They’ll keep trying
Fifth Estate # 410, Fall, 2021
. . . a review of
No More Mushrooms: Thoughts About Life Without Government
by Kirkpatrick Sale. Autonomedia 2021.
Reviewed by Eric Laursen
* * * *
Even some of my best friends just can’t stand it.
In his review Eric says:
Small towns can be “narrow-minded and cruel, inhospitable and downright vicious to people and opinions and customs they don’t happen to like,” Sale acknowledges. But “they can be very receptive to minorities that they do not think of as threatening.” Not addressed is the enormous question of how we get the first rather than the second. Human-scale communities have a way of balancing and adjusting themselves to create “internal harmony,” he argues — but are the values that harmony expresses necessarily good ones?
Eric has in mind what’s “good” and he’ll keep on trying to universalize it. He can see that people’s personalities are all over the place. He can see that groups of people have ideas and behaviors that are all over the place. But he thinks he can, with effort, make them better.
He thinks “we” (perhaps we anarchists or perhaps we leftists or perhaps we social changers or perhaps we the people), with effort, can create a world of equality, justice, and democracy. We can develop programs where we can agree on the definition of those things and the praxis to effectuate those things.
When Kirk says we can’t, it’s unbearable:
I must add here a note that may be painful for many social changers having a progressive vision: Bioregional diversity means exactly that. It does not mean that every region, every polity or commonwealth, will build upon the values of democracy, equality, liberty, freedom, justice, and other suchlike desiderata. It means rather that truly autonomous bioregions will likely go their own separate ways and end up with quite disparate values, beliefs, standards, and customs; diverse economic and political systems — some direct democracies, some representative democracies, yet, also, undoubtedly, all kinds of aristocracies, oligarchies, theocracies, principalities, duchies, and palatinates as well.
We must cultivate systems which allow people to be people in all their variety, to be wrong upon occasion and errant and bad and even evil, to commit the crimes that as near as we know have always been committed — brutality, subjugation, conflict — and yet systems in which all social and civil structures will work to minimize such errancies and, what is even more important, hold them within strict bounds should they occur.
Bioregionalism, properly conceived, is such a construct, for it provides a scale at which misconduct is likely to be mitigated because bonds of community are strong, and material and social needs for the most part fulfilled; a scale at which the consequences of individual and regional actions are visible and unconcealable, and violence can be seen to be a transgression against the environment and its people in defiance of basic ecological common sense; a scale at which even error and iniquity, should they happen, will not do irreparable damage beyond the narrow regional limits and will not send their poisons coursing through the veins of entire continents and the world itself. Bioregionalism, properly conceived, not merely tolerates but thrives upon the diversities of human behavior and the varieties of political and social arrangements those give rise to, even if at times they may stem from the baser rather than the more noble motives.