cascadian bioregionalism: neither left nor right, but autonomous (sketch #1)

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say. 

-William Stafford


Someone saw fit to etch a few words from this poem into stone, then use it to build one of the walls of a building called “Deschutes Public Library.”  There is a good chance that those words will remain after I am dead and gone, perched a short walk up from the river.  I do not doubt that they will remain true.  They also saw fit to leave out the parts referencing “silence” and “stillness,” however, as the truth that we cannot hear today may become loud and clear tomorrow.

“History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake”

In an essay subtitled “Leaving the Left Behind,” anarchist writer Jason McQuinn describes the historical tensions between anti-capitalist tendencies beginning with the “social ferment that gave rise to the Age of Revolutions – introduced by the English, American, and French Revolutions.” This is described as “the historical period in which early capitalism was developing through the enclosure of the commons to destroy community self-sufficiency.”  As a bioregionalist, I find both these tensions and that moment in time to be of deep significance towards our understanding of the current ecological, social, and political crises facing our planet.  Kirkpatrick Sale saw the genealogy of bioregionalism as stemming from anarchist theory, utopian socialist ideas (as opposed to the scientific Socialism of the Marxists), and the regional planning traditions of Lewis Mumford, etc.  This has been a somewhat demon-haunted trajectory, with the totalitarian tendencies of both the Left and the Right hitchhiking their way along towards the current intersection of decentralist resistance to the ominous birth of globalism.

Focusing on this trajectory unfortunately ignores the ecological and biocentric roots of bioregionalism in favor of an ideological and humanistic orientation, but as my purpose now is to take the surgeons scalpel to our left-wing and right-wing hitchhikers, I will simply state that I am saving the good part of the story for later.

As both the dominant culture and it’s industrial economy have risen to global ascendancy in a form called ‘Capitalism’, opposition to this domination (call it Empire, colonialism, globalist tyranny)  has taken on an increasingly ‘anti-capitalist’ orientation; the territorial pissing grounds of something called “The Left”.  With the fall of Communism as a global power and its moral fall from grace, thanks to the likes of Stalin and Mao, the Left has mostly embraced the “international anarchist milieu” who’s Black Block’s and barricades have become visible in the media from the streets of Seattle to the streets of Athens.  This has increasingly blurred the distinctions between anarchism and Socialism, which has led to a push away from Socialism by the theorists of “post-Left” anarchism, who are at pains to elaborate how this is not a push towards either the Right or Capitalism. Yet here the demon-haunted spectrum of Eurocentric political ideologies has unveiled it’s ugly collection of museum pieces once again, including the other anti-capitalisms of European ‘racialist’ bent.  It is therefore beneficial to not neglect a genuine push away from the so-called “Third Position” while remaining at pains to demonstrate how this is not a reconciliation with the Left or Socialism.

Against the opportunism and Entryism of both the Left and the Right, I see a great promise in following the post-Left trajectory towards formulating bioregionalism as a theory and critique of Ideology itself, never forgetting bioregional living as both our means and end.  And given our Cascadian context of the spiritually individualistic and stubbornly independent US/Canadian West, with it’s renegade ranchers and disenfranchised rural population living close to the land, can we find or feel some kind of post-Right trajectory towards ecology and biocentrism?



“We make the road by walking”


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