376: TEMPORARY AUTONOMOUS ZONES AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD

“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, the post-Christian blog full of left-of-centre musings by a retired science teacher in north London. This essay is on the overlap of 2 different concepts.

1) The ‘reign’ or ‘kingdom’ of God is what Jesus spent most of his waking hours talking about, yet, as the Zingcreed Post ‘A kingdom of nobodies and nuisances‘ points out it is never clearly defined, and man cannot bring it into being – it’s a gift of God. (Matthew’s gospel calls it the ‘kingdom of heaven’, but he’s talking about the same thing, he just has the traditional Jewish aversion to mentioning the deity’s name directly).

2) An American of Moslem ancestry, Hakim Bey, wrote an anarchist classic called ‘The Temporary Autonomous Zone’ ( or TAZ) in about 1985. It describes a possible society which resembles the kingdom of God, especially in its ephemeral nature; as an experience of short duration in a small area of the planet. At no point does Bey mention this overlap, but to me it was quite striking, which is why I am taking this opportunity to write about it on my blog.
I hope you get something from this essay.”
In solidarity
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.

I’m going to start by selecting excerpts from Bey to illustrate this overlap:

“The TAZ is like an uprising which does not engage directly with the State, a guerilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere, elsewhen, before the State can crush it. The TAZ can occupy areas clandestinely and carry on its festal purposes for quite a while in relative peace. Perhaps certain small TAZs have lasted whole lifetimes because they went unnoticed, like hillbilly enclaves.

Babylon takes its abstractions for realities; precisely within this margin of error the TAZ can come into existence. Getting the TAZ started may involve tactics of violence and defence, but its greatest strength lies in its invisibility. As soon as the TAZ is named (represented, mediated), it must vanish, it will vanish, leaving behind it an empty husk, only to spring up again somewhere else. The TAZ is thus a perfect tactic for an era in which the State is omnipresent and all-powerful and yet simultaneously riddled with cracks and vacancies. And because the TAZ is a microcosm of that “anarchist dream” of a free culture, I can think of no better tactic by which to work toward that goal while at the same time experiencing some of its benefits here and now.

We are looking for “spaces” (geographical, social, cultural, imaginal) with potential to flower as autonomous zones- and we are looking for times in which these spaces are relatively open, either through neglect on the part of the State or because they have somehow escaped notice by the mapmakers. Psychotopology is the art of dowsing for potential TAZs.

An uprising is not just against things, it must be for something as well. Like festivals. “Fight for the right to party” is in fact not a parody of the radical struggle, but a new manifestation of it, appropriate to an age which offers TVs and telephones as ways to “reach out and touch” other human beings, ways to “Be There!”
The dinner party is already “the seed of the new society taking shape within the shell of the old” (IWW Preamble). The sixties-style “tribal gathering”, the forest conclave of eco-saboteurs, the idyllic Beltane of the neo-pagans, anarchist conferences, gay faery circles…Harlem rent parties of the twenties, nightclubs, banquets, old-time libertarian picnics – we should recognize that all these are already “liberated zones” of sorts, or at least potential TAZs.

The TAZ exists on the Web. It is virtual and instantaneous. The Web can compact a great deal of time, as data, into an infinitesimal space. The TAZ is temporary, but the Web can provide a kind of substitute for some of this lost duration and locale. If the TAZ is a nomad camp, then the Web helps provide the epics, songs, genealogies and legends of the tribe; it provides the secret caravan routes and raiding trails that make up the flowlines of  tribal economy. It even contains some of the very roads they will follow, some of the very dreams they will experience as signs and portents.
The Web does not depend for its existence on any computer technology. Word-of-mouth, mail, samizdat, black market, phone-trees, the marginal ‘zine’ network, and the like already suffice to construct an information webwork. The key is the openness and horizontality of the structure. The TAZ will occur with or without the computer.

We have no desire to define the TAZ or to elaborate dogmas about how it must be created. Our contention is rather that it has been created, will be created, and is being created.

Alternatives to the Church.watching television, or, more positively, non-authoritarian forms of spirituality, from “unchurched” Christianity to neo-paganism. The “Free Religions” as I like to call them – small, self-created, half-serious/half-fun cults influenced by such currents as Discordianism and anarcho-Taoism are to be found all over marginal America, and provide a growing “fourth way” outside the mainstream churches, the televangelical bigots, and New Age vapidity and consumerism.

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 US 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?”

Comment:
I think Christians who are, shall we say, “kingdom oriented”, can learn a lot from Bey. (Apocalypticism? No place for that in Zingcreed! Like it says in the Lord’s prayer “Thy kingdom come” i.e. come here and now.)
His writings help one to think more clearly about what kingdom may mean in practice.

Perhaps a few quotes from the gospels might be appropriate here:
“The kingdom has come” (Mk 1:15)
“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed nor will they say ‘Look, here it is’ or ‘There!’ The kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Lk 17:20-21)
“The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you to know, but to outsiders (the State? -ed.) everything is said in parables so that they may see and not perceive, may hear and not understand.” (Mk 4:11-12)
“Truly, I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mk 10:13-16)

The bit about partying is appropriate for two reasons (1) Jesus was a real party animal who famously practiced inclusivity at his feasts: everybody was welcome. (2) Jesus was a teacher of Wisdom, a sage, not a prophet, priest or king; and the books of Wisdom in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) like Ecclesiastes and Proverbs say the point of life is to be able to relax at a table with a bottle of wine. See, for example:
Ecclesiastes 2:24; 3:22; 5:18; 8:15 and 9:7 “Go eat your food with gladness and drink your wine with a joyful heart for it is now that God favours what you do.”
Now that’s what I call an attractive religion! (But, no, I don’t wish to be circumsized, thank you!)

Source:
Bey, Hakim “T.A.Z. The temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism” Autonomedia (2003)

Related Zingcreed Posts:
Jesus was a sage, not a prophet, priest or king
Jesus’s real political message
Sages #1: Solomon (The book of Proverbs)
The kingdom of God, a kingdom of nuisances and nobodies
Jesus’s 15 authentic statements on the kingdom
Zingcreed commentary on line 3 “…kingdom…”
Visions of change #4: Boff’s dream of a truly free society

[375, i&l, t&c]

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5 comments

  1. Reblogged this on Blinded by the Darkness and commented:
    Interesting …

    1. Hi Neo-Palagius
      Thanks for reblogging my TAZ piece. I gave a talk on this topic at the 9th European Christian Anarchist Conference last weekend near London, and it seemed to go down quite well. I find your blog very interesting and shall read more of it when I have time.All the best,
      Peter Turner (Zingcreed)

      1. Thank you … are you on academia.edu?

      2. on academia.edu? I’d never heard of it before; on looking it up I don’t think it’s quite me – I’m just a bumbling amateur, a reviewer of books I only half understand! My science research was very low level and I never even considered publishing. now, thanks to the internet I can vent my spleen and tussle with whoever contradicts me. I was really intellectually challenged by a guy I met the other day. As a nonbeliever I don’t feel threatened, I have no doubts – I just change my mind and go where the evidence leads. that’s my understanding of the word  ‘honesty’. I don’t care if the other person wins the  argument. trouble is most believers I encounter in day to day life haven’t read anything, not even the bible!p.t.

      3. Would you like me to send you a copy of a presentation I did about Christianity and Politics in 1998? Are you in the UK?

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