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 thatÂ 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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