Section Five

The Resistance to Civilization


If Man becomes an animal again, his arts, his loves, and his play must also become purely "natural" again. Hence it would have to be admitted that after the end of History, men would construct their edifices and works of art as birds build their nests and spiders spin their webs, would perform musical concerts after the fashion of frogs and cicadas, would play like young animals, and would indulge in love like adult beasts.

Alexandre Kojève (1946)
e move now to offerings that attempt to light the way beyond civilization, to sources and modes of resistance and renewal. The deconstructionist Derrida applies the tactic of placing literary elements "under erasure"; here are some considerations for doing so to civilization.

Julia Kristeva recently rejected the postmodern refusal of narrative, or refusal of viewing the totality, in this way: Psychoanalysis goes against the grain of the modern convenience that calls attention not to the end of the Story of Civilization, but to the end of the possibility of telling a story. Nevertheless, this end and this convenience are beginning to overwhelm us, and we have been led to criticize and reject them.

One need not adopt psychoanalysis as the answer to the postmodern dead end, but Kristeva's conclusion is most important regardless, in refusing to accept an end to possibilities.

Another necessary rejection of limits concerns a more general or typical defeatism, in parallel to that of postmodernism. From a recent work by former 1960s activist Gregory Calvert:

It is, I believe, an error (and the weakness of certain kinds of anarchist utopianism) to assume that humanity can somehow return to the "organic" or "natural" societies of the neolithic world, or that there is an end to politics. Human beings have left forever their neolithic past and life in the human realm can never be a simple return to nature.

He means, of course, paleolithic not neolithic, for the latter is synonymous with the arrival of civilization. If there is consensus among authors represented in this section, however, it lies in their rejection of the argument that a "return to nature" is impossible. Calvert's caveat is just another way of saying, "Here is civilization: accept it."

The summer 1995 issue of the British marxist journal Aufheben acknowledges that

civilization is under attack. A new critical current has emerged in recent years, united by an antagonism towards all tendencies that seem to include "progress" as part of their programme.

Indeed, a question heard with increasing frequency asks how much more progress we and the planet must endure. This critique challenges the basic categories and dynamics of civilization, and demands an altogether different present and future.

Rudolf Bahro

Avoiding Social and Ecological Disaster: 

The Politics of World Transformation (1994)

What is exterminism?

n order to furnish a basis for resistance to rearmament plans, the visionary British historian E. P. Thompson wrote an essay in 1980 about exterminism, as the last stage of civilization. Exterminism doesn't just refer to military overkill, or to the neutron bomb - it refers to industrial civilization as a whole, and to many aspects of it, not just the material ones - although these are the first to be noticed. It made sense that the ecopax movement in Germany began not with nuclear weapons, but with nuclear power stations, and seemingly even less harmful things. Behind the various resistance movements stood the unspoken recognition that in the set of rules guiding the evolution of our species, death has made its home.

Thompson's statements about the "increasing determination of the extermination process," about the "last dysfunction of humanity, its total self-destruction," characterize the situation as a whole. The number of people who are damned and reduced to misery has increased unbelievably with the spread of industrial civilization. Never in the whole of history have so many been sacrificed to hunger, sickness, and premature death as is the case today. It is not only their number which is growing, but also their proportion of the whole of humanity. As an inseparable consequence of military and economic progress we are in the act of destroying the biosphere which gave birth to us.

To express the exterminism-thesis in Marxian terms, one could say that the relationship between productive and destructive forces is turned upside down. Like others who looked at civilization as a whole, Marx had seen the trail of blood running through it, and that "civilization leaves deserts behind it." In ancient Mesopotamia it took 1,500 years for the land to grow salty, and this was only noticed at a very late stage, because the process was so slow. Ever since we began carrying on a productive material exchange with nature, there has been this destructive side. And today we are forced to think apocalyptically, not because of culture-pessimism, but because this destructive side is gaining the upper hand.

I would like straight away to emphasize that the problem ultimately does not lie in the perversions and associated monstrosities of Auschwitz and Hiroshima, in neurotic lust for destruction or for human or animal torture. It lies in quantitative success, and in the direction that our civilization took in its heyday. This success is not at all unlike that of a swarm of locusts. Our higher level of consciousness has furthered development, but has had no part in determining scale or goal. In general the logic of self-extermination works blindly, and its tools are not the ultimate cause.

For centuries the problem has remained below the threshold of consciousness for the vast majority of people. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels evaluate the capitalistic preparatory work for the desired classless society:

Through the exploitation of the world market, the bourgeoisie has given a cosmopolitan pattern to the production of all countries. To the great dismay of reactionaries it has pulled the national basis out from under the feet of industry. The age-old national industries have been annihilated and continue to be annihilated daily. They get pushed aside by new industries, the introduction of which becomes a life-issue for all civilized nations.

These new industries don't make use of domestic raw materials, but process raw materials from the remotest regions, and their products are used not only in the land of their production, but equally in all parts of the world. In the place of needs which can be satisfied by domestic production come new ones, which demand for their satisfaction the products of the remotest lands and climates. In the place of the old national and local self-sufficiency and isolation comes traffic in all directions, and a dependence on all sides of nations upon each other.

By means of enormously increased ease of communication the bourgeoisie draws all nations, even the most barbaric, into civilization. The cheap prices of its wares are the heavy artillery by which all Chinese walls are shot down, by which the most stubborn barbarian xenophobia must capitulate.

As we see today, this is written on account of civilized worker-interests, and is a clearly 'social-imperialistic' text. The concern is with the proletarian take-over of business in this civilization, and social-democracy, or even more the trade unions, and the legitimate heirs of this programme, to whose basic cultural themes they adhere unbrokenly.

Wolfram Ziegler has developed a scale which measures, with brilliant simplicity, the total load we are placing on the biosphere, in order to bring about the 'good life' or 'standard of living', and on this basis to defend the 'social peace' of the rich Metropolis, which is certainly being ever more strongly threatened by ecological panic. Ziegler's starting-point is that the decisive lever in our attack on nature is the use of technically-prepared imported energy. The poisoning and destruction of nature is bound up with this material throughout, with the putting to work of our energy-slaves.

For this reason Ziegler takes the amount of energy used per square kilometer per day and multiplies it by a 'damage-equivalent' for the amount of matter-transformation, and impact on nature, in each region. In this way he arrives at a figure for the load on the biosphere measured in equivalent kilowatt-hours per square kilometer per day. This figure is far in excess of the raw energy use because the toxic and noxious effects are factored in. Today in Germany we are impacting the environment to the extent of 40,000 KWh/km2/day [103,600 KWh/sq. mile/day] with real energy use alone - that is, without reckoning in the damage factor. This is about ten times as much as it was a hundred years ago.

Exactly a hundred years ago, the rate of dying out of biological species began to increase exponentially; as a result of which in the mid-1980s a species vanished every day, and by the year 2000 this will have increased to a species every hour. We are monopolizing the earth for our species alone. We began this with the geographical surface, which we don't only reduce in area, but divide up to such an extent that ecotopes lose their wholeness, and the critical number of individuals of any species is reached, such that they cannot share the same living space.

Ziegler has calculated that in Germany the total weight of our bodies averages out at 150 kg per hectare [134 lbs per acre], while all other animals including birds weigh only 8­8.5 kg per hectare [7­7.5 lbs per acre]. This excludes the domesticated animals we exploit, which account for a further 300 kg per hectare [267 lbs per acre] - however they don't belong to themselves, but to us. In addition to this, we have at least a further 2,000 kg per hectare [1,780 lbs per acre] of technical structures for our transport systems alone, and the lion's share of this is taken by the automobile.

Even though we no longer feel any natural solidarity with the rest of life, we nevertheless depend, for our biological existence, upon the species-variety of plants and animals. Our 'anthropogenic' technical monocultures of 'useful' plants and animals are perhaps the most persistent instruments of suicide that we use. The dying off of species is the most fundamental indicator of the general exterminating tendency: the overgrowth of the industrial system has pushed it to a galloping rate.

For Ziegler a load of about 4,000 real KWh/km2/day [10,360 KWh/sq mile/day] is the threshold at which we finally left ecological stability behind us. It is about where we were 100 years ago, before the rate of dying off of species began to increase, and before - a quarter of a century later - the first organizations for the protection of nature began to react.

It is thus no longer a question of democratic decision, but of natural necessity, that we should reduce harmful end-products of energy and materials-consumption by a factor of ten. By more intuitive methods I had reached the same estimate of the order of magnitude of the necessary reduction, by reflecting on what would happen if the whole of humanity were to lay claim to our level of packaged living.

Environmental protection is a 'solution' one would expect from the priesthood (this time a scientific one) of a declining culture: one more floor on the deficit-structure, which would only increase its load. Ziegler demonstrates compellingly that this is not to be done with technical environmental protection alone, because the energy and material demands of such measures would detract from the load reductions they would achieve, and ultimately cancel them entirely.

Thus in the final analysis environmental protection as a supplementary strategy is only a further stimulus to the economic arms race, whereby the mass of the Megamachine is made to grow, both on the investment and the consumption side. Janicke has demonstrated this from the point of view of costs, basing his work on Kapp (1972). Environmental protection procures a last 'Green' legitimacy for the industrial system, for a short while.

While we protect the environment at critical points, the whole front of stress on the natural order moves unflinchingly ahead. A hundred environment-protecting motors each having only 66% of the damaging effect of earlier models still do more damage than fifty of the earlier models.

Messages about the environment-friendliness of industry, seen today on TV screens and in magazines, create a fatally false impression. For example, via foodstuffs alone we come into contact with about 10,000 chemicals, and in daily life with about 100,000 of them, in industrial nations. Propaganda deceptively plays down this synthetic aspect of civilized life. We can adapt to plastics thanks to the much-praised plasticity of human nature, which we also have to thank for civilization! By exercising our drive to activity, our passion for work, we altogether ruin our entire original fund of resources. In this context ecological market economy is only a new addition to the logic of self-extermination. Its immediate effect is to lower the level of product-or-technology-specific environmental damage, but the long-term overall effect is to increase it.

pp. 19­22

John Zerzan

Future Primitive (1994)

ivision of labor, which has had so much to do with bringing us to the present global crisis, works daily to prevent our understanding the origins of this horrendous present. Mary Lecron Foster (1990) surely errs on the side of understatement in allowing that anthropology is today "in danger of serious and damaging fragmentation." Shanks and Tilley (1987b) voice a rare, related challenge: "The point of archaeology is not merely to interpret the past but to change the manner in which the past is interpreted in the service of social reconstruction in the present." Of course, the social sciences themselves work against the breadth and depth of vision necessary to such a reconstruction. In terms of human origins and development, the array of splintered fields and sub-fields - anthropology, archaeology, paleontology, ethnology, paleobotany, ethnoanthropology, etc., etc. - mirrors the narrowing, crippling effect that civilization has embodied from its very beginning.
Nonetheless, the literature can provide highly useful assistance, if approached with an appropriate method and awareness and the desire to proceed past its limitations. In fact, the weakness of more or less orthodox modes of thinking can and does yield to the demands of an increasingly dissatisfied society. Unhappiness with contemporary life becomes distrust with the official lies that are told to legitimate that life, and a truer picture of human development emerges. Renunciation and subjugation in modern life have long been explained as necessary concomitants of "human nature." After all, our pre-civilized existence of deprivation, brutality, and ignorance made authority a benevolent gift that rescued us from savagery. 'Cave man' and 'Neanderthal' are still invoked to remind us where we would be without religion, government and toil.

This ideological view of our past has been radically overturned in recent decades, through the work of academics like Richard Lee and Marshall Sahlins. A nearly complete reversal in anthropological orthodoxy has come about, with important implications. Now we can see that life before domestication/agriculture was in fact largely one of leisure, intimacy with nature, sensual wisdom, sexual equality, and health. This was our human nature, for a couple of million years, prior to enslavement by priests, kings, and bosses.

To 'define' a disalienated world would be impossible and even undesirable, but I think we can and should try to reveal the unworld of today and how it got this way. We have taken a monstrously wrong turn with symbolic culture and division of labor, from a place of enchantment, understanding and wholeness to the absence we find at the heart of the doctrine of progress. Empty and emptying, the logic of domestication, with its demand to control everything, now shows us the ruin of the civilization that ruins the rest. Assuming the inferiority of nature enables the domination of cultural systems that soon will make the very earth uninhabitable.

Postmodernism says to us that a society without power relations can only be an abstraction (Foucault, 1982). This is a lie unless we accept the death of nature and renounce what once was and what we can find again. Turnbull spoke of the intimacy between Mbuti people and the forest, dancing almost as if making love to the forest. In the bosom of a life of equals that is no abstraction, that struggles to endure, they were "dancing with the forest, dancing with the moon."

pp. 15­16, 45­46
William Morris

News from Nowhere (1995)

e went up a paved path between the roses, and straight into a very pretty room, panelled and carved, and as clean as a new pin; but the chief ornament of which was a young woman, light-haired and grey-eyed, but with her face and hands and bare feet tanned quite brown with the sun. Though she was very lightly clad, that was clearly from choice, not from poverty, though these were the first cottage-dwellers I had come across; for her gown was of silk, and on her wrists were bracelets that seemed to me of great value. She was lying on a sheep-skin near the window, but jumped up as soon as we entered, and when she saw the guests behind the old man, she clapped her hands and cried out with pleasure, and when she got us into the middle of the room, fairly danced round us in delight of our company.

'What!' said the old man, 'you are pleased, are you, Ellen?'

The girl danced up to him and threw her arms round him, and said: 'Yes I am, and so ought you to be, grandfather.'

'Well, well, I am,' said he, 'as much as I can be pleased. Guests, please be seated.'

This seemed rather strange to us; stranger, I suspect, to my friends than to me; but Dick took the opportunity of both the host and his grand-daughter being out of the room to say to me, softly: 'A grumbler: there are a few of them still. Once upon a time, I am told, they were quite a nuisance.'

The old man came in as he spoke and sat down beside us with a sigh, which, indeed, seemed fetched up as if he wanted us to take notice of it; but just then the girl came in with the victuals, and the carle missed his mark, what between our hunger generally and that I was pretty busy watching the grand-daughter moving about as beautiful as a picture.

Everything to eat and drink, though it was somewhat different to what we had had in London, was better than good, but the old man eyed rather sulkily the chief dish on the table, on which lay a leash of fine perch, and said:

'H'm, perch! I am sorry we can't do better for you, guests. The time was when we might have had a good piece of salmon up from London for you; but the times have grown mean and petty.'

'Yes, but you might have had it now,' said the girl, giggling, 'if you had known that they were coming.'

'It's our fault for not bringing it with us, neighbors,' said Dick, good-humoredly. 'But if the times have grown petty, at any rate the perch haven't; that fellow in the middle there must have weighed a good two pounds when he was showing his dark stripes and red fins to the minnows yonder. And as to the salmon, why, neighbor, my friend here, who comes from the outlands, was quite surprised yesterday morning when I told him we had plenty of salmon at Hammersmith. I am sure I have heard nothing of the times worsening.'

He looked a little uncomfortable. And the old man, turning to me, said very courteously:

'Well, sir, I am happy to see a man from over the water; but I really must appeal to you to say whether on the whole you are not better off in your country; where I suppose, from what our guest says, you are brisker and more alive, because you have not wholly got rid of competition. You see, I have read not a few books of the past days, and certainly they are much more alive than those which are written now; and good sound unlimited competition was the condition under which they were written, if we didn't know that from the record of history, we should know it from the books themselves. There is a spirit of adventure in them, and signs of a capacity to extract good out of evil which our literature quite lacks now; and I cannot help thinking that our moralists and historians exaggerate hugely the unhappiness of the past days, in which such splendid works of imagination and intellect were produced.'

Clara listened to him with restless eyes, as if she were excited and pleased; Dick knitted his brow and looked still more uncomfortable, but said nothing. Indeed, the old man gradually, as he warmed to his subject, dropped his sneering manner, and both spoke and looked very seriously.

But the girl broke out before I could deliver myself of the answer I was framing:

'Books, books! always books, grandfather! When will you understand that after all it is the world we live in which interests us; the world of which we are a part, and which we can never love too much? Look!' she said, throwing open the casement wider and showing us the white light sparkling between the black shadows of the moonlit garden, through which ran a little shiver of the summer night-wind, 'look! these are our books in these days! - and these,' she said, stepping lightly up to the two lovers and laying a hand on each of their shoulders; 'and the guest there, with his oversea knowledge and experience; yes, and even you, grandfather' (a smile ran over her face as she spoke), 'with all your grumbling and wishing yourself back again in the good old days, in which, as far as I can make out, a harmless and lazy old man like you would either have pretty nearly starved, or have had to pay soldiers and people to take the folk's victuals and clothes and houses away from them by force. Yes, these are our books; and if we want more, can we not find work to do in the beautiful buildings that we raise up all over the country (and I know there was nothing like them in past times), wherein a man can put forth whatever is in him, and make his hands set forth his mind and his soul.'

She paused a little, and I for my part could not help staring at her, and thinking that if she were a book, the pictures in it were most lovely. The color mantled in her delicate sunburnt cheeks; her grey eyes, light amidst the tan of her face, kindly looked on us all as she spoke. She paused, and said again:

'As for your books, they were well enough for times when intelligent people had but little else in which they could take pleasure, and when they must needs supplement the sordid miseries of their own lives with imaginations of the lives of other people. But I say flatly that in spite of all their cleverness and vigor, and capacity for story-telling, there is something loathsome about them. Some of them, indeed, do here and there show some feeling for those whom the history-books call "poor," and of the misery of whose lives we have some inkling; but presently they give it up, and towards the end of the story we must be contented to see the hero and heroine living happily in an island of bliss on other people's troubles; and that after a long series of sham troubles (or mostly sham) of their own making, illustrated by dreary introspective nonsense about their feelings and aspirations, and all the rest of it; while the world must even then have gone on its way, and dug and sewed and baked and built and carpentered round about these useless animals.'

'There!' said the old man, reverting to his dry sulky manner again. 'There's eloquence! I suppose you like it?'

'Yes,' said I, very emphatically.

'Well,' said he, 'now the storm of eloquence has lulled for a little, suppose you answer my question? that is, if you like, you know,' quoth he, with a sudden access of courtesy.

'What question? said I. For I must confess that Ellen's strange and almost wild beauty had put it out of my head.

Said he: 'First of all (excuse my catechizing), is there competition in life, after the old kind, in the country whence you come?'

'Yes,' said I, 'it is the rule there.' And I wondered as I spoke what fresh complications I should get into as a result of this answer.

'Question two,' said the carle: 'Are you not on the whole much freer, more energetic - in a word, healthier and happier for it?'

I smiled. 'You wouldn't talk so if you had any idea of our life. To me you seem here as if you were living in heaven compared with us of the country from which I came.'

'Heaven?' said he: 'you like heaven, do you?'

'Yes,' said I - snappishly, I am afraid; for I was beginning rather to resent his formula.

'Well, I am far from sure that I do,' quoth he. 'I think one may do more with one's life than sitting on a damp cloud and singing hymns.'

I was rather nettled by this inconsequence, and said: 'Well, neighbor, to be short, and without using metaphors, in the land whence I come, where the competition which produced those literary works which you admire so much is still the rule, most people are thoroughly unhappy; here, to me at least, most people seem thoroughly happy.'

'No offense, guest - no offense,' said he; 'but let me ask you; you like that, do you?'

His formula, put with such obstinate persistence, made us all laugh heartily; and even the old man joined in the laughter on the sly. However, he was by no means beaten, and said presently: 

'From all I can hear, I should judge that a young woman so beautiful as my dear Ellen yonder would have been a lady, as they called it in the old time, and wouldn't have had to wear a few rags of silk as she does now, or to have browned herself in the sun as she has to do now. What do you say to that, eh?'

Here Clara, who had been pretty much silent hitherto, struck in and said: 'Well, really, I don't think that you would have mended matters, or that they want mending. Don't you see that she is dressed deliciously for this beautiful weather? And as for the sun-burning of your hay-fields, why, I hope to pick up some of that for myself when we get a little higher up the river. Look if I don't need a little sun on my pasty white skin!'

And she stripped up the sleeve from her arm and laid it beside Ellen's who was now sitting next her. To say the truth, it was rather amusing to me to see Clara putting herself forward as a town-bred fine lady, for she was as well-knit and clean-skinned a girl as might be met with anywhere at the best. Dick stroked the beautiful arm rather shyly, and pulled down the sleeve again, while she blushed at his touch; and the old man said laughingly: "Well, I suppose you do like that; don't you?'

Ellen kissed her new friend, and we all sat silent for a little, till she broke out into a sweet shrill song, and held us all entranced with the wonder of her clear voice; and the old grumbler sat looking at her lovingly. The other young people sang also in due time; and then Ellen showed us to our beds in small cottage chambers, fragrant and clean as the ideal of the old pastoral poets; and the pleasure of the evening quite extinguished my fear of the last night, that I should wake up in the old miserable world of worn-out pleasures, and hopes that were half fears.

All along, though those friends were so real to me, I had been feeling as if I had no business amongst them: as though the time would come when they would reject me, and say, as Ellen's last mournful look seemed to say, 'No, it will not do; you cannot be of us; you belong so entirely to the unhappiness of the past that our happiness even would weary you. Go back again, now you have seen us, and your outward eyes have learned that in spite of all the infallible maxims of your day there is yet a time of rest in store for the world, when mastery has changed into fellowship - but not before. Go back again, then, and while you live you will see all round you people engaged in making others live lives which are not their own, while they themselves care nothing for their own real lives - men who hate life though they fear death. Go back and be the happier for having seen us, for having added a little hope to your struggle. Go on living while you may, striving, with whatsoever pain and labor needs must be, to build up little by little the new day of fellowship, and rest, and happiness.'

Yes, surely! and if others can see it as I have seen it, then it may be called a vision rather than a dream.

pp. 154­158, 220
Feral Faun

"Feral Revolution"

hen I was a very young child, my life was filled with intense pleasure and a vital energy that caused me to feel what I experienced to the full. I was the center of this marvelous, playful existence and felt no need to rely on anything but my own living experience to fulfill me. 

I felt intensely, I experienced intensely, my life was a festival of passion and pleasure. My disappointments and sorrows were also intense. I was born a free, wild being in the midst of a society based upon domestication. There was no way that I could escape being domesticated myself. Civilization will not tolerate what is wild in its midst. But I never forgot the intensity that life could be. I never forgot the vital energy that had surged through me. My existence since I first began to notice that this vitality was being drained away has been a warfare between the needs of civilized survival and the need to break loose and experience the full intensity of life unbound.

I want to experience this vital energy again. I want to know the free-spirited wildness of my unrepressed desires realizing themselves in festive play. I want to smash down every wall that stands between me and the intense, passionate life of untamed freedom that I want. The sum of these walls is everything we call civilization, everything that comes between us and the direct, participatory experience of the wild world. Around us has grown a web of domination, a web of mediation that limits our experience, defining the boundaries of acceptable production and consumption.

Domesticating authority takes many forms, some of which are difficult to recognize. Government, capital and religion are some of the more obvious faces of authority. But technology, work, language with its conceptual limits, the ingrained habits of etiquette and propriety - these too are domesticating authorities which transform us from wild, playful, unruly animals into tamed, bored, unhappy producers and consumers. These things work in us insidiously, limiting our imaginations, usurping our desires, suppressing our lived experience. And it is the world created by these authorities, the civilized world, in which we live. If my dream of a life filled with intense pleasure and wild adventure is to be realized, the world must be radically transformed, civilization must fall before expanding wilderness, authority must fall before the energy of our wild freedom. There must be - for want of a better word - a revolution.

But a revolution that can break down civilization and restore the vital energy of untamed desire cannot be like any revolution of the past. All revolutions to date have centered around power, its use and redistribution. They have not sought to eradicate the social institutions that domesticate; at best they have only sought to eradicate the power relationships within those institutions. So revolutionaries of the past have aimed their attacks at the centers of power seeking to overthrow it. Focused on power, they were blind to the insidious forces of domination that encompass our daily existence and so, when successful at overthrowing the powers that be, they ended up re-creating them. To avoid this, we need to focus not on power, but on our desire to go wild, to experience life to the full, to know intense pleasure and wild adventure. As we attempt to realize this desire, we confront the real forces of domination, the forces that we face every moment of every day. These forces have no single center that can be overthrown. They are a web that binds us. So rather than trying to overthrow the powers that be, we want to undermine domination as we confront it every day, helping the already collapsing civilization to break down more quickly and as it falls, the centers of power will fall with it. Previous revolutionaries have only explored the well-mapped territories of power. I want to explore and adventure in the unmapped, and unmappable, territories of wild freedom. The revolution that can create the world I want has to be a feral revolution.

There can be no programs or organizations for feral revolution, because wildness cannot spring from a program or organization. Wildness springs from the freeing of our instincts and desires, from the spontaneous expression of our passions. Each of us has experienced the processes of domestication, and this experience can give us the knowledge we need to undermine civilization and transform our lives. Our distrust of our own experience is probably what keeps us from rebelling as freely and actively as we'd like. We're afraid of fucking up, we're afraid of our own ignorance. But this distrust and fear have been instilled in us by authority. It keeps us from really growing and learning. It makes us easy targets for any authority that is ready to fill us. To set up "revolutionary" programs is to play on this fear and distrust, to reinforce the need to be told what to do. No attempt to go feral can be successful when based on such programs. We need to learn to trust and act upon our own feelings and experiences, if we are ever to be free.

So I offer no programs. What I will share is some thoughts on ways to explore. Since we all have been domesticated, part of the revolutionary process is a process of personal transformation. We have been conditioned not to trust ourselves, not to feel completely, not to experience life intensely. We have been conditioned to accept the humiliation of work and pay as inescapable, to relate to things as resources to be used, to feel the need to prove ourselves by producing. We have been conditioned to expect disappointment, to see it as normal, not to question it. We have been conditioned to accept the tedium of civilized survival rather than breaking free and really living. We need to explore ways of breaking down this conditioning, of getting as free of our domestication as we can now. Let's try to get so free of this conditioning that it ceases to control us and becomes nothing more than a role we use when necessary for survival in the midst of civilization as we strive to undermine it.

In a very general way, we know what we want. We want to live as wild, free beings in a world of wild, free beings. The humiliation of having to follow rules, of having to sell our lives away to buy survival, of seeing our usurped desires transformed into abstractions and images in order to sell us commodities fills us with rage. How long will we put up with this misery? We want to make this world into a place where our desires can be immediately realized, not just sporadically, but normally. We want to re-eroticize our lives. We want to live not in a dead world of resources, but in a living world of free wild lovers. We need to start exploring the extent to which we are capable of living these dreams in the present without isolating ourselves. This will give us a clearer understanding of the domination of civilization over our lives, an understanding which will allow us to fight domestication more intensely and so expand the extent to which we can live wildly.

Attempting to live as wildly as possible now will also help break down our social conditioning. This will spark a wild prankishness in us which will take aim at all that would tame it, undermining civilization and creating new ways of living and sharing with each other. These explorations will expose the limits of civilization's domination and will show its inherent opposition to freedom. We will discover possibilities we have never before imaginedvast expanses of wild freedom. Projects, ranging from sabotage and pranks that expose or undermine the dominant society, to the expansion of wilderness, to festivals and orgies and general free sharing, can point to amazing possibilities.

Feral revolution is an adventure. It is the daring exploration of going wild. It takes us into unknown territories for which no maps exist. We can only come to know these territories if we dare to explore them actively. We must dare to destroy whatever destroys our wildness and to act on our instincts and desires. We must dare to trust in ourselves, our experiences and our passions. Then we will not let ourselves be chained or penned in. We will not allow ourselves to be tamed. Our feral energy will rip civilization to shreds and create a life of wild freedom and intense pleasure.

in Demolition Derby #1, 1988, p. 30



"Don't Eat Your Revolution! Make 

It!" (1995)


n November 7 all the Stalinists gathered on Oktyabrskaya Square in Moscow under the still-standing huge Lenin. Later they headed to Red Square, followed by some small groups of Trotskyists and even some anarchists who successfully created an illusion that "young people" were with them. While the latters' red-n-black banners and dull papers were surely unable to destroy the traditional way of celebrating the October revolution day, the assault came from where nobody expected it. As the demonstrators were going down their route they inevitably confronted a small group of some vocal revolutionaries who were standing on the side of the road under the banner of 'primitive communism' (made of fake red fur) who were fearlessly banging their big drum. As the crowd passed by them and tried to find out what they wanted to say, the atmosphere was getting more and more tense. "The Blind" (that is the name of an artistic group) announced that people who gathered at the demo had nothing to do with revolution, that they 'ate' their revolution and shitted it out, that the only thing they can do is ask the government for more money. Their poster announced "Proletarians of all lands, enough eating!" Instead of asking the government for more money, The Blind announced, we should make another revolution and realize the realprimitivecommunism. We should care less about material things and instead turn our attention to people around us. After the demo passed and the shouts "They are Jews, Zionists! Go back to Israel!" addressed to The Blind finally dissolved in the air, the 'primitive communists' headed back home and were stopped by police, who asked for their IDs. In spite of that, the affair ended peacefully.
in News & Views From (the former) Sovietsky-Soyuz, February 1995

Glenn Parton

"The Machine in Our Heads" (1997)


he environmental crisis consists of the deterioration and outright destruction of micro and macro ecosystems worldwide, entailing the elimination of countless numbers of wild creatures from the air, land, and sea, with many species being pushed to the brink of extinction, and into extinction. People who passively allow this to happen, not to mention those who actively promote it for economic or other reasons, are already a good distance down the road to insanity. Most people do not see, understand, or care very much about this catastrophe of the planet because they are overwhelmingly preoccupied with grave psychological problems. The environmental crisis is rooted in the psychological crisis of the modern individual. This makes the search for an eco-psychology crucial; we must understand better what terrible thing is happening to the modern human mind, why it is happening, and what can be done about it.
Deep Thinking

The solution to the global environmental crisis we face today depends far less on the dissemination of new information than it does on the re-emergence into consciousness of old ideas. Primitive ideas or tribal ideaskinship, solidarity, community, direct democracy, diversity, harmony with natureprovide the framework or foundation of any rational or sane society. Today, these primal ideas, gifts of our ancestral heritage, are blocked from entering consciousness. The vast majority of modern people cannot see the basic truths that our ancient ancestors knew and that we must know again, about living within the balance of nature. We are lost in endless political debates, scientific research, and compromises because what is self-evident to the primitive mind has been forgotten.

For hundreds of thousands of years, until the beginning of civilization about 10,000 years ago, humans lived in tribal societies, which produced tribal consciousnessa set of workable ideas or guiding principles concerning living together successfully on a diverse and healthy planet. The invasion of civilization into one tribal locale after another, around the globe, has been so swift and deadly that we may speak of the trauma of civilization. Because tribal peoples were unprepared and unable to deal with the onslaught of civilization, tribal consciousness was driven underground, becoming something forbidden and dangerous. Conquered peoples became afraid to think and act according to the old ways, on pain of death. There is much fear that lies at the origin of civilization.

Ontogeny recapitulates phylogenythat is to say, the development of the individual is an abbreviated repetition of the development of the species. In childhood, a modern person travels an enormous distance between stone-age primitive creature and responsible contemporary citizen. When confronted with the awesome power of civilizationwhose first representatives are parents, teachers, priests (and, later on, police officers, legislators and bosses)the child faces, psychologically, the same situation as its tribal ancestors, namely, conform to the dictates of civilization or die. The helplessness of childhood makes the threat of bodily harm or loss of love, which is used by the parents and others to enforce civilized morality and civilized education, a traumatic experience. The developing little person becomes afraid to express its own tribal nature. There is much fear that lies at the bottom of becoming a civilized adult.

When the child becomes aware of ideas and impulses that oppose the dictates of civilization, s/he experiences anxiety, which is the signal for danger. It is not the insights and urges themselves that the child fears, but rather the reaction to them on the part of those in charge. Since the child cannot escape from those who control its life, s/he runs away from dangerous thoughts and feelings. In other words, the child institutes repression of its primitive self. Tribal ideas are now isolated, cut off from awareness, and unable to properly influence the future course of events.

The trauma or inescapable terror of civilization is responsible for the derangement of reason. That inner dialogue in the human mind that is the hallmark of self-consciousness has ceased, because the depth-dimension of reflective thought, which is the primitive mind, has been silenced. Modern people no longer hear their own primal voice, and without interaction between new ideas and old ideas, the demands of the individual and the demands of the tribe (and species), there is no deep thinking. On the contrary, when reason is cut off at the roots, it becomes shallow, unable to determine what is of true value in life.

The passage of tribal ideas from the oldest and deepest layer of the mind into individual consciousness is part of the natural, normal functioning of the human mind. Deep thinking is not the result of education; it is innate, our birthright as Homo sapiens. What civilization has done is to disrupt the free flow of ideas in the human mind by shutting down the primitive mind through traumatic socialization. In such a situation, cut off from the time-tested and proven ideas of prehistory, reason becomes one-dimensional, and is unable to solve the problems of modern life. No amount of new information can replace tribal wisdom, which provides the foundation for any good and decent life.

None of what has been said here denies the concept of progress, but it means that genuine progress is the outcome of deep mental dialogue in which new ideas are accepted or rejected by reference to that great complex of old ideas that have been perfected and passed down from one generation to the next generation over many millennia. In other words, genuine progress builds on basic truth. This is not idealization of primitive culture, but conscious recognition of its solid, intelligent achievements. Because civilization repudiates primitive, basic truth, we have no frame of reference for a good and decent life. What we call progress in the modern world is the aimless and reckless rampage of lost individuals. When one is lost, it is necessary to go back to the place where one had one's bearings, and start anew from there.

The False Self

We have internalized our masters, which is a well-known psychological response to trauma. When faced with overwhelming terror, the human mind splits, with part of itself modeling itself after the oppressor. This is an act of appeasement: "Look," the mind says in effect, "I am like you, so do not harm me." As a result of the civilizing process, together with this psychological defense mechanism known as "identification with the aggressor", we now hear the alien voices of the various representatives of civilization in our heads. Because of these alien ego-identifications we no longer hear our own tribal/primal voice. In order for deep thinking to commence again in the human mind, it is necessary to break down these internal authorities, overcome the resistances, that prevent tribal ideas from coming to consciousness. The modern problem is not simply that we do not listen to primal ideas, but rather that primal ideas are unable to come to consciousness at all, because of the internal counterforces, or ego-alien identifications, that contradict and overpower them.

These ego-alien identifications, built up over the course of a lifetime, cohere and form a distinct, circumscribed personality, or false self, that represents and enforces the rules and regulations of civilization. This false self is observable in the frozen facial expressions, stereotypic gestures, and unexamined behavioral patterns of the general public. This false self determines much of our everyday lives, so that we are seldom the origin of our actions. We lapse into the false self at the first sign of danger, under stress, or simply because it is the path of least resistance. In this unthinking mode of social role playing, we internally reproduce our own oppression.

Trauma is a necessary part of civilizing someone, because a natural, maturing individual will not otherwise accept the ideals of civilization. These ideals - hierarchy, property, the State, for example - are so contrary to our tribal nature that they must be forcibly thrust into the human mind. This causes the mind to rupture, to divide its territorythat is, to surrender a part of itself to the invading enemy. For this reason, the false self is never really integrated into the human mind, but instead occupies the mind, as a foreign body, standing apart from and above normal/healthy mental life.

The Original Self

Beneath the false self, there still lives the original identity of the person. This original self is older than, and other than, the foreign personality that has been imposed upon it. This original self or primitive ego is the person one was in childhoodbefore the mind was ruptured by the trauma of civilizationand the person one still is at the core of one's personal identity. This original self is closely connected to the oldest layer of the psyche. It is an individually differentiated portion of the primitive mindthe first, personal organization of the primitive mind. As such, it has direct access to primal wisdom, an internally directed perceptivity, that permits the entry into consciousness, as well as the passage into activity, of tribal ideas.

In civilization, this original self is caught in the middle of a war between the status quo false self and the uprising of the tribal self. Even when an individual succeeds in holding its own personal identity, refusing to slip into the false self, the primal voice may remain unheard, smothered by the false self. As a distinct, circumscribed personality, the false self achieves a counter-will of its own that is always operational in the sick mind, at least in terms of repressing tribal ideas. Tribal ideas threaten civilization, so they cannot pass through the censorship of the false self, which functions specifically to ward off all serious challenges to civilization.

Furthermore, the false self tends to become more autonomous and extensive, owing to improved forms of social control and manipulation of consciousness in the modern worldadvertising, for example. Once the mind is broken, the false self, backed by the relentless power of civilization, takes over our lives. The original or primary self has become autistic, or severely withdrawn from active engagement with social reality. However, there remains some awareness, at least sometimes, of our primary identity beneath the false self, and so there is hope for lifting the repressionsset down most effectively in childhoodon primitive mental processes.

The True Self

Through identification, which is a normal psychological basis of personality development, the original identity of the person is stretched into something more and greater, on its path to the true self. This process of identification becomes pathological only when the continuity of the personality is not preserved, i.e. when there is a splitting in two of the mind, giving rise to a new psychic structurea false self. This rupture of the mind is unfortunately precisely what occurs through compulsory training and education of contemporary civilized human beings. In contrast, the development of the natural and sane human mind does not entail any sharp delimitations between its various stages and functions. The true self is a continuation and culmination of the original self; it develops out of the original self, just as the original self develops out of the tribal self. In sum, psychical reality consists of the tribal self, together with the original self, and the dynamic interplay between them is responsible for the development of the true self. The true self is something that unfolds/progresses. Traumatic civilization has not eliminated the original self, but it has stopped the flow of tribal ideas into consciousness, which arrests or distorts the higher/maturer development of the personality. In order to resume deep thinking in the human mind, so that we can become our true self, it is necessary to push back and ultimately dissolve civilization, internally and externally.

The Message

The sadness of the modern age is that the public needs to be reminded of "unchangeable human needs." This truth is not something to be imposed upon them, but something to be evoked within them. The fact is that people do not feel satisfied in the roles assigned to them by civilization. There is a widespread feeling that one's true identity or potential is not being fulfilled, but unfortunately there is no awareness of the tribal selfexcept among a small minority of individuals. Once the message of a tribal self is re-introduced into public consciousness, it may lie dormant in the minds of individuals for a long time, but it is never entirely forgotten again, as it was in childhood. This message is the catalyst for an intellectual awakening among the population, accompanied by the feeling that something old and familiar has been uncovered.

The power of this message to move an individual is due to the psychological fact that, although repression shuts down deep thinking, tribal ideas continue to push for entrance into consciousness. The mind seeks always to integrate all its ideas into one comprehensible whole. Whatever is part of the repressed unconscious is trying to penetrate into consciousness. When an individual gets the idea of a tribal self from an external source, via the message, it takes hold deep down. The message appeals to the conscious mind, tugs at it, rings true because it touches and stirs the repressed truth that is striving to break into awareness. For this reason, the triumph of civilization over the tribal self is never secure, so there must be a constant bombardment of lies and distortions from the representatives of civilization.

Whether or not an individual awakens to the message of a tribal self depends on the mental condition of one's personal life. Crisis can open a person to ideas that would otherwise be shunned or rejected. A desperate or confused person seeking help may accept the notion of a tribal self intellectually, because it makes sense of one's life-history; but this is not yet to grasp tribal ideas from within, the result of deep mental dialogue. Intellectual awareness of one's tribal self, via the message, is the first prerequisite of a sane person, but it is not enough, not the same thing as hearing one's own primal voice. Each individual must validate or prove, for itself, the message or theory of a tribal self.

The Journey Outward

What is required in order to hear one's own primal voice and resume deep thinking is a journey outward by the original self, which is a matter of fighting to live according to fundamental ideas that one recognizes as good and right, a tribal ideal. This is the path of a warrior because civilization without (laws, institutions, and technologies) and within (the false self) is organized against it. It takes inner resolve and courage to go against civilization, outwardly or inwardly. The path of a tribal warrior in the modern world has nothing to do with picking up a spear or wearing a loin cloth; rather, it involves committing to, and standing up for the great ideas of prehistory: face-to-face democracy, rivers and streams as drinking places, respect for wildlife, etc. These ideas do not require more data, arguments, congresses or conferences because they are the irrefutable elements of original knowledge. The warrior stands on the unshakable foundation of basic truth, and the vicious lies of civilizationthat the Earth is property, or that the common good results from each person maximizing its own self-interest, for exampleare dismissed as the meaningless babble of the ignorant.

The psychodynamics of the cure consists in overcoming our fear of deep thinking by strengthening the original ego, through everyday practice, to the point that it no longer turns away from its own subversive ideas. We are afraid to think deeply or critically, due to the horror of the past. It is safer not to think about tribal ideas, and spare oneself the painful memories of punishment (and the attacks of anxiety) that are associated with the recall of these ideas. The childhood fear that one will be murdered or grossly harmed for primitive thinking lives on.

The child settles for an unsatisfactory adaptation to social realitynamely, repression of its tribal self because it is unable to deal with the threatening menace of civilization in any other way. However, adults are no longer in the helpless position of childhood; it is no longer necessary to give up the struggle with civilization. There is plenty of opportunity in our everyday lives to question and refuse humiliating and debilitating authority. What matters, for now, is not that we win this or that battle with external reality, but that we stay true to tribal ideas in the face of civilization, and integrate them into the conduct or character of our lives. This is what slowly brings about a radical change in the personality.

The path of a warrior is that of upholding a tribal idealwith the therapeutic aim of bringing a strengthened ego into direct and open communication with the tribal mind, which dissolves the false self (and its punishment mechanism).

The personal journey of loosening the grip of the false self by strengthening the primary self is certainly not by itself going to bring about the overthrow of civilization; but it is the subjective precondition for building an environmental movement that will achieve this end. The public is firmly in the grip of the false self, which means that a revolution is definitely not on the agenda. The influencing machine of civilization is in our heads, and we must defeat it there first; for it is not to be expected that people brutally held down (for 10,000 years) by counter-revolutionary forces will revoltuntil the psychological groundwork of liberation has been adequately prepared. After enough of us have done the hard inner work of self-restorationthat is, re-claimed enough of our sanity, then we will come together in tribal units and smash civilization.


Human unhappiness within civilization is widespread and growing. People feel increasingly empty, anxious, depressed, and angry. Everyone is seeking an answer to serious mental problems. The Chinese ideogram for crisis combines the sign of "danger" with that of "opportunity." This is exactly where we are in history, at the crossroads between two radically different futures. On the one hand, there is the danger of insanity, and on the other hand, the opportunity for a return of tribalism.

The Path to Insanity

Basic, vital needs or tribal needs are not being satisfied in civilization, and this produces frustration, which in turn activates aggression. As civilization "progresses" toward global interlock among new technological forms, we are removed farther and farther from the simple and basic joys of lifesitting in a shaft of sunlight, conversing around a fire, food-sharing, walking, the blue sky overheadand so frustration and aggression also progress. More and more of a person's concern and compassion for others and the natural world are withdrawing, and re-focusing on the self, in order to neutralize the growing frustration and anger within. This is the psychological explanation for the culture of selfishness that is underway everywhere in the modern worldthe first step on the road to insanity.

The second step, which is now on the horizon, is megalomania, a severe pathological state of consciousness in which the steady withdrawal of love from others and nature gives rise to the deluded mental condition of exalted self-importance. The megalomaniac feels more and more powerful, euphoric, and in control of things (due to an abnormally inflated self-love), while in reality s/he is becoming more and more isolated, impotent, and out of control (due to an excessive loss of love for others and nature). This pathological condition of megalomania is fueled by inner hatred, which is desperately seeking pacification by consuming more and more of a person's available love, but it fails entirely to deal with the root-cause of our mental illnessnamely, unmet primitive needs.

If people cannot access the tribal ideas that inform them of basic needs, then they cannot find the proper targetnamely, civilizationfor their frustration and aggression. As a result, rage is trapped in our minds and bodies and is destined to reach heights that are psychologically unbearable for any individual, which leads to madness. Insanity, the third and final stage of civilization, occurs when the original self becomes a tortured prisoner within the walls of its own fears, frustrations, and hostility. It is now extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reach and influence the original self with any rational message.

The Path to Sanity

Civilization has enslaved us in the chains of dependency, isolation, and artificiality. All that we have suffered in civilization still exists in our mindsfor nothing vanishes from the human mindand it is accumulating into rage. The mechanism that civilization employs in order to prevent this rage from discharging itself against its sourcenamely, civilizationis the establishment of a dictatorship in our heads, a false self, that re-directs this rage toward the citizen in the form of self-blame. According to the false self, each individual is to blame for its own misery. The false self gets the energy it needs to punish and enslave us from our own blind frustration and aggression. Without conscious commitment to a tribal ideal, a firm hold on basic truth, by which to evaluate, condemn, and go against civilization, a person is at the mercy of its own mounting disappointment and aggression that the false self is designed to turn inward.

The tribal ideal is a staff for strengthening the original self and fighting off the false self. By upholding a tribal ideal, sometimes through the spoken word, sometimes through action, and sometimes through silence, we build self-respect on a solid foundation; for at the core of our being we are still fiercely independent, intelligent creatures, with strong affective ties to small human groups and large natural/wild places.

The importance of this self-respect as a prime motivator of human nature can hardly be overstated; it may enable an individual to defy civilization, even in the face of the hatred of the whole modern world. When an individual acquires fundamental self-respect, then s/he will be made a fool no longer, and all the blows of civilization are nothing but the battlescars of a proud warrior. Civilization is powerless against it, because a person who has re-claimed fundamental self-respect cares nothing about the laws and standards of civilization.

This self-respect leads to genuine self-love, the second and decisive step on the path to sanity, for self-love (and happiness in large measure) consists in becoming one's own ideal again, as in childhood. This self-love eventually overflows and becomes love for others and for external nature. Concern for life on Earth is the result of a surplus of love, or as Nietzsche put it, "abundance in oneself the over-great fullness of life the feeling of plenitude and increased energy." In other words, caring for life on Earth flows from an unbroken and expanding primary and healthy narcissism. Without this caring that flows from self-love, science and ethics will preach in vain for the preservation of biological diversity, ecological integrity, and real wilderness. 

The megalomaniac or pathological narcissist has no love for others or for nature, because s/he needs all available psychic energy, and even more, in order to stave off a false self that is becoming more demanding and brutal. In megalomania, the backward flow of love, away from others and nature and toward the self, is a defensive reaction to the underlying reality of intensifying personal hurt and hatred: the original self is becoming weaker, and the false self stronger, because the gross injury to the psyche of the human being, by the trauma of civilization, festers.

Identification with the tribal ideal is the antidote to the massive narcissistic wounds inflicted on us by civilization, and it threatens civilization with disintegration because it goes to the source of our injury and begins to heal it. The third and final stage of the making of a revolutionary or eco-radical occurs when an individual, after arduous intellectual praxis, either remembers or intuits basic truth. The individual now hears its own primal voice, which rises up from within as an unstoppable conscious drive to assist fellow creatures and to make a positive contribution to the planet.

In sum, the path to sanity begins with the awareness of a tribal self. A personal commitment to this ideal builds self-respect, which in turn builds self-love. This self-love eventually overflows to take in others and nature. At last, individuals are psychologically secure and strong enough to enter into cooperative associations with one another in favor of a mass movement aimed at re-establishing small human villages, embedded in a healthy/wild landscape.


When the final crisis of civilization comes in the 21st Century, the present system will do whatever is necessary to perpetuate itself. People who are in the stranglehold of the false self will support whatever the system does, including the exploitation and destruction of National Parks, Designated Wilderness Areas, and The Wildlands Project (whatever it achieves). Unless people possess an assured, sane psychological core, everything else is in jeopardy. The personal pursuit of sanity is, or will shortly become, the overriding issue for the vast majority of people, and toward this end, each person, isolated and fearful in modern society, must be armed with an ideal or vision of what s/he would like to be and should be. There is nothing better to offer people than a tribal ideal. It is, then, up to each person to do the difficult psychological work of personal liberation that must precede real change. This personal task of healing the mind can be and must be accomplished, to a decisive point, in modern-day circumstances.

in Green Anarchist, Summer 1997, pp. 16­17
Alon K. Raab

"Revolt of the Bats" (1995)

North America, Turtle Island, taken

by invaders who wage war

on the world,

May ants, may abalone, otters,

wolves, and elk rise!

and pull away their giving 

from the robot nations.

Gary Snyder
Mother Earth: Her Whales
he animals are fighting back. By tooth and claw, by wing and paw, they are waging a war against civilized tyranny and destruction. Sympathetic humans are burning down farm and fur ranch equipment, 

demolishing butcher shops, and trying to stop rodeos, circuses, and other forms of "entertainment." But the animals are also acting as their own defenders, fighting for their own liberation.

These actions of revolt are done by individual animals, as well as by whole communities, and take many forms. Escape from captivity is a commonly employed tactic.

Here I would like to remember and salute the orangutan who escaped from his prison cell at the Kansas City Zoo in June 1990 by unscrewing four large bolts; the West African Cape clawless otter who, in December 1991, pushed her way through the wired cage at the Portland zoological incarceration facilities; an alligator who climbed a high ramp at a Seattle science exhibition in October 1991 and vanished for several hours; the elephant at the Louisville Zoo who escaped in June 1994; the sea otter "Cody" who in September 1993, armed with a fiberglass bolt pried from the floor of the Oregon Coast Aquarium took aim at a window and shattered one of the glass layers; the chimpanzees "Ai" and "Akira" at the Kyoto University Primates Research institute, who used keys taken from a guard to open their cages, cross the hall to free their orangutan friend "Doodoo," and bolt to freedom.

In April 1990, a cow destined for a Turkish slaughterhouse leapt from the truck onto the roof of a car carrying a provincial governor, crushing it and injuring the official. The fate of the cow was not reported, but one hopes she was able to make her way into the hills. A decade earlier, near the town of Salem, Oregon, "Rufus" the bull knocked down the door of a truck carrying him to be butchered, and roamed freely for a few days until captured by bounty hunters, and returned to his "owner." And in Cairo, Egypt, in June 1993, during the Muslim Eid-Al-Adha ("feast of sacrifice"), a bull escaped upon catching a glimpse of the butcher's knife. The animal chased its would-be slaughterer up to his third floor apartment, wrecking furniture and forcing him to hide in the bedroom.

Some of the animals were recaptured and returned to their prisons, but the otter, who was last seen crossing the roadway between the Portland Zoo and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, making her way into the nearby forests, is a true inspiration, and hopefully a harbinger of many more daring dashes.

Sometimes free animals are in a strategic position to resist greed and profit. In 1991, a bald eagle blocked plans for a three million dollar road expansion project in Central Oregon by nesting near Highway 20. An eagle standing in the way of motorized mania is a beautiful sight to behold.

There are animals who carry the battle a step further, like the wren, nesting in a Washington, D. C. traffic light, who swooped down to attack business people. Other birds commit suicide by entering military plane engines and decommissioning them. In a show of solidarity for a fellow animal, the mule "Ruthie" kicked her rider, Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus, during a hunting trip, as he was loading a murdered elk onto her. Andrus suffered a broken nose and deep lacerations.

The Belgian spaniel who discharged a shotgun, killing hunter Jean Guillaume, the elephant who gored hunter Alan Lowe in Zimbabwe, and the cow who killed Quebec farmer Origene Ste-beanne when he tried to steal her newborn calf, are also worthy of our respect. I prefer persuasion and education to the taking of life, but there is poetic justice in these accounts. 

When animals band together they are able to unleash a mighty power. Several years ago, in the depths of the suburban wastelands of Springfield, Massachusetts, ring-billed gulls bombarded a new golf course and its patrons with golf balls. The shocked golfers were forced to withdraw from their favorite water-and-land-wasting activity for several weeks, and consider the fact that for many years these lands were nesting grounds for the birds.

In the summer of 1989, downtown Fort Worth, Texas, came to a halt when thousands of Mexican free-tail bats descended on the city. In the early years of this century, bats wreaked much havoc on many Texas towns. In Austin, bats invaded the courthouse and Capitol building, flying through court sessions, stopping trials and nesting in the dark and cool buildings.

The bats that appeared in Fort Worth chewed into telephone lines and interrupted business as usual. The bats were a reminder to the local population, encased in glass and steel tombstones known as "offices," that this world is much more complex and wondrous than anything taught in management courses. After a day, the bats vanished as they had come, into the unknown.

In the ancient myths of humanity, a special place of respect is given to animals. Affecting people in mysterious ways, and embodying particular qualities, they acted as messengers, as bearers of souls and gifts, and as symbols of all that was wonderful and magical. Birds, fish and mammals (and their many mutations with humans) were presented in myriad ways. A common theme was their ability to fend off hostile human attacks, through trickery, playfulness and wisdom. Coyote and Raven of the Northwest Coast of Turtle Island, the Keen Keeng of Australian dream time, and the sacred bee of Rhodes, are but some of the many magical beings who protected themselves and the lives of other animals and plants.

Once writing developed, accounts of animals opposing human arrogance and avarice abounded in the literature of natural history. We need only look at the inspiring reports provided by the Roman, Pliny the Elder. He marvels at elephants who trampled hunters, refusing to fight their kin in circuses and attempting to break loose from their shackles. Pliny also wrote of dolphins who rushed to rescue other dolphins from captivity, and of wild horses, loons, oxen, dogfish, rabbits and giant centipedes who resisted humans and often won. His accounts also include many instances of alliances between animals and aware humans, each assisting the other, and gaining mutual love and respect.

The medieval work, On the Criminal Persecution of Animals, provides in great detail the legacies of pigs, cows, sparrows, ravens, sheep, mules, horses and even worms, who brought destruction upon the human world. Animals disturbing church services, interrupting religious processions at their most solemn moment, and spoiling food supplies were common occurrences. As ancient traditions celebrating the sanctity of nature were rooted out and replaced by an anti-life world view, these animals were accused of being in league with demonic forces. The Christian courts held them responsible for their actions. The "criminals" were tried in regular courts of law, convicted and severely punished. In their pious zeal, the accusers missed the fact that the two-legged and four-legged beings were engaged in guerrilla warfare. They were revolting against humans who were attacking the rivers, valleys and forests. They were opposing the invaders who were engaged in that process of control, euphemistically called "domestication," which, in reality, is enslavement and ecocide.

We are now living in the age of rationality and science, where well-meaning people feel no shame blurting out cliches like "finding the balance between the environment and economic interests," or "managing wildlife," as if wilderness was a commodity to profit from, control and manipulate.

The destruction of the wild (out there, and in our own souls) proceeds at an ever-maddening pace. Let us hope that acts of self-defense and resistance by animals, fish, birds and their human brothers and sisters increases. Let these actions multiply and intensify until human tyranny is thrown off and replaced by a community of free living beings, assisting each other in this magical journey, and reforging the ancient bonds of beauty and camaraderie.

in The Bear Essential, Summer 1995, pp. 18­19
Kirkpatrick Sale

Rebels Against the Future: 

Lessons from the Luddites (1995)


ndustrial civilization is today the water we swim in, and we seem almost as incapable of imagining what an alternative might look like, or even realizing that an alternative could exist, as fish in the ocean.

The political task of resistance today, thenbeyond the "quiet acts" of personal withdrawal Mumford urgesis to try to make the culture of industrialism and its assumptions less invisible and to put the issue of its technology on the political agenda, in industrial societies as well as their imitators. In the words of Neil Postman, a professor of communications at New York University and author of Technopoly, "it is necessary for a great debate" to take place in industrial society between "technology and everybody else" around all the issues of the "uncontrolled growth of technology" in recent decades. This means laying out as clearly and fully as possible the costs and consequences of our technologies, in the near term and long, so that even those overwhelmed by the ease/comfort/speed/power of high-tech gadgetry (what Mumford called technical "bribery") are forced to understand at what price it all comes and who is paying for it. What purpose does this machine serve? What problem has become so great that it needs this solution? Is this invention nothing but, as Thoreau put it, an improved means to an unimproved end? It also means forcing some awareness of who the principal beneficiaries of the new technology arethey tend to be the large, bureaucratic, complex, and secretive organizations of the industrial worldand trying to make public all the undemocratic ways they make the technological choices that so affect all the rest of us. Who are the winners, who the losers? Will this concentrate or disperse power, encourage or discourage self-worth? Can society at large afford it? Can the biosphere?

Ultimately this "great debate" of course has to open out into wider questions about industrial society itself, its values and purposes, its sustainability. It is no surprise that the Luddites were unable to accomplish this in the face of an immensely self-satisfied laissez-faire plutocracy whose access to means of forcing debates and framing issues was considerably greater than theirs. Today, though, that task ought not to be so difficultin spite of the continued opposition of a plutocracy grown only more powerful and complacentparticularly because after two centuries it is now possible to see the nature off industrial civilization and its imperiling direction so much more clearly.

Certain home-truths are beginning to be understood, at least in most industrial societies, by increasing numbers of people: some of the fish at least not only seem to be seeing the water but realizing it is polluted. Industrialism, built upon machines designed to exploit and produce for human betterment alone, is on a collision course with the biosphere. Industrial societies, which have shown themselves capable of creating material abundance for a few and material improvement for many, are nonetheless shot through with inequality, injustice, instability, and incivility, deficiencies that seem to increase rather than decrease with technical advancement. Industrialism does not stand superior, on any level other than physical comfort and power and a problematic longevity of life, to many other societies in the long range of the human experiment, particularly those, morally based and earth-regarding, that did serve the kind of "apprenticeship to nature" that Herbert Read saw as the proper precondition to technology.

Say what you will about such tribal societies, the record shows that they were (and in some places still are) units of great cohesion and sodality, of harmony and regularity, devoid for the most part of crime or addiction or anomie or poverty or suicide, with comparatively few needs and those satisfied with a minimum of drudgery, putting in on average maybe four hours a day per person on tasks of hunting and gathering and cultivating, the rest of the time devoted to song and dance and ritual and sex and eating and stories and games. No, they did not have the power of five hundred servants at the flick of a switch or turn of a key, but then they did not have atomic bombs and death camps, toxic wastes, traffic jams, strip mining, organized crime, psychosurgery, advertising, unemployment or genocide.

To propose, in the midst of the "great debate," that such societies are exemplary, instructive if not imitable, is not to make a romanticized "search for the primitive." It is rather to acknowledge that the tribal mode of existence, precisely because it is nature-based, is consonant with the true, underlying needs of the human creature, and that we denigrate that mode and deny those needs to our loss and disfigurement. It is to suggest that certain valuable things have been left behind as we have sped headlong down the tracks of industrial progress and that it behooves us, in a public and spirited way, to wonder about what we have gained from it all and reflect upon what we have lost. And it is, finally, to assert that some sort of ecological society, rooted in that ancient animistic, autochthonous tradition, must be put forth as the necessary, achievable goal for human survival and harmony on earth.

Philosophically, resistance to industrialism must be embedded in an analysisan ideology, perhapsthat is morally informed, carefully articulated, and widely shared.

One of the failures of Luddism (if at first perhaps one of its strengths) was its formlessness, its unintentionality, its indistinctness about goals, desires, possibilities. Movements acting out of rage and outrage are often that way, of course, and for a while there is power and momentum in those alone. For durability, however, they are not enough, they do not sustain a commitment that lasts through the adversities of repression and trials, they do not forge a solidarity that prevents the infiltration of spies and stooges, they do not engender strategies and tactics that adapt to shifting conditions and adversaries, and they do not develop analyses that make clear the nature of the enemy and the alternatives to put in its place.

Now it would be difficult to think that neo-Luddite resistance, whatever form it takes, would be able to overcome all those difficulties, particularly on a national or international scale: commitment and solidarity are mostly products of face-to-face, day-to-day interactions, unities of purpose that come from unities of place. But if it is to be anything more than sporadic and martyristic, resistance could learn from the Luddite experience at least how important it is to work out some common analysis that is morally clear about the problematic present and the desirable future, and the common strategies that stem from it.

All the elements of such an analysis, it seems to me, are in existence, scattered and still needing refinement, perhaps, but there: in Mumford and Schumacher and Wendell Berry and Jerry Mander and the Chellis Glendinning manifesto; in the writing of the Earth Firsters and the bioregionalists and deep ecologists; in the lessons and models of the Amish and the Irokwa; in the wisdom of tribal elders and the legacy of tribal experience everywhere; in the work of the long line of dissenters-from-progress and naysayers-to-technology. I think we might even be able to identify some essentials of that analysis, such as:

Industrialism, the ethos encapsulating the values and technologies of Western civilization, is seriously endangering stable social and environmental existence on this planet, to which must be opposed the values and techniques of an organic ethos that seeks to preserve the integrity, stability, and harmony of the biotic community, and the human community within it.

Anthropocentrism, and its expression in both humanism and monotheism, is the ruling principle of that civilization, as to which must be opposed the principle of biocentrism and the spiritual identification of the human with all living species and systems.

Globalism, and its economic and military expression, is the guiding strategy of that civilization, to which must be opposed the strategy of localism, based upon the empowerment of the coherent bioregion and the small community.

Industrial capitalism, as an economy built upon the exploitation and degradation of the earth, is the productive and distributive enterprise of that civilization, to which must be opposed the practices of an ecological and sustainable economy built upon accommodation and commitment to the earth and following principles of conservation, stability, self-sufficiency, and cooperation.

A movement of resistance starting with just those principles as the sinews of analysis would at least have a firm and uncompromising ground on which to stand and a clear and inspirational vision of where to go. If nothing else, it would be able to live up to the task that George Grant, the Canadian philosopher, has set this way: "The darkness which envelops the Western world because of its long dedication to the overcoming of chance" by which he means the triumph of the scientific mind and its industrial constructs"is just a fact. The job of thought in our time is to bring into the light that darkness as darkness." And at its best, it might bring into the light the dawn that is the alternative.

If the edifice of industrial civilization does not eventually crumble as a result of a determined resistance within its very walls, it seems certain to crumble of its own accumulated excesses and instabilities within not more than a few decades, perhaps sooner, after which there may be space for alternative societies to arise.

The two chief strains pulling this edifice apart, environmental overload and social dislocation, are both the necessary and inescapable results of an industrial civilization. In some sense, to be sure, they are the results of any civilization: the record of the last five thousand years of history clearly suggests that every single preceding civilization has perished, no matter where or how long it has been able to flourish, as a result of its sustained assault on its environment, usually ending in soil loss, flooding, and starvation, and a successive distension of all social strata, usually ending in rebellion, warfare, and dissolution. Civilizations, and the empires that give them shape, may achieve much of use and meritor so the subsequent civilization's historians would have us believebut they seem unable to appreciate scale or limits, and in their growth and turgidity cannot maintain balance and continuity within or without. Industrial civilization is different only in that it is now much larger and more powerful than any known before, by geometric differences in all dimensions, and its collapse will be far more extensive and thoroughgoing, far more calamitous.

It is possible that such a collapse will be attended by environmental and social dislocations so severe that they will threaten the continuation of life, at least human life, on the surface of the planet, and the question then would be whether sufficient numbers survive and the planet is sufficiently hospitable for scattered human communities to emerge from among the ashes. But it is also possible that it will come about more by decay and distension, the gradual erosion of nation-state arrangements made obsolete and unworkable, the disintegration of corporate behemoths unable to comprehend and respond, and thus with the slow resurrection and re-empowerment of small bioregions and coherent communities having control over their own political and economic destinies. In either case, it will be necessary for the survivors to have some body of lore, and some vision of human regeneration, that instructs them in how thereafter to live in harmony with nature and how and why to fashion their technologies with the restraints and obligations of nature intertwined, seeking not to conquer and dominate and control the species and systems of the natural worldfor the failure of industrialism will have taught the folly of thatbut rather to understand and obey and love and incorporate nature into their souls as well as their tools.

It is now the task of the neo-Luddites, armed with the past, to prepare, to preserve, and to provide that body of lore, that inspiration, for such future generations as may be.

pp. 273­279



Derrick Jensen

"Actions Speak Louder Than Words" (1998)

very morning when I wake up I ask myself whether I should write or blow up a dam. I tell myself I should keep writing, though I'm not sure that's right. I've written books and done activism, but it is neither a lack of words nor a lack of activism that is killing salmon here in the Northwest. It's the dams.

Anyone who knows anything about salmon knows the dams must go. Anyone who knows anything about politics knows the dams will stay. Scientists study, politicians and business people lie and delay, bureaucrats hold sham public meetings, activists write letters and press releases, and still the salmon die.

Sadly enough, I'm not alone in my inability or unwillingness to take action. Members of the German resistance to Hitler from 1933 to 1945, for example, exhibited a striking blindness all too familiar: Despite knowing that Hitler had to be removed for a "decent" government to be installed, they spent more time creating paper versions of this theoretical government than attempting to remove him from power. It wasn't a lack of courage that caused this blindness but rather a misguided sense of morals. Karl Goerdeler, for instance, though tireless in attempting to create this new government, staunchly opposed assassinating Hitler, believing that if only the two could sit face to face Hitler might relent.

We, too, suffer from this blindness and must learn to differentiate between real and false hopes. We must eliminate false hopes, which blind us to real possibilities. Does anyone really believe our protests will cause Weyerhaeuser or other timber transnationals to stop destroying forests? Does anyone really believe the same corporate administrators who say they "wish salmon would go extinct so we could just get on with living" (Randy Hardy of Bonneville Power Association) will act other than to fulfill their desires? Does anyone really believe a pattern of exploitation as old as our civilization can be halted legislatively, judicially or through means other than an absolute rejection of the mindset that engineers the exploitation, followed by actions based on that rejection? Does anybody really think those who are destroying the world will stop because we ask nicely or because we lock arms peacefully in front of their offices?

There can be few who still believe the purpose of government is to protect citizens from the activities of those who would destroy. The opposite is true: Political economist Adam Smith was correct in noting that the primary purpose of government is to protect those who run the economy from the outrage of injured citizens. To expect institutions created by our culture to do other than poison waters, denude hillsides, eliminate alternative ways of living and commit genocide is unforgivably naive.

Many German conspirators hesitated to remove Hitler from office because they'd sworn loyalty to him and his government. Their scruples caused more hesitation than their fear. How many of us have yet to root out misguided remnants of a belief in the legitimacy of this government to which, as children, we pledged allegiance? How many of us fail to cross the line into violent resistance because we still believe that, somehow, the system can be reformed? And if we don't believe that, what are we waiting for? As Shakespeare so accurately put it, "Conscience doth make cowards of us all."

It could be argued that by comparing our government to Hitler's I'm overstating my case. I'm not sure salmon would agree, nor lynx, nor the people of Peru, Irian Jaya, Indonesia, or any other place where people pay with their lives for the activities of our culture.

If we're to survive, we must recognize that we kill by inaction as surely as by action. We must recognize that, as Hermann Hesse wrote, "We kill when we close our eyes to poverty, affliction or infamy. We kill when, because it is easier, we countenance, or pretend to approve of atrophied social, political, educational, and religious institutions, instead of resolutely combating them."

The central - and in many ways only - question of our time is this: What are sane, appropriate and effective responses to outrageously destructive behavior? So often, those working to slow the destruction can plainly describe the problems. Who couldn't? The problems are neither subtle nor cognitively challenging. Yet when faced with the emotionally daunting task of fashioning a response to these clearly insoluble problems, we generally suffer a failure of nerve and imagination. Gandhi wrote a letter to Hitler asking him to stop committing atrocities and was mystified that it didn't work. I continue writing letters to the editor of the local corporate newspaper pointing out mistruths and am continually surprised at the next absurdity.

I'm not suggesting a well-targeted program of assassinations would solve all of our problems. If it were that simple, I wouldn't be writing this essay. To assassinate Slade Gorton and Larry Craig, for example, two senators from the Northwest whose work may be charitably described as unremittingly ecocidal, would probably slow the destruction not much more than to write them a letter. Neither unique nor alone, Gorton and Craig are merely tools for enacting ecocide, as surely as are dams, corporations, chainsaws, napalm and nuclear weapons. If someone were to kill them, others would take their places. The ecocidal programs originating specifically from the damaged psyches of Gorton and Craig would die with them, but the shared nature of the impulses within our culture would continue full-force, making the replacement as easy as buying a new hoe.

Hitler, too, was elected as legally and "democratically" as Craig and Gorton. Hitler, too, manifested his culture's death urge brilliantly enough to capture the hearts of those who voted him into power and to hold the loyalty of the millions who actively carried out his plans. Hitler, like Craig and Gorton, like George Weyerhaeuser and other CEOs, didn't act alone. Why, then, do I discern a difference between them?

The current system has already begun to collapse under the weight of its ecological excesses, and here's where we can help. Having transferred our loyalty away from our culture's illegitimate economic and governmental entities and to the land, our goal must be to protect, through whatever means possible, the human and nonhuman residents of our homelands. Our goal, like that of a demolition crew on a downtown building, must be to help our culture collapse in place, so that in its fall it takes out as little life as possible.

Discussion presupposes distance, and the fact that we're talking about whether violence is appropriate tells me we don't yet care enough. There's a kind of action that doesn't emerge from discussion, from theory, but instead from our bodies and from the land. This action is the honeybee stinging to defend her hive; it's the mother grizzly charging a train to defend her cubs; it's Zapatista spokesperson Cecelia Rodriguez saying, "I have a question of those men who raped me. Why did you not kill me? It was a mistake to spare my life. I will not shut up - this has not traumatized me to the point of paralysis." It's Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, murdered by the Nigerian government at the urging of Shell, whose last words were, "Lord, take my soul, but the struggle continues!" It's those who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. It's Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Geronimo. It's salmon battering themselves against concrete, using the only thing they have, their flesh, to try to break down that which keeps them from their homes.

I don't believe the question of whether to use violence is the right one. Instead, the question should be: Do you sufficiently feel the loss? So long as we discuss this in the abstract, we still have too much to lose. If we begin to feel in our bodies the immensity and emptiness of what we lose dailyintact natural communities, hours sold for wages, childhoods lost to violence, women's capacity to walk unafraidwe'll know precisely what to do.

in Earth First! Journal, May-June 1998, p. 5

Anti-Authoritarians Anonymous

"We Have To Dismantle All This" (1995)

he unprecedented reality of the present is one of enormous sorrow and cynicism, "a great tear in the human heart," as Richard Rodriguez put it. A time of ever-mounting everyday horrors, of which any newspaper is full, accompanies a spreading environmental apocalypse. Alienation and the more literal contaminants compete for the leading role in the deadly dialectic of life in divided, technology-ridden society. Cancer, unknown before civilization, now seems epidemic in a society increasingly barren and literally malignant.

Soon, apparently, everyone will be using drugs; prescription and illegal becoming a relatively unimportant distinction. Attention Deficit Disorder is one example of an oppressive effort to medicalize the rampant restlessness and anxiety caused by a life-world ever more shriveled and unfulfilling. The ruling order will evidently go to any lengths to deny social reality; its techno-psychiatry views human suffering as chiefly biological in nature and genetic in origin.

New strains of disease, impervious to industrial medicine, begin to spread globally while fundamentalism (Christian, Judaic, Islamic) is also on the rise, a sign of deeply-felt misery and frustration. And here at home New Age spirituality (Adorno's "philosophy for dunces") and the countless varieties of "healing" therapies wear thin in their delusional pointlessness. To assert that we can be whole/enlightened/healed within the present madness amounts to endorsing the madness.

The gap between rich and poor is widening markedly in this land of the homeless and the imprisoned. Anger rises and massive denial, cornerstone of the system's survival, is now at least having a troubled sleep. A false world is beginning to get the amount of support it deserves: distrust of public institutions is almost total. But the social landscape seems frozen and the pain of youth is perhaps the greatest of all. It was recently announced (10/94) that the suicide rate among young men ages 15 to 19 more than doubled between 1985 and 1991. Teen suicide is the response of a growing number who evidently cannot imagine maturity in such a place as this.

The overwhelmingly pervasive culture is a fast-food one, bereft of substance or promise. As Dick Hebdige aptly judged, "the postmodern is the modern without the hopes and dreams that made modernity bearable." Postmodernism advertises itself as pluralistic, tolerant, and non-dogmatic. In practice it is a superficial, fast-forward, deliberately confused, fragmented, media-obsessed, illiterate, fatalistic, uncritical excrescence, indifferent to questions of origins, agency, history or causation. It questions nothing of importance and is the perfect expression of a setup that is stupid and dying and wants to take us with it.

Our postmodern epoch finds its bottom-line expression in consumerism and technology, which combine in the stupefying force of mass media. Attention-getting, easily-digested images and phrases distract one from the fact that this horror-show of domination is precisely held together by such entertaining, easily digestible images and phrases. Even the grossest failures of society can be used to try to narcotize its subjects, as with the case of violence, a source of endless diversion. We are titillated by the representation of what at the same time is threatening, suggesting that boredom is an even worse torment than fear.

Nature, what is left of it, that is, serves as a bitter reminder of how deformed, non-sensual, and fraudulent is contemporary existence. The death of the natural world and the technological penetration of every sphere of life, what is left of it, proceed with an accelerating impetus. Wired, Mondo 2000, zippies, cyber-everything, virtual reality, Artificial Intelligence, on and on, up to and including Artificial Life, the ultimate postmodern science.

Meanwhile, however, our "post-industrial" computer age has resulted in the fact that we are more than ever "appendages to the machine," as the 19th century phrase had it. Bureau of Justice statistics (7/94), by the way, report that the increasingly computer-surveilled workplace is now the setting for nearly one million violent crimes per year, and that the number of murdered bosses has doubled in the past decade.

This hideous arrangement expects, in its arrogance, that its victims will somehow remain content to vote, recycle, and pretend it will all be fine. To employ a line from Debord, "The spectator is simply supposed to know nothing and deserve nothing."

Civilization, technology, and a divided social order are the components of an indissoluble whole, a death-trip that is fundamentally hostile to qualitative difference. Our answer must be qualitative, not the quantitative, more-of-the-same palliatives that actually reinforce what we must end.

in Anti-Authoritarians Anonymous flier, Eugene, 1995