The series’ fifth episode begins by featuring Michael James Patrick Douglas, a bushcraft teacher who lives on 30 acres in rural Maine.
The producer-enforced worry in this case is overpopulation, which is a good one to focus on—it’s probably the shatterpoint that will determine the course of the next fifty years or so.
As a primitive skills teacher, he definitely has low-tech solutions to things, which I like. Instead of electronic perimeter alarms to warn of intruders, Mike teaches his family to rely on the flighty nature of songbirds. Which, of course, requires them to have a deep understanding of dozens of calls; I’m impressed. Instead of normal hunting weapons, they practice using rabbit sticks. For defense, they have a bunch of tomahawks (which the teenage son unnecessarily twirls around like a flashy videogame character).
Apparently, he doesn’t have any guns—because he doesn’t want to be dependent on bullets, which he perceives will become increasingly scarce post-disaster. While I agree with that idea, I do think it’s kind of naïve. Unless you’re going to be a silent, invisible injun archer shooting invaders from behind trees (and I didn’t see any archery going on), keep a few rifles around—even a .22 would be good for hunting small game. If you’re concerned about being beholden to modern bullets, what’s wrong with a flintlock? Blackpowder (as opposed to modern smokeless powder) can be made at home pretty easily, lead balls are easy to cast, and I would bet he already has a good source of flint on hand.
A sizeable part of this segment focuses on Mike taking his middle child out in the woods to test his skills of debris shelter-building and firestarting. Although throughout the segment the kid is shown as being uninterested in the dad’s drive for self-reliance, I have it on good authority that the kid was told to play it up for the producer to inject some drama. In the end, they build an awesome debris shelter, light a fire, and have some quality father-son bonding time. Apparently, dad has kept each kid’s umbilical cord preserved to give them on just such an occasion, to symbolize they are no longer children. It’s kind of a weird way to do it, but hey, rites of passage are sorely lacking in modern society, so this family makes their own.
His outfit is another example of the producers spinning these folks to seem like some serious societal outliers. I’m in a facebook group that Mike posts in frequently, and he doesn’t appear to wear buckskins all that often. While it’s cool to make and wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life, in this case it makes him look like a walking caricature of ‘the primitivist’.
Finally, Michael states that when the SHTF, his family doesn’t plan just to survive, but to ‘sur-thrive’. I like that; reminds me of a bit of propaganda from the good folks over at crimethinc. It’s a bit heavy-handed, but I still find it pretty motivating.
1. to remain alive or in existence
Are we alive? Do we know what survival really is? We can’t be alive so long as our lives, almost every aspect of them, are controlled by others: they convince us to work, to buy things we don’t need, to alienate ourselves from others, to dominate and compete, to mow the lawn. We dream their dreams without ever imagining our own. Their desires are fulfilled while we die sick and alone, never content but not knowing why. If we are not alive-if our lives are not in our own hands, then what are we? We are Domesticated: like a plant, grown to fit a mold and then usurped.
We don’t know survival because we have never lived. It’s time to break free from our domestication and live wild, learning what it means to have freedom, autonomy, solidarity, the pursuit of our desires, and what it means to live outside of civilization (their quaint name for domestication). Break free and learn what it means to
[Middle English surviven, from Old French sourvivre, from Latin supervvere: super- above, vvere- to live.]
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