Posts Tagged ‘Leavers’

Doomsday Preppers: Joe and Wendy

This season’s next-to-last episode finishes up with a look at the Kansas homestead of Joe & Wendy.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentUnlike the rest of the one-name-only folks on the show (whose full names can be dug up in about five seconds), these guys have a minimal web footprint, and so while I only know their last name through personal correspondence, I’ll be maintaining their privacy in this post. If you really want to get ahold of them, the contact form at their website should get you a pretty quick reply.

I have to admit, when I found the barebones description of this profile a few weeks ago—“Joe is a nonconformist living in the backwoods of Kansas who has given up on modern life”—I was ridiculously excited. Personally, as a similar Kantuckee-backwoods-nonconformist who struggles daily with notions of integrating postpostmodern digital life and Luddite-primitivism, this down-to-earth guy is right up my alley.

Before we even see the family, our ever-dramatic narrator poses a number of very important questions with larger implications, but if I focus on those I’d never get to Joe! Best save them for a later essay in the off-season.

Joe’s purported single-issue in the segment is the “loss of the electrical grid, which will cause the breakdown of society, and change modern life as we know it”; and so we’re supposed to believe that Joe dragged his family out to the country because of a “fear of solar flares” which is some major BS. As Joe told me, “There’s any number of scenarios that could result in disaster – read the handwriting on the wall.”

The truth is, Joe had been ‘living the life’ our culture tells us we’re supposed to aspire to—house on a lake, working six days a week, with lots of ‘fancy toys’ but no time to enjoy oneself. At the same time, Joe began to take an interest in health and “what you put in your body”. This led him to learn about growing his own food and, having been inspired by the late Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living (a book which he credits with “making [an off-grid lifestyle] seem possible”), Joe used the fair chunk of change he’d made from almost seventeen years of laying fine wood floors to buy their rural property.

In order to keep their only debt their monthly land payment, they built their 1,000-square-foot strawbale home themselves for $10,000, (something which—even though it’s the first one we’ve seen on this show—NatGeo disappointedly neglected to point out).
Their home has no TV, so I’m sure most of the viewing audience is wondering what the family uses to switch off their brains and medicate themselves with mindless infotoxin every evening? Instead, they have lots of musical instruments, and spend a lot of time jamming!

In general, Joe and his family seek a happy medium between primitive and modern.
Despite their home being super-insulated, the summers in Kansas can still be pretty unbearable, so the house utilizes the ambient ground temperature for cooling, with a neat system I’d never seen before, in which pipes are buried several feet underground, running at a slight angle up to the house. This allows air to cool before small fans pull it inside the house. These fans—and their other handful of small appliances—are all powered by a 480-watt photovoltaic solar array.

Joe and the girls take a bath outdoors, which, if you haven’t tried it, is just about the only way. I’ve never done a cast-iron-tub-with-fire-underneath bath like they do—mostly because of the fine line between taking a bath, and being simmered. However, in the summer I do bathe almost exclusively outdoors. I lay a large piece of plexiglass or a whole windowpane over a tin tub in the north yard, and in a sunny hour or two the water is hot! Laying a full, coiled garden hose in the sun is perfect for rinsing. A 50-gallon plastic drum (what folks normally use for rain barrels) painted flat black on a raised platform makes a dandy shower-tower.

While their bathtub fire is burning, a caption reminds us that wood ash can be also be used as a soil additive, which is true. Also, if you pour water through hardwood ashes, you can make some very potent homemade lye! This comes in handy for making oldtime soap (as Joe and Wendy do), leather, lutefisk, hominy, &c.

As proper homesteaders, the family does its’ best to grow as much of their food as possible—in fact, Joe expects they will be able to produce 100% of their grains this year with their two-acre garden plot of rich, black riverbottom soil. In addition to growing most of their vegetables, they also have an orchard of young trees and berry bushes that will ensure a harvest of fresh fruits. All of this can be stored in the awesome rootcellar (unseen on the broadcast, of course; as he put it, “All the footage they actually used was the worst stuff!”).
In fact, about the only foodstuffs they still buy are things they can’t grow in their climate: bananas, sugar, and coffee. They also keep a nice variety of livestock, including a Jersey cow for milk, fourteen dairy goats (the ultimate survival animal), plus a number of chickens. Between all those critters and meat donations from hunting relatives, the family hasn’t had to buy meat in years (“and we probably wouldn’t eat what’s in the supermarket, anyway,” Joe said).

What the show tries to spin as a ‘bugout drill with no supplies’ is just a nature walk; as Joe explained it, “We’re already bugged out!” If they ever had to ‘bug out’, you can bet things were really bad everywhere. In other words, “It’s beyond prepping once you’re actually living it.”

The idea of a lifestyle that ensures that should a disaster go down, you wouldn’t notice much of a change is one with which I’m fully on-board. Of course, as we see, it requires a radical amount of lifestyle change, more than most fully-domesticated folks are probably willing to try. However, the rewards are infinite; physical and mental health are only the beginning. For what it’s worth, Joe and Wendy’s decision to home-school their girls in their environment is only natural, and probably comes pretty close to the way humans evolved to learn.
Personally, I’d suggest first cultivating ‘off-grid’ as a mindset first, and then as a lifestyle. But for any folks interested in shifting towards this kind of life, Joe suggests the best thing to do (besides taking a workshop with him, of course!) is to jump right in and “just start Doing.”

In their assessment, Practical Preppers point out that Joe has apparently made no preparations for security/defense, which—instead of meaning something like, ‘think about growing a living fence around your land’—as always, really means ‘think about acquiring the skills and tools to facilitate the easy elimination of life’. Although he doesn’t brag and show them off (like all the Type I preppers do), as a self-respecting homesteader Joes does have firearms. However, he explains that they “don’t want to make killing people our life’s focus; we want to be different.”
Right-on/Word./Fucking A, man.

The experts give them 70 points for twelve months’ survival—although Joe told me they were told their score was 78 points during filming. Furthermore, while they did submit a post-filming update, for some reason NatGeo didn’t air it, either. Hey guys, what gives?


Doomsday Preppers: Snake Blocker

With the last couple of episodes, I’ve started to notice a trend of each episode only focusing on two groups (compared to the usual three per episode last season). And instead of splitting each episode cleanly down the middle, the segments have been coming out a little uneven – in fact, this segment received only about a third of the time devoted to the Seven Trumpet crowd.
This episode’s second individual is one Snake Blocker, jack-of-many trades currently operating from around Denver, Colorado.
snake-blockerHe’s of Apache descent, and seems pretty in touch with that side of himself, which is good to see. Too often modern Native Americans get lured in—and ground down—by the call of White culture. Nice to see Snake’s kept his head.
As our narrator introduces him, we hear how he always tries to emulate his ancestors’ ways of life, and uphold their traditions. Apparently this includes interpreting dreams and prophecies, which leads him to conclude that the US economy is bound for collapse. Wait, he had to interpret his dreams to deduce that? Hell, I know it’s assured, and I’ve never had an economic dream (tons of dreams about air- and spacecraft falling out of the sky, though, for what it’s worth). I’m sure his Apache forebears could’ve told him the same, based purely on observations of our culture’s counter-to-the-laws-of-ecology foundation of infinite expansion in a finite world.
Of course, when it comes to holding onto your ancestors’ lifeways, it’s pretty tough to get by on hunting-and-gathering in the impoverished ecosystem this culture has left in its wake. Then again, when your ancestral lands are stolen by a genocidal culture who believes Their way is the only right way for people to live, what do you expect?

Snake’s biggest motivator—and challenge—is his new wife Melissa. He wants to be able to provide for her in any contingency, but isn’t sure if she’ll be able to ‘rough it’ when the time comes.
And Snake has a novel strategy of survival, one this bunkers-and-guns-heavy show rarely features: when things go south, he plans on grabbing his partner, hopping on his motorcycle, and going nomad.
(While I agree with his reasons for choosing a motorcycle—primarily the ease of navigating congested roads—it’s important to remember that a bicycle has the same advantage, is only like, 1/10th the weight, and requires zero fossil fuels).
So to put themselves to the test, Snake and Melissa head for the hills, where they’ll try out some survival skills to see if they’re up to the challenge.
First up is staying hydrated. They come across some stagnant puddles, which they drink using some of those third-world-water filter straws. I like the idea of having a disposable way to suck water directly out of the source, but they have their disadvantages too. First of these is capacity—each straw is only rated to filter something like, twenty gallons. Second, they’re based off that ‘activated carbon’ stuff, which I’m pretty sure don’t handle the two big guys when it comes to dirty water—giardia and cryptosporidium. To take care of those, you’re better off boiling water, or passing it through a heavy-duty Katadyn filter or the like. Actually, the Lifestraw is probably the optimum for short-term outings (what with its’ 1,000 gallon capacity, ability to filter the important critters, and light weight).
There’s a shot of Snake trying to swish water from the puddle into the narrow neck of what I swear is a Red Stripe bottle. Ideally, you’re better off with a wide-mouth bottle, but if you don’t have one, an empty ziplock-type bag—or a condom, in a pinch—can make a handy water-scooper.

Next challenge is staying fed. Obviously not nearly as important as water (after all, you can survive for three weeks without food but only three days without the wet stuff), but nobody likes to be out in the woods on an empty stomach. Snake finds a monstrous ant mound and digs out some six-legged snacks. He eats some of the ants, but unless you’re in an area with those honey-assed ants, I wouldn’t bother. Instead, focus on something that can’t crawl away or bite you—larvae! Ray Mears demonstrates a great way to collect larvae (get the bugs to work for you!) in his Belarus bushcraft film.

After Melissa passes on the creepy-crawlies, Snake decides to try for something more meaty, and actually shoots a nice big jackrabbit, right through the eye. Better yet, he doesn’t use some big, ugly, black plastic gun, he uses a wooden bow! Finally! Man, I really mean it when I say there’s not nearly enough archery on this show!
Like I said, there was a time when you couldn’t throw a stick west of the Mississippi without hitting a buffalo or elk or something sizeable to eat, but not anymore, so they have to make do with the rabbit. Snake skips his knife and skins the rabbit with the teeth in a coyote skull (somehow), whips up a fire with a bow-drill, and roasts the whole critter, eyes and all. And major thumbs-up on thanking the Great Spirit for the nourishment the rabbit will give them. I was kind of surprised he didn’t do it when he shot it, but he made up for it at suppertime.

With water, food, and fire taken care of, I’m disappointed they didn’t have time to tackle Shelter. Especially since the couple passed a little wikiup framework when they reached their camp, I would’ve liked to see how he made it sleepable, but alas, we run out of time. Like I said at the beginning, Snake really gets the short end of the stick in the episode, which is too bad because I would’ve liked to see more of him, particularly because folks with his kind of survival approach are criminally under-represented on this show. As he says, folks with alternate methods of supporting themselves (in other words, those who don’t have to rely on the locked-up food at the supermarket) are the ones who will really be able to survive.

In their assessment, the ‘experts’ suggest that Snake get familiar with snares and traps (they say hunting is too much work), and I’m inclined to agree. Of course, there’s no reason to keep everything primitive; you can throw a couple of large Victor traps in your pack, and a medium-sized Havahart trap on the back of the bike, and you can catch anything from packrats on up to cats!
However, despite the fact that he seems perfectly competent to handle himself in the wilderness, in the end the ‘experts’ give Snake just 48 points for four months’ initial survival (which is the second-lowest score yet).
This is just further proof that these so-called ‘experts’ are unable to objectively evaluate someone who operates under a paradigm completely different from theirs. I shouldn’t be surprised, though; I first started leaning towards this conclusion when I tried the ‘How Prepped Are You’  feature (what the experts supposedly use to calculate the scores) at the NatGeo site; clearly, the brains behind the show—victims of our culture’s myth of Progress—cannot imagine a world in which one’s odds of survival have nothing to do with how much one has stockpiled (whether of food, water, paramilitary guns, or high-tech gear).

In his update, Snake sounds like they are setting up the makings of a nice homestead at Melissa’s parent’s house.

On Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’

Happy Midsummer, everyone! Because my current gig leaves me cut off from the outside world for weeks at a time, I wasn’t able to get this posted up on the Solstice exactly, but it’s close enough. As one of the major points of the circular solar year, high summer is one of those times that’s good for sacrifices and ensuring balance in nature. And so, here’s some analysis on one of my favorite short stories.

(A full-text copy of the story can be found on the Reading Materials page. I highly recommend you read it before continuing.)

For starters, from the first time I read it I’ve always thought that The Lottery was set in Britain, not America—the term ‘village’ is rarely used on this side of the Atlantic to denote a small town—as I find it hard to believe that Americans would have maintained a sacrificial ritual for time out of mind (which is not to say that the sacrifice’s purpose isn’t filled by something like say, our wars) without an existing cultural precedent. On the other hand, Brits (and plenty of other civilized Old World groups) have been stoning, hacking, garroting, burning, and drowning people as sacrifices for time out of mind, or at least about as long as they’ve been growing food, it would seem.
So, it was a nice bit of serendipity that I first came upon Ms. Jackson’s short story right around the time Old Croghan Man and Clonycavan Man (a particularly well-preserved pair of Irish bog bodies) were discovered, and while I was starting to read Frazier’s The Golden Bough. So when my lit teacher asked, ‘what’s it all about?’, I already had Sacred Kings on the brain and could pretty easily explain agricultural-fertility ritual sacrifices. (The Lottery is not—as the teacher I was subbing for (when I started writing this back in May) had apparently taught her classes—about population control. Which is funny, because it almost could be: as a civilized agricultural society, food surplus is bound to happen, and with that comes increased population growth; more food, more people, more people, more food, rinse, repeat. It’s simple ecology, folks).

Anyway, in preparing to teaching this class, I found this question on a ‘Lottery’ study guide:
“This story satirizes a number of social issues, including the reluctance of people to reject outdated traditions, ideas, rules, laws, and practices. What kinds of traditions, practices, laws, etc. might ‘the lottery’ represent?”

Answer: at its core, the lottery represents nothing less than our culture’s most destructive, long-standing, and unquestioned practice—our civilizational experiment fueled by totalitarian agriculture, and everything that comes along with it. Yes, it might also be applicable to more recent or smaller-scale issues facing society, but look big-picture, folks; don’t expect things to change if you can’t find the bars of your cage.

In the course of the story, one character in particular spoke to me, leaping off the page and spewing ignorant bitterness and hatred for people who live differently. Here’s a good point to recommend the 1969 short adaptation of the story (featuring the film debut of a very young Ed Begley, Jr.!), because their Old Man Warner really brings the character to life. His sharp, crooked teeth and hollow black eyes combined with the extreme close-up framing his face brings something animal-like to his performance:

Pack of crazy fools,” he said. “Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work anymore, live that way for a while. Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ First thing you know, we’d all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns. There’s always been a lottery,” he added petulantly.

“Some places have already quit lotteries.” Mrs. Adams said.
“Nothing but trouble in that,” Old Man Warner said stoutly. “Pack of young fools.””

In the story, the character of Old Man Warner represents the unbroken and unexamined tradition of the lottery, and with it civilization and the ideas held by 99.9% of the population, victims of what Daniel Quinn calls ‘the Great Forgetting’.

Knowing the lottery’s purpose (an agricultural-fertility ritual sacrifice), Old Man Warner assumes that to abandon it would be to automatically return to an uncivilized state.
Furthermore, he somehow intuits that the uncivilized way of life is connected to ‘work’, or rather a lack thereof. In my experience, there seem to be two conflicting views of uncivilized life promoted by pro-civilized folks: that it is either nasty, brutish, and short, in a state of continual worry about where the food’s going to come from, or that it is the complete opposite, and that everybody just lounges around eating jerky all day. Neither is completely correct, however.

Regarding Warner’s quip about chickweed and acorns: these undomesticated foods are simply gatherable edible gifts from Mother Earth not requiring a sacrifice—unlike the civilized foods produced by man’s sweat and toil—and are therefore considered inferior by the biased Warner to the corn of the lottery. And are we surprised? Since the earliest Neolithic rumblings (only much later recorded in Genesis), agriculturalists in Our Culture have been told  that they must work, by the sweat of their brows, for their food; to get things for free—or at the very least, for minimal work—is the way of ‘lazy’ Injuns and other uncivilized folk. And even though the majority of people in our culture no longer directly work the land for their food, this notion is no less true.

To quit the lottery, as Mrs. Adams suggests, is to symbolically quit civilization—which is apparently an idea for young people, like the failed revolutionaries of the 1960s, or the OWS crowd. The big question then becomes—can you quit the lottery without going back to eating acorns?

Old Man Warner’s last lines “It’s not the way it used to be. … People ain’t the way they used to be.” further suggest that his fear of change runs to his very core. In him we see the bluepills who are—in the words of Morpheus—so inert, so hopelessly dependent that they will fight to the death to defend the only way of life they have ever known, because their culture has raised them to think, to believe, to know, that theirs—theirs and no other—is the only right way to live.

Aside from the bitterness of Old Man Warner, one other particular passage piqued my interest:
…at one time, some people remembered, there had been a recital of some sort, performed by the official of the lottery, a perfunctory. tuneless chant that had been rattled off duly each year; some people believed that the official of the lottery used to stand just so when he said or sang it, others believed that he was supposed to walk among the people, but years and years ago this part of the ritual had been allowed to lapse.”

In other words, Jackson has just described the idea of ‘priest’ in its most stripped-down form, presiding as intermediary between this world and the other. As the ritual has been forgotten over the years, the position has become secularized. As I re-read this passage, it occurred to me that having a priest officiating over the Lottery is the only difference between a murder and sacrifice.

According to an interview, Jackson’s original intent in writing the story was simply to set a violent ancient rite in the modern present to “shock the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.”
Pointless violence and general inhumanity? Sounds like a spot-on description of the modern, fast-food, disconnected-from-the-Wild-and-each-other, self-medicated-with-technology-and-mindless-violent-entertainment way of life to me.

Finally, it’s interesting to consider the fact Jackson wrote the story in 1948, on the heels of the most senselessly and incomprehensibly destructive period of civilized warfare in human history, and right at the beginning of the period that would see our civilizational experiment (and all of its side-effects) get turned up to 11.

Doomsday Preppers: Jeremy

Our next featured prepper is Jeremy, from somewhere. That’s right, no last name or location. Which means that so far, he’s either the only one smart enough to not want to broadcast his preparations to the world, or the only one who doesn’t have something to gain from appearing on the show.
This one’s pretty light on content, but hey, I can always find a jumping-off point to chip away at The Mess.
The issue he claims to be preparing for is a collapse of society resulting from peak oil. “When the pumps go dry, people won’t be able to go to work; when that happens, infrastructure starts to fail.” What’s wrong with the scenario Jeremy outlines? Here’s a good place to examine some of the issues (which are all profoundly interrelated, of course) at the heart of modern civilized life.
Because our educational system is essentially based on a prison model, its main motivation is to keep children out of the job market until graduation. Because 95% of the material taught in schools is unnecessary for real life, students graduate with no real survival skills (because when the food is under lock and key at the grocery store, you don’t need to know how to find or grow it, only how to get the green pieces of paper to buy it). If you were to take away people’s jobs—or, in the case of oil shortages, the means to travel to those jobs—they would be unable to provide for themselves, having no skills that would enable them to survive, in a system that requires money to acquire food.
This, I think, is the real motivating fear behind conventional end-of-the-world types: that a disaster will cause modern  infrastructure to collapse, resulting in waves of jobless—and therefore moneyless, homeless, and foodless—people, and the terrifying possibility that they will be among that ravenous, helpless horde would truly be the end of the world for them.
If that scenario scares the shit out of you, you’re probably pretty damn civilized. Because if you described to me someone who had no permanent home, had no money in his pockets, and no discernable occupation, I’d say it sounds a whole lot like a Neanderthal, or a nomadic Amerindian, but that could be a Bushman or a hobo just as easily. Ask a tribesman what he does for a living and he’ll look at you as if you had two heads, because tribal societies don’t differentiate life from occupation, the same way they don’t distinguish life from religion. Life is their occupation, as is their religion. And unfortunately, as the Neolithic lifestyle has continued to snowball for ten thousand years, people of Our culture have assumed that Our way is the One Right Way For People To Live, and anyone doing something different needs to be converted/reeducated/neutralized.
Fuck, man. This stuff is so completely interconnected that I have a degree in it, and I still have trouble breaking it down so that it’s palatable for the masses. Just have an open mind and read the Daniel Quinn books. Please.

Where were we? Right, Jeremy and his wife filter water to make Hot Tub Hot Chocolate, which is sure to be a favorite beverage of the post-apocalyptic world. Mmmmm!
He brings up something I’d never heard of before: getting antibiotics from the pet store for cheaper stockpiling. Apparently fish and people use the same medicines. Huh. Who knew?
Jeremy has also bought an M35 2-½-ton truck for use as a ‘bug-out vehicle’. Drives it around. Woo, burning fossil fuels for entertainment. Also, I would think that driving a big tan army truck to evacuate would just attract unwanted attention.

Something that was did surprise me during this segment: during a commercial break, there was an advert blatantly targeting preppers, for Wise Company food buckets. I’m really surprised it’s taken them until this far into the season to run this kind of ad.

Doomsday Preppers: Ed Peden

The episode wraps up with a look at another converted missile bunker on the plains of Kansas. But this time, it’s quite different than Larry Hall’s massive project. Because this bunkers’ inhabitants, Ed and Dianna Peden, are certified New Age-y, guitar-strumming, granola-munching, hippy dippies.

These two bought a decommissioned Atlas (the same kind of ICBM that shot John Glenn into history in the Mercury program) launch site for ~$40,000 in the early 1980s (which seems like a really good deal). They don’t mention it in the segment, but there’s a nice metaphor in there somewhere—considering the occupants—about converting a structure built for war to a house of peace.
For what it’s worth, Ed—a beaky, bespectacled longhair guy—reminds me so much of Michael Caine’s character in Children of Men.

Their plan when disaster strikes, is to “survive and thrive” underground. Once again, I have to wonder, What about light??? Maybe you have generators or whatever, but those are going to run dry eventually. How about fiberoptics or light-tubes? Where’s your food coming from? Is this just for short-term or long-term emergencies?

However, he wisely states that “Those who can make adjustments to the changes in optimal ways will thrive…” Or, like I’ve said before: adaptability!
Dianna suggests that maybe it’s time to “reframe what we think the American dream is.” Right-on. And maybe that shouldn’t go for just America, but every other member of Our culture too, East and West. Folks need to sit down and take a good, hard look at what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and who it’s helping or hurting.

So far, he’s the only one on this show who has brought up the inherent problem with actually being on the show; Ed’s worst case scenario—a gang of armed bikers who want in—would likely arise “because they heard we had food on TV”! However, I guess it’s worth it, because like most of the others on the show, Peden stands to profit from his appearance. In this case, he’s a broker for these missile sites.

They invite some friends over for a…bug-in jam session? Looks more like a drum circle. Which are weird. Like, I can totally get behind some Leaver tribe jamming and breakin’ it down in the jungle or at a pow-wow or whatever, but when it’s a bunch of white people, maybe trying to channel or emulate the tribal folks (even though I fully support that in theory), in execution it always comes off as phony. Someone please prove me wrong.

Anyway, according to the narrator, the ideal prepper occupations are supposed to be ER doctors (I guess to deal with all the GSWs you’ll be dealing with if you’re out to annihilate marauders), mechanics (because you can’t imagine a petrol-less lifestyle and have to maintain your engines), and professional soldiers (again, because the Taker lifestyle is at war with the world). Which are all fine if you’re a Type 1 prepper and all your food comes from hoarded buckets.
Personally, I’ve always said my big three would be farmer (organic and horticultural, of course), a doctor/healer (especially one with working knowledge of wild medicine), and probably a blacksmith (or at least someone otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts).
However, the Pedens’ team includes a ‘living foods chef’, a ‘spiritualist’, and an ‘intuitive healer’. So, a yoghurt-and-kombucha advocate, someone who’s into crystals, and someone to align their chakras? I dunno about those; I would bet and/or hope there are some gardeners and other more practical folks in the group, but the producers picked the most hippy ones to mention.

Drum circle aside, they seem like a cool group of like-minded friends. But…they’re all like, 60+ years old. Where are the swishy-skirted, dreadlocked, hula-hooping girls I always see at music festivals?

Y'know, like this?

Doomsday Preppers: Michael James Patrick Douglas

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.]
above living.

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Coming soon…

So, I was watching some program about Ötzi on the Nat’l Geo. Channel the other day* when I saw an advert for an upcoming series in February: DOOMSDAY PREPPERS!**

Ohh boy. *Eye roll* This should be fun. Granted, I’ve only seen one ad and poked around a bit on the Channel’s website, but I can already tell how the show will play out.  Obviously, based on the profiles on the site, they’re going to try to put each of these people in their own category: the survivalist party girl, the hillbilly prepper, the down-to-earth guy with too many knives in his bag.  They’ll be sure to put a big focus on Guns! guns! guns! (I’ll be curious to see if ammo! ammo! ammo!, or reloading get mentioned).  Likewise, they’re making a big deal about what specific type of scenario everybody’s ‘prepping’ for. Like, lady smiles into the camera and confidently declares ‘I’m so-and-so, and I’m hoarding silver for a global economic collapse brought on by hyperinflation!’ Except for the guy in LA who’s focused on earthquakes (which makes sense, because it’s California!), everyone else is prepping for some single event. That’s honestly pretty dumb, because in today’s world, Nothing happens in a vacuum.

What I want to know is, where’s the guy who says, “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and I’m doing this because I study anthropology and history, and watch films by George Lucas and James Cameron, and read Jared Diamond and Daniel Quinn and Tolkien, and I think our ‘civilization’ isn’t such a good thing. I’m transitioning to a radical, sustainable lifestyle for when 10,000 years of global Taker monoculture finally compounds and bites us in the ass.”

Oh, right, I forgot. I’m not on this show.

And so, because it’s 2012 now, and apparently Everyone’s getting caught up*** or cashing in**** on the whole TEOTWAWKI/Armageddon/Apocalypse/Z-Day/Mayan thing, I figured I would too.  I’ll try to make this a feature as this series airs, and report back with some hopefully-helpful-and-not-too-smug-or-snarky commentary.

*while the majority of their lineup seems to indicate their desire to become the ‘Drugs and Prison Channel’, their archeo-based specials are usually pretty well-done, and at least they didn’t suggest the iceman had anything to do with extraterrestrials, like the ‘History’ Channel would’ve done.
**Aurrrughh, I hate that word; it sounds like a teen stereotype from a high school in the future. Unfortunately, I don’t know if there’s anything better; ‘survivalist’ smacks too much of early-90s right-wing militia types. I guess ‘Prepping’ sounds more open-ended—‘preparing for’ and ‘getting ready for’ almost imply a definite nature of whatever-is-coming, or even a known timetable!
***For Christmas, one of our very sane and well-adjusted friends sent us—in addition to ‘normal’ gifts—a hardcover copy of Kunstler’s The Long Emergency, and several pounds of organic heirloom beans.
**** I’ve already seen Hornady ‘zombie ammunition’, Hogue ‘zombie’ pistol grips, and a Leuopold ‘zombie’ rifle scope.  I’m sure there will be much more to come.