Desert by Anonymous, Chapter 3: Desert Storms

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Full text here: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/anonymous-desert

Author’s NoteI have written Desert as a nature loving anarchist primarily addressing others with similar feelings. As a result I have not always explained ideas to which I hold when they are, to some extent, givens within many anarchist and radical environmental circles. Hopefully I have written in an accessible enough manner, so even if you don’t come from this background you will still find Desert readable. While the best introductions to ecology and anarchy are moments spent within undomesticated ecosystems and anarchist communities, some may also find the following books helpful — I did.

Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (London: HarperCollins, 2008).

Fredy Perlman, Against His-story, Against Leviathan (Detroit: Black & Red, 1983).

Christopher Manes, Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1990).

Clive Ponting, A Green History of the World (London: Penguin Books, 1991).

Forward!Something haunts many activists, anarchists, environmentalists, many of my friends. It haunted me. Much of our subcultures tell us it’s not there, that we can’t see it, hear it. Our best wishes for the world tell us not to see it. But for many, despite their best efforts — carrying on with the normal activism, the movement building, living both according to and as an expression of their ethics — despite all this, the spectre gains form. The faint image grows more solid, more unavoidable, until the ghost is staring one in the face. And like many monsters of past tales, when its gaze is met — people freeze. Become unable to move. Give up hope; become disillusioned and inactive. This malaise, freezing, not only slows ‘activist workload’, but I have seen it affect every facet of many of my friends’ lives.

The spectre that many try not to see is a simple realisation — the world will not be ‘saved’. Global anarchist revolution is not going to happen. Global climate change is now unstoppable. We are not going to see the worldwide end to civilisation/capitalism/patriarchy/authority. It’s not going to happen any time soon. It’s unlikely to happen ever. The world will not be ‘saved’. Not by activists, not by mass movements, not by charities and not by an insurgent global proletariat. The world will not be ‘saved’. This realisation hurts people. They don’t want it to be true! But it probably is.

These realisations, this abandonment of illusions should not become disabling. Yet if one believes that it’s all or nothing, then there is a problem. Many friends have ‘dropped out’ of the ‘movement’ whilst others have remained in old patterns but with a sadness and cynicism which signals a feeling of futility. Some hover around scenes critiquing all, but living and fighting little.

“It’s not the despair — I can handle the despair. It’s the hope I can’t handle.” [1]

The hope of a Big Happy Ending, hurts people; sets the stage for the pain felt when they become disillusioned. Because, truly, who amongst us now really believes? How many have been burnt up by the effort needed to reconcile a fundamentally religious faith in the positive transformation of the world with the reality of life all around us? Yet to be disillusioned — with global revolution/with our capacity to stop climate change — should not alter our anarchist nature, or the love of nature we feel as anarchists. There are many possibilities for liberty and wildness still.

What are some of these possibilities and how can we live them? What could it mean to be an anarchist, an environmentalist, when global revolution and world-wide social/eco sustainability are not the aim? What objectives, what plans, what lives, what adventures are there when the illusions are set aside and we walk into the world not disabled by disillusionment but unburdened by it?

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