Guerrilla Ontology: On Destruction, Violence and Direct Action
Smashing badger traps and creating psycho-geographical distress is not going to stop Empire nor the ecological collapse that is a byproduct of its violence. But this is not our task…. Our aim as guerrilla ontologists is to be agents of destruction, poetic terrorists and involutionary fighters, disrupting history and resisting its violence.
From Julian Langer
We hear about violence all the time. We talk about violence all the time.
We label this violence as good and that violence as bad. This violence as necessary and that violence as unnecessary.
This violence theirs and that violence ours. And the conversation goes on and on and on.
Often we don’t recognise when we are talking about violence, as violence takes so many forms, wears so many masks, and we’ve been raised to uphold most acts of violence as simply factors of ordinary daily life.
To the pacifist, all violence is evil and must be avoided at any cost. Pacifists believe in the great cosmic separation of forces of light from forces of darkness. They view the universe as fundamentally flawed in this way. Pacifists believe that there is such a feature of existence, which can pervade all of Being – this notion of evil and darkness – which is something that must be rejected at all points.
To say something is evil is to presuppose a moral ought, that something should or should not exist, and that each existent example of evil must be rejected and expelled from society. What evil is ultimately is that which threatens the machinery that is society.
But while we talk about violence again and again, we rarely talk about what violence is, nor what it isn’t. Oh sure, we talk about their violence and even our own on occasion (though usually sanctifying its enactors, the living as heroes and the dead as martyrs who sacrificed themselves for God, the God of the machinery of the technosphere).
Rarely, if ever, do we talk about what violence is, what are violence’s origins, and other questions that might be considered too abstract or conceptual for “realpolitik.”
Violence seems to be a very specific type of action (again embracing generalized categories), which often gets mistaken for another. So, before giving any type of definition of violence, I will discuss what it is not: destruction.
Destruction as a phenomenon is the event of a singularity whereby, due to certain physical intensities, a new situation, space, location, Thing (etc.) is created. In this way, creation and destruction are in no way a dichotomy, but rather the monist force of the flow of motion, energy, transience in an entirely physical sense.
A hurricane and a wildfire are destructive, but they aren’t violent. In their destruction they create new situations, spaces, locations; Things, from the intensity of their energetic releases. A meteor that kills most of the life on planet Earth, including the dinosaurs (arguably this planet’s most successful occupants if we assume a paleontological realist epistemology), is not violent and does not enact violence upon those it has killed. The Chicxulub meteor was destructive, and its destruction lead to the creation of a situation that resulted in mammals becoming more prevalent (as a generalized category of species-Being) as the dinosaurs died out.
Destruction and creation are the monist flow of Life, where life and death are one and the same thing. They are the same thing in each present, temporarily bound by the physical dimensions of embodied Being – wild-Being as I choose to term it. As such, destruction(/creation) is an aspect of what is wild (or natural, if you prefer).
Violence as Violation
Violence presents itself not as destruction, but as violation. This doesn’t mean that violence is defined by the intent to violate. No, the perception of an action or event doesn’t alter its physicality, only the relationships of those within or towards it. As such, violence can occur with no intent to violate.
So what does it mean to violate? To violate something is to assert authority (not power) over a given space, place, moment, individual, or group, and to interrupt the wild authentic flow of living energies into the constructions (not creations) of the supposed authority, which asserts itself through violence.
Rape is an act of violence, where rapists assert themselves as an authority over whom they are raping. Rape interrupts the wild authentic flow of living energies of those raped, via usurpation of their body, and makes of them a constructed object of the rapist’s pleasure resources.
This authority stems from the mythologies of civilisation, surrounding hierarchies of Others who are granted the ability to dominate and oppress through innate privileges. This is not to say that rape and other acts of violence do not occur outside of civilisation; rather, civilisation is the monopolisation of violence and a force that intensifies violence, to such a degree that it corrupts Being into something inauthentic and entirely different from what is wild.
Myths of authority (again, not power) are what violence is. Civilisation is defined by the machinery of the technosphere, the body of the metropolis, the materiality of its ideology. Its violence does not and cannot create, but rather it constructs. It constructs through language and through what civilisation deems as resources.
To civilise, to domesticate, to assert authority, to construct, to mechanise is to be violent; whereas to be destructive(/creative) is to be wild, living, natural.
This definition might feel uneasy to those who have been involved in (or have been active voices for) resistance groups whose tactics have included those generally considered violent. In fact, many have sought to justify the use of violence, and this is not just limited to groups within “western” nations, such as ALF, ELF, DGR etc., but also indigenous resistance fighters in their appeals to those “citizens” who seek to oppress them. But this is simply a misunderstanding brought about through the limitations of language as a means of conveying meaning.
The actions of these radicals aren’t violent, but destructive(/creative), and as such aren’t attached to the authoritarianism of violence and its ugliness. That’s not to say that there aren’t groups who call themselves radical, but actually just want to reconstruct the same machinery of violence they supposedly oppose. Rather, resistance/revolt/rebellion/etc., is destructive/creative, not violent.
What does this mean for radical practice, eco-anarchist, ontological-anarchist or otherwise? Simply it means we are agent of destruction; we are the creation of destruction, we support the destruction of the violent constructions of civilisation, in machinery, language, myths, socio-normative forms of interaction and all else that encompasses the metropolis, the Leviathan, the state, the economy.
This action of destroying the reality constructed by civilisation is the activity of guerrilla ontology, which amounts to destroying civilisation’s machinery and myths, and creating events, spaces, places, situations that allow for the anarchic flow of wild-Being to move freely.
Guerrilla ontology has not generally been viewed in the sense I am describing here. It was first described by Robert Anton Wilson and defined on Wikipedia as:
“The goal of guerrilla ontology is to expose an individual or individuals to radically unique ideas, thoughts, and words, in order to invoke cognitive dissonance, which can cause a degree of discomfort in some individuals as they find their belief systems challenged by new concepts.”
So with it being drawn from Wilson’s philosophy and writings, guerrilla ontology is typically associated with new-age, Discordianist spiritual practices.
Ontological anarchist Hakim Bey describes his concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone as a practice in guerrilla ontology, and is where the term is first located within anarchist thought. We should expand the concept past mere quietism and pure lifestylism, so as to be the basis of destructive(/creative) attacks of sabotage, resisting civilisation in a revolt based in Life. But to do this we must explore what it is to be a guerrilla. Guerrilla fighters are fighters who utilise a guerrilla-based approach to conducting warfare. So what is the guerrilla mode of attack?
Che Guevara, the famous Marxist guerrilla fighter of the Cuban revolution, stated in his work Guerrilla Warfare: A Method that the objective of the guerrilla strategy is the seizure of power. Now obviously in the case of Che, and the Marxist project he was involved in with Castro, the seizure of power translated to the reconstruction of the Leviathan under their authority, not liberation, wild freedom or anything actually desirable. But this is an issue regarding the authenticity of the project in question, not in the approach itself. And given Che’s proficiency as a guerrilla fighter, I feel comfortable with this objective of the method, regardless of its ideological outcome.
So we will follow from this presupposition that the guerrilla mode of attack is based on the objective of seizing power, and for our purposes this seizure of power is a destructive(/creative) one, not a constructive violent one.
Guerrilla groups – such as the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, Khmer Rogue, The Japanese Red Army, The Ñancahuazú Guerrilla, M-19, The IRA, New Peoples Army, Movimiento Peronista Montonero, Democratic Army of Greece, Free Papua Movement, The Angry Brigade, J2M, Individualists Tending Towards the Wild, YPJ and YPG, Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta and other such organisations – have all taken as their approach seizing power strategies and tactics that are based in acts of sabotage, ambushes, raids, hit-and-run style approaches and other means of attacking, while avoiding large scale head on warfare of the traditional militarist approach. This is not to advocate all the specific forms of irregular warfare these groups and groups like them use or have used – bombing “civilians” (for example) just for the sake of it is ugly and only succeeds in goading civilisation to dominate through greater authoritarian means.
Why utilise tactics of irregular warfare with small-scale attacks like ambushes and sabotage? Why not attack head on? Lets look to a historical potential that led to ruin to discuss why not.
After she was beaten by the Romans and her daughters were raped, Celtic druidess and queen Boudicca led a guerrilla campaign that almost saw the Romans out of Briton. The Iceni tribes under Boudicca’s leadership enacted rebellions and ambushed cities held under Roman rule. Through their guerrilla tactics they successfully depleted the Roman position in Briton to near defeat.
Had they not ever directly engaged the Roman military, with its technologically superior weaponry and armour, the Iceni and Boudicca would likely have seen the Roman colonial invaders off, defeated in blood drenched Celtic victory. Unfortunately they did face the Romans in open battle and the Celts lost.
So it seems sensible to advocate guerrilla type tactics given the technological might of empire and our available means of attack.
One resistance fighter, within anti-civ eco-radical resistance, whose approach has utilised much of what can be considered a guerrilla approach, is Theodore Kaczynski (better known as the infamous UNABOMBER). Kaczynski’s infamy comes not only from his bombing campaign and his famed manifesto, Industrial Society and its Future, but from his years of eluding the FBI and other institutional agents who sought to track him down.
Kaczynski’s ideology has been a central aspect of the eco-extremist movement, who actively embrace narratives of violence. One of the things clear in Kaczynski’s writings is that, while he presents great analytic accounts on technology, his politics remain tied to narratives of history(/civilisation). The eco-extremist movement seems equally tied to narratives of history, and they mistake their sanctified deity of Wild Nature for a violent force, when the wild is destructive(/creative) and violates nothing.
Regarding the UNABOMBER (as a political entity), Kaczynski was a failure, both in historical and anti-historical terms, who, despite his many brilliant aspects, found himself in the trappings of a far more extensively intensive prison than the one you and I find ourselves located within. The eco-extremist post-Kaczynskiist movement would do well to remember this, or maybe this is something that their pseudo-active (passive) pessimist nihilism just accepts?
Perhaps I’m being unfair to Kaczynski. It is true that both the eco-radical and anarchist milieus are colossal failures in pursuing our desired outcomes outside of some smaller personal projects. Empire has now spread across basically the entire body of the Earth and ecological collapse is basically a certainty. But the energetic fury of defiant revolt that courses through my body leads me to press on, channelling the power of the wild, to be a destructive force upon civilisation, creating untame spaces/places/locations/situations.
Lets look at other struggles, fights, and dances.
The indigenous peoples of what we now call Australia enacted a war against the settlers that has no apparent beginning or ending outside of History; a lived reality of warfare against the reality being constructed by the British mask of civilisation. This warfare was conducted by “cheeky fella” loner-leaders, whose attacks were coordinated devoid of formal organisation, usually in the form of ambush warfare. Rather than forming organisations, militias and other general categories of organised warfare, they practiced their guerrilla far more like communities/unions of egoists, working in mutual aid to resist civilisation.
What did their resistance look like? Well, many of the guerrilla fighters took to forming bands, who focused on payback, through means of inflicting unending sabotage and psychological warfare. The sabotage is basically what we call property destruction in the form that eco-radicals are very familiar with. The psychological warfare mostly took the form of mocking, humiliating and harassing the invaders, threatening and intimidating as means of psychic-attack.
The lone-leader guerrilla fighters of the indigenous Australians include famed warrior Pemulwuy, who it was believed could not be killed with firearms. Pemulwuy fought British invaders through ambush raids and killed British officials in vengeance against their violence towards his community and the land he lived upon. Like Kaczynski and similar guerrilla fighters, Pemulwuy failed and found himself at the mercy of his enemies (the approach of a lone-leader indigenous Australian attack seems to draw in something from guerrilla ontologist attacks).
Does this mean we start killing officials or supporters of Empire like Pemulwuy? Not necessarily, as there seems to be far more prudent practical means of inflicting damage to the Leviathan. These means hold more potential for actually disrupting its narratives, not just serving as a basis for the civilised to reinstate and make those same narratives more violent. I don’t see the attempt to assassinate government officials, or to kill a few domesticated individuals, as an activity that has any pragmatic potential for desirable outcome, and it seems like a waste.
Guerrilla ontologist warfare seems best enacted through 2 types of ambush attack. The first, sabotage, is well known to eco-radicals. This type of attack through “property” destruction has had relative degrees of success for groups like the ELF, ALF, Earth First!, the Hunt Saboteurs, and other eco-anarchist groups (This is stated with the acknowledgement that, due to the sheer scale of Empire’s authority at this point, we need an honest pessimism regarding its potential and its failings in the past).
The second form of ambush attack being advocated here is the utilisation of psychic warfare, to create sensations of wildness within the consciousnesses of the domesticated. This means to shatter the technologically induced comforts that distance the domesticated from the horror of the desert of the Real, the apocalyptic situation that stands before us, into a perception that can look at little else.
Smashing badger traps and creating psycho-geographical distress is not going to stop Empire nor the ecological collapse that is a byproduct of its violence. But this is not our task. The Real is breaking through this Reality, through hurricanes, wild fires, through rust upon the metal of the technosphere and far more examples than I could ever list. Wild-Being is ultimately inescapable; civilisation is the construction of a phantasmic illusion, and it will collapse.
Our aim as guerrilla ontologists is to be agents of destruction, poetic terrorists and involutionary fighters, disrupting history and resisting its violence. And this is best done through ambushing via sabotaging the machinery of civilisation (“property destruction”) and via psychological warfare, rather than head on assaults, which always result in increased intensities in violence from civilisation and its agents.
Writer of Feral Consciousness: Deconstruction of the Modern Myth and Return to the Woods, blogger at Eco-Revolt, and has been published on a number of other sites. Eco-anarchist and guerilla ontologist philosopher. Lover of woods, deer, badgers and other wild Beings. Musician and activist.