Introduction to the Second Edition of For Wildness and Anarchy
A lot of changes went into the Second Edition of For Wildness and Anarchy. Very revised, also expanded. You can read a bit about it in the introduction below.
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For wildness and anarchy.
Over time, critiques deepen. Terms can be amended and expanded upon. When you’re dealing with something as involved and far-reaching as civilization, there are a lot of moving pieces. That’s why it has always been important to me to put what I’m fighting for front and center: wildness and anarchy.
The title ought to make it clear that this is the baseline of this book, and also the foundation of all my work that has come since. Wildness is intently different from wilderness. Like primal anarchy, it’s a flowing reality—one that has shaped who we are as a social animal. It’s not about a place in time, it’s not a location: it’s the wild spirit of the world.
Wildness, like primal anarchy, is also something better understood in complexity than strictly defined. The more we try to tamp it down into simple definitions, the more we are going to necessarily reduce it into a concept to box up. Steps that help it become a plaything for marketers and gurus.
For everything civilization has thrown at and torn from this world, it is the persistence of the wild, the untamable aspects of our primal anarchy, which inspire me.
The world that we live in—the world that civilization has carved into the Earth’s flesh, that technology accelerates, that colonization forces into its grasp, that warfare decimates and divides—remains under assault. The path that we have been set upon through domestication, the narratives of progress that have long been whispered into our ears and plastered before our eyes, all of this is to conceal that part of ourselves that begs for wildness.
It’s all meant to cover up our need for community and our visceral distaste for authority.
Civilization is a history of failed attempts to bury our hunger for a life without work, without sales pitches for meaning and purpose. We reach for perfection and miss that the most egalitarian and sustainable societies that have ever existed—those of nomadic hunter-gatherers—are written into our bones and minds.
We have been sold substitutions for life piecemeal. We work for them. We pay for them. We impose them upon others and pat ourselves on the back when we feel we have succeeded.
We see our story as a linear path: perpetual conquest becomes an accepted part of our reality.
Dissecting that narrative is the core of this book. These essays can remind us of the realities of the civilization that we live in, or possibly awakening us to them for the first time. When the narratives of domestication work, then a living history can be buried in plain sight. We live within the remnants of a world under attack, surrounded by monuments preemptively proclaiming victory in an often one-sided battle. The stories we are told are a patchwork of bravado and hubris. When you pull the strings, all of it comes undone.
My goal is to strip civilization of its clothes: to expose it.
The essays in this book, written between 2000 and 2010, take on a number of different voices and approaches with that momentum. Some feel raw, others more refined. Taken as a whole, they cover much of the full span of anti-civilization critique.
From here, it unfurls in many directions. There is no aspect of civilization that should be spared of shredding its mythology and attacking its ongoing processes. The flow of power remains tethered to a finite Earth. The systems in place to keep that power moving morph in form and intensity, but they follow the same patterns that civilization always has. History doesn’t repeat itself; these old wounds just remain open.
And the world we face now is in many ways cataclysmically worse.
None of the warnings were heeded. Nothing was learned from mistakes of the past. There have been moments where it felt like a reckoning was coming. We were almost going to address climate change and endemic die-offs, but those efforts were diluted into symbolic policy proposals. Our world is on fire: flooding in regions, parched and on fire in others. Wars continue unabated as we once again teeter closer to nuclear war. Children continue to suffer the worst of it all.
For those of us who have known what to look for, there is no satisfaction in being right. There is no moment where a prediction coming true feels at all hopeful or satisfying. The point was never to prophetically portray what was to come, but to voice a carrion call that we have the power and agency. We can do something about this.
The world has always fought civilization. The world is struggling. The wild remains.
That is why I put what I’m for upfront.
It’s not enough to be a critic. It’s not enough to hope that some catalogue of decline will find its place amongst our impending ruins. It’s never enough to just take in all of the destruction and watch it unfold.
We are still here. The Earth is still here.
Realizing our place in this world guarantees nothing. Feeling our part both in the destruction of life and perseverance of it offers no safety net. No parachute. No bail out and no bug out bag. But it gives us the chance to feel that life. To struggle alongside it: to fight back.
It is vital to never lose sight of what is at stake, at what is being lost and destroyed in this world: our home, our planet, our lives, the lives of those we know and those we will never know. It is my goal to expose the foundations of civilization. In doing so, we can also find our own grounding in this world.
Hands in the soil, feet on the Earth: unearthing the realities of power, of civilization, should make you feel. And feeling is what leads to action. Not for ideologies, not for philosophies, but for that wild spirit of the world that beckons.
For wildness, for anarchy: we have nothing promised to us in this life.
Yet this life carries on, impatiently awaiting our return.
One way or another, we are agents in this world on fire. How will you use yours?
If you’ve encountered the first edition of this book, which came out in 2010, then you might notice considerable changes for this massively revised edition.
When I first compiled these essays—many of which had been printed and distributed thousands of times—I wanted to remain true to how they had originally been presented. I didn’t change them much. In hindsight, not making many necessary corrections or ironing out difficult and rough passages was a mistake: hence this version.
Some essays in the original version didn’t age as well, so they were removed and others were updated where necessary. A few new ones have been included along with an interview I did with The Fifth Column from 2015, which should round out the insights in this book.
I wish a number of topics in this book would have lost relevance over time, but sadly they have not. Along with a resurgence in fascism, a bleakly unaware socialism is also on the rise. Internet culture has given Ted Kaczynski—as an icon and as an ideologue—a new audience. I’m far less forgiving of his quirks now than I was in 2005.
Nearly everything written about technology here was written before social media and cellphones became the predominant means of communication and, worse, interactio
n with the world. My references to TV seem almost quaint in comparison, but the critiques only become more potent.
There are many aspects of this book that I would approach differently now—it’s clear where I’ve grown as a writer and developed as the critiques unfold. I’ve spent plenty of time elaborating a more developed and nuanced analysis of civilization in my recent books, Gathered Remains (2018) and Cull of Personality (2019), as well as a number of books currently in the works.
That conversation manifests in the pages of Wild Resistance: A Journal of Primal Anarchy, which I founded in 2015 as Black and Green Review. If any of this is of interest, I assure you that all of those projects and books will be too.
All told, I went to lengths to make sure that the essays in this book are the best versions they could be. I owe a great thanks to Jessica Carew Kraft for her commitment in helping me through that elaborate process. The extent to which this reads smoother is largely due to her watchful eye and guidance.
There are some corrections that I was eager to make. For years I had been making the effort to say gatherer-hunter over hunter-gatherer: a well-intentioned move that was intending to correct male biases, but ultimately negates the role that hunting plays within hunter-gatherer societies, as well as the role women play in hunting and fishing, and the importance meat, fish, and fowl hold within these societies.
In attempting to flip the perspective, I fear that it unfortunately upheld the imposed tiered hierarchies we’ve already imposed upon Indigenous societies. That’s an error I don’t take lightly.
Around 2004, I started talking about primal anarchy. In the time since, I have increasingly moved away from the term anarcho-primitivism towards an embrace of primal anarchy on its own. There are a number of reasons for this—elaborated in the essay “To The Captives” from Wild Resistance no 6. They include a reckoning with the fact that I wasn’t using the word primitive without quotes or clarifiers for well over a decade already, but also the fact that primitivism, as a term, lacked any real reference point other than historical. I have long felt that the anarcho-primitivist critique had outgrown its questioning stage and that we have found enough discernible answers and roots to assert ourselves more clearly.
Primal anarchy, in this light, is less about what had happened, but what is happening. The critique isn’t about a fall from grace, but a realization that we were born to be nomadic hunter-gatherers. The narrative of domestication has always required a notion of social evolution, an effort to make concrete the idea that we have passed the point of no return. To make us feel like we collectively made a choice, and that civilization won.
It hasn’t. It won’t.
Civilization has always been resisted. Always. At no point did anyone in any society ever just simply accept the narrative and carry on. We adapted—considerably too much. We take part in the destruction of our home, our Earth, and all life upon it.
But it has always been within our grasp to change that. We may be the last to realize this, but it doesn’t change our reality.
Undoubtedly, we are where we are now. The world, as we all see and feel it, remains in a state of complete and utter free-fall. Once we begin to undermine those narratives, once we begin to see beyond them, then maybe—just maybe—we’ll begin to see that others have survived civilization.
Despite everything civilization has done to this world, I’m hoping the Earth is far more adaptive than we have been.
In spite of it all, wildness still awaits our return.
Far too many people have had a hand in helping me and pushing me over the years to thank here. Any list would necessarily be incomplete. So to everyone who has helped, I give my eternal gratitude.
I acknowledge that the entirety of this book was written and compiled on stolen land. Doing my best to recall where everything was written at, but that includes lands of the Očeti Šakówiŋ, Osage, Lenape, Monongahela, ᎠᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi, Mvskoke, and probably countless others. I will never stop fighting.
For wildness and anarchy,