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Promethean Autonomous Zone
by Sobek published November 26, 2003,
One of the most influential counter/oc/sub/cultural visionaries of these times is Hakim Bey. I think that this status is well-deserved and would like to write briefly (using selective quotes) about how the ideas in his book "TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism" relate to the Promethean Movement and can inspire Prometheans and our allies.
So first, let me talk about what is "wrong" with Bey so that we can move past it and get to what is right.
For one thing, while Bey is certainly no Trotskyite or anything, he definitely carries some "leftist" baggage. This causes him to occasionally make foolish remarks against "Capitalism" (or what he calls "Capitalism"...probably the lite-fascist corporatism that is commonly misperceived as Capitalism). This is in conflict with our affirmation and promotion of Promethean Capitalism, so it might be considered a bit of a problem. It is my understanding that Bey sermonizes against "Capitalism" more severely in his book MILLENNIUM. I have not read that book and can not comment on it. However, in TAZ, the anti-"Capitalism" remarks are limited to the occasional off-handed snipe, and Bey actually promotes "black market" Capitalism in the final section of the book dealing with Autonomous Zones. So while these occasional remarks are mildly irritating, they are not any kind of serious obstacle in appreciating and adopting the message of this book.
Another thing that might not appeal to certain Prometheans or some of our allies is the spiritual dimension of Bey's writing. The spiritual vision underlying the book is a form of casual Monism, where the Material is the exuberant creative expression of the Ideal. Life-affirming Materialists among us really should not have much trouble with this viewpoint, though they might not have much use for Bey's writings on Paganism, Sorcery and "Black Magic as Revolutionary Action".
Now, let us move on to consider what this book has to offer, which is MUCH.
TAZ is divided into three sections. The first of these is "The Broadsheets of Ontological Anarchism". These are word-paintings on such themes as Chaos, Amour Fou, Wild Children, Pyrotechnics, Pornography, Crime and Sorcery. There are also introductions to the tactics of Poetic Terrorism and Art Sabotage. This section defines the spirit and aesthetic of what is to come. Particularly inspiring for us might be the vision of The Assassins, gathered together in an Autonomous Zone of their own creation and making their own oasis in the midst of a barren landscape. The next section is the "Communiques of the Association for Ontological Anarchy" which address a variety of ideas, trends and tactics with the apparent purpose of distinguishing Bey's Ontological Anarchy from the more usual kind. The final section of the book is the work "The Temporary Autonomous Zone", the TAZ from which the book gets its name and which offers us an important counterpoint to the goal of a Promethean Society.
Concerning the TAZ, Bey says:
But we can define the TAZ rather simply. The Autonomous Zone is a space, large or small, where (to use of one of Bey's favored phrases) "the chains of the law have been broken". Bey explains how and where such spaces may exist:
As for being Temporary, that may even be an intentional part of its design...such as in an underground party held at some hidden or remote location. The idea is to get what you can while you can, as Bey also makes clear:
While the TAZ is an invaluable tactic which we can and should enthusiastically employ, it is THIS INSIGHT that is the true treasure contained in this book. As Prometheans and members of the Promethean Movement, we must certainly plan, prepare and work for the future. However, it is even more necessary that we BE PROMETHEAN NOW. We must create and live our vision HERE in the present moment. Our life-affirming philosophy is in complete resonance with the literal and dynamic meaning of "uprising". This is what Ontological Anarchy has for us.
UPDATE April 30th, 2007 e.v.
The postman brought my copy of the second edition of Hakim Bey's T.A.Z. this afternoon. It has a new preface which I feel compelled to comment upon as an update to my previous remarks on the book. I had written that the purity of Bey's vision was hobbled by occasional regressions to "leftist" ideology and a misunderstanding of Capitalism. Despite this flaw, I strongly recommended T.A.Z. as a collection of valuable insights and ideas to inspire the Promethean aim of the real advancement of Individual Life.
And it is. So, it is not surprising that Bey and his work have since been denounced by would-be commissars and outright nutcases ranging from Murray Bookchin to John Zerzan. Bey talks about things that real Individuals should think about in creating freer, more fulfilling, REAL lives here and now. For this, his faux-anarchist detractors criticize him for being a "Lifestyle Anarchist" and irreconcilable with their "Social" vision. It is funny that "Social" is supposed to mean serious and "Lifestyle" is supposed to mean not serious, when in most contexts it is the other way around. Anyway, in the new preface, Bey makes a reference to Bookchin's criticism as having boosted sales.
However, any hopes that this will lead to a rant about the tiresome "social" and "communalist" ideology that has so largely replaced the aim of real Anarchy (at least in some circles) are quickly dashed as Bey repeats his previous errors in a more concentrated form. He shows his economic misunderstandings more blatantly as he describes a world in the grip of "Global Capital" - a world that Anarchist readers of Murray Rothbard and David Friedman could only wish was real, but that very plainly is not. Worse, he points to the authoritarian and stasist "Green" and "social" trends as being possible components of a new, liberating movement. Is he trying to win Bookchin and Zerzan (or their fans) over?
Finally, Bey is critical of his own optimism for the the potential of the internet. He is correct that the internet has become saturated with advertizing and banal crap. However, that depends a lot on where you "surf" to. The networking that Bey envisioned in T.A.Z. is occurring. Just because he might not be seeing it, that does not mean that it is not there. Bey, himself, advised keeping these things out of sight. He must have forgotten.
In the end, despite these new criticisms, I still recommend T.A.Z. with all of my heart as essential and inspirational reading. I wish that I could talk to Hakim Bey about some of these things and tell him about things that are going on of which he is apparently unaware...but I would also thank him profusely. If you have not yet read T.A.Z., definitely get a copy as soon as possible. Just tear out the new preface and send it back to the publisher...perhaps traced with that sigil on p. 56.