The Konformist

June 2002

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Running on Emptiness:

The Pathology of Civilization

by John Zerzan

Feral House

214 pp.


Book Review


Jaye Beldo

At a time when I've been regarding anarchy as a mere euphemism for impotence, John Zerzan's Running on Emptiness has come across my desk. One of the more articulate of marginalized writers on the counterculture scene today, Zerzan encourages us to embrace the present, our connectedness to the earth and to nature itself. He suggests that we wean our hyper-dependence on technology to do this for starters. While Zerzan fluently cites examples of our current plight of apathy/ alienation via a kind of incendiary deftness that has earned him the 'most important philosopher of our time' kind of lavish praise from Derrick Jensen, I'm still not completely won over when it comes to abandoning my computer and making a dash to nature like some 21st Century Schizoid Rousseau.

However, I enjoy the challenge John poses of soberly looking at whatever banal assumptions I may make about how convenient and carefree technology has made my life. The more insidious effects of PCs, the Internet, cell phones, even call waiting, on our consciousness, on our potentials for deeper sentience, can really only be gauged by someone like Zerzan, who has resolutely resisted the all too powerful seductions and promises of the digital age. Such freedom from technological spell casting is evident in Zerzan's obvious command of philosophy, the depth and breadth of his research and in his ability to breathe vitality into such stolid behemoths as dialectical State apologist Kant, the 'Crypto-Aryan' Heidegger, the Frankfurt Schoolboys Adorno, Walter Benjamin and others. More important than his obvious pansophical exuberance is the author's honest ease which is very rare in a world currently colonized by morbid intellectuals. I suggest reading the New York Review of Books if you need to be reminded of just how moribund the (com)postmodern intelligentsia have become, fingering their well worn copies of Lyotard, Derrida, Baudrillard and other not so Free Radicals who only serve to accelerate the breakdown of what remains of our culture, offering nothing redeeming in return whatsoever other than their perpetually cynical excrescences.

Zerzan doesn't hesitate to take on such Sacred Cows of the left as Noam Chomsky, challenging the MIT professor's views on the origins of language making capabilities in humans as being crassly reductionistic and dehumanizing. He also confronts Hakim 'King of the Anarchists' Bey and aptly dissects the Temporary Autonomous Zone mystique the author surrounds himself with and entrances his many vulnerable, if not gullible readers with. (see the writings of Luther Blisset for further elaboration on this.)

Running on Emptiness is the perfect negentropic unguent to the various pathologies at large, helping us ground out rather than abandon our intellectual, philosophical and cultural heritage in a way that may very well facilitate our connection with nature instead of creating further detachment from it. It is in this regard that I may reassess my views on anarchy's implicate impotence and hope that something viably intelligent comes from that wayward camp, at least enough for me to join their cause. Zerzan makes such a possibility more and more likely.

To order Running on Emptiness, contact Feral House:


Jaye Beldo writes for The Konformist, Paranoia Magazine, Disinfo.Com, Viewzone and other venues on and off line. He can be reached at: Netnous@Aol.Com


©2002 - Jaye Beldo


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