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And out of the wilderness comes Wildism: An interview with John F. Jacobi

John Jacobi, who is co-founder and editor of The Wildernist was kind enough to speak to me about Wildism, the Unabomber, and how hunting and gathering is where it’s at.

Can you tell me a little more about the Wildist Network and how it started?

For a while now several groups of people who truly love wild Nature have been involved in all sorts of necessary discussions about what is to be done in the midst of this industrial disaster. But a lot of those discussions were private, and the public ones were on Spanish-language blogs, meaning large portions of the world knew little or nothing about them. The Network is our first attempt at remedying that. Now, anyone who wants to be involved in our work and discussions can easily contact us at thewildistnetwork@gmail.com, and they can visit here to get an up-to-date list of links to blogs involved in the Network in some way. This set up makes it much easier for us to grow.

You said to me that “although Kaczynski is not the Marx to our Wildism, his ideas have been very influential.” Can you expand on this?

Sometimes people who want to discredit us say that we worship Kaczynski. But while Kaczynski has had some important ideas, not all of them are good; and while his Manifesto did introduce some useful core concepts, like the “power process” and the link between wild Nature and freedom, the Manifesto is not enough to provide the basis for a fully coherent and fleshed-out ideology. That work is being done right now by the entire Network and others closely related to it.

For example, in his manifesto Kaczynski doesn’t really explain the connection between industry and leftism very well. Luckily, members of the Network have done the work required to connect the two. For example, Wildist Último Reducto explains the core ideas connecting all forms of leftism and the strategic reasons for avoiding it in his piece “Leftism: The function of pseudo-critique and pseudo-revolution in techno-industrial society.” Similarly, in an upcoming essay, “A Sketch of Wildism in Contrast to Leftism,” I’ll expand on the idea hinted at in our Statement of Principles: that leftism (or “left humanism,” as I sometimes call it) is the dominant ideology of techno-industrial society. Readers should keep a lookout for further, fuller explanations over time, to be published on The Wildist Library at www.wildism.org/lib.

What do you feel the affect will be on society and culture in the future if the use of technology is not reigned in?

Well, the problem isn’t technology per se. Hunter/gatherer technics consisted of spear-making, art on cave walls, making pottery, and so on. But I don’t see anything necessarily wrong with that. The problem is when a social system, or any artifice, inevitably works against wild Nature — like agricultural societies or industrial societies.

Our critique, then, is of industrial or “technoindustrial” society in particular, and all forms of civilized life in general. The reason we focus on the technical and economic aspects is because those are the aspects that form the backbone to any social system, and any disruption in the technical and economic development of a society will result in disruption throughout the entire society. Kaczynski explains this well in an interview he did for a college newspaper, the John Jay Sentinel.

Now, to get to your question. Industrial development is not going to be reigned in by those who are most responsible for continuing its development. The only way it’s going to be stopped is through a combination of organized insurrection and powerful external and largely unpredictable events like natural disasters or economic depression. This is the major point of Kaczynski’s manifesto, “Industrial Society and Its Future,” especially paragraphs 99-142. I encourage readers to check it out.

So what will happen if there is no organized group ready to take advantage of a crisis of the industrial system? Well, it could be that the external events like economic depression combined with war and climate change will bring down industry by itself. This is a very distinct possibility. All civilizations have collapsed before, and while I can’t be absolutely sure, I’m fairly certain that industrial civilization isn’t exempt. Furthermore, our society is creating lots of ticking time-bombs for itself: climate change, anti-microbial resistance, the rapid spread of diseases from overpopulated areas and transportation infrastructure, the threats posed by biotechnology, the depletion of resources, and so on. It seems pretty likely that one or more of these will intersect at some time in the next 100 years or so. Who knows what that will look like.

On the other hand, the industrial-technological basis of society could make it through all of those crises. If that happens, it is almost certain that wild Nature will be threatened to an even greater degree than it is now.

Take agriculture, for example. By definition it destroys wild Nature. No matter what it tames an area, contributes to habitat loss, disrupts the food chain, and so forth. But industrial agriculture is even worse. It devastates soil, for example, and through the ubiquitous use of pesticides contributes to many problems for wildlife. Furthermore, the Green Agricultural Revolution in the 60s is one of the main technologies that permitted today’s overpopulation problems to get so bad.

Well, genetic engineering threatens to make all that even worse. One look at science journals like Nature and you see talk of genetically modified crops that can withstand even more pesticide use, that can grow in extremely harsh conditions that our current agricultural practices are helping create, and so on. Imagine, too, the cost to freedom. If you can’t survive except through crops that are controlled by large organizations and technical systems, who controls your life?

But it’s little use talking about potential future developments. They’re too unpredictable. What matters is that even now we don’t have freedom. Consider, for example, the immense power the stock market has over the economy, and consequently over human behavior. And no humans, not even technocratic elites, have control over that, since it’s mostly run by algorithms.

How feasible would it be to live as hunter/gatherers?

We Wildists do not necessarily advocate living as hunter/gatherers. Most, if not all, of us, believe that where agriculture can be practiced, it will be. I would even go further and say that where small-scale industrial processes can be practiced, they likely will be for at least a limited amount of time, until the required parts wear out and can’t be replaced.

So we offer the hunter/gatherer way of life as our ideal because it is the way of life closest to wild Nature both outside of and within us. But because of the complexity of interacting values, changing material conditions, and so on, it would be unreasonable, not to say unrealistic, for our political goal to be “make everyone live as hunter/gatherers.”

Instead, we offer only the end of the industrial system as our goal. This is feasible, it is a goal we can have more confidence in because of the magnitude of the consequences of industry, and it increases the “measure” of wildness in the world to a significant degree. Of course, some hunter/gatherer societies will probably come out of the collapse of industry, especially if our values win out in some areas, but the goal is not to live as hunter/gatherers. Again, that’s the moral ideal, while the political goal is to disrupt industrial society beyond repair.

Your group members are revolutionaries, but the group does not promote illegal activities. How easy or difficult is it to be effective within those parameters?

The work we are doing does not demand illicit activity and would in fact be harmed by it. Those who want to engage in illegal activities are better off not getting involved with the Wildist Network. Once your name is associated with us, you should expect it to be known by the authorities; you’d have to be really dense to think that we aren’t being watched by someone.

Besides, some of the most important work to be done right now can be done in a strictly legal way. We are laying the ideological foundations of Wildism: the morality, the analysis, what is important to reject (e.g., leftism), what is important to understand (e.g., evolution), etc. Think about what Marx did for communism or what Arne Naess did for Deep Ecology. Because of their work, everyone in their respective movements had a similar starting point and agreed-upon goals and principles that enabled them to act in a coordinated and unified way. It’s boring stuff sometimes, but it’s necessary.

We are also spreading the value of wild Nature and the freedom found in it, and this requires influential people, like professors, community leaders, and so on, to have courage and be willing to advocate Wildism or its associated values. That sort of thing is hampered by illegal activity, which tends to alienate, sometimes by necessity, the people we need to reach. That’s not something we want to do, because so far the strategy has been working. Already we can see influential people spreading the value of wild Nature. Professor David Skrbina, for example, has bravely said: “If Kaczynski’s actions ultimately have some effect on averting technological disaster, there will be no doubt: his actions were justified.” And others, more quiet presences, have been encouraging a love for wild Nature that is uncompromising, and people are really responding well to that idea.

Wildists are not completely sure of what it will take to end industry. That’s really impossible to know, actually, because future circumstances are mostly unpredictable, except in a general way. So people who otherwise agree with us as far as values are concerned, but are wondering what the first step toward such a momentous goal might be, should listen up: the first step is to organize. If we have concentrated groups of people in communication with each and bound by a common ideology, we will have the core structure needed to respond adaptively to unpredictable future circumstances. A good indication of what this might look like, generally, is the history of the Russian Revolution and what the Bolsheviks did for the decades leading up to it. We don’t want to copy the Bolsheviks exactly, of course — they were terrible people! — but it does give us a look at what the capacity of a small and organized group is.

What are you doing to get the word out?

We have a Facebook page for the Network, www.facebook.com/wildism, which people should like if they have an account. Also, every individual or group that belongs to the Network has a blog and internet presence, and a list of the links is provided atwww.wildism.org/network. Most of the blogs are in Spanish, but we have some in Portuguese and one in English.

The English-language one is a conservation magazine, The Wildernist, which I help edit. The magazine is for a specific faction in the conservation movement whose individuals are sometimes derided as “wilderness purists” or “wildernists.” This moniker is especially favored by some free market advocates, such as Ron Arnold, the founder of the deplorable “wise use” movement, and the Heartland Institute.

This whole setup really came out of the problem of hope. People don’t have it. The collapse of industry sounds like a far-off, lunatic idea, even among many who love wild Nature. It’s easier for people to wrap their heads around uncompromising defense for a specific thing like wilderness. And really, even if the collapse of industry never happens, I’d be happy at my death bed if I knew that I had contributed to an attitude that’s saving millions of acres of wilderness even now. The tragedy is that the collapse of industry is the only thing that will ensure that those areas aren’t inevitably destroyed, and it’s important that the moment that looks like a realistic option to most people, we have a way to reach the right audience. The Wildernist is that audience: people who love wilderness, who know that industry is destroying it, but, understandably, don’t see a way out just yet.

Source: http://forfreedomordeath.blogspot.com

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