The following is a working draft of a piece that will appear in book that is a compilation of essays on the subject of addiction, alcohol, counterinsurgency, drugs, empire and revolution. Comments welcome.
On the Need to Avenge My Father’s Suicide:
Addiction, Education, Empire and Money
“In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves:
the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy”. —Ivan Illich
“Addiction is a state defined by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli,
despite adverse consequences.” (wikipedia)
On September 13th, 2003 my father, Steven Joseph Lestelle, fatally shot himself in the head. He left his closest family members with goodbye letters, including my brother and me. We read the letter to his brother out loud at the funeral. My father wrote that he could no longer suffer to live with his inner demons, and that he needed to kill himself to escape their torture. And so he did. He got the gun and pulled the trigger.
My father knew well before he did it that he was going to do it. The letters he wrote to all of us were evidence of that. My initial response in high school was to think that he must have been murdered, I desperately wanted to find some conspiracy that revealed he was secretly killed by some group of people and they had disguised their murder as his suicide. I wanted the opportunity to avenge his death. I did not entertain those theories for too long though, it was clear that the letters really were from him and that he really did pull the trigger on the gun that fired the bullet that killed him. Yet I still seek vengeance.
If addiction was the murder weapon, then empire was the murderer, operating through its accomplice—education. I intend to bring them to justice by abolishing education and destroying empire, and putting a stop to the suicidal behaviors which they reproduce.
Empire is built on addiction to what it calls “natural resources.” The term itself … “natural resources” is symptomatic of empire’s perspective of earth. It eyes the earth as something to be used to provide pleasure and fleeting material comforts, just as an addict views their drug of choice. This addiction to natural resources is patriarchal in form and suicidal in nature. By patriarchal, I mean that it is characterized by hyper-masculinity and male dominance. Empire grows from abusing a local land base, taking without consent and not giving back. Through over-extraction, empire is able to grow economic, industrial and military capacities which make it very good at dominating peoples and lands near and far from wherever it originated. Since its process of over-extraction and abuse of the land results in local soil infertility and complete depletion, empire’s addiction drives it to conquer and colonize other lands and peoples to extract the needed “resources” to get its fix. Recognizing that the earth only has so much to pillage, empire’s addiction to ‘natural resources’ will eventually kill all those who rely on its infrastructure for the maintenance of daily (un)life.
To avoid premature death due to empire’s addiction, it will be helpful to analyze how that addiction functions and how we are implicated in it. The rewarding stimuli that empire experiences from its addiction to “natural resources” are the ability to temporarily shape reality according to the arbitrary will of its rulers (e.g. human Law, development schemes, drones, tanks and prisons) and all the highs that come from feelings of total domination. The adverse consequences are global disease and manifestation of hell on earth thanks to the subversion of natural Law. The rewarding stimuli that individuals experience from compulsive (and compulsory) money use are the authority and comfort that empire grants money users. Having money allows one to travel the world in paths pioneered by empire and likewise allows one to pioneer new paths for empire using its repertoire of tools for conquest. The adverse consequences of compulsive and compulsory money use include: limitation to lifepaths by and for empire, immediate and long term destruction of mother earth, division of various communities of life, absolute dependence on empire, sabotage of our own ability to create anything independent of empire, and secondary addictions.
Empire uses education to teach addiction to money and thus dependence on and control by empire. This is not to say that education is the sole cause of addiction, but that the primary purpose of education is to teach addiction to money. This is readily evident looking at the history of education in boarding schools for Indigenous peoples and by looking at the connection between education and the “job market” today. Money is a primary mechanism of control for empire. Its use is enforced through terror and violence (i.e. criminal justice, police and prison) and systematically propagated to each generation through education. Money is the primary means by which people are made dependent on empire and through which our capacity to relate directly with the earth as autonomous beings is betrayed. Education ensures that we speak the language of money, worship whatever nation state we are in, search for our livelihood in the “job market”, and that we do not develop as autonomous individuals or communities capable of meeting our own needs independent of empire.
The process of education and addiction to money are “gateways” to secondary addictions to various products of empire. This happens in at least four ways.
1) Addictions of empire are normalized and made socially acceptable if not desirable in the process of education. For example: addiction to industrial infrastructure, the job market and gasoline.
2) Trauma, isolation and individualization that people experience through being educated helps cause addictive behaviors such as common chemical dependencies to alcohol and various prescription and hard drugs. People are forced away from the care of their parents and family for several hours a day, policed by adult strangers and filed into batches according to age. They are all evaluated as individuals without any responsibility, accountability to or support from their peers. Children are forced to remain indoors for the majority of the day instead of interacting with the natural world and nourishing their spirit through connecting with earth. When this does not work well for them, teachers and administrators punish them as though they were the source of the problem. If they have a lot of problems adjusting to the fascist education system, they are diagnosed with a “learning disability” and given drugs that lead to addiction to other illegal drugs and help guide them to a less comfortable prison than that of education. The combination of painful experiences and individualization helps create addiction prone people who are neither concerned with the effects of their behavior on others nor likely to reach out for help.
3) By navigating one’s life according to the maps of moneyed society one is simply more likely to interact with common addictive substance that are exclusively traded for money.
4) Addictive substances play a key role in empire’s counterinsurgency against those who would benefit from the destruction of the control system of money. Drugs and alcohol are used to break up communities, keep people distracted from liberation struggles, and to criminalize and imprison them. For two clear examples of addiction being used to serve white supremacist empire in this way, take note of the use of alcohol against Native peoples in the USA and the use of crack cocaine against Black communities.
With all of this in mind, to avenge my father’s suicide as well as that of countless others and to prevent our own collective suicide, I advocate the abolition of education, money and empire and the cultivation of our own learning communities. It ought to abolished and not reformed education because reforming an institution that was never made to benefit us in the first place will do no good. We should just get rid of it and cultivate our own forms of learning that do what we need them to. We must move swiftly to acknowledge and cultivate our capacities to learn and share what we need in order to truly LIVE autonomous of empire and education. To hell with all this imperial promotion of “more education!” “better jobs!” To hell with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and their plans to integrate the entire world into the empire of money. Let us look to Indigenous/Native peoples still resisting assimilation to see how we might reclaim our relationships with the earth and those around us. Let us reclaim and create despite all that which empire has stolen from us using education. Let us look to the wild plants and medicine that grow all around us. Let us tread trails beyond the highways and interstates created for commerce and war. Let us look to the rivers that don’t limit their travels according to the genocidal colonial borders of the nation states. Let us learn from ancestral flows and the myriad cultures and knowledge systems present among us. Let us sabotage the mechanism of mass incarceration that is education and end its perpetual indoctrination of youth into global suicide. Enough is enough! An end to addiction, education and empire! To hell with the earth hating parasites! Long live mother earth and those who seek to LIVE with her!