By Jack Loeffler
He made his aim quite clear in his own definition of an anarchist society: “The anarchists conceive a society in which all its members are regulated, not by laws, not by authorities, whether self-imposed or elected, but by mutual agreements between the members of that society, and by a sum of social customs and habits—not petrified by law, routine or superstition, but concordance with the ever-growing requirements of a free life, stimulated by the progress of science, invention, and the steady growth of higher ideals. No ruling authorities, then. No government of man by man; no crystallization and immobility, but a continual evolution—such as we see in Nature.”
The first edition of Mutual Aid was published in 1902, when the human population of the planet numbered around 1.6 billion. Today, we’re closing in on 7.6 billion, a 475 percent increase that is now creating enormous stress on the overall planetary ecosystem. Indeed, acute stress carves the countenances of scores of millions of fellow humans who struggle desperately to survive starvation, lack of potable water, unsuitable shelter, grievous sanitation conditions and war. Mutual aid is waning in America and elsewhere, especially over the last year. America is presently governed by a society of oligarchs presided over by a narcissistic warlock who is foreshortening future human history. The American experiment in democracy is failing by virtue of corporate economics, centralized governance, gerrymandering, greed, lust for power and attendant spiritual malaise.
In the late 19th century, while Peter Kropotkin struggled to promulgate his anarchist vision in Europe and beyond, a one-armed Civil War veteran named John Wesley Powell pled his case before the Congress of the United States to organize the arid lands west of the hundredth meridian watershed by watershed, thence to be governed mainly by the residents who lived therein. Congress shot him down, unwilling to give western watershed citizens the authority of even partial self-governance, and firmly established the arbitrary geopolitical boundaries that actually remain throughout the West to this day. Entrepreneurs were already on the march determined to reap the rewards of Manifest Destiny.
In all likelihood, neither Kropotkin nor Powell envisioned the imminent population explosion both here and everywhere that utterly re-arranged the relationship of humankind to habitat. The demographic shift from rural countryside to urban concrete canyons has resulted in our journey down the ‘anthropo-scenic’ highway, a highway that is heedless of its debilitating encroachment into every habitat through which it passes. We have woven a system of cultural attitudes that is out of phase with a bio-centric imperative that demands ecological balance. The lethal specter of climate instability and global warming fails to hold public attention, let alone the failing attention of the current president of our country.
Perhaps it’s appropriate to hearken to Ed Abbey’s provocative apothegm: “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”
Just how can that be done? Many years ago, Ed Abbey and I knelt on the bridge that spans the Colorado River just downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam. We prayed for an earthquake and chanted in the hope that our prayers and incantations would result in a mighty geophysical shiver that would shake that dam loose and release the unnaturally impounded waters. Nary a quiver; thus we concluded that it would take more than prayer to return the landscape to its natural state.
What about eco-guerilla warfare? For me, the notion of inflicting bodily harm on any fellow human—except in self-defense and defense of family—is fundamentally wrong. I served for two years in the United States Army and I came to know militaristic perspective. I quickly decided that I wanted no part of that mindset—unless, of course, it could be used, if necessary, in some subtle fashion that does not incur bodily harm to other living organisms, in intelligent defense of natural habitat and its denizens that have no other means of self-defense.
Habitats like the “Bears Ears” and the “Grand Staircase”…
Indeed, the North American Southwest is the perfect geographic region in which to further bio-centric values. There remain vast areas of wild lands where rural populations are still in tune with the flow of Nature, who still celebrate the spirit of place, who honor habitat, who have not so ‘anthropo-centrified’ their vision as to have become blinded to the nature of reality—or the reality of Nature.
It is quite clear that we have reached the stage in this still adolescent nation where federal legislation violates the principles of Nature. We are not alone. Our nation is one of many which continues to commit criminal acts against the biotic community. Here’s the conundrum: When a nation designs legislation that defends criminal acts that are in obvious violation of ethical standards concerning the preservation of the biotic community, is one ethically wrong in breaking the law to defend the biotic communities that are being physically violated and endangered as the result of that federal legislation?
Or put another way, do we obey federal law or natural law? To whom or what are we primarily accountable?
In his book, The Practice of the Wild, poet/environmental philosopher Gary Snyder wrote: “…we must consciously fully accept that this is where we live and grasp the fact that our descendants will be here for millennia to come. …We must honor this land’s great antiquity—its wildness—learn it—defend it—and work to hand it on to the children (of all beings) of the future with its biodiversity and health intact. …A worldwide purification of mind is called for: the exercise of seeing the surface of the planet for what it is—by nature. With this kind of consciousness people turn up at hearings and in front of trucks and bulldozers to defend the land or trees. Showing solidarity with a region!… Bioregionalism is the entry of place into the dialectic of history. Also we might say that there are ‘classes’ which have so far been overlooked—the animals, rivers, rocks and grasses—now entering history.”
All of this contributes to the bioregional mindset—that of the naturist anarchist who is settling into his or her homeland with an expanded consciousness of one’s own deep and abiding allegiance to homeland, to its biological, geophysical and mythic characteristics of which we ourselves are part. Naturist anarchism is indeed democracy refined to its highest level. Naturist anarchism is bioregionalism put into practice. It is skinny-dipping in the flow of Nature with full recognition that we are but a tiny part of Nature’s flow. Then while standing naked in the Sun in a state of indigenous mindedness, we take stock of the current circumstances and react accordingly. ¢
Jack Loeffler is an aural historian, author and radio producer who has been engaged in defending the rights of indigenous peoples and their habitats for over fifty years. He is currently seeking a correlation between Indigenous Mind and modern science within the context of systems thinking relative to long term habitat-based cultural practices.