We yearn for a wild existence regardless of our culture. Regardless of our age, our gender, or our religion. A wild world surrounds us; we breathe it in; we consume it on our plates; we make it into our homes.
Not many know or remember, but at one point every telephone pole from Michigan to the coast of California was made from the trunk of a white cedar growing in Minnesota. Not long after Minnesota’s own rich hematite- the beloved iron ore of our Vermilion, Cuyuna, and Mesabi Range- would undergo a fantastic and devastating transformation from mere rock into the steel that would make almost every American car on the highway and every tank on Uncle Sam’s battlefield. Our wilderness is the fabric that builds our cities, fights our wars, and provides the space and raw material for our agriculture.
Science and industry and perhaps in some ways even our religions have done a fine job at giving us a kind of subconscious coziness about our resources. We have a selective deafness about them. We understand that they come from somewhere, but we purposely plead ignorance in order to save ourselves the responsibility.
It’s not implausible to me that this could be the fundamental issue we have going forward in building a wild and working world. We must bridge worlds that have not been linked in the West in two hundred years. A conscious adaptation must occur, and now, if we are to maintain our humanity, and avoid finding ourselves waking up as a creature we do not know, we do not love, and do not wish to be.
The transformation is occurring now. Transhuman elements are finding viable combination. Humanity does wish to be the android, but we have been given a false mythology that it is our destiny. This is Manifest Destiny, alive and well today, and embodied in Silicon Valley and the liberal techno-culture of the Millennial age. The principles of Manifest Destiny do not simply apply to our relations to Native America, as we have been taught. It applies to our relationship to the world in its entirety. Make no mistake: when the elites speak of a “transhuman” or even techno-religious idea like “Singularity,” what they are talking about is the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny.
One of the things that troubles the industrial doers and shakers as they deal with the Native America “issue” and a culture of displacement and extreme disenchantment, is that it cannot be removed in a cultural sense from the land. Where their culture goes so too does reverence for a wild world, which is at odds with the colonial domesticated world. Although the Native people of North America were definitely dealing with “agriculture”, it is hard to see the practices we use in our agricultural pursuits as related, save that it involves in some way seeds and soil. So this reverence for what is wild has a habit of trying to preserve itself in the face of a relentless economic machine, and the machine doesn’t like it.
As people who abide by the principles of earth to the best that we know how, we have to be prepared to fight for our vision of a reversely-assimilated world. This time it will be capitalism and industry that must learn to assimilate to the wild, and not some other way around. We do not need to protest or to politicize to achieve this end. In fact, that may do the vision in. As we see in hyper-politicized movements like “third-wave” or “liberal” feminism, division can breed quickly and without warning in any fast-paced “revolution”. One morning you’re all on the same page and the next you’re accusing each other of hate speech, misrepresentation, and slander. Most of those who believe in the “cause” are honest and logical. But there are outliers who take their tribal motivations too far, and these agents have the very real power to collapse movements with great momentum. A small jaunt into the history of the hippie years of the 1960s gives revealing insight into this danger.
Instead, it would do us better to seek brilliant minds who can bridge these gaps, in the field, and in our philosophies (from the without and within). Most importantly, it would be beneficial to start with an entirely new and thorough analysis of the wild, which is in fact what I seek to help engender over the course of my literary and artistic lifetime.
Currently, in our model of “sustainability”, we do not start with the wild; we begin with industry and try to figure out how to preserve that first. Really, a great deal of the environmental movement at this point can be said to be more of a “corporate preservation” movement, not a wild preservation movement. Each inclement of preservation ekes out from the baseline of corporate mega-profits. Any profit that may fall below these astronomically unbalanced projections and models of wealth is taken as a threat to the ruling order and to our way of lives- because it is. The economists are not incorrect in seeing the world from this lens. But it is not a holistic or complete view, and that is where the issue lies. Our knee jerk reactions are not necessary however. Our worry of a dangerous wild world is unfounded.
It is not the farmer that will be hurt by this movement.
It is not the Native person on the reservation that will be hurt by this movement.
It is the not the rural landowner that will be hurt.
It is not the hard worker who thinks quickly on their feet that will be hurt by this new environmentalism.
It will not be the philosopher who will be upended.
It will be those who have no values. Who have no will. In a harsh terminology, the parasitic elements among us will shrivel. I do not mean this as a kind of battle cry. It’s not at all like that. There are no good guys and bad guys. There is no ideology, in my assessment, that has done a damn thing about our depleting wilderness, so it is pointless to turn to ideology for answers in these matters anyway. I won’t speak for anyone else, but this is my observation. Instead of a heated debate, a community picnic would probably be far more revolutionary regarding this change. A hike, doubly so. A week long excursion to the forest? Now we’re on fire.
We will have to work together, slowly, surely, and damn critically. As was the case a thousand years ago, entire sequences of generations will be put to this task as a kind of trans-temporal teamwork. The ahistorical nature of Nature will reemerge with the revelation of a human who thrives in a natural equilibrium with their environment. We have not lost everything yet, and there is no reason it must be banished.
Is this in any way a political movement?
No, it is a process of perhaps agonizingly slow conscious positive adaptation.
Will it take a class war?
No, it will take lots of camping.
Will it take years of back-breaking labor and pints of blood and sweat and gallons of ingenuity?
Yes. But is that not the struggle America is founded on? Whether you came to this continent 11,000 years ago over a land bridge now unremembered, or on a jumbo plane in 2006, we are a nation of strength and cleverness that cannot and has never been beat, and this is precisely because of our relationship to our wilderness. Whether your origins are in the colonial battle against the ruthless elements or in the harmony and reverence for the natural world practiced by the Indigenous Nations, you have been raised in a culture surrounded by and entrenched in wilderness. Even the Native Nations have had to modify their behavior over the years to find a path towards CPA. In the West we have painted our Indigenous cultures as either savage foes or angelic fawns who are like a fairy kingdom await in the loving peaceful wild. In fact, the precolonial cultures of North America were not much different than the colonial ones in terms of their individual struggles, aspirations, and passions, except that their core cultural principles were expanded beyond the world of humanity to a model of reality that encompasses both nature and supernature. It does not take a lengthy study of Mexico and Canada to see a similarly rugged bloody and beautiful history, filled with danger, exploration, warfare, love, passion, and truth. Humanity. Raw and exposed in layers of basalt and limestone.
Our humanity is anchored to the wild. What makes us us springs from the soils of our wild places like strong cedar trees.