[Landline] As Much As Possible
RIP Peter Lamborn Wilson/Hakim Bey, prospects for USA civil war, D. Boon, more
Landline No. 0036
June 1, 2022
1. MIXTURE AND SHADOW
Legendary philosopher/historian/poet/humorist/aphorist/anarchist/author Peter Lamborn Wilson, who sometimes used the pen name “Hakim Bey,” died suddenly on May 23, reportedly from a heart attack, after several years of poor health.
Born in 1945, Peter liked to say he lived “as much as possible” in 1911.
Although Peter was one of the continuing inspirations across almost the whole of my adult life (1990-on), I have been finding it nigh impossible in the last week-plus to write anything approaching a suitable appreciation for Peter’s work. I will instead direct you to this very good obituary by Bill Weinberg. A representative excerpt:
Born in Baltimore in 1945, Wilson was radicalized in the early 1960s. While studying classical literature at New York's Columbia University, he fell in with an eclectic and semi-facetious invented spiritual sect called the Moorish Orthodox Church. The MOC was a small circle of white beatnik drop-outs alienated from white culture and identifying with Islamic and eastern mysticism, and especially the Sufi tradition. They were given a recognized franchise by a local Moorish Science chapter in Baltimore.
Steeped in bebop jazz, cannabis and Persian poetry, the MOC maintained a motorcycle club on Manhattan's Upper West Side. They also had interactions in this period with Timothy Leary's League for Spiritual Discovery, which was pioneering early experiments with LSD as an aid to meditation.
in 1968, Wilson undertook his journey to the East. Initially flying to Lebanon, he would travel across the Islamic world, from Morocco to Indonesia, spending much time in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, studying Sufism and meeting with spiritual masters. [Read more…]
It goes on and on like that, as it ought to. Thank you, Bill.
I also love the poignant, well-told PLW remembrance that Andi Anda has posted on facebook. She writes:
He could come to Seattle for a visit and take me places I never heard of or considered going to before. He didn’t Google anything. There was no Mapquest or Siri. Peter was totally old school in his expeditions, even then. He made phone calls, read books, poured over maps, and he talked to people. When Peter wasn’t sure where something was, he watched for busy cafes and libraries. We’d stop and he’d chat with everyone in line at the post office. He was totally clued into the reality that people love talking about themselves, their home, and their history. Looking vaguely exotic, definitely hippy-ish, bookish and reeking of pot, people were always willing to share info and memories with him. [Read more…]
It is impossible to overstate Peter’s peculiar genius impact for his "temporary autonomous zone" formulation alone — no T.A.Z., no Burning Man! (let’s not talk about what it became) — but there was so much more. Peter seemed to be a continuous torrent of sensational liberation ideas, dazzling schemes and recovered counter-cultural/heretical histories. His half-serious, fully-baked manifestos seemed to arrive yearly, loaded with references, argumentation, jokes and poetry; I was flattered to get to publish one of them — “The Endarkenment Manifesto” — in Arthur magazine in early 2008. Here’s a few bits from it:
Electricity banished shadows—but shadows are “shades,” souls, the souls of light itself. Even divine light, when it loses its organic and secret darkness, becomes a form of pollution. In prison cells electric lights are never doused; light becomes oppression and source of disease. …
Endarkenment stands socially for the Cro-Magnon or “Atlantaean” complex—anarchist because prior to the State—for horticulture and gathering against agriculture and industry—for the right to hunt as against the usurpation of commons by lord or State. Electricity and internal combustion should be turned off along with all States and corporations and their cult of Mammon and Moloch. …
The peasants attacking Dr. Frankenstein’s tower with their torches and scythes were the shock troops of Endarkenment, our luddite militia. The original historical Luddites smashed mechanical looms, ancestors of the computer. …
Despite our ultimate aim we’re willing to step back bit by bit. We might be willing to accept steam power or hydraulics. The last agreeable year for us was 1941, the ideal is about 10,000 BC, but we’re not purists. Endarkenment is a form of impurism, of mixture and shadow. [Read more…]
Peter wrote two other pieces for Arthur: a 2005 essay supporting secessionism as a particularly fun counter-”futilitarian” idea in the midst of Bush-Cheney years, and a beautiful poem for the great Leonora Carrington in late 2008. Ever the practical Luddite, each of Peter’s meticulously composed texts always arrived on paper, in their typewritten original (not even copied!), tucked into a simple manila envelope, the Arthur HQ address inscribed with Peter’s gorgeous calligraphy.
As much as I’ve enjoyed Peter’s broadsides, poems, and histories through the decades, in the wake of his death I’ve found myself returning to a unique book in his ouevre: a 2017 collection of relentlessly pleasant short prose fictions called Night Market Noodles & Other Tales. Lucy Sante neatly summarized the book’s peculiar, intoxicating virtue in the back cover blurb:
Sometimes when the world gets overwhelmingly hostile, you find yourself in need of the drug called Utopia. You will want to gather round, then, as Peter Lamborn Wilson hitches his mule, takes down the saddle bags, and unrolls rive tales of times, space and beguiling societies rich in adventure, dreams and food, and low in laws and machines.
Yes. Let’s keep gathering there, as much as possible.
2. MINUTEMEN, LIVE AT UCLA, 1985
I was reminded again recently of what an absolute righteous force D. Boon was. Be sure to watch the whole three minutes.
(Before you ask: the “Fake George” on drums is Richard Derrick, D. Boon’s roommate at the time. Audio of the entire performance at archive.org)
3. THE DOUR HOUR, OR: HOW CAN YOU PREPARE FOR THE WORST IF YOU DON’T LOOK AT IT?
Like you, I figured this could be a summer of brutality, disaster, disease, disorder and discontent, and bang on schedule, we’ve got stupid Supreme Court rulings, book bans, a growing anti-gay and -trans movement, enormous wildfires, massacres of Black churchgoers and elementary school children…
What to do, how to go on in this country…? Beto was absolutely heroic in speaking truth directly to power last week — I just hope he doesn't get himself killed by these good ol' boys. That’s what those guys usually do to uppity left-wingish leaders in this country. I guess you could say I’m assuming the worst and working from there. Don’t bum yourself into submission, I keep telling myself. Find the others. We’ve got to cultivate hope and solidarity and tactical compassion, but at the same time: don’t shut out the bad news and unpleasant realities. Stay aware of gathering darkness.
With that in mind, check out this very good Ben Jacobs article in Politico from last week on how researchers have concluded that Gen X — of which I am a member — has turned out to be the Trumpiest and most right-wing generation of them all. To make this reality check sting (or should I say “bite”? sorry!) even more for a certain segment of the readership, Jacobs catches up with Rentals keyboardist Cherie Westrich (semi-famous from the “Friends of P” video), who is now an elected GOP legislator in Idaho’s House of Representatives. “In her first term, she’s sponsored legislation to ban vaccine mandates, to prohibit libraries from making obscene materials available to minors and to nullify federal enforcement of gun control laws in the state,” he reports. Ugh. (Next time you hear a Gen Xer whine about Millennials and Gen Zers and Boomers and so on, maybe tell them to work on their own generation first.)
Taking it a bit darker, a couple days ago Ed Luce wrote a piece in the Financial Times covering three recently published books by smart people exploring the possibility of a new civil war in the United States. Here’s an excerpt:
University of California’s Barbara F. Walter [author of How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them] points out America has become “a factionalised anocracy” — the halfway state between autocracy and democracy — that is “quickly approaching the open insurgency stage.” Violence stalks America’s political language. A popular Trumpian T-shirt says: “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.”
More seriously, the number of rightwing militias in the US has exploded in recent years. White supremacist sentiment has also penetrated US law enforcement agencies, says Walter.
How would a 21st century US civil war actually happen? Nothing like the first time. Unlike the 1860s, when America was neatly split between the slave-owning confederates and the north, today’s separatist geography is marbled. Unlike then, America’s armed forces today cannot be outgunned. Yet America, of all countries, knows that asymmetric warfare is unwinnable. Armies have a terrible record of pacifying restive populations. Every casualty breeds 10 more rebels.
“They will slip in and out of the shadows, communicating on message boards and encrypted networks,” writes Walter. “They will meet in small groups in vacuum-repair shops along retail strips. In desert clearings along Arizona’s border, in public parks in southern California, or in the snowy woods of Michigan, where they will train to fight.”
And finally, if you can handle a greater darkness, there is Italian filmmaker Gianfranco Rossi’s extraordinary 2020 documentary Notturno, currently available to stream for free via kanopy. Notturno is staggeringly beautiful, which seems…cruel?…given its subject matter: people along the borders of Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, and Lebanon, including children, who have endured or witnessed unspeakable horror.
I recommend this quietly devastating film, but I do not recommend watching it alone. Take care with this one.
Re-find the others,