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The Garden of Peculiarities by Jesús…

The Garden of Peculiarities

by Jesús Sepúlveda

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In this pithy little book Jesús Sepúlveda supplies what may be called a manifesto of green anarchy and its more radical form anarcho-primitivism. Composed of 47 untitled sections of varying length, the work covers all the major critiques made by anarcho-primitivism against civilization and the tools by which it orders, and thereby destroys, human existence: science, technology, domestication, the state, capitalism, division of labor, globalization, patriarchy, symbolic culture, language, reform, and much else. It also develops one or two terms not so current in the literature, including standardization and its antithesis, the ‘peculiarities’ of the book’s title:

“The garden of peculiarities is a project of humanity: to build life in a planetary garden populated by nonhierarchical, autonomous and libertarian communities that operate on the basis of analogical and aesthetic thinking.” (73)

As one might expect of a primitivist writer the treatment is hardly an orderly exposition. Sepúlveda’s thought moves in an eccentric spiral, powered by its own inertia. Concepts are revisited from different angles, linked to other themes, developed and refined, in no apparent order or logic. Yet the book has a strong cumulative effect if one manages to survive the often impenetrable prose, and to accommodate the frequently pontifical tone. (Notable exceptions are the two relatively long fascinating sections on cannibalism and ants.) The text reads like a set of concentrated notes jotted down for personal use, or perhaps a monologue meant more for the disciple than the uninitiated. There is a sincere urgency to the writing, however, that keeps the reader engaged and often evokes the more terrifying fulminations of the angrier Old Testament Prophets. Indeed, the basic message of this anarcho-primitivist Jeremiad is no less dire than theirs: unless we question and reject just about everything in civilization, and abolish it altogether, we face a very real threat of the total extinction of all living forms.

Disappointing though it is, the anarchists’ refusal to depict in any detail the outline of their desired society is consistent with their thought: we cannot elaborate much on what has never been tried without turning ideologically prescriptive. Yet Sepúlveda comes closer than most to providing a metaphorical image of anarcho-primitivist human life, in the above quotation and elsewhere in the book. This image of the garden seems not entirely unrelated to the biblical Garden of Eden, at least allegorically interpreted. Perhaps one should take it as such: not so much a creation in past or future time as much as an unattainable ideal against which to measure our shortcomings. Then, if we can do nothing to halt our hurtling towards total destruction, at least we might understand why we are inexorably headed there. This sounds suspiciously ideological and paradigmatic – anathema to the true anarchist – yet it is our author himself who concludes the central passage above with something like prayer: “Maybe in this garden it will be possible to communicate with each other by means of certain faculties that have been lost through and atrophied by domestication. Maybe we will develop other senses.” Maybe the lion will lie down with the lamb, as before the fall, he might have added. Maybe man will be other than human.
  provisionslibrary | Jun 26, 2007 |
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