“Anarchy in the USA” is out now in Issue 113 of The Believer, and features a profile of the anarchist John Zerzan. Near the end of November, Zander Sherman, in Ontario, and John Zerzan, in Oregon, talked by phone about the Paris attacks, presidential debates, and the finding of happy places. Their conversation has been edited.
ZANDER SHERMAN: Let’s start with Paris. What dark corner of the psyche does this madness come from?
JOHN ZERZAN: What we’re seeing is the emptiness of modern technological society. We live in an era with no real sense of community or connection to nature. There’s a hollowness to civilized life. It doesn’t appeal to people, and some people react with extreme violence.
Of even greater significance, I would say, are the acts of what I call terrorism here in the U.S. In this morning’s news there was a report that six people had been killed at a campground in Texas. The alleged perpetrator wasn’t an Islamist. When that happens every other day, it adds up. These massacres are what we should be talking about. We’re breeding our own kind of jihad here in the States, where people just freak out and kill a bunch of people and then themselves. How is that any different than what’s happening in Paris or Beirut?
ZS: How is technology responsible?
JZ: The more the society becomes a technological society, the less it has to hold itself together. I think that’s probably the key thing. What is it that corrodes or dissolves community and erases these bonds? I mean, I don’t think it could be a coincidence that the more technological a society is, the less it connects people. And of course that’s the exact opposite of the propaganda. “We’re all connected now. We’re globally connected. We’re a millisecond away.” Except the opposite is true. We’ve never been so isolated or disconnected.
If you have a problem in mass society, you call the cops. The experts. You no longer have any operative connection with yourself or others, or with a functioning community. I mean, it’s still being called a “community.” The politicians and developers call it that, but to me it’s not that at all. Mass society has displaced real community, where people function together and account for their own lives. And you know, it’s getting worse. Now we’re at the pathological stage of these almost daily mass shootings, and still it doesn’t register with the approved people, I guess.
ZS: With authority.
JZ: Yeah, exactly.
ZS: Have you been following the presidential debates?
JZ: As much as I follow a football game. It’s a form...
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