TOTW: Skillbuilding

  • Posted on: 30 July 2018
  • By: thecollective

Though Bellamy spends a portion of his introductory essay to Backwoods criticizing insurrectionary anarchism, there exists at least one point of similarity between the anti-civ project he puts forward and the object of his critique: skillbuilding.

One of the major problems he observes with civilization is the way it deprives people living within it of the skills to live without it, which in turn alienates us from the world in which we live. Contrasted with this is the concept of autarky, or “the knowledge and practice of providing one's subsistence - again, food, water, shelter, fuel, and medicine - for and by oneself in an unalienated relationship with one's habitat and in voluntary cooperation with others with whom one freely associates”, which would entail “...a profound reskilling, a regaining of the venerable and valuable skills of foraging, tending, tracking, hunting, fishing, preserving, woodworking, herbalism, and others”.

Compare this with the veritable laundry list of skills to learn and things to do put forward in the insurrectionary manual “How to Start a Fire”:

Get property. Pirate radio. Build stoves. Learn to cook. Learn Languages. Get arms. Open street carts and businesses. Occupy buildings. Set up cafes. Diners. Restaurants. Pizza shops. Book stores. Permaculture. Mend wounds. Lathes. Giant pots. Orchards. Build friendships. Acquire film equipment and make documentaries. Talk to old comrades. Learn martial arts, Read. Travel. Learn from each other. Write newspapers. Weather the hard times. Loot. Hold regional gatherings. Write internal journals. Refine the art of sabotage. Distribute counter-information. Offset presses. Raw materials and the means of production. Three thousand camping bowls. Survival packs. Organic seeds. Share thoughts, feelings, and practice. Learn history and learn from history. Build tables. Make art. Go to the woods. Summer retreats. Dance parties. Get cars. Steal money. Move close to each other. Start uncontrollable riots.

All of this and more is to be acquired and used in the fight against our collapsing civilization and for creating “a life actually worth living”. For them, our lack of skills is framed as disarming us weapons we need fight and create other ways of living. While Bellamy’s proposal for desertion and Anonymous’s proposal for getting organized in a global conflict are at odds in some ways, they both point to a lack of skills as an impediment to anarchist projects and their acquisition as crucial to creating an alternative.

Do you think the concept of acquiring skills is important as anarchist praxis? If so, why? And what kind of skills? If not, why?



collapse is your mind-set On this, Aragorn! in the chit chat you indulge in on TOTW, could you explain 'green anarchy' to the listeners and is it different to anti-civ? Eg, can a green anarchist also be for digital technology or not in that can green anarchy include hi tech or not? Skills ought to include how to get along without the state. Also, collapse or not, will the arms continue as in those with guns, bigger guns, more guns get to dominate? Skills has to include changing the human predatory mind-set or it will be 'meet the new boss, same as the old boss.'

Why wouldn't a green anarchist be able to use hi-tech? I think it's not a question of whether or not they *use* it so much as having consideration for *how* they use it. Using computers to hack, fine, but there's obviously a tension between the addictive nature of computers and the kinds of lives green anarchists want. It's not always irresolvable, but keeping it in mind is important, and avoiding life situations that encourage addiction. Maybe you can say it's a question of social relations but with a recognition that any technological use with inevitably have effects on those social relations.

@17:04 - Not gonna speak for A! (I expect his opinion is quite different than my own), but I think of this all in a taxonomic way. Imagine anarchy tree. The roots are anti-capitalism and opposition to the state and other forms of domination. The trunk is anarchy. One large branch is green anarchy (or eco-anarchy, if you prefer). off that is a smaller branch that is anti-civ anarchy, off of that branch is an even smaller one that is anarcho-primitivism. This isn't perfect, since these branches can cross pollinate with other branches like anarcho-communism, anarcho-nihilism, and so forth. Sometimes this cross-pollination bears bitter fruits, like that one that dropped and sprouted the social ecology tree. or to talk in tech terms it looks like anarchy>green anarchy>anti-civ>anarcho-primitivism.

I know folks who would consider themselves green anarchists who don't reject technology and civilization, but I don't know many. I also know a lot of folks who oppose civilization that wouldn't call themselves green anarchists, so it is messy. When thinking of ideas, it is less clearly mapped in these terms than when looking at strict biology (fwiw, I don't think biology is always that clearly mapped out either, and want to acknowledge the shortcomings of applying such a scientific model to, well, anything).

As to the question about those with power continuing to dominate those with less power, yeah, it is entirely possible, even likely that is how it could play out.Skill-building and good praxis don't necessarily equal desired outcomes, or victory (whatever that might mean - it is something I don't even think about really). One can have the best plan and still get outgunned or outmaneuvered because life is messy and doesn't play out like moving pieces on a chess board. Beyond that, we are all products of the terrible world we live in, and without that work you mention to counter the (often unconscious) ways we replicate relationships based on domination and control of others, we are likely to become the "men with guns." Even if we were to "win" and eliminate the threat of the men with guns, anarchy is a process not an end-point,and the that process might not be enough to halt the pace of ecological destruction that is already in motion and speeding up everyday. Frankly, I don't see any role for digital technology, with it's reliance on centralized infrastructure, resource extraction, etc. but I am also not sure that means it isn't possible or a potential outcome, just it isn't something I either care to see continue, or am going to focus my time on.

whilst i fairly well like this way of understanding 'what green anarchy is', i would think its important to place extra emphasis on the fact that this idea of an anarchy tree is a metaphor. i find the fixation that many discussions of anarchy have on the specific nature of a named 'branch' of anarchy to be both odd and at the same time predictable. when interacting with people i definitely hope that im not simply going to be interacting in any direct way with a 'branch of anarchy', or indeed 'branch' of any ideology, and the discussions that do turn out that way arent especially fun, being full of predictabilities and tired slogans rather than any actual engagement. i hope people dont put as much stock in any supposed external fundamental nature of these labels that they have given themselves as these questions would seem to imply.

Oh yeah, skills are a must. But, personally, it seems like some of the most important skills are precisely those that are marginalized by the word "skill" --- like the ability to engage in conflict resolution --- arguably *the most important primitive skill*!

must learn everything he can but his primary focus is the skills that pay the bills. To fetishize a skill set that may never be useful except in some far fetched survival situation might be extravagant but to each his own. I don't value primitive survival skills over urban ones at this point because I don't foresee living in the wild any time soon. Necessity being the mother of invention I think immediate survival skills would proliferate and spread like wildfire in the event of a catastrophic disruption of the supply chain in areas where a lot of people live.

1. Carts of Darkness

is not my primary interest in living in the "wild". It is fuller freedom from capitalism and a higher quality of life. Especially more opportunity to receive "mystical experience" (as it is called by clueless "civilization").

In the longer run, I'm interested in what will outlive the Collapse and regenerate normal/healthy human life. This would mean a multi-generational cooperative where the young are able to grow up as much like "savages" (normal humans) as possible, while still able to gain the skills needed to cope with outside "civilization" (and later its greatly weakened/fragmented remnants).

It is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. Those of us "reverting to savagery" can still come out of our backwoods sanctuaries and participate in positive developments in the cities. In the nearer future, race war in the U.S.A. might be averted by a multi-racial rising of working people. This could possibly lead to the radical change needed to cope with the biosphere no longer indulging late capitalism. This would also require a very deep, widespread, radical (experiential) spiritual awakening, the likes of which "civilization" has never seen. Which connects back to the "savages" in the backwoods.

This "escape from evil Empire" you describe is nothing more than your own personal eschatological vision reified into an isolated resentiful monasticism dressed up with a seemingly positive primitivist methodology!

hey, if it works.

But its only working under the privileged guise of " I'm a martyr for all those disabled by their domestication" which is a sort of inverted paternalism or missionary type quest. Don't you see how false this consciousness appears to those having to engage with the beast of capitalism with civility?

living in a truck w/camper shell for 6 and one-half years. This is how my first debt-free Land project happened, before I had ever heard of anarcho-"primitivism". Successful self-employment plus no rent enabled capital formation. There are ways to MAKE things happen rather than just whine.

@redpanther 10:50: i have a similar (his)story - living in a vehicle, finding debt-free land, ... i totally agree that there are ways to "make things happen", or as i would put it, to live a very different kind of life. my priorities in life correlate with my desires for how i want to live. i see that as a major hurdle for most folks i have met that claim to want a similar life. they talk about wanting a different life, but their desires/priorities keep them from pursuing that in any realistic way. of course they have their reasons.

dilitanttery emancipates NO ONE, any more than whining or ranting does (regardless of how eloquent it may be). Half-free from capitalism, I didn't finish the job and instead had my own badly-ending detour into this cycle of degeneration. It worked fine as long as nothing serious went wrong. By 2008, almost everything serious was going seriously wrong. I won't bore any readers with the specifics, but the unasked-for advice I give everyone is: do NOT do what I did.

'I won't bore any readers with the specifics, but the unasked-for advice I give everyone is: do NOT do what I did.' Could you tell the cautionary tale and be careful not to be boring?


is this repeated obsession with the Sambia, who are not even hunter-gatherer-permaculturists, about anyway? Some obsession with male homosexuality?

NO YOU are the one obsessed with "The return to savagery", to the isolation and seperation of males into " working the land" with their BIG toys, their CHAINSAWS and BACKHOES, clearing and destroying, burning and slashing VIRGIN FOREST to make little culturally appropriate social gathering camps where people can gather to indulge in their EVIL SEXUAL FANTASIES, oh yes, all the mid-life crises in the whole world are all just the same, this obsession with Finding SEXUAL sanctuaries away from the maddening capitalist crowd. But who's really INSANE ?

a LOT of projection to me.
Are you going to get some help for all your torment?
I did this in my '20's, but its never too late.

No joking, this return to savagery is a modern extrapolation of Social-Darwinism, no different to Trump's Hobbesian capitalist survival of the ---fill in any specialized skill here--- process of survival within an economic totality. Don't pretend that conquering nature is any different to conquering Wall St, or winning over a primitivist woman with hunting skills is any different to winning over a celebrity glamor queen with a Lear jet. Stirner was correct, everything other than ones own creative nothingness is a materialistic process guided by a spook.

Also Bad Kitty, don't go splitting the hairs in the dialectic soup, mkay?

it MUST be a sellout to False Consciousness.
ONLY pseudo-intellectual WHINING is Principled!

that "mystical experiences" in the backwoods were resentful.
And I never knew I can't walk and chew gum at the same time.
Learn something new every day!

01:07 here, I see I've hit a nerve here, I respect your stoic ordeal as a workerist living a frugal and mean existence in the prison-like domain of a van, it would have left mental scars and made me shudder if I had been made to toil it such a way. On closer study one realizes it was the manifestation of the resentment which had been calcified and stored away never to whine openly again. The mystical experiences are the reward for the faith in ones own utopian fantasy. Yes, there are new things to learn everyday. Rest your weary labored self down in the cool fragrent and carressing Sambian forest and find your release dear mystic pussy.

in the truck w/camper shell. I "worked/work" outdoors, creating and maintaining gardens, and spent time on my Land. "Savages" don't live their lives indoors, and have a very different understanding/experience of home. "Savagery" isn't a utopia. It worked very well for 1.8 million years.

to know that squatting in the wilderness isn't a viable escape route from capitalism without some logistical support. At the very least a way to make fire every day, a pot to boil water in, something to catch rainwater and an expert knowledge of wild plants would mean the difference between life and death.

The people here who live in the woods at least send someone into town every day to get certain things; beer, cigarettes, food and I'm sure if someone is still getting an SSI check or SNAP they're probably the king of the tribe.

If you're lucky enough to live somewhere you can drink the water directly without purification that would make it a lot easier to focus on getting out of the sun and learning about what's safe to eat, if you don't want to go into town for it.

On a more civilized note there are manufactured homes with solar panels and energy efficient appliances pre-installed you could put on an acre of land out in the sticks for a minimum of startup capital. You could have a well dug and run your own pump and purifier, farm the rest of the land and almost be self sufficient except for property taxes effectively renting the land from the state. Certain cash crops come to mind for generating income.

I'm interested in alternative living situations and I think squatting in the wilderness and learning what it takes to live well in that situation is a worthwhile project. My dad has a small garden here which is a hobby that produces okra, tomatoes, green beans, chili peppers, rosemary, basil, dill, lettuce and cilantro. We even had a starfruit tree that produced in abundance until it was killed by saltwater inundation during the hurricane. Vegetables are so cheap that it actually costs us more to produce them ourselves and I'm careful to not take on too many labor projects or he would have me working my ass off from daylight till dark.

"Reverting to savagery" has to be phased; it CAN'T be done all at once.
Already have an expert knowledge of wild plants/trees, as well as how the Original People ("wild Indians") tended the ecosystem I've known since age 7. Example: in a single year I gathered 200 lbs. of acorn off of less than 1 acre of my original Land. The trees were decently spaced, with mid-day sun on one side of them in addition to the tops. The descendants of the Original People tell me the trees should not be touching each other, and I already knew small openings in the forest are helpful. Healthy forest = much more acorn provided (they have to be dried for storage, then pounded and leeched to eat). I'm ASHAMED to admit, given my redneck ancestry, that I've only read 2 books on huntin' an' fishin'. Will also do permaculture with lentils, chickpeas, artichokes, flat-leaf parsley, plus some small-scale organic gardening. Acorn and legumes should be protein-complimentary.

No SSI checks here, tho I will start taking Social Security at 69 (while continuing to "work" self-employed in my trade). When I'm really old and need it, Social Security may not even exist. Even during the transition, I aim to get living costs down to $500 per month or less per adult, which is primarily truck gas/insurance/maint. and property taxes. No house if its just me - I'll camp in my truck like I did 15 out of the 19 years I had my original Land. (The county forced me to remove my trailer last time. Why rednecks hate govt. - NO, you can't even have a trailer on your own Land, even with a septic and running water.)

Every tendency emphasizes skill-building, it's not a very interesting similarity. The kinds of skills that are emphasized and the roles people are encouraged to take on say a lot more. Another question is when skill-building shifts to infrastructure. Almost that whole laundry list of skills require having access to stuff, as do most of the desertion/withdrawal strategies -- this is more where the different tendencies get into the kinds of world their practices create

Do you think the concept of acquiring skills is important as anarchist praxis?

Fundamentally, skills are important in the act of negation and invention; anarchist or otherwise.

With that said, it feels diligent to acknowledge that commodity is always ready to prey upon desire. Though I concur that developing skill can reflect an individual's need, this question resounds some of the neoliberal toxicity which seems so easily to poison a want.

As part of that agony, the relationship of immediacy to importance and of design to conception find themselves hijacked by reticence and constipation. Here, access and acquisition come to dominate and obscure an intention, a dream. More time, more money, more traveling, more prescription, more dogma. It continually amazes me how quickly a desire for an anarchist praxis submits to a capitalist function.

While any knowledge can increase effectiveness, skill and praxis thrive on the same air, daring onto the same horizons. It would be a tragedy to frighten the relatively "unskilled" hand away from lighting the flame; especially when the act ignites not only its recurrence, but the annihilation of a big stinking rotten turd on the brain.

I'm experienced with a chainsaw and will be learning to operate a backhoe. This is needed to thin out any overcrowded/unhealthy saplings, young trees, and brush with lots of dead and dying fire fuel. Can't do prescribed burns with property lines and all; it is usually too late for that anyway - you could easily git a crown fire. The slash not usable for winter heat or construction can be chipped and composted to increase the organic matter in the mountain loam. Ash left over from heating adds potash and other nutrients to soil, as well as neutralizing forest soil Ph for permaculture.

"WHY are we having all these TERRIBLE fires?" Before the European invasion, the Original People ("wild Indians") had tended the ecosystem I know to peak health, and these fires never happened. But then, what do a bunch of "stupid savages" know anyway? My knowledge and skills will be of value to the people already living in the area I will be getting Land. Some may be able to pay me to do the work.

i think what is usually labeled as skillbuilding often functions as ways anarchists make themselves feel better about the strong likelihood that neither "the rev" nor "the collapse" is coming in their lifetimes. By all means move into the woods and toil if that makes you feel more honorable or connected with nature, but claiming that knowing how to dig a sweet potato out of the ground is going to be anything more than a lifestyle choice seems more like wishful thinking than anything else. The same with building infrastructure or learning to cook for thousands of people you'll never see.

tbh i'm not very interested in "skillbuilding" as a framework - i appreciate the critique that we've been deskilled by capitalism, but isn't that point kind of dated? i feel like the current regime actually demands that we be highly skilled - not like, digging a sweet potato out of the ground skilled, but also not the image of a passive consumer that doesn't put quotation marks around the term selfie. i enjoy expanding my knowledge and experience in developing myself, but let's not give it more import than that.

Goldman Sachs doesn't care if I "revert to savagery" either. Goldman Sachs won't even notice.

To see what 5 top-tier hedge-fund managers HAVE noticed, see The Guardian, 7-24-18, "How tech's richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse." And notice the paranoid hell-world they are creating for themselves with all their vast wealth.

From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967 by David T. Beito (2000). Has anybody read this? Rave reviews on Amazon

He's definitely the model.

I've done all the survivalist stuff, the music, painting, artist scene, mechanics, now I might follow my calling and be a human statue in a mall or park, put my hat on the ground and get cash for doing nothing but just being me and nothing else but existentialist-nihilist me, the ultimate skill, surviving by doing absolutely nothing at all, perfect!

"Do you think the concept of acquiring skills is important as anarchist praxis?"

i think anyone interested in their own autonomy ought to be thinking about skills, of all sorts. and anyone NOT interested in their own autonomy, i would question if/why they use the term anarchist to describe themselves.

etc on green skillsbuilding? Is Aragorn! (still) a green anarchist? Listening to The Brilliant, I don't hear anti-tech from A! What is A!'s current standing? Is A! (still) an anarchist and not just someone who promotes anarchist perspectives and green anarchist perspectives via Black Seed? I know people can change their views over time. Is there a recent comprehensive interview of A!? I say this because A! is usually the interviewer and says little about where A! is located regarding anarchy/green anarchy. I have a much clearer idea where Fitzpatrick, Tucker, Zerzan and AbdelRahim stand but A! seems to have turned interviewer rather than interviewee.

you should request an interview!

A! is a post-positional ally and an "a-tech...a-civ"...capitalism isn't the root of all evil..."anarchist".

is there one of you? why do you care what aragorn thinks? what do you thik? and why do you imagine any interview would satisfy you? the next minute it would be out of date.

stop celebretizing people and do your own thinking!

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