Why farmpunk?

A farmpunk could be described as a neo-agrarian who approaches [agri]culture, community development and/or design with an anarchistic hacker ethos. "Cyber-agrarian" could supplant neo-agrarian, indicating a back-to-the-land perspective that stands apart from past movements because it is heavily informed by conceptual integration in a post-industrial information society (thus "forward to the land" perhaps?) The art and science of modern ecological design—and ultimately, adapting to post-collapse contexts—will be best achieved through the combined arts of cybermancy and geomancy. In other words: the old ways of bushcraft and woodlore can be combined with modern technoscience (merely another form of lore) in open and decentralized ways that go beyond pure anarcho-primitivism. This blog is an example of just that. Throughout, natural ecologies must be seen as the original cybernetic systems.

**What we call for at the farmpunk headquarters**
°Freedom of information
°Ground-up action + top-down perspectives
°Local agricultural systems (adhering to permaculture/biodynamic principles) as the nuclei of economies
°Bioregional autonomy
°Computers are optional but can be used for good—see peer to peer tech, social media for direct popular management of natural or political disasters (e.g. Arab Spring), or the mission of the hacker collective Anonymous

"Municipal liberty is the first and most important [principle] of democratic institutions, since nothing is more natural or worthy of respect then the right which citizens of any settlement have of arranging themselves the affairs of their common life and of resolving as best suits them in the interests and the needs of the locality." - Emilio Zapata

Monday, April 20, 2009

The World Bank: Employing the most deranged specimens of homo economicus

As if we all need any more fuel for the fire, lol.

From an internal memo written by the Vice President of the World Bank, 1991

Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank
be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries
to the LDCs? [least developed countries] I can think of three reasons:

  (1) The measurement of the costs of health
impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings
from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point
of view a given amount of health impairing pollution
should be done in the country with the lowest cost,
which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think
the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic
waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we
should face up to that.

- Lawrence Summers, World Bank Vice
President and Chief Economist

parenthetical link added

Monday, April 6, 2009

Post-Mythology & Re-Sorcery

There are two distinct themes in the following diatribe that I want to work to connect. One is magic[k]. The other is conscious ecological design/build. I am going to attempt to provide a working definition of magick to make for better grokking. Hey, my spellchecker knows the word "grok", but not the archaic spelling of magic (with a K). Kurious.

This is by no means a comprehensive definition, and please feel free to contribute thoughts of your own... I'm going to be purposefully general because of the concepts we'll work with later on. My definition will probably most reflect a familiarity with the concept of Magick with a K as articulated by Aleister Crowley, and the school of Chaos Magic, which is a syncretistic "post-modern" incarnation and open-reconciliation of various historical occult philosophies. I can't go into the relative depth of my affinity with either of those paradigms, but let me simply say that I see magick as an interface, and a relative perceptual waveform, not something that explains cause and mechanics in the classical scientific sense. As a self-conscious practice, "magick" is superficially the manipulation (and often creation) of symbols. Incipiently - and ideally - this "casting" and placement of symbols in both visible and invisible landscapes represents the deliberate allocation of individual will and attention as well as possibly the manipulation of the attentions of others. Lastly, mobilizing will and focusing attention in magical practice is something that is often honed through meditative and yogic techniques. Perhaps one could call magick the active integration of an ecology of perception with an economy of attention. One can see this cartoonishly crystallized in sleight-of-hand magic, the success of which relies on the magician's understanding and trust of the perceptual tendencies and cognitive apparatus of his audience. In our society sleight-of-hand is streamlined for the goal of entertainment, but similar performative techniques have existed in indigenous shamanic traditions that are geared toward very different goals, like healing. For more on this idea, please refer to David Abram's work.

In regards to the popular term " the dark arts"; dark should not connote malice - it simply connotes the risk to self and others that comes naturally when we learn new things about cause and effect in our environment. Manipulation - and for that matter, deception - are not intrinsically "bad". (In fact, optimal social friction among human and animal groups alike depends on fundamental forms of deception... but that's beyond the scope of this post). Toddlers go through destructively manipulative phases when they figure out certain social "rules"... but hopefully they grow out of it. See what I mean?

Conscious design/build, or ecological design, or geomantic design, or permaculture (etc. etc. etc.) is, for the purposes of juxtaposing our definitions, the manipulation and placement of materials that depends on attention to natural (ecological and social) patterns. Consequently, placement of structures and orientation of built space is intended to steward or optimize such patterns in various ways. Like practical magick, it is a engagement of principles and practices. Magick and Design-Build are both strategic processes. They both involve successive steps; the preliminary mapping of an environment, the installing of infrastructure, and with the addition of the ingredient of consciousness as a critical currency, producing some desired effect.

We have come to rely on professionals to "do magic" and to "design and build" for us. The services of enchanting (corporate media and "entertainment") and building (which we rather unconsciously refer to as "construction") are unsurprisingly commodified. The sort of intention that goes into the built environments we inhabit or the products we find ourselves buying does not address our local conditions, so we forget what locality even is.
We need to go freelance. These crafts really only work through freelance practice and concomitant guild systems that allow practitioners an interface for sharing information and a means for organizing forums.

We must make the incentives to practice these crafts responsibly and holistically more attractive than the incentives to practice them irresponsibly and destructively. The latter incentives abound as we navigate the Capitalist-Protestant game board.

My standpoint probably isn't too hard to guess. Both the creation and placement of symbols, and the creation and placement of structures must be grassroots and ground-up - but don't have to be antagonistic to modes of 'global thinking' and information society. In fact, I dare say that localization, import substitution and bioregional autonomy is a pretty fucking good global ethic. Physical reality: human settlements are located in different bioregions all over the earth. Different societies have produced vastly different ways of both worldview-building and structure-building that are critical to an ongoing dialectic with their local environment. The preservation (and re-creation) of these dialectics provide a way to index and articulate available natural (and social) resource pools. It's prty simple, rly.

The recent emergence and diverse applications of systems theory testifies to our ability on a species-level to just BEGIN to comprehend complex systems and the cause and effect therein. I can't emphasize enough how incredibly novel and powerful this is. It's no less than the fulcrum for the next (post-normal) scientific revolution. The implicit re-infrastructuring potential is comparable to that of the discovery of electricity. Seriously. We find ourselves participating in economic and social systems that were never really planned for implication on such large a scale (not like they could have been sufficiently planned anyway). It's a principle of textbook economics that our economy is a self-regulating, emergent system of allocation. No one designed it. People designed institutions that are now veritable organs of it, yes, but the flux of price value is pretty much an emergent beast. It does it's own thang. The mechanism of the market is interesting for like a few minutes, before you realize how much it just sucks. Anyway, point being: The fact that we can Name these various systems and world-views that have metastasized (and used us as unwitting agents in the process) as undesigned or badly designed is critical to the re-design process. Your brain is what designs things, not God, or similarly, the Dollar. Kevin Kelly has talked about this over at the Technium, and I agree with his idea that the future of efficient systems-design lies in optimally harnessing the creative power of open-access, ground-up action with minimal top-down selection for maximum innovation. (I count two holistic design principles in there...) The million dollar question of course is, who's going to be doing the modulation, and to what end. We can only hope that freedom of information and the health of the earth and its people are high on the list of priorities. We can also hope that the systems we design will adhere to the appropriate scale - that of the municipality. No, I don't think libertarian socialism will solve everything, but I do think it's a Good Place to Start.

The pseudo-twofold theme of this post is consistent with two of our birthrights: geomancy and myth-making. I'm claiming these two birthrights with some newfangled wordicles: re-so(u)rcery and post-mythology, respectively. Brielfly: Re-Sorcery is the practice of creating bioregional autonomy and natural-resource based economy - and implies things like natural building and anti-establishment methods of "sourcing" things in a post-industrial society like DIY and gleaning. Post-mythology is live-action-storytelling: the active process of re-appropriation of the function of myths and locally significant stories: the seamless blending of life and art, the virtual with the tangible. I'm interested in the value of mythic thought in human culture. It's really my number one Muse. If I could locate the arena where most of my activism goes on, it's in the area of story-telling, techno-bardic synthesizing and re-presenting of Highly Relevant Information. I don't want to go into terrible detail here, but simply put: we are physiologically designed for myth-making. I hate it when grammar fucks up my ability to articulate - obviously we aren't designed FOR anything, other than maybe to reproduce. But something sort of big popped up on the way... surprise! It's the neocortex. As Terence said, we are brains on a stick. Ever read the Ender's Game series? (It's scripture to me. Sheepish grin.) There's a superintelligent being named Jane who's "brain" is an emergent property of the interconnection of a future galactic internet that links a federation of human colonies on different planets. Jane can monitor like billions of data streams at once, and hold several hundred of them on levels of conscious attention. The bad guys (government) find out Jane exists and want to try and kill her by shutting down the entire galactic interwebs. Since she exists through the relational order of computers, the possibility that it will for all purposes "kill" her is high, so the Good Guys figure out a way to download Jane's "soul particle" into a human body. [Orson Scott Card articulates this whole system of metaphysics that is like a gnostic Christian remix of quantum physics]. So the point is, when Jane's sentience is transferred to a human body, she gets all antsy and pent up because she can't satisfy her massive ADD, which is actually just her now-restrained ability to hold like a gajillion levels of attention. So periodically she goes into some A.I. version of samadhi and like inhabits the "hive mind" of say an entire forest, or sometimes she even goes back into the internet and races around intergalactic cyberspace at faster-than-light-speed. Us humans go for these "fixes" as well. Y'know -- sensorial overloads. 300? Hazing? Mosh pit? Sugar? We need practical fiction and myth, or else we'll go stir crazy like Jane. Although to her credit, she did eventually pipe down and get married. LoL.

All I'm saying is that once we start to see the grand human legacy of myth-plexes as unimportant or worse the product of 'delusion', then we're really in a sorry state... was it von Goethe who said that there ain't no sorrier bastard than the one who falsely believes he is free? God is laughing. Even if he doesn't exist. He's LOLing with the power of all the LOLCATS in the universe.

We need to reclaim our cognitive and etheric inheritance and assemble as re-sourcerors, an army of white magic wielders. This war will be fought by many allied regiments - which is necessary, for we are dealing with complexity and uncertainty beyond measure. If there is any uniting principle, any mission statement of this un-army, it is healing. Liberation ecology, liberation theology, poetic terrorism, guerrilla energy therapy, gender-recreation, sexual liberation, brave college professors, midwifery, reclaiming our ethnobotanical birthright, seed & logic bombing, having the courage to ask ourselves what local, practical anarchism looks like, and for ___'s sake, teaching our children! Teaching our children without projecting our ego onto them! Co-teaching them with Nature! Having the goal of kneeling prostrate beside them in front of Earth's altar; HAVING THE FUCKING GUTS TO DO THAT! dare to be awed, and odd (reclaim the arcane power of odd numbers: 3:7:9:11:13) This means following the principle of "mystery-design", whether we are stewarding the learning of a three year old or a twenty year old! Mystery design is didactic craft driven by different questions than before - new questions - facilitating a dialectic-dance around common mysteries. Approaching those mysteries with love, /moth to the flame/, not cowering from Mystery in fear - never using Mystery as a mechanism for subordination. Knowing that there is no "the" in front of Mystery, and that it is an edge constantly moving - a wriggling plumed serpent at the periphery of our vision, whose feathers graze our fingertips when we smell the warm earth. Fauns declare it a human right to share a personal Secret with Nature. (In case you're skeptical of anthroposophy, this i[could be]s what Christ Consciousness Is. Not so bad, see?) This secret is a fire. We must not let it die (though it won't really ever die, but it will become invisible. The waveform biorhythm of magical consciousness that twines through us all will wane in its frequency - the crests and troughs of the waveform will become farther and farther apart until it seems to be a flatline. It is then hardest to revive, especially because we have been stamped with the seal of individualism in our society, so many will fail to see this flatline, much less be able to gather mana to remediate it). Empowering and cultivating awareness in our children is vastly more important - and difficult - than starting with answers. That's what doctrine does. It starts with answers. Using Doctrine as a rubric for Action is doing it backwards. It is the effect of someone else's inflorescence, in an ancient time, another place. It is Not Bad, but Not For Us!!! Indeed, there are squadrons emerging in this self-organizing army. They are each comprised of people who have found themselves waking up to an ongoing disaster. They can perhaps be loosely categorized by what they choose to Name this disaster (Naming is a form of Mapping, and also the operative act in a post-modern Magick). There are those who have woken up to the ongoing disaster of the economy. Those of us who have woken to the ongoing ecological disasters. Those facing disasters in the social and the spiritual realms. Then there is the squadron whose mission has perhaps inspired my ranting - and they are the possessors of the Hermetic prerogative of enchanting and healing. We must all Know that it is simply artificial channels which separate us, while still Knowing that Channeling is an extremely important tool. The Hermetic squadron should indeed not stay together, exclusively, and decay, as has happened history over, but meet in spirit and seed every other squadron in body. All systems "decay", so we must design decay into systems. Intelligent decay. That's what cells do. Decay can also be progress. It would behoove us to see them as fundamentally the same phenomenon. (N.B. This is figurative, spirit and body are separate in word, but not in being). Apprentices of Hermes may have already been touched by the feeling that Tricksters Cannot Stay Together In One Place For Too Long. This must be taken as a community design principle, and deserves to be well-accounted for. A fierce love of mine has just pointed me to the delightful website of The Institute for Applied Piracy, a collective of friends who deeply felt the need for a terrestrial base, a place to belong to the land and build ships and hold DIY gatherings. They've done a find job on the mythical remediation I've been taking about, too, playfully and passionately re-appropriating the pirate identity. I also am deeply interested in community farm models where there is rotational control of operations so those of us chronically wanderlusted can go on periodic and necessary walkabouts, sailing the seas whether proverbially or actually. But I digress... to return to the prerogative of the Hermetic sector of our un-army: The other squadrons and platoons of activists and paradigm-fighters each must have a mana pool - a regenerative flow of spiritual capital - and they must all learn to be stewards of this spiritual regeneration. In English: We don't want our activists to burn out, and often they are unfortunately put in danger of doing so. They must be given "spiritual knowledge of how to fish" instead of being given paltry communion wafers by some strange man in a dress. Hopefully we can thus calibrate our local social gyroscopes; do the group organism thing right (Not Like the Borg, obvs.); Open Society To Invisible Circuitry. Let weeds grow/expose our skin to the solar touch/maybe not censor scientific research on the power of the heart. This is how we will accommodate a tribal species that is facing globalization and information overload. Memo: Our identities as a tribal species are not going to change any time soon. Tribes need articulation of magic & mystery through myth. And we need to re-appropriate myth - take mythic thought back from the Advertisers and Popes and Money Machines who have stolen it from us and boiled it down into something unrecognizable as magick. It is vestigal magic that has forgotten itself - sterilized, dead, much like flash-pasteurized milk or the Flavr Savr tomato; cancer causing. The corporate media and the advertising that flows between us and the "free" market achieve their spell-casting power in part because of a very important act: the act of re-naming or un-naming. This is one of the most powerful hexes that exists - just refer to modern re-incarnations of this ancient myth, like The Neverending Story or A Wind in the Door. In communicating to you, product-propaganda objectifies and contextualizes you in a mythic world that does not exist. But alas, they create this mythic infrastructure by feeding your senses with designed input, and a collective illusion is erected by the local phenomena of millions of people being fed copies of the same symbolic/sensory experience. This creates an invisible consensus, a homogenization of perception; a prison! Unfortunately corporate advertising has become bloated with some of the most specialized psychologists on God's green earth. Notice I didn't say "smartest" or "most intelligent". In harmony with Bucky's story of how Kings and Kingdoms and the Power Structures behind them formed, specialization has historically reflected optimization of the populace by the powerful. Consistent with complex adaptive systems theory, optimization of sub-groups in a larger group allows for a wider repertoire of group-level actions. If there are a handful of guys at the top who have access to the yields of many specialized sub-groups, they can manipulate a plurality of abstractions that each represent an incredible amount of human capital, and could only be compiled by extreme individual specialization and focus. These beings of flesh who figure out how to live in a world of nearly 100% abstraction and excel in moving information around for selfish reasons are, upon examination, found to be impromptu arch-sorcerers of a type of magic Blacker than the blood from your liver.
Thus the need for the onslaught of white-magic swarms. At this point we are still very much concerned with protecting ourselves from the black-magic-barrage, and empowering others to do the same. Indeed, protective magic will pave the way for creative magic; the creation of new in/visible structures and machines. For this, we need to cease in the protectionism of the occult, and step to the challenge of actively integrating it. Look what is happening - people are writing books using magical principles about how to seduce women, even using the word "victim" to refer to human beings - and aiming for a consumer market that would have not the faintest interest in the Great Work otherwise! This is a tragedy of consciousness. There are many agendas that use intellectual or magical terrorism. We need inoculation of Liberation Freemasonry and Green Hermeticism - and WE NEED THEM NOW! Fortunately, we do not have to search for 'them' - as one does not search for Elemental Fire - but tends the coals and coaxes the flame out of the aether. Social and spiritual fire, isomorphic in function to its role in the natural world, is coming. God I sound apocalyptic. I encourage you to not take me too seriously.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Geomancy, Phenomenology, and EMF fields

If Reformation theology was summed up by the claim that everyone can minister, then the warcry of the liberation ecologists and freelance gnostics is this: everyone is an ecological participant; a witch doctor of their local environment in amnesia.

This post is kind of priming the system for the next one, which is a huge-ass explosion of brainstuff that came out of me after reading Wood, Metal and the Story of the World by Charles Eisenstein.It was no less than a cosmic reminder for me and a very effective creative trigger. Thank you to Charles through many interconnected series of tubes.

Pretty high on the didactic agenda right now: our birthright as geomancers: speakers of a native eco-etheric language of place.

In his psychedelicious post on Reality Sandwich, builder Charles Eisenstein writes of his journey from being a Math and Philosophy graduate from Yale toward a space of deep appreciation and practice of the material crafts. He currently works with a design/build company called the Earth Alchemists, who are actively informed by the pattern language-based building articulated by Christopher Alexander. A property that drives and informs their craft is the ability a particular architectural realm has to Make You Feel Alive. This is, in turn, a characteristic of Sacredness. This quality of presence is something medicine masons (or scientist-artists as Bucky calls them) try to materially articulate; in essence to 'enchant out of design space'. This is obviously something that Nature excels in through open-design/build... or undesign/unbuild... whatever you'd like to call it. Christopher Alexander calls this quality "the quality without a name". He's right, it is near unspeakable - or at least untranslatable - because it only truly exists in the Green Language - the language that our flesh translates into electrical brain-noise (and those in turn might band together and find their way into what Terence McKenna calls "small mouth noises") This Green Language is all process - it can never be digitalized and abstracted. David Abram calls this the "reciprocity of the perceptual experience." Everyone speaks it, but no one can speak it to anyone else - it can only be spoken between You and Your Environment. This dimension of experience MUST be protected from the festering, colonizing host of abstractions - because language is a virus, you know. Language is technology - and technology is not helpful or harmful until it is used for a Purpose. I'm sad to say that the Green Language has become a foreign language to us. To say that we should protect this mode of communication and co-creation is perhaps rather theological sounding. Let me rephrase it - we should be conscious stewards of the reciprocal regeneration of the sensuous sacred.  Greatly influenced by the thought of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (three cheers for phenomenology: kissing philosophy to death) David Abram writes:

"Maurice Merleau-Ponty, in his classic work, Phenomenology of Perception, suggests that the primordial event of perception is always experienced as a reciprocal encounter between the perceiver and the perceived, a open dialectic wherein my sensing body continually responds and adjusts itself to the things it senses, and wherein the perceived phenomenon responds in turn, disclosing its nuances to me only as I allow myself to be affected by its unique style, its particular dynamism or active agency."

Truly, significant "conversations" experienced in the Green Language can only sufficiently be communicated to other human beings through geomantically-informed design/build. And that, my friends, is part of the collective Great Work of this generation.

One of the currently-needed Assertions of Quality (lest I say "Truths") - a keystone in the paradigm shift - is that WE ARE NOT CLOSED SYSTEMS. No man is an island. Actually, islands aren't even proverbial islands, making that maxim delightfully discordian. We are, to paraphrase Abram, open circuits that are only completed by the encompassing earth. We are touching the earth; the earth is touching us. We are continuously meeting. This simple fact has deep evolutionary implications. These bodies are little ships designed to sail through the unfolding environment on this Particular Planet. Earth is special. It has an aura; its electromagnetic field. Earth's EMF field is created by the orgiastic brouhaha going on in the molten core, and notably is in constant flux (as NASA points out, the North Pole is ditching North America and moving to Russia) Just as our bodies have been whittled by evolution in response to the parameters of our physical environments, our etheric bodies have also been 'programmed' by constant relation with Earth's EMF field. This may sound New Agey, and I sincerely apologize if you get "squicked out" by that stuff. But unfortunately, this Information is too important for me to care about modulating my language any more than I already do, goshdarnit! NASA figured this out when they started sending humans into orbit. Perfectly healthy astronauts would be mysteriously puking. The problem? The body being out of communication with the subsonic frequency generated by Earth's EMF field. The EMF field extends rather far out there, but indeed its frequency on the surface of the Earth (where people do that thing called Being) is unique. After a device was installed onboard space shuttles that emulated this particular subsonic frequency, All was Well. There is circuitry everywhere, and to put it simply, we don't have a fucking clue. As has been pointed out by a sizable handful of cyberpunk visionaries, the world is made of language (Terence said something approximating that cluster of words). To put my own spin on that, the world is in fact comprised of an unknowable plurality of circuitry - which is the prerequisite for language. It is the infrastructure - natural or built, evolved or intelligently designed - that gives language conduits; direction, interrelationship, sometimes even purpose. Indeed, there are many linguistic valence levels online that power the cybernetic gyroscope of being - many currencies through which things communicate, but the fundamental one that continuously sings the bubbling, orgiastic world into being seems to be the Green Language - the language of light and vibration. Matter and energy.

Some brave souls at the Heart Math Institute have wrangled some Ph.D's and having a go at articulating an etheric cybernetics. In particular they attempt to discover the role of biologically-generated EMF fields in social interaction. 

Some excerpts from one of their press releases:

"The heart generates the strongest rhythmic electromagnetic field generated in the body. Measured with modern magnetic field meters, the heart's electromagnetic field is approximately five thousand times greater in strength than the field produced by the brain. The heart's field permeates every cell in the body and radiates up to eight feet outside the body, but theoretically it travels even further, although its field strength is too low to measure.

Previous studies at IHM's Research Center have found that our emotions are reflected in the patterns of our heart rhythms. These changing rhythms appear to be modulating the field produced by the heart, similar to how a radio wave is modulated so that the music we hear can be broadcast. This led IHM researchers to look at the possibility that people may be exchanging electromagnetic energy that is carrying emotional information like radio transmitters and receivers carry music."
full article

To be continued, sort of.

Rendition of the earth's magnetosphere. You have one too, kinda. Oh, also, can someone take some comparative kirlian photography of industrially grown produce versus home-grown organic? I predict scary.