The divine kingdom is among you/within you. Luke 17:21

Much water under the bridge since I last wrote. But maybe it’s been worth the wait. I am close to sensing the shape of my life to come. Here’s a sketch… perhaps even a scrap of a map to be of use to other pilgrims.

How to leave Babylon? I don’t have a youth’s lifetime before me. It is time to walk the escape routes I have so far discovered. I am sure there are other passageways still, obscured by brambles, thorns and piles of concrete, for others to squeeze through. I hear that Dmitry Orlov is back in the bosom of Mother Russia, living in the back country and building his dream houseboat that sails. Thousands of pioneers are flocking to eastern reaches of Siberia where Vladimir Putin opened the last planetary chance for homesteading on the cheap. But you must either know Russian, or receive special permission, as have the 15,000 Boer farmers from South Africa. I am fated to remain closer to Babylon than they, but stubbornly not of it. It’s a path anyone can follow, not only hardy young adventurers.

I wrote a while back that to leave domination is to leave Babylon. In order to do this, one has to begin opening spaces between people that allow for power sharing. So somebody asked, what exactly is power sharing? This is so far my best answer: it’s leaving one-upmanship games behind, and opening up spaces where people can share thoughts openly and without undue aggression, exert influence without manipulation, and dare to tell the truth. It’s keeping competition within limits so it doesn’t ride roughshod over cooperation. None of this is easy. All of it takes courage. But every skill learned, embodied and acted upon is another step on the way out.

Here are the words I am speaking into being:

Find your land of beauty where you are meant to sing praises of creation and enlarge the chances of life. Feed the soil. Grow the soil. Rewild. No matter how small a place, help it bring forth a richer, more abundant lifeweb than there was before. And rewild your own spirit by being in the NOW, a lot.

Open up more and more power-sharing spaces between you and other human beings. Some for a few minutes, some for a lifetime. Open up the realm where souls connect. That is the new frontier — explore it together. Such relationships, rich in attention and trust, wield magic and restorative power of their own. Such relationships are the embers of another way of being with each other, waiting to be stoked into flame.

Inviting enchantment in is also a reality changing experience. Knock, and it shall be opened. Turn until you align just right, and you shall find yourself in the valley of love and delight, as the Shakers knew. Live your life within and out of the generative process, imitating Mother Nature. “Unplanning,” as it’s been known on this blog. Life proceeds like a bud opening.

And finally, tell the truth. Untruth corrupts the soul and the body politic, and one form of corruption feeds the other. Truth reweaves the torn structure of the living world. After all, in Paradise, everyone speaks the truth. That’s what makes it Paradise.

I walk away from the world of dead and dying soils into the world where soil is being brought back to life and abundance. I walk away from the spectacle world of fake news, misdirection, manipulation, power hoarding, chronic lies, and bullshit piled so high they’ll need Hercules to clean it out lest it all fall on them… and into the world where people simply and honorably tell each other the truth as best they know it. I walk away from arid atheism, materialism and consumerism, ossified religions and totalitarian ideological temptations into a world re-enchanted by those who dare to make the leap of faith, who rise in rebellion against reason gone rogue, who are ready to call on ancestral forces through prayer and ritual to guide us on our way. I walk away from anomie, anonymity, cynicism and shallowness into a world where relationships open up magical spaces of attention and trust. I walk away from a world of plans and goals gone awry, into a world that lets the future unfold from the goodness of the present moment.

And look; there is the door.


The only way for us to win is not to play.

At the core of the Machine is a whirlwind of human and planetary energy sucked into a global positive feedback loop that’s formed a funnel of destruction and death, mowing down everything in its path. An out-of-control vicious circle is very difficult to stop; there is no point underestimating the daunting nature of this task. Such a system has a huge investment in ignoring warning counter-signals. This, coupled with the addictive nature of power, makes for a very persistent system, which, indeed, has persisted very well for some 6,000 years. The heavy investment of the rulers in power-enhancing technologies also makes a big difference. And yet, and yet… a well-aimed negative feedback will stop a runaway loop cold.

History, so far, shows only two ways such Machines of domination were stopped. The first is a system-wide crash: the Machine ran out of — ruined — “nature services” that provided the resources human labor could gather and amplify, with resulting starvation, flight and desolation. This is the option accompanied by the infamous Horsemen: Famine, Pestilence, War and cannibalism (this shadowy horseman is rarely mentioned but rides along with the others as sure as Death). The second is a slower collapse with a silver lining: the workforce vanishes into the underbrush, merging with tribes and rebels off the radar, scavenging for real value, and leaving the Machine to grind to a halt. In other words, either warning signals are heeded and human energy redirects itself away from the Machine, or nature pulls the plug. I hardly need to emphasize that it would be much to our advantage not to wait for Mother Nature’s solution. Will it work? It’s the only thing that ever has. All it takes is a critical number of people quietly ducking out.

When the Czechs and Slovaks withdrew from public life into private and family affairs after the 1968 Soviet invasion, I was grievously disappointed. I envied the Poles their active and celebrated opposition. Now I see it as the sanest response they could have mounted. They withdrew from the system. They laughed at it in a million clever jokes. They worked as little as possible, they taught their own kids to look under the surface and see the lies, they believed nothing official but found their own sources of news, they created connected networks of craftspeople and others with useful skills to trade and get things done privately. And they put most of their energy into living. The system weakened; how could it not? The power structure, artificially propped up by Moscow, collapsed overnight when the Soviets could no longer ride in with the big stick. My old countrymen and women paddled with the current, while the power elites struggled against it, trying hard to control the situation. To no avail. It is a lot easier to harass a few dissidents than to go after millions of people who are most notable by… doing as little for the system as they can get away with, just minding their everyday lives, and not believing anything you say.

So it works in the modern world, just as it worked long ago for lowland Maya, or the Hohokam, or Norte Chico. It’s our last great hope: passing over the swamp that waters Babylon, we rain our energy onto the watershed that feeds the river of Life.


 We can refuse to participate in a dead society gone shopping.
— Joe Bageant

Once we understand what feeds it, it becomes possible to think of stopping the Machine. I puzzled over this one for a long time, only to suddenly grok the obvious: the fodder for the Machine is our precious life energy!

Eeww… eewww

So then. Deny it its coveted fuel: your effort, your attention and interest, your money, your loyalty, your goodwill and your good ideas. Deny it your streams of energy, one by one. Direct them instead to the Lifeworld. And don’t shout it from the rooftops! Just blend discreetly into one of the various subcultures experimenting nowadays with a saner way of life; the minions and guardians of the Machine will never even notice you.

This is the crux. Any machine can withstand tinkering, but no machine can run without fuel. Like an old mill on a dry riverbed, it will become a relic of a past that’s done with, a useless hunk of debris. Our radical withdrawal will be the end of the Machine.

Here are some of the ways of seceding from Babylon:

  • Down-work, un-work

More work is the source of evils like resource depletion and stress and pointlessly complicated lives; the Earth needs us to stop working so hard! The less we work, the less we feed the Machine. Our work aids the plunder, our de-working slows and stops it, one person at a time. This is why Babylon has always reinforced the message that work is virtuous and important even as it was inventing pointless busywork, harmful work, useless work. Let’s celebrate “Freedom from Labor” Day! Working more is not the way to leisure. Leisure is the way to leisure. Find it before the Machine uses you up and spits you out.

Working less will give the earth a break and repatriate you from ratdom back to humanity. There is plenty of work out there for those who want to do real things, useful things that matter. Once we shed debts and provide ourselves with paid-for basics, money is a small part of the picture. Well-being is what matters, not cranking out a pittance while the planet is plundered more and more. What we need is a “less work ethic”! Less work, less planet being used, more life.

  • Unschool

Unschooling does not mean turning the parent into a traditional teacher, and stuffing the kids full of the same nonsense that the official curricula dictate. No! Let children learn as they did between that ages of birth and 5 or 6, when they acquired prodigious quantities of knowledge, all by their own efforts. Just help them along, and they will be far ahead of their institutionalized peers. Best learning happens in context, by learners who are busily exploring their environment. Spend time with your children sharing with them what you know and what you love. Create neighborhood co-op schools. Get tutors (elders in particular): kind, child-cherishing experts who can take the kids down paths you do not know. And make it possible for children to learn real things: basic medical care, care for animals, food growing and cooking, conversation, geography of travel, building. All those abstractions schools “teach” will either be learned in the course of their exploration, or will never be needed anyways. Honest: when was the last time you needed algebra?

  • Dis-identify with the hologram 

Exit the theater of the audience-nation! As Joe Bageant once ranted so well: “All Americans, regardless of caste, live in a culture woven of self-referential illusions. Like a holographic simulation, each part refers exclusively back to the whole, and the whole refers exclusively back to the parts. All else is excluded by this simulated reality, a simulated republic of eagles and big box stores, a good place to live so long as we never stray outside the hologram. The corporate simulacrum of life has penetrated us so deeply it now dominates the mind’s interior landscape with its celebrities and commercial images. Within the hologram sparkles the culture-generating industry, spinning out our unreality like cotton candy.”

The hologram and its spin meisters have been having themselves a veritable orgy of lies and propaganda dealing with the wreck that is Ukraine. This has been one part of the world I have followed with some alacrity over the last year. Nothing, nothing, nothing reported in the MSM was close to the reality on the ground. When the fated Malaysian plane was shot down, a relentless stream of deception sloshed out like long-stored toxic sludge that burst its containment. As Ilargi has recently pointed out on Automatic Earth, 2014 was the year when the bargeload of lies heading our way was no longer even disguised. It may be time for me to pull back even from the little “Babylon-watching” that I still do. Their self-referential faux-reality does not deserve the gift of anyone’s attention. My heart goes to all those trapped in Babylon’s perpetual wars, and my blessings.

  • Unplug from the Spectacle

Toss the damn stupid boob box. Why are you still watching all those hundreds of channels with nothing on? It sucks away your hours like a vampire. Give those hours to something that will give you joy. After all, your supply of lifetime hours is very limited. News? You will learn about the important events from other people. It is quite possible to stop reading the papers – skimming the headlines is more than enough. And you will spare yourself the crassness of commercials, ads, infomercials and disinformation. Computer news can be used far more selectively, and can supply news directly from other people like us, unfiltered by official channels. Find what works for you. Waking from the trance takes time and new habits.

But that’s not nearly enough. I have been amongst the TV-unplugged for 15 years now, and yet I too get sucked into the vortex of disastrous news. In the fall of 2008 I gaped with horror and disbelief as the evidence of stupendous plunder unfolded. I spent inordinate amount of my time trying to fathom it. But what good has it done me or my neighbors? All those fear-mongering stories – the true and the false – are just stories, repetitive and debilitating messages of scarcity and doom, bringing about a festering sense of anxiety, failure and helplessness so that people become ripe pickings for demagogues and con-men. We can choose not to play this game. We can tell stories that are of use, and disseminate them via our own channels. And while the thugs and thieves will keep on with their business, we can and will find a way to secede from their Kingdom of Spin, leaving them to their slime, moving on.

  • Un-shop

Buy only what you must. Economize. Go frugal. Share. Grow and make your own. Join a community that knows how. Support local merchants. Let the uglification of box stores mercifully fall into the understory of history. A healthy economy does not depend on buying up an avalanche of crap and working in pointless jobs to be able to afford it. It depends on people being genuinely productive and economical. It also depends on a healthy planet to feed us, and on social systems not based on theft so that we don’t have to run just to stay in one place, while others fatten themselves at our expense.

  • Un-debt

Get a debit card if you must, or do a cash economy. Pay off the debts. Do what it takes. Get out of the yoke too demeaning even for oxen.

  • Delegitimize

Judiciously unvote. The choices are really between really bad and “keep fingers crossed” less bad. Is that good enough? For how long? Let Babylon’s politics languish on the periphery of your attention. Ignore the inanities of the election races. Stop chasing after the liars. Refuse the system your loyalty and your goodwill.

  • Break the spell of Thingness

We’ve been taught for endless generations that it is stuff that really matters. Stuff is primary. Stuff gives security and happiness. After all, we are the descendants of the Neolithic cult of MORE. But material stuff is just a fraction of what really matters here on Earth, and we already have more than enough of it. Let us return to a larger vision: humans who break their addition to material wealth for the greater good. Humans as intelligent beings who cherish– not ruin — creation, humans as those who are wise enough to enlarge the chances of Life.

  • Down-specialize

Back off from single-minded pursuits and become a generalist. Every biochemist should know how to fix what breaks in the home. Every engineer should know how to start a fire. Every office worker should know how to do basic healing. Every one of us should know how to grow food. We all together hold the potential to be able to do most anything that really matters and our local communities require. Let’s look at the priorities, and put specialization in its valuable, but much smaller place.

  • Undomesticate

Domestication, like slavery, rebounds on the perpetrator. We must return to thinking of our fellow animals and plants as symbionts, and more, as devoted friends. Some of these friends feed us; they give the gift of their lives so that we may live on. Others maintain the atmosphere, the ecosphere, the soil. Why don’t we treat them accordingly? In return, we will reap a restoration of our own wild spirit now crushed under the weight of misery-spreading dependency, under the burden of everyday brutality that exists because of our own complicity. Babylon sweeps it under the rug, and then abuses the rebels who refuse to look the other way.

Dare I say it? Let’s rewild!

  • Repudiate usury

Babylon would like us to forget that usury, historically and biblically speaking, did not mean charging high interest. It meant not charging interest at all. Medieval economies flourished without interest. And it was interest that pushed the cancerous expansion of Western civilization. Interest is one of the most powerful ratcheting forces behind the vicious circle of “endless growth” and accompanying plunder. There are other ways to conceive of money and lending. Send some of your energy to the financial rebels who are disseminating them.

  • Disencumber

Remember those storage sheds full of crap you will never use again, the closets chock-full of stuff you haven’t seen in years? Time to “shed it” for good. Most places have second-hand stores happy to take some of it. Try craigslist or freecycle websites. Some communities have Free Stores or book kiosks too, or need to. I have had good luck with half.com and amazon for passing on books that I cared about but that I would never read again. Every time something, no matter how small, is passed on to the next user, life opens up new possibilities.

  • Divest

We cannot expect to shrink Babylon or leave it while giving it our money. These money systems are the dark heart of Babylon, and they are the ones that transform our living energy into the stuff that flows out. It is laughable to think that Babylon will allow significant reform so that community banking and money issuance could take hold. But thousands of hidden, small experiments growing like mushrooms everywhere? At a time of ongoing high-level crises Babylon must deal with first – that indeed would be a formidable challenge. Divesting deflated South Africa’s balloon. It will deflate Babylon’s zeppelin too. Let’s find ways to invest our money in the service of Life.

  • Phase out economic dependencies

Learning to supply one’s basic needs without the dependence on Babylon is the key to freedom. Follow the paths of food to learn how ridiculous, wasteful, unsafe, and downright revolting our system is. Find local sources for the basics from food and soap to pottery and clothes. Become one of the local sources for something. Be part of the local economy. Cook from scratch. Relearn frugality and old-time skills and teach others. Restore the free and the abundant. Earn local money into existence.

  • Lighten the overhead

Stop feeding the chiseling bridge-trolls. Go direct for all the goods that you cannot buy locally. Look where the skimming goes on in an economic transaction, and find ways to circumvent the middlemen. The maintenance of elites is a luxury the planet can ill afford. As soon as we refuse to produce the skim-surplus that finances them, they will vanish like mist over a morning swamp.

  • Decontaminate one’s self

There are plenty of noxious ideas and patterns of thinking out there, the sort that keep us tied to Babylon’s strings forever. We must become shrewd and discerning. As we disencumber materially, it makes sense to do spring cleaning inside our heads as well. Community is more important than “multiculturalism” or “cosmopolitanism.” Anomie is not something we must accept along with stainless steel and velcro. And good medical care need not be based on an overly high-tech, top-heavy, impersonal model. Dare to imagine — and come to visit — the lovely world outside Babylon’s box.

  • Un-victimize

We must learn to defend ourselves and our communities. A time may come when it becomes imperative. In any case, the police are expensive, and not really needed in communities run well by their citizens. The Amish have no need of the police.

And we must learn to ease off the grid, to rethink our vulnerabilities to centralized solutions from electricity to emergency services. There are many ways a small community can provide its own, and become far less vulnerable to sudden problems. Remember the hard winter 2008 out east and its long lapses in utility provision along with a run on generators and attendant theft?  None of that is necessary among people who have made reasonable provisions for unusual situations.

And finally, we must again play a key role in keeping our food supply safe. Becoming part of a network of trustworthy farmers, food processors and artisans is where it begins.

  • Down-compete

Competition, like fire, is a good servant but a terrible master. It works best when it’s contained within a larger collaborative world. Unfettered competition fails to promote common good, and often leads a race to the bottom. When the emphasis on competition makes people less cooperative, selfishness and free riding are promoted, contributions to public good are reduced, heavy stress takes a toll on health, and we all end up worse off. Take a good look around you at this world out of kilter. One Harvard professor did, and he began to penalize students for lack of teamwork, even at exams. What do American schools call such teamwork? Cheating! Cheat Babylon by playing fair: cooperate.

  • Un-waste

Waste too is part of the grid in Babylon. The system encourages it in a myriad ways, from free dumps to curbside unlimited pick up, from its hidden network of sewers to water treatment plants (which are free at a glance, and very expensive and poorly designed if you really look) and toxic dumping. Eeww indeed! Yet the solutions are already out there, from composting to grey water systems and water-purifying wetlands, from reusing to making do. Waste comes from feeding human and planetary energy to the maw of the Machine. Food into waste, life into death. Let us reverse the transformation and reestablish natural cycles.

  • Dis management

Letting go of the controlling, managerial paradigm and meddlesome interventionism will be key in regaining our sanity. Interventionism breeds more interventionism and has costs that Babylon hides by “cooking the books.” Remember… when it comes to the universe, we did not cause it, we cannot cure it, and we cannot control it. Let it run itself – it knows how. Ran Prieur once said, “I swear, if we had infinite technological power, at our present emotional level, we would destroy all the clouds, replace them with holograms of clouds, and have fleets of airships drop water, instead of just letting it rain.” Isn’t that modern mis-managerial hubris in a nutshell!? Enough already…

  • Down-tech

Individuals and communities can scrutinize technology and pick and choose carefully. Must you really have another kitchen gizmo? Do you want to spend your days staring at a smart-phone, with the Eye following you wherever you go? Do you really need electricity 24/7? Each new artifact has its price, and impacts the well-being of human communities and the natural world. Heed the wise Akela’s call: “Look well, look well, oh wolves. As befits a Free People.”

  • Detoxify

Detoxify relationships, that is. Have you noticed? Anti-bully programs in schools are all the rage now, but nobody ever points out that schools exist, in part, to inure kids to being bullied (by teachers, administrators, and curriculum planners), so that when they get absorbed into the workforce, they think it’s normal, just put up and shut up. Domination is the poison in the wellspring of Babylon. Don’t drink from it.

Easier said than done. Bossism in all its forms has contaminated almost everything. Domination is a dirty trick, and we are all tainted. We all play the domination/submission game. But another game is afoot. The partnership game. The more you learn to play it, the less beholden you will be to the con-games of Babylon.

See? You don’t have to leave the country to leave the culture.


Utopianism has, rightly, acquired an unsavory reputation. Since my preoccupations on this blog concern the creation of a place of refuge from Babylon, as well as the opening of a crack in the system where another world is born, I thought it prudent to shine a light on it. If only so I avoid falling into that abyss.

Utopianism is underlain, as I understand it, by the hankering for social perfection and the lure of ideal worlds. It typically involves four aspects:
* privileging of ideals over messy human realities, of future over the present, of pure geometries over wabi sabi, of ideas over nature
* imposition of top-down design
* refusal of responsibility and of paying close attention to untoward consequences; “ends justify means”
* social pressure or propaganda to induce people to “like” the results

Most of the people who’ve brought ruin to the modern world have been utopians, from Lenin to Mussolini to Pol Pot, from communists to neo-liberals, from early modern architects to Brutalists to more recent ego-excesses of the various Frank Gehrys. (I am not counting among them the literary creation of new worlds. Dreamers need to safely bat ideas around, and fantasy and sci-fi novels make that possible.)

Utopians delight in arm-chair design. They fall in love with their creations. When they try to implement them and other humans balk, things get ugly.

Utopian memes have misled people into thinking that top-down design of ideal societies is the right strategy for creating a better world. Even permaculture has been infected, imposing top-down landscaping designs upon the land with predictably disappointing results. I have called the opposite of top-down design “unplanning.” Unplanning imitates nature, envisioning and applying human processes that are rooted in adaptive, feedback-responsive steps.

I think in terms of “better.” A whole lot better than THIS. And while optimal is hard and ideal is impossible, better is often very doable. And when “better” seeds new “attractors” (vortices of energy) into being, a sudden phase shift into something quite different becomes possible.

The world I am dreaming into existence cannot come into being via utopian schemes. It evolves from small beginnings. It arises through a myriad of adaptations made by millions of people. There is a vision, but the vision itself co-evolves with each step each human takes. We make the path as we walk. Following in the footsteps of Candide, we cultivate our gardens. And invite others to join us there.


Frank Gehry: ruining the world, one building at a time


Reality and power are so mutually incrusted that even to raise the question of dissolving power is to step off the edge of reality.
— John Holloway

I started this blog with a longing familiar to many: stop the world, I wanna get off! I had a dream, a dream to find a way out of Babylon, this accelerating nightmare that has us addicted and horrified, both. The standard argument for the impossibility of an exit is simple and persuasive. Even if you move to the fringes, Babylon finds you, either to destroy, or to engulf and devour. Same thing, different time line. As we speak, the last unknown tribes are being chased out of the Amazon jungle to be wiped out. There is no place to go.

Except, I refused to believe it. My gut told me that escape is possible; we were not looking at the problem with sufficient snake-eyes. So I kept searching, imagining, looking for just the right crack in the edifice of this civilization. Here is what I found.

Hakim Bey fired up people’s imaginations with his Temporary Autonomous Zones. His T.A.Z. is a “liberated area of land, time or imagination where one can be for something, not just against, and where new ways of being human together can be explored and experimented with.” He documents many past escapes. I just came across evidence that rural intellectuals in ancient China talked about, and tried to build into, those so-called “cracks in the system.” It saddens me to think that we know nothing else of them. Their efforts faded very long ago, and the Machine kept on grinding. Note to self: the crack must be persistent, durable.

Explorations of Amish attitudes, beliefs and lifestyle framed my search for a while. Since the Machine is an apt metaphor for the workings of Babylon, I felt that getting away from machines would be a good general direction; my feelings were strengthened by an introvert’s detestation of the increasingly deafening noise indiscriminate use of machines inflicts on most of us. Full of admiration for the famous Amish community-minded restraint when it comes to adopting new technologies, I located and romanced a very old-fashioned Mennonite group that welcomes Babylon’s escapees. Concurrently, I joined an online Mennonite community where a modified-Plain lifestyle was a reality for many. But when I found that I could be a full-fledged, outspoken member of that community only because I was taken for a man, I sobered up. Note to self: getting away from machines is good, but not as good as getting away from being dominated.

Nevertheless, “being Amish” provided a useful metaphor for my aim. I realized I wanted to be “out” as much, at least, as the Amish are out. I long to be part of another world that is palpable in its otherness.

Familiarity with Daniel Quinn’s and Andy Schmookler’s argument (viz the Parable of the Tribes) impressed upon me that going to the fringes was indeed a strategy, at best, to delay the inevitable. Fringe existence exposes one to marginalization and its accompanying vulnerabilities. The crack must defy the problem of power. (Problem of power in a nutshell: become Babylon, or be destroyed. Those who step outside it lose. Viz Aldous Huxley’s Island.)

John Holloway has spoken about spaces where a prefiguration of another world can be grown. He is among those who believe that for the underdog to grab power-over leads to yet another version of power-over. Not a path that leads to a brand new world, only more of the same. Here is how he puts it: “You cannot build a society of non-power relations by conquering power. Once the logic of power is adopted, the struggle against power is already lost.” The crack must emerge from a new way of using power. Knocking off the old power hogs and installing our own brand new power hogs just won’t cut it.

In an interview, Holloway hints: “These cracks can be spatial (places where other social relations are generated), temporal (“Here, in this event, for the time that we are together, we are going to do things differently. We are going to open windows onto another world.”), or related to particular activities or resources (for example, cooperatives or activities that pursue a non-market logic with regard to water, software, education, etc.). The world, and each one of us, is full of these cracks.” And in a recent book, he states: “A crack is the perfectly ordinary creation of a space or moment in which we assert a different type of doing.” So ecovillages and monasteries, Burning Man or the Rainbow Gatherings, coops and land trusts, and many lesser alternative spaces provide refuge. But are they sufficiently and durably “outside”? Not in my experience.

My sense of them, despite all the clamor about degrowth, “new economies” and all the rest, is that they are not strong enough to be a countervailing force against the Machine. They are, to be sure, part of the answer, but by themselves, they will eventually be pushed to conform, just like most Christians or hippies were. The spaces opened up by them turned out not to be the radical and permanent exit they had once thought it was. They themselves carried Rome/Babylon with them wherever they went and infected all those spaces they newly inhabited. And the minions of the Machine have been many and well financed; they are sent out to co-opt or crush any alternative that shows significant success. One example is the so-called “sharable economy” which is turning into yet another way to monetize the remaining few assets of increasingly impoverished people (rent your home to passing strangers, spend your free time picking up passengers with your car, why dontcha). The space must robustly resist Babylonian contagion from seeping in. And it must be a realistic strategy to slow and stop the Machine: the new world we birth will share this “one and only planet” with Babylon, and so its runaway ruination must end.

James C. Scott talks about an important aspect of spaces successfully hidden for centuries from the depredations of empire: illegibility. When those in power cannot read you right, you are effectively hidden from view, obscured by being incomprehensible. The agents of empire always, always work hard to make newly encountered cultures legible: they send in missionaries, anthropologists and medical people to “study” and “help” these folks so they can be successfully dominated and exploited in due time. With new cultures within Babylon, the system sends friendly researchers, overeager NGOs offering to make you visible, and agents provocateurs. The crack must be hard to penetrate by and illegible to the PTB.

I tried eco-village living, and while I loved many aspects of it, especially the face-to-face, walkable community, I was shocked how “hijacked by Babylon” the relationships were. For all the efforts to clean up process, our process has not been cleaned up. A new kind of social relationship must be the molten core of the new world. Nevertheless, there is great relief one experiences in an ecovillage — or an old-fashioned village — out on the fringes, despite the fact that the Machine still intrudes from the distance and Babylon is never altogether absent within. Distance from Babylon, just like distance from machines, is part of the path to sanity, at least in my view of it.

From complexity thinking I learned about emergence from tiny local beginnings. So finally, the obvious: the way out must be in our power to find, not something to petition the power brokers to bring about (as though they could or would!). It must be doable from each person, from the grassroots, outward. A tall order, ey?

There is yet another space. Having glimpsed this terra incognita, I am on the cusp of walking away into the world that emerges when at least two people, who have each cultivated the attitudes, skills and forms of thinking that allow power sharing, come to connect. This space only comes into being when human beings relate in a new way — the power-sharing way — and form a new sort of relationship. It is born when two or more people are both willing and able to leave power games behind, and their radical communion opens up a portal into what Riane Eisler, somewhat ruefully, calls “partnership.”

Suddenly, we are in another world, a world of our co-making, emergent, brand new, uncolonized by any outside powers, yet to be explored, ready to be nurtured. Here is the ember of another reality, waiting to be stoked into flames. A world of mutuality where we together create customs and culture all our own, without the constant interference of power hoarders. And since the foundation, indeed the be all and end all, of Babylon — this particular civilization — is domination, once you step out of domination, you are out of Babylon.


two women

Before the book Deep Green Resistance came out and the organization of the same name formed, I was a big fan of Derrick Jensen. But not so much since. There are a variety of reasons why DGR lost me. I will mention three.

I just watched a video where DGR ally Stephanie McMillan reads a speech urging global fight against capitalism, while Derrick Jensen acts the interviewer. She makes many good points illustrated with her well-crafted cartoon strips. Her analysis makes a lot of sense. But when she gets to the part about “what to do,” she falls on DGR’s favorite line about “militant resistance” and on vacuous exhortations: we “must overcome the state apparatus” (and its lies, wealth and arms), we “must dismantle the system altogether and create an alternative”! On her site, she stresses (as she has for years): “Our collective strategy must be capable of smashing the entire global matrix of social relations — the economic, political, and ideological practices…” And so on. John Holloway has already very ably pointed out why this approach does not work. I really only have one more thing to say about it:


In the book, Derrick answers a query he has received from his audience many times; “Daniel Quinn says we should walk away, what do you think?” Derrick says he’s got two problems with it; one is that there is nowhere to walk to (Arctic? middle of the ocean?) and the other is that those familiar with Quinn answer that this is supposed to be a mental state, that we are supposed to emotionally withdraw.

I have a problem with what Derrick says. Neither is true of what Daniel Quinn advocates. Quinn makes it pointedly clear that he does not mean it geographically, and he has spoken at length of what he does mean: socio-economic tribalism he calls “new tribalism, where people band together to make a living and a life.” He praises those who have been able to create such “business tribes” and hopes that even better ideas will follow. Either Derrick is shooting in the dark, or he is willfully misrepresenting Quinn’s ideas.

He follows the passage with this argument: if you know a friend is being tortured in a nearby basement, would you walk away? To which I answer, the torture of the planet is far more complex than that. What would you do, Derrick, when people and creatures were tortured in millions, billions of basements (as they indeed are, in a manner of speaking)? That is the situation we face, and that is what we need to deal with. Blowing up all those basements seems, well, not the ideal solution, shall we say? Walking away from the torture system itself and letting it collapse under its own weight may be our best option. And why interpret “walking away” as not caring, no longer doing anything for those who suffer? Quinn is our ally; trying to strawman him out of relevance is a hit below the belt.

Is this civilization redeemable, asks another person. Derrick argues that it is not. I too feel that this civilization is a lost cause, but not civilization in general. Babylon’s days are numbered, but it will try to take everyone down with it. I think that the image of global psychopaths hanging from lamp posts — as Orlov and Kunstler keep on about — is yet another soothing placebo. Things have changed since the days of the French and Russian revolutions. Nowadays, the global perps just change coats, rename things a bit, repaint the stage of the spectacle, change the props. That’s about it.

The question that occupies me is what I (we) can do to speed up the metamorphosis of this voracious caterpillar that is devouring the world into a “civilized civ” butterfly. I will write more about this when I talk about a way out of Babylon I have discovered, soonish. Meanwhile, things are bad enough; I am not interested in joining those out to vandalize the system that exists, trying to bring it down, feeding their precious energies into what they loathe, fueling yet another bitter conflict, yet another “war to end all wars.” Besides, compared to the banksters that are actively and effectively bringing the human world to the precipice, the DGR folks, they are just pikers.

If you crush the caterpillar, you destroy its chance to turn into a butterfly.

Since the megamachine was in essence an invisible organization, the historic record tells us nothing specifically about its existence: what we know is derived from the details that must be pieced together.
— Lewis Mumford

Whom do you serve? The workforce serves the powerful elites. The elites serve the Machine. And what is the Machine? It’s a dynamic, activated mechanism, an artificial creature reminiscent of the old Golem of Prague. The legend talks of an animated clay giant, perfectly and literally performing the task set before it, not understanding anything else, and wreaking great harm when left to its own devices. In other words, an alien creature. Consider this: we live in an age when some of our neighbors wake up one fine morning seemingly remembering having been abducted and anal-probed by aliens. Well! We have been getting snatched and shafted by the mechanical alien for thousands of years now; isn’t it about time somebody noticed? 😛

Whom do you serve? The workforce serves the elites. The elites serve the Machine. Whom does the Machine serve? Nobody. It’s just a mechanism programmed to get a job done. Whether the job helps or harms is not the Machine’s concern, nor within its competence. Service to life or to general human wellbeing is not its goal. Its goal is the continued existence of the Machine; its growth, its mission, its grandeur, its perpetuation, its enhancement and its power. The living inputs are used up and spat out. The Machine is not evil per se; after all, it’s just a machine! It simply does not concern itself with, does not care about, does not understand, life. Its job is to get humans to crank out more control, more work, more stuff, on and on, without end. A thing is what the Machine is, and it will not stop until it turns everything living into itself.

Its runaway feedback loop has been so steadily reinforced, any negative feedback against it so suppressed, that the Machine has not only taken on an independent existence of its own, but its complexity, its speed, its power, and its sheer careening razzle-dazzle seems to preclude any effective action against it. Until it crashes. From Sumer to Rome, from the Mayans to Easter Island, the Machine’s crashes have left devastation behind. Great gains in knowledge and productivity have been overwhelmed again and again by even greater increases in ostentatious waste, paranoid hostility, insensate destructiveness, hideous random extermination.

This invisible monstrous mechanism now reaches into nearly all parts of the globe. Its whirring geartrain consists of economies, “resource” extraction, work patterns, social relations, ways of thinking and living. Into it go human lives and indeed the living world, and out comes stuff. Once the Egyptian Machine built the pyramids, reaching all over north Africa and the Near East for materials and laborers, for artists and craftsmen, for splendid inventions and precious artifacts, binding them all together into the pattern of a huge, durable, impressive and precisely built tomb. Today, the Machine has grown so immense that it threatens the very life of the planet, racing to build a tomb the size of the Earth.

If machines serve us — as we’ve been told over and over — how come we are working harder than ever before? We moderns each have a large herd of energy “horses” at our beck and call, ready to pull our chariots at the flip of a switch. These “horses” power a great many “labor-saving” devices. Yet we scramble, we are swamped by stress, we have no time, we work harder and longer than medieval peasants. Could it be that the machines, like us, serve the Machine?

Science fiction writers such as R.U.R.’s Karel Čapek have feared future human servitude to machines, not realizing it had already happened in the deep past. Our ancestors had created the precursor to the alien mechanism to serve them, to amplify their energy. Instead, we’ve ended up its miserable serfs. And since we serve the “unliving” and funnel most of our daily energies that way, more and more of our world is transformed into the “unliving.” The unliving expands and the living shrinks, as the very logic would predict.

But when we work less and less at the job of turning living beings into inert stuff, the Machine shrinks. As we turn rock dust into living, growing soil, as we turn polluted, eutrophic waters into living, teeming springs and rivers, as we turn refuse and manure into fertile humus, as we turn the dead into food for the living, life grows and the death-dealing Thing recedes. Using thingness to grow livingness lies at the root of the deep green magic of Gaia who patiently waits for us civilized orphans to come home to our senses. Ursula Le Guin once sang of the real work of human beings: using our knowledge to weave the pattern of life like a tapestry; to enlarge the chances of life. We hold the power in the cup of our hand. We shift our allegiance, now.

Whom do you serve? Serve life.

The societies of the world will be faced with the task of rebuilding systems of fruitful activity, i.e., real economies based on productive behavior rather than the smoke-and-mirrors of Frankenstein-finance con games.
— James Howard Kunstler

Of course, getting out of the prison is only the first step. The escapee may in the beginning continue to work for the prison bosses voluntarily, going back and forth. This will give them time to consider what’s next.

Those who don’t see it as enough can look for bosses who are not fully wedged in the prison themselves… companies that, one way or another, understand the “no asshole rule” and the need for reconnection among the employees. There are a few out there. Work-sharing in another means to gradually disconnect from the “boss economy” while helping out another person still in need of a job. Laying down a local infrastructure that enables the family and the community to be more resilient when it comes to food, shelter, warmth, and other basics is another early step many are taking these days. And reconnecting eaters with farmers immediately provides fresh, high quality food to one party and a good living to the other.

Reconnected and disruptor-free, why don’t we start our own enterprises? Why don’t we run things among us so that they benefit those who have left the prison? We band together, creating co-ops, partnerships, worker owned businesses, farm CSAs and other types of rural communities, companies run with attention to the triple bottom line, and the like. We work for one another, not for the bosses anymore. Another move, now promoted by the Transition Town people, is to start “our” utility companies that serve a town with wind, sun or water energy gathered in greenish ways. But small enterprises enabling people to capture energy at the household or small neighborhood level while reducing each household’s energy needs may be by far the greenest option available.

The Amish model deserves to be emulated and modified for wider use. They have cradle-to-grave security, and a mix of private enterprise modulated by their tight community framework and mutual aid. Some people will opt for the “new tribalism” social pattern; they will gather together into clans that provide basic cradle-to-grave security in exchange for the freely-given contribution of all able adults to open source projects that benefit the entire community, the entire commonwealth. And experimentation with gift economies is already ongoing. Others will come up with solutions as yet unconceived today.

My favorite radical choice is the “new tribalism.” The term was invented by Daniel Quinn, who began to feel for another model of livelihood containing tribal elements. He did not get very far; his examples of a circus, a theater troupe and a newspaper are more on the order of cooperative enterprises. A tribal living cannot be sold. It is rooted in some form of commons cared for in perpetuity. I see a “new tribalist” community as one that provides all the basics for free to all its members. Basic food, shelter, warmth, education, and medical care. Safety, belonging and meaningful participation in one’s social and natural world. It’s not really hard to do. This is how humans had lived since time immemorial. This is how other creatures live, and manage it easily. The result being that all the other creative things can be done on a lark. Because a person wishes. Because a person is inspired. And since they don’t have to worry about survival they can explore anything they want. Any practical results, of course, belong to the commons, serving as open source for explorers coming after, freely modifying and experimenting with the ideas and inventions of others. And those who think that the “basics” are not enough are free to use their talents to figure out how to have better food or better shelter – as long as their solutions are not privatized and enrich the entire community. (This is, in part, how early science worked, and it worked admirably well.) Is this vision of a society that is both easy on the land, and full of creative ferment, enjoyment and exploration practically doable? That remains to be seen. Such “new tribalism” communities can be among the laboratories of new socio-economic patterns, evolved from the grassroots and debugged before wider implementation. But there is no need to consider them as “the one right way” and turn their development into an ideological quagmire. Those who think such a vision hopelessly commusomething are welcome to experiment elsewhere.

As these new enterprises spread, more and more people will emulate the most successful ones. Other groups will be working on local, non-predatory systems of credit (not money so much, which can be crushed at will by central bankers); yet others will find new ways to hold land, perhaps by implementing Georgist land-value fees, or by taking it out of the market by turning it into a land-trust in perpetuity. Let us not fall into the trap of thinking that some alternative economist out there has the right system all worked out. That is residual totalitarian thinking. Diversity is key and many schools of thought are needed, along with many practical interpretations. And it makes sense that many econ teachers and many learners thrive in our communities; we must no longer leave “economics” to the experts many of whom have been shown up as mere paid-for babblers. I am about to dive into two books that come well recommended. Debt: The First 5,000 Years (money is a late development, forced top-down, claims the anthropologist author), and Debt Virus: A Compelling Solution to the World’s Debt Problems, a controversial work by a physician turned rebel after sitting on board of a bank.

I am not an economist by inclination, and all I see is this fuzzy outline. But I think the following incipient formative sequence is sound. Wherever we go, whatever we do, let’s:

  • shrink the distance between us
  • adopt the “no asshole rule”
  • find ways to work for one another, more and more…

How about starting an Underground Railroad that helps human beings leave the prison and begin to learn the skills to leave the workhouse treadmill as well? There are huge numbers of the unemployed in every country. Many of them are young, high energy people ready to pitch in. Let’s find room for them in “our economy.” There has never been lack of useful work needing doing. There certainly isn’t such lack today.

As Kevin Carson weighs in with the OWSers:

Our general aim should be to promote a relocalized, high-tech [and smart low tech, I add], low-overhead economy that’s less dependent on centralized infrastructure, in which production costs are lower, in which waste labor and waste from planned obsolescence are eliminated, and in which it takes an average of 20 hours or less a week to produce the equivalent of the value we consume.

Encourage a shift of as much production as possible to commons-oriented peer production, and self-provisioning in the informal, neighorhood, and household economies. Encourage primary social units like urban communes, neighborhood cohousing projects and cooperative associations, intentional communities, and extended family compounds, and a revival of the kinds of mutuals and friendly societies [that once flourished in America] as means for pooling income and risk.

Instead of “creating jobs,” we should be breaking the 200-year-old link between work and jobs, and enabling people to meet their needs with their own skills and labor in cooperation with other people, without depending on some corporate hierarchy to give them permission in the form of a “job” to translate their labor into subsistence.

One stream of our energy after another is removed from the prison economy. Eventually, the Leviathan may fight back. Our best hope is that it does not realize the need until the mycelium of the new culture permeates enough of the undergrowth to form a critical mass. Let’s do all this as non-confrontationally and “under the radar” as possible, while at the same time be ready to defend the culture we are building — if it comes to that. When a whole new culture has been grown within the grassroots first, the good fight is merely in the defense of a revolution that has already come.

We need a very rough vision of what the next economy can be, one that inspires wide support. Here is one possibility: whatever our ideological differences, the economy that makes across-the-board sense is a “low-overhead economy.” Bypassing all the countless trolls hunkered down in their toll booths, skimming off productive work of other people, will free up plenty of room for financial sanity and economic well being everywhere.

We’re born in a prison, raised in a prison
Sent to a prison called school
We cry in a prison, we love in a prison
We dream in a prison like fools
— Yoko Ono

Daniel Quinn speaks of the kids of the 60s, failing in their rebellion because they could not find the bars of the cage. He was wrong. They found the bars and got out, but before they got far they were herded back. That burst of the energy that was the late 60s could not have come from prisoners. Those were, for a moment in time, free people reveling in their freedom. And sowing fear among the wardens.

The precursor of our modern Babylonish prison was the Egyptian workhouse. It was a structure daylight struggled to penetrate, where young people (most of whom never survived past their early 20s) labored from dawn to dusk at the querns or the looms. By the door was a guard with a stick who sometimes let you step out for a few minutes into the sunshine for a bribe of your food ration.

Much later prisons for miscreants and dissidents were a similar affair but for the costs to the community, did not come into use until recently. What is the traditional prison? Again, it is four walls, a door that is locked, and a guard with a stick outside. What does the prison accomplish? It severs contact between the prisoners and the outside world. It puts hard-to-cross distance between them and their fellows. But it’s expensive, obvious, produces resentment and wastes “human resources.” Not suitable in situations where great masses of people must be made to obey and in effect live permanently imprisoned, trapped within a twilight life on a treadmill going nowhere.

Babylon’s pervasive modern prison is a direct descendant of the Egyptian workhouses. Far more sophisticated, it employs many more tricks and lures to keep people in than just distancing separation and guards with sticks. Nevertheless, its basis is the same. Once trapped, you work for your food until you weaken. I feel a weird sort of admiration for those who have schemed to improve the prison system that is Babylon: they finally came up with something far far sneakier. Something very smart. Cheap, invisible, and self-maintaining, it is the dream of all jailers come true.

They began to shape culture and society in such a way as to systematically put distance between us. Think about it. A prison is a place that cuts you off from your fellows. A wall can do it. But so can …… just …………………… space. Greater and greater emptiness, stretching long and daunting. Hard-to-cross distance. Unreachable-ness. Greater and greater psychological atomization and imposed solitude around each human being makes is harder and harder to reach others, to enter into relationships with them, to trust them, and to gain the skills of working together.

Just think of the 20th century way of childhood. At birth, the baby is yanked away from the mother, cooped up in a nursery of little strangers equally distraught. The comforting breast is denied via “scientific formula” and the child spends its days in a crib, a pram, a pen, isolated from the daily activities and human warmth, human touch. Then the child enters school, another form of distancing and isolation, this time from his or her own family, the life of the community, and children older or younger. The child is even forced to sit alone, away from their fellows (at least in America; in Europe, we sat two by two, and it helped build friendships and cut the pain). Helping each other survive this institutionalized, dulled existence is called cheating. And the constant ranking and fear-mongering are among the tools that drive the real lessons home.

As adults, we go through the motions, isolated and infantilized, hoping to find a friend or a mate who will heal the pain. But many people are too wounded to truly reconnect. Watching the spectacle medicates their loneliness. Television increases the space between people as they stare, hypnotized, at a screen and forget how to relate to the people next to them. So does preoccupation with gadgets. I was recently subjected to the airport experience after many years. Have you noticed? The travelers no longer talk to each other; they are deeply engaged with machines.

Such practices have raised generations of people forced to live as narcissists, cut off from one another where ever they go, from birth on. Narcissists do not relate. They obey those above them, command those below them, and enter into formal associations with those they think equal. They are “not available” for real relationships. Babylon has condemned us all to a form of solitary confinement without walls.

I am of course not the first to note the increasing space between human beings in modern times. Psychologists have tried to heal the resulting pain, and sociologists have studied and rued this isolation. It’s been thought of as some sort of unavoidable side effect of modern living. I don’t think so. I think it’s contrived… not via a conspiracy, but by steady application of very old strategies that insert more and more narcissist “genes” into the body politic. The narcissists each do it because they know how, and because it serves their interests. But we can fight back with reconnection “genes.” It gladdens my heart that some of the rebels now practice “attachment (or continuum) parenting,” raising a generation of sane young people who expect connections with others, and have the skills and experience to make them work.

In the 60s, with the help of … who knows?… music, drugs, luck and spunk, the young prisoners discovered the invisible bars of the prison and broke them, simply by coming together, shrinking the distance, boldly crossing the yawning chasm. To talk real stuff. To play and be silly. To expand mind and behavioral frontiers. To be honest. To practice generosity and fairness. To learn to love in ways not sanctioned by Babylon’s overseers. No wonder they turned their new culture into one long celebration!

And then the kids infected the women, imagine! Women began to meet in intimate groups, talking real stuff and changing their lives. There was so much hope then. What is “sisterhood” but stepping out of the prison and trekking across that barren plain to hug another woman, tell her a story and truly listen to hers, be honest with your own hidden truths and feelings, find shared ground, and support one another as caring humans do?

Some were able to continue. A caravan of buses from San Francisco started the Farm in Tennessee, to continue the reconnection begun in Haight-Ashbury. Groups of young women started women-only spaces where, they hoped, they could continue to relate as sisters. Some folks hung on in small back-to-the-land communities. Family power relationships were never quite the same. And temporary autonomous zones were formed; the Rainbow Family Gatherings, and now Burning Man. But all in all, most of the kids, and most of the women, were soon herded back into the invisible prison. The prison, sure enough, got a little more comfortable; the hard edges of harassment were cleaned up. Concessions to prisoners were made, while new distancing tools were put into place to prevent a future breakout.

It is instructive to take a good look at what the escapees missed. After all, if you are a prisoner dreaming of a break, there are three key issues on your mind: how to find the bars of the cage, how to get out, and how to stay out. They succeeded with the first two. They failed at the third. They forgot about the guards with sticks.

In a prison built out of social and psychological isolation, who are the guards? They are the narcissists themselves who jealously guard the only reality they feel comfortable with: one where no real relationships are needed or asked for; an impersonal culture where everything possible is commodified, institutionalized, mediated, and ranked. For simplicity’s sake, I have been calling them narcissists. But they range from sociopaths, through various misers, trolls, egomaniacs, power hogs, self-aggrandizers, to bullies and dicks of various shades. You know… the disruptors of friendly human relations. The defectors from cooperation. The dementors who seek to suck the milk of human kindness from the world.

Ah heck… it’s really simple. They are the assholes always lurking nearby to ruin your office day, your volunteer meeting, your family gathering. One such asshole will ruin the pad you’ve generously opened up to other kids traveling through the area. One or two will handily dismantle a commune started by idealists. And they will certainly have no trouble sowing dissension among women still vulnerable to bully tactics, nor will they hesitate to trash capable leaders. A crew of skilled assholes will make sure that young visionaries give up en masse and disgustedly, dispiritedly run away from their former friends, telling anybody who wants to listen that human nature is just too warped. Getting away from each other, stretching the distance again, back into the prison. Go to work, nose to the grindstone, and stop dreaming silly dreams. Money is the sure thing…

The assholes stand ready to disrupt any occasion where human beings suddenly and despite great odds come together in peace, love, and understanding. A flag goes up, and they rush to put into place the many tools of disconnection they have at their disposal. One of the most important is the “divide and conquer” strategy. The sister-women were successfully divided from traditional women who were not ready to rock the boat. They were divided from women who wanted to stay at home and raise families, and thought this, and volunteer work for their community, was a very satisfying way to live. Traitors to the cause! Some of the theoreticians of the women’s movement who had been given comfortable posts within the academic establishment were encouraged to move way out to the batshit-furious fringe, so that women began to leave the movement in droves. Women who passionately believed that safe abortion must be available, and those who equally passionately believed in nurturing human fetuses, were divided by a cultural war and bitter hatred that still simmers in the body politic. And power-hogging leaders moved into key roles of women’s political organizations that came to play prisoners’ games.

But of course, most assholes are not bigtime players. They simply act to make our day-to-day lives more stressful, more miserable; they make sure that when we do dare to come together, bridging the fearsome gap, they stand ready to make the experience unpleasant. Just imagine one of those meetings you went to for a cause you believed in… Do we need to go over the disappointing, ego driven, alienating, silencing, crazy-making, painful experience? On second thought, let’s not. Let us imagine another world instead. You come to the meeting, are warmly welcomed, and someone is asked to be your buddy, sharing with you the basics of the group. She slips you a handout that will explain in more detail when you get home. The interesting speaker keeps to 30 minutes as promised, stays true to topic, answers several questions, and then the group moves into a friendly and leisurely exploration of the issues raised where all voices are heard. At the end, your new buddy stops by again and invites you to the next gathering, maybe mentioning a really cool event they are working on; would you like to help? They sure could use your talents!

You think you died and went to heaven. Turning to the person who organized the meeting, you pop the question. My goodness, an enjoyable meeting that works! How did you do this? The friendly bear of a man who goes under the name of Dwight Towers cracks a big laugh. Simple, he says. We put in place the “no asshole rule.” It changed everything.

Enough!, enough of your stupid power games, enough of your stupid exploitation, enough of your idiotic playing at soldiers
and bosses…
— John Holloway

I have recently written about the logic of power, barely scratching the surface, addressing only one of the central power issues. To sum up: we cannot create a non-domination society – i.e. an autonomous and cooperative partnership society – by employing domination strategies wielded by groups that know nothing but domination and will perpetuate it if they succeed in reaching the seats of power.

Before launching into further analysis, I want to take the opportunity to suggest the first glimpse of a solution, or at least a path away from this oft-tried and failed strategy. It seems so obvious once we peer though the mind-numbing fog of endless repetitions; people steeped in domination in their everyday and “activist” lives will create more of the same despite dreams and wishes to the contrary. We do what we know. How can we come to know another way? Let’s invert some of the words of John Holloway to see where this play of opposites leads us:

To refuse the ‘conquest of power’ gambit inevitably turns into a refusal of power-over itself. The initiates of non-domination learn the language, logic and calculations of power-with and power-to. Differences within the organisation become an opportunity for practicing collaboration across such differences. Manipulation and manoeuvering for power give way to practicing and embodying the ways of power-with, right there, with one’s colleagues in the struggle. Together we learn the reasoning and habits of power-with. If we want a society in which power relations are dissolved, first we must learn to dissolve them with each other, in our locus vivendi.

As Holloway says: “You cannot build a society of non-power relations by conquering power. Once the logic of power is widely adopted, the struggle against power is already lost.” Inverting this, then, suggests that we can build a society of non-power relations by living non-power, by collaborating with others who live non-power, and by helping spread the ways of non-power. It begins with each one of us, singly and in groups, learning, embodying, living the ways of non-domination. Once the logic of non-domination is widely adopted, the struggle against domination is already won.

That’s all well and good, says the astute devil’s advocate. But even if we live the ways of non-power, how do we take the planet back from those who assiduously practice the ways of power for their gain and our loss? In other words, how do we deal with the problem of power? At least those who propose to unseat the power holders and snatch their reins recognize the problem and have a ready solution: ‘we take that power and then use it for better ends.’ Never mind it does not work; at least it faces the problem! … Shame our prescription has failed so many times, eh? But darn it, we are smarter and wiser now, let’s give it another whirl, maybe it’ll work this time!

But it won’t. One of the main clues to the seduction of power and its perpetuation and corrosive creep lies precisely in this ill-fated pseudo-solution. Let us instead look for another way to crack the problem of power… a way that works within the power-with paradigm, and not against it. A way that leads out from the substrate of non-domination. A way that follows the logic of anti-power.

Next Page »