Attack on Co-Evolution Quarterly


Technically a letter to one of Warren Brodey’s brothers, it contains a pungent critique of the Co-Evolution Quarterly, the successor to the Whole Earth Catalog. Ironically, it’s a publication where Avery Johnson published one of his articles. Original is in the Brodey archives in Vienna.

Dear Arthur,

I am eating some delicious rice, [lamb ?] & peppers, and writing. Thank you for sending Tledieu (?) + Co Evolution. It has been interesting for me to think about Co Evolution + wonded [wondered?] why it is that I find myself both intrigued + turned off by it. The answer is simple: like all catalogues of things + ideas that do not have a fundimental (sic) kind of declared theory – they are usefull (sic) as catalogues. And who should ask for more? I guess I got a problem. I find big stores like the one down the street from you, with so much to buy puts me in a kind of panick (sic) – The food is good, but I like to feel the tree that grew the fruit in some way. I need some personal person to help me chose & to give me a feeling that the fruit is from a tree & not made by machine… for purposes beyond my simple minded [something]. So I don’t go into By Stores and I find catalogues like Big Stores depersonalizing. But Co Evolution Quarterly has personalities shining through: Steve Baer, Gregory Batison (?) & Stewart + Brandt & others – some of whom I have met, & have some relationships with – good, warm relationships at that.

But still something is not there. What could it be? What is the religion of Co Evolution Quarterly, of Whole Earth Catalogue. It is increase communication about & use of what is available to support whatever life style people chose but particularly a whole earth preserving life style. That’s a fine religion. Serve the people. All the people. Especially all the people who want to live in an alternate way. Give people a choice, make them aware of available resources. Again fine. But something is missing. Should we be helping the people who don’t know there is a choice? How? They are made anxious, as I am in the Big Store by the idea of alternate realities, alternate life styles – why try to push anything down their throats. Can’t anyway. Hmmm. So what is missing?

Would it be easier if the Quarterly were against something – Hmm. That would mean that being for something like world survival is not enough. One needs to analyze, work out, consider – what one is against. Surely there are articles ‘against’ in the Co Evolution Quarterly – articles that for example tell you how to arrange a burial without an undertaker – thats against commercialization of death. That is surely positive. No argument? But something is missing. What? Try again.

Somewhere there needs to develop a kind of solidarity among people who wish to preserve the world – and our species and our children. Solidarity. What is that? It is a kind of group linking arms to hold together in battle, or in building. It’s a moral and physical united-ness and trust among those who share values build with them, and are willing to fight for them. Solidarity. That is missing. In fact there is a kind of weakening that happens when people go into a Big Store – the idea of so much fruit, of so many choices, so many different life styles – and ways of achieving a heightened personal development – seems to make becoming united a less meaningfull (sic) direction. Solidarity with neighbours and friends?

So should we then starve a little, join those who are hungry? Should we be hungry to be [connected?] with those who are? Should we pretend we can’t grow enough food in the back yard patch to feed ourselves for the winter? That we can’t live well off the rich peoples’ garbage dump – not as bums, but in a very fine low cost style. Hmm. That somehow is not the point. What is?

Well if there was a well defined enemy, or an earthquake, we could, if we were not too inexperienced, pull together after a while and make a very fine and united struggle against the well defined enemy.

But what if the enemy is kept impersonal – the system. And Big Money and Big Stores and Big Corporations & Big Bigs all work to hide the fact that they are run by a few humans and are destroying many humans and yet destroying them in a particularly generous and pacifying way. How? By using their creative inventions I mean people’s inventions, like those in the Whole Earth Catalogue – to create Bigness. Bigness that is used to make ordinary people small, powerless and to remove the ordinary [something] from the control side of the picture. Oops perhaps I’m losing my way. This is the hardest part of the story.

The people – the masses of people – have created the wealth that is being given (sold) back to them in return for the people giving up their management responsibility, power etc – delegating instead to the few Bigs. Nope that doesn’t make it! I sound like a radical I’ll try again.

There is a capacity in our industry now to produce plenty for everybody. I mean our new tools that belong to everybody – electronics, windmills, aquaculture, easy transport – the tools that we have developed that make our country ‘modern’. Those tools can allow one man to produce enough food for a hundred. If we want that! What do we want! “That’s not our business” Mr Big says “That’s my business. I got money I control why, how, and when things are produced! You do your job earn enough and you are free to buy and sell just as you please. You don’t know anything about Big Business you’d die without us. Supply and demand. That’s your control. You control by what you chose to buy. And we can advertise to shape your opinion – but that’s just science.”

Hmm. How do you fight back? Is Co Evolution Quarterly a “fight back” evaluator. Does it [invent?] itself in developing and leading and following the struggles that its readers experience. Hmm. No perhaps I haven’t said that straight. Does Co Evolution Quarterly express its religion – preserve earth not only by making available ideas, tools & toys that allow new choice & sound choice, but also by promoting solidarity in peoples’ effort to achieve that?

At times the old Whole Earth Catalogue helped arrange rallies. *(put in name of event)

I will never forget the foodless environment that effort to illustrate the world food situation was important. It provided a symbol. But has the Whole Earth Cataogues’ child the Co Evolutionary Quarterly taken an active position in promoting the group formation necessary for promoting the values it stands for. Or does it have values. I think it does. Strong values. And they are declared. But they are not values expressed in unity against; only unity for. Is it possible to hold values without struggling against those who because of their values would destroy yours – perhaps even without awareness. Destroying a community can simply be a matter of putting up modern housing, or giving people the benefits of a highly capitalized automated factory. That the modern housing is depersonalizing alienating; that the factory uses ten workers instead of a thousand that is simply dismissed as inevitable “modernization,” “progress” “science”. But who makes the choices. The money valued financial folks. But perhaps I am lost again.

So what is missing. Politics? Christ not that! More idiocy. I am not sure of what word to use. “Politics” is a shit word.

So what is missing? A spirit of fighting? Why must we always organize around fighting. What have we learned from the hippie era. We only do that again.

Well I’m reading the whole stack of Co Evolution Quarterlies you sent me Arthur and wondering what is missing? Here’s my answer: group support of a set of agreed upon values. Support of each other. People support. Warmth confidence creativity in struggle for achieving those values by creating the means, and by making each success feed the next – and progressing in our values. Helping people keep track of the fighting groups and their progress. Helping them locate where they can put their skills & effort to use. Helping new groups form and all feel their unity by purpose.

Solidarity in groups working to achieve, and to defend and to fight when necessary to preserve earth from the current ecological destruction:

People come first! Money is second. Which people? Whose money? Hmm. We’d best begin by banding together into small groups and start learning how to create whatever we believe is [religion?] & save – slowly step by step.

What is it we want to achieve? What do we want to defend? Where do we want to go in our progress? Groups of friends must begin to quietly and clearly formulate plans and test them in action. Its family business, not politics. The big family. Surely it is ‘political’ action I speak of? The history of politics in America would say that it is not. ‘Politics’ in America has a different meaning if historically defined. In America “Politics” is “Money”! 

O.K. What is missing, help in creating, and furthering groups development in the same direction as individual development through enhanced awareness of fighting back. What is missing: Agitation for group formation & solidarity in struggle.

But is this the task of Co Evolution Quarterly. Its job is surely more intellectual. After sitting up with Beteson (?) in days gone by listening to him discuss co evolution, I suggest Co Evolution Quarterly ought to be more about evolving as groups of people who are co evolving, and groups of groups who are finding a direction and evolving in a context of groups of other creatures & seas & mountains.

So what’s needed: the formation of co evolutionary groups, that are consciously working at evolving! And protecting themselves from annihilation by money first crazy people.

Well the lamb and rice is eaten Arthur & I’ve expressed to you my feeling about the Co Evolution Quarterly. Does it have any impact? Or is it another collage of words that simply won’t evolve off the paper into action?

Best regards,


Who the hell else could I write this too.


Could you criticize this, edit it add to it & send it back. Maybe others could help. It is just a draft, and may never be more.