Posts Tagged ‘civilization’

42 Reasons Why A Jetpack Won’t Make You Happier

With all the recent internet hoopla surrounding October 21, 2015–a random, then-26-years-in-the-future date from a well-loved film, I thought this new music video was appropriately timely.

While fairly blunt in its execution—they don’t have the poetry or nuance of Neon Bible or Suburbs-era Arcade Fire—I still must say Bravo, YACHT!
As Robin Hilton writes in her introduction to the ‘Future’ video, “Disappointment is part of America’s DNA. It is as though its citizens are born with the desire for something better, fueling much of the country’s entrepreneurial and creative output; but even if everyone had personal jet-packs by now, they’d still be left unsatisfied. And much of what’s produced to fill the void is just ridiculous.”

As usual, I would certainly zoom out for the big picture and revise to say that disappointment isn’t uniquely something American, rather it’s part of civilization’s DNA. DQ sums it up nicely in one of his most exhaustive passages (bear with me, it’s a good one):

“For hundreds of thousands of years, people as smart as you had had a way of life that worked well for them. The descendants of these people can today still be found here and there, and wherever they’re found in an untouched state, they give every evidence of being perfectly content with their way of life. They’re not at war with each other, generation against generation or class against class. They’re not plagued by anguish, anxiety, depression, self-hatred, crime, madness, alcoholism, and drug addiction. They don’t complain of oppression and injustice. They don’t describe their lives as meaningless and empty. They’re not seething with hatred and rage. They don’t look into the sky, yearning for contact with gods and angels and prophets and alien spacemen and spirits of the dead. And they don’t wish someone would come along and tell them how to live. This is because they already know how to live, as ten thousand years ago humans everywhere knew how to live. But knowing how to live was something the people of your culture had to destroy in order to make themselves the rulers of the world.

“They were sure they’d be able to replace what they destroyed with something just as good, and they’ve been at it ever since, trying one thing after another, giving the people anything they can think of that might fill the void. Archaeology and history tell a tale five thousand years long of one Taker society after another groping for something to placate and inspire, something to amuse and distract, something to make people forget a misery that for some strange reason simply will not go away. Festivals, revels, pageants, temple solemnities, pomp and circumstance, bread and circuses, the ever-present hope of attaining power, riches, and luxury, games, dramas, contests, sports, wars, crusades, political intrigue, knightly quests, world exploration, honors, titles, alcohol, drugs, gambling, prostitution, opera, theater, the arts, government, politics, careers, political advantage, mountain climbing, radio, television, movies, show business, video games, computers, the information superhighway, money, pornography, the conquest of space — something here for everyone, surely, something to make life seem worth living, something to fill the vacancy…”

If My Ishmael had been written in our early 21st century instead of the late 20th (or if Quinn ever decides to update it), he could easily add the high-tech gadgetry that YACHT parodies in their video—“social media apps, wearable technology, VR, drones, self-balancing scooters (“hoverboards”), selfie sticks, Soylent, vape pens”—to the end of his list^ of “the endless, sad parade of distraction-enticing creations pawned off as advancements”.

Before it can be challenged, we must recognize the truth that this ‘disappointment’ is not an innate part of human nature, but rather is directly caused by the ‘Great Forgetting’ and the system of oppression and exploitation—civilization itself—that grew out of it.
You are not an app. Regain the human potential that has been taken from us without our consent. Remove these distractions; learn to recognize, combat, and resist the system that continues to dole them out year after year, each one more pointless and destructive than the last.

A quick note on folk music and outdated memes

Alynda Lee Segarra … noticed that her own people — music makers and music lovers — would regularly sing along with choruses about killing women, comfortably accepting gender-based violence as part of the ballad tradition. No more, she said. “The Body Electric” was her intervention.” (Ann Powers, writing on NPR’s music blog).

Might I say that it’s ABOUT DAMN TIME someone in the national folk-music scene took this head-on?

Look, I like ‘traditional folk’ music as much as the next guy, but when the memes encoded in a ‘traditional’ song (no matter how beloved) are completely status quo, I will never be able to give a shit about it: I’m not so blindly loyal to a given style of music that I’m going to listen/learn/perform a song just because it’s old.

Face it: the devaluation of feminine life–the meme at the heart of this woman-killin’-murder-ballad genre–has been a ‘traditional’ part of Our Culture for the last several thousand years…and as readers of this site will know: I got no time for that shit. “Get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand”, and all that.

(Pretty much the only murder ballad I’ll listen to is Okkervil River’s “Westfall”, and the main reason is because it doesn’t just describe and then stop after the murder (as so many ‘traditional’ songs do) but goes on and at least has *something* to say.)

Thoughts on Aronofsky’s ‘NOAH’

Well, I finally got around to seeing NOAH (given the limited staying power and increased turnover rate of mainstream releases these days, my movie-going pattern is pretty much either Opening Day With Bells On, or Dollar Theater Several Months Later.)
Before I get into my discussion of the film’s troubling big-picture issues, I feel I should give at least a couple of quick thoughts about it as a film, cultural implications aside.

It’s not that bad.
*I thought the pacing was off (I didn’t check my clock, but I think about the first hour of the film is pre-Flood, and the second hour is all post-Flood, on the boat), and since most of the Drama is crammed into that second hour, it feels a little unbalanced. Personally, I would’ve liked to have spent a little more time watching the Ark being built, instead of the ten-year (?) fast-forward, while it gets 90% completed off-screen.

*The setting is really ambiguous, but I understand that it was intentional—we’re not meant to be sure if we’re seeing Earth in the far, far, far distant past, or pseudohistorical, deconstructed Biblical times, or a distant ‘post-apocalyptic’ future (a la the Sloosha’s Crossing… section of Cloud Atlas), or even a totally different planet (in which case, the use of biblical names works in a kind of folk-archetype way)—witness the radically-different continents and the celestial objects visible in the skies, even during daytime. In the end, of course, a case could be made for each of these possibilities, which makes for a more interesting, multilayered film in general, but in the interest of avoiding ambiguity I still would’ve liked the film to have picked one and stuck with it.

*Everybody (the literalist Christians, especially) seems to have been surprised and up in arms about the director’s inclusion of ‘Watchers’….they should get over it.
It’s funny, because these ‘rock monsters’ were totally edited out of the film’s promotional material, just to surprise the audience out of nowhere! I actually really liked these characters (they’re like kickass helpful stone Ents!)—plus, using Nick Nolte to voice a pile of gravel incarnate was doubly brilliant—and it’s nice to see references to apocryphal ‘giants’ and Nephilim and such interpretable-as-extraterrestrials spookiness getting used. The character design and animation on these guys was great; I could watch them all day.

Anyway, on to the big picture fun.

When I first saw the teaser for NOAH months ago, my first reaction was probably some grumble about the whole production design (costumes especially)—reflecting Hollywood’s zeitgeist-y obsession with “gritty” (for the current ringleader and worst offender, see HBO’s Game of Thrones…but on second thought, no, don’t see it, because that show is toxic).
You know how it goes—even though a property is ostensibly set in a ‘historic’ or at least ‘realistic’ setting, outfits are designed with visual storytelling and not practicality in mind. Call it ‘Hollywood primitive’: garments are always incredibly threadbare and made of what-looks-like loosely-woven burlap with exposed, crudely-sewn seams in uncomfortable places (with grime rubbed into every crevice), as if to suggest that people occupying more ‘primitive’ levels of technology are incapable of both craftsmanship and regular laundering:

If this film wasn’t associated with Darren Aronofsky, I’d just chalk it up as another ‘gritty’, Russell Crowe-led anachronism-stew historical epic with copious amounts of shakycam—of which he has been in quite a few (but not Master and Commander—that’s a quality piece!).
However, because Aronofsky was directing, I know there was probably going to be a fair amount of realism sacrificed for the sake of Art. From what I’ve read, the Christian audience the film has been halfway courting—you can’t make a major film based on a major episode of the Old Testament without attracting Christian attention, after all—seems to have been expecting NOAH to have been a literalist reading of the story thrown up on the screen. I understand they were disappointed. Apparently, it would seem they expected a film about a fairy tale to have been realistic!

But the costumes and the ‘realism’ of NOAH aren’t what I came to grumble about. My main grumble is about the film’s underlying philosophy, which is nothing if not unquestioning of the status quo. This is especially troubling considering the myriad possibilities of alternative viewpoints that an innovative director like Aronofsky could have brought to a film like this. But unfortunately, what we got was the same old Younger Culture message that we see encoded and enacted all around us every day: the one about how Humanity is fundamentally (and irreparably) flawed as a result of some half-understood original ‘sin’ first manifested in the killing of a figure called Abel by a figure called Cain.

Especially indicative of this is the segment I’ve embedded below, in which the character Noah summarizes the pre-Flood chapters of Genesis, and in which Aronofsky fairly successfully (and visually beautifully) shoehorns the history of evolution into the biblical six-day creation of the world, via the deployment of copious amounts of poetic license:

This ‘evolution’ sequence seems to reinforce our culture’s misguided anthropocentric viewpoint, suggesting that every stage of creation—from the first dividing cells on up to fish, frogs, lizards, mammals and monkeys—has been leading towards the emergence of Man. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—the human species is not the end-point of evolution.

Despite depicting his ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ as radiant creatures straight out of Cocoon, Aronofsky’s version of ‘The Fall’ still remains the same old mess of incomprehensibility as our culture’s accepted interpretation, heard or seen everywhere, even when reduced to a simple repeating three-note wordless visual motif (snake hiss, apple lub-dub, rock thwack).

The montage which follows—various historically-costumed warrior silhouettes killing and being killed—only serves to underline the status quo message of the film. Crowe’s narration (reflecting our deluded, dominant cultural narrative) suggests that our major flaw (encoded as ‘Human Nature’) is such that we’re simply unable to keep from killing each other. This, frankly, is bullshit, as anyone who has ever dug even slightly more than surface-deep into human history would see that even the most sustainable societies still have warfare and the occasional murder.

Luckily, the truth, which this film doesn’t seem to recognize, is that the problem doesn’t lie with Humanity as a whole.

In NOAH’s opening exposition cards, we are told that following The Fall (snake hiss, apple lub-dub, rock thwack), the followers of Cain created an “industrial civilization” which spread over the earth. If you take Quinn’s anthropological view of The Fall story—in which Cain (the metaphorical first practitioner of our culture’s model of aggressive agriculture) kills pastoralist Abel in order to possess and farm his land—and look out the window, you can see that story being enacted before your very eyes.
Throughout the film, Noah repeatedly (ad nauseum, in fact) asserts that for the good of all, the whole murderous human race (‘mankind’) needs to be wiped off the face of the planet. This is, of course, untrue: saving the world requires stopping only one single culture—Ours—the one whose rise to dominance was metaphorically depicted in the biblical story of ‘The Fall’.

This was the part where Aronofsky really dropped the ball, in my opinion.
Given the film’s explicit connection of a life-destroying industrial civilization with the ‘line of Cain’, it would have been very easy, in all those scenes where Noah insists that wicked, murderous Man must not be allowed to survive, to replace ‘Man’ with ‘Cainites’, as a handy sort of shorthand for ‘Totalitarian Agriculturalist-model Civilized Takers’.
(Some reviewers seem to have picked up on a ‘green’ message in NOAH, but I must have missed it; I don’t recall a point at which Noah ever suggested the Flood was retribution for the damage the Cainite civilization had wreaked on the planet. If he did, it was done, again, by pinning the blame on ‘Man’ and not a single culture.)

While it may be hard for us, here in the conquered 21st century, to conceive that civilization is not the whole of humanity, for the protagonists in NOAH, there’s really no reason they shouldn’t be able to. After all, as Noah himself is descended from Cain and Abel’s other brother Seth, he should be well aware that the Sethite line which he embodies (vegetarian and friendly to non-human animals as they seem to be) represents a far more healthy approach to life than that of the industrialized Cainites.

In short, while Aronofsky’s Noah continues to assert that Man must be destroyed because he simply can’t stop killing himself, it would have been exceedingly more accurate (and productive) to say that the line of Cain must be stopped before it is allowed to destroy all life in its relentless, myopic pursuit of Growth and Power.

Doomsday Preppers: Bret and Shane Maggio

The other half of this episode is spent with Bret and Shane Maggio of Fruitland, Utah:
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentThey’re supposedly preparing for a “collapse of the US economy that will lead to a lawless society”, at which point one of the guys points a pistol at the camera, with his finger on the trigger.
Bad form, sir. Remember, folks:
the four rules of gun safety(Also, this is exactly the kind of macho, guns-as-macho-posturing-accessory bullshit I was talking about last week.)

Since pretty much their entire profile is spent in pointless-diversion-land, I’m gonna focus more on what they say than on what they do, and try to unpack their comments.

To begin: people around the world get by just fine (likely better than Us, in fact) living in what folks of Our Culture would consider ‘lawless society’. Just because there are no Hammurabi-style stone tablets (‘laws’) telling citizens ‘Thou Shalt Not __ for Fear of Retribution From the State-sanctioned Brutes Allowed to Use Violence to Strip You of Your Rights/Property/Life (‘police’)’, doesn’t mean that these societies were/are bloodbaths, with people running about willy-nilly raping and killing each other on a whim. Unlike civilized/statutory law, groups with functioning tribal laws are aware that people are going to misbehave. Instead of having a group of top-of-the-pyramid, above-the-law elites telling citizens the things they aren’t allowed to do (knowing full well that they will do them anyway) and then punishing them, tribal laws focus more on group decisions to decide consequences for actions on an individual basis.

Sidebar: take a minute to notice how violence in pyramid societies always flows downwards—you never hear about about police hassling Congressman, but they sure do love to bust heads when it comes to the ‘homeless’—but when violence is directed upwards, they call it revolt and rebellion. Hey kids: think about defying gravity.

“When the dollar loses its value, the government isn’t getting paid; systems collapse! Imagine turning on the faucet, but there’s no water; going to the grocery store but there’s no food on the shelves. These systems could collapse at any time, leaving people no choice but to fight for survival!”
Yeah, guys, these systems could collapse at any time (because we continue to increase their complexity and therefore their inherent fragility), but if people took proper steps before said collapse (organize, localize, communitize), they wouldn’t have to fight for survival.
Also, the system that allows for city water in the desert and Just-In-Time resupplied grocery stores is a fundamentally unsustainable one powered by ancient sunlight, a blip on the long timeline. The only smart thing to do would be to consider ways of living outside that matrix of control, or better yet, make it obsolete!

Next comment: in their collapse scenario, “Nobody’s going to be able to be governed.”
WAIT, WHAT? I’m pretty sure this means ‘The government won’t be able to govern its citizens!’, or, more accurately, ‘The top-of-the-pyramid elites will have lost their grasp on the systems used to exert control over the rest of the pyramid’.
C’mon, what would be so bad about that? You’d think such a scenario would be fully embraced by an open-minded citizenry of ‘freedom enthusiasts’, because I don’t think any sane person really wants to be governed—but then again, we live in a culture that’s been drilling into our heads the meme that we should want to be governed for the last 5,000 years, so sane people are a rare commodity.

They conclude their talk-to-the-camera portion by admonishing “If you don’t have a plan to get out of civilization and get to a bug-out location, you’ll be caught up in the mess!” Hey, for once, we are in agreement!: getting out of civilization is the only way to ensure one’s survival.
endangered-species
So why are these guys not taking their own advice (we’re told they live in the ’burbs and have corporate jobs, which would suggest they’re entrenched in the very System that makes their collapse all but inevitable)? I guess when they said ‘get out of civilization’ they just meant ‘get out of the city’, not ‘get out of the entire life-destroying Matrix’. Ugh. Hey, don’t expect things to change if you can’t see the bars of your cage.

We’re told that their family has ‘been preppers’ for 40 years, going all the way back to their grandma. They say that their “family has a preparedness mindset”…yeah, guys, because you’re Mormons; it’s a tenet to have years and years of stuff stored up, so that the members of your made-up cult will outlive the other made-up cults.
‘Show-off preps’ time: food stored, water and filter, and 5,000 gallons fuel, “so that when doomsday comes, we’ll have all the comforts of home for several years.”
Hey guys, you do realize that all those comforts of home are part and parcel of that civilization you said to get out of, right? If the aim of your post-disaster living is just to prolong and perpetuate the unsustainable pre-disaster lifestyle of comfort and convenience…well, you’re just setting yourself to fail. Again.

Anyway, the guys think that all their preps “will make them a target”. Well, yeah, now, because they’ve broadcast the details to the world. If they actually downscaled and lived quietly off the grid, who would know? Of course, that would make for ‘boring’ (read: possibly educational) TV, so they decide to build themselves a ridgetop ‘sniper tower’ (with zipline)!

Man, one thing’s for sure, watching this show has really strengthened my ability to read between the lines. I would guess what we’re really seeing here are a couple of city slickers building a zipline tower for the kids to play on when the family gets together at grandma’s house, calling it a ‘sniper tower’ to get it on TV and/or have NatGeo pay for it, and bringing in a prior serviceman to complete the illusion.

So Bret and Shane get their vet sniper to come in, take some long-distance shots, and give the project his seal of approval. We then waste some time watching kids work harder-not-smarter dragging materials up the hill. There’s a discouraging moment when one of the guys’ younger cousins observes, “Prepping seems like a lot of hard work: you have to buy a lot of stuff and build a lot of stuff!” Well, yeah, if you’re going off what we’re shown on DP, or if your goal is to continue living within the System and become a capital-P, self-identified Prepper.
On the other hand, rewilding/unlearning/unbranding, enlightening oneself on big-picture issues (learn to recognize root causes!), building community, and increasing one’s self-reliance are often extremely cheap, if not gratis (and pay off way more!).

Once they get the ‘tower’ built, they string a cable down to a tree at the bottom of the hill—allegedly a quick-escape zipline. As a ‘professional zipliner’ (I am literally paid to fly through the trees), this is an area in which I have extensive experience.
Now, on my outfit’s 440-feet-long, 30-feet-of-drop zipline, most folks hit speeds in the mid-twenties (mph). And yet, simple trigonometry tells me that our line has a downward angle of only 3.9 degrees. Compare this to the Maggio’s homemade cable, which we’re told is 250 horizontal feet, with a vertical drop of 70 feet; this works out to a downward angle of around sixteen degrees! And yet, when they send a couple of sand-filled tires (to approximate someone’s weight) down the line, the guys act totally surprised that they come in like a meteor and plow into a tree! Well, duh! Those tires were probably pushing 60!
Also, for the record, I’d really recommend using a proper harness (bonus tactical points!) and a double trolley (Petzl makes good ones).

Once their platform built is finally built, they bust out the black guns and execute some watermelons to prove they can…but only at like, 150 yards. What gives? I thought the point of the tower was to be able to hit trespassers at their property line 400 yards away?
And then they explain how if they can’t eliminate an intruder from the tower, then they’ll go down on the zipline and fight at ground level? Dudes, just stick with the high ground.

At the end, the experts say their tower is ‘not effective from a military standpoint’, probably because a ridgetop is a terrible place for ‘sniping’ (silhouettes against the sky and all that). Whew, good thing we’re talking a family fun tower, and not actual military!

Doomsday Preppers: Chad Hudspeth

Season three continues with episode two, ‘The Fight Ahead’.

As before, we cut between two families undertaking television-friendly stunts that really have little to do with true survival, much less addressing the root causes that necessitate the need (in their minds) for such measures.
First off is Chad Hudspeth, from Phoenix, Arizona.
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
Oh, where to begin?
Well, how about Arizona? What’s wrong with Arizona, you ask? Well, there’s nothing wrong with the area itself, just with Our culture’s approach to living there, which is—as usual—a one-size-fits-all solution: dig a concrete foundation (oriented to an arbitrary direction, because self-regulating, south-facing, passive-solar houses are for hippies), erect some stick-framing and drywall, call it a house, and then hook it up to The Grid. Unfortunately for the people living there, the truth is if it weren’t for that grid infrastructure, cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix simply Would. Not. Exist.:

“…the region has exceeded its natural carrying capacity so such an extreme degree that even mild to moderate disruptions in the energy supply will be disastrous. Transportation, air conditioning, and water distribution will become critically problematic in the years ahead. As oil- and gas-based agriculture fails, and it becomes necessary to grow more food locally, places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Albuquerque,  and Los Angeles will painfully rediscover that they exist in deserts.”

Built to conform to our culture’s prevailing ostrich-like attitude (which denies the possibility that the grid could ever fail), such cities are completely reliant on Hoover Dam electricity for air conditioning (because it’s hot in the desert and our culture insists on building aboveground), petrol juice (for commuting to and from the sprawl), food, and water (from underwater aquifers which are being depleted faster than they are being replenished, because it’s the desert). What’s the answer? Probably first recognize the inherent weaknesses of the system as Kunstler and I have just broken it down (and then get out), but if you’re going to continue to stay in this environment, you might want to study the strategies—both successful and unsuccessful—of the indigenous locals.

With that out of the way, right off the bat, I pick up on a certain amount of, shall we say…off-ness in Chad’s obligatory talk-at-the-camera moments. He seems like someone who might know just enough to be dangerous, but he got his details from the wrong sources. For starters, he opens by explaining how “the Founding Fathers thought government was a terrible evil”.
Ohhh-kaayyy… I’m pretty sure that as Male, White, Western property-holders (aka the elites of their society – those with the most to gain from a formal, civilized, capital-g Government), they all thought top-down governing was pretty fine. True, there may have been some quibbles about the specifics of said governing (see Hamilton’s Federalism versus Jefferson’s more liberal model), and while the Framers did try to work in some more pure-Democratic, Anglo-Saxon and Iroquois influences (all that “by/of/for the People stuff”), the American system still came out pretty damn centralized. The pyramid might have three checked-and-balanced branches at the top, but it’s still a pyramid.

Chad seems to believe that the Powers That Be are “in control of policies coming down the pipe that are evil, something something not for the good of the people.” Is he a Tea Partier trying to make a veiled reference to the Affordable Care Act, or is this some conspiracy-theory stuff about how the guvvmint is controlling our minds with chemtrails and HAARP antennas in Alaska?
Either way, he believes that “As the man, it’s my responsibility and duty to protect my family.” Y’know, because women can’t be counted upon to protect themselves without a man around? A little later, his wife explains how her favorite survival tactic is Prayer, and she believes the scripture that says she’s supposed to defer and be submissive to her husband who knows best. Because hey, six thousand years of Patriarchy can’t be wrong! You know what a better, real survival tactic is? Re-empowering women. Seriously, FUCK THIS SHIT.

Oh, did I mention that Chad’s supposed fear is of a “nuclear strike by the US government, resulting in a genocidal siege”? … Again: ooookay. Hey, look on the bright side: at least it’s not economic collapse.

So, the positives:
Chad has a nice little aquaponics system in his backyard greenhouse. I think I saw some Swiss chard growing in it. He explains how “it’s far superior to traditional agriculture”: yeah, that’s because everything is far superior to traditional agriculture.
There’s about 30 seconds of his neighbor showing Chad how he can make biodiesel from the algae in his pond, but that’s all we get.
While the segment could have given the ignorant public a detailed breakdown of what the aqua system consists of and how it was put together, instead we get some tinfoil-hat fearmongering and a half-hour of digging holes with heavy equipment, because his plan is “to survive a genocidal siege by building a tunnel that will lead [his] family to safety”.

Like, I’m grateful that he’s not all Type I, gung-ho, ex-military, guns, gear, and-tacticrap (that’s the other half of this episode), but he could very easily go the other way and have a really solid footing to survive lots of disaster scenarios if he just focused his efforts on more sustainable food production—convert the whole backyard to aquaponics, or raised beds, or anything, really. Unfortunately, he’s really completely mainstream in his thinking, believing true survival can be attained through deft use of the all-powerful checkbook and credit card. As a caption informs us, “The first thing Chad did in his prepping was to take his funds out of the bank and invest in goods he thinks will flourish during martial law”. From the folks I’ve seen on this show, the most misguided ones are those who ‘turn Prepper’ overnight and take the same approach to being ‘prepared’ that we do to everything else in this culture—throw money at it! (Conversely, the best off are those who have already been living innovative, self-reliant, frugal lives, often as part of a community of like-minded folks.)
It’s as if Chad one day decided he was going to become a prepper, googled ‘prepping supplies’, and got roped into some fringe-y websites that told him he needed to bury a shipping container and build an escape tunnel through his backyard.

Unfortunately, Chad wraps up his segment saying: “I am an American. I have the American spirit. My advice to others would be to do the same things that I’ve done.” So, in other words, drop a lot of money on bullshit ‘solutions’ you mistakenly believe will somehow help you?

And then he says something about how “the men with the power have been swayed by demonic or satanic powers.” Wait, what??! Huh? Is he suggesting the Koch brothers are black-magick-wielding occultists? I have absolutely no idea what to make of that statement; like I said, the things he talks at the camera are just a bit off.

And as always, the experts tell him good job. And as always, final segment ‘The Odds’ functions as our dominant Mother Culture mouthpiece, once again reassuring us that we have “checks and balances to protect our personal freedoms and prevent any one group from taking power”, so go back to sleep.
Except for, y’know…corporations?

Doomsday Preppers: Curt S.

This episode only spends time on one other person, ‘Curt S.’ of Somewhere in Oregon.

His artificial, single motivating fear is yet another ‘economic collapse’. While we’re just one episode in, I have a feeling that lone issue will continue to dominate the fears of those profiled on the show, just as it did last season (in which fully 50% described their fear of ‘economic collapse’, while none ever suggested that they understood why such a collapse is historically inevitable. It’s simple sustainability, folks).

In his mandatory talk-to-the-camera soundbite, Curt explains how “Government has been infiltrated by corporations, banks, financial institutions, labor unions, and special interests.” Alright now, ♪one of these things is not like the other ones!♪  Can you spot it? If you picked Labor Unions, you’re right! I’m not sure where this guy stands on the US&A two-party-political spectrum (I’m guessing it’s somewhere in the vicinity of Tea Party), but what’s wrong with labor unions? I pick up that they’ve got a reputation for taking mandatory breaks (“laziness”), but when the alternative is to treat workers like expendable cogs—as our prevailing production economy is designed to do—unions are about the only ones doing the right thing and treating workers like actual humans (or at least giving them the best possible treatment, given the work-or-starve coercion inherent in a civilized production economy).
There’s also a timely bit where he describes how there will be “very little commerce happening in America when the debt is due and the government shuts down!” Haha, how about that?! Of course, our most recent partial shutdown ended by kicking the debt-can down the road another six months, so we’ll likely have to go through the whole compounding Mess all over again soon enough. Also, he’s clearly operating under a civilized, limited concept of ‘commerce’. Believe me, folks on this continent were shipping useful stuff all over the place sans central government long before Whitey showed up.

Anyway, Curt’s family live on 80 acres of high desert, which it seems they’re eventually working towards making more self-sufficient and off-grid. Towards this goal, they’ve “built” a two-million-gallon lake (water supply), hooked up a 2400-watt pv solar array, and set up a 3,000-square-foot greenhouse (or at least, they’ve erected the framework). And then Curt proudly proclaims that he has thirty bug-out vehicles. Wait, what? I really hope he’s a mechanic or something. I can understand the need for redundancy, but seriously: a man, woman, and two children do not necessitate having that many vehicles. Do they even have the precious Juice to run them all? I doubt it.

And to defend the compound, he boasts of owning 30 firearms and 20,000 rounds of ammunition. Dude, it’s too late, but next time you have the opportunity to broadcast the details of your arsenal to the whole world, take a deep breath…and then, don’t.

He takes the kids out back and they all do some offhand plinking. While there’s some initial anxiety (inherent in getting a nine-year-old girl to shoot a large-caliber rifle (SKS love!)), at least he doesn’t frame it all obnoxious and tactical, and drill the idea that they’re ‘gonna hafta shoot marauders one day’ into the poor girl’s head—it’s simply good skill practice in the backyard.

Curt is apparently very proud of his family compound’s isolation out in the sticks—he considers “not being near anybody one of your greatest defenses”—yeah, if you’re a deluded lone-wolf. If you were part of a community of self-reliant-but-connected (y’know, in the interest of ‘commerce’) families, that isolation would be a major weakness.

There’s a section where he gets a welding buddy to help him make a steel shield to block off the stairs inside their house. Note to producers: you lost an opportunity for more ratings—you could’ve shot at it first! And while we’re not sure how they plan to implement said shield (complete with peepholes and shotgun port), Curt spells out the reasoning behind it loud and clear—to keep people from “getting into my home and taking my Stuff!

Naturally, since we live in a Juice-guzzling, automobile-fetishizing culture and this show loves to pander to the lowest common denominator, a big chunk of this segment is concerned with souping up Curt’s old Bronco into a homemade tank “to survive doomsday roads”. I don’t get it—if everyone else is out of gas, who do they think they’ll have to outrun?

Anyway, they add a couple tons of steel plates, pipes, and a cowcatcher—so I think we can safely assume the vehicle’s fuel economy is now measured in gallons per mile?
Once the rig is finished, they just have to test it out, so they decide to replicate a typical driving situation in their hypothetical doomsday, by making a ‘roadblock’ (pile of burning shipping pallets). The armored truck easily plows through, kicks up some sparks, and everybody hoots and hollers and congratulates each other like they just landed a man on the moon or something. Boys with their toys…
Oh, and there’s another source of drama while all this car-modifying is going on—there’s a forest fire! Everybody freaks out (because I guess they didn’t factor local natural disasters into their plans), and piles into trucks and bugs out. But the fire department gets it under control and they promptly turn around and get back to welding. For future reference, if you’re in an area at risk for large fires, perhaps consider building your survival home from a fire-resistant material (I recommend cob); additionally, think about integrating fire-breaks into your compound’s design (hopefully stopping a fire in its tracks, or else letting it pass by with minimal damage).
Which brings me to woodlands, our country’s management of them…and the application via analogy of one to the other.
When I read articles on the effects of climate change, there’s always a mention of ‘increased likelihood of major forest fires’. Usually the author suggests such fires will result from severe droughts, but as long as we’re talking anthropogenic environmental damage, why does nobody ever bring up Smokey Bear? But what could possibly be wrong with that beloved pants-wearing, shovel-wielding ursine USFS propaganda-mouthpiece, you might ask? Simply this: the success of Smokey’s staunch anti-forest/wild-fire campaign (and Disney’s Bambi, for that matter) has resulted not in healthier forests, but in the conversion of woodlands (especially those Out West) into massive tinderboxes, by successfully applying a human moral code to natural processes, labeling forest fires as ‘bad’, and teaching impressionable younglings that they are to be prevented at all costs. In truth, these ecosystems evolved to rely on periodic burningsto remove undergrowth, enrich soil, and actually ‘activate’ certain kinds of coniferous seeds. By preventing regular burning (itself a key element in the economies and livelihoods of many successful, sustainable indigenous American cultures) from taking place, the Smokey campaign allowed scrub, undergrowth, and dead trees (a.k.a. FUEL) to build up, waiting for lightning or a clueless hiker to ignite it. The addition of climate-change-amplified drought and increased wind patterns into the equation simply means that the inevitable firestorms will be all that more intense.

Ready for the fun part? May I direct you to Chris Hedge’s latest missive, cleverly pointing out that the American/Corporatcrat system (although his position is completely applicable to the larger Western/Capitalist/Civilized matrix) currently takes the form of an unburned tinderbox. And like the woodlands of pre-Contact America, periodic burnings are required to ensure the health of the forest. The only question that remains is this: where will the spark come from?

Doomsday Preppers: Rodney Dial

I had really hoped Doomsday Preppers had jumped the shark after their mini-season, but alas.
And so…they’re back. Can we really be surprised this show—loathsome parade of swagger and dick-measuring that it is—got picked up for a third season? When ratings (=profit$) are involved, of course not!
Because I really do have better things to do, until I see someone on this show doing really good things (y’know, demonstrating positive, life-affirming attitudes, progressive thinking, and real solutions—in other words, the polar opposite of what I think we’re in for this season), I’m gonna try and keep these commentaries short.
S03E01(‘Take Back the Country!’) opens with Rodney Dial of Ketchikan, Alaska.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentHe’s worried about “a major earthquake in the Alaska area”, which would likely result in a large tsunami. This is not entirely irrational, seeing how he’s right on the Pacific Ring of Fire.

As we’ve come to expect by this point, Rodney couches his fears using the same worn-out Survivalist mantra of ‘after three days without groceries, people go crazy!’. But don’t worry, because he also believes that “after a tsunami, only those who know how to live off the land would survive”.
Of course this sequence is intercut with a bunch of stock footage of rioting crowds in urban centers, which really clashes when juxtaposed against Ketchikan’s “quiet fishing village”. Seriously, with the right pre-disaster attitude, a small-ish town (Ketchikan is only about 8,000 people) stands a way better chance (compared to a major metropolis) of actually becoming a real community and coming together for mutual support in the event of a disaster!

Rodney apparently has “20 years of military experience”, so you know what that means—he’s all about black tactical crap, big talk, and showing off! Oh, and he runs a tattoo parlor.
Apparently, he’s dropped $100k on his wholly misguided ‘preps’—these include a 5,000-gallon grain-bin-as-rain-barrel (cool idea, but how watertight would that be?) and only six months’ worth of food storage (for a family of three), but don’t worry, he has a tank! (clearly used as mobile advertising for his tattoo shop):

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

boys and their toys…*eyeroll*

Our narrator points out Rodney’s battlewagon is designed “to establish authority”—in other words, let folks know you’re the one holding power over their lives. This, of course, has been the policy of every Younger Culture military from Uruk up to Amerika: flaunt all the life-destroying goodies you’ve made, to keep the citizenry in line and make sure they know who’s in charge.
Rodney’s teenage daughter thinks dad’s tank is “kind of embarrassing”, and I have to agree—seriously, couldn’t he have just bought a red convertible like all the other mid-life crisis dads?

There’s a bit where Rodney goes scubadiving for sea cucumbers for the family to eat. “They’re everywhere here!” he says, which I’m pretty sure is exactly what they said about Atlantic cod, bluefin tuna, and the American bison. Thankfully, as soon as Rodney says that, a caption pops up, mirroring my thoughts—letting us know that overharvesting of sea cucumbers is strictly regulated. Of course, such in-system sanctions do nothing to combat the deeper, more insidious implications: this Man helps himself to these organisms because he has been taught by his culture that he is superior to them, and so he can continue to exploit them, giving nothing back, until they are gone. This is the pattern of our civilization.

About half of Rodney’s segment is wrapped up with his delusion of making underwater supply tube-caches to keep goodies out of the hands of his lawless neighbors. There’s some drama resulting from forcing a typical teenage girl to do something she doesn’t want to (she gets a piece of metal in her eye; she gets better), meh. They weld up these steel tubes and drop them out in the ocean (hope they don’t rust in the saltwater!), because if they can’t have supplies, nobody can! (or…something). Apparently, while they don’t want to rely on a boat (which could be lost in our hypothetical tsunami) to retrieve their caches, they do want to rely on terrestrial landmarks like trees? I got news for ya, dude—if your tsunami does go down, the landscape’s gonna look pretty different.
At least he has a cool improvised tank-free diving setup, using an innertube, compressor and battery.

Oh, and of course: to keep us watching, it looks like they’re cutting each show’s segments together, so unlike in previous seasons, we don’t just get a 15-minute block of JoeBob, then a block of BobbyJoe. This of course gives the producers more opportunities for dramatic cutaways. Ugh.

Aaannnd…it also looks like they’ve done away with season two’s ‘expert assessment’ scores? We still have an ‘assessment’ section, but it’s not quantitative: it’s mostly just the narrator telling our subjects ‘good job on buying enough stuff to make you feel ‘prepared’; now think about how you’re going to refill those foodbuckets’.