Homesteading and Biopolitics


Brodey’s critique of homesteading is particularly interesting in light of the fact that many of his former collaborators at the quarry embraced it. Original is in the Brodey archives in Vienna.

If we are to homestead, we must move west again into the Pacific. California land is already full. And sold out. Going west into the Pacific, finding some uninhabited ocean bed mountain tops to camp on – that is possible. It takes new technology – we have that. It takes people. Thats easy for there is [something] to be had. But if the homesteading is to survive long enough to be an ecological contribution – an example of living productivity with the living world – then we need political insight, political study, and political skill. If thats missing, even local ecological harmony will be used – sold to our present organization – so as to add to the destruction.

A biopolitical approach has one unique feature: colonies made up of organisms, we declare, can usefully be considered single organisms too. A human for example, is a colony of cells: its parts themselves alive [something] to create a creature that is more than the sum of its parts. And if an ecological combination is lively – as we might hope the homesteaders colony to be – then it will become alive in a way that combines its parts into an organism. This creature will have powers and characteristics which one could never guess by adding up its parts. Its biological architecture itself assures a novel energy. A colony creates its people; just as does the people it colony. And the leaders of a healthy creature create and are created by the group which they lead. And this implies the continuous evolutionary struggle both internal and in relation to the environment that characterizes all living systems. And the internal external creature environments are actually co-evolving and evolved too

So now comes the big, “So what?” How does this relate to immediate necessity. To my mind, it is ‘of necessity’ that the homesteading folks and their supporters take the responsibility right from the beginning to make as much as they can of their evolution – AWARE. Only by deepening their awareness of evolutionary process, can they survive. It means beginning a meta politics – this I call biopolitcs. If we dont see the actual material events that are occurring in their historical development and evolutionary perspective then we become victims of the present social pressures from much larger communities and their way of organizing their overwhelming necessities. The larger communities working with the ‘natural’ splits among us, will try to swallow us. The will use praise, or criticism, or help, or direct annexation. A clear well fought out line of relational (political) direction becomes vitally important.

Along with increasing brute force, political stability is now being maintained in the industrialized lands by massive symbolic distraction. The homesteaders sea-mount colony could well provide an adventurous distraction of the same kind a “Natural Park”: Destroy the environment but worship a little patch that is kept sacred.

Would ‘homesteaders’ wish to become a commercial T.V. success – that needs evaluation from the standpoint of the organisms purpose. T.V. support can be a powerfull political weapon. For whom? Whose side are we on? What is possible? 

Or shall we hide in the sea – that is a possibility but not now. Shall we escape to the sea. The flow westward meant adventure, escape, and profit for the merchants in Europe – the homeland. But now the flow west has brought us to the East, and confrontation. There is only one way to escape our present sickness, and that is to know as best we can, the process of politics, and to be ahead in accurate prediction of what will come to pass as the creatures of different size and rythms (sic) and evolutionary drive force, evolve each other. And we must join in this struggle.

A small force can fight a large one and grow to win qualitative system change, only when it can predict correctly, form strong alliances, and use and manipulate the larger creatures’ weaknesses, and protect itself from its own. In evolutionary terms the smaller creature has power in so far as it can change the rate of change of particular characteristics of the larger creatures growth in relation to its own. It is the shell in switching on and off the other creatures amplifiers to help correct or worsen the growth of weakness and strength into particular evolutionary combinations. With its own, that is decisive.

Every single person needs to begin working at the new awareness of political control – that our conceptual progress makes possible. If we take this responsibility we will soon be aware that we need to work in study groups, helping each other, sharing experience, and using the combinations of distance and intimacy with events and experience that a well formed political study group allows.

The leadership that develops has the job [something] the more general experience available to to leader (as spokesman for the creatures he is part of) in a way that respects and uses local intimate involvement with the particulars that create the general situation. You will see that the evolution of particular and general in relation to each other itself needs clear understanding. This is an essential ingredient of biopolitical insight: Leadership both general and local must provide focus – and avoid the simplification system that separates part from whole – homing in on the new pattern recognizing methods that can help us leap beyond our present ‘information?’ overload. Insight and action cycling with each other provide wisdom. Concious (sic) awareness allows us to share our wisdom more widely and to reap its evolutionary value.

The leaders of the initial ‘homestead groups’ and the groups themselves must study their own relation to producing, to ownership particularly, and the rights of decision we call ownership. They must study to become even more aware of the historic people groupings in our own societies: those producing without owning, those producing and those owning without power to decide, and those who slave unncessarily and help the decision makers trick each other. We must know black, white, upper class, middle and lower realities and their relation to the groupings that are important to changes in our modern productivity that make what we in practice accept as natural and given absolute. We must study the struggle among those in the light of economic evolutionary changes groups. This is the key. A key to what? To changing what we believe is natural and given. And to deciding what we are willing to fight for. And to fighting to win the changes we and those who we ally ourselves with believe are just.

It is one thing to discuss a ‘socialist’ or a ‘capitalist’ organization of the homestead colony – but quite another to detail how one controls one’s action or group action, or environmental action so as to amplify growth in one or the other evolutionary direction. Yet we must make such detailed decisions in a way that amplifies the correctness of the [something] we have chosen given the external, less controlled environment that we are actively [something] into or creating. This environment may exist in quite a different time space, and decision space than that we can control. I think it is worthwhile discussing biopolitics in terms quite different than ‘Democrats or Republicans’, or the linear evolution – one variety divides into several one survives – that Darwin taught us, and thst still survives in the classroom. Instead, we are discussing non linear leaps of compressed interactive development occurring in those epic moments when life having accumulated tremendous pressure through accumulated growth-struggle reaches a point beyond the containment power of the previous generation and the final quantitative regenerations burst into recombining qualitative changes. These create the qualitatively reorganized whole that is more than its parts. This new entity builds pressure [something] co-evolving the parts. Such qualitative change allows the survival of the even larger creature – Earth. The speed up at the time of the large size, rapid, qualitative change can usefully be called a revolutionary stage of the evolutionary process. These are the kinds of considerations that go into biopolitics.

But concepts, without the people who will use them with judgement grown from experience in social change, productive work and experimentation – mean nothing. The living embodiment of politics in our time is the actual changing relation between the collective body of working people and the smaller creature formed by those who have lived from managing the labours of others. The larger working creature. This focus brings East and West into confrontation. This confrontation increasingly effects every single person’s life and his collective lives too.

Our present society during its’ industrial revolution produced tools of ever increasing power. These tools have now evolved to the point that if we used them correctly in the service of ecological and human species well being – we could create a society organized around abundance, rather than scarcity and profit. This invention and pursuit of high productivity was created for the purpose of making profit. This was necessary for the creature which could take advantage of the profit most directly. For each hundred fold increase in the power of the managers as a result of increased production – the wage earner perhaps doubled his wages and privileges. But that story is known. I will highlight only that the industrial revolution was a cultural as well as a technical revolution. We moved socially from the age of kings and queens to merchant empires and huge governments empires organized in parallel to business. We changed our whole way of culture – even the way master and slave maintained their positions. Master and slave was perhaps a suitable arrangement in the past when the need for security could be more easily guaranteed. But now scarcity for the many – and plenty for the few is enforced with difficulty

Headline story: quantitative change in production relations, people, machines and techniques co-evolving each other… machines and tecniques (sic) evolve faster… and faster… social tools stagnate… a positive feedback cycle… machines build machines building wealth for building machines… expertness in financing sets the limits… explosive production… dump it into the sea… waste it… wage war for who gets the raw materials… burn the grain shoot the calves… dump the milk… make it all radioactive… Stop it… people starve… organize a better consumption system… Repair… Patch… Loan… Profit… PROFIT…

The break through to qualitative evolution, and new qualitative systems are already rooted. The old system has tried to tear the roots out. Its frantic tearing can only provide the circumstances required for the next evolutionary step. That we live and must survive and be the actors in an epic period of history requires profound activity, summing up results, study, sharing, and awareness, and activity again.

The ‘homestead group’ can build its metapolitical awareness with the added help of a context of evolutionary architecture, the ebb and flow, rythmed (sic) tides and surfing of the sea. I am not being poetic in the empty sense, much must be left unsaid in the effort to compress. In the ocean – as any scuba diver knows, one feels the fulness of being immersed in environments that are moving and evolving. One has a different kind of control than on land, a fresh time space and rythmic (sic) size sense. The wave overhead swings one back and forth among the coral. But the other fish swing in the same currents with you. The currents moving forward find obstacles and reflect back and influence the past where they have been. There are no thin straight lines as on an unmoving page. The strange flowing moving rythming (sic) materializing context of immersion has more of the topology that life swims in, than the vertical, horizontal front and back, feel on the ground, straight, upstanding frame of air and land.

Evolutionary structures in an evolutionary surround will I expect help to group us into evolutionary creature that can more easily evolve. But will we as homesteaders evolve ourselves into isolation and lose our capacity to share the older frame of reference? A biopolitical overview that shares intimacy with other evolutionary creatures on their terms will be needed for survival of the ‘seamount’ creatures. Perhaps we will never get a chance to leap ahead – if we don’t begin to build a biopolitic that is correct. Now! The period of pressing down on the spring board preparing for the leap is nearly over.

From the standpoint of the ‘homestead groups’ this means – productive forces must be guided toward the development of evolutionary materials for warmth housing etc – living homes; and productive forces must be guided towards the development of awareness of the immersed, intertwining and alive biopolitic that controls the collective creatures and the colonies they form. Perhaps colonies is not the right word, for the direct and indirect (financially dependent) colonial lands have declared a new order, and are leaping out beyond the old control.

In a time of lightning like discharge of social forces, both good physical and wise political structuring mean ‘good’ for co-evolving with these overwhelming forces.

These forces will tear apart a simply technical or romantic-idealistic or conceptually lazy practiced, or adventurous seamount. The homesteaders like every person – all of us, must evolve a trusted biopolitical approach to disorder during the calm before the storm. This we must do, regardless of how simple our beginning, while there is still time to think about decisions. During the height of the evolutionary storm one has only time for reflex decisions. The development of the current political reflexes is a task that every person, and team of people that work together, every group creature must co-evolve – struggling to use that special aspect of itself that is more than the sum of its component members.

We must seriously set ourselves the task. Its difficulty is reduced if men and women work together using as focus what we, as collective creatures and as individuals, have actually done that effects the ecology of creatures of which we are a part. Where are the sense organs of the surrounding larger evolutionary creatures, how are they organized in terms of what they do in fact. What can we touch – a discussion of the happenings we have engendered and their meaning – is much different from discussing ideals which are without bodies, and are meant for hiding actual productions of social significance. Such tackling of the creatures around us, is quite different than passively pretending that we do not participate in the choices made by the larger corporate creatures who speak in the tongue of their corporate structure.

Is the task too enormous? One easy place for a biopolitic work study group to focus is on the political relations having to do with the central work the group has chosen to work on. What are the questions that would be asked of the situation given the particular biopolitical structure for e.g. in Africa, in U.S., in Soviet, in China. It is important to realize that stuffing our hands in our pockets and our heads in the air, does not prepare us for the job of beginning our own qualitative changing