Saturday, December 13, 2008

On Anarchism: Part Three

Continuing: John Kinsella interviewed by Tracy Ryan (State Library WA, 2004)

...Colin Ward, when asked about religion, said that rather than being the opiate of the people, in that famous saying, he said, it’s rather the stimulant of the people. Exactly like nationalism, it stimulates hostility and aggression towards others. Many have observed that people who are kind and considerate in their personal life can become mass-murderers under the banner of God and the State, and we are seeing a lot of religious strife, daily, or things that are connected to it. Would you agree that it is a stimulant of aggression and hostility, and why? Can veganism, just as a matter of interest, be a form of religion or equivalent to religion, and does it thereby risk similar problems?

I think straight-edge is a religion; I think there is a kind of hierarchy within the group that commands people to do something. Veganism is a personal choice to me. I don’t tell you that you should be a vegan. I became a vegan for the reasons I’ve described very clearly. I realised I was certainly not better than the things I was killing and it came about in a very literal kind of process. I believe very much in people finding their own way – and that’s what an anarchist world is, people finding their own kind of place in their own way in a social context. But the idea of being called or forced into any activity, for our own benefit especially – that deeply bothers me. So yes, I do see organised religion as being part of – as much of the state part of a controlling liberty. Free will is a slogan as much as freedom of the vote! Propaganda of souls.

Responses to a question (unrecorded) from the audience:

The media is the construct of the state anyway, the media exists because the government exists. The media applies and works through government boards, what’s shown on television even if it sometimes pushes the boundaries I mean, all the ills of the media can be traced to the ills of the State which can be traced to the ills, in my argument, of any controlling system (religion etc). Authority and power are the things that bring abuse on every level. I mean the embedded forces in the Iraq war, what fun and games we have in terms of televisual entertainment. Remember John Forbes’s brilliant “Love Poem” — its all “being staged for me”. The absurdity!

Media as a concept is actually a problem. We are talking about communications; there are other ways of communicating, the “media” is a self-serving entity. You’ve got the judiciary and you’ve got the legislature, and the constabulary being parts of the state, and then there’s the media. Clergy, nobles, commoners, and ‘the press’. Media is an extension of the state. It uses the power, the facilities, the permission of the state. Pirate radio plugged into the grid, or pirate radio using the mechanisms of corporate capitalism or relying on those who receive its signal having access to the grid: it’s hard to get away from media being media. Whichever state it might be, this state or a state elsewhere, it’s still an extensive arm of the state.

So can I narrow that down then to kind of come full-circle, to some kind of closure, to what Bill [Louden] was saying about the connection with poetry and poetry as a medium – what’s poetry got to do with all this?

Poetry for me is the most direct form of communication – the one that goes in deepest. There was an Australian anarchist – Harry Hooton – who wrote his poetry mainly during the late 30s to the late 50s. He said something like “Language is not eternal. It will be replaced. We are not going to talk forever” and he said, there will be some kind of action in the end, and he said the words, once they left your mouth, were dead.

For me, poetry is, in the structural sense, neither speech nor writing but something between, and it’s a way of keeping words alive. Not killing them. Poetry is an act of non-violence, even if the content is violent, or invokes violence. Poetry is a very impacted and compacted way of expressing things. I don’t believe in writing didactic, polemical poetry to tell you what to think, but I believe in writing a poetry that evokes the mood, and it might bring an alternative to a response. Poetry is not dialectical by default. Maybe what I’ll do to wrap up my contribution is read the poem “Shootings” from my book The Silo: A Pastoral Symphony (1995). In this poem I wrote literally a crisis of killing, of hunting, and the fetishisation of this on the familial and private level... set against the backdrop of gun-making and social and gender expectation. The public and the private melding and conspiring in conflict. I wrote this poem as a way of moving on from what I was. Poetry became a way of considering something, of prompting action within the subjective self, and from there, hopefully, community.



I collected makers’ names
like stamps – Winchester, Browning, Sportco,
the more exotic Finnish and German brands.

Death was a fantasy
made real
in the bush enclaves
of my uncle’s farm.

was the password
before touching
a gun.


My oldest cousin’s heart
is not in it – shooting
parrots that is.

He’s taking me
because I’m up
for the holidays
and hungry
for trophies.

We march out
past the dams,
past Sand Springs
and Hathaways,
and close in
on a stand
of York gums.
I take aim
at a pair
of 28s
and drop one.
Its partner sits
twisting its head,
picking at a branch
and glancing
towards the ground.
I reload and take aim.
My cousin grips my arm
and points to the corpse
splayed on the ground,
tail cocked heavenward.
Something twists
in my stomach.
I am too young
to put a name to it.
I lower the gun
and turn for home.


When I was twelve
I walked all day
without water –
rifle slung
over my shoulder,
sun obscuring
those wicked crows
my targets
(too smart
to be shot
by a kid
who measures death
by the number
of bullets
left in a packet)
and nearly died
of sunstroke.


I’ve seen photographs
in a biscuit tin
that show young men
sitting on mounds
of rabbit carcasses.
Mounds as tall
as the young men
they support.


The last thing I shot
was a ram with a broken
neck. It had been hit
by a car. Through
the open sight
I measured its breath
and for once
looked death
straight in the eye.


Rabbits frustrate
large men
with high-powered

The lack of more
exotic game
leads them to vent
their frustrations.

Rabbits aren’t just shot.
And full moons
do induce madness.


Harvest time, and
between shifts
workers corner
a pair
of screaming
in a forty-four
gallon drum

a shotgun wedding
in a forty-four

the sun skylarking
as the bouquet of lead
rips the steel
with a fizz

the gossip columnists
decked out
in army fatigues.


My uncle once killed
sheep with a knife.
Then he turned to the gun.
Regardless, city children
waited for the bladder
to be sprung.
The dogs frantic
below the carcass.


I placed the barrel
of a gun with a hair-trigger
against my tongue
as an experiment.
Tea-tree scraped at the windows
and all hell broke loose
in the chicken run.
The fox I sought
dropped from the roof of the coop
and sat at my feet –
too close to shoot
it ran
straight through me.


Did it a favour –
it was a mangy specimen


Wending your way through.
Like dropping a parrot
Downwind you approach
your upwind life.
Smell yourself.
Fear stinks.


I empty the breech and drain the powder.
I break the sights and seal the barrel.
I renounce the hunt, the flesh, the kill.
I embrace the sting of a cold morning,
the flight of the parrot, the bark
of the fox, the utility of the rabbit.

John Kinsella

Responses to a series of unrecorded questions from audience

It’s interesting we raise children, obviously, in that environment. I’ve argued for an anarchism that exists within a state as well as a grand vision of some world in which is not governed in that way. People say “you let your kids do what they want”; we don’t let our kids do what they want. We let them do what they want unless they are going to hurt themselves or others, and pretty well that’s the law we live by. If it’s not going to bring harm or distress to others or to the person themselves, then they find their own way.

The process of deciding what is good for others and good for yourself is obviously a subjective one and there is a form of authority in that. But what I’m arguing for is that social interactions bring their own authority without someone telling you how those social interactions should take place. Natural law as Bakunin says. I lived in two ‘communes’ in my life apart from the family commune. I consider the family unit a commune when it works fairly. And we’ve lived with extended families as well at times, and so on. But I’ve lived in two communes with groups of people who were very dissimilar, yet held one view, and that was that you could live mutually, supportively, without time being in control or someone being higher up than others. And one of them was incredibly interesting and successful in the sense that we pretty well functioned and got things done, and another one was incredibly ineffective.

The ineffective one was because there was a single relationship involved in it between a man and a woman – it didn’t have to be heterosexual relationship but it happened to be in this particular case – and single people around us, and there was a friction between the relationship and people being single, especially people so deeply connected to each other, and that brought its own hierarchy as you’d expect, but that didn’t last long enough to get any fair judgment on how these thing might evolve. But my experience has been that people, even people who deeply disagree, in time either learn to live with each other, or there is a disaster of some sort. I think the disasters are less rather than more.

And Ward talks about many solutions, for example, he says, what happens is you’ve got a group where someone turns around and says about killing people, and the answer is that someone will obviously stop that person if they can, even the pacifist will react. I get this question: If a lion was going to eat your daughter, what would you do? I would stop the bloody lion eating my daughter. It’s a silly question. That’s putting the logic of pacifism to the point of absurdity. On the other hand, if someone was attacking me, I would choose not to respond. I wouldn’t choose it if it was my own daughter, or a child on any level. Because the responsibility is a social responsibility.

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be social responsibility. I’m saying an anarchist society is all social responsibility, and in a sense, those kinds of paternalistic relationships we are talking about are going to exist with interaction with people, that’s human nature. You are going to work it out with yourself because no one is going to say, Okay, this person has the authority, and then is going to back them up. They are in it on their own. I’m anti-technological, I’m not anti-knowledge, I’m not anti-people knowing things and doing things.

Now I’m the most plugged-in person when it comes to the net, as you can imagine, but I deeply deplore it, and wish I weren’t. And in many ways, seriously, what I work against is what I’m actually doing myself in utilising that technology. I think it is an effective technology in disseminating ideas, and getting knowledge – and often false knowledge at that, mind you, which is a different argument.

(Another audience question)

I’m actually saying that there should be no adversarial system. I’m saying that natural, adversarial dialogue takes place between humans anyway. We don’t need people backing up those natural adversarial dialogues with court systems. For example, if I deeply disagree with the fact that you are putting pesticides on your lawn and I go and dispose of your pesticide drums when you are not looking, by law I can actually be fined or jailed if it goes through court. That backing up of your right, as it seems to do, wouldn’t exist, because the common right is that pesticide is bad for all of us. And it’s a kind of commonsense approach to all of this that I deeply value.

(Another audience question)

... I’m arguing – this is the umbrella argument for anarchism – that justice is the primary issue, that we are saying what is beneficial to individuals and the social group at the same time. As I said, I don’t believe in violent revolution. I believe in gradual change, and that is why I do a lot of the kind of things I do. For example, I have worked with people who function in schools, courts, universities, you name it – they are all part of the governing system. That doesn’t invalidate their efforts. I am talking about a co-existence with the state, but a co-existence in which gradually change will come, and I want to see an anarchist society, with natural law and natural justice.

End of interview

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