Beyond Surviving, Everyday Skills to Move to a Post-Society

Today I began reading “The Coming Insurrection”, that piece of revolutionary work that Glenn Beck was so terrified of, and I’m extremly glad I did. It’s a great read, and one I’d highly recommend to anyone and everyone, a take on modern life and society that should be obvious to anyone who calls themselves a dissident – but rarely expressed so eloquently.

While there’s a lot of things percolating while reading it, one thing in particular stuck out and gave me a lot of hope: this idea that the means to escape the traps of society that we all live in daily – workerism, institutionalism, ‘progress’ – are things that still exist within us, albeit in a fragmented manner.

The author(s) use the example of New Orleans after Katrina:

“In this apocalyptic atmosphere, here and there, life is reorganizing itself. In the face of the inaction of public authorities, who were too busy cleaning up the tourist areas of the Frech Quarter and protecting shops to help the poorer city dwellers, forgotten forms are reborn. In spite of occasionally strong-armed attemps to evacuate the area, in spite of white supremacist lynch mobs, a lot of people refused to leave the terrain. For the latter, who refused to deported like ‘environmental refugees’ all over the country, and for those who came from all around to join them in solidarity, responding to a call from a former Black Panther, self-organization came back to the fore.  In a few weeks time, the Common Ground Clinic was set up. From the very first days, this veritable ‘country hospital’ provided free and effective treatment to those who needed it, thanks to the constant influx of volunteers. For more than a year now, the clinic is still the base of daily resistance to the clean-sweep operation of government bulldozers, which are trying to turn that part of the city into a pasture for property developers.  Popular kitchens, supplies, street medicine, illegal takeovers, the contsruction of emergency housing, all this practical knowledge accumlated here and there in the course of a life, has now found a space where it can be deployed. Far from the uniforms and sirens.”

This. This is where we as anarchists, communists, revolutionaries, whatever we call ourselves – this is where the strength and ability to overcome the mountainous barriers of society, government, etc will come from. We all have these pieces of knowledge that, when put together and shared, are going to be the foundation of any actual revolution in the future.

I don’t know how to perform medical treatments. But I bet I know someone who does. They in turn don’t know how to find edible food in the woods, but they know a hunter or lifelong camping enthusiast who does. It’s this network of people with skills that we don’t even think about on a day to day basis that will allow us to break out of society and move on. We all have these skills, whether we think them applicable or not, that we will probably be surprised to find are VERY useful at some point.

I grew up going on camping trips with my parents, learning how to build and maintain a fire, how to fish, how to field-fix equipment with whatever was available. There’s a lifetime of random knowledge about simple cooking, staying warm, sewing old clothing, etc that exists within my brain that I barely ever tap into. This can be my contribution.

It doesn’t really matter HOW you grew up. The knowledge is there, whether it’s how to fix machinery because you rebuilt a car with your dad, how to hunt, how to build things, DIY culture, etc. The things that for most of us society has relegated to ‘hobbies’ may very well be what saves us in the future. After all, the fact that society has pushed so hard for these to BECOME hobbies for the vast majority of us should tell you soemthing about their utility: if modern society thinks it’s useless, there’s a good chance that’s becuase someone, somewhere, wants to sell you seomthing to replace the need for that knowledge.

The survivalism movement has definitely embraced a lot of these things, but I’d say they’ve done so with the wrong intention in mind. Survivalism, at it’s core, is exactly what it sounds like: surviving. Surviving a collapse, or a storm, or a war. But the flaw in survivalism is that a lot of it seeks to PRESERVE small pockets of what we currently have now; or even to simply survive between NOW and when we can get back to NOW.

Going beyond survivalism requries something different. It requires an understanding of the same basic concepts, but with an intention of using them not to preserve pieces of the old society, but how those pieces can be shared and used to build something post-society. That’s where our practical knowledge comes in.

As leftists, anarchists, whatever we choose to call ourselves, I think it’s important that we start spending more time sharpening the skills we already have (and acquiring new ones) with that goal in mind. Not simply surviving. Not maintaining. But building. Don’t sharpen your mechanics skills, for example,
just to keep the generator running in times of collapse – sharpen them because they will be valuable in ways you can’t even imagine as we move PAST society, not as we try to rebuild it.

That’s really the key. We don’t just want to survive, we want to grow.