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+4 votes
From T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism by Hakim Bey

Double-Dip Denunciations

"II. Abortionists & Anti-abortionists

REDNECKS WHO BOMB ABORTION clinics belong in the same grotesque category of vicious stupidity as bishops who prattle Peace & yet condemn all human sexuality. Nature has no laws ("only habits"), & all law is unnatural. Everything belongs to the sphere of personal/imaginal morality--even murder.

However, according to Chaos Theory, it does not follow that we are obliged to like & approve of murder--or abortion. Chaos would enjoy seeing every bastard love-child carried to term & birthed; sperm & egg alone are mere lovely secretions, but combined as DNA they become potential consciousness, negentropy, joy.

If "meat is murder!" as the Vegans like to claim, what pray tell is abortion? Those totemists who danced to the animals they hunted, who meditated to become one with their living food & share its tragedy, demonstrated values far more humane than the average claque of "pro-Choice" feminoid liberals.

In every single "issue" cooked up for "debate" in the patternbook of the Spectacle, both sides are invariably full of shit. The "abortion issue" is no exception.."
by (3.8k points)
Hakim Bey sounds like a combination of Allen Ginsburg and Eric Rudolph.

As an Anarchist, I advocate full autonomy of an individual to have an abortion or not (full reproductive freedom/liberation.)

Bey is a Moralist authoritarian on something that Hakim Bey will never experience.
Well, to answer your questions: yes and yes. You answered them yourself.
Is there a question that you wanted to pose for the rest of us to weigh in on?
I like the sound of my own voice/I like my own writing....?

You're right, Katherine. I guess I did answer my own question....but I am curious to what other people think about this question.
So, I am rereading my answer here, and unsure if my answer really addresses the question, but I am not really sure what the question at hand is: anarchists and abortion or people's thoughts/ critiques of Bey?
I guess I was asking two questions: One about Anarchist views on abortion (which has been asked in some form before) and another about Anarchists' views on Hakim Bey.
I just read that excerpt by Bey about half an hour before I typed up the question. I'm not fond of Bey but have found his writing to be different enough to read some stuff, but I was shocked to see him writing about abortion in such a possibly reactionary way (from my point of view.)
Consider whether you would have been equally shocked to read a passage that encouraged veganism on the grounds that all animals have a joy and autonomy that the world requires us to respect.  If not then your shock at this passage and also your opinions about abortion probably have nothing to do with anarchism but instead come from your leftist cultural milieu, which is what Bey is criticising in this passage. If you hold a pro-choice position that is the simple opposite of the pro-life position, then you are the moralizing one because that is a moralizing argument from either side.
I wish I could up vote comments. Well, imaginary upvote to sweater fish.

2 Answers

+6 votes
My two cents on the “abortion is murder” sentiment:

I believe that abortion /is/ the act of taking a potential life or a life (depending on when it happens). I also believe that it is the person who is carrying the pregnancy's choice to end that life.

Pregnancy and birth is beautifully and dangerously intertwined with death (life and death are part of each other, after all). Spontaneous abortion occurs in 20% of pregnancies, and fetal demise and intrauterine death are not uncommon (though less so in the industrialized world due to medical intervention that allows baby's to be born well before their time or to keep babys in the mother's body). It happens for a million reasons, but it boils down to two categories: a) the placenta or fetus had abnormalities that weren't compatible with continuing its own life b) something about the mother's body wasn't compatible with carrying another life.

A maternal infection can cause spontaneous abortion or still birth, as can gestational diabetes mellitus, malnutrition, stress, psychological trauma, environmental toxins, etc. Miscarriage or still birth can occur when the mother's body literally attacks the child's blood and body as in cases of Rh sensitization, etc.  In all of these cases (we assume) a perfectly healthy, viable life is ended because a person cannot support another life if their own is endangered by external forces or by the pregnancy itself.

Why then, is the choice to choose one's own life over another considered outside the realm of morality and malicious blame only when there is a clear diagnosable medical or biological component. What of those whose emotional health and well being are threatened by a pregnancy, what of someone whose ability of provide for themselves physically (by way of finances) would be in jeopardy, or whose whole  way of life and what they value is endangered by having to sustain another life in utero and after? There is a great quote in the Jane zine “I know some people say it's wrong, abortion, that you shouldn't take a life. And maybe you did take a life. But it's all give and take isn't it? My mother  always said that everything always comes down to give and take. So, the baby today, that was the taking – and me, me, my own life, I think that was the giving.”

Life necessitates death to sustain life.This reality is only excepted  in context of animal and plant life - but as anarchists we should recognize that humans are part of the web of this.  Who is any one else to force someone sacrifice their own life for another. Many anarchists would argue that if an abusive partner was threatening a person, that person would be justified in ending the abusers life. That taking a cop or politician's life is part of bringing about some people's freedom. So and so on. The issue is a moral stance on who is justified to defend their life and who is allowed to dictate what defines defending ones own life.

*edited to fix my habitually bad spelling/typing.
by (5.4k points)
edited by
+3 votes
Katherine said everything I would've wanted to say regarding perspectives on abortion.

Regarding what I think of the piece you excerpted from Bey, first, I'm not a big fan of his writing, so it's only fair to put that out there, and since I don't read most of his writing, I could be missing some larger contexts here. Second, I think that Bey is not, in fact proven by this to be a moralist. He explicitly condemns moralism for anything beyond the individual ("Everything belongs to the sphere of personal/imaginal morality" could be read to mean something along the lines of "there is no authority but you.")

Certainly Bey then says some stuff about Chaos loving babies and yada yada, but I don't see him anywhere saying that he thinks people shouldn't have abortions if that's what they choose to do, just that he might not approve. There is absolutely nothing about being an anarchist that means you have to approve of abortion, where it gets sketchy is if he were to try to prevent women from having abortions that they wanted to have.

Bey comes off sounding like a dick in places ("pro-Choice feminoids???"), but if we take him at his word he is not a moralistic authoritarian. I actually think part of what he is probably trying to do here is problematize the dualism of good/bad, etc. Which is sort of what he says at the very end, while still kind of sounding like a dick: "In every single 'issue' cooked up for 'debate' in the patternbook of the Spectacle, both sides are invariably full of shit. The 'abortion issue' is no exception.."
by (22.1k points)
edited by
Thanks, Ingrate and Katherine for your thoughts.
I wonder, Ingrate, if Bey is not a "moralist authoritarian" (maybe too strong of words) but wouldn't Bey be reactionary even if he doesn't want a State to control abortion freedom but uses language which a society would not tolerate it (possible difference between State preventing a freedom and a society not condoning it to the point where a person would be afraid to get an abortion in fear of society's disapproval.
Bey uses the often problematic "we" (who other than himself, and "Association for Ontological Anarchy" - which I've always understood to have been, well, him, does he purport to speak?) to talk about his ideas in this half of this communique (it is only part two of "Double-Dip Denounciations"). If he puports to speak for all those who might be part of some anarchist-society-yet-to-be that they collectively would not approve of abortion, to the extent that someone would not be able to safely get one, then maybe he is describing a somewhat reactionary anarchy, but I think that is reading a lot in to what he wrote.

As I already said, I don't particularly care for Hakim Bey's writing and strain of anarchy - too much poetry! However, I don't think of Bey as falling in to the particulaly reactionary part of the milieu. I tend to think of him as being far more willing to break with commonly held social constraints and mores than a lot of anarchists, actually.

I would be interested to get the perspective of someone who has a better appreciation of Bey's work than I do (I begrudgingly pulled out my copy of TAZ to skim through before commenting, but haven't read it closely for sometime, and I have never read the entire book in one sitting, which means that I could be missing lots about his work.)