Anarchy in the Age of Dinosaurs

Anarchy in the Age of Dinosaurs is a book written by the Curious George Brigade, an anarchist collective in the CrimethInc. network. About their project the collective says "By dinosaurs, we mean Capitalism, The State, Hierarchy, and the countless other guises worn by Authority. What shall come after the dinosaurs! Championing decentralization, chaos, mutual aid and butterfly-wings among other things, this book brings to life the tactics and strategies for an effective resistance against the dinosaurs today."

While the Curious George Brigade articulates an expressly anarchist vision, they do not seek to promote anarchism as an ideology. Their book begins with a short preface aptly entitled, "How I forgot the Spanish Civil War and Learned to Love Anarchy". They write that the "moment anarchy becomes capital-A Anarchism, with all the requisite platforms and narrow historical baggage, it is transformed from the activity of people into yet another stale ideology for sale on the marketplace." They describe their nonsectarian, flexible, and inclusive DIY communitarian approach as "folk anarchy... a name, however arbitrary, for an infinite multitude of actions taken to erode the constraints of authority." They believe that there "is no secret for revolution, no grand dialectic, no master theory." Revolutions "are as perpetual as the changing of the seasons."

The publication of Anarchy in the Age of Dinosaurs is an exercise in how anarchism works--it was written and edited using a collective process and produced for the larger anarchist community as a contribution to discussion--it does not try to force its particular conception of anarchy on anyone, but rather presents it for consideration and the benefit of the community. In the book, the Curious George Brigade presents a new conception of anarchy, "an anarchy created by ordinary people living extraordinary lives" that they term "folk anarchy." The majority of the book discusses the practice of "folk anarchy" and how it can be integrated into to our lives--for the Curious George Brigade anarchy is not a theory or an ideology, but rather a model for life based on the principles of mutual aid, solidarity, and autonomy.

This conception of anarchy is different from both traditional anarchist approaches and those of the larger left. As such, the title is a reference to the old, inflexible politics of "the fossilized left" and the failure of these political organizations and ideologies to adapt and change. One of the primary ways in which "folk anarchy" differs from traditional anarchism and the statist varieties of left-wing thought is its emphasis on the everyday and the diversity of resistance. A considerable amount of Anarchy in the Age of Dinosaurs is devoted to discussion of how anarchism should function not as a political ideology but as a way of life, which the authors believe has the potential to spark a larger challenge to capitalism. For the authors, it is important that anarchism achieve a sort of subterranean omnipresence in society where collectives of anarchists live throughout society, while engaging in projects that have the potential to both transform the communities around them and their lives. Through these "extraordinary actions" anarchists will, according to the authors, make an impression on the larger society disproportionate to their actual numbers.

While none of the suggestions in the book presents a strategy remotely likely to topple the state, they make a number of points worth considering for both anarchists and those on the left. Among the most useful is their discussion of "duty" and "joy" as motivations for anarchist work. Rather than undertake projects out of a sense of "duty" with its self-sacrifice and martyrdom or from a sense of "joy" and its more hedonistic associations, they recommend using "meaning" as a halfway point between "duty" and "joy" where projects have both personal and public expectations and are not simply evaluated by how many hours they take or how much fun they are. This is particularly relevant to a left that seems to be strangely fascinated by the notion of martyrdom--indeed many activists have continued projects that have long since exceeded their relevancy. Additionally, it discusses how well designed projects will provide their own outreach once they provide a necessary function in the community. The authors argue that this outreach through practice will provides a way of overcoming outreach that often involves "hiding" or "toning down" politics in order to make them more acceptable to participants--a common problem facing anarchist groups that join coalitions.

Anarchy in the Age of Dinosaurs attempts to confront a number of current problems with anarchism--the lack of a coherent strategy, the relative absence of mainstream visibility, and transience within contemporary anarchist circles. Unfortunately, the discussions of these problems, all of which merit a serious discussion within the anarchist community, are rather limited in Anarchy in the Age of Dinosaurs. Too often, the arguments are flimsy and seemingly only provide a brief outline of their position without substantial supporting evidence. Rather than concern themselves with the real problems of a lack of a mass-based strategy, the authors conclude that the problem is the mass strategy--that building mass movements stifles autonomy and that a better approach is a "swarm of movements" where resistance is unpredictable and omnipresent (and of course, they mention how mass movements are able to be neutralized by the state). While these points are valid, they seem to be poorly crafted apologies for the somewhat dismal and inconsequential state of contemporary anarchism. The notion of autonomous anarchist collectives undermining the power of the state by providing for people's actual needs is appealing, without an effort to build a multi-faceted, and "mass" movement, it will never happen and will simply perpetuate the current problem of anarchist enclaves with little more than a token interactions with the world around them. The discussion of transience mainly focuses on so-called "traveler kids" (a term used to describe anarchists who live as modern-day hobos) and functions as defense of travel. Over the past few years, there has been a considerable debate over the place of travel compared with building community and while Anarchy in the Age of Dinosaurs does not take sides, it provides a defense of travel as a way of networking, spreading projects across the country, and reinforcing the numbers of local anarchists. Travel has been successful in providing the numbers and resources necessary to start a number of projects, but there has been a problem with follow-through as many anarchists move on to "the next big protest" without building long-term projects rooted in the community.

Despite its flaws (of which not printing page numbers is one of the most offensive), Anarchy in the Age of Dinosaurs is a worthwhile read for anyone that chooses to involve themselves in anarchism or considers themselves an anarchist. While one will not find the latest treatise on the evils of the state and capitalism within its pages, it makes a notable contribution to the ongoing dialog about anarchism and its practice and provides a number ways in which anarchism can be made more relevant. Much of the book will probably be of little use to those who do not already have an understanding of anarchism but for those currently involved it will provide plenty to debate, and more importantly, a base from which to act.

Curious George Brigade, Anarchy in the Age of Dinosaurs, (Curious George Brigade, 2003).

Dinosaurs!
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