On harebrainedness

This post serves to let you all know that I haven’t actually lost it.

I decided I was going to start sleeping outside. Now, on the face of it, there seem to be several things wrong with this decision. One: People have always slept under some kind of shelter if they needed to, and I already have that exact thing – a house. Thus, I’m not really gaining a new primitive skill. I’m just, you know, sleeping outside. Two: It’s kind of weird for the neighbors, maybe. Three: Sleeping outside isn’t really a difficult skill to learn. In fact, sleeping as a rule is pretty easy to do.

Sleeping outside was more of a symbolic decision, arrived at on the spur of the moment in a slight heat of idealism when I was writing in my journal. “Bring on the primitive living skill books,” were the words I wrote; “starting tomorrow I sleep outside.” Later, I realized that that decision was more a symbolic change than anything. As such, if it’s raining, I’ll sleep inside. I might start sleeping inside again after a while, but for now, I do like it. It’s nice, if for nothing else then because I get some fresh air, and it’s also usually cooler outside than inside at night.

There are some credulous primitivists out there. I found a forum where they hang out, www.rewild.info/conversations . Several of them there have used homœopathic remedies, and one has mentioned that they have a homœopathic doctor. They talk about rewilding language. Now, all languages can express a copula (something is something else – we use “is” for it, though other languages just put the two things next to each other, like in Russian “Это дверь” – “That [is] a door”), and all languages have pronouns like you, me, and him. But after Jason Godesky posted about “E-Primitive”, the supposed primitive way of writing in English, a lot of them jumped on the bandwagon. E-Primitive is actually based off of E-Prime, which is English with no forms of “to be”, and was conceived by some physicists who fancied themselves philosophers, if I recall correctly. The argument is that only those who feel that they’re masters of the world can declare that one thing is equal to another. Or, perhaps, that one thing is never “equal” to another, because everything in the universe is in a state of flux. The rationales are pretty abstracted. But it has an interesting ring to it – rewilding the English language! Becoming undomesticated even down to your thought patterns! And expressing thoughts with minimal use of “to be” does give a measure of improvement. Professor Savarese advises that you cut down on “to be” as much as you can while writing something, because it makes thoughts longer and less direct. Nevertheless, he used it plenty in his book. The trick is not to use it too much, and when you can, to keep concise by ditching it. See, I used it in that sentence just back there. So, many of them have decided to get rid of the copula in all instances. Others have taken the idea of E-Primitive even farther and started raising the idea of eliminating pronouns – I have no idea what the reasoning is behind that. It sounds good, because it’s a new idea, and sounds kind of deep. Eliminate pronouns, and call all things by their real names. Pronouns are a convenience, though: they shorten sentences by giving you a way around saying the same noun every time you mention it. I get the feeling on that board sometimes that, when Jason Godesky writes something, a lot of them don’t even bother thinking about whether he might be right; they just accept that he is. Of course, there are some others, I’m sure, who aren’t like that. I’d have to say I belong to that camp. I’m not about to start using homœopathic remedies (Head-On! Apply directly to the forehead! – The reason they’re still allowed to sell that stuff is that they never say what it’s supposed to do, and so the FDA can’t say it doesn’t really do it). I’ll continue using “to be”, and Chuck will most certainly always refer to Chuck with a pronoun. I’m going to learn primitive skills, but I’m not going to devote my life to that and no other pursuits. I’m going to look at stuff I read critically, even if it does come from a primitivist source like Jason. Basically, I’m going to learn primitive skills because I think it’ll be both fun and useful – perhaps extremely useful indeed.

P.S.! I made a new snapping video. A friend at Grinnell introduced me to the band that made the song.

File under: land skills, deep thoughts, language


Anonymous

History

Grandma thinks Nathanael not very happy Nathanael pronounless, but Grandma thinks Nathanael should study linguistics, for sure. Under the stars, on Nathanael’s cot, at night in Nathanael’s yard. Grandma very happy then.

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Anonymous

History

Love your new video. G.Pa
P.S. To be or not to be - should that BE a question? How do you find all of these crazies???? That is a question,

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Chuck

History

Aht, what did I say about the copula? It’s a copula whether there’s a word there or not. Just deleting all the forms of “to be” isn’t E-Primitive. Rather, you have to rewrite the sentence so that it doesn’t require that verb. So, you could write, “Grandma thinks Nathanael won’t feel very happy if Nathanael has no pronouns …”. And “Grandma would feel very happy then.” It does make sentences a bit nicer in moderation, which is why Professor Savarese recommends cutting down on “to be”. It’s the idea that you should ban it entirely that I think is pretty misguided.

And, if I recall, Grandpa, one proponent has already written something on E-Primitive and called it “To Be or Not”. As to your question about the crazies, they just seem to come with the territory in this pursuit. I guess when you have a small group of people all dedicated to a cause radically different from civilization’s aims, you’re bound to find some who think any change from the status quo will improve things. All it takes is a catalyst to make them all rally; in this case, it was Jason’s article, which apparently was derived from a few other prime champions of the cause who came up with the idea. The Urban Scout Jason mentions is the founder of the forum I mentioned in the blog post. Willem is on the forum too.

P.S. I can’t take it anymore; I have to put the pronouns back in. “I think you won’t feel very happy if you have no pronouns, but I think you should study linguistics, for sure. Under the stars, on your cot, at night in your yard. That would make me happy.”

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Chuck

History

As I read further, it looks like Jason didn’t actually write it at all. That’s a credit to him; it enhances his credibility immensely in my eyes. He still feels “proud to present” it, but at least he didn’t actually write the bull that I found in that article.

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Anonymous

History

Well, one thing would be easier if the verb to be were banned. Spanish teachers would no longer pull their hair out over ser and estar and French teachers would no longer have to try to pound the verb etre into the kids’ heads. And you could say goodbye to the passive voice. Would cut two months off the school curriculum. Ha. Just kidding. Grandma

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Anonymous

History

All right, I’m coming in late to all this stuff, except by indirect communication, but I’ll put in my own two cents all the same.

Having just been in Alaska where the worldview is a lot different, I can offer another perspective on the survival stuff. Alaskans are still in that ‘not-so-many-people-but-a-lot-of wilderness’ stage of civilization. They are laid back and far away from the problems in the main part of the USA. They are friendly and generous and they help each other out because that’s what survival is all about.

We also learned a lot about the goldrushers, who survived incredible conditions in their search for riches, and they did it by hanging together and helping each other out.

Okay, that said, I’m thinking about this wilderness stuff and realizing that it’s not very likely that anybody will end up alone in the wilderness to survive by themselves. More likely survivors will band together to provide their common needs.

Now, the electrical infrastructure may collapse, but the principle of electricity will remain. The laws of supply and demand will remain. And I can confidently predict that somebody will be out there in the ‘wilderness’ making electricity to trade for somebody else’s sewing skills who’ll trade those skills for somebody else’s brewing ability, who’ll chop firewood for the old lady who cooks and sells hot meals, who’ll start to run an inn for the refreshment of weary wilderness dwellers, who’ll happily come and enjoy the hot showers and baked beans right out of the oven with the fresh bread, and somebody will start to make butter, and so on and so on and so on… remember, the people who really got rich in the gold rush were the ones who could supply the needs of the would-be miners. Dawson City grew to provide all the amenities of civilization for all those starved folk who worked so hard and so cold trying to dig wealth out of the permafrost.

So the skills you need to learn are the ones needed for basic living in a society. Survival in the wilderness is something you do if you have to, before you can get to a settlement where other people do some of the hard work and share with you. Dan and Dave have got it right. Learn farming, butchering, mechanics, electrical engineering, plumbing, sewing, cooking, printing, bookmaking! etc. etc. You’ll survive.

Irene

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Anonymous

History

And in one feld swoop, she crushes Mr. Primitive’s idea of living alone in the wilderness gnawing on some nasty killing for sustenance.

The word primitive in the sense that you use it implies that you are going to disregard modern conveniences in the event that they will someday cease to exist. As Irene so rightly points out, civilization when toppled, will always rebuild from the ground-up. More importantly modern technology will still exist and the evolution of such a civilization will move at a fervent pace to replace what was lost.

I’m sorry, but Mr. Primitive’s whole idea is merely a science experiment to see if he can do it, albeit completely unnecessary. If civilization gets so bad that no modern technology exists, you had better be a cockroach because you’ll need to survive the fallout and to my knowledge, no primitive skills have mastered the art of fending off radiation.

Now, on the other hand, being Mr. Primitive might be fun and why not try it now? It won’t hurt you so go for it!

Dan

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Anonymous

History

I agree with Dan. Maybe we can go to wilds of Alaska together. You bring your knowledge and all the food and I will bring the matches and the Deet. G.Pa

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Chuck

History

I know full well that primitive people lived in groups. Some of them lived at settlements; others were nomadic. That’s the reason that, in my previous post, I was enthusiastic about the possibility of some people joining me in my second year of GO if I do it for two years (or at all).

Now, the thing is, if everyone’s living in these groups, they’ll also be fairly well dispersed without much dependable contact between them. So, it’d be difficult for the sort of barter economy you’re thinking of to completely fledge. Of course, there would be specialists and trading, but I don’t think it could make a brand new civilization.

Also, the reason civilization wouldn’t just restart is that we’ve exhausted easily obtainable supplies of metals and fossil fuels. If we want to get at these things, we need the tools that civilization allows. To mine more metal these days, you need fossil fuels to get down deep enough. To mine fossil fuels, you need at least an initial investment of more fossil fuel to get to it. Metal is salvageable, but at high cost, and not in huge quantities. If we’ve got no oil and no metal, civilization can’t really rekindle.

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Anonymous

History

I think you underestimate the inventiveness of the human mind. No fossil fuel left? Then how about solar power? As Ellen once reminded me when I was groaning that we were using up all our sources of power, there is a sun out there, at least for a while yet. And there are still a lot of trees in Alaska for fuel. Or even grasses can be burnt. I don’t think we’re quite at the end of the world just yet.

And I don’t think an economic correction would be such a bad thing, especially a nice slow one, though it might be difficult for us to accept that we would be a lot richer if we were a little poorer. Right now we are spinning wheels at the top of the heap and we are so glutted with goods that we have lost all our perspective. I’d like to see us lose our reputation as the world’s First Class A-One Glutton. Let somebody else have that title while we figure out what’s really important on this earth, and it ain’t the almighty dollar.

Watch out, I have a lot of two-cent pieces to spend speaking my mind!

Love, Irene

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Anonymous

History

I don’t think that the anti-gloom and doomers,(if there is such a thing) are reading this right. Do I think 1929 is right around the corner, or at least could be? Yes, I believe our entitlement economy built on american comfort and the promise of a perfect all the way to the grave life, will eventually cease to exist. Energy will take a long time to run through and WE will not see the true effects of the fossil fuel endgame. But, it is coming, and in geological terms, it will be but a nanosecond.

Learning survival skills would always be a good thing. In 1929 and shortly thereafter, people did whatever they could to get by including some of our relatives.

Is it really such a stretch of the imagination that things could get really bad for a period of one to ten years or more?

Nothing is forever including any brief fall of civilization. Fossil fuels will run out though and I for one am not convinced that our american ingenuity will “invent” our way out of this.

I won’t be around to see what happens but anyone has my Kudos for reassesing and not reassuming………

Dave

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Anonymous

History

We already have the technology to say goodbye to fossil fuels. The problem is way more political that substance. The transition to solar energy is already happening and is picking up pace. This might be a “shock” to some of you but we can build cars that run on electricity! How ‘bout that pun? The central problem with it (or any other alternative fuel) is infrastructure. No one wants to spearhead an infrastructure overhaul to make less money than the existing oil infrastructure! My point is that when things really get tough enough, things will change. It’s basic economics, supply and demand. Doomsday averted. Asteroids are a more likely cause for alarm, really.

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