Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I ran across this little video tonight on one of my late-night sojourns around cyberspace. I was in the midst of one of my “darkling” periods and wanted to find something that would either feed it or strangle it, I didn’t much care which. This documentary didn’t do either but, somehow, it was what I needed. Once again the universe came through for me. Way to go U! (link to the documentary is in the title of the article)

It’s a couple years old and the comments about it are too but what those comments did was show once again that virtually no one who commented “got it”. Most of them and, indeed, most people haven't the slightest idea of why those people are up there or how they really live. This is a good documentary but it is EDITED, for dogsake. Roughly an hour of finished footage usually means 4 to 6 hours of raw film, AT LEAST!

Yeah, sure some of these folks are mentally ill, no big surprise there. However, most of those who are know this about themselves and have chosen to A. reject the zombifying drugs that may or may not successfully treat their illnesses and B. have chosen to not inflict themselves on "society" and vice versa.

The stigma of mental illness is not just about the way a headcase reacts and interacts with society. It’s also about how society views the mentally ill and how it "helps" them. In order to be "treated" the average headcase must accept the labels and the requirements AND the restrictions on their movements and their behaviours. They also have to be GRATEFUL for the crumbs from the tables of the normies and they must bow and scrape to their "benefactors" and exhibit that gratitude. Don’t think for one minute that this isn't the way the game is played because it is. If you want the truth talk to your average veteran, not even a headcase just somebody who has served his or her country and is paying the price for their service. If you are brave enough, talk to an actual headcase or two. Even the ones who choose to play the games of the "do gooder" industry will, if they let themselves be honest, tell you about the very subtle but also very real system of rewards and punishments that is part and parcel of the VA AND civilian mental and healthcare industry. Society is willing to help these sad, damaged unfortunates but, like any god, “SOCIETY” must be acknowledged and, in some way, worshipped for its benevolence.

As for living in squalor and poverty; yep, they do that too. At least if you are keeping score using the standards of our oh-so-politically-correct-society. Some, but by no means all of them, do take advantage of the "social programs" designed to help "the disadvantaged". Why the hell shouldn't they? The rejects and outcasts of a given society actually perform a vital function for and within that society. If they didn't take advantage of charity, how would all the fat and fatuous upwardly mobile yuppies get that nice, warm, fuzzy feeling that they have helped those poor unfortunates who, in the yuppies opinion, just cannot take care of themselves without the largesse their betters choose to bestow upon them? Thus do the “saviors” make themselves and their (usually but not always) liberal consciences feel better and feel better than someone else.

The supposed squalor is primarily from lack of water; what water they do have/get is too important for drinking and cooking to be wasted in washing. The video didn’t say but, living out where they do, I would suspect that most of the time, they clean their dishes with clean or cleanISH sand, gravel or dirt – just like our pioneer forebears did. It was said repeatedly that they have to “haul their water” and that isn’t something that is easily done.

Poverty? Well, that's in the eye of the beholder. No, they don't have iPods and cell phones; no, they don't have $100 jeans and $200 sneakers; no, they don’t drive new and/or environmentally conscious hybrids nor do they live in a 3000 sqft. “McMansions”; no, they don't have professional haircuts and french-tipped nails. If that is living in poverty, then I live in it too. And I don't give a flying fat damn about it either!

They do not generally use “money” in the traditional sense but then they don’t go into town much now, do they? So why should they use the currency of a society they do not take part or only take minimal part in? Among themselves, they seem to use a system comprised of equal parts barter, gifting and reciprocity. Marijuana is apparently sometimes considered currency and that’s not a new thing either. Any society will define wealth and a medium of exchanged based upon the degree of perishability and what is desirable within that specific society. Is this self-medication? Sure is but that does not make it ineffective or maladaptive. And, while we are on the subject, I have known literally hundreds of people over the course of a long and colourful life and I have yet to see a stoner (aka pot smoker) who ever beat his wife or girl friend or children. I can’t say the same for all the boozers I have known. Of course, their judges and detractors will whine “But it’s illegal!” Yeah, yeah I know, so what? Chocolate is fattening and rots your teeth but you don’t see much of decline in sales because of these little tidbits of information, do you? Lots of things are illegal and people still do them. In droves.

So, we’ve got a few folks, relatively speaking, who smoke up a bit now and then out where no one can see them or be affected by it. We also have elected, appointed and/or almost appointed public officials who don’t pay their income taxes too and that sure as hell affects more people than Maine or Gecko or Stan, the pig farmer blowing a bowl now and then. Who is more in the wrong? Who does more harm to society? The self-appointed “outcasts” or those greedy and public service-minded liberals who want to save us all from ourselves by reaching deeply into our pockets and even more deeply into our lives? I know how I vote, how ‘bout you?

Also, regarding the use of illegal substances, there were a number of comments that decried the use of methamphetamine by our doughty group of retro-pioneers. Nowhere in the entire hour and 7 minutes did I see anyone on the mesa use or even mention crack, crank or meth. Yet, the thoughtful commenters were criticizing them for using it and demanding that the police, DEA or some other form of governmental storm trooper swoop in to stop their use and round up all the miscreants. The ONLY mention of anything other than pot smoking was by Virginia, while living and begging in town, who said that she smoked crack. And even when she went back to the mesa for a while during her pregnancy, she never said, mentioned or used ANYTHING. Does meth use happen out there from time to time? Maybe so but there was NO EVIDENCE that it did or does.

Another indictment of the mesa dwellers was about the fact that Maine refused any and all treatments for his cancer. There are a couple of reasons for this one of which he mentioned himself. He said, “Given the choice of dyin’ in a fuckin’ hospital bed or dyin’ out here, under the stars. Ain’t no choice.” Obviously, he had made his choice. It’s the same one that I will make one day.

There’s another reason, I think, that Maine chose not to treat his cancer. He developed what is called, by anyone but the Veterans Administration and its functionaries, Gulf War Syndrome. I have known more than a few of my fellow veterans who suffer a myriad of illnesses and “conditions”, including cancer, due to exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The ONLY way they can/could get a disability rating from the VA and, thus treatment for the results of said exposure was/is to drop the words “Agent Orange” from their disability claims. I have a very good friend who has, over the course of time, had his entire back carved down by over 1 inch in thickness to try to get rid of the recurrent, mostly benign, tumors. He has lost most of the mobility in his upper body including the ability to raise his hands higher than his shoulders due to the massive scarring from multiple surgeries. Obviously, he can no longer work. He could not get competent and comprehensive treatment or a disability rating until he stopped claiming that this and other problems were the result of Agent Orange. Within days, literally, of changing his claim he was given a rating of 100% disabled due to “a skin condition resulting from his military service”.

By the very same token, the VA does not recognize “Gulf War Syndrome” as an illness or condition resulting from the military service of any veteran of the first Gulf War. Also, by the very same token, no affected veteran can receive a disability rating and therefore treatment for any injury, illness or condition originating from any relationship to “Gulf War Syndrome”. However, just as in the case of Agent Orange, most of the affected vets
CAN get a rating and treatment if they change the wording on their claim. What makes this an even greater atrocity is that there have been dozens and perhaps hundreds of cases where GWS can be and has been passed on to the spouses, children and unborn children of GW veterans.

And the politicians, their public relations flacks and the VA said at the time of the first Gulf War that they would treat the new crop of veterans better than they treated the Vietnam vets. Oh gee, I’m so glad. That’s so good to know, isn’t it?

So, it’s not too much of stretch to imagine that Maine or any other veteran might refuse treatment from a bunch of flannel-mouthed, lying VA mouthpieces and their rent-a-docs. At least, it isn’t to me. It’s a long-term, multi-symptomatic, systemic and ultimately fatal illness. Besides, how in the blue, bloody hell could he get competent treatment when the cause cannot be correctly diagnosed and labelled?

I wonder what the powers that be will not call the illnesses and conditions the men and women currently in military service come home with. I have no doubt that they will be fucked and fucked over by our benevolent dick-tator and his assorted flunkies.

On only two subjects can I even partially agree with the self-proclaimed judges of these people is that of the children. I don’t generally think living out there is a bad thing for kids but I can see where it might be a bit limiting. Again, the conditions under which they live are not my primary concern, let’s face it most kids don’t care if they get dirty, are dirty or even if they stay dirty. It’s part of being a kid. Home schooling is not necessarily bad but, brace yourselves yuppies, neither is it necessarily good.

Like any kids, these have to be educated as to how the world works, how it got this way, how they can and/or will fit into it if they so choose. Sadly, I don’t think they will get this kind of education out on the mesa. Then again, I’m not completely sure that they will get it in a so called “mainstream” school either. So, it’s a toss up. What I do know is that the kids we saw who lived on the mesa seemed healthy and happy. They seemed to be adequately socialized within the society in which they lived and to have contact with other children and peers. They may not have all the little goodies and trinkets that their townie counterparts have but I am not sure that can be considered a negative anyway. Certainly not by me.

I am also not hugely thrilled with the presence of all the broken down cars and trucks and the obvious garbage lying around. I can understand it but I don’t have to like it. There is a limited amount they can do with anything that will not burn. Most do not have the money or the vehicles to take it into town to be disposed of properly but surely they can limit it to a given area rather than allowing it to proliferate at random through out the area.

My third and final objection lies with the filmmakers who state at the outset that there is an estimated population on the mesa of about 400 people. Yet they chose to concentrate only upon this one small pocket of admitted malcontents rather than show some of the alternative individuals or groups that also live there. Several of the commenters stated that they had lived or do live elsewhere on the mesa in what sometimes seem to be vastly different circumstances. Some live at least partially “on the grid” in, at least somewhat, more traditional dwellings and their attendant property taxes. Others say that they too live or lived off the grid as well but in less anarchic and more organized groups. There are probably some more formally organized but still fairly non-traditional groups and probably some even more extreme loners who neither have nor want contact with anyone else. Does this make either the more or less sociable better or worse than the small group that was portrayed in the documentary? Not to me and certainly not to them. From the comments I read and what I can infer, from knowing a little something about this kind of lifestyle from my own experiences, as well as from the video itself; I can say that a general feeling of “live and let live” is probably the guiding mantra of most of the mesa dwellers.

Sadly, I expect that there will eventually come a day when the so called “dominant society” will take action to corral, absorb and control the mesa dwellers. No society will
allow its most basic tenets to be rejected, ignored and flouted forever. We have seen it before. The larger organism will always try to absorb the smaller regardless of what the smaller might wish. However, when it comes to human beings, in the face of resistance the larger society will destroy the smaller rather than let it exist independently. If Stan, the pig farmer and Robbie, Mama Phyllis and Espy, Dean and Gecko and the rest of the mesa people resist, and we know that some will, there will be bloodshed. When it happens, I will grieve for them.

I was homeless (neither by my choice nor completely by my own actions) and lived in the Black Hills National Forest for 8 months (most definitely by my choice) and I loved it. That’s right; I LOVED IT! I would not change it for the world. I miss it virtually every minute of every day since I returned to “the world”. There are many things I love about the life I am living now; primarily the non-traditional family that I have been fortunate to help build but there is something wonderful about the simplicity and peace that I found in the forest. The intervening years have not been kind to me and I suspect that I am no longer physically able to return to that way of living but I still dream of it.

By my own estimate, there are at least 400 or so people living off the grid in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. Most of the people I met while living in the forest were veterans (and/or their families) individually living off grid in varying degrees. Some went back to “civilisation” permanently, some went back only to return to the Hills permanently and some sort of commute back and forth as they choose and have a sort of “weekend” relationship with their families and children with or without divorce.

I have seen and experienced firsthand the raised eyebrows, assumptions, judgements and conclusion jumping that the so called “normies” react with. That they base their opinions upon virtually no personal experience other than to see or hear about the forest folk doesn’t seem to make a difference to most of them. Though they have almost no personal knowledge or experience with them they believe themselves to have the right to marginalize or persecute them. The normies have no idea that some of the forest people work at conventional jobs, some get disability benefits and/or treatment from the VA and some support themselves and their few necessities through more free-floating occupations such as wood carving or other types of art. The area is quite a tourist mecca so that kind of thing can be quite profitable at times. Of course, hunting, fishing and gathering also go a long way in providing for them.

There was also, in the area where I lived, a sort of core group of folks who were rather more functional that would make the occasional trip into town to take care of shopping and other needs for those who asked them to. They did and do so out of that sense of loyalty and camaraderie that Maine spoke of. I was very fortunate and deeply honoured to know them.

As with the mesa dwellers, we do what works for us.