EcoPunk #61

    It was another one of those mornings when I realized that I was born in the wrong century.
    The chattering of fully engaged airbrakes shattered the pre-dawn serenity as a literal armada of log trucks skidded their way down to the Boise Cascade mill in Medford. As the sound of the last ancient trees in the Winema National Forest being carted off to their certain fates reverberated between my ears, it suddenly became clear that this was punishment for the sin and debauchery of the previous night. Fuck... God, or the lack thereof, can sure be cruel.
    I smooched the murmuring body to my side and stealthily slid out from under the cozy blankets into the morning air. Not a good day to be me. A full blown, Catholic guilt styled hangover from the liberation of Carlo Rossi, a full day of drudgery killing rich people’s trees ahead of me, and now this, the synchronized dance of the log trucks on their senseless and fiscally unstable mission to destroy the last native forests on earth sure didn’t send a fellow reeling with optimism. What a fucking day.
    As I dug around in the firepit seeking some embers that might have been tenacious enough to last through the cold and dew of nightfall for an early morning resurrection, the sentiment once again rolled through my thoughts. You were born in the wrong century. You and everything you believe in are 150 years out of date.
    What the hell did this mean? Was this the lingering ghost of high school guidance counselors trying to tell me to abandon my pre-industrial anarchist beliefs and grow up? Was this just the passing panic of every fanatic who suddenly realizes that they might, just maybe, be wrong? A wise philosopher, Wittgenstein (or was it Hank Williams?) once noted that one’s subconscious was always in tune with the truth and that try as we may, there is no way to escape the truth in our minds or our hearts.  He had better be wrong on this one.
    Having no success trying to rekindle a fire from a weary little coal, I settled for the next best thing, a nice brisk stroll around the Firescar Ranch compound. I stumbled my way through the dense stands of prepubescent incense cedars and onto the retired logging road which bisects our 50 acres. As my eyes gazed upon one of the 15 or 20 slash piles of cut then abandoned tree carcasses, the words returned once again.
    You were born in the wrong century...
    It is strangely ironic, bizarre even, that while the rest of the world is doped up on the possibilities of the “information age,”  the global free market, and all the accompanying consumer oriented, macro-megolopolies, most of the more dedicated anarchist folks in the punk, hippie, and rave subcultures have turned the other direction. While the rest of society revels in the fact that they can e-mail people in Germany, that the new Star Wars has better special effects and that the economy is doing so well as to promise them a computer with better memory and perhaps hired help, a large number of us on the fringe have become enthralled with the idea of living on land, building our own homes and growing our own food. While most of the world focuses on the 21st century, we have turned our attention to the 18th. While the rest of the world is thinking bigger, we are thinking smaller.
    So perhaps this isn’t so odd. All of our little subcultural niches were founded on the disbelief and denial of existing societal standards, actualizing this through an often fanatical opposition to everything and anything proposed by the MAN. Perhaps it is our natural, liberty spiked punk response to the “global community” and the plans of transnational enterprise to, as Robert Hoyt (a famous Earth First! musician) put it, “slam on the brakes and make a U turn from the brink.”
    But I think there is something more to this neo-back to the land, punk-redneck-farmer thing than mere nonconformity and opposition. For one thing, we are not the only fringes that are making the move away from global servitude and towards simple, yet self sufficient living.  Christian fundamentalists, Black, Latino and Native nationalists, the intellectual Right and Left, and just about every rural people on this continent are likewise attempting to reclaim whatever liberty and autonomy they have left through lifestyle transitions back to basics. On other continents, the sentiments are the same as people are literally fighting and dying to retain their autonomy in this age of expedited economic exploitation and cultural imperialism. From the Zapatistas of México to the Native Polynesians in the South Pacific to indigenous fisherman on the coastal periphery of Norway, to the militias of the Western United States, our battles and strategies are the same. As funny as we are in our little patchy clothes/bad haircut/buttflap wearin’ subculture, we are truly a part of something much larger.
    Secondly, if you take a look at the folks that are making these moves away from the suicidal servitude of urban life, it isn’t your run of the mill street punk with a 40oz glued to their lips and needle stuck in their arm. From my point of view, today’s ecopunks seem to be more experienced  (it ain’t so much a matter of age as what they’ve done and seen) folks that have been punks and activists for a long time and have come to the conclusion that to live free, we must have unrestrained, personal access to the means of survival, to land.  There isn’t an adolescent sense of smash everything nihilism or a naive posi-core “the world will change if we can only unite the punks and skins” element. There aren’t even the typical jaded parasites one would associate with drop out culture in any form. The eco-folks on our mountain, and in other places around North America that I know, are all down to Earth people with a good sense of what needs to be done. They are finished rebelling against their parents and teachers and have settled themselves into rebelling against what really needs to be rebelled against; the future (as dictated by the corporate monolith). So as much as I hate to grind against the ironic punk truism “doing what other people are doing,” as a matter of course, you can pretty much assess the validity of something by the character of the people involved. And considering the unanimous quality of the eco-punks I know, and the fact that in a global sense, we have no other options, it is clear that in thinking backwards, towards a time when freedom and autonomy were more important than techno-gadgetry and industrial fascism, that we are doing the right thing.
    You were born in the wrong century.
    So yeah, I suppose that Wittgenstein or Hank Williams (or was it Shelter?) was right; my subconscious speaks the truth. I was born in the wrong century. I am a man of outdated ideas and plans. I believe in the right to do as I want so long as I don’t hurt another person. I believe in thrift and hard work(for one’s self) and independence. I believe in wide open spaces and places you could walk into and never be seen again. I believe that freedom and autonomy are of more value than oppression driven pseudo-security or internet access. I believe in the Jeffersonian ideals of liberty that Ed Abbey interpreted as “Brewing your own beer, killing your own beef (tofu), and pissing off your own front porch whenever you goddamn feel like it.” I don’t for one second believe the media perpetuated lies about how increasing our reliance upon precarious forms of techno-industry are going to make us all happier and more liberated. I have absolutely no faith in dependency on authoritarian institutions like the World Bank, the US. government, or Microsoft/Warner Brothers/Sony/Monsanto bringing us into the new millennium content and fulfilled. I don’t trust the politically correct voices of tolerance and compassion that sell us their pro-child, pro-”person of color” regimen, while at the same time trying to usurp our rights to believe, speak, and defend ourselves just as voraciously as any jackbooted thugs with silly mustaches 60 years ago. 
    So sure, I reckon that I would have made a much better 17th Century mountain man-explorer-pirate than an over-educated, working class man of the late 20th century.  I fancy the idea of roaming around a continent all but uninhabited and still 99% wild. I cherish the idea of meeting my fate 600 miles from the nearest white person at the claws of a grizzly or jaws of a wolf. I relish the fact that 200 years ago, the spot where I now sit and write was part of a massive forest stretching from the snowy peaks of the Cascades to the Pacific, from Southeastern Alaska to Central California. I am fascinated by a time where there wasn’t a single cop, county bureaucrat or federal agent West of the Appalachians. Of a time when one was as free as their respective ability to survive in the forest, desert and grassland primeval. But even my fantasies being so, there is nothing I can do to change the fact that I was born in the latter quarter of the 20th Century and am trapped in the 7-11 culture of comfort. I, and the eco-punk fringe in general, need to act in the here and now as though our ideals, our lives and our freedoms depend on it.
    The basic fact of the matter is that even though we are not alone in our kickturn away from the coping of technological dependency, we are vastly out numbered and overwhelmingly underpowered. If we are really serious about taking back our freedom and our autonomy, and keeping it, we need to seriously rethink the way we have been going about things.
    First and foremost, in my mind at least, we need to begin to purge the remnants of industrial society from our minds, bodies and communities. We need to throw the proverbial wrench into the assembly line, specialized cog in the machine mentality that has been beaten into our heads through years of school and media coercion.  For the past 20 or 25 years, we have been taught that we are a certain thing , with a certain relationship to the things around us and for that reason, are best suited for one particular niche or skill. Instead of this specialized mindset, that was created by the powers of corporate society to make us subservient, efficient actors in the industrial leviathan unable to subsist outside its iron walls, we need to think more like our grandparents or the poor white trash on the outskirts of town or the Mexican migrants in the fields. We need to realize that without the convenience of industrial society, we need to do everything ourselves, just as our ancestors did before they were uprooted from the land and chained to labor in the “free market.” We need to be like my grandfather who was, and still is, a farmer. A lawyer. A diesel mechanic. A butcher. A carpenter. A hunter. A fisherman. A plumber. A marksman. An engineer. A veterinarian. A botanist. A truck driver. A soldier. And a hundred more things all wrapped up into one man that honestly understands, and is able to live, true independence.
    As of now, our scene lacks almost all the skills to survive without the system we claim to hate. I don’t know a single person who has the skills to fix a friend who has been shot repeatedly in the chest and is coughing up blood in the gutter or who can quell the symptoms of pneumonia. I don’t know a single person who has the skills to make a water purification system that could keep us from dying of hepatitis or the shits. I don’t know a single person who has the skills and resources to grow ALL their own food. I don’t know a single person that truthfully has the skills to stop tanks and helicopters as they seek to destroy us. And the list continues.
    If we are really serious about declaring (and living) our independence from corporate society, we need to have the skills to do it and to do it successfully. We need to stop entertaining our egos with how cool and independent we are because we can put out DIY consumer items like records and zines, when at the same time, we can’t survive if our fondest desires of crumbling empires came true. We need to stop taking pride in the menial, skilless labor that so fills the punk scene. We need to quit our jobs as dishwashers, prepcooks and retails sales agents and get into professions that can help us, and our communities prosper. 
    My proposal? Learn everything you can about the things that really matter. We need doctors and lawyers and farmers and mechanics and scientists and botanists and health workers. We need people that can fix tools, vehicles, bodies and land. We need a large number of well trained people to make our resurrection of 18th century agraria a model for the rest of the world. We need to have the skills to make our lands, our communities and our minds function as truly independent and autonomous beings; to show that viable, indeed desirable alternatives exist to the One World Order of techno-industrial culture.
    There is no doubt in my mind that we can do this, even from our relatively small fringe of a rather insignificant subculture on the periphery of Northern Society. Indeed, things are already rolling in this direction. Our little scene, that thinks His Hero is Gone is music and creepers are still cool, has a ton of potential blossoming from within. Since antipathy #4 came out last year, I have received about three dozen amazing zines by kids that are way smarter than I am. I’ve seen the fantastic work of Jen Angel and her Become the Media project, of Megan and Theo in Arkansas who are tackling different fronts of the media. I’ve seen Karen, Niki, and dozens of other kids taking apprenticeships to learn welding, herbalism, massage therapy and auto repair. I’ve watched Free Skools spring up in six different cities and Ben Axiom learning the rigors of political research. I’ve met kids harvesting seaweed in Maine, planting gardens in the innercities, and buying up land in Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Oregon. I stood around the Submission Hold show in Ashland and heard the local punk scene talking not about records, beer or each other, but about fighting timber sales, grafting trees into a food source, building cob houses, repairing stream banks, starting a permaculture school, and what herbs work for chronic indigestion.  Reverend Al became a badass lawyer and Firefly is working towards medical school. Things are definitely starting to change for the better here; our job is to keep things positive, keep things motivated and keep the ball rolling. ¡hasta el futuro!
-mike antipathy • po box 11703  • eugene, or 97440
tac@efn.org • 541.821.6248

- By the way, if anyone is interested in creating a land project in Oregon, there are several different plots of land for sale on the very same mountain which is home to the Firescar Ranch compound and two other anarchist owned land trusts. Lot’s of trees, lots of wildlife, water, out of the way, yet a mere 20 minutes from a nice liberal town with punk shows, health food stores and free food. Let’s take over this whole area!!! Write me for info(send stamps!!!) and I’ll help connect you with other folks interested in the same things...

- Several other like-minded compañeros from across the continent  and myself have decided to produce a publication dedicated to the ecopunk fringe and issues of self-sufficiency, gardening/farming, alternative power and medicine, autonomist politics and the like. This is intended to be a skills/fact based resource for those living or looking to live on land or with an interest in wilderness defense, self-sufficiency, food production and other such issues. Your contributions are needed ASAP. Please send photos, articles, a brief history and description of your project, poetry, photos, stories, event listings, and anything else that might be useful for networking or skillsharing to: Antipathy po box 11703  Eugene, Oregon 97440 tac@efn.org  541.821.6248 (before January 1, 2000) or to Paper Tigers po box 2945 Tulsa, Ok 74101 (after January 2000). And we need a name!!! Please send suggestions and donations.