29 September 2009

Episodic Conflict Part II: Anarcho Tourism

Tough decision, this morning. Skate Burnside on a crisp Autumn morning or come home, drink endless cups of coffee and write about fighting.... BTW thanks to those who volunteered to proof-read FW#3, I'll be mailing you PDFs soon.

"Its time for business." A lanky anarcho-punk gently stroked his axe. A group of a dozen of so of us bounced along in the back of a transit van as we pursued a fox-hunt.

It was my first hunt-sabotage and I was shitting myself. Not about sabotaging the fox hunt but if I was going to be revealed for what I was, an eighteen year old, middle-class adventurist, by some of the ALF (Animal Liberation Front) types. Or worse yet that they'd somehow detect the animal products in my sandwich.

I'll eat it later, I thought to myself, trying not to watch Lanky caress his axe.

The previous night, as was usual with these types of affairs, under the influence of a strong seasonal ale (not sure if it was vegan or not but when it comes to booze who’s checking?), I had agreed to join a group of crusties on a retaliation ‘sab’ after one of my friends had his nose broken by the hunt 'security' the previous Sunday. I really had very little idea as to how a fox hunt sabotage worked and everyone was pretty vague in describing it to me. I figured it would involve running and frolicking in the woods with hound dogs, laying down false scents, horn blowing, pissing off upper-class huntsman, hiding from the police and worse case scenario sitting on top of a hole to prevent vicious little terriers getting down there and tearing a fox to pieces. I wasn't far from wrong, I just hadn't accounted for what a bunch of violent thugs the hunt and their security could be and how the police conveniently turned a blind eye depending on what side was on top of the game. Surprise, surprise.

"Last week, our friends had their arses kicked and now we are here to do business." Lanky continued as he put a tape into the tape deck, cranked up the volume and let any subsequent conversation drown into the battle-cry of Conflict, the band.

We reached a field where we thought the hunt were, got out of the van and began scouting out into the woods, following the sounds of the hounds and horns, looking for huntsman in their ridiculous red coats and white trousers. Immediately, a farmer spraying fertilizer on a nearby field, redirected his hose in our direction and aimed a blast of animal shit in our direction. "Wankers!" He waved his fist in the air. We all managed to avoid the manure rainbow and headed back to the van to continue the chase. In the distance, hound dogs howling, horns blowing. Beneath the black hoodies, face masks, army surplus trousers and combat boots, butterflies fluttering wildly in vegetarian stomachs. Were we really so tough? I tried to catch my fellow sabs eyes to see if they were as nervous as I was.

Heading back to the van, we soon realized our presence was known. Foxes be damned. There were sabs to sort out. Van upon van, blocked our exit from one end of the field while dozen upon dozen of footmen came from the other direction. Packs of dogs and angry country-dwellers poked their heads over the hedges to staring at us. In different coppers stood on the side-lines, licking their lips in anticipation. We were out-numbered, all right.

As the hunt and their supporters closed in from all sides, us twelve discussed what to do.

“Maybe, we’re done for the day. Maybe its time to pack up and go home.” One calmly reasoned. I liked this reasoning.

“They’re not going to let us go. You know that right?” Another replied.

“Business. It is time for business.” Lanky interceded with a snarl.

No one said anything.

“This is it.” He walked towards a fence post, pulled it out of the ground and checked the bottom to see how sharp it was.

“We’ll charge our way out of here and hopefully hurt some of them in the process.”

Fuck. I had to respect this attitude. No fear whatsoever. I tried to project myself into such a mode of thought. I tried to visualize myself charging hunt scum with a fence post, but I just couldn’t do it. For the next few minutes, I really had no idea what my fate would be and it was strangely liberating but perhaps also one of the scariest moments of my life.

“I’m a pacifist and besides, we can’t beat them. Look how many there are!” The first rational voice came back into the conversation.

Was I a pacifist? I wasn’t sure. But I was sure I wouldn’t be able to work-out such an ethical quandary in the two minutes it was going to take before inevitable conflict.

But the sab group did indeed try to work out, by consensus, whether we were pacifist as a united group or not. No decision was ever made but of course, if we were going to fight, we’d have already been doing it, axes and fences posts, no hesitation. Anarchist consensus group decision-making isn’t exactly as hasty or as impulsive as a warrior needs to be when convincing the enemy he or she means “business.”

The hunt soon reached us. “Its time for you lot to fuck off!”

We didn’t have much choice at that point. I remember several swift kicks to my arse and watching Lanky snarling and frothing as he took some kicks to his own arse but miraculously he didn’t retaliate much. A camera was seized from a female sab and smashed to pieces. A brief shouting match erupted, more kicks to the arse and then before we knew it, we were in the van, driving out of the field, as the hunt pounded the outside and sent us packing.

Should we have fought for our beliefs? That hunting foxes for sport was insane and needed to be stopped by any means necessary. Did we respond correctly? I think so. You can’t do battle unless everyone is willing. After that day, I decided I wasn’t a pacifist but I also decided it is not cool to drag other people into an altercation at the level they are uncomfortable with. I only hope Lanky got to serve up some justice, or work through whatever was tormenting him, at some point in his life.

We’d have been slaughtered that day.

I went on a couple of much more successful sabs after that event that were full of frolicking in the woods with the hounds, running like wild animals ourselves, full of humor and liberated in our conviction that we were actually doing something to make the planet a nicer place to be, followed by post-sab elated drinking sessions in the pub, but how boring is that?

This was Part II of a series of clashes. Part I, here.