In the footsteps of Neal Cassady’s ghost

Note: Joe Bageant died last year at age 64. I knew him only for the last eight years of his life. For the final three years, he lived nearby here in Mexico and we talked every day — partly as a routine death watch, making sure the other guy did not wake up dead one morning. Joe would freely talk about anything and everything personal. That is, anything but his early writing. I knew that he had written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines, often under a pseudonym, and I would ask to see some of his early work. He said he never kept his old articles and that may have been true. I launched and maintained his website with his promise that he would learn how to post, but he never did. It was a struggle to even get him to look at his own website when I made editing or design changes. "I hate this me-me-me stuff," he would say. After Joe died, an old friend of his sent me several clips of his early freelance articles. Joe is not here to argue about it, so I've typed and posted the following — written when he was 29.

– Ken Smith, 


The Colorado Daily, March 9, 1976

In the footsteps of Neal Cassady's ghost

 By Joe Bageant

"For a time I held a unique position. Among the hundreds of isolated creatures who haunted the streets of lower downtown Denver, there was not one so young as myself. Amid these dreary men who had committed themselves, each for his own good reason, to the task of finishing their days as penniless drunkards. I alone as the sharer of their way of life, presented the sole replica of their own childhood to which their vision could daily turn. Being thus grafted onto them, I became the unnatural son of a few score beaten men."

– Neal Cassady: opening lines of The First Third.

By the time of his death in Mexico in 1968 at the age of 43, Neal Cassady's turbulent passage across the American landscape had already left its mark upon literature. This was mostly through his effect on writers of the Beat Generation, the key figures of which were his closest friends. His attitude, more than the small body of writing he left behind, was a source of inspiration to such people as Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso, Burroughs, and Kesey. This attitude might best be described as that of an American Zen Buddhist Drugstore Cowboy Poolshooting Mystic, with a terrible fascination for the relationship between velocity and life.

Neal140Early childhood found him growing up in the wino dive hotels of lower Denver, while his last years saw him careening through the acid antics of Ken Kesey's now famous Merry Pranksters. In between he left nothing untouched. Poetry, jazz, cafeterias, fast cars, women, and drugs, all were part of his experientially based philosophy.

As in the 60s, a new wave of interest turns toward the Beat Scene, Cassady's role looms ever larger for its inclusiveness. The search for the visions of a man now gone is best begun by experiencing the sounds and moods from which his inspiration was drawn. Much of Neal Cassady's were drawn from his brooding Larimer Street beginnings.


There are no last names on skid row, except on police blotters. Hence, the ragged tramps at the Western Palace Hotel all have vague names like Slim, Red, Shorty, and Boe. These bums are rich as winos go, with the most of them living on small pensions; and the Western is what is called in these circles a solid flop (meaning that most of its residents live here permanently).

Housing about 60 wined-out old men who manage to come up with the $16.20 a week required to call it home. A verifiable address like this is as extravagant as life gets for those drowned in a well of muscatel. Scaley and bruised white ankles of their less fortunate brothers can be seen protruding from under dumpsters or jutting from phone booths up and down Champa Street. February's nasty and biting winds have no favorites but prey upon the derelicts of the Larimer district with special viciousness.

Torpid life in flop America has remained unchanged since the turn of the century and the smiling women with a cause still glom oatmeal onto tin plates as policemen pick up comatose bodies clad in long overcoats, taking care to avoid the areas of the rancid armpit or the slimy sock. But the company at the Western Palace is select and though no one here will ever win any hygiene awards, encounters with the police are rare. They take much pride in the fact of always having a roof over their heads but the truth lies more in luck than accomplishment and they will turn up dead somewhere in the same rat-like fashion as the rest of them. And each knows it.

"You say you were around here in the 30s? That was a while back. You must be getting up there in years."

"Well, I's 64 las' April. Sheeit, I was jus' a young fart, mebbe 20 somethin'. But I wasn't drinkin' none then. Naw, I was workin' for the city on the streets, but I always did live round this neighborhood."

"Did you ever know a fella name of Cassady that lived down here back then? Had a little boy with him for a while. He used to do barbering."

"Was he a bum?"


"There wasn't many bums with kids. I knowed all the bums for years an' there wasn't but a couple what had kids."

"This guy's boy was named Neal."

"I think I might'a knowed him. Them kids was always watchin' but never said much. Ain't much you could say about 'em. They were just there."

"Now and again, when with child energy, I burst into the room, I would catch Shorty playing with himself. (I thought it was fried eggs littering the floor.) Even though he was past 40, any preoccupation with this form of diversion was justified . . . since judging from his appearance, he must not have had a woman since his youth, if then"

About nine o'clock the cry "lights out" sends the card players to the sheetless, waxy mattresses coated with the dried-up orgasms of secretive indulgers of the hand. Since the beds have no springs to squeak betrayal, total privacy swallows the solitary fantasies of unwashed manhood and darkness. Tiny pathetic flames of desire flicker once, then die in the night.

Neal Cassady growing up in this grizzled stench of sallow expiration. The clear-eyed dreamer in mission relief knickers, glancing into the oil rail-road puddles of March, catching that distinct angle at which they reflect back broken blue fragments of sky. Him laughing amid the traffic noise or sinking the four-ball into the side pocket. Breathing in deep the Denver night.

The light of morning and evening are virtually indistinguishable through the blind, greasy windows of the Western Palace, giving them the appearance of yellow rectangles that merely brighten or dim. The yellow light's waxing brings a spattering of water in grimy sinks and a flourish of clogged razors as those men who are still capable of desiring food leaving for the Guardian Angel.

Breakfast at the Guardian Angel Mission is as uninspiring as breakfast can possibly be. Food in the skids has always been regarded chiefly as fuel by both the cooks and the ulcerated stomachs that consume it. Not even an hour wait in the block-long line increases the anticipation for that dab of lukewarm oatmeal and paper cup of weak coffee that appears on your steel tray.

"The line moved slowly at any time . . . If alone, I could whiz through the entire operation in less than half an hour, for then some kindly line crawlers would push me past them. I would edge around a couple dozen of these indulgent men who, while committing the cheat for me, gave a sly wink and a chortle of self-satisfaction."

Once seated at the long tables, the bland trance of a Larimer Street morning begins to give way to small schemes of wine procurement. Scoring wine is often a joint venture of two or more parties, a venture that struggles well into an afternoon of the shakes before the goal is accomplished. Amputees and those with obvious physical infirmities have a distinct advantage in this game. They need only park in front of a likely place of business with their hats before them, while for the rest it is a day afflicted with minor squabbles as one plan after another falls apart with pitiful anguish.

Pawn, panhandle, or scrounge is the action, with the term junkie here meaning a salvage dealer. Junkies are are an absolutely merciless breed being generally bitchy and cheap, bargaining with the flops in terms of police threats or savage dogs. It is a strange moody sensation indeed to watch the bent-over tramps with their shopping bags of junk at dusk, entering the salvage dealer's dim interior which is guarded by a pair of fierce green flashing eyes.

"From these modest Larimer beginnings I was to become so bewitched by going junking that in following years I developed my scavangering into regular weekend tours conducted through all Denver's alleys. Laboring under what bulge of rescued discards my gunnysack contained, I would turn my snow-chilled feet homeward, and while pausing to rest, enjoyed watching the spectacle, as to the west, white peeks rose slowly curtaining the perfect orb of a descending winter sun."

These days, getting to where the scavangering is good entails a walk of 15 or 20 blocks and even then there are droves of little Mexican kids to compete with. Coming back in the chilling evening air, the oatmeal energy gives out about the time the more intrepid of the waif packs creep from behind buildings to place stealthy feet lightly into your shadow. Year in, year out, expeditions of tottering men move like a silent net across Denver, gathering the humblest of treasures before the sharp glances of housewives shaking mops and dark-eyed children of grassless back yards.

By the time the street lights come on the day has yielded whatever it is about to, leaving some the flushed smile of a wine glow; others shivering. Like everywhere else on this planet, the haves tend to hang out with the haves, and the have-nots are cast to their own devices. Bombay or Denver, it's all the same.

"Yeah, I know all about Neal Cassady. Grew up to be some kind of writer, didn't he? Haven't heard anything about him for years though."

"He died about eight years ago in Mexico."

"You don't say! Well I heard he was on some kind of dope or something back years and years ago. Is that what killed him?"

"You might say it was a combination of things."

"That's too bad."

Evening meal at the mission is somewhat more complex than breakfast because dinner is a religious proposition. Since the missions are supported for the most part by churches, a conversion to Christ is expected nightly from the ranks of drooling bums. From a lot that has elected the wretchedest of life's paths, this is expecting quite a bit. Wino attitude toward this evangelism is best expressed in the term they use for these conversions. They call it "taking a dive." Sooner or later the hungriest one in the crowd goes down in a fit of religious ecstasy and after a thorough cross-examination, dinner is served.

With the problems of sustaining the flesh taken care of for another day, activity turns to such things as trading life-stories or articles of clothing (or maybe eyeballing those you intend to steal off your sleeping buddies). Shoes seem to be the big item in demand and about the only way to keep a pair is to sleep with them tied around your neck. As for the stories, they are always delivered in the same even monotone and have a strange dirge-like quality.

Though each is a different tale of demise, they all weave together to make a fabric, while the bleak lights of the hotel wash the men of Larimer in a certain cast of loneliness unknown to most. More often than not, they were once tradesmen practicing a skill that enabled them to raise families, make house payments, spout political opinions, and do all those things working men spend their three score and ten doing. But the weft and warp of this fabric is guilt and its escape through booze. Booze that brings new guilt feelings and a worthless self-persecuting sense of humility.

And often as the pages of this tome are turned in the hotel night, a policeman walks through the dismal lobby, and as he leafs through the registry book it is noticed that one of the boys is not with us tonight. One hand of cards will not be dealt and one empty bed by the window is frozen in the streetlight's glare. It was Neal Cassady who said "To have seen a specter isn't everything," and it was he too who said "There are death masks piled one atop another clear to heaven." The truth of it tumbles from February's aching skies, to run down the spine like ice, and as sure as ice melts, February is forgotten by June, the doors of the pool rooms are propped open and the young girls go by in their magnificent way.

Introduction to book of Joe’s essays

This is the introduction to Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball: The Best of Joe Bageant, a book released today and available through Amazon-US. It includes 25 of Joe's essays published online from 2004 through 2010.

By Ken Smith

Joe700“I’m so damn average that what I write resonates with people”, Joe Bageant once told an interviewer in explaining how he had gained a global following for his essays published on the web. In 2004, at the age of 58, Joe sensed that the Internet could give him editorial freedom. Without gatekeepers, he began writing about what he was really thinking, and then submitted his essays to left-of-center websites.

Joe Bageant died in March 2011, having written two books, and 78 essays that were posted on his own website and also on many other sites. The 25 essays reproduced in this book were first published on the web. I’ve selected them based on many emails from readers, web traffic counts, and specific suggestions from his online colleagues. They appear here as Joe wrote them, apart from copyediting and light corrections agreed to between me and his book editor, Henry Rosenbloom, the publisher at Australia’s Scribe Publications.

Joe began writing for various publications in his twenties. He once told me how happy and proud he was when he sold his first article to the Colorado Daily, unashamedly recalling how he got tears in his eyes as he looked at a check for $5. It was only five dollars, but it was proof that he had become a professional writer. Joe freelanced articles for a dozen years, mostly writing about music, but also writing profiles of people such as Hunter S. Thompson, Timothy Leary, and G. Gordon Liddy. With a family to support, Joe found work as a reporter and columnist for small daily newspapers. Then, for two decades, Joe submerged his rage and natural writing style while working at various hard-labor jobs, before working again as a newspaper reporter, and then as an editor of magazines — one in military history and before that a magazine that promoted agricultural chemicals.

At the age of 17, Joe enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving on an aircraft carrier. Joe had farmed with horses for several years, tended bar, and considered himself at times to be a “Marxist and a half-assed Buddhist.” Always wanting to escape, he embarked on a life-long voyage of discovery that included living in a commune and on an Indian reservation, and, later in life, in Belize and in Mexico.

Joe often said that the Internet allowed him to find his voice. But I would argue that Joe always had his voice, and that what the Internet did for him was to permit him to find a readership. Once his essays started appearing on various websites, Joe soon gained a wide following for his forceful style, his sense of humor, and his willingness to discuss the American white underclass, a taboo topic for the mainstream media. Joe called himself a “redneck socialist,” and he initially thought most of his readers would be very much like himself — working class from the southern section of the U.S.A. So he was pleasantly surprised when emails started filling his in-box. There were indeed many letters from men about Joe’s age who had also escaped rural poverty. But there were also emails from younger men and women readers, from affluent people who agreed that the political and economic system needed an overhaul, from readers in dozens of countries expressing thanks for an alternative view of American life, from working-class Americans in all parts of the country, and more than a few from elderly women who wrote to Joe to say that they respected and appreciated his writing, but “please don’t use so much profanity”.

The central subject of Joe’s writing was the class system in the United States, and the tens of millions of whites ignored by coastal liberals in New York, Washington, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. In his online essays and books, and also in conversations over beer or bourbon, Joe would rail against the elite class who looked down on his people — poor whites, the underclass, rednecks. Joe was amused that a New York book editor once said to him, “It’s as if your people were some sort of exotic and foreign culture, as if you were from Yemen or something.”

Joe spent almost as much time answering emails as he did writing essays. Often a response to an email would be rewritten and included in his next essay, and Joe would send thanks to the reader for providing the spark. In the six years that Joe was writing for publication on the web, he answered thousands of emails from readers — sometimes with just one sentence, but often churning out a thousand words or more.

He and I would talk about the response he was getting to his writing. His explanation was that he was the same as his reader friends, ordinary and fearful. “I don’t write to them,” Joe said in an email to one of his readers. “I don’t write for them. And I don’t write at them. We merely live on the same planet watching the unnerving events around us, things the majority does not seem to see. So I write about that. And maybe for just a moment, a few friends I’ve never met do not feel so alone. Nor do I.”

I first met Joe only seven years before he died, but it seems as though I had known him all of my life. I learned later that there were many people who had similarly become friends of Joe, meeting first by email, then by phone, and then often making personal visits to his home in Virginia, or Belize, or Mexico.

In 2004, I was living in Nice, France and had read one of Joe’s online essays. I sent him an email praising his style and ideas. He replied with a thank-you note, asking if I were wealthy and why I, an American, was living in France. I explained that I lived frugally in a working-class neighborhood of Nice, eating and shopping where the locals did. That started an email exchange and then many phone calls. In one conversation, he said he was bone tired from a daily three-hour commute to a job he didn’t really like. I told him that he should take a couple of weeks off and come to France. He did just that.

Joe arrived at the Nice airport with a back-pack and his guitar. We went on daily walking tours of Nice, to my favorite bistros and some historical spots, and I introduced Joe to many of my friends. Joe had been there about a week when he said he wanted to explore the city on his own — my tour-guide services were not needed. I reminded Joe that he didn’t speak a word of French and he might get lost, so I gave him a note to show a taxi driver how to get back to my apartment. Joe had said he would be gone about two hours, but it was eight hours later that he returned. He had somehow found a beer bar where French taxi drivers met after work, and had spent the day arguing about politics and the global economy. Joe explained that one of the taxi drivers spoke English and had served as a translator. I like this anecdote because it illustrates how comfortable Joe was with working people, no matter what language they spoke. This ease of meeting and befriending working people was repeated in Mexico, where shopkeepers, gardeners, and taxi drivers would soon treat Joe as a long-lost brother.

It was during this visit to France that I convinced Joe he needed his own website, if for no other reason than to serve as an archive for his essays, which were then scattered all over the web. I told him that I would get it started and teach him how to post to it. But in seven years Joe did not post anything, never once logged onto the server, and kept asking me to do it. He would rarely look at his own website, even when I asked him how he liked changes I had made. It was not that Joe was a Luddite, ignoring the Internet. He spent hours every day reading other websites and answering emails. But when it came to his own site he was humble, almost embarrassed, by the focus on him personally. “I hate this me-me-me stuff,” he would say. He was reluctant to have news about himself posted, dragging his feet whenever I suggested that news about his books be posted. He finally agreed that I could write about him and put my name as a tag at the bottom of a post.

I left France five years ago when the dollar/euro exchange rate made it too expensive for me. Eventually, I moved to Mexico. Joe came to visit, and he liked the lifestyle, the Mexican people, and the low cost of living. He stayed in my second bedroom for a couple of months, then got his own place. Joe’s wife visited several times a year, and had discussed moving to Mexico when she retired.

While living in Mexico, Joe wrote his second book, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir, which was released in the U.S. just four days after his death. I wish there were a video of Joe writing this book. He worked on a three-quarter-size notebook, typing fast and furiously with two index fingers, with a burning but unsmoked cigarette in a nearby ashtray.

Between France and Mexico, I had stayed with Joe and his wife, Barbara, in Winchester for a couple of months to help with the editing and proofing of the final manuscript of Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War. While in Winchester, I met many of Joe’s old friends, some of whom had known him since childhood. This helped me gain an additional understanding of the scorn and condescension of the town’s elites toward Joe and his underclass, the poor whites. In addition to his friends, I also met more than a few people who knew Joe but had few kind words to say about him because of his left-wing politics and what they felt was the negative picture he painted of the town. Not only was he rejected by the affluent class, but also by some of the very people he was trying to help — including some people he had grown up with.

The fact that Joe was gaining recognition in other countries did not register with the locals in Winchester. Joe did not consider himself a Christian, so he might object to my citing Jesus’s saying that a prophet is not recognized in his own land. While declaring that such a lofty Biblical aphorism would not apply to a redneck, Joe might also have cited the reference in its entirety, chapter and verse.

The sad fact is that Joe was not recognized in his own small home-town of Winchester, Virginia, with its population of 25,000, even though he was certainly the area’s most widely published contemporary writer. His hometown newspaper, The Winchester Star, never mentioned his name — not even when he was signed by Random House for his first book, Deer Hunting with Jesus, nor when the book was getting rave reviews in other countries. Joe would never admit to being bothered by the local newspaper ignoring him and his success, but it was obvious to those who knew him that he would have appreciated some local recognition. He dismissed this slight by explaining that the newspaper’s publisher was still angry from decades before when Joe worked briefly as a reporter for the Star and tried to organize a union for the editorial staff.

Even though neither Joe’s hometown newspaper nor any mainstream U.S. newspaper or news service noticed his death, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation replayed an interview from his book tour a year before. And La Stampa, one of the largest and most prestigious newspapers in Italy, published an obituary and another glowing review of the Italian edition of Deer Hunting with Jesus.

Looking back now, it is clear that Joe’s energy was being sapped in the months before his cancer was diagnosed. Just three days before a massive and inoperable abdominal tumor was discovered, Joe had spent the day riding a horse with Mexican cowboys. But, for a month or two before this, he was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate sufficiently to finish an essay. I didn’t see it at the time. His last essay, “AMERICA: Y UR PEEPS B SO DUM”, took Joe more than a month to write, in fits and starts. He emailed me a draft of this essay, which was more than 8,000 words — long even for Joe. I cut about 3,000 words from the draft, re-arranged chunks of text, and sent it back to Joe with a note that the draft could potentially be one of his best essays, but that it was a jumble of thoughts and he needed to sweat blood while re-writing it. Rather than coming back with a typically argumentative response, Joe agreed and replied that he would do more work on it. Now I feel guilty about having pushed a sick and dying man to be creative, even though neither Joe nor anybody else knew how ill he really was. But I try not to feel too bad about it, because I think it is indeed one of his best essays.

Things are often more clear in retrospect. One book that Joe often referred to in conversations was Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire by Morris Berman. As it happened, Joe and I had both independently been corresponding with Berman, and we learned that Berman was also a sixtyish American expat living in Mexico, just a mountain range to the east of us. Joe and I had been planning to invite ourselves to visit Berman, but it didn’t happen. Berman wrote a review of Rainbow Pie, and he summed up Joe with a phrase that had never occurred to me, nor probably to Joe either. Berman wrote that the source of Joe’s frustration was “extreme isolation”, adding that Joe realized the U.S. was the greatest snow job of all time, likening the country to a hologram, “in which everyone in the country was trapped inside, with no knowledge that the world (U.S. included) was not what U.S. government propaganda, or just everyday cultural propaganda, said it was. He watched his kinfolk and neighbors vote repeatedly against their own interests, and there was little he could do about it.”

On his last day, with his family gathered around his bed, Joe said: “Dying isn’t as bad as I thought it was going be. I’m just going into this blank space where there’s nothing.”

That’s not quite true, Joe. Your books and essays remain with us, and through them you are still alive. Goodbye, good friend.

Ken Smith was a friend of Joe Bageant and managed his website since its launch. He currently lives in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. Ken's website is at

All proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to Joe's favorite charities.

Book with Joe’s best essays now on Amazon

WaltzingFor those who prefer a real book rather than reading on a computer screen, a book with 25 of Joe Bageant's best essays is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball: The Best of Joe Bageant will be available for distribution in the USA April 1. This book was first published last November in Australia by Scribe.

Before he died one year ago, Joe and I had talked about such a book, even though he initially had doubts that people would pay for something that's available for free on the web. But, many emails from his readers convinced Joe that enough people wanted the essays in book form to make the project worthwhile. After Joe died, Henry Rosenbloom, Joe's friend and Australian publisher, asked me to select and edit essays for the book.

Continue reading

Joe Bageant’s essays in book form

By Ken Smith

The book I edited of Joe Bageant's essays was released six weeks ago in Australia, but today I was finally able to see and hold a copy. The first mailing of the book apparently is stuck in Mexican customs. The book is Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball: The Best of Joe Bageant. I'm listed as the author, but that's not accurate. I'm the editor. I wrote an introduction and bio, but 95% of the book is Joe Bageant.

It is published and distributed by Scribe/Penguin. Unfortunately, it is now only available in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. There is no commitment yet for publication and distribution in the US, UK and Canada, but that will likely happen in mid-2012. Here is Penguin's page for the book:

This collection of Joe's essays is also available as an e-book on Apple's iTunes-Australia. And, an e-book version is also available on Amazon's sites in France, Germany and Italy.

Continue reading

Now the World is a Sadder, Sillier Place

This tribute to Joe Bageant originally appeared last May in La Cuadra, a print magazine published in Guatemala. The magazine recently posted the following to the web, and here it is.

By Michael Tallon
Editor-in-Chief, La Cuadra Magazine

Joe Bageant is dead, Joe Bageant is dead. Now hang down your head, Joe Bageant is dead.

Joeflag It is with a heavy heart that we share that news. Cancer got him in the end. Regular readers will recognize his name as Joe was a steady contributor to La Cuadra over the years. Your editors had been fans of his for a long time, but when we first started this project we never imagined we’d actually land his great talents for our magazine. Then, one evening back in 2008, as we were necking beers with our good friend Earl The Retired Bank Robber, Joe’s name came up. I’d just stumbled upon Joe’s website and discovered a trove of essays I’d not seen before. When I asked Earl if he’d ever read Joe’s stuff, he grinned and said, “Been friends with that old bastard for years. You want me to call him up and see if he’d do something for the rag?”

Continue reading

Documentary film with Joe Bageant opens

Kingdom of Survival, a documentary film in which Joe Bageant is a focal point, will premier at the World Film Festival (Festival des Films du Monde) in Montreal, August 18 through August 28. The segments of the film with Joe were made more than a year ago. Before he died last March, Joe had seen an unfinished version of the documentary and told director M. A. Littler that he was pleased to be a part of the film. In addition to Joe, the documentary has interviews with Noam Chomsky and Mark Mirabello — plus a reclusive cabin builder, an anarchist book publisher, and a folk musician.

Here is a trailer for Kingdom of Survival. For those who don't know Joe Bageant, he is the second speaker in this clip.

The festival will have a total of 383 films from 70 countries. The awards jury will be presided over by Spanish director Vicente Aranda. Other highlights of the festival are a tribute to Catherine Deneuve and a master class in filmmaking with Claude Lelouch.

Kingdom of Survival press release (français ci-dessous)

THE KINGDOM OF SURVIVAL seeks out radical and alternative visions that challenge the status quo and features Prof. Noam Chomsky, Joe Bageant, and Mark Mirabello.

Affiche_accueilThe Kingdom of Survival is an interdisciplinary documentary combining speculative travelogue and investigative journalism in order to trace possible links between survivalism, spirituality, art, radical politics, outlaw culture, alternative media and fringe philosophy.
Circling through themes of utopianism, globalized capitalism, anarchism, intellectual and spiritual self-defense, religion and art, the film investigates physical and psychological survival strategies practiced by groups and individuals in a conflict-ridden and confused post-post- modern world.

Maverick writer and filmmaker M. A. Littler hits the outlaw highway in search of visions that challenge the status quo.

On his journey Littler crosses paths with renowned linguist and dissident Prof. Noam Chomsky, outlaw historian Dr. Mark Mirabello, gonzo journalist Joe Bageant, legendary reclusive cabin builder Mike Oehler, anarchist book publisher Ramsey Kanaan, egalitarian radio host Sasha Lilley and folk musician Will "The Bull" Taylor.

Together they explore radical and alternative visions for the 21st century.

The Kingdom of Survival est un documentaire interdisciplinaire qui combine enquête-itinérante-spéculative et journalisme d'investigation afin de tracer des liens possibles entre le survivalisme, la spiritualité, l'art, la radicalité politique, la culture hors-la-loi, les contre-médias et la philosophie de marge.

Naviguant autour des thèmes de l'utopie, du capitalisme mondialisé, de l'anarchie, de l'auto-défense intellectuelle et spirituelle, de la religion et de l'art, le film étudie des stratégies de survie physique et psychologique telles qu'elles peuvent être pratiquées par des groupes ou des individus qui ne se reconnaissent plus dans une société post-moderne régie par la confusion et les conflits permanents.
M. A Littler, écrivain et cinéaste dissident, taille la route à travers l'Amérique à la recherche de visions qui défient le statut quo.

Au cours de son voyage il croise le chemin d'un objecteur de consciences et linguiste renommé, Noam Chomsky, d'un universitaire spécialisé dans l'histoire des Hors-la-lois, Mark Mirabello, d'un écrivain et journaliste gonzo, Joe Bageant, d'un légendaire ermite et constructeur de cabanes à 50 dollars, Mike Oheler, d'un éditeur de littérature anarchiste, Ramsey Kanaan, d'une productrice de radio égalitaire, Sasha Lilley, et d'un musicien de Folk, Will « the Bull » Taylor.

Ensemble ils explorent et proposent des visions radicales et alternatives pour le XXI ème siècle.


Joe picks and sings Hemingway’s Whisky

Here is an outtake from The Kingdom of Survival, a documentary now in production that includes interviews with Joe Bageant, Noam Chomsky, a radical book publisher, a cabin builder, a musician, and a radio host. This segment was shot one year ago when Joe was visiting his home in Winchester, Virginia. 

"Hemingway's Whisky" was written by Guy Clark and became the title for Kenny Chesney's recent album.

Continue reading

Bageant’s Frustration: Extreme Isolation

By Morris Berman 

Rain150 Given how much we had in common, it’s perhaps a bit odd that Joe Bageant (1946-2011) and I never met (although I think we did correspond at one point). He even wound up living in Mexico a good part of the time. But the real connection between us is the congruence of perception regarding the United States. Joe came from unlikely roots to have formulated the political viewpoint that he did: working-class, right-wing, anti-intellectual, flag-waving, small-town Virginia. A “leftneck,” someone dubbed him; it’s not a bad description.

There aren’t too many leftnecks in the United States; of that, we can be sure. This was the source of Joe’s frustration: extreme isolation. Because he realized that the U.S. was the greatest snow job of all time. He likened the place to a hologram, in which everyone in the country was trapped inside, with no knowledge that the world (U.S. included) was not what U.S. government propaganda, or just everyday cultural propaganda, said it was. He watched his kinfolk and neighbors vote repeatedly against their own interests, and there was little he could do about it. The similarity between his last book, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir, and my forthcoming Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline, is in fact quite startling. True, I’m analytical where Joe is homey, and my historical perspective is that of 400 years rather than just the twentieth century; but Joe’s way of addressing the issues is gritty, and right on the money. One can only hope that his book gets the posthumous attention it deserves.

Continue reading

Remembering Joe, a redneck revolutionary

By Patrick Ward

Joe1 It was difficult not to take an instant liking to Joe Bageant.

Soon after Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential elections, Socialist Review called him up for his opinion on the matter: “I always say that if Obama was delivered to the White House with Jesus Christ, a five-piece band and six gilded seraphims holding up his fucking balls he still won’t be able to do anything because the country’s broke and Congress is bought and sold.”

It was with that one long, angry sentence, I became an admirer of this “redneck revolutionary”.

Joe’s wit tore through the fog of myth which surrounds the poorest working class people in the US. For Joe, they weren’t the lazy, stupid caricatures drawn by the establishment media and politicians. They had a heart, but they had been used up and forgotten by capitalism.

Continue reading

Rainbow Pie should be required reading

Review by Pete Soderman

Rain150 One of the reviews on Amazon suggested that Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir should be required reading for all American schoolchildren, and I heartily agree. The picture Joe paints of what’s happened “his people” in the rural south applies to working men and women everywhere in America. Far from being only the family memoir I expected, Rainbow Pie is really a story of the corporate takeover of America from the point-of-view of the common working man and woman. There is essentially no difference between what has become of the world Joe describes around Winchester, Virginia, and the world I grew up in near New Haven, Connecticut. In both cases, the good jobs are gone, both on the land and in the factories.

The chief difference between the two is that, while “Joe’s people” are clinging to their guns and religion to protect them from what they see as an overreaching government, mine, in the liberal north, are clinging to the faint hope that Obama, the magic-man is going to somehow save them from their own stupidity. Both ideas are equally divorced from reality.

Continue reading