The following essay appears in Reflections #1.
I. Back to the Drawing Board
The past year or so has been an experiment whose hypothesis was that freedom from the industrial system, for some and in some places, can be found now. Repent to the Primitive and “Taking Rewilding Seriously” laid the foundations for these views, but their application — “uncivilization” — was faulty. Now, in the tradition of the Wild Will Project, I return to magazine work as a vehicle for reflections and further study.
II. The Purpose of the Reflections Bulletin
The new publication will be called the Reflections bulletin, and its object is to expand and revise ideas first outlined in Repent to the Primitive. It will focus specifically on four core areas.
i. Internationalizing the rewilding analysis
My work thus far has been mainly U.S.-centered. Mostly this was due to ignorance: although I have travelled all through the U.S. and believe I have a fairly firm grasp on U.S. culture and various of its subcultures, I have never actually been outside of the country. In college this was no matter to me. I was convinced that the ideas could be implemented in a U.S. context and spread from there.
Today I am less confident that the U.S. has any capacity to host the kind of rewilding work I want done (beyond land conservation). Its methods of social control are too efficient; its citizenry’s feelings of helplessness are too thoroughly ingrained; and its radical subcultures are too focused on cultural icons, like the Beatniks, than on actual radicals, like Mao. U.S. radicals seem to be left with only the task of providing infrastructural support to international actions. Some time will pass before this changes — probably spurred on by the great catalysts of war, economic recession, or natural disaster — and in the meantime I will spread my vision in all directions, especially North Africa, South America, East Asia, and the Middle East.
ii. “Political” solutions are back on the table
One great thing about going to the forest is that it removes all the crud from the walls and ceilings of your living space. You see more clearly what you need to do to make it livable. And, in my view, the task of furnishing our lives is much too difficult for a project even remotely approaching the uncivilization project to succeed.
I’ve written before about the failures of rational planning, e.g., utopian communities, but arrogantly I still pursued a goal that depended on rational planning’s success to succeed! If your intention is to strip bare and build from there, the work before you is momentous. The morrass of human needs is yours, and only yours, to satisfy. You must build community, find your food and shelter, learn the ins-and-outs of some environment, natural and otherwise, that can sustain you, and so on. This is actually much less realistically achievable than, say, social collapse, which would leave many basic bonds and institutions among small groups intact, to be taken into the conditions of the new world.
There are other problems. While it may be technically feasible for a dislodged industrial citizen to pursue a free life individualistically, this is not an option for the myriad of other persons who cannot so easily cut their ties to friendship and family, who are bound in place by economics or children, etc. And, note, these are not the things I want freedom from; they are the very things I complain that industrial society is destroying. There must be a more broadly applicable response.
Finally, as I write in “Refuting the Apartheid Alternative“:
Is escape actually an option? The reach of industry’s impacts is global, and escape is among the most impotent responses available. And given the global nature of those impacts, “escape” is far from an accurate word. A man who has left the city for the forest has reclaimed his life in only the most insignificant of ways. He may feel better, and as far as psychological health is the argument this is a somewhat reasonable justification. But on the whole he has merely fogged up his view of the world that still determines the trajectory of his life, so he is able to more easily delude himself into thinking he has freedom.
Meanwhile, the technicians continue to do their work, the emissions continue to increase, the possibility of runaway technologies remains, nuclear, biotech, and nanotech are still developed, and the escape artist remains fundamentally powerless.
So political responses to the disaster of industry are back on the table. I intend to do nothing more than review the history and operations of various political radicals, historical and contemporary, including the Bolsheviks, Jacobins, Zapatistas, jihadis, the Russian nihilists, the natives of the Americas, criminal gangs, and more. This will broaden our outlook on the possibilities for action.
iii. Expanding the rewilding critique of industry
Regarding the critique of techno-industrial society, there remains more work to be done yet. Consider, for example, the problems of industrial medicine, overpopulation, and the status of women in traditional societies. These kinds of very difficult topics will be reviewed in Reflections.
iv. Personal essays
Along with general study, I have some internal examination to do. More and more I realize how much of my behavior is shaped by an unruly and disfigured development. If I am to distinguish between legitimate radical grievances and those that stem merely from my own psychological problems, I must know myself more thoroughly than before. Thus, some essays in the bulletin will record my personal struggles with the relationship between individual needs and the work of radical politics.
III. Logistical Information
Essays will be published sporadically on the blog. After every 5-8 posts I will post a table of contents for that issue of the bulletin and send it to readers who have subscribed by email.