Last summer, inspired by what I considered an unfairly biased television documentary on Ted Kaczynski, I decided to read the “Unabomber Manifesto” (Industrial Society and Its Future, have fun!) in its entirety and put together a short commentary on it’s more salient ideas (no joke). Eventually deterred by its incredible length and extreme conflation of myriad socio-psychological concepts, I didn’t even come close to finishing said document and realized any sort of condensed essay on Kaczynski’s ramblings is nigh impossible.
While there’s no doubt Kaczynski demonstrated some very serious socialization issues, he was also extreme in his manner of expressing the do-it-yourself ideal of the frontiersman: one of the most deeply felt and romantic of American notions.
Many green-anarchists, anarcho-primitivists (like John Zerzan) and neo-Luddites have supported Kaczynski’s writings as they provide a critique of contemporary industrial consumer society while offering a survivalist-oriented passage out.
Unfortunately, too often the more trenchant criticisms are drowned out by an actual lunatic, paranoid fringe of society. The American mountain-West is notorious for the sheer number of messianic, anti-government, conspiracy-mad talk radio types who muddle any intelligent dialogue that may occur. Modern-day Mountain Man Jonas Hawkinus is just this sort of character.
My apologies for the serious introduction to such an un-serious show (whenever I get an opportunity to slip the Ted Kaczynski into a conversation I take it). I’ll reiterate, Mountain Man is a surreal comedy, but in my head it’s loosely based on a real, existent subculture of (possibly schizophrenic) paranoid men who have taken the survivalist mentality a bit too far. Many have a religious or spiritual bent to their rantings and all will shoot you if you’re trespassing.
Sure, I’m taking a few liberties with the Kaczynski connection. He is avowedly anti-technology, so he never had REI tracking equipment, nor was he wired to the outside world as Jonas Hawkinus. Also, Ted Kaczynski was a mathematician, not a musician.
Jonas is a volatile former folk singer who has taken to the wilderness to serve Gaia, the Mother Earth spirit. Writer/director Matthew Mangs had the idea when his friend Mike Miller (who plays Jonas) began growing a prodigious beard. I can relate as just a few weeks ago, before I trimmed my own beard, two teens at the grocery store called me a caveman (true story). Jonas, by the way, does not frequent the grocery store and he distills his own robust moonshine.
Mangs and producer Matt Enlow (writer/director of Engaged: The Show) are utilizing a novel format for this project. Between each episode they air mini-episodes or “journals” of Jonas’ ongoing activities in the wilderness. The focus of these journals is to portray the Jonas’ daily life in his search for food or other basics.
Though an odd thing for a so-called survivalist, Jonas has a camera-toting pal named “Echo” who records the material for the journals. Jonas has enough to worry about spreading the gospel of Gaia and defending against the A.T.F. to be concerned with lugging video gear. You could say having Echo around is like having an after-hours video feed of the zoo.
Back to my original point: it’s easy to lampoon and demonize such off-the-grid figures as misguided and foolish, ultimately causing more harm than good. But these survivalists and primitivists are complex figures in that we recognize in them some manner of courage or fortitude that most of us lack.
How many of us can live without our daily web-fix, nevermind survive for years in the forest or mountain scrubland on our own? Personally, I think we’ve evolved alongside our technologies, making it impossible to ever return to a previous state, but it’s a curious thought to ponder and I wish more people would engage the ideas presented by those along the fringes of modern society. Not Jonas’ ideas or anything on Inter-mountain right-wing talk radio, but some other bits of the fringe.
Check out Mountain Man on WatchMountainMan.com.