Symbols Are For The Symbol-Minded: Some More Words For Friends

“I consider them to be symbols and I leave them for the symbol minded” George Carlin

My interest in anti-civ philosophy, past just being an anarcho-kid in my late teens looking up stuff online, initially developed out of my interest (or rather repulsion towards) social-constructivist and symbolic-interactionist arguments around the construction of the self, and (again my repulsion towards) Freud’s work Civilisation and its Discontents. Following this, I explored both post-structuralist and green-anarchist, including anarcho-primitivist, materials on the self and on symbolic-culture. This, as well as my relationship to technology and “nature” shifting, led me to write Feral Consciousness and pursue other similar projects.

Feral Consciousness was published by Little Black Cart (most of my readers know this, but I’m including this to clarify for anyone unfamiliar with my writings), who I obviously have a great deal of love for. LBC are an absolutely tenacious project, in their relentless pursuit of publishing challenging and thought provoking materials, particularly ones that include spaces of self-reflection/critique within radical spaces. And because of this they get a lot of hate and bad press thrown their way.

Now last year LBC published the eco-extremist journal Atassa, because (as I understand their reasoning) this is a journal about a movement which is a breakaway one to the anarchist movement LBC is part of, which takes a post-Kaczynskian post-insurrectionary-primitivist-anarchist approach to action and discourse. The journal got a lot of hate, as did its writers and LBC, and I wrote this piece to voice love and support for people I know involved in this project.

Now Atassa 2 is set for release soon and just its cover is resulting in controversy amongst the liberal-leftists who claim the name anarchist –

Scott Campbell is heavily involved in the organisation Its Going Down and seems to have made it his personal vendetta to “take down” Atassa and anything linked to eco-extremism. This seems to stem from an unconscious-racist dynamic of Campbell’s brand of liberal-radicalism, whose colonial narrative seeks to dominate all into its Euro-American moral dogma, rather than actually challenge this culture and its means of maintaining authority. It is liberal-leftist PC whitewashing of the world. It is ugly and bigoted – the left was always just the other mask of the same beast.

As Rhyd Wildermuth (my editor at G&R) pointed out on his Facebook page, the image is of an indigenous sun wheel, not a Nazi symbol, though it was almost certainly chosen to be confused over and provoke a reaction –

“Anyway, there’s a crusade starting against a fellow publisher (Little Black Cart) for the cover of their new journal Atassa. It displays an indigenous sunwheel, which is like a swastika.

The cover is obviously a bit Charlie Hebdo, provocative and purposefully baiting hysteric over-reaction. LBC was banned from an anarchist book fair in LA for a previous issue, and they got attacked at the anarchist book fair in Seattle last year.

Whatever you think of the content of their books, they are doing something the left should have been doing a long time ago: pushing back against those Robespierres who only accumulate power to attack rivals, not the rich.”

In their uploading the image onto their Facebook page, Atassa include this quote –

“The importance of boundaries and the circle and cross motif cropped up frequently in the decoration of ceremonial gorgets worn by Mississippian chiefs or priests in sacred ceremonies. Figure 3 depicts such a gorget, and it shows that the space beyond the orderly sacred circle was filled with horrible anomalous creatures who embodied the chaos and power of the outside world. By mixing the Underworld (a serpent’s body), the Upper World (an eagle’s wings), and This World (a panther’s head), the creatures violated the separation of the planes that was necessary if balance was to be maintained. Moreover, the representation of male and female genitalia in the circular and elliptical designs that covered their serpentine bodies suggests the equally terrible consequences of mixing genders. Such monsters offered people a terrifying reminder of the need to follow prescribed social conventions to save their world and themselves.

From the sleepy rivers and fetid swamps that represented the pathways between This World and the Underworld to the dark arboreal embrace of the forests beyond the pale of human habitation, the outside world that surrounded the Choctaws was home to many terrible creatures. Those who ventured beyond the circle’s safe confines could expect to encounter monsters like the Nalusa Falaya, the Long Evil Being. Its beady eyes, set in a small shriveled head, peered over a protruding nose and searched the night for hunters. When it spotted prey the monster crept up behind the hunting parties and called to them. Those who turned to look fainted from fright at the sight of its face, and Nalusa Falaya pricked them with a magic thorn to transform them into evil beings. Less dangerous was the Kashehotopalo, which juxtaposed gender and species in a truly hideous form. Perched on the legs of a deer, a man’s trunk extended from the waist and was topped by an evil-looking head. From its wrinkled mouth came a woman’s cry that terrified all who heard it. Other creatures infested the thickets and waters around the Choctaw circle, creatures that with one glance could force travelers to lose their way or draw them into pools and streams for a bewitched life in the Underworld.”

-James Taylor Carson, Searching for the Bright Path: Mississippi Choctaws from Prehistory to Removal, pages 23-24

Now I’m completely onboard with critiquing eco-extremism, as I have done here and here, and I have a love-hate relationship with Atassa and the individual who appears to be the main person involve in it, as I articulated here. But as I stated in my original Some Words For Friends post, witch hunts are ugly.

Symbolic-culture and its means of psychic-mediation fuck us up enough as it is and the “anarchist” world would do well to let go of surface level vulgarities and obvious provocations, if it doesn’t want to continue the narrative of totalitarian-liberalism it is embracing in the present. There is undoubtably something we can learn from eco-extremism and the Atassa project and excluding eco-extremism from discourse through unreflective rejection appears to only come from bigotry and prejudice. And, alongside borrowing a meme from an Atassa fan page, I’d like to point out that eco-extremists have killed far less than Marxists have, yet anarcho-kids are generally happy with maintaining relationship with that discourse (I still wear my old Che shirt from when I was 16) –


Perhaps it is pointless of me to write this, to respond to Campbell’s ridiculous “fascist” comment and to have articulated a pre-emptive strike against the witch hunt that will probably continue. Perhaps LBC would have done well to have learnt from the events of last year (though I imagine they rather enjoyed the controversy). I remain perpetually revolted by the left – the make-nicers of History, make-up artists of the Leviathan.

All I ask is that anyone reading this leave as much their symbol-mind prejudice from their exploration of Atassa and eco-extremism, and take it for what it is – flawed, often ugly and sometimes disturbing, but worth exploring and including in discussion.



3 thoughts on “Symbols Are For The Symbol-Minded: Some More Words For Friends

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  1. Why did you feel “revulsion toward” Civilization & Its Discontents? The work is a recognized foundational text of an-primitivism (included in Zerzan’s anthology Against Civ) for the way it so clearly explains why civilization inherently leads to “universal neurosis”. Freud didn’t come to the same conclusion as a modern an-primitivist, but you could hardly have expected that! Just framing the problem, positing an important critique of civilization, was radical, groundbreaking stuff, especially considering his time.


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