The flower growing out of the underworld: An introduction to eco-extremism
*Taken from Issue 1 of Atassa: Readings in Eco-extremism, available now from Little Black Cart*
“Una salus victis nullam sperare salutem.” (The one hope of the conquered is to not hope for salvation.)
-Virgil, The Aeneid
“If death comes we will keep destroying things in hell; disgusting world, I will laugh as I see you falling, in this eternal confrontation…”
-Eleventh Communique of the Individualists Tending Toward the Wild, 2016
Eco-extremism is one of the newest schools of thought in our time, but more than a school of thought, it is a plan of action, an attitude of hostility, and a rejection of all that has come before it in techno-industrial society. Born out of various radical ideologies such as animal liberation, insurrectionary anarchism, anarcho-primitivism, and the neo-Luddism of Theodore Kaczynski, it has germinated and sprouted forth into something entirely other: into a love poem to violence and criminality; a radical ecological vision where hope and humanism are overcome by the barrel of a gun, the explosion of the incendiary device, and the knife stalking human prey in the darkness. All of its true adherents are currently unknown. It is not an ideology that was formed in the academy or even in “alternative” political spaces. Its writings can only be found (some would say ironically) on anonymous sites on the Internet. Eco-extremism was formed in the shadows, and will remain there, a clandestine threat until all eco-extremists are captured or killed… that is, until others take their place.
Shortly after I wrote my essay in Ritual Magazine, “Towards Savagery: Recent Developments in Eco-Extremist Thought in Mexico,” the main group described in that essay, Reacción Salvaje (Wild Reaction) disbanded (in August 2015), citing a new stage of their struggle and development. Many of the websites that I used for my research also went silent or announced their end. Nevertheless, eco-extremist rumblings could be heard in the south, echoed via news stories on the Internet. Groups such as the Pagan Sect of the Mountain committed attacks in Mexico State and other parts of that country, using the same rhetoric against the “hyper-civilized”, and without concern for morality and mass technological society. One of the main journals of eco-extremism, Regresión Magazine, continued to be published out of Mexico.
By January of 2016, new eco-extremist websites and even an extensive video documentary on eco-extremism emerged online. By the end of the month, the First Communique of the re-founded Individualists Tending Toward the Wild (Individualistas Tendiendo a lo Salvaje, ITS) was issued on the main eco-extremist website, Maldición Eco-extremista, as well as on anti-authoritarian news outlets. Soon, it began to emerge that the continuation of ITS had spread to other countries, namely, Chile, Argentina, and later Brazil, along with allied Nihilist Terrorists groups in Italy. Eco-extremist texts have been translated into languages ranging from Spanish and English to Turkish, Czech, and Romanian. Eco-extremist actions in the last calendar year have ranged from arson, bomb threats, indiscriminate bombings, to the murder of a scientific worker at Mexico’s largest university. To our knowledge, no one has yet to be arrested or investigated for these crimes.
Recent eco-extremist theory has emphasized action above historical study and theory. Much of the polemical energy earlier this year was consumed by a defense of “indiscriminate attack”: that is, bombing, shooting, arson, etc. that does not take into account “innocent bystanders,” but strikes at a target regardless of what “collateral damage” might result. Other issues of contention have been the relationship between nihilism and egoism (the idea that ITS and other eco-extremists do not believe in a future and fight in the here and now for no particular strategic goal,), primitivism, animism / paganism, and individualism. In what follows I will discuss essential terms and concepts that will hopefully clarify eco-extremist language and rhetoric. It should be noted at the outset that eco-extremism does not aim for absolute clarity for the impartial observer, but rather seeks to stimulate affinity in those who are similarly at odds with technology, artificiality, and civilization.
Eco-extremism is a tendency that seeks to recover the wild. It exalts one’s ancestral warrior instincts and declares war on all that is civilized. Eco-extremism is embodied in individual eco-extremists hiding in plain sight who emerge with cold ferocity at the opportune time. The eco-extremist is an individualist in that he defies the prohibition of the collective or community, any community, to fight, injure, maim, or kill. No collective has the authority to tell him or her what to do, as they have all forfeited their (non-existent) authority with their continuous war against Wild Nature. Along with the renunciation of the collective is a renunciation of hope or any “future primitive”. Eco-extremists believe that this world is garbage, they understand progress as industrial slavery, and they fight like cornered wild animals since they know that there is no escape. They look death in the eye, and yell, “Hoka Hey!” (Today is a good day to die.)
Eco-extremism is violent resistance that mimics the reflexive reaction of Wild Nature itself against that which seeks to alienate and enslave all living and inanimate things. It is against the artificiality of modern society, and all that subjugates human instinct to a “higher end”.
Let us, however, start to define our terms:
Wild Nature: Wild Nature is the primary agent in eco-extremist war. The philistines oppose the invocation of “Wild Nature” as atavism or “superstition,” but they do so merely out of their own domestication and idiocy. “Wild Nature” is all that grows and is manifested on the planet in animate and inanimate objects, from pebbles to oceans, from microorganisms to all of the flora and fauna that have developed on Earth. It also encompasses all of the stars, galaxies, moons, suns, meteors, etc. More specifically, “Wild Nature” is the acknowledgement that humanity is not the source and end of physical and spiritual reality, but merely a part of it, and perhaps not even a major part. Eco-extremism, insofar as it thinks about epistemology at all, is based on realism as governed by our animal senses and instincts. As Chahta-Ima stated in his essay, “What do we mean when we say, ‘nature’?”:
“Nature exists because the human mind is weak and limited. It is mortal, it is made of flesh, and ultimately this is its limit, even if we can’t see it. It’s playing a game with the rest of existence, and it will lose. The existence of nature is the limit of thought. It is the fact that all things are not for us, our thoughts do not make things: the things are there for the taking, and would be there without our intervention. In other words, we are not gods, we are not spirits, precisely because those things don’t exist as we have come to understand them. Our thought does not and cannot comprehend everything, which is why it is so miserably unreliable.”
Eco-extremism thus posits a pessimism concerning human endeavors and achievements, whether these are physical, spiritual, or moral. That is why it opposes civilization, especially in its techno-industrial manifestation. Modern civilization seeks to subjugate all to itself, and its hubris is its downfall. Eco-extremists seek to be instruments of that downfall, though they do not believe that they can bring it about themselves. More importantly, Wild Nature is found in us primarily in our instincts and in feeling the groan of the Earth in the face of the destruction caused by civilized life. This tendency seeks (albeit imperfectly) to recover beliefs based in the mountains, deserts, coasts, swamps, forests, animals, phases of the moon, and so on.
Many eco-extremists hear the call of their ancestors who resisted their subjugation. When Wild Nature speaks it does so in the language of their Teochichimeca ancestors, the Selk’nam, the Yahis, the Navajo, the Maoris, the European barbarians, the Waranis, the Taromenanes, the Seris, the Toba, and any other group that fought against the extinguishing of their ancient way of life. Wild Nature is thus within us, in the individuality that refuses the thought and morality of civilization and domestication.
Individualism: More than a philosophical current, individualism is an important tactical choice within mass society. It’s the decision to become a wolf in the midst of all of the sheep. It is the decision to look after one’s own interest and act accordingly. Individualists learn from solitude and look for self-realization because they have understood that one can no longer abide by the norms and customs that civilization has dictated to them. Individualists deny accepted morality, and they reject the values taught to them from birth. They don’t wait to take initiative, but rather join together with those of similar disposition to improve their theory and practice. Individualism is a weapon against the progressive collectivism imposed by the system. As one eco-extremist wrote:
“‘I and afterwards I!’ I cry trying to finish off my domestication, breaking the bonds of useless relationships, launching headlong into a war against civilization and its slaves. Against its collectivism, its altruism and humanism. Death to the relationships founded on hypocrisy! Long life to sincere affinities! My allies who fight this already lost war along with me know: For me it will always be me before them, and vice versa: their ‘I’ before my ‘I’. Thus we will continue since we are amoral and egoist individuals.”
Individualist eco-extremists are cautious and spiritual, they love deeply and when they hate, they don’t forgive. They are indiscriminate when they act, as well as cold and calculating. They prowl about with guile just like the fox, and camouflage themselves in urban and rural landscapes. Eco-extremists use everything at hand to accomplish their goals, yet they try to bind themselves to the sacred past knowing that the time for peace is no more. They seek to offer their victims as a sacrifice to their ancestors and the Earth itself. As in many of the past wars against civilization, the driving force behind it is neither morality nor justice, but vengeance.
Indiscriminate attack: The modern progressive mind objects to indiscriminate attack since it has not yet been able to shake off Western morality. For eco-extremists, acting indiscriminately is one of the primary methods of attack. To attack indiscriminately is to strike a target without regard for “innocent bystanders” or “collateral damage”. While eco-extremist individualists usually take aim at targets that are significant to the techno-industrial society (government ministries, universities, transport vehicles), individualist terrorists do so with the intent of inflicting the maximum amount of damage, and this includes human casualties. As ITS expressed in its Fifth Communique of this year:
“We consider as enemies all those who contribute to the systematic process of domestication and alienation: the scientists, the engineers, the investigators, the physicists, the executives, the humanists, and (why not?), affirming the principle of indiscriminate attack, society itself and all that it entails. Why society? Because it tends toward progress, technological and industrial. It contributes to the consolidation and advance of civilization. We can think of all who form part of society as being mere sheep who do what they are told and that’s it, but for us it’s not that simple. People obey because they want to. If they had a choice and, if it were up to them, they would love to live like those accursed millionaires, but they rot in their poverty as the perennially faithful servants of the system that enslaves us as domestic animals.”
Eco-extremism carries out indiscriminate attacks as an echo of Wild Nature itself and to show that its hostility toward society is real. Tsunamis don’t suddenly stop when they reach poor neighborhoods, alligators don’t distinguish between the innocent and the guilty in their nocturnal hunts, and hurricanes don’t attack people according to race. Eco-extremism is part of that cycle of action and reaction. The time for “revolutionary action” has long passed, and eco-extremists aim to carry out a real war, with real casualties, and actions that are not merely symbolic but actually draw blood.
Nihilism: Nihilism is primarily a refusal of the future. As I described in my essay, “Primitivism Without Catastrophe,” human societies at all levels, but especially techno-industrial society, are exceedingly complex, made up of as many unwieldy parts as there are people. Thus, any aspiration to shepherd people into a collective course of action, whether it is humanism, socialism, liberalism, or even anarchism will not work, and will be opposed by those who seek to resist their own techno-industrial enslavement.
In the “Eco-Extremist Mafia” (as they like to call themselves) there are Nihilist Terrorists, particularly in Italy. These nihilists adhere to the position that true nihilism is active nihilism or it is not at all. It is no use to speak of one’s “nihilism” or “egoism” while one pays taxes and obeys traffic laws. Such a purely passive egoism or nihilism is perhaps more akin to Buddhism or the philosophical nihilism of the 19th century, which upholds all of the things that condemn one to be a cog in the great societal machine, but offers some sort of invisible integrity or purity (or a particular “emancipated space”) akin to “spiritual liberation”. Active Nihilist Terrorism as practiced by the Memento Mori Nihilist Sect and others seeks to attack that which obviously enslaves the individual to society, and that attack must always be a physical attack against real targets such as machines, buildings, etc. and the humanoid automatons who build and run them. All other manifestations of nihilism or egoism are no better than Christian or Far Eastern asceticism.
“The pure blow to life that flows at the margin of ‘living’. I am the criminal nihilist who denies obsolete humanity, transcending the moral-mortal human, existence in an identifying and categorical representation in equal evaluations.”
-Nechaevshchina, “Nihilist Funeral”
Paganism / animism: Eco-extremism is founded on pagan animism, and it attempts to rescue ancestral deities that have often been forgotten by Christian / secular society. For both deeply personal and strategic reasons, the eco-extremist seeks to revive the worship of the spirits of the Earth and to offer sacrifices to them. The strategic component is to renounce and oppose the philosophy of secular scientism upheld by some anarchists who cry, “No gods, no masters!” Eco-extremists acknowledge the need for spiritual authorities, even if these are poorly understood or mostly forgotten, as they still ultimately determine the course of life and death. No warrior can make war on his own: there are always greater forces at work, ones that even techno-industrial civilization cannot dominate. In the eco-extremist war, in spite of tactical individualism, a spiritual component is needed to carry out an attack against this putrid society and get away with it. It also reminds the eco-extremist that ultimately whether he or she lives or dies is not up to them, but up to forces that have been and will be even after we are gone. As Halputta Hadjo stated in his monograph, “The Calusa: A Savage Kingdom?”:
“[The eco-extremist] can lash out or he can surrender, but whatever he does, he does within the blindness and impotence of his own carnal nature. That is no reason to give up, and it is no reason to despair. It is every reason, however, to revere those forces that created things this way, and these are the ‘spirits’ or the ‘gods’ of a specific environment, whatever you want to call them. The attitude of eco-extremists is undying hostility toward technological civilization in the name of the spirits that are his lost patrimony.”
Like the savage warrior of the past, the eco-extremist is reminded that, while the scalp and blood of the enemy might be his in the short-term, in the long term, his fate is to decay like all flesh, with his spirit rejoining the wind and the dust. The eco-extremist does not run from his “spooks”, his “dark side”, or his ignorance, but embraces them to give him courage against the enemy. These are his gods, his own guardian spirits that are emissaries from Wild Nature. He does not require the mathematical rationality of the domesticated to act, but acts out of instinct with understanding to strike at his foe. His one solace is that he too is Wild Nature, that its lament is his lament, that its ultimate victory will be his own, even if he will not live to see it with his physical eyes. In the end, all lofty sentiments and ideas are a mere heartbeat away from being extinguished, which should give the eco-extremist a sense of urgency in the fight against domestication and artificiality.
Conclusion: War with an expiration date, war without end
Eco-extremism is the tragic sense of life embodied in our epoch. It is a product of the contradictions of our time, of the haziness of anthropological scholarship, of the renunciation of political action, and of the contemporary ideological impasse. This tendency knows that this impasse will not be solved by better philosophies or moral codes, but only in the destruction of all that exists, including the “hyper-civilized” (i.e. all of us). Techno-industrial society is a problem that should have never existed in the first place, and all of the “defects” and “contradictions” of eco-extremism as an ideology are the result of society’s contradictions reflected as in a distorted mirror. There is no solution. The only appropriate response is fire and bullets.
This attitude puts the eco-extremist at odds not only with the authorities of techno-industrial society, but also with other so-called radical groups. There are no “call-outs” or expressions of “solidarity” in eco-extremism. There is no attempt by eco-extremism to morally or philosophically justify itself.” Innocence” or “guilt” never enter into the eco-extremist calculus. Indeed, this tendency eagerly absorbs the “worst” aspects of modern society, including common criminality, without any lawyerly effort to justify itself through the logic of civilized “justice”. The recent introduction to the essay, “The Calusa: A Savage Kingdom?” highlights the societal actors and groups that eco-extremism seeks to imitate in our time:
“‘The Calusa: A Savage Kingdom?’ teaches a valuable lesson; namely, that much can be learned from both the small nomadic groups and the great pre-Columbian civilizations. Here there is no danger of falling into a theoretical ‘contradiction,’ as eco-extremists can reference the Selk’nam as well as the Mayas. They can refer to the experiences of petty criminals as well as those of the large mafias; the Guatemalan gangs as well as the rigid organization of the Islamic State. That is to say, eco-extremists are free to refer to whatever they like, without any hint of morality, with the only condition that it gives a particular useful lesson concerning the planning and execution of their war.”
Theoretical eclecticism is only countered in the eco-extremist with single-mindedness in violent attack. The eco-extremist has cast off his or her affinity with the hyper-civilized and sees virtually everyone as an enemy. These individualists have come to value attack more than their very lives, as countless other warriors and savages have done before them. They don’t ask for help from those whom they have come to see as at best useless, and at worst the hated adversary worthy of death. The eco-extremists are already on the radar of the authorities of the countries where they operate, and beyond. They are under no illusion that they will be able to evade them indefinitely.
Wild Nature corrodes civilization little by little with entropy as water diminishes a stone. Along with climate change, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, new individualists resisting their domestication will take the eco-extremists’ place, perhaps mindful of those who have come before them. We are now entering an age of extremes, an age of uncertainty, where leftist illusions and conservative platitudes can no longer prepare us for our future course. The individualist will continue to be an invisible menace, immune from the moral coercion of the herd, and working in the complete privacy of his or her own thoughts and desires. The masses may rage and the authorities lament, but there will always be pockets of destructive refusal, emerging like sparks in the dark only to go out again, until this society is ground into powder, and the spirits of all warriors go off once more to hunt in the land of the ancestors. Axkan kema, tehuatl, nehuatl! [Until your death or mine!]