18 Aug Abbey’s Road: The Desert Anarchist and the Joys of Non-Compliance by Bill Buppert
Publisher’s Note: Just discovered a curious cat named Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke who lived alone in the Alaskan wilderness for 35 years. I’d requested a data cache from friends sent to me of documentaries while I am OCONUS and happened on these. Several documentaries by Bob Swerer were made based on Proenneke’s diaries and homemade film records of his exploits. The journals are a wonderful testament to his skills as a a writer and naturalist if not world-class builder and expedient materials fabricator. Many brag on their wilderness skills but Dick shows how it’s done. Take a look for yourself. -BB
“They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me. Then they will have my dead body, but not my obedience.”
“Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.”
I am opposed to the government death penalty; I am also pro-life which makes me blessedly consistent. I don’t trust the government to be able to have the responsibility to mete out the severest penalty and to do it either professionally or with no ill intent. In the smaller sense, the evidence is massive of the queue of innocents who have been shot, hanged and poisoned for crimes they did not commit. In the larger sense, government puts us all on death row and it is just a matter of time before the statist cops kill you in your home or vehicle or we suffer a massive die-off in America from an EMP burst that takes us from now to 1850 in one second.
I use this preamble to frame my severe skepticism of the state doing the right thing…ever.
I am not opposed to the death penalty in my house if an intruder comes in to do harm to me or mine. I am a Flinter in temperament and predisposition. Most of the laws on the books are noxious, useless and liberty-draining in their essence. Malum prohibitum is the state saying don’t do that because I told you not to. A monstrous fallacy whose logic only serves to reduce subject populations to assessed rentals on their freedom that can be wrested away at the drop of the constabulary’s hat. I daresay that one could throw every statute book into the bonfires across the nation when Americans finally wake up and throw off their shackles of serfdom from the local to the national level and folks would not find themselves in danger but would stumble into prosperity. As a matter of fact: “If US federal regulation–and all the money it receives, generates and spends–were evaluated as a standalone economy, it would be the 10th largest in the world, behind Russia and before India. That’s right, our federal regulations outrank, in terms of overall output, the economy of the second-most populous country on Earth.”
This is simply astonishing. The brakes on civilizational advance imposed by government are incalculable.
Will commerce and everyday living really come to a screeching halt because the cops don’t show up to work or the sloth-like city landscaping crews refuse to shamble from their abodes to dawdle at make-work throughout the burgs of America? All of a sudden, the economic illiterates peopling the municipalities across the nation go on strike for higher wages and more vacation time for weeks, nay months; will the country stagnate and fold onto itself?
Things would be difficult for about 24 hours and then voluntarism, persuasion and cooperation would emerge as the factors that make life worth living. No utopia this and there would be scores settled and inevitable failures but only the individuals would be responsible and not the nameless strangers who lord over every facet of our lives like pawns on a macabre chessboard. The heavy hand of the state and its shambling yoke-tenders would be out of work and the country would revitalize itself. Tens of thousands of Americans would wake up the next morning and look to the east and exclaim: “You can go away now; we have awakened from our prison slumber.” Ed Abbey made me say this.
I found Edward Abbey’s 1959 thesis on “Anarchy and the Morality of Violence” over the weekend while reading a small tome entitled “Epitaph for a Desert Anarchist” by James Bishop, Jr. I have been an Abbey reader most of my adult life and found his books amusing and penetrating. He held a lifelong distrust of all authority, especially the state and the thesis provides an insight into the flame that burned in him at a rather tender age. In reading the thesis, I am astonished that nearly sixty years ago in an America long gone, he faced the same fears of overweening government and the creeping police state emerging into monstrous being.
What one learns about personal political evolution is that a road traveled to the right is far more traveled than the opposite direction. It is rare indeed for folks to age and yearn for more government instead of less. I am a skeptic of the Left-Right paradigm but use it to simply illustrate the purpose. It is far more descriptive to chart one’s philosophical predisposition on a quadrant chart at whose corners are interventionist, collectivist, non-interventionist and individualist on whose map I am located within the nexus of the last two. The world is coercionist pitted against individualist. Abbey was a strange brew at times but consistency escapes most of us for everything we believe.
He was a desert dweller who found the vast emptiness, solitude and sheer ferocity of nature to be a welcome refrain from dealing with the hubbub of civilization and the attendant disease of intrusive government. His books are lyrical, intense and peppered with brilliance. Kirk Douglas starred in a screen treatment of Abbey’s novel, The Brave Cowboy in the early 1960s called “Lonely Are the Brave”. It is a powerful and stark film treatment of a cowboy (the unacknowledged unconscious anarchist in American history) marooned in a 20th century, which continues to ”fence me in”. Douglas looked at it as one of his favorite roles in his film career. One of my favorite films of all time.
Abbey was fond of saying that “sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul”. He discovered anarchism at a young age and sought to find the evolutionary blueprint for it in the earlier writings of Greek philosophers and everyone in between which his thesis is peopled with and he asks a central question: will violence lead the people from their subject braces and chains into freedom? He thought the answer was no but he was no pacifist, he was a staunch supporter of gun rights and considered himself something of the cactus in which one could only get injured if you screwed with something or somebody. If you read The Monkey Wrench Gang and later Hayduke Lives, his growing frustration got the best of him as some of his characters started to break the First Rule in the Code: Harm No One.
He captured the paradox that causes ethical anarchists the world over no end of consternation. If one wishes to build a society based on cooperation and non-violence, how do you get there when the obstacles are erected by the most violent and sociopathic structures that man has created – government? Thoreau and Gandhi broke the code but one certainly can’t patent the methodology nor hail its success everywhere. Thoreau crafted an individual withdrawal of consent while Gandhi harnessed the notion to a mass movement that would sunder the British yoke but lead to yet another choking kudzu of gargantuan government that would smother the non-compliance in its cradle after the English left the Raj.
A slight departure: Please don’t mistake this sentiment to be in concert with the hippy-drippy allegedly antiwar Left of fable and fairy tale. They are the creatures that authored the political and philosophical underpinnings of ALL the great abattoirs of history: their sick and sweaty fever-dream of ultimate domination to create their beloved Homo Sovieticus. Is it not interesting that the antiwar movement of late has all but dried up with the installation of Obama’s Marxoid-inspired kakistocracy and yet the war on the world continues apace? The trail of tears and path of destruction has a sorrowful record burned into the annals of Western and Eastern recorded history. Written in blood and stacked on hundreds of millions of corpses, the state is the Goliath that straddles across the corpus of man. Abbey saw this.
Abbey also realized that the pacifist is road-kill. He realized that the porcupine is the premier fauna of liberty.
So what do we do? Gold, guns and groceries because that is a storm on the horizon; everything you know and hold dear will be wrested from you in the next few decades and it is up to you to decide what you want to replace it with. More of the same or a brave new individual world? You can easily loose your fetters and simply hand them to your children, or better yet, teach them how to wear them with resignation and helplessness. Or you can resist and teach them to fight for self-ownership, autonomy and a well-oiled set of rules that seek to harm no one but bring hell on Earth to those who seek to enslave you…again.
Teach your children well or they will wear the chains they inherit thanks to your moral cowardice.
“Grown men do not need leaders.” – Edward Abbey