Just recently, our friend Captain Midnight has been extremely busy with work and other duties, so today I’m taking over. One moment, please.
Arr! Weigh anchor and secure the captain’s cabin, Mr. Halliwell, this here ship be ours fer the duration!
With that particular housekeeping duty out of the way, I’d like to address an issue that Sticks in My Royal Craw. We’re not talking about minor annoyances like “and the media smote the Kerik, and all Homeland Security was laid to burnination,” or those annoying form letters stating that your insurance claim has been denied, or even those department store ads so rife with scratch-and-sniff perfume samples that your mailbox reeks like a miniature French cathouse. No, in this case I refer to the Freegan movement–or as I prefer to address this august body, the Freakans.
As far as I can tell from their website (and no, I’m not going to do their propaganda work for them by providing a link. That’s what Google is for), Freakans are an extremely anal subset of anticapitalist vegans who seem outraged that vegetarianism and veganism have been embraced by mainstream America. Apparently they are so appalled by the ease of leading a “cruelty-free” lifestyle these days–the fact that one can find tofu dogs, Boca burgers and organic produce at most national supermarket chains, for instance–that they feel it necessary to separate the True Believers from the casual vegetarians by making things even harder. (Their mindset of austerity for its own sake puts me in mind of crotchety old Sister Mary Lazarus from the film Sister Act: “I liked my old convent, in Vancouver. Out in the woods. It wasn’t all modern, like here. No electricity. Cold water. Bare feet. Those were nuns.”)
Freakans, like many cults of austerity, derive their toe-curling satisfaction from drawing a line even further back in the sand; of creating and living by a veganer-than-thou standard. They adhere to a more rigorous, less mainstream existence than the thoughtless, consumer-driven satisfaction of their vegetarian brethren and sisters. No longer content to bask in the warm, rosy glow of self-righteousness that comes from shunning meat and animal products, the Freakans “monetarily consume nothing so as to give no economic power to the capitalist-consumer machine.” By opting out of capitalism, they intend to overthrow the system, returning everyone to a simpler, more natural way of life where humans and animals alike simply gather what they need from Mother Gaea–whether they like it or not.
You might, perhaps, expect those who live by this kind of manifesto to shun the profligate city life, move to the back of beyond, run a subsistence farm and commune where they make their own clothing and barter with each other. But there you would be wrong–for such a lifestyle demands intelligent, hard-working, and above all capable people, and Freakans are none of these things. No, instead Freakans are urban foragers. They take advantage of every free offer they can find, frequent soup kitchens and food banks, dumpster-dive, squat in abandoned buildings, and otherwise live on the tips and tailings of urban life.
American society is extremely wasteful. We throw away an alarming number of perfectly good items because we do not take time to think what else could be done with them, or who might need or want them. (There are some grassroots efforts to change this situation; go check out Freecycle for more info.) But there’s a huge difference between seeking to create a more streamlined, less wasteful society, and seeking to destroy that society by refusing to participate and sponging off its waste. Quite aside from the fact that there is not now, nor will there ever be, a critical mass of Freakans to effect any meaningful societal change; quite aside from the point that these pampered hothouse weeds of Western culture would swiftly die without a society from which they could scrounge their necessities; there is another reason why I view Freakans with a mixture of pity and contempt. They have made the conscious decision to discard thousands of years of human civilization, of progress, art, science, poetry, of social improvements, better medicines and modern dentistry in favor of the craven subsistence life of scavengers–and they desire to drag us all down with them.
Even making the assumption, as the Freakans and many anthropologists do, that early humans were far less advanced than they are now, why would anyone want to go back to that lowest-common-denominator standard of living? With all its problems, 21st-century Western human culture is fairly amazing and filled with myriad wonderful things to enjoy. How many of you would jettison Mozart and Vivaldi, da Vinci and Michelangelo, cheese and chocolate for a chance to pound acorns, masticate bugs and suck the juices out of an egg? How many would willingly step from the living standard of an omnivore–or even an herbivore–to a coprophage? To put it in other terms, would you rather be on the same level as a bear, a cow, or a cockroach? Frankly, the Freakans have made no progress in convincing me that their way of life is, by any measurable standard, better than or even equal to what I now enjoy.
The saddest thing about Freakans is the world which they have freely chosen to inhabit. With delicious, sensual, miraculous existence all around them, they choose grey, shriveled, neo-Puritan subsistence. They scrounge for discarded, moldy cheese rather than enjoying the wholesome fruits of honest labor. They skulk through back alleys alone rather than striding down the avenue with friends. They would rather live in an abandoned outhouse than enjoy the warmth and friendship of the hearth.
Do not mock them, my friends, for they have chosen their own living hell.
Ah, I can see the Captain on the shore, hollering something about slimy bilge rats. Don’t worry, I’ll give him his ship back. WHEN I’M GOOD AND READY!
This is what happens when you write an article about how you love you wife — she steps in and does a guest article for you while you are busy. All right, you slimy bilge rats! Bring back my ship! — Captain Midnight