In his essay “Taming Ourselves or Going Feral?” Brian Luke introduced the concept of “going feral” in the animal liberation movement as a response to patriarchal control in subverting “our sympathetic connections with animals” through institutionalized animal exploitation and abuse. In this context, “going feral” means letting our natural sympathies flow in our relationships with other animals, rather than allowing our emotional responses to animals be further domesticated (i.e., be tamed).
Although this paper was written with the animal liberation community in mind, the idea of “going feral” is more prevalent among anti-civilization dissenters across western cultures than animal liberation activists.
“Going feral” derives from the use of “feral” to refer to domesticated animals who have escaped the confines and institutionalized servitude of their ancestors in order to claim a free-living existence for themselves while often still sharing habitat with humans. For the feral animal, the rules of expectation for “domesticated” animals change. Though they are not indigenous wild any more than the humans they evolved with, they manage an alternative to domestication and civilization by occupying the gray area of “feral.” Of course, being feral makes problems for civilization.
“Feral” humans follow along similar lines. As James Barnes says, “going feral is going wild again, escaping a subservient status and reestablishing one’s own autonomy.” However, unlike other alternative lifestyles and radical ideologies in civilization, these anti-civilization humans are not a collective movement. They are individuals who decide to live to their greatest moral potential by rejecting further domestication of their minds and bodies, with the hopes of “re-wilding” themselves. Many of them live off the grid, with occasional access to modern technology and civilization but no longer depend on it. Quite a few live in general solitude, but there are a few intentional communities and schools that provide a greater degree of sociality though still in isolation (however, the schools only provide “primitive skills”; they can’t offer the entire re-wilding experience). These feral humans vary in politics, spirituality, class, gender (although the majority I have found are male-identified), sexual orientation, and degree of “wildness.”
Unfortunately, the majority of them tend to be white, able-bodied, and without dependents, which poses a problem for its applicability beyond the racially privileged, able-bodied individual who is primarily responsible for himself. Essentially, they’re evolutionary dead-ends–both culturally and biologically. Their lives and intentions are amazing, digging deeply to the core of their animality. But they are not culturally sustainable, in that only like-minded, privileged individuals without dependents (not society) can join them in their various radical shifts in living (whether bioregional or nomadic). With that said, it’s refreshing to know that some humans are coming up with innovative and alternative ways to live in response to the dysfunction of civilization.