On Radical Moralism and Wildness
I can only be amused when the religious mindset insinuates itself into the viewpoints of those who claim to oppose this society, filling these radicals of various types with its binaries, its puritanical/moralistic thinking, its renunciations and its judgments. It is not so surprising when this occurs. After all, if one doesn’t launch her challenge against this society from herself, but rather from an ideal placed above himself, he inevitably confronts the world as a righteous judge aiming to condemn and punish rather than as an enemy aiming to defeat and conquer. Therefore, this moral challenger has no choice but to absolutely reject everything that she has come to associate with this world and to embrace everything he has come to associate with the ideal. This can be particularly entertaining when the world that is opposed is something as broad as civilization and the ideal is something as ethereal and abstract as “wildness”. The amusement stems from the fact that far too often the term “civilization” is poorly defined, and therefore the opposing ideal “wildness” can be little more than the definitive opposite of this ill-defined entity manifested in a gut “instinct” the faithful opposer feels – much as the born-again christian feels Jesus in his heart. And how dare I challenge her instinct? Especially with reason, which is placed within “Civilization” in her ideology… Here is the binary logic of morality in which “instinct” is “wild” and therefore “good” and “reason” is “civilized” and therefore “evil”.
But I do not challenge civilization from wildness. I do not pretend to know what “wildness” is. I would argue that the only “wildness” that any of us human beings who have been civilized can know is one that we create. The question is: do we create it as an ideal above us to which we must then conform or as something we own and play with as we desire? The former could only challenge civilization in a civilized manner, because it has become an ideology. The latter cannot, in itself, challenge civilization at all, because it is simply a tool or toy. And so those of us who wish to challenge civilization in a way that may truly destroy it can only do it from ourselves.
This has always been the basis of my own opposition to civilization. Civilization is a network of institutions and systems which imposes reified social relationships on me, stealing away my energy, my creative capacities through which I could construct my life and transform my environment in relation with others whose desires coincide with mine. It uses these energies and capacities to reproduce itself. The destruction of civilization and the industrial system are thus certainly necessary if we are to take back our capacity to create our lives as we see fit on the social level.
But I certainly don’t know how individuals will choose to use these capacities in a world where social constraints have been removed. I don’t know what relationships, what ways of interweaving our disparate dreams and desires, what ways of creating this “harmony of opposing tensions” that describes my conception of anarchy so well, these individuals would create. How could anyone know, since these ways and methods would be constantly changing with our dreams and desires and the circumstance in which we act to fulfill them?
If we choose to call such a post-civilized existence “wildness”, then wildness is simply the unknown that we create, now in those moments and spaces of revolt, and in the future, hopefully in the whole of our ever-changing existence. In the present, we can only create this unknown, this negation of our own domestication by using the whole of our selves, overcoming the separations and the moralistic binaries this society has imposed on us. Thus we will use our passionate reason and our consciously created and willful passions, our projectual spontaneity and our capacity for immediate decision, our egoistic generosity and our expansive selfishness, our cruel and poetic love for a universe we wish to devour as we wish to devour ourselves. We will use all this and more in our project of creating new and marvelous ways of being that have never existed. My war against civilization has always been aimed at opening the possibility to realize this creative, utopian dream of my full enjoyment of myself and of the universe that that surrounds me.
But if radical “wildness” is something that each of us must create for ourselves, then it is something that can never be created once and for all, definitively. Like uniqueness, it is a concept that has no content in itself. We give it content by the ways we choose to create it, to live it in each moment, and this content changes with each moment. This is why wildness must always remain an unknown, why it cannot be a reduced to a set of skills or an adherence to instinct nor raised to an ideal to which we surrender ourselves. As soon as it becomes something definable, it has been domesticated and is obviously no longer wildness. Sanctified “wildness” (“Wild Nature” or the “Primal Being”), like all gods, is a domesticated beast. This domestication becomes obvious when this beast is used to judge, to determine right and wrong. Those whose “instincts” tell them what ideas are right or wrong, those whose “gut feelings” allow them to judge the choices and behaviors of others on a moral level, are domesticated creatures with domesticated “instincts” and feelings.
Of course, when I bring out what is in the depths of my being, what has been repressed by this civilized society, I do not lose the capacity to make distinctions. But these distinctions are not based on any absolutes, on universal concepts of “right” and “wrong”. So I do not make these distinctions by casting absolute judgments, declaring, for example, that “I know in my heart this is wrong”. Rather I use my capacity to make distinctions for determining whether something is likely to enhance my existence, increasing my self-enjoyment or not. In this process, I don’t merely rely on “instincts” or “gut-level feelings”. Rather I use all the tools I have at hand including my capacities to decide, to reason, to plan, to organize my activities, to consciously develop relationships with others with whom I can develop projects.
But I have veered from my main intention which was to speak about “wildness”. As I said above, it is an unknown that has to be perpetually created, destroyed and re-created. Since we have already been civilized and domesticated, it can only be of use to us as that which perpetually negates domestication and this capacity to negate resides precisely in its remaining an unknown, an empty concept which we perpetually fill with our desire to create our lives as our own as it confronts the world that has stolen our lives. Once reified into an ideal to which we must conform and from which we can cast judgments, it becomes a domesticator itself. Thus, its real use is as an iconoclasts hammer for smashing all reified concepts including that of “wildness” itself if that becomes necessary.
Considered as this indefinable, unknown empty concept whose content we create in every moment, wildness is nothing more nor less than a poetic way of describing the uniqueness of each of us. For like wildness, uniqueness is destroyed the moment it is defined. It too is an empty concept that we endlessly fill through our perpetual creative activity. And since “wildness” has begun to have more and more ideological constructions attached to it, perhaps it is better to simply speak of uniqueness as the tool through which each of us can negate the processes of domestication civilization has imposed upon us.