Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Brief Thoughts 13

TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism by Hakim Bey

Reading Woodcock's history of Anarchism got me interested in reading more on the subject. My library actually doesn't have much on the subject. Strangely, of the very few things they did have, this off-kilter little volume was one of them. I recognized Hakim Bey from his contribution to Apocalypse Culture and figured this would be worth a read. 

The titular essay discusses the concept of creating temporary zones that are out of reach of formal social regulations. One example he gives are enclaves that pirates established on uncharted islands for short periods of time. He explicitly opposes seeing the TAZ as a means to an end of an anarchist revolution, believing the desire to do such would defeat the entire purpose. He also speculates that the Internet may be a breeding grounds for TAZs, though as he notes in the preface to this edition, the essay was written when the Internet was a very new thing and this part is very out of date. 

The rest of the book are reprints of communiques/broadsides dealing with various subjects such anarchism, mysticism, pornography, art and philosophy. Some of these essay are written in a style that make them read like complete word salads. For example, I have no idea if the "Hollow Earth" essay was making a point, or was just a weird vignette. For the most part, Bey is a pretty solid writer, but there are times like this where his excesses make him unreadable. 

Besides the titular essay, most of this book isn't really to be taken seriously, and I don't think Bey intended it to be. For example, there are parts in the book where he advocates putting curses on institutes that harm society, but given he lists things like the MUZAK corporation as targets, I think it's safe to say he has his tongue in his cheek. I certainly hope so, he can't actually think taking a shit on the floor of a bank during the busy hours is going to accomplish anything.

Overall, this is an interesting book but it's not essential reading. On the topic of anarchism, you'll need a good amount of knowledge going in to get where the book is coming from on that front. Likewise, there are probably better places to go for the subjects of Tantra or art criticism. Still, it's an nicely unusual read. If you have an interest in the kind of fringe thought the Discordians and the Church of the SubGenius put out, this is worth getting. 

Buy TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism by Hakim Bey here.

The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy 

After I was forced to abandon War and Peace, I decided to give this a try. Given how dense War and Peace was in some parts, I expected this to be the same. Not so, this book is very readable and not at all difficult to understand. 

The Kingdom of God is Within You is Tolstoy's treatise on Christianity, pacifism, and the nature of government. This is the book that basically started the Christian anarchist movement and was also a huge influence on Mahatma Gandhi. 

Tolstoy's thesis is that the Sermon on the Mount calls for pacifism, or, as he calls it, nonresistance to evil by force. He concludes that the established Churches have perverted Christ's teachings for their own ends and that no Christian can support the existence of the state, which is required to use violence to exist.  

Tolstoy's pacifism didn't make him a pushover. He attacks church and state with passion and clarity. There are no punches pulled for his targets like the Russian Orthodox Church or Kaiser Wilhelm. That's what makes this book such a pleasure. It's like reading a sermon from an intense minister. 

Even if you're not a Christian or an anarchist, this is an essential book if only for its influence as a philosophical work.

Buy The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy here.

No comments: