Briefly Noted (19 September 2019)

Once again most of the new posts are historical content related to the UNABOM case and radical environmentalist history. Some of it pertains to a group of followers of Kaczynski I’ve written about before, the indomitistas. The only original piece is a critique of the green anarchist text, Desert, which has become much more popular in light of the recent climate strikes.

Speaking of, the global climate strike is coming up in a few days, presenting a great opportunity for radicals to recruit and network with other environmentalist and conservation organizations. For ideas on how to best use this opportunity see:

For the first time since Hunter/Gatherer, “Briefly Noted” has a “Letters” section. It’s pretty long, so if you don’t want to read it, scroll down for the news links.

Also, check out our new homepage. Several portals have been updated with lots of new, interesting content, like links to the various translations of Kaczynski’s manifesto. An entirely new portal has also been added, The Indomitista Archive.

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Materialism versus Idealism

I read your article about “A Critique of the Concept of ‘the System’,” I think your points are really good. I was also confused by T.K.’s understanding of the system. It was too vague and people need a clear vision.

My biggest problem with TK’s understanding of the system is his materialistic understanding of it. In my opinion his “system” (like “modern technology,” “the industrial system,” “the techno-industrial system”) is just a manifestation of a belief system. I think that technology gets its power from our belief in control (or better: the possibility to control our world). That’s why so many progressive people always want to solve a tech-problem with more tech. From my experience (my friends), if you argue against technology, you look like a lunatic (to them) and it is impossible to persuade them.

It always remembers me of the book True Believer from Hoffer or Gulag Archipelago from Solzhenitsyn. On this topic you are arguing against a rigorous belief system.

Anyways, my question is: wouldn’t it be beneficial to fundamentally attack that belief system instead of only its manifestations? Otherwise — even if you destroy the materialistic framework of the system — it will be build up again in a similar way.

If you give me some of your insight, I would be grateful.

— Mark

This was a big debate between some of the Kaczynski folks a few years ago. We eventually settled on a materialist outlook.

It seems logical to think that our societies stem from our belief systems, since in our daily life it seems like we act on beliefs, and those acts in turn affect the material world. But from a biological perspective, of course, our actions are entirely determined/caused by material forces, like physics and biology. The perception that we are “willing” something is a bit hard to integrate into this idea of the world, but it’s the best idea we have right now, so I don’t think we have any other option but to go with it.

In terms of societies overall: from a materialist perspective progressive people want to solve tech with more tech (which might include a desire to dominate the natural world) precisely because that is the behavior the system demands. Simplify for a second. If you live in a hunting-and-gathering society, you can’t help but have your behavior shaped by the way you get food. No matter what you are going to go out into your habitat to gather food, spent time with a group processing the food, because of biology you are going to have a gendered division of labor, etc. Out of this come certain ideological ideas, because people tend to appeal to the thing that gives them food. So if a gendered division of labor, for example, is intrinsic to your getting, processing, and distributing food, your ideas about gender are going to be shaped by that.

In technological society, technological solutions are the only apparent option, because no one wants to have industrial agriculture disrupted, no one wants to loose the comforts of their home, like electricity, etc. So people tend to support solutions that keep the system alive.

In other words, the ideas don’t come from nowhere. They’re direct responses to practical problems: technological capacity and biological needs. Because of this any attempt to change social consciousness without first changing the material world that the social group relies on will end in failure. People have tried it, and it only produces reforms that eventually get thrown back or subcultures that are integrated into the economic system.

True Believer is a great book, but Hoffer’s insights are not materialist. He’s good because there is a psychological component to politics (the social version of “willing”). But in terms of understanding how cultures evolve, his explanation is inadequate.

There’s a blog post on the topic by an author named Tomislav Markus.

— Jacobi

Just a few notes on your response: I don’t believe in spiritual enlightenment either. This would be the positive side of the medal. What strikes me the most — especially in a discussion — is the lack of awareness of the negative side of the medal: the doubt. If I discuss the topic with a friend, there is no doubt in the belief of technology and that makes a discussion impossible. He (and people in general) has narrowed his perception to only one solution (fight tech with tech). There are good reasons for it, I don’t argue that; technology has benefits. The thing is, if you narrow your perception to only one solution, it eliminates any doubt; and the solution becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So let’s go one step further, if the system breaks down, my friend (and people in general) will not blame technology, because it isn’t a part of his perception. He will blame capitalism, socialism, nationalism, the incompetence of the leaders, etc. And immediately start to rebuild the system in a similar way with the technology he finds. He is like an alcoholic, who isn´t aware of his problem. If you take away his bottle, he will do anything he can to get a new one.

So to get a sustainable change, isn’t it necessary to create doubt in the belief of technology? To undermine it.

To go back to my bad analogy. If the alcoholic has at least doubt in his behavior and sees the drinking problem, he is able to open up his perception to new solutions — as soon as I take away his bottle.

Maybe I exaggerate this problem and you (and the people in america) are further in this topic. But i don’t see any doubts in technology at least in Germany.

— Mark

If things collapsed I do think people would try to rebuild the industrial systems they know. But there are two reasons why this is unlikely to succeed, both of them having to do with material conditions placing hard limits on people’s wants.

First, industrial society as a whole could probably never be rebuilt. It relies on resources and systems of organization that took hundreds, in some ways thousands, of years to build and are a result of specific environmental and historical conditions. We’ve depleted too many of those resources (like coal) and it would be very difficult to convince people post-collapse to go into mines without outright and violent conflict (just as happened historically).

Secondly, while people will probably initially turn to industrial systems of technology, these will not be the most efficient ways for them to provide for themselves in de-industrialized conditions. For example, at Wild Roots we had a lot of engineers and mechanics. They could have feasibly figured out a way to recreate a number of industrial technologies. But because of the labor involved and the resources directly available, it was more efficient to use more primitive technologies. And should collapse ever REALLY happen, things like water wheels will be more efficient than fixing cars to drive to degraded electric stations.

That said it is important to attack technology ideologically. But this is not the most important or decisive element in its downfall.

— Jacobi

Globalization and World Society


[In response to “A Critique of the Concept of ‘the System’“:] I could hardly imagine someone who could not understand “the techno-industrial system” but could understand “the technological and economic basis of society.”

Consider the following sentences:

  • Rip apart the techno-industrial system!
  • Destroy the technological and economic basic of society!

Both can be readily understood by most people, but which one sounds more hard-hitting? Which one has more use for propaganda purposes? The answer is clear.

[Kaczynski writes:]

Those of us who believe that the technological system is an evil are often tempted to attack some of the subordinate evils that are associated with it, such as capitalism, globalization, centralization, bureaucracy, big, intrusive governments, environmental recklessness, and gross economic inequality. This temptation should be resisted. One may, of course, use evils like those I’ve listed as tools to attack the technological system by pointing out that similar evils inevitably accompany any such system. But it is inadvisable to attack any of the subordinate evils independently of an attack on the technological system as a whole.

It is a bold claim that “world society” provides a movement with greater motivation than “the system”. Even if it is true that in the short term you might get an increased burst of excitement, usage of the term would lead people astray.

In conclusion, the system is a much better term for propaganda and staying on course than “world society” ever could be. This is the only article I have read from Jacobi. Perhaps it is simply a one-time failure. I will look deeper into his website in the future.

— /u/green1wind

Maybe to his surprise, but I mostly agree with /u/green1wind. Like I write in the article, Kaczynski is mostly a propagandist, so it makes sense that his language is better suited to propaganda. “Technological society,” “technosystem,” or any other similar phrase sounds much more foreboding than “world society.” But good propaganda isn’t necessarily good theory. Lenin, for example, distinguishes between “agitation” — short, mobilizing messages for the public — and “propaganda” — theoretical material for evangelizing to recruits. In a similar way we should distinguish between our theory and our propaganda. Our propaganda is probably going to look a lot like Kaczynski’s language; but our theory should be more rooted in exact, scientific language. In particular the theory should jive nicely with the field of ecology, especially human ecology. For this terms like “modes of production” and “economic basis of society” are more adequate.

You point out that Kaczynski believes globalization is a subsidiary problem to technology. I agree, which is why I make a distinction between “the enemy” (world society) and “the target” (technological infrastructure). World society or globalization are direct outgrowths of technological evolution. World society isn’t the problem, but it mobilizes. Contrary to what you say about it creating only “a short burst of excitement,” it unites the enemies of many different political ideologies, all of which are in direct battle with globalization right now. Conservatives call it “globalism,” the left calls it “colonialism,” “globalization,” or “imperialism,” the greens call it “industrial society,” conspiracy theorists call it the “New World Order”… So here I think you’re dead wrong.

— Jacobi

On the Web

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