ReWilding: the Untamed Masculine — Animal Farm
I will start by acknowledging the land that I am currently residing on while writing this article. I acknowledge that I am on the traditional unceded territory of the Songhees, W’Sanec, and Esquimalt nations. To acknowledge the land is indigenous protocol and an expression of honour, gratitude, and appreciation to the original peoples who have been living and walking on this land since time immemorial.
I’m a firm believer that this journey to Wildness is non-linear in it’s nature; however, there are a few concepts that need illumination to truly move forward. Understanding the story we are currently living in allows us to begin reclaiming our minds from the cultural whitewash of the dominant paradigm. These concepts are foundational for ReWilding and are not restricted to any specific gender.
If you’re like I was, and still am, you’re more or less living the outwardly routine life of the dominant paradigm. Everything is on normal autopilot; you’re trying — and likely failing at being everything society wants you to be. How could anyone live up to these standards? You live a relatively solitary life, having a few friends you socialize with, maybe you have a partner, but most of your time is devoted to a job that doesn’t fulfill you. You’re doing your best to find happiness and meaning, you’re perpetually trying to “get ahead,” but really it feels like quiet desperation. You might even feel like a captive, but you can’t explain why you have that impression.
Welcome to the story of domestication.
Domestication: Verb; to tame (an animal), especially by generations of breeding, to live in close association with human beings as a pet or work animal and usually creating a dependency so that the animal loses its ability to live in the wild.
Chapter One — Animal Farm
What arises in you when I use the word Wild? So rich and tantalizing, the very word evokes a whole range of emotions and thoughts in me. I feel it deep in my chest, as though my lungs were inflating with the breath of sovereignty.
Wild; adj. — living in a state of nature, not tamed or domesticated.
But I am both invigorated and frightened at the same time by uttering those four letters, W-I-L-D. With it’s utterance comes haunting memories of a sordid past:
“last night was wild, I had way too much to drink.”
To be Wild is one of our culture’s main social forbiddance and we are taught this early on. As a child being wild is bad, and being docile is good. Many of our definitions for Wild expose the paradigms underlying viewpoint:
- Uncivilized or barbarous.
- Of unrestrained violence, fury, intensity.
- Characterized by or indicating violent feelings or excitement, as actions or a person’s appearance.
- Frantic or distracted; crazy.
- Undisciplined, unruly, or lawless.
- Disregardful of moral restraints for pleasurable indulgence
- Unrestrained by reason or prudence.
The taboo against Wildness is rooted deep in our collective unconscious. Wildness seems to be at odds with civilization’s perceived destiny for man and to return to Wildness is unthinkable. We have evolved. We are no longer “primitive savages”. One of the justifications for colonialism was rescuing the destitute savages in those “uninhabited” wild lands from their own wildness. They needed to be civilized.
Civilize; verb — to bring out of a savage, uneducated, or rude state; make civil; elevate in social and private life; enlighten; refine.
Wild peoples around the world were expelled from their lands, divorced from their cultural heritage, and civilized. With civilization comes an entirely new modality and belief system which indigenous peoples were forced to ascribe to. This system no longer permitted an animist view of the world, or to see oneself as a part of the web of life.
No homo? Yes, homo.
The paradigm that we are currently living in is a monotheistic, and agriculturally based one, Mainly stemming from the abrahamic creation myth that is held in common by the Jewish, Christians, and Muslims. While most people have moved away from the fervent belief of the Genesis creation myth (The Garden of Eden), it is still one of the underlying factors that shaped our world’s culture. Since it was believed that we were created in the image of god one of the fundamentals of this myth remains to this day, manifesting with the resistance to acknowledging ourselves as animals.
Yes we are humans, but we are also animals. We are closely related to the great apes yet on a mass scale we don’t consider ourselves, for the most part, to be animals. In fact we commonly use “animal” terms as insults to belittle other humans. Part of the story of separation is our being on this earth, without being a part of it. Superior. Even to the very land it’s self.
We are known scientifically as Homo Sapiens (wise man), with our genus Homo, meaning human or man. As the last extant member of the branch Homo, our closest relatives still alive are the chimpanzees and the bonobo apes of whom we branched off from 6 million years ago.
Generally our “History” is thought of as beginning 6000 years ago with the advent of civilization and writing, as though everything before it were of no consequence. During “pre-History” we were simpleminded, starving, wild savages, roaming the countryside in rotting skins trying not to get eaten by cave bears. But that’s like saying everything prior to the Internet is irrelevant because it was “pre-Internet.”
In actuality, our genus of Homo has a rich history dating back at least 3 million years with the arrival of Homo habilis. Homo erectus was next in line, followed by Homo neanderthalensis, and finally our species of homo sapien emerged roughly 315,000 years ago. 100,000 years ago there were as many as SIX species of wild Human on this planet.
Even if you can’t agree with those dates, you can agree with the fact that our ancestors were wild hunter-gatherers. That began to change with the onset of agriculture and the start of the Neolithic revolution 12,000 years ago in the “fertile crescent.” Our civilized “history” makes up a very tiny fraction of our story less than 5%.
Yes you read that right, Less than 5%.
Genetically there is little to no difference between myself, of northwestern European descent and a hunter-gatherer living today deep in the Amazon. The only difference is our life way.
Man’s Best Friend
By examining the connection between wild gray wolves and dogs you can find the same genetic relationship as we have with those HG tribes. Man’s best friend and gray wolves have the same genus, are descended from one species, and today the domestic dog only has minute genetic differences to Gray Wolves. Scientifically, gray wolves are referred to as Canis (dog) Lupus (wolf), while dogs have a subtle variation being known as Canis lupus familiaris (domestic dog). This trinomial variation lets us know that the dog is a subspecies of the gray wolf.
Even though they morphologically appear remarkably different, scientifically speaking a Pug is a grey wolf. It’s easiest to view domestication in dogs as a spectrum. On one end you can find some which still appear close in appearance and temperament as their wild progenitors, like Musky, Malamute, or Akita. While on the other side you find dogs like the Pug, Chihuahua or Jack Russell. Some of these dogs have the ability to survive as feral animals, but mostly they would be unable to survive the conditions of the wild.
Here are a few of the obvious morphological differences between dogs and grey wolves:
- Chronic Degenerative disease
- Changes in natural diet
- Gracilization (reduction of bone mass)
- Neoteny (retention of juvenile features)
- Altered temperament
- Inability to live on natural landscapes
- Crowding of teeth and dental arch
This list could easily be applied to the differences between us moderns and our pre-agricultural ancestors.
Degenerative disease is abundant in western society and a large percentage of people I knew growing up required braces to fix crowded mouths. Prolonged youthful features are common in adults, while also being culturally encouraged. And I think it’s safe to say no one knows anymore what we’re supposed to be eating. With the introduction of wheat as a staple of our diet our skeletal systems shrunk significantly, making childbirth more painful, and reducing our brain size from 1500cc to 1350cc.
Perhaps we are no longer Homo sapiens but instead, as Daniel Vitalis and Arthur Haines put forth, should be classified as a subspecies “Homo sapien domesticofragilis”, the domesticated fragile wise man. It’s easy to understand a dog as a subspecies of a grey wolf, but the cultural conditioning we’ve been indoctrinated in causes the mind to balk at such a possibility for humans.
But just as we tamed dogs, the civilization we created tamed us.
Tame; adj. — changed from the wild or savage state; domesticated.
It’s important to point out that domestication is a sliding scale for humans as well. On one end you can see a heightened neoteny and gracilization in those who have a long history of agriculture: Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica, and European descent to name a few. And at the other side you find those whose ancestral life ways have only recently been extinguished by the unrelenting march of colonialism: indigenous North Americans, Australian aborigines, and Africans, etc.
But we are all captives of a system that, more or less, compels us to go on destroying the world in order to live. We are wage slaves in a society designed to extract sovereignty from individuals. A mono-crop of humans living in unnaturally dense cityscapes; a large-scale human factory farm with the goal of producing, not meat nor food as the product, but rather labour, the products of labour, and tax revenue
Alternatively, you could view our sprawling urban centres as human rat cages. A rat needs basic amenities in order to survive; food, fresh water, maybe a wheel, toys or some wood chips if it’s lucky. The goal is to give it enough so it doesn’t focus on its imprisonment. Much the same as we’re given the basics to survive; grocery stores and restaurants, fitness centres, entertainment, and green spaces. Our modern existence is driving up the rates of mental illness with 50% of all sick days in Canada attributed to mental health. We’re trapped in a looping downward spiral of addiction, clearly demonstrated in this Rat Park study by Dr. Bruce Alexander.
This didn’t happen overnight; it’s grown over the past 10,000 years to become our dominant story. Kind of like some kind of evil overlord in a disney film. Slowly growing from sapling to towering giant as the years sped by and civilization expanded. Its canopy is broad, expansive, encompassing and the roots go deep, down to our very core. This story, life as we know it today, is the result of the patriarchal paradigm and the colonizers that spread it like Johnny Appleseed across the globe.
Patriarchy. Now there’s a charged word.
Prior to the Neolithic revolution hunter-gatherers had largely lived as egalitarian, meaning all were seen as equal and sovereign. They lived off the land in nomadic, or semi-nomadic annual patterns except in extremely nutrient dense parts of the world like North America’s Pacific northwest. A typical group was usually 50–150 persons in size, and they were also a part of larger language groups in their area. Without romanticizing it too much, life was pretty good.
With the emergence of agriculture and humans shifting to a sedentary, civilized life, a new system of domestic rule emerged. This was the beginning of a hierarchal class system that birthed the ruling class, priesthood, and working class. Over the next few millennia our ancestors shifted from hunter-gatherers to the village life, from the village life to the city life, where we finally end up with city-states by the start of “history.”
Our ancestors now lived in permanent residences; they became domestic and this lifestyle shift presented challenges. With so many people remaining in one location we could no longer hunt or forage wild food without quickly stripping the countryside bare. To do this we to became domestic and began farming. But what we really needed was a system for large-scale human herd management.
Domestic; adj. — relating to the running of a home or to family relations.
“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea: resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed — fully understood — that sticks; right in there somewhere.”
The belief of the modern world is that new ideas will save us, or lead us to where we need to go. Yet what is often missing are old or ancient ideas that have persisted over time, and therefore might educate us on how we can make tangible changes. Genesis may not be the literal tale of the creation of the earth, but it is the story of how our ancestors shifted from hunter-gatherers to farmers and the birth of the patriarchy. This story forms our underlying paradigm.
I’m going to assume that most of you have a basic understanding of the story of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve.
God created the garden and told the man
“of every tree of the garden, thou mayest freely eat,”
and it was recorded that “the man and the woman were both naked, and they were not ashamed.” But then they ate the Apple, and their not so benevolent God had some punishments and consequences for them.
God said to Eve,
“thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
Prior to this it’s the man and the woman. They’re egalitarian and he doesn’t rule over her. This is a shift to the patriarchy and it’s going to be a punishment. No longer can they eat freely as hunter-gatherers, instead he has to become a farmer and toil in the cursed fields, and she has to be ruled over or managed.
While it may appear small, the shift in language from man to husband is significant. In old English, the word “man” represents both male-bodied and female-bodied. This is the same way that today we say mankind, or human. The word for man was wer and the word for woman was wif. Wer still survives today in the word werewolf (man-wolf), while wif survives today in the word wife.
In the marriage ritual when we say, “do you take this woman to be your wife?” What you’re really being asked is, “do you take this woman to be your (wif) woman?” But in the other half of the exchange it’s not, “do you take this man to be your (wer) man?” Instead it’s, “do you take this man to be your husband?”
Husband refers to a male partner in a marriage, but it’s also a “frugal manager.” e.g. to husband the household.
- The care of a household (domestic)
- The control or judicious use of resources (economics)
- The scientific control and management of a branch of farming and especially of domestic animals (agriculture)
Patriarchy, economics, and agriculture are the pillars of our civilization held under this umbrella term of husbandry. When a man takes a woman to be his wife, he takes her as a woman. When a woman takes a man to be her husband, she’s taking the man to be her farmer.
This isn’t contained to English alone. In Hebrew, the word for husband is Baal. Baal has other meanings as well such as master, lord, and owner.
“Do you take this man to be your owner?”
A caveat — please understand that this is not in anyway an attack on the institution of marriage, or claiming that every “husband” owns his wife. I simply endeavour to cast a light on the language that has unbeknownst to us shaped our ways of showing up. Women at their fiery core are not weak; they are more and more stepping into their power and we as men need to meet it, not subjugate it. Wif and Wer.
Fox Woman Dreaming
Imagine for a moment an experiment that has been taking place in Russia for years studying domestication with wild silver foxes. When the pups are born, they separated out the ones that were aggressive towards humans from the ones that were comfortable. There are now two kennels with two lineages. The docile pups were rewarded and by continued selection of the more submissive animals they now have a subspecies of domesticated silver foxes available as pets.
Now imagine that for 6000 years men have been husbanding, or farming women and those who were more submissive in this system were rewarded. While those women who were not have been stoned to death, burned at the stake, called witches. Look at what happens to the not so well behaved women of the world. Eating the apple was the woman’s fault and culturally this idea hasn’t been let go of. This violence against women is still taking place today in all parts of the world.
This is not about blaming men, or male-bodied, but we do, and have always had a lot more privilege. We’re all suffering under this paradigm. This was Adam’s punishment as well.
“In the sweat of thy face, thou shalt eat bread, until thou return unto the ground.” — God (with a capital “G”!)
Historically, men have been used to provide labour, the products of labour, and tax revenue. There is a miasma of toxic masculinity keeping us oppressed and unable to step out from under the yoke of domestication. Most of us would love to be free of this matrix as well. But freedom is deeply confusing to those who have been domesticated. The fence gates are open yes, but where do we go from here?
Our story of domestication is the story of husbandry dominating humans, plants, the landscape, and all animals. Everything is turned in to a resource. The husbandry model sees itself as the master of all life and it extends in to every aspect, and across other races. The dominant paradigm is inherently flawed because it’s a system based on slavery.
As our cities have grown larger, the individual has become more and more isolated. We’ve gone from large language groups down to the village, to the neighbourhood, extended families, and now nuclear families. That’s one man and one woman in a small space raising children in isolation. Humans require 50–150 social connections and it’s expected that just one person can fulfill all those needs, and if you’re a dude you get to own her.
This husbandry model must be replaced because this model is leading to the absolute destruction of all of life. It can no longer be “His-story” and instead needs to become “Our-story.” We need to learn to be egalitarian and Wild again.
To thrive we need to decolonize our minds and to do that we need to know how the system works. Start paying attention to the patriarchy, husbandry and agricultural model, and where you’ve bought in to it. Most of us have done so in one way or the other, but the ReWilded mind strives to see through the cultural conditioning and back to the egalitarian animist roots of our species.
Join me on next new moon as we explore decolonization.
Until next time, Wildlings.