Civilization Will Stunt Your Growth / Engaging with Eco-Ability Conference

The video below was my contribution to the 2nd Annual Engaging with Eco-Ability Conference that recently took place on July 26, 2014. The abstract for the presentation appears below the video (which will be properly oriented when playing).

ABSTRACT: Anarcho-primitivism is frequently described by its critics as being incapable of providing sufficient accommodation for people with disabilities; it purportedly “requires a non-disabled body for its ideal society” and is thus viewed as an inherently ableist position. I will argue, on the contrary, that anarcho-primitivism advocates a society that would provide the fullest flourishing for people with a diverse range of abilities and that civilization itself is a disablizing force. It is civilization that effectively stunts our growth and renders many of us disabled; it is civilization that narrows the range of our senses, shrinks our world and our horizons, and denies us the opportunity to experience the full use of our bodies. The standardization of mass society necessarily defines an increasing number of people as “disabled” if they do not fit a narrowly prescribed form. The “normal range” of human variation is being shrunk and those outside of this range are stigmatized, pathologized, medicated, and manipulated. The civilized solution to living with people of different abilities is to treat large segments of people like broken clocks in need of new parts or regular servicing. This approach is in accordance with the standard operating procedure of civilization to understand every human problem as a technical problem; it allows us to discharge our responsibility to care for those around us by developing new products, offering new services, and building new infrastructure. The need for relationship is erased. In this way, civilization allows us not to care for others who may need assistance, which is to say, it allows others not to care for us when we need assistance. The civilized solution to accommodating people with a diverse range of abilities is worse than the perceived problem. The solution is runaway technological escalation and all of the consequences that come with that.

Videos of the other presentations from the conference can be found here at the website for the Institute for Critical Animal Studies.



Wooden Ships

Slave Ship Fredensborg II, 1788_jpg

Billions will die. This is possibly the most quickly voiced objection to anarcho-primitivism: if implemented billions will die. Only civilzation can support a human population of 7 billion (and growing).  There cannot be 7 billion hunter-gatherers. A population of 7 billion needs to be packed into dense cities like slaves into wooden ships. The density alone means that there will be a significant attrition rate but anti-primitivist critics are seemingly just trying to ignore the fact that the ship is already sinking. Yet it’s difficult to celebrate the sea-worthiness of a slave ship. Anarcho-primitivists are suggesting a mutiny and possibly a turning back but are consequently blamed for putting the whole vessel at risk and besides, it is said that we’ve already gone too far. How will we make it to land without the captain?

Even those who are seemingly receptive to the critique of civilization such as Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress, counsel against rocking the boat too hard. Wright counsels:

“Those who don’t like civilization, and can’t wait for it to fall on its arrogant face, should keep in mind that there is no other way to support humanity in anything like our present numbers or estate.”

Wright follows this point with a footnote that says; “Put bluntly, billions would die.”

Those who are less receptive to the critique of civilization than Wright will regularly use the word “genocidal” to describe the anarcho-primitivist ideal. Anarcho-statist Noam Chomsky has said that primitivists are “calling for the worst mass genocide in human history”. Resistance is both crazy and dangerous; better to bide one’s time in the belly of the ship, strive to adapt to one’s new conditions.

In reality, anarcho-primitivists are sounding the alarm: things do not get better when the slave ship arrives in the so-called “New World”. Waiting to act allows the stakes to get higher and puts even greater numbers in jeopardy.

Civilization currently has about 7 billion hostages. Anyone who seeks to disrupt civilization’s machinations is accused of putting those hostages at risk. But civilization is a fanatic who is not looking to make a deal. The hostages will never be released; as it stands, many of them already show symptoms of aligning with their captor. Indeed, as the human population grows, civilization claims even greater numbers. Soon anarcho-primitivists will likely be accused of putting 8 or 9 billion people in jeopardy. “Billions will die” the critics will warn. Ronald Wright explained that as civilization advanced, it “kicked out the rungs below” and so it will inevitalby be a terrifying and painful jump (or perhaps fall) back to sane way of life.

Nonetheless, mutiny remains the best course of action even knowing full well that not everyone will survive; we do not want to go where this ship is heading.