Into the Idiocy

Into the Wild came on TV the other night. If you haven’t seen it, or read the book, it’s about Christopher McCandless, a twenty-four-year-old college graduate who gives up his $24,000 savings fund, his car, and pretty much everything else to go live alone in the woods of Alaska. So this is what he did and after just over 100 days, he died.

If that’s not one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is.

I’m fine with giving away the money (he donated it to charity) and I’m fine with abandoning the car. I’m even fine with the desire to live alone*. But what the hell did he think was going to happen? The first thing that concerns me is that humans are social creatures. We weren’t meant to live alone (“Don’t eat that berry, Thag. Remember, Grok ate that berry and he dead.”). But more importantly, McCandless had a degree in History and Anthropology. Why the hell did he think he was capable of living in the Alaskan wilderness?

I can understand the love of Thoreau, but even ol’ Henry D. Thizzle had the common sense to go rough it less than two miles from town.

I suppose it doesn’t help to talk bad about McCandless now. And I suppose it makes me look like a dick (Surprise!). But people like McCandless shouldn’t be praised or revered. The movie alluded to how McCandless may have had emotional problems because of a bad childhood. If that’s the case, get some help. Don’t commit suicide by nature. If you want to get away from it all, if modern society makes you sick, go live in Africa. Or South America. Or rural China or Detroit. Or, chances are, down the street from wherever you are right now. Go help some people who have it worse than you do.**

Or at least bring a fucking compass.

*I fantasize about moving to Greenland and living alone in a shack with some yaks, which I can slaughter in the wintertime. Don’t ask me why I picked Greenland or a shack or yaks. My fantasy stretches only to the idea of living alone.

**If you’re a writer or movie maker, go write or make a movie about some of the people who have better reasons to hate society. (Warning: the stuff you will read in that link is really messed up. I’m just warning you. It’s not backed up with references, but this is. And so is this. And this. Don’t go looking for reasons to hate society. They will find you all on their own. But that ain’t what living is about.)

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Author: Joe McVeigh

I'm a linguist who researches email marketing. I also teach at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. I write about language and linguistics on my blog, ...And Read All Over, and I write about language and marketing on my other blog, Email and Linguistics.

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