Paleonihilistic anticivilizationism? Anticivilizationist Paleonihilism? (Nah, strike all that!)

Steven Malcolm Anderson where are you when I need you?

I say this not to grieve Steven (although I have and still am), but because despite my deep and abiding cynicism, I just can't stay ahead of the constantly shifting political spectrumology.

Let me back up. I still remember the good old "normal" days. When it was liberal versus conservative. Yeah, and now we have NeoCon, PaleoCon, HomoCon, Libertarian, libertarian, NeoLibertarian, NeoLiberal, Communist, Socialist -- and all Schisms Thereof -- and the usual Anarchist, Marxist, Communitarian, and please forgive my omissions, but I can't add fast enough.

Yes, last week there was "Cultural Marxism."

And now there's "crunchy conservatism." (Please dear God, don't make me be that!)

What happens is that the more new issues, new realities, and new enemies with new tactics and ideologies arise, the old ideologies, old "isms" just plain no longer work.

I think Steven might agree that the spectrums, they are a changin'. . .

I'm feeling old right now. Because I remember thinking how cool it was to discover a new, three dimensional political spectrum based not on left versus right, Communism versus Economic Freedom, or any of that old outmoded stuff, but along the lines of totalitarianism versus anarchism. (Most people fall somewhere between libertarianism and authoritarianism.)

It's become painfully clear to me that yesterday's "new" formulation is outmoded.

Years ago, one of my Marxist professors said, "we have no argument with the [mostly American] pie. Our argument is that it's not being divided fairly." That used to be standard leftist fare, and it always took for granted industrialization and continued human development. What they wanted was to obtain power by any means necessary, so they could do a better job with "the pie."

Ever since the September 11 attacks, there has been a recurrent frustrating theme voiced on the right (and sometimes on the left; as in this refreshing example). On the right, this typically takes the form of questions along the lines of "How can socialists and Communists support Islamofascists?" The inconsistency is very frustrating, and it's caused many on the right to accuse the left of hypocrisy or simple anti-Americanism. While there may be some truth to the idea that anti-Americanism accounts for leftist support for out-and-out fascists, I think an additional, growing element is being left out. And I don't know whether it's reasonable to call it "left wing."

Not long after I found out about Steven's death, I wrote a post about anarcho-primitivism, -- yet another "ism" said to belong on the left. To call it "anti-American" is to state the obvious, but it's far, far more than that. It is anti-European. Anti-Enlightenment. Anti-Communist. It's even anti-Renaisssance, and arguably it is also anti-Medieval, because its proponents seek to wipe out human progress. They seek to roll back the human evolutionary clock tens of thousands of years -- all the way back to prehistoric times.

The proponents of this theory are quite honest about their goals, and they call it "Anti-Civilization":


In recent times, the anti-civilization perspective has gained an increasing currency within the anarchist movement, as more and more folks have woken up to the fact that capitalism is not the be-all-and-end-all of problems we have on this planet right now, but actually just the latest in a long line of forms that this culture has taken on its inexorable course to oblivion. More and more people are questioning the very core of this culture, with critiques of, for instance: domestication, colonialism, patriarchy, anthropocentrism, science, technology, industrialism, symbolic culture, agriculture; and more and more people are moving beyond single-issue activism and starting to put their energies into actively trying to bring down civilization before the very earth we live on is rendered uninhabitable.

Elsewhere, the activists call themselves "species traitors":
Our reality has been defined by the work of specialists. The world around us has been charted, mapped, dissected, labeled, and caged. The goal being to remove humans from the community of life around us: to become the gods that we created. The totality exists by classifying and giving values, embodying a complete rejection of our wild, full selves.

By being species traitors, we are rejecting the scientific, rational world that the domesticators have laid before us. We realize that becoming a full human can only come when it is done within the context of the ‘other’. We are defined by what we are not, but this is not the separation that the scientists cling to. Understanding what we are not entails understanding that we are a part of this world, not above it. The civilized mentality has come through contorting this relationship with the world. Our intent is a complete rejection of that manipulative world view.

Being a traitor to this scientific, categorized world view is a rejection of the anthropocentric worldview. It is a realization of our place among the ‘other’. It is not an anti-human view, but recognition of what it means to be human. It is an understanding that our being comes from the Earth, not from science.

Wikipedia has an entry here.

While it's tough to call it a movement led by what would call "leaders" in the conventional sense, here are three (wiki-clickable) examples of what I'd call famous anticivilizationists:

Kaczyinski.jpg Zerzan.jpg Volkert.jpg

It's not the famous clash of civilizations we've heard about; it's collapse that's the goal here. Anything that aids in the collapse of civilization is good, which means that Islamofascist barbarism and savagery should and must be embraced by anarcho-primitivists. (Which it is.)

Blogger Baron Bodissey has more background on the anarcho-primitivists, in a compelling essay called "Visualize Industrial Collapse":

To achieve their ideal society, to create their heaven on earth, four billion people will have to die. Who do you think those people will be? And who do you think will get to choose who goes, and who gets to stay? Somehow, I don’t think the Anarcho-primitivists and the Greens and the Gaia-worshipping feminists are going to volunteer to lay down their lives for the good of the Collective.

You’re on a bus with nine other people. Look around you: eight people have to die. Who will they be? The guy with the ponytail and the “Think Globally, Act Locally” T-shirt and his girlfriend with the flowered mumu? They don’t think they’ll be the ones to go. No, it will be you and all the other bozos on that bus.

When the time comes, when the Untelevised Revolution finally seizes the levers of power, it will be the Central Committee of the Anarcho-Green People’s Coalition that makes the decisions. The workers and bureaucrats and truck drivers and school children won’t just lie down in the streets to die. No, it will be Pol Pot all over again, only done righteously this time.

NOTE: the post name -- "VISUALIZE INDUSTRIAL COLLAPSE" -- comes from an increasingly popular bumpersticker.

Obviously, the argument here is not over dividing the pie. It's with the pie. This philosophy pits civilization against anti-civilization, and it's not as simple as nihilism versus somethingism, because bad and as decadent as nihilism is, it's still a philosophy which is a product of civilization.

The anti-civilizationists will naturally support any "ism" which opposes civilization, so naturally they support Islamofascism, which, being medieval, is a step back. Only hundreds of years back perhaps, but in their view, it's a step in the right direction.

It's very frustrating to analyze this and create a spectrum, because the three dimensions are already taken. Maybe it's the civilizational spectrum versus the total darkness of paleonihilism, of uncivilization. Hell they've already labeled themselves as anti-civilizationists and species traitors, so why bother with a new label?

What, then, should "civilizationists" do? There's been a growing consensus lately that tolerance does not include tolerating intolerance.

Should civilization tolerate anti-civilization?

Now we come to the hard part. Whether civilization should "tolerate" its declared enemy and antithesis is a simplistic question. That's because, if we posit a spectrum, that does little to identify the point at which a person crosses over the thin and permeable veneer to become what we might call an "enemy" of civilization. The problem is compounded by defining what might be at the other "end" of this new spectrum. Is liberalism more "civilized" than conservatism? I'd like to think that classical liberalism (the thing I claim I want to "restore") might be more civilized than paleoconservatism. But even that would be hotly debated by the paleocons. Various humans might disagree over whether homosexuality is more civilized than barbarous, or vice versa. (And who are we talking about? Oscar Wilde, the Emperor Hadrian, or SA chief Ernst Rohm?) And would we put authoritarians and totalitarians in the middle somewhere? I'm not sure I'm at all comfortable with Benito Mussolini as a "moderate" in any spectrum. Are libertarians more against civilization than socialists? (That's a scary thought, but if we set up this spectrum, where are the "sides"?)

So, at the risk of simplifying the simplistic (and to ease reader eye strain), I'll conclude -- tentatively -- that anticivilizationists don't belong anywhere in the spectrum at all. They're just not there, and I wish they weren't anywhere.

Besides, Steven isn't there to put them there.

MORE: From an interview with John Zerzan:

Leftism is going the way of the dodo, though there are still some remnants around.
Should I see that as optimistic or pessimistic? I don't know anymore.

See the problem?

posted by Eric on 03.03.06 at 12:00 PM


I too note the absence of Steven Malcolm Anderson the Lesbian-worshipping gun-loving selfish aesthete. I stopped by because my comment to an ancient post here showed up in my referral log, and was struck by the fact that he too had commented on it. Nihilists are of course selfish very differently than are aesthetes.

triticale   ·  March 3, 2006 3:09 PM
lj   ·  March 3, 2006 4:23 PM

Yes it is "interesting." By that standard, this, too, is "interesting":

Antarctic Ice: The Cold Truth

Clearly, the fate of 4/5 of the world's population hinges on these findings. Who has the right to decide?

Either way, I'll take my chances with civilization.

Eric Scheie   ·  March 3, 2006 4:44 PM

Not a big Randian, but as I recall, she did a book based on her lecture or speech to a class at West Point about "the return of the primitive." She connected the impulse to destroy our post-Enlightenment world with many of the ideas and currents on the "left". Been a while since I read it, but I think it carried some of your themes.

Grayson   ·  March 3, 2006 4:49 PM

The idea that most anarcho-primitivists support "Islamofascism" simply because it's viewed as "backward" is asinine..,

Anonymous   ·  March 22, 2006 9:30 PM

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