The Kids Don't Go Back

<table><tr><td>From <a href=" ponderosa</a>

I wrote this essay a few months back for an anarchist anthology which isn’t going to be published. I am fairly through with this blog, but I plan to spend this winter writing a book. Please keep your prayers with me and with the greater good, and keep on working for a better planet.

Our schools look like prisons
and our prisons look like malls.
-Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band

It’s a bleak landscape, indeed. Like a stone thunderstorm, I think, surveying the damage from my
favorite hill.

I sit in the shade of some rocks on top of a nameless mesa in Nevada, a place I share with soaring red tail
hawks, a playful murder of crows, and the lazy desert tortoise, watching clouds form on the updrafts of
the mountains to the west. Below me, to the east, lies what was once a lush oasis of meadows and
springs in the parched Mojave Desert. It was home to friendly bands of Shoshone and Paiute Indians
who had relied for at least thirteen millennia on the underground aquifer lying beneath the valley floor
to create the meadows which later lead Spanish conquistadors to grace the basin with its current name:
Las Vegas. The wasteland.</td><td><img title="the earth is pretty cool" src=""></td></tr></table>
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mudcracked houses
If there were water
And no rock
If there were rock
And also water
And water
A spring
A pool among the rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water. [1]

No, there is no water. In just over two centuries the empire that came like a black dawn from the east
has sucked it dry. The dry sterile thunder is the monotonous roar of never-ending airplanes and semi
trucks on the beltway. The mudcracked houses are stucco model homes that so rarely shelter laughter

and livelihood you might never know someone has died next door until the newspapers pile up. Not
even the cicada sings here anymore, and one could venture a lifetime without finding dry grass. After
publishing this poem, TS Eliot said he most certainly did not have in mind a desolate portrait of the
modern landscape, but I think he was having visions of Las Vegas—a la St. John’s Revelations—and
thought only his own deeply troubled mind could produce such unspeakable images. But here it is,
spread out below me like a graveyard of stars.

At the very base of my hill is a bulldozed plot of dirt for a planned housing tract that is progressing at
such a sluggish pace in such an unfavorable economy that one is tempted to let the developers hang
themselves rather than even do them the honor of monkey wrenching the operation. Just beyond that
sits a private high school named Bishop Gorman Christian Academy. On its outer fringe, facing my hill,
stand three wooden crucifixes lit by floodlights, standing watch over the border between the silent
desert and the kingdom of concrete and electricity beyond. Well, they can have it if they want it. The
coyotes go in to steal their trash on Wednesdays, and other than that the critters I share my hill with are
perfectly fine with this arrangement.

Where is the university in all of this? Well, it’s quite plain. It is somewhere behind the Las Vegas Strip, a
little to the left, hidden in the maze of buildings by its unremarkable rectangular camouflage, perhaps
behind one of the mega-casinos. I happen to know that there are a few anarchists there, but I don’t
care to visit them in their native habitat—the coffee shop, or UC housing, or the dorm room which they
are probably unaware has the exact same construction as a jail cell.

No, I will sit on my hill and watch the clouds.

Johnnie Bobb, leader of the Western Shoshone National Council which by right of the Treaty of Ruby
Valley still holds claim to the Las Vegas Valley and all the rest of their ancestral land (now cruelly
irradiated by nuclear testing and partitioned by highways and government fencing), once told me about
his experience with the United States schooling system. “Our mothers would tell us to run,” he said.
“When the government came to take us to their schools we would go and hide in the sagebrush. They
wanted to take us away from our home.” Johnnie probably had the right idea, considering how
government schools served as mills for cultural genocide and often nightmarish abuse. The
government’s policy on “reeducating” Indians curiously mirrored General Pratt’s famous decree: “Kill
the Indian in him, and save the man.” Sounds like the policy of killing the buffalo and saving the cow.

A little to the east of Las Vegas, following the Colorado River (which is currently so plugged up by the
Hoover Dam that it no longer reaches the ocean—thank college-educated engineers and politicians for
that), lies Hopiland. The Hopi, or at least a group of them known as the “traditionals”, have successfully
resisted the American school system and its devastating consequences to their way of life. They have
done so with unwavering resilience and steadfast faith in the old way of life which has brought them
through countless generations.

Back in 1906, the Hopi spiritual leader Yukiuma drew a line in the sand which can still be seen today. It

was a vital turning point for the Hopi way of life. On one side of the line stood those who wished to
integrate with the United States and its system of housing, finance, and (especially) education; on the
other stood Yukiuma and the traditionals, who wished to continue practicing the spiritual culture of
peace and plenty which had given their people life and happiness since time immemorial, and refused to
relinquish their children to the government schools. [2]

Despite repeated imprisonment and threats of military violence, Yukiuma and other elders refused all
demands from the government that they give up their kids, no matter how sugarcoated these proposals
appeared. As one Hopi elder put it, “My father was also against the schools. [He said] you will learn a
language with different meanings. They will teach you their way to behave. Our culture will become
strange to you. You will never know who you are.” [3] (Emphasis added.) To the Hopi, it wasn’t just
their cultural heritage at stake or an abstract sense of pride which lead them to refuse the system; it was
their very sense of belonging to the world, the fundamental sense of oneness with all of nature—a
crucial feeling of wellbeing and at-homeness of which hyper-mediated civilized life is so obviously bereft.

Another elder said, “First they deprive us of our land. If we set foot on such ‘private property’ they kick
us off. These poor settlers, they offer no food, no place to sleep—just—a kick in the ass! We did not
invent their money and its rules. We don’t want to ‘earn’ our living as they do, forced to buy everything
we need in life.” [4] For the Hopi, the necessities of life are not purchased by earning paper rectangles
through some unrelated labor, they go right to the source. The mountain spring for their water, the
humble fields for their food. Life is about harmony for them, and tangibly so. They have perfected the
art of being nourished by eternal, cyclical patterns—so that their way of life may go on forever.

It seems the “civilized” government and its infrastructure appeared to traditional Hopis as nothing more
than an estrangement from the life of the land—from the rain, the seasons, the rhythms of nature—and
they continue to refuse it in order to preserve their balance with the world. Their autonomy and the
unmediated fulfillment of their desires are far more valuable to them than cars and electric lights. The
Hopi believe that by continuing their ancient ceremonies they hold the whole earth together in
harmony, though they admit that the battle is becoming more and more difficult. The younger
generation is losing interest in the old way, and more and more of them are leaving their ancestral
home for the modern life. As one elder put it, “They don’t have the shops or machines or companies
here. I guess that’s why after graduation the kids don’t go back.” Those words keep echoing in my
mind. “The kids don’t go back.” And thus the circle is broken that has been turning since before there
was a before.

To this day, traditional Hopis in Hotevilla resist all so-called modern conveniences and any attempt by
the government or the “puppet Tribal Council” to legislate, systematize, or co-opt their traditional life
and land. Power lines have been torn down. Water pipes dug up and tossed aside. Fences uprooted in
the unshakable belief that, “A division on a map or on the land is another division of the mind.” [5]

The elating hoot of an owl. The afternoon is getting on, and I’ve been daydreaming. What was my
mission here? “Another division of the mind.” “Another division of the mind.” “Another division of the

mind.” Oh yes, universities.

So what does the Hopi attitude towards education teach us about the role of the university in the quest
for liberation? Anarchists seek to dismantle all forms of oppression, both inner and outer. How can the
university nurture this ambition, when it is the highest stepping stone of the government school system
which has such a bloody and brutal history?

Never mind the fact that the military-industrial complex relies on higher education to supply them with
fresh ideas on how to maim and kill innocent people across the ocean. Never mind that student debt
might as well be considered a modern form of indentured servitude. Never mind that the level of
compartmentalization of knowledge dispersed by university education renders it about as useful for
living wholesome living as a nipple on the forehead. Never mind that college is a necessary and integral
cog in the system of industrial destruction that is systematically destroying the planet’s ability to
produce and sustain life. Never mind that the constraints and structures imposed on student life are
inherently oppressive, and are designed to maintain servile, fearful patterns of consciousness. Never
mind that “science” and “scientology” hold the belief in common that one must pay to advance through
ever-more-elite spheres of knowledge (to what end no one knows). Never mind that the underlying
paradigm that runs from kindergarten through grad school is diametrically opposed to spirituality and
transcendental revelation, a direct connection to the source and destiny of all life. Never mind all that—
Dr. Theodore Kaczynski could have told you that. What I want to highlight is that education does not
equal life, does not equal wisdom, and does not equal freedom. They Hopi and Shoshone could see that
clearly—obviously the system of education was to be a forceful forfeit of their traditional beliefs and
ways of life, a way to cut them off from their autonomy and their land. It isn’t so obvious for those of us
born into the belly of the beast. What, then, can the institution of industrial education and its inherent
paradigm offer to anarchism, and how has it infected (sorry, effected) our way of viewing the world?
And if academia is not the right place to look for knowledge, then where?

I find it hard to believe that someone can learn to care for the world in such an oppressive and
alienating setting as the university, being as it is a kind of human factory for the industrial system. No
matter how progressive the curriculum may be, no matter how sensitive to the issues of race, gender,
and culture, how can this form of learning help us to free the world if we cannot free ourselves with it?
How can we presume to know what is best for the world when we are not even out in the thick of it, in
the grit and grime? Any talk of liberty in the university is speculative, like an abstract quantum theorem
that no matter how complex cannot explain the beauty of a Shoshone sunrise ceremony. And no matter
how much anarchists pour over tactics and dusty old rhetoric, an essential humanity is still lacking. The
world they want to change is somehow unreal to them, and many of the demons they see come from

The way of life which has guided humanity through countless eons of peace cannot be drawn on a chalk
board, and true wisdom has no tuition. Clear sight cannot be bought and sold. Generosity, grace, and
kindness cannot be graded like a test, and there is no graduation into life. The university will not give

you warmth at night and food in the morning out of good heartedness and deep humanity, the way that
the Hopi or Shoshone would. It’s all for money, money, money—just like all those other buildings I see
from up here on my hill. Someone is sucking money out of them, like they sucked all the water out from
under Las Vegas—“The Meadows”—and paved over the land with a living tombstone called a city.
When it runs bone dry only the clouds will be left. Not a whisper of grass of a drop of water—all for

There are some things you can only learn from an old timer on a street corner. Some things only a tree
can teach you. In fact, I have often thought that there is nothing you cannot learn from a tree. A
lifetime of staring up at the night sky isn’t enough for one to unveil all its secrets, and its mysteries
demand just as much reverence as all the libraries in the world combined. The only way I have found
real truth is by following laughter, and long trails that are wet with snow and tears. That way nothing is
left out. I hold to the open sun and sit in the shade, the stones beneath me. Here I am. Everyone must
follow their own path.

[1] TS Eliot, “The Wasteland”
[2] Techqua Ikachi, Issue #1
[3] Techqua Ikachi: My Land – My life (Documentary film)
[4] Ibid.
[5] Hopi: People of Peace (Documentary Film)
[6] Tao Te Ching, Chapter 13
[7] Chuang Tzu / the Primitivist, Chapter 11

Further Reading:
Vine Deloria, Spirit & Reason
John Zerzan, Future Primitive, “Division of Labor”, “Silence”
Alan Watts, The Way of Zen


Yes, a great essay! Let's contemplate the obsolescence of metaphysical propositions and instead intuit from environmental phenomena.

Our schools look like prisons
and our prisons look like malls.
-Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band

This reminds me of this guy I've been reading lately named Foucault. He wrote:

"Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?"

Hah, this guy, had to lol, I think he appreciated humility. But yeah, the western judeo-christian institutionalization of society is the foundation for the construction of mechanisms which capitalism requires to initiate its programs. All these structures are tiered and interwoven into a grand psychological narrative.

an excellent essay, but why not give credit to the university where credit is due? how many have gone to university only to discover that it is a place to fill and fatten one’s knowledge-tanks in a structured, rather than situational manner, infusing knowledge as a wooden worm-gear feeds food to a goose to produce a rare richness inside her, called ‘fois gras’, eagerly devoured by the leaders of society who are the architects of such 'twisted' schemes.

be fair, a university is a great place to educate one on the degeneracy of a society that would use universities to 'Educate' its members.

are you sure that gooey brown greasy stuff is "fois gras"?? i took a gander and am not convinced at all.

emile - Sun, 2012-10-14 00:08

In respect to that progress which individual organisms display in the course of their evolution, this question has been answered by the Germans. The investigations of Wolff, Goethe, and Van Baer have established the truth that the series of changes gone through during the development of a seed into a tree, or an ovum into an animal, constitute an advance from homogeneity of structure to heterogeneity of structure. In its primary stage, every germ consists of a substance that is uniform throughout, both in texture and chemical composition. The first step in its development is the appearance of a difference between two parts of this substance; or, as the phenomenon is described in physiological language-a differentiation. Each of these differentiated divisions presently begins itself to exhibit some contrast of parts; and by these secondary differentiations become as definite as the original one. This progress is continuously repeated-is simultaneously going on in all parts of the growing embryo; and by endless multiplication of these differentiations there is ultimately produced that complex combination of tissues and organs constituting the adult animal or plant. This is the course of evolution followed by all organisms whatever. It is settled beyond dispute that organic progress consists in a change from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous. I like to eat shit.

don't let your anxiety with your fetish stop you in your tracks. you were on quite a roll with your impersonation up to that point. everything is going to be fine, you'll see. just suck it in, pick up the thread, and carry on as if nothing happened.

emile - Sun, 2012-10-14 01:57

Watching apes and chimps can also teach us some more specific lessons on how to resolve workplace conflict. Chimps, for examples, are masters of reconciliation, a behaviour first witnessed by primatologist Frans de Waal in the 1970s, after a raucous fight between two high-ranking chimps. After the dust settled, one male reached out to his rival, fingers extended, palm upward, an offering of peace. The two apes embraced. It was a reconciliation.

Executives and managers still build careers on the motto, "Never apologise, never explain". But apologies are serious business. Managers wouldn't be spending 42% of their time mediating workplace disputes if their fellow workers understood the natural healing power of the words "I'm sorry". An apology can also miraculously transform a client's hostility into honey.

For instance, there's a hospital in Kentucky, Veterans Affairs Medical Centre, that has a policy of admitting medical errors, apologising for them, and initiating a claim - even when the family itself has no idea medical error contributed to a patient's death. Sceptics predicted that this kind of "extreme honesty" would be a liability nightmare. But legal costs at the hospital are now among the lowest in the system.

There are other evolutionary pressures at work in the corporate jungle - ones associated with negative language - such as nepotism.

Among baboons and vervet monkeys, nepotism comes naturally. High-ranking elders routinely interfere at playtime to ensure that Little Tiffany Baboon and Young Toby Vervet get their way.

The new generation thus grows up secure in the habit of defeating the family's subordinates, and the monkey dynasty gets passed from one generation to the next.

And what's wrong with a little nepotism? Everybody does it. Any monkey would recognise what Rupert Murdoch was up to when he gave his kids top jobs at the company he built. Nepotism evolved partly because it's a shortcut to trust and cooperation. But children don't always inherit their parents' abilities.

Let's talk about working dogs.

Dogs inherit expertise at smelling things, a trait emphasised in *German Shepherds* by selective breeding. When puppies grow up with mothers trained in narcotics-detection, 85% of them show an aptitude for the family business.

However, when puppies with the same genetic predisposition are raised by overtrained deadbeat mothers, only 19% of them show this aptitude. It's about nurture more than nature.

Children born to the founders of great companies don't generally benefit from the kind of selective breeding that's common with dogs. And they may not even be raised by the entrepreneurial parent, but by the divorced spouse. Or by the nanny.

Nepotism may still work. A study in the Journal of Finance found that family-controlled public companies perform significantly better than non-family companies.

One problem with nepotism at any company is that it creates resentment. Employees are likely to wonder just what Lachlan Murdoch did to receive more than £8m when he left News Corporation last year.

But the real issue is that nepotism has no place when you're playing with other peoples' money or careers. I like to eat shit. There are some things that family can't monkey with.

Your macrologous impersonation of Emile is flawed! You are in denial about the institutional nature of privilege, and you contradict yourself by stating that physiology is a universal leveller, yet you assume that humyns possess an equivalent cognitive propensity with dogs and monkeys. I think in this case I shall invent a new word,,,straw ape, straw dog!!

Richard Conniff's article on animal behaviour was coming from the seed idea that 'geneology doesn't matter'.

there are other stories about chimps that reflect far better on humans, ... humans that joseph campbell suggested should have been called 'homo symbolicus' rather than 'homo sapien'.

"{in an experiment] ... where Chimpanzees were sprayed with ice-water [which they hate] every time they touched a distinctive red ladder placed in their cage. The chimps quickly learned to police one another so that there would be no climbing by anyone on that ladder. There was soon no longer any need to spray the ice-water since their mutual policing was so effective. When newcomers joined the group, they were quickly trained not to touch the red ladder, and when the entire group was replaced, one after the other, with new residents who had never experienced the spraying of ice-water in association with touching the red ladder, the entirely new group continued to police themselves so that they did not climb on it. Learning ‘good behaviour’ was by way of revelation of what the group held to be ‘good behaviour’.”

university teaches us in a similar manner. new students are brought in one after the other like the newcomers in the chimp cage, there is tremendous peer pressure to accept the prevailing 'wisdom'. internet bullying and the suicides and massacre-itus it can breed, informs us of how powerful peer pressure can be. what is less obvious is how it keeps us in the social order we are currently in.

scientific thinking is the very essence of symbol-based thinking and behaviour.

No Emile, I disagree, one can learn about the degenerate nature of a society by embedding oneself into its fabric on the streets rather than within its factories. In this way one is not sheltered from the reality of corruption, and one may implement positive counter-measures to delay the coming extinction. College bored me in its first 4 weeks and I was out. To me it was the quintessential bourgeois factory for perpetuating the social contract of being complicite to the operation of state capitalism.

i don't see where the 'disagreement is'. the experience of university is what 'tips one off', not the 'teachings of the university'. some 'get it' in their post-graduating reflections, others get it in the first four weeks. i.e. the chimps-in-the-cage behavioural conformance that the university 'diet' is salted with, like the proverbial saltpeter in the navy etc.

Yeah I'm the chimp that did a jail break ;)

'by embedding oneself into its fabric on the streets rather than within its factories'

What's the difference again?

True, I'm splitting hairs,,,a distinction between institutional vs urban confinement.


Typical anarcho-primie shit, but enjoyably so.

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