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A Guide to Subverting The Machine

Keith Farnish

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eBook - ePub


A Guide to Subverting The Machine

Keith Farnish

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About This Book

  • Point of the work is to create a global movement of Underminers that will work actively to derail the processes of industrial society
  • Author is active blogger on www.underminers.org and www.theearthblog.org
  • Author plans to build an on-line social sharing network where people can share their undermining stories, such as mass television switch-offs, shopping mall blockades, "AdBlock" days
  • Author has appeared on BBC World Service, BBC local and UK independent radio and on a range of syndicated US talk shows.
  • The industrialized system depends on people being disconnected from the real world: the author outlines the Tools of Disconnection that prevent us from being able to return to a way of living that is sustainable
  • First half of the book is a guide to navigating the industrial system and explains how to become a fully-formed Underminer, including the principles of undermining and ground rules
  • The second half details how the reader can use their abilities and new-found determination to become truly effective activists while keeping themselves and others safe
  • Includes guest essays by Carolyn Baker, Dave Pollard and Richard Reynolds
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What makes us human is we do things that
go beyond the simple need to survive.
What makes us civilized is not knowing when to stop.


Shake Yourself From Sleep

I CANT REMEMBER ANYTHING UP TO THE AGE OF THREE. Some people say they can, but I’m not so sure — it’s surprising how easy something said about you or a photograph in an album can become embedded as a “memory.” The first real memory I have, rather than one replicated by Kodak, was of a rainstorm.
Between the ages of two and eighteen I lived in the English seaside town of Margate. In the first ten years or so of our time there — an exquisitely blissful time of life when worrying was something other people did — we ran first a guest house and then a slightly more grandly titled “hotel.” The guest house, one of hundreds of small and medium-sized accommodations that served the once teeming masses of East Kent holidaymakers, was located on one of the many streets that run perpendicular to the oceanfront road, leading inland toward the main shopping street. Behind our modest establishment was a concrete yard in which stood a small motor home. There may have been more to it than that, but details often get forgotten when you are three. The occasion is lost to me, but some kind of late-night party was taking place and for the sake of a good night’s sleep, I had been moved, along with my older sister, into the motor home. Sleep didn’t pass over me like the shadow of a cloud crossing the evening sun; this night the rain was pouring down, drumming a mighty tattoo upon the metallic roof. Things start to become unclear, but at some point I must have complained of a headache, for which I was administered a paracetamol1 tablet — maybe just a half. Shortly after, sleep took me and the memory faded.
It’s very rare that I get headaches, and usually nothing that a night’s sleep can’t resolve (with a slight sense of irony); nevertheless, when one does start really punching its way through my anterior cortex, paracetamol is my analgesic of choice. I can’t honestly say that the rainy night in the caravan is the reason for this, but someone in the world of advertising can probably give me an opening here. Let’s just say the way we perceive the world, and subsequently behave in it, is dominated by the messages we receive in our developmental years:
It is relatively easy for producers and retailers to begin a relationship with children as future consumers.... One of the basic behaviours parents teach children is to go into the marketplace and satisfy their needs through certain products and brands. In effect, children learn to find need-satisfying objects and stick with them.2
Make of that what you will, and I’m sure you already have your own opinions on the power of advertising, but for anyone who sees commercials as a fairly harmless enterprise — a sort of wallpaper behind the furniture of television programs — never forget that advertising exists to make people want things they otherwise would not have bought. To put it another way: advertising creates need out of nothing.
There is, of course, a corollary of global proportions to the dancing pixels on the television screen, the glowing billboards that flit-flit-flit past as you ride the escalator, the glossy sheets that fall from the pages of the newspaper and in your mailbox: a corollary of death that comes to the victim as easily as passing a new iPhone through the bright red beams of a barcode reader. Perhaps a little twinge of anguish as your bank balance clicks downward and into barcode-scanner red. Maybe even the tiny recognition that the person who assembled your purchase lies sprawled in the suicide nets that a factory in China installed to prevent further public embarrassment after a high number of employee suicides drew media attention.
How nice of them to save us from too much guilt.
By the time you read this, the iPhone might seem as quaint as the Walkman, the ZX Spectrum or the Raleigh Grifter: at least if you grew up in the 1970s in the same kind of environment as I did. Take a couple of moments to replace these with favorite items from your youth; then disassociate yourself from them so they just became objects from someone else’s past — it’s difficult, isn’t it? The memories ooze through: making up compilation tapes to listen to on the bus, writing adventure games in Basic that would never be completed, pulling half-hearted wheelies along the beach, taking care not to startle too many old ladies. The bitter white tablet that eased my headache, probably through the warm blanket of placebo, takes its place on that treadmill that is your civilized life.
I had a Walkman, a ZX Spectrum, a Raleigh Grifter, because that’s what people had at the time — because that’s what was advertised and gradually, through a process of mental osmosis, became a necessary cultural artifact. But I never had a DAT player, a Commodore 64 or a Muddy Fox BMX. For me, those things hold memories but little meaning. Alliance to a particular item is a personal thing; in commerce it drives rivalries between companies and increases sales, breeding brand loyalty that is the lodestone of consumer success. Once you have brand loyalty — and what a powerful cultural grip that is — then you have the consumer by the balls (metaphorical or otherwise), and thus iPod becomes iPhone becomes iPad becomes iLife.
And, yes, iLife does exist.
Replace toys and gadgets with clothing, home furnishings, places to live, movies to see, food to eat, jobs to do, parties to vote for, lifestyles to embrace — the whole construct of civilized life is a series of discrete packages that may change their contents from time to time, but as entities they are so fundamental to modern culture that without them we feel as if we may as well not exist. From the first blip on the TV screen we experience as babies we have been mentally programmed: the only escapes we have in the civilized world are dreamless sleep — and death.
There are times in life when you have to risk offending someone. Where I live now there is a fairly high proportion of church-goers compared to the town we moved away from in 2010. Religiously it doesn’t compare with anything like a typical southern US town, and is positively heathen if viewed alongside Tehran, Manila or Salt Lake City (although I can’t see the occupants of these three places ever coming to an agreement over what “heathen” means), but nonetheless the question of religion is discreetly shooed to the back of the room as soon as it is raised, because I don’t actually have any. Pushed as to whether I would be attending a church service, for instance, I may say, “No, I’m not religious at all,” and perhaps sense a thin veil falling between the questioner and me. That veil becomes more akin to a fortified security fence with barbed wire and snipers in a place where religion is ... well, the religion.
I can steer clear of Tehran, Manila and Salt Lake City pretty easily, but mention that you aren’t a Consumer or a Voter or a Citizen just about anywhere in the industrialized world, and the snipers will be quietly releasing the safety catches. And so, perhaps with the opening salvo of this book, and certainly in the next few sections, most people reading this will not exactly be sympathetic to what I have to say.
The gunman’s call for draconian measures to be implemented to lower global population and destroy civilization echoes the eco-fascist propaganda of people like author and environmentalist Keith Farnish, who in a recent book called for acts of sabotage and environmental terrorism in blowing up dams and demolishing cities in order to return the planet to the agrarian age.
“The only way to prevent global ecological collapse and thus ensure the survival of humanity is to rid the world of Industrial Civilization,” writes Farnish in the book, adding that “people will die in huge numbers when civilization collapses”. Farnish’s call for violence, “razing cities to the ground, blowing up dams” provides a deadly blueprint for nutcases like Lee to follow.
Farnish explains his desire to see rampant population reduction in the name of saving the planet, with rhetoric chillingly similar to that contained in Lee’s online screed.3
Quite a dramatic interpretation of what I actually wrote, but the message here is clear: “Don’t mess with our way of life.” Now that’s odd because the writer, Paul Joseph Watson, would be among the first to complain about anything that suppresses human liberty — like corporations telling people what to eat and how to dress, perhaps — but as a 28-year-old, living in a large English city, brought up in an era when greed was most definitely good, Watson expresses a view that mirrors the feelings of virtually every politician, every corporate executive and close to every ordinary human being who has felt the irresistible pull of consumerism in the formative years. People don’t like to hear that almost everything they have ever believed in is wrong, and they will do everything in their power to retain those beliefs.
Which makes me a heretic, at best.
But I suspect you have got this far because part of you thinks there is more to making the world a good place to live in than buying the right brand of shoes. You might think politicians don’t have our best interests at heart when they say that businesses need the freedom to grow, or that Bill Gates’s reason for promoting genetically modified food is perhaps not because he can’t stand to see people go hungry or that Al Gore is not entirely devoted to the idea of reducing greenhouse gases to the kind of levels that would actually stabilize the climate.
It doesn’t take much of an effort to be a cynic; but to really question everything you may have previously held as true is, for most civilized people, a step too far. It challenges your loyalties. It denies your personal experiences. It makes a mockery of who you think you are.
It undermines you.
I apologize for the inconvenience, but all I want to show you is the truth — and that is most definitely the last time Al Gore will be playing a part in this story.

Undermining in Context

Some time ago I wrote a book called Time’s Up!, which still underpins everything I have subsequently written, including this book. The three primary theses in Time’s Up! can be summarized as follows (if you need a more detailed explanation then please refer to the book or its online equivalent):4
1)Because the ultimate purpose of all life forms, including human beings, is to continue their genetic line, and all we can ever know or care about is from the point of view of a human being, What Matters Is What Matters to Us.
2)To appreciate the level of threat that global environmental changes are posing to the continuation of humanity, and that it is the acts of a certain type of human being — Civilized Humans — that have brought about that threat, we have to Connect with ourselves, the people we depend upon, and the natural ecosystems that support our existence.
3)Myriad forces exist to protect Industrial Civilization — the ultimate killing machine — from human beings becoming Connected. These forces, which I have named the Tools of Disconnection, have to be undermined in order to allow us to Connect and thus make possible the continuation of humanity.
An enormous amount of cultural suspension is required to take all of that at face value. However, we have to start somewhere: in Time’s Up! the assumption was that the reader accepted human emissions of greenhouse gases being the cause of accelerated climate change, alongside the many other environmental impacts related to civilized human activity. That was a big enough task; this is a veritable leap of faith for which I can make no apologies. We ...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Underminers
APA 6 Citation
Farnish, K. (2013). Underminers ([edition unavailable]). New Society Publishers. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/566803/underminers-a-guide-to-subverting-the-machine-pdf (Original work published 2013)
Chicago Citation
Farnish, Keith. (2013) 2013. Underminers. [Edition unavailable]. New Society Publishers. https://www.perlego.com/book/566803/underminers-a-guide-to-subverting-the-machine-pdf.
Harvard Citation
Farnish, K. (2013) Underminers. [edition unavailable]. New Society Publishers. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/566803/underminers-a-guide-to-subverting-the-machine-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Farnish, Keith. Underminers. [edition unavailable]. New Society Publishers, 2013. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.