Defang the Snake

It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop—until you are dead.”

-Kyle Reese, The Terminator

“Don’t let them win.”

-Crowded House, Don’t Dream it’s Over

Some years ago I had a conversation with a small group of activists, in which I highlighted the necessity of destroying industrial civilization before it murders all life on earth. Everyone was thoroughly offended—the usual reaction. One guy made a big stink about “how many people’s lives would be ruined.” This kind of argument makes zero sense to me, for reasons I wish were obvious; extinction is about as ruined as we can get.

For that matter, it’s a testimony to his ignorance and privilege for him to think that lives aren’t already being ruined. As Winona LaDuke put it, “Try being a salmon in the river.”

These activists also seemed to think that I was personally considering carrying out such actions. I pointed out another thing that should be obvious—if I was going to go on the warpath like that, I certainly wouldn’t be discussing it with a group of people I hardly know, sitting at a table where everyone but me is carrying a surveillance device in the form of a smartphone.

My spirit visions told me to make songs and tell stories. If they’d told me to blow shit up, I’d be blowing shit up—not discussing it with dummies, and not writing about it for the wireless panopticon.

Ever since the latest mass-shooter of note murdered all those children in Uvalde, there’s been much gnashing of teeth. There are two forms of these lamentations that really piss me off. The first is when people wring their hands about why the shooter did this. Why is not the important question here, folks. It doesn’t matter why Ted Bundy tortured, raped, and murdered hundreds of women. The only questions that matter are: 1) how to stop him, and 2) how to prevent it from happening again. As popular as it is in this culture to torture, rape, and murder women, question two is the real kicker.

The second form is what I call the America Has Fallen Off Syndrome. What’s happened to this country? Things used to be so much better! Tears ensue, cue palms rising to foreheads. White boomers are big on this. I find it inexcusably obtuse.

It’s true that a lot of shit was better, say, a century ago. There were no nuclear missiles or Nazis. We still had salmon runs and small farmers. There weren’t any trash islands or ocean dead zones. There was much less pollution, and hardly any cars. No televisions, computers, smartphones, or the planet-mutilating industries that make them. There were many more fluent speakers of indigenous languages, more healthy rivers, and far fewer extinct species.

But we don’t have to travel much further back in time to find a whole lot more child-killing happening. The mass murder of children is an American specialty. Yet people talk about contemporary incidents as if the genocide against indigenous people never happened. Pick up any book with any speech by any Indian chief from back in the day; they all say the exact same thing: they kill our elders, they kill our women, they kill our children. They kill everyone.

Hell, they often enjoyed killing our children. Just like they enjoyed a good lynching.

Surely a few of the teeth-gnashers, at least the Good Liberals and Good Leftists, have read these speeches. For all their chatter about being allies, it’s almost like they don’t really believe us. It’s almost like “Native Americans,” our knowledge, and our experiences are not real to them.

America hasn’t fallen off. It’s always been this way. You just didn’t notice. Or care. That’s fine, but let’s call it like it is.

There is a saying in the world of Filipino martial arts: defang the snake. It’s a fairly straight-forward analogy—the dangerous part of a venomous snake is the fangs; take them away, and you remove the snake’s ability to cause you harm.

In terms of hand-to-hand fighting, this idea could manifest itself in any number of ways. It could mean knocking someone to the ground, thereby creating the opportunity to escape. It could mean kicking a knee in a direction it’s not meant to go, thereby removing the ability of an attacker to walk. It could mean slicing the tendons in the arm that enable an attacker to hold a weapon.

These are ugly things. But then again, so is being assaulted. Or murdered.

Frequently, when I read the various proposed Solutions™ of leftists, it seems to me like so much childish fantasy; a bunch of comfortable, college-educated white people flying around on unicorns of theory, drunk on the poison of Enlightenment Rationalism, praying to the death god of Progress. I think it comes from living in times and places that are free from the presence of those who would fuck you up without a second thought if they felt there was something to gain from it, or maybe just for kicks. And if they knew they could get away with it.

The joke is that we all live in such a time and place. Corporate entities and their slaves fuck up everyone who lives without a second thought, from plankton to soil to elephants to all of the many thousands of species it has killed off forever. And they get away with it.

In a global context, anyone born in the U.S. is at the top of a hierarchy of wealth, privilege, and hot consumer items. Of course we have our particular zones of depletion—ghettos, reservations, prisons, an ever-increasing homeless population, Texas, etc. But most of us benefiting from living in the seat of empire are not in a reasonable position to judge the sheer murderousness of our way of life.

Pick on capitalism all you like, but in truth it’s merely the latest (and probably last) iteration of an anti-life machine that’s been building momentum for about 6,000 years. Civilization is defined by invasion, caste systems, slavery, oppression, and destruction of the living world. Cities require the importation of resources, which has always happened at the tip of a sword… or perhaps a bayonet. Egypt and Iraq are not deserts because of the capriciousness of geology; they became deserts after cityfolk murdered all of the forests.

Industrial capitalism differs only in its level of intensity and efficiency; it’s better at everything evil. And it is killing the planet.

At one of the sites where I work as a thug-for-hire, an industrial lot in the outer reaches of the Bay Area, there used to live six tall, old trees. One of them was a cedar tree, whose leaves are commonly used in indigenous rituals, making this tree especially sacred. Another tree had a trunk so thick that two people linking arms could not have wrapped around it. This last tree was nearest to the place where I am stationed. Under the undead gaze of security cameras and the sickening glare of fluorescent lights, I would place my tobacco offerings at the base of that tree, and ask the spirits to protect me from harm. Every week, whenever I would make my patrol rounds, I would touch each tree as I passed, speak with them, and sometimes sing to them. These trees were my friends—my relations.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the trees dropped a huge limb, blocking off a section of the street. My guess is that the owners of the property decided they no longer wanted to pay to have broken limbs cleaned up, and simply decided to kill all of the trees.

I discovered this when I arrived to work the following week, and saw emptiness where once were the grand silhouettes of these trees. All that was left of them was dust.

I was devastated. I spent over an hour wracked with heaving sobs. It was like a part of me had been killed. And really, that’s exactly what happened. For money, or for convenience, or on a whim, someone paid to have my friends murdered. Without a second thought.

This is what the machine does. It murders everyone—the people who walk, who crawl, who fly, who swim, who stretch their roots into the ground and their leaves into the sky. It leaves desolation.

This machine, this thing we call civilization—it is relentless. It is intractable. And if permitted to continue, it will kill us all.

If counter-force—violence against property, objects, institutions, or humans responsible for mass murder—offends your sense of moral purity, by all means, return to reading Gandhi. This piece is not meant for you. This piece is for those who know in their bones that the only way to prevent the Final Final Solution is to take away the ability of the machine to cause harm—to defang the mechanical snake.

If you think that’s going to happen through protests or electoral politics, I have a fresh new earth to sell you. Cheap.

I feel such frustration and rage with otherwise sensible people who still cling to the illusion that this society will voluntarily undergo some kind of change, or that technology will save the day. What would have to happen for them to fight back? How many more children have to die?

The only thing worse is the people who have given up. They’d rather lay down and die than fight. Harriet Tubman would have shot them. At best, they’re in the way. At worst, they are de facto collaborators.

For those who want to live, our main tactical advantage is the high level of homogenization and centralization in our modern technocratic society. That makes its infrastructure—the means by which it carries out omnicide—extremely vulnerable. There are a lot of chinks in the armor. With the proper skill sets and commitment, it wouldn’t take very many people to severely damage that infrastructure.

These are the very same skill sets, by the way, that are taught to common soldiers—financed by our tax dollars—so they may use them in service of invasion, mass murder, and resource theft abroad.

I see two major tactical disadvantages: first, the increasing sophistication and ubiquity of surveillance technology. Second, the fact that anyone who chooses the warpath will have almost nobody on their side. Most people would fall all over themselves in the rush to snitch on you; there would be much somber head-nodding, perhaps even some back-patting—we caught a terrorist!

To be clear, this is not about “terrorism.” Terrorism is an act carried out to send a message—to coerce behavior. Its purpose is to intimidate. I’m not talking about intimidation; I’m talking about taking away the ability to cause harm. It’s difficult to clear-cut a forest with sabotaged equipment. The same could be said of manufacturing and distributing assault rifles.

Here, I quote from a piece I wrote for a martial arts blog:

“Often, when a woman I know discovers that I practice martial arts, she will ask me if I can teach her how to defend herself. Not a single woman has ever liked my answer, which is always a variation of the following: statistically speaking, in the majority of cases (over 80%) when women are victims of violence (assault, battery, rape, murder), the perpetrator is someone they know—usually intimately.

I can teach almost anyone how to hit another person hard enough to do serious damage… in about 20 minutes. What I cannot teach is the willingness to do such a thing to your husband, uncle, son, father, or lover.

I don’t blame those women for not liking my answer. I don’t like it either.”

All of us are intimately connected to the machine; in truth, most of us would not exist without it. Alienation from our own livingness means that most of us have far more loyalty to the machine than to the living world. We are the battered wife who cannot, who will not, harm her abuser for any reason—not to escape, not to protect herself, or her children, or her family.

And we are the batterer. Just by living our industrial lives, and refusing to crush the machine by any and all means, we are destroying the earth just as thoroughly as a batterer destroys the body & spirit of his victim. We are killing ourselves, our children, our relatives, and our future.

Defang the snake.

Malik Diamond is a hip hop artist, cartoonist, author, educator, and martial arts instructor. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he is the descendant of kidnapped Africans, conquered Natives, and rural laborers of the Scots-Irish, Swiss, and German varieties. He currently lives in Oakland, California, with two brown humans and a white cat. E-mail: malikdiamond (at) hotmail (dot) com