Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wild Roots Feral Futures 2012 Report-Back

I have sat down several times to try to write this report-back from Wild Roots Feral Futures 2012 and have found that putting such experiences into an essay while sitting in front of a computer is fairly difficult. To try to represent our time together in written word and place the experiences we had in the woods of Occupied Ute Territory (in a part now called southern “Colorado”) into the context of an article to be read on the internet by those of us living in techno-industrial society is quite a challenge, and so I begin by conceding that my efforts to describe my experiences are severely limited, more so even than the usual limitations offered by the written word. 

After having to miss last year’s gathering as a result of my own poor planning I swore to myself that I would make it to Wild Roots Feral Futures 2012, so when offered the opportunity to travel with a group of anarchists heading there from Oregon I jumped on it. After about a week on the road, I arrived at the trailhead pretty exhausted and drained. The hike in, though long and hot, forced me out of my head space and into my heart space by the time I got to the encampment and met up with others in attendance. Upon arrival I was met with a calming, loving, caring, and generous presence. It was as if people had checked a lot of their baggage at the trailhead. Politics and ideology faded into the background and real, communal, lived experience took a turn at the wheel in a way that is rare in so-called radical spaces. It didn’t matter if someone was an old school Earth Firster!, DGR, anarcho-primitivist, hillbilly, or hippy. We were there to learn, to grow together, and to build a community (albeit a temporary one) and when that is really the goal, politics, economics, and ideologies have to return to their rightful place in the theoretical and the abstract. 
I was so overjoyed to discover the heavy emphasis our temporary community chose to place on personal, communal, and ecological healing. While primitive skills and eco-defense are definitely essential to the pursuit of anarchy (not to mention the survival of our species and many others) healing must hold a prominent place of importance in our lives and in our communities. We are constantly traumatized, triggered, and retraumatized by life in civilization. Through the profoundly anti-life and anti-community institutions of civilization, our natural and healthy social relationships are destroyed and rebuilt. What was once natural, wild, organic, free, and anarchistic becomes organized and ordered. However, Mother Earth’s natural tendency and our individual bodies’ natural tendency is towards restoration and healing. All we have to do in most cases is to stop engaging in activities that are destructive to ourselves and to our Mother and the healing process can begin immediately. It is largely because we continue to inflict wounds upon ourselves and our Mother through civilized living that we find her and ourselves in a state of disease and pain.  
Another pleasant surprise, and certainly closely related, was the emphasis on spirituality that so many brought. Traditionally, radical circles have been dominated by the same stale, lifeless, scientific fundamentalist atheism. The folks at this gathering, however, brought many different spiritual (though not religious, at least not that I encountered and if there were any religious folks they didn’t impose it upon anyone else) beliefs to the table. Some were more pagan, some more animistic/shamanic, but nearly all having a personal spirituality influenced by many different beliefs and/or traditions mixed with their own personal experience. Ceremonies were more or less general and allowed for people to engage or not engage as they chose. If someone was actively seeking something to be offended by, they could find it or manufacture it because spirituality is so personal and because the dominant culture says that if someone else is freely expressing a spirituality that is different from yours then they are oppressing or dominating you in some way. For true seekers, however, space was definitely created where each person could engage or not engage according to their own heart and consciousness.
For me, personally, a moment that really stood out was when I had the opportunity to co-facilitate a discussion about invisible disabilities. As a result of scheduling and the fire ban that came into effect during our time there, the discussion ended up being held around some glow stick and head lanterns. I had originally worried that the darkness and the inability to see who we were talking to might be a trigger for some, or at least detrimental, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The dim light allowed people to open up and make themselves vulnerable in a way that might have been impossible were we all able to look one another in the eye or stare at the speaker. At one point I invited everyone who identified as having an invisible disability to stand and raise a fist with me. It was so empowering to see all of those with conditions including PTSD, fibromyalgia, traumatic head injuries, learning disabilities, and more share their experiences, their anguish, their struggles, and their strength with the rest of the group. 
It is incredible the change that simply living a different way can bring to one's heart and spirit. I heard a saying once "If you want it bad enough you'll find a way, if not you'll find an excuse." I began to realize that my life was a series of excuses. I want my life to be like a group of 70-year old white men! No buts! Before heading to feral futures this year, a lot of what I believed only existed to me in the abstract. However, actually laying my hands on wildness, immersing myself in it, living in anarchy, swimming naked in wild water, dancing around and jumping the fire (an old european pagan ritual, the idea is that your demons can not follow you through the fire) to the pounding of drums, and living in a community of humans and non-humans alike attempting to reconnect to our Earth Mother and Sky Father in such a profound way... one simply can not walk away from such an experience unchanged. When I needed water, I went to the river. When I needed to shit I dug a hole. I didn't go to a faucet or a toilet where I would abuse water, my relative, by fowling her up with my waste and making her carry it to a cesspool. I didn't wipe my ass with slaughtered rainforest trees. I didn't carry a phone or a computer. I had a profound meeting with a wild moose. I ate bugs right from the ground or from my own body as they crawled on me. The simple act of pulling an ant off of your leg and eating it is really quite the experience.
Even in the short time we were there, we began to develop a relationship with that land base. Because the Pine River was where we got our water, we didn’t want to dirty her up and pollute her. She put us to bed at night as she flowed over the rocks in the riverbed. She cleaned us off and offered communal recreation during our group swimming times. She kept our bodies hydrated with her crystal clear body. Many of us used local plants and herbs to heal wounds. Some successfully treated allergies by eating local plants. This is a relationship one can not have with a washroom, grocery store, or pharmacy. This is reconnection. 
One of the most surprising things for me was the ease with which this temporary community came together and the cohesiveness of that community. Community life was relaxed and pleasant, often with banjo or guitar music, friendly conversation, and laughter wafting through the air along with the sounds of the dogs who were in attendance running and playing together. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the community was able to address specific needs for specific groups and individuals without getting into the Oppression Olympics or identity reductionism. Though it is often presented as being nearly impossible to build such a community, we did it. Granted it was only for a short time, but from what I experienced I truly believe that it is both possible and necessary to keep what we were building there alive and not allow it to die at the close of a gathering, but help it to grow and spread. 

I found that I am a completely different person in the wilderness. When I am not listening constantly to electrical hum, when I don't have to hear cars driving by or the air conditioner kicking on or the refrigerator running but instead hear the rush of the river, the call of the birds, the wind rustling through the trees... then and there I am myself. I am human. I feel parts of myself that I have rarely or never felt. I hear the forest and her children speaking to me in tones no longer silenced by the leviathan. The change I experienced, however, was not something that only changed while I was in the woods. I walked out a very different person than I was when I walked in. My time there made living in civilization intolerable to me.  
Each of the technological devices and civilized norms that we are sold as conveniences and ways of staying connected are in reality chains that weigh us down and keep us isolated. To me it is no longer a matter of "lifestyle choice" but a literal fight against the forces of domestication and civilization for my life, my humanity, my existence. For so long I have been complicit, albeit perhaps as a squeaky wheel, but the squeaky wheel is still part of a functioning machine. We must find other ways of life while dismantling this civilized way of death. It is no longer enough for me to be merely a dissident, a squeaky wheel. Our Earth Mother and all of our relatives are already engaged in active, direct resistance and they need warriors fighting in solidarity with them. If I am not one of those warriors then I am simply walking dead. Without community, without my connection to my Earth Mother, my Sky Father, and all my relations, I am simply a shell, a drone, a cog in a death machine bent on genocide, specicide, ecocide, and ultimately omnicide. This I can take no more. Give me wildness or give me death. 

Until the Earth is Wild Again,
Bison Wilder