Saturday, April 24, 2010

Not The Last Of The Loners

...But certainly one of a kind: Idaho's "Dugout Dick" died last week; he did so on his own terms, in the home he'd built -- mostly, excavated -- with his own hands.

Men like him (and the even fewer women) are increasingly rare and as they pass, we're losing something; we buy ready-to-eat food in a bag, take packaged trips and drive a-new-one-every-other-year leased cars to and from our nearly-identical subdivision homes or carbon-copy apartments, where we relax by sitting and passively watching TV or DVD entertainment, just like the neighbors; we get our opinions from a series of media pundits, all more-or-less interchangeable in their neat little suits and neat little tone of moral outrage; turn the sound off and you can hardly tell Matthews from Beck (while the real Beck -- Billy -- is scarcely heard in the Big Media. When his thoughts are echoed, they get 'em wrong).

Loners, real mavericks (not the trumped-up nickname for a politician with no center), genuinely independant artists, people with crazy damn' ideas, they're a treasure. They're not always the most comfortable to be around but that is at least in part because they make us look at our own I'll-have-what-he's-having lives and wonder why we run with the herd.

One more guy who followed his own path has come to the end of it. Who will take up his mantle? Who can? Sure, you can look at folks like him and claim they never made much of a difference -- just one guy, all by himself, what'd he ever manage to do in a lifetime that BigGiantCorp or My Fave Part of FedGov* can't do six times before lunch, with bells on? Hell, you're right; we're all just little pink primates and if some gray One Size Fits All (poorly) answer is good enough, if your idea of "fair" is that everyone gets fifteen seconds of insight, half a square meal every other day and fifteen minutes of fame, just like all the other good societal units, you're right; all those "loners" ever directly affected was themselves. --And they fought to keep it that way; nobody else scribbled on their souls.

Who's writin' on your soul? And why'd you let 'em? Was the new Caddy and the McMansion worth it? After a long, full life, Dugout Dick died in his own bed, in his own hand-dug cave, in his own life. It sure beats dieing a little every day.

(Related posting by Jeffro)
* What's that? Y'say you don't have a favorite part? Okay, then go read this Jim Bovard article an' get back to me. Not sayin' he's right -- but it's the first substantive critique of the movement, or at least of its rallies and ralliers, that I have read.


Stranger said...

On the one hand, "What's all the world to a man whose wife's a widow?" Certainly the rent-a-car and the McMansion are worthless to a daisy pusher.

On the other hand, a search for "depression" at will bring up plenty of pics of people who lived much like Dugout Dick. Or more accurately, who existed much as Dick did. And as I did for the first decade of my life. Not many would choose such a life.

Fortunately, there is a mean. A reasonably sized house, paid for the Biblical way, "by the sweat of thy brow." Friends, companions, someone to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful.

The one is vanity, the next a constant struggle against powers beyond our ability to cope, the third civilized contentment. And that is worth fighting for.


TJP said...

From the article:

"Bruce Long, who rented one of his caves and looked after him, said the care center "had bingo and TV, but things like that held no interest for him. He just wanted to live in his cave."

Anyone else think this an odd perspective? The man lived in the Salmon River Valley, in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. It's reckless understatement to describe his home as a "cave"; yet a minimum-security prison for the elderly, with its whole two activities--probably within 20 feet of each other--should necessarily be the more interesting choice.

Jeffro said...

There used to be a lot of similar characters here, but they've all died off. They didn't live in caves, but they definitely marched to the beat of a different drummer.

Ken said...

I am currently reading James C. Scott's The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of South Asia. Very interesting -- if occasionally tough -- sledding. Scott discusses the people who live above (generally speaking) 300 meters' elevation in "Zomia," a massif spanning South Asia including parts of China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Burma as people who got there as a result of their desire to avoid state control.

Scott's mostly coming from a "commons" anarchist school (the book is part of Yale's Agrarian Studies series, which he appears to run), as far as I can tell, but he does at least nod in the direction of a Lockean alternative to a state that promotes sedentary agriculture as a means of rendering people's productivity and property legible (identifiable and recordable, because relatively illiquid) and therefore state-appropriable (taxation, conscription, corvée labor, and other forms of involuntary servitude).

"Hill people" (barbarians, in the language of the "valley people") don't plant padi rice. They forage and practice swidden (slash-and-burn) agriculture, and retain a high degree of mobility (which means they're problematic for a padi state to govern).

There's a lot of truth in what Stranger and TJP say.

Borepatch said...

Who's writin' on your soul?

My kids, with stelettos? Maybe he was just tired of everyone wanting a pound of flesh?

I have to say, a cabin in the woods where I can reload and mix tannerite to my heart's content without a lot of folks comaining about the noise or smells is pretty attractive some days ...

Dr.D said...

Regarding the Jim Bovard article, I can't put very much stock in it.

First I have to say consider the source. The Christian Science Monitor is a well respected news source, but like all news sources today, it is going to be somewhat Left of center. That describes this article quite aptly.

Secondly, he is critical of the fact that many members of the Tea Party want to restore the status quo ante, things the way they were before Obama. It is certainly true that they were not perfect under GWB, and he made some terrific blunders. But most of us felt reasonably safe and secure that our nation was going to continue in its preeminent place in the world and that there would be no huge changes in our lives from the government just around the corner. Today, we don't feel that way at all. We would like a reset, and I think that is perfectly normal, not bad or strange at all.

A big part of wanting to restore our national standing means wanting to restore our military to its former status. Many of us think that would be a good thing. Obama's peace through weakness is not a well established doctrine.

I have been to two Tea Parties, and I thought that they were pretty normal, healthy people all the way through. Some of the speakers were really good, some were pretty poor as speakers, but none were ever advocating anything I could not fully support personally.

Roberta X said...

Oh, I'm not sayon' Bovard's right; but at least he raises issues with some connection to reality. He's not whining "racists!"

the Tea Party is more a conservative movement than a libertarian one. 'Sokay with me: it is what the people who show up make it.

I think there's a lot of projection in some parts of the blogosphere, people seeing what they want to see instead of what's there. Radley Balko has a disappointed post up about Sheriff Arpaio bein' the invited keynote speaker at a Tea Party rally, for instance -- well, what'd he expect?

The Old Man said...

I agree with Doc D - L'il Jimmy lost all credibility with me with the plaintive whine "they ignore the Bush administration’s deceptive justification to attack Iraq." Wonder if he'd like to take one of the binary-loaded 155 shells that were found in some dud IEDs and spin it up in the main editorial office of the CSM...
He also appeared to have demolished an argumentum ad baculum by ignoring the fact that the TP'ers seem to be cheesed at ANYONE who is spending their grandkids' inheritance. Some no-doubt-carefully-chosen quotes from a speaker in a small gathering regarding his view of Iran and a small-time talker? He can interview Stewie-the-black-pug if he comes to my house.... Probably get as objective a viewpoint and then comment on the slobber...