A mature oak can produce twenty-nine thousand acorns a year. Each has the chance to sustain our people, heal the world some, and spread where it can.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Guest Post: Masculinity is Not Revolutionary

Originally posted here by Kid Cutbank, and reposted here with permission. This is an idea that I think is essential to our creating egalitarian cultures, or just in general living in a sane way.

Revolutionaries of many types maintain that resistance by any means necessary is required to stop momentous social injustice and environmental degradation. These activists recognize that those in power are the enemy and that the enemy will stop at nothing unless forced to do otherwise. Following this understanding, militancy is understood to be appropriate given the situation.

Applied appropriately, militancy is an approach to activism that pledges a steadfast dedication to physically intervene, when necessary, in the violation of living beings and the destruction of communities. This militancy is often rooted in healthy communal norms and an allegiance to the bodily integrity of all beings.

Applied inappropriately, militancy is a reinforcement of men’s machismo. It’s a too easy jump given the hallmark militarized psychology and violation imperative of masculinity. To learn more about why militancy is applied inappropriately, we have to talk about gender.

Gender serves the purpose of arranging power between human beings based on their sex, categorizing them as feminine or masculine. In the succinct words of author and anti-porn activist Gail Dines, femininity can be characterized as an attitude of fuck me, while masculinity is an attitude of fuck you.

To be masculine, “to be a man,” says writer Robert Jensen in his phenomenal book, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, “…is a bad trade. When we become men—when we accept the idea that there is something called masculinity to which we could conform—we exchange those aspects of ourselves that make life worth living for an endless struggle for power that, in the end, is illusory and destructive not only to others but to ourselves.”1 Masculinity’s destructiveness manifests in men’s violence against women and men’s violence against the world. Feminist writer and activist Lierre Keith notes, “Men become ‘real men’ by breaking boundaries, whether it’s the sexual boundaries of women, the cultural boundaries of other peoples, the political boundaries of other nations, the genetic boundaries of species, the biological boundaries of living communities, or the physical boundaries of the atom itself.”2

Too often, politically radical communities or subcultures that, in most cases, rigorously challenge the legitimacy of systems of power, somehow can’t find room in their analysis for the system of gender. Beyond that, many of these groups actively embrace male domination—patriarchy, the ruling religion of the dominant culture—though they may not say this forthright, with claims of “anti-sexism.” Or sexism may simply not ever be a topic of conversation at all. Either way, male privilege goes unchallenged, while public celebrations of the sadism and boundary-breaking inherent in masculinity remain the norm.

This framework allows men the rebellious “fuck you” to be aimed not only at those who run the system, but anyone in their vicinity who has boundaries to be broken, power to be struggled for. It should be obvious that acting by any means necessary for justice is not the same as breaking boundaries of those you perceive as enemies, which, in the case of masculinity, means most everyone.

But, it’s not obvious. Thus, a group of male self-proclaimed radicals I once knew could tape a picture of a local woman who disagreed with their politics to the inside of a toilet bowl. Thus, levels of rape have seen a rise in anarchist circles and punk music scenes. Thus, most men in the culture continue to consume extremely debasing pornography and attempt to practice that type of sex on women in their lives. By any means necessary, to these men, ends with a particular sadistic self-fulfillment, one that is fueled by dangerous self-hatred.

Given that most militant groups have taken this type of approach as a given, we must actively work to combat it in favor of a real politics of justice. The answer is feminism, which Andrea Dworkin defines as a war on masculinity.

Alongside challenging systems of power such as racism, capitalism, and civilization, we need to learn to challenge male supremacy as well, including when it is found within facets of our activism.

This is especially important in direct confrontations with power. Says Lierre Keith: “[W]e need to examine calls for violence through a feminist lens critical of norms of masculinity. Many militant groups are an excuse for men to wallow in the cheap thrill of the male ego unleashed from social constraints through bigger and better firepower: real men use guns.”3

To begin to reject this mentality, radical men should practice stepping aside while women assume roles in leadership. Masculinity needs challenging, which men must do themselves. However, men also need to learn to listen more, taking direction from the women around them and learning to be better allies. The world cannot handle any more broken boundaries; men have breached so many already, be they communal, biotic, or personal. We need a real culture of resistance, which includes an appropriate militancy. And, if anyone should be armed, it’s feminists.


1. Jensen, Robert. Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, p. 5.

2. Keith, Lierre. “Why We Are Feminists: The Feminist Framework of DGR,” Deep Green Resistance movement Frequently Asked Questions page, http://www.deepgreenresistance.org/faq/dgr-a-feminist-organization/

3. Keith, McBay, and Jensen. Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet, p. 75.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Quandary of Medical Technology

This summer my father nearly died, and was saved by high-tech heart surgery. In the immediate period of recovery following this event, during which I was busily employed at my parents shop to help pull up some of the slack (while working another job at that), I was a bit to preoccupied by everyday activities to give much thought to the ramifications of the event (aside from pointing out to my dad that he’s a cyborg now). But in the months since, I’ve realized that this is a worthwhile topic for discussion given my understandings and beliefs concerning civilization, medicine, human health, and my rejection of the systems and infrastructure necessary to maintain the complex high tech world we live in. So let’s explore it.

On the surface, many people see anti-civilization stances as being “anti-technological”, a term laden with so many assumptions that it is nearly useless. So, do rewilders hate technology? Do we who agree, even in part, with anarcho-primitivist ideas hold a grudge against people for using that technology?

One of the fallacious arguments often levelled against the anti-civilization crowd is one of wanting people to die en masse of easily preventable diseases. Forgetting just how much ignorance that argument shows both in terms of the health standards of hunter-gatherer-gardeners and what natural medicine is capable of (many people on my holiday gift list will be receiving herbal antibiotics this year), it shows a confusion of grievances. In rejecting the industrial system, we do not level our complaints against the users (and used) of the industrial system, but rather the system of empire that is used to maintain exploitative and oppressive systems based on the widespread application of systemic violence and ever-increasing destruction of natural landbases for profit.

In a sense, much of “modern” allopathic medicine is an attempt to make up for the damages civilization inflicts on a daily basis. Allopathic surgical techniques have increased to such a high degree because the civilized are so damn good and hurting each other. Even the lifesaving treatment of blood transfusions, we see, are the result of wartime experimentation. War is where we see progress and innovation pushed in numerous fields, but none so much as in medicine.

Even something so simple as eyeglasses is often used as a straw man against anti-civilization ideas. We are, it is presumed, in favor of letting die/euthanizing people with bad vision who require glasses or contacts. But why do people need these things in the first place? We can see from the sum total of ethnographic data on hunter-gatherer-gardener cultures that eye problems are rare outside of old age, and even then not that common. We know that almost all of these cultures care for their ill and disabled, rather than “throw them out to the wolves”. The Weston Price Foundation's studies in traditional diets show that such eye problems are even relatively rare within non-industrial civilizations, thus putting the blame solely on the very industrialism that allows common people to get prescription eye-wear. The primary theory is basic lack of nutrition and the anti-nutritive effects of so many lectin-heavy grains so central to civilized diets.

This is true of infectious diseases as well. Civilization is known historically and recently to be the cause of many infectious diseases; we know that the flu, in all its forms from merely annoying to pandemic virus, is the result of animal husbandry and domestication. Smallpox is the same in that regard, and the black plague we now know was able to develop due to the very thing that makes civilizations what they are: cities. Cities as a way of organizing people allow the flourishing of rodents and filth, and the disease carrying fleas that we now know are the real carriers of the plague.

Antibiotics, one of the shining paragons of the effectiveness of modern allopathic medicine, have also caused a number of problems of their own. Granted, some of these are rooted in the misuse of them, particularly the proliferation of new “super bugs” and antibiotic resistant viruses. But even normal use will lead to the creation of these things, on top of digestive problems often caused by the fact that the antibiotics being used are “full-spectrum”, meaning they kill anything, including the beneficial micro-flora and micro-fauna that are present in our digestive tracts and maintain proper function in it. In fact, the use of antibiotics, and in particular the presence of them in so many foods, is likely the cause of Crohn's disease, which is an autoimmune disease of the intestines which causes numerous problems manifesting in myriad unpleasant ways, which can indeed be life-threatening.

Further, recent treatment methods appear to be so toxic and disease-causing as to make the whole process ludicrous. Industrial cancer treatments of many types are now known to produce large amounts of waste that contain a heavy concentration of dioxins. For those not in the know, dioxins are basically the most carcinogenic substances on the planet, right up there with plutonium and the other usual offenders. So what we have is cases in which more affluent, mostly white customers get a chance to kick their cancer (and generally being poisoned along the way, but that’s another issue), while dioxins are released to go cause cancer in some children. I’m sure by now most of my readers are familiar with the fact that toxic waste is inordinately found in poor neighborhoods, particularly poor neighborhoods of mostly people of color, showing once again the hierarchy of violence that this culture is founded upon.

In 2007 Cornell University put a bit of news that 40% of all deaths worldwide are caused by industrial pollution. I don't even think I need to comment about that, do I? Add that to the number killed through imperialism and corporate hegemony, and we see that this civilized machine is incontrovertibly murderous.

“Technology” is not the problem. Technology is not even a symptom. Technology, in the most accurate sense, is something humans have had the whole time we’ve existed. And many “primitive” technologies are plenty complex, much to the protestations of some hardcore primitivists. The real issues around technology, and any decisions and actions, are things like whether or not the landbase can maintain that activity indefinitely, and whether or not the previous requirements (like infrastructure and social structure) are sustainable and non-exploitative. Just today I read that a group has started releasing a metric to understand just how much slave labor, explicit or implicit, is required to maintain one’s lifestyle, which seems to be a human-rights take on the whole “carbon footprint” idea that’s become a popular way to trivialize and make abstract our complex relationships with the earth. The industrial infrastructure, and basically any infrastructure, requires some form of slavery and resource drawdown of the environment. Civilized economies are and always have been imperial in nature.

So what are we to do, just give it all up? Won't our lives be 'nasty, brutish, and short', as Thomas Hobbes said? Well, Mr. Hobbes wasn't exactly an expert on history and anthropology, because if he was he'd realize that non-civilized people had it pretty damn good. But if we, as people living within civilization, find ourselves suddenly without the infrastructure we've grown dependent on without some alternative ways to take care of ourselves, we would be pretty shit-up-a-creek, as they say. Luckily, it's not actually that hard, even in the realm of medicine.

For example, I recently spent a couple of hours digging up the medicinal roots of the bush Barberry (berberis vulgaris). Barberry contains an alkaloid compound called berberine in it's roots and bark, and to a lesser extent in other parts. Berberine has been used traditionally for thousands of years as a medicine, and has recently been recognized as a natural antibiotic, in addition to its myriad other uses. Garlic, a standard for cooking, has long been recognized as a powerful medicine and broad-spectrum antibiotic, now being looked at as a possible treatment for many of those superbugs I mentioned. Either of these plants can be entirely usable and store-able long term, simply by soaking making a tincture by steeping their parts in a hard liquor like vodka(crushed in the case of garlic, finely chopped for the barberry root).

Cancer treatments are likewise popping up from plant based sources. Autumn-olive (eleagnus umbellata), my favorite invasive species, has 16-18 times the lycopene concentration that a tomato does, and lycopene is an antioxidant compound being recognized as not only slowing cancer growth, but in many cases reversing or killing it when taken in large amounts. The aforementioned berberine, from barberry, may similarly be highly effective against cancer, reportedly inhibiting and sometimes reversing tumor growth. What we tend to see a lot of in studying indigenous health when compared to civilized health is that traditional diets are so nutrient dense that disease occurs far less, particularly what are called the “endemic diseases of civilization”, mostly cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. In many peoples, these are just simply unheard of, at least until civilized diets high in grain carbohydrates are forced on them.

Plenty of allopathic techniques are also perfectly able to be performed without the infrastructure, and we should definitely learn from them. I'm fond of the germ theory of medicine, even if I think a lot of professionals use it as an excuse to overlook the overall situation in a reductionist sense (a trend which, luckily, seems to be ebbing). Blood transfusions, likewise, are pretty neat and can save a lot of lives, though I wonder at the ability to get and store blood without the infrastructure; how long would blood last in a root cellar? Even if we don't have that, intravenous solutions can be administered. Surgery is already being performed with obsidian blades in some cases, showing that such blades are fine enough to do the detailed work of surgery, and in fact are better than most steel scalpels for fine cutting.

In short, it's fairly obvious that the assertion that anti-civilization theory is essentially misanthropic and dooms people to poor lives is a straw man, whether intentional or not. In opposing civilization, it is not the absolutist's stance that we take, rejecting outright any association with civilized ways of doing things like a prohibitionist running away from a bottle of beer, but rather that of the critical eye, like a diagnostician evaluating the cause of an ailment. The fact that so many do make these assertions even after hearing or reading the best of our discourse, thus theoretically knowing full well the damages, disease, and ill health caused by civilization itself, is ironic to say that least, and calls into question the motives of such dishonest debaters.

The only real issue, then, becomes whether or not the alternatives are viable as a transition, to which case we need to stop arguing and get on with it! Civilization is collapsing whether or not we bring it down, and the more we arrange these alternatives, the softer that crash will be. Civilization kills every day, and any collapse would mark a reduction in violence and privation.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cattails: "Supermarket in the Swamp"

It's about time I did a post on the other wild plant I think is supremely important as a food source for self-sufficiency and wilderness survival. Cattails, which are the plants in the genus typha, are a moisture loving plant usually found and swamps, on the edges of bodies of water, and in fairly wet ditches. They grow on every continent, and are fairly easy to identify. There are edible parts year round.

I like to think of the cattail harvesting year starting in the spring. As the snows and ice fade away and reveal the earth and water underneath, cattails start sending up their shoots. I think it's best to wait until they grow up so the leaves are at least a foot high, so it's worth it. To harvest, pull aside the two outer leaves, pinch lightly with your index finger and thumb right near the ground or water (if it's deep in the water, you can reach in, but I usually get these ones from a kayak so I don't), and yank upwards. It should separate from the root easily, giving you a whitish shoot from which the leaves come out of. Separate the white shoot from the tough green leaves, which you can save for various crafts like rope, mat, and basket making. The shoot can be eaten raw or cooked; normally I only eat it raw if it came from sandy areas, otherwise I worry a bit about giardia and other pathogens. My favorite recipes are to saute with worcestershire sauce and onions, or to batter and fry them. You can harvest the shoots later in the year, but they tend to not be that good after the spring. When you harvest the shoots, you also often find a mucilaginous substance in between the leaves. This is soothing like aloe, and reportedly a good topical pain-killer.

In the late spring to early summer, the long flower spikes shoot out. These are the most recognizable sign that it is definitely cattails you're dealing with. There are two flowers on a cattail plant, the male and the female. The female is the on that looks like a green or brown sausage, and above that grows the male flower. When the male flower is yellow with pollen, you can gather that pollen by bending it over into a bag and shaking. This probably also helps the cattail pollinate the female flower. The window for this is really small, and I always end up missing it. The female flower can be eaten while it's still green; many people recommend boiling and eating like corn on the cob.

Later on, when the fertilized female flower forms the seeds, the fluffy seed clusters can be used as tinder and for stuffing pillows. I think it makes a way better winter insulation than stuffing your clothes with leaves, which is often uncomfortable. If you can find a cattail head that has been fertilized but doesn't fluff out, you can get it to smolder for a long time to transport your fire from one place to another. It will smolder like a cigar. My brother-in-law recommends that for repelling insects, as it can be made to smoke a lot.

The late fall and all through winter (even into early spring sometimes) are the best times to gather the root because the nutrients go back into the root at those times. You can really gather them any time, though. Cattails spread primarily by root colonies, so when you pull up the roots you often find long roots connecting the large rhizomes. All of this is edible, but you probably want to go for the ones that are white on the inside. You can prepare them like a baked potato (it's stringier, but tastes similar), or separate out the starches from the stringy fibers.

I've heard of the reed being used as survival arrows, but I don't think I buy that. They're too wobbly. Maybe there's a way to dry them hard, but even ones I've dried aren't all that stable.

The cattail plant plays an important role for us humans and lots of animals as food, as material to build with, and also serves the role of filtering out water. I've heard that the sewage treatment in Arcata, CA works on a permaculture design that uses cattail swamps. Because of this quality, don't harvest near roadsides. In terms of productivity, I've heard that cattails produce many times the amount of starch per acre that wheat does. With all those edible parts, I can see how.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011


Just as you can't truly love another human without knowing them intimately, you can't love your landbase without knowing it intimately.  In other words, you can't be a real environmentalist, or not much of one anyway, if you don't know how the land you live on functions and how to interact with it properly.  You need to know how to live in place to be able to make any real decisions about that place.

Or maybe the term "environmentalist" is more fitting; it's purely caring about your environs, your surroundings. Not the complex interlocking systems and networks of other living beings. Not the play of life and death that maintains the balance, diversity, and abundance of a healthy ecosystem.

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Three Sister Gardening

I just started digging out some gardens to plant the Three sisters, a traditional triad of plants grown in many places on the North American continent. It's a fantastic technique for growing a survival garden, that is something you can actually feed yourself off of with minimal work and land use. The plants help each other as per the principles of companion planting. The corn stalks grow tall, providing a trellis for the beans to grow up, while the beans add nitrogen to the soil that the corn requires, and the squash and/or pumpkin plants grow vines and large leaves that shelter the soil from the sun to keep water in, and repel pests.

To grow these great plants in this fashion, you need to first dig up a garden like usual. Alternatively, you could sheet mulch in the late summer or fall, and do minimal digging. Form circular mounds a few inches high and 12-18 inches across, and make sure to give at least a foot and a half space between them. Around this time of year, start planting three or four corn seeds (use heirloom!) near the center. Some people say to make a circle with them. A couple weeks later, plant the beans, about 6 per mound. If it's a larger sized mound, plant them between the center and the edge; plant at the lip of the mound if it's smaller. Either at that time or a week or two later, plant the squash as well, planting between 6 and 12 seeds. If you planted the beans halfway between the center and rim, the squash can go on the rim. Otherwise, plant the seeds around the base of the mound. Some people also plant the squash in their own mounds between the corn/bean mounds.

Done correctly, these plants will help each other, and therefore you will have to do less work to maintain them. Traditionally, something that attracts pollinators is planted nearby, sort of like the estranged fourth sister. I'm growing sunflowers for this, which is fairly traditional for a lot of the northeast.

Growing these plants is one of the most space and work efficient ways to grow your own food. Although the mounds require quite a bit of space between them, growing several plants per mound means more plants overall. The lower space in between often acts as swales or berms in which the water collects and soaks into the ground. I'm growing them in a hex pattern this year, in an attempt to fit as many mounds into my small garden as possible. We'll see how it works.

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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Premises of This Blog

It's been said often enough that argument arises out of people thinking they mean the same thing with the same words. More specifically, a lot of these disputes have to do with pre-conceived ideas about a subject, and the assumptions we make concerning the world and our relationships. Often these assumptions are not examined, the result of our culture's conditioning and the narrative conveyed by pop culture and so-called "educational" institutions alike.

It's also true that the first rule of propaganda is that if you can slip your premises by someone, you've got them. Mainstream media and education are forms of this, transmitting the imperial narrative into our minds so nefariously that we mistake it for an accurate model for reality. I don't want to do that here, even if it would be easier. I want to be clear about what I think, after my years of observation, thought, and study, is an accurate shorthand for reality. And I want to stem off pointless, if intelligent, arguments before they start, so I don't have to constantly repeat the same arguments over and over and over again.

Luckily for me, I don't need to spell out every little bit of information that I think you all need to know, because some of my fellow writers have already done this. Two very huge influences on my opinions have been Derrick Jensen's two volume book Endgame (and especially the premises he lays out in them, from which I got the idea for this post) and Jason Godesky's series of essays entitled "The Thirty Theses". In fact, Jason compiled these essays in part to have a comprehensive answer to the same old arguments he kept getting from people, and to lay out the well-researched premises and conclusions he'd come to in his own studies concerning traditional indigenous and civilized people. I thoroughly recommend reading both of these works, or at least skimming them for the "headlines". For the most part, I agree with these outlined points.

There are some other works that have been hugely important to me as well, like Ward Churchill's Pacifism as Pathology (and many of his other works), in which Churchill convincingly argues that strict, dogmatic adherence to totalitarian non-violence only supports the status quo, that each situation needs to be considered on it's own basis (tactical, logistical, and effectual) whether or not violence is the appropriate action, and that the refusal of (mostly white) supposedly radical people to even consider violent or destructive action is privileged cowardice shrouded in a racist narrative of moral superiority. I've always assumed that this book was at least partial inspiration for Derrick Jensen's fourth premise in Endgame, and I think this excerpt is a great example. And as I hinted at earlier, I think the formation of many of these opinions have a lot to do with the imperial narrative present in education, pop culture, and mass media, and this narrative's implicit demonization of legitimate freedom fighters, and exclusive praise to non-violent protesters (no matter if they actually had effect or not).

To wrap this up, I'll quickly state some of the other premises that my essays are based upon.

-Humans are not inherently destructive, and evolved to live in such a way as to use culture as an adaptive mechanism to find sustainable, healthy, and even robust ways to live within ecosytems. This obviously makes civilized cultures aberrations.

-Humans have evolved as omnivores. We require some meat, but the percentage of the diet is very malleable and largely dependent on factors such as the landbases we live on. In general, the further from the equator a group of people is the more meat they consume, and conversely the closer a group of people is to the equator the less they consume meat.

-Humans do not naturally tend to enslave one another, and we are not evolved to be on either end of such a relationship. To say slavery is bad should suffice, but some dumb shit will even decide to argue that. Slavery is not only ethically reprehensible, but is the basis of empire/civilization, and all of the evils entailed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hunting Advice

As I've mentioned before, I'm making efforts to transition my diet away from markets and towards relying on my landbase for food. This has involved some gardens (some failed, some successful), lots of foraging, and learning to hunt. Well, shortly after my hiatus from blogging began, I finally went on my first deer hunt. This was a huge thing for me, not just because I love well cooked deer meat, but because killing a deer would be a huge source of food for my partner and I (and the friends and family I share things with). I've also yet to kill any animal bigger than a crayfish for food. So I went into the woods one chilly November morning with a pack of essential gear and a shotgun loaded with slugs.

I explored for an hour or two looking for a good place to camp, and ended up finding a place where I thought there were signs of deer. I was in view of an old stone wall with a large collapsed section, which led down to a lake. I knew that deer went through there, so I set up my poncho to sit on and waited.

Turned out it was a pretty good spot. Within an hour after sitting down there, I spotted a deer. Unfortunately, she spotted me first when I shivered like crazy. It was in the single digits and, despite dressing in layers, I had failed to take into consideration how much colder it gets when you're not moving around. As the doe bounded off away from me, I knew I wouldn't see another one that day. I blew my chance. I spent another half hour building myself a nifty blind out of downed tree limbs, which I intended to go back and use but never did.

So I have two bits of advice for all new hunters out there. The first is to dress warmer than you think you need to. Wear socks that are at least 50% wool, and wear two pairs. Wear thermal long underwear, and pants of decent thickness. Basically, be very, very warm and layered. The other bit of advice is to get yourself someone to show you the ropes of hunting. Get a teacher if you can. Because damn, these lessons are probably easier learned by mouth than be experience.

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Twenty-Nine Thousand Acorns by Daniel Q is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Photoshop Tree Brushes created by Obsidian Dawn. Photoshop custom dandelion shape created by MyMimi. "Broken Acorns" photograph in banner taken by modcam. Layout by Kris.