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    Thursday, November 30, 2006

    Anarchy in Yellowstone: A people’s history of Yellowstone National Park?

    Anarchy in Yellowstone: A people’s history of Yellowstone National Park?

    November 30, 2006

    by Jim Macdonald

    In this essay, let me start by professing my ignorance. While I have read many books about Yellowstone and Grand Teton history, about the parks and area in general, I cannot say that I have made a thorough analysis of the literature that is and has been out there. In some sense, this essay is a brainstorm and a hypothesis for future research that I am strongly considering pursuing. It seems to me that there is nothing analogous to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States for Greater Yellowstone, and consequently, I have been thinking that it would be worthwhile to research whether there is one and, if there is none, why such a history has never been written. If such a history exists, it certainly is not prominent. While recent books, such as Restoring a Presence: American Indians and Yellowstone National Park by Peter Nabokov and Lawrence Loendorf, have continued the work of writing indigenous peoples back into Yellowstone’s history, most of the history of the parks is written from the standpoint of the parks’ bureaucracy as well as that of the large concessions that have managed services in the parks (see for instance Selling Yellowstone: Capitalism and the Construction of Nature by Mark Daniel Barringer for a historical interpretation focused on one concessionaire in particular).

    In A People’s History of the United States, Zinn looks at the history of the United States through the perspective of those who have largely been forgotten or marginalized in most other American history books. Writing American history viewed from the lens of Indians, women, African Americans, and especially the working class, Zinn writes about those struggles that often failed in American history but were deeply influential on the times in which they occurred. He also tells the story of how the upper classes used different strategies to ensure that these “people’s” movements ultimately failed.

    As someone who worked five summers in Yellowstone and as a person who has been engaged in radical social movements during my six and a half years in Washington, DC, it has crossed my mind whether there is anything like a people’s history that is applicable to Greater Yellowstone. We know about grassroots social movements like those waged by Buffalo Field Campaign, we know about indigenous presence in Yellowstone and how that history had been whitewashed for so many years, and we know about protests related to the struggle to make Jackson Hole part of Grand Teton National Park. We know about the “Savages” and other workers who have worked in Yellowstone either seasonally or permanently, and some effort has been taken to write about their experiences. There are plenty of stories about the people who lived in the immediate vicinity of the parks. However, what we don’t have is a comprehensive history that looks at Yellowstone distinctly from the point of view of all of these people to see whether there are common themes of oppression, especially sexism, racism, and classism, much like we find in American history at large. To my knowledge, we have no chronicle of protest movements in Yellowstone, of worker uprisings, or of the relationship between the worker and the bureaucracy. While there are plenty of stories from the perspective of the tourist and of the rangers and bureaucrats who have managed Yellowstone, we do not seem to have much from the perspective of those who are often most affected by the management decisions that have been put in place.

    For me, such a history is critical first and foremost because such stories should be told so that the rich magic that is Yellowstone is that much richer. Secondly, such a history may suggest a missing movement necessary to deal more profoundly with the issues facing Greater Yellowstone. A look at the history of Grand Teton National Park, as written in Crucible of Conservation: The Creation of Grand Teton National Park by Robert Righter, shows an alliance between the tourist industry as typified by dude ranchers, very rich men like John D. Rockefeller, the National Park Service, and large environmental organizations like the Sierra Club pitted against the National Forest Service, the livestock industry, poorer private ranchers, and those representing other private or public interests (like the hydroelectric industry). In both cases, white men of wealth and of government bureaucracies vied in a battle for control over natural resources. Ironically to some, the poorer landowners, who can hardly typify the lowest of classes, often sided against the environmentalists and waged something that looked like the shadow of a populist struggle against the almighty National Park Service and John D. Rockefeller. We see no signs of involvement from the indigenous Shoshone peoples who first inhabited the area. Anyone looking for the whole story of a people’s movement that one finds in Zinn’s book will be sorely disappointed. The great environmental wars are mostly those fought between white bureaucrats and rich white men who sometimes sided with or against each other.

    If this is the case, and if the national parks and forests of the area are essentially battlegrounds whose battles are fought among those who are the stars of most of the current history books, then one must wonder seriously whether they are the same people framing the environmental and other debates that exist today in the national parks. I believe that research will show that they are the same people; and if they are the same people, who is being left out of the discussion? Should those left out be involved, and how might they be involved? What are the solutions, and how might that change the region that so many of us love?

    Another way of putting this might be, “Is there a place for anarchy in Yellowstone?” That may not be a helpful way of putting it since so many associate the word “anarchy” with chaos and with the lack of rules. However, what it actually suggests is the struggle against all forms of social hierarchies and oppression. People’s movements, whether populist, anarchist, socialist, or otherwise, often garner strength from opposing a severe injustice. In opposing those injustices, many of those associated as radicals often come to the need to organize themselves differently than those responsible for the social ills they oppose, believing that the social ill is a symptom of something greater that is wrong with the way society manages itself. Might the problems that have lead to the various people’s movements in other parts of this country world suggest the need for the same movements in Greater Yellowstone? And, given the clearly hierarchical way in which those on every side of any dispute in the region organize themselves, perhaps it suggests that any people’s movement that arises might tend to be anarchist in nature – that is, seeking an abolition of the hierarchies that have created the condition and framed the terms of the debate.

    Now, I could be wrong about an awful lot here, and nothing I have said should constitute anything more than the hunches that begin to develop into a well-considered argument. However, it seems to me worthwhile that no matter what one thinks about the larger ideological questions at stake that a people’s history should be written about Greater Yellowstone. When I move to the area sometime hopefully in the next year, it will be that history I begin to research and write even as I continue to work within whatever social movements exist in that region. It should also be in the interest of non-anarchists, whether they be capitalists, socialists, liberals, conservatives, or anyone of any stripe to begin such a research project so that a radical such as myself does not have the final say on the matter (and I only joke slightly when I say that). All that can be done to remember the forgotten and marginalized can then only be worthwhile as a program of study; haven’t we heard enough about former Superintendent Horace Albright from the perspectives of his friends and enemies within the bureaucracy?

    For more on my passion for Yellowstone, see http://www.yellowstonemagic.com.
    Recently, I also wrote an essay called No Radical New Wind in Yellowstone that talks about why the new Democratic Congress is irrelevant to the issues facing Yellowstone.

    7 Comments:

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Jim,
    I'm going to be predictable here and say, why stop at a peoples' history? We are one bloody species, an infinitesimal part of this planet really, and I personally would be far more interested in reading a history of the land and animals and all sorts of utterly unacknowledged flavors and beings of Yellowstone, what it's been and what it's become. Of course, humans inevitably will come into it at some point, as in the part where we screw everything up, but the perspective of everything else that is not human would be utterly worthwhile. I get tired of us blowing ourselves out of proportion...I mean, are we really all that interesting?
    So, if the history can be more all-encompassing, I'm all for it. Granted, it's harder to write if it's not exclusively about people, but who better to rise to that challenge than you?

    Julie the Dryad

    11/30/06, 3:56 PM  
    Blogger Jim Macdonald said...

    Julie,

    I have a very narrow definition of what I take to be under the field of history, namely the conscious, rational acts of beings that can be re-constructed over time. History is a very narrow and inadequate field that is basically the story of people whose actions can be made sense of from the standpoint of decisions. In that sense, it's even narrower than the study of anthropology.

    I have always been a critic of history as a discipline, considering it more of a kind of myth-making than a serious study, the way that philosophy for me is a serious study.

    So, all this begs the question of why I would study any history at all, let alone a people's history.

    The point of any history is to tell a story, first and foremost, and as beings in Yellowstone, there are stories of people that I am drawn to that have not been told, just as there are stories of all kinds of plants and animals that have not been told. However, as someone interested in ethics and what should be done and what I should be doing, I am specifically interested in the acts of humans on Yellowstone because I am very concerned that there is no human act of resistance against oppression in Yellowstone until the hierarchies underlying human attitudes both toward humans and nonhumans alike has been exposed and dealt with.

    As an anarchist myself, the obliteration of hierarchies is paramount, and I take that to go at speciesism itself. The result of an anarchist historical perspective on Yellowstone should also yield as a result that hierarchies exist outside of the human domain, that the same logic of domination used against women, used against the poor, used against people of color, used against the working class, is the same logic of domination that humans have used against the environment.

    Yet, if we start simply with the story of the rocks and the trees, the bison, the wolves, and the grizzlies, not to mention the other animals and plants and features of Yellowstone, we as rational agents won't yet understand why fulfilling the destiny of those stories is still rooted in the mess of human stories that exist.

    Being anti-speciesist, then, I don't have to apologize for telling human stories, but I do think for the purpose of ethics and resistance that this story be told.

    11/30/06, 4:12 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Jim,

    I find that you and Julie both have very interesting points, but right now, this subject seems to be way out of my league. Perhaps both are feasable options; there is no law against seperating it into a "Part I" and "Part II" (one, obviously, for either perspective). Actually, because Yellowstone is so complex, it would only make sense to introduce all sides of her...I'm sure you will do a beautiful job of it, whatever you decide.

    -Valerie

    11/30/06, 11:43 PM  
    Blogger Jim Macdonald said...

    Okay...

    First of all, Valerie, thank you. I think I get at something like what you are talking about in a further response to Julie. However, please forgive me, I'm speaking in Jim-ese here. It's not you; I wrote this lost in the poetry of my own jargon. If you or anyone wants to understand and unpack what I'm talking about, you should.

    She wondered where I was giving humans too much credit when I defined history as the "conscious, rational acts" of beings. Most acts, she says, "are done out of impulse, biology and whimsy." Here is my response.

    That is all for social science to study, but it's not history. Most of what passes for human action does nothing to explain history, and yet no history would be anything without it. When I studied historiography in college, I studied what different people said about it. One person's writing struck me as especially interesting, that being the British historiographer R. G. Collingwood. He said that history was the reconstruction of a conscious decision based on any evidence available (he didn't care for the distinction of primary or secondary sources - all are immediate and potentially indicative of the truth in the present). The problem was he was an absolutist about history believing we could come to some absolute truths based on our detective work. However, the notion of history as a specialized field, partly psychology, partly forensics expert, partly philosophy, struck me as unique and distinguishable from anthropology. It was something different, and as an empathetic being, one who at times lived as a rational actor, knowing the acts of people in that way was interesting to me. The problem is, and why Collingwood is unpopular with many, is that it lends itself to histories of the powerful since they have left the most material by which we can reconstruct their acts. Therefore, it lends itself to the false notion that only rich and powerful people, usually white males, are historical actors; they are the only forces of history.

    It is much more difficult to study the acts of people who were on the fringes of society and to reconstruct their acts and their thoughts, but Zinn and others have shown that that is possible, and the materials are there to enough of an extent to destroy the fascade that human history is merely the acts of great men. In fact, history are the acts of all kinds of people living in all ways of life, even if the field remains very narrow in its focus. If one destroys the idea that only great white men are the historical actors, those who drive humanity, then you can actually have a wedge that will destroy speciesism or even biocentrism at large. It isn't therefore that we know that nonhumans are all historical actors; that's not relevant. What is relevant is the further notion that only certain types of beings have more value because they have exercised reason. When we see that that is not the case, and we see that almost all beings have botched their use of reason (outside a few philosophers whom no one knows because they had the good sense to avoid this shit), then the fact that one is a historical actor proves to be rather pointless. Therefore, if you destroy the hierarchy among historical actors, you actually will destroy the value afforded to historical actors at all. It is an anti-history. What ultimately, then, matters is the story and the full community of stories of all beings.

    My history teachers knew that I didn't belong in the history department because I had grown to have a loathing for the discipline. They in part enjoyed me because I was an anti-historian, one skeptical not only about the epistemological footing of history, but of its overall worthiness. In some ways, a people's history of Yellowstone will be the first step of a reductio ad absurdum of history itself as a field and therefore an act of
    resistance.

    When we all sit together with the forgotten raspberries of Yellowstone and tell stories and dance for the sheer art and beauty of the interaction, we won't then have utopia because there will always be change and destruction in this world, but we will be better off to the degree that we will be free of our attempt to fit the world into a box. I doubt in such a place we will speak of "the world," since that is too abstract and distant. Our universe will be readily apparent to us in each nugget of dirt we kick up and in our reactions to mosquito bites. It will be a land worthy of Eros.

    12/1/06, 7:35 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    i read a very good quote on the uses of history by an obscure german (philosopher) today (named hegel or something), which i think would be useful to remember (lest we are doomed to repeat past mistakes). more or less it was 'the important lesson of history is that humans don't learn from it'. this is an important lesson which shows why we must study and learn from history.
    (i guess one could ask eve herstory too).

    and this is a good place to begin the 'taoist' thousand steps (retracing one's path a la zeno)
    are we there yet?

    i liked the theme of H White's 'metahistory' which views all histories (whether spengler ('decline of the west') or zinn) as myths, essentially (as are scientific theories). useful tales. tall tales for tall mountains. abracadabra, blog this.


    1. regarding indians and iraq (comparative genocide) i guess the elimination of nazi germany was also genocide? how about stalinism, or the ussr? anarchists who want to destroy 'america' as a 'tribe' or 'national group' presumably are also calling for genocide? similarily for the 'one state solution' or no state solutions?


    are there good and bad genocides, based on fundamental principles, of whismy. (4th of july is now illegal...mayday is way ok)

    or, anarchists just want to 'persuade' people to give up their 'genotype' or national identity, as a bad habit? ('imagine a world with no religions, or rich rock stars...') 'try genocide, you'll like it'. drop 'specieism', etc.
    if a rat wants your food, give it to them. invite the snakeheads into the potomac. lets have snowmobiles in yellowstone because some like walking and others riding.

    Regarding Nazism, presumably if they had just minded their own business then they are entitled to their beliefs; otherwise one can do the ww2/Waco/move thing and eliminate undesirable neighbors who encroach on territory.
    presumably the abolition of slavery might also be none of the business of John Brown, a northerner. what about female genital mutilation or vivisection ? are tribes of people who practice these rituals acceptable, or should they be eliminated , or persuaded to cease and desist?



    the question is 'what is their business'? maybe in my house i can kill rats and cockroaches, and eat a steak, and maybe nazis can commit holocausts on their own nation state land. Maybe the mormons can practice polygamy in their own homes, or in part of utah. maybe deer can graze in rock creek but not in my garden.


    2. Regarding yellowstone, some have argued that there are hierarchies in nature, before custer. this makes being 'anti heirarchy' a difficult position to hold in any pure form. (for example, the wolves in yellowstone who nip at the legs of the buffallos, because they don't believe in animal rights, typically have an 'alpha male' and so on. ).

    so maybe heirarchy began before columbus, so lets blame the wolves. perhaps the indians who were overly friendly to those outside the tribe/nation could also be blamed for their subjugation. 'good indians don't bring those people home to dinner'. they could have practiced 'pre-emptive genocide' to keep the status quo (bufallo rather than white men ruled the plains.)

    fringe thinkers like darwin argued that humans are part of the natural world. however, people like darwin often don't think in terms of hierarchy (see for a popular discussion 'godel, escher, bach ' by a writer. ) different takes follow from kroptokin and herbert spencer too.

    if one is against hierarchy, its possible the buffalo actually might have been happy if the indians had not showed up, endlessly harrassing them. 'why not try grass instaed of running us off a cliff?' 'didn't you see the sign? no stepping on the grass'.
    though anthropomorphism is a sin, maybe the buffallo invited the indians in as consultants to deal with population control. the history of this might be interesting to know----was it a consensus decision?

    3. the 'anti-history' idea as one that 'deconstructs' value theories which place great (white) men at the top by doing the 'zinn' 'people's model' (zinn of course being an icon or top of the hierarchy of the resistance movement to the 'great man' theory ) of couse also suggests that all stories are equivalent.

    its interesting if its true that a top aide to Custer at Sitting Knee was an indian from canada, for example. presumably he had his agenda.

    to be skeptical (as opposed to say 'anarchist' which priviledges one story), one can ask whether anti-histories are just new bottles for an old wine? do they still priviledge say, white men, or some particular possibly multicultural higher caste?

    is fitting the world into a blog any different from trying to fit it into a box? is it really 'better'? 'when we are all siting together' with forgotten berries? this will be one group of people with their own stories and history but they won't neccesarily speak for others who may not think whats better for some is better than others.

    in sum, while the 'great white man'/'imperialism' theory has been deconstructed, the 'people's' story is no more coherent. at present one may claim it is a 'resistance story' but that may just be another equakl story.

    so what should be done? change the vocabulary. more people, sure, as historians and 'great white men'. (including 'honorary' sorts who make the canon, like harriet tubman). more ideas.

    have you ever followed up on your 'zeno' paper? i forget your conclusion, which if i recall was the standard one. (the sum of the series converges to one, or .9999=1.)
    but have you looked at the alternative stories? those are suggestive too.
    imagine using Old faithful as a natural energy source, to power snowmobiles, etc. Or like Dubai where they have a ski resort in the desert, one could have a desert in yellowstone, with a ski resort in the middle. Instead of buffallo, one could have camels, which in general are persecuted by the yellowstone environment for no constructively rational reason.

    12/2/06, 5:45 AM  
    Blogger Jim Macdonald said...

    Okay, like old times, let's go at it, and look over this field

    i read a very good quote on the uses of history by an obscure german (philosopher) today (named hegel or something), which i think would be useful to remember (lest we are doomed to repeat past mistakes). more or less it was 'the important lesson of history is that humans don't learn from it'. this is an important lesson which shows why we must study and learn from history.
    (i guess one could ask eve herstory too).


    Ah, use Hegel against me, do you? Very sophisticated.

    and this is a good place to begin the 'taoist' thousand steps (retracing one's path a la zeno)
    are we there yet?

    i liked the theme of H White's 'metahistory' which views all histories (whether spengler ('decline of the west') or zinn) as myths, essentially (as are scientific theories). useful tales. tall tales for tall mountains. abracadabra, blog this.


    Indeed

    1. regarding indians and iraq (comparative genocide) i guess the elimination of nazi germany was also genocide? how about stalinism, or the ussr? anarchists who want to destroy 'america' as a 'tribe' or 'national group' presumably are also calling for genocide? similarily for the 'one state solution' or no state solutions?

    Now, this is serious. I think you've read enough of my writings to know that I'm a rationalist. My master's thesis was concerned with finding a place for pluralism, that is a place where there are many possibilities and yet real distinctions between what is and what is not the case. That work turned on the notion that philosophers of all ages have often confused two modes of Being, which are always present, the particular and the universal, giving preference to one over the other, when in fact our choice of one always includes the other, and the modes are merely focuses into the way we have expressed Being. It's not a hybrid approach; we must see any Being through one mode or the other at a given moment. Yet, there is no priority of one versus the other. Note all the laws I've stated here. Though there is no priority in the modes of Being, there still is priority to right over wrong, reason over non-reason, non-contradiction over contradiction.

    Now, why was I able to choose the rational over the irrational to set up my pluralism? I was because it was pre-implicated in any utterance whatsoever. I had to presume the truth even to consider such a thing as a denial. So, it is not therefore possible that it is false.

    Now, turning back to the case of genocide. Under the definition given by the UN or others, elimination of nation states and Nazis would seem to be a kind of genocide because a way of life has been destroyed in much the way that saying 2 + 2 = 5 should not pass for good mathematics (as long as we aren't equivocating the terms or context as commonly understood) whereas 3 + 1 = 4 should. Yet, the question is actually one of presumptions and first principles. If you take a stance which is essentially self-contradictory right from the get go, for instance the intentional practice of genocide, then you deserve to have that stripped from your culture. The KKK doesn't practice free speech, either, on that scale. People can be mistaken about whether this person or that person is taller or shorter, but we aren't talking about mistakes. We are talking about presumptive rationales for being that internally incoherent in ways that are plainly obvious.


    are there good and bad genocides, based on fundamental principles, of whismy. (4th of july is now illegal...mayday is way ok)

    Not based on whimsy...to call the resistance against a genocidal way of life genocide is plainly silly. Note also that the definition of genocide isn't necessarily one that involves the death of people. It involves the death of a culture way of living. And, so resistance against a nonsensical ideology, is just that. It suffices to destroy the ability to act on the so called rationale governing the culture that would deny other cultures space and voice.

    What we are talking about again is a place for pluralism which is not identical with "anything goes" relativism. That your questions don't see that suggests you think I view the world through only the universal mode of Being. In fact, without a careful eye flipping between them, you will continue to draw fallacious conclusions about the anarchist position.


    or, anarchists just want to 'persuade' people to give up their 'genotype' or national identity, as a bad habit? ('imagine a world with no religions, or rich rock stars...') 'try genocide, you'll like it'. drop 'specieism', etc.
    if a rat wants your food, give it to them. invite the snakeheads into the potomac. lets have snowmobiles in yellowstone because some like walking and others riding.


    Of course, the issue isn't always one of persuasion, since there is no dialogue that exists. But, as to the silly, relativist strawman you set up, for someone who has read so much of my writings, you think you would have been careful enough to avoid drawing those implications from my thinking.

    Regarding Nazism, presumably if they had just minded their own business then they are entitled to their beliefs; otherwise one can do the ww2/Waco/move thing and eliminate undesirable neighbors who encroach on territory.

    Anyone who doesn't use their crazy beliefs in an attempt to exert power over others is of little concern to me. They are of less concern if they lack the means to exercise that power. They simply are crazy, then, and should be of concern to us from a standpoint of pity, not of direct action.

    presumably the abolition of slavery might also be none of the business of John Brown, a northerner.

    That's hardly a presumption.

    what about female genital mutilation or vivisection ? are tribes of people who practice these rituals acceptable, or should they be eliminated , or persuaded to cease and desist?

    We are all people who in some sense are part of the culture of oppression as well as part of the culture of the oppressed. Acts of resistance and solidarity float inside and outside various contexts all the times. We do so in our own lives with our own families and friends. We fight with our friends; we join our enemies. We become our own worst enemies.

    One problem with a lot of anarchism I see is the tendency to try and cookie cut the world into stark lines of enemies and friends, which always leads to some embarrassing bedfellows and embarrassing enemies. We hate liberals, and so there is a tendency to hate everything about them, fitting them into the convenient stereotypes. This is a little too pure for my tastes. I like things that are messy, right? So, we have to see struggles against oppression from within and without constantly. The Plains Indians were very good, as capitalism creeped in at engaging in very oppressive relationships with women. Their society became more and more specialized, and women became more and more like slaves in many Plains cultures. Of course, the agent for that change was capitalism, but others deal with capitalism differently.

    There are no romantic heroes in our world, not even the Zapatistas. We live in a world where we must own up to our own privilege, our own pretentiousness. There isn't a single person who isn't on the wrong side of some privilege equation. The anarchist is the anti-visionary, in that there is no worldview that the anarchist sees that isn't still a big freaking mess. The difference is the belief that lifting the veil of pretentiousness (that there are "lessons to be learned from history" save one) is fundamentally more rational and more consistent with our natures. That pretentiousness exerts itself in the need to control and the assumption that that control produces better effects. It might feed more people, but it's not therefore better as a result. What my master's thesis got to is that there is only a very narrow range of things that can call themselves "better" and those are the tautologies that we presume, which leaves a whole lot open, almost everything whatsoever open. And, yet as Nazis, racists, sexists, classists, and others keep showing is that humans manage over and over again to screw up that one thing. We act in ways that are counter to the simplest truths, tautological for Christ's sake, all the time.



    the question is 'what is their business'? maybe in my house i can kill rats and cockroaches, and eat a steak, and maybe nazis can commit holocausts on their own nation state land. Maybe the mormons can practice polygamy in their own homes, or in part of utah. maybe deer can graze in rock creek but not in my garden.

    I think I've already gotten to the issue of moral relativism throughout my response. There's no need yet to rehash it.

    2. Regarding yellowstone, some have argued that there are hierarchies in nature, before custer. this makes being 'anti heirarchy' a difficult position to hold in any pure form. (for example, the wolves in yellowstone who nip at the legs of the buffallos, because they don't believe in animal rights, typically have an 'alpha male' and so on. ).

    so maybe heirarchy began before columbus, so lets blame the wolves. perhaps the indians who were overly friendly to those outside the tribe/nation could also be blamed for their subjugation. 'good indians don't bring those people home to dinner'. they could have practiced 'pre-emptive genocide' to keep the status quo (bufallo rather than white men ruled the plains.)


    Of course, there are all kinds of hierarchies in nature. Some are smarter, faster, redder, more prone to speak English, more this in one respect, more this in another. Any mean can turn itself inside out, and we can choose to see hierarchies all over the place. When I say that we are seeking to destroy hierarchy in all its forms, do you take me to be so naive that I mean that in every particular context whatsoever? Come on. Give me some credit (yes, more credit, rather than less credit).

    What is it you think I mean? Then, start from there. You don't have to teach me about the way ungulates breed, alpha males, or pre-Colombian hierarchies.


    fringe thinkers like darwin argued that humans are part of the natural world. however, people like darwin often don't think in terms of hierarchy (see for a popular discussion 'godel, escher, bach ' by a writer. ) different takes follow from kroptokin and herbert spencer too.

    if one is against hierarchy, its possible the buffalo actually might have been happy if the indians had not showed up, endlessly harrassing them. 'why not try grass instaed of running us off a cliff?' 'didn't you see the sign? no stepping on the grass'.
    though anthropomorphism is a sin, maybe the buffallo invited the indians in as consultants to deal with population control. the history of this might be interesting to know----was it a consensus decision?


    Continue to argue with a caricature thinker if you so desire.

    When you decide to have a discussion with me, then I'll be glad to talk with you.

    When you find the idealistic relativist multi-culturalists, all Indians are good, all whites are evil person, can't we all dance in a circle and be happy sophist (and aye, the buffalo jumps are a white man's lie), let me know who he/she is, so I can join you in your brand of delightfully acerbic ridicule.

    The problem with hierarchies and oppression isn't that they exist or that oppression happens, the problem is that both are rationalized and institutionalized as something that is actually good and worthwhile, with a social and value system built on a contradictory beginning. "It's your fault he raped you; you shouldn't have been dressed like that." "We till the earth, therefore we make use of it better than the Indian, and so we have greater claim to the land." It's the logic of hierarchy that's the main culprit of the disgusting brand of double-layered misery we suffer. We will all suffer on this Earth no matter what; that's natural. That we exacerbate it by hiding behind the proverbial fig leaf without any inclination that there's something further wrong with that (Hegel, as well - or was that another very dear and fond friend with red hair) is the problem. And, those who note the difference between the ethos of many native cultures and those of the euroamericans who follow will note that the logic of domination comes from the latter and not the former, even if actual domination, and all kinds of other logics of domination did wind their way in. It still wasn't the same, and we should note that and recognize oppression when we see it.


    3. the 'anti-history' idea as one that 'deconstructs' value theories which place great (white) men at the top by doing the 'zinn' 'people's model' (zinn of course being an icon or top of the hierarchy of the resistance movement to the 'great man' theory ) of couse also suggests that all stories are equivalent.

    As such, they are. But, nothing in the world is "as such." The problem is that some have tried to create an "as such" paradigm, and they do so based on incoherent presumptions of value. We are always in fact going to value one over another; the question is whether we are going to justify it. The "anti-" history only values as a way of bringing us back to the rational starting place, by reducing all other attempts to absurdity. The world around us is messy enough without thinking we can create Towers of Babel in which to escape from that mess. Inheriting all kinds of towers of babel, or rubble in babylon, we must speak against and from within...whether it ends up being an implosion or explosion, who knows? There are all kinds of ways to reduce a tower.

    its interesting if its true that a top aide to Custer at Sitting Knee was an indian from canada, for example. presumably he had his agenda.

    to be skeptical (as opposed to say 'anarchist' which priviledges one story), one can ask whether anti-histories are just new bottles for an old wine? do they still priviledge say, white men, or some particular possibly multicultural higher caste?


    It favors the rational caste. After that, it favors based on whimsy, though a whimsy that keeps free of one fallacy. I am bound to break hearts, hurt others, - am I really going to stop breathing and eating, and even my death would do the same - but I'm not going to build a system of justice based on one whimsical choice. That is, the rationale and the whimsical have more in common that we realize. As long as we are epistemically blind as to what is better, we are to different degrees free to walk around with our blindfolds in any direction until we fall into our oblivion and die, or the supervolcano explodes. What we must not do is pretend that one way of walking is better.

    is fitting the world into a blog any different from trying to fit it into a box? is it really 'better'? 'when we are all siting together' with forgotten berries? this will be one group of people with their own stories and history but they won't neccesarily speak for others who may not think whats better for some is better than others.

    It is better in the only degree that we can identify, that we are free from pretense. It is not a utopian vision. It is a world in absence of utopian visions. The question remains whether this one step is better, and yet we cannot but judge that it is since that is the tautology behind any action. If this still seems like a wretched world even then, I think one will be hardpressed to understand how a world might actually be better. It invites a new world of "discovery" and "exploration," but it won't be a Colombian one now, will it?

    in sum, while the 'great white man'/'imperialism' theory has been deconstructed, the 'people's' story is no more coherent. at present one may claim it is a 'resistance story' but that may just be another equakl story.

    Yes. That's all it is, which is perhaps why Julie finds it so unappealing to her. However, I don't know where to begin except with the resistance story, and I don't pretend to know how to begin it than from within the whimsy of my own preferenced land, the land which by some sort of magic calls on me to speak.

    so what should be done? change the vocabulary. more people, sure, as historians and 'great white men'. (including 'honorary' sorts who make the canon, like harriet tubman). more ideas.

    Challenge the pretentiousness upon which human systems are constructed. That's all there is to be done. The rest of it is art (for some), survival for others. But, challenging that pretentiousness, as anyone who has been involved with this project can see, is not really all that easy.

    have you ever followed up on your 'zeno' paper? i forget your conclusion, which if i recall was the standard one. (the sum of the series converges to one, or .9999=1.)

    My conclusion, as I recall, is that you cannot construct "1" from an infinite series, rather one is the horizon of an actual infinite series of actualities. In other words, you cannot explain the universal concept of "1" from a sum of particular components. You must see that there is always a universe
    missing. It surely is "1", and if not simply a sum of divisibles, then what? That is still what we are talking about with anarchism and relativism and pluralism, right?


    but have you looked at the alternative stories? those are suggestive too.
    imagine using Old faithful as a natural energy source, to power snowmobiles, etc. Or like Dubai where they have a ski resort in the desert, one could have a desert in yellowstone, with a ski resort in the middle. Instead of buffallo, one could have camels, which in general are persecuted by the yellowstone environment for no constructively rational reason.


    But, why would we ever do such a thing? Isn't it enough that we have built plumbing systems, roads for cars, gift shops with all kinds of goods from China, cell phone towers, and all kinds of other things? You act as though your absurdities are any more absurd than the present reality. The whole thing would smack of the same pretentiousness. I like having running water in Yellowstone and sewage treatment; I hate to admit it, but I do. Maybe, the world free of pretentiousness will have a rollercoaster on top of Mt. Washburn. I will probably blow it up with the un-detonated howitzer shells that now exist at the East Entrance for the purpose of causing premature avalanches for snowmobiles. I can't say. But, so long as we stop pretending, those fights will be fundamentally happier fights for me to engage in.

    Jim

    12/2/06, 9:45 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    actually i was 'just checking' or maybe doing what cornel west calls the 'socratic method'. i just felt the indian/iraq genocide comparison could tend toward the overly simplistic good/evil dichotomy. your discussion of plurality allieviates my unsease.

    isiah berlin (as well as more recent people like nagel and sandel and john gray) discuss alot the whole issue of particular versus the universal---the essay the hedgehog and the fox is one version of the dynamics of the farm or other animals---i might guess you know it though actually i dont know if that is considered standard curriculum. (i will say when i see the word 'Being' i say 'Me no speak english'. I guess i can bluff; Oh yeah, 'Being and Nothingness' by Sartre or the one by Heidegger...i read them this morning on the metro .).

    Also relevant are theories of collective decisionmaking in political science, economics, etc.
    (One by Taylor uses the word anarchism in the title. )

    in sum, i agree with you about 90%.

    i was doing the same thing with 'hierarchy'. or, another anarchist word, 'authority': 'we are against all authority...'.

    i like a little more precision. because, this is a complex world, and words like this eventually become epithets used by some to gain power.


    which are hierarchies are legitimate? a baby driving a car, or an adult, etc.

    (another one is 'capitalism'. too many anticapitalists seem to do alot of foreign travel on the back of many poor people just like wealthy businesspeople, so its difficult to tell the difference except language---one is the 'good cop', the other the 'bad cop' and together they are playing a shell game with the 'people' as suckers.
    its a beatiful world.)



    i might have a few issues with the ideas that anarchists are rationalists. some are (i'd say kropotkin was, though he is very outdated, and bakunin was also, though being pro-'insurrectionist' i think his rational analyses at times was pre-empted by a short temper or sense of the need for urgent action. Kropotkin's last book, on ethics, is one of my favorites.
    in fact its better than anything else he wrote, which is to me pretty simplisitic (except his economic writings).)

    people like zerzan/green anarchy crew, and some of the insurrectionists and anti-rationalists (who may derive from Stirner's individualist anarchism) i think are somewhat anti-rationalist. (alot wrote in old Anarchy magazine.) (some would deny they are anarchists). insurrectionists at times see rational analyses as 'paralyses' when the correct anarchist etiquette is action, presumably using intuition, emotion, sentiment. Stirnerites might argue that what is rational is whatever an individual decides is rational. (Nzietchze at times is of the same intellectual geneology.) Some 'post-anarchists' follow people like Derrida and do what you accuse me of (which I did, build a straw man argument---though I did it just as a test) and may ridicule or deconstruct the possibility of rationality. (Foucault also did it.) The primitivists are more basic than the insurrectionists, arguing that 'rationality' (language, number, music, etc.) are the basic forms of oppression, from which states, markets, 'isms', etc. follow. (In fact both Adam Smith and Jean Jaques Rousseau made very similar arguments, though unlike primitivists, they accepted them as just natural as evolutionists consider the creation of humans from chimps to be. Evolutionists also see language and number as humans know it to be derived from simpler forms among animals, so that rationality is a basic form of being. Human property isnt too different from animal teritory.
    Of course the primitivists seem to carefully prove their points using clear logic and many footnotes.)

    anyway, i find it difficult to say what anarchists believe any more than christians (or muslims, etc.) because while there is commonly a large moderate consensus, there are also 'outliers' (some of whome are quite influential) and i don't think one should 'filter' the dissidents out (to use a Chomskyian term). (This to me at timnes is like if in 1965 people said the black liberation struggle was Thurgood Marshall and MLK, leaving out malcolm x, the nation of islam, garvey or the panthers.
    if someone says they are an anarchist, or chiristian, etc, i see it difficult to deny their right to such a claim. let them have it is my view. (I dont hate always liberals, any more than i always hate anarchists, so by your definition im not an anarchist.
    i alsio question how much anarchists hate liberals, since they are commonly both very dependent on them and in their company. DAWN for example seems fairly liberal, though I guess ione can then get into some debate over what liberal means. (How about Hayek or John Stuart Mill?) )

    also even the 'moderate consensus' varies from those who like Bakunin think most analyses is paralyses, to those who think developing conflict resolution and consensus methods for determining what actions are worthwhile is the real 'direct action' (as opposed to throwing rocks---which may actually be easier to do. ).

    I wonder if DAWN has considered as a soltuion to the crisis in iraq starting a 'food not bombs' thing in Baghdad. it might work.
    maybe even Bush would fund it.

    (This is why I am not much of an activist. Alot of actions to me appear to be already set in stone so basically any participation means serving some 'master(s') plan'.
    Fugazi did a cover of 'i wont be your stepping stone' for one response.
    of course, perhaps if fugazi and the punk scene had stopped wasting time on scales, and buying amps then by now 'we' would be free. dont blame bush, blame fugazi for diverting the liberation struggle into musical distractions.
    the taliban i think had one song, a form of voluntary simplicity and they had some success sop ther world can wait for music.)

    while as noted i basically agree with you 90%, i would hesitate to use the idea of a 'rational caste' because there are many kinds of rationalism (from Chomskyian/platonic innatism (which Kropotkin also alluded to) to 'empiricism', both of which are often abused like all markers of caste---people will use their form of rationality to elevate themselves into positions of power, basing it on their claim to some 'universal reason' (which supersedes the older caste markers based on divine wisdom). Innatism in genetics is often used to justify sexual and racial hierartchies. Empricism is used to condition people into acceopting any condition as natural.

    The basuc quedstion is what is rational. 3 demonstrations a week, or one huge one. Everyone get on the same page and accept some basic set of values (eg greens, UN human rights, etc.) or instead act now from whatever ideology one is in (al-quaeda, communist, etc.) to fight the piower, and work out the details later. (the anarchists worked with the bolsheviks up to kronstadt, when their petty differences were eliminated . the iranian revolution had similar dynamics, and the US one shared some similarities .)

    as for the second thing, the reason to plan to heat up yellowstone into a desert, and then make an artificial mountain for a ski resort (obviously with higher mountains than the tetons so its competetive in the market), with a lift up to the moon (to permit ET's to perform in the club in the evening) is because it provides jobs, many highly skilled so that graduates can justify their skills and colleges can justify high tuitions. One can measure growth in the 'rational caste' by multiplying the number of graduates by their college tuition prices, so higher is better. asny more questions? obviously i support the IWW or AFL making these living wage jobs.

    if it was me, i would simply promote making up tales, doing philosophy and scientific speculation about the nature of the universe, because its easier reading and using a pencil and paper than building anything, but i realize i am a minority. i also have the 'ef!' ideological component, which means enough has been built---the problem is how to use it well ('skating on the beltway'). (I do think that if people studied philosophy, etc. rather than shopping or building armies some of what are called solcial problems (which are solutions of course for the Haliburtons and prison companies of the world) might go away. One could for example look at 'nonstandard analyses' in which .999=/1 (though that would not be my problem) as a problem just as interesting to deal with as 'the axes of evil'. I'd like to hear Bush give a speech on problems of this sort, though i think its not his interest (which seems to be in nothing).

    one problem with working on 'intellectual problems' is sometimes they morph into real problems. Einstein was a rationalist in many ways (a follower of Spinoza in a sense) but his speculation got turned into nukes, etc. QAll those speculations about numbers and zeno become algorithms used to spy. Tall tales get turned into reality too. Many of the western enlightenment philosophers mixed some very enlightened, rational views, with some pretty 'primitive' disgusting ones (e.g. both Emma Goldman and Bertrand Russel promoted eugenics for awhile).
    So one can be skeptical of 'rationalists' (even milton friedman might be considered one) and consider building deserts in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to be possibly equally viable as an activity (since then one might drown before one finishes).

    as noted since you say 'we (anarchists) hate liberals', this reminds me i am not an anarchist. i could as or more easily say i hate religious people. hating maybe is a bad habit, if difficult to kick like many bad habits. but hate drives alot of social change. greed is another such driver. ) i find it difficult to class an enitre group of people who adopt some label (anarchist, liberal, conservative, religious, etc) as a monolith who i hate. the jews, the blacks, the gays...
    maybe for a change one can use a new form of identity politics---eg hate all people with even social security numbers. thats rational.

    as noted one often gets into issues of 'fellow traveling'. some of the anti-rationalist radicals whose political opinions i tend to agree with i disagree with more than with some of the ratuionalists whose political opinions i disagree with. (eg i agree with many forms of economic, political and scientific analyses, though i often degree with both the scientific conclusions and political conclusions of the people who use these forms of reasoning.

    edmund burke is considered a political conservative, but some of his views seem identical regarding pluralism as radical ones .
    i even disagree with the rationalist Chomsky over his scientific conclusions about language, though his politics is ok (though his short writings on anarchism actually i think are the among the best on the subject----he basically says its a pattern of thought which is pretty vague, though like other such trends can andf does turn into rigid dogma and sectarianism.

    my view is in reality many anarcvhists, like many religious people, avoid this problem by 'doing something' like having a church picnic instead of trying to decide what the ideas are.). 'whop has time for philosophy' etc.

    oh yeah i have a blog too!! mine is updated basically hourly, though occassionaly because my watch runs unevenly, i am off by a ferw minutes hear and there.

    axiomsandchoices.blogspot.com

    12/2/06, 6:08 PM  

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