city has called “orphaned properties.”  The city owns them, but they have no particular use for them during this devolutionary contraction.  Next Spring, we want to make two more gardens.  A friend from church just offered the use of a portion of her country property for garden cultivation.  We have around a million maples worth of leaf mulch and compost, mountains of chipped wood (from ice storm damage last year), and those long Northern summer days of sun.  We have barely begun to learn how much food we can grow here… off the commercial food Grid.

I, for one, do not intend this to be some strategy to force new policies into the commercial food grid.  Speaking for me, I see this as a way of serving divorce papers on the commercial food grid.  And no one has figured out a way to call helmeted, militarized police out to stop anyone working in the gardens.  The cops I talked to this year said it was a good idea, the garden.
Multiply this by a million, then instead of a quarter acre of re-designed facts on the ground, you have 250,000 acres of re-designed facts on the ground.  These are easier to defend than a policy, and it presents no strategic targets.  Certainly there are threats and potential threats, but there is no one neck so Nero can have the pleasure of cutting it.  Instead there is an accumulation of intimate victories, accomplished by convenantal communities, communities made that much stronger by the reduction of their dependency on the technocratic grid and the recognition of their very personalized interdependency on each other.

Walking on Two Legs

Demonstrating in the street, this unmasking work that OWS has done so incredibly, inspiringly, lovingly well, is not done yet.  I am not by any means arguing that anyone ought to return from the street.  Those of us who can’t be there do need you to represent.  You are the allies of unpredictability, the agile OODA-artists of the street, the magicians who can abracadabra bits of stunning clarity out of your hats.  Your job is exhilarating, exhausting and crazy risky sometimes.  If you can do it, that is where you need to be.

There will never be more than a fraction who have the flexibility at a particular time to be manifestantes.  We love you, and we want you to go on, and we have been both instructed and entertained by your courage, creativity and endurance.

When you can no longer do it, there is something you can do, and so can the 99% of the 99% who can’t be those shock troop manifestantes, right now.
What can be done, and without any strategies involved, is a straightforward and strenuous effort by 99% of the 99% who are at home to make food. If there are 500,000 OWS protestors, then there need to be 1,000,000 more people who are making food in their yards, their neighborhoods, their churches, temples and synagogues, their workplaces, their schools, their land trust plots, their fallow fields, their empty lots, their apartment decks, their patios and their kitchen windows.

Even when the demonstrations end – and they will end – we are not left with nothing to do to continue dissolving that power.  Every square yard of land recovered for food is a material victory in the face of little resistance, and that same square yard is a square yard of independence from the Grid.
Do not pit your weakness against their strength.  Exercise your strengths where they are weakest, where you live.  The system is falling apart, and nothing will stop that.  More and more niches will appear.

Even more important to me personally:  gardens are peacemaking.  Peacemaking is still the most important form of resistance.
Let a million gardens bloom.



John Andersen said...

This is wise advise.

I am part of the protesters right now, but realize the street demonstrations only help to bring the issues to the public's awareness.

Gardening, community building, cottage industries, free education in local villages, etc. are the practical things to which we need to devote our energies and time over the long haul.

Ruben said...

A very excellent post, Stan.

I have been very disappointed with the clinging to tents by the Occupiers. Tents are a tactic and should be abandoned the instant they stop serving us.

The only qualm I have with radical gardening is the chance the gardens may also become a place to cling to--gardens are much harder to set up than a tent.

But again, gardens are a tactic. Great judgement should be used before seeing them as something that should be defended against force or with force.

I think your call to be like a cloud of hornets is perfect. Don't settle into the nest, where a can of Raid can stop the buzzing.

Paul said...

No, Ruben. Garden's are not a tactic. They represent a genuine alternative to the capitalist grid in its most indispensable and predatory aspect. They are are the food, drink and focus of independence for the foreseeable future.

Dmitry covers the issue of theft from plots, and his response to it is surprisingly low key, yet rational

Journal Actif said...

Gardens to me, a mother and homemaker, represent a form of security for my family.

I never thought of my gardening activity as a tactic. I did realise years ago ago that gardening for food independance represent a form of "manifestation", word I use in its French meaning of "protest". Manifestantes in Spanish is Manifestants in French is Protesters in English. It's not very far fetched to feel oneself is a protester when confronted with social reaction to your food garden in some neighborhoods or circles.

Adhering to voluntary simplicity in our lifestyle (refusal to adhere to consumerism or consume according to marketed social conventions), now that I think about it through the ideas exposed in this article, is an other form of Bricolage. A powerful, sometimes even exhilarating form of Practice of Everyday Life. It feels very empowering to be able to be happy without worrying about being happy. Money makes you worry about the mean of being happy and therefore puts us in a debilitating state of mind.

I realise what I just wrote might be as clear as mud.

I'm French speaking and spent most of my life in France before emigrating to Canada. I very well know the concept of Bricolage. "Making do" is an excellent translation. It lacks some nuances to the popular meaning of Bricolage; The loss in translation for popular expressions is often unavoidable because of cultural and historical peculiarities attached to regional language.

Still, "Making do" is an excellent way of translating it. But I would add an other dimension to "Making do", like a sprinkling of sea salt on caramel: it's what you call in popular English language "Street Smart".

Now that I added a sprinking of sea salt to the caramel, I'll add the cream to the potage. An other layer of Bricolage, hopefully in line with what Stan exposes to us in this article is what we call in France "Système D." The letter D stands for "Débrouillardise" which can be translated by "Ressourcefullness" (although there's a lot of nuance lost in this translation too). Débrouillardise is a quality without which one can't really be street-smart.

All these words conceptualise a fun and very empowering way to demonstrate, protest and manifest, while at the same time adapt and be resilient in the face of collapse. All this helps in circumstances of shifting paradigms.

What you propose, Stan, is an adventure, an exciting one, so dynamic and doable for us, the 99% of the 99%, grounded home for reason of responsability towards children, homemaking, et cetera, et cetera...

When I was introduced to my family in law, I heard through the branches that I was labeled as "aventurière" (in the negative meaning of the word. I think they were taken aback by how different I was from them and my background was so mysterious to them). I was suprised because I didn't consider myself as such at the time. But today, I feel I am an aventurière who never totally lost her rebellious mind from the teenage years (I used to protest on the streets in my late teens, early twenties).

Your article is, to me, yet an other encouragement to continue in to radicalize our household, somewhat à la Shannon Hayes. and other radical homemakers who understood the vital importance of removing our families from the despotism of the grid.

(I'm a bit limited in my way of expressing myself in english, sorry if all I wrote feels laborious and holds gramatical errors).

Anonymous said...

"Dmitry covers the issue of theft from plots, and his response to it is surprisingly low key, yet rational"
I'm interested in this but a quick search of the blog didnt turn anything up...
Anyone point me in the right direction?

Dmitry Orlov said...

"Protesters" is Orwellian newspeak for "demonstrators"—the people who take part in "demonstrations." It's a sneaky way to shoehorn public discourse into the cul-de-sac of policy debate: you are either a protester (against a policy) or an advocate (for a policy). The goal is to prevent you from demonstrating the widespread lack of trust in the morally and financially bankrupt institutions and the people who are behind them. It doesn't matter who is president of the US happens to be because the US presidency is a systemically corrupt institution. It might be led by a zealot like Bush or by a nincompoop like Obama who is just a hostage in the White House: the result is the same. Likewise, it doesn't matter who gets to be a Senator, because the US Senate is a systemically corrupt institution, as reflected in its public approval ratings: almost twice lower than Nixon's during Watergate. There will come a desperate time when US politicians will come to the electorate crying mea culpa and asking, "What do you want us to do?" And it is important that the answer is loud and clear, served up through as many human megaphones as needed: "We want *you* to go away."

Concerning kitchen garden security: whether you are dealing with humans or (other) semi-feral beasts, to feed is to tame. Of course, there will always be some pilferage and some outright robberies, so it is important to never leave plots unattended around harvest time. And, of course, there are always a few macho idiots who want to stand guard with a 12-gauge waiting to blow away anyone who comes close to their precious over-ripe cucumber patch. But as the memorable quote from the movie "Repo Man" goes, "Only an asshole dies for a car." Likewise with a cucumber patch. We have before us the daunting task of repossessing much of the country, which has been bought up on credit, much which has since gone bad. Let's not have any accidents.

Journal Actif said...

kollapsnik said...

"Protesters" is Orwellian newspeak for "demonstrators"—the people who take part in "demonstrations." It's a sneaky way to shoehorn public discourse into the cul-de-sac of policy debate: you are either a protester (against a policy) or an advocate (for a policy).

I didn't know about the Orwellian newspeak. Thank you for explaining.

Re: garden theft, my sister lives near a low-income government subsidized appartment building. The kids used to jump over the fence and raid their kitchen garden while they were at work in the afternoon. She planted ever-bearing strawberries and cucumber vines all around the outside of the fence. The kids did pillage the strawberries and cucumbers methodically on their way home from school but left the less desirable (to them) vegetables pretty much alone after that. She got that idea from Gaia's Garden book in which Hemenway explains how he dealt with deers eating his crops.

Terrace said...

I actually don't care much for the "99%" slogan because it seems to obliterate an awareness of the bottom 1% in any situation. Other than that, all this hoohah is... interesting, in a limited fashion. I can already the seeds of the same-old same-old devotion to large social engineering projects among the ranks of the Occupiers, though, which leaves me skeptical. Some of them merely seek to rejigger the same Project that others (the elite 1%) currently sit on top of.

As for gardening, the work of James Scott ("The Art of Not Being Governed") makes some interesting points about the "wild" peoples of Southeast Asia - what they grew, and why. They tended to focus on farming styles and crops that resisted government appropriation - i.e., slash and burn farming instead of terraces (farms could be moved each year), root crops instead of grains (root crops being less obviously spotted by government tribute collectors).

In a general way, this points us towards a need to avoid large-scale agriculture AND some of its products: anyone trying to stay healthy ought to avoid too much wheat, corn, dairy or meat, all of which rely on large-scale, above-ground, complex, "permanent" agriculture. As a general guideline (not a hard-and-fast religion; hate those), it's good to keep in mind. And good to keep in mind why hill peasants and indigenous peoples in all countries eat what they eat. Perhaps, as James Scott wonders, they eat what they eat not because they're "primitive" or "primordial" or "back to the land," but because they're "post-civilizational."

Luciddreams said...

Journal Actif said:

"I'm a bit limited in my way of expressing myself in english, sorry if all I wrote feels laborious and holds gramatical errors."

I thought your post added much to Stan's blog and helped me, who speaks only English, more deeply understand the concept of "bricolage."

I found this blog extremely insightful and timely. I think it illuminates the intellectual and sociological implications of gardening in a way I have not thought. The blog blossoms in speaking truth to power in a way that truly empowers the "99% of the 99%" which is an aspect of the 99% that is largely ignored by strategies such as the Transition Movement. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Transition is a strategy is it not? That being the case, it's a strategy that's for the 1% of the 99%.

Community is extremely important but Transition seems to set itself up for failure due to the inevitable leaders that must exist within it. just published an article about John Michael Greer's latest comments on Transition. In the comments Rob Hopkins chimes in in defense of Transition. His objection is that Transition is indeed decentralized and is being spun as centralized by voices such as JMG's. I agree with JMG's voice and I believe Dimitri's stance is similar to JMG's.

At any rate, thank you Stan for writing this, and Dimitri for sharing it. The ideas herein really did help organize some thoughts that were randomly bumping into each other in my mind. It has given me some more power where focusing on meaningful action is concerned. This is a gift, in our current collapsing paradigm, that in invaluable.

Anonymous said...

Sigh, Dmitry. The level of these last few guest posts is depressing. Didn't this piece by Stan tick you off at all? It's condescending and passive-aggressive. Basically he says he shouldn't have any opinion, and really hasn't, and shouldn't be talking about it even if he did, but he's still very emphatic others are probably wrong and he should be considered generally right especially when it comes to the topic on hand.

He can't genuinely wish the occupiers good luck, say he likes them, expect them to use their best judgement, but then go on and on about how exactly they should do it in a non-hierarchical way while carefully heeding his advice. I hate it. I think that's his passive aggression that I reflect really.

It's fine to speak about "Agility" and about being "Strategic Without Strategy", but does it actually mean something beyond being probably critical of me and people I know or might one day meet? At the very least, why was it so hard on my brain to read through it? Am I defective? Why didn't Stan just say "Hey everyone, let's GARDEN!" I'd be all like, "YES! I'm there!" But I suppose then what he wrote about strategy might sound much like nothing, because just to start a garden I could really use A Plan. Oh my god, the domineering mind-set, I know! Would I dare to suggest that A Comprehensive Plan for my next year's garden beds as well as records of the past years' beds could be very helpful (if I don't already have them)? And if I jumped all in, I might even plan where I'm going to get my seeds for next year and the year after that, for what plants and for what sort of seasons, where I'm going to store the produce and how, how many people will it feed and so on. I could decide if I should buy extra seeds for the neighbors just in case, or think how I might get them involved somehow. I could offer produce or ask them to help with the harvest even. Would that make me an A-Strategyist so Stan would not agree, or would I perhaps qualify for Strategic Without Strategy or perhaps plain old common sense, or should I just leave the plans and bungle along? Would I want to debate and discuss which one of those it was, what the differences were, and would it say something about me if I did?

Gardening doesn't elevate anyone either, it produces food. That's contrary to how it's constantly made to appear to people who don't garden, and Stan seems happy to make it appear that way too. Nobody I go to on gardening business calls it "peacemaking" or "resistance." Ward Churchill would say there's no purity in starving children and he'd be exactly right.

Stan's comments about violence are also absurd and offensive. The collapse we're living through isn't a show or a game. The movement can't be "pacific" and rape-supportive at the same time. Only a pacifist would gloss that over while lamenting the sexism of the movement. Collapse is real, as in it's actually happening and in no-fun ways. Maybe the point with the violence part was not so much to make an actual point, but rather elevate oneself and show others you "belong", so you're more likely to be taken seriously with what else you say even if it doesn't make much sense either. It's thick, I know, but I have seen it happen.

Paul said...


... you have the nerve to sneer at the preceding posters, then dump that long, turgid, 'know-nothing' hooey on us. Do you work for Monsatano? Your ultra banal writing-style doesn't exactly compensate for the vacuity of the content of your 'oeuvre', either.

Paul said...

dazinizm, you will find it in one of Dmitry's articles describing how the Russian people coped with their economic crash. If I remember correctly, it was pretty much 'laissez-faire'. He needs food. Let him have it.

Journal Actif, on the basis of your explanation, 'debrouillardise' brings the word, 'savviness', to my mind; which is not a million miles from the more modern, 'street-smarts'.

Journal Actif said...

NYCO said...
"As for gardening, the work of James Scott ("The Art of Not Being Governed") makes some interesting points about the "wild" peoples of Southeast Asia"
@ NICO, interesting information and the title of the book reminds me of an oddity in my own family. My parents were born in Morocco during the French protectorate. The French army and administration used both boys and girls either as canon fodder for their wars or almost-slave workers in their homes, estates or enterprises. Therefore, my grand-parents on both sides didn't declare the birth of their children. No birth certificate, no papers, little possibility they would die working or fighting for the occupyer if they "don't exist" in the first place. A story I'd better tell my sons, just so they know...

@Luciddreams: I'm glad. And thank you.
Embarking in the Transition Town movement was something I was considering last year. Then I decided against it for several reasons, too long to expose here. But the main one was I felt I have to give my full, undivided attention to my home and my family first and foremost since I don't how much time we have before we feel the pain.

@Paul: Yes! Savviness, you nailed it. A mix of both I suppose since, to me anyway, savviness sounds all honest and street smart bears that fair-game delinquency flair to it.

casperhooey said...

"Sigh, Dmitry. The level of these last few guest posts is depressing. Didn't this piece by Stan tick you off at all? It's condescending and passive-aggressive."

It is suprising how you seemed to miss the whole idea Stan exposed and proposed, given how he took care of laying out the premises of said idea at extensive length.
And yes, I fully disclose I'm being purposefully condescendingly passive aggressive here. Not so much to be mean to you, but to help you feel the difference with Stan's post.

Alex said...

Many people support or empathize with OWS than can get out there occupying, so if you're talking with someone who feels this way, tell them one way of "occupying" is to grow some of their own food. Whether it's potatoes or tomatoes or herbs, growing your own food is a powerful form of protest.

Spread the idea.

Anonymous said...

I've got to say I agree with casperhooey about Stan Goff's writing style -- know-it-all, extremely so, and very passive-aggressive.

It's why I stopped reading Feral Scholar. That, and the cute way he dances around how being a soldier is a fine way to be a murderer but not be treated as would a non-military murderer.

Anonymous said...

Don't suppose anyone would mind if I'm the harbinger of bad news but, apparently the US gov. is working on a bill that would categorize the USA as a battlefield and allow the military to assume the role of law enforcement. With all the indefinite gitmo detainment that would likely entail.

Anonymous said...

New Zealand, is passing bill to make this idea really difficult, illegal in some cases. I assume its a test that will be brought to the US.

Luciddreams said...

About the government attempting to stop back yard gardens and control food production entirely. That's my line in the sand. At the point that the government makes it illegal to grow food it will no longer be a world that I can abide in. Ironically, I believe that would make America a "Battlefield."

The language that our politicians are using these days is pretty scary. From an article posted on the ACLU's site via Mike Ruppert's Collapsenet:

In support of this harmful bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) explained that the bill will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield” and people can be imprisoned without charge or trial “American citizen or not.” Another supporter, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) also declared that the bill is needed because “America is part of the battlefield.”

The "Homeland is part of the battlefield"!!! I must of fell asleep and woke up in 1984. I really don't have the words to describe the outrage. Where is the "battle" at? Are they talking about OWS? The battle that the cops are trying to wage all over our country using unnecessary force and violence? They haven't needed a bill for that so that must not be what they're talking about. Bin Laden is dead, not that that means anything since his families been in bed with the Bush family since the U.S. started pumping Saudi oil.

Looks to me like they are getting ready for a "battle" here in America. Probably because they know that our energy situation is about out of steam. People tend to riot. Have a look around the rest of the world because it will be the same here before long. Looks like the 1% are going to step it up a notch and use the military to protect the "homeland."

Stan said...

Thanks Dmitri for posting this and for a site that is consistently thought-provoking and not uncommonly spiced with rib-rocking humor.

Thanks to all the commentators, including those who may be less than convinced by my arguments or put off by my diction. In particular, I want to thank Journal Actif. Your English was more than adequate, and your phrase “radical homemaker” is one I intend to appropriate at every opportunity. What a beautiful idea, and what a remarkable gender subversion! Thanks also for “débrouillardise” and that additional context.

My epiphany about bricolage was influenced a great deal by my work for a couple of years on a deconstruction crew. No, not postmodern studies. We took apart houses scheduled for demolition by hand to recover as many materials for reuse as we could. Between 60%and 70% of the average building by weight was kept out of landfills. We could have kept more out if we hadn’t been constrained by what would “sell.” There is no such thing as trash. Unfortunately, there is not yet such a thing as a widespread re-use ethic. But we learn. Gardens are like that. Gardens teach.

To those who question my moral standing based on my past military career, I can only ask that you attend to the content of my argument here. As a pacifist, I am as critical of war and the military as anyone. That is the best I can do. As a Christian pacifist, my only refuge is forgiveness. “They know not what they do.” I need a God that forgives, because I cannot rewind the past and do it over. I was a captive of the narratives of empire, of whiteness, of masculinity. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

My application of the word “protester” to myself is cribbed not from Orwell, but from Alasdair MacIntyre’s archetypes of modernity, outlined in his opus, “After Virtue.” The other archetypes are the manager, the aesthete, and the therapist. I’ll leave readers on their own to discover MacIntyre if they haven’t. Well worth the effort is all I can say.

As for my advice to the manifestantes, I don’t think I gave any, aside from a general warning about the dangers of administration. They seem to be doing fine right now. My suggestion was a simple one for the rest of us. The critique of administration that alludes to Dunbar is a warning to all, based on my own reflections and disappointments as a member of the Marxist left and my work for several years in “progressive” non-profits. I’ll admit I have a philosophical point of view that is contrary to many of the manifestantes, and probably many of those to whom this piece was addressed. The citation of Illich, Hornborg, and MacIntyre is not accidental, given that all three are anti-modernists. The point of view that coheres in Dmitri’s site here is also far outside the mainstream even of anti-establishment thought.

Anyone who might be interested in the philosophical aspects of my argument can read the draft addendum to Sex & War at this link:

For those who are seeking to indict me, there is plenty more there to disagree with than what this piece provides.

I like gardens because I have been able to work in them effectively without presupposing the philosophical homogeneity of all the participants. Most importantly, gardens are good for making friends. These days, making friends seems almost revolutionary.

This year, the 300 square foot plot I tended yielded over 700 pounds of food. Into the plot I put all my kitchen scraps and urine. Nothing else but water. It’s getting cold here now. We are heaping on the mulch. The kitchen scraps tucked under the mulch are keeping the worms fat and happy.

Warm regards to all.


Paul said...

The gun-lobby Republican types are now terrified of the potential consequences of their squalid venality.

An instinctive, primal fear, it is perhaps the only vestige of sanity left to them, after their loss of the last vestige of any sense of the absurd turned them into a gallery of improbably grotesque rogues; an unfathomable mystery in the eyes of an incredulous world, a surreal mixture of depravity and self-defeating cunning that would be hilarious were the grotesques impotent, were they solely an incarnate Monty Python tableau.

And of course the Democratic politicos, at least the large majority who are a mix of Stockholm-syndrome hostages and Quislings, who have thrown in their lot with the Republicans rightly feel a good deal of the guilt attaching to the Republicans.

These past 30 plus years, they have been the enemy of the people, as have our politicians in the UK, but now they fear the nightmare of the people becoming their enemies.

People outside the 'rentier' sector are considered not to exist at all - certainly not as duly-accredited citizens. Our media in the UK dutifully retailed this bizarre misconception. It seems that it takes a national war for survival for them to suddenly acknowledge their existence and consequent rights in the country's assets.

The first verse of Kipling's Tommy (not that he didn't become as mad as a hatter)

'"I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.'

Only in the US, there are many people (I mean apart from police), already mentally unstable and dangerous to others who are armed to the teeth and fortified by all sorts of weird, faux 'macho', Republican myths about self-reliance and 'fighting them there before we have to fight them here,' and goodness knows what other bull.

Terrace said...

"Therefore, my grand-parents on both sides didn't declare the birth of their children. No birth certificate, no papers, little possibility they would die working or fighting for the occupyer if they "don't exist" in the first place."

Journal Actif, have you read James Scott's book? Because that's another key point he makes - the concept of "illegibility" or invisibility to the State. If the state couldn't enumerate you or write you down, they were unable to exploit you. And Scott believes that's why so many South Asian "tribes" have legends that they used to have writing/literacy, but lost it somehow... because they DID have it but left it behind because in the end, being literate was not such a great advantage. They're not illiterate... they're post-literate.

Journal Actif said...

I wish I'd coin "radical homemakers". The phrase became popular after Shannon's Hayes published her book titled so.
Here's the book's site.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for allowing the comment up to a point.

Even though Stan makes a valid argument to a point, I felt someone had to at least try to show the baggage he was throwing along with it. In my experience, that baggage tends to become more important than whatever valid and constructive ideas are contributed. It pre-empts discussion and constructive disagreement very effectively. Real-life human groups often can't take the passive aggression and remain functional. Usually the baggage is almost impossible to effectively critique from an intellectual point of view.

I think every village has people who throw in that same sort of baggage, whether they're pacifists or hold claim to other ideologies and their righteousness. When everyone knows each other, they can still be disruptive. If anything useful is to be achieved as a group, and sometimes that can be called for, they'll be there and the group can easily stop to function. If anything, everything helpful becomes a drawn out fight. Maybe Stan doesn't act that way in real life, but I have no way of knowing that and the rhetoric is just the same. If the useful thing's to get done succesfully then, everything usually needs to be prepared informally and carefully beforehand, between two people at a time, so that when the word gets around and it comes in plain sight for everyone, it's got enough momentum of its own to pull through. The one exception to that very unfortunate dynamic are tasks that are too important for people to let anyone get in the way of. But for the most part, we're hardly there yet; good and sensible changes are still optional and not absolutely necessary and so they're easily disrupted. Oddly enough, that same disruptiveness hardly ever stops a harmful initiative from being implemented.

Journal Actif said...

Terrace, no. I didn't read James Scott. But I'm intrigued and probably will.

TH in SoC said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the read. I too am a Christian and an ex-Stockholm Syndrome Republican. I like your point that the best strategic response which the 99 percent of the 99 percent can make is to learn to meet their needs as close as possible to home, and to form tight, relational links of mutual support with their close neighbors.

I do have a question regarding decoupling from the grid and getting one's needs met outside of the grid. It seems to me that now is not a good time for those practicing bricolage and decoupling from the system to share their tactics on the Internet, for all the world to see. It seems to me that the masters of the present dominant systems are too powerful yet for the rest of us to publicly share the ways in which we are setting ourselves free from the system. As our means of freedom are broadcast, the masters of the present system will do their best to interdict those means.

I think that the means of escape devised by each of us will also be situation-specific (as in, one size doesn't fit all). However, there is still value in sharing our stories and tactics of escape with each other - just not in public. We will have to revive networks of communication that don't depend on high technology.

What do you think? (Also, kollapsnik, do you have any thoughts on this?)

Dmitry Orlov said...

TH -

As Stan points out, the overlords can't handle tactics; all they have the bandwidth for is strategy (policy by another name). It makes sense, then to avoid entrusting our strategies, of which we don't have any, of course not, to any untrusted ears or networked pieces of electronics. But tactics are too granular and too time-sensitive to be turned against us; in fact, any attempt to do so is something for us to exploit, because it gets us inside their OODA loop and gives us a chance to trip them up and mess with their heads. Still, a good case can be made that all of our most important interactions must be kept electronically dark, look nothing out of the usual and blend in with the surroundings. Maintain your cover and plausible deniability at all times. The homeland is a battleground now, and we are all potential enemy combatants, haven't you heard? Loose lips sink ships! (I am joking, of course.)

Stan said...

Lance M. Foster said...

On our reservation, in the days of starvation and need, when the white man first put us there, there comes a story of an old Ioway man who was poor and had no relatives and no home. But he had seeds, corn, beans and squash.

He wandered our reservation, and planted a few seeds here and there, in hollows, in sunny spots, wherever he went. No big gardens, a small patch here, a few plants there. And he would wander among them throughout the summer, tending them.

He didn't do this just for himself, although he was a poor and lonely old man. He did this for anyone who was hungry, who was in need, for mothers who had kids to feed, or men who had no home, like him. And people never took more than what they could eat right then and there. He took care of the land, and he took care of people he didn't even know.

He didn't make a big deal of it. He didn't say what he did, and when people caught him, he just asked them not to say who did this. And they kept silent. And he did this for many many years before he died.

No one remembers his name, but we all remember what he did in those bad days, that our families could eat and live.

Anonymous said...

The Gardens as alternative to the actual capitaliste system ?

Ther is this book to read:

The Rural Solution: Modern Catholic Voices on Going "Back to the Land"

Maybe it's one solution !


Paul said...

That's what worries me about our cultures - US and UK. There are the good people and there are the feral types, for whom the natural thing to do would be to form or join a criminal gang to plunder and sell/barter other's crops.

The hunter-gatherers' wisdom would be an unfathomable mystery to them. As some commentator said around the time of Watergate, "To the evil man, virtue seems only a superior form of chicanery." But maybe they'd learn quickly.

Lance M. Foster said...

According to Rand Paul's testimony, you can be suspected as a potential terrorist if you are missing fingers or you have more than a week's worth of food in the house:

progressivepopulist said...

Thanks Stan, for the excellent article. I particularly liked this bit: "I respect that belief insofar as it is a belief people cleave to out of genuine good will. These people are not collaborators or sheep; and those who characterize them that way are both wrong and mean. I love the people who want to change the policies, because I am convinced that they want to do it out of a genuine sense of care about others."

As a fellow radical, I struggle to have patience with such folks, though I should always take care to remember as you do that they do "genuinely care for others". While I would never be inclined to characterize them as collaborators or sheep, as a father of young children, it is a challenge to have patience as collapse unfolds and so many remain blind to the true nature of the systems that drive us toward disaster.

JA, thank you for the enlightening contribution to the discussion. I found your writing perfectly comprehensible (of course I'm an American and have far too much experience with deciphering far less coherent commentary via facebook and the mainstream media).

It seems to me that one of the most important arguments in favor of organizing such cooperative and collective endeavors such as community gardens, is the building of relationships and trust. Where I live (in the mountains of Western North Carolina) there is still a living memory of the days before the local economy was solely based on money. Community relations and the prevalence of what Tocqueville called "self-interest properly understood", served to foster patterns of social behavior and reciprocity that provided care and assistance for the most vulnerable members of the community as well as shared work among the strong that provided sustenance for all. There is much that must be rediscovered and relearned, a daunting as well as exciting prospect.

Journal Actif said...

@Lance Michael Foster

And not that I'm suprised or anything but it looks like we, in Canada, won't be spared by that piece of USA legislation.
"Border deal fuels concerns in Canada"

kollapsnik, you said in your intro of the post:
"The solution he proposes is one that should be put into practice immediately"

Yes, absolutely! And as we say in French, it's due yesterday.

Several things spiked my adrenaline these last few days. But this interview of the owner of a commodity brokerage firm who decided to just close doors, her 20 minutes (intelligent) rant, the particular tone of her voice and what it reveals of her sentiment tell me tons about the time left to prepare.

At the 14:10 minutes point down the interview she says "I'd be very suprised if we make it to Christmas".

hawlkeye said...


You write in so many generalities, I have no idea what you're trying to say...


I think you are joking about making a joke because you are (not) making it on the internet! Very clever...


Have you seen the video re: Sepp Holzer, an Austrian who grows pumpkins all over rocky slopes?


Please go read the Archdruid about binary thinking; "good vs feral" is not a useful strategy, er, policy or tactic, or whatever the hell it is. It isn't.

Patrick said...

I listened to the broker Ann Barnhardt interview. She's quite adamant about closing out your 401(k). Even for someone who knows better, and has already abandoned the notions of growth/retirement/honest banks/competent government/everything's going to be okay — it is so hard (psychologically) to go against the common "wisdom" and pull out the $$ and pay the penalty.

How well the brainwashing was done!

But I've been finding myself doing all kinds of new and "strange" things these past five years. So the brainwashing wasn't completely effective, I guess.

Paul said...


I believe I understand your reservations about my contrasting 'good' versus 'feral' in this context (our media commentariat in the UK are as brazenly Pharisaic as can be), but I thought my concluding words should have indicated that I was talking about the effects of immediate acculturation, not essential decency or otherwise. I think that is realistic without being purblindly haughty.

It's pretty basic Christianity, as is clear from Christ's concern for those in prison - in contrast to his attitude towards the comfortable and self-satisfied of our polite society.

Patrick said...

Oops. Looks like Ann Barnhardt is a right-wing kook on some issues. Her outrage at the lawlessness sweeping the country and the financial mirage did resonate with me, though.

Journal Actif said...

Patrick, ooops indeed.

I felt Barnhardt was a leaning on the right in the interview I linked here. It didn't seem an extreme leaning though and she expressed vividely in her rant 3 of the stage of collapse Orlov described, namely:
- Political collapse
- Social collapse
- Cultural collapse
So I just decided her political colors don't matter much and what is important is her point of view as a commodity broker.

Then I heard an other interview yesterday morning, where Barnhardt begins by discussing our current situation through the lens of her (extreme!) political and religious beliefs.

Hearing that one, I regreted dearly linking her fist interview because I consider what she believes in to be very dangerous.

I hesitated ever since to come and comment about it. Your comment encourages me to finally acknowledge Bernhard's reaction is very illustrative of what is discussed here and in Dmitry Orlov's book. But beware, her political and religious (commingled) beliefs are on the extreme.

I find it too bad, by the way, her endoctrinement dilutes and even may remove credibility to her observations about political and financial collapse.

Avi said...

Here's a quick way to have highly productive mobile gardens up and running on vacant urnan lots:

Anonymous said...

I'd like more focus upon this New Zealand policy. How on Earth can any people put up with such a ridiculous statue/law/policy/rule?? Will Kiwis actually obey this mad law? And how do the Powers That Be in that country justify this?

Robert424 said...

At this stage of it's development many ways can build the Occupy Movement. However, I think that the best approach to reach out and recruit millions of citizens to it's banner,is that of Teach ins. Teach-ins will attract those who are open to new ideas and already have sympathy for the movement. Teach-ins can feature well known speakers (Robert Reich, Michael Moore etc.) that in turn attract new recruits. Teach-ins also have the valuable effect of educating our own membership. Teach-ins also make it safe for newbies to come to the movement. Teach-ins also assert and protect our right of free speech and assembly. This is not a really new idea, to those who had experience in movement building in the sixties. Please Google “Occupy Teach ins “

travelling_without_moving said...

Great post. It is a very good example of why the Transition Towns movement is right to emphasise resilience and food, and re-localisation.

And it works! Here's a great example from the UK: