EVASION by Anonymous; Crimethinc, 2001

Medium vs. message; artistry vs. application—therein lies the rub for Evasion, a distillation of journals kept by an early 20s career dumpster diver and rip-off artist. An unquestionably engrossing read but not likely to charm most readers.

The individual in question starts in high school as a dumpster diver, utilizing this activity as rebellion against his upper middle class suburban upbringing. To him and his buddies reclaiming trash from retail outlets represents exposure and indictment of the waste and economic injustice inherent in capitalist consumer society. It seems irrefutable that one of the grave faults of the U.S. economy is that so much food, wearable clothing and functioning appliances wind up heaped in landfills rather than being systematically redistributed to those in need. Demagogues would argue that the status of “haves” is defined by the deprivation of the “have-nots,” so that destroying rather than deploying surplus goods helps maintain these distinctions. So, politically aware dumpster-diving, especially when tied to a clearly formulated, publicly-declared agenda does function as valid and effective protest.

The divers depicted in Evasion however, mainly proselytize to other suburban kids rather than the economically disadvantaged. Instead of actually empowering the poor, they're staging a style revolt, about as meaningful as sporting a Mohawk to the junior prom. In fact, their stance devolves into a militant pursuit of leisure, nothing beyond avoiding summer jobs, college, etc.: they start the day with a dive for stale bagels, read through the daily newspaper picked outta the trash, listen to punk rock tapes found out back of the local mall, and end the day by crashing a punk rock show or sneaking into the movies.

These activities then lead the author to shoplifting, freight train hopping and squatting. He enters a world-within-a-world encountering the myriad subcultures of the deliberately unemployed, petty criminals et al. This is vividly portrayed, fascinating and sobering. The reader is introduced to individuals possessing great native ingenuity, feral tenacity and impressive organization skills. They are willing and able to become conversant with the layout of the entire nation's rail network and freight trains' timetable as well as the niceties of diplomatic relations with security personnel whose main job is keeping their ilk from riding the rails. A lot of work to avoid having to work a job per se! These same characters display little or no loyalty to one another, let alone charity; lotsa violent personality disorders on display and lots of down and dirty self-medication afoot. The author evinces mainly respect for such folk despite rough handling from them along the way.

All this is well and good, and compelling reading. Where the author goes astray is trying to justify all this, especially his own petty thievery with grandiose ideological rationalization. Ultimately his main ambition is simply non-productivity cushioned with as much creature comfort as he can stash in his rucksack. There's no real substantive agenda to effect meaningful change for anyone but himself. As if crashing shows by bands whose message he admires supports their work. At his most ridiculous he declares his lifestyle as indictment of consumerism and capitalist economy and announces his eager anticipation of the day when it all crumbles—never taking into account his absolute dependence on the surplus, waste and inefficiency of these systems for his own survival.

In the end, despite his aspirations, the author is as materialistic, solipsistic, facile and self-aggrandizing a dolt as Paris Hilton.

-Howard Wuelfing

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  1. Name says:

    The order of which you listed these events make me wonder if you read this book at all. The book begins with the narrator hopping a train yet you say that didn't happen until later? pretty unreliable review if you ask me.

  2. Name says:

    And as a matter of fact an economic system is not the reason food exists. Food existed before capitalism, and even before money! Can you believe it?

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