Thursday, 25 September 2014

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II

The Siberian taiga in the Abakan district. Six members of the Lykov family lived in this remote wilderness for more than 40 years—utterly isolated and more than 150 miles from the nearest human settlement.

To view a documentary on the Lykov famaily, scroll down to the end of this article. 

In 1978, Soviet geologists prospecting in the wilds of Siberia discovered a family of six, lost in the taiga.

Siberian summers do not last long. The snows linger into May, and the cold weather returns again during September, freezing the taiga into a still life awesome in its desolation: endless miles of straggly pine and birch forests scattered with sleeping bears and hungry wolves; steep-sided mountains; white-water rivers that pour in torrents through the valleys; a hundred thousand icy bogs. This forest is the last and greatest of Earth’s wildernesses. It stretches from the furthest tip of Russia’s arctic regions as far south as Mongolia, and east from the Urals to the Pacific: five million square miles of nothingness, with a population, outside a handful of towns, that amounts to only a few thousand people.

[Left] Karp Lykov and his daughter Agafia, wearing clothes donated by Soviet geologists not long after their family was rediscovered.

When the warm days do arrive, though, the taiga blooms, and for a few short months it can seem almost welcoming. It is then that man can see most clearly into this hidden world–not on land, for the taiga can swallow whole armies of explorers, but from the air. Siberia is the source of most of Russia’s oil and mineral resources, and, over the years, even its most distant parts have been overflown by oil prospectors and surveyors on their way to backwoods camps where the work of extracting wealth is carried on.
  
Thus it was in the remote south of the forest in the summer of 1978. A helicopter sent to find a safe spot to land a party of geologists was skimming the treeline a hundred or so miles from the Mongolian border when it dropped into the thickly wooded valley of an unnamed tributary of the Abakan, a seething ribbon of water rushing through dangerous terrain. The valley walls were narrow, with sides that were close to vertical in places, and the skinny pine and birch trees swaying in the rotors’ downdraft were so thickly clustered that there was no chance of finding a spot to set the aircraft down. But, peering intently through his windscreen in search of a landing place, the pilot saw something that should not have been there. It was a clearing, 6,000 feet up a mountainside, wedged between the pine and larch and scored with what looked like long, dark furrows. The baffled helicopter crew made several passes before reluctantly concluding that this was evidence of human habitation—a garden that, from the size and shape of the clearing, must have been there for a long time.

[Left] The Lykovs lived in this hand-built log cabin, lit by a single window “the size of a backpack pocket” and warmed by a smoky wood-fired stove.

It was an astounding discovery. The mountain was more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement, in a spot that had never been explored. The Soviet authorities had no records of anyone living in the district.

The four scientists sent into the district to prospect for iron ore were told about the pilots’ sighting, and it perplexed and worried them. “It’s less dangerous,” the writer Vasily Peskov notes of this part of the taiga, “to run across a wild animal than a stranger,” and rather than wait at their own temporary base, 10 miles away, the scientists decided to investigate. Led by a geologist named Galina Pismenskaya, they “chose a fine day and put gifts in our packs for our prospective friends”—though, just to be sure, she recalled, “I did check the pistol that hung at my side.”

As the intruders scrambled up the mountain, heading for the spot pinpointed by their pilots, they began to come across signs of human activity: a rough path, a staff, a log laid across a stream, and finally a small shed filled with birch-bark containers of cut-up dried potatoes. Then, Pismenskaya said,

beside a stream there was a dwelling. Blackened by time and rain, the hut was piled up on all sides with taiga rubbish—bark, poles, planks. If it hadn’t been for a window the size of my backpack pocket, it would have been hard to believe that people lived there. But they did, no doubt about it…. Our arrival had been noticed, as we could see.

The low door creaked, and the figure of a very old man emerged into the light of day, straight out of a fairy tale. Barefoot. Wearing a patched and repatched shirt made of sacking. He wore trousers of the same material, also in patches, and had an uncombed beard. His hair was disheveled. He looked frightened and was very attentive…. We had to say something, so I began: ‘Greetings, grandfather! We’ve come to visit!’

The old man did not reply immediately…. Finally, we heard a soft, uncertain voice: ‘Well, since you have traveled this far, you might as well come in.’
 
The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow—”a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar,” with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells. Looking around in the dim light, the visitors saw that it consisted of a single room. It was cramped, musty and indescribably filthy, propped up by sagging joists—and, astonishingly, home to a family of five:
 
The silence was suddenly broken by sobs and lamentations. Only then did we see the silhouettes of two women. One was in hysterics, praying: ‘This is for our sins, our sins.’ The other, keeping behind a post… sank slowly to the floor. The light from the little window fell on her wide, terrified eyes, and we realized we had to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Led by Pismenskaya, the scientists backed hurriedly out of the hut and retreated to a spot a few yards away, where they took out some provisions and began to eat. After about half an hour, the door of the cabin creaked open, and the old man and his two daughters emerged—no longer hysterical and, though still obviously frightened, “frankly curious.” Warily, the three strange figures approached and sat down with their visitors, rejecting everything that they were offered—jam, tea, bread—with a muttered, “We are not allowed that!” When Pismenskaya asked, “Have you ever eaten bread?” the old man answered: “I have. But they have not. They have never seen it.” At least he was intelligible. The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. “When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing.”

[Left] Agafia Lykova (left) with her sister, Natalia.

Slowly, over several visits, the full story of the family emerged. The old man’s name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer–a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century. Old Believers had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great, and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy and “the anti-Christ in human form”—a point he insisted had been amply proved by Tsar’s campaign to modernize Russia by forcibly “chopping off the beards of Christians.” But these centuries-old hatreds were conflated with more recent grievances; Karp was prone to complain in the same breath about a merchant who had refused to make a gift of 26 poods of potatoes to the Old Believers sometime around 1900.

Things had only got worse for the Lykov family when the atheist Bolsheviks took power. Under the Soviets, isolated Old Believer communities that had fled to Siberia to escape persecution began to retreat ever further from civilization. During the purges of the 1930s, with Christianity itself under assault, a Communist patrol had shot Lykov’s brother on the outskirts of their village while Lykov knelt working beside him. He had responded by scooping up his family and bolting into forest.

[Left] Peter the Great’s attempts to modernize the Russia of the early 18th century found a focal point in a campaign to end the wearing of beards. Facial hair was taxed and non-payers were compulsorily shaved—anathema to Karp Lykov and the Old Believers.

That was in 1936, and there were only four Lykovs then—Karp; his wife, Akulina; a son named Savin, 9 years old, and Natalia, a daughter who was only 2. Taking their possessions and some seeds, they had retreated ever deeper into the taiga, building themselves a succession of crude dwelling places, until at last they had fetched up in this desolate spot. Two more children had been born in the wild—Dmitry in 1940 and Agafia in 1943—and neither of the youngest Lykov children had ever seen a human being who was not a member of their family. All that Agafia and Dmitry knew of the outside world they learned entirely from their parents’ stories. The family’s principal entertainment, the Russian journalist Vasily Peskov noted, “was for everyone to recount their dreams.” 

The Lykov children knew there were places called cities where humans lived crammed together in tall buildings. They had heard there were countries other than Russia. But such concepts were no more than abstractions to them. Their only reading matter was prayer books and an ancient family Bible. Akulina had used the gospels to teach her children to read and write, using sharpened birch sticks dipped into honeysuckle juice as pen and ink. When Agafia was shown a picture of a horse, she recognized it from her mother’s Bible stories. “Look, papa,” she exclaimed. “A steed!”

[Left] Dmitry (left) and Savin in the Siberian summer.

But if the family’s isolation was hard to grasp, the unmitigated harshness of their lives was not. Traveling to the Lykov homestead on foot was astonishingly arduous, even with the help of a boat along the Abakan. On his first visit to the Lykovs, Peskov—who would appoint himself the family’s chief chronicler—noted that “we traversed 250 kilometres without seeing a single human dwelling!”

Isolation made survival in the wilderness close to impossible. Dependent solely on their own resources, the Lykovs struggled to replace the few things they had brought into the taiga with them. They fashioned birch-bark galoshes in place of shoes. Clothes were patched and repatched until they fell apart, then replaced with hemp cloth grown from seed.

[Left] A Russian press photo of Karp Lykov (second left) with Dmitry and Agafia, accompanied by a Soviet geologist.

The Lykovs had carried a crude spinning wheel and, incredibly, the components of a loom into the taiga with them—moving these from place to place as they gradually went further into the wilderness must have required many long and arduous journeys—but they had no technology for replacing metal. A couple of kettles served them well for many years, but when rust finally overcame them, the only replacements they could fashion came from birch bark. Since these could not be placed in a fire, it became far harder to cook. By the time the Lykovs were discovered, their staple diet was potato patties mixed with ground rye and hemp seeds.

In some respects, Peskov makes clear, the taiga did offer some abundance: “Beside the dwelling ran a clear, cold stream. Stands of larch, spruce, pine and birch yielded all that anyone could take.… Bilberries and raspberries were close to hand, firewood as well, and pine nuts fell right on the roof.”

[Left] The Lykovs' homestead seen from a Soviet reconnaissance plane, 1980.

Yet the Lykovs lived permanently on the edge of famine. It was not until the late 1950s, when Dmitry reached manhood, that they first trapped animals for their meat and skins. Lacking guns and even bows, they could hunt only by digging traps or pursuing prey across the mountains until the animals collapsed from exhaustion. Dmitry built up astonishing endurance, and could hunt barefoot in winter, sometimes returning to the hut after several days, having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost, a young elk across his shoulders. More often than not, though, there was no meat, and their diet gradually became more monotonous. Wild animals destroyed their crop of carrots, and Agafia recalled the late 1950s as “the hungry years.” “We ate the rowanberry leaf,” she said,

roots, grass, mushrooms, potato tops, and bark. We were hungry all the time. Every year we held a council to decide whether to eat everything up or leave some for seed.

Famine was an ever-present danger in these circumstances, and in 1961 it snowed in June. The hard frost killed everything growing in their garden, and by spring the family had been reduced to eating shoes and bark. Akulina chose to see her children fed, and that year she died of starvation. The rest of the family were saved by what they regarded as a miracle: a single grain of rye sprouted in their pea patch. The Lykovs put up a fence around the shoot and guarded it zealously night and day to keep off mice and squirrels. At harvest time, the solitary spike yielded 18 grains, and from this they painstakingly rebuilt their rye crop.

[Left] The Lykovs' graves. Today only Agafia survives of the family of six, living alone in the taiga.

As the Soviet geologists got to know the Lykov family, they realized that they had underestimated their abilities and intelligence. Each family member had a distinct personality; old Karp was usually delighted by the latest innovations that the scientists brought up from their camp, and though he steadfastly refused to believe that man had set foot on the moon, he adapted swiftly to the idea of satellites. The Lykovs had noticed them as early as the 1950s, when “the stars began to go quickly across the sky,” and Karp himself conceived a theory to explain this: “People have thought something up and are sending out fires that are very like stars.”

“What amazed him most of all,” Peskov recorded, “was a transparent cellophane package. ‘Lord, what have they thought up—it is glass, but it crumples!’” And Karp held grimly to his status as head of the family, though he was well into his 80s. His eldest child, Savin, dealt with this by casting himself as the family’s unbending arbiter in matters of religion. “He was strong of faith, but a harsh man,” his own father said of him, and Karp seems to have worried about what would happen to his family after he died if Savin took control. Certainly the eldest son would have encountered little resistance from Natalia, who always struggled to replace her mother as cook, seamstress and nurse.

The two younger children, on the other hand, were more approachable and more open to change and innovation. “Fanaticism was not terribly marked in Agafia,” Peskov said, and in time he came to realize that the youngest of the Lykovs had a sense of irony and could poke fun at herself. Agafia’s unusual speech—she had a singsong voice and stretched simple words into polysyllables—convinced some of her visitors she was slow-witted; in fact she was markedly intelligent, and took charge of the difficult task, in a family that possessed no calendars, of keeping track of time.  She thought nothing of hard work, either, excavating a new cellar by hand late in the fall and working on by moonlight when the sun had set. Asked by an astonished Peskov whether she was not frightened to be out alone in the wilderness after dark, she replied: “What would there be out here to hurt me?”

Of all the Lykovs, though, the geologists’ favorite was Dmitry, a consummate outdoorsman who knew all of the taiga’s moods. He was the most curious and perhaps the most forward-looking member of the family. It was he who had built the family stove, and all the birch-bark buckets that they used to store food. It was also Dmitry who spent days hand-cutting and hand-planing each log that the Lykovs felled. Perhaps it was no surprise that he was also the most enraptured by the scientists’ technology. Once relations had improved to the point that the Lykovs could be persuaded to visit the Soviets’ camp, downstream, he spent many happy hours in its little sawmill, marveling at how easily a circular saw and lathes could finish wood. “It’s not hard to figure,” Peskov wrote. “The log that took Dmitry a day or two to plane was transformed into handsome, even boards before his eyes. Dmitry felt the boards with his palm and said: ‘Fine!’”

Karp Lykov fought a long and losing battle with himself to keep all this modernity at bay. When they first got to know the geologists, the family would accept only a single gift—salt. (Living without it for four decades, Karp said, had been “true torture.”) Over time, however, they began to take more. They welcomed the assistance of their special friend among the geologists—a driller named Yerofei Sedov, who spent much of his spare time helping them to plant and harvest crops. They took knives, forks, handles, grain and eventually even pen and paper and an electric torch. Most of these innovations were only grudgingly acknowledged, but the sin of television, which they encountered at the geologists’ camp,

proved irresistible for them…. On their rare appearances, they would invariably sit down and watch. Karp sat directly in front of the screen. Agafia watched poking her head from behind a door. She tried to pray away her transgression immediately—whispering, crossing herself…. The old man prayed afterward, diligently and in one fell swoop.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Lykovs’ strange story was the rapidity with which the family went into decline after they re-established contact with the outside world. In the fall of 1981, three of the four children followed their mother to the grave within a few days of one another. According to Peskov, their deaths were not, as might have been expected, the result of exposure to diseases to which they had no immunity. Both Savin and Natalia suffered from kidney failure, most likely a result of their harsh diet. But Dmitry died of pneumonia, which might have begun as an infection he acquired from his new friends.
His death shook the geologists, who tried desperately to save him. They offered to call in a helicopter and have him evacuated to a hospital. But Dmitry, in extremis, would abandon neither his family nor the religion he had practiced all his life. “We are not allowed that,” he whispered just before he died. “A man lives for howsoever God grants.”

[Left] Lost in the Taiga: One Russian Family's Fifty-Year Struggle for Survival and Religious Freedom in the Siberian Wilderness [Vasily Peskov] is now available in paperback. A Russian journalist provides a haunting account of the Lykovs, a family of Old Believers, members of a fundamentalist sect.

When all three Lykovs had been buried, the geologists attempted to talk Karp and Agafia into leaving the forest and returning to be with relatives who had survived the persecutions of the purge years, and who still lived on in the same old villages. But neither of the survivors would hear of it. They rebuilt their old cabin, but stayed close to their old home.

Karp Lykov died in his sleep on February 16, 1988, 27 years to the day after his wife, Akulina. Agafia buried him on the mountain slopes with the help of the geologists, then turned and headed back to her home. The Lord would provide, and she would stay, she said—as indeed she has. A quarter of a century later, now in her seventies herself, this child of the taiga lives on alone, high above the Abakan.
She will not leave. But we must leave her, seen through the eyes of Yerofei on the day of her father’s funeral:

I looked back to wave at Agafia. She was standing by the river break like a statue. She wasn’t crying. She nodded: ‘Go on, go on.’ We went another kilometer and I looked back. She was still standing there.

Sources

Anon. ‘How to live substantively in our times.’ Stranniki, 20 February 2009, accessed August 2, 2011; Georg B. Michels. At War with the Church: Religious Dissent in Seventeenth Century Russia. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995; Isabel Colgate. A Pelican in the Wilderness: Hermits, Solitaries and Recluses. New York: HarperCollins, 2002; ‘From taiga to Kremlin: a hermit’s gifts to Medvedev,’ rt.com, February 24, 2010, accessed August 2, 2011; G. Kramore, ‘At the taiga dead end‘. Suvenirograd , nd, accessed August 5, 2011; Irina Paert. Old Believers, Religious Dissent and Gender in Russia, 1760-1850. Manchester: MUP, 2003; Vasily Peskov. Lost in the Taiga: One Russian Family’s Fifty-Year Struggle for Survival and Religious Freedom in the Siberian Wilderness. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

A documentary on the Lykovs (in Russian) which shows something of the family’s isolation and living conditions, can be viewed here. To view a full length English language documentary, 'Agafia's Taiga Life', click here.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Oxymoron and Utopia are Capitalist

Oxymoron and Utopia are Capitalist
by Leon Darío
Founder and Spokesman
Section Iberian National-Anarchist Movement. 
namseccioniberica@yahoo.es

WE often have to endure the destructive comments from skeptics who describe us, the National Anarchists, as well as our movement in general, as an "oxymoron," including our intentions, rationale and objectives as a form of Anarchist "utopia". Before going ahead with this article, I must cite and quote something which corresponds to the official definition. Firstly, in relation to oxymoron:

"The oxymoron (the Greek ὀξύμωρον, oxymoron, Latin contradiction in terms) within literary figures in rhetoric, is a logical idea that uses two concepts of an opposite meaning in one expression, generating a third concept. Given that the literal meaning is the opposite of an oxymoron, 'absurd' (eg 'an eternal moment "), this forces the reader or listener to understand the metaphorical sense (in this case: a moment that, by the intensity of a lived experience, makes you lose track of time)."

We can also generally use oxymoron to relate to something "impossible" or "a miracle."

Secondly, regarding Utopia: "The utopian concept refers to the representation of an ideal or ironic world that is presented as an alternative to the actual existing world, through a critique of it."

To our critics, we must reply that both oxymoron and utopia represent the system and capitalist society in which they live, think and act, as well as the yearning to grow and "develop" as individuals, but in which the condition of individual release is null and rather function as human beings that are subjugated to the interests of the State and all of its relevant and unfolded structure (political, police, judicial, bureaucratic, ecclesiastical, business ...)

National-Anarchism is not an oxymoron, quite the contrary. The oxymoron is the belief that you can infinitely, plunder, pillage, plunder and exhaust all resources offered by Mother Earth, putting a price tag on our forests, oceans, flora, fauna and the thousands of species that co-habit this planet called Earth, but in which human beings, educated under a capitalism that sustains our respective states, we "erect" lords and masters and so we act and proceed as their respective colonisers, exploiters, looters and predators. oxymoron is defiling and despoiling our ancestral identity and our customs and traditions in favour of a globalised, amorphous, grey world, which in the name of "progress", erases the traces and signs of the identities of All Nations and which truly make up the wealth of this planet we inhabit.

Utopia is the belief that you can infinitely gorge on capitalism and believe yourself free in a society in which you are really a slave to its dictates and absurd fashions, its drugs, alcohol, junk food, film, political-parliamentary system and belief in the change or achievement of "welfare" through the system-trap of the ballot box and supposedly selecting mutually independent political candidates, although they are really nothing more than sides A, B and C of the same face, the same electoral structure of the same repressive state.

Oxymoron is the absurd and utopian ideology of ultimate "citizenism" or "citizenist"... an ideology which has a devotee voter and obedient servant, a submissive slave who is happy and peaceful, a state that oppresses its parliamentary political system, an indoctrinated believer of the various media and political parties of the state which meet their vested interests and which does not exceed the mere creation of "approved" schools of thought within the system, and remains confined to the internal area of that which is permitted and the rules established by the state; the state has its police and judicial apparatus to ensure that this is appropriate.

Returning to the oxymoron, this is perfectly reflected in the "mirror" of Detroit (and in the wild "crisis" shaking much of the West in general), which, until recently, was the birthplace of the automotive industry and where Henry Ford could build his first automobile in 1904 ... And now, in 2015, Detroit has succumbed to the crisis and wild lies and finds itself dying of a "capitalist overdose", where vegetation flourishes from the ruins of hundreds of mansions and factories long past their "golden years".

We, the National-Anarchists, warn that the earth can no longer withstand the blows of the capitalist cancer and that capitalism itself is now entering a phase of collapse (as is evidenced by the case of Detroit) and when this process of collapse is complete, only those who are rooted to the land can survive, by cultivating the soil, living in rural areas, having an awareness of belonging to the land and not vice versa... The "withdrawal time" is crucial; a progressive abandonment of the great capitalist cities, this corrupt and degrading modern world where technology advances unabated and humans are becoming less human and more "robotic", with dependent keyboard-addicts with their screens and virtual conversations who completely lose the artistic, creative ability. A true independence of humanity will be attained through the return of the people, a respect of that which we inherited from our ancestors, with the collectivisation of land and various resources, integration and respect for nature, and the establishment of all individuals in human communities, following common factors of an ethnic, cultural, linguistic and spiritual character. In these times of usury, we must raise the revolutionary flag of the N-AM and initiate the revolt against the modern world from our neighbourhoods, towns, lands and mountains; let the indispensable and fundamental work of proselytism and activist agitation, dissemination of our mottos and ideals, become manifest until the final advance is unstoppable in the struggle for human, animal and earth liberation.

See also the recommended National-Anarchist articles on similar subjects here, and the related articles of interest below the N-AM manifesto, here.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

I Refuse by Udi Segal (Video)

One brave young Jew who is prepared to stand up for his beliefs in the face of Israeli repression and the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people.

Watch video below.





Udi Segal, from Kibbutz Tuval in the north, is one of the signatories of the new "letter of conscientious objectors 2014". On Monday (28.7.14) he is about to report to the recruiting center and refuse to join the army. Here is his declaration of refusal.




The Gaza Bombardment - What You're Not Being Told (video)

The corporate media isn't just distorting the facts on the Gaza assault, they're flat out covering them up

Scroll down for video.

PREFACE: To all the people attempting to write us off by calling us antisemitic, go watch this video that we made in October of 2013. In that video we harshly attacked racist and antisemitic elements that have been spreading hate through social media. We then followed that up with several confrontations on Facebook where we made it very clear that these idiots are not welcome in our circle. So drop the stupid ad hominem attacks. I'm not influenced by such childish behavior.

On July 7, 2014 Israel began a massive assault on the Gaza strip of Palestine. In the first week alone Israel dropped over 400 tons of bombs, killing over 130 Palestinians. Most were civilians, about half of them were women and children. By the time you are watching the the number will be higher. Update: The Palestinian death toll as of July 30th, has now passed 1,400. To those of you claiming that this is the fault of the Palestinians, who the Israelis accuse of using human shields, how do you explain the bombing of schools?


Israel's official justification for this wholesale slaughter: the murder of three Israeli teenagers which Israel blames on Hamas. That's not the real reason. First of all Israel has not produced one single piece of evidence implicating Hamas or even a Palestinian in the murders, and in fact the the evidence we do have indicates that that murderers were Israeli. You see on Tuesday July 1st, The Jerusalem Post released the audio of the kidnapped teen's distress call to police, and in that call the kidnappers can be heard telling the boys to put their heads down in HEBREW. According to the Jerusalem Post prior to being leaked to the public this (continue reading)

WATCH VIDEO

Couple who spent 5 years building eco-home allowed to keep it despite no planning permission

A couple who spent five years living in a tent as they built themselves an eco-home have been allowed to keep it, despite not applying for planning permission because it was 'against their principles'.

Matthew Lepley, 34, and his partner Jules Smith, 54, left their home in a north London tower block and moved to the Devon countryside after buying a 20-acre field near Beaworthy.

Dreaming of 'living at one with nature', the couple spent five years sleeping in a tent and living off the land while they constructed a one-bedroom eco-cabin - complete with compost lavatory - from wooden crates, scrap metal and lorry tyres.

The couple, who shunned power tools and did all the work by hand to cut their carbon emissions, refused to apply for planning permission because they said the process wasted paper and used too much energy.


But their dream was left hanging in the balance when neighbours complained the tumbledown timber dwelling was unauthorised.

Mr Lepley and Ms Smith, both of whom were carers before they moved to Devon, were sent an enforcement notice from Torridge District Council ordering them to 'remove' it from their field in Beaworthy, Devon.
But, in a landmark ruling, planners have praised their 'passion' and 'commitment' to sustainable living, and told them the cabin can stay. 

Despite previous cases of people shunning planning laws being prosecuted, the couple has now been granted permission to leave it untouched for at least three years.

Government planning inspector Gareth Symons said the couple's approach 'sits very comfortably' with new rules issued by the National Planning Policy Framework, which encourage builders to use natural materials to minimise waste and carbon emissions.


Mr Symons described their efforts to live a frugal life at one with nature as 'admirable', and said forcing the pair to leave the handmade home could have a 'devastating impact' on them.


He said: 'It would be very difficult to flaw the passion the appellants have to achieve their permaculture aim, a key part of which is living with nature on the land.

'I am convinced about the genuineness and commitment of the appellants. They are not individuals who simply wish to have a house in the countryside.'

The pair run a smallholding on their land which, if it proves financially viable, may entitle them to retrospective planning permission when the three-year stay elapses.

Their utopian dream to escape the rat race began five years ago when they quit their jobs as carers and Wood Green tower block and moved to their newly-acquired 20-acre field.

They made foundations from old tractor tyres filled with gravel, while the walls and roof were built from discarded haulage pallets and railway sleepers.

But their refusal to use power tools meant that it took them five years to construct the small dwelling which boasts one bedroom, a bathroom with woodfire-heated bath, and an underground storage chamber.  It has no electricity, and food is kept underground to keep it cool.

The couple grow their own fruit and vegetables, have a compost heap for a toilet, and draw water out of the ground with a bore hole.

Neighbours were initially supportive of their ambition to live a self-sufficient lifestyle on the remote woodland plot, but when the couple revealed plans to turn their rustic retreat into a conservation business, hosting workshops in green engineering and 'permaculture', locals changed their tune and complained to the local authority.

Mr Lepley said: 'We wanted to build a home that would let us truly live as one with nature.  This life is not for everyone but we love it - it enables us to live a therapeutic lifestyle and be self-sufficient.


'We took the decision to build without planning permission because the council's procedure is not environmentally friendly enough and it goes against our personal principles.'

A separate application for Mr Lepley to pay the council's costs was also dismissed.

Local residents are 'furious' at the decision to let the couple stay in the wooden house. 

One local resident, who asked not to be named, said: 'If that was me, and I built any sort of addition to my house, the council would come down on me like a tonne of bricks. I had to get permission for my conservatory and it took me so long, but I did it. 

'Now this couple get to come along and just build what they want, with the council unwilling to do anything. It's disgusting how some people are treated one way, and others another.'

Another said: 'It is all well and good them building this so called 'green home', but that doesn't mean they should be allowed to do it without permission. 


'There are laws in place for a reason and for them to be completely ignored is unfair on everyone else who has stuck to them over the years.'

For more information and photos, please see source.

Earthlings, Anarchists and Other Animals

In a 1990 photo from the Animal Liberation Front,
two activists posed after removing 82 beagles and
 26 rabbits from a laboratory in Cambridge, England.
I was watching a “60 Minutes” report on YouTube when I realized I could burn down a logging station. The 2005 report, called “BurningRage,” told the story of the environmental extremist group the Earth LiberationFront, which the United States government had come to regard as its greatest domestic “terrorist” threat. At the time, the E.L.F. was responsible for over 1,000 actions, including the most financially destructive act of domestic terrorism ever recorded: One of its autonomous cells had set fire to a $23 million housing development outside San Diego, completely destroying it.

I was watching this because the E.L.F. activist Daniel McGowan had recently signed a plea agreement ending a long trial for setting fire to the offices of Superior Lumber in Glendale, Ore., causing over $400,000 in damage. By temporarily shutting down Superior Lumber’s operations, McGowan and five other activists delayed the untimely deaths of untold numbers of trees and animals whose habitats were being clear-cut. McGowan looked like a hero to me and to others in the movement.

It was 2006 and I was 22. I had been an ethical vegan for only a short time, but was already beginning to learn about organizations like the E.L.F., the Animal Liberation Front (A.L.F.), and Earth First! thinkers like the green-anarchist philosopher John Zerzan, and bands like Gather and Earth Crisis, who made hard-core punk music about animal liberation.Seeing the twisted, charred remains of the San Diego housing development flicker across my computer screen, I thought of all I could do with my own hands, and my anger. I cared passionately about protecting other species and decided to act.

My boyfriend and I began penning a manifesto and planning our own actions, studying manuals for lockpicking and building incendiary devices. The anarchist sites we frequented gave us directions for reproducing zines from PDFs, so we began to distribute them out of my boyfriend’s apartment and called our distro Black Masque. We watched countless videos shot surreptitiously inside vivisection laboratories and slaughterhouses, and read deeply about rewilding and primitivism, talking about how we’d help take down the sick system, then live in a treehouse in the mountains and grow our own food.

Seven years later, I’ve still never carried out an action. My boyfriend and I split up and I moved back home. I got a job in a coffee shop and life took over. Before long, I wasn’t even vegan anymore.

II.

My parents are ethical vegetarians but left it up to me to decide on my own. When I was 10, I did, after finding a PETA pamphlet about animal rights at my friend’s house and bringing it home. I remember the rankling feeling I had after calling the 800 number on my toothpaste tube a few days later and asking a woman if the company tested its toothpaste on animals. I found out it did, but I didn’t stop using it — back then, I didn’t know there were alternatives. Throughout most of middle and high school, I was the vegetarian outlier among my friends. I believed I was special.

By the time I got to college, my lifestyle had become so habitual that I forgot why I wanted to abstain from animal products in the first place. After all that time, I still knew little about the beef industry and its connection to the dairy and leather industries, and nothing about the precarious state of our oceans as a result of overfishing, or the fate of unwanted male chicks unlucky enough to be born on egg farms. My freshman year, I fell in love for the first time, with an Italian-American boy who lived down the hall from me in my dorm. He was an enthusiastic and aggressive meat eater, and after many weeks of his prodding, I relented and ordered a salmon steak at the Macaroni Grill. Since then I have alternated between meat eating and strict, at times militant, veganism.

Currently, I’ve been vegan for over a year, having again made the change after finishing a novel about young lovers getting involved in veganarchist activism. But the passive, day-to-day choices of ethical veganism alone leave me feeling restless.

III.

During the E.L.F.-A.L.F. period, I moved into a new apartment and got a kitten, whom I named Roslyn. I loved her immediately and intensely. Being a young adult of the 21st century, I demonstrated this love with hundreds of pictures on Facebook. All of my friends knew Roslyn and adored her; she even had her own Facebook account after a while. So when my boyfriend, who was already vegan, asked me why I would eat some animals but not others — for instance, Roslyn — the question seemed ridiculous. But thinking about it, I couldn’t give him a good answer.

Now Roslyn lives at my parents’ house in Florida and I live in a tiny apartment in one of the largest urban spaces on the planet.

A large part of the difficulty I’ve had sustaining what I consider to be an ethical lifestyle over the years has been the lack of direct contact I have with animals. Most of the animals I see are either moving about on screens, or already cold cuts — processed food being another kind of screen. Recently, I watched two videos of an orphaned rhino cuddling with its keeper. I commented on a photograph of a baby brown bear on the National Geographic Instagram. I did most of the research for my novel online, where images of suffering animals intermix with those of docile house cats and cows grazing on hillsides.

There’s a documentary, which I’m afraid to watch, called “Earthlings.” The two-and-a-half minute trailer contains so much real footage of graphic violence that I don’t think I can handle two hours of it. Joaquin Phoenix narrates while a cow thrashes around on the floor of a slaughterhouse, bleeding out, and a deer is skinned alive but continues to live. A dog is thrown, struggling, into the back of a garbage truck. One racehorse trips and five more go stumbling over it. At the end of the trailer Phoenix says, “It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal.” Seeing this, I feel a number of emotions: pity, rage, fear, indignation. But I know they’re synthetic. They don’t touch the love from which springs true compassion.

IV.

Sometimes, walking to the subway, I’ll stop to watch finches play on a patch of grass, or a squirrel flick its tail next to a bush. If I’m lucky, I’ll see rats running along the tracks while I wait for my train. But aside from the occasional dog, I never interact with animals. And while I feel more strongly now than I ever have before that being vegan is the most ethical lifestyle choice I can make, I’m also more sensitive to the artifice inherent in my daily understanding of animal life.

My first time grocery shopping after going vegan last summer, I walked down the meat aisle past sausages, ground beef and chicken cutlets, aware that my rediscovered beliefs were, to a large extent, intellectual. It took an imaginary leap for me to recognize the blood pooling in the corner of some Saran Wrap as that which had once carried nourishment to the organs of another being, so I conjured up videos I’d seen of slaughterhouses, battery cages and nursing sows. I reminded myself of all I’d read recently, how disgusted I’d felt just days beforehand. Reaching the end of the aisle, I still felt disconnected. Then I saw the chicken feet.

They’d always been there next to the cow tongues but I’d never seen that they were so humanlike. They were bled white and plump. Their four digits bent innocently at the knuckles like children’s. Skin was torn where it was handled too roughly, and snapped tendons showed from the ends of wrists beneath ragged skin where the feet had been chopped. Fingernails came to elegant points. I got close and stared. What had been theoretical just seconds before had suddenly become disturbingly, gloriously real to me.

V.

Growing up by the water in Florida, I spent a lot of time interacting with wildlife: stingrays, pelicans, mangroves, lizards, orange trees, hibiscus and any number of sea birds and tropical bugs. My husband and I flew down recently to visit my parents and I took him to an estuary where I used to spend my free time. We stood silently at the edge of a tide pool, and after some minutes, fiddler crabs crept from the mud, first one at a time, and then by the dozens. They scuttled around our feet making gentle waves, unaware that we watched from above.

It is one of my life’s great regrets that I haven’t done more to defend other species against human greed. Whether fatigue or complacency, finding excuses is easy. A lack of time and money is the first. Then comes the blame: I don’t have money because capitalism doesn’t work; this is how the system’s designed; it doesn’t allow you to resist. Then the defeat: We’ve already lost; the earth is doomed; I’m doing all I can day to day.
Deep down, I know that I’m not.


Recently, The Associated Press reported that the earth is standing at the precipice of a sixth mass extinction as a result of disappearing habitats. When I read things like this, my rage is ignited as it was nearly a decade ago. I wonder all over again: Who is injured when a logging station or a slaughterhouse burns? Who is injured when it doesn’t? When we talk about animals, we are also talking about humans. But anger alone will get us nowhere, and violence will get us nowhere. As if grieving, we have to learn to endure, making conscious choices, every day, which help us to live.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

24-year-old Russian spends eight months living in the freezing Russian wilderness

Scroll down for video

A Russian man is taking the chance to escape the rat race to the extreme - by living like a 10th century hermit in the snow-covered forests of Russia. Pavel Sapozhnikov, 24, from Moscow will spend a total of eight months living like his ancestors did on a replica of an ancient farm as part of a social experiment. He is only allowed to leave the fenced-off area of the farm to hunt and gather food, is banned from any kind of communication, and can only use authentic tools from ancient Russia. 

The farm is situated in a forest clearing around 50 miles north of the Russian capital.
It features a house, a well, hayloft and smokehouse, plus a separate toilet, and bread oven. Sapozhnikov additionally has pens for chickens and goats.

[Left] Sapozhnikov's farm is situated in a forest clearing around 50 miles north of Moscow. It features pens for chickens, pictured, as well as goats. Chickens are used for eggs and meat, while the goats are used for milk

The experiment is part of a project called ‘Hero’ and was set up by events manager Alexei Ovcharenko from agency Ratobor.

The theory behind the experiment is ‘to trace the social and psychological changes in personality and learn how important the support of others is to modern humans.’

[Left] With help from expert archaeologist, Alexander Fetisov, the farm was built using only materials and techniques that would have been used by ancient Russians. This includes fire lights that burn on linseed oil, wooden beds, animal fur clothes and bedding, pictured, and a calendar scratched into the wall of the house

With help from expert archaeologist, Alexander Fetisov, the farm was built using only materials and techniques that would have been used by ancient Russians. 

Sapozhnikov must also furnish his home in the same way.

[Left] Construction of the farm, shown in this illustration, began at the start of 2012, and Sapozhnikov moved in at the start of September 2013. The fenced-off farm features a house, a well, hayloft and smokehouse, plus a separate toilet. There is also a bread oven and a bath

This includes fire lights that burn on linseed oil, wooden beds, animal fur clothes and bedding and a calendar scratched into the wall of the house. 

Construction on the farm began at the start of 2012, and Sapozhnikov moved in at the start of September 2013; the project is expected to run until May. 
[Left] Sapozhnikov spends the morning milking his goats, preparing his chickens, pictured left, and eating breakfast. He then chops wood for the fire, right, and collects water from the well. The rest of the day is spent either hunting for food, or carrying out manual labour on the farm, including insulating the house with manure

During this time, temperatures in the region can drop as low as minus 30°C and this time period was deliberately chosen to highlight exactly how difficult Russian ancestors would have found living and hunting in the conditions.

Ovcharenko added that eight months is long enough for the experiment to yield results, but not too long that it will 'pathologically endanger' Sapozhnikov.

[Left] To produce hot water, Sapozhnikov places stones in his fire stove, before putting these stones into a bucket of cold water, pictured. He then uses this water to wash his clothes, cooking utensils and himself

At the start of the project, Sapozhnikov was given the chance to document a day in the life on the farm, using a camera and notepad, and this was posted on the project’s blog. 

[Left] As part of the project, Sapozhnikov, pictured, is only allowed to leave the fenced off area to hunt and gather food. He was given a small amount of harvested food, as well as chickens, pictured, at the beginning of the project, but this supply was not designed to last the length of the experiment

According to this blog, Sapozhnikov spends the morning milking his goats, preparing his chickens, collecting eggs and eating breakfast, he then chops wood for the fire and collects water from the well. 

[Left] To prepare for the mission, Sapozhnikov spent months learning how to prepare animals, including chickens, pictured. He also became skilled in using ancient tools and familiarised himself with ancient fire-building and washing techniques, with help from archaeologists

The rest of the day is spent either hunting for food, or carrying out manual labour on the farm. This includes insulating the house with manure. 

[Left] During winter, temperatures in the region can drop as low as 30°C and snow covers the ground for months. This time period and was deliberately chosen to highlight exactly how difficult Russian ancestors would have found living, and hunting, in these conditions, pictured

As part of the project, Sapozhnikov is only allowed to leave the fenced off area to hunt and gather food.

[Left] How the farm house looks at night. The experiment is part of a project called 'Hero' and was set up by events manager Alexei Ovcharenko from agency Ratobor. The theory behind the experiment is 'to trace the social and psychological changes in personality and learn how important the support of others is to modern humans'

He was given a small amount of harvested food at the beginning of the project, but this supply was not designed to last the length of the experiment. 

[Left] The only way Sapozhnikov, pictured, can abandon the project is if his mental or physical health is at serious risk, or his life is under threat. However, if he contracts a common illness, such as a cold, or even diseases, such as a lung infection, Sapozhnikov will be required to carry on - as his ancestors would have done

Sapozhnikov is banned from any form of communication, except during open days, once a month, when a medical expert and project leader visit him and check on his progress. 

[Left] The farm is situated in a forest clearing around 50 miles north of Sapozhnikov's home in Moscow (pictured bottom centre) - although the precise location has not been revealed to protect the experiment from external interference

Even when hunting, Sapozhnikov is forbidden from communicating with anyone he encounters. 

The only way Sapozhnikov can abandon the project is if his mental or physical health is at serious risk, or his life is under threat. 

[Left] Sapozhnikov tracks how long he has been on the farm using a make-shift calendar scratched into the wall of the house, pictured

However, if he contracts a common illness, such as a cold, or other diseases, such as a lung infection, Sapozhnikov will be required to carry on - as his ancestors would have done. 

Sapozhnikov became a festival volunteer with Ratobor in 2010 and from May to September that year, he lived in a reconstruction of an ancient settlement, dubbed ‘beta’ for the current experiment. 

He is single and was previously a student at Moscow University.

To prepare for the mission, Sapozhnikov spent months learning how to prepare animals, including chickens. 

He also became skilled in using ancient tools and familiarised himself with ancient fire-building and washing techniques. 

For example, to produce hot water, Sapozhnikov places stones in his fire stove until they are glowing, before putting these stones into a bucket of cold water. 

He then uses this water to wash his clothes, cooking utensils, his home, and his body - although because water is scarce, clothes and body washing is carried out 'infrequently.'

Ratobor was set up in 2006 and has completed similar events based on historical experiences. 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE ANCIENT RUSSIAN HERMIT 

At the start of the project, Pavel Sapozhnikov was given the chance to document a day in the life using a camera and notepad, and this was posted on the project’s blog. 

According to this blog, Sapozhnikov spends the morning milking his goats and eating breakfast.

He then chops wood for the fire and collects water from the well. 

The rest of the day is spent either hunting for food, or carrying out manual labour on the farm. 

This includes insulating the house with manure, maintaining his house and outbuildings, and other tasks around the farm.

To prepare for the mission, Sapozhnikov spent months learning how to prepare animals, including chickens. 

He also became skilled in using the ancient tools and familiarised himself with ancient fire-building and washing techniques.

He is only allowed to leave the farm to find food, and is forbidden from any form of communication.
 

(Source)

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

A Critique of Marxism

Marxism is a dogma which believes that it can make the entire human and social life into a science. Marxism would be an absolute mechanical causality, in which every cause becomes an operation and each operation becomes a cause. It pretends to know the future, to make provisions on the conditions of human development, however for us it represents a ridiculous failure to recognize the boundaries of science. By no means can we deny science, but subjective as science is, it can merely be an estimate which depends on the personality it carries within itself.

Perhaps the most ridiculous assumption of Marxism is that capitalist facts can have socialist consequences. The idea that capitalism and the misery that goes with it, are just many stages towards socialism, is a scientific delusion. Socialism cannot result from capitalism, but can only grow against it from a sense of injustice and a desire for togetherness. In contradiction to Marx’s claim that socialism is only a product of workers materialism, mankind comes to socialism from very different motives. Socialism can only be the fruit of numerous small changes. If one would wait for a certain “degree of ripeness” of capitalism, the degree of degeneration of the masses will make the achievement of socialism simply impossible.

Because Marxism claims to know the future with certainty, on the grounds of “immutable” laws of historical development, it suggests that the will and deeds of people can not stop this development. The Marxists see themselves as a necessary link in the chain of development. They represent themselves as the bearers and discoverers of social development. Therefore the Marxist dogma feeds the haughty self-righteousness, which leads to the denial that also other socialist views can be part of the truth. Socialists who come to socialism by other ways then the Marxist dogma, are considered as “second-class” socialists. Or even worse, these “second-class” socialist counteract against the “inevitable” development, thus they are “reactionary”.

Marxism one-sidedly focuses on technical-economic factors and greatly underestimates the role that the socialist mindset plays. The socialist spirit is a desire for connectedness and the will to put it into action: that’s the foremost condition for socialism. The development of capitalism doesn’t just lead towards more physical and material misery, but also leads to an increasing mindlessness and hopelessness among the people. The whole of humanity faces the danger of overall decline. Therefore every day is precious; there is no time to lose, because it’s about human life itself. One can not wait until capitalism reaches a certain stadium, one has to act now.

The achievement of socialism begins with the initiative of singletons and small groups. Each activity they oppose to capitalism, is worthy of the name socialism. Liberation is only there for those who can free themselves from capitalism and who start “becoming human” again. “Becoming human” means that one no longer works for profit alone, but for real human needs. The pioneering work of these loners and small groups, will in turn inspire others to follow their example and people will work in community. This community can never arise from a command from above, but can only arise from the basis by a change in the labor relations, the lifestyle, habits and ethics. If one wants to destroy capitalism, one first has to destroy the worldview that it carries within itself.

In contradiction to Marxism, which views socialism as a system that originates from the womb of capitalism, we see socialism as a new beginning that is opposite of capitalism. Socialism represents a return to the natural human relations, a return to the spirit of togetherness that connects man with his community. Socialism represents the return to the old community man, that lives on the blood of each and every modern individualist. 

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Sunday, 26 January 2014

Anarchy As Spiritual Practice (Video)

An excellent speech from Jamie O'Hara of the National-Anarchist Tribal Alliance of New York (NATA-NY).

Family shuns supermarkets and saves £900 a year switching to local markets

The Experiment began before the birth of their daughter Lizzie. Over the year they have saved £900 and say their diet is better. Now they plan to stay supermarket-free forever.

Faced with the birth of their first child, Ian and Rebekah Pugh decided they needed to tighten their belts.
Realising that supermarkets were costing them a small fortune, they set themselves the challenge of shunning them for a year.

Sticking to ten strict rules, the couple limited their food budget to £50 a week and began buying all their groceries from local shops and markets.

A year later, they have not only completed their challenge, they have saved themselves £895.23 – and are reaping the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

It has been such a success the couple, who live in Faringdon, Oxfordshire, with 18-month-old daughter Elizabeth, have now decided to give up supermarkets for good. 

Mrs Pugh, 29, said: ‘I used to think we spent £50 on the weekly supermarket shop. But when I looked at the bank statements it was more like £90.

‘The trouble is you do the weekly shop then end up popping in to get bread and milk one day and come out with a load of other stuff you hadn’t planned on getting because you see all the two-for-ones and special offers as you go round.

‘You see things for £1 and think that’s really cheap, but if you stopped to think about it you don’t really need them. Supermarkets are engineered to make you buy. That’s why the bread and milk is at the back. 

‘You can definitely buy certain things cheaper in supermarkets. But it’s the lifestyle change which has made the savings – we’re not buying food or products any more, but ingredients, and the amount of them we need, to make things. 

‘We used to waste a lot of things we couldn’t get through.

‘Now we don’t have to buy large quantities of things because that’s how they come packaged. I have the time to cook from scratch every day and we make the most of everything we buy. 

‘For example, we buy a quality chicken from the butcher which we will roast, then have cold in sandwiches and use the  carcass to make stock or soup.’

The Pughs’ ten rules include the opportunity to eat out in a restaurant once a fortnight and the need to avoid wasting any food or drink.   

They shop at a local street market and monthly farmer’s market. They use the local butcher’s, delicatessen and cheese shop and have even started getting their pork straight from a nearby farm. 

They have also begun making their own bread and get their eggs from their hens Tom, Dick and Harry.

If for any reason, they failed to stick to their £50 budget, the couple slashed the following week’s budget by half.

Mr Pugh, 28, an academic administrator at St Cross College at the University of Oxford, has had to give up his favourite biscuits, but his sweet tooth is now more than satisfied by his wife’s home-made cakes.

Mrs Pugh, who blogged about her ‘Year Without Supermarkets’ during her maternity leave from her job as a mental health worker, said: ‘We are healthier as we have lost weight, and we really appreciate things we used to take for granted like golden syrup, which is ridiculously cheap in supermarkets compared to elsewhere.

‘We think a lot more about what we’re eating too. If you fry a bit of supermarket bacon it usually shrivels away and there’s a lot of water. 

‘Ours isn’t like that any more –  we know where it comes from and that the pigs have been cared for. We meet the traders and hear about their products. It’s all an added bonus.’ 

She added: ‘It’s been a good discipline to learn to live this way. We’ve been under our £50 a week food budget – on average we spend about £35. 

'I used to keep the cupboard rammed full as if we were expecting a nuclear disaster. Now I just get in what we need. 

'We’re eating better quality food, certainly more fruit and vegetables. Lizzie has never had any preserved or processed food. It’s all been home-made.

‘Our diet is also more varied. We buy vegetables in season and meat like pheasant and venison which before we’d have associated with paying for in a restaurant.’

(Source)

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