[This is my paper for the Anarchist Studies Network conference 2020, which I presented on the 2nd of September 2020.]
Before I start this, I would like to conclude. I will conclude this by stating that, rather than a political program, ideology, strategy or theory, eco-absurdism is really just a feeling. What type of feeling? Well, one that can really be best articulated verbally in the question “okay humans, what is the fucking point?”.
I am going to present some arguments, theories and thoughts around this feeling and the question, but as far grasping this conceptual term that I am presenting you with, you don’t need to worry – any more than the sense of worry/or impending doom you already have.
Eco, in the sense I am using here as a prefix, means that squishy, muddy, messy, inhuman, beautiful, mystical, natury space, or world, that those of us who consider ourselves as environmentalists place value in. It is the harsh and inhuman Real that is greater than the human Reality, which Leviathan, civilisation, the state, the system, or whatever word you want to use that basically means totalitarian-anthropocentrism, supposedly saves us, as we identify with humanity, from. Wikipedia’s definition of environmentalism states –
“Environmentalism or environmental rights is a broad philosophy, ideology, and social movement regarding concerns for environmental protection and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the impact of changes to the environment on humans, animals, plants and non-living matter. While environmentalism focuses more on the environmental and nature-related aspects of green ideology and politics, ecology combines the ideology of social ecology and environmentalism. Ecology is more commonly used in continental European languages while ‘environmentalism’ is more commonly used in English but the words have slightly different connotations.”
If you were to ask me what environmentalism means to me though, I’d likely say that “I like badgers, I think trees are awesome and I kind of don’t really want what we call the human race to continue it’s suicide bomber mentality, by killing itself and taking out the rest of the world with it, through pollution, habitat destruction and so on”.
We know the situation is pretty fucking dire. I used the F word quite intentionally there, not for shock value, but for emphasis. Environmentalists are often too concerned with being polite over being honest. The idea that the apocalypse is fine, but no one should be rude, is not one I can get behind personally. So I will state again, with no offense intended, but just harsh honesty – the situation is pretty fucking dire, and we know it.
200 species lost every day. The last decade was the hottest ever recorded. Deforestation is worsening habitat loss. The situation is pretty fucking dreadful – again no offense intended.
Now, don’t worry, this is not another of what philosopher Timothy Morton calls “information dumps”, which sadly plague environmentalist discourse, and operate on the same line of reasoning as the dumping of “externalities” that the producers of the world operates on. You are not a garbage site for me to dump a load of factoidal objects on to, for you to clean up, because if you don’t who will. There will be no more terrible bits of environmental information for you to process – I trust that you have arrived here aware and that you have done your own research.
Moving on to the question at hand of “what is the fucking point?”, you will have probably noticed that, rather than being a rational sort of question, there is an emotional quality to it. Despair, anxiety and nihilism often embody this question, which is at the core of existential philosophy – which seeks to explore what are perhaps big and unanswerable questions. Some other similar questions are why are we here; what is the point to all of this; is it possible to have a meaningful existence; why do we live when life involves suffering; how can I know what is morally right or wrong in a universe that appears indifferent to my actions; and if God lets us bring back 1 soul from the dead, do we choose Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobaine? But these kind of all circle back to “what is the fucking point?”, or perhaps spiral downwards, with a gravitational tug back down to the inhuman earthly universe.
Okay, Absurdism – what is it?! Well, some state that it is the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any. It is also a philosophy, with, yes you guessed it, philosophers. The 3 philosophers I intend to focus on here are Camus, Kierkegaard and Shestov and, as this exploration of their absurd ideas navigates the somewhat weird and dark terrain, I (perhaps absurdly) hope that you will find textures and qualities of anarchistic eco-radicalism.
Camus’ 2 most immediately relevant works for this discussion are The Myth of Sisyphus and The Rebel. In the Myth of Sisyphus, Camus states that the only real philosophical question is whether or not to commit suicide. Camus considers this question on the backdrop of considering the world as a basically unreasonable place to be. Following from this basic unreasonableness, Camus argues that life is unreasonable and with this that there is no reason to live – oh the absurdity of it all and the horror. With this, Camus argues that, as much as there is no reason to live, there is actually no reason to die – so there is nothing to be gained from suicide. In The Rebel, Camus brings this existential philosophy into the field of politics, by expanding the position to argue that there is no reason to kill – this was largely an attempt to respond to the tyranny the world had seen under the Nazis and was seeing under USSR Marxism during the 1950s.
We might consider questioning why we should kill this planet, that is the soil from which we have all grown, as an act of suicide?! I have not yet found any reason to do so.
Camus’ philosophy holds a position that embraces that there are limits to reasoning, substantial limits. Environmentalists will often turn to scientific reasoning, as a means of justifying arguments, positions and actions. This continually seems to miss the target, as people seem find environmental discourse and non-humanised environments to be a different world to theirs. From an eco-absurdist perspective, this is probably due to the limits to scientific reasoning. If it is not scientific reasoning, environmentalists will often turn to religious/or spiritual type reasoning, as a means of supposedly overcoming certain alienating factors. This comes though with its own limits, which have similar impacts to that of scientific, as Gaia doesn’t always feel right here to the non-pagan.
We might consider, following from Camus’ arguments, what it might be to embrace an eco-absurdist praxis of metaphysical unreasonable rebellion – metaphysical rebellion as a refusal to conform to the human condition, in this context meaning the humanised condition of ecocide and “development”. When I state “unreasonable” here, I mean an eco-rebellion that is not attempting to be logical or rational, in the way we consider reasoning to be, but is born from wild animal desire.
One of Camus’ most famous statements is that – we must consider Sisyphus happy. Camus likens the human condition to that of Sisyphus, who spends all day pushing a rock to the top of a hill, only to see it roll back to the bottom at the end of the day. A great deal of environmental discussion is focused on ideas of self-sacrifice, on us individually giving up stuff – in ways that do not inspire joy and are often off putting. There is a great deal of angst and anxiety that goes with ecological thought, as there is an inhuman phenomenon that we find ourselves immersed within, when we venture into this space.
Sisyphus’s position is similar to that of individualist anarchists, such as Albert Libertad, who wrote of the joy of life. This anarchist philosophy and practice, is drawn from a refusal to renounce the world, as authority has built it, in rebellion; that is, choosing to embrace life, as embracing anarchy, as an act of rebellion. There is an obvious likeness here to environmentalist action and philosophy, as a refusal to renounce the world, in the face of what authorities have built and abused. This becomes more pronounced in the anti-civilisation philosophy of individualist anarchist Feral Faun’s thought on pan-eroticism – an experience of mad love and appreciation for the living wild world that is inhuman. There is also something similar to this in environmentalist author Daniel Quinn’s environmentalism-as-fighting-for-what-you-want-or-desire.
With my personal direct anarchist praxis, one of the aspects of Camus’ thought that resonates most with me, and what I think is perhaps most needed for environmentalist discourse, is that which he expounds in the statement – “integrity has no need for rules”. Here Camus, in many ways, is rejecting what would usually be considered moral limits. Now, he isn’t stating that “anything is permitted”, in the way that people often think amoral philosophy argues. He is actually stating that, if you have an experience of integrity, as a personal commitment to authentic desire, you will not obey the morality of laws and rules that support terrible structures of abuse and tyranny. Following this, from an eco-absurdist perspective, if we have a sense of integrity, environmentalists do not need rules or laws to dictate their choices.
At the core of Camus’s philosophy is rebellion and revolt.
There is one more Camus work I will reference here, due to its relevance regarding Covid-19, which is The Plague. Put simply, the book is about a French Algerian city dealing with a disease. But more than this, it is a work about individuals finding themselves within situations where they are powerless, in the sense of having no ability to control what is happening in the world, while being powerful, in the sense of having the ability to make decisions and being able to affect other living beings. There is a certain inhumanism to the novel that is reminiscent of Robinson Jeffers’ poetry and darker shades of environmentalist discourses, especially for pessimists like myself. What Camus communicates to his reader through this novel, which is of most relevance to eco-absurdism, is this –
“I have no idea what’s awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing.“
This offers neither promises and hope, nor the abandoning of courage, self-piteous renunciation or defeatism, with an unapologetic embrace of life that accepts uncertainty.
Kierkegaard’s philosophy follows from this quite fluidly, with it’s main focus being freedom. Kierkegaard rejected the Hegelian dialectic of reconciling contradictions, in favour of embracing the either/or of choice. He noted that we are confronted by situations where we experience both an inability to act and a need to act. This is extremely relevant to the ecological situation, as we obviously have to act, but also are unable to do anything. We cannot, as Kierkegaard would put it, think our way out of these choices; we have to live our choices. Ecological resistance and rebellion is something we live, as we live our absurd lives in this unreasonable world.
The terrible quality to this situation and the freedom we cannot escape, but must live, is of course the source of eco-anxiety, which is prevalent today. Anxiety is central to Kierkegaard’s ideas on freedom. Anxiety includes an awareness of freedom, of our being free, having always been free, and with it the terror of responsibility that freedom includes. So, anarchists, be both joyous and horrified, anarchy is here and there is no being saved from it.
I am now going to move onto Shestov’s absurdist philosophy. Shestov is one of those philosophers who I both wish were more widely read and ideas talked about, and think that it is probably better, in many ways, that he isn’t better known – as better known brilliant philosophers are often subject to bad faith readings, which distort their positions.
At the core of Shestov’s philosophy of despair is an embrace of uncertainty. The ecological situation presents a space of uncertainty, which we are attempting to navigate through. Shestov states this on the matter –
“The obscure streets of life do not offer the conveniences of the central thoroughfares: no electric light, no gas, not even a kerosene lamp-bracket. There are no pavements: the traveller has to fumble his way in the dark. If he needs a light, he must wait for a thunderbolt, or else, primitive-wise, knock a spark out of a stone.”
If we take this line of thought with us, as we explore the uncertainty of the ecological situation, then we are reliant upon primitive methods of exploration and the primordial energies of what Deleuze called dark precursors– events that seemingly come out of nowhere, with untraceable origins, such as a thunderbolt, or even coronavirus. In his thoughts on Dark Ecology, Timothy Morton argues for a similar approach to ecological thinking – where we are exploring the uncanny terrain of the strange yet familiar – that embraces weirdness.
There is also a rebellious quality to Shestov’s absurdist philosophy, which is highly relevant to environmental thought, embodied in his statement that –
“The business of philosophy is to teach man to live in uncertainty – man who is supremely afraid of uncertainty, and who is forever hiding himself behind this or the other dogma. More briefly, the business of philosophy is not to reassure people but to upset them.”
Take a second to feel the texture of that thought for a moment. Explore the dark terrain of the idea on your tongue.
Environmental thinking is not comfortable, nice or reassuring. As environmentalists, regardless of any scientific, spiritual or other form of reasoning, we are bringing a world of massive uncertainty to peoples attention.
There holds in this position of Shestov an intensely anarchistic quality. If we consider philosophy to be an exploration of interpretations of truth with the role of philosopher’s being to upset people by encouraging people to explore uncertainty, with the uncertainty that environmental thought brings, much of what we do as environmentalists is working towards upsetting most people’s dispositions. This fits a discordian chaos magick practice called guerrilla ontology, where practitioners use a variety of rhetoric and psychic nomadic techniques to challenge dogmas, pre-conceived ideas and authoritarian ideologies – this is best known in Robert Anton Wilson’s “operation mind fuck”.
There seems here to me to be a space for environmentalists and anarchists to explore. If environmental thinking includes this quality of exploring the absurdist space of uncertainty, perhaps intensifying uncertainty is our best means of accelerating environmental thinking.
Something else Shestov states, to expand upon this –
“Really, everything we see is mysterious and incomprehensible. A tiny midge and a huge elephant, a caressing breeze and a blizzard, a young tree and a rocky mountain – what are all these? What are they, why are they? We incessantly ask ourselves, but we may not speak out.”
There is a weird, dark and mystical quality to environmental thought, as an aesthetic. Many pagan and magic practices embrace this aesthetic quality of weird incomprehensibility and unreasonable desire. The American mountaineer and explorer Muir stated “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness”– and with this thought, we might remember that the universe isn’t somewhere ordinary and comfortable, full of light and easy to navigate through, with stable unchanging bodies; it is weirdly dark, full of dark matter with no-Things, mysterious, incomprehensive and greater than our human limitations.
But how do we wander through this darkness? What is the point of continuing on through the dark, when there is little to no light anywhere? Is it possible to live through uncertainty?
I have attempted to consider these questions and articulate an absurd – perhaps some-what ridiculous – answer.
I wrote a short story called Mesodma, about one of the mammalian creatures who lived through the mass extinction event that killed off most of the dinosaurs. With the skies blackened from the meteor’s impact, the world would have been intensely dark, both visually and psychically. In my story, the mesodma who is “our friend” wanders through this darkness without anything that could be considered a “reason”, but out of a primal irrational desire for life. They embrace the darkness, become stronger for it, they mate, all with no point to do so. There is no comfortable conclusion to the story, as it just ends with “our friend” dying, after a life of struggle.
This might not seem sensible. This is not stating that there is some point to this experience we call life. It is just stating that we simply do it, regardless of the struggles and suffering that go with being alive.
And there you have it, I hope. If you have received this as I had intended, then you will have a feeling of absurdity. And here we are, ending where we began, as we began at the end. In many ways, we have gone no-where, achieved nothing, the effort was pointless and that is just it. We live out our freedom, as limited creatures, immersed in uncertainty, in the darkness of the world that offers no reason. If we desire life and have an experience of integrity, then we will rebel, because, as Camus stated, I rebel, therefore we exist. And I will finish this with one last Camus quote, this time from an essay by him titled Create Dangerously – “That’s just it and yet that’s not it; the world is nothing and the world is everything – this is the tireless cry of every true artist, the cry that keeps him on his feet with eyes ever open and that, every once in a while, awakens for all in this world asleep the fleeting and insistent image of a reality we recognise without ever having known it.”
Reading Simon Springer’s book The Anarchist Roots of Geography was a very enjoyable experience, in that way that optimistic literature is enjoyable. The book is largely an attempt to reclaim the academic inquiry of radical Geography, as it has been taken by Marxism, and to give it back to anarchists.
Springer’s general argument can be summed up in these quotes taken from the introduction –
“What is needed is the development of new relationships with our world and, crucially, with each other.”
“Recognizing such connection is an aesthetic realization that we all matter, that we are all part of the beauty of immanence.”
“Instead, relational space encourages us to think about space as a complex and iterative assemblage wherein ongoing and reciprocating exchanges between actors, events, and ideas continually play out through the process of life’s evolving dance.”
This position is for the most part inspired by classical anarchist thinkers like Kropotkin and Reclus, which is reflected in Springer’s very classical-anarchist ideology. This ideology reminds me of that found in the book Total Liberation, with many of the same strengths and weaknesses.
My inclination towards political-pessimism left me with some feelings of doubt towards those ideas within Springer’s arguments that were based in hope. This didn’t take much away from the reading though, as Springer’s analysis is full and refreshing.
The essence of Springer’s project is the advocation of what he calls emancipatory space. In the same sense that Peter Lamborn Wilson’s conceptualisation of the Temporary Autonomous Zone refers to an emergence that is spatiality focused, rather than based in narrative; Springer’s emancipatory space is environmentally focused, as value is located within the situational locality where liberation occurs.
I was pleased to find within Springer’s thought in this text a great deal that resonates with my thoughts, particularly those in Feral Iconoclasm – which was an attempt to destroy(/de-structure) History, while embracing environmental/spatial/geographical-Being. Springer’s comment – “We always and unavoidably live our lives in the ever- flowing present, where each instant of experience is actually today.” – particularly speaks to my presentist perspective.
This book is definitely worth a read, even if you do not share in Springer’s optimism, for those aspects of his project that are refreshing and speak to a spatial radical philosophy.
One of the ideas I most appreciate from Timothy Morton is his thoughts on subscendence and the whole being less than the sum of it’s parts. This ties in with one of my biggest issues with environmentalist thought and practice, mainstream and radical, which is the lazy embrace of collectivism.
If collectivism is correct, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, then it doesn’t matter if 10% of a coral reef is bleached, or 20%, or 90%, because you have this transcendental greater than, which remains. Likewise, the death of 1 polar bear doesn’t matter, because individuals are inconsequential, and neither does the extinction of 1 species, because you still have this larger whole of earth that matters more, and likewise it doesn’t matter if 200 individual species comprised of statistically irrelevant individuals die due to ecocide, because the transcendental whole remains.
From a collectivist ideology, including a Green one, everything is reducible to a machinic-part of a totalitarian system, that is greater than through resource extraction, while being smaller as a demarcated totality – like how the city is greater than the countryside, which is greater than the wilderness, while each is actually smaller. (This is why civilisation is geographically huge but ontologically tiny.) Environmental praxis becomes reduced either to liberal-collectivism of “if we all just do our bit and recycle and reduce our carbon footprints, as part of a collective effort” or Marxian style “we need a collective mass to make a stand” revolution talk.
If you switch the perspective and destroy the transcendence subscendentally, so that the whole is less than the sum of its parts, then individuals matter. An individual who we call a polar bear is not irrelevant because of the collective mass of polar bears, whose whole they are considered part of, and is uniquely valuable for being the individual they are. Individual woods and forests, with all the individuals who live within them are greater than the collective whole of the country that they are considered a part of, as they are ontologically massive and a nation is ontologically tiny as an effort in reductionism – this is obvious when you consider how many different beings there are when walking through woods, with particular attention on the leaf litter and then contrast that with how little there is when walking through a town or a city, where there is just pavement beneath your feet.
Individualism, not meaning collectivist-marketeering of being-part-of-the-economic-transcendental-whole, necessarily starts with the body of an individual, as an affirmation of presence. Environmentalism is an affirmation of the presence of a body, that you affirm as an affirmation of your body – I breath air to live and exhale it out into the environment. An individual body is also an environment, home to many living beings – most of me isn’t “me” with all the bacteria.
If I were to reduce this as best I can it’s-
Collectivism- whole is greater than sum of it’s parts, dualism = totalitarianism, body renunciation.
Individualism- whole is less than the sum of its parts, monism = pluralism, body affirmation.
Let’s move this away from environmentalism and to race. Within a collectivist ideology, it doesn’t actually matter if Simeon Francis or any other black individual dies at the hands of the police, because the whole of black people is greater than them and they are statistically irrelevant. This is obviously a bullshit perspective intuitively, if you’re not coming from slave-owner-type ideology, and this is why people have erupted over the images of abuse towards black individuals. Because individuals matter, we feel, if we’re not totally indoctrinated into this culture, an instinctual affirmation of their experience of abuse and a sense of disgust towards the ill treatment of the body they are, as we recognise instinctually ourselves as ontologically valuable bodies. So we feel rage towards acts of abuse towards individuals, because individuals are valuable and actually not reducible to some machinic-categorical mass, which contains multiple spare parts.
This is also intuitively obvious from an existential perspective. Taken from a collectivist-God’s eye, everything is so huge and I am irrelevant, so I must either embrace religion or kill myself to transcend my condition, the lives of individuals are meaningless and unimportant. But we subjectively affirm the ontological value of our individual bodies through our will to life/power, as an absurd act (because we all ultimately die), that is a rebellion against death, which affirms the world by saying “I’m going nowhere!”.
Ecologically speaking, we are never alone. Ecologically we are surrounded by others of innumerable species. The Me that I am, bodily-speaking, is a multiplicity of living-beings, many of whom are not technically me. When “alone” while walking through woods, I am surrounded by trees, birds, insects and so on. In my living room there are still other presences that I encounter within the room, entering the room, moving through it.
But this same condition throws me into a seeming contradiction. Ecological-being is inseparable from existentiality, existing, which I encounter individually. Ecological immersion, as being part of life and death processes, leaves me existentially-alone, responsible for my life. There is this presence of nothingness – the nothingness of my personal objectlessness, the nothingness of mass-extinction and dehabitation, etc,. – that is undeniably of existential-solitude.
This is partly why I find both liberal and revolutionary green-collectivism, the “we’re all in this together” and “if we all just do our part”, (whether that is through personal-consumption as part of “the collective” or through massification-Marxian style tactics,) to be the proliferation of a false-consciousness that is basically non-existential-ecological, with their being machinic-programs that attempt to fill “the void” with “stuff” and “things”.
As far as Aristotle’s solitude goes, I value the beastly-existential-solitude of becoming-animal and being-ecological.
We Live In The Orbit Of Beings Greater Than Us, by Patrick Farnsworth, is one of those books that I find I read with a certain intention. It is not a book you read to read the writer or to read the book, but, like a massive coffee table book on galaxies or impressionist paintings, this book has the feel of a book you would read to discover what is inside and find what interests you.
Most of the text is comprised of segments from interviews Farnsworth has published through his podcast Last Born In The Wilderness (I’ll link below). So you end up reading a great deal that is not Farnsworth. As someone who enjoys reading a beautiful writer and thinker, there is a degree to which this disappointed me. However, what is gained through this is you encounter a diverse range of thinkers and ways of thinking.
What bits of Farnsworth’s own thoughts are wonderful to read, as honest reflections on the ecological situation we find ourselves immersed within. His message of “… we can still, I think, retrieve something of what was lost, even if it won’t “save” us” and “(t)o reiterate, this isn’t about finding hope in the sense of “winning”, but rather orienting ourselves by our sacred responsibilities” embody a sort of eco-absurdism that is very similar to my outlook.
What I found when reading this collection of conversations with specialist interests regarding ecological matters, and Farnsworth’s own thoughts, was what seems to be an attempt in two modes of perceptual-attack and psychic-warfare that I have described in a yet to be published book as aesthetic-terrorism and pan-eroticism (this concept being one I have stolen from Feral Faun). When Farnsworth states “(w)e will not win. Our civilisation is dying, and maybe it should” it is immediately apparent that the intention here is to insight the type of feeling of existential dread that terrorism inspires, on an aesthetic level. Likewise, when Farnsworth states “(r)regardless of what is coming, we must demonstrate our love for the Earth, in all the forms it comes in. Our love is not an abstract, it’s tangible and as real as the air we breathe and the soil beneath our feet” it is immediately apparent that the intention is to inspire feelings of affirmation and care for life as we know it as Extensions of Earth.
The book that this most reminded me of is the collection published by The Dark Mountain Project titled Walking on Lava, though there is a definite pagan quality to Farnsworth’s project that isn’t in the other. Please don’t be put off by the idea that there is a religious quality to the book, as, actually, Farnsworth’s expression of his faith is far more enjoyable than most religious writers, as there is no pushing of myth or dogma – I write this as a fundamentalist agnostic, who is drawn to acosmic-nihilism. This isn’t like reading Buddhistic-anarchists, where you have to jump on board with a whole bunch of concepts like karma to engage with what you are reading, or voodoo-Shaman egoist-communists, where 90% of what you are reading is basically wet fart; Farnsworth’s paganism is more like garnishing for a great meal, when reading this book.
What I appreciate most about We Live In The Orbit Of Beings Greater Than Us is this quality of warm-darkness that I found in reflections Farnsworth makes, like this – “(t)he pain will get greater. And really, what can we do?”
This is the second of two book reviews I am doing, with both books being about druidry and politics. The first was on Nimue Brown’s book Druidry and the Future.
Radical Druidry by Christopher Scott Thompson is for the most part a collection of suggested ritual practices for druid-magick practitioners to use for their personal practice. As I am personally a non-believer in theurgic-ritual-construction, I am not going to comment on the rituals. More importantly, while I don’t believe in that-type of practice, I don’t know if they work or do not work, and wouldn’t want anyone to disregard the book at this point, as there is a lot to enjoy in Radical Druidry.
For the most part, Thompson is seeking to provide means of healing the alienation that this culture thrives off of – anyone who has read my Feral Consciousness will instantly get my appreciation for this – and the “broken pact” between humanity and the gods, for ecological recovery. Alongside the various rituals that are presented, the reader is encouraged to engage in direct action seek these aims. This is what Thompson means by fighting Druidry, as a forceful and determined effort, greater than the shallowness of mainstream Green politics and neopagan sentiment.
For those unfamiliar with druiduc-theology and myth, there is a lot of interesting story to explore within each chapter, that Thompson draws from. I don’t think you need to be a believer in polytheism to find something valuable from these stories. Thompson provides the reader with his interpretations of them, which would be useful if you are not used to hermeneutic-interpretation.
This is the first of two book reviews I am doing, with both books being focused on druid practices and politics. The second is Christopher Scott Thompson’s Radical Druidry, which I intend to read and review over the next 2 weeks.
Reading Nimue Brown’s self published book Druidry and the Future from a computer screen, with intense focus, didn’t feel like the way this book would be best read. My feeling is that Druidry and the Future is best read in the traditional book format, not as a concentrated effort, but as something to turn to as a medium for reflection.
I have some disagreements, as well as some differences in belief and perspective to Brown, but appreciate the book for much of what I found while reading.
What disagreements/difference I have with Brown’s assertions are basically the same I have with most Green ideology and pagan theology. The notion of Being being cyclically repetitive, that life is one big circle, is one that I cannot get on board with. Even more so, I find liberal-Green-optimism to be in many ways more dangerous than climate-change denial, as it invites more “sustainable” means of abusing living beings. I also doubt humanistic-essentialism, which relies on the idea of constant stable forms that are without change. The main disagreement I have with Brown’s assertions is the framing of invidualism in a way that seems entirely non-animal, while advocating for collectivism, which I find to be entirely machine oriented.
These disagreements and differences are far outshone by what I found harmony with and similarity in experience and perspective.
From the aversions to martyrdoms, to the embrace of mortality and the awareness that civilisations continually collapse, as well as the desire to rebel against being a “cog in the machine”, there is a lot of valuable thought to reflect through in this book. Brown reminds the reader that transcendence doesn’t help us live well, that everything we do immediately impacts the world, that health and joy can be found in being-with trees, and that no one is separate from the world, as the world exists and moves through them, as being-part of landscapes.
With it’s focus on environmental-praxis as being a joyous experience and part of self-care, Druidry and the Future has some valuable thoughts for the reader to reflect upon.
Perhaps the greatest “gain” from upholding the image of a demonic figure and calling out for all to hear “fear this demon, fear this demon”, is that you inspire greater interest in the demonic figure, psychically empower the demonic figure as being worthy of your fear, bring the demonic figure to the attention of potential followers (who are likely to be more interested, given the power you have bestowed upon the figure), and shown your hand as fearful and disempowered. I’ll give some examples. The most significant “achievement” of the war on terrorwas the empowerment of Jihadist-militarist-suicide-bomber ideology, with the subsequent intensification of statist measures. Similarly, the fear Christians have shown towards Satanist imagery and aesthetics has, more than anything else, gifted the idol greater psychic-influence (inspiring many young individuals turn to the trv kvlt Satanist black metal world). Donald Trump’s political popularity is also largely due to his being upheld as an image of fear for the non-Christian, non-conservative, anti-US-agenda subterranean realm of non-white, non-American, lizards.
I have no desire to empower those I find revolting and favour the destruction of idols, both saintly and demonic. It is out of this desire that I write this now. I have previously articulated multiple oppositions, critiques and challenges to green-nationalism, eco-extremism and political-misanthropy, while having received bad-faith accusations of being an ally to these ideologies. Here I am going to articulate a criticism of an attempt to challenge these ideologies, that seems to play directly into their hands. This is written with absolutely no desire to empower green-nationalism, eco-extremism or political-misanthropy, but only with a desire to disempower the image of eco-fascismbeing proliferated amidst radical discourses.
The writers of the collection Against Green Reactionaries have not sought to empower green-nationalists, eco-extremists and political-misanthropes, through their challenge to eco-fascism. Gillis did not seek to grant eco-extremism a pedalstool for the ideology to be upheld, neither did Campbell (or the publication It’s Going Down that Campbell is associated with). But they have. If I were an advocate of ITS’s practices or Anglin’s neo-Nazi ideology, I’d likely feel thankful for the writers of Against Green Reactionaries.
The main gift that this collection gives to these ideologies is that, through an attempt at linear historical-tracing, they have presented an argument to justify the falsity that environmentalism is fascistic and that fascism is eco-centric. This is the focus of the main essay within the collection, written by Bevensee and Reid-Ross, titled Confronting the Rise of Eco-Fascism Means Grappling with Complex Systems. The immediate issue with this essay is how much it is a reductionist work of Reality-construction, with rigidly delineated pathways that seeks to provide a route directly from the hypothesis to the conclusion. It’s construction is meticulous and obviously designed to perform a specific function, but this piece actually does more than its function. What this “more” is, if we are to accept the writers arguments (which I do not), it succeeds in presenting a pathway to direct environmentalists away from anarchist praxis and towards fascism. The potential added capability of this construction they have built is that of a potential means of blowing up bridges between anarchist and environmentalist activities, which would be awful to happen.
After the main essay there are three pieces focused on eco-extremism – 1 piece on the publication of the Atassa journal, written by Gillis, and 2 on ITS, 1 by Campbell and 1 joint statement from multiple Mexican anarchist groups.
Campbell’s piece is easy to sum up in his statement that “[t]he purpose of this piece is to condemn the recent acts of eco-extremists in Mexico …”. Condemnation is the focus of this piece. Condemnation is conceptually linked to the idea of divine punishment, as in the damned being sent to the demonic realm of hell – “God condemns the wicked to hell, for their sins” type positioning. This is precisely where Campbell perpetuates the same type of theological-theatrics that ITS has thrived on, as necro-psychic-capitalists. Through positioning ITS as demonic evil figures, listing what sins have landed them in hell, this piece serves to make ITS attractive to those who idolise the images of demons – like how Satanism has become more attractive to black metal loving kids, who hate their Christian parents and neighbours, precisely through their parents and neighbours condemnation of black metal music.
As I see it, the best way to challenge ITS is to humanise them, as a techno-morphic Reality, switching between virtual-realms and the technologically-mediated means of weaponry they use for their (tame) attacks, that require no animal-bodily (wild) presence. Once humanise, you can deconstruct their efforts and destroy them, as they are largely successful only in presenting opportunities for state-apparatus to strengthen itself.
The piece On No Platform and ITS, by Gillis, is focused on Little Black Cart (my former publisher) and the Atassa journal. It is a polemic that basically argues that Little Black Cart betrayed anarchists by publishing the journal, which includes anti-anarchist and non-anarchist ideas, including ideas that are terrible from an anarchist perspective. Gillis is correct that there is a lot that is terrible and revolting about the content of the Atassa journal. However, I feel that Gillis has missed what Little Black Cart seemed to intend to do, by publishing the journal. As an ideology that manifested out of disenfranchised green-anarchists, an ideology that engages in activities that are worthy of revolt and challenge, it seems more desirable to me to critically engage with eco-extremism, to deconstruct and destroy the ideology in ways that strengthen anarchist ideas and activities. To do this though, eco-extremism needs to be included within the conversation, which is uncomfortable and in many ways terrible to imagine. However, if we want to see the destruction of eco-extremism, we have to get close enough to stick a (metaphorical/discursive) knife in its body, rather than point to it and yell “demon”.
By far the best piece within the collection is the joint statement, entitled ITS, or The Rhetoric of Decay, as this piece excellently destroys the image of ITS. It is a shame that this piece is the final one and so short compared with the others, with so much space being given to pieces that seem to better serve the ideological needs of eco-extremism, green-nationalism and political misanthropy. I am grateful for this piece being published, though I feel that it would be better positioned as the first (or only) piece, as it is a better challenge to the usurpers of environmentalist thought, who would seek to use it for non-earthly politics.
My criticism’s here of the collection Against Green Reactionaries and of eco-extremist ideology draw from the same ideas that I wrote about in chapter 3 of Feral Consciousness, on terrorism supporting state structures, and chapter 5 of Feral Iconoclasm, on the destruction of icons as a means of de-structuring their authority and radical-empowerment. I have included more critiques of eco-extremism in the book I am publishing later this year, titled Feral Life.
As I stated in my essay An Eco-Pessimist Revolt Against Fascism, I will not gift any environmentalist space to fascism, because I find fascism to be entirely the enemy of environmentalist thought and action. The more individuals seek to tie ecological-praxis with fascism, even from an anti-fascist perspective, the more they grant space to fascism that I have no desire to see it gain. I do no know what would be worse, anarchists to denounce environmentalist praxis out of it being tied to fascism by anti-fascists or environmentalists embracing fascism out of belief that fascism shares values with environmentalism. Both seem terrible. My concern is that one or both of these will be the main achievement of individuals, like the writers included in Again Green Reactionaries, who grant eco-fascismsuch attention as to make it real – as ideation eventually reaches production.
As I have been accused of this before, when refusing to embrace this concept that ultimately only serves to build bridges between fascism and environmentalism, I will state here that this is not “only semantics” – though there is a semiotic-linguistic aspect to my argument. Language affects perception; this much is obvious. Like it or not – perception matters. My desire is only to challenge these ideologies that I have no tolerance towards and part of that involves destroying any signs that seek to point environmentalist down the pathway towards fascism or anarchists away from environmentalism.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
“Whatever is, is either in itself or in another.”
“A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.”
― Gilles Deleuze
“If you’re trapped in the dream of the Other, you’re fucked.”
― Gilles Deleuze
“Don’t just survive while waiting for someone’s revolution to clear your head.”
― Hakim Bey
“Words belong to those who use them only till someone else steals them back.”
― Hakim Bey
“We are not interested in a return to the primitive, but in a return OF the primitive …”
– Hakim Bey
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
― Henry David Thoreau
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…”
― Henry David Thoreau
“All good things are wild and free.”
― Henry David Thoreau
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
― John Muir
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
― John Muir
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
― John Muir
“The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.”
― Mikhail Bakunin
“What had to remain in the collective unconscious as a monstrous hybrid of human and animal, divided between the forest and the city – the werewolf – is, therefore, in its origin the figure of the man who has been banned from the city. That such a man is defined as a wolf-man and not simply as a wolf (the expression caput lupinum has the form of a juridical statute) is decisive here. The life of the bandit, like that of the sacred man, is not a piece of animal nature without any relation to law and the city. It is, rather, a threshold of indistinction and of passage be-tween animal and man, physis and nomos, exclusion and inclusion: the life of the bandit is the life of the loup garou, the werewolf, who is precisely neither man nor beast, and who dwells paradoxically within both while belonging to neither.”
“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.
It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre
“…then he comes to the brink of a precipitous fall; that is, he comes to the point where he himself will have to be taken as standing-reserve. Meanwhile man, precisely as the one so threatened, exalts himself to the posture of lord of the earth. In this way the impression comes to prevail that everything man encounters exists only insofar as it is his construct. This illusion gives rise in turn to one final delusion: It seems as though man everywhere and always encounters only himself… In truth, however, precisely nowhere does man today any longer encounter himself, i.e. his essence. Man stands so decisively in attendance on the challenging-forth of Enframing that he does not apprehend Enframing as a claim, that he fails to see himself as the one spoken to, and hence also fails in every way to hear in what respect he ek-sists, from out of his essence, in the realm of an exhortation or address, and thus can never encounter only himself.”
― Martin Heidegger
“It is not that I am mad, it is only that my head is different from yours.”
― Diogenes of Sinope
“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.”
– Wolf Landstreicher (Feral Faun)
“Whoever will be free must make himself free. Freedom is no fairy gift to fall into a man’s lap. What is freedom? To have the will to be responsible for one’s self.”
― Max Stirner