“May I ask how you confront your own domestication?”
I was asked this question a while back by someone that I have crossed paths with and from the outset it has always struck me as an odd question. It seems to be all the rage among anarcho-primitivist circles to talk about “rewilding” oneself, “confronting one’s own domestication,” reclaiming one’s own “wildness,” and on and on and on. These same people set out on extended camping trips with a few of their buddies to rough it on the back acres of some ranch building primitive shelters, hunting and prepping with primitive weapons and tools and generally kindling fires of the little homunculus of the “IR hunter/gatherer” in their heart. Now, I can’t say that I oppose people going out on extended camping trips, learning primitive skills, getting more deeply in touch with the land that they inhabit, or whatever. I spend a large part of my days, every day lately, walking through the forests near my house and in doing so have come to know the several hundred acres that comprise the nearby park intimately in the time that I’ve lived here. So I can’t be and am not one to cast judgement in that regard. What I do take issue with are the delusions about what it would even mean to “rewild,” to reclaim the life-world of primitive peoples (we can’t, full stop) and the correlative tendency among the “rewilding” crowd too fall too deeply into “LARPing primitive” and in doing so forgetting who and where one actually is.
My response to this question when it was posed to me was essentially, “I don’t.” I did not mean this in a passive sense of simply doing nothing, for even my writing is in some small way an attempt to deal with where and what I am, my own domestication and the world which I feel in my heart that I am so deeply opposed to. I meant this “non-doing” more in the sense of accepting who and what one is, where and when one exists on the wheels of time rather than fighting the reality of one’s circumstances by falling into delusions of rekindling or even recreating that unimaginably complex life and world of the primitive. Man does not and could not exist in a vacuum. He is always turned outside himself, is always a part and product of a time and place. And the primitive was as much a part and product of his world as the modern man is a part and product of his. Who were the Niitsitapi but an extension of the great plains, the thunderstorm over the rolling hills, and the buffalo? In Atassa‘s recent translation of the editorial of Regresión Magazine No. 7 this sentiment was expressed in the grieving of a Sioux chief:
“Soon the sun will rise and will no longer see us here, and the dust and our bones will mix on the plains. As in a vision, I see the flame of the bonfires of the great councils die, and the ashes grow white and cold. I no longer see the spirals of smoke rise from our tents. I don’t hear the songs of the women as they prepare the food. The antelope are gone, the lands of the buffalo are empty. Only the howl of the coyote is heard now. The white man’s medicine is stronger than ours. His iron horse now runs on the paths of the buffalo. The whispering spirit (telephone) speaks to us now. We are like birds with broken wings. My heart is frozen. My eyes extinguish.”
The Sioux, and so many countless other peoples witnessed the death of themselves and the death of their world, and this is one and the same. If one wants to talk about “rewilding” in the anarcho-primitivist sense it cannot be honestly talked about without recognizing that the human being is always located in time and space and is always inextricably tied to that time and space. He can often venture beyond it in the abstract but this is a dream world, and all dreams must come to an end. He must come back to the present, for it is the only reality that he has. The past is always gone and done and the future is the airy nothing of speculation. Only the here and the now have reality. And if this is true then the anarcho-primitivist project of “rewilding,” “reclaiming one’s wildness,” or “confronting one’s domestication” is at best a hackneyed attempt to recreate a kind of idealized theater of dead worlds, delusions, daydreams, nonsense. The anarcho-primtivist will raise the ghosts of the great buffalo, bring life back to the bones of the antelope, bring life back to the ashes of the sacred fires of the Sioux. The Kingdom of the Paleolithic risen again. But this is, of course, a dream. The buffalo have long since returned to The Great Spirit, as have the bones of the antelope. The ashes of the sacred fires were long ago taken by the wind, and even the Sioux themselves have become a people of history.
To talk of “rewilding” and its corollaries in the anarcho-primitivist sense, then, is to talk of nonsense. It is not confront the world as it is. It is to escape into dream worlds where the great webs of the earth have not been ravaged by this civilization. If one is to see with clear eyes, one would have to recognize and accept what we are, which will also entail coming to terms with where and when we are. It would mean to recognize and accept that almost every person that exists today is a part and a product of this monstrous techno-industrial civilization which has and continues to spread its choking tendrils across the face of the earth. Domestication is inscribed in our flesh and we live in the ecological wasteland of modernity. It would mean to recognize that the great worlds of the past are dead and that there is no going back to them, nor is there any realistic prospect of them arising again within mine or any reader’s lifetime. As Jeffers notes in The Stars Go Over the Lonely Ocean “The world is in a bad way, my man / And bound to be worse before it mends.” What we have, and all that we have, is this decadent present in all its monstrousness, the continuing, relentless march of the Leviathan over all that is wild and beautiful. It would mean to accept this present with honesty and respond to that present accordingly, in a way which is in accord with the present. Without entertaining dreams and delusions of a brighter tomorrow when the primitive utopia will have been realized.
Of course, such a stance isn’t the “rewilding” of John Zerzan, Kevin Tucker, and the rest of the anarcho-primitivist underlings. This is the spirit of eco-extremism, its clear-eyed nihilism, its savage attack in this decadent present. From the Seventh Communiqué of ITS:
“The wild can wait no longer. Civilization expands indiscriminately at the cost of all that is natural. We won’t stay twiddling our thumbs, looking on passively as modern man rips the Earth apart in search of minerals, burying her under tons of concrete, or piercing through entire hills to construct tunnels. We are at war with civilization and progress, as well as those who improve or support it with their passivity. Whoever!”