Dumai

Reply to comment by Dumai in Let's talk about Nihilism! by nbdy

Dumai wrote

i think you're misstating the nature of the problem with the lefty argument... let's grant, for the sake of argument, that we're going to eat the rich tomorrow and every human being on the earth will be reduced to an apparently sustainable level of consumption. that still wouldn't fix anything as long we're maintaining the expansion of throughput, which is an absolute necessity for the type of societies imagined as The Solution by those on the left, whether its a centrally planned state economy (as with MLs) or decentrally organised society with industrialism as the basis (as with ancoms). this is why degrowth ought to be a serious demand and focusing too much on consumption (though it shouldn't be ignored) gets to you to the wrong conclusions.

I'm not being rigidly deterministic, I'm just making my best calculation, and my own politics is the sort that tries to take a sober look at our grim reality while also seeking out tiny, uncompromising ways that we might escape it

"rigidly deterministic" was a bit too harsh i think!

The quiet examples from Blessed Is The Flame point out how people who resisted despite having no sense that they would survive the absolutely overwhelming and disempowering nazi death machine were actually more likely to survive. So I think there's a lot to be said for a nihilist resistance for its own sake, for jouissance.

this is lovely! i'm being serious! and exactly the sort of thing i admire in nihilism, even if i'm not quite on board with it as yet. at the end of the day i think i'm still attracted to larger scale politics than this would allow (call it the last remnants of my past leftism if you like) but there's something about this that's legitimately beautiful.

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Reply to comment by Dumai in Let's talk about Nihilism! by nbdy

Dumai wrote

How would a red anarchist tear apart the argument here?

ii think a traditional lefty could point out that consumption is much higher in the imperial core than the global periphery and that resource distribution is structured along class lines pretty much everywhere, therefore the structures of industrialism are nbd and their model of class struggle can cure all ills... which is really the response we're inviting when we choose to frame the issue as a problem of consumption above all else. we actually vastly overproduce food and land use is colossally higher than it needs to be -- desert doesn't really engage with that and so i think it can easily be cut down by critiques that would otherwise be very superficial.

I think that this relation to hope is one of the core elements of nihilism - and it seems you aren't nihilist in that way :) Personally I find this line of reason compelling, (and less of a fatalism than a determinism) so I'm very curious about why we seem to disagree.

i guess any rigidly deterministic interpretation of historical change will always sit poorly with me! i think what's happened is that many have noticed the issues with traditional left-wing conceptions of "global revolution", recognised the complexity of ecological crisis, and come to understand large-scale change as either unfeasible or practically insignificant. i'm not entirely unsympathetic to that view and i have my own share of climate despair (like most people who are paying attention) but i think there are things we can and should do to prepare for the crisis and mitigate the effects of collapse. you're right that it's too late to "prevent" it, especially since, as you've pointed out before, it's basically already started, but for me it's more about maximising the chances of survival and recovery than it is "solving" climate change (i've noticed only liberals and hopeless MLs talk about climate change that way)

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Reply to comment by Dumai in Let's talk about Nihilism! by nbdy

Dumai wrote (edited )

okay so by "ahistorical" i mean "lacking in attention to historical context or historical perspective", which isn't exactly the same thing as being historically inaccurate; if i were to say, for example, that vladimir lenin was born in 1871, that'd simply be factually incorrect. but if i were to say that the outcome of the russian revolution hinged entirely on lenin's ideas and leadership (which is a take that attracts both vulgar right-wing critics of the USSR and the most ignorant kind of stalinist), that'd be ahistorical, because i'd have to ignore the entire socio-historical setting of the revolution and reduce its history to an expression of lenin's will as a Great Historical Protagonist. or if i were to say that lenin was a marxist-leninist, that'd be similarly ahistorical, since "marxism-leninism" as a category doesn't start to be meaningful until years after lenin's death.

what i mean to say by calling desert ahistorical is that it lacks consideration of history where it should be important to account for. so to move to the book's population argument, which doubles as a historical account of agro-industrial growth:

Integral to the growth of industrial capitalism has been a vast increase in human population. There are now around seven billion of us compared to around 600 million at the beginning of the 18th century. That jump has happened in 13 generations [35] and in large part it was no accident. Silvia Federici has clearly laid out that a key foundation of early capitalism was the destruction of women’s control over their own fertility: “...wombs became public territory, controlled by men and the state, and procreation was directly placed at the service of capitalist accumulation” (see box below).

...

Industrial civilisation has managed to push up food supply by both colonising ever more wild land for agriculture and developing fossil fuel reliant ‘green revolution’ [40] agro-technologies and transportation. Essentially, industrial agriculture relies on the harvesting of ghost acreage [41] (the fossilised photosynthetic production of ecosystems millions of years ago) to produce food at the present rate. This can be only temporary, for unless one is a believer in the cornucopian myth that resources are limitless, someday the fossil-fuel hunting will draw a blank. When this will happen no-one really knows, though many argue that we have already passed ‘peak oil’. Some may counter that hydrogen fuel cells, solar power, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and green goo will somehow avert a population crash. These apostles of progress more and more resemble cargo cults in their belief that technology marshalled by either the market (if capitalist) or state planning (if socialist) will provide all that is needed. In the unlikely event that they’re right, and the food supply does keep up with population growth, the highly managed nature of the provision will guarantee that the ‘freedom supply’ (for both humans and other animals) is increasingly scarce.

what the author is doing here is looking at the way industrial capitalism has (historically and contemporaneously) reproduced global poverty and opting to naturalise it, treating the issue as a matter of an absolute "human carrying capacity" rather than a particular dynamic originating in the systems that should be the objects of historical/social critique here. they talk about the enclosure of natural resources and its relationship with industrialism, capitalism, patriarchy, and colonialism as social systems, which are all good places to start, but their attitude to food production is at once too naive and too cynical -- they take it for granted that these systems are the most efficient method of producing and allocating food for a large global population and then seem to imply this is the only way our food needs could be met (or come close to being met), which makes me think they're working under the assumption agro-industrial extraction is a matter of an industrial society straightforwardly responding to the consumptive needs of an expanding population. to which even a witless ecomodernist will probably respond "consumption is unequally distributed, alternatives to fossil fuels are available" and pat themselves on the back for discovering The Solution™ to climate change and global hunger without resorting to a critique of civilisation.

which they wouldn't need to do because the author then immediately retreats from this argument, throws a few bones to marxists and concedes that, yes, capitalism has always produced a relative surplus population and then they just... drop this issue. so which is it? are we pushing ourselves beyond a hard population limit towards a malthusian catastrophe? or are these problems social in origin? in any case isn't this exactly what permaculture is supposed to be a solution for? the author rightly scorns the assumption that global hunger is solvable with "the technology marshalled by either the market or state planning" (although imo for the wrong reasons) but shouldn't a green anarchist at least be aware of permaculture and address it if their goal is to refute any alternative to agro-industrial extraction and therefore argue that a high rate of food production can only be temporary? i guess it'd completely contradict the central premise of the work if they accepted that degrowth was possible as a solution, but they should be able to critique it along with the others, or at least keep the basis of their critique consistent.

this kinda irritates me because, well, part of the reason i'm so enthusiastic about green anarchism is that i think it has the potential to accomplish what bookchin's social ecology manifestly failed to do, which is to understand the relationship between social domination and environmental destruction. you can begin from an anarchist critique of property, synthesise it with an ecological perspective and a rejection of industrialism, and end up with radical ecology with more critical power than any traditional left-wing approach to environmental issues! buuut unfortunately i think your average reasonably well-read traditional leftie could rip the arguments in desert to shreds. it really shouldn't be the case that believers in a centralised state system for whom the extent of an ecological critique of capitalism is "the profit motive disincentivises renewable energy sources" could tear apart an argument made by a green anarchist but... you know in this case i think it really did happen

now tbf all of this all just a critique of a tiny portion of the text but it really points to a consistent issue i've found in deep ecology which is the absence of a well-developed social critique. this is an issue that's all over desert, along with the racism (which i was going to criticise but i see you're already well aware of it anyway) and the somewhat fatalistic attitude which the author qualifies but can't really justify imo. i didn't have time to re-read much of desert but i can go over more of it later in the week and flesh out my response more if you like!

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Reply to comment by Dumai in Let's talk about Nihilism! by nbdy

Dumai wrote

Oh. Then it's not that you're not an anarchist, it's that all the other people playing out their weird CNT fantasies aren't people you want to tie yourself to.

partly that, but also i'm just not interested in wedding myself to a political identity for the time being (historically that's led me to more problems than solutions, which, arguably, is more a Dumai Problem than an Anarchism Problem but whatever)

i'm still broadly rooted in anarchism so i'm not sure it makes much of a difference but this was kind of a step towards making myself a little less dogmatic

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Reply to comment by Dumai in Let's talk about Nihilism! by nbdy

Dumai wrote

it's bizarre and ahistorical, fetishises "third world" lifestyles and the population arguments are terrible

Also if you're not an anarchist any more like it says in your profile, write a long detailed explanation of your political views so I can point out all the flaws

all that really happened is i got more committed to anti-civ and swallowed the "all isms are wasms" pill :')

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Dumai wrote

i'm less well read on anarchist nihilism than i should be - - the only book i've read along those lines is desert which was kinda garbage, but i'm very much into the kind of "anarchy begins now, with you, right here right now" stuff even if i think it ought to be qualified

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Dumai wrote

in order to claim american jews are disloyal towards israel you first have to accept the claim disapora jews have inherent interests in israel's colonial project by virtue of being jewish

which is one of those things zionists and anti-semites tend to agree on 🤔

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Dumai wrote (edited )

i forgot that they actually did mention (religious/mystical) jewish anarchism it in the introduction!

admittedly the only concrete example they used was... martin buber's interest in the kibbutz movement, which is uh, pretty meagre, and far from a good example in and of itself

apparently they'd have welcomed a chapter on religious jewish anarchist thought but nobody submitted one. it's still kind of an upsetting omission, i agree

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Dumai wrote (edited )

this passage quite neatly summarises everything i love and everything i hate about st. paul

if you want a fascinating work of jewish scholarship on pauline theology that reads the epistles through this quote, read a radical jew: paul and the politics of identity by daniel boyarin

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Dumai OP wrote (edited )

"all these idealist radlibs who don't understand the material conditions of class society! you can't change the world with ~hearts and minds"

"we musn't allow the american public to think socialists are cringey or we'll never get them to vote for our preferred democratic candidate"

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Dumai wrote (edited )

i'm pretty drunk right now so this probably gonna be even clunkier than the stuff i normally write but i'm not sure disentangling israel-centrism from "ashkenormativity" fully makes sense? like how are u gonna explain the brutal forced secularisation and state-mandated ethnic violence inflicted on yemenite jews in israel, to pick one example, without reference to the resignification of ashkenazi jews as Good Secular Whites that's kinda foundational to zionism? what exactly do we think is going on there? or are we ignoring that ashkenazim are far and away the dominant jewish demographic in israel? what does that mean when israel is held up as this paragon of proper jewish identity? the result is... pretty ashkenazi-centric imo

i mean to be fair, part of that resignification has been, yes, the wholesale marginalisation of yiddish culture, which is unarguably a tragedy, but i don't think its helpful to lose sight of the way zionism really depends on actively undermining various other ways of being jewish... orientalism in particular is important here, because of course it is. you can't just refer to "israeli jews" as a cultural monolith

(the growing religionisation of israeli askhenazim is a whooole other kettle of fish that i'm not really qualified to speak on but i think my point does generally stand)

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Dumai wrote (edited )

depends on who is calling me a primmie and why tbh

anti-civ politics aren't like, Beyond Reproach, and there are some critiques attached to the ephitet "primmie" that ring true (especially online) but most people who call me a primmie are the kind of people who think climate change can be "solved" with large-scale extractive industry completely intact, that literally nothing about industrial production and mass consumption will have to change, which is basically low-key climate change denial at this stage (and if you ever talk about these things with an ML just wait until they tell you a planned industrial economy can fix any ecological problem, it is the funniest shit)

and really if anybody hears "degrowth" and assumes it means "we must abolish technology, end any and all extraction, drastically reduce the human population, and return to our ~natural primitive state" then that's their own problem, whether they're a self-identified primitivist or the kind of person to brand me a "primmie" for quoting lewis mumford (which legitimately happened to me the other day, no lie). got nothing to do with me

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Dumai OP wrote (edited )

okay so a lot of anti-civ types (primarily extremely online anarcho-primitivists) have this idea that the abolition of civilization (which for them is inseperable from the abolition of "technology", a term they often define very hazily and distinguish from "tools" in a kind of surface-level way that doesn't actually make any sense) entails a return to a pre-alienated, radically liberated primitive way of life -- if you're familiar with the "noble savage" stereotype then i can tell you it's quite similar, and equally mired in colonial ideology. it depends on objectifying non-urban societies as ahistorical, unchanging and untouched by the corruptive influence of the "unnatural"! which really elides how dynamic and varied "tribal" societies are, and means conflating cultures that have absolutely nothing to do with other into some kind of pre-civilisational model of "tribal society". it's kinda textbook racism.

and really it's this construction of the "primitive" that is at the crux of most primitivist arguments to "go back to the pleistocene", which, if you ask most people who are aware of anti-civ anarchism as a current, are foundational to anarcho-primitivism. this genuinely used to baffle me! because it definitely wasn't something you could find in most of the early fifth estate stuff i was reading at the time, much of which i disagreed with, but was often specifically defined in opposition to any ill-conceived utopian desire to revert to the stone age (some of the earliest primitivists at fifth estate actually anticipated critics would mischaracterise them this way). as i've since found out, the reason primitivism earned that reputation is mostly zerzan's fault! (the unabomber too, obviously, though the identification of kaczynski with anarchism has always been dubious and he's since explicitly disavowed any connection to anarcho-primitivism, which zerzan must be very bitter about, lol). so i've made peace with many of the critics of primitivism i used to argue against on the basis that the absolute worst primitivist "theorist" somehow ended up the most influential

so certainly don't think every primitivist thinks this way -- the other reason i was confused so many people conflated primitivism with some fetishistic idealisation of pre-argicultural societies is because most of the primitivists i've known irl have been disabled, or transgender, or otherwise depended on technology in some way, and they certainly weren't arguing for the abolition of their own lives. some others have also recognised the issue with the reifying the "primitive" and "natural" -- john moore of the fifth estate noticed it, but he died before much really came of that line of critique. but if you want to know why anarcho-primitivist spaces, particularly online, are full of shitty middle class white guys with borderline eugenicist fantasies, well... the people to blame have names and addresses, lol

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