There lies within the world of anti-civ discourse one single seemingly unanswerable question, which we all need to answer for ourselves. We each might have an answer, though none will be the answer. And everyone else’s answer is going to disappoint us, because it is not our own. Our own answer won’t be our own for long, as we will likely be answering differently soon.
This question is – “do I go full primitivist, or do I not smash my records, cassettes, CDs, MP3 player and iPod, and survive daily life in this culture?”
Ian E Smith recently published his essay published in the latest Green and Black Review on his site Uncivilised Animals, where he attempts to address this question. His essay is another anarcho-primitivist piece that presents a fantastic historical analysis, which seems to miss the immediatist value in using the weapons of the enemy against them.
Sure, recorded canned music is alienated, plays into machinic-narratives of production-consumption within mass media culture, and lacks the beauty of the shared experience of living live music between friends and loved ones. Sure, seeking and creating the experience of living music within a community and/or T.A.Z. holds immense value for those of us within the anti-civ world.
In the first 3 years following my cancer treatment I organised charity mini-festivals to raise money for cancer charities, with local bands and musicians performing. These events were living spaces, where we came together as friends to be together and experience something beautiful.
A couple months ago my friends daughter died and they asked me to sing at the funeral. I sung one Beetles song and one I’d written for my friends. I’ve performed live for years and have a relative degree of comfort in doing it, but on that day I couldn’t stop shaking throughout. Every vibration of those songs coursed through my body and into the space that was our shared grief.
These spaces were places of honest beautiful experience, immediately valuable. We co-created spaces that were in those moments meaningful, which dissipated into memory and life went on.
But we don’t live in these spaces all the time. These moments cannot be found easily within the belly of the Leviathan. The techno-sphere has left the world exposed to silence, where the songs of wild-Being, the birds, the forests, the wolves and more, are heard less and less. Sure, the songs of the wind and rain and sea and river ring out beautiful melodies in ways that this culture will never entirely silence. Sure, the energetic vibrations of our embodied being are songs unique and wonderful, which resonate in spaces, creating both discordance and beautiful harmonies. But we largely live in silence. In many ways, we sing out to a black hole that consumes our songs with no reverberation. And we are trying to survive this.
Like black holes in “outer space” exploding due to quantum bouncing and transforming/collapsing into their opposite the white hole, the silence of the techno-sphere/civilisation/the Leviathan will eventually collapse into a crescendo whose exquisite reverberations will be the living energy of wild-Being.
But right now, in this immediate present we are located in, the songs that are available to us are not always living in the way I have described, but are often canned, in the ways distasteful to anarcho-primitivists.
Something Smith misses in his account is that the easy availability of recording software and equipment means that the act of recording music they have written is a means of using the weapons of the enemy against them for musicians to direct their energies. He recognises what punk and folk subcultures have created through recorded music, but fails to acknowledge what jazz, psychedelic, gabber and other musical aesthetics that don’t fit the “anarchist” cliches, have also created, as means of survival. He doesn’t recognise that for the 17 year old goth kid creating ambient black metal music on their computer, the music they’ve recorded is a meaningful and beautiful attack on the constructed social-ontology that is the machine they hate.
The indigenous people who occupied the land we now call America stole the firearms of settlers and used them against those imposing domestication/civilisation upon them. To not use this weapon of the enemy against them seems stupid to me, and if we’re gonna use it we are best served using it more skilfully than our enemy does. Sure spears and bows and arrows are in many ways more beautiful weapons, but if I’m facing someone with a gun, I want a gun too.
And this is what, for the most part, anarcho-primitivism lacks. It might be an excellent form of historical-anthropological realist critique, one that is valuable and beautiful. But it misses out the need for tangible, immediate means of survival and attack.
So my answer to that question is, I won’t yet, and will enjoy the music available to me that is living and that which is canned.
“The inexpressible depth of music, so easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote from its pain… Music expresses only the quintessence of life and its events, never these themselves.” Arthur Schopenhauer
“Without music, life would be a mistake.” Friedrich Nietzsche