Interviews with Iconoclasts

      Jack Loeffler
            Headed Upstream: Interviews with Iconoclasts was my first book. It was published by Harbinger House, a company that went belly up shortly after my book was released. This was not a great harbinger. Still, my book did ease into the hands of many for whom it was intended. One reviewer claimed that I was preaching to the choir. I contend that the choir always needs new voices, and a little discord never hurt anyone.
            It was my great friend, Edward Abbey who suggested that the interviews contained herein should be a book. I had just produced the first thirteen programs of a ninety-one part (so far) documentary radio series entitled Southwest Sound Collage. Ed Abbey had been my initial listener having closely reviewed each of the thirteen programs at least twice. “This should be a book, Loeffler,” said Brother Abbey. Ed introduced me to the folks at Harbinger House, and the book was released in 1989 shortly after four of us buried Ed in a hidden corner of a desert hinterland. Thus, Ed never saw the book that he initiated, and that I dedicated to him and his family.
            Earlier this year, I was visiting my old friend Gary Snyder at his home in the Yuba River Watershed of the Sierra Nevada. I had just recorded him reading poems included in his first book, Riprap which was originally published just fifty years ago. We also recorded the “Cold Mountain Poems” of Han-Shan, a T’ang Dynasty poet whose work Gary had translated into English. This entire collection has just been re-published in a fiftieth anniversary edition by Counterpoint Press, and includes a CD of our recording. Later on, while sharing a bottle of wine, Gary said to me, “You should get Headed Upstream re-published. It’s an important book.”
            I ask myself why is this an important book? In the main, it is a book that forwards resistance to an ever-strengthening paradigm carefully nurtured and guarded by a corporate-political-military-industrial complex that clearly identified itself shortly after the end of World War II and is now deeply entrenched in American culture and far beyond. It is manned (and womaned) by an immense cadre of members of the human species who have woven a complex system of laws legislated mainly to serve an economic system that has as its fundament turning habitat into money. In a very real sense, human law is pitted against natural law. As human population grows, so does governance become centralized. More and more, we are governed from the top down rather than from within homeland. It is my hope now, as it was when this book was released over twenty years ago, that readers will reflect on the points of view expressed herein, and be moved to act accordingly. By that I mean that each of us should peer intelligently and intuitively into the array of dilemmas that becomes exponentially more complex with each passing decade, and then determine how to individually and collectively comport ourselves sensibly, even if that involves civil disobedience.
            For example:
            How can we condone the privatization of water rights for profit?
            Who has the right to determine what seeds we plant in our gardens and fields?
            What can we extrapolate from the fact that the human population nearly quadrupled in the 20th century?
            Who do our elected officials honestly, or dishonestly serve?
            Why does Nature abhor a maximum?
            What portions of homeland do we perceive as commons and how best to govern these commons?
            How do we re-achieve indigeneity to homeland?
            How are we affected by mass media?
            How does the virtual world sustained by digital technology affect our ability to perceive the natural world?
            Observing current trends, what world can we extrapolate for our grandchildren?
            Is money the root of evil as suggested by the biblical apothegm?
            What is the correlation between money and power?
            Can applied science alone save us from disaster?
            How do we overcome torpor and become actively engaged?
            The interviews contained in this book touch on many facets of the ways that we as humans perceive and react to the world we inhabit. We are part of that world. The planet Earth spawned us all, and we are related to every other creature both present and past.
      Do we have the divine right to dominate all creatures as suggested in the biblical book of Genesis? Or practice the privilege of stewardship, itself a monumental presumption?
      Or are we but another biotic manifestation whose span will cease with the possibly imminent end of the anthropocene epoch?
            We as a species spawn offspring and issues in abundance. I personally have no quarrel with those of us who wish to pursue destiny elsewhere in the universe. Adios, y buena suerte. Myself, I’m happy to be Earthbound, to revel in the flow of Nature as it reveals itself here in my home watershed, the Río Grande Watershed. I love our planet as the fragile and unique creature that she is, ever warmed by the Sun with whom she partners to produce life, to produce us. I like to think that if we as a species have a purpose, it is to achieve the highest level of consciousness of which we are capable, thence use that consciousness according to our interpretation of its highest application.
      —Jack Loeffler
      Los Caballos, 2009