Is it a "privilege" to go feral?

(Sam Sycamore) #1

I hope it’s cool to plug a thing I made – I am genuinely curious to get feedback from people who hang around here, because I hold your opinions in higher regard than most.

Yesterday I published a conversation I had with @Peter_Michael_Bauer for my podcast that centers on the topic of whether rewilding is a “privilege.” You can hear the full audio here:

My conclusion was essentially “hell yes it is a privilege, but as people who would prefer to dismantle civilization altogether, that privilege of ours comes with a responsibility to put it to productive use for subverting and undermining the forces of oppression.”

Is “privilege” even worth discussing in the context of creating a wilder kind of life for ourselves? Is it easy enough to shed notions of racism, classism etc out in the woods (as many white rewilders would have you believe)? These institutionalized inequalities that civilization thrusts between us – are they “civilization’s problem, not ours”? Or must we reckon with them despite our desire to abandon civilized institutions?

@primalwar I know you’ve worked your way through our conversation and I would love to read your thoughts here if you care to spell them out.

(Mindy Fitch) #2

That was a really great interview. My favorite part: Peter describing how big an effect Ishmael had on his life, how it was like somebody coming up with a key and unlocking shackles he didn’t even know were there. Awesome frank, compassionate, intelligent, much-needed conversation. Thank you. :slight_smile:

(Kevin Tucker) #3

@samuelsycamore I had a lot more thoughts after listening, of course this is when the site goes down! Goddamn technology.
One thing to get out of the way: I’ve always been #teamdeloria when it comes to American occupation, but current dates now confirm humans in the Americas since at least 130,000 bp. So I would strongly discourage talk about humans not being native here. That said, even if the Bering Strait theory were true for all American occupation, arriving on foot 12-17,000 years ago would certainly qualify as well-naturalized in my book.

Just getting things rolling on the theme of the thread.

Language needs some clarification.
Contra Danny Boy and Arthur, white privilege exists. Duh. There’s many ways where that might apply to “rewilding” in terms of how things go down when you stumble across sketchy white trash/rednecks in wild or wilderness areas. That’s a given.
For example, where we live is insanely poor. It takes no money to have access to the wild, particularly here. But the encounters with people if/when they do happen, could go down very differently than if you’re a white guy. Fortunately, we rarely see people where we’re at.

Getting that out of the way, there’s a perception that anything related to woods/wild access is a white thing. That’s absolutely not true, but can be the circumstance. In rural Missouri or rural Pennsylvania, yeah, outside of small pockets, it’s almost all white. But in the south? Found it to be very different. There are sketchy backwoods areas there, but the racism and history in general is both alive and well. Roy Wood Jr put it well, “in the south, you know where you stand.” It’s not as polite as it can be elsewhere, but remains very divided. That means things like hunting and foraging aren’t just associated with poor white people or, worse, urban hipsters.
Now globally speaking, the people living wild are nearly 100% not white. Those of us actively making the efforts are a very small fraction on the larger scale.

The problem with this discussion is that it’s really so biased by urban experience. It’s not that it isn’t relative, but that it’s easy to conflate rewilding with REI backpacking adventures. One takes a lot of money, the other can take none. Access to wild areas? This is where the distinction between wilderness and wildness is an issue. But if you live in a city and there aren’t any good city parks or abandoned enclaves, things like that, then it takes money to get away from them.
At the core, rewilding is enskilling. It’s about self-sufficiency and community-building. In its purest forms, it means no money, free food, and free living. The problem, as it’s always been, is the law and private property. Obviously those are huge issues and ones that need addressed, but we have to distinguish that in general.
The current pop-rewilding “movement” is a hipster trend. Nothing in Danny’s 30 Day version really goes much further than “how to enhance your hobbies” which, again, is not the same thing as going wild. It’s also a lot easier to say it’s an urban white thing.
I think the biggest divide is the urban one. And I don’t encourage anyone to live in cities. All other issues about white privilege apply in this realm just like any other. By no means do I think it should be glossed over. Racists need to be confronted and it can’t just be non-white people having to shoulder that.
On the other hand, there’s nothing about rewilding, outside of Instagram-style, #vanlife, “find-a-spring”-break “rewilding,” that necessarily means it’s the exclusive or innate property of white people, particularly white men. But it does mean, as @Peter_Michael_Bauer pointed out, that white men can get away with a lot more shit than literally anyone else here in the States because of white privilege.
And that breeds the kind of entitlement that lets some shifty white dude take a term that’s been in use for nearly four decades, claim they made it up, sell magical antler velvet Viagra, copyright it, make it a shitty self-help plan, and then claim the white privilege/entitlement - that they are the posterboy of - never actually existed. Speaking hypothetically, right? Ha!

(Kevin Tucker) #4

TL;DR version: I wouldn’t think it’s hard to walk between Columbusing rewilding and cultural appropriation, but it turns out that people who want to spearhead niche markets prefer to do one or the other. A part of this discussion needs to involve the relationship of rewilding to resistance otherwise it’s basically becomes a hobby or sport.

(Peter Michael Bauer) #5

Yes. Everything @primalwar said.

(Agnes Seitz) #6

I really wanted to start a discussion on privilege with my visitor today… but hey he just couldn’t be bothered…busy harvesting the wild dandelions…
Excuse my – strange – humor…I just needed to find a different perspective on this discussion for myself
Thanks Sam for diving in so enthusiastically, thanks Peter for sharing your experiences and as always…thanks Kevin for ripping through it all – pure joy ( even if I rarely agree with all of it :blush: )
Privilege- yet another concept shaped by the system of property and ownership… then giving away little tidbits down the hierarchy…and wow- no we are complicit, and here I am judging myself on where I am within this system- either perpetrator or victim…or just a bit of a victim…
as a woman oops down, ancestry white oh- up I go-, working class- down, sexual orientation- oops ,not the right education …and so on
and then - privilege guilt kicks in – and becomes another tool of oppression, keeping us in line, defined and stuck within the system. Just great! ( as a side remark…privilege used to be a big discussion in the old feminist times- but hey we got male feminists coming to the rescue- NOT cool …)
So in the end I just don’t wanna play anymore this game of privilege… and out here where things are wild it seems very much yet another round of urban play, another liberal approach, staying and changing within the system, change as person, and not resist any way we can.
Rewilding – not sure about the language of this idea- can we do that by/ to ourselves ?
Going feral – absolutely ! And within this idea resilience and resistance go hand in hand.
Ferociously exposing privilege and entitlement in any form, yes- fighting for everyones autonomy – yes , extending respect, honesty and peace wherever I live ( see previous thread on decolonizing ) YES and becoming a bit more humble ( working on that one ) but no more being held captive in a system I didn’t create and despise.

So now I really have to go and have another discussion – human animal to bear animal- about who has ownership of the wild foods here in my garden…maybe we can strike a deal- he could be of service- if he eats the darn ants that have taken over my flowerbed…we can share the dandelions…
I ll keep you posted how that discussion will turn out…


I posted a big rant here about how racist the whole “privilege” thing is but I don’t want to start any wars or get this board shut down by the social “justice” warriors. The main point was that going feral doesn’t require resources or privilege, no matter where one happens to be.

(Andrew) #8

Answering whether or not something is a privilege seems like the wrong question. Almost everything is a privilege anyway.

If the answer is yes, one question remains*. How?
If the answer is no, one question remains*. How?
If the answer is non-binary, one question remains*. How?

*Assuming that if you’re on this site, you’re self-selected for thinking more wildness is a good idea in the first place.