Opening Editorial, Wild Resistance no 6: Kevin Tucker
Opening Editorial: Kevin Tucker
Wild Resistance no 6, Winter 2019.
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I’ve opened nearly all of the previous five issues of this journal with an unintentional, yet persistent theme: our world, the world that civilization has created and recreated, is shifting.
Politically, socially, ecologically: not only is the climate shifting towards instability and unpredictability, social and political climates are as well. It is no longer a question about whether or not we are off the rails, but how far off we are and what damage will be done in the crash. The events of our world seem to unfold in the chaotic outpouring of feedback loops created by the real time updates fed into devices that are meant to keep our attention. Devices meant to keep us from looking up.
If you feel doomed, that’s the point. It always has been. Technology has just made it a whole lot easier for programmers to keep you looking down at a world of content, a place where the Inversion point has been crossed: where the content created by bots becomes indecipherable from that created by flesh-and-blood “users.” We become so accustomed to interacting with machines that we become enmeshed in their patterns.
So if you feel exhausted and overwhelmed, that’s both form and function. That’s the point.
That’s why in an era of unprecedented catastrophe, nativist drum-pounding, fascist sentiments, and xenophobic fear mongering are on the rise. Walls have two sides. That’s why the first and last cities will spend their final days fixating on them: if you feel the cage brings safety, then you overlook that the reality is they confine.
Like technology, walls are meant to pattern behavior: to acclimate us to an ordered world, psychologically, if not physically. They are barriers both to movement and to thought. As the world is simultaneously burning and oversaturated in the midst of flooding and droughts, we stop thinking about the one thing that has always worked for us, as a species: movement.
Our world is changing, but this time it is changing because of us. Because of civilization. There are precedents for this situation, but not on this scale. We will see, sooner than we might be able to anticipate, where this all ends, but even now the direction is clear.
It turns out that those now-departed rails too were just another kind of wall.
They are another way to pattern our thinking and perception. For thousands of years, we’ve been lulled into the idea of Progress, the notion that we are improving upon our primordial state. And thousands of years later, we’re all still born the same hunter-gatherers.
Our situation has changed, but only so long as we are able to maintain it. Until social networks hooked us on a continuous drip of The Feed, Progress was always the trajectory: A Brave New World, A Better You. While we should be bracing for impact, we no longer have to look towards the Future, but get lost in the perpetual waves of input and data. Walls become a landmark in a world that is increasingly unfamiliar.
Even while distracted, our presence is profound. Meanwhile, its accumulated residue compounds.
Yet in the middle of all of this, there are still places where an American missionary can wash ashore to preach civilization. Such was the case for John Chau on November 17, 2018, after landing on North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal for a second time. He met an end that all of recorded history could have predicted when the Sentinelese—the Indigenous occupants of the island—killed him on the beach. They have seen the crash course we’ve created for ourselves, literally had its wreckages beach on their island, and defended themselves from the intrusion.
There are still enclaves, places beyond the frontier, cracks in the veneer: places where life is far from untouched by the impacts of civilization, yet they remain, resolute in their persistence.
I’ve spent the past few years digging deep into the impact of missionaries and other frontier agents of civilization’s innate expansion. It enrages. The intersection of a living world, a place where history is lived, the snapshots we have of both past and present are of the miserable—the only people who would need to seek salvation—with truly free people, while preaching the virtues of service, of poverty. It just exposes the depravity of civilization in its worst form.
In light of that, putting one pin or a dozen in a missionary’s ability to preach ignites a kind of insurgent joy. It’s a reminder that this living world still has fight in it. But the reality is that there is nothing to celebrate here. Civilization is an unsustainable parasite that has continually found ways to artificially preserve itself, day-by-day, often hour-by-hour.
The pathogen that is John Chau’s rotting corpse on the beaches of North Sentinel Island are a problem that the hunting and gathering Sentinelese should have never had to deal with. It is a contagion that civilization should have never produced.
The reality of this world, our world, is that resistance isn’t our natural state: wildness is.
This is an entirely fabricated situation. A reality that we were born into, but help recreate and breathe life back into, bit-by-bit, on a daily basis. And for what? For sea turtles older than the American Empire to choke to death on plastic? So the largest mammals on earth—blue whales—can have their brains crushed by subsonic blasts used to try to find just a bit more oil to leech? So children fleeing endemic climate change and its ensuing chaos can die alone in refugee camps or, more aptly, detention centers?
What is it that we are after? By every measure, the more Progress seems to yield its results, the worse the society becomes. Paranoid isolationism fed and fostered by an increasingly mechanized world and decided by algorithms: is that it? That is where we are headed, if we bothered to look up at all.
In most cases of missionaries meeting their logical end—martyrdom, as they like to call it—the end result is a bolstering of the base: donations flood in, the miserable take up the distraction so they can share the Good News instead of wonder why it has fallen so flat in their own lives. No doubt, that is happening, but it seemingly hasn’t been the predominant reaction.
But even here, Chau becomes the pariah, the abnormality.
He is anything but.
In terms of the history and on-going practices of civilizations, missionaries remain not only active, but a predominant form of frontier path-blazers. Chau, in this regard, is one of many. Not only that, he is just one form amongst waves of colonization, each clamoring for another bit of a wild world to feed into our starving Leviathan.
Chau is easy to isolate because the threat he posed was direct. Just like those before him and, sadly, just like those that will follow. Neither Chau nor those like him exist in isolation, just as the Sentinelese do not. Beyond Chau is the culture that produced him, the civilization that we all inhabit.
The threat that we pose, both to the Sentinelese and to the Island and its ecology, can be obscured enough to be considered, at best, indirect. Yet the persistent threat here, just as it is the world over, is that our resource-devouring, carbon-spewing pit of overflowing toxicity bleeds out into that wild world. Whatever walls we build on land or in our minds are still tethered to this living world.
And it is suffocating.
Chau can be consumed in the headlines, even if momentarily, because he becomes our martyr. Not for God, but for civilization. For our sins, he is gone. Not that I’ll miss him, good riddance I say. But he becomes the sacrificial lamb: the offering to obscure the impact that civilization, as a whole, threatens upon this island, upon these people, upon the entirety of life itself.
In the limbo between allegory and literal truth, Chau is like a pipeline.
I keep coming back to a quote from Madhusree Mukerjee, whom I had the privilege of interviewing for this issue. It comes from her closing thought in a Scientific American post regarding the death of Chau:
What can I, a representative of a civilization that, within the span of a few hundred years, has destabilized the biosphere of an entire planet, have to offer to a people who have thrived since the dawn of humankind on these tiny islands? Is it we who have something to teach the Sentinelese, or they us?
We become spectators. It makes sense, path of least resistance and all that. But where does this leave us? Civilization, this thing that threatens our lives and our home, is the anomaly. In geological time, all of the plastic and toxic residue that we have created will eventually be overtaken by a feral world, robbed of all we have taken from it. If it were to incidentally be stumbled upon, it won’t be more than a blip.
Maybe glitch is the better word.
All the walls that we have built, the ones that have and will be built, they’ll all be gone too. Absorbed back to the tortured lands they were extracted from and imposed over. Artifacts for a future world that won’t be interested in remembering them, but will still bear the scars.
Without the hindsight of all the walls and rails that we’ve accepted as patterns and barriers in our lives, it will only be harder to justify our complicity. Here, we remain the crash test dummies of a globalized, hyper-technological civilization. Convinced that we were just along for the ride, when the only wall we didn’t see is the one directly in front of us: the collision of infinite need and a finite world.
Domestication functions by tearing apart our wants and needs, replacing community and grounding with a perpetually infantilized dependency upon civilization. We parcel ourselves out to the economy instead of learning to subsist, how to work as a community, and how to read the land and its patterns. We cling to those narratives. We sing the lullabies. We click, follow, and like.
We are patterned to equating our value with keeping this train on the rails, against all impossibility. It’s that path of least resistance, a piece of us patterned by evolution.
Ultimately, in the wild world—the world that shaped and fosters us—resistance is unnecessary. There can be moments of fight and moments of flight, surely, but there is no outsider, no enemy within, any invading force that needs to be constantly warded off. In the wild, there is nothing to resist. We created that. That is the reality we have inherited. What the domesticators have always known is that when everything is taken from you, you’ll only fight harder for what miniscule substitution is left.
That frontline can look like an idyllic beach on North Sentinel Island. It manifests in John Chau, there to sing the praises of one of the last deities that a starving civilization could conjure up. Words etched into stones thousands of years ago, revised for the modern audience, all while being fatefully unaware or maladapted for the shifting ecology it helped create.
He was there to preach the Gospel of civilization. To stir the pot and turn egalitarianism into sin. To create shame from self-sufficiency and community. To reduce people who have no question about their place in a living world into our state of paranoid isolationism. If the Bible has one lesson, it is that being wild is a sin. Complacency is the step to atonement. Give up the fight, put down the bow and draw the curtain.
It’s a fantasy really, a very specific one at that. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe the point of conversion is to impose your fears onto those who were never acclimated to them.
Objectively speaking, Chau was as American as you can get. Trained in Kansas for the challenges a missionary might face in a wild place—demons and all that nonsense—the point is to reenact the domestication process in each “unsaved” individual. Sure, they might die in the process, but maybe their souls can be saved.
If you can fixate just enough on saving their souls, then it becomes a whole lot easier to keep disregarding your own. The reason for the training is that when someone like Chau is thrust onto this frontier situation, the risk they face isn’t the one posed by demons and malicious spirits, but the remnants of free spirits they inevitably are going to face.
The Sentinelese, in the end, were never the ones being tested. Most likely, as was the case among the Great Andamanese and far too many Indigenous societies, is that they would just be cleared out. The act of supposedly saving souls isn’t grace: it’s philanthropic genocide. If individuals survive the process, then it’s upgraded to ethnocide.
All that matters is that we can say we tried. Our sins abated, the devil’s grip was just too tight.
Next time, right?
But the reality is far more grim. The Sentinelese have maintained a stable population, despite contact, despite raids and attempts to pacify, despite what shifts climate change has already unleashed on a very small island, one that might have been occupied for upwards of 40,000 years: maybe more, maybe less.
The particular brand of civilization that Chau was carrying—the American kind, its lineage soaked in the exact same kind of omnicidal clearing and ethnocidal clean up—has only made it hundreds of years to wind up at this point. Double that, you wind up covering the entirety of its exploratory and colonial lifespan. In a cosmic sense, that’s even less than a blip, but a catastrophic glitch all the same.
While Chau was prepping to spread the Gospel, preparing for all the evils that free will might entail (it is the original sin after all), the leading spot for cause of death in the United States was claimed by opiates. Pain killers.
Against all odds, we keep clinging. It is clear where civilization is heading. It is clear where the path of Progress led us. At the very least, it ought to be painfully clear. The glut of an orgy of technological debris and isolationism created a world that we can no longer bear. Across all demographics, we just want out. Passive suicide, active ecocide.
Like Chau, the warning shots for civilization have already been fired. Also like Chau, if we stopped to think about it, it becomes increasingly obvious that jumping ship was always the better bet.
But we are like Chau. Maybe less direct, but the end result is often the same.
The path of least resistance might be hardwired into us, but sometimes the path of least resistance is resistance to civilization. In the constant flood of exhausting devastation, that might seem absolutely ridiculous, which is exactly how you are meant to feel. The only way that would ever possibly be true is if the rails were still there.
They are not.
Rising waters eroded their foundation. Iron rusts. Heat parches. Floods saturate. Infrastructure starves.
There is no precedent the scale of our destruction, but there is precedent for us. There is a wild world and it is struggling. Fighting, against all of its nature, against an artificial enemy that is, itself, against nature.
There are still places in this world where you can put one pin or a dozen in it. Our world and our future could certainly stand to see that happen a lot more.
On the Name Change
If you’re familiar with the journal, you’ll immediately notice a difference with this issue: it is no longer called Black and Green Review. The change to Wild Resistance has been a long time coming. As has been mentioned in over half the opening editorials, the original concept for BAGR was pretty different than the direction we ended up going. In our opinion, the new name more accurately reflects that.
In terms of content and direction, nothing else is going to change. We’ve been extremely happy with what we have presented up till now and the trajectory is clear for us. If you are unfamiliar with the journal, the contents are always being expanded upon, but they aren’t the kinds of discussions that age. So if you are picking this up for the first time and like what you see, I’d strongly recommend getting the past issues as well. And future.
Decolonize/Anti-Civilization Focus for Issue 7
We have not, to date, done any themes for issues. Discussions often feed off one another, but are still fairly contained. For the next issue, we’re looking to explore and bridge the gap between the growing Decolonization and Anti-Civilization milieus.
For some time, there has been a kind of parallel growth of what can mostly be considered two sides of the same anti-economic coin. Perhaps chiseling away at different aspects, but likely ending up at the same spot. As the growing Indigenous resistance to pipelines expands, a lot more discussion and action has come to the forefront in terms of what colonization looks like. Ultimately, that’s a question of what civilization looks like.
So let’s get into that. We’re looking for report backs, essays, discussions, interviews; anything that gets us past the surface and into the details of where commonalities exist and where they might not.
Want to get involved? See contact page.