The Saxon Freemen
In the year 772 Charlemagne invaded the lands of the Saxons. It would take him more than thirty years to complete the subjugation, years that included forced conversions to Christianity - the alternative being execution - and the slaughter of 4,500 Saxon prisoners at Verden; and yet, come the year 841, the Saxons rose up one last time in an attempt to restore their old ways. Though quickly put down, it is remarkable that rebellion still dwelt in their hearts, and that old traditions had abided - underground - in the interim. A powerful love of something was passed along in their households. But what?
Certainly, these forgotten people are no less deserving of respect than the many indigenous cultures that now claim preservation as a human right. The Last of the Freemen is a tale of their descendants, living in the United States in the not-too-distant future. This allows me to explore the beliefs and qualities that made them so difficult to conquer, and to do so in a manner relevant to the modern world. In articles that follow, I will explore some themes of the novel - and more broadly, consider the cultural drivers of freedom - for anyone who finds these things of interest.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
A curiosity: if you read anything about pre-Christian Germanic religion, you’ll find such a long list of deities that it's hard to keep track of them all. Did they really make offerings to these characters? One might conclude that they were superstitious, simple-minded, fatalistic, and not given to much critical thought; we have nothing to learn from them.
One problem, though. It doesn't make sense. The language descended from these barbarians - thought and spoken into existence by minds no less able than our own - has been sufficient for some of the most complex and subtle philosophies the West has produced. Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein; these and many others, a sizable chunk of European intellectual history, who somehow managed to express their ideas in a tongue spawned by superstitious knuckle-draggers, a language even lacking the wholesale borrowings from Romance languages that English has endured. Strange...
In approaching the Freemen's spirituality, my thought was to not drag out ancient deities; we can’t know exactly how they were regarded in their time. Rather, given the knowledge that trees and pillars played a central, customary role, I followed Mircea Eliade’s notion of the human need to experience hierophany, the manifestation of the sacred, and imagined a priest-less way of arriving there.
There are neopagan movements out there, of various affinities. I'm not a member. And while it's none of my business what people do with themselves, I can't help but notice, after a cursory glance, something odd: a proliferation of rules and hierarchies in these groups. Not customs that have grown up organically over time, but dogma by the decree of some self-anointed seer (inspired though they may be by a few details recorded by the Romans, along with a heaping dose of romanticism). In attempting to rebuild something destroyed, they instead ape the destroyers.
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
There is denial by some that these no-go zones exist; but whether one should believe mounting eyewitness accounts, or establishment mouthpieces on this, well, decide for yourself. Some will say the phrase is at least an exaggeration. This is perhaps true. No doubt if a troublesome group of Christian evangelicals were to show up in one of these areas and start preaching, authorities would quickly enter to remove them. The ruling class would find such behavior intolerable.
Similarly, if I were to create such a zone out here in the hills and declare it a haven only for good ol’ boys, I'm sure the armored government vehicles would soon roll in. More than likely I'd be killed by the end of it. This uneven enforcement of law - a hallmark of every State - provides a clue to what’s really happening.
I think of the tragic peasant uprisings in Germany at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, during which as many as 100,000 rebellious farmers were slaughtered by the ruling class. Nothing was to interfere with a regime of punishing taxes and arbitrary justice, and after all, the lives of peasants have never really mattered. And never will. It simply hasn't dawned on most middling Americans or Europeans that they are the peasants now.
Elites today are confronted with a new sort of instability brought on by the 'Internet Reformation' (a term coined, I believe, at The Daily Bell); as in the Reformation of old, there is widespread questioning of authority. But those in power will not accept such dangerous insubordination, and they conspire once again to eliminate those who don't know their place.
The farmers of 1525 took to the battlefield armed with faith rather than fighting skill. It was easy to clear them away. Modern rebels against the New World Order, however, are not so easily drawn into futile combat; the ruling class thus finds it necessary to Balkanize, to isolate and provoke, and to choose winners and losers. The pace of these endeavors is accelerating; now instead of employing knights and mercenaries, they cater to special interest groups and immigrant proxies. The end result, if they succeed, will be the same.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
This isn't much of a stretch from what has actually taken place; as pointed out by James C. Scott in The Art of Not Being Governed, the impetus for agrarian monocultures come from on high. Decentralized peoples have usually grown a wide variety of crops. Indeed, an impressive array of plants was utilized by Europeans in the past. The medieval diet - in various times and places - included many foods now quite forgotten (skirret, good King Henry, burnet, bellflower), or considered weeds now (dandelion, pilewort, gill-over-the-ground, mallow, purslane, nettles, heal-all, goutweed).
In the story I limit the plants to those used traditionally in Northern and Central Europe. The list could easily be enlarged by including American and Asian perennials, and of course fruiting trees, shrubs, and vines - all depending on how much available space you have. For those interested in this sort of thing, the ground is covered well by permaculturists; two places I recommend for useful information - without the quasi-religiousness sometimes found in folks who carry this label - are here and here.
I can hear skeptics saying, good luck surviving on that stuff for long. But I don't make that claim, and I don't pretend anyone can live on these plants alone; the caloric intake wouldn’t be sufficient. They do, however, provide some latitude. Dropping out entirely is not feasible for most, or even desired. But you can increase your margins. To my way of thinking, that increases your freedom, too.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
There seems to be no stopping the escalating thefts of our autonomy and our time; governments do what they will, engaging in coercive social engineering and profiteering through a multitude of unpopular measures and unaccountable agencies. If voting makes no difference, what can an individual do? It's easy to feel powerless. But - you can secede. You can nullify the stupidity and blind obedience that go along with mainstream behavior.
I see many examples of inchoate cultural secession already - by which I mean the constructive withdrawal from the mainstream, controlled as it is by globalist money and influence - although these withdrawals are not always self-aware as such. Across the political spectrum there is revulsion and revolt: from homeschoolers to "eat local" trends, permaculture to precious metal enthusiasts, from alternative medicine to the sound of our music (should A=440 Hz?), elite memes are being challenged and overturned. And when the grievances can be traced to a common source - the grotesque symbiosis of big government, central banks, multinational corporations and global NGOs - I see no need for bickering between 'right' and 'left'. Call it oligarchy or a kind of maladaptive institutional opportunism, the individual is powerless to change their direction. But by repositioning yourself, and the culture you bring into the world through your own actions, you can deprive them of their leverage.
As individuals involved in these various withdrawals - these nullifications of influence and authority - we need only realize the commonality of our efforts. A self-aware secessionist movement that works towards family-based, locally-sourced self-reliance will build the networks that prove troublesome for any tyranny, national or global. Simple acts, like shutting off your television, talking to your neighbors, bartering, or participating in alternative markets take on a new significance when seen in this light. The movement isn't, and shouldn't be, monolithic, and it need not have a name or a leader; far better without, thus depriving the powers-that-be of an easy target. All it needs is self-awareness. The rest has already begun.
Friday, April 15, 2016
In discussions of freedom we encounter the same recurring guideposts; John Locke is often mentioned, as is John Stuart Mill. It's almost as if the concept of freedom didn't exist before these men wrote about it. Except that we also hear of the Magna Carta, that supposedly wonderful gift to posterity from the English (Anglo-Norman) aristocracy. (For an excellent perspective on this overhyped work, see one of my favorite blogs here.)
The word 'freedom' dates from Old English - which died as an official language in 1066. This is well before the Magna Carta was written (1215), and many centuries before John Locke came along (b.1632). Likewise for the related 'Freiheit' in German. These words were spoken, given life and meaning, by individuals who thought for themselves, and who likely had no schooling in the Classics. They didn't need Aristotle to tell them about freedom. They knew.
So then, what of all these historic guideposts? The charters, the bills of rights, the treatises? I see them as byproducts of societies already preoccupied with freedom; such preoccupation arising from a tension between those who have internalized some cultural notion of it - and would rather fight than be abused - and those who wish to abuse them.
I don’t suppose that 8th century Saxons had a perfect society; there is no such thing, after all. Some kept slaves. They had something of a caste system. They didn't shy away from fighting; indeed, it seems to have been what we would today call a 'macho' culture. But that is perhaps the crux of it; freedom in the West - where kings and governments have often been forced to acknowledge rights they truly despise - is the offspring of a fighting culture. Not a warrior caste, though; these men were both farmers and fighters, thus thwarting the neat feudal divisions of social function - and land ownership - that facilitated bondage.
Only when a substantial number of men feel an obligation to combat their assailants, might those assailants be held in check. This is not to advocate violence, or to say it’s the only alternative in the face of rising statism. But the readiness to fight must never be banished from our natures, nor should it be shamed from the realm of public discourse. It is there, as part of our heritage and our societal dialogue, that defiance can serve as counterbalance, warning, and inoculant. Our intractability is indispensable to the cause of freedom.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
The West Germanic tribes had their own words for law; æ or æw in Old English, ēwa in Old High German (surviving in modern German as Ehe, meaning marriage), and ēo in Old Saxon. These words were cognates, deriving either from a root meaning 'custom' or one meaning 'eternity', the sense there being 'eternally existing law'. (Source here.) In both English and German, as feudalism crushed older customs and power coalesced toward the creation of modern nation-states, they were supplanted by words - law and Gesetz, respectively - meaning instead 'what is laid/set down'. Interesting change.
The lines were once blurred between custom and law. But can I equate this with a kind of natural law, as I do in The Last of the Freemen? By my own interpretation, it seems Thomas Jefferson did nearly the same. The modern concept of natural law - the rational deduction of universal values - is of course not the same as custom. But for those partaking in any culture, the old customs and unwritten rules will certainly feel natural.
Beyond this I would add: unless we see ourselves as existing somehow apart from nature (an odd concept, really, since I don't believe we came on space ships from somewhere else), then any time-tested custom that has arisen organically in a group - through cohesion rather than coercion - and that has enabled that group's survival, would have to be considered 'natural'.
Finally, customary and natural law share this in common: frequent conflicts with posited law, that which is set down by tyrants and governments for their own benefit.
I avoid using the term 'common' law in this context because it is subject, especially in our age, to judicial activism; that is, precedent-setting intended to gain political leverage or to effect social change. In a former time, when certain men could pass judgment largely because they were held in esteem - rather than because they excelled at a credentials game - this would have been unlikely: arbitrary judgments would have discredited and so disempowered them.
I don't know all that was encompassed by the older law; but if it permeated Saxon culture to the point of inciting conflicts with agents of arbitrary rule, as it seems to have done in early England and on the Continent, then clearly it shaped the nature of freedom across northern Europe. Oh, and in America, too.
Monday, April 11, 2016
Known as the Stellinga, it was quickly put down and the leaders executed. But to consider that rebellion still dwelt in their hearts after so many years, and that old traditions had abided - underground - in the interim, is quite amazing. A powerful love of something was passed along in their households. But what? Certainly, these forgotten people are no less deserving of respect than the many other indigenous cultures who now properly claim their preservation as a human right.
The Last of the Freemen is a tale of their descendants, living in the United States in the not-too-distant future. This device allows me to explore the beliefs and qualities that made them so difficult to conquer, and to do so in a manner relevant to the modern world. In articles that follow, I will explore some themes of the novel - and more broadly, consider the cultural drivers of freedom - for anyone who finds these things of interest.