The Monacans were a tribe living for many centuries in the Appalachians before the arrival of Europeans, and the display at the state park is a replica of part of one of their villages. It was staffed by several docents who were there to explain things to the tourists. We happened to arrive there shortly after a large field trip of local high school students had arrived, so there were probably 60 kids there and a male docent was explaining to them the Monacan people’s life. He was, not surprisingly, talking a lot about their methods of hunting and fishing and how they killed and ate animals for food.
As Madeleine and I were looking at some of the beautiful baskets they created, a female docent came over and we started talking about the food practices of the Monacans. There was a small plot of corn growing, and I asked her about the corn the Monacans traditionally grew and what percentage it was of their total food consumption. She replied that it was only about two percent. She told us that she is herself descended from the Monacan Indians, and that her people had traditionally set up and stayed in villages such as this one for several years, and that they would then would move to a slightly different location in the same general area, and did this repeatedly because they would gradually exhaust the local resources. I asked if she was referring to the animals who were hunted and fished, and she said no, that meat and fish accounted for less than two percent of their food. Virtually all their nutritional needs – 96 percent – came from acorns, together with nuts, berries, roots, seeds, leaves, shoots, and other plant foods that they gathered.
From what I have learned, the Monacan Indians were pretty typical of the people living here in North America before the Europeans came. Indians’ diets were overwhelmingly plant-based, as in the case of the Monacans, according to this docent, 98 percent. And yet, ironically, all the school kids visiting the Monacan Living History Village got the impression from the male docent that they subsisted primarily on meat and fish. They left the Monacan Village with a completely different message than we got, one that would reinforce their acceptance of the foods in their school lunch programs and at the local fast food restaurants, and it was in many ways forced onto them by exploiting their trust and innocence. Of course the male docent was in no way consciously exploiting the children, but was part of a process that happens inexorably—the replication of culture.
What I continue to discover is how far from reality are many of the “official stories” that we tell ourselves and teach our children. They are stories that serve a specific purpose, which is to justify the existing order, and they are passed on effortlessly and subconsciously, because they make us all comfortable in believing, in this case, that our current practice of enslaving and slaughtering huge numbers of animals for food (75 million daily in the U.S. alone) is somehow a normal and natural expression of who we are as human beings. It is no accident that we term native cultures “hunter-gatherers.”
This emphasis on “hunter” for earlier humans is chosen by the mainly male meat-eating anthropologists whose views are unconsciously filtered by their own culturally-imposed meat-eating behavior, and the deep discomfort it inevitably causes. We will and must go to great lengths to justify violent behavior, and this is an example of this.
It is long past time to question these official stories, and to create new stories that more accurately reflect the fact that plant-based foods provide us all that we need to thrive on this Earth and celebrate our lives here with wisdom and compassion. The animals of this Earth, the oceans, rivers, and ecosystems, hungry people, slaughterhouse workers, and the future generations of all living beings are certainly yearning for the day when we awaken from the indoctrinated delusions that we need meat and dairy to get adequate protein and calcium, and that the world and nonhuman animals were put here for us to use.
We are not separate from this world and from the precious web of life here. Eating the products of enslaved and murdered animals forces us to forget this, but at any moment we can question the official stories, remember the truth, and become a force for healing, peace, joy, freedom, and health for all. The ancient Lakota prayer, Mitakuye Oyasin – “All my relations” or “All are related” – reflects this fundamental human wisdom of our essential interconnectedness that is repressed by the corporate diet of death and denial.
The wisdom of the Monacan people can inspire us today if we listen deeply within and question everything.
What an invigorating jaunt it was reading Feral Consciousness, Deconstruction of the Modern Myth and Return to the Woods. Julian Langer did something no one else has done for me. He interlaced my decades ago analytical brain study of the soft sciences on topics of knowledge and existentialism, to my present weary being craving for wild. His gift to the reader is a foundation for and framework toward a post-civ future.
If you’re new to life and anarchy philosophies, or would like an engaging review, Feral Consciousness hits the spot. Julian begins with an annotated synopsis of major thinkers and concepts later fleshed out in the book. How do these taste?: Adorno, Temporary Autonomous Zone, Diogenes, Heidegger, Lacan, Nietzsche, Stirner, Thoreau, Wilde, Vygotsky, Zerzan. The classic ideologies of each and more are applied through a post-civ lens. By the time you close the book you have a basic understanding of a broad spectrum of theorists and concepts.
While Julian synthesizes and originally applies a spectrum of abstract concepts, he takes it easy on the reader. Every time my brain felt like it might begin drowning in abstractia, he reeled me back in with laid-back metaphors, like Pokemon and the Matrix. Here’s a sampling of his captivating tangibility:
“The idea of an axe shapes the perception of a tree.”
“It’s kind of like being between two mirrors, trying to find the last image of yourself in the stream.”
“Consider this, for example: when does a tree start to exist?”
Oh but don’t underestimate. This book is not a lightweight, but a major player. Julian doesn’t end his list of anthropocentric tragedies with wishful greenwash of proposals. He exposes opportunity that ecological collapse presents: encountering the dichotomy of the ‘Real’ and ‘Reality’. He offers a way out of the bind of intrinsically wild humans stuck in the domesticated life and world that we ourselves carved out.
“The Symbolic is not a ‘natural’ feature of the world, and is not an inevitable feature of human psychology. Rather, it is the product of material ideological conditions of one culture-type – civilization. This culture-type now dominates the entire planet, and practically all genetic homo sapiens have been socialized into its psychopathology… the entire ‘humanist’ mode of production’s ideological structure (language, religions, economic and political systems, forms of knowledge and morality, to name a few) are inorganic and artificial constructs derived from a psychosis – collective and individual – that typifies our everyday lives.”
Julian acknowledges the inclination for pessimism, then draws the reader away from the delusion of civilization, the “colonial myths that have perpetually sustained the hegemonic imperialist system”, and the “living death” of nihilism, toward a calling to begin civilization’s inevitable collapse by forming authentic relationships with the Real.
“…the state must be de-idealised through an iconoclastic and radical skeptical epistemological perspective, into a materialist relationship, which de-transcendentalises the relationship into pure existential experience when possible, and skeptical-iconoclasm when not… “
He addresses those who sense the domestication ethos in a “crisis derived via inauthenticity”, that “our bodies are simply not designed to function in the ways required by modern culture” and that the quicker civilization ends the less harm done.
“Our brains are designed to roam through forests and across plains, to forage and hunt, to calculate the Real world as we encounter it organically. Our brains are designed to fight to survive – not to sit in front of TVs, on laptops and iPads, or to play video games. This Reality is an affront to our consciousnesses. We are wild, anarchic, and free creatures, with brains equipped for this.”
He challenges us to replace acceptance of “atheist scientism… the opium of the masses” with Cynicism, an agility seeing through civilization’s phantasm to the Real, to deconstruct the symbolic and domesticated. This is the first step to break out of domestication’s cage to escape into “rewilded-feral and animalistic perception of authentic unmediated truth… that is far closer, if not totally connected, to the pre-Symbolic ‘natural’ Real of wild being.”
This foundation leads to a realistic method of not just ending the civilization madness, but shifting away from civilization toward Real life. Not to be mistaken as a pure rewilding of individuals, this proposal premises that,
“(t)o live freely requires assuming responsibility for the world that is our life/lives, and resisting what disenables life from being free. I extend these concepts in what I hope serves as a mechanism to make possible a freed, consciousness of rewild, feral, anarchic, authentic being, which can serve as the basis for cultivating a way-of-being in the world that acts as both insurrectionary – outside of arrangement, and active resistance – organized and tactical.”
As to the methodology Julian proposes, I’m going to leave you with that cliffhanger. I’ve already given away too much. Though my spirit calls me to sum up the entirety of Julian’s clarion call, this is supposed to be a book review. I can say that there is room for debate on the contour of what he proposes. But the method he presents is a living document, fluid and open to customizing. Let me leave you with one final inspiring quote:
“I have… been having dreams about ecological collapse… I find strength in images of collapsed civilisations rediscovered in the depths of jungles. That is my goal for this civilization too. I want to provide something that enables biological humans to develop a mode of being that can approach these issues in an effective way… The world is still being ravaged by this culture, but my feral spirit of sorrow and joy rises within me at all moments of facing this culture. From this, I find the energy to act in revolt and resistance to the leviathan we face. If they want war, then they will face the animal fury of warriors who do not grant them any claim to their lives – and I will fight.”
Feral Consciousness, Deconstruction of the Modern Myth and Return to the Woods is set for release later this year or early January through Little Black Cart.
how many more???
(Apparently, this seminal text has disappeared from its previous location. So I found a copy I had stashed. Anne Herbert gave me permission to repost this a long time ago. So here it is: the origin of the phrase “random acts of kindness”…)
Handy tips on how to behave at the death of the world
by Anne Herbert
Sometimes it comes in a dream, and sometimes in one more newspaper headline. And then you know. With your cells and past and future you know. It’s over. We are killing it all and soon it all will be dead. We are here at the death of the world – killers, witnesses, and those who will die. How then shall we live?
PROBABLY GOOD TO TELL TRUTH as much as possible. Truth generally appreciated by terminal patients and we all are.
Good to avoid shoddy activities. You are doing some of last…
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At first glance, Missoula, Montana’s agricultural non-profit, Garden City Harvest, might seem like an ill-advised target for the Animal Liberation Front’s graffiti. By most accounts, Garden City Harvest does some fantastic work in its local community. According to GCH’s website, its mission is “to build community through agriculture by growing food with and for people with low incomes, offering education and training in ecologically conscious agriculture, and using our sites for the personal restoration of youth and adults,” making the vandals’ actions all the more curious. GCH’s executive director Jean Zosel believes the ALF’s actions “cross the line,” stating, “people are angry, they don’t really know the whole story, they don’t really know Garden City Harvest, they don’t know what we’re accomplishing here.”
Despite Zosel’s comments, the ALF seems to know exactly what GCH is accomplishing — and it involves far more than gardening, food banking, and education. Earlier this month, police notified GCH that somebody had spray-painted “murderer” on their main office building along with an ALF tag. GCH immediately identified the acronym and the culprits, as well as their probable motive: GCH’s raising and killing of pigs as part of its so-called benevolent work. GCH claims it kills pigs as a way to teach school children where their food comes from. It’s probably safe to assume the kids don’t show up for GCH’s throat-cutting ceremony where pigs scream and thrash in their final moments.
Many within the animal advocacy community are issuing harsh criticism of the ALF for choosing GCH as a target. Even those supporters brave enough to refuse to condemn occasional ALF vandalism feel like GCH was an unwarranted victim. If such acts are going to be carried out, they should be reserved for more worthy targets like slaughterhouses, pharmaceutical companies, butchers, hunting lodges, fishing boats, gun shops, etc. Such criticism fails to look at the plight of non-human animals in a nuanced fashion, however.
A similar intramovement debate surfaced earlier this year when animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DXE) repeatedly interrupted speeches by “progressive” politicians like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in an effort to raise awareness for the plight of animals. Why, critics asked, would the group not focus on right-wing politicians who are more obvious enemies of animals? (Leave aside for a moment the uniform awfulness with which all politicians on the Left and Right treat animals through their furtherance of neo-liberal, capitalist policies.) Through protests and direct action aimed at the left, groups like DXE and ALF reach people of a more open-minded, compassionate, dare I say progressive bent — targets who are more ripe for the picking.
While the effectiveness of the tactics themselves are up for debate, the fact remains that animal liberation is a message that’s more likely to resonate with folks on the left, more of whom are of a peace-loving disposition. Even if nobody at a Sanders or Clinton rally, or at GCH, is able to look beyond DXE’s or ALF’s actions and receive the underlying message, it’s very possible people indirectly connected with them might. Conversely, it’s far less likely “researchers” at animal testing labs, or deplorables at a Trump rally, are open to persuasion about animal justice.
As a result of the vandalism, GCH supporters might begin to question their own relationship with animals and the unspeakable horrors that bring them to their dinner tables. They might ask themselves whether animal killing furthers GCH’s mission — to provide low-cost, healthy food to low-income members of the community. In the aftermath of the vandalism, GCH supporters might, for the first time, learn that an all-plant-based diet is more sustainable, affordable, and healthier than the ecologically destructive system of raising, killing and eating animals.
But back to tactics. For the animal liberation movement to be successful, there can be no options taken off the table, no perpetrators exempt from direct action. The targeting of an organization like GCH serves a different purpose than the targeting of one like Huntingdon Life Sciences. Those organizations play different roles in the oppression of animals, and the targeting of them and the reasons behind it must be understood in this context.