Wolves in sheep's clothing


I got my Backwoodsman badge when I was a Boy Scout, and great fun it was too as we had to build a shelter out of natural materials and sleep in it; catch fish and gut them; and construct a workable oven and cook a three course meal on a wood fire. There's nothing like the aroma and grimy-ness of well-smoked teenage boys.

I was recently given a copy of an American periodical called Backwoods Home Magazine - practical ideas for self-reliant living (www.backshome.com) and thus I was quite excited to turn the pages. The cover of the May/June edition had an illustration of a beautiful building, well landscaped in and showing a high level of solar design. This was obviously the hook for the feature article. The other teasers on the cover included a food dehydrator, best country dog, your own website and a new energy section. There was also an article called Armed and Female, but I had no reason to believe that woman in America are in any way deficient in those limbs.

The articles in the magazine were clear and very practical. An explanation of how to use wattle and daub methods for low-cost building construction was particularly good, as were plans for a food dehydrator, tips on spacing for growing vegetables, growing your own celery, useful architectural advice on do-it-yourself building, composting toilets, and some fabulous picnic recipes. Its just as well that there was also an article on "Facts you should know about Rattlesnakes" because a picnic in some areas of America may end up in you making use of those facts!

The new energy section was a mine of information, backed up with a good selection of adverts offering all the low to high tech. solutions. The article on Solar building design was neat and has inspired me to retro-fit my house. (Sadly this enthusiasm will probably pass, as it inevitably comes up against the realities of suburbia.)

I kept expecting to see the P(ermaculture) word crop up, as all this stuff would be familiar to those who know that a Mollie is a principle from Permaculture Design (after its originator Bill Mollison) and not an Irish wench. However, it slowly began to dawn on me that this wasn't the Permaculture Magazine of America. Glancing at the Commentary page, I noticed an editorial that was trying to convince me that the 31 states in America that have a "right to carry" a handgun law, had experienced dramatic declines in rape and murder, thus showing that the gun control lobby were a bunch of control freaks and anti-libertarian.

Armed and Female was an article justifying the carrying of personal firearms by women, offering options on the best weapons available, considering that women may have shorter fingers and less upper-body strength (it suggested I check out the Browning Hi-Power 9mm semi-automatic or the J-frame Smith and Wesson revolver!). Further on, there was an appreciation of some heavier weaponry to be used as personal emergency equipment in case there was civil disorder, as may have broken out in the wilder fantasies about Y2K trauma (thus for good threat management at 300 yards, I should check out the Springfield Armory match-grade MIA semi-automatic rifle, loaded with a 20-round magazine of Federal Match 168-grain hollowpoint .308 ammunition, and with a Triijcon 3-9x AccuPoint illuminated telescopic sight. Oh wow - I'll have two please!).

The letters page expanded on this libertarian theme: there were letters praising the magazine for unapologetically advocating armed self-protection; applauding publication of the American Constitution so that readers could monitor their loss of freedoms as the government takes them away; legalisation of drugs; creationism over evolution; and a lambasting of the ATF (alcohol, tobacco and firearms) officers who burnt out David Koresh and his followers at Waco, Texas.

Blimey, was I confused. How could a magazine that had such a funky advert for the wood-fired snorkel hot tub, and a four-wheeled bike, also carry an advert for Utah shelter systems which come with chemical biological filters that screen out all known war gasses and radiation (for twice the price, upgrade your shelter to be blast and radiation proof). What nice people as these at first appeared to be - who tell you (quite rightly) that a mongrel is just as good a dog in the country as a purebred - can also be associated with the mindset of the militia tendency in America. The latter are the people who claim to have seen UN tanks taking over middle America, and that is was the government (i.e. slick Willie Clinton) that invited the UN in. (Surprisingly, there is no racism in the articles, which probably goes to show that racial exclusion works in America).

And I laughed as I thought how amusing this would be to us Permaculturists in the UK. I mean, we don't break the law, do we? We don't think the government needs over-throwing? We wouldn't hide ourselves away in the country and by our activities discourage others from understanding us? We don't protest by smashing up fast food outlets or ruining farmers livelihoods? We aren't so anarchical that we can't even put forward a rational argument for our views?

Or are we?

Mark Fisher, 3 July 2000

www.self-willed-land.org.uk  mark.fisher@self-willed-land.org.uk