I am not an active reader of horror-fiction by any standard. The three collections of Lovecraft stories on my book shelf were a gift from a friend this year. I do love a good horror film (and am happy to watch enjoyable awful ones), but the written form has not been a huge part of my literary experience.
However, what you do find in my book collection are many, many, works of anarchist thought, theory and practice. And before being a work of horror-fiction, Homuncula is a work on what it is to live a life as an anarchist.
Homuncula is a story about an individual who no longer finds themselves able to conform to the Reality that has been constructed where they live. They seek to escape the confines of civilisation and embrace the wild landscapes, where anarchy flows freely, not bothered by repressive anthropological machinery. What proceeds from here narrative-wise, I will not spoil.
One of my favourite quotes from the book is this – “The human world was against me now yes, most undoubtedly, but what of it? The universe and all of wild nature, it seemed, were on my side.”
You could read this book and conclude that it is a story about cannibalism, ancient alien gods and blobs, but that would by no means be fair to the book, nor Nolette. What Nolette achieves through this book is bringing the reader all of those darkest aspects of the anarchist experience and, in that way that horror aesthetics does so well, exaggerates so that we may reflect upon our own experience and affirm our strength and power that has gotten us to where we are right now. Nolette weaves anarchist thought through the book, including, either in reference or as characters, noted historical anarchists and anarchistic individuals, in ways that I imagine most individuals familiar with anarchist thought would enjoy – I certainly did.
As far as comparisons go, this work reminds me most of authors like Quinn, Kafka and Lovecraft. It’s thought is also comparable to that of Bakunite, Galleanist and primitivist, while being unique, in that this is Nolette’s work.
Any anarchist or non-anarchist who reads this book, I feel, should read this not as a work of ideology or propaganda, but as something far more important. Really, this is a work seeking to explore the absurd and unanswerable question of how does any individual find a way to live.
“Thus we can realize, for ourselves, the opportunity to live our own lives.” Emile Armand, What We Have Been, We Still Remain
It is not vague sentimental moral pity or a lack of appreciation for the severity of the pandemic we are witnessing unfold that inspires my revulsion. My perspective is that death is always present throughout life and that egoistic-welfare is the only sincere basis for value.
What inspires my disgust for culls, before my general feel of revulsion for acts of abuse and violation, is the ideological positioning of the “human” animal atop some imaginary metaphysical hierarchy, often called the great chain of being. This is the first assumption of cull-ideology – that the anthropological-machinery of Leviathan is ontologically greater than the life of any individual living being, human or non-human, flora or fauna, or even those mineral-beings who live lives that are far slower, longer and who are certainly more powerful than the featherless bipeds who consider themselves made in the image of God.
What further fuels my revulsion for culls is living amidst the utter wreckage of human-supremacist ideology, agricultural-civilisation. All the wild beauty that still fights and struggles to survive, amidst the carnage, inspires intense joy in me. But the sight of any individual caged and industrial monocultures across the landscape are continual reminders of the ideology that seeks to dominate all life here.
The caged individual experiences anthropological-machinery attempting to repress their life-experience. The culled individual’s last experience is of the freedom and power that is their-being/their-life ended, as a sacrificial offering to anthropological-machinery, deus ex machina.
That mink are being culled to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is utterly detestable. Have they culled the airplanes that enabled its geographical reach? Will they cull any of the other aspects of anthropological-machinic-functioning that has escalated the presence of this virus to the point that it has currently reached? Is culling those human animals who have brought the virus to mink populations a prospect we should expect? Will this culture escalate mass-extinction processes to the point that absolute totalitarian-humanism has rendered all non-human presence lost?
As much as my individual welfare is ecological welfare, my egoist rejection of species-being desires total-liberation as the end of human-supremacist machinery. I desire the liberation of individuals we call mink as much as I desire the liberation of any other individual. It is irrelevant to me what the cull-numbers represent with regards to the population of the species; as the life experiences of any individual this culture assigns the label of “mink” to, their freedom and power, is not valuable for how we conceptualise them as species-being, but in their being alive.
As I realise, for myself, opportunities for intense life-experiences, I also realise constructions that serve to repress life-experiences. Much of my personal activities for several years have been directed towards anti-cull rebellion and resisting the ideology within the world I occupy, here in the badger-cull zones in the south west of Briton. That I am able to do this immediately as individualist-praxis continually intensifies my opposition towards and disgusted feeling for revolutionary posturing and ideology, which position liberation as being dependent upon collectivist-machinery and contingent upon Historical factors that are never here and now.
My inclinations towards political pessimism leave me feeling that, regardless of how they attempt to suppress and control this disease, whatever vaccines scientists can produce, how many lockdowns they implement, or whatever; the world is, as it always is, changed and now different in ways that it will never be the same again. And while my revulsion is different, as it undergoes the continuing metamorphosis of becoming that is being-in-the-world; I remain revolted by speciesism!
Yesterday the last book in my Feral collection got published and I was the glad recipient of messages from folks saying that they had ordered the book, or asking questions into the content – click here for more info on ordering a copy. All the books in this collection are focused on anarchy from an environmentalist perspective and environmentalism from an anarchist one. My intension throughout all of the books is to deconstruct and destroy Realities, while affirming what is Real – taken with a playful pessimism, that accepts the inability of these books to destroy the ecocidal machinery of this culture and the inevitability of these books being Realities themselves.
What sets Feral Life: Meditations on Rewilding and Anarchy apart from the other two is both tiny and huge. In many ways the book is similar to the others, as would be expected from any work situated within a collection. And it is intensely different, due to both the writing style and the subjects considered.
Rather than being written as an attempt to argue a position, as Feral Consciousness was written, or as a straight-up challenge/attack, as Feral Iconoclasm was written; Feral Life was written, as the full title should suggest, as a collection of meditations, embracing a position of mad-individuality, cosmic-terror and mystical-awe, akin to what is called theia mania – though mine is certainly an agnostic mania. This work also seeks to affirm and destroy the thoughts of other anarchist and environmentalist thinkers/writers/philosophers, at a greater intensity than the other two – in particular that of the anarchs-primitivist tradition, which I am often considered a member of. The final difference to the other two is that this book includes both (non-)suggested games for people to (consider) engage(/engaging) in, and a loosely structured practice, I’ve called Feral-culture , after encouragement from a loved one.
Books That Fuelled Feral Life
The bulk of the inspiration for this book is experiences that were non-literary, immediate and personal. These books are (some of) those that I found myself thinking about when writing these meditations. I will list them below and, rather than provide a description of the text in full, briefly state what I found in them that fuelled my writing.
Uncivilisation: The Dark Mountain Manifesto by Kingsnorth and Hine – I most appreciate this work for how it affirms the power of creativity amidst the collapse of civilisation and crumbling of empire.
Anarchy and Ecstasy by Moore – Moore’s reflections on “bewilderedness” as being core to authentic primal-experience resonates intensely with my thought and feeling.
Blessed is the Flame: an introduction to concentration camp resistance and anarchs-nihilism, by Serafinski – my main take away from this text is the affirmation of, no matter how intensely repressive the machinery around you is, as long as you are alive you are free and capable of rebelling against abuse and authority, even if that is a desperate rebellion.
Feral Revolution by Feral Faun – the two ideas within this text that I appreciate are those around social-abolition and pan-eroticism, with FF’s mad individuality being beautiful to encounter.
Immediatism by Hakim Bey – this work’s presentist situating anarchy in the immediate here and now harmonises intensely with my thought and experience.
Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence by Morton – Morton’s thoughts on subscendence have influenced much of the thought in Feral Life.
The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus – Camus’ absurdist philosophy helped shaped much of my thought on eco-absurdism, as presented in Feral Life.
The Rebel by Camus – Camus’ notion of metaphysical-rebellion, where to live is to embody freedom and rebellion and existence are twisted together and inseparable, is another intense influence on my thought in this book (and elsewhere).
Walden by Henry David Thoreau – the eco-mysticism and individualist-environmentalism within this text is, like Camus’ books, a continual inspiration for me.
The Principle of Unrest: Activist Philosophy in the Expanded Field by Massumi – this work affected both my thoughts on activism and inclusivity, as I wrote Feral Life.
Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by Abram – my eco-phenomenological perspective is informed, influenced and inspired by Abram’s thought.
A Thousand Plateaus by Delouse and Guattari – the chapter Becoming-Animal in this colossal work of post-structuralist social-ontology, with particular reference to the concept of involution, has fuelled much of my thought on presentist-accelerationism and civilisational-collapse.
Twilight of the Idols by Nietzsche – Nietzsche’s iconoclastic process and aphoristic style only became a noticeable influence on this book when I finished the first draft, when I skim read it late 2019, despite the differences in subject matter and contexts.
Last night my wife, Katie, and I watched the concluding two episodes of the BBC TV series The Fall, via Netflix. While I enjoyed watching the show, I was disappointed throughout for the use of Nietzsche’s philosophy in the characterisation of Paul Spector, with him quoting and drawing Nietzsche,due to how utterly un-Nietzschean I encountered him as a character. If you have not watched the show and would like to, please do not read ahead as I will spoil aspects for you.
To begin this, take a moment to look at this image from one of Spector’s note books, with a Nietzsche quote included –
This quote comes from aphorism 40 in Beyond Good and Evil. Spector’s need for a mask is entirely un-Nietzschean, in as much as Nietzsche’s description of the profound-mask wearer is part of his rejection of the profound dishonesty of moralistic-philosophies. Earlier in the aphorism Nietzsche states – “A man whose shame is profund encounters even his destinies and delicate decisions on paths which few ever reach and whose mere existence his neighbors and closest intimates must not know: his mortal danger is concealed from their eyes, and so is his regained sureness of life. Such a concealed man who instinctively needs speech for silence and to be silent and who is inexhaustible in his evasion of communication, wants and sees to it that a mask of him roams in his place through the hearts and heads of his friends; and supposing he did not want it, he would still realize some day that in spite of that a mask of him is there—and that this is good”. In as much as Nietzsche’s philosophy rejects the notion of shame, Spector’s mask that conceals him from the eyes of his neighbours and closest intimates (his wife and children) is a similar form of profound dishonesty as that of highly moral figures who wear masks to conceal their animal desires, who disgusted Nietzsche.
But as well as being a mask wearer, Spector is a murderer. I want to consider what a murderer is, what they do and the quality of this action. What a murderer does is they end the ability of a living individual to sustain their will-to-life – Spector doing this via suffocation. In so doing, a murderer is someone who says “no” to life, with the quality of the act being that murder is a no-saying to life. Nietzsche’s philosophy however is one of life-affirmation, as is described in his work The Gay Science as one of being a “yes-sayer”. Spector’s no-saying to life through murder has nothing of Nietzsche’s philosophy of mad-dancing, to embrace the mutual horror and joy of Being.
I now wish to focus on the destruction of the image of Spector having anything, really, to do with Nietzsche’s concept of ubermensch, as is suggested by the show and in this piece on the character. I will do this by specifically drawing from ideas found in his Thus Spoke Zarathustra, as this is where his concept of ubermensch is best described.
The character of Spector is motivated by hatred, of himself and the world around him. This self-hatred is what fuels his activities as a murderer. In the section Of Despisers Of The Body, Nietzsche speaks of such a person in saying “your Self wants to perish, and that is why you have become despisers of the body” and goes on to say “I do not go your way, you despisers of the body”.
Following from this, in his conversations with the character Katie Spector describes his actions as coming from a disgust towards his experiences of suffering. That is, he seeks to make others suffer – ultimately through murder – as he is repulsed by his suffering. In the section Of The Preachers Of Death, Nietzsche describes such an individual in saying “‘life is only suffering’ – thus others of them speak, and they do not lie: so see to it that you cease to live”. Nietzsche’s ultimate rejection of the preachers of death is totally at odds with Spector’s efforts to cease life, as a preacher of death.
Two of the qualities that Nietzsche values in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which are not found in Spector’s character, are lust-for-power and selfishness. This might shock those who have a particular idea of what these qualities mean, but my meaning should become clear soon. With regards to selfishness, I wish to split it from the concept of selflessness, to differentiate the two. Rather than being selfish, Spector is entirely selfless, in as much as he seeks to render his presence an empty hollow space. He seeks to erase himself from his actions as a murderer, hide his childhood from his family and renounce himself from the world. With regards to lust-for-power, I wish to split power from repression. Rather than desiring the presence of powerful individuals, Spector actively seeks to repress power, through murder, seemingly out of an experience of him being-powerless. There is a pathetic quality to Spector that comes with this, which reminds me of this quote from the section Of War and Warriors – “in wickedness, the arrogant and weak man meet”. Spector’s attempts to disempower women whose bodies he despises is also at odds with Nietzsche’s thoughts in the section The Dance Song, which I encounter as a rejection of the disempowerment of women – “do not cease your dance sweet girls. No spoil-sport has come to you with evil eye, no enemy of girls”.
Finally, in his act of suicide, Spector reveals himself as someone without the aspects of character fitting Nietzsche’s mad embrace of everything terrible and beautiful, but as someone more akin to the suicidism of Cioran, renouncing the world out of piteous weakness.
Anyone familiar with my thought will know that Nietzsche is a personal inspiration and that I find him highly relevant for both anarchist and environmentalist philosophy. I find no celebration of abuse from this thinker who suffered a mental breakdown upon seeing a horse being beaten, and would rather see his thought affirmed than distortions continued.
[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.
“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