‘STAND FOR THE FIRE DEMON’ – A FIERCE DREAMS GATHERING REPORT BACK
With a severely overcrowded car we drove up to the Blue Mountains on the day prior to the gathering to put up tarps and get ready, looking forward to a few days in the bush. It soon became clear that we wouldn’t get to our destination when prominent orange flashing signs along the motorway said that the road was closed ahead due to bushfires. We had been keeping an eye on the weather and knew it would be hot, but it turns out that the military had been testing ammunition in 37 degree heat with high winds, quite close to where we were supposed to be camping, and some spark created a fire. Maybe a tad unwise on their part? It grew into a bushfire that was to dominate the news for days, destroying hundreds of homes and evacuating probably thousands of people. The site we had planned for Fierce Dreams was near to the worst hit area east of Lithgow, and if we had gone in even earlier as planned it may have been disastrous. A whirlwind of panic set in as we updated the website and warned people not to go there. As it turned out, the road into Deep Pass, the original campsite, was now blocked off, and folks literally couldn’t get there. This was lucky for us, but the problems were not over and we had to decide how to proceed with a gathering that many people had travelled a long way to attend.
We waited it out in an air conditioned pub that afternoon, close to our ‘Plan B’ site, Wheeny Creek campground about 50km away as the crow flies. However, the gusts of wind were reaching 80km an hour, and sweeping the bushfires eastward so there was a chance of them coming over the ridge. We watched the news and checked the internet, the antithesis of our hopes for a camping trip away from technology. The smoke clouded our vision of the world outside this shitty bar, and we watched the surreal imagery out the window of charred gumleaves raining down onto the concrete footpath. After much deliberation we decided to go in and camp, believing the fires would not hit Wheeny Creek that night at least. As we drove in we saw orange blazes along the ridgeline. Harsh smoke entered our lungs, the acrid taste initiating coughing and watery eyes. After a long day of stress we decided the risk was way too much, drove back into town and slept in accommodation above a pub that night, determined to enter the next day when everyone else was due to arrive.
Next morning we tried again, descending into the creek and camping area along a narrow and winding dirt road. The usually popular campground was empty except for one family, most holidaymakers deterred by the fires of course. We waited there for others to arrive, and from about midday people trickled in. The already limited structure and organisation dwindled to none as the monitoring of the bushfires took precedence over everything else. Groups of people drove up to the top of the hill for mobile phone and internet range, and to see what was happening in the towns. We checked the Rural Fire websites obsessively for information and called every fire service we could. Their general advice from them was ‘I wouldn’t camp there’. It seemed as if everyone at the FD site wanted it to kick off but it was at a standstill until we figured out whether to stay there and risk it, to cancel the gathering, or to relocate. We stayed that one night at Wheeny Creek, hearing a variety of cool bird life and even koala mating calls amongst the trees. In the morning predictions worsened and we made the call the next day to get out of there. Some of us had traumatic histories with bushfires already. Some had families and kids to worry about. We didn’t want to scrap the event we had waited so long for and put work into, but it was out of our hands.
One funny thing did occur before we left. A fair dinkum farmer bloke was riding his horse in the creek and his iphone and keys fell out of his pocket. As some Fierce Dreams people waded in the water to help find his stuff he said he saw a program on ‘Doomsday Preppers’ and asked if that’s what we were doing out here! Haha!
The overarching issue was the now-spreading bushfires and we had to move quick. The suggestion was put forward to get right away from the Blue Mountains over to the Royal National Park south of Sydney on the coast, and we went with that option. I figured that the show was over. The mind blowing thing for me was that everyone followed and there was still a significant number of people with us once we got there. There was obviously a desire for the gathering to continue. The sight of about 40-odd distinctive looking people in the centre of the small tourist town Bundeena created a spectacle of its own. One old fellow was overheard railing against the interlopers, “THEY COME HERE, THINKING THEY WILL GET A JOB, AND BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, THEY’RE ON THE DRUGS!” Classic.
We made all met up and staked out our tents at Garie Beach, a popular but pretty beach in the national park. We walked to the end of the beach and had our own section away from everybody. Just bringing such a diverse group of people to one place instantly kicked off a lot of discussions. The tensions did reach some interesting flashpoints. Different and even contrasting views got out in the open in quick time once we finally were all around the campfire.
Many of the initial circle topics and housekeeping issues were not dealt with as a result of the severely compressed timeframe thanks to fires. This resulted in a few more problems but the real problems were much more fundamental than that. An unwillingness by some folks to read ANY material around anti-civ or green anarchy theory (or the Fierce Dreams blog) and being completely uninformed didn’t necessarily mean that they would choose to simply listen. Quite the contrary, in fact some chose the stance of becoming downright hostile! Others felt strongly against technology, domestication and civilisation, and were ready for a verbal battle. Anyway, these night time discussions were ones that probably needed to be had, and after the smoke had cleared some of the more perceptive people realised we had to settle down or no worthwhile things would be taken from Fierce Dreams. This brought about a bit of a newfound respect and people threw around some quick definitions of civilisation and green anarchy to work with, so we could move forward.
The communal area was supposed to be alcohol free, for reasons detailed extensively on the blog site, and it was reiterated from the moment people turned up to the camp at Wheeny Creek. Everyone was asked to take their alcohol or drugs to a separate area away from the main discussions and workshops, so that people who didn’t want to be around intoxicated people could still participate. After all, there are plenty of other places and times to party. As the ‘lemonade can’ was passed around during discussions though, it was clear some folks were content to treat the rest of us like idiots as they ‘secretly’ got drunk, and some opinions became stronger, louder and less coherent. Over the course of the weekend this minor element receded into the background; those who had nothing to contribute faded away, and others became more engaged and adding more to the conversations.
Some folks didn’t realise the gathering was fluid and informal, and intended to be an amorphous event. The organisers had taken a step backward from controlling and mediating the direction of the event. This resulted in awkwardness and a lot of blank looks early on as some participants expected ‘something to happen’. ‘Entertainment’, perhaps? For every person that said there wasn’t enough emphasis on discussions, there was another wanted to focus the rest of the time on primitive skills. With time winding down some folks took on a more organised approach to simply get through the amount of proposed activities, and a rough schedule was written down to get through a few skillshares and discussions. This included some basic GA and anti-civ discussions, one on domestication, ecological resistance, rewilding, knife sharpening and flint firelighting, and a plant walk, amongst other things…
It seemed to me that the walls came down on the last day. More laughter seemed to be around and people were more content to swim in the ocean and skip out on discussions if they didn’t feel like it or wanted a break. The ripple effect was apparent and folks tended to relay ideas amongst their friends and talk about it in those smaller circles. By this stage many had realised that this was the function of the gathering and there wasn’t an aim, an endpoint or a defined expectation for the event.
I took heart in the fact that people followed the event to the Royal National Park. Many mentioned to me that they appreciated a chance to just get together and talk with their friends in a non-urban area, and how nice and refreshing it was. Most radical or anarchist events take place in the cities with the notable exceptions of forestry blockades, Lizards Revenge, GECO benefits and things like that. Some are focused or centred on protecting certain areas, but this event was much broader and more anti-political, and used a different kind of approach that some folks appreciated. Next time it would be nice to have more practical skills and things to share, but you work with what you have. I know of at least one carload of people with a lot a primitive skills experience, who may have run workshops, were not able to make it on account of the fires. The fire crisis also just shrunk the time we had together so much that it was simply not possible to explore some ideas and practical skills that we may have hoped to.
In the end folks chose what they wanted to walk away with, people who contributed energy and a decent attitude to the gathering probably got something back. All we wanted to do was put some anti-civ discussions on the table. Some people picked up a few things, and others didn’t realise anything was there, and took nothing. All I had hoped for was to connect with a few people and scratch the surface of these questions in Australia. I was happy to walk away from it with a sense of inspiration after withstanding the bushfire mayhem and dealing with it together. I feel like there were some major steps taken and doors opened, considering it was narrowed down to basically a day and a half. I was feeling like some people were on the same page as myself, and I had the thread of some new friendships to follow, and for me this was more than enough.
This is only my reflection and my personal take on Fierce Dreams and doesn’t represent anyone else’s views. Anyone wants to talk to me about it can email email@example.com and I’ll get back to you personally.
‘Shrine to Civ’ (found objects, Wheeny Ck campground, 18/10/2013)
I don’t think we could have chosen a worse weekend to plan a gathering in the Blue Mountains this year. Six months ago when we picked the dates we made the decision based around the fact that the weather would be a little warmer in the mountains and it wasn’t in the bush fire season. We wanted to be sure we could have fires and do some primitive fire making ourselves. Our biggest worry we thought would be rain and were planning how the gathering would go ahead in this scenario. That ended up being the least of our worries as we were faced with a fire that started the day before the gathering 10kms from our original site in the west of Wollemi National Park and ended up not far from our back up site which was about 70 k’s away to the east. It definitely allowed me to understand the power of bush fires and there were moments when I felt in awe and humbled by this huge fiery presence. So, due to the fires the gathering was already starting a day late as we waited for people to arrive, but we were so happy that people had come from so many places, so many backgrounds and so far away we were very determined to have it go ahead. Unfortunately, the following morning we realised the fire threat had become too much of a worry. It was taking a lot of time and energy leaving the camp to keep track of where the fire was and determine what level of threat it was. The collective made the very hard decision to leave the camp and in a much more informal manner move to a place by the coast far away from the fires. Sadly this meant that we lost some people who didn’t have the energy to move on after all the hassle of getting there and braving the fires and a few awesome peops that were arriving that morning decided not to come. Many of these people brought a lot of diversity to the gathering and had come with a lot of enthusiasm and energy prepared to share a lot of their awesome skills. It was a great loss to separate from them. This departure from the site also meant that some of the things we had planned to set the scene of the camp and explain the focus never got to happen and so it no longer felt like the event I had been a part of envisioning anymore.
As we had lost so much time it was requested that the next spot be an absolutely dry camp so we could totally focus on the discussions and workshops. No one objected to this at the time but it was to become clear later that some people had absolutely no respect for the requests of their fellow fierce ones and also no courage to stand up at the time and say that they don’t agree. For the people who out rightly ignored the request and tried very poorly to pretend they weren’t drinking, I just wonder why they bothered coming. Some people act as though it’s a personal attack to be asked not to drink, when all they have to do is go elsewhere to drink on the very rare occasion that a space is nominated as sober. I feel that these people want to put organisers, or other people making these requests, into authoritative positions where they have to get shitty at people. It distracts from the point of such an event to have a long drawn out dialogue about why it’s been requested not to drink when the idea is to have the rare unmediated experience with each other. Several people who supported a sober space left the communal area when drinking began and established their own fire elsewhere. Although overall the gathering ended up being a worthwhile experience for me this was a strong point of annoyance as this is a factor that continuously comes up.
Once at the new site by the coast where people could swim and fish and not worry about the fires the collective could finally relax a little too. By this point I was totally exhausted from days of not sleeping and being preoccupied by the fires. I was so grateful for the people who brought some energy and understood that in the true spirit of anarchy we don’t need to look constantly to “organisers” as figures of authority on how things should happen. Although impossible to do over a weekend or maybe ever with civilised people I was hoping that we could create something of an egalitarian feel about the gathering and I really felt that some people understood this and took it on. There were some interesting discussions but I was surprised to see how many people turned up not ever having read any anti civ critiques or anything about green anarchy or anarcho primitivism. For this reason a lot of discussions couldn’t go past a very basic level. I personally feel that it is vital for people to explore these ideas on their own. It is only when people have a grasp of the ideas that dialogue can really open up. Many people admitted that they were only there because their friends were or as an escape from the city. This brings up two points for me. The first is that this need or want to be where your friends are is to me representational of our human need for community which is being destroyed by technology and social media such as facebook, as people meet up less face to face and communicate more and more over computers (such as I am doing now) sitting in their rooms alone. Secondly the wanting to “get out of/escape the city” is representational of how confining city culture is and how it is such an onslaught on our senses to the point that our senses become dulled as we block out so much to survive in the city. There is a need to get away or escape to have a break or rest from this way of life. To me, whether these people know it or not, their reasons for being at the gathering completely tie into what the gathering is about and what an anti civ critique is about also. These are two very simplified ideas that are elaborated on in so many writings that can do a lot better job than me at expressing them fully.
The best part of the gathering for me was meeting some really lovely peeps who I am excited to explore ideas and practical experiences with in a much more informal setting and build relationships with from there.
Always for the death of leviathan
EXPECTATIONS – a short reflection on my experience at fierce dreams
I came to fierce dreams with high expectations.
Expectations to met people who are interested in bring down civilisation, people who are open to
talking about the damages civilisation has cause and to build an actual community around this. I thought people would come to this gathering leaving the bullshit behind, ready to get wild and connect with others in a space that didn’t need defending.
My expectations set me up for some failures.
At times throughout the weekend I felt more alienated than ever, surrounded by a disrespectful ‘scene’, alone and fighting again for what I believed in. But at other times while swimming in the ocean, sharing food, and especially hearing my good friends tell their stories about rewilding I felt hope and connection.
Leaving the gathering I felt like we ended where we should of began but I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Maybe this first gathering is just the beginning, a place to met some really amazing new friends, to reconnect with old friends and to start to open up to the possibilities of more, to start the dialogue, to start the healing and to share the fight.
Here’s to the wild!