“I cry trying to finish off my domestication, breaking the bonds of useless relationships, launching headlong into a war against civilization and its slaves.” – I and Afterwards I
In the yard of the house where I live there stands the ancient marrow and weather-worn bones of a great Douglas Fir. Prior to the arrival of the logging industry in this region of the United States in the early 20th century there were vast swaths of old-growth forests along the entire coast. By some estimates, as much as half of the forests at that time consisted of these unimaginably complex, ancient places, the likes of which will probably never be beheld again by human eyes. In these forests the Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, Sitka Spruce, Hemlock, and others were the towering giants that loomed over the great life of the under-story, rich in plant and animal life. Many of these forests would have been untold thousands of years old and the trees in them many hundreds or even thousands of years old as well.
Walking through the forests where I live one can still find the faintest echoes of this primal life of the forest in the ancient stumps left over from the early logging rounds. Many of the largest remnants have the characteristic notches cut into their sides from the makeshift scaffolding which allowed loggers to climb high enough up these great trees to be able to find a place where their saws could cut. The Douglas Fir in the yard where I live bears these same scars.
But this piece isn’t really about these ancient forests, or really even about the tragedy of what has been lost by their destruction, though it seems to me that it is surely cause for great sadness, among other things. It is mostly a reflection on the personal experience that I have in recognizing, by the presence of that ancient tree, that I too bear the blood of the forest on my hands at the same time as I feel a deep opposition to the world which has spilled the blood of these great places, and how one might understand and respond to this tension from an eco-extremist perspective.
As I noted, that tree testifies to the truth that my own existence is born from out of this civilization, built on the corpses of those beautiful, ancient forests, and on the bodies of the peoples and creatures that lived amidst them. As I noted in the last piece, man is always a part and product of his place. And thus, I am a part and product of this hyper-civilized existence. By virtue of my existence the blood of the world has stained my hands. But at the same time, and in many ways from out of this, comes the manifestation of a tendency which stands firmly against this very hyper-civilized existence, of “Man,” and of his works by which we have been born and shaped as modern, domesticated beings. Thus there can be, for some, this certain “tension” in eco-extremism which seems insurmountable from the conventional standpoint of humanistic philosophies. After all, to wish death upon all the myriad faces of this civilization is to condemn “Man” and consequently myself to death along with it.
At bottom, this tension or contradiction between the human and inhuman which can be felt when one engages the eco-extremist perspective can only be reconciled through the recognition that the eco-extremist perspective is in many respects a negation, or rejection of the “human,” a concept variously understood by different “members” of the tendency. This is not really an intellectual act of calculating one or the other. And truth be told most of the incomprehensibility of eco-extremism for those on the outside stems from the simple irreconcilable nature of a perspective and value system which places Man at the pinnacle of creation and another which simply refuses to do the same for a number of what I (naturally) take to be good reasons. But this decision is felt in one’s own heart, it is felt in an affinity for the great forests, the mountains, the rivers, and their myriad forms of life. From the noble cedar to the great elk and the coyote. From a love of the greatness and beauty of the inhuman world rather than the human. And so the eco-extremist opposition to the hyper-civilized, to techno-industrial civilization, is simply not about the human. It is not about anyone’s individual self, it is not about humanity, it is a negation of the human in the name of that ineffable glory of the wild earth which has nothing to do with the human being. Eco-extremism is a recognition of the grand beauty of the inhuman and the violent negation of the centrality of the human, since it is the violent reaction against “Man” and his techno-industrial civilization in all of its incarnations. But there is no place in the ranks of the modern, progressive, humanistic world for a perspective which aims at the death of “Man”and all his “glories,” and herein is the root of the cognitive dissonance and outrage of the hyper-civilized masses who find it impossible to conceive of a perspective which is opposed to its sacred abstractions of “progress,” “humanity,” “the citizen,” etc.
Eco-extremism, as I said, takes its perspective from that ineffable glory of the wild earth. In the twenty-eighth communiqué of ITS this complete and utter rejection of any and all humanistic perspectives in the name of that ineffable glory is as clearly expressed as ever:
“We attack, we attack all that has to do with the human being. We don’t care about hurting some “innocent” person or “poor Christian” who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our hate doesn’t care about rich or poor, man or woman, old or young. Our hate is the same for all humans.
For us there are no good or evil people. The concept of “class struggle” does not move us in the least, and we are not under the spell of Red sentimentalism. We reject the “duty” to be on the side of the people. We will never fight for anyone, all we see is a crowd of hyper-civilized automatons, repulsive automatons…
We continue on without a motive to “love our neighbor.” We only appreciate those who have affinity with us, our blood brothers who form part of the Tendency. How can we love those who are continuing to propagate civilization, those who believe themselves free when the roar of their chains is so deafening? How can we love them?” – Twenty Eighth Communiqué of the Individualists Tending Toward the Wild
In the light of this perspective the aforementioned “tension” or “contradiction” between the human and the inhuman is completely dissolved through the outright negation of the centrality of the human being. “Man,” “the human,” “the polis” have all been left behind in eco-extremism. Eco-extremism meets the progressive project of a brighter future, a future which will and has always been paid for with the blood of the earth, with a clear-eyed pessimism and the blast of bombs. It meets the self-obsession of the humanist with a howl to the ineffable and a bloodied blade to remind him of his smallness on this earth. All that remains is the ineffable glory. There is no tension between the remnants of one’s own hyper-civilized nature and the violent attack against this entire hyper-civilized existence, for all those idols of the human world have been killed and left to rot in the merciless sun in the ascension to that higher glory within which the human being is, at its best, but one minuscule jewel in Indra’s great net. I will close with the poem Sign-Post by the American poet Robinson Jeffers, one which so beautifully captures this turning outward, away from the human being and onto that immense grandeur and transhuman glory of the earth.
Civilized, crying: how to be human again; this will tell you how.
Turn outward, love things, not men, turn right away from humanity,
Let that doll lie. Consider if you like how the lilies grow,
Lean on the silent rock until you feel its divinity
Make your veins cold; look at the silent stars, let your eyes
Climb the great ladder out of the pit of yourself and man.
Things are so beautiful, your love will follow your eyes;
Things are the God; you will love God and not in vain,
For what we love, we grow to it, we share its nature. At length
You will look back along the star’s rays and see that even
The poor doll humanity has a place under heaven.
Its qualities repair their mosaic around you, the chips of strength
And sickness; but now you are free, even to be human,
But born of the rock and the air, not of a woman.