NOTE: This essay was the inspiration for the book Underminers.
It takes guts to do something that could change things forever. I’m not the obvious candidate to be a hero, that’s a fact; I have children and a wife, and an extended family that mean the world to me. Heroes, for the most part, are seen as those people who, at great risk to themselves, carry out noteworthy acts – but why does heroism have to go hand-in-hand with great risk?
There is no greater thing that can be done than securing the future of humanity, and in this truly momentous task I believe that everyone has the potential to be a hero. There are many actions available to people of all different abilities, social positions, locations and ages that, together can help free humanity from the terrible yoke of hierarchical, industrial, consumerist living; many actions that entail a wide range of risk and effectiveness, but all of which are important.
At this point it’s necessary for me to lose the majority of my readers, for the things I am about to share with you are likely to contribute to the downfall of Industrial Civilization – the “machine” of the title. If this idea scares you then you will not be alone, for the thought of losing something you feel is integral to what you are (in effect, being a citizen) is not something that most of us have ever seriously considered. But lose it we must: read this article to find out why.
To get the full picture you’ll really need to go to my book, “A Matter of Scale” (also published as “Time’s Up! An Uncivilized Solution To A Global Crisis”), and read Chapter 13. If you need further convincing, have a look at Derrick Jensen’s “Endgame” books or, for a more concise read, try “A Short History of Progress” by Ronald Wright. Come back when you are happy to help with the removal of the Machine. For those who are still reading: welcome, let’s do some Undermining.
What Is Undermining?
Undermining is the term for any form of Sabotage that damages the foundations of a system, structure or process. The target, as we know, is Industrial Civilization – the most destructive human system ever created.
Specifically, the act of Undermining Industrial Civilization seeks to provide ordinary people with the ability to think and act in an unconstrained environment, free of the Tools of Disconnection that civilization has put in place to keep us physically and psychologically dependent upon it. By Undermining Industrial Civilization, you are not aiming to directly damage its physical structure – although that may be a side-effect – instead you are impairing its ability to control people. People who are no longer controlled can decide for themselves how they want to live.
The aim is not so much destroying as dismantling the Machine, starving it of energy and making it unable to keep us living the destructive way of life we have come to think is the only way to live.
Undermining has rules attached to it; rules that help ensure that the perpetrator is kept relatively safe, and their (your) actions are as effective as possible. It is vital that you follow these rules for your safety, and that of other people:
1. Make the Tools of Disconnection (see Chapter 13, as above) your priority; anything else is a waste of time and effort.
2. Carefully weigh up all the pros and cons, and then ask yourself, “Do the benefits far outweigh the costs?” Only act if the answer is “Yes”.
3. Plan ahead, and plan well, accounting for every possible eventuality.
4. Even if you value the worth of your actions, don’t get caught.
There is a primer to the types of actions this entails in my article “Sabotage Is Not An Option, It Is A Necessity” which you might like to read before going onto the list below.
Observant readers will notice that (at the time of writing) there are not one hundred items listed below – this is an ongoing project, and I will add to it as I think of new ones, or I receive suggestions for possible Undermining actions. If you have any ideas, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or make a comment below.
The list below does not imply unqualified approval of your carrying out the action: that is why there is a disclaimer. When going through the list, I would also encourage you to think about what each action means in your local context, and how it might need to be adapted to be relevant, or even possible. In all cases, you must read the Introduction before embarking on any Undermining activity, even if it is in the list: you might be out of your depth without realising it, and you might also be wasting your time, effort and even liberty. Nothing is without risk, but some things are really worth it.
Disclaimer: Publication of the following list does not imply any responsibility on the author’s part – the person carrying out the listed actions takes full responsibility for the outcome of these actions. The author only condones activities that are permitted under local jurisdiction; all other activities are the personal choice of the actor.
· Change the press releases of the company you work for to tell the truth about the product or service they are offering. If releases are sent out by post, it is a lot easier to be anonymous.
· Similarly, alter promotional and advertising materials to show the environmental and social impact of the company sending them out. If you work in a printing or distribution role, this will be far safer.
· Insert contrary materials, such as flyers exposing a company or organisation’s activities, into the pages of reports, magazines and brochures.
· If you are party to confidential information that, if released, could damage the reputation of a company or public body, send it anonymously by post to one or more newspaper editors.
· Remove commercial advertising (billboards, posters, displays) from your local area or, if that’s not possible, alter it to give it a more accurate meaning.
· Switch off televisions or monitors in shops that are running adverts.
· Switch off televisions in public areas, pubs / bars and shop windows. Remote control devices are available for this.
· Subvertise commercial and government messages (adverts, promotions, campaigns) and distribute your work across the internet. Aim to make your version highly memorable.
· Undermine the reputation of politicians and corporate executives by posting mash-ups of their speeches on YouTube. The funnier they are, the more people will want to see them.
· Make up stickers, saying things like “Product of Industrial Agriculture”, “Energy Waster” or “Made in Sweatshops” and stick them on relevant items in supermarkets and large shops.
· Use radio and television blocking devices to disrupt broadcasts during advertising breaks, public “service” announcements and multi-part TV series (to discourage further watching).
· In a similar vein, set up local transmitting devices to broadcast pre-recorded anti-civilization messages on public frequencies.
· Remove commercial promotional and sponsored materials from schools.
· Refuse to vote. Encourage others not to vote either. If voting is compulsory, spoil your paper.
· Don’t do any unpaid work at all for any commercial organisation. Discourage others from doing so too.
· If you work for a school board or educational body, insert anti-civilization messages into materials, curricula and advisory notes. Remove references to things that encourage children to take part in civilized society / commercial activities.
· If you work for a company that sends out commercial materials to schools, accidentally “lose” the materials or alter them to give a contrary message.
· If you are calling a radio station about something, rather than tell them you want to give an anti-system message, start talking about something conventional, then change without warning to saying what you really want to say. Don’t swear, you will be cut off.
· Post articles or make comments on web sites suggesting that “Company X” is in financial trouble. There are all sorts of variations on this to create a lack of public / investor confidence.
· Remove adverts from public transport.
· Pretend you work for a company, and call up radio and TV stations to speak on their behalf. Expose the truth behind the company.
· Call up politicians posing as company representatives, offering them funding in exchange for political favours. Record the conversations and if they suggest impropriety, send them anonymously to media outlets.
· Buy the domain name of a fictional PR company, and send out “fake” press releases (giving real, damaging information) on behalf of companies, politicians etc. from a mail server with that domain name.
· Even easier, send out fake press releases from a webmail account (gmail, yahoo etc) with the account name of your fake PR company. Lots of people will still be taken in.
· Only use words like “consumer”, “civilized”, “progress” and “development” in negative terms, with the appropriate inflection. Make a habit of reminding others how bad these things are.
· If shopping mall, supermarket etc. car parks are locked up overnight, add your own padlocks and chains. Do the same for shopfronts / roller blinds if they are already locked.
· If you are a member of an activist group, discourage members from taking part in symbolic “actions” like marches, petitions, letter-writing and rallies. Keep asking them, “What will this achieve.”
· Stand in elections as an “Anti Civilization” candidate. Talk to potential voters about how meaningless elections are.
· If someone calls you “sir” or “madam”, or any other word of subservience, ask them not to. Talk to them using first names.
· If you are in a hierarchical organisation, encourage everyone to question the authority of the levels “above” them. Explain that it is always the people lower down the chain that suffer most from authority.
· Give produce and other home made foods away that you have a surplus of, rather than throw it away, even to people you barely know.
· Set up a food sharing scheme in your local area to help undermine the large scale distribution networks. Have meetings and discuss self-sufficiency in general.
· Set up or help promote a Freecycle network, or other household item giveaway scheme.
· Get together with other parents and set up a community home school: educate the children in the things they need for the future, not the things the Machine thinks they should know.
· Offer to run nature talks and foraging workshops for schools; tell the children about the real world vs. the commercial world, while you are doing them.
· Seedbomb places, even if they are not derelict or run down – seeds get to all sorts of places.
· It only takes a few seconds to sabotage water sprinkler systems in public areas and especially golf courses. Try doing this at the same time as seeding drought-tolerant indigenous “weeds”.
· Relabel museum exhibits to reflect the true history of Empire, Colonialism and Explotation. Also, add “Still to Come” labels to natural history exhibits, with the names of threatened species.
· Use hazard warning tape (available from lots of suppliers) to mark off car parks, entrances and any other commercial or government access route. It’s amazing how accepting people are of simple “security” measures
· When friends and family start talking about what they have recently bought, especially non-essential goods, talk about what you didn’t buy, thereby reversing the normal civilised assumption that it is a good thing to buy consumer goods.
· If you ever find yourself near to where an outside broadcast is taking place – especially those involving greasy politicians, corporate executives or broadcasters who like to put a negative spin on “bad” protests that break the law – “accidentally” trip over their cables or into their equipment, thus disrupting the broadcast. You can claim it was a trip hazard.
· Similarly, in similar circumstances, just make a nuisance of yourself, jumping up and down, holding bits of paper up with contrary messages, walking in front of the interviewee: in a public place there is nothing a broadcaster can do to stop you.
· Set up a press briefing, posing as your target of choice (such as an oil company executive, lobby group representative or economic adviser, anyone fairly nondescript), and then brief the press in a way that entirely undermines your alter-ego’s normal stance. Alternatively, make statements that even more unethical than those of your alter-ego, but still credible.
· If you don’t feel comfortable giving live press briefings, why not send letters using fake headed paper from the same alter-egos, using similarly undermining or crass messages.
· Create a dodgy corporate video that was only intended for internal use, and post it on YouTube (and Wikileaks) as a “leak”. Include information that is close enough to the truth to be credible, but edgy enough to cause a stir. Steal the introduction and ending from an existing corporate video using video capture software.
· Start referring to zoos as “animal prisons” and discourage children from attending anywhere that uses animals for profit. Take children on walks and show them real wildlife instead.
· Host a wild food dinner. Forage for food and ask guests to bring something wild of their own, or homegrown if that’s not possible – it will really make them think and if you can cook well then also maybe change their diets.
· Disrupt “legitimate” commercial activities by acting as a Rogue Trader, for instance by bidding on resources or land set aside for exploitation when you have no intention of buying (make sure there is a “cooling off” period). Use the resulting furore to publicise your reasons.
· Refuse to sign up to, or pledge alliegance to systems of authority, even when compulsory. Encourage others to do the same and make the most of your refusal in public, thus helping undermine the accepted top-down power relationship in civilized society.
· If you are web browsing, use Firefox along with Adblock Plus; an add-on that removes advertising from web sites. This effectively breaks the advertisers’ business model and ability to brainwash, so is one good piece of software to recommend to others.
· Don’t take out loans; discourage (and certainly never encourage) people from taking out loans. Discuss why loans exist as a way of keeping the economy growing, at the individual’s expense, and why it is far better to share, lend, barter or borrow.
· Use the terms “wage slavery” in place of paid work, and “debt slavery” in place of loans or mortgages. Subvertise advertising with these phrases where appropriate, and when talking to friends, and especially in any public forum (radio, debates, hustings etc) where others might pick up these terms.
· In the lead up to school assessments (such as SATs), if you or your child goes to school, refuse to take part in coaching lessons or test practices – they are nothing to do with education. Tell parents and students what you are doing: start a rebellion!
(Last Updated: 10 March 2010)
Thanks to the following for tips: Earth First!, Martin Sprouse (ed. “Sabotage in the American Workplace”), AdBusters, Aquila ka Hecate (http://aquilakahecate.blogspot.com), Richard Reynolds (http://www.guerrillagardening.org), The Yes Men (http://www.theyesmen.org), Dave Pollard (http://www.howtosavetheworld.ca), Guy McPherson (http://www.guymcpherson.com) and all my other great correspondents.