Micah Saul: This project is built on a hypothesis. There are moments in history when the status quo fails. Political systems prove insufficient, religious ideas unsatisfactory, social structures intolerable. These are moments of crisis.
Aengus Anderson: During some of these moments, great minds have entered into conversation and torn apart inherited ideas, dethroning truths, combining old thoughts, and creating new ideas. They’ve shaped the norms of future generations.
Saul: Every era has its issues, but do ours warrant The Conversation? If they do, is it happening?
Anderson: We’ll be exploring these sorts of questions through conversations with a cross‐section of American thinkers, people who are critiquing some aspect of normality and offering an alternative vision of the future. People who might be having The Conversation.
Saul: Like a real conversation, this project is going to be subjective. It will frequently change directions, connect unexpected ideas, and wander between the tangible and the abstract. It will leave us with far more questions than answers because after all, nobody has a monopoly on dreaming about the future.
Anderson: I’m Aengus Anderson.
Saul: And I’m Micah Saul. And you’re listening to The Conversation.
Aengus Anderson: Hey man, how’s it going?
Micah Saul: Not bad, how about yourself?
Anderson: Doing well. I left San Francisco. That was a good run back there, and just drove up to Eugene, Oregon. And tomorrow morning I’m going be talking to John Zerzan.
Saul: Excellent. I’ve been looking forward to— I feel like I say this every time, but I think it’s true every time. I’m looking forward to this one.
Anderson: John is going to push the extremes of thought, here. I think he’s going to present something that is in many ways one of the most challenging critiques that we’re going to have in this project.
Saul: Absolutely. Let’s real quick, give a brief intro to him. So, John Zerzan is one of the foremost neoprimitivist anarchist thinkers, philosophers out there. Neoprimitivism being the sort of striving for basically a return to Stone Age technology, as they believe that the most important part of human interaction is— Well, it was exactly that, is human interaction completely unmediated by technology. And it’s all about the community. It’s all about the interpersonal relations. And everything since then has just sort of gotten in the way of that which is fundamentally good about humanity.
Anderson: And there’s also a strong relationship with nature that’s valued there.
Anderson: And I think this is going to be a fascinating conversation on the heels of my talk with Ariel Waldman. I mean, we’re looking at two radically different ideas of progress here, and we’ve seen them in in different manifestations throughout this series thus far, and we’re going to see a lot more of it. Ariel and I talked a lot about what is progress? Is it technological? Is it scientific? When we talked to Max More early in the series, the question of progress being is it an expression of man’s creativity.
Saul: Right. And I think with a with Zerzan, it’s going to be none of the above.
Anderson: What is progress? Is going to be human interaction? Is it going to be a richer natural environment? Is it going to be the way you exist in the environment? Is it going to be a different type of freedom and agency, in which case will there be unexpected connections with some of our more libertarian thinkers?
Saul: Or, is progress even something that he’s interested in?
Anderson: Right. Will he be someone like Morton who sort of disposes [with] the idea of any sort of progressive sense to history and thinks about our existence as something that just is?
Anderson: There’s a lot of cool stuff here, and I have no idea where the connections are going to go, but I think they’re going to be a lot of fun.
Saul: I think so, too.
Anderson: And with no further ado, John Zerzan.
John Zerzan: Well, I’m an anarchist writer. I guess that’s the heart of it. I go way back to the 60s, after Stanford. So that started things there, and I was also a union organizer in a kind of do‐it‐yourself union in San Francisco. And I think we were anarchists, although we didn’t use that word. I had an interest in the beginnings of unions. What is the origin of unionism in England, for example, in the Industrial Revolution. And that kind of took me, slowly but surely into the whole question of technology.
I discovered in the historical literature that the coming of the factory system was not just a matter of economics, it was also a disciplinary endeavor. You have these people dispersed around the countryside and they’re rather autonomous and given to rioting if they don’t like something. Classic handloom weavers would be one set of people like that. So authority had a lot of trouble controlling them. But if you can somehow get people in the factories working fourteen hours a day or more than that even, at the beginning, then you have control. They’re tired, they’re corralled, and so forth.
All of these social questions started occurring to me. It struck me that you can push this all the way back in terms of a kind of intentionality of technology, that may be technology always embodies certain values or choices in a society, even including Paleolithic society. And now, at the opposite extreme when you’ve got the whole high‐tech world, the technoculture, you can read in the technology what are the dominant values. I find that really instructive.
And I also am puzzled by how much that’s avoided politically. It’s not a political question. Because, as we’re told always on all sides, technology is neutral. Well, it isn’t neutral. It’s never been neutral. And the question of civilization occurs, too. What is the fundamental part of technology? And I think the answer is simply domestication. As Jared Diamond and quite a few others, actually, have said, the move to agriculture, domesticating animals and plants, and ourselves in the process, is the worst mistake in the whole human story. Once you move to control away from a freer existence in which you basically take what nature gives, when you get on that path, everything else really follows from that.
Up to the point now where where you’ve got every extreme of that, nanotechnology, where the control is so penetrating or deep‐going that you’re even controlling it down to the atomic level, in genetic engineering and all the rest of it, too, that starts with domestication. It’s just a further working out of that logic further down the road.
And you know, I discovered it quite by accident. I was working on other questions. And I discovered the literature of anthropology. It just opened up everything of how things were before domestication. The people didn’t work much (and these are great big generalizations here but) but didn’t work much, women weren’t objectified, the natural world wasn’t being systematically destroyed, and on down the line. Egalitarianism. Sharing. This is the cardinal feature of mass society. And no anthropology will tell you different.
It sounds like it was made up by a bunch of utopian anarchists, but it wasn’t. It’s amazing. And to me that’s got the most radical implications. If we lived that way for two million years, look what we’re doing now. Look how we’re living now. Community is gone. That was face‐to‐face society, which is the only real community.
And we were really laughed at. And I guess we still are by some people. You want to go back to the Stone Age. Well, actually I do. That would be a good idea. But it’s not necessarily literally that, or doesn’t have to be, I guess. But, are we interested in community? That’s the touchstone for me. And everybody now has to face the fact that it’s gone. Well, what happened to it? As mass society develops and becomes more of a technoculture, you have less and less of it. And the results to me are just staggering. And one of the things I do well on, the shootings. The rampant shootings. The family slaughters. Now it’s becoming pretty much a daily thing. And that’s what happens when you don’t have community anymore. You don’t have the social ties. You don’t have the solidarity. We get the most pathological stuff. It’s very scary. And that’s not an accident. It’s not going to go away. Unless we start working on the question of how can we have community again.
Aengus Anderson: When we talk about community, how do we define it? I’ve heard it defined in a lot of different ways. Some people say, “I have friends. I have community. I’ve got coworkers, I have community.” But when you’re trying about the disappearance of community what does that mean?
Zerzan: You don’t have community unless you have accountability and the chance to take responsibility. That requires face‐to‐face contact. I think that we’re seeing community being redefined. Digital community now. I mean, really that’s coming on strong. “Oh, it’s just as good as the old‐fashioned kind of community.” But it isn’t. I think it’s completely ersatz.
I’m reminded of a 2006 sociological study in a journal of American sociology, a study of friends involving how many friends people, talking to thousands of people, adult Americans from the mid‐80s to the mid‐2000s. And two basic things came out. They defined, for the purpose of this study, a friend is somebody you confide in. Three friends. Average person had three friends in the mid‐80s. Mid‐2000s, two friends. And the the number of people with no friends has tripled.
Anderson: So, they feel they have no people they can confide in.
Zerzan: Exactly. So, as distinct from acquaintances or coworkers or whatever, that’s what they mean by friends, and I think that’s an important definition.
Anderson: I’ve talked to a couple different people about the idea of of digital community versus I guess physical community. And I spoke to a guy recently named Gabriel Stempinski. He’s writing a book on how we can share more and more of our stuff to combat impending resource scarcity. For him, this is done through technology and it also has the side‐effect of being something that really generates community. I’ve kind of heard the Facebook and Twitter arguments before, but what Gabriel was talking about were online social networking sites that create tangible physical connections like couchsurfing, where you actually go and meet people.
Anderson: And for him, he’s really interested in the idea of tech being the bridge to connect people again in the real world. For me, that was kind of new, bringing that into this discussion of is it one or the other, is it digital or physical, and for him it’s, “Well, now there’s a lot of complexity out there. I use digital to rebuild my physical community.” Can there be some value to the digital community in that way?
Zerzan: Well, I think so, yeah. That’s very good. I mean, he’s making use of it in a positive way. But we shouldn’t forget that while we all use it— I mean, as an anarchist, I use it. I’ve connected with people all over the world. I wouldn’t deny it. But at the same time, it’s just part of the larger movement of things. Of course I think it should be employed to the best of our abilities. But I would prefer it to go away because you can’t have the technology without all the rest of it.
The reason why we’re now really already in the age of ecocatastrophe is that most basically… Let’s just start with something that’s kind of obvious but we don’t think about it all that much. The industrialism necessary for the technology is there. It’s going on everywhere. It’s going on in Brazil, India, China. We’re apt, I think all of us are apt to, “Well, the nice clean computer, and you push a button and then your connect—,” but it partakes of the larger process, which is the systematic destruction of the biosphere. Just for example global warming is pretty much exactly a function of how much industrialization there is. Global warming started two hundred years ago, so did the factory system. So you have the rise of both of them. They’re inseparable.
I always wonder about people that are very pro‐tech on the Left, for example. “Oh, we’ve got to keep all this. Of course. That’d be crazy.” You know, you want to preserve all of the level of technology. The question that occurs to me is, oh so you want to keep how many hundreds of millions of people in the mines, in the smelters, in the foundries, in the assembly lines? I would like to see them be able to do something else. But you’re going to have to keep them there one way or another if you want to have all this stuff.
If you want to ignore that, then you’re operating on a surface level and you’re not taking into account a much more fundamental reality that’s at work here. We are privileged Americans here, so we do tend to ignore that. Well, that’s a problem in Africa or something. But well, that’s the nature of it.
Anderson: There are some really big value questions that have just come up. And when you were mentioning people working in mines extracting the stuff, I think of the tech conversations I’ve had with people thus far. And I’ve talked to some people who are very pro‐technological development. There is a definite sense that eventually these people who are out in mines somewhere producing these things for us will, as we did here, develop a higher and higher standard of living.
Zerzan: Lifting all boats. Well, you get the argument, and I heard Henry Kissinger say this, actually. This was on public television maybe twenty years ago, something like that. He was being interrogated by somebody who was really very very critical of the US role in development in Asia. Just lashing out at Kissinger. And Kissinger seemed to be almost sleeping through this. And at the very end, he turned to the guy and just looked at him and he said, “Let me get this straight. So you want to have a credit card and a car and a computer, but you don’t want to have any Indians or Chinese have those, right?” Bang. He just swatted him away like a fly.
That’s a sufficient response. But it isn’t if you don’t want those things. Then you’ve got a critique which cops to the implications of it. And there you have the choice. You want more and more of this? More ruin for the natural world? More disappearance of indigenous cultures? And all the rest of it? Like, say Noam Chomsky is just fine with that. He says to me and to others, “Look, it’s madness to mount this sort of critique or alternative. We’ve got seven billion people to feed.” Why are there seven billion people? We didn’t have this crazy, unnatural population growth before domestication. Or before industrialization. So in other words if you remove the industrialization and the domestication, probably you would have a more sensible, sustainable population level.
And you know, if this fails, especially if it fails suddenly, how many millions of people are going to be dead within a week? But even if it wasn’t such a dramatic bang, we have to at least imagine and work toward the possibility of a soft landing. We don’t want people to die. But we want to move away from this very vulnerable and life‐destroying overall system. I want to bring it down, but not in some sudden collapse. Of course that would be unspeakable, a calamity.
Anderson: What is the alternative? What is the soft landing? What does that look like?
Zerzan: I think the soft landing has to even face up to de‐domestication, to a return at some point— This would be my, and it’d probably have to be a fairly distant goal, reskilling ourselves in the literal sense of that word, too. How did we used to live? What were the solutions people had before factories began to dominate the world? What do you have to know how to do? And that’s a huge order.
Anderson: I’ve spoken to a lot of people who I mentioned have sort of a free market bent to their thinking. There’s always a notion like, if you don’t want to partake of this technology, don’t worry no one’s forcing you to.
Zerzan: That’s not true whatsoever. I did three hours with Art Bell, you know the all‐night talk show guy. He was making that claim. It actually was quite enjoyable. He was quite open‐minded. But he said, “I’ve got a computer and TV set, every room in my house. And you don’t want that stuff?” He just couldn’t get over it. But he fell back on—this is kind of funny, and he wasn’t being nasty about it. But he said, “Well, you should live in a cave, then. Or join some native group or something. But you know the logic of your position.”
And he’s partly right. Of course that isn’t really a possibility, is it? I mean, where are the caves? Were are the people that would you like some white guy to come and join their indigenous society? What’re you talking about? That’s as if you have free choice. But you don’t. I mean, These people don’t even seem to notice that the reality works against that, in every single way. The illusion of choice, yeah. The technoculture is a free choice? I can choose to live in the Stone Age, if I want? Not really.
By the way, let me just add, I really respect the people that are on the land, trying to work out some of these practical problems. You know, the permaculture, the Fukuoka Method, or whatever. These kind of anti‐industrial projects. I’m not doing that work, you know. So I’m in no way poo‐poohing it. But they’re not exactly living in caves or fully going native or something either. They’re not. They’re in this world, too.
Anderson: You’re up against a huge task of, there is a whole system of thought that is now considered to not be a system of thought, right. It’s embedded into becoming normal.
Zerzan: Well put.
Anderson: The technological systems, systems based on free market economics. When I was thinking about this project, I was thinking what are all the different things I could identify as being assumptions about normality. And those two were sort of the biggest ones. The idea of technological progress as being equated to good, and there being sort of a teleological sense that we’re moving towards something. And then on the other hand the notion that the free market is the natural state of things, and that the individual is the base unit of that.
Both of those ways of thinking seem very physicalist, like they’re about stuff in the world. You measure progress by having more stuff, more complicated stuff, more choices for stuff. It seems like what you’re offering is a world in which value is rooted in something very different. If we throw out technological society and we lose things that people associate with value, what do you get in return? I was curious about that.
Zerzan: Well yeah, these are a little vague. I mean, wholeness, immediacy, which I think by the way are spiritual values as well. I think people haven’t lost the yearning for connection, real human face‐to‐face connection. If they have, then all this is pointless. We’re wasting our time, right?
Anderson: Do you think that’s something that’s a yearning we actually could lose?
Zerzan: I don’t know. I hate to think that. I remind myself it is conceivable that maybe people will all be taking anxiety medications and drugs to sleep. I could imagine a world where everybody’s taking drugs, just to get through the damn day. We’re getting there, getting there pretty fast. But it’s conceivable that it would still function.
Anderson: So there’s a real question of the good here. Let’s say we look at one hypothetical, which is the current logic of the world continues. We strive for more and more complexity, and we begin changing our own genetic makeup, and we expand into space. That’s kind of the extreme techno end of some of the some of the interviews I’ve had. What is not good about that? Can you have a sense that that isn’t good, coming from a place that is anything other than spiritual?
Zerzan: Well, that’s right. That’s something I’m sort of come to lately, relatively lately. I was in Croatia, and the woman there said, “I think this whole green anarchy movement is at base a spiritual movement.” And I was really floored by that. Because I just had this feeling, I think that’s right but I have no idea why. Because I’m an ex‐Catholic. And jeez, at my age I mean it’s so late that I came to be more open to things like that. Mainly my thing was, “Get away. I don’t want anything religious. I’ve been burned by that. I was beaten by the priests as a kid. I don’t want to hear about it.”
And now I realize that ain’t the whole picture. Come on. That’s throwing everything out with the bathwater. Because I’ve met more and more people, including—and some of this has just been so amazingly refreshing. Like, a good friend of mine who’s almost a classic Black Bloc anarchist, ready to rumble, ready to mask up. Just a great person. And he had a whole spiritual side which he never brought out. Because it’s not, you know, in terms of the anarchist thing…let’s face it, that’s not what we’re talking about. But there is a spiritual side, I think you’re right. We are talking about fundamental things. And that is a value choice, just like the technology embedded in there are the values and the choices of the dominant order, whether we make them consciously or not. They are choices.
It’s very postmodern. It’s very hip now. Everything is a social construction. Nature is in quotes. There is no nature, there’s never been any nature. it’s just our conception. I think of an Earth First woman. I remember one thing she said, “I can take you by the hand into the forest. Does this look like a concept you?” And some people, they would still maybe cling that. That’s just really hard to fathom. But some people are pretty far gone.
Anderson: Well, I spoke to a philosopher in Davis awhile ago. He’s written a book called Ecology Without Nature.
Zerzan: Oh, Morton?
Anderson: Yes. He certainly talks about the idea that thinking about nature as a separate thing is actually an impediment to understanding that we’re part of a holistic system.
Zerzan: Maybe you could help me with this. I find that real ambiguous. I think that could be put to obviously bad uses. Bad in my definition, anyway. I sort of think he’s trying to have it both ways. He’s going with the postmodern tide, but he’s also trying to say it’s helpful to go that way in support of nature. When you start going down that road…
I found it interesting that a couple of years ago Žižek took up Morton, big time. Was thrilled to discover this ecology without nature idea. Now Žižek is a Stalinist pig, in my view. And he finds it wonderful that global warming is going on. Why would this guy be so in favor of Morton’s key thing? He’s not on the side of of the natural world. Maybe Morton should pay attention to that. What is your own responsibility for these things? I mean, he can have any idea he likes, but look at the consequences.
Anderson: It seems like you have a real sense that nature has value.
Zerzan: Yeah, intrinsically.
Anderson: And where does that come from?
Zerzan: I don’t know. Maybe that’s just very intangible. I haven’t really thought about that all that much, but if you can’t see that, then I don’t know. Then then we really are in bad shape. It’s absolutely clear to me. I want wholeness. I want to get rid of all these layers of mediation. And I know the assumption for me is everybody wants that. But not everybody wants that.
Zerzan: But I’m thinking (again, my optimism), if this is made articulate, then we may discover that pretty much maybe everybody does want that. but in the absence of alternatives, in the absence of access to other ways of looking at all this, people haven’t even heard of this. If you’re looking, well then you can find stuff. But if you’re not even thinking of looking, why would you be looking?
Anderson: That connects into something I’d been wanting to get to, which is the idea of the Conversation. We have these different ideas of what is good. How do we bring them together? How do we talk about them? Does talking even matter?
Zerzan: I’ve taken up the point of view that you’ve got to have the actual militancy. That’s what drives the ideas. That’s what puts it on the map. I mean, I remember 60 Minutes came here after anti‐WTO at the end of 99, the rather famous Seattle deal. Because the Eugene anarchists were supposedly behind smashing up downtown. I think that goes to who might have done what. But anyway we were calling the tune. Because people wanted to know, why would people do that?
To me, when you do something like that and you combine it with a coherent communiqué, a statement, then a certain number of people get to read that. And they would have the same question: why would people do something like that? That’s craziness, you know. But they say, this is why we did it. And they go, “Ah.” Some people, I’m not saying everybody, suddenly goes, “Shit. I never heard that before.” But you know, it’s potent. And that’s why you have the [boat?].
Anderson: Is this a movement that can’t participate in conversation because of that? I’ve spoken to a lot of different people with a lot of different beliefs, and I don’t think any of them would espouse property damage. Does it estrange people?
Zerzan: You’ve got to get serious at some point. It’s unavoidable. Yeah, some people are going to be horrified. They’re going to be opposed to it. You’ve got to go through that. You’ve got to show why, how serious this is, and how the rest of it hasn’t worked. And they’ll agree or they won’t, but there’s no getting around it. You can hold your sign and do what the cops tell you to do, and nothing will change. It will only keep getting worse.
Anderson: To change minds, it seems like conversation isn’t enough?
Zerzan: Well, I don’t know. And nobody knows what’s effective. We haven’t been effective yet. I’m not saying, “Oh, it’s simple proposition. Anarchists know how to do it. Look how well we’re doing.” But since I see the other stuff is not working, let’s go this way and maybe we’ll break through. Maybe not. Maybe that was wrong.
You know during the Unabomber thing, (I think of this sometimes.) when the media was asking us when Kaczynski was sending his bombs in the mail, they wanted to catch us saying, “Oh, we’re down with that.” And I always said, if they asked me, “I’m not in favor of sending bombs in the mail, but those people that got the bombs in the mail, they’re not innocent, either.”
Anderson: But is anyone innocent?
Zerzan: Well, there you go. There you go. We’re all stuck in this. We are all a part of it. And you know, I embody all these contradictions. Or hypocrisies. And it reminds me of Art Bell. You should live in a cave. But I’m trying to contribute to the discussion. I’m trying to write and offer something. And you’re right, that’s a contradiction. Here’s the primitivists who flies around the world and everything. But that wasn’t my choice. I didn’t ask for this world. Tentatively, anyway, I’m making the decisions as they go as to how to try to do my little bit.
Anderson: And yet you’ve said you’re an optimist.
Zerzan: When I was a child in the 50s, I really wasn’t getting it. I just felt on the outside. I just was not… I just felt like, stupid. I’m not saying I saw through it but I just didn’t seem to fit. When the 60s came, wow. It was just a miracle. You just got this feeling like the wind had turned. Just a sense of possibility and innocence, and it was just fabulous. And it seems to me once you taste that, you still have that taste. I feel just blessed that I was in that time and place.
Micah Saul: Well, damn.
Aengus Anderson: I feel like we need a new expletive at the beginning of every conclusion.
Anderson: And “Well, damn,” might be kinda light for this one. That was a great conversation
Saul: That was awesome. I don’t know what I was expecting, but that blew my expectations out of the water. I was also really impressed at just how well he connected to a bunch of other people. We predicted earlier that he and Lundberg were going to have some similarities. I think in some ways he’s going a hell of a lot farther than Lundberg. I thought the relationship between him and Gabe was really interesting, talking about community. He seemed actually really respectful of the fact that technology can engender real community in the real world. I found an interesting connection to you
Saul: He was talking about the horrible increase in shootings we’ve seen, and he links that directly to a decrease in community.
Anderson: For the Tuscon Sentinel, yes.
Anderson: Where I was arguing that a lack of community sense basically made the shooting of our Congressional representative Gabrielle Giffords possible.
Anderson: And maybe this is one of the many surprises in the conversation that I had with John. Many of his ideas resonate with me far more than I expected they would.
Saul: It seemed like you were both having a really good time.
Anderson: Definitely a lot of fun, and really provocative. At the same time, while I think there’s an amazing critique, I don’t buy the solution. And I feel like we got into the question of the good a bit. I really liked that at the end of the day he’s willing to say that he’s essentially a biocentrist, that life and nature has intrinsic value.
Anderson: And that’s a difficult, maybe impossible thing to explain why. Maybe that’s something that you can only get in an arational sense, call it a spiritual sense. But the same arational sense that makes Doctor More want to never die. It felt like we got down to that point of the good. And there’s something kind of cool about that, but there’s also something kind of alarming when I think of John and Dr. More. Because both of them will admit that they have arational desires, one case biocentric, and the other case anthropocentric. And those things are kind of non‐negotiable.
Anderson: And I think there’s a self‐assurance there because of that that I find a little alarming, in both cases.
Saul: I guess the concept of the arational is alarming to me, in some ways. Even though I know that any notion of good or any notion of values is going to come down to some deep‐seated belief that you can examine all you want, but it’s hard to explain because it’s just deep‐seated. And it may be arational. Now, even though I believe that, I have a hard time accepting it, that…I don’t know, that your belief system can be based on… not nothing, but on something you can’t describe.
Anderson: And it may be inflexible.
Saul: I tend to view myself as a fairly rational person. And it’s disturbing to me to think that if I go down deep enough, I’m probably completely arational as well.
Anderson: Yeah, and it probably wouldn’t take many steps to get there.
Saul: No. Not at all. Look how quickly you’re able to get there with people.
Anderson: And if that is disturbing. If the arationality that underlies all of these different ideas of the good, right… Because essentially, all of these different things are value claims. All of those are coming from an arational point. It makes you wonder, how do you have the Conversation? Or do you just have one side that ultimately bludgeons the other side down?
Saul: Maybe that’s another reason that we find it disturbing.
Anderson: You mean because we want the Conversation to be possible?
Saul: Because we want the Conversation to be possible.
Anderson: Yeah. And I didn’t feel from from my talk with John that it really was. He mentioned with a lot of anarchists you break stuff, and that’s how in theory you make your point. And he said, well look, we don’t know that this method has been tried and tested. Maybe there are better ways to do it. But it didn’t seem like conversation, in the way that we’re thinking of it, was really on the table. Because for them too much is at stake. The threat to the planet is so grave, the threat to what is good, the threat to human nature as they define it… It’s really hard for me to be sympathetic with that sense of surety about anything, much less that conviction that you have to make statements that involve damaging property. Isn’t everyone complicit in this system? Where do you draw the line? Even when I like some of the critique, it’s hard for me to not just see the really righteous side of this.
Saul: Right. Regardless of how strong your beliefs, or maybe even the stronger your beliefs are, the more impossible it is to live a non‐hypocritical life.
Anderson: Which is something that John himself says. Like, he can’t go live in a cave. There’s no way to opt out. As with every good conversation, in every big set of ideas there are always a lot of inconsistencies.
Saul: Yes. And it’s those inconsistencies in some ways that make people so interesting.
Anderson: I completely agree. They’re working through all of these ideas, too. And they’re working through them in their own ways. But ultimately they’re tackling…we’re all tackling the same questions.
Anderson: And none of us have created this unified field theory of how the world works. None of us have a convincing metaphysics for what is good and what is bad in all situations.
Saul: There’s no silver bullet, but maybe if we strive for it, we find something.
Anderson: And that’s where the optimism comes from, right?
Saul: Yeah. No, exactly. Everybody’s an optimist. Are you an optimist?
Anderson: I don’t think I’d want to go on the record as one, but after Morton’s treatment of cynics, I’m pretty wary of saying I’m one of them. I mean, Morton’s right. We wouldn’t be doing this project if we weren’t in some way optimistic.
Saul: No, exactly.
Anderson: It just comes back again and again. And I think that’s what I like so much about our interviewees who really push us. And John certainly does that.
Anderson: He is looking for a radically different and much better way. He’s got the guts to dream it and articulate it and be dismissed as a crazy man. In the same way that I think you can say that of Dr. More.
Anderson: And in both cases, though there is much I disagree with, there is much that I respect.
That was John Zerzan. recorded June 22, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon.
Anderson: So thanks for listening. I’m Aengus Anderson.
Saul: And I’m Micah Saul.
This interview at the Conversation web site, with project notes, comments, and taxonomic organization specific to The Conversation.