Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Can You Ever Escape Capitalism?

“You can never escape Capitalism”…or can you?

We discussed how you couldn’t ever really escape from paying for something by doing something in some way shape or form. For instance, if you wanted to just simply go outside and lay in the sun…you could be taking time out of your job where you could essentially be making money, or the grass you lay on could stain your clothes and you’ll then have to pay to get it laundered etc. Naturally, I tried coming up with an opposing argument to this, and the only thing that came to mind was the film/book Into the Wild.

The film Into the Wild directed by Sean Penn was based on a true story about a young man named Christopher McCandless, graduated college at the top of his class, and later rejected all social norms and abandoned all of his possessions, family, and things to live in the wild.



He gave his entire savings account to charity, cut up all of his credit cards and proof of identity and drove his car into the desert and burned whatever cash he had. Then, he hitchhiked his way across the US to Alaska. Along the way he shed his “true” identity and changed his name to “Alexander Supertramp.” His body was found inside an abandoned bus in Alaska on Sept. 6, 1992 (roughly 190 days after leaving home).

In his travels the “real” McCandless kept a journal, which recorded his ways of survival by killing game, eating berries and edible roots (which later led to his demise—poisonous roots).

Into the Wild was written as a book before the film, by Jon Krakauer, who actually took two years out of his life to retrace McCandless’ steps so he could capture the essence of what he experienced.

The "Real" Chris McCandless
The idea that all McCandless had to do to not exist was to cut up his social security card is scary; you exist because of a number. On the contrary, if Chris were to be found authorities would follow the corresponding procedures to figure out his identity:
  • -      Media would leak his photo
  • -      Parents, friends, family would recognize him

-      BUT HOW DO YOU PROVE ITS REALLY HIM?...maybe his finger prints…but now we are who we are based on our finger prints…why can’t we just be unique individuals?
We can’t be unique individuals because everything we consist of has been culturally and socially constructed—someone has probably already been there, done that, worn that, and said this or that etc. Everything we do typically revolves around social norms and that is what McCandless wanted to escape from. I think the representation of the real, in this case his photo id/license and social security card is so interesting because we as people are proven to be the real “Chris McCandless” by a number and a picture on a piece of plastic. Plastic, with an image of our selves, proves we are “real.”

Even though McCandless escaped his version of “reality” (Virginia, living at his parents home, getting a job) by running away to Alaska, he still faced challenges of how the “real” world works. For instance, when he was in Arizona he wanted to river raft, but needed a permit to float those waters. Instead of waiting 3 years for a permit he went out bought a kayak and went rafting, but the river police was trailing him to arrest him the entire time. The real world doesn’t work like that, you can’t legally go against the system get a kayak and float a river without a permit—it’s just not the way society works; he did on the contrary get away with it, but let us remind ourselves that he didn’t live longer than 200 days by choosing this route.



I don’t want this to deter from his life and what he accomplished, because just because he shed his identity and refused to follow the social norm. I think he did well with living within his means, and did escape capitalism, maybe not for very long but he at least did it and found a way to live without money, television, and a smart phone.

1 comment:

  1. I teach this book in "Wilderness Lit" and I just love talking about those issues that you bring up. I am intrigued by how he pulls out his "Chris" name when he has to sign employment docs at McDonalds, and how he becomes Alex in his off-the-grid adventures. I wonder about whether anyone can fully become "Alex" and still live. Or if you stayed alive, wouldn't you somehow have to be outside the realm to which journalism has access? Do people like Everett Ruess maybe find a way out of the "Chris-ness" of life when they go missing? Do people like Alex McCandless find a way out when they die? Interesting that the McCandless bus is now a tourist destination for other wannabe off-the-gridders. I wonder what Chris would think. I wonder what Alex would think. And I wonder what Baudrillard would think!

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