Mike Antipathy
safetypunk(a)gmail.com

EcoPunk #80

    It's a blustery Saturday and I can't get Poison Idea out of my head, even as I bushwhack my way down a dying logging road. Last night, after a fifteen year wait, I finally got to see ol' Jerry A and Pig Champion play their greatest hits amidst clouds of flying Pabst cans.
Even though over-the-hill punkers and the woods don't usually got a lot in common, today they do. PI's poetic nihilism is a perfect accompaniment to the ripping destruction before my eyes and under my feet. Everywhere I look, I can see the mistakes of industrial forestry being erased by tenacity, nitrogen fixing root nodules, and good old persistent resistance. With barely any imagination whatsoever, I can hear the roots of the Alder shredding apart the compacted roadbed while squirmy Vine Maple and puncture vine exploit, dig and tear the gravel surface apart. On either side of the road, just past the deadly poisonous, but incredibly beautiful Foxgloves (with clusters of hollow pink flowers 3" long), the forest stretches toward the sky, a uniform mass of Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock. Sword and Licorice ferns cover the ground while moss and lichen blanket the occasional exposed chunk of basalt. Redemption and ecological defiance are in the air.
To any casual observer, this would be an old growth forest full of ancient trees. But with a more careful examination, you'll notice that something isn't quite right. The trees are all the same size and same two species (all 16-24" in diameter and 100-140' tall). There's no rotten logs on the forest floor, no standing snags. There's a well defined lack of plant diversity on the ground and none of the smells of decomposition and disintegration associated with healthy, mature forests.
    Even though this isn't an intact ancient forest, the more time I've spent here, the more the place blows my fucking socks off. After the first time me and Ivy came down here to put snags in (for Spotted Owl habitat), I called up some contacts in the Forest Service and got a short history of this incredibly special place.
In 1897 a logging company, using the latest high-tech strains of oxen, punched a road into this cozy nook in the Clackamas River drainage. Burly immigrants and second generation rednecks felled and bucked the trees with double bit axes and whipsaws before beasts of burden dragged the seven and eight foot thick logs away to build up the skid roaded, whore filled town of Portland.
In 1964, Shoebert Logging reentered the area with newly redesigned Caterpillar D 9 dozers. These 80,000 LB machines followed the contours of the ancient roads and with firs and maples crunching 'neath their steel undercarriages, penetrated down into the logger's wetdream of flat, low elevation forest. Men in tin pants and steel helmets, using the revolutionary Poulan and Mcculloch chainsaws (weighing in at 80-100lbs a piece), clearcut all 397 acres. The bulldozers, equipped with new, high torque Gearmatic winches, skidded the 3-6' diameter logs to landings where big Mack trucks hauled them off to the mill in Estacada. The land was replanted in 1966 by tree planters gleaned from the homeless population of Portland and newly arrived immigrants from Mexico. A big blue gate with not one but three padlocks on it sealed the gravel road leading up to the area. The forest was left to its own devices 'til 2002, when the old road was once again cleared of it's Maple and Alder by Caterpillar bulldozers (this time the D5H with Esco swing grapple and Cat turbodiesel power) and Shoebert Logging commercially thinned 190 acres.
However, unlike during the Johnson administration, this time around the gyppo logging outfit didn't cut every single woody plant in sight. In fact, minus some reopened skidroads and some banged up trunks, they did so good a job, I could hardly tell the place had been logged at all.
Because this contract involved climbing trees and knocking their tops off (the same kinda work that killed my dear friend Craig Benneville last year), I spent more time sitting in the woods staring off at the regeneration taking place around me than climbing trees. With my history of Earth First! melodrama and morbidity behind me, it was difficult for my mind to fathom that 40 years ago, this awesome place had been clearcut, ripped to shit by huge machines and left to erode under the heavy Oregon skies. 
    But it had. This place had not only survived the machinations of American industry, but actually shot forth new forests, not once, but twice. Regeneration and resurrection on this scale leave me completely and totally speechless with the same sort of quasi-religious moments I had when I saw my first native salmon run. But it got me thinking. If the Forest can pop back from being clearcut twice in one century and run over by ox hooves and steel tread, why are we having such a tough time implementing the same sense of healing and renewal in the punk scene where the scale of damage is so much smaller?  How come decade after decade we're still confronted with the same sicknesses (rape, abuse, murder, etc)  and the same ineffective responses to 'em?  What else can we do or say to initiate the process of healing and renewal in order that our movements might not only be able to get through cases of sexual assault and violence without falling apart, but provide a space where we can heal the wounds that other humyns and corporate death culture have inflicted on us?
    I'm a bit obsessed with this all right now 'cuz over and over, like some Hegelian nightmare, I'm antagonized by the actions of rapists and abusers and murderers who, even though their names and faces change, still destroy the scenes and movements me and my friends have spent our entire lives building.
    Sure, we can do what me and a million other punks have done in the past. We can talk shit about someone, ban them from our houses and our shows, and maybe, just maybe, if the mood is right, go out with steelcaps and bats and break some perp's teeth in. But aside from making someone's life uncomfortable or their smile a lot less shiny, has any of this shit ever changed anything? Are these ways of dealing any different than the bullshit vengeance we learned from Sunday School, A Team episodes or fucking George W Bush?
    I reckon any time our cultures of resistance are mimicking the tendencies and thought patterns of the Christian Right and US Government, something has gone wrong. And I think after so many years of well documented failures in dealing with tough issues in our scene, it's time to get out the pickaxes and hammers,  not only to destroy what's sick and crumbling, but also to build new ways of dealing with shit when it happens.
A couple weeks ago at the zine symposium I went to a consent workshop done by Moe Bowerstein where she pointed out something in a John Stoltenberg essay that after a few days'  contemplation, turned out to be a revelation in my life. During the course of Moe's great presentation, she happened to hit a small tangent where she said something to the point of "The thing I like most about the way Stoltenberg writes is that he doesn't say 'What to do IF you fuck up' but 'What to do WHEN you fuck up.'"
    It was like a bonfire illuminating a rock quarry in my mind. All too often, just as in mainstream death culture, we rely on righteous indignation, judgement and enforced penitence to get us through tough spots and tough issues. But these responses, as just and natural as they may be, are also dishonest. No one is infallible or without sin. Show me a perfect person. Show me a person who has never wronged anyone. Never made an err in judgement, respect or good taste. Never hurt someone either mentally, physically or emotionally. If you can think of anyone who's never fucked up, let me know 'cuz I want 'em to lead the new insurgency (and be my new best friend). But otherwise, we're left with the uncomfortable fact that we're all imperfect humyns living in an imperfect world. So from this rootwad of honesty where we all recognize the fallibility inherent in all humyns, what can we do to get through instances when someone's imperfection hurts another person in a very deep and personal way? How can we forge a system where fuck ups can be healed, reconciled and eventually, if at all possible, forgiven? What can we do to ensure the harmful actions aren't repeated? What can we do to gather the strength to heal and grow and thrive, even when our very guts cry out for blood and vengeance?
    I really don't know. I just figure, like any good 12 stepper, that the first way to start making progress in a life changing process is to strip down all my illusions and prejudices and get to work from a position of raw honesty. From there, without all our Christian bloodlusts, magistrate judgements and military reflexes, maybe we can follow the forest's lead and grow from muddy ruin to a strong, thriving stand.
-mike
ps- I'm really interested in getting feedback from folks on possible ways to initiate any kind of real solution to the problems of violence within our scenes. If you've got any thoughts or ideas, please email me (chinookdiefirst@yahoo.com) or give a call at (541) 554-0922…