Ask Urban Scout #1

Today the rain just keeps on pouring down from the sky. The air feels warm and I can taste the smell of the wet trees and rooftops. I often receive e-mails and myspace messages with questions about what I do, and what I think about things and what people can do encourage rewilding their lives. I’ve waited for a rainy day to respond to two of them and now the day has come.

Dear Urban Scout,

so, i was wondering if you believe in god/s. It seems like you mention ‘the gods’ and people tend incorporate spirituality into ideas having to do with living in harmony with the earth etc. but at the same time, i don’t think one has to be religious in order to live a hunter gatherer lifestyle… I guess i’m just curious as to what your thoughts are. Also, if you are getting ready for post-apocalypse life, don’t you think that when said apocalypse rolls around, the environment will be even more polluted/depleted/fucked with than it is now? I mean, I envision the area around chernobyl but on a larger scale because i don’t see civilization falling apart without us using our weapons and such in a last attempt to kill other people for resources. anyhow, what I’m asking is, wouldn’t it be more practical to learn how to survive in a world full of radiation poisoning and the like or do you think that there will be enough of an environment left that people could live the way they did before the agricultural revolution?

Okay, I see a few questions in there so let me break them down.

Do I believe in gods?

I don’t believe in gods. I see invisible forces at work, like say, gravity as an example. We don’t see the hand of god pull apples down from trees, we see apples fall to the ground. Though we can’t see gravity, we see what it does. Similarly the law of aerodynamics does not show itself, yet we can see its effects when we fly planes or watch birds soar. Millions of these little natural laws occur around us all day long. Whether we notice them or not, they continue to keep the world turning. We can call these invisible forces one word, God, many words, gods, or many other words like “natural laws,” or “mother nature” or anything like that. We can’t deny they exist or we end up with civilization and eventually self-destruct.

Do I think people need a religion to live as hunter-gatherers?

Through my observations about people, it seems that they can’t function without culture. I see culture as more or less a collection of rules that everyone has agreed to and we call these rules a story. This story will dictate how people perceive the planet and that perception will dictate the way they treat it. Indigenous peoples always have had animistic “religions.” Of course, the word religion comes from civilization, not those cultures. Ask them if they have a religion and they probably wouldn’t know what to say. They simply see the world from a completely different paradigm. When you start to spend more time living in that way, you can’t help but see the world their way. In this sense, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in religion or think you practice one or not; spend enough time living as a hunter-gatherer (or just out in nature) and you can’t help but develop animist values.

Do I think that enough of an environment will survive collapse so that people may live the way they did before the agricultural revolution?

First of all, even now, no one could live the way they did before the agricultural revolution. Here where I live in the NW the salmon populations, which provided 99% of the protein, have gone below 5% of what they once had. To bring them from less than 5% back up to 100% would require a lot of dam dismantling first of all. Second it would still take years for their populations to return. I only speak for my bioregion, but I can guess most other places, especially in the third world have far worse problems.

Though, I don’t know. Who can truly predict the future? Not me. I don’t think most people would nuke the world. They may, but that would do far more damage than anyone could ever even begin to prepare for. In that “worst case scenario” I don’t really see much of a world left to inhabit, so I don’t really spend time thinking about that scenario, seeing as how most of us would die right away or shortly thereafter. Though you mention Chernobyl and ironically the wildlife around Chernobyl has made an insane, uncalculated, unpredicted come back despite the radioactivity. Check out this story from the National Geographic.

urban scout,

this is the most insane thing i have ever seen –
a hip, ironic urban primitivist rewilder who maintains a blog and makes films. i don’t mean to be dismissive, but the unfathomable hybridity of your self-location seems just uncanny to me. how do you reconcile or attempt to synthesize these contradictions, if at all?

-best wishes from a concerned anarchist

ps. sorry i use ‘to be’ verbs… but a serious de/reconstruction of the power systems inherent in indo-european grammatical structures will require a fuck of a lot more than a self-policing elimination of our propensity to use the copula.

How do I reconcile or synthesize these contradictions?

First off, I no longer see contradictions. I live a civilized life. My mother gave birth to me in a hospital, I grew up with movies, video games and internet. I live a fully technological, civilized, American lifestyle as a white male. Therefore I believe my position in the hierarchy-I-despise, affords me freedoms I can use against the system itself. The internet obviously works as the largest mass communication tool in the world. If you want to spread a message, a myth or a meme, no faster way exists. I believe we need to create a change in consciousness and create an awareness of how fucked up this culture behaves from its foundations up. I feel a sense of urgency, since the rate of population growth and extinction continue to climb at an insane rate. Therefore I use the tools I have available to do so. A contradiction would only exist if I proclaimed a fundamentalist attitude towards primitivism, which actually only kills primitivism.

I do however see the irony of using “advanced” technology to spread “primitive” technology and I find humor in it, and in the humor I find inspiration to keep going. Again, I live a fully technological life. I do not have the skills or large community of thousand-year-old traditions on a particular landbase. I cannot, alone, create new routines to foster a particular landbase. I need people, and I need skills and the internet provides access to both, and at the same time creates awareness for the cause. I can’t live without these technologies yet. So I use them as a platform for something beyond the technologies: relationships. Real relationships with my family, friends, neighbors, and the other-than-humans that make up this land. Since I find myself in an ironic situation, it feels like an extra plus that I and others like myself find this irony funny. I use this humor to heal the wounds of civilization.

Further, just because I understand the unsustainable functions of civilization and its technologies doesn’t mean I refuse to use said technologies to bring about a change. I don’t want civilization, but here it stands. I could stand on a soap box on the street corner and holler about it, but how many people would hear? How many would listen? And of course, maybe people would tell me that standing on the street corner contradicts my primitive views; shouldn’t I go live out in the woods if I claim primitivist views? I find that idea ridiculous.

As far as E-prime goes, I don’t quite understand what you mean. I obviously don’t think that e-prime can save the English language. I don’t really think it possible to eliminate all the forms of domination and destruction found in English, English itself a language of commerce that no one spoke traditionally, not even the English!

However, E-prime can work as a very large step in that direction. Just because it can’t carry us all the way, doesn’t mean we should to ignore it all together. But if it doesn’t inspire you, don’t use it.

Urban Scout

Do you have a question for me? Send me an e-mail with “Ask Urban Scout” in the subject to:

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2 Comments on “Ask Urban Scout #1”

  1. you just presented the most succinct arguments i’ve ever read in terms of rewilding and how it tends to blow people’s minds a little bit. nicely put, scout. you do the rewilding community proud. thanks for helping me to understand my own beliefs.