History loves to tell us about how we used to live before becoming “civilized.” When our brains got big enough, and we started learning how to craft tools and weapons, our lives supposedly took a turn for the better. Living in a temperate environment probably wasn’t much of a challenge. We didn’t need clothing, food hung from the trees, and shelter only became a factor because we didn’t like getting our furry bodies soaked for hours on end when the rains came – or perhaps we did, I can’t say for sure, I wasn’t there.
The weird shit happened when we decided to explore new lands. Moving further and further away from our natural environment, the things we took for granted started becoming scarcer. The nights got colder, the fruit became less abundant, and the hot chicks, however few we brought with us, stopped putting out as often. We had to figure out new ways to keep warm, fill our bellies, and get laid. Food, fire, hunting, competition for mates – all catalysts to create radical and diverse new societies.
I can only imagine the emotions felt by the young, coming-of-age warrior who was invited for the first time to join the odyssey of the seasoned hunters – the honour, the excitement, the anticipation and glory of a successful mission to bring back a bounty to feed and nurture each and every member of the tribe – cool shit! But, no matter how experienced and adept, the hunters’ success in procuring sustenance was far from guaranteed. Many a day I’m sure they went back to their huts empty-handed and empty-bellied. Probably didn’t get laid that evening either.
If you’ve ever fished or hunted, you’d know that much of the strategy involves a ridiculous amount of patience. With patience comes reflection. With reflection comes insight and respect. Most cultures of this type revered the land and animals as sacred, and they demonstrated the utmost respect when choosing to kill an animal for food, clothing, or shelter. They wasted nothing if possible. They developed a humble symbiosis with an environment that graciously provided for them. Surviving shifted to thriving… as long as the balance was maintained.
So welcome now to hunting and gathering in the 21st century. The experience of wandering into a supermarket has become routine, and something taken for granted. My latest adventure found me stepping into a building called “The Superstore,” a day before national pride celebrations were about to take place.
There is a frantic nature in the air as I enter the monstrous warehouse. I realize that the hours of shopping time remaining before a 24-hour shutdown of government and industry are rapidly dwindling. A variety of foodstuffs must be quickly amassed to fill the bellies of family and friends who will be imminently gathering. Alcohol, ice, propane, sunscreen, batteries, airborne explosives – an extensive list of supplies must be acquired in order to make this holy day as spectacular as the last.
It’s a strange feeling to stand among so many humans and wonder if I’m the only creature pondering the notion that something here just ain’t fucking right. A controlled scramble ensues before my eyes. Each “tribe” pushes a personal wagon before them, filling it with all the items their current lifestyles dictate. Most items choices have been premeditated, but others are chosen on a whim – items which have been strategically placed by the Superstore Overlords to inspire impulsive behaviour or crafty budgeting. The wagons being pushed look strangely like mobile jails for food.
I desperately scan the aisles trying to find at least one warrior in this building – someone with a lean and rugged physique… with a penetrating gaze of strength, confidence, and discipline… a graceful and alert being, aware of every movement around him.
But I see no such individual – not even cleverly hidden behind the pyramid of 20% off canned croissants. There is not one cunning trapper here waiting patiently for his chance to pounce upon shrink-wrapped meat.
No, what I see is quite the opposite. Zombies are roaming unchecked. Their eyes are dull. Their bellies flop out over their belts. Recognition of one another is minimal to non-existent, only becoming a useful skill to avert collisions of rolling cages.
The greatest challenge in this hunt is in determining what needless items should be thrown into the wagon to accumulate the grandest magnitude of reward points. Perhaps you haven’t any members in your tribe who enjoy the purity and awesomeness of canned mackerel (lovingly prepared by Asian slave-workers living for 10 weeks at a time off-shore in a floating processing factory) but the 20,000 bonus Air Miles are just too tempting to pass up.
Unless there is an untimely detonation of a small EMP device, or a massive solar flare hits the Earth, there is absolutely no chance this day of failing to procure game for the feast. This is a building of gluttony and shame. The overabundance has destroyed any respect these humans have for their bodies or the land. Not one person I see in this warehouse of processed, packaged shit is in danger of starving to death. Most people here could miss their next week of meals and still be in need of dropping 20 pounds. I was unsure why anyone would attempt to purchase such ridiculous amounts of food in a single session until I realized that all of it is essentially dead, and not prone to spoiling. Thank the good Lord for salt, cans, preservatives, and pasteurization. With any luck, full-scale irradiation of our produce is just down the road.
I turn aisle 13, and the glassy eyes await. More of the same in aisle 17. I uncover a bizarre find in aisle 32 – a massively oversized plastic bowl of prepackaged salad ingredients abandoned hopelessly beside rows of 2 L bottles filled with carbonated sugar water. Perhaps the 2 for 1 deal on diet cola was far more enticing than the 7 dollar price tag for pre-cut romaine. The lettuce will sit and rot beside the sugar water until a faithful Superstore employee realizes this tragic error in stocking. And, at that point, the entire do-it-yourself-with-minimal-to-zero-effort salad package will likely end up tossed in a dumpster. Luckily everyone in this society has been fully awakened to the fact that any food item left unrefrigerated for more than 5 minutes will develop deadly colonies of bacteria. Best not to take any chances. Perhaps the endless stacks of single serving spring water, conveniently filled into the lowest-grade of “food-safe” plastic bottles, should be disposed of as well, just as a safety precaution for being in proximity to the deadly lettuce threat.
The only real foods left in this building are being sparingly purchased to be used for condiments, snacks, or side-dishes. And 95% of these items have been sprayed with poisons and grown in nutrient deficient soils with shitloads of chemical fertilizers. You could pay a higher dollar for food grown “organically,” but, after doing a little research, you would simply find that your “organic” vegetables are sprayed all the same, only this time with “organic” pesticides, which are poorly regulated and experimental. Ingesting a little poison here and there is a noble trade-off in order to enjoy a big shiny beefsteak tomato the size of a softball that has no fucking flavour whatsoever.
This expedition into the wild ends in a frustrating fashion, as competing tribes must wait patiently for their turn to swipe a piece of plastic against a sensor to officially declare their hunt a success. The food cages must be returned to their place of origin, but an unlimited supply of disposable, plastic carrying devices will allow for transfer of the bounty back to the village.
It feels smugly satisfying to finally be civilized. How our barbaric ancestors possibly survived to facilitate our evolution into this greatness will always boggle my mind.
But enough reflection for now. The ultimate display of national pride is almost upon us down near the beach. Colourful explosions of light, brilliantly co-ordinated to music, are imminent, and I have yet to locate my portable, plastic chair. I should have picked up a new one at the Superstore, they were on sale.