Defending Agrarian Anarchy

SUBHEAD: They call it paradise. I don't know why. You call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye.  

By Guy McPherson on 10 August 2011 for Nature Bats Last -

Image above: "Hay Harvest at Eragny" by socialist, anarchist & atheist Camile Pissarro, 1901. From (

 I can scarcely believe agrarian anarchy needs defending from anybody, much less me. After all, this close-to-nature, close-to-our-neighbors approach was the Jeffersonian ideal for the United States, as evidenced by Monticello and the occasional one-liner from Thomas Jefferson:
"The result of our experiment will be, that man may be trusted to govern themselves without a master."
"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."
"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."
Jefferson did not call himself an anarchist, but his words and ideals indicate he strongly supported the rights and role of individuals, as well as a small government that minimally oversaw the citizenry. The Greco-Latin roots suggest the absence of a ruler, which seems like a good idea to me.

Like Jefferson, Henry David Thoreau idealized an agricultural society that was close to nature. Thoreau was a staunch defender of agrarian anarchy, and he focused even more closely on the individual than did Jefferson: “That government is best which governs not at all; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.” To my knowledge, no state governments believe we’ve yet reached that point.

Fast forward to the late twentieth century, and we find several other philosophers defending agrarian anarchy. Perhaps the best known examples are radical thinkers Wendell Berry, Noam Chomsky (linguist, philosopher) and Howard Zinn (recently deceased historian). But the clearest voice for agrarian anarchy came from iconoclastic Tucson writer Edward Abbey in the years before he died in 1989:
"Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners."
"Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others."
"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government."
In my dreams, industrialized nations are headed for agrarian anarchy. Many countries have been there for years and can show us the way, if only we allow them. If a region never acquired ready access to cheap fossil fuels, agrarian anarchy was an obvious approach. How else but a strong sense of self-reliance and dependence on neighbors to grow and distribute all food locally? How else but reliance on those same traits to secure the water supply, and protect it from insults? How else to develop a human community dominated by mutual respect and mutual trust? Contrary to our current set of living arrangements, no currency is needed: barter fills the bill.

For all these reasons, I’m less than thrilled with the United States as a place to mitigate in place and particularly impressed with many countries in central and South America. Belize remains my first choice, for reasons including English as the official language and a long history of multiculturalism (including neither a majority race nor a majority culture). Electricity is spotty at best, most people harvest rainwater and use hand-dug wells, and food is brought into every town every day. Big government is largely absent, and the notions of Big Ag, Big Ad, and Big Pharma are laughable.

Mind you, I’m not recommending Belize or any other central American country for anybody younger than my half-century of years. I suspect climate chaos will make equatorial regions particularly uncomfortable within a decade. Mitigating in place seems dicey at best but if you’re willing to pull up stakes and head for the poles, central American might well serve as an intermediate step on the way to a reasonably long life.

There are many disadvantages associated with a sedentary life. We don’t know how soon, nor how quickly, climate chaos makes any particular place uninhabitable for humans. Ditto for environmental collapse. But if you’ve considered these factors and concluded you’d prefer mitigating in place to hitting the road, I suggest thinking outside national boundaries.

"The Last Resort" - The Eagles 

She came from Providence, the one in Rhode Island 
Where the old world shadows hang heavy in the air 
She packed her hopes and dreams like a refugee 
Just as her father came across the sea 
She heard about a place people were smilin' 
They spoke about the red man's way, and how they loved the land 
And they came from everywhere to the 
Great Divide Seeking a place to stand or a place to hide 
Down in the crowded bars, out for a good time. 

Can't wait to tell you all, what it's like up there 
And they called it paradise I don't know why 
Somebody laid the mountains low while the town got high 
Then the chilly winds blew down 
Across the desert through the canyons of the coast, to the 
Malibu Where the pretty people play, hungry for power to light their neon way and give them things to do 

 Some rich men came and raped the land, 
Nobody caught 'em Put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and Jesus, people bought 'em 
And they called it paradise The place to be 
They watched the hazy sun, sinking in the sea 
You can leave it all behind and sail to Lahaina just like the missionaries did, so many years ago 
They even brought a neon sign: "Jesus is coming" 
Brought the white man's burden down 
Brought the white man's reign 
Who will provide the grand design? 

What is yours and what is mine? '
Cause there is no more new frontier 
We have got to make it here 
 We satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and the name of God And you can see them there, 
On Sunday morning 
They stand up and sing about what it's like up there 
They call it paradise I don't know why 
You call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye.

Video above: The Eagles perform "The Last Resort" live. From original article and at ( .

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