Introduction to “Schmookler and the Anarchists”
Let me introduce what follows – a semi-famous exchange between “Schmookler and the Anarchists” – with a story.
THE PARABLE OF THE TRIBES was reviewed, in the mid-1980s, in the radical environmental journal EARTH FIRST! It was a favorable review, albeit with some complaints. Perhaps chief among those complaints was the way that my social evolutionary theory locates the root of the the destructive process I describe in the “anarchy” obtaining in the “intersocietal system.” (It is especially to understand that argument that you might find reviewing that first chapter here useful.) Anarchy was a favorable term in the heart of the Earth First! culture.
I wrote a letter to EARTH FIRST! to discuss the issue raised by that complaint, and my response was published.
A number of the major figures in the EARTH FIRST! community were people who regarded themselves as anarchists, who regarded anarchy as the solution rather than the problem. From several of these people came letters to the EARTH FIRST! journal replying to the letter I had written.
And we were off and running.
Over the course of quite a few months, there were a number of interactions to this exchange, running from a piece published under the title “Schmookler Replies to the Anarchists” all the way to one entitled “Schmookler Replies to the Anarchists’ Response to Schmookler’s Reply to the Anarchists.”
The issues were absolutely fundamental to understanding the highly problematic human condition on this planet, and thus to understanding the nature of the path we should be trying to take to avoid disaster.
I liked the discussion we’d had, finding it substantive and engaging.
In the years to come, several times there was some talk about the possibility of the exchange being published as a little booklet. But nothing ever happened. The exchange had been swallowed up by the wake of Time Passing.
Though the exchange wasn’t published, something altogether else did get published, which led – in the 1990s — to my having a most unusual, disorienting experience.
What did get published was a book about the EARTH FIRST! Movement. I just happened by chance to see that book one day on the new book shelf of the public library in Harrisonburg, Virginia (which functions as “the city” in our lives).
Skimming through the book I suddenly saw the name “Schmookler.” The book was saying that this exchange between this “Schmookler” and several important players in the EARTH FIRST! movement had a major impact on the history of that organization. (I’m not sure I have a clear notion, at this point, about the nature of that impact, but I believe it led to some kind of disbanding.)
My head was spinning from this disorienting conjunction of me (the private person standing in my local library looking at a book) and the unexpected sudden discovery of myself as a character in the narrative being told in that book). According to one of those silly assumptions built into my map of the world, these two domains –my living my life, history told in a book– were supposed to remain separate. It was like a character walking off a movie screen.
That’s pretty much where the story stood for ten years until, back in the “oughts” (the 2000s), I somehow learned that a professor at the University of Florida had been using materials from this exchange as readings for a course he taught there in the Religion & Nature Program entitled “Radical Environmentalism ~ The Initial Decades.” The professor’s name was/is (he is still using this exchange in his teachings) Bron Taylor.
Bron and I had a brief and friendly exchange of emails at that time, and have had very occasional contact in the years since. It is thanks to Professor Taylor that I am able to present here these parts of the exchange.
Note: It would be useful, for the reading of this exchange, to have already read the main argument of “the parable of the tribes.” This can be done with chapter 1 of that book, to which the link is So I encourage you to review that chapter that lays out the basic argument of THE PARABLE OF THE TRIBES. This can be done through this site in two ways. Chapter One of the book itself is one way. The basic argument is also presented in installment # 5 of the series “A Better Human Story.”
Here, below, is my part of the exchange.Schmookleraustralopithecusreply2dec85