The protection camp at Thacker Pass, Peehee mu’huh, has been in place for more than four months.
This episode is an update starting with a new recording from May 18th, as well as audio from recent video updates recorded on-site by Max Wilbert over the past month or so.
Poem “Newspeak” by Trinity La Fey.
Sign the petition from People of Red Mountain: https://www.change.org/p/protect-thacker-pass-peehee-mu-huh
For more on the Protect Thacker Pass campaign
#ProtectThackerPass #NativeLivesMatter #NativeLandsMatter
How do we fight? All together. What is resistance? Organized.
Passions, Humour and the Vocabulary of Strife
by Trinity La Fey
“Men understood what it is to be in a war and you gotta’ be armed. Women don’t have that knowledge.” – Phyllis Chesler.
. . .
“But humour, after all, in patriarchy, is just seeing the way things are, you don’t have to try.[…]Meanwhile rape increases out there, the destruction of the environment increases out there, in here, but women are dealing and dealing. And think of the consequence of the therapeutic[. W]hat happens is objectification of the speaker[. I]nstead of real passion, they offer plastic passion.[…]When I feel passion, I feel: Love, for example, Joy, Sorrow, Rage, Hope, Despair. These are passions that are real. I name them, they have an object; they have an agent or a cause, right? You enrage me[. H]e did this and I hate it; I’m enraged at him, at them, etcetera. You can name the agent with real passions. Now, consider the plastic passions of therapy. You know, I see them as floating blobs, sort of bubbles. There’s never any cause out there. If there’s any problem it’s you. You have to deal with it, this blob that’s floating around. For example depression: depression, I suggest, is a man-made passion. I don’t think we have it. I just think[: ‘]Oh, I’m feeling depressed today. You see, I had familia for breakfast and . . . and I just can’t seem to get my shit together.’” – Mary Daly
. . .
Part of being effective in an organization is knowing where you belong in it. What are you good at?
For my part, I cannot say my strength is organizing others, but spectacle and argument in the most political sense. That doesn’t let me off the hook for trying to organize, which I do also, it just means that trajectory is best served by interest and aptitude. Recently, it was pointed out that my interest in male violence and environmental destruction is concerning from the outside. How many hours a week do I spend investigating all the crazy? I didn’t know. Okay, 80 hours+ is an unhealthy lacks balance, maybe I can scale it back. My experience in Policy Debate, was seasoned by a life where argument was an impassioned, often dangerous risk. As far back as I can remember, any serious discussion, of any kind, has been accompanied by a body reaction wherein I shake and weep. It does not impair my ability to listen or argue, but it does happen every time; I know why, it is non-negotiable. My body can be understood and interpreted, but not overridden.
Coming into the tournament practice of three hour debates was something I had stamina for. Success was a direct benefit of being able to ‘spar’ in a way that risked so little as to allow for the development of skill. Now, I know how to be an effective agitator. Which brings me to twitter. Last year was my first to really experience a social-medial platform, largely where public policy and debate have moved. Although it has proven to be a uniquely valuable resource, it was designed to be addictive to its traumatized product: the users. It is enemy territory.
There are specific reasons for entering that are a danger to forget.
It was not a place to move my real friendships into; it was a place to find strangers; it’s a place where the ethos is: fight me. These are sparring partners. From the insulated attempts at consciousness raising done here spring the people we don’t know we deal with every day: who mandate the policy of our lived lives by each interaction. From the ethereal melting pots of YouTube, and now twitter, I found common allies with the natural world and moved those relationships into physical reality. So many organizations awaited, about which I would otherwise have no awareness. Glad is not the right word, but I do not regret the time I have spent there, learning about who we have become.
If debate taught me anything, it’s that the person with the most evidence wins; and here we get to the messy stuff. On what grounds is truth provable if not by the self-evident nature of itself? We try definitions. Sometimes that doesn’t work. Why not? Why does the power of naming need to be as individuated as experience? Does it? What power do I have to name if I am not bothering to brave the conversation with people I don’t agree with, in places I don’t like?
Usually, if I see unironic pronouns in someone’s bio, it doesn’t matter how hilarious their tweet was, I cannot bring myself to follow them. Nowhere on my list of things to do today is getting doxxed by a misogynist; I’m busy. Monika Lewinsky gets a pass, because the thing is, it does matter what happens to our collective minds. Bean Dad doesn’t have a name anymore. His life is different now, because of a collective of people. Someone had retweeted a particularly vile passage saying, “this is psychotic behavior.” I thought, “Oh yeah?” and read all the way down. All the comments. Down to the bottom.
It was impossible to look away because it was a spectacle.
Some childless fathers outed themselves and everyone else – including all the colourful pronoun people and the radical feminists and the right-wing housewives and the left-wing teachers – we all came together and said “no”. It felt good because, psychotic, evil, psychopathic or complicit, we all know what wrong is, but also because the platform is addictive and fighting is a rush. It is an affront to need to fight, to feel a boundary violated (as anger induction has brilliantly been identified). It feels good to make it stop, to make it right, to fight back. To say no.
But it feels better to say yes and mean it. Strife is complex. The complexity is ever compounded by the emergent nature of life and time. What is going on between the living planet and industrial civilization may not be rightly classified as war until effective resistance has been established to fight back. While it closely resembles many things termed ‘war’ in the recent past, it is industrial civilization acting upon: destroying the living planet, while the living planet continues to provide industrial civilization with the capacity to do so. What do we call this? I am not the first to appreciate the parallel here to battery. We are, as Earthlings, wild things, born into enemy territory.
Industrial civilization has changed every landscape.
There has to be some calm, radiant center from which no strife emerges, a source of real Joy, some benevolence in which to thrive for survival to be worth it. Retreat into the ethereal is one psychological strategy, when even the body is colonized. Retreat into identity politics or lifestyle activism or isolated, survivalist enclaves may serve, for those afforded it. Always, always this escape, this endless exploration of colonized frontiers to flee. What if we weren’t afraid to say that we have real, physical enemies that we could defeat? What would that change? Inside such a whirlwind, it can be difficult to negotiate all the feelings alone and impossible to relate, if thoughts and feelings are able to condense enough to crystallize, with so many of the necessary terms made forbidden as negative or even the ignorance with which we all come to new terrain.
Why not start with hate? Who hasn’t heard that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it is indifference? Bullshit. Men don’t make torture porn of appliances. Love has never been required for the avalanche of revulsion and Rage that I understand as the experience of hating someone. They are not a food that just hasn’t grown on me. I don’t merely dislike them. It most often precluded any chance of love. How can I – why should I pretend to anyone that I have not felt this way, that, if so confronted with a gross boundary violation, I should not feel this way? What does it mean when someone hates back? Is it speak-able? Is it different somehow? How? I think about what it has taken for me to be able to say, “fight me,” and not mean ‘I hate you’: for disagreement to be a reason to engage, rather than refuse to listen or share, to neither presume to be the final arbiter of reality, nor assume bad faith, but to risk a little; or, to say, “hate me,” and mean it: to be able to withstand someone. Practice helps.
Better yet, Rage.
I think the reason Rage is so vilified is that, like Fear, it is no longer a personal experience, but a collective, spiritual, chemical one. The Fear. The Rage. Possessions of a sort: coming from somewhere, there for a reason and eventually something else’s food. When I feel Rage, I feel it overtake me. Often, I lose vision, or it darkens and pinpoints. I say things in a loud, clear voice that I do not remember after. I cannot hear the voices of strangers. When it breaks, it is like a disrupted spell. I shake afterwards. Rage has done heroic things through me, but with a steep tax.
Much like Fear, it is not because, in my subconscious, I am my own oppressor and I just need to love myself enough to love others. It is about pain aversion, death aversion; it is because our inner, ancient brain has signaled that there is a legitimate threat it does not find itself capable of matching right off. It is my amygdala saying “get out now”. That is not to suggest these states are incapable of being distorted into paralysis or unjudicious application, or that they are without their own character and momentum.
Rage can be blind, and has done less than heroic things through me.
Having an enemy is a hard thing to admit when the stronger urge is to give as the Earth does, to love as mothers do, but that doesn’t stop them from existing. Mothers know what to do when their children are threatened. The Earth becomes less generous daily. Having an enemy does change you; it draws out characteristics capable of matching the things our amygdala tells us are scary. That biology developed to address periodic threats, but not to run all day every day; we are supposed to change back. To resist, to truly stand our ground, we must know where we are. Not who we think, but what is functional, where we physically are. That is in our bodies, as part of the land. That is the territory from which we can no longer afford to retreat. Our visions of ourselves will change as arguments move through us. Truth, the singular, is something we will catch glimpses of and try to piece together. Doing that as a collective is language.
We cannot be punished out of or persuaded into what we observe. We can only listen as we are able and share with those who’ll listen. Conversationally. Physically, to resist takes good health: strength, endurance and flexibility. Fighting is a tough one. Having been in fights, I don’t get ideological about this. Being in a fight is a physical experience, different than sparring, horsing around, different from heated discourse. Once in a fight, verbal or physical, it’s almost got its own world. Inter-dimensionality makes so much sense in fights. Everything is distorted, sharp and slow. Waves of fight wash in an ebb, leaving tired, heaving creatures who want to slink off and lick wounds but aren’t sure if it’s done yet. It is very important to pick your enemies and your battles. I say this because I need to hear it. Who is really prepared to have a conversation about something, and who is a drone? Who is a dangerous drone: know when to walk away; know when to run. Practice helps, but practice sucks and is expensive.
When I think about The Sorrow of war, and of warriors, I do not pathologize it.
Sorrow is not a sickness or a pastime of the feeble. Sorrow is the reasonable expression of experiencing loss and pain. To be forbidden the experience of our own grieving stifles our health and ability to heal. You feel your own real feelings all day. I say to me. Being emotionally resilient cannot mean repression, which only putrefies whatever is being buried, but a capacity to be uncomfortable, to reflect and change.
In the service of making Sorrow an illness, the language of ‘internalization versus externalization’ and of ‘self-esteem’ or ‘self-loathing’ has emerged to replace the terms ‘oppressed versus oppressor’ and ‘trust in others to listen’ or ‘desire to cease pain’. Fuck ‘em. Do you. Healing requires a nurturing environment, with the cause of harm removed, wherein you are not forced to react to villainy. That is not universally afforded to everyone. To whatever extent you can, balance between the work against and the work for. That ‘for’ is you too: your Joy, your Love, which all dies with you, or before, if it is not nurtured, lived and shared. Once hurt, healing takes time and can hurt more than the injury. Take your time. Feel your pain. Heal. Remember.
When The Bards used satire, they deposed kings.
They would only ever use satire for this reason and only when absolutely necessary. What kind of power is that? The remaining shadow of this tradition, in lore, is the Jester: the only court member who can get away with telling the truth. What kind of power is it when the king doesn’t get your jokes, but the rest of the court does and they do nothing? When Machiavelli wrote The Prince, he did it as a work of satire. Today his name is synonymous with authoritarianism as a ruling strategy. What power is it when no one gets your jokes? Theory is important, but action more so. As our actions are stifled, so our thoughts about potential actions. How to get free? Together. While spectacle might hold attention, only collaborative, permeable theory has the strength to make action inevitable, even desirable by far over the alternative: that we will continue to degenerate into increasingly stratified cybernetic zombies until we drive to extinction every last Earthly biome. What power?
Unfortunately, the sociopathic and necrophilic are better at war; unclouded and unbothered by the ramifications, those traits are designed to win wars. Clinical psychopathy was previously thought to be rare. Now, the very structure of modernity demands sociopathy as a baseline business model while the vast, common traumas of peoples’ personal lives are made unspeakable and left to fester. That is a recipe for a populace physically incapable of empathy on a massive scale.
So, back to being part of something worthwhile:
can there be legitimate honour in some twitter feeding frenzy? Where does honorable conduct live? What does empathy feel like when the person across from you has none? Are they an enemy? How to keep from catching? How to know? Without the capacity to feel shame: to know when we have done wrong, used The Rage unjudiciously, been paralyzed when we should have acted, or nursed an addiction, we would have no sense of our accomplishments. Workaholism has not delivered The Joy of accomplishment like pornography does not deliver The Joy of relationships. Maybe integrity is not something we are born with or into, but something slowly earned by learning to recognize its absence. Without the capacity to feel that vacuum, we wouldn’t have sought.
Joy guides. In shared pleasure, laughter, play, in being among beloved, I learn the codes of social conduct from people who can say, “fight me,” and mean ‘I love you’. Without the capacity to reflect, in discomfort, we cannot recognize patterns. Bean Dad is not my friend, but he is not my real enemy either. That flash community dispersed and the Earth remains largely undefended.
After switching from Debate, to Drama, then Humour, and then Duo, I tried Poetry.
If the performance arts taught me anything, it’s to know your audience. The judges didn’t care who was right, who had the evidence, whose argument was impenetrable, they wanted you to make them cry, and they wanted to love you. It helped if you made them laugh, but they had to want to see you at finals: you couldn’t bore them. The best way to do that was not universal, but that is, nearly universally, the way people judge.
Gloria Steinham’s work wasn’t popular because she was the best writer in the second wave, but because she was able to infiltrate male exploitation of poor women with her beauty and expose it to the middle class. Andrea Dworkin’s work wasn’t unspeakable. She spoke it; it was unhearable because she shouted it in overalls, with a big mouth and crazy hair. They were the spectacle. Not because they wanted to be, not because they particularly enjoyed the attention, but because they were women. What they had to say barely got through the endless attention given to their appearances. Because they were women: without the spectacle, we wouldn’t have even that much.
Marry Harris Jones wasn’t ‘The Most Dangerous Woman in America,’ at 83 years old, because she organized people, although she did that also, but because she put people to shame.
Her power was in stamina. My power will never be in being a body in the street, although I do that also, but in being one of many, in the sheer amount of evidence collected, in being able to illustrate an argument that can stand for itself, in knowing an audience well enough to make sure that they can hear it, in remembering our place in the Earthly legacy of women this side of the burnings.
My place is to float away alongside them, like ash, when my time comes, to forfeit all my names back into dust and droplets. Until then, I will fight and convalesce and it will mean ‘I love you’.
Trinity La Fey is a smith of many crafts, has been a small business creatrix since 2020; published author; appeared in protests since 2003, poetry performances since 2001; officiated public ceremony since 1999; and participated in theatrical performances since she could get people to sit still in front of her.
In this final Green Flame episode of 2020, we listen to a discussion between Jennifer Murnan and Trinity La Fey about the love and support of women, resistance, writing, reminders of beauty, performance and people. We are blessed with Trinity’s performances of poetry. Their discussion is woven into a chorus of other poets.
With a recital from Aimee, we celebrate Shahidah Janjua by listening to a poem from her book Dimensions. We also share poems from Max, Jennifer, Ross, Ben, and Salonika, and revisit the poems of Dominique Christina which were part of our December 2019 Radical Feminism episode.
This wonderful new year celebration episode concludes with a medley of music from prior episodes including the lyrical “Shchedryk” by Beth Quist. Thank you all, thank you for listening and Happy New Year.
Special thanks to our editor for this episode, Iona.
Subscribe to The Green Flame Podcast
About The Green Flame
The Green Flame is a Deep Green Resistance podcast offering revolutionary analysis, skill sharing, and inspiration for the movement to save the planet by any means necessary. Our hosts are Max Wilbert and Jennifer Murnan.
Trinity La Fey reflects on the ubiquity of child abuse, the links between childhood trauma and addictive behaviors, the brain chemistry of pornography addiction, and the ways in which patriarchy is reproduced and transmitted from generation to generation through children.
by Trinity La Fey
“The first step in resisting exploitation is seeing it and knowing it and not lying about where it is sitting on you. The second step is caring enough about other women that if today you are fine and yesterday you were fine, but your sister, hanging from the tree is not fine, that you will go the distance to cut her down.”
– Andrea Dworkin, Woman Hating Right and Left
* * *
During his 1981 interview regarding Boys for Sale, the documentary exposé on child sexual abuse in Huston, Texas, University History Professor Tom Philpott marveled that around the world, sexual predation of children is observed, but it is not accompanied by the “mayhemic violence” that is seen in America.
Dr. Robert Sapolski, in his Behavioral Biology Class at Stanford University, explains tournament species: who are competitive, non-monogamous maters; and pair bonding species: who mate for life. He describes our hyper-plastic human sexuality as being socially and biologically expressed somewhere between these two.
In When God was A Woman, Merlin Stone documents globally reoccurring Neolithic Goddess worship that included practices of priestesses taking youthful lover/son partners that were later ritually sacrificed. Especially in the chapter, “If The King Did Not Weep”, it becomes clear that widespread sexual predation of the opposite sex, in their youth, is an (or perhaps the most) effective way to ensure sex-based social dominion in a culture. As men attained more cultural power, gaining ritual access, especially in Anatolia, they did so by castrating themselves and wearing the long robes of women.
Jeffrey M. Masson related his discoveries of Sigmund Freud’s letters, in the possession of his daughter, Anna Freud, in Freud and the Seduction Theory, A challenge to the foundations of psychoanalysis, and how she had perpetuated her father’s abuse of women, through psychoanalysis, to discredit them further to themselves and society regarding the large-scale father/daughter incest that was occurring and debilitating his patients well past the years of the physical abuse.
Interviewed for the documentary series The Keepers, former student of Seton Keough High School, Jean Hargadon Wehner, wondered how her abusers knew she wouldn’t expose them; why they trusted her silence as completely as they did.
Dr. Gabor Maté said, in the interview with California Healthline: Addiction Rooted In Childhood Trauma, Says Prominent Specialist, “All addictions — alcohol or drugs, sex addiction or internet addiction, gambling or shopping — are attempts to regulate our internal emotional states because we’re not comfortable, and the discomfort originates in childhood. For me, there’s no distinction except in degree between one addiction and another: same brain circuits, same emotional dynamics, same pain and same behaviors of furtiveness, denial and lying.”
Detailing a near compulsory removal of foreskin during infancy, without anesthetic, the documentary American Circumcision explicitly reveals how the first sexual experience of most American males is a mutilating, traumatic abuse, the memories to which, they have no access.
Porn, Pseudoscience and DeltaFosB, published by yourbrainonporn.com, run by Gary Wilson, “lists 41 neuroscience-based studies (MRI, fMRI, EEG, neuropsychological, hormonal). They provide strong support for the addiction model as their findings mirror the neurological findings reported in substance addiction studies.” A follow up article: Unwiring & Rewiring Your Brain: Sensitization and Hypofrontality, Intro to neuroplasticity, explains the physical results of porn addiction. “Hypofrontailty means the frontal lobes are under performing. Structurally, this manifests as:
- Decline in gray matter (the cortex)
- Abnormal white matter (the communication pathways)
- Decreased metabolism or lowered glucose utilization”
Mohammedraza Esmail, in his article, What Porn Does to Your Brain and How to Quit, displays a common exculpation tactic in his misinterpretation of modern patriarchy as how humanity is (men are) hardwired, even as diagrams from his own article show the pornography addicted brain all but dissolved of frontal cortex: “While a husband and wife commit to being loyal to each other until the end of their days, evolution is laughing in the background. Because evolution doesn’t care about your life-long commitments. Evolution only cares about passing your genetic code to as many females as possible. Therefore, the brain is designed to want no female to be left unfertilized.” he posits, conflating limbic attention to novelty with the mass willingness to be complicit in sex crimes displayed by men.
But, as Sapolski and Maté both point out, only the traumatized, isolated or otherwise epigenetically triggered are disposed to addiction. “Nobody’s saying that every traumatized person becomes addicted. I’m saying that every addicted person was traumatized.” Maté clarifies.
When asked if the sale of children in his city was related to the legacy of trauma in the land on which it stood, Tom Philpot said it best:
“This subject has baffled me, from the time I first became aware of it, until this day. I can’t understand it and I’m trying very hard. As a historian, I know that this society, probably above all in the world and in the history of the world romanticizes childhood, but the historical record, child labor for one thing, indicates this society has not been good to children, has not protected children, and in fact is contemptuous of children, heartless to children, and they’re such helpless victims. Who can they go to? What constituency do they have? Nobody. The heartlessness that goes into it is certainly somehow connected with the heartlessness which ground up the Indians, black people, immigrant laborers, poor people in general, motivating the cuts in social programs today, blindness to the living reality of people’s situation. Yes, it’s connected. It’s about the most hair-raising thing I think I’ve encountered in studying the history of my country: the slaughter of the innocents and it goes on and on and when the public gets a hint of it, nothing happens. There doesn’t seem to be any willingness to make the connections and face them. It’s time we did.”
Trinity La Fey is a smith of many crafts, has been a small business creatrix since 2020; published author; appeared in protests since 2003, poetry performances since 2001; officiated public ceremony since 1999; and participated in theatrical performances since she could get people to sit still in front of her.
Tom Philpott, Boys For Sale Interview, 1981. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6mrC2NabIg.
Rober Sapolski, Behavioral Biology, Human Sexual Behavior I, Stanford University 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOY3QH_jOtE&t=2s.
Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman, 1976, p. 149.
Jeffrey M. Masson, Freud and the Seduction Theory, A challenge to the foundations of psychoanalysis The Atlantic, February 1984. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1984/02/freud-and-the-seduction-theory/376313/.
Ryan White, The Keepers, s1:e4, Netflix, 2017.
Dr. Gabor Maté, Addiction Rooted In Childhood Trauma, Says Prominent Specialist, California Healthline, January, 2019. https://californiahealthline.org/news/addiction-rooted-in-childhood-trauma-says-prominent-specialist/.
American Circumcision, Brendon Marotta, 2018.
Gary Wilson, Unwiring & Rewiring Your Brain: Sensitization and Hypofrontality, Your Brain On Porn,
https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/tools-for-change-recovery-from-porn-addiction/rebooting-basics-start-here/unwiring-rewiring-your-brain-sensitization-and-hypofrontality/#hypofrontality, c. 1/5/2020.
Mohammedraza Esmail, What Porn Does to Your Brain and How to Quit, August, 2020,
View at Medium.com
Editor’s note: We are grateful to present this wonderful article by our appreciated guardian Trinity La Fey today. Original writing by DGR cadre, guardians and supporters makes the most powerful articles because it genuinely reflects our spirit, the deep empathy and love for the natural world that keeps us grassroots activists going, and gives insight into our struggles.
By Trinity La Fey
When, concerned for our safety, my husband pressured me to either censor or disguise myself online, I replied, “You keep talking at me like I don’t know what kind of world this is and I am asking you: what kind of a world do you want to live in?”
I-search papers annoy me and I try not to write them, but in this, there can be no dispassionate analysis. Without relating the experience, how can this story be told? If Rebecca Wildbear, who recounted, “Since the dawn of civilization, humanity has caused the loss of 80% of wild mammals and 50% of plants. 90% of large fish, 50% of coral reefs and 40% of plankton have been wiped out. Of all the mammals now on Earth, 96% are livestock and humans. Only 4% are wild mammals.” couldn’t convince you, or at least pique your curiosity, I doubt I will either. There are already exceptional writers and reciters of numbers and names of species. That is not what I am and that is not what this article will be.
This is about where we live.
When I hear about dams, mining, logging, drilling, fracking and industrial production, I hear about it in numbers and names: this many of that species eradicated (to use the euphemism); this much money for that company; this many jobs for which community; how many years of what material; this many of that habitat displaced.
Are these the questions we really want the answers to?
I live in my body. When I eat too much or not enough, when I’m ill dressed for the weather, when I’m careless with my movements in relation to my environment, pain and discomfort tell me, in no uncertain terms, what is wrong.
Derrick Jensen once said, “Before you laugh and say a river is just a container through which water flows and happens to be filled with other beings, let me ask you: when was the last time you had a drink of water; and let me ask you: when is the next time you’re gonna’ pee?[ L]et me remind you that more than 90% of the cells in your body don’t contain your DNA . . .”
I can tell you the kind of world I don’t want to live in and the kind of person I don’t want to be. That is a world in which dams, mines, drills, deforesters and trawlers go unfettered in their genocidal quests, the kind of person that is complicit in those atrocities by default.
If I were a rich man, maybe it would embarrass me to hear arguments to the effect that environmentalism is a luxury of the privileged. Maybe, if I didn’t know that Bangladesh is one-third under water, I could be spoken over about how, “There’s no point in trying to ‘save the planet,’ how arrogant and self-righteous it is when everything is doomed and Earth has gone through plenty of extinctions. What’s one more event?”
But I am not a rich man and I live in a country that has displaced more people than water has, so far, in Bangladesh. Will Falk once said, “Don’t ask, ‘What can I do?’ but, ‘What needs to be done?’”
So I went to Thacker Pass and asked him.
Except it wasn’t as simple as that. Before Thacker Pass, since September of 2015, my husband and I have spent but one night apart. We’re the kind of couple that really leans into the whole ‘interdependency’ concept. Though I have been a passenger near and far, being a late-blooming driver, until Thacker Pass, I’d never myself travelled more than two hours away from my home. Thacker Pass was two, eight-hour days of driving away from my responsibilities and loves, where I work for a living. As I told everyone who came to the camp, I cried all the way to Laramie. I bored everyone else to tears talking them up about him. All five of us.
Surreal doesn’t touch it. I had to rent a car, reserve an out of state hotel, two ways, with a card. I am not a rich man luxuriating in ideology. I’m at ground level out here, seeing and feeling the dire effects of pollution and poverty. Both of those acts were things I’d never done before. They were alien and beyond expensive. They are things I want gone: emblematic of a way of life that as Max Wilbert so eloquently said, “ . . .we don’t get to vote on . . . .”
Before I left, I kept thinking: this is my ‘real’ car insurance money this year.
Do I really care about the planet, or do I care about the people that I personally know?
This is my tuition for that class I have to take.
Do I really care about the environment, or do I care about my life today?
Am I betraying my relationships by leaving to do this?
Do I really care about the Earth? What do I care about?
What if something happens to one of us? I am on my little flippy phone; no use out there in the boonies.
I can barely bring myself to leave the house for work or groceries. How the hell am I going to leave my life, with my husband, in our apartment and stay away for fifteen days?
I wasn’t out there because I so much enjoy winter camping. I wasn’t out there for my good health. I had to go because I couldn’t live with not going. It was an emotional allegiance I could either live up to or shrivel. I didn’t want to leave at all. My husband had to encourage me to go because I had convinced him with my initial determination and it was too late to back out now. In one of his videos, Max spoke about native people who rejected horse riding because it moved your body faster than your soul could travel and it took time to catch up.
That is my experience also.
As soon as I got there, I wanted to go back home. Principle had made me some kind of fool to bring me out in the middle of this beautiful nowhere when I needed to be saving up and hunkering down. I set up a little calendar to count down the days. It was February 16th. At that time, there were three of us.
It would be inappropriate to speak about the others, by name, who, like me, came and stayed and left. I will say that true-blue environmentalists are some of the most attractive people it has been my pleasure to meet. They were an easy crowd to be around, easy on the eyes, easy to fall in love with. We made coffee and dreamed dreams and walked around and waited for our souls to catch up with us.
The expectation felt was that we should write some great thing to make us not euphemise genocide and then stop committing it. I’m a writer. I write. So, I know how this works. You can’t effectively write about what you don’t feel. If I wanted to be able to listen to the place, I’d have to get all the other stuff out of the way. I wrote love letters to my husband like it was some bygone wartime. I wrote every day, sometimes all day. There was much to get out.
Finally, the walks started yielding phrases and poem snippits. Then themes from our conversations and firelight stories gave me some language of place. I started writing love letters of parting to my fellow campers.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time outside in wild, half-wild and deadly domesticated places. I would describe Thacker Pass as half-wild. Cattle move through there; we were camped under a weather tower; roads, fences and power-lines are visible in the day; city and ranch house lights are visible at night. We were completely surrounded by mountains. From a mountainous place, I didn’t expect the desertous Nevada I remembered to have such landscapes. It really was a wonderful consolation against the cold and wind and waking up alone to piss in the cold wind to be in such a beautiful place, surrounded by so many impressive kindred. Everywhere life was teeming around us, in the ice and wind. Every night the coyotes sang from the valley below. Every day the ravens cawed and swooped down from the cliffs above. The kangaroo mice left their tracks and teeth marks on everything. I made friends with a rat. The sage was very patient with us. The rabbit brush was like the sage’s lover. These others weren’t names on a list. These are family members in a shared landscape. Once my soul caught up with me and I got all my stuff out, there wasn’t too much I missed. The number-one reason I don’t recreate in the mountains of my home is that it is Earth-expensive, but a close second is that it hurts so much to come back. The longest I’d been out before was a week. After two weeks at Thacker Pass, I was half-wild again too. Coming back is some bullshit.
There are good things. I wept with a soldier’s relief to see my husband again. Having running water, with soap, next to a toilet is amazing. Showers.
What does it cost?
Do we want to live in ugly places?
Why are the places we reside and rely on made ugly and despoiled?
Lierre Keith noted, “Right now, we are losing 200 species every single day. So, all the prairies, all the forests, anyplace that you could grow those crops, has been taken over. It’s quite grim when you think about it: 99% of the forests are gone and 99% of the original prairies are gone.” What could I possibly write to convince one who would rationalize or justify? The Lorax has already been written. It’s all there. No need for an argument about numbers as ratio or names as technicality. There is only: the last one. Then: none.
Where I live, there is a beer manufacturer polluting the river; a steel refinery, a meat packing plant and a pet food company poisoning the air. You can tell which way the wind is blowing by them. There are fracking rigs everywhere. Really. Everywhere. Deserted oil derricks, mine pits, clear cuts: those are mostly in the half-wild places.
Why did I go to Nevada when there’s plenty of work to do here? Because I can’t face down a sea of denial in all human relationships. I can’t fight this alone, just like Max and Will put out the call for others to come join them: because they understood that it would take the people living in and around Thacker Pass; it would take Canadians holding Lithium Americas to account and it would take total strangers willing to sacrifice, in solidarity, to stop the mine from going through.
What if we worked together to stop all the mines?
What if we invented life insurance?
What if we stopped industrial agriculture?
What if we invented credit cards and rental cars?
What if we ended rape?
What if we charged people to live in endless toil?
What if we murdered every species until they were all driven to extinction?
What if we don’t do that?
That is the only thing that concerns me now. This is not a passive extinction event, wrought about by the inevitable breaths of algae or touch of comets. We are doing this, as one species, to every other. Rather, some humans, with names and addresses, are profiting enormously (short term, of course) from massive social inequality among humans and human indifference or contempt for our only home and fellow Earthlings. This is not a series of accidents. These are devastating acts, deliberated over and intentionally carried out by people for whom they have been structurally incentivized.
What if we restructured?
I’ve been back now for longer than I was gone and still, I am not acclimated back into my normalized civilian life, because it is unnatural. I can’t unpack. I just walk around in my camping clothes, waiting to go back.
Even in the half-wild, even without my better half, even sometimes feeling pain and discomfort, re-wilding happened effortlessly. My stance widened. I grew two inches back from my working years. It felt good to do a hard, right thing: to put my time and money and body where my mouth was. My speech grew free and bold among new friends. I had a good time.
What if we were mammals inexorably bound to and interdependent with a larger, encompassing body?
What if, instead of quantifying, justifying, rationalizing, minimizing or qualifying global genocide, we stopped being genocidal?
What if we continue being genocidal?
What if we call the abuse of women and girls ‘sex’ and feed the footage of it to the limbic systems of men and boys for a few generations?
What will happen?
What has happened?
The expectation is that I should write something to make it stop.
You make it stop.
The Lorax has already been written.
Rebecca, Derrick, Will, Max, Lierre and I are part of an organization trying to do together what we cannot do alone. We need your help. In every way, we have to stop extracting and start re-wilding. There is no effective isolationist approach. We cannot buy into or out of it. We cannot escape from civilization anymore than we can the climate. We have to change.
We have mutilated ourselves into whatever kind of cyborgs we are now. Certainly, we can do something else instead, perhaps extending some humble curiosity toward the other species who do not destroy all life on the planet as a matter of course, but contribute to the possibility and furtherance of life, or our human ancestors who did the same.
I’m not feeling numbers and names when I feel the pull back to the half-wild place, but the same pang of love that is concerning one’s self with another. Not one inch of that place is appropriate to sacrifice further. Not one of our kindred species is it okay to push closer to the euphemism.
I don’t want to be the kind of person that says, “I tried to stop the mine at Thacker Pass. I spent two weeks there, but I had a life and couldn’t afford to go back.”
I want to be the kind of person who can say, “There aren’t mines anymore. We made sure of it.”
That takes living in the kind of world where you’re prepared to make sure of it too.
As Chumbawamba said it best:
“when the system starts to crack
we’ll have to be ready to give it all back
and when the system starts to crack
we’ll have to be ready to give it all back
and when the system starts to crack
we’ll have to be ready to give it all back”
Rebecca Wildbear, Premise One, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0IT4e4gMCA
Derrick Jensen, Earth At Risk 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vr2_Gbuo3OE
Will Falk, Protect Thacker Pass, https://twitter.com/ProtectThPass/status/1370621991598755848/photo/1
Max Wilbert, Premise One, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0IT4e4gMCA
Lierre Keith, Premise One, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0IT4e4gMCA
Chumbawamba, Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records, Invasion, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7LwXoaj5q4
You can find out more and support Thacker Pass: