Hypocrisy vs. Rewilding


Inevitably those-who-rewild will find themselves attacked as hypocrites by those who don’t understand rewilding: “If you hate civilization so much, why don’t you go live in the woods?” “You hate technology, but there you sit waiting for people to comment on your latest facebook status update.” “You want to live like a hunter-gatherer but you buy all your food at the grocery store!” “You talk shit on mainstream media, but you watch television!” And on, and on and on.

Imagine the Titanic in your mind. Let’s pretend a few people notice the Titanic has started to sink. Not many believe them yet. The people get on the loud speaker on the ship and say, “The Titanic has started to sink! We need to get the lifeboats in the water!” The people on board the ship say, “If you think the Titanic won’t stay afloat, why don’t you jump ship?”

The people look curiously at one another in amazement and respond, “…Um. Okay, we’ll just take one of these life rafts down and…”

“No, you can’t have a life raft.”

“Why not? We see the ship sinking, we need a life raft.”

“Sorry, but if you think the ship won’t stay afloat, then you can’t have a life raft because it came from the ship that you believe has started to sink. It would look hypocritical for you to use a life raft from a ship you believe cannot stay afloat.”

Just because we do not like the way the culture stands, and wish to live differently, does not give us the ability to do so without any help. We can’t use technology to help us get away from technology? Why not? Says who? What kind of sense does that make? It doesn’t make sense. So why do people continue to argue this? Because they don’t want to accept it. It relates back to the “denial shield” of labeling the philosophy of rewilding as “doom and gloom”.  Hypocrisy exists solely as a straw man argument to shut down real conversations.

I do not live as a hypocrite. I can simultaneously critique a culture for that which I cannot escape. Prisoners in a prison who do not wish to live as prisoners do not live as hypocrites. They live as prisoners who want to get the fuck out. We live as prisoners to civilization and its technology. Hypocrisy lies in the same bed as guilt; I feel guilty for acting like a hypocrite and staying indoors on a sunny day. But those feelings make absolutely no sense because I bet an inmate in prison who hates the prison doesn’t feel guilty for not walking out of the prison gate.

I know of a few people who live deep in the woods with little to no modern technology. But they live alone or in small groups, and still heavily depend on industrial civilization. They generally live off its excess. While they live in a way that I would rather live than the way I live at the moment, even far off in the woods we still live as slaves to civilization, industrialization and technology. The overall cultural momentum of civilization has more power than small pockets of subcultures.

The hypocrisy straw man lies with people who do not understand the cultural and physical barriers that prevent people from rewilding.  It also stems from a puritan, fundamentalist outlook of the world; if you believe that civilization does not work, then you can’t have anything to do with it what-so-ever.

I actually don’t condemn technology. I condemn the culture that made it. I have no qualms using this laptop for example. Yes, an industrialized society (that I hate) made this laptop. But it doesn’t matter because: Industrial societies cannot have sustainability and will collapse. I hate this culture for destroying the planet to make these laptops. I also know that the culture will not last. In the moment though, I can use this technology to prepare people for life without it and to create a new way of living. I can leverage the technology against itself. And I plan to do that… just after I beat this next level.

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10 Comments on “Hypocrisy vs. Rewilding”

  1. Nice post: I’ve also been thinking of how this culture venerates/idolizes certain “firsts” and not others. For example, the technology we have today most certainly couldn’t have come if it had not been for the ‘first’ technologies: flints, spears, traps, pottery etc. Yet, those firsts are not esteemed as such, and instead are the components of a “primitive” albeit truly sustainable culture. This culture is so obsessed with the “new” and the “future” as if they are shibboleths unto themselves floating in the sky…always looking toward some fantastic future while turning a blind eye to the new technologies shortcomings…it is like calling a child stupid for being 2, rather than seeing it as its own moment of bounty and beauty unto itself.

  2. Thanks so much for putting it that way… I have long known that I am not really being hypocritical for living with technology and the rest even though I hate civilization, despite what many people have told me (and despite this not really being the way I’d like to live). But I had never really thought of a good argument for why, and your Titanic metaphor really made it just go “click.” Now I will have at least some response for those people- with me its usually the “why do you work so hard to earn money to buy land” argument, since apparently I am supposed to magically be able to find a large track of land for us all to live on, with no connection to industrial civilization. I’m not sure where these people think all these immense tracks of land that are free for the taking are hiding out, but if they know of any, I’m happy to claim them in the name of my entire community.

  3. Thanks Martha!

    Esmeh, yeah totally. Although, even the age metaphor sort of implies technological progression towards civilization… like once we “grow up” and out of our 2 year old behavior we’ll have atomic bombs… but I know what you mean. The bumbling caveman myth is pretty solid in most civilized peoples psyches.

    Fishinthewater, right exactly. The land thing is huge. Not to mention transportation. I get the car thing all the time. I’m like, hey, I’d much rather ride a horse but I don’t have one, nor are they legal to ride everywhere, etc, etc, etc.

  4. This also goers for those of us who may not try rewilding yet as a goal but are trying to powerdown and use less oil and less electricity, do permaculture and try to live as sustainably as possible because we see the evils of machine culture and industrial civilization. If we are thirsty and the only thing available is soda pop, we aren’t going to be purest and faint of thirst before we grab the offered coke. We will probably consume less than one per fifty that the person who is accusing us of being a hypocrite consumes! I certainly would be the last to point to Derrick Jensen’s shoes and accuse him of buying sweat shop labor! He lives 99.99 percent of his life doing good! But he needs shoes just like we all do and probably can’t afford to buy thousand dollar handmade shoes from a local shoemaker –as if there was one! So until the full collapse and people start thinking about how to manage these things for themselves and their community, compromises are made to be able to continue the descent and we don’t need the racket of dissent from the onlookers who are doing nothing!

  5. For a long time I wanted to reject everything about society, but found myself to be miserable in that sort of lifestyle and the transition was not smooth – because i am a product of this culture whether i like to have been born during this time or not.
    I eventually came to a slower compromise, and felt much happier then before…
    I am one of those people who lives in the woods alone, and am partly off the dependence of civilization – but still get groceries, get food from a local farm. No one taught me skills to survive any other way, and it is taking some time to learn all the things i need to or want to. Especially by myself without a group, tribe or even a partner!
    I try to make it so I am not part of destruction — i dont think i am saving the planet, cause i think like you that things cant sustain the way they are…. but in my personal lil’ world I like to be peaceful with nature, other humans, or anything that i come in contact with. When i act like a destructive asshole i feel ‘not myself’ – nature lets me know in whispers no one hears these days.
    When i encourage other people to ‘save the planet’ in one way or another, it’s more of my way of winking at nature.

    On a side note…. how funny you play video games! ha Kinda like my love for pop music on the radio, via satelite!

  6. Hey Peg, Yeah totally.

    Hey Leslie, I’m still totally envious of how you live! and haha, no i don’t really play video games anymore. I just thought it would be a funny pic. I very rarely get urges to revisit childhood video games and then generally get bored with them.

  7. Over time, going through my life and while participating in others I’ve come to the acceptance that hypocrisy is an aspect of living as a human being. We are imperfect creatures. We are not single dimensions of thought and actions. We all have moments that can be called hypocritical. Buddhist, Christians, tribal, vegetarians, health nuts, breeders, atheists… Whatever label you’re slapped with. One action or another will go against that grain of the label or the general and superficial “way of being” that is associated with that label. Seeing someone else’s hypocritical actions reminds us of our own inability to be 100% perfect in all thought and deed.

    It’s part and parcel of the fluid nature of the world. Wanting one thing but only being able to get there through a path that is alien with the outcome.

    It’s interesting that you mention guilt. I think that those who call others hypocrites are also burdened with guilt. Mirrored in the actions of others they get a glimpse of themselves and a universal truth. We are all hypocrites. Other peoples is easier to point out. The sharp point of the argument relies on the idea is that this is something to be shameful of. Pointing out hypocrisy of action and thought is not wrong, doing so as a weapon in an argument is what’s so damaging to discourse and conversation.

    Of course, there are true moments of hypocrisy, moments that need to be pointed out and thought about. Moments to learn from. Yet, most of the time to call someone a hypocrite as a way of trying to win an argument – that is the last ditch defense mechanism. It’s a punch thrown by those who can not dig a little deeper or see a little wider, those who can not hold more than one idea in their heads at the same time.

    The same things happens when you start a conversation about population planning and population growth issues, you will usually be told you’re a hypocrite by those who only know how to react emotionally, “If there’s too many of us then why don’t you go kill yourself already?”

    Such a reaction, the aggressive hurling of “Hypocrite!” in order to wound and win the argument misses an opportunity to explore the complexities that make up human beliefs. It is a lazy reaction.

  8. These picture parables are very useful.
    You wouldn’t blame a prisoner for using the facilities of the prison – for eating the food or reading something from the library.

    It is a major urk to me when people say ‘go live in the jungle then…’ when 98 percent of old growth forests are gone and so much of the wild is poisoned and places – which easily sustained indigenous peoples – have been decimated… and this sucker is still growing!

    Far out man, i think it should be a sign of bravery to question your own culture. Hypo-crite away!