After Seasonturn : The Author as Underminer


Catharsis. That’s the reason a lot of people write, and some days it does seem like I’m writing to rid myself of whatever is trapped inside my head. I’ve had a pretty good life; no one could deny that, at least in the context of being brought up a part of industrial civilisation, but I’m deeply worried. Again.

Some time in July 2015, there was a break in the weather for a day. This was the third time we had travelled to the Western Isles of Scotland in three years – the two previous years had been idyllic in terms of weather, location, being together as a family and taking the chance to connect with what I consider my “spiritual home” if there is such a thing. The most recent time was different, mainly because the weather was dreadful, but we did our best to keep spirits up, and did have a good laugh in the face of adversity; and when the sun came out, it seemed like this really was the best life could be. The photograph doesn’t show that there were two of us sitting above the beach – the feet aren’t mine – but no image could capture the sense of that moment, that deep connection between two people and the place they are.

Weather and, now it becomes clearer, climate is playing on my thoughts again. Storm after storm is hitting Britain: the UK Met Office have given them names so we take the warnings more seriously, and so far communities are just about coping where they have been worst hit. This is not normal, though, and I’m sure the Met Office are more than aware of the added significance in giving Atlantic storms tropical nomenclature. We are going to have to get used to a climate that has begun to change rapidly. The words of Guy McPherson ring in my head: “We’re fucked” is the gist, but more than this is a sense that we’re possibly over as a species, and definitely as a culture. It seems that civilisation has thrown everything it can at the ecosystem, and still shows no signs of stopping, despite the ragged mess that lies in front of the weapons of death.

I try not to worry, so I write. In that process comes an element of calm, putting what I can into the novels that are otherwise feeding out from somewhere deep inside my head, so the fears are threaded into a background tapestry, not so vividly that the reader will be scared, but clear enough that perhaps some readers will take from them the same theme I have tried to pursue for many years: we meddle with things at our peril, and need to realise what really matters to us.

It’s probably too late. Despite this, we have to do what we feel is necessary, even if it’s something as simple as just living the best way that you possibly can. Undermining is the act of weakening the Culture of Maximum harm by reconnecting people with what really matters. My writing will, ultimately, make little or no difference to whatever outcomes have been set in place already, but I do it because I can, and maybe it will help create a few connections, even if it’s just because that’s the right thing to do…


All Kickstarter Money Gone

Because I’m very careful with what I do with other peoples’ money, I’ve been keeping detailed accounts of exactly what I have done with the funds from the Kickstarter project, which many of you kind people helped happen last year.

For quite a while there was £11.63 sitting in my bank account, waiting for something useful to be used on, and then Paul Kingsnorth announced that the Dark Mountain website had been catastrophically hacked so I had to help out in some way – Paul is a good man, and the Dark Mountain Project is very important.

To cut a long story short, three signed copies of Underminers have been auctioned off and sent to the winners, and the cost of the postage (the books were comps from my publisher) was £11.65! Ok, 2p out, but if I ever wanted to ignore the horrors of civilization, I could always become an accountant…

Here Comes The Flood

And if we break before the dawn, they’ll use up what we used to be…

Undermining and Risk

Sometimes disclaimers are just a way of making something out to be more dangerous than it really is; sometimes they are necessary. I was only two or three chapters into writing Underminers when it became clear that a disclaimer was absolutely necessary – not so much for the legal protection it could give to the author, publisher, distributor and retailers; but for the warning it gives to the reader. Activism, for want of a better term, is no longer about pretending to be doing something – if change is to happen on the scale required to prevent global catastrophe and the end of humanity, then we have to be talking about the kinds of activism that carry uncertain levels of risk, at least for those prepared to be Underminers.

New Society saw the idea behind Underminers and were brave enough to see the project through from raw text to publication of the book that goes on sale in September 2013. That in itself is a risk, for from its inception, it was clear that in order to save humanity and the wider environment from the kind of catastrophe we are currently headed toward, nothing less than the end of Industrial Civilization as we know it would be required. Civilization protects itself with the kinds of things most ordinary people are scarcely aware of; the kinds of things that keep us disconnected from the truth of what it means to be human; the kinds of things that keep rearing their heads in a ferocious effort to protect The Machine, then washing self-proclaimed citizens of any subversive thoughts. All it takes is a nice vacation, a trip to the shopping mall, a major sporting event or a new app, and everything is once again fine.

Anything that undermines these Tools of Disconnection is dangerous to the industrial system. Anything that is dangerous to the industrial system gives us the chance of a future on Earth.

I cannot make it any clearer: Industrial Civilization is incompatible with a living, thriving ecosystem. The purpose of civilization is to create a culture of domination and power, that imbues material wealth with far more importance than the lives of the people it controls. No civilization is sustainable. In our hearts we know this, but know we can only whisper such a dangerous truth.

There is potentially a host of Underminers waiting to bring down the system that is killing us and everything else that lives on planet Earth. Are you among them, and are you prepared to take a risk? After all, it can’t be any more dangerous than being a slave; a victim; a puppet; a voter; a consumer; a citizen…

We are the Underminers, and this is our time.

Underminers is available NOW from New Society Publishers. Just follow THIS LINK if you are in the USA or Canada (other parts of the world soon…)

Underminers and Deep Green Resistance

Look! Over there on the right. There’s a link to Deep Green Resistance. I only put links to things I think are genuinely useful and important.

Just thought I should get that clear straight away, in case anyone was getting the idea that Underminers was some kind of rival, or alternative to the fomenting DGR movement. It certainly isn’t – they are, while not quite partners, two complementary things that support and reinforce each other in startling ways.

First off, if you don’t already know, Deep Green Resistance is a movement of people, united by the desire to see the end of industrial civilization. In short:

The goal of DGR is to deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet. This will require defending and rebuilding just and sustainable human communities nestled inside repaired and restored landbases. This is a vast undertaking but it needs to be said: it can be done. Industrial civilization can be stopped.

The way DGR aims to work is not easily explained in a paragraph, so I recommend you go here and find out more. Clearly DGR and Underminers (and the burgeoning Underminers Network) has a lot in common, but there are key differences. Underminers is focused on removing the Tools of Disconnection that prevent the vast majority of people from taking back their lives and no longer being part of the industrial machine – I believe that there are currently far too few connected people to make a significant difference.

DGR is about directly attacking the industrial machine, removing its ability to continue destroying the living planet. Like Underminers, it starts from a point where there are already people ready and willing to create change, except that with DGR, that change means actively dismantling the industrial system.

Neither are contradictory. This diagram should help:

Paths to Change

The Underminers’ world is primarily in the top left box, by which the act of undermining frees up more people to carry out further acts of undermining directly and via a number of side-effects, such as community building. Those people liberated through undermining may not choose to consciously carry out undermining themselves, but through Personal Impact Reduction, they do so anyway, because the effect of this is to weaken the grip of industrial civilization on their daily lives, thus Weakening Industrial Civilization.

The Deep Green Resistance movement comes into its own in that right-hand box, where countless acts are being supported and carried out to directly weaken the industrial machine. I strongly believe that undermining is essential if the DGR movement is to reach its potential. Similarly, DGR is essential in weakening the grip that civilization has over people’s everyday lives – DGR is a both a direct force for change and a form of undermining.

I look forward to this being a truly collaborative effort. We are, after all, in the same boat, and would really like to go in the same direction…at first. What happens after is up to you.

Note: In the light of recent events occurring between the authors of the DGR book, and members of DGR with regards to gender politics, it is worth stating that I wholeheartedly support the fundamental aims of the Deep Green Resistance movement, whilst not necessarily agreeing with the views of all members of the organisation. In any collection of people there will be disagreements – it’s just a shame that a disagreement over something that could have been a long-term goal, has been allowed to manifest itself so virulently.

The Absence of Posts…

…can mean good news.

But I can’t say anything until the “can mean” becomes “definitely means”.

Still, at least there’s a nice link in the top right-hand corner where you can buy a proper, printed version of the book. All 524 pages of the beast!

Happy New Year! (which, strictly speaking happened on December 22nd in the Gregorian Western notation)

Getting A Kick Start

I made a video, you might have noticed it on the front page, so I won’t repeat it here. The reason for the video was, originally, to accompany a project on Kickstarter, though I rather like it so will probebly put it everywhere – if only to make people feel morerable about civilization and my doomy voice. The Kickstarter project is modest, to say the least.

With some dismay I have seen Kickstarter projects raise hundreds of thousands of Dollars (and now Pounds) for, basically, lumps of pointless shit – such as cameras that record your every living moment, or masks that flash so you can, apparently, have more lucid dreams (yes, it’s nonsense). I like to think that my project is worthwhile and suitably modest – I need just £900 in order to produce copies of the book for promotions and thank-yous, and also to produce a professional standard eBook.

More information and a big splashy headline when the project goes live. At the moment I’m waiting for approval because apparently I haven’t made lots of dramatic statements about how incredibly risky the project is. I can’t quite bring myself to tell them that the only real risk is to the industrial system.

The Donald Trump Enigma (One That Got Away)

Following the horrible destruction of the Menie dune system in Aberdeenshire by Trump Golf Scotland, as well as supporting the Tripping Up Trump campaign* ever since its instigation, has been like waterboarding myself on a regular basis then coming up into the sunshine every time I realised that Donald Trump is just another representation of the system most of us are happy to be a part of. The recent UK network premier of You’ve Been Trumped has, at least been a shot in the arm for anyone who symbolically opposes everything Trump and his golfing empire stands for. As for creating real change…

Which is why something I originally wrote for Underminers, but which didn’t make the final cut, seems appropriate for digging out at this very moment. The campaign may have moved on, but the opposition to the capitalist engine remains stuck in neutral.

Donald Trump is merely a symbol, a preposterous parody, if you like, of the unrepentant capitalist system we meekly accept as our lot. If we are incapable of even undermining a parody then what chance is there of undermining the dark heartlessness of a tangible portion of the industrial world. Trump survives all the superficial attempts to damage his credibility – it figures that the system he represents thrives. Trump has succeeded thus far at Menie (unilaterally renamed the Great Dunes of Scotland) not because he is powerful but because he has successfully exploited both the corruption inherent in the system and the lack of any opposition to what he represents. It’s no good opposing Trump “the man” if you don’t oppose Trump “the purveyor of all that stinks in the capitalist system”.

Just one more reason why symbolic protest is no protest at all.

(*Sometime in 2009, I think, I found myself in conversation with some potential anti-Trump activists at an anarchist gathering. The discussion circled around the various forms of direct action that might actually make development a real struggle – I remember suggesting subtly moving surveyors poles and declaring constant Right To Roam as two possibilities. As it happened, Tripping Up Trump publically eschewed direct action, and denied taking part in a spate of “vandalism” in 2010. I believe them.)

The Moneyless Manifesto For Free (Of Course)

Two and a bit years ago I was delighted to be invited to the very first Uncivilisation festival so that I could talk about Undermining the Tools of Disconnection and piss off George Monbiot (actually that wasn’t the intention but it happened). During the event which was in turns inspiring, frustrating and highly entertaining, I bumped into a small crowd of people surrounding an animated man called Mark Boyle. I was transfixed. His stories of living, as far as possible, without money and, by implication, outside of industrial civilization, fired so many ideas in my head that Underminers was bound to happen from that moment on.

It’s slightly incongruous that Mark’s first book, The Moneyless Man isn’t referenced here, but sometimes things just don’t fit in the text precisely. That said, it was a bit of an omission not to mention the wonderful Just For The Love Of It skill, stuff and landsharing website – so I shall put things right here.

And there’s a link on the right too.

It was lovely to receive a note from Mark after announcing the completion of Underminers and a personal invitation to invade his home and eat all his food (ok, not quite that). He also mentioned that his new book, The Moneyless Manifesto, was being published online for free with the blessing of his publishers. Cue, gratuitous quotation from Underminers:

What about things that we consider to be more ethereal, such as ideas? This is already a wildly exciting proposition, that the online version of this book is part of, as is everything I write: simply, it’s given away to the benefit of all who can benefit from it. When I took Time’s Up! to my publisher, apart from being delighted to have it accepted for publication I also insisted that the intellectual property remained mine to share as I wished. The publisher had the rights over the sold-as-printed version, but otherwise the words were mine to distribute as I saw fit, to the extent that this was written into the contract. To quote:

“The Author hereby grants the Publishers the exclusive licence of printing and publishing the said Work during the period of copyright in volume and serial form in all languages throughout the world and also the exclusive licence to assign or licence such rights to others subject to the conditions following, on the understanding that the Author may post the text online under Copyleft terms.”

As far as I know this clause is unique in publishing circles. It shouldn’t be. Ideas are for sharing, as any good scientist (as opposed to one that is in hock to corporate interests) will tell you. Copyleft is a great, and to most people, amusing word, which in itself can spark off all sorts of discussions. It does what it says on the tin: you can’t keep something to yourself, you have to allow others to copy it. The terms I attach to my work are in the form of a Creative Commons licence, which allows anyone to copy, edit and re-distribute the work, so long as it is appropriately credited, not passed off as someone else’s work and, most important, no one makes any money out of it.

Which happens to the same license that The Moneyless Manifesto uses. Go and read it now.

Thanks Mark.

Undermining Weapons, Or Not?

I woke up early this morning intending to go for a walk. For the last few weeks I have been hard at work proof-reading the text of Underminers ready for the final publication on the website as a single download (with fanfare!) and then an e-book, and then probably a physical book. More anon. So, there I was, ready to go for a walk with coat and head-torch poised; and then I opened the back door to be greeted by the gentle hiss of incessant rain and a waft of cold air to accompany the darkness.

Sunrise wasn’t to be until after 7, if I ever saw the sun. It was 6.15.

At 6.20 I had a mug of tea and was writing a long note to myself about the nature of weapons. You see, the reason I woke up early was because of weapons. The long proof-reading period has been quite satisfying with very few changes springing to mind, except for the odd grammatical alteration or reinforcement of a point (and sometimes toning one down). Then this morning I suspected there was a gaping hole: where had I talked about undermining weapons; after all, without weapons it is rarely possible for one group of people to dominate any other group of people, at least in the opening stanzas of a heirarchical society.

I searched through the manuscript to find very few references to weaponry and even fewer to actually tackling the weapons themselves. Yep, that gaping hole really seemed to be gaping. Then I started the note to myself. You can decide for yourselves whether I have nailed the problem…

Is this important enough for a whole section? In many parts of the world the initial Tool of Disconnection used is “Abuse Us”; the stage of “development” of a society is relevant to this, for it seems to be that the earlier in the civilized story, the more likely the use of more direct forms of control and disconnection are used. Forced labour, forced religion and other ideologies, forced hierarchy and so on have historically been in the gift of those who have the most effective arsenal of weaponry (quantity, quality, ability – whatever it takes to be pre-eminent). Later on in the civilized story the means of controlling a population tend towards the more subtle – unless more direct control is needed.

Ultimately though, is it the weapons per se that are the control mechanisms, or is it the desire to control and the knowledge that control is possible? In a world where the AK-47 and M16 have superceded the machete and the firebrand as the killing tool of choice for young, oppressive regimes, it would seem obvious that to stop the flow of weapons would also reduce the level of oppression. To a certain extent this is true; but what of the machete? This multi-purpose, ostensibly peaceful tool is used under a variety of different names (panga, cutlass etc) for clearing brush. During the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 the machete was responsible for at least half of all of the recorded 800,000 murders. Stopping the flow of machetes from Europe and China may have reduced the scale of the massacre, but who is to say that other potential weapons such as clubs, axes and rifles (from would not have been used instead; and anyhow, 84% of households already had a machete 10 years before the massacre took place – it was and still is an agricultural tool.

It seems that the problem of weaponry as a tool of mass control is not so much with the nature of the arsenal, as the nature of the people controlling that arsenal. We know that people can be persuaded to kill with sufficient authoritative systems in place, and thus a far more effective means of undermining the use of weaponry in any society is to remove the authority that controls the level of abuse on a mass scale. Later on, in Chapter 7, the industrial machine, which includes the systems of weapon manufacture will be challenged head-on, but first and foremost, it’s authority we need to look at for all sorts of reasons, not just how people are ordered to kill others.

Chapter 6 is going to be changed, but nowhere near as much as I first thought.

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