Survivalism and Rewilding
I've been considering more lately what are the best way to help influence circumstances towards the formation of sane, sustainable, egalitarian cultures. This is, after all, what rewilding is about. But I've been reconsidering some of my ideas, leaning just a bit more towards the more "mainstream" survivalism (if there is such a thing), which is probably not a surprise to anyone reading the last few entries. Don't get me wrong, I'm still into encouraging permaculture, companion planting, and forest gardening, as well as gift economies, natural medicine traditions, and all that other fun stuff. The survivalism has only bolstered those things. But the more I think about it, and the more I study society and recent historical collapses (Soviet, Argentina, New Orleans), I realize that the conditions of the collapse of the West is going to look a lot harder than I thought. And the approaches we take to living, from purely practical as well as theoretically socio-political standpoints, need to reflect what we can realistically expect, as well as the ways to influence new cultures to be more just, fair, and life-affirming, and to hopefully do away with racism, sexism, homophobia, authoritarianism, and other maladies of civilization.
I also realized that I was just fooling myself in a way, thinking that the near future would look a lot more like paleolithic living than it likely will in most places. Certainly, if humans are to last we'll have to return to sustainable lifeways based on the same principles that indigenous peoples' lifeways have been guided by for millennia. Yes, there definitely will be a lot more people managing to put together commune-like ecovillages and tribal units in the hinter-lands while I'm alive. But the flaw in my thinking had been that I forced myself to believe that removing the root cause(s) of civilization, namely monocropping, environmental degradation, and the widespread application of violence to maintain such a system, would more immediately remove its remnants from the Earth. I can't for the life of me figure out why I thought that, aside from maybe falling into the trap of hope.
The problem with my thinking up until now has been that civilization will be continued in the minds of civilized peoples, particularly in cities, so long as the cities exist. And as much as cities will be depopulated, either through exodus, starvation, or violence (or less likely but preferable, conscious declines in population, i.e. birth control), they will linger on for some time. Even the people in the outlying territories, what we now call the edges of suburbs as well as rural and wild spaces, are likely to fall back on social organization much like Civilization Lite (same taste but with a fraction of the violence and exploitation!), with perhaps a few exceptions where radicals like myself and my friends are. In some cases, unscrupulous folks with the armaments (Tea Party? Militias? Eeek!) will attempt to set up fiefdoms and even theocracies. The recently arrested Christian militia Hutaree had as one of its goals the teaching of evangelical gospel at gunpoint, after the expected Second Coming of Christ, or perhaps after any other sort of collapse. So it seems that it might take some time to thoroughly work the civilization out of humanity, probably more than my lifetime.
Not to sound alarmist, but there actually is a chance that murderous raiders will attempt to attack and steal from homesteads they perceive as easy targets. Writer Fernando Aguirre recounts attacks against people in farming towns in the aftermath of Argentina's 2001 economic collapse. Granted, that particular collapse is different in a lot of characteristics, namely that our likely imminent collapse will be caused by Peak Oil, in which case it'll be even harder to obtain fuel than it has been in Argentina. I don't think we'll be seeing Mad Max recreated in the next ten years, and eventually it will just be too impractical to use gasoline this way. But people intent enough can wander on foot looking for places to raid.
Like I've said, collapse will still mark a reduction in violence overall, and indeed could be a soft collapse in which our standards of living are drastically increased. But because these threats will exist, just as they do now, and because we have to be serious about understanding threats that exist, as well as challenges of a non-security sort that we're likely to come across when trying to meet our needs, we need to base our decisions as individuals and communities on this sort of realistic understanding of our situation.
What I see in the near future is abit of a mixture of what different people have seen and prepared for. And how we'll prepare for that will need to include bits and pieces of what Aguirre points to as the different broad groups among survivalists (except the people who just buy expensive baubles and gadgets, not that I don't appreciate the occasional bauble or gadget). We'll need to learn to use weapons to defend ourselves, but probably not constantly doing drills and special forces level exercises (it doesn't take elite soldiers to defend a home, but it does take them to break in). We'll need to learn to do stuff like our pioneer homesteading ancestors did, like making soap or forging tools, without pretending that this will return us to Little House on the Prairie like some survivalists I hear about think(thankfully, as I would look forward to neither repressive anti-woman and Christian supremacist beliefs, nor cholera). We'll need to learn "primitive" skills, permaculture, and how to rig up some steampunk-esque contraptions. But most of all we need to learn to think relationally and not view how we're living as an anachronism or adhering to rigid rules based on fantasy, but rather as a living, breathing cultural rennaissance concerned with the welfare of human and non-human people alike.
To my knowledge, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull had no qualms about using rifles to sustain their peoples' hunting and gathering lifeway, and definitely not for defending that very same lifeway. When metal traps were first produced in numbers, they were quickly adopted by numerous indigenous peoples living traditionally. Most of the time, practicality overrules 'purity'.
My friend Urban Scout has said that stockpiling and focusing on gear, and I say survivalism in general, is a short term survival strategy, whereas rewilding is a long term survival strategy, and indeed a cultural strategy for survival. We need to survive in the short run to be alive in the long run to be able to create feral cultures. So, let's live sensibly and use reasonable means to do so.