The Romance of Primal: A critique and response to Kevin Tucker’s “The Suffocating Void”

“Thinking must stand beyond all anthropology and psychology if it wants to be equipped for the question of who man is; for as soon as, and wherever, one ‘asks’ about humanity in the anthropological manner, and everything is linked back to humanity (be it as the individual ‘subject’ or as ‘people,’ it makes no difference in this fundamental realm), a decision about humanity has already been reached, and every possibility of interrogating the essence of humanity on the basis of completely different connections (to the essence of being) has been excluded. Even all doctrines of humanity (e.g. the Christian-Jewish doctrine) that define man immediately on the basis of his relation to a ‘God’ are anthropological which is why, in non-Christian anthropology and in those that would like to be it and cannot, it is precisely /Christian anthropology and its body of doctrine that must play an essential role, if only in its mere reversal.” – Martin Heidegger

The ecological thought understands that there never was an authentic world. This doesn’t mean that we can do what we like with where we live, however. Thinking big means realizing that there is always more than our point of view. There is indeed an environment, yet when we examine it, we find it is made of strange strangers. Our awareness of them isn’t always euphoric or charming or benevolent. Environmental awareness might have something intrinsically uncanny about it, as if we were seeing something we shouldn’t be seeing, as if we realized we were caught in something.” -Timothy Morton. The Ecological Thought

I rarely harp on primitivists even though I am both not one and also hostile to many of the positive politics of primitivists, in so much that they have positive politics.  I have, however, felt many of the general critiques of primitivism conflate varieties of ecological thinking and argue from consequences first, thus avoiding any substance to the primitivist critique.   A Heideggerian-inspired primitivist, a deep ecologist, a prepper, a tribalist, a hunter-gatherer, et al, do not necessarily share premises either.  A primitivistically-inclined friend of mine asked to read Tucker’s The Sufffocating Void and asked me respond, adding the caveat, “I sometimes wonder if primitivism has a tendency to be asceticism for the middle class.”   I am not entirely sure that is what is going on in Kevin Tucker’s case, but Tucker’s essay had me thinking about what exactly what constitutes my issues with this brand of primitivism. I have always been hesitant to debate the “natural,” particularly when using the natural as a normative value and not merely a descriptor. I have, in the past, critiqued John Zerzan for seeming going back and forth being seeing collapse as a descriptive inevitability and a normative value.  This leads to some problems philosophically that then thus have profound implications for the success or failure of any such project. Tucker is not Zerzan, but Zerzan’s critique has often been based on a vision of a life that resists reification, even the point of giving up language. Yet, like most anti-philosophy, Zerzan’s critique of reification in human life cannot resist all sorts of reifications itself: one recounts the intellectual neologistic bromides of post-Heideggerian post-structuralist thinkers who attacked the conceptual logic of philosophy… which is a different form of that same logic of attempted escape.

When it comes to the “natural,” the problem is doubly there.   We can argue about what the natural is, but then we presume necessarily what we must prove in our conception of natural.  The criterion itself is where the differences emerge, and expressing that criterion is where the values are assumed.  In this, one can be attempting to fight reification with seeming more concrete language that is, however, more nebulous than the technical jargon it seeks to replace.  “Natural” is doubly problematic in so much that, from most common language use, it implies something that humans are necessarily alienated from and a continuous product of.    I am not even sure Tucker would disagree with me that this conception of nature is, at best, “problematic.”  The tension in that conception,  however, creates a space for projecting on “the natural” any lack which to fix. It is a nebulous term. Tucker’s essay is full of both the extremely concrete and the very nebulous, and thus kind of conceptual problem starts to come into play.

This is mostly because Tucker is a very, very good writer of polemics and a fairly sound thinker.  Tucker’s take-down of Derrick Jensen’s alternating concessions to the “mainstream left” as well as his militancy against very specific things is probably one of the best critiques of Jensen written–mostly because Tucker starts from a point of consistency to which Jensen’s claims to have fidelity and the destruction flows from that point forward. No one knows the weaknesses of your position more than the position who almost shares it and is more consistent with to what prompts that position.  However, like Marx, a man whom I almost certain Tucker would not like to be compared, the clear thinking and the tendency for effective polemic can conflict.  That conflict is where the more subtle problems are hidden.

What Tucker sees in modern social media is another revolution, but like prior revolutions of the means of production, Tucker sees more human domestication:

Like the Agricultural Revolution, Industrial Revolution, and the Green Revolution before it, the Interface Revolution propels civilization beyond the boundaries and limitations of earlier systems. The firewalls of Jericho have been breached. Progress innovated, the processes integrated.

For the programmers, this is no small feat. This is the dream of every domesticator: people lining up and fighting for the latest technology, fighting for a place in line, paying top dollar for devices with built in tracking and data mining software and willing to remain in debt to sustain the terms of our bondage. Never mind that the world is suffocating under piles of waste, choking down makeshift mines for rare and difficult to extract metals, while workers are forced to sign anti-suicide clauses, villages are displaced, and sustained low budget warfare are both form and function; the expectation isn’t just that all of this will be ignored, but that you, the consumer, will be back for more next year. Or sooner.

In this description of the situation, Tucker is not wrong, but the focus on resistance and on the idea of domestication creates a problem.  Like Camatte, the left communist who saw the subsuming of everyday life in capital as so complete and so dangerous, the only possibility to go to something like community was no longer communism, but into the wild. Re-wilding was a form of strategic retreat.  However, Camatte could not do this.  Furthermore, as Zerzan showed on his writings on Adorno, the various forms of reason thrown up by the Enlightenment were almost all heading towards instrumental reason.  Not abstract logic, not universal teleology of mankind, not linguistic or emotional reasoning, but the brutal reasoning that lends itself towards a singular goal with unique and total abandon–the goal generally be a fetish of wealth above and beyond any human need.  Zerzan pointed out that Adorno could not escape the logic of Enlightenment himself, and Zerzan, for all his protests about reification, cannot escape the reification of nature.  For Tucker then, the very notion of volunteeristic re-wilding becomes necessary, but that itself remains vague and abstract.  This is the very tendency that Tucker needs to criticize because this is where a real limit to his thought may be.

To be fair, Tucker is most definitely aware of this tension in his writing.  The irony that he must use those very technologies he sees as related to domestication to get his message out about writing is not lost on him.  Nor is it fair to just call him a hypocrite: the Marxist must sell pay for food and earn wages, the conservative will receive the social benefits he does not want to fund, and the liberal will turn illiberal the movement their projects are threatened.   Even the diehard materialists with a vision of absolute freedom knows they cannot escape their context alone, by their sheer will, or they already would have.

This makes Tucker’s slip into moralism also a slip into borderline conspiracy:

The unprecedented nature of this has led two industry proponents to applaud the near universal acceptance of mobile phones as the most quickly adopted consumer technology in the history of the world. Gloating in their sickening book, Networked, authors Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman state: “the Mobile Revolution has allowed [Information and Community Technologies] to become body appendages allowing people to access friends and information at will, wherever they go.” The key being “always accessible”, but, in true form, they see “the possibility of a continued presence and pervasive awareness of others in the network”[10] positively.

The architects of civilization have long understood that the power of the domestication process lies in its ability to be internalized. The mythos of Progress requires daily affirmation. The programmers, however, realized that affirmation could become integrated.

Progress is a myth in an absolute form. Progress, to be meaningful, is a term relative to another term.  Yet in its fetishization we realize its weakness: it can be separated from that context and treated as a noun.  Everything can be deemed “progress” if there is no referent or standard, and what progress actually refers to a secularized teleology.   Nature too is a myth and by the same logic of fetishized abstraction. There are things in the world that are inhuman, there are systems beyond any individual or society or species, and these systems have logics that can be disruptive but are rarely ever intentional–even by those that create them. This is where the vision of nature as what humans lack becomes a limit to seeing what we and the inhuman are. The mythos of progress doesn’t not require daily supplication:  it just requires you to need the tools to communicate in the context given to you.  To deny that is to call for aesthetics and aseticism in the face of a society that you cannot cut yourself totally off from without being alienated from the very social necessities to which one is trying to return:

Tucker says,

To assume such a process needs daily affirmation is to see it as religious.  This attributes to it more agency than it has, and so to the individual fighting against voluntarily.  To go back to Tucker’s argument:

What you see when you step into public places are faces illuminated by backlit devices. Groups of teens walking together and each lost in their own virtual presence. 1.3 million car accidents in the US during 2011 were caused by drivers distracted with their cell phones.[11] You will see people constantly swiping their screens to look for updates, feeds, messages, or just blindly glancing out of habit at their phones, most seemingly with no recognition of what they are doing.

The conclusion of the Megamachine, the necessary step to furthering the goals of Progress, was to eliminate barriers. To make it so we treat phones as an appendage, while the Programmers dream of making them one.

To make us complicit.

To make us comply without even noticing it.

The conclusion of the Megamachine?  You will notice the continuing poetic metaphor.  The agency attributed to ideas.  The moral terminology as a call-to-action.  What does this actually get the primitivist?  The idea that the human has not been changed by 5000 years of agriculture despite the dominance of hunter-gatherer societies prior seems to be flatly contradicted by human development of its society. To say this is a megamachine that aims to make us all complicit is a dangerous metaphor.  The machine doesn’t care about you.   It also doesn’t care about your complicity.  The programmers may be embarking on cybernetic social engineering, but they are probably just trying to make a product for which they can make money.    Like most domestication, if it becomes intentional, it is for practical reasons, and generally it seems to begin by some kind of accident.  The majority of social life is reactive to the conditions in which we live, and to dream that is imposed upon us or that it requires anyone to have agency over it can lead to very moralistic tactics that doesn’t realize the problems at hand.

If anything, this moralistic element in Tucker’s writing actually mitigates the true nature of damage done to all things non-human and also thus to the human being as well.  IF there is an agent, we can reverse the trend. We can fight it off.  However, if it the result of systems that developed from unintended consequences, then the chance we would ever understand enough to reverse it becomes less likely.

There is much that is right about Tucker’s argument, and he is right on the facts about around social media involvement: declines in the ability of self-control and executive function, an increased sense of depression, and inflated sense of status competition between relative peers, constantly performing a personality in a “discourse community” which warps one’s sense of self.  He’s right.  That is the result of this technology, but where I think he is wrong is here:

Progress remains. Mythos adapt.

Except it doesn’t. Concepts don’t do anything.  This is to attribute for more power to ideas than is warranted, and this is where my friend’s fears that this can all lapse into a kind of moralism against the dross of current capitalist life starts to ring true.  If we take people as animals in complex systems that are given to collapse and whose effectiveness at abstraction makes them dangerous to themselves, we must also assume that this do not emerge as an conspiracy or some kind of alien element to “nature.” It happened.

Archeological evidence from early agricultural settlements show that the spirit of relative egalitarianism does remain in the beginnings of the establishment of a settled culture, but it never remains that way.  Agriculture was not a conspiracy, it was probably a response to over-foraging or to some other notion of society.   Nomadic cultures are not hunter-gatherers necessarily either, but even there we can see similar patterns.   Progress isn’t the cause.  It was what we call the call the cause.  The cause is responses to inhuman and the unintended consequences thereof.

I doubt Tucker would even disagree with me on any of this, but a belief in the sacrosanct individual may be the issue.  I actually can’t speak for Tucker on this nor do I actually deny the individual per se.  But I do deny that the individual is sui generis and can escape a context not of one’s singular making by an act of will.  Perhaps it is a my historicism, but such volunteerism seems dangerously optimistic about what humans are.

But again, we can come down too hard on Tucker’s argument because the one intentionality I think he is absolutely right about was the purpose of social media.  Lately, I saw a post about “never let limits stop your dreams: uber is the largest taxi company and owns no cars, facebook is the largest media provider and creates no content, AIRBNB is the largest hotel service and owns no buildings.”   This inspirational message misses the point–all of these were attempts to disrupt the economy and lower overhead, but it necessarily had to do so weakening any labor.  AirBnB is probably the least offensive on this front as it generally is just a aggregating service, but no so for facebook and uber.  I don’t think, however, this was an attempt break individuals explicitly, but it requires such breaking.   The purpose was to profit on someone’s labor without even providing the means of production: it is the means of access that matters.

This, however, follows from profit imperatives as much as any conspiracy: the intentionality was probably not malicious. Or, at least, not more malicious that any attempt at profit.  It’s effects, however, will be wage suppression and labor precariousness.  These companies are aware of that now and must continue to do it to exist, but I highly doubt their intentional intentions were that systemically thought through.  One thing I noticed when I did work in the business world is that it is very good at analysis as long as that analysis doesn’t require a system understanding more than a year or two out in any direction and with “externalities” more than one or two sectors removed from their own.

Tucker asserts, “We chose to take part in this inexplicably vast social experiment and database without seeing it as a choice” I found his essay on what amounts to a database that is just as embedded in that world as any facebook post, just as likely to be monitored by the NSA, just as likely to be traceable from google.

Time’s arrow is not a choice.

Tucker then ends with the nebulous we and they that most polemics end in:

The problems that surround us, the emptiness of Modernity, the thing that has us looking at screens instead of into eyes is a distraction. It is life automated. As you shudder away from that frightening noise, the clutter, the crowds, the moment you look up mindlessly from your phone; you are confronted with all of this.

And it is too much.

It is suffocating. It is an endless nothingness, a weight on the lungs, a turning in the stomach, an unidentified repulsion.

The temptation is to look away. That is why we don’t even have the words to address this plague, to address how the hardwired matrix became an invisible leash. We aren’t confronting it. And the programmers, the domesticators of Modernity, are counting on the fact that we are losing the very ability to even situate or reconcile our loss and context.

They are counting on our inability to recognize the world around us.

No, frankly, “they” aren’t.  “They” are counting on the fact that even if you do recognize the world around you, once the arrow is shot, you can’t reverse it without other unforeseen consequences.  This does not mean we should just passively accept whatever is thrown our way but to pretend that one’s, essentially, consumer choices matter that much is to not realize where exactly one is that. The idea that getting off facebook will break a social conspiracy:  that’s more than just volunteerism, that’s pretending to be in a situation one is not actually in.

“They” don’t even need “us” that much anymore.  “They” can find a market elsewhere.  “They” may even develop robots that renders most of the human population irrelevant to production or consumption.  Furthermore, the problem is deeper than these dystopic visions.  As the aforemetioned friend pointed out to me in a different context,

Assuming that most hunter-gatherer cultures had about 10,000 years of experience (if not more including our evolutionary past) to practice and figure out how to survive in a given terrain, I think prepper-primmo rewilders are pretty deluded if they think they can suddenly just prosper in that situation. You can take two issues as examples: bird song and selected burning. Kalahari Bushmen and many other “primitive” people could go into a landscape and know pretty much what was going on by listening to the birds, since the birds signal to each other when a predator or intruder is in the vicinity, etc. That, and tracking, which is one part actually looking at tracks, and one part listening to the patterns of bird song to see which way the prey went. And as for burning, that was a managing of landscape that even surpasses much of current wild land science. Once those ways of life ended, they were done. You simply can’t replicate them. Like that Aboriginal tribe that had an absolute sense of cardinal direction. Primmo-prepper-permaculturalists would do best to not be deluded about their efforts. Survival in that sort of doomsday scenario would be pure luck, and it might be the lucky who get killed off right away.

In other words, not only is time’s arrow going to go in ways we can  predict or control, the idea that there is a wildness just waiting to come out instantly upon the removal of “civilization” is frankly something that we don’t have evidence for.  We have changed.  Even assume that the stuff of human beings are relatively consistent over time because of minimal  natural selection pressures, historical pressures and sexual selection would have altered our genome.   Even as individuals, we may not be completely determined by our environments in consistently predictable ways, but we do exist in context with that environment and our skills sets come from essentially practical needs. Even when those conditions are of our own making, we often have no idea the full impact.

So here Tucker ends:

To see this world the way our bodies feel it and our minds know it, there is no other option but the annihilation of civilization. We have guides. We have instincts.

We have our wildness.

So before we are lost in a sea of unending, constant nothingness: to take the first step, we must first look up. Breathe deep.

And fight back.

Nothingness can only be expressed in symbols.  Our “wildness” is not some static species being that will emerge, and even if it was, turning your computer off may help your depression, but its not going to do a damn thing about world as whole.  This is the danger of the conflation of between the normative and descriptive: It is just obvious that you like me, that you know what I know, that we have the same instincts.

The rub, though, is if we did all feel this instictively, our current state of development never would happened.  To fight back, one must never give into a Mythos even if it is fight another mythos.  This moralism deludes an individual as much as the computer and the market.   It sees some parts of life as practical, but creates a state of exception for the rest of it.  It zeros in on one part of our becoming to the exclusion of other parts of our becoming.

You cannot pour new wine into old wine skins.  When the wine expands, the skin explodes and you lose both.  That is the danger of reification that even the primitivists seem unable to escape, but unlike Tucker, I don’t see this as personal failing of will.  I see it as a consequence of what we have become.    We will adapt or die: progress is just a conceptual apparatus, it didn’t cause any of this, and I suspect our belief in it was a rationalization without much real consequence.

Advertisements

25 thoughts on “The Romance of Primal: A critique and response to Kevin Tucker’s “The Suffocating Void”

  1. Reading about Derrick Jensen these days depresses me. The damning part, it seems to me, is that one can judge his present attitudes and actions by his earliest writings. He appears to be cynical now, which was never how I perceived him in his first few books.

    I remember when I came across “A Language Older Than Words”. It was published in 2000. I was still in my early 20s. I suppose I had never read a book like it before that time. It hit me hard at the time, because I was at an extreme low point in my depression, only a few years past a suicide attempt and feeling lost in the world. Jensen’s writings spoke to me, helped me to more clearly see it wasn’t just about my life. He inspired me to look at the bigger picture with unflinching eyes.

    The year 2000 was a turning point in my mind. It truly felt like a new era. Along with Jensen’s book, the Bush ‘election’ made me realize how bad off the world was and already knew we were living in tough times. My environmentalist awakening happened in the early 1990s during high school when I read Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb”. But Jensen made me appreciate how systemic, entrenched, and deeply historical these problems were. He also made it personally real to me by the way he was able to combine factual descriptions of events with an emotional punch to the gut.

    His next book (2002), “The Culture of Make Believe”, was even more soul-wrenching and despairing. Of course, it followed the 9/11 attacks. Despair was in the air.

    I was looking forward to reading whatever he would write next. I was disappointed, however, by his later works. He was no longer questioning, especially not himself, for he now had the answers. That turned me off. I largely ignored him from then on. Yet I still fondly remember my reading of those early works of his.

    I did return to thinking about him in some posts I wrote in 2010. I hadn’t read any of his later books, but still from looking around on the web I was sensing that there was something that changed in his views. I began to see how he had made a mythology out of his personal trauma. Such personal mythologies can be both powerful and dangerous, both inspiring and deluding.

    Since that time, I keep coming across the negative reactions to Jensen and his behaviors. I’m not sure how to make sense of what he has become. It’s sad to see someone get overtaken by their own psychological issues. Whatever good his early books may have contributed, I feel confident in saying that such good has been undone. He has discredited himself and permanently marred all of his writings.

    I’ve come to criticize Jensen, as Tucker has done, because of the inconsistency (which is to put it lightly).

    • The reading of a personality trauma into a mythos is self-justifying as much as self-deluding. I am sure it can appear liberating, but also tends to render everything in a morass of un-criticizable assertions. When one turns that into a politics, you can definitely feel the shift, as one reads oneself as the entire world.

      • When I originally read his early books, I interpreted his using the personal as a lense, as a way of grounding larger issues in direct experience and observations. Also, I usually appreciate understanding where an author is coming from. The personal didn’t seem to be getting in the way of his thinking at that time.

        But maybe that mythos-formation was already in process in his first semi-autobiographical book and I just didn’t fully recognize it. I don’t know. There seems to have been more openness to his views back a decade and half ago. I sensed he was able at the time to consider multiple perspectives and allow for uncertainty of answers.

        Was that not genuine? Did his change in writing signify a change in the author or were the later views implicit in what he had written before? Did I entirely miss the clues that would have pointed me toward what I only understood later?

        Maybe sometime I’ll look back at those books, but now with a critical eye.

  2. I appreciate your conclusion:

    “That is the danger of reification that even the primitivists seem unable to escape, but unlike Tucker, I don’t see this as personal failing of will. I see it as a consequence of what we have become. We will adapt or die: progress is just a conceptual apparatus, it didn’t cause any of this, and I suspect our belief in it was a rationalization without much real consequence.”

    I’m in agreement with you. I’m not a fan of explaining problems “as personal failing of will”. That doesn’t explain anything at all. Your last sentence is most interesting. Do you think progress is a continuous response and adaptation to what has been caused by other things? Or is it not even that? Progress is a story we tell ourselves, but it is hard to know if there is much useful meaning to that story.

    • That’s a tough question. I think “progress” in its “ur-progress” form is an attempt to name the way we react to change in a such a way to make it look like it always FOR something, but that something never has to be named. In such, it is a perfect rationalization, but I don’t remotely think it is causal.

  3. This was pointed out to me this morning. Thanks for responding to it. Here is my quick reply on the Black and Green Forum. Also, one of the quotes includes your commentary about half way down.
    I’d say the biggest point throughout this is in the first objection I raise, but I didn’t go into it in detail. The discussion in TSV is about how the mythos of Progress is a justification given for the domestication process and its mental/physical implementation. I’m a die hard cultural materialist. Technology is the driving force here, but as humans, we need a story, we need a reason, so the domesticator’s have always sold (at least since intentionality became a possibility) Reason.
    I do not believe Progress is the wind of change, but within the last 100 years, its the forecasted script that we continue to play out. That is until the “always on” interfaces rendered the future obsolete for an eternal present without presence. We’re here, but we’re not engaged. We’re trying to keep up with change rather than wait for it. This is a significant change and one that felt apt to target, hence this piece.

    There’s frankly not a lot to respond to. Most of the points raised are followed by something along the lines of “Tucker probably agrees with this”.
    But a few things stand out;
    1) The author seems to think that I’m a proponent of Progress. I’ve addressed Progress as a religiously upheld narrative for social change, not the axiom. It’s the justification, not the action nor the actor. Imperatives do matter.
    2) The moralism stuff is nothing new, but I don’t think they’ve shown in any way that I’ve made moralistic claims. But as I’ve said before, if being pro-wildness makes me a moralist, then I don’t give a fuck. Seriously. If what’s standing between me having a stance on civilization that can be acted upon or not is fear of a boogeyman term, then I’ll gladly cut my losses and wear that hat. No skin off my back.
    3) Humans have not changed, we are mentally and physically still hunter-gatherers. I am not afraid of talking about human nature and I think the evidence is in the functioning of the domestication process in every single application of it. That’s one of the central points behind The Suffocating Void and pretty much everything I’ve ever written. If you believe that the fundamental terminology I use is oppressive, then that’s a non-starter, but it doesn’t frighten me to use it. If you believe a biological argument is invalid, then there’s not much more to say about it.
    4) The author seems to imply that my solution to the social media problem is to simply shut off your facebook page which is completely disingenuous. It has, however, proven to be a difficult point and if it makes me look “less radical” to have addressed the fact that even radicals are stuck within that void with little hope of re-engaging elsewhere. But there is a central point here, facebook might seem like an obvious target, but the idea that there is a singular platform that almost a quarter of the entire world’s population is using at least once per month and that number is swelling, that’s historically unique and significantly telling. Even more so when directly calling it out results in few actually taking the turn. There’s an implicit notion here that by having a critique that we are exempt from the consequences of using technologies or systems or what-have-you and that’s simply not true.
    5) The idea that I’m some kind of back-to-the-land hippy for pushing rewilding is a thorn in my side. It absolutely misses the point. My push on rewilding isn’t about upholding reifications of nature, but immersion within into/beyond it. That is the exact opposite of reification. This is a point that can’t be won through philosophical debate or historical/anthropological/ecological argumentation. This is a barrier that can be broken down. And the flipside of it includes knowledge of subsistence base and the impact of your actions. Any radical theory that does not address the elephant of the room that is assuming agriculture and civilization will magically carry on is simply a safety net to disregard the calamity that they incur, but its not indefinite. Infinite usage of finite resources tips Tainter’s “point of diminishing return” every time. Collapse isn’t a religious platform, it’s math.
    But regardless of that, I advocate primal war, which is a refusal and resistance to domestication. Rewilding is half the battle, but the other side, pure resistance is the one that I have withstood continued repression over. My discussion there is far more nuanced and I don’t feel like getting locked up for posturing when the finer aspects of it can be put out there. I am intentionally more nebulous on the matter and tight lipped about it, because it requires a more intelligent approach if I plan to continue putting the word out. Unlike Jensen, I’m not an author selling books. I genuinely want to see a world where the grid is a rusting remains. And I’m not going to sell some happy-go-lucky Revolutionary jargon and 3 Stage Plans on installment plans. If there’s questions about that, just look at the contents of Species Traitor 4! If RS had read that instead of ISAIF then they might have taken out part of the grid in Mexico already.

    • “Humans have not changed, we are mentally and physically still hunter-gatherers. I am not afraid of talking about human nature and I think the evidence is in the functioning of the domestication process in every single application of it. That’s one of the central points behind The Suffocating Void and pretty much everything I’ve ever written. If you believe that the fundamental terminology I use is oppressive, then that’s a non-starter, but it doesn’t frighten me to use it. If you believe a biological argument is invalid, then there’s not much more to say about it.”

      Epigenetics and population bottle necks would argue that you are wrong. It’s not that I am rejecting the biological argument, it is that I think you are being far to limited in what you think 5000 years of agriculture has done biologically. The 10,000 Year explosion goes into this, in a very real sense, if we take domistication to have biological effects, it has already had a lot of them. I don’t see how it can’t.

      “ny radical theory that does not address the elephant of the room that is assuming agriculture and civilization will magically carry on is simply a safety net to disregard the calamity that they incur, but its not indefinite. Infinite usage of finite resources tips Tainter’s “point of diminishing return” every time. Collapse isn’t a religious platform, it’s math.”

      I never said that wasn’t. Highly complex systems will all, eventually, collapse. I doubt we can do much about what comes next though.

      But this is that shift between what is normative and what is descriptive I was talking about. If it is inevitable, then fighting the current situation may or may not have any effect anyway..

      “. I genuinely want to see a world where the grid is a rusting remains. And I’m not going to sell some happy-go-lucky Revolutionary jargon and 3 Stage Plans on installment plans. If there’s questions about that, just look at the contents of Species Traitor 4! If RS had read that instead of ISAIF then they might have taken out part of the grid in Mexico already”

      I don’t doubt that. In fact, I admire that you aren’t peddling some silly plan because that would be a false move. The same kind of false move you rightly called Jensen for (among other things).

      Nor do I doubt that you honestly want it. I take people at their want about their desires unless they give me some serious reason not to. I just doubt that is possible. I think you are, frankly, more optimistic than me.

      That said, we need more of this kind of exchange–hopefully more in person than through the wires where we are constantly monitored.

      Thanks for clarifying. I look forward to more in the future.

      • “Epigenetics and population bottle necks would argue that you are wrong. It’s not that I am rejecting the biological argument, it is that I think you are being far to limited in what you think 5000 years of agriculture has done biologically. The 10,000 Year explosion goes into this, in a very real sense, if we take domistication to have biological effects, it has already had a lot of them. I don’t see how it can’t.”

        I haven’t read The 10,000 Year Explosion. What do you think of the argument made based on the evidence used?

      • It argues that there has been significant withering of the line through state violence and sexual selection. I am not sure about it, but they do have evidence that the genome did not freeze with the intervention of agriculture.

      • “Epigenetics and population bottle necks would argue that you are wrong. It’s not that I am rejecting the biological argument, it is that I think you are being far to limited in what you think 5000 years of agriculture has done biologically. The 10,000 Year explosion goes into this, in a very real sense, if we take domistication to have biological effects, it has already had a lot of them. I don’t see how it can’t.”

        It probably should not come as a surprise to hear that I greatly disagree with the 10,000 Year Explosion. Human domestication is different than plants and animal domestication, we are captives. We weren’t bred for traits that made us more subservient, our conditioning is circumstantial. Are there massive tolls taken on our bodies and minds? Absolutely, but they are not genetically irreversible. That’s a key difference.
        Saying 5,000 years of agriculture implies that domestication was a monolithic event which it absolutely was not. Most of us have significantly less in our bloodlines and if we’re going to assume that we have genetic mutations/adaptations, then my body and its processes would be significantly different from that of an indigenous person who is currently or only recently removed from their aboriginal diet/context, but that is not the case. We do see biological mutations occurring from sedentism, grain based diets, but again, these are processes that happen anew with each generation that is raised with them.

        “I never said that wasn’t. Highly complex systems will all, eventually, collapse. I doubt we can do much about what comes next though.

        But this is that shift between what is normative and what is descriptive I was talking about. If it is inevitable, then fighting the current situation may or may not have any effect anyway..”

        Normative and descriptive in this context is arbitrary, especially since you agree that collapse is inevitable. But at no point in all of my writings has collapse not been viewed in proactive terms. Most often stated along the lines of; we are contributing to the collapse of civilization either the long and slow destructive method or the nasty and quicker methods. At no point do I suggest we just roll over and play dead or ignore the situation. We have a role in this greater scheme of things and I’ve been nothing but proactive on that point.

        “Nor do I doubt that you honestly want it. I take people at their want about their desires unless they give me some serious reason not to. I just doubt that is possible. I think you are, frankly, more optimistic than me.”

        I can certainly appreciate pessimism. There’s ample reason for it. But my hope is to convey that there is immediacy here. That is why it’s important to stop reifying nature as an abstract that is definitively being destroyed because it makes it too easy to just backslide into “well, what can I do anyways”. Domestication, civilization, technology, these are ongoing processes that are both physical and psychological by their very nature. To separate the jargon from the reality, to take this from a philosophical query to an intrinsic rejection and refusal, you have to cross that line. You have to feel it. That can look like many things, but as part of the most destructive society to ever walk the earth, we have an obligation to not get lost in metaphysical whims and ground ourselves.
        A pivotal question that I poured over for years was: why do revolutions end in gallows and indigenous resistance movements fight to the death? One is ideological and the other is known. You can kill over ideas, but you will die to protect what it is that you love. That’s that barrier. And its hard to not be nebulous about it because it is a spiritual connection, it is something I can’t and won’t put into words. It’s not a universal experience nor can you think your way through to it.
        So for me, this isn’t a matter of optimism or hope. It’s not a question of winning (we know how this story all ends, right?), it’s a matter of presence. Of wanting and willingness. If anti-civilization anything wants to bare its teeth, it needs to have its feet on the ground.

        “That said, we need more of this kind of exchange–hopefully more in person than through the wires where we are constantly monitored.”

        Agreed. Thanks!

      • “It probably should not come as a surprise to hear that I greatly disagree with the 10,000 Year Explosion. Human domestication is different than plants and animal domestication, we are captives. We weren’t bred for traits that made us more subservient, our conditioning is circumstantial. Are there massive tolls taken on our bodies and minds? Absolutely, but they are not genetically irreversible. That’s a key difference.”

        That seems like a strong opinion for so little available evidence. There is even evidence that points in the opposite direction or at least doesn’t portray as simplistic of a picture as you’d prefer.

        But, as always, it is hard to interpret such skimpy evidence and even harder to base conclusions upon it. The wise conclusion is to humbly admit that we do not know.

        I see you as making the same mistake as many human biodiversity advocates, but in the other direction. You are claiming to know what you could not possibly know. You are claiming more certainty than the evidence allows for.

        “Saying 5,000 years of agriculture implies that domestication was a monolithic event which it absolutely was not. Most of us have significantly less in our bloodlines and if we’re going to assume that we have genetic mutations/adaptations, then my body and its processes would be significantly different from that of an indigenous person who is currently or only recently removed from their aboriginal diet/context, but that is not the case. We do see biological mutations occurring from sedentism, grain based diets, but again, these are processes that happen anew with each generation that is raised with them.”

        There are several misunderstandings here.

        It doesn’t have to be a monolithic event to be a major change in our genetics. Even a single genetic change can have massive impact, as is seen with genetic diseases. But most genetic changes aren’t drastic, rather they are minor and cumulative. Certainly, most wouldn’t be expressed through changes in appearance.

        Furthermore, there are no indigenous people anywhere in the world who have remained completely isolated from (geographically, culturally, and genetically) and unimpacted by every civilization that has ever existed. The indigenous who survive today aren’t the same indigenous who lived prior to all civilization. They’ve changed along with civilization.

        You are making a lot of strong declarations based on your beliefs and feelings, but that isn’t the same thing as making an argument based on evidence. Of course, you seem to think that language and analysis inevitably fails in discussions like this and so I suppose from your perspective making an argument is moot. As such, your position is unassailable. That is frustrating, from my perspective.

        Your argument from feeling reminds me of the standard conservative response. It’s the claim that one simply knows pornography when one sees it. In your case, you just know nature when you feel it. As another example, I had a conservative tell me that a particular fact couldn’t be true because it wasn’t “common sense”, which is to say it didn’t feel right to him. Everyone has feelings. Many people defend civilization by the exact same kind of argument you are making.

        It doesn’t seem like a fair or useful way to try to discern what is true and real or what is natural. I have feelings about lots of things, including about nature. It’s quite likely that our respective feelings don’t match perfectly. It requires much for two people to resonate on an emotional level. So, why do you think there is a single feeling that corresponds to singular nature or wildness? Of if that isn’t what you think, what are you trying to get at?

        Simply saying that one has a feeling only goes so far. How do we evaluate what a feeling means? I’m willing to bet that various indigenous people would have different feelings about nature, many of which would not correspond to either your feeling or my feeling. Where does that leave us?

        “Normative and descriptive in this context is arbitrary, especially since you agree that collapse is inevitable. But at no point in all of my writings has collapse not been viewed in proactive terms. Most often stated along the lines of; we are contributing to the collapse of civilization either the long and slow destructive method or the nasty and quicker methods. At no point do I suggest we just roll over and play dead or ignore the situation. We have a role in this greater scheme of things and I’ve been nothing but proactive on that point.”

        What does that mean?

        Civilizations can last for millennia before collapsing. Most of the time, a civilization collapses at the same time that other civilizations are rising. There isn’t a singular thing called ‘civilization’.

        The building of complex societies is a set of processes happening in diverse ways in diverse places. These are processes that emerge out of our humanity and out of the processes of nature that we are part of. Indigenous people also alter their environments and build complex societies. There are many gradations between tribalism and civilization. Most civilizations, after all, were built by indgenous people and not by foreign conquering powers.

        “I can certainly appreciate pessimism. There’s ample reason for it. But my hope is to convey that there is immediacy here. That is why it’s important to stop reifying nature as an abstract that is definitively being destroyed because it makes it too easy to just backslide into “well, what can I do anyways”. Domestication, civilization, technology, these are ongoing processes that are both physical and psychological by their very nature. To separate the jargon from the reality, to take this from a philosophical query to an intrinsic rejection and refusal, you have to cross that line. You have to feel it. That can look like many things, but as part of the most destructive society to ever walk the earth, we have an obligation to not get lost in metaphysical whims and ground ourselves.”

        Yes, I follow what you are saying. Yet even feeling can get lost in metaphysical whims. I sense many metaphysical implications to the dichotomies you keep presenting.

        “A pivotal question that I poured over for years was: why do revolutions end in gallows and indigenous resistance movements fight to the death? One is ideological and the other is known. You can kill over ideas, but you will die to protect what it is that you love. That’s that barrier.”

        That is another one of those unhelpful dichotomies. Most people haven’t fought in revolutions over ideas. Such fights always involve the personal, most especially what one loves. That isn’t something that only indigenous people do. That analysis is way too simplistic. It turns indigenous people into caricatures. Indigenous people have killed for ideas, maybe not as abstract of ideas as in modern revolutions, but still ideas. Much tribal warfare happened over conflicts of religion and such.

        “And its hard to not be nebulous about it because it is a spiritual connection, it is something I can’t and won’t put into words. It’s not a universal experience nor can you think your way through to it.”

        I should make clear I’m not arguing against a sense of spiritual connection. But I’m pointing out how easily that is used as a cop-out. Diverse ideologies and perspectives have used that same basic claim as a way of retreating from having their beliefs challenged. It isn’t a matter of thinking one’s way through it or not. If your feeling is to have any value and effect in the real world, it needs to be expressed and communicated somehow. Declaring you have a sacrosanct feeling is not enough. It is irrelevant what you feel within yourself, to the extent it concerns civilization and its possible collapse.

        “So for me, this isn’t a matter of optimism or hope. It’s not a question of winning (we know how this story all ends, right?), it’s a matter of presence. Of wanting and willingness. If anti-civilization anything wants to bare its teeth, it needs to have its feet on the ground.”

        The ultimate point is that we don’t know how the story ends. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there is no way we can know how this story ends. I assume you aren’t claiming to be a prophet with God speaking into your ear about the coming End Times, right?

        The problem you face is that nebulous feelings don’t offer much ground upon which to put one’s feet. That is true for all of us. I know what it is like to feel something and not know how to make someone else understand, but that doesn’t lessen the burden we have in possessing such a feeling, if it is to matter at all.

  4. This was pointed out to me this morning. Thanks for responding to it. Here is my quick reply on the Black and Green Forum. Also, one of the quotes includes your commentary about half way down.
    I’d say the biggest point throughout this is in the first objection I raise, but I didn’t go into it in detail. The discussion in TSV is about how the mythos of Progress is a justification given for the domestication process and its mental/physical implementation. I’m a die hard cultural materialist. Technology is the driving force here, but as humans, we need a story, we need a reason, so the domesticator’s have always sold (at least since intentionality became a possibility) Reason.
    I do not believe Progress is the wind of change, but within the last 100 years, its the forecasted script that we continue to play out. That is until the “always on” interfaces rendered the future obsolete for an eternal present without presence. We’re here, but we’re not engaged. We’re trying to keep up with change rather than wait for it. This is a significant change and one that felt apt to target, hence this piece.

    There’s frankly not a lot to respond to. Most of the points raised are followed by something along the lines of “Tucker probably agrees with this”.
    But a few things stand out;
    1) The author seems to think that I’m a proponent of Progress. I’ve addressed Progress as a religiously upheld narrative for social change, not the axiom. It’s the justification, not the action nor the actor. Imperatives do matter.
    2) The moralism stuff is nothing new, but I don’t think they’ve shown in any way that I’ve made moralistic claims. But as I’ve said before, if being pro-wildness makes me a moralist, then I don’t give a fuck. Seriously. If what’s standing between me having a stance on civilization that can be acted upon or not is fear of a boogeyman term, then I’ll gladly cut my losses and wear that hat. No skin off my back.
    3) Humans have not changed, we are mentally and physically still hunter-gatherers. I am not afraid of talking about human nature and I think the evidence is in the functioning of the domestication process in every single application of it. That’s one of the central points behind The Suffocating Void and pretty much everything I’ve ever written. If you believe that the fundamental terminology I use is oppressive, then that’s a non-starter, but it doesn’t frighten me to use it. If you believe a biological argument is invalid, then there’s not much more to say about it.
    4) The author seems to imply that my solution to the social media problem is to simply shut off your facebook page which is completely disingenuous. It has, however, proven to be a difficult point and if it makes me look “less radical” to have addressed the fact that even radicals are stuck within that void with little hope of re-engaging elsewhere. But there is a central point here, facebook might seem like an obvious target, but the idea that there is a singular platform that almost a quarter of the entire world’s population is using at least once per month and that number is swelling, that’s historically unique and significantly telling. Even more so when directly calling it out results in few actually taking the turn. There’s an implicit notion here that by having a critique that we are exempt from the consequences of using technologies or systems or what-have-you and that’s simply not true.
    5) The idea that I’m some kind of back-to-the-land hippy for pushing rewilding is a thorn in my side. It absolutely misses the point. My push on rewilding isn’t about upholding reifications of nature, but immersion within into/beyond it. That is the exact opposite of reification. This is a point that can’t be won through philosophical debate or historical/anthropological/ecological argumentation. This is a barrier that can be broken down. And the flipside of it includes knowledge of subsistence base and the impact of your actions. Any radical theory that does not address the elephant of the room that is assuming agriculture and civilization will magically carry on is simply a safety net to disregard the calamity that they incur, but its not indefinite. Infinite usage of finite resources tips Tainter’s “point of diminishing return” every time. Collapse isn’t a religious platform, it’s math.
    But regardless of that, I advocate primal war, which is a refusal and resistance to domestication. Rewilding is half the battle, but the other side, pure resistance is the one that I have withstood continued repression over. My discussion there is far more nuanced and I don’t feel like getting locked up for posturing when the finer aspects of it can be put out there. I am intentionally more nebulous on the matter and tight lipped about it, because it requires a more intelligent approach if I plan to continue putting the word out. Unlike Jensen, I’m not an author selling books. I genuinely want to see a world where the grid is a rusting remains. And I’m not going to sell some happy-go-lucky Revolutionary jargon and 3 Stage Plans on installment plans. If there’s questions about that, just look at the contents of Species Traitor 4! If RS had read that instead of ISAIF then they might have taken out part of the grid in Mexico already.

  5. I appreciate the exchange and do not have much to add to it. I will say that I am unconvinced when Varn has brought up the criticism of reification against anarcho-primitivists and similar thinkers. I suppose one could define reification, a concept given to all sorts of obfuscation, quite simply as being akin to idolatry. That is, the work of human hands, or endeavors, (like an idol), is assigned agency over the very thing that created it. I would state that such a concept when applied to nature is nonsensical at best, and indicative of a rather tragic hubris at worst. “Nature” is not a creation of human hands, nor is is a human concept: it is the very sine qua non of human existence, it’s what is left once you strip all human endeavor and see that one’s existence is not an autonomous product of human will and ingenuity. Humans don’t make water, they don’t make air, they don’t make soil, and they don’t make trees. They don’t even really make the food that they eat, even if domestication somehow tries to create an illusion that they are somehow doing so. (Being a native of the fields of one of the most productive centers in the world in agribusiness, now in the throes of drought, I know this all too well.) You can go the direction of Western philosophy from Heraclitus to Hegel, the former stating that “nature loves to hide itself”, the latter thinking that it is somehow the blank canvas on which human consciousness seeks to paint a very image of itself, but that is just a destructive hubris played out over and over again. “Reification of nature” just smacks me as the “reverse racism” or “reverse sexism” of the conceptual world: one that seeks to put us in a trap where we are all that is, and all we do when we see is look at ourselves. I can’t argue anyone out of that position, but it seems to me to be a sad one. Oddly enough, my own formation in Neothomism seems to make me immune to such solipsistic impulses.

    As for the “morality” bit, I have to say that Tucker’s exhortations often make me weak in the knees intellectually. Perhaps I am just susceptible to his rhetoric, but I dig this categorical imperative. As I have repeated over and over again, I find it hard to believe that humans will fight definitively for an abstraction such as communism, progress, or “humankind”. While the genius of capitalism is to uproot us from place definitively (indeed, the city / suburb, and increasingly, the countryside itself) seem like the ultimate “no-place” (a literal translation of “utopia”, fancy that), human beings in their particular existence will not immolate themselves on the altar of a “no-place”, or an abstraction, or a concept, at least not for the good. Those ideologies that do ask for immolation (religions such as Christianity, Islam, etc.) seem to have a “death drive” built into them, almost a renunciation of this slave existence where the only way out is death and hope for an afterlife. Which is why the engine of modern revolution always loses steam, spins a rod, or otherwise just overheats and shuts down. As Tucker said, there is no grounding. Human life simply wasn’t meant to be lived on that level of abstraction, at least not sustainably, and as increased complexity engulfs us, so do the problems that this way of life creates. As Tucker says in the Black and Green Review article, we are lost. At one moment, we are supposed to contemplate society’s irreparable problems, at the next, we are supposed to stare at the latest hologram created for our titillation and distraction. It’s not a lack of will that is absent, in the end it’s a lack of means to rectify the situation, because this defect is built into the way of life itself.

    I am glad that Tucker clarified certain points here about primal war and a commitment to the downfall of civilization. I do think that the tenor at the end of the essay could make certain people believe that this boils down to an issue of consumer choice and “opting out”. Admittedly, such a reading would be completely ignorant of his other writings, and of course it is not the place of every single piece of his writing to summarize everything that he has ever thought about this subject. Overall, I thought it was a solid essay, and I appreciate the conversation that it and this response have created.

    • I don’t know if reification applies, but I wanted to quibble about one thing.

      ““Nature” is not a creation of human hands, nor is is a human concept: it is the very sine qua non of human existence, it’s what is left once you strip all human endeavor and see that one’s existence is not an autonomous product of human will and ingenuity.”

      “Nature” when spoken as a word in human language is most definitely a concept and, until we meet some advanced alien species, I think it is fair to say that all concepts are human concepts. What you seem to be missing is that humans too are of nature. All human endeavours can’t be separated from nature, except in the human mind. Nature doesn’t care about some concept of nature as separate from humanity.

      That maybe touches upon what is meant by reification in this context. The division between nature and humanity seems to be based on reification. The historical context for “nature” as a human concept has been as a contrast to what is human (or else what is divine).

      • I suppose this comment just proves my point. It’s just the serpent eating its proverbial tail. Of course, we are “part of nature”, but so what? Does that entail that omnicidal destruction is somehow natural? Also, you may admit that, but it is certainly not the modus operandi of our way of life, or rather, it is only admitted by some in that it is “natural” for us to blow up a mountain in search of coal, or “natural” for us to acidify the oceans, or “natural” for us to enslave humans and non-humans for the benefit of capital. In the end, such uses of the term “natural” are like Narcissus lost in his own reflection, and they mean nothing. They dissolve all discourse into meaningless self-delusion. You can be enraptured in your own self-contemplation, that’s sort of what civilization is (another “reification”, oh my!) but don’t be surprised if other people choose not to play that game.

      • Come now, be fair, particularly when the point about reification is actually crucial to the theoretical framework of Zerzan and of Camatte, and thus has to be dealt with.

        It is not as important to KT, I am sure, but to say that it wasn’t important and just an intellectual game, which it that question is fundamental to the entire frame work of how “civilization” developed. If abstract thinking plus settled agriculture leads to kinds of material developments that you nor I would want, and you nor I can control as individuals or even as small bands.

        “They dissolve all discourse into meaningless self-delusion. You can be enraptured in your own self-contemplation, that’s sort of what civilization is (another “reification”, oh my!) but don’t be surprised if other people choose not to play that game.”

        I know, right, you want to critique the very foundation of language and based your analysis on it. Neither you nor I can talk about civilization without its tools, and that isn’t a point of hypocrisy on our parts exactly either.

        “Does that entail that omnicidal destruction is somehow natural? Also, you may admit that, but it is certainly not the modus operandi of our way of life, or rather, it is only admitted by some in that it is “natural” for us to blow up a mountain in search of coal, or “natural” for us to acidify the oceans, or “natural” for us to enslave humans and non-humans for the benefit of capital.”

        If the questions you are ask by natural are “what humans have done when they settle” then your answer is yes. You know, yourself, that hunter-gatherers had no problem bush burning as a means for clearance, while it was much more rare, could easily deplete an specific environment. These socials structures, however, cannot develop beyond the ability to do damage locally, unless they settle.

        But in the main, they did settle, and historically were in no position to fight off settled enclosure and formalized armies when discovered. Is it natural? Is that even relevant if it is: it materially happened, and in multiple places, and probably without influence between each other. Agriculture, for example, seems to have developed separately in both the Americans and in Eurasia.

        So is it natural? Who gives a shit as you say–but if one is materialist, then the evidence is, most likely, if by natural we mean what humans are likely to do in response to environmental pressures. It is utterly counter-productive to human life and non-human life, however.

        You chastize marxists, rightfully I may add, constantly for not being materialist enough. Well, that’s true, but then again, you aren’t being consistent on that either. Are people sui generis or not? Do they have control of systemic mistakes or not? Would it all happen again because of general structure of the human mind or not?

        My point about reification isn’t that it is a mistake that primitivists make: it is that is inevitable with any form of concept of time and any way to articulate that. Zerzan’s point, however, that this very tendency seems to be encoded in our ability to use language itself, it will likely lead to something like what we have now, again. Except given that the remanants of what caused the collapse would still be around, the technological development would happen faster.

        And we have PLENTY of historical examples of exactly that happening. See Meso-American empires as a primary example that we are now really beginning to understand.

        So people don’t want to play the game… so what? You know it won’t matter what people want unless they are in an actual position to do something about it, which we currently are not. No communist revolution, no prepper primitivism either, and primal war would be largely chewing at the armor of titan. It may have some effect, but it is doubtful that it would be extensive.

        “You can be enraptured in your own self-contemplation, that’s sort of what civilization is”

        Perhaps, but then using the enemies tools gets really damned murky.

        ” In the end, such uses of the term “natural” are like Narcissus lost in his own reflection, and they mean nothing. ”

        My point isn’t just such useless mean nothing; they always “mean nothing” in and of themselves without a very specific and material reference point. People may fight for poetic visions, but at any point they can and WILL change their minds. You have been in left-wing and religious groups as I have it: absent having your ass against the wall (which is what a “real movement” {another terms that is functionally meaningless outside of a context text} is), you won’t have what you need to make it happen.

        This is why the normative versus description thing matters, even if collapse is inevitable from the logic of our civilization(s), we may know damn well this is going it and probably sooner rather than latter. What happens with the scraps and whether or not it all happens again, that isn’t given. We cannot know and we cannot be confused on that point. It is only after the water starts running out and the cities really start in on themselves where our visions would actually matter.

        I suppose in that, I agree with KT. I am just far, far more pessimistic on where this all goes than most primitivists I have met since I don’t know what kind position even a person with survival skills would be in the movement the class leaders start hording with weapons we don’t have historical experience with dealing with in a collapse situation. The USSR being merely a political collapse, but not a social one.

        I think we just have to be clear… the way out would be, at this point, probably no way out until the whole thing begins topples on people directly, en masse.

      • How is suggesting that we think and speak clearly “just the serpent eating its proverbial tail”? I wasn’t sayng anything beyond that suggestion. People can disagree while thinking and speaking clearly.

        I wasn’t claiming you were wrong about everything. I was only making a simple point.

        To think and speak clearly is a separate issue from what we consider good and beneficial. But first we have to know what we are even talking about. One’s concept of nature determines what one considers as nature. If you want to save nature, then that is an important thing to understand.

      • The funny thing is that I find myself on the opposite side in debating this point with you. I wrote a post that had something to do with race and skepoet responded. He criticized me for the same reason of reification, although in that case of the concept of race.

        I must admit I was irritated. I had previously explained my views on race on many occasions. Skepoet had read many of my posts on race and he knew what my views were. I got annoyed because it was as if he was saying I had an obligation to constantly re-explain every time I used a word like that, with its potential confusions. My first response was to accuse him of quibbling.

        After some discussion, though, I understood his point. We should seek to use words as accurately as possible and be absolutely clear in what we mean. Otherwise, it is too easy to fall into lazy thinking, which leaves us vulnerable to a whole host of cognitive biases.

        Still, I find the demand of constant clarity to be irritating. I’d rather live in a world where we already clearly understood and agreed upon the meaning of words, but that isn’t the way things are.

        It’s important that we not only know what we are talking about but that we know what it implies in terms of what we are hoping to accomplish. Take my example. I’m against racism. That is my purpose for writing about it. However, if I end up reifying the concept of race, even unintentionally, I’ll undermine my own purpose in speaking about it in the first place. My words will be counterproductive.

        In the case of “nature”, it is the same basic problem. Nature as a conept is no more real than race as a concept. Both carry a lot of cultural and historical baggage. It is because the concept of nature has been reified for millennia that we have the kind of society we now have. When we mistake concepts for reality, that has real world consequences in our perception and behavior.

        It’s not necessarily that the ideas themselves directly cause anything. Still, they can get used, even unconsciously, to rationalize or obfuscate the social order. As such, thinking and speaking of humanity as separate from nature supports the present status quo. These are deep patterns of thought, perception and being that require great care to handle well.

        Keeping that in mind is a heaavy burden, but no one can force it on us. We either choose to accept it or not.

      • The demands of constant clarity are impossible to ever do in all instances. It is why I make the gadfly calls. It is not to justify what is happening: I actually think my views on race are, frankly, becoming tied to my views on class, but constantly speak as if the way we speak didn’t betray something about the way we currently thinking.

        I don’t think language creates bad thought, i think bad thought makes language nearly impossible to be consistent.

        The check against hubris is merely making the demand, and one checks hubris, not for some grant moral point, because it matters if one is to win what one wants.

        I agree with El Mono Liso that such language is self-deluding: what we disagree about is the means used to fight that self-delusion.

        We can choose to accept it or not, but as the metaphor goes, the gallows clarifies thought. I actually find this is not entirely true, the gallows either clarifies or concretizes. People either think more clearly because their ass is against the wall or they lie to themselves about their ass being against the wall. Both seem equally likely.

      • “I don’t think language creates bad thought, i think bad thought makes language nearly impossible to be consistent.”

        I was more or less getting at that point by saying that ideas don’t necessarily cause anything, but it depends on what we mean. Ideas as integral aspects to perception in a sense do limit the possibilities and choices we can discern or, if discerned, see as desirable or realistic. The question then is what is the exact relationship of language to thought, which gets us into more philosophical and scientific territories.

        From my perspective, it isn’t just about clarity of thought and language. It is more importantly about clarity of mind and of action. It’s about who we are in the world and in our relationships to others. Perfect clarity is impossible, but I still think it is a worthy ideal to aspire to. If we are to use a metaphor, it is climbing to the top of a bluff in order to see further across more of the landscape. Our language isn’t the ability to see. It’s more like that bluff we stand on to see more clearly where we are and where we may want to go.

        “The check against hubris is merely making the demand, and one checks hubris, not for some grant moral point, because it matters if one is to win what one wants.”

        To continue with the metaphor, there is a reason in battles people have sought the high ground to defend. There is great advantage to having the high ground, not just in being able to see more clearly but to act more effetively in a fight.

        “I agree with El Mono Liso that such language is self-deluding: what we disagree about is the means used to fight that self-delusion.”

        I’m not exactly sure my view of language as it applies to what you are talking about. I just think that language plays a central role in human cognition and society. Language is more than mere words. We can’t separate language from other aspects of our existence any more than the human can be separated from nature, so it seems to me.

        “We can choose to accept it or not, but as the metaphor goes, the gallows clarifies thought. I actually find this is not entirely true, the gallows either clarifies or concretizes. People either think more clearly because their ass is against the wall or they lie to themselves about their ass being against the wall. Both seem equally likely.”

        I like that metaphor as well. Being on the gallows also gives one perspective as one awaits for death while standing on a platform before the crowd of onlookers. That perspective may be helpful or not. Having a higher vantage point isn’t optimal when there is a noose around your neck, but it sure could potentially clarify one’s situation.

  6. It’s starting to feel like I’m jumping in the middle of a long running discussion here, so I’m bouncing out, but just wanted to state a few things;

    “Come now, be fair, particularly when the point about reification is actually crucial to the theoretical framework of Zerzan and of Camatte, and thus has to be dealt with.

    It is not as important to KT, I am sure, but to say that it wasn’t important and just an intellectual game, which it that question is fundamental to the entire frame work of how “civilization” developed.”

    I have it on good authority that reification is extremely important to myself. If you go through my writings you’ll no doubt see that Camatte was a huge influence on my thinking, as was Perlman and Zerzan.
    But you’re trying to make a point that “nature” is a reified concept (as all concepts must be reified). What I’ve been saying and Mono has been echoing is that “nature” does exist in and of itself, but it is a complex and constant relationship. It is not “wilderness” (a place), it is undefinable and therefore can only exist in terms that our language fails to recognize.
    We’re getting hung up on a term, but the term is necessary to have the discussion. At some point you just have to cut your losses if you want the discussion to go anywhere outside of linguistic analysis. I’m not out to sell Leftists on the New Thing, the domestication process is something we’re all intimately aware of and subjected to. So if I have to use terms others damn, well, so be it. But the point is simple; you can’t rely on analysis to resist reification, you have to immerse yourself in non-verbal sensory input. You have to feel it.
    Talking about it really gets pretty tacky. That’s why I say over and over again, these are my limitations, but everything I say in terms of wildness, domestication, human nature (uh oh!), and civilization is empirically understandable. There’s a visceral element. I’m not selling an Ideology, I’m offering context.

    Also, I think there’s a tendency here to get hung up on JZ’s questioning as positioning. He’s openly stated that his damnations of language were exciting and a further push from the Frankfort School and Heidegger. While it opened doors, it didn’t define AP in terms of praxis. This is where the whole point of critique lies. AP is a critique, an inquiry into the roots and depths of domestication, but an anarchistic rejection of civilization itself. There’s a clear line there in terms of for/against, but language didn’t make the cut. It’s fascinating, but I think it’s more telling of the role domestication has played in dumbing down and reducing our senses has had than an indication that to talk is to err.
    The discussion of language is far more nuanced and it is impossible to reduce it down because our own language reflects colonizing imperatives and absolutely uprooted experience. If language is reifying, then English might be the worst, but we’re stuck with it aren’t we?
    Clearly civilization has been an exciting subject for philosophers and social theorists, but so often it remains there because it gets stuck on metaphysical struggles over the power of language and thought. Even as a cultural materialist, you see where this dead ends and if you don’t expand that reach then that’s where it dies. The attempts to simply reify a concept of a concept of “natural” into an absolute rather than an ecological understanding of culture and presence are what makes it possible to think that 10,000 Year Explosion or chiming in HG use of fire as evidence to support anachronistic views of Wilderness as vast and untouchable. Paul Shepard smashed that door wide open decades ago and he’s another huge influence of mine, hence “for wildness” not “for wilderness”. I’m not the wide eyed day hiker talking about how prey smile at predators, it is the amazingness of “nature” to function and adapt to imperfect circumstance and flux that makes it so immediately awe-inspiring and touchable. We aren’t angels, but we aren’t demons. We’re like the cardinals making nests of discarded plastic. We’re animals responding to circumstances, but our stimuli is being targeted maliciously.

    I don’t in any way, shape or form think that we’re going to have a flawless transition into hunter-gatherer life. Accepting that control is an illusion makes it impossible to think any transition could ever happen with intentionality.
    We’re stuck with a millions of tons of garbage, toxic waste, seeping chemistry. We don’t have a lot to look forward to, but that clock is ticking. Every second this nightmare perpetuates is more life lost. Had this civilization collapsed 100 years ago, we would still have passenger pigeons. You can replicate that sentence to infinity now just inserting species known and unknown. That is our objective reality. Call it “nature” or don’t: it doesn’t change anything other than our own cognizance of our surroundings.

    To boil it all down, this is what I’m saying: civilization needs to be stopped, as abruptly and as soon as possible. We are captive wild beings, who are hard-wired to live without civilization. We have innate senses for hunting and gathering, fleeing and fighting, stalking and living, talking and playing. Domestication is not in our nature, it is an imposition wrought with force and allusions to control. That is what makes civilization a totality: infrastructure and superstructure.
    Collapse, like domestication, is a process. I’m not talking about 5, 10, 50 years. I’m talking about generations. Nasty shit will go down. I’m not a prepper consuming the idea that I’ll live off my $300 Alex Jones backpack with my artillery and gold coins, there is no guarantee that all the skills in the world make you a viable candidate to the New Future of a Post-Collapse World. But you work for the best right? Fight civilization, build community. Access the part of your being that you’ve been trained to turn off and hope that life is salvageable in the fallout. And that’s just half of it, if you root yourself, you will defend what you love.
    This point goes off into another discussion and I’m not sure this is the time or place, but I don’t believe the doomsday fantasies where the elites hold power over the dispossessed. I’ve seen millionaires absolutely lose their shit over the most minute details of consumption. You really think they have an ounce of resilience in their bodies? No electricity and see how far a bank account takes you. And if you think we have any residual knowledge of agriculture in our bodies or minds, go talk to a farmer. They’re just feudal technocrats now.

  7. “What I’ve been saying and Mono has been echoing is that “nature” does exist in and of itself, but it is a complex and constant relationship. It is not “wilderness” (a place), it is undefinable and therefore can only exist in terms that our language fails to recognize.”

    That is why we should develop the linguistic terms and context to recognize and express this wildness, instead of giving up on the possibility of language. Even indigenous hunter-gatherers used language to describe and understand the world around them. The failure isn’t language itself. Even English formed out of languages once used by tribal Europeans.

    “We’re getting hung up on a term, but the term is necessary to have the discussion. At some point you just have to cut your losses if you want the discussion to go anywhere outside of linguistic analysis. I’m not out to sell Leftists on the New Thing, the domestication process is something we’re all intimately aware of and subjected to. So if I have to use terms others damn, well, so be it. But the point is simple; you can’t rely on analysis to resist reification, you have to immerse yourself in non-verbal sensory input. You have to feel it.”

    I don’t think we are getting hung up on a term. Or rather there is nothing about the language we are using that forces us to get hung up.

    It isn’t just about linguistic analysis. Language is a core element of our humanity, through its expression as civilization or otherwise. You are separating nature from language. In place of language (and related concepts), you are privileging feeling. But in reality, as with humanity and nature, language and feeling are inseparable.

    These are the kind of false dichotomies that plague discussions like this, because they are at the heart of our society. These false dichotomies have a way of sneaking in through the back door just after we’ve thrown them out the front door. We should be wary of how these conceptual frameworks will persist in our minds, even as we seek to escape them through other means, such as with feeling.

    I still get the sense that you are offering an idealized conception of ‘nature’, whether expressed as a word or a feeling. At the same time, I think it is worthy your attempt to see outside of the framework of thought we find ourselves in. Iin the end, though, none of it seems to matter, going by what you are hoping for. Either civilization collapses or not. It really doesn’t matter what your or I think or feel. In that case, we just bide our time.

    “I’m not the wide eyed day hiker talking about how prey smile at predators, it is the amazingness of “nature” to function and adapt to imperfect circumstance and flux that makes it so immediately awe-inspiring and touchable. We aren’t angels, but we aren’t demons. We’re like the cardinals making nests of discarded plastic. We’re animals responding to circumstances, but our stimuli is being targeted maliciously.”

    I agree with the basic point you are making here. I’ve read similar authors as you have (e.g., Paul Shepard). I guess the difference between you and I is that I’m less willing to claim to know how adaptation will occur. I don’t see total collapse as inevitable. I don’t see most things as inevitable. The world is too unpredictable, one might say too wild, to force it to fit our hopes and expectations. Total collapse seems more like an ideological aspiration.

    “To boil it all down, this is what I’m saying: civilization needs to be stopped, as abruptly and as soon as possible. We are captive wild beings, who are hard-wired to live without civilization. We have innate senses for hunting and gathering, fleeing and fighting, stalking and living, talking and playing. Domestication is not in our nature, it is an imposition wrought with force and allusions to control. That is what makes civilization a totality: infrastructure and superstructure.”

    No one is going to stop civilization. It will either collapse or not, but it will have nothing to do with anyone stopping it.

    We aren’t captive wild beings. Civilization isn’t an alien force that descended upon this planet. Civilization arises from within and is created out of our humanity. Civilizations have collapsed many times and been rebuilt many times. We have innate senses for lots of things, including the building of complex societies.

    That is the reality we face, whether we like it or not. If we are to take useful action, we will first have to come to terms with the actual situation we find ourselves in.

  8. I suppose I will issue a corrective / clarification, which perhaps will also touch upon the language issue regarding the concept of nature. Personally, I don’t think there is a “Gaia” because I don’t think that it is in the scope of human consciousness to encompass all of what could potentially be called nature, to the exclusion of everything else. In other words, I think “primitive” peoples, peoples who may have not gone farther than twenty miles from where they were born, or were bound in a particular territory, had any sense other than that of this forest, or that mountain, or that river. There are of course exceptions: there were seafaring “primitive peoples” and ones who could sail the oceans and rivers. However, their experience of what we could call “nature” was perhaps extremely limited. That’s where I think one can get into trouble. You can start talking about abstract ideas like Progress, History, Truth, etc. but when you throw in Nature, one of these things is not like the others. As with all abstract concepts, I believe that we are “too big for our britches”, so to speak. The very word “abstract” has the Latin root, to take or pull out from. It is a consuming problem to “abstract” a concept of nature from a series of particular landscapes, seascapes, and individual human societies that have developed over millennia. The fact that we are able to generalize at this point is in and of itself a problem.

    I recently read the work of Guy Deutscher and his ideas concerning the development of language. It is now a commonly known fact that ancient Greek, along with many other “civilized” languages, did not have a word for “blue”. Homer speaks of the “wine-dark” sea, and the entire Hebrew Bible does not mention the color. People only perform abstracting procedures like this when they have to or when they are exposed to a certain set of circumstances. I am not sure there would be a !Kung or Piraha word for “nature”, because what would NOT be nature for them? The material reality again trumps philosophy. Our own concept of nature is one inherited from the ancient Greek concepts of physis and nomos, or roughly, nature and custom. To say that there is no nature is to proclaim that nomos is all there is. That may seem to be a solution, but it sort of leaves unanswered why a dichotomy emerged in the first place. Are people just deluded? Don’t they get that, because we perceive as humans, we cannot escape the bonds of our own humanity? That is, as I said above, we are all we see, and all we see is us?

    I suppose I just don’t particularly enjoy looking at myself. Or rather, I see humans not as some sort of independent being asserting its will on an amorphous material mass one should loathe to call, “nature”, or consider myself the “brain” of nature, whereas “nature” itself is merely the inorganic body of man, as Marx put it. Perhaps I see that as putting the cart before the horse, and all of our problems stem from it. It isn’t for me, then, a matter of conforming to our nature, which smacks me too much of living as under a regime of Catholic natural law, but rather of human life lived according to proper scale, power, and complexity. It is evident to me that we cannot handle our current universalizing way of life, and it will end badly, perhaps in cataclysm. Truth be told, preserving humanity is not high on my list of moral imperatives, as I don’t think one should devote energy to futile enterprises. However, on the off chance that things will “re-boot”, I say let them reboot in a tried and true manner, the way humanity has existed for tens of thousands of years. More importantly, if we are indeed not separate from nature, as some protest, then let whatever can be saved of “nature” be saved, and the rest must go the way of all flesh, and trees, and rocks, etc. I would rather have the wonders that hold me in awe continue without me than destroy them and lose my own life anyway.

    • That seems like a fair comment. I agree with the general thrust of your view.

      I guess my issue is that over time I’ve increasingly become agnostic about most things. I simply don’t know. I’m wary about too much certainty. We moderns seem obsessed about certainty and I understand the reasons for we are face with complexities that humans of the distant past didn’t have to deal with.

      In face of this, I find myself simply stating that I don’t know. I despair at the destruction that goes on in the world. Still, I just don’t know what it all means or where it is heading. I realize my perspective is hardly inspiring, but it doesn’t necessarily imply apathy. A state of unknowing isn’t a bad thing.

      It feels meaningless, while stuck here in the middle of it all, to root for or against civilization. This civilization project has been going on for millennia. Since the beginning of it, there have been people complaining about and arguing against civilization, and yet here it still is. It’s persistent. You have to give it credit for that.

      It really is impressive that people go on building civilizations, no matter how many times it collapses or nearly collapses. There was some major set of catastrophes that took out nearly all of early civilization. Entire societies were destroyed and populations turned into refugees. Almost everything was gone in a short period. Even so, within a few centuries that had rebuilt it all and bigger than it was before.

      If our civillization collapses, there will be mass death and chaos. But other than extinction I’m not sure what will stop people from building complex societies again.

      Where does this impulse come from to build? Even before humans settled in agrarian villages, they were already building large religious temples. Civilization began while humans were still living in hunter-gatherer tribes. It was only later that shelters were built around these temples and that is carried over to there still being churches at the center of so many towns today.

      What caused those hunter-gatherers to build the first large temple? The resources and manpower would have been immense for hunter-gatherers. Until we understand that, we won’t be able to understand why civilization was built and continually gets rebuilt. To come to terms with civilization, we will have to grasp our own human nature.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s