A pre-death obituary for our whale kin

The world of whale sounds reverberates deep under the sea, from hundreds of meters to hundreds of miles. It’s completely alien to the soundscape of humanity, shouting and singing up in the air, where songs and speech can’t dream of carrying so far. Under the surface lie deep booming patterns, and perhaps music can help us make sense of it where words and logic fail.” -David Rothenberg

1833 whaling jardine

Perhaps the reason whales sound so mournful and melancholic is because they foresaw the fate of their kind. One has to wonder if they knew how it would become so. The very long practice of whale hunting and it’s visceral cruelty may have lead them to believe this would be the cause of their disappearance from the ecosystem, if they could see their fate, could they ever have predicted it wouldn’t be hunting, but rather the slower painful death of becoming filled with human detritus, or that their language and sense of direction, fundamental to their survival, would be profoundly disrupted by naval sonar? What about the well documented testing of nuclear weapons?

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Operation Crossroads: The US tests nuclear weapons off the coast of Bikini Atoll, mid 1946

The US Navy knew the songs of humpback whales before the general public did. For two decades prior they had been publishing guidebooks and training cadets on how to recognize and differentiate the sounds of other underwater signals, the noise of enemy radar for instance. Of course the observation of whale songs long predates any recordings. They may have been the inspiration for the sirens found in Odysseus’ epic journey…and it’s rather beautiful to think that men became so hypnotized by the moans and wails that they slammed into cliffs and perished.

sirens

In 1585, a dutch traveler by the name of Adriaen Coenen wrote the sound of Beluga whales, also known as ‘sea canaries’ or white whales by the Russians, sound like ‘the signing of humans…if a storm is immanent they play on the surface of the water and are said to lament when they are caught…they like to hear music played on the lute, harp, flute, and similar instruments.’ as David Rothenberg observed in his book Thousand Mile Song, for a long time people have sensed that these animals are intrigued enough by human life to enjoy listening to our songs.’

They no longer hear pleasant music, but a tortuous shrieking that no doubt drives many to suicide. This is not noise they can escape, rather it is forced upon them, much like music and sound is used in psychological warfare and torture. For the navy cadets, the songs were merely evidence of ‘biologicals’ that had to be differentiated from non-biologicals.

While the Navy may be responsible for the disruption of migrations due to sonar, all kinds of noise pollution threaten whales, and the ocean has been no less affected than the creatures on land have been by the incessant disturbance created by humans. Whales, for example, naturally gravitate towards ship motors, resulting in gruesome deep lacerations that are often fatal. And then there is the shrieking of seismic oil and gas exploration.

Whales have been observed beaching themselves for centuries, and there are no solid explanations as to why 100s would strand themselves at a time. Some speculate that red algae blooms, which in 2018 devastated the coast of Florida may have played a part. These ‘red tides’ as they are called have been recorded as early as the 1500s by Spanish explorers, and are known to follow particularly strong storms. As the ocean warms and storms become increasingly intense, these blooms will continue to become more and more toxic.

Whale Stranding of 1617, Esaias van de Velde

Whales are often described as ‘alien’, which is fitting. The deep sea was the last frontier for mankind here on earth. The pressure of the depths prevented humans from discovering their closely guarded secrets. Homo sapiens are very curious creatures, demanding everything from the non-human world. They must know what those sounds mean, or where they disappear to, off to frolic and mate uninterrupted by these strange creatures that follow them and stare. The lines between zoos and the wild have never been so porous, and it’s well known that zoo creatures exhibit anxious traits, pacing back and forth or never moving at all.

When the first recordings of whale songs were played to crowds of environmentalists when the international conservationist movement was just kicking off with the massive ‘earth day’, it had a hypnotizing affect. The crowd was silent while the sorrowful music played, it had the same affect that the first images of earth itself were shown to the world, that is, a momentary awareness of how much we have to lose. But those feelings quickly faded away, as people left the streets to promote individual responsibility like recycling and anti-littering measures. Greenpeace was emboldened as the whale songs pulled more and more people into ineffective nonprofits who now grace us with constant requests for donations, or a signature for a useless petition. And while people got furious over trash being dumped in their backyard, they had no care as to where all their trash ended up as long as it was out of sight.

Rainbow Warrior Crew with Whaling Banner

Around Thailand alone, somewhere around 300 marine mammals die from plastic ingestion each year. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand what happens to these creatures who have been fed a steady diet of garbage. Their stomachs become blocked with everything that can’t be digested, bringing about a slow, no doubt agonizing death due to starvation. They simply can’t fit real food into their bellys.

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Of course, plastic isn’t the only thing threatening ocean life; from whales all the way down to the krill they depend on live in seas full of poisonous run off from factories. The only thing that brings eyes to this travesty is the increasingly costly but toxic sushi. The demand for seafood, like the toxicity of the creatures flesh, has never been higher as supplies continue to become scarcer. So far, the most affected people aren’t those who gain the most press; the indigenous and poor who rely on small scale fishing to provide for their families, and the occasional whale to feed a whole village for quite some time. When it came to indigenous practices, the respect given to their sustenance allowed for a sustainable approach, but that has all been washed away by the tides of progress. Like with national parks with their bans on hunting, many native peoples cannot continue their ancient ways of eating, which in turn disrupts other aspects of culture, as hunting and communal feasts bring together a social cohesion.

Whales have provided us with everything from oil, to entertainment and prop up a massive tourism industry aimed at giving people a glimpse of their magnificence. Their images have been used to sell both products and ecological movements to the masses, orcas, humpbacks and dolphins have been particularly effective at opening wallets. And what have we re-payed them with? All that donated money has only benefited humans, those responsible for the destruction of whales to begin with.

Despite the unrelenting optimism shoved down our throats, it is becoming more and more obvious that we are out of time. There is no more time for them, and no more for us. Reforms at best may be able to slow things down a bit while homo sapien frantically tries to find another, fresh planet to destroy. Perhaps there will be another planet with oceans, and more whales to conquer. This is a bitter pill to swallow, but one that humanity must, and will eventually, take.

sunsetwhale

On Being in the Streets: Activism and Herd Mentality

Reading an analysis of May Day 2017 in Olympia made me realize a fundamental problem among anarchists of today. It is this notion that anybody capable of “being in the streets” should be, without any deeper thought about the point of being in the streets in the first place. The beginning of the long piece isn’t interesting or insightful. It’s a retelling of events very similar to an anthropologist’s detachment. They are studying the ancient tribe of the black bloc, fetishizing and creating a mythology around it. On the surface though it is shallow and cold. My own experience with the b.b. was as a spectator. I wanted to be with the angry kids who were mysterious to me at the time. In this sense I’m glad it was a thing in my life, I took a lot from those moments. Eventually I came to see it as a useless exercise in political theater in the U.S, that is why I question it. People who talk about a sustained insurrection don’t understand the temporal nature of this kind of revolt. A sustained insurrection is just another way of saying “revolution.” Don’t justify your actions, rioting is fun, it’s a diversion from the normality of everyday life and a way of releasing pent up frustrations and anger. Ultimately though, it won’t bring an anarchist world into being. After the fun everybody goes on with their mundane lives.

What interests me are the conclusions drawn from the May Day action which are given as “advice.” I suppose to say they are just conclusions taken from May Day would be a mistake (the strategic advice being the exception) because they make it clear that in times like these we cannot be opposed, or even critical of anarchist projects. This is laughable because I believe it is time to have an open war between anarchists and the activist politicians that desperately crave the approval of the masses. The same masses that would turn on them in a second. There is no such thing as a sustained insurrection. An insurrection is by nature a rebellion that cannot be sustained because it is beyond politics. If you think you can find your socialist utopia in the masses you are nothing but a disgusting would-be politician.

The writers take every opportunity to defend militant actions as morally righteous, so as not to offend. They say all the right things, mutual aid, solidarity, oppressors etc. It’s a terribly boring polemic. At least Crimethinc. in its earlier days had a gift of poetic language that moved people beyond political abstractions. This seems to no longer be the case now. Everything seems to be obscenely pragmatic. I’ll take idealistic, romantic and life changing over an analysis of every enemy we can conjure up. Who is really talking about “the beautiful idea” anymore? Now its Antifa slogans, posturing, a constant attempt to steer anarchism into the larger left movement (Bernie supporters becoming “anarchists” was touted as a great thing by some) and attempting in every way to appeal to the idiot masses.

A word on Antifa. I strongly support a culture of self-defense, but also learning offensive skills and strategy (not the strategy of the streets, but if the Oathkeepers have shown me anything its that the left and antifa are in no way prepared to match and exceed their skills, we are talking ex-military, cops etc.). There is a real threat to lots of people, the stabbings in Portland horrifically have made this clear. But that does not mean every moment of our lives should be devoted to rooting out the “bad guys.” I don’t see people being good or bad, I see people living the same miserable existence as me, and by chance I ended up here, and that guy ended up there. This brings up the question, what caused the immense amount of hatred to well up In that guy? Well, it wasn’t just hatred, but fear. We have all been fed lies, but they are different lies. It turns out he changed a lot according to a black friend of his after doing a sting in prison. Yep, this happens all the time, I have seen it with my own eyes. Even a short time in jail can lead some to come out confused about their identity. Its well known how racial divisions are created amongst prisoners, but from my own experience only on the men’s side. The first question my white partner was asked was, “you a peckerwood?”

Getting back to the analysis and back on topic. Towards the end of the analysis they say this; “If we want to have social conditions that lend themselves to anarchy we need to set aside arbitrary divisions and push the fundamental divisions that enforce the ruling order to their breaking point. Let’s come into situations with an intent to actually listen compassionately and come to understandings with people without compromising critical engagement and our anarchist ethics.” I don’t think the divisions among anarchists these days is arbitrary at all, those divisions are just as fundamental as the ones you say you want to push to their breaking points, I’m not sure what this means exactly. The funny thing is, throughout the whole article they compromise what I would call anarchist principles rather than “ethics.”

There’s a lot more to say about this, and I think its worth attacking because its this activist mentality that discourages inward thinking and contemplation that I think is an essential component of anarchy, or at least it should be. The black bloc is dead! Long live the black bloc!

Dreams vs. Reality

Well, I’m still here. I had a goal to try to write a blog post a week, but I’m learning sometimes you have to push projects to the side and be OK with that. I want to keep writing and writing, but it really does take a lot of emotional energy to get through longer pieces. I often feel frustrated by my lack of motivation because I set high goals for myself, knowing deep down I’m setting myself up for failure. I want to excel at one thing, and maybe that will be writing, who knows? But right now I’m not putting enough work in. Its all blood, sweat and tears and sometimes I just don’t have the energy. And sometimes you just feel like a broken record, merely responding to others. This doesn’t suit me, I like to think for myself which is what attracted me to anarchy in the first place. It compelled me to keep searching despite so many dead ends.

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Its a confusing and unclear time and anybody who claims to have answers is sorely misguided at best and deceptive politicking at worst. This is one of the hardest things for anarchists to come to terms with. As more and more people come to anarchism through the internet, I fear this search for answers will lead many to simply follow established doctrines written by anarchists for a different time, because it provides the directions.

What accounts for this lack of imagination? It seems just too easy to get swallowed up in all the social causes and outrages of the day, especially with the emphasis placed on identity. These anarchists adherence to notions of community as to be laughable betray their true ideologies rooted in Marxism and Maoism and other leftist nonsense. There is a spiritual component missing from anarchy, and our lives. I suggest anarchists think about this. I long for flexible thinking and not the rigid adherence to dogma. We have religiosity without the insight that religion might actually provide, that certain mystics have spoken of. Instead of Saints we now just have secular Gods of almighty Science.

 

saintrita

I am not an anarchist that wants to save humanity. Humanity is one of the greatest causes of the misery in the world. It pulls us away from living freely on our own terms. It forces us to conform, to normalize and control ourselves. It doesn’t allow for negativity, because one must have hope in the future to place so much value on human life. It keeps anarchy safe and inviting. And yet there is nothing really human about the way these people see the world. For them the human is obscene. Violence is abhorred despite being part of homo sapiens existence from time immemorial; unless the violence is done collectively it is denounced.

earliesthomicide

What is the difference between someone who kills for pleasure, frustration or revenge and someone who murders for political gains? Its a strange moral line some people draw in the sand.

 

Notes on the Anarchist as Outsider

Sadly, I am only just now reading Colin Wilson’s amazing book The Outsider. Written in 1956 it is a brilliant piece of writing examining the world of outsiders. I’m still reading it, but when I’m finished this might be what I would call essential reading for anarchists standing at the edges of nihilist and individualist thought. I find this extremely fertile ground for destroying some of the moral certainty that unfortunately gets inserted into many anarchists beliefs, leading to some terribly dogmatic and shallow understanding of our dilemmas.

What can The Outsider teach us? In a chapter titled The Question of Identity, Wilson asks what is identity?

“These men traveling down to the City in the morning, readig their newspapers or staring at advertisements above the opposite seats, they have no doubt of who they are. Inscribe on the placard in place of the advertisement for corn-plasters, Eliot’s lines:

We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

and they would read it with the same mild interest with which they read the rhymed advertisement for razor blades, wondering what on earth the manufacturers will be up to next. Some of them even carry identity cards–force of habit–that would tell you precisely who they are and where they live.

They have aims, these men, some of them very distant aims: a new car in three years, a house at Surbiton in five; but an aim is not an ideal. They are not play-actors. They change their shirts every day, but never their conception of themselves.

These men are in prison: that is the Outsider’s verdict. They are quite contented in prison–caged animals who have never known freedom; but it is prison all the same. And the Outsider? He is in prison too: nearly every Outsider in this book has told us so in a different language; but he knows it. His desire is to escape. But a prison-break is not an easy matter; you must know all about your prison, otherwise you might spend years in tunneling, like the Abbě in The Count of Monte Cristo, and only find yourself in the next cell.”

One of Giovanni Battista's Imaginary Prisons

Countless critiques of identity have been put forward by anarchists, but none go so far as to say we are nothing but future manure. This is not a hopeful message of ultimate victory, and a hope for a better future for mankind, but a sober examination of the brutality of existence that all of us must face, but most deny to the core of their being. Many of the greatest minds, such as those examined by Wilson, had realizations of the futility of life that amounted to feelings of terror and panic.  One example he shares is that of James __ in Varieties of Religious Experience where he describes his mental deterioration:

“Whilst in a state of philosophic pessimism, and general depression of spirits about my prospects, I went one evening into a dressing-room in the twilight…when suddenly there came upon me, without any warning, just as if it came out of the darkness, a horrible fear of my own existence.”

These experiences of the void allow us to see what an anti-humanist anarchism can look like. The outsider is not content with this world, and cannot move within it without going mad. Ultimately, we are outsiders, or should be. Instead of fearing the irrationality of spiritual insight into the soul of man we should fear those who see anarchism as a rational system that must be imposed on the world for the good of mankind.

 

Death and the Community of Lovers

Bataille is notoriously difficult, or at least I’ll keep telling myself that because I often don’t understand shit of what he’s saying. Well, I did fail at every academic endeavor so I just absorb what I can understand, what resonates with me and what is compelling. There’s a reason Bataille is difficult that goes beyond academics: his writing is complex and esoteric. He is talking about things that because of their secretive and experiential nature, often cannot be put into words. Yet it are these very things he and his contemporaries have tackled. Bataille’s observations of social formations aren’t just based on some abstract philosophical theories, although that is definitely part of it. He practiced and experimented wildly with ways of being. Acéphale and the College of Sociology are just two examples.

The story of the Community of Lovers obviously goes beyond Bataille, as it is a conversation between multiple people. His interest was in dissolving the individual, but not into an abstract political formulation. For someone who is influenced by individualist anarchism and egoism, I had to check my assumptions about these “communities of those who are without community.” Or as Maurice Blanchot called them, unavowable communities. These communities aren’t a positive project of building, but intimate experiences between people, particularly death, which produces an excess of emotion, such as anguish. This is different than the blabbering of politicians pandering to whoever is going to get them votes. Using the concepts of the profane and the sacred Bataille separates the Community of Lovers from abstract communities that are based around objects, politics, consumerism, work and bureaucracy.

What can anarchists take from these discussions about the project of Battaille’s community? These questions get to the core of the tension between the individual and the collective. What brings together the Community of Lovers is chance, not the forcing together of beings because of nationality, political ideology and other artificially created identities made to create and build. Embracing the sacred, esoteric nature of this unavowable community destined for failure and unable to be co-opted  also means rejecting the ‘big tent’ way of thinking that is being especially preached for at a time when there is a real fear of fascism throughout the left and unity is stressed. Anarchists should not shy away from being hated, there is no need to proselytize to the masses. Who despises those that would rather be idle? People who preach the profane world of progress. Unfortunately, too many anarchists also believe in the future of humanity. Let all skyscrapers tumble. Onward, to death!

 

 

De Sade and Pasolini: The Obscene Body and Transhumanism

For me, turning away from the world…from the truth of bodies is shameful.

-Georges Bataille

The humanism of the movement known as transhumanism couldn’t be more against the notion of the human, yet they do care about a body: the social body. In the West there is a long history public health campaigns in an effort to keep this body healthy (also political bodies, Chris Hedges famously called the Black Bloc activities a cancer of the Occupy movement), and exploitation films famously got through censors by disguising the transgressions as morality tales. Dwain Esper, the prince of exploitation and a true nod to the barker of the sideshow, knew the ins and outs of how to separate a mark from their money.

Esper’s first feature movie, Seventh Commandment (1932), was a torrid tale of the evils of adultery. It featured documentary footage of a Caesarian birth, dramatic interludes depicting transvestites, and bodies ravaged by syphilis or completely nude. Even though the ultimate message is about staying faithful to one’s partner, a high-ranking official in the Production Code Administration found the film “vile and disgusting”.

sideshowbarker
Step right up, step right up!

Transhumanists, like movie censors, want a sanitized society, for those privileged enough to benefit. Soon there will be no need to defecate or piss or fuck unless you want to do it in virtual reality. Rather than having a sensual tactile relationship to other people and the world around us, these people would rather you eat a pill to fill your belly than a piece of sticky fruit, as if that’s any substitution. In the end is just another ideology that excuses whatever keeps the human species ticking away and the trains running on time.

Both the Marquis de Sade and Pier Paolo Pasolini “sought to discover means to finally detonate the narratives and foundations of social power systems” through their transgressive narratives. Pasolini’s masterpiece Salò is a retelling of de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom set in the mid-1940s at the end of Mussolini’s reign that presents a visual feast of human cruelty. He had direct experience with the visceral brutality of war, his father had been a professional fascist soldier and he had seen the final product of the massacres.

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Carlo Alberto Pasolini

Pasolini wanted Salò to be not just his final film, (which it was to become after his brutal murder), but the final film of all humanity images of the “structures of cruelty and of the sexual origins of human atrocities and massacres that would form a kind of malign legacy, left for any nonhuman species that in the future might want to look upon the memories and obsessions of the human race.” The idea of the “final film” was explored by other directors during the violence saturated world of the late 1960s and 1970s and was much closer to home. The transformation of Times Square is an example. You could look out of your window and see the sordid actions of man. Now anything that unveils the ugliness or base is disguised by commerce. But we know what is behind this illusory mask of civilized people who are so clean.

timesquare1970stimessquarepresent

I recently came across an article written by Olga Khazan about the transhumanist presidential candidate, Zoltan Istvan. Like other transhumanists, he wants to not only extend human life, but eliminate death entirely. Any contagion to the body, including the social body, would be eliminated if Khazan and other transhumanists and tech giants would have their way. We can already see how far surveillance and warfare has come. Of course they will talk about eliminating hunger, poverty and so forth. Transhumanists have yet to reconcile the fact that their utopia is hardly a utopia for the people who still mine the materials for this world, or clothe our shameful naked bodies. Ultimately they want to be human, but without the despair, sickness and the ultimate end of our journey that is a pile of rotting flesh given as a sacrifice to the maggots and worms, and ultimately the earth, that goes with being animal.

cobaltmineslavery
Making the transhumanist dream possible

Istvan was working as a National Geographic reporter in Vietnam when he almost tripped a landmine (another reminder of human atrocity). Instead of serving as a reminder of mankind’s brutality he was so shaken by the experience it invigorated his faith in technology as the savior of mankind (ironically it was another piece of human technology that almost shred him to pieces).

Istvan and other techno-utopians believe death is the “great enemy” of mankind, not just the enemy of the individual. The social body  I believe the great enemy of mankind is itself and societies hubris, this has been proven time and time again and only somebody who fears death and the wild would call it an enemy and not a blessing.

YOKOHAMA,B-2

fuyuko-matsui

“Japanese culture has become too clean. Our five senses are too blunt.” -Fuyuko Matsui

salo1

 

The “New Violence” of Decolonization

“Born out of sheer political expedience, and out of a laziness about doing any homework concerning these groupings and their common or uncommon characteristics, bureaucrats eventually gave these prison-like institutions ‘freedom’, a budget and autonomy of a limited kind. Nobody considered how to de-institutionalize the institutions and to remove their penitentiary flavour. No one provided training in autonomy. Nobody remembered, or wanted to remember, that the inmates-turned-citizens were often people who had been involuntarily moved or exiled to these places, people who had had to be disciplined or punished, or people who had been rounded up by desert patrols and simply placed there for the ‘social engineering’ experiment of assimilation in the deserts and monsoon lands. Most places were not peopled by a communis or communitas. These people were not a voluntary association, with common tribal or linguistic membership and fellowship, or with common historical, political or cultural heritages. They were not communitarian in their membership and were neither cohesive nor socially coherent. Such cohesiveness as many such places had was institutional and imposed, not cultural, spiritual or linguistic.’ -Colin Tatz

In my ongoing research on suicide I came across a book titled “Aboriginal Suicide is Different: A Portrait of Life and Self-Destruction.” Up until then I had only gotten Western takes on suicide due to Durkheim’s massive presence. The author argues that the suicide statistics in Australia do not accurately reflect what is happening in Aboriginal communities and other indigenous groups worldwide who have their own unique factors that lead to the obliteration of the self, due to their unique histories and present social conditions. He rejects the Western notion that suicide is caused by mental illness and sees this as obfuscating the reality of aboriginal lives which are marked by extreme poverty, enduring legacies of racism including the removal of children from Aboriginal homes, lack of access to services, substance abuse and child sexual abuse/neglect.

Mostly what interested me about Tatz’s book was its discussion of decolonization, its negative effects and its role in the suicides. A critical view of decolonization is something you don’t hear much about in radical circles where decolonization is a hot button topic, even dividing groups during the Occupy movement in the Bay Area. On the surface it seems like something few would be opposed to, but its much more than empty platitudes: decolonization is a process that, like colonialism itself, inflicts violence upon native peoples, this time towards people who have already been displaced. Bureaucrats and other officials, in an attempt to right wrongs, actually bring about more distress. In Australia and New Zealand decolonization forced displaced people to “become ‘communities’ in name, regardless of whether or not there was an actual communitas.” One more reason to be skeptical of anybody speaking on behalf of a “community.”

decolonize