These nomads practice the razzia, they are corsairs, they are viruses; they have both need and desire for TAZs, camps of black tents under the desert stars, interzones, hidden fortified oases along secret caravan routes, "liberated" bits of jungle and bad-land, no-go areas, black markets, and underground bazaar.
Last Wednesday Big Gav got me started on this Pirate Utopias and Temporary Autonomous Zones jag with a link to a site which had Hakim Bey's famous essay The Temporary Autonomous Zone. The essay has been bookmarked and sitting in my reading queue since last summer. The following afternoon, I'm in my favorite local bookstore to see what's new and one title catches my eye: Clandestines : The Pirate Journals of an Irish Exile by Ramor Ryan. I decide to buy a copy after leafing through it for ten minutes. That evening I discover that this is a book you simply cannot put down. I finished the first half around 1 AM before finally forcing myself to turn out the lights. The following evening I put off watching my latest two movies from Netflix to finish the second half , as well as Bey's essay--finally.
Where Bey's work is academic, Ramor's book is an account of his travels to and experiences in various real life Temporary Autonomous Zones around the globe. Many of which were (and still are) war zones and semi-war zones, it should be added. Not only is Ryan a first rate writer, whose prose reads like a novel, but he's also one very courageous--or crazy man--to go into these hotspots.
The book starts off with his stay in Berlin shortly after the Wall came down in 1988. There he spends an extended period of time living, drinking, and fighting the German "Bullen" (or Riot Police) with a colorful group of anarchist squatters from all over the globe. His description of one riot is as vivid and exciting as the unforgettable opening riot scene from the movie In the Name of the Father. (Nota bene: If you are in the film business, this book would make a great adventure story.)
How does Ryan get into these situations? Well, for one thing he has a habit of volunteering to be on human rights teams which go into war zones to document abuses against civilian populations. The book includes chapters on his trips to the Kurdish autonomous regions of Turkey and Iraq after the first Gulf War, when the Turkish Army was attacking them with all of its might. Another chapter finds him staying as a human rights observer in a Zapatista autonomous zone in Mexico as the Mexican military does everything it can to intimidate them short of an all out assault.
Other chapters find him in more peaceful TAZs, such as a Rainbow Gathering in Croatia, an anti-globalization conference in Brazil, and various anarchist communities around the globe. One memorable chapter is reminiscent of Joseph Conrad's Nostromo as Ryan works aboard an old merchantman hauling bananas from South America to Rotterdam.
The TAZ, in whatever form it takes, Zapatista village, anarchist enclave, Burningman, Friday night Rave, or weekend festival is the healthy response to what Bey calls the "hysterical rigidity" of the all intrusive state:
Let us admit that we have attended parties where for one brief night a republic of gratified desires was attained. Shall we not confess that the politics of that night have more reality and force for us than those of, say, the entire U.S. Government? Some of the "parties" we've mentioned lasted for two or three years. Is this something worth imagining, worth fighting for? Let us study invisibility, webworking, psychic nomadism--and who knows what we might attain?
I have always been a sucker for tales of the underdog standing up for his or her rights. If you have become disillusioned about the state of the world and think that the bad guys have won a permanent irreversible victory, then read this book. It will give you hope.
If you have a soul destroying job in a cubicle in Corporate America, this book is the perfect escape. Thank god, there are a few people left out there who have the courage to fight the good fight.
I give Clandestines : The Pirate Journals of an Irish Exile by Ramor Ryan 5 1/2 stars on a scale of 5.
It's that damned good!