While having been raised in the Mormon church, in a dyed in the wool Mormon family (all of whom except myself are still in the faith), I was much preached to about preparing for the ‘end times.’ The Mormons, though an extremely authoritarian and private-property oriented group actually have many end-time preparatory practices, daily practices, and urban design techniques that anarchists might learn from. Some of these may be self-evident to many longtime malcontents, but for those just starting in in their activism and alternative life—these may be some helpful conclusions which I have gleaned from my experience growing up Mormon and which one might apply to their personal anarchist practices and larger urban planning itself – to transform the world and keep it thriving in anarchy.
The Mormons are extremely encouraged to grow large home-gardens, to do canning of vegetables and fruits that they grow, and even to keep on hand a year supply of food storage in case of an emergency. When or if end-times disasters strike or end-times economic collapse happens, they want to be prepared. As anarchists, many are helping to bring about that abandonment of economies everywhere; when we grow home-gardens for our own food, when we save seeds and plant them in their season, when we do canning, or save food in our cellar, or even sun-dry our fruits and herbs to eat later, especially to eat out of season, and when we freely enjoy the bounty of the earth with our neighbors—we are taking steps, however small and silent, to abandon systems of ownership and authority which exploit, dehumanize, and alienate the people of our planet and destroy the planet.
Mormon vision is limited by the edicts of their authoritarian leaders—whose dialogues do not actually include such things as edible weed propagation (most weeds are quite edible), nor concepts such as permaculture (making all landscaping edible or useful in some other basic way besides capitalist aesthetic considerations).
Diversion of water
Most of this essay discusses the nature of Mormon social interactions as they may apply to anarchism, but there is a geographically specific lessons related to specifically planning. In many of the cities in Utah, where many early Mormons settled, they have river water diverted to run through a small stone or concrete gutter set into both sides of the streets of the neighborhoods. At the curb near the dwelling you live in is a small gate that you can raise and lower to let the water come into your yard and divert to the crops you’d like to water. Anyway, it is an ingenious idea such that one does not need to use ‘water pipes’ to get water to sustain you and might be a positive design idea for anyone working with others to collectively make a much more locally independent, anarchist city. Certainly though the primitivist in me questions this too and reasons that there is much to learn from Native American agricultural techniques also.
Another tradition of the Mormons that may be applicable to anarchists is the studying of literature individually and together. Mormons are told to study their “scriptures” daily as individuals and several times a week as a “family.” This is done to keep them brainwashed and obedient, as thoughts and reason “are to be kept within the bounds the Lord has set.” As anarchists, critical thinking and the questioning of everything, for many of us these are hallmarks of our lives. Part of spreading the luscious freedom of anarchy (however we do, if we choose to) is to clearly understand how ownership and power structures function, to understand how they continue to function this day, why it is so incredibly oppressive to us all, develop better strategies for systemic destruction, and a clearer post-collapse vision. As we read and converse with others involved in the pursuit, it helps us work more synergistically and collectively toward that world of total liberation.
So like the Mormons studying daily—or whenever—to expand our understanding of oppression can aid us in the endeavor to end oppression. Unlike the Mormons though, guilt and fear are absent, because you choose, you nor anyone else are an authority in the matter, nobody’s going to hell, and you can be as nihilistic as you want.
Transcending the “family,” one might decide to start an informal study group to study the writings of Marx, Proudon, Bakunin, Debord, Baudrillard, Chomsky, Bonanno or anyone you have an interest in. From an architecture and urban planning perspective you might study together various building, irrigation, agriculture and clothing making techniques to sustain ourselves in the anarchist world. Pick a topic and join with others to expand each other’s understandings. The university is what we teach each other. Mormons will also engage in watching church sanctioned videos or audiotapes. You might consider listening to or watching a film or lecture with the group—instead of doing a reading or readings.
You might freely agree to read and study such anarchist and other transformative literature and design techniques as a group once a week, once a month, or whenever you feel like. Personal, one-on-one interactions and invitations are best and least traceable. Mormons also invite people to join them in their activities without telling them their intent of eventual conversion. Of course we do not use manipulation to force people into things like the Mormons do, but when you invite those you know who are not anarchists to participate in a bookstudy or other study group, they may not and probably won’t see that it is anarchist in any way, perhaps just “progressive,” but studying how we can together live apart from the machine and reading together about how the exploitation and dehumanization occur, and technology in various forms, spectacle, and ownership disconnect us from truly living, reading and talking about such things helps people to awaken to the ills around them. So, without even saying, “Ah, anarchy!” we awaken the sleeping robotic zombies to the truth and help beckon the coming day of an anarchist world. Admittedly, there are some who choose to be very out in their anarchy and others who do not, everyone has their path of what works best for them in their personal projects.
It is also important to note that theory and practice are inseparable, and when you leave out either in your discussions with others, it leaves the non-anarchist, perhaps to some degree, returning to adopt capitalist reasoning in that empty space. Counter-balancing this though is to remember that awakening may not happen overnight, and you can really only give a person a little to digest before they get more. But they sense the liberation of anarchy in the conversation, and it keeps them craving more. Now is the time to feed the world. And it may be good to remember that although anarchism is it—we know the world that we want and that it is really the most liberating vision—remember that we’re all the same, none of us are apart from another – even in thought.
Develop deep non-hierarchal relationships
Another practice required of the Mormons is to visit certain other Mormons who their leaders assign them to visit. It’s a bizarre authoritarian-driven friendship. Of course there are no requirements to do anything in anarchy. As well, for me, after leaving Mormonism I found myself having difficulty rationalizing me doing things to establish deep, or even slight friendships since suddenly neither were required of me. Outside of that authoritarian realm, though still in the disconcerting capitalist soup, I have found my friendships become all the more sincere, caring, and real beyond anything before. A part of this has also been learning that time spent with others no matter how very, very little capitalistly or “productively” useful it is—living, loving, and enjoying life with others without any definitions and obligations brings the truest, most real friendships. So spending time with others can be extremely wonderful, but be sure to leave ownership and capitalism at the door.
The Mormons are also highly organized, but use a hierarchal and centralized structure of authority. Their organization is structured around certain people having “God’s” authority, and the frequent use of guilt, fear, repetitive brainwashing, and the sick, coy use of honor. As we act to decentrally “organize” anarchy, we can freely agree to work together to accomplish common or uncommon tasks. As nobody possesses any kind of authoritarian power over others, and in such a mind as there is no “right” or “wrong” except whatever you think for your own self, you are thus free to walk away from any type of situation if it somehow comes to not agree with you any longer. In these organized states of liberation, we can work together to do and create that world of total liberation. We can work freely together to cooperatively plant and harvest crops, spin yarn, dig wells, build adobe or cob structures out of local materials, start up locally published zines together—generally organize!, and share ideas about being unique ourselves and not owning anything. Being highly organized in our own decentralized way moves people to experience the immediate consequences of their actions and helps give them the personal freedom to think and choose to live fully liberated lives on their own and with each other.
In total, we can prepare for and move toward anarchy through our interactions with the earth and its plants, by studying anarchist and other literature together and on our own, studying city design techniques of early Mormons in Utah, deliberately spending time with others for no “rational” reason, and by organizing ourselves in diverse ways to accomplish tasks. Very much, such a life is about lasting, meaningful relationships with others and the planet which transcend words and definitions. It is about moving toward an end-time of total liberation.