Friday, June 22, 2018

Summer Desert Read

“Hayduke Lives!” by Edward Abbey, 1990

This fiction book is the sequel to the “Monkey Wrench Gang,” Abbey’s classic manifesto of sabotage in the interests of Mother Earth.  Specifically, the area in the U.S. southwest around the Grand Canyon in Utah and south into Arizona.   Abbey was a park ranger on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for years and had plenty of solitude in which to write.  In the book he uses his deep knowledge of the locale to describe the plants, animals and rock formations of that area.  Sitting in his ranger shelter or on a rock ledge he could imagine the comedic conflict between the U.S. government, local developers, mining companies and corrupt politicians on one side and a gaggle of courageous Earth Firsters! on the other.  No corporate media or Big Green organizations need apply.
No Bombs Needed

His quartet of hard-core troublemakers – Seldom Seen Smith, Doc Sarvis, Bonnie Abzzug and George Hayduke himself – get back on the sabotage trail against the hulking 7-story, 22 million pound earth mover called Super-GEM, a GOLIATH - part of a mining effort near the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  This surreal moloch monster is being used to construct a massive ore mine for nuclear materials.  Of course it takes until the end of the book for the ultimate conflict to occur, which gives plenty of time for making fun of the capitalist U.S. and its love of false ‘development’ – although Abbey never calls it that.  A vague ‘industrialism’ seems to be his target, but the dangerous and warlike nuclear industry seems to be the immediate issue.  A stupid Mormon politician and businessman, Bishop Love, eats radioactive ore just to prove it is safe, and this moronic (The Angel Moroni!) Bishop Love provides the human ‘target.'

The ideology of the book is deep ecology anarchism, even while the protagonists drive cars, drink corporate beer, eat meat and live in ranch houses.  What they really object to is the destruction of a fragile desert nature by industrial methods – dams, roads, mines and developments like hotels and golf courses.  Once destroyed, never recovered…

The book reflects a somewhat innocent political situation prior to the present application of ‘terrorism’ statutes against water protectors or earth protectors or animal protectors in the U.S.   Now the full weight of the capitalist military and police comes down on the heads of people trying to protect the planet or animals, not a ludicrous bunch of inept establishment clowns as portrayed here.  Bloodthirsty and/or foolish federal, state and private agents all attempt to protect the massive Super-GEM earthmover in the interests of the Syn-Fuel corporation.  A familiar story…still ongoing.

Abbey’s obsession with a Ericka, a Swedish Earth Firster’s ‘upthrust breasts’ and his continual ridicule of lesbians hints at a somewhat archaic approach to sexual issues.  Basically some horny and lonely park ranger’s wonderings...  River guide Seldom Seen is a practicing polygamist Mormon, a church which comes in for a mountain of ridicule.  Yet Seldom never misses a chance to couple with others, so the men become ridiculous lechers too.

Earth First!, Abbey's favored organization, is now a shadow of its former self.  For those you cannot defeat, ridicule serves as a second tactic.  It seems to be the secret of this book.  Triumphant fictional victories over Moloch are a form of ‘eco’ fantasy that only exist in more mundane ways in the real world.  However, given the many oil pipelines being driven through various places, like west Canada (Trans Mountain), northern Minnesota (Enbridge 3) and through Texas (Trans Pecos), this is no laughing matter.  Abbey would agree, as his humorous book dedication attests.  The issue now extends far beyond the destruction of the immediate environment and goes into the warming of the whole planet.  Earth First! relied on secretive sabotage or small civil disobedience protests, when what is needed is a mass movement and a real eco-socialist mass opposition party to put muscle into the fight.  Certainly the dismal Democrats are not a real opposition.  We saw a taste of a mass opposition in the "NoDAPL" fight at Standing Rock.  I.E. bring in the heavy battalions, not just the skirmishers.

Prior books by Edward Abbey reviewed below:  “Monkey Wrench Gang” and “Good News.”  Also similar issues: “Tar Sands,” “Sulfuric Acid & the Boundary Waters,” “The Party’s Over,” “The Race For What’s Left,” “Capitalism Vs. The Climate.”

And I got it at May Day Books! (Which also has “The Monkey Wrench Gang.”)

Red Frog

June 22, 2018

Happy Solstice!  Enjoy the fading light…

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