Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Getting Free:" the response

I finished reading James Herod's Getting Free today. (See yesterday's entry) It's good as far as it goes.

There's one glaring omission: it says nothing about place.

Getting Free is an exclusively urban, human-centered anarchist strategy. Yes, we must displace capitalism and replace it with anarchism. Yes, we must organize locally to provide viable alternatives to the oppressive central state. It is the basis of organization that is lacking in this work.

Herod dances around a hole in the living room floor big enough to drive a Volkswagen bus through. He rejects all historical attempts to organize anarchistically, to oppose the state and to provide social alternatives, while continuing to pretend that humans organize themselves through logical, rational thought rather than genetically evolved responses to their environment. He doesn't understand how human society works (in fact, he rejects all division of social science, including anthropology) as well as historical accounts of how pre-state societies organized and maintained themselves.

This is a major failing of socialist and anarchist thought. For some reason, socialists (if I may lump anarchists in this overbroad grouping) do not understand and rarely consider humans as part of the biological mix, as functioning species in the overall ecosystem web.

Today, facing the twin specters of climate change and peak oil, we must consider how humans will return to living in place, or die out altogether. It's obvious that capitalism cannot prevail in this energy and climate reality. No economy based on unlimited growth can persist in a world of finite resources.

Furthermore, humans "traditionally," biologically and evolutionarily organize themselves naturally in bioregions, that is within meaningful geographical, geological and biological units that are self-evident to those who live intimately within them. 'Twas ever thus. This is the template on which human social organization has been formed historically, until the advent of "cheap" energy in the form of fossil fuels, that allowed humans to ignore, temporarily, this essential connection between animals, including humans, and place.

Therefore, any proposed human social organization must include, as the basic starting point, the bioregion in which the humans live, and the on-going relationships among the humans, the place and the plants and animals with which we co-inhabit in the bioregion. Bioregion is the basis for human freedom, democracy and anarchy, just as it is for all living things.

In the next few weeks, I'll be working on bringing these principles of living in place together with the principles of anarchist social organization, to craft a vision of a possible direction into the dim mists of the future.