The nineties, as much as I detest them, are the unfortunate incubator of my political thought
I can't help but have been a teenager during this time period, this miserable, miserable time period of BLAH
But not until recently, when my thoughts returned to someone that no one thinks about anymore (but of whom I used to think a lot), and I reread one of his famous books, did I recognize the seeds of my own political knowledge/view of the world, and did I realize that it was pretty much mostly all due to this man
While I have definitely had other influences on my political thinking ( my dad for instance), as I reread this book, I saw it as the manual for the my political thought for generations to come
the right to legal defense ( and freedom of speech )
The book I am referring to, "From Freedom to Slavery: The Rebirth of Tyranny in America", opens with a retelling of Spence's decision to defend Randy Weaver, the white nationalist whose family was almost wiped out by the ATF in Ruby Ridge near Naples, Idaho during a siege which began on August 21, 1992 and lasted for eleven days.
Basically the ATF had planted the idea into his head that he could sell weapons and they entrapped him (just like those Cleveland Four boys were entrapped by the FBI - now you know the purpose of our governmental crime agencies). They then proceeded to kill this wife, his son, and the family dog.
Spence got a lot of flack upholding justice here, just like the ACLU gets a lot of flack from people today when they insist on defending the right of "Nazis" and other undesirables to exercise their right of freedom of speech. Like Glenn Greenwald stated once, within the last year or so, people don't seem to understand what the ACLU is about, that it defends ANYONE's right, no matter how distasteful their views, to express themselves, because those strict standards could be used against YOU, to curtail YOUR rights. Everyone, regardless of belief, is also supposed to receive the benefit of the law
Just because you don't like someone, doesn't mean they get the shaft
And these are thought crimes people. Like the people who are going to jail for Holocaust denial; this is wrong. You can't police people's thoughts. And when you attempt to, YOU become the fascist
So, even when I was an "activist", in the early 2000's, I was never one of those hot to shut down concerts or speeches of people who were purported to be "hateful" or "racist", and it always struck me as odd the macho anarchists who wanted to swarm down to whatever city was gonna host a bunch of white nationalists and beat them up, as if racism could be distilled into each one of these unacceptable human beings and then snuffed out upon punching them out
As I look back, I recognize these people as the proto-types of the Antifa of today
the noble savage and anarcho-primitivism
People give this trope a lot of grief, because it might not be true, and it might even be considered offensive, but Gerry Spence was sure into it
"The Noble Savage", who was all about being a steward of the Earth, and not owning the Earth, but belonging to it
I still believe in these ideas, even if Alt-Light and Right-Wing individuals defending colonialism seek to discredit them; even if no one ever really said them, they're still true. We should be disciples of the Earth, not owners of it
He was also into the "cranky-wise-old-man-who-lives-isolated-on-a-hill-and-knows-better-than-you" trope, and the "hippies-who-live-in-the-moment" trope, all popular with activist youth in the early 2000's
Also the anti-work diatribe, how slaving away in an office will be the living death of you
And it will, but what choice do most of us have? Environmental pollution and ignorance is making it more and more impossible to escape into the woods, but I suppose you can still become a mountain climber or a park ranger, maybe work for the Metro Parks?
He made a harrowing critique of corporations, and of civilization itself
it's amazing how much he anticipated. This book was published in 1993, and anarcho-primitivism was just starting to come into prominence amongst anti-capitalist activists in the early 2000's. Individuals like John Zerzan and Derrick Jensen emerged, criticized for being distracting and useless by more "serious" anarchists of the socialist vein. And since we're looking back at the past and re-examining influential individuals of the nineties, early 2000's, John Zerzan is no longer so influential or well-known, although he continues to write books and host a college radio show. Derrick Jensen on the other hand, has had a more interesting "decline". He has recently been outted as a transphobe, along with a woman named Lierre Keith who was a vegan for a long time until she became ill and then she wrote a controversial screed about the pitfalls of veganism. They started an environmental group together which is acknowledged as being TERF ( trans exclusive radical feminist, meaning they do not recognize transwomen as women or as being covered by the auspices of feminism), and they seem to subscribe to right wing criticisms of transgender cultures and individuals
the evils of capitalism and corporations
Gerry Spence eloquently enlightened me as to the evils of corporations
And it wasn't through hard statistics and hardcore, incensed yet strangely wooden revolutionary rhetoric from the pages of a Revolutionary Communist Party newspaper, it was through kind and creative and respectful common sense
The criminality of surrendering our lives to corporations and the advertising used to convince us to lay over our lives to unnecessary consumption. The environmental, societal, and spiritual consequences of such a capitulation were eloquently and passionately and creatively engendered to the reader. Reading his book again after more than twenty years, I still remember the particular turns of phrase and specific anecdotes he used to convey his points; literally like talking to an old friend again!
Respect. Of which he showed a great deal towards his fellow Americans. He lamented how they were constantly being abused, and how they were constantly being told they were free, when they were not. This is a big theme with me, because Americans really do think they have it the best, but from the poorly maintained streets and the poor return on their taxes, to having some of the worst news media, environmental pollution, biased judicial systems, educational systems, and adulterated food supplies in the world, America is essentially a third world country. It is a land where profit and corporations uber alles, and people are okay with that. There are cities where you can't drink the water, you can't walk the streets safely, you can't earn a living, but scandals of the President and other nonsensical tripe dominate the news; these are the conditions of a third world nation
He also got a lot of his historical info from Howard Zinn, (making this analysis TOTALLY nineties). I didn't even realize he had done that literally until TODAY, as I am writing this, because when I first read the book in high school, Howard Zinn hadn't even entered my radar, and wouldn't do so until the early 2000's... he is also today someone no one really talks about anymore
I remember sitting in biology class in high school and telling my hapless classmate and friend-from-the-neighborhood that women didn't need to compete with men "because it's THEIR TOTEM POLE!" and he replied jokingly "Yeah! That totem pole! What?!?!"
I had NEVER cared for or thought about feminism in high school ( even as I felt offended by things certain individuals did to me based on my sex), but I had also always resented being lumped into a political category because of my genitals, and I always hated ( STILL DO) the "i am woman, hear me roar" rhetoric, because it reeks of weakness and silliness
Gerry Spence, A MAN, didn't introduce me to feminism, if that's what you were thinking - he simply validated some of my own ideas to me
(He also introduced me to The Malleus Maleficarum, The Witches' Hammer, the infamous European manual on dealing with "witches" from the fifteenth century, and a maddeningly hateful screed about women )
Modern feminism is women begging men to take them seriously. That's a neoliberal feminist. But we live in a corporate medium, a medium where money is like water is to the ocean, and if you don't have money, you cannot survive, and you do not have power, so you seek the means to procure it, and a lot of it. That means taking on positions originally meant for men. Like when Christina Hoff Sommers tells women to become petroleum engineers if they want to close the wage gap
And about that totem pole...the "superhero" one, that women are always trying to climb, with examples like Black Widow and Wonder Woman, trying to excel on men's plane, when it's really unnecessary, if you truly believe in the intrinsic, inherent, HIGH, value of women; a lot of people don't get that
Men do need to stop acting like douches though. While women shouldn't expect them to hand them their freedom, they DO have a responsibility to not rape and sexually harass women, or call them stupid, or worthless whores, as misogynists are wont to do...
Gerry Spence eventually got his own TV show on MSNBC which was a little awkward to watch, because while he has a way with words on paper, he was not as slick on air - I guess it takes a certain amount of dishonesty and "i'm-not-really-going-to-talk-about-anything-of-substance" to be able to talk like a bonafide talk show host
He's 89, and no one talks about him anymore. Ralph Nader is in his eighties too. And Howard Zinn is dead.
Bula Bakaar was not alive, or living in the United States, during the nineties, because the nineties in the US sucked. The music, style, the clothes, the inexorable march of the Clintons into politics; Europe was so much better, especially with all that borrowed money from the IMF