“Even though I’ve always loved who you are, I also appreciate the fact that you never stop dramatically changing,” a friend of mine told me once.
I took it as a compliment. But it’s actually rather exhausting. And I’m in the middle of one of those “dramatic changes” right now, which is why I haven’t been posting much. Basically, the latest sea change is this: I no longer think the destruction of either civilization or the government is possible, imminent or desirable.
Advocating the overthrow of the government, for example (”revolutionary anarchism”) no longer makes sense to me. “Overthrow the government and you just become the government,” as someone recently said over on anarkospiritual. I’m kind of surprised it’s taken me this long to clearly realize this. The alternatives — promoting the co-op and labor movements (and making the latter more democratic), working for progressive changes in government, etc.; basically, “evolutionary anarchism“ — are not nearly as glamorous as anything with the word “REVOLUTION” attached to it, but I think they’re likely to take us further in real terms.
The issue of civilization is a much trickier one. I can’t say for sure that industrial civilization won’t collapse soon (be it for ecological or energy-related reasons) – I don’t think it will, but who knows? And I can’t say for sure that it’s wise to try to reform civilization rather than destroy it. Maybe it isn’t.
But neither of these points seem to be adequately proven by the primitivists, in what I’ve read so far. It seems civilization will keep on existing for the forseeable future, so I’m going to devote my energies towards making it a more just and sustainable place. In the end I’d rather be doing what feels right than what is the most “radical.”
The challenge now becomes figuring out how to take part in the matrix of civilization without becoming co-opted by it – how to vote without being sucked into the political machine, for example. As I try to strike that balance I’ll be writing about it here.
Post script: “Moderate radicalism” seems a very Quaker-ly sort of position indeed, at least when considering the early Quakers and women’s liberation. As you may or may not know, the early Quakers were emphatically not in favor of complete sexual equality, just in favor of a greatly expanded concept of women’s rights and roles for their time in the 17th century. But the grain of moderate-ness in their still-very-radical ideas was arguably what allowed it to gain traction, and become perhaps the “cradle not only of modern feminism but of the movements of abolitionism, women’s suffrage, and peace activism, all of which were, and are, enlivened by the presence (even predominance) of Quaker female leaders,” as one historian writes.