Friday, February 15, 2013

Real Bushcraft is about becoming Self Sufficient

It’s amazing how nowadays nearly everything gets corrupted by consumerism.  Nothing is spared.  Take the field of bushcraft, for example.  If anything relates to self-sufficiency, independence, and on not relying on manufactured goods then it ought to be bushcraft.  Taken to its primal level, bushcraft is at the very least Neolithic in practice.  But looking at many of the “bushcraft” sites on the Internet and it quickly becomes apparent that what most people today call bushcraft is more a combination of “end of the world” survivalism and “flee to the woods and live off the land” fantasy.  Mixed in with all of that is a nearly endless focus on consumerism.  Bushcraft sites are an interminable array of product reviews and “what I want to buy next” excess.  Now if someone wants a boat, three cars, a plane, a big house, fancy jewelry, expensive furniture and so on then that’s their problem.  And, in fact, that can become a negative when people are no longer able to live their lives without obsessing about how they are viewed by others or without placating the quick psychological fixes offered by compulsive buying.  I know a fellow, for example, who buys both impulsively and compulsively.  It’s a rush for him.  It makes him feel good.  But the high lasts only momentarily so he’s off again to repeat the cycle of accumulating “things” to lift him from the doldrums he’s created for himself.  Does he see it?  Does he understand it?  No, not one bit.  He is oblivious to his lifestyle of self-indulgence, transient ecstasy and then intense let down.  Like so many he has never learned how to bring happiness into his own life by learning to appreciate those things that arrive for free and by becoming more self-sufficient.

Now enters the world of bushcraft.  In its purest form, bushcraft is about living modestly within a natural environment.  It is about understanding the relationship between the biotic and abiotic world in such a way as to create a lifestyle that is neither self-indulgent nor is it destructive.  At 7.5 billion and growing the world’s population no longer allows for a rampant and hedonistic obliteration of the planet.  But we’re doing it anyway.  In fact, an entire class of people has sprung up who insist that progressing to a level where we no longer rape the land, where we live frugally, where we strive to be less self-indulgent is a bad thing.  These people insist on same-old, same-old.  They are not interested in acting responsibly nor are they concerned with prudent behavior.  But even those who might want to steer their lives in another direction are met head on by the realities of living surrounded by an autodiocentric (self-god-centered) society.  It envelops us sometimes literally.  Your nylon tents, titanium drinking cups, state-of-the-art camping stoves, plastic water bottles, unbelievably-incredible-stainless steel knives and the like are the products of intense destruction, expensive transportation, and ultimately a drain on both resources and the environment.  No great favor is accomplished if instead of cutting a small branch to use as a walking stick you drive to a store, buy a collapsible aluminum cane and then proudly claim you are safeguarding nature in the process.  A branch taken from a proximate setting is nearly infinitely more conservative as it relates to saving the land than an aluminum walking stick that resulted after mining, manufacturing, transportation and much pollution.  The knife you made from a used mill file or old leaf spring or discarded machete is a recycled item built onsite to be used in the immediate area.  Compare that to the knife you buy at any store.  The selfbow and arrows made by collecting a branch (that is the product of careful coppicing) is nature-conservation at a profoundly deep level especially when compared to the compound or fiberglass bow or the graphite arrows or aluminum framed crossbow.  The same applies to any fiberglass stocked, steel alloy etc. firearm.

Of course, we’re all guilty of this excess.  But at least we can begin to strive to be less destructive.  Even a moderate approach towards self-sufficiency is a step in the right direction.  The lady who grows her own garden; the man who knits his own sweaters (we’re not going to be sexist here, folks); the persons who make their own knives; the people who hunt with selfbows and arrows they made themselves; the family that raises their own chickens; the list is extensive and can effectively cover just about everything.

But it’s not easy.  You have to drive to work.  I have to drive into town to get supplies—that just so happen to have come from far away.  We have to use electricity to cook meals and maybe heat the house.  We no longer have the time to make our own clothing so we have to buy it instead.  Yes, the entire system is predicated on intense consumption that comes at the expense of our lands and water.  But maybe we can all take a few steps to curve this predicament we’ve created for ourselves.  I heard about a young fellow and his wife who both insist on buying only used clothing.  They have the income to do otherwise but they have made a conscious choice in their lifestyles.  I think the first thing was getting past the frivolity of feeling the need to impress others.  Maybe our attitudes about how we view the important things in life need to change.  What was considered “cool” might now be considered “lame.”  What was thought of as a picture of “achievement” might now be looked at as a representation of “insecurity.”  But you know what folks: If we don’t start changing our attitudes then things are going to force us to change.  In the end a hyper-consumptive, hedonistic society implodes.  We poison everything around us.  We annihilate the land.  We encourage criminality.  We blindside ourselves to our own self-destructive actions.  I saw where this preacher, for example, lives in a gated community in a mansion and drives a limousine.  This guy is pompous and incredibly vain it seems.  And then once or twice a week he stands on a pulpit dressed in thousand dollar suits and wearing two-hundred dollar shoes and waxes eloquently about a fellow who was essentially homeless, who wore sandals, who dressed modestly, who lived an austere lifestyle, who said things like “blessed are the poor” and “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to...etc.”  You know, in a sense this contemplative fellow was a sort of bushcrafter in his own right.  Hmmm, makes me think.