Hakim Bey on Permanent Autonomous Zones

While the anarchist author Hakim Bey’s visions are different from our own in many ways, there are strong similarities as well.  For example, Wikipedia says:

The concept of TAZ was first put into practice on a large scale by the Cacophony Society in what they called Trips to the Zone, or Zone Trips. One of their Zone Trips gave birth to Black Rock City, AKA the Burning Man Festival, an annual TAZ that many believe maintained its defining autonomy for about seven years, at which time it ceased being functional anarchy, and became a “do-ocracy” run by BMorg, a corporation.

Since Burning Man is one of our influences, Hakim Bey and his TAZs thus represent part of our ideological ancestry.  While he is best known for his writings about Temporary Autonomous Zones, in this piece he shares a few thoughts on Permanent TAZs.

And so we’ve had to consider the fact that not all existing autonomous zones are “temporary”. Some are (at least by intention) more-or-less “permanent”. Certain cracks in the Babylonian Monolith appear so vacant that whole groups can move into them and settle down. Certain theories, such as “Permaculture”, have been developed to deal with this situation and make the most of it. “Villages”, “communes”, “communities”, even “arcologies” and “biospheres” (or other utopian-city forms) are being experimented with and implemented. Even here however TAZ-theory may offer some useful thought-tools and clarifications. What about a poetique (a “way of making”) and a politique (a “way of living-together) for the “permanent” TAZ (or “PAZ”)?

What about the actual relation between temporariness and permanence? And how can the PAZ renew and refresh itself periodically with the “festival” aspect of the TAZ?

We are very interested in learning “politiques” for our PAZs, as well as the question of temporariness vs. permanence.  It seems likely that many seastead residents will initially just be there periodically, for a few weeks a year as a vacation.  Even full-time residents will probably want to spend a significant portion of their time back in civilization.  And even those living permanently on a seastead may temporarily associate themselves with a sea-city or gathering, before drifting off to enjoy their solitude once more.

Bey cautions against open borders:

People probably ought to choose the people they live with. ”Open-membership” communes invariably end up swamped with freeloaders and sex-starved pathetic creeps. PAZs must choose their own membership mutually-this has nothing to do with “elitism”. The PAZ may exercize a temporarily open function-such as hosting festivals or giving away free food, etc.-but it need not be permanently open to any self-proclaimed sympathizer who wanders by.

While I am a big fan of open borders for large countries, at the beginning, seasteads will be tight-knit communities, sensitive to slackers and those who cause unrest.  I agree that members should be chosen carefully.  Of course, the care will depend on the degree of closeness.  I will be much  more selective about those I’m sharing a 100-person platform with, then about who I share a 10,000 person city with.

On festivals:

The PAZ serves a vital function as a node in the TAZ-web, a meetingplace for a wide circle of friends and allies who may not actually live fulltime on the “farm” or in the “village”. Ancient villages held fairs which brought wealth to the community, provided markets for travelers, and created festal time/space for all participants. Nowadays the festival is emerging as one of the most important forms for the TAZ itself, but can also provide renewal and fresh energy for the PAZ.

The festival aspect is part of our plans.  We picture regular Ephemerisle gatherings which draw seasteaders from all over, as well as many people from land, to temporary sea-cities (often built around existing permanent sea-cities).  Thus our permanent settlements can serve as a meetingplace for a wide circle of friends and allies who may not actually live fulltime on the seastead.

These festivals will help expose the concept to new people, as well as keep the existing residents from getting too bored by always seeing the same faces.  I don’t know about y’all, but as my circle of friends has grown geographically more disparate, the two key parts for maintaing connection have been the internet (specifically personal blogs) and festivals, events big enough that people will travel for them.  The power and excitement of festivals will be part of how we grow a brand-new society.

Speaking of which, we are very close to settling on an October date for our first conference, which will be a small festival of sorts, so stay tuned.


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