“I am a redneck myself, born & bred on a submarginal farm in Appalachia, descended from an endless line of dark-complected, lug-eared, beetle-browed, insolent barbarian peasants, a line reaching back to the dark forests of central Europe & the alpine caves of my Neanderthal primogenitors.”
– from “In defense of the Redneck”, Abbey’s Road
It seems fitting, seventy-nine years after his birth, and almost seventeen years after his death, to recall the birth and life of Edward “Ned” Abbey, in this country, in this time, where and when almost everything he wrote for is ground under the massive wheels of technocratic society teetering on the edge of oblivion. The contradictions in today’s world mirror those in his life.
Ed was born in the height of anarchist activism, in a time between world wars, with fascism on the rise. Emma Goldman had rejected violence in the anarchist cause and was traveling around the world, spreading the word that Ed would later revive. Franco, Mussolini and Hitler were just over the horizon, industrialism and capitalist exploitation were ascendant in the United States. From Ed’s nascent perspective in the poverty of the Appalachians, his later anarchist thoughts were almost inevitable. Sharing his birthday with Thomas Paine, Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee, William Claude Dukenfield (later known as W.C. Fields), Anton Pavlovich Chekov and French anarchist Maurice Chayovsky, Ed carried on a grand tradition of literary and political shit-stirring.
Eighty years later we find ourselves once again on the crest of fascism and imperialism. Ed’s apocalyptic vision in “Good News” is coming true with a vengeance. “The banal little men at the levers of imperial machines” tighten their reins of control, guarding themselves against the inevitable rebellion that they themselves have created.
Where are the anarchists now? Who waves the Jeffersonian banner of democracy, real democracy, in an age of corporate bribery in the halls of Washington (best government money can buy)? Who points out the ridiculous contradictions of invading a country to install democracy at the point of a gun, killing thousands of innocents to spread freedom? Who sits back, on a serene and comfortable height, and contemplates the ultimate absurdity of human “civilization” rushing headlong to its own funeral, fully aware that the bridge is out twixt here and the cemetery?
Happy Birthday, Ed. Soar high. We wish you were still here, and we’re glad you’re still there.