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Category Archives: Survivalism

Return to your roots: Gardening a great solution to cope with stress of pandemic – The Independent

Posted: May 24, 2020 at 3:43 pm

It happened during World War II. It happened during the Great Recession of 2008. And its happening again as millions hunker down amid the economic and social deep-freeze of the COVID-19 era.

Nothing else spurs people to reach for spades and seeds like a crisis.

As America joined the war in Europe some 80 years ago, citizens were encouraged to grow Victory Gardens as a morale booster and as a bulwark against possible food shortages brought on by the growing conflict. Now, for reasons that are eerily similar, theyre turning over soil in their backyards to plant what many are calling pandemic gardens.

Even with the social-distancing restrictions that have made selling vegetable starts, flowers and supplies a chore, Were rockin, says Jack Sumner, longtime proprietor of Highland Farm on Tower Hill Road. Were doing double what we normally do.

Sumner sees two big drivers behind the uptick in demand not just for mainstream gardening supplies, but also landscaping. The first that comes to mind is plain boredom, he says.

For much of the last two months, people basically havent been able to go anywhere. Until May 9, the state had been under a general stay-at-home order. Restaurants have been shuttered except for take-out, delivery and curbside pickup. All but essential retail stores were either forced to close or operate under painful limitations, including for a time flower and garden shops.

People stay home, theyve got nothing to do, says Sumner. So theyre beautifying their yards.

Sumner says some of the most popular items are compost and raised bed mix which indicates to him that folks have been doing their homework about how to start a successful garden. Its all about the getting the soil in good shape. Healthy, nutrient-rich soil is the foundation of everything that happens later.

Its not all veggies, either. Sumner and other garden shops say theyre doing a brisk business in the heavy-duty stuff of landscaping loam, mulch and other raw materials as folks with time on their hands tackle the big jobs. And delivery is more important than ever as Highland Farm and other nurseries maintain compliance with Gov. Gina Raimondos social-distancing and mandatory face-mask directives.

Its masks up over here, he says.

But Sumner says the latest installment of Americas return to the soil isnt just a response to pandemic-induced boredom. Like the fears of food-rationing that fueled the proliferation of Victory Gardens during World War II, deeper concerns about the strength of the food supply have become a catalyst for people to grow some of their own.

All it takes to stoke the whiff of worry is a trip to the supermarket. Major stores are restricting customers to no more than two packages of meat as outbreaks of COVID-19 at some of the nations biggest meat-processing facilities have crimped supply pipelines. Staples like flour and many kinds of fresh produce are often in short supply.

People are getting nervous, says Sumner. I just think people are getting into, Wheres your next head of lettuce coming from?

Julie Gammino Carberry agrees. Shes the administrator of Rhode Island Backyard Gardeners, a Facebook group for hobby gardeners thats seen a spike in new membership during the last few weeks.

I probably have had as many requests for new members just in the last month or two than I had in the entire three years that the group has been around, said

Gammino Carberry. The group is definitely growing. People are looking to add gardening to their repertoire of things theyre doing.

Most of the chatter on Rhode Island Backyard Gardeners is from people looking for tips and advice on how to grow tomatoes, squash and other vegetables. COVID-19 has done nothing to change that.

But Gammino Carberry detects a current of concern among members thats more akin to Facebook groups devoted to survivalism and homesteading.

Theres quite a bit of talk about potential food shortages, she says. I think theres a slight concern in the back of some peoples minds that in the event there is a food shortage, maybe I can grow some of my own food and sustain my family in that way.

More members are swapping seeds than they used to, too, which Gammino Carberry thinks is another indication that members arent just talking about gardening theyre doing it.

It might also be because theyre having trouble getting seeds through to the catalog vendors.

Some were so swamped with orders in late March and April that they stopped taking new ones, essentially suspending operations. Washington-based Territorial Seeds, for example, told customers that it wouldnt accept any more orders until it had processed its backlog.

More recently the company announced that it was taking orders again and would attempt to continue doing so, but it warned customers to be ready for the unexpected.

As we move forward, its unknown to us what the order volume will be, Territorial President Tom Johns told customers. If we find ourselves getting uncomfortably behind in shipping, we may need to cease taking new orders for short periods to focus solely on shipping existing orders.

Of course, the business of gardening got its last big boost during around 2009, when the financial meltdown that caused what came to be known as the Great Recession resulted in mass unemployment and Americans grew concerned about stretching their food budgets. With more than 30 million Americans presently unemployed as a result of COVID-19, a figure that will probably worsen before it improves, food insecurity will likely remain a significant driver of garden-related merchandising for some time.

But some see another factor that has nothing to do with scarcity, fiscal strain or boredom thats been propping up interest in gardening for years, and which is likely to continue to do so long after the pandemic fades into the background whenever that is.

Amid a proliferation of GMO foods, fuzzy guidelines about labeling and supermarket shelves jammed with processed products, the self-tended backyard plot may be one of the last places where folks can find something they know is fresh, natural and healthy.

A backyard gardener is the ultimate locavore in the plot-to-plate movement.

People have been doing that for years, said Wendy Godfrin of Clark Farms in Matunuck. Thats been trending. Its one way to save money and also to know what youre putting on the table.

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Return to your roots: Gardening a great solution to cope with stress of pandemic - The Independent

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Else Blangsted, Who Fled the Nazis and Found a Hollywood Ending, Dies at 99 – The New York Times

Posted: at 3:43 pm

Else Blangsted, who fled Nazi Germany as a teenager believing she had given birth to a stillborn child, then built a career as a leading music editor on Hollywood films, died on May 1 in Los Angeles. She was 99.

Her death was confirmed by her cousin Deborah Oppenheimer, an Oscar-winning producer.

For more than 30 years Ms. Blangsted played a major part in shaping how movie music was heard, through her work on features like The Color Purple, Tootsie and On Golden Pond.

She broke down film scripts to show composers precisely where to place parts of their scores, in dialogue or action, and for exactly how long. She was the composers representative throughout the recording sessions.

The information that came from her was crucial, Dave Grusin, the Oscar-winning composer who was Ms. Blangsteds collaborator on Tootsie and many other films, said in a phone interview. I knew what I was doing was working if she said I was on the right track.

But music editing is an unsung profession. Music editors do not receive Academy Awards, as film and sound editors do. When Mr. Grusin won an Oscar for his score for The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), Ms. Blangsted, his editor on the film, went unrecognized.

Her only major industry honor was the 2006 life achievement award from the Motion Picture Sound Editors, an industry group. In written remarks read at the ceremony, Robert Redford, who directed two of the films Ms. Blangsted worked on, Milagro and Ordinary People, said she had the mind of an artist and the soul of a saint.

But even as Ms. Blangsted had established her reputation as a creative and outspoken partner to composers, the story of her child was about to enter a new chapter.

Else Siegel was born on May 22, 1920, in Wrzburg, Germany. Her father, Siegmund, was a horse trader, and her mother, Lilly (Oppenheimer) Siegel, was a homemaker, with whom Else had a difficult relationship. In a profile in The New Yorker in 1988, she said her mother had subjected her to a life of misdemeanors, punishments and a lack of forgiveness.

When she was 15, she began dating Eric Seelig, then 24. She soon after became pregnant. She told no one. With the Nuremberg Laws restricting where Jews like her could attend school, her family sent her to a Jewish boarding school in Switzerland. It was September 1936.

By January 1937, when she was seven months pregnant, the tightness of her corset was causing her to faint. Desperate and ashamed, she tried to kill herself by lying on a snowy hill near the school, hoping to freeze to death.

She was found hours later, her lower legs frostbitten. Her secret was out.

She went into labor in early March. They used chloroform in those days, and I passed out and came to and I must have said, Is it a boy or a girl? and they put the mask back on, she said in an interview for a documentary about her, Looking for Else (2007).

Later, I demanded: Where is the baby? I need somebody to take the milk.

There is no baby, a nurse told her. The baby is dead.

Else thought she had killed her baby by keeping the corset too tight. But her family, ashamed of her behavior and fearful of Nazi repression, had lied to her and sent the baby girl to a nursery, where a German-Swiss couple adopted her.

Knowing nothing of the deception, Else returned to Wrzburg and in August boarded a luxury liner for New York City. After arriving alone, she headed to Los Angeles, where a sponsor family put her in touch with a local rabbi, who found her work as a maid and later as a nanny for Warner LeRoy, the son of the prolific director and producer Mervyn LeRoy. At 17, she had made her Hollywood connection.

But it was a modest tie at best. Mervyn LeRoy was married to Doris Warner, a daughter of Harry Warner, one of the founders of the Warner Bros. studio, and after a year as a nanny Else eventually found work as a seamstress there.

But she was lonely. She wrote to Eric, who was living in Argentina, and asked that he marry her. They wed in 1940 and had a daughter, Erica Seelig, four years later. They later divorced.

Her jobs continued: She was a wardrobe woman, helping actresses look their best in their costumes; an actress in a small role in the Cecil B. DeMille film Samson and Delilah; and a waxer, who protected film emulsions.

She was hired as a music editor at a postproduction house in 1960; her only credentials were being able to read music and play the piano and guitar. That led to work at Paramount and Columbia.

Her reputation was building. Her importance to me was not only her portfolio, but her charisma, her sense of authority, her humility and her survivalism, said the musician and composer Van Dyke Parks, who co-wrote the music for the 1978 comic western Goin South, starring and directed by Jack Nicholson. Ms. Blangsted did the music editing for that film.

Then one day in 1984, she got a call from an aunt who had read an advertisement in Aufbau, a journal for German-speaking Jews. Her daughter was not only alive, but also wanted to meet her, the aunt said. The daughter, who went by Lily Kopitopoulos, was 47 and living in Switzerland.

Ms. Blangsted tracked down her number and called.

This is your mama, she said, according to The New Yorker. Forgive me. The nurse told me you were dead.

When they finally met, it was the end of drama, the end of shame, the end of accusations, the end of migraines, Ms. Blangsted said in Looking for Else.

Their reunion included trips to each others homes and several years in which Ms. Blangsted moved to Switzerland to be near Ms. Kopitopoulos. They drifted apart after about 20 years, during which one of Ms. Kopitopouloss sons, Sandy, directed Looking for Else, with Daniel Maurer.

In addition to her daughters and grandson, Ms. Blangsted is survived by another grandson and two great-grandchildren. She married Folmar Blangsted, the Danish-born film editor of A Star Is Born (1954), in 1960; he died in 1982.

Ms. Blangsted, a witty person known for her frequent laughter, had many actor friends, including Lee J. Cobb, Gregory Peck, James Cromwell and Mr. Moore. She met Mr. Moore, the star of Six Weeks (1982) as well as the composer of its score, when he was already working with a music editor. The director, Tony Bill, wanted him to meet Ms. Blangsted.

After watching the film together, she recalled in a 2011 profile of her in Patch, a local news website, I said to him, You have two and a half minutes to make up your mind that I will be your music editor. I went away. Came back and he nodded his head, very definitely.

They remained friends until 2002, when, as he lay dying, she called to read him Dickens over the phone.

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Else Blangsted, Who Fled the Nazis and Found a Hollywood Ending, Dies at 99 - The New York Times

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Inside ultra-luxurious disaster survival kits where super-rich can pay 4k for night vision goggles and posh – The Sun

Posted: at 3:42 pm

PREPPERS have been infamous for their tin foil hat theories and apocalyptic paranoia since time immemorial.

But now that a terrifying pandemic is our daily reality, being prepared for the worst doesn't seem so silly after all and wealthy celebs are buying into the idea with super-stylish survival kits.

Those used to leading lives of luxury want to make sure they can get through doomsday in style.

That's why there's now a whole industry catering to mega-rich stars worried about the apocalypse.

For a few thousand quid, you can get night vision goggles that come in a bag monogrammed with your own initials.

Kim Kardashian shared a selfie of herself with a survival kit back in February, writing "I travel prepared".

And billionaires worried about civilisation breaking down are currently snapping up five-star nuclear blast-proof bunkers fitted with wine cellars and swimming pools.

But even lowly millionaires might be more inclined to take survivalism seriously after their Beverly Hills homes burned in wildfires and their New York penthouses have been shuttered in lockdown.

Here's a look at the luxury survival kits offering the great and good a stylish solution for getting through armageddon.

For those seeking Kardashian-endorsed survival glamour, look no further than Judy.

Created by Simon Huck, a celebrity PR whiz, Judy is a survival kit company whose products have cropped up in the Instagram accounts of the Kardashians.

The firm offers a range of kits that have been flying off the shelves since the start of the pandemic.

The emergency Judy packs are designed in bright orange and range in price from 49 to 204.

Designed to help one person survive for 24 hours, the company's smallest kit is called The Starter (49).

The bum bag contains a first aid kit, a poncho, a water pouch, a blanket, a phone charger, a whistle, glow sticks, and nutrition bars.

But for those feeling more flush, they can get The Mover a big rucksack containing everything in The Starter, plus extras like a dust mask, biohazard bag, and of course hand sanitiser.

"The Starter and the Mover sold out in the first three weeks they went on sale," Huck told The Times.

"A lot of millennials bought Judys for their parents."

But if you're looking to stylishly survive with your loved ones, you can splash out on The Safe for 204.

Designed to support four people for 72 hours, the big box of survival goodies has everything included in The Mover, plus candles, a hand-cranked radio, and waterproof matches.

"The foundations of all emergency kits are food, water and first aid," Huck added.

Having the foundations of a survival kit is one thing having the most suped up kit money can buy is another.

For a mere 4,116, you can get yourself The Prepster Ultra Advanced Fireproof Emergency Bag.

As the name suggests, the bag is made with a special flame-retardant material used in firefighting suits.

And it can be monogrammed with your initials so you don't mix it up with anyone else's four-grand survival kit when the apocalypse comes.

Each bag, made by Preppi, contains practical necessities like a Garmin satellite messenger and SOS locator beacon, a night vision scope, a solar panel, and an emergency charging kit.

It also holds a water purifier, a Leatherman black carbon steel multitool, and a comprehensive first aid kit.

But it also affords its well-healed owners a few luxuries including premium chocolate and a poker set.

Preppi says the Prepster Ultra Advanced provides "ample luxe comforts" for two people that will sustain nutrition, hydration, power, and communication.

Everything you could ever need, really, for when the aliens invade.

If the apocalypse turns out to be zombies rather than aliens, one company has you covered, provided you're in the US.

OpticsPlanet put together its specialist ZERO kit Zombie Extermination, Research and Operations for those determined to make it through doomsday.

For just 16,207, the company will ship you everything you need to fend off the flesh-eating undead and the equipment to find a cure.

"When the undead hordes rise from their shallow graves to wreak havoc on all decent civilisation, you'll need to both fight back (Extermination), and find a cure (Research)," OpticsPlanet says.

The pricey kit includes a zombie knife, a thermal imaging camera, and gun attachments like shotgun torches and red dot sites to spruce up your personal arsenal.

It also includes a "Battle Mug" which, as well as being an indestructible drinking vessel, doubles up as a blunt-force weapon.

But what really sets the ZERO kit apart is its inclusion of lab equipment so you can pass time in the apocalypse working on a cure for the zombie virus.

It comes with a microscope, pipettes and beakers to aid your world-saving research efforts assuming you have any idea what you're doing.

For those who aren't looking for a fight, there's now a huge industry of luxurious survival shelters for the uber-wealthy.

A far cry from the dingy Anderson Shelters of the Blitz, billionaires are now snapping up subterranean luxury bunkers that boast swimming pools, tram systems, and even wine cellars.

Some, like the Oppidum in the Czech Republic, will even include a spa for their billionaire buyers but they're going fast.

Despite costing at least $1.5million, all of the units in a converted nuclear missile silo at the Survival Condo in Kansas have already sold out.

"Your father or grandfather's bunker was not very comfortable," Robert Vicino, the CEO of high-end shelter company Vivos, told CNN.

"They were grey. They were metal, like a ship or something military. And the truth is mankind cannot survive long-term in such a Spartan, bleak environment."

Vivos XPoint bunkers in South Dakota are made from repurposed military munitions depots costing up to 160,000 and could one day be home to 5,000 survivalists.

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The firm also offers a "modern day Noah's Ark", in a former Cold War-era ammunition storage facility in Germany.

This particular shelter includes its own tram network to transport residents to the bunker's restaurants, cinema and games rooms.

"We have all the comforts of home, but also the comforts that you expect when you leave your home," Robert added.

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Inside ultra-luxurious disaster survival kits where super-rich can pay 4k for night vision goggles and posh - The Sun

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Far More Valuable Than a Stockpile of Food and Money – Investment U

Posted: May 19, 2020 at 5:41 pm

Financial Freedom

By Joel Salatin

Originally posted May 19, 2020 on Manward Press

Editors Note: Exciting news Joels latest book is available for pre-order! Called Beyond Labels, the book confronts the biggest issues in Americas food supply and shows how easy it can be to take charge of your own health one bite at a time. The ideas, evidence and takeaways from this book have the power to reshape Americas declining health. Click here to pre-order today.

I remember like yesterday the conversations and conundrums surrounding Y2K. Pundits were all over the map, from Nothing will happen to Were going to be living in caves and whittling cooking utensils with pocketknives.

Sorting out the proper response occupied hours of reading, seeking, praying and late-night discussions.

Back in Y2K, the issue was internet failure, grid failure, microchip failure. It was a technology malfunction that would bring the world crashing down to something resembling the 1940s.

Today, the issue is not really COVID-19; its a complete collapse of what some call the Everything Bubble.

We all follow certain thinkers who earn our respect because they have a track record of good decisions. One of my guys says the pandemic enabled governments that were bankrupt to blame something else for economic collapse. Its the perfect scapegoat.

Whether it was contrived or not, it certainly bailed out our spendthrift politicians from having to own their financial chaos.

Most wise people realize by now that the pandemics issue is not sickness; its money.

It begs the question If by December were in postapocalyptic times, what will you do?

Too Late

Last week I spent an hour on the phone with two bright, middle-aged couples who were looking for the proper survival response to a cultural cataclysm.

The husbands in both of these couples were ex-military and believed things would be dire over the next few years. Their question: What is our best avenue to create security for our families during cultural chaos and collapse?

Steeped in survival lore, they looked first at hermit mountain man strategies.

The word survivalist conjures up the thought of a lone existence sequestered in a cave or cabin in a remote wilderness living on edible wild plants and backwoods cunning. Deadfall traps, cordage made from sinew and clothes made from buckskin this life certainly has an appeal, especially for introverts or people who have been abused and hold a strong distrust of neighbors.

The problem with this scenario is that it requires massive amounts of self-reliance skills. You dont just step out of your computer job and know how to set a deadfall trap to successfully kill a rabbit.

And you have to figure out where youre going to go to survive. People who create survival podcasts and YouTube presentations eat, drink and sleep survival techniques. And they do it for a long time.

If you wait for things to start collapsing before you head for the hills, youre too late. Youll never learn the skills fast enough to survive.

If this is your option, you have to do it now, way ahead of the collapse. But almost no one is willing to do that. Were all enamored by the skills these survival gurus have, but few of us are willing to spend the years building to that mastery. For a lot of reasons, this survival trajectory is simply not practical.

Whats the other option?

Invest in Connections

Its on the opposite end of the spectrum, what I call communal survivalism.

In that scenario, you invest in relationships. Ive always said Id like to be Amish without the costume. If you surround yourself with an eclectic blend of expertise, youll collectively have the knowledge and skills to weather the chaos.

That is something you can do without actually jumping off a cliff. It will take time, to be sure, but it can be cultivated while youre still enjoying the benefits of a quasi-functional culture.

Im not talking about a cult; Im talking about something far more basic than an insurance policy and far more long-lived than a stockpile of food.

Interestingly, in the last couple of years Ive helped several people find property near us as a bunker for hard times. Some moved here and some didnt. They realized that our farm, with its low carbon footprint and our team that can grow, build, and fix things, is as secure as just about anything. And so they bought land nearby that we manage for them while securing a haven in case of ground zero.

I have no idea if the monetary system will collapse or if savings will be wiped out. I do know that realtors report skyrocketing interest in rural properties right now. But nobody is listing because of uncertainty.

The properties listed prior to the pandemic are on the market and not being taken off. But no new ones are coming on yet. They will once the dust settles a bit.

Building Your Fort

In times of uncertainty, people head to the fort. In todays world, the fort is not a physical stockade; its a knowledge and skill stockade. The physical part is simply a land base with resources to support the people occupying the property.

Goals for preparing, then, revolve around land, expertise and as much independence as possible.

When people start talking about not being able to get electricity or not being able to buy gasoline and grain, they must realize that in such a postapocalyptic world, we wont be techno cherry-picking. Well be eating herbivores and growing seed-saved vegetables, and society will be in complete breakdown.

Thats an extreme scenario and probably wont happen.

But hiccups in supermarket supplies are quite likely. Hiccups in your 401(k) are certainly possible. Restrictions to commerce, nationalization of business and other key disruptions could happen.

The pandemic has awakened a new sense of urgency for personal security in uncertain times.

But rather than casting off from society and heading for the hills, I suggest a more prudent and practical course of action is to develop a relationship with a place and an outfit, or community, that exhibits principles of resilience. That investment might yield a better return.

Like what youre reading? Let us know your thoughts here.

Joel Salatin calls himself a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer. With a room full of debate trophies from high school and college days, 12 published books, and a thriving multigenerational family farm, he draws on a lifetime of food, farming and fantasy to entertain and inspire audiences around the world. Hes as comfortable moving cows in a pasture as he is addressing Fortune 500 CEOs at a Wall Street business conference. A fierce defender of personal freedom and choice, he brings an unorthodox viewpoint that readers of Manward Digest cant get enough of.

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Far More Valuable Than a Stockpile of Food and Money - Investment U

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Eat this Now (Because You Have to): Terrible Homemade Bread – Kansas City Pitch

Posted: May 15, 2020 at 8:47 pm

Photo by April Fleming

Making bread at home conjures romantic images of flour-dusted aprons and satisfying bready smells wafting through the house. You have the stuffflour, water, even a little bit of much-prized yeast thats been sitting around for probably years since the last time you tried this. You mix, you knead (or turn the task over to a mixer), rise, and stick it into the oven. You are awesome. You are excellent at endless stay-at-home survivalism. It even looks like halfway decent breadand you did it yourself!

Then you cut into it oh. Thats why we dont do this. Girl, this bread is DENSE. Gummy. Thick. Gluey. Tasteless. Gross. It is plain bad, but it will (probably) get eaten, somewhat miserably. Half will go to the dog. Gratefully, there are still bakers out there doing their thing, and thats where you (I) will go next time. Ibis Bakery, the king of KC breadmakers, is offering curbside at Black Dog Coffee and at Messenger Cafe. Farm to Market, also excellent, is available both at grocery stores and via their website, and if youre so motivated, you can pick up James Beard-nominated Taylor Petrahns bread at 1900 Barker in Lawrence if you order online. Go with theirs. It is much better than yours. Yours sucks.

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Survivor Is the Quintessential TV Show – The Ringer

Posted: at 8:47 pm

With Survivor: Winners at War coming to an end and the series 20th anniversary (20th!) just weeks away, theres no better time than now to honor the revolutionary reality TV competition. Welcome to Survivor Week, a celebration of the shows best moments and characters.

Curiously, Survivor doesnt claim to be a part of the genre it helped to invent. Producer Mark Burnett, who spent four years peddling the concept for the show alongside partner Charlie Parsons before finally finding a buyer in CBS, has long claimed his signature product isnt realityits unscripted drama. The latter term is more flattering to figures like Burnett, making visible their efforts to manipulate real peoples actions into a narrative just as satisfying as any fictional construct. Unfortunately, its just not as catchy.

Its almost too easy to commemorate Survivor on the eve of its 20th anniversary, in the midst of its 40th (winners-only) season. Not only did Survivor premiere at the start of a new decade, one its format and tropes would come to define; it arrived at the start of a new millennium, making its titanic influence even easier to peg to, and conflate with, a historical inflection point. Then, unfortunately, theres the matter of Burnett himself, whose future hits would include Shark Tank, The Voice, and most consequentially, The Apprentice, a seed planted when Survivor shot its fourth season finale at the Donald Trumpowned Wollman Rink in New Yorks Central Park. Survivor leads to The Apprentice leads to Trump as nationally recognized public figure leads to Trump as president leads to America in 2020. My work here is done.

But Survivors impact isnt as neat as a world-historical domino chain set off by an entrepreneur from East London. In its comfortable middle age, Survivor has settled from record-setting smashsome 52 million people watched its first-season finale, a figure that amounted to more than a sixth of the U.S. population at the timeinto dependable background noise. The current season is averaging around 7 million viewers an episode, itself an all-star-assisted boost from a steady audience in the 6 million range throughout Season 39. Those numbers are impressive by 2020 standards, especially for broadcast TV, but theyre on a different scale from the eye-popping omnipresence of the early aughts. Then again, even if Survivor the strategic competition is no longer a piece of monoculture, Survivor the concept still is, and will remain so permanently.

When Survivor does break through into the zeitgeist, it tends to be for controversies uncannily reflective of the national mood. In 2017, one contestant outed another as transgender during a tribal council, a move that was swiftly condemned and then guided into a teachable moment; last year, Survivor took the unprecedented step of ejecting a competitor off camera for repeated non-consensual touching. There are notable distinctions between the two events: the first was carefully managed, with the participation of outed player Zeke Smith, into a demonstration of Survivors enlightened stance on trans issues; the more recent controversy spun out to engulf Survivor itself, prompting questions as to why Dan Spilo was sent home after another contestant whod been a target of the nonconsensual touching outlined his behavior on camera. Both, however, occurred as transgender rights and sexual harassment in the workplace had escalated into subjects of widespread concern.

Survivor is so integrated into the fabric of American culture its become an extension of the society it helped to shape. You cant talk about America without talking about television; you cant talk about television without talking about reality, which long ago crossed over from novelty to fact of life; and you cant talk about reality without talking about Survivor, which showed how much resonance and profit there was to be found in the field. Imitators were inevitable, and arrived in such numbers that they now make up a substantial share of modern-day programming.

Survivor remains highly specific in its structure and terminology, a chess game thats grown only more intricate in strategy as cast members and audience members alike grow more savvy to how it can play out. Yet the idea sprang from a simple, infinitely applicable insight from Burnett, which he laid out in his 2001 book Survivor II: The Field Guide. Burnetts main takeaway from his production debut Eco-Challenge, an Amazing Race prototype that ran on multiple networks from 1995 to 2002, was that team dynamics and interpersonal skills mattered more than any other attribute. Therein lies the blueprint for all of realitysorry, unscripted drama. The context is almost immaterial, and at the very least highly versatile. What matters are the personalities and the chemistry, preferably friction, between them.

The list of concepts popularized by Survivor doubles as a list of what viewers have been trained to understand as the stylistic trademarks of unscripted, and sometimes scripted-deliberately-invoking-unscripted, TV. One-on-one testimonials where cast members add context and conflicting perspectives to previously recorded footage. Villains who arent here to make friends. (Relatedly, iconic catchphrases that make villains into memes.) Action thats massaged after the fact so that it more neatly fits an agreed-upon story line. One-time gotcha moments, like Burnetts admission that some scenes from Season 1 were reshot, would sink like a stone with contemporary viewers who now take for granted that their entertainment is far more mediated than not.

Its possible many, if not most, of these conventions would have been arrived at independently if Survivor had never made it to air. The show hardly arrived into a vacuum, building on vital precedents like The Real World; the director of the recent documentary Spaceship Earth compared Survivor to the media frenzy around the 90s curiosity Biosphere 2, both inviting everyday people to gawk at the physical feats involved in living off the land. (Latter-day Survivor is less focused on, well, survivalism, but let us not forget the age of Fear Factor.)

Nevertheless, Survivor is the obvious ancestor of not just every competitive reality show with one elimination per week, but every show thats learned to shape lay people into memorable characters. That means The Bachelor and its many spinoffs, plus unofficial ones like Love Is Blind. It means Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. It means Project Runway and its flashier new sibling Making the Cut. It means 30 Rocks MILF Island, which would presumably look something like Love Island or Too Hot to Handle. Producers can swap out the setting, the skill set, or the socioeconomic stratum at hand. What they almost never do, because they know better, is mess with the framework. When a show like Netflixs Dating Around or Showtimes Couples Therapy does something as simple as drop the testimonials, its a pointed and profound statement about what its not trying to be: like every other reality show, and therefore Survivor.

Survivors influence is so vast its almost impossible to see, like a fish swimming in crystal-clear tropical water. Burnetts preferred terminology may not have caught on, but his understanding of what reality TV truly is has. Mass audiences dont tune in for a documentary, like PBSs foundational American Family, and never have. They flock to unscripted TV for, well, the drama, with unprofessional actors not so much mitigating the artificiality as giving their peers at home a natural way in. At Survivors inception, it was common for contemporary critics like Times James Poniewozik to hand-wring about the overall message that life is an elimination contest, promoting the suffering, the mean-spiritedness, the humiliation of getting voted off the island as a cultural value. Twenty years later, Survivors impact is at once higher-stakes (the White House) and more benign (Survivor fans would be the first to tell you the game is not real life) than that. And Poniewozik, now at The New York Times, is still covering the show.

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Documentary shows life in the ‘Biosphere’ wasn’t out of this world – Arlington Catholic Herald

Posted: at 8:47 pm

NEW YORK With a stronger point of view, the documentary"Spaceship Earth" (Neon), might have pointed out that its subject,the two-year experiment called Biosphere 2, never came close to producinganything in the way of enduring knowledge. Instead, it was a lot of ballyhooabetted by sedulous and decidedly incurious news coverage.

Another way of looking at such a documentary during a time ofsheltering in place might be: "And you think you're bickering? How aboutgetting locked into a gigantic greenhouse with strangers for two years, withpeople paying to gawk at you as though you were a zoo animal?"

Stressful, that.

The early 1990s come off like a quaint prelapsarian age beforethe internet democratized scholarship and when news came exclusively fromnetwork TV and print outlets. If a billionaire decided to fund a140,000-square-foot sealed conservatory, it was treated with all the solemnityof a space shuttle launch.

And if, as unlikely as it seems, someone managed to attract sevenothers willing to have themselves locked away there and could get them tomention that the place would be a combination of Noah's Ark and the Garden ofEden, all the better.

Director Matt Wolf does the best he can with archival film, andhis interviewees include John Allen, the sometimes-playwright who led theexperiment, and a few of its "crew" members, many of whom saw Allenas a benevolent father figure. None appear to be angry or bitter about theexperience.

Viewers don't derive much knowledge of science from the film,other than the observation that its rigor requires experiments that can beduplicated under identical conditions. Meaning that another group would havehad to lock themselves up for two years again.

Allen, a charismatic graduate of the Colorado School of Mineswith a Harvard business degree, had a burgeoning interest in sustainablefarming and ecology. He also had a knack for finding the financing for hisventures, which included an oceangoing exploration ship, the Heraclitus, and aself-sustaining commune in New Mexico, the Synergia Ranch.

His avocation was penning avant-garde plays under the nom deplume Johnny Dolphin, and some of his devoted followers were drawn from hiscasts.

Crew member Linda Leigh, a botanist, says the group "was amagnetic center. It just kind of pulled me in." She's also heard in arecording talking to her therapist: "I have a personal relationship withevery single plant."

Another member, Roy Wolford, was a doctor in his late 60s whopromoted the belief that very low caloric intake could help you live to 120.(Wolford would die at 79.)

The publicized notion of Biosphere 2 was that it was a prototypeof how a Mars settlement that generated its own oxygen might work. But therewere also dark hints of survivalism and the belief, common during the Cold Waryears, that Western civilization could collapse, and biospheres would be theonly way for a small elite to live in the aftermath of nuclear war.

Built north of Tucson, Arizona, the $150 million facility wasfinanced by Texas oil billionaire Edward P. Bass. It exists still, operated bythe University of Arizona as an environmental lab.

And what a utopia it was meant to be, with a manmade rain forestand savannah, a tiny ocean and a small farm with goats and chickens. It wasalso intended to be a showcase of water and nutrient recycling, and oxygenthrough photosynthesis, with 64 separate projects.

But it never worked as intended. As an ecological entertainment,certainly. As science, no.

The plant life never produced enough oxygen for humanself-sufficiency, and carbon-dioxide levels grew so high that a scrubber had tobe installed. Crew members feared brain damage and suffocation as a result.Wolford, moreover, was stretching out the low-cal meals, making everyone cranky.

No surprise, then, that there was intense bickering over farmchores, and the inhabitants sole pleasure became the making of banana wine,although they never had sugar.

The facility went into receivership in 1994 before the Universityof Arizona took it over.

Many viewers might see a lesson here in the folly of sealingyourself off, rather than encouraging activities and government policymaking toimprove the environment of the planet called Biosphere 1 here we all sharealready.

But "Spaceship Earth" is more a chronicle of spectacle.It's also a reminder that the 1990s may have been stranger than we usuallyrecall.

A single expletive and oblique references to drug use make thefilm unsuitable for kids. But they are unlikely to be interested in its subjectmatter anyway.

For streaming information go to:

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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I didn’t think a pandemic would bring out the domestic goddess in me –

Posted: May 11, 2020 at 11:03 am

Cooking feels like a form of self-care; setting aside time to do something good for yourself (Picture: Ella Byworth for

Several years ago I hatched survival plans in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

Plan A was variable, dependent on the zombies walking speed. Plan B was conceived as a backup in case they could swim.

Both involved staying put for a long period of time, save for trips to forage at an abandoned supermarket.

Now that Im living a semi-dystopian lifestyle due to lockdown, I find that survival involves far less chainsaw action than I imagined and rather a lot more baking powder.

Who knew that survivalism would bring out the domestic goddess within me?

I say goddess with a pinch of salt, which, as it turns out, is not akin to a tablespoon when measuring out ingredients.

Salty lemon drizzle cake is upsetting, but not as upsetting as eating the whole thing anyway because you live alone and you spent all your food money on a bag of flour, which is now a rarer commodity than gold.

No one ate banana bread before March battered and browning bananas belonged in the bin. Yet our post-lockdown selves wouldnt dream of being so wasteful.

Instead, we go out and buy all the other required ingredients so that they can rot in our cupboards for the next three years instead.

We tell ourselves were simply being economical as we jump up and down to crush the pile of cardboard boxes weve accrued from all our Amazon Prime deliveries.

Although learning to bake certainly makes me feel more practical during lockdown, its actually useless because the supermarket shelves are full of baked goods.

Learning to make toilet roll or hand sanitiser would have been far a more productive use of time.

There are, however, benefits to baking that extend beyond the enjoyment of sugar and fat.

I find it calming; meditative, almost. Ive always struggled to get on board with traditional methods of meditation such as yoga or breath-work.

Sitting quiet and still for a prolonged period of time is my idea of hell, but having to measure out quantities of ingredients and make things with my hands has a calming effect on my psyche.

Before lockdown, I didnt bake and I rarely cooked. The fast pace of life in London meant that I would skip breakfast, grab a sandwich for lunch and more than likely go out for dinner.

It burnt a hole in my wallet, but I knew that doing a big shop would only lead to food waste as I rarely knew when I would be at home to cook it.

When the takeaways were taken away, I turned to actual recipes to spice up my diet.

Cooking feels like a form of self-care; setting aside time to do something good for yourself.

I used to scoff at people who spent so much time and effort in making the perfect dish when, in my mind, it all ends up in the toilet anyway but now I get it.

Cooking a meal from scratch makes me feel good. I dont know if that stems from some primal gatherer instinct imprinted in my XX chromosomes, or if its the lingering effects of 1950s housewife stereotype.

When men (as they so often do) accuse me of being a bitter feminist, I now agree with them. Yes, Im bitter. Im bitter that due to my firmly held principles I cant just stay home and ferment dough all day while the bloke Ive married goes out to work to earn it.

Call me a bad feminist, but I would probably be content just cooking and baking for the rest of my life if it werent for all the washing up that follows.

Forget the pill, the dishwasher gets my vote for the most feminist invention known to woman.

I live alone and spend at least an hour a day washing the pots, so I dread to think how wrinklythe hands of parents in quarantine are.

As much as I feel like I am settling down into a traditional gender role during lockdown, I have also smashed the stereotype in equal measure.

I fixed an alternator with my bare hands this week, something I would have usually called upon a man in my life to come and sort.

In lockdown, I have found the confidence to tackle household tasks that I previously thought myself incapable of sorting.

Once you realise that your partner/brother/father is just as clueless about reattaching an alternator belt as you are, but they just have that inbuilt masculine confidence to give it a go youre an unstoppable woman.

I hope that when lockdown is eventually lifted, I continue with my newly discovered confidence at domestic life.

If the zombies do come, Ill be armed with plenty of home baked baguettes. Lets pray they have a gluten intolerance.

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How to avoid the end times – The Japan Times

Posted: March 24, 2020 at 5:56 am

New York It feels like the end times. A mysterious invisible killer stocks the land. Wild rumors abound. The government is useless. Theres no sense that anyone knows anything, much less is in charge. Could the United States become a failed state?

Yes, but not yet. Yes, but not because of the new coronavirus. Late-stage capitalism will ultimately destroy the current sociopolitical governmental system, not COVID-19. A vaccine will come online either later this year or early next year; that will be the beginning of the end of this scourge. Before then, many if not most Americans will have contracted the disease and recovered from it. Businesses will reopen. People will go back to work. The stock market will resume its climb.

In the meantime, many of us are wondering: how would/will we survive in an apocalyptic scenario without a somewhat benevolent government to run things?

I have good news: It is possible. Not easy. Not fun. But it can be done. I know because I have seen it. For decades Afghanistan was the epitome of a failed state, a nation whose government is no longer able or willing to supply essential services to its citizens. The 1978 CIA-backed overthrow of a Russian-supported regime prompted the Soviet invasion of the 1980s, which was followed after withdrawal by a brutal, grinding civil war partly resolved by the victory of the Taliban in 1996. They ruled until 2001 but didnt built much infrastructure before being themselves driven out of power by the U.S. after 9/11. I was there under the Taliban, long before the U.S. and NATO began reconstruction in the mid-2000s.

Afghans were utterly dependent on themselves. Not only did the Taliban government fail to provide services like mail delivery and garbage collection, the Taliban made peoples lives miserable through arbitrary edicts and a psychotic religious police force that beat Afghans in the streets willy-nilly.

Try to imagine, if you can, what it would be like to live in a country that didnt have a single inch of paved road, just muddy ruts. No one has a phone. There are no newspapers. Radios and televisions are banned, which is fine because you have no electricity and no stations are broadcasting.

Inside your house, theres no running water. You have to walk to a communal well if you are lucky enough to have one nearby that isnt polluted. Theres a good chance that a local thug controls the well and forces you to pay for water. It gets blazing hot in the summer, but theres no air conditioning. Its freezing cold in the winter but theres no heat. You could burn some wood but you cant find any because everyone has already chopped down all the trees.

Under the Taliban you cant send your daughter to school. But you cant send your son either because there probably isnt a local school at all. No one has work as we know it. You exchange odd jobs in a 100 percent unemployment economy where cash has stopped circulating; everything relies on barter.

There is a certain freedom. Without a public records office you dont need a deed to move into an empty house. But of course you cant sell it if you leave. Theres no department of motor vehicles so if somehow do you acquire a car you can drive it regardless of your age. On the other hand, if someone steals it, theres no police to report it to. If you did get that car, you probably would only want to drive it around your neighborhood. If you tried to drive to a different town, you would almost certainly be robbed and killed.

Sounds like it would be impossible to survive, right? But millions of Afghans did. Some of them even had children. Life went on. How? Its almost unfathomable for us Americans, so accustomed to our creature comforts, to imagine.

Not that they could have afforded to anyway, but Afghans did not hoard. Situations in which survival is precarious require you to be nimble. That includes being able to pack up and leave at a moments notice. If you manage to accumulate some possessions, you want something highly portable: cash (in Afghanistan, that meant dollars), jewelry, gemstones. A years worth of toilet paper weighs you down.

I have met more than my fair share of survivalists in the U.S. Typically their instinct is to hunker down on a remote plot of land, stockpile weapons and supplies, fortify a perimeter and arm up to fend off potential marauders. They are foolish. When the crap hits the fan, the best armed man will not be able to fight off a dozen invaders. Its smarter to pack up and go if your area turns into a battle zone.

What you really need to stock up on are two items: personal relationships and IQ points. Both make the difference between life and death. Good friends welcome one other into their homes. If one home is lost, they can squeeze together into a second one. A good friend might have a skill or a possession that you might need they can stitch a wound or drive you somewhere in their car.

You make yourself useful in a failed state exactly the opposite of how you do in ours. In the U.S. in 2020, it pays to have excellent skills in one or two areas, to be the best at what you do in your specialty. Not in Afghanistan in 2000. Dangerous places work best for people with a wide variety of skills. Learn to do a lot of things fairly well. Shoot a gun, drive a car, cook, sew. Translate a foreign language, ride a motorcycle, fish, hunt. You can sell those skills to people who dont have them.

Most of all, stay sharp and think nimbly. Hone your instincts. Watch for changes that might affect you and the people you care about. Prepare to drop everything you are doing at a seconds notice and take off if need be. We are all descended from people who lived this way. Those who didnt died. Survival is in your DNA.

I dont think youll need raw survivalism for the coronavirus apocalypse. But its worth keeping in the back of your mind.

Ted Rall is a political cartoonist and writer.

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Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon? (Part Two) – CounterPunch

Posted: February 27, 2020 at 1:16 am

(Part Two of Three)

An interview withPeter Harrison by GYRUS.

The late French anthropologist Pierre Clastres seems to be a big influence on your work, and I was interested to gather from your work that he seems to be influencing quite a bit of recent anthropology. His theories are a kind of subversion of the usual Hobbes vs. Rousseau dynamic, in that he valorises pre-state societiesbecauseof their penchant for violence since he believes the structure of their violence resists the consolidation of power by a State, and thus preserves autonomy. How did his theories impact your thinking?

I have only read Clastres in very recent years but his work is pivotal to the perspectives I attempt to elaborate in the book. I am not sure that his writing is yet having an influence on modern anthropology in general terms, but it is significant that the Brazilian anthropologist, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, not only makes clear the key concepts that emerge from Clastres ethnology but has also endorsed Clastres rejection of the teleology of exchange as the basis of all human societal interaction something that was, of course, effectively inaugurated by Marcel Mauss (which is evident if one follows Claude Lvi-Strauss elaborations rather than David Graebers attempt to escape the notion of the immature exchange relationship as the motor of pre-State human behaviour in his gamble on the critique of debt). The archaeologist Severin Fowles, has also, following Clastres, explored the centrifugal logic that appears to lie at the heart of primitive society through his studies of violence in Puebloan societies.

It is by examining Clastres understanding of the violence in primitive society that I have also been able to provide a perspective on the feud in non-State societies that abandons the summoning up of motives derived from the perspectives of economics and exchange, and which also abandons the notion that all societies must operate under the premise of social control. All these perspectives economics (survivalism), exchange, and social control are part of our modern-day logos and they are relentlessly and crudely employed to understand all other social forms and peculiarities. So, scholars as varied as Fernand Braudel, Christopher Boehm, William Miller, and Yuval Noah Harari, feel able to use their modern Sherlock Holmesian magnifying glass to explain the motivations of non-State peoples from their own perspective of exchange, trade, social control, and human nature with no awareness, I contend, that their magnifying glass only reveals to them the human story they are able to see. This does not mean that I am claiming to understand how non-State societies work, this is something I stress as being impossible. But I am claiming that if one takes the actual words and actions of non-State peoples seriously (as Viveiros de Castro does, for example), along with generating an awareness of how the way we live today impacts our view on everything, then there is the possibility of recognising that in other societies other things are going on.

But we can extend Clastres observations of the centrifugality of primitive society, in which dependence in any shape or form, or at any level, is anathema, into an investigation into the problematic that exists within the interconnecting discourses of freedom, universality, and peace. What Clastres tells us, in perhaps a roundabout way, is that all political phenomena since the emergence of the State must always, if become reality, be made manifest as methods for managing the population and that this necessary management naturally and unavoidably denies independence and what we understand as freedom. What I do with this vertiginous insight is to then simply reveal the impossibility of removing the State form in a mass society. This has implications for all political tendencies that claim to offer a way to dispense with the State and/or to institute a realm of freedom, as Marx terms it.

Have you found holes in Clastres model of pre-State societies relying on violence and feuding to keep social units small? Without suggesting that any particular form of contemporary foraging life is necessarily typical of early human life, Clastres case studies were in the Amazon, and cultures there can have very different dynamics to those in other areas, e.g. Inuit, San, or Hadza. Clastres seemed to make no effort to correlate his Amazonian findings with wider ethnography, which seems myopic for generating general theories. Also, what do you make ofDavid Graeber and David Wengrows recent proposition, that seasonal gatherings played a crucial role in the origins of hierarchy?

No, I havent found holes as such in Clastres intuitions in regard to the position of violence, feuding, or war in non-State societies. What I have found is support for his conjectures in the work of diverse anthropologists who do not usually intend to promote such conclusions, or who leave significant questions hanging in the air, such as the question of why tribal rivalries are the last primitive predisposition that generates heat in certain Indigenous communities.

Perhaps if Clastres had lived longer he would have searched for and found evidence for his theories in studies of other societies. I have, of course, recklessly extrapolated his theory across the gamut of non-State societies across the world but, for me, in general, his perspective holds.

In regard to the work of David Graeber and David Wengrow, that you mention, I tend to think three things. Firstly, that there is an assumption based on radical Enlightenment thinking as we have inherited it in the West, particularly as expressed in the idea of communism (or radical democracy, as the French economist and activist, Frdric Lordon, terms it), that it is possible for a mass society to operate on the basis of egalitarianism and individual freedom. Secondly, that there is a deep desire amongst these types of scholars to find justification for their radical democratic views in past social organisation. Thirdly, that if one tries to use the categories of egalitarianism or freedom as descriptors for social organisation in non-State societies one is immediately skewing what those societies may actually be like in favour of the promotion of a teleological bias or political agenda.

This is where, for example, the very fine thinker and anthropologist R. Brian Ferguson takes a dubious route, I think, in his objection to Steven Pinkers Hobbesian judgement of non-State peoples (see Pinkers book,The Better Angels of Our Nature). Ferguson cant accept the violence of non-State societies, and therefore cant connect this to their autonomy and independence, because to do so would be to destabilise his (leftist) argument that it is the State that prevents peace and the universalising of good will (following, and adapting, Rousseau).

In fact, the State does facilitate peace through its strategy of assuming the monopoly of violence, as Max Weber indicated. It is interesting that most leftists around the world will currently be favourably comparing countries with strict gun laws to the present situation in the USA where, for historical reasons, the US government has never apparently quite understood the benefits for a State in more properly disarming the population.

Graeber and Wengrow, whose paper was presented in the same year as Brian Haydens similarly-themed book,The Power of Feasts: From Prehistory to the Present, but extended and published the following year, occupies the same territory in regard to pondering the origin of the State as did tienne de La Botie nearly 500 years ago. La Botie described the establishment of the State as a misfortune caused by the phenomenon of tyrants or gangs taking control of society (by force or deception) that was then normalised by the population as it, slowly or quickly, accepted this new state of affairs. That is: the masses, ultimately, voluntarily,frustratingly and annoyingly, subjected themselves to servitude.

These are the twin myths that underlie radical leftist political discourse, or perhaps theexistential angstat its core. The first one is that bad people gained control over others (or at least that unchecked power corrupts), at some point in the past, inaugurating a tradition of hierarchy and domination. The second one is that the retarded, or false, consciousness of the masses does not allow them to see that they contribute voluntarily to the misery that envelops their lives.

The radical leftist strategy to escape this situation is, therefore, to replace the government, or dispense with it, and to simultaneously or at a later date awaken the consciousnesses of the entirety of the masses.

On the other hand, in reference to how the State began and what Wengrow, Graeber, and Hayden propose, Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari, following and extending Clastres intuitions, have suggested that there is no evolution of the State and no one thing, such as fire, or the scattering of seeds, or the invention of pottery, or feasting, or the settlement of an alluvial valley, that initiates the inexorable rise of the State. Instead, they further deepen the mystery, but in another direction, by claiming that the State was always already there. This is how they rationalise that societies that wereagainst the State, in Clastres terms, could exist when there was no discernible State in the area. This is also why, in their conception, the State was able to appear all at once and fully armed.

But their solution to the question of the State is more a provocation than a simplification. The problem, as I see it, is that too much hocus pocus is being invested into what the Stateactually is. So much so, that the notion of the State becomes a mystery like the mystery of God. My proposal is that the State is simply the natural (necessarily managerial) solution to the fact of a large population which is why, for example, the Russian Revolution, irrespective of whether it was a communist or a capitalist phenomenon, became what it always had to be: a managerial solution. The mystery, which is now, under these terms, much more prosaic than the mystery of the origin of the State, is simply how populations got too large.

But there is a spanner in the works of my argument concerning mass society, as I indicate in the book, and it is found in the example of atalhyk as it has been interpreted by archaeology. This, apparently, was a large settlement of perhaps up to 8,000 people at its height that existed for up to a thousand years, from about 6,500 BC, that yields no evidence in the archaeological record of any form of hierarchy. The phenomenon of atalhyk is not only viewed as an egalitarian society by modern scholars, it is also viewed as a warless one. But this makes me wonder about the motivations of the interpreters of atalhyk. It is possible that atalhyk might be used as a practical, historical example of the modern concepts of egalitarianism and individualism as it has been used in the recent past in support of the claimed virtues of matriarchal society in order to gain leverage within, and for radical democratic discourse. If atalhyk is to be used as a proposal for moving present society forward, or as an example of how we might fix our problems, then it must be suspected that atalhyk is being misunderstood, fabricated even, for employment within a modern political agenda.

Drawing on Eduardo Kohns work, you describe capitalism as the most effective system for rendering us soul blind. Could you outline this concept, as something from indigenous cultures which has relevance for understanding the modern world? I found the perspectivism here to haveinteresting resonancewith psychologist James Hillmans use of the word soul.

Marx identified the concept of alienation as being a separation, or estrangement, from ones labour. And for Marx the consistent ability to labour, to work purposefully and consciously, as opposed to instinctively, towards apre-imaginedgoal, was the trait that distinguished humans from other animals. This means also that humans are able to be persuaded to work creatively, with vigour and passion, for the goals of others, or for some higher goal than the maintenance of daily survival. As long as they are able see some tiny benefit for themselves, which might be service to a higher cause, or even just simple survival, since working for the goal of others may be the only means of obtaining food. So, Marxs definition of alienation was more specific than an existential definition because it specified labour as the defining human characteristic. But he was also aware that the general conditions of capitalism made this alienation more acute and that this escalated estrangement of humans from immediately meaningful daily activity led to a sense of being a stranger in ones own world, and not only for the working class. This estrangement (I want to writetranger-ment, to reference Camus, but this is not a word) afflicted all classes, even those classes that seemed to benefit from class society, since capitalism had, even by his own time, gained an autonomy of its own. Life is as meaningless [or better: as anti-human] for a cleaner as it is for the head of a large corporation. This is why Marx stated that all people under capitalism were proletarian.

When I discovered the idea of soul blindness in Eduardo Kohns book,How Forests Think, I was struck by it as another useful way of understanding the idea of alienation. The concept of soul blindness, as used by the Runa people described by Kohn, seems to me to be related to the widespread Indigenous view of the recently deceased as aimless and dangerous beings who must be treated with great care and respect after their passing to prevent them wreaking havoc on the living. In Kohns interpretation, to be soul blind is to have reached the terminus of selfhood, and this terminus can be reached while still alive, when one loses ones sense of self through illness or despair, or even when one just drifts off into an unfocussed daze, or, more profoundly, sinks into an indifference similar to to reference Camus again that described by the character Meursault, inLEtranger.

There are some accounts of Indigenous people first encountering white people in which the white people are initially seen as ghosts, one is recorded by Lvi-Strauss for Vanuatu. Another is embedded in the popular Aboriginal history of the area I live in. On first contact the white people are immediately considered to be some kind of ghost because of their white skin. This may have something to do with practice of preserving the bodies of the dead. This involves scraping off the top layer of skin which, apparently, makes the body white. This practice is described by the anthropologist, Atholl Chase, in his reminisces of Cape York. But for me there is more to the defining of the white intruders as ghosts because of their white skin. These foreigners also act as if they are soul blind. They are like machines, working for a cause that is external to them. For the Indigenous people these strangers do not seem to have soul: they are unpredictable; dangerous; they dont know who they are.

But it is the anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro who, I think, connects most clearly to the work of James Hillman on the notion of the soul. James Hillman uses the term soul but he does not mean a Christian soul and he is not ultimately meaning the mind. For him the soul is a form of mediation between events and the subject and, in this sense, it might be similar to Bourdieus conception of disposition. For Viveiros de Castro, A perspective is not a representation because representations are a property of the mind or spirit, whereas the point of view is located in the body. Thus, Amerindian philosophy, which Viveiros de Castro is here describing, perhaps prefigures Hillmans notion that soul is a perspective rather than a substance, a viewpoint towards things rather than a thing itself.

To be continued

Originally published in 2018 by Dreamflesh blog.

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