Empire Vs. Rewilding


A power system sits in place that keeps the rich rich and the poor poor. This power system lies outside of most people’s perception because we grow up in it, never knowing anything different, never seeing it articulated but understanding it down to our bones. It feels as natural to us as drinking a glass of water. This power structure keeps us as slaves, forced to continue building civilization. Without empire civilization could not, would not exist.

For a long time now I’ve focused myself more with the sustainable living aspect of rewilding and not so much with the social structures. But with all the green technology talk I’ve begun to worry. Even though ecologically it could never happen, let’s pretend for a moment that civilization became sustainable. Sure, that might feel great environmentally but what does that really mean for us socially?

Before the rise of cities that gave us the term civilization, empire and slavery existed. In fact, I would say that cities and civilization would not have come about without empire (rich elite with an army fueled by grain production) forcing people (slaves) to build them. What does Empire mean really, but a hierarchical social structure of masters with an army to force other humans into slavery. When people advocate for a “sustainable civilization”, they don’t realize they simultaneously advocate for the continuation of slavery.

A slave means someone forced into labor under the threat of death, torture or some other form of abusive violence. It probably started kinda like this: a sedentary agricultural community had a population explosion. Something happened here. They went to their neighbors and said something like, give us 10% of your food or we will kill you. Several thousand years go by and we have taxes, rent, food bill, water bill, health insurance bill, electricity bill, gas bill, etc. All of which everyone pays for without question; “well of course you have to pay taxes?!?” We take in our slavery as we take in the air. Once a system like this gets going it becomes very hard to stop. If you say no, they have the power to kill you and steal your land. With an ever-growing population from grain-based agriculture, they will quickly fill your land with farmer slaves. If you say yes, you get assimilated and enslaved. If you run, you will have conflict with your neighbors, and if the expansion continues it will eventually reach you anyway.

Growing up as an American, I received a flawed, inborn understanding of how the rest of the world works. I grew up here, with electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I grew up with television, telephones, and sports cars. I grew up with McDonalds, The GAP, Hot Topic, etc. With Democracy, free speech, freedom of religion, etc. My point; although we live as wage-slaves and slaves to this culture, we live in the richest country in the world. Slaves… with a lot of money. Money in this instance translates to “rights”. We have a lot of “rights” in America because we can afford to buy them from our masters (temporarily of course). This gives most Americans the illusion of the power of personal change through making the change in their own lives. They have the luxury (and delusion) of “buying green”. They have the luxury of time and money to invest in their home permaculture gardens. Who else in the world has time or money or access to educational resources to do that? Maybe a few other first world countries, but not the masses.

I find it funny when I hear people say that our problems occur because people don’t take personal responsibility. Blame the person, not the culture, not the system of wealth management and the armies that enforce it. Climate Change threatens us all, so does the slave child sewing soccer balls have a personal responsibility to stop Climate Change? Do you think the slaves in the third world have a personal responsibility to stop Climate Change? Do you honestly think they have the power? Where they can’t even afford to buy “rights”? Do you honestly think us more privileged Americans do?

Of course, when most people I know speak of personal responsibility their words carry an unspoken premise that that means they don’t try to stop corporations from creating fucked up products and forcing people to buy them, but to figure out ways in which they can learn to live without the fucked up products or by buying expensive “green” products. This ignores the entire system of how empire exerts its power. I have the wealth to buy organic vegetables, free range meats. Although I rent, I have enough time and money to plant a garden and build a humanure composting system. But what about the your average wage-slaver with 2 jobs and a family to feed? They shop at Walmart because they can’t afford anything else. The masses of the world cannot afford personal change. Sure, they still have a responsibility to stop corporations and those in power from killing the land, because they live on this planet. But the idea of personal change making a difference comes from privileged people with money.

Since personal change requires money it can’t work because the masses can’t afford it. It also takes accountability away from corporations and the military, police and legal systems that protect them. Since those with money don’t want to lose that money and power, they have no interest in changing this system.

The over-whelming majority of hunter-gatherers had egalitarian cultures. Sometimes they had hierarchical cultures but without slavery, sometimes with what anthropologists have labeled as slavery, but not quite the same. Regardless, they had, and still have today where they have not experienced genocide, non-hierarchical social structures based on cooperation not competition.

In the wild, competition among plants and animals happens rarely, and usually only during times of scarcity. Within agricultural communities, we see wealth funneled away from the majority towards the few rich people. If you have to give 10% or more of your own food supply, 10% you had to toil in the soil for, your own food becomes scarce. If you destroy the soil using agriculture and ruin your land base, of course you’ll have scarce resources. This fear of constant scarcity leads to intense competition. We can assume that if people have lived on earth for over 3 million years (as the archeological record shows) then we can assume that  they lived in a cooperative systems for the most part, and those that didn’t, didn’t stand the test of time. Even though civilizations seem to out-compete hunter-gatherers during their peak, they don’t last in the long run.

A rather large emphasis sits on creating non-hierarchical social models in rewilding. As long as empire exists, civilization will persist because those who sit atop the pyramid will continue to enslave us. Because agriculture lies at the heart of civilizations destructiveness, and because empire only becomes possible through grain-fueled population growth, empire will never stop using agriculture. Even if everyone went “green”, empire would not, could not stop destroying the soil. When people advocate for a sustainable civilization (which cannot exist), they generally don’t realize that means they simultaneously advocate for the continuation of empire, of slavery, because they haven’t ever articulated what civilization actually means, nor how they function ecologically or socially. And you can just assume if someone talks about “sustainability” without talking about dismantling civilization and rewilding, they haven’t made this articulation either.

We cannot rewild as long as empire exists. Those in power will continue destroying the world whether we help them or not and they will continue to do so backed by million men armies (soon robot armies), nuclear weapons and a brain-washed slave class. The end of empire will happen whether or not we encourage its end. When the oil runs out, when the soil turns to salt, we will see the end of empire. Unfortunately we will also see the end of countless species, including the possibility of our own. We must do what we can to dismantle empire if we wish to rewild. If we wish to save some semblance of life here on this planet.

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17 Comments on “Empire Vs. Rewilding”

  1. I’m not sure how I feel about this one. The only way to truly end empire is if everyone stops participating in it. Actually, it doesn’t matter why people would do that, it would have the same end result. If we all wait until everyone’s on board before dropping out, no one will ever drop out. If some of us rewild and others don’t, the ones who don’t will oppress the ones who do. It’s a given.

    I think it’s enough to say that empire is incompatible with a sustainable human way of life (I did mean human, not humane, although wild human culture tends to be that also, to some degree), and then prepare to deal with that knowledge and that reality. We really don’t have any other option, unless we want to take up nukes ourselves and go toe to toe. I don’t, you don’t, and nobody in the rewilding movement does so let’s figure out the alternative. Well, OK, you already are. 🙂

  2. To be quite honest I don’t think that’s an effective strategy for looking at the problems of the world — to step back and say “well the only way things will get better is if we stop all the bad people”. It completely overlooks what’s going on in one’s own life, particularly in one’s mind where all of these ideas are formed in the first place. I’m reminded of a profound statement that holds true to this argument, “The choices we make in response to our surroundings affect our relationship to the sources of meaning far more powerfully than the surroundings themselves, and those choices depend on the quality and content of our inner lives, not on outer factors.”

    Those who make the most effective and lasting change start within themselves and spread outwards from there. Apathy is useless and dead.

  3. Hey Dana,

    You said, “The only way to truly end empire is if everyone stops participating in it.”

    Can you tell me more about what you mean by this? What do you mean by everyone, and what do you mean by participating in it?

    Hey Mark,

    You said, To be quite honest I don’t think that’s an effective strategy for looking at the problems of the world — to step back and “say ‘well the only way things will get better is if we stop all the bad people’.”

    I feel you have greatly over simplified my words and in doing so twisted them. I would say more accurately that I mean; the only way for us to live free lives involves dismantling the prison. because say when we escape, they will hunt us. Maybe not a few people, but if many escape, they will hunt us and enslave us again.

    You said, “Those who make the most effective and lasting change start within themselves and spread outwards from there.”

    I agree. But the question remains, what does it mean to “spread outwards from there”? What choices will actually free us from empire? Certainly not choices that Empire allows us to make.

    Also this quote you added: “The choices we make in response to our surroundings affect our relationship to the sources of meaning far more powerfully than the surroundings themselves, and those choices depend on the quality and content of our inner lives, not on outer factors.”

    There are a few premises in this statement I want to address:
    What are “sources of meaning?”
    Why does it matter how “powerfully” they affect our sources of meaning? Did they do the job in the physical world they needed to?
    Why do those choices depend on the quality and content of our inner lives?

    This statement really means nothing to me. I keep trying to put it into use in a particular case and it sounds like gibberish. Can you put it to use, explain what it means, using a particular example?

  4. I agree completely. Environmentalists prolong our suffering when they refuse to address our enslavement.

    But, what specifically should we do? We must shout down the politicians and their “solutions”. Any political system with an elite class of “representatives” is corrupt by its nature.

    I believe TRUE democracy is our only hope. We must come together as a community in the public square and vote with raised hands. No more secret ballots. No more elections. No more politicians.
    Every person gets one vote. Accept nothing less.

  5. Hey Scout,

    I simplified it to that statement because that’s how I interpreted what you wrote — that nothing will be better until the empire is gone. That presumes that taking down the empire is a means to and end and all the time from the imagined “here” to “there” is an absolute shit of a time. That’s how I perceived what you wrote at least.

    I can’t say there are any set actions one should perform to most effectively spread freedom or change or whatever. And this relates directly to that quote, that it all depends from which mental framework one looks out onto the world with.

    Sources of meaning are the patterns of thought each of us practice over and over in our minds — for example, children from Africa may see a white man digging garden beds and think to themselves, “Why is this white man digging? Digging is for the poor, the farmers… white men are rich, aren’t they? Can’t they pay someone to dig for them, to grow their food?” In their mind, they assume Caucasians as rich and powerful people, and farmers as the lowest, most poor of people. Just like many Americans may see someone driving a very expensive car and think to themselves, “They must have power, wealth, plenty of self-worth.”

    To summarize the statement, just because one happens to form certain ideas about the physical world or certain objects in the physical world, does not mean that those ideas or patterns of thought have any affect on those physical objects, more so, it’s those very patterns (the quality and content of our inner lives) that effect our relationships to the physical world.

  6. This is one of my favorites of yours so far Scout! My entire life I’ve been feeling the pinch of slavery (I happened to grow up in a white American family that was very empoverished, so maybe I felt it especially,) and I for one am ready to get free. I’m not sure how to get truely free; I mostly do what I want, but I constantly have police harrassement because of it, so I am basically just a rebellous slave at this point…

    How do we really get free? I agree that this civilization would have to come down for that…


  7. Let’s not forget the Mayans. Their classist civilazation collapsed and the people reverted back to a smaller tribal model.

    Look at the three Abrahamic religons. No one could have predicted the power of their stories in our world today. The writers of many books of the Bible would be shocked that their literature is used to facilitate classism. The books where written to largely combat classism, the idea one human bloodline is better than another or that “God” is exclusive. We must begin our new 2,000 year plan and I have no doubt the seeds have already been planted. We are the leaves reaching to the sky, collecting the sun light to power our roots. We will fall but our stories will continue as new leaves grow. The water bearer has brought us spring rains and we know now. Civilization is Primitive.

  8. I felt that this was an excellently written piece explaining what may be civilizations final denial (eco, green, sustainable). When the realization occurs that this will not be the fix that everyone had hoped for, people will soon realize what the problem actually is.

    My only critique of this article would be in the reference to people as “masses” similar to what conspiracy theorists do in calling people “sheep” or anarchists “slaves”. All perhaps appropriate in a way, however it is the insulting nature of reference that may loose credibility or attention of potential thinking people. We are all people, though I can see the difficulty if figuring out less insulting ways to describe a situation with more than six billion people living destructively. I guess I am not calling the reference to people, “masses” inappropriate as it definitely refers to the domestication of humans, just as herds for cattle or sheep. Personally I would just like to see it avoided though when seeking solutions within the thinking person community.

    That said – two thumbs way up Scout ! Well written article.

  9. McFriend-

    I love that – a new 2,000 year Strategic Plan!!! Will there be a Mission Statement served with that, and I wonder what the catchy slogan will be in our post apocalyptic world? I hope i get to witness the event that springs for the utopic myth of the next 2,000 years.

  10. I must respectfully disagree. You’re writing this saying that corporations are evil. That may be. But I think the bigger problem is that people are stupid.

    McDonalds has offered salads since 1983. People would rather have McNuggets. Pepsi Throwback, using the original recipe with cane sugar, sits unbought next to the high fructose corn syrup swill. Parks and sidewalks get torn down because people demand more parking. Without demand there would be no supply.

    I really don’t buy arguments about how America’s working class can’t get by or afford better. A pound of beans sells for $1.25 and will feed you for a week. How often does the average American family eat out? How much of our credit card debt was spent on ski trips and whoopie cushions? Grand Theft Auto Four was setting sales records as the recession was picking up steam.

    I really think that the powers that be are just giving us what we want. Unfortunately we all want crap, we want it now, and we don’t care how much it costs.

  11. I have to agree with Craig. While I understand that author’s desire to dissolve society/empire/civ and start anew, there are some problems in doing so. First of all, we need at least some of the things we have created. The internet holds a fair amount of the knowledge mankind has amassed and without society and system admins and power plants running properly, there would be no internet, and a lot less data available to use for rebuilding.

    I say society is a good thing. The alternative to being a slave to the empire is living out in the woods with a tent, a campfire and a knife. Without society, we aren’t capable of creating nifty things like the LHC.

    What we need is for people to stop living to consume. How is the baby boomer generation spending their lives? Consuming. Society is in the caterpillar phase of its life cycle and I’m excited to see what the butterfly looks like.

    While we are ruining our planet and all the other evils we commit, it’s necessary for whatever is next. To make an omelette, you gotta break some eggs. Earth just happens to be one of them. If you want lightsabers and time travel and all that, then society has to make it through the awkward adolescent phase without collapsing entirely.

  12. And here’s the real shit of it. Say we all break down to the hunter gatherer lifestyle. We all agree here that it would be for the best. How long would it be before our kids decide that they’re sick of living in tipis following the buffalo.

    It didn’t take the Indians long before they decided that they really liked guns and steel and horses. As a species we’re hard wired to always want more.

    I’ve seen enough Star Trek to know that there is no such thing as a perfect society.

  13. Craig — Random thoughts… I think the possibility of a very long hunter-gatherer (HG)renaissance is better than that. Consider these points: First, humans went something like 3 million years before adopting agriculture (160,000 years or so if you just count homo-sapiens), the foundation of civilization.

    Many groups which did develop civilizations, such as the Maya and the Anasazi, eventually realized they were dead ends and walked away from them.

    Lots of non-agricultural peoples resisted being forced into civilization. The reason it spread was the simple population growth of agriculturalists, the result of agriculture having circumvented the normal processes by which a species’ numbers are regulated. So farming peoples totally outpopulated and wiped out or otherwise displaced remaining HGs.

    So I think the initial hurdle is the hardest part, getting more people to see that a non-agricultural life can be really good. Notice Harry above, whose view I think is understandalble, who apparently thinks today’s technological life is just obviously superior to the HG life. It takes time and a lot of thinking about a whole group of ideas to come to some sense of comfort with the notion of a possible HG life. (Watching a film like Ten Canoes might speed that up a tad.:)

    One idea: Worldwide there are 3 billion people living on no more than 2 dollars a day. For them, the life of a HG would be a huge step up in sheer luxury. There’s some value in that, I think, for the future of rewilding. (Not the 3 billion — the human population will have to drop tremendously in the future — but that almost half of everyone would improve their “standard of living” if they could switch to HG.)

    Then there is also the importance of cultural mythologies/stories. Some rewilders are heavily into that for good reason. One reason, I think, it that for a future HG culture to last it would need to have built into its fabric mythologies emphasizing the importance, for example, of living in harmony with local ecosystems. (The only peoples who have ever done that are HGs.) Such stories would serve to prevent people straying to unsustainable experiments in “civilization.”

    Get past the first generation wanting to get back to TV and a couch, and I think a new (old) way of living could last.

  14. slavery gets a bad rap. who wants a life without challenges? technology will allow human life to persist through exhausted resource and drought. Nature appreciation is an aquired taste; like an art form. Most people dont need it and would prefer a certain degree of slavery.

  15. “Trevor
    Nov 18th, 2009 at 10:40 pm
    I believe TRUE democracy is our only hope. We must come together as a community in the public square and vote with raised hands. No more secret ballots. No more elections. No more politicians.
    Every person gets one vote. Accept nothing less.”

    As Plato once said, Democracy is the second lowest form of government, only surpassed by Tyranny.

    Jan 7th, 2010 at 1:24 pm
    But I think the bigger problem is that people are stupid.”


    Jan 9th, 2010 at 5:51 am
    First of all, we need at least some of the things we have created.”

    I advocate for modern medicine (trauma/emergency medicine mostly), public libraries, the history of philosophy, linguistics, and certain scientific disciplines (LHC not being one of the important ones) being saved. I’m all for trashing the rest. Oh, except for the programs that keep watch for asteroids/comets/etc. – I mean what use if we finally get our shit together and then WHAM-O, ninja comet decides to erase us but we could have pulled an “Armageddon” and deflected it while Aerosmith sings in the background? Be kind of pointless. But other than that I’m happy off in the woods with knives and campfires.