White Men Can’t Jump; Black Men Can’t Hike

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Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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239 Responses

  1. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Since Jews do not venture into the wilderness except in the very safe form of Jewish summer camps, does that mean we can finally consider ourselves to be people of color?

    I’m semi-serious about this actually semi-serious about this. A lot of my tribe’s behavior towards things like wealth and wilderness as described above seems to be in-between the behavior of white people and people of color as a whole, at least in the United States. Or are we just in a weird grey area between white people and people of color?Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

      The first sentence of the second paragraph should read, “I’m semi-serious about this actually.”Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

      If I were Jewish, I’d probably avoid the wilderness too. Last time, y’all got lost and spent 40 years there. 😉Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to LeeEsq says:

      does that mean we can finally consider ourselves to be people of color?

      I’d first point out that it’s not exactly something to be proud of. Knowing the Jews I’ve known though, I think a convincing argument could be made to put them in a grey area.Report

      • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I think of Jewish people like Asian people. They’re “white” or “non-white” depending on what is least advantageous for them in any given discussion.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        We are Asian people.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Mike, sometimes I like to mess with people by calling myself a West Asian- American. Since two of my Great grandparents came from the Ottoman Empire, the non-Balkan part, its partly and literally true.

        Vikram and Mr. Blue, thats pretty much my belief on the matter. Its not something that I’m seeking to be proud of in one way or another but just seeking clarification.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I came to the conclusion race doesn’t matter, largely from my experiences around Jewish people. Since earliest times, Jews have adapted to their cultures to the point where even the Hasidim wear the uniforms of their Polish past. The Sephardim are even more complex, with echoes of Spanish and Arabic in their speech. The modern Israeli is more attuned to the Middle East than his forebears, creating something new and unforeseen. The Hebrew language is adapting and thriving.

        The Jewish people hold onto their past loosely. Where they’ve gone ultra-orthodox, the concrete hardens in ridiculous ways. The Hasidim are an object lesson to the rest of us, a caution against taking ourselves and all this Race Stuff too seriously. All sorts of silly encrustations grow up like barnacles, choking off the true and essential. Culture is not race.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Mr. Blue,

        That sounds about right.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        “I came to the conclusion race doesn’t matter…”

        Doesn’t matter to who?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        To whom.

        To anyone, Kazzy. To be a Jew is a matter of arbitrary rules of halakha, which you ought to know and don’t. Race and tribe are constructs which only matter to those who adhere to them. They’re absurd to any other thinking human being. Those rules lump people together in the same idiotic way astrology lumps people together by their natal sign. Exactly how black do you have to be to be a black man? Who’s a Native American? An Osage man I know says either you have a CDIB BIA card or you don’t. And if you don’t, well, tough luck.

        Don’t trifle with me this morning, Kazzy. Answer your own question.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I’m just going to let you continue to make proclamations on what thinking people ought or ought not to think. I suppose I’m not thinking. Good to know.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        That’s strongly advisable, Kazzy. Saves you having to supply an answer. I’ve made my own position clear on this, race is antique thinking from the age of astrology and magic and is completely unscientific. Culture does matter, people arguing over the best way to cook a chicken is a productive discussion. Arguing over Race and Tribe leads mankind to idiotic wars.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        So when @vikram-bath outlines how race and tribe can help answer a question like, “Why don’t people of color hike?” by pointing out that it is not the result of some relationship between melanin and ergonomically designed backpacks, but is a result of the experiences that groups have, many of which are largely informed by their race and tribe (some incidentally, and some directly because of it), you think you’ve sufficiently demonstrated that race doesn’t matter?

        Cool. Good job by you.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I’ve made that point, too, Kazzy, Vikram is overgeneralising. Any statement wherein [insert race here] conforms to a particular characteristic are WP: WEASEL.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        We need a new sub-blog called something like “Pissing Matches” or maybe “Dick-Measuring Contests”, where subthreads like this can go to fester. I’m getting really sick of this crap. It’s like watching a couple that should have broken up years ago rehearse all their grievances in public when everyone else in the place is just trying to enjoy a peaceful meal.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I guess you missed when he wrote this: “The standard disclaimers about non-monolithic groups apply. Additionally, this post is speculative (but not necessarily wrong either).”

        Mike, I hear you, but am tired of having to be associated with someone who spouts so much objectionable, offensive stuff. I think it important to make clear that he does not speak for nor represent the rest of us. Nonsense shouldn’t go unchallenged. We promote what we permit.Report

      • I’m now mentally playing with the idea of a continuum:

        Non-Jewish White people = white people
        Jews = light grey people
        Asians (including South Asians) = dark grey people
        Everyone else = People of Color

        Incidentally, the reason I keep using “people of color” rather than “minorities” in this post was to include Asians (and retrospectively Jews). When most people use the term “minorities” they don’t include Asians, and I follow that usage standard strictly.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @mike-schilling — A “Dick-Measuring Contest” wouldn’t really quite work for me.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Feel free not to engage in whatever metaphor best suits you.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I think that’s an East Coast thing. Out here, camping and backpacking are quite popular.Report

      • Which is kind of funny. One of the things I liked about the west is that I was surrounded by nature. So I really had no reason to want to go into it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        More geography. The Mountain West is quite different from the large urban centers on the West Coast. Here, I see lots of people going away for the weekend to be outdoors, as evidenced by the heavy Friday afternoon traffic north and east.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Concurred. The signalling is a bit different depending on coast and city. There are sections of the Bay Area, LA, and other cities where signalling is approximate to New York and about sophistication and such but there are a lot of people who love to spend time and money at REI (East Coast equivalent is Eastern Mountain Sport) over fancy places. Though I imagine Western Mass, Vermont, New Hamphshire, and Maine get more outdoors camping and backpacking types.

        Also hiking gear is considered acceptable about town wear in certain places in ways that it would not be in New York. I know a Jewish girl from Westchester who spent a year or so around Eugene or Portland. She and her East Coast husband were considered fancy for preferring to wear jeans and courdory over REI gear.Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I am going to concur with Mike here. The Jewish side of my family was the nature loving side. Old, old Berkeley Jewish.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        And, signaling side, there are people who enjoy camping 🙂Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        @mike-schilling “And, signaling side, there are people who enjoy camping :-)” It’s amazing. There are also people that snow shoe just for fun. These things are necessary evils for me. I carry a heavy pack into the mountains because the place I want to go to is too far to do in a day. You will never catch me wearing a hundred pound pack for fun. I only put on snow shoes if the place I want to go to is too technical for ski’s. I hate snow shoeing so It has to be a pretty frickin special place.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        And there are people who do math problems just for fun!

        Hold on, that’s me.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I just want to respond to this by saying that I love Lake Tahoe. If I lived in California, I’d try to go there as much as possible.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

      “Since jews do not venture into the wilderness”

      Your mileage varies dramatically from my own.Report

  2. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Procrustean lumps of White People and Black People, similarly any graph of nations where the entire country is a single colour don’t speak to what’s really going on.

    There’s a reason it’s called “camping” and not “tenting”. The camping movement in the USA has its origins in the formal encampment. Only much later, with the rise of the YMCA and the Boy Scouts, did we see people going to the woods and living in tents. The Boy Scouts had race problems for many years. This may have something to do with the disparity.

    But hunters have been out in the woods for far longer. Black Americans are well-represented in the ranks of hunters and fishermen. They just needed a reason to get out there in the woods. If there aren’t more black people in the woods, historically, they left rural America and settled in the cities during the Great Migration.

    For most of America’s history, the Great Outdoors was seen as something to be tamed. It wasn’t until John Muir that we began to see nature as we do today. Has anyone else seen the PBS series on the National Parks? A good deal of the commentary on that series is done by a black Park Ranger. The old disparities between black and white are being replaced by class distinctions. Soon enough, nobody will much care. It’s our nation, black, white, everyone. Plenty of poor-ass white people, too. The USA is not a uniformly purple nation. Some parts of it are, well, less-fortunate than others and poverty is terribly democratic.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I think this provides a reasonably good explanation on why environmental movements tend to be a lot stronger in Europe and the Anglophone world than in other countries. If you don’t have to worry about poverty than the idea of protecting nature and having large swathes of wilderness as no-go areas for humans makes sense. If your from a really poor place than anything that stands in the way of getting rich or at least richer is not going to be tolerated. If you have to dis-spoil the wilderness to become rich, so be it.

    Communist states are really bad when it came to protecting the environment with the possible exception of Cuba, where Castro apparently spends a lot of resources on reforestation according to things I’ve read on the Internet.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Many non-western cultures put a premium on wild spaces: the Mughal Empire created the Sundarbans, a sort of nature preserve.

      The environmental movement we know today has many counterparts in other cultures. Hunting, grazing, logging, farming, fishing — have all been regulated from principles of enlightened self-interest going back into prehistory.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Lee,
      simpler than that:
      When the outdoors can KILL YOU, it’s not your friend.
      Americans have never tasted the true outdoors,
      the dark forests that the brothers grimm wrote of.

      Nature, red in tooth and claw, is indeed something to be feared.
      And enjoyed.

      I’ve walked within 30 paces of a (somewhat) fearless bear, that was just
      a bit too hungry to try to kill me.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Kim says:

        @kim “Americans have never tasted the true outdoors,
        the dark forests that the brothers grimm wrote of” Remember that hubris is a capital offence. You should come play out West sometime. I’d probably make peace with the hills first. They have a wicked sense of humour.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim says:

        Cascadian,
        Been out west. (wasn’t me what got stalked by a cougar for miles, though it’s been known to happen).
        Too smart to head down south, though. (our rattlesnakes around here are relatively mild mannered in comparison. Also, no scorpions here).

        There’s a different sort of lost you get when you can’t find your way out of the gloom. Those old growth forests were truly something special.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Kim says:

        We have those kinds of forest. People head down the wrong ravine having their directions just slightly off. Sometimes, they’re found, sometimes not. There was a recent story of a First Nations woman who wandered around for a week or so, relying on her survival skills before she was eventually found. It’s not just city slickers that can get lost up here.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim says:

        Cascadian,
        Where you at that you’ve got that much old growth timber?
        I could stand a visit, probably.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Kim says:

        Just about anywhere in the Coast Range. Heck, there’s a huge section of old growth about a mile from my house. We went for a drive as far as the pavement went Sunday and commented on how it reminded us of the forests in LTR.

        There’s a stretch of Forest between the North Cascades Highway (Hwy 20) and the Canadian Border that’s supposed to be one of the wildest places left on earth. There are a few climbs in that area that I never did because the hike in is known to be one of the most hellacious experiences available, no real trails, lots of bushwhacking through devil’s club.Report

  4. Avatar zic says:

    Just want to point out that women, no matter their color, can do it all; particularly if their children’s well being depends on it.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Good piece, @vikram-bath . I saw the Salon piece and considered commenting on it but as a white dude who hates hiking and camping, I don’t know that I had much to offer except, “Hey, look at this.”

    What bothers me about the NPS’s effort to appeal to POCs is the presumption that hiking/camping/outdoorsmanship is something people ought to like. It strikes me as rooted in a, “Why don’t these people like it? If only they knew how great it was.” Are we sure hiking and camping are good things? Objectively? Maybe we shouldn’t wonder about why POCs don’t hike and camp, but why white people do. I dunno… it just seems like a blatant example of norming against middle- and upper-class white folks when conversations are framed in, “Why don’t people who aren’t middle- and upper-class white folks do what middle- and upper-class white folks do?”

    I do run Tough Mudders, which I enjoy. These are largely middle- and upper-class white folks activities as well. When I arrived at my first one and realized as such, it occurred to me that we were paying money for other people to make our lives hell for a day. It was absurd. There are people who’d give anything to not have a hellacious day. There is nothing necessarily wrong with me opting to do this with my time and money. But I’d be incredibly tone-deaf if I went up to a poor person or person of color, someone who faces obstacles I don’t even realize exist on a daily basis, and said, “Why don’t you do obstacles courses on your weekends?”Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

      What bothers me about the NPS’s effort to appeal to POCs is the presumption that hiking/camping/outdoorsmanship is something people ought to like.

      Rather, it’s something people ought to try, because they might find they like it a lot. Same as reading novels, classical music, softball, playing chess, and movies where nothing blows up. There’s a lot of worthwhile things that get overlooked because our advertising and cash-flow based culture doesn’t value them, and suggesting them as alternatives is a good thing.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Sure.

        But should we also encourage people to try pick up basketball, spades, and movies directed by Tyler Perry?Report

      • Tyler Perry might want to get more white people to watch his stuff. Or maybe not. But if Perry does want more white people to watch his stuff, I wouldn’t consider that to be the least bit problematic. On the other hand, if he suggests that people don’t watch his stuff because there’s something wrong with them, that can be more problematic.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        But should we also encourage people to try pick up basketball, spades, and movies directed by Tyler Perry?

        They’re doing fine already. (I used to play a lot of spades in college, but bridge is a better game.)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Dude, if you’d ever been to a Cabela’s, you’d know just how embedded camping is in the cash-flow culture.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I guess I’m just curious why “reading novels, classical music, softball, playing chess, and movies where nothing blows up” are things people ought to try but not, perhaps, other endeavors.

        What makes something people ought to try?Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Kazzy and Will,

        I wrote a post for the group recently and sent it to Todd that mentions Tyler Perry. The post was about the paradox of bashing cultural elitism. One commentator I refer to in the article talks about how conservative voices/viewpoints are absent from our leading theatres. I mention that Tyler Perry’s plays (he started as a playwright) are very conservative with their focus on church and family. He just operates in a different market than the commentator was focusing on.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        People ought to try (within reason) everything. Some things already get lots of publicity (e.g. the Nth reboot of Batman); others need help in that department.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        So, Mike, if I may… how many of the songs/playlists did you listen to during the hip hop symposium?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Enough to decide I didn’t like any of it.

        But that doesn’t mean you guys were wrong to encourage me to listen to it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I appreciate you making the effort.

        I tend to find the “encouragement train” only runs one way. And will admit that I am often moving in it’s direction. “Try Indian food.” “Try Thai food.” “Try Chinese food that isn’t General Tso’s.” I say these things, often. But I’m also willing to try most anything if given a proper guide (I myself didn’t try Indian food for a long time because I didn’t want to go on my own, choose a shitty place and/or order the wrong thing, and have a bad experience that caused me to write it off).

        But I have a lot of friends who push hiking and camping on me, especially so now that I live in the mountains (of Orange County, NY). When I tell them that I have tried those things and they just ain’t for me, I’m told I didn’t try hard enough or proper enough or the way they do it. Yet if I say, “Hey, will you play basketball with us? We need an 8th for 4v4,” the response tends to be a scoff at the mere suggestion.

        We would all be better served with a greater willingness to try new and different things. But also to be respectful of people’s wishes not to.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        General Tso’s

        You’re not the first one to mention that. I love Chinese food, but I have no idea what that is.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        General Tso’s Chicken was invented in America by Chinese people working out what Round Eye Americans liked to eat.

        For some people, it’s not Authentic Chinese Food if it was invented by Chinese people in America.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I think it is called other things in other parts of the country, sometimes a different spelling of “Tso” (pronounced “So”… usually…) and sometimes a different general. Basically, it is chicken nuggets in a tangy sauce with some veggies… about as American as Chinese food gets. It wouldn’t shock me if it didn’t proliferate in the SF area, at least not at any place worth it’s salt.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        There are two conflicting claims about the origins of General Tso’s Chicken. One that it originated in Taiwan and the other that it was first cooked in New York City during the 1970s. In both stories, General Tso’s Chicken is attributed to the same chief.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Tso%27s_chickenReport

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        But should we also encourage people to try pick up basketball, spades, and movies directed by Tyler Perry?

        Well, I expect Tyler Perry would like it if more people watched his movies. Similarly, the NPS is advertising. That inherently involves presenting your ‘product’ as a good and desirable thing.Report

      • Beef Wellington is better than General Tso’s Chicken, if only because it doesn’t need to flash its shoulderboards at you.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Most beef dishes go best with a nice red wine, but Wellington calls for water from the loo.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        “In both stories, General Tso’s Chicken is attributed to the same chief.”

        So it’s actually Indian food? Great googly moogly.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

      What bothers me about the NPS’s effort to appeal to POCs is the presumption that hiking/camping/outdoorsmanship is something people ought to like.

      To be fair, they’re the National Park Service. It’s kind of their jobs to sell people on the idea of taking advantage of what they have to offer. Which isn’t a bad thing, because some presently-unsold people may like it. I don’t find the implication that there’s something wrong with people who don’t like it. (It’s not my cup of tea, for the most part.)Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        That’s fair. I got the sense from the Salon piece that there was some hand-wringing about people not hiking and camping. I might have misread that in there.

        More broadly, I think we should be mindful of how we frame these questions.

        “I wonder why there seems to be a racial gap in this activity” is different than, “Why don’t brown folks properly love hiking?”Report

      • I agree with Will. A fundamental purpose of any institution is to perpetuate their own existence. This is true as true of governments as of corporations and nonprofits. The The fate of the National Parks Service depends in large part on people getting value from the parks, and if they are missing a growing segment of the population, it could lead to trouble for them in the future.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

        I agree with Will’s take on this, but I think it’s important to consider that something like 96% of the people who go to NPs never get off pavement. They drive around, maybe do the half-mile (paved!) walk to the geyser or delicate arch, then go back to into their cars. And then to the restaurant. They’re not really getting a wilderness experience as much as viewing some really cool stuff live and in person.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        “They’re not really getting a wilderness experience as much as viewing some really cool stuff live and in person.”

        Which should be totally fine. If not for those people, the park likely closes.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy says:

      Maybe we shouldn’t wonder about why POCs don’t hike and camp, but why white people do.

      A more declarative version of that sentiment was in the original version of this post. Hiking and camping are the “weird” behaviors that require an explanation. There is no intrinsically obvious reason why someone would enjoy camping or hiking, but there is an obvious reason that people like to sleep in comfortable beds in climate-controlled houses.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Hear, hear.

        I went camping recently with friends… giving it a try… I could see the fun of building a fire, cooking over it, and sitting around sharing stories, booze, and cigars. But these were all things we could do in my backyard. When it came time to cram four dudes who had been eating beans and sausage into a tent for the night, I was all like, “Can someone explain to me why we didn’t just go to my backyard, do all the fun things, and then go sleep on beds and couches?” They couldn’t. It was “just better this way”. Okay.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Because it’s an adventure, Kazzy. Conveniences and adventure don’t mix.

        Also, because being in the middle of a forest, away from the lights, away from the traffic and city noises, where you can see all the stars and maybe even some wild animals, is a major part of the enjoyment of camping. You don’t get that in your backyard.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Well, I am situated such that I do get pretty good stars (at least for the NYC Metro area) and some wildlife (mostly dear, some turkeys, and the beaver/gopher/woodchuck thing that lives under my shed).

        But not EVERYONE considers those things superior to the alternative. Not everyone considers that an adventure worth having.

        I could say the same thing about seeing the lights of Broadway and the sounds of the city and all that jazz.

        I wasn’t opposed to camping. I’m glad I tried it. I adventured. But, it didn’t sit with me. Is that okay?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        KatherineMW, you haven’t been up on your reading of British and French imperialism. They made sure they had their creature comforts while having adventures exploiting the peoples of Africa and Asia.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Sure, Kazzy, it’s a matter of taste. (But “good stars for the NYC metro area” isn’t remotely the same as seeing the sky when you’re in the genuine wilderness. And a beaver and a gopher are very little alike; the latter is much smaller, for one.) I like nature. It revives my soul when I get worn down by too much urbanity. I find the wilderness stunningly beautiful (because I live in BC, and it is; in my regionalistic opinion, the east coast simply can’t compare). But that doesn’t mean everyone will feel that way.

        And Lee, I wasn’t thinking of imperialism when I said “adventure”.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        KMW,

        I take no issue with your stance. I’m all for encouraging people to share in our passions. I just think we should respect whatever preferences and/or boundaries they might have. Seems like you do just that.

        And I have no clue what the thing under my shed is. I just know it’s ugly.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        There is a certain “I did that!” sense of accomplishment that comes of hiking.
        “I am a self-sufficient human being capable of carrying my housing and food on my back, and surviving more than 24 hours from medical facilities”

        There’s also the “I’m the first person to see this!” thrill — for the forest and mountain change year by year, and storm by storm.Report

    • @kazzy

      What bothers me about the NPS’s effort to appeal to POCs is the presumption that hiking/camping/outdoorsmanship is something people ought to like. It strikes me as rooted in a, “Why don’t these people like it? If only they knew how great it was.” Are we sure hiking and camping are good things? Objectively?

      I didn’t read the Salon article, so perhaps I’m not getting the full sense of what’s at stake. But I imagine part of encouraging persons of color to hike and camp is really just the NPS trying to expand its constituency. The more people who like to go to national parks to do these things, the more people might be invested in preserving the parks (and funding the NPS).

      And if we’re talking about activities that some might have been avoiding because of a perceived unwelcoming attitude to persons of color, then I don’t necessarily see the problem in an agency trying to portray itself as more welcoming. Of course, how it does this and whether it might have unintended effects might be a very different matter. (And again, maybe if I knew more about the campaign or had read the Salon article, I might have a different take about what’s going on.)

      I should note that I’m not a particularly outdoorsy person. I like to walk a lot, and if I still lived in Boulder or near a Cook County forest preserve, I might venture out into “nature” occasionally for recreation. But I’ve never camped (well, once in a trailer, but I’m not sure that counts), have gone fishing only a few times, and am not the kind of person who wears those impossibly heavy looking backpacks to go on an all-day or multi-day hike.Report

      • Err….I guess Will T. said pretty much the same thing in his comment above, although he didn’t take 3 paragraphs to say it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        I should probably look into how the NPS is actually attempting to broader its base.

        If it is more, “Stop being stupid and come hike,” I have a problem with that.
        If it is more, “Let’s show you why we think hiking is great and why we think you might enjoy it,” I don’t really have any problem there.

        And, yes, the NPS has every right, if not a duty, to expand its constituency. But perhaps we should examine the question of whether we should have an NPS or NPs in general. What is gained? What is lost? There tends to be a lot of question begging in these conversations because we are talking from within the normed culture.Report

      • The Burkean part of me wants to err on the side of saying that we shouldn’t dismantle the NPS or NP’s. If we were thinking of creating both or either de novo, then I’m not sure where I stand.

        At any rate, I think the question is one worth asking, and I don’t have a firm commitment to my tentative “yes” answer.Report

      • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        And surely that Burkean impulse is more appealing when we’re discussing wild places that, once let open to development and exploitation, will never again be as they were.Report

      • @don-zeko :

        I think there’s a few things at play here.

        First, now that we have an NPS and NP’s, along with other measures, such as county- and state-level forest preserves, it would probably be foolhardy to dismantle them in toto.

        Second, if we were starting from scratch, it is not obvious to me that those measures are the best ways to preserve “wild” areas. It’s not obvious that they’re not the best ways, either. I would need to learn more.

        Third, along these lines, it’s also not entirely obvious, to me, at what point preservation and conservation ought to give way to other interests and at what point it ought to override other interests. If people already own the land to be preserved, for example, when ought the state to resort to eminent domain in order to create a preservation area (this is more an issue in forest preserves than NP’s, I understand, but it’s an issue that has arisen).

        Fourth, even without an NPS or system of forest preserves or open lands, a proper Burkean impulse, as I understand it, would be vary wary of undertaking vast restructuring of supposedly “natural” or “wild” areas. In practice, that would mean some sort of policy restraining developers from intruding upon such lands willy nilly. So, in a sense, I’m open to the idea that innovative (i.e., new) regulation might be needed. Which, in another sense, is paradoxically a non-Burkean means to attain or maintain a Burkean end.

        Fifth, this is probably a pedantic point, but worth considering nonetheless: One assumes a bit when talking about “wild” lands or “natural” lands as unchanging or unaffected by people. I personally believe that no wild lands on this earth are completely free of the influence of people, and I believe that most putatively wild areas are in many ways constituted by and depend on non-wild places.

        As I said, that last point might be a pedantic point, especially because preservationists and environmentalists are not necessarily placing all their bets on a notion about the alleged, a-human, pristine-ness of “natural” lands, although they might appeal to that notion in their advertisements and advocacy. At the same time, I think it’s useful to keep in mind that no lands, or at least very few lands, are “as they were.” I don’t think keeping that in mind necessarily determines a given policy outcome, but it does remind us that there’s not some unchanging nature that needs to be saved from the passage of time.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

      On your second paragraph, thats true about any hobby or interest. Many of the people really into something become missionaries of a sort and want to spread the good news of their hobby/interest far and wide. When I was into anime, I kept trying to get people I knew to watch it and couldn’t understand why many of them weren’t into it.Report

  6. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Americans mythologize wilderness along a different arc than other cultures. Without a rubust concept of wilderness we wouldn’t have useful paradigms of individual responsibility and daring that lots of us continue to cling to: rugged individualism and the frontier spirit and all that. So wilderness was viewed – and continues to be viewed, it seems to me – as a place of opportunity by some white people in the US, whereas most other people viewed it rather more negatively. As the place where the big bad wolf lives, or a tiger will eat you while you’re meditating.

    The upside (to me!) of our particular mythology is that it has morphed into beliefs about the value of preserving wilderness as an end in itself, to some extent. Wild places are certainly still viewed as lands of opportunity – where an individual can carve out a life for himself (usually with the help of drilling rigs, anymore) free from gummints and irritating neighbors – but are increasingly viewed as having either intrinsic value of their own or aesthetic value which is worth preserving in its natural state.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

      @stillwater Stillwater,

      I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but isn’t there some privileged baked into the benefit you (we) derive from this mindset? There are reasons that we can afford to maintain large swaths of our country in its natural state. If we had people starving and dying, I wouldn’t hesitate to advocate that we clearcut the national parks and build farmland. Fortunately, that is not our reality. But we should realize the good fortune we enjoy and which allows us the luxury of unfettered natural spaces.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

        Kazzy, it’s not that I disagree, but that what I’m pointing at isn’t really about privilege or anything like that. I’m talking about the concept wilderness plays in American culture. So sure, an economic analysis might conclude that it’s only because of economic privilege that the US sets aside huge chunks of land for conservation and whatnot – and even that the privilege is race-based. That’s a point which can be debated. But only, it seems to me, by discounting the role wilderness, as a concept, plays in shaping culturally determined lifestyle and policy choices. I’m just offering a competing (and incomplete!) account of why different people hold different beliefs about this stuff..Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I gotcha.

        My initial comment shouldn’t have been read as a criticism and I apologize if it came off that way. My point is that certain countries and peoples are so situated as to benefit a particular relationship with nature, the wilderness, and the like. This isn’t a bad or good thing… just a thing. I just think we should be mindful of criticizing people who take a different path because this particular path isn’t open to them. And you did not criticize such folks. So, it was more of a preemptive reminder that just because something is good does not mean we can necessarily say the absence of that thing is bad… or evidence of bad.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        Fortunately, that is not our reality
        YET.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Stillwater says:

      Americans mythologize wilderness along a different arc than other cultures. Without a rubust concept of wilderness we wouldn’t have useful paradigms of individual responsibility and daring that lots of us continue to cling to: rugged individualism and the frontier spirit and all that.

      This is true. But I do have a but. Come the end of days, if you were lost in the wilderness with Mike Dyer or me, your chances of surviving would greatly increase. We have some basic understanding of getting around, finding food, building shelter. You’d definitely want someone like me around when it came to growing crops, caring for animals, preserving food, and making clothing.

      So these skills serve us very well when we all go to hell in a hand basket. Which might be a useful perspective for comprehending how those who have a robust concept of wilderness interpret world events.

      But there is another side to robust wilderness perspectives, and this is the real point of my otherwise sarcastic post: this is not our (meaning the species human) planet, alone. We share it with others, and we’re often not doing a very good job of looking out for their interests.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        Should add: experience with wilderness is often the door to having a greater awareness of the others living on Planet Earth.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

        Dwyer needs two people to gig a frog. If the end of civilization comes, I’m hanging with you.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to zic says:

        “So these skills serve us very well when we all go to hell in a hand basket. Which might be a useful perspective for comprehending how those who have a robust concept of wilderness interpret world events.”

        This implies a belief that we will go to hell in a handbasket in the immediate or soon-to-be-future. People have been claiming a new dark ages/fall of Rome long before either of us were born.

        Perhaps it is my neo-liberalish and unrepentant urbanist side coming up here but I doubt societal collapse is close to coming soon.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        Well, you won’t be getting much in the way of canned beans with me. Or sympathy for fear of the dark and sounds in the night.

        And I’m likely to make folk walk a lot.

        But my wilderness is different then most folk’s wildernesses. The native people’s creation myth was of how their DemiGod, Glooskabe, changed the animals to make the world safe for the people. Other then lyme-disease bearing ticks, there are no dangerous animals here.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        New Dealer, glad to see you got my sarcasm.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

        I used to camp up in the mountains with no deodorant, because it apparently attracts bears (though I only ever saw two, both in valleys far from where I was on a slope). I’m ready for Maine! Well, except for the warm clothing.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

        Every time a culture has gone sideways, it always comes back more technologically advanced than before. The real survivalists, the Amish, know you have to be completely disconnected before the disaster, not afterwards. But even they understand how immediately co-dependent they are upon each other and on the outside world. Their retreat from technology forces them to be more co-dependent. That’s the whole point.

        The Survivalist Movement here in the USA is just silly. In the absence of the state, people hang together more tightly, not less.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        zic, I’m not exactly sure if this is an on-point comment or not, but I want to make clear that I wasn’t trying to disparage the concept of rugged individualism and frontier spirit. I came out west (from Chicago) precisely because I wanted to live outside in big wild places. I cling to those ideas in my own way just as much as the people who are more overtly identified with them.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to zic says:

        @zic That’s got to be an East Coast thing. We have very real cougars and bear in our neighborhood. We have a few Grizzly, they keep to themselves. The black bear regularly cruise our streets and fruit trees. The cougars are what are scary. A few get put down every year for patrolling the local bike trails.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        Stillwater, I think both extremes are often true at the same time; we embrace our wilderness experiences like we embrace a fairy tale, proof and practice of our ability to survive.

        At the same time, many of us seek it out for beauty, comfort, or whatever other reason we might have; something done in relative security, not when survival is on the line. It’s not a binary thing; one thing or another; it’s as complex as mankind, and as shifting.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

        I’m out there a long ways from cell phone signal. I’ve yet to meet any Rugged Individualists, here, or in rural NY State, rural Louisiana, rural Arizona, rural Missouri. Maybe out in the far reaches of Idaho and Montana they might be found. Those are admittedly blank spots on my map but the Arizona mountain people and the Cajuns are pretty goddamn rural.

        Met a lot of rugged people out there. But the Individualists I’ve known are mostly in cities, where they can get away with their uniqueness. Rural society imposes its own sort of conforming upon its members, a stricture non-conforming kids run away from as fast as they can.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

        We have black bears at my work. Just how scared should I be of them? I get various responses from “locals”.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to zic says:

        Black Bear aren’t dangerous as long as cubs aren’t involved. Leave them alone. Don’t feed them. Don’t try to get a picture of your kid standing next to them.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        Met a lot of rugged people out there. But the Individualists I’ve known are mostly in cities, where they can get away with their uniqueness. Rural society imposes its own sort of conforming upon its members, a stricture non-conforming kids run away from as fast as they can.

        True. Very well said.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @cascadian I think it’s a northern-east coast thing. There were (and perhaps are returning) wolves, but never a documented incident of them attacking people, and the myth is older then white men paying a bounty on wolf pelts. We have cougars here, too, but rare, and they avoid people. I’ve only seen one in the wild. We have black bears, but they’re also unlikely to bother a person, the exception being if you get between a mother and her cubs. There are also no poisonous snakes, insects, spiders.

        The myth I spoke of is Abenaki, the tribes (by language group) in what we now call Northern New England and the Canadian Maritimes; I first encountered it in the books written by Joseph Bruchac. Since a people’s creation myth reflects something of the values they hold, a people’s myth is of a world safe from dangerous animals seems important, particularly since it’s also true.

        Here’s another version of the tale, http://smokyriversong.tripod.com/smokyriversongslookatindianlifeandthelore/id1.htmlReport

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

        I saw the mama with her two babies a few weeks back. Even blockhead me figured that was a no-no situation.

        However, it is a bit unfair that their babies are indistinguishable from children in bear suits.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

        The most dangerous bear is one habituated to humans. The dumpster down this driveway features a big cement block on top. The wildlife out here is pretty intense but not all of it is as wild as it might be or perhaps ought to be.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to zic says:

        @zic That was a really charming story. I quite like First Nations mythology. I hadn’t read that one before,thank you.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to zic says:

        security camera video of a bear stealing an entire freakin’ dumpster. Just rolled it away!Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to zic says:

        NewDealer,
        There’s plans on teh books for evacing Miami. Um, permanently
        And folks (powers dat be) wanna give up on Atlanta. Entirely. Pull out, no more city.

        When was the last time we lost a great American City?

        Better experience this reality quick, it won’t be here in twenty years.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to zic says:

        I’ll take the over-under of Miami and Atlanta still being there in twenty years.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to zic says:

        Yeah, seriously. If Miami and Atlanta are gone in 20 years, I am going to have bigger problems. Like dodging all the radioactive mutants.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Stillwater says:

      I disagree with this. Many of the people really into the mythology of rugged individualism as a political ideology are the less likely to support the national park system and favor giving businesspeople the right to develop it. Wilderness is wilderness because government declared it to be a no go zone for human exploitation. People who believe in rugged individualism know this.Report

  7. Avatar Cascadian says:

    Thanks for the post. I got a couple of really good chuckles reading it. Historically, I believe we can blame the Brits for popularizing wilderness tourism. It’s not going to be too surprising that the alpine countries are going to have populations that play in the mountains. It’s also not going to be surprising, as you point out, that you need a bit of wealth and security to find pleasure in “roughing it”. Purposefully, leaving the city to go play in the mountains requires that you live in a city. If you’re a kid living in a mountain village it’s not called hiking, it’s called playing, or hunting, or going to the summer grazing grounds.

    India has many poor people. It has other classes as well. Wealthy Indians have been climbing and adventuring for a long time, mostly organized within privileged sectors of the military. It also has mountain villages where I’m sure kids play.

    Here in Vancouver, we have a huge South Asian population and are surrounded by mountains. It’s really not that unusual to see a Sikh family on the hiking trails or brown people on the pistes. Of course, once you lose your traditional garb and don Gore-Tex and a helmet, you’d look pretty much like everyone else up here.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Cascadian says:

      Thank you for your comments. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Wealthy Indians have been climbing and adventuring for a long time

      I’d note that this refers to the uber-wealthy who likely take their luxuries with them. (The image of 8 guys carrying one of those carts on their shoulders is the appropriate one.) It’s a different way of connecting with the environment than someone who carries their own sleeping bag.Report

  8. Avatar Chris says:

    Where I’m from, it was not uncommon for black people to go fishing every day, or at least a few times a week, and hunting and walkin’ in the woods (no one called a regular walk in the woods hiking until city folk started doing it on the weekends) were common too. Did they vacation in Yosemite? Probably not, for a variety of cultural and financial reasons. The cultural reasons were probably not all that different from the ones that kept most white city folk from vacationing in the wilderness too. If camping at Yosemite is our measure of whether people do outdoorsy things, though, we need to rethink… well, probably a lot of stuff.

    Seriously, sometimes I think city people ask the dumbest questions.Report

    • “(no one called a regular walk in the woods hiking until city folk started doing it on the weekends)”

      I wondered about this, too, and was going to write a comment to the effect of, “how are we defining ‘hiking’ here?” When I lived in Colorado, I claimed that I liked “to hike” because I like to walk and if there’s a wilderness-y area available (but not too far from an urban area, a restaurant, or an ATM), then I like to go walking there. But the claim that I liked “hiking” functioned more as a way for me to fit in with people who did fourteeners and some such.Report

      • I am pretty generous with the term. If it has a trail head, it counts as hiking to me. The last picture in my post is on a “mountain” that only takes 40 minutes to climb.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        I once heard an old Down East Mainer explain the difference between a vacation home and a fisherman’s home. Look for the front door. A fisherman’s home has the front door facing the land. The vacation home has the door facing the sea.

        I just took his word for it. Perhaps someone else could set me straight on this factoid.

        For 18 months, I lived in northeast Phoenix in a home just north of North Mountain Park. I got two pairs of good hiking shoes, one with high ankles for hiking North Mountain (what with the chiggers and rattlesnakes and all), the other for city hiking. It’s been well over two years now and I’ve never put on the street running shoes, the high ankle shoes have worked out well for hiking in Louisiana and Wisconsin — and for the same reasons.

        The Army snatched three things away from me I used to love. Running, the Army boot made a dog’s dinner of my great toes in Basic Training. Camping — and hunting — now the closest I want to get to sleeping in the Great Outdoors is a well-appointed bed and breakfast.

        Human beings shouldn’t be cooped up inside for too long. Maybe modern man has taken to hiking for the same reason the vacation home’s door faces the sea. We don’t have to make a living outdoors any more, most of us.Report

      • If you don’t need a pack, you’re not hiking, you’re going for a walk. If you have a pack because it makes you feel like you’re hiking, but don’t really need it, you’re still just going for a walk.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        I’ve never hiked then.

        I guess I still need to try it. D’oh!Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        A lot of the hikers I know here on the Front Range wear fanny packs and Camelbacks. That’s what distinguishes hiking from a long walk. And designated shoes. Gear is an essential component to serious outdoor activity.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        Well, for serious hiking all you really need is a tomahawk, a skinning knife, and a lighter. Invariably you’ll run across a hiker or two fully loaded down with gear. Next thing you know, you’re sitting by a fire sharing a nice meal with your talking dog (who is a mutant due to nuclear fallout).Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        Shame on you, @george-turner, a lighter?

        A flint.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        And lessons in flint napping, still used for really high-precision surgical tools.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        Flint napping is an amazing skill. I’ve read a great book about it, but unfortunately lacked a really good supply of flint. I know quite a few bowyers who nap, but I haven’t made bows myself in ten years or so.Report

      • A fanny pack probably counts. My brother is an avid hiker, hiking up around Eugene, OR pretty much any chance he gets. He uses something like this:

        http://wetnosesdogtreats.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/doggie-backpack.jpgReport

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        Real hikers carry a medical kit. Doesn’t need to be terribly extensive, if you aren’t going out far, but ya need one.
        Vikram,
        you’d call half the trails in my local park hiking, then. Did I mention I live in a city?

        George,
        Serious hikers cook food over beercans. They could also take you in a fight.Report

      • What makes the most linguistic sense? I use “going for a walk” to mean that I am just walking around with little care for what my immediate surroundings are. If I specifically go to a nature preserve of some sort to do the same thing, I think that’s worth having a different name for.

        While I don’t have a big objection to the other definitions suggested, but to me packing requirements seem like a less natural way to distinguish hikes from walks. I might pack food for a relatively short hike if it overlaps with lunch, but I might walk 4-5 hours with some water if I think I can make it back before feeling hungry.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Chris says:

      If camping at Yosemite is our measure of whether people do outdoorsy things, though, we need to rethink… well, probably a lot of stuff.

      This is an extremely fair point. I probably should have noted somewhere that the statistics in the articles linked seemed to be for national parks. National park visitation rates is probably a poor proxy for having an interest in doing outdoor stuff since national parks are often in peculiar places and many state parks offer plenty to do cheaper and closer.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Yea, I jog, walk the neighborhood with my son, play football, and would play pickup basketball at outdoor courts if we had a halfway decent run by me.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        A lot of national parks tend to get more visitors from Europe now than they do from Americans. Many white Americans aren’t using the national parks now either. A lot of this is because we are richer these days and families can usually afford more luxurious vacations than they did during the boom days of the national parks.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        A few decades ago I went to Yellowstone National park and wore a nice, furry, West German Army jacket the whole time. I hadn’t expected it, but other park visitors constantly came up to me assuming I was a fellow German. It actually made the trip doubly interesting because I could so easily ask Germans what they thought of the area.

        As an aside, while I was there we saw a Japanese tour bus at a scenic pull-off and about forty tourists in a semi-circle with their cameras out (all equipped with really long lenses). Thinking we must be in for a rare treat (a baby grizzly bear drinking a coca cola or something), we got out of our car to take a look. They were all photographing a plain old crow, which I guess had been promoted to “wildlife” because it was in a park, and perhaps a crow has a symbolic meaning to the Japanese that I’m unaware of.

        But America’s national parks are in many ways world parks, and often Europeans take advantage of the odd things we do in America that never caught on elsewhere, like renting a giant mobile home and spending the summer driving and “camping” all over the country.

        Some of the older commenters here might even recall the period from the 1950’s through the 1970’s when a huge number of American’s owned those little tow-behind camping trailers, spending their summers at KOA campgrounds. The children who grew up doing that talk quite a bit about their childhood memories of it on websites devoted to the old classic campers (Airstreams, Scotties, Fleetwoods, and a host of others), along with discussions of why Americans largely quit towing campers around (the growth of good hotels may play a role). There are even books about it, like this.

        So as long as we’re on the subject, could something like that take off elsewhere, like in India? Now that cars are becoming ubiquitous everywhere, and given that pretty much all the campers were built by garage start-up companies (typically some guy just decided to build one out of plywood and trailer parts, and then just kept expanding the business to keep up with sales), could an RV culture pop up almost anywhere?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @george-turner, most of my son’s work right now is rebuilding Vanagons.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Heh. The Japanese know — and hate — the karasu crow.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @Zic,

        Nice! There’s also an odd tribal aspect to RV camping, in that you go to a campground with your family, meet other families (who become your “neighbors”) and for a few weeks you chat all day as your kids play together. With the growth in easy communications (back then nobody actually had a phone in their camper, obviously) the people who still enjoy the lifestyle can stay connected and keep meeting up, year after year.

        It’s rumored that European gypsies have been doing this since the Middle Ages.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @george-turner, if you haven’t already, watch What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, one of the finest movies ever made.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @vic,

        Yes, that was a tremendous movie! I suppose it reminds me somewhat of The Last Picture Show from 1971.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        George, in Japan crows are a common pest. Kind of like a larger, more annoying version of pigeons. They hand around the garbage collection sites in neighborhoods.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris says:

      The difference between a walk in the woods and a hike is “are you on a mainline railroad, or are you on an indian trail?”
      At least around where I’m at, where everything was deforested, and we have the rails to prove it.Report

  9. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Good post.

    I think another aspect to the signalling is that a lot of white middle-class and upper-middle class people (mainly men) have a bit of a psychological problem with office work. This seems especially true if they are the first or second generation in their family to have some kind of white-collar or office job.

    A lot of men seem to think or can be at least sold on the idea that office and white collar work is less than masculine and potentially damages their manliness. The wax nostalgic about the manual labor/skilled craftsmen jobs done by their grandfather, father, uncle and how being a carpenter or contractor or lumberjack or whatever is more manly than an being in finance, an engineer, a lawyer, accountant, etc.

    I don’t quite understand this psychology considering a lot of those jobs were seriously back-breaking and soul-crushing labor especially the more repetitive versions like being on a line. I’m also an unrepentant urbanist and don’t really get any of the supposed soul-restoring benefits of going camping in the woods with just a tent. Now a nice but still with electric power cabin in Vermont or near the Russian River in California could be interesting for a few days and a lot of books.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to NewDealer says:

      Do you know the skill of sitting still?

      I learned how to sit still from my grandfather. Not sitting still in the class room, but sitting still outside, senses alert. Using your eyes, your ears, your nose to read what’s happening, without moving and crashing about so that all the other things in the area go still, themselves. I learned this by the time I was 4.

      I spent 20+ years in the city. And most of the people I knew had not notion of this skill of stillness, yet I would say is a crucial life skill, even in the city. I taught my children’s friends and their class mates. Many had trouble understanding that if you quiet down to a meditative state, things will happen that you’ll never see otherwise; they were primed to move all the time. Interestingly, it was often the children with ADHD who picked stillness up the quickest; perhaps because it requires heightened levels of attention; it’s stillness but it’s very active.

      Stillness is primarily a hunter skill; it’s how you become enough a part of the environment that the animals in it go about their business as if you were not there. One does not hunt successfully crashing about. But I use it to find mushrooms and berries; I can typically smell them if I stop and still and give myself time to sort the scents out. It’s how I see animals in the wild, in my backyard. How I got to know Grandfather Cardinal, who comes up and sits on a branch just a few feet from me now, and sings to me; not the call of alert, but the songs of the joy of life.

      Much as I love my husband, I despair of him ever learning stillness. He hasn’t the patience for it. He’ll go on ahead, out of hearing range, so that I can be still without his frightening everything away.

      You can’t find stillness reading a book; that’s all.

      Stillness not boring, though I know it must seem so. It’s entrancing. As entrancing as a book.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        Do you know the skill of sitting still?

        That’s a heckuva good point. I do not; I’m totally dependent on outside stimuli, whether it be a book, the computer, or even a problem I’m trying to solve in my head. I enjoy hiking, but I’m always the last to notice a bird or fish or the smell of an unusual flower, because I can’t clear my mind enough to be receptive to those senses.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to zic says:

        I’ve built a nice set of ponds with waterfalls in the back yard, and about a block away is a large arboretum run by the University. During long dry spells all sorts of strange animals will come out to drink, and if you’re really still, they’ll come over to within a few feet. Sometimes I can quietly talk to them, and some pick up names, like Penny the Possum. We get raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, neighborhood cats, and a large variety of birds. But they don’t come unless you sit very, very still.

        Often when I’m up late commenting here or elsewhere and feel too lazy to go back inside, I’ll just lay down by the pond and go to sleep for the night (or elsewhere in the yard to get a better wifi signal before I nod off). Sometimes I just pick a soft spot in the woods around the yard to go to sleep. A couple weeks ago I was snoozing by the pond (occasionally stirring when a cat would climb on my head), and the housemate let her dogs out for their morning business before she went to work, not noticing I was zonked in the yard.

        Blearily, I realized I was being sniffed by a big nose, then a small nose. I thought “Please stay calm, Daphne. I’m trying to sleep.” Nope. The chihuahua went full blast about six inches from my face, which got the hound barking, which set off all the neighbor dogs. I got up and said “F***. Now that’s an alarm clock.”

        Last week my other housemate woke me up out by the pond when he was trying to get to work and found out his car battery was dead. He brought me a cup of coffee and we dealt with the issue.

        We’ve had some discussions about why Americans think they have to have a sleeping bag and a tent if they’re not sleeping in a house. If it’s not bitterly cold outside, just pick a spot, lay down, and sleep. We obviously did something like that for thousands and thousands of years. It works.

        Admittedly, if a lot of people were doing it in the cities, it might cause some serious problems, if nothing else, mornings would look like there had been multiple epic frat parties all over town.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @george-turnerge, how’s the mosquito population where you are?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

        I’m not good at sitting still. I go back and forth on whether this is something I should be concerned about.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        That’s a heckuva good point. I do not; I’m totally dependent on outside stimuli, whether it be a book, the computer, or even a problem I’m trying to solve in my head.

        Mike, I used to take city-folk on 5-7 day river trips and I’d watch each of them struggle to retain all the city-based mental activity they brought with them and finally surrender to the boredom of the river. And it happened pretty much like clockwork: sometime around the second night or the morning of the third day. It was only then you’d see folks really loosen up and enjoy themselves.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        It was only then you’d see folks really loosen up and enjoy themselves.

        I should note, however, that getting to this state is very frequently not conducive maintaining strong marital bonds…Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to zic says:

        The mosquitoes flared up a couple times this year, but overall there are almost none near the yard. I would lure them in with buckets of water (and a doggie pool) and then either dump those or keep them filled with baccillus thurengensis (sp?), which is anthrax for insect larvae. In the ponds themselves the fish eat all the larvae. One housemate doesn’t react at all to mosquito bites, but I swell up almost instantly, being allergic to their saliva.

        Our problem this year has been flies. Right now I’m on the patio and they don’t seem too thick, but some days I’ve swatted over 600 of them. A few weeks ago I took a 12-pack of plastic Lipton green tea bottles and cut their tops off, then shoved the tops inverted back into the bottle and shoved random bits of cat food or rotting meat into them. Flies can fly in, but they can’t fly out (look under “inverted cone fly trap”).Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        I should note, however, that getting to this state is very frequently not conducive maintaining strong marital bonds…

        Oh, that kind of “loosen up and enjoy themselves”.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to zic says:

        Stillwater’s rafting company apparently specialized in paddle-free trips to the headwaters of S**t Creek.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        It’s only an adventure when you don’t know where you’re going. Even when it’s towards a tent to crash in.

        Paddles are an encumbrance. The river takes you where it wants you to go. Trust The River.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to zic says:

        I think I kind of do this sitting still thing, although I’ve never thought of it as such. I’m very good with animals — dogs, donkeys, and such — and I can be slow and gentle with them, and they come to trust me. I like to clear my mind and just feel things.

        Now, I am about as much a city-girl as a gal can be. On the other hand, I am severely ADHD.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to zic says:

        Zic,

        I’m late to this but this is a very interesting observation: “Do you know the skill of sitting still?…Stillness is primarily a hunter skill; it’s how you become enough a part of the environment that the animals in it go about their business as if you were not there.”

        I have tried to write about this but it is difficult to put into words. Walk into the woods and the woods know you are there, no matter how quiet you are. If you walk a bit and then become still (it really is a learned skill isn’t it?) there is a magical moment where the woods forget you are there. It is almost as though someone put a needle back on a record. Sounds increase. Movement happens. Animals go back to being themselves. I live for that experience.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        Thank you, @mike-dwyer.

        I love for those moments, and makes some effort to have a bit of that stillness outside every day; though it’s a bit tough when the temps drop below 20F.

        It took me many years to understand most of the people around me did not have this; and I still feel like I’m sometimes living in Orwell’s Valley of the Blind.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to NewDealer says:

      Blaise Pascal: “All of man’s misfortune comes from one thing, which is not knowing how to sit quietly in a room”Report

    • NewDealer,

      A lot of men seem to think or can be at least sold on the idea that office and white collar work is less than masculine and potentially damages their manliness. The wax nostalgic about the manual labor/skilled craftsmen jobs done by their grandfather, father, uncle and how being a carpenter or contractor or lumberjack or whatever is more manly than an being in finance, an engineer, a lawyer, accountant, etc.

      I am more or less a first generation office-worker type person. “More” because that’s where my aptitude/training lies. “Less” because growing up, I was socialized similarly to the way you’re criticizing, and it was women who tended, in my personal experience, to work in offices. And when I was a bank teller, I remember my father, an electrician, telling me how he imagined I just stood around all day not doing much of anything, which was kind of a hurtful comment (not to mention inaccurate….there were busy times and slack times, but usually, there was something that had to be done, and very often on a short timetable.)

      I remember when working fast food, I believed that an office job would be the best thing ever. In my imagination, I wouldn’t have to wear the humiliating uniforms, wouldn’t have to smile at people while they made all sorts of rude and grumpy comments, and get home at a decent hour. Sad to say, with most of the actual “office” jobs I had, none of those good things applied, with the partial exception of not having to wear a humiliating uniform. (And still, I believe that the shirt and tie apparatus is, for me at least, a soul-destroying dressing requirement. I’ll wear it for any job I’ll have to, but I won’t like it, and it marks me as a certain type of person I don’t want to be. But I do want a job.)

      Now, back to the point I quoted from your comment, because I sometimes catch myself in that attitude, even though I should know better. You’re right, those manual jobs are backbreaking and stressful. And even fast food work, while not necessarily (or not always) backbreaking, can be stressful and exhausting (and sometimes humiliating). But there is usually something tangible to show for it in a way that there is often not for most office jobs I’ve had or can imagine. It’s not that work doesn’t get done and not that office work doesn’t have a result of which the worker can be proud (especially if that worker is a lawyer or engineer and not one of the lesser skilled office people), but there is something about making a physical product (even if that physical product is only an unhealthy hamburger) that can have an appeal for someone in an office position.

      And yes, I realize that for a lawyer, a case can be won or contract drawn up, or official and well-documented and -informed legal opinions given, and for an engineer, a building can be built or a plan drawn up, and even for what some people contemptuously call “office drones,” there are tangible-like things that are accomplished. But it doesn’t always feel the same way as something physical that’s made.Report

      • By the way, I’m not denying the truth of your statement that there’s a belief that white color work is somehow less “masculine” (cf. the term “pink color” and the fact that most white color workers in previous generations of my family were women).Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        Pierre,

        Pink collar usually refers to admin/secretarial work but it would not refer to marketing, accounting, finance, law, engineering, architecture, etc.

        Maybe I am just a very abstract person but I never felt less dissatisfied because my work does not produce a tangible object. When I do my law work, I can say I researched issues and found answers for X, Y, and Z. Or we are X amount closer to being able to do a good deposition for Mr. Smith. The fact that I have not made a table or something else very tangible does not bother me at all.Report

      • “Pink collar usually refers to admin/secretarial work but it would not refer to marketing, accounting, finance, law, engineering, architecture, etc.”

        True, but 1) the women I knew growing up who also worked in white collar jobs fell disproportionately in the “pink collar” sector); 2) all the white collar jobs outside academe I’ve had were “pink collar” (and a majority of my coworkers and supervisors were usually women).

        “The fact that I have not made a table or something else very tangible does not bother me at all.”

        Good for you. But I imagine it does bother some people.

        And for what it’s worth, I do resent the notion that people in white collar / pink collar jobs don’t do anything of value. I’m also inclined to resent the type of assumptions about office work that I made when I was a fast food worker, but I do have something of an understanding of of where they might be coming from.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        ND, we also come from a culture that valued abstract work over physical work for about two thousand years before we were born. That kind of gives us a unique perception on this.Report

      • Lee,

        That’s a good point. My own culture, or at least my family (or at least the last 3 or 4 generations of my family), and the people they associated with, had a vision of an “artisanal” history, where one learned a trade, pursued it honorably and honestly, and got wealthy doing it. The reality didn’t usually (ever?) live up to that vision, but it was there.

        Taken to extremes, the bad side of this vision discounted the skilled, but abstract labor as part of what ND describes as “non-masculine.” And it also discounted the hardworking, and in many ways “skilled” (though perhaps more easily trainable) labor done in the service industry or in factories. Origins of the Marxist idea of Lumpen? Maybe, and it could be ugly.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        @pierre-corneille and @newdealer much of your descriptions also fit views of women’s labor; cooking, tending kitchen gardens, clothing production, child care.

        In the US, much of the early factory work was done by women, particularly in the textile industry.

        I wonder if there’s a link between traditional women’s work and the perception of factory work you’re describing as being viewed as less manly.Report

      • Good observation, Zic. Have you by chance read Deborah Valenze’s “The First Industrial Woman”? If I recall correctly, it’s about England, but it tries to make an argument about how “women’s work” changed (and was increasingly de-valorized) with the industrial revolution. It’s been about 16 years since I’ve read it, so I might be getting it wrong. But I remember thinking its argument was provocative.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        Good point on early factory work especially at textile mills. They often employed young women from farms/rural areas because they were cheaper labor than skilled weavers.

        Cooks is an odd beast because I think it depends on where the work is done. Domestic cooking (including doing it wages) was considered women’s work. Cooking in a restaurant was and probably still somewhat to largely is considered man’s work. There are still restaurants that get in trouble for being “old world” and refusing to hire women as cooks, waiters, etc.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        Interesting factoid of the day, according to Hungarian-American historian John Lucas, author of the great history Budapest 1900, cooking was considered a fine hobby for male Hungarian nobles.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        At the risk of being seen as anti-theatre, I like it better when the wait staff at restaurants is professional rather than actors and actresses attempting to make money before their careers take off.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        Lee,
        You prefer hearing the aspiring writers writhing in agony from the kitchen?Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to NewDealer says:

      I don’t quite understand this psychology considering a lot of those jobs were seriously back-breaking and soul-crushing labor especially the more repetitive versions like being on a line.

      Me neither. I its reflective of a lot of people having no interaction with anyone who held those kinds of jobs.

      I think I’m too much of an individualist to trust other individualists when they say I should be more independent. Specialization of labor is a good thing, and I try to take advantage of it whenever I can outside of cutting my own grass.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Vikram,

        I largely agree though I do clean my own apartment and should cook more frequently than I do.

        Though I am surprised when people my age and educational background say they hire cleaning people. I once ran into a guy who worked for a start-up that hired a cleaning staff for employee’s apartments. This seemed like an extravagance.Report

      • We also clean our house ourselves actually. I think part of it is that we don’t have high enough standards to justify hiring someone to come in.

        Additionally, I think we Indians are a bit particular when it comes to people working inside of our homes and touching all our stuff. I’d be worried about whether they were doing an adequate job and if they were trustworthy and if I could hide anything I didn’t want others to see. I tend to notice this with other Indian families as well. Even if the couple consists of two cardiologists, they still scrub their own toilets.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @newdealer

        I wonder how much of this has to do with our generation being coddled. I dated a girl who bemoaned that she had to spend her hard earned money on toilet paper. She’d much rather spend it on other things. “Well, someone has to buy the toilet paper. You don’t expect your parents to do that forever, do you?” Trouble is… she sort of did.

        I know a lot of my friends who think it is a travesty of justice when they have less and less leisure time each year.

        Maybe this is a right of passage and I’m needlessly chasing people my own age of the lawn, but there seems to be something off with our generation and the perception of work.

        Maybe it was growing up with Rosie from “The Jetsons”. “By the time we’re adults, robots will do everything!”Report

      • Robots will wipe your butt?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Vikram, don’t give the Japanese any ideas.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Kazzy,

        I’m suspicious of arguments that say an entire generation is more coddled than the previous one. The only way to make this not happen is to destroy scientific and technological progress and advancement. If we were all hunter-gatherer’s or sustenance farmers, no generation would be more coddled.

        We would also be extremely miserable.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I’m sure Roomba is working on a RoButt as we speak.

        The hemorrhoid droid is still far in the future, however.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I once ran into a guy who worked for a start-up that hired a cleaning staff for employee’s apartments. This seemed like an extravagance.

        Not at all extravagant. It’s “I’m getting N extra hours of engineering work for janitorial wages.”Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @newdealer

        I’m loathe to say definitively that it is a generational thing. It might just be something that comes with age.

        But there are some trends to consider…

        It seems to me that, by and large, parents do more for their children than in previous generations. This isn’t particularly new, but seems to be a broader trend, each generation more served by their parents than the previous.

        Add in that more people than ever are going to college, especially from within the circles you and I are likely to inhabit. College involves 15 hours of class and maybe, MAYBE that many hours of homework. Cooking is done by the dining hall, accommodations are meager and require little cleaning, and even that isn’t always done because the only standards that apply on their own. Commute times are minimal. Before retirement, few of us ever live as well as we do in college.

        These folks than graduate, get full time jobs, have to commute to them, have to take care of real things… it’s a big shift. And every year it seems to get worse. You buy a house and suddenly your weekends are consumed with yardwork. Get deeper into a relationship and less of your time is yours. Kids… well, game over.

        But the folks we are likely to have been surrounded by, middle and upper class folks who tend towards the right side of all of these curves… well, you end up with 30-year-olds with housekeepers.

        None of this is bad, per say. Just different.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Kazzy, I wouldn’t say that I was fully equipped for the adult world when I started to live on my own. It took me years to really understand the level of work needed to keep an apartment clean but I never complained about having to spend money on necessities. The girl you dated might have just been a bit spoiled rather than an example of common problems in our generation.

        A large reason why parents have to do more for their kids can be blamed on our auto-dependent landscape. Up until the 1970s, most kids were in places where they could walk to school and some sort of downtown area. Games were played on the streets and playgrounds of schools in cities. Even when school wasn’t in session, the playground of a school was a hangout. They had freedom to roam. Very few kids have this right these days because they would be flattened by a car and because of concerns about predators.

        The very structured nature of middle to upper class childhood also makes sure that we lean towards a culture where parents have to do more for their kids than previous parents.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @leeesq

        And I think all of those contribute to more 20-somethings not being prepared for adult life.

        I was pretty prepared for it. I was always expected to clean my own room and help with chores. I was making food for myself by the time I was in middle school (my parents made meals, but I was a growing boy with a voracious appetite and they were not going to cook for me 24/7 nor give me money to go to the store).

        People who do not do these things are less prepared for adulthood. My anecdotal experience tells me more people these days do not do these things. You seem to agree with that, yet disagree with the broader idea.

        I’m not trying to throw our generation under the bus. Just noting the realities.Report

      • I like ND’s sentiment. Maybe we should say “yay! The next generation is more coddled!” I grew up hearing all about how the lack of slide rules would ruin our educations, but in retrospect this seems obviously silly.Report

      • I had relative free reign of my neighborhood as a kid. It’s sad that a lot of kids don’t. Even though, generally speaking, I do agree with the notion that a lot of the “spoilage” is actually really just progress.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        The thing is, I don’t think all these shifts are necessarily dependent on one another. We can return some of the freedom to our kids if we all agree that stranger-danger was overblown and we’re not going to arrest parents who led 10-year-olds play unsupervised in the front yard. And we can still do all the coddling that might well be progress. We can also equip our youth with the skills to survive independent of that coddling if and when the time comes that demands that of them.

        I’m not saying that we should force kids to walk uphill to school in the snow both ways. But if we have 30-year-olds who fail to save for retirement because they are paying for housekeepers because they think they deserve 3 hours of reality TV a night, I think we’ve done something wrong.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Kazzy, most twenty and thirty-somethings that I know don’t have house-keepers. Nor do I think its entirely unreasonable for people who work long and hard at work to hire one. If you put in ten to twelve hours, five or six days a week, you really don’t want to have spend your one free day doing chores.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Mike,

        I just think that being able to clean an apartment is something young people should do. This is possibly somewhat hypocritical because of my dislike of the spoilage argument but eventually they might or probably are going to work for companies that don’t provide such nice perks. Not everyone has to be a great cleaner or a master cook but you should know enough to be self-sufficient when the Venture Capital dries up.

        Or it could just be that I’ve been freelancing for my entire post lawschool career (admittedly only 2 years) and while I make a very good wage. I’m jealous of people with perks and benefits like health care, paid vacations, and the like.

        Vikram,

        There are still people who are cranky about the death of the slide ruler.

        There is a meme about it. Probably created by a 19 year old.Report

      • @kazzy , OK, I’m changing my interpretation to yours. I do think it’s silly that people should be made to feel bad if they can’t change the oil on their car if they can afford the $20 it takes at the QuikLube place. But you’re right that there are still instances of genuine coddling that we should escape.

        (By the way, I could imagine when I was younger musing about how I have to now buy toliet paper without it being a reflection of my being coddled. It would just be an observation that I always took it for granted that there would be toliet paper around, and then suddenly it was a thing that I was expected to take care of. No one tells you beforehand “you know, when you get older, you’re going to have to buy toliet paper.” Neither does anyone say, “OK, that’s your last roll of free toliet paper. If you want any more, you have to buy it yourself.” It just happens.)Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @vikram-bath

        The girl in question was incredibly coddled and incredibly sheltered about the realities of life. The kind of girl who would say something like, “What do you mean your parents didn’t buy you a car when you got your license? What was their problem?” And mean it. So, she isn’t the most representative person. I was just holding her up as an example of what can go wrong. She genuinely thought it unfair that she had to buy toilet paper because that was her money that she earned and she should only spend it on things she wanted. What was lost on her was that her parents were helping pay her rent so she could live in a high rise in Murray Hill with her starting salary of $60K.

        There are a lot of things I pay to have done. I don’t think there is anything wrong with paying to have things done for you. We all do that. How many of us sew our own clothes? The issue becomes when one’s sense of what they should be expected to do is warped to the point that they make irresponsible decisions. I just turned 30. I make about $70K a year. If I failed to fund my retirement because I instead spent that money on a housekeeper… or beer… or vacations… I’d call that irresponsible. Maybe that is my inner curmudgeon, but that is my outlook.

        Now, if these people have housekeepers and fund their retirement and do the other “responsible” things 30-somethign adults should do, I have no issue with their choices. And if it allows them to watch 5 hours of reality television, power to them. My critique arises when people abscond of responsibilities to indulge themselves. Doing that here and there is fine… healthy even. But if that is your world view… or the world view of a generation… I think we’ve failed them.

        Perhaps I misunderstood the initial housekeeper comment.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @leeesq

        See my comment just above to Vikram, which includes an unacknowledged response to your argument. To be more direct, I like wouldn’t take issue with the person described unless they were putting themselves deep into debt with the housekeeper.Report

      • Regarding outsourcing cleaning, my wife’s university is trying to cut costs. All the professors in her school earn at least six figures, but they are salaried and the university can’t cut their hours. The janitors, on the other hand, are paid hourly. So, the university is now making professors take out their own trash and cutting the hours of the janitorial staff. It is less efficient, but it does work out cheaper for them.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Kazzy, I think the fact that car culture has done more to end the ability of kids to rome their vicinity freely than fear of predators. In many if not most places in the United States giving kids reign to explore is basically asking for kid pancakes courtesy of the car. Restoring the right to room will require ending sprawl and a return to the compact village, town, and city.

        I have to travel a bit for work. When I’m in a plane thats flying just high enough to see the ground, a lot of what I see is not conductive to giving kids roaming rights. Outside the North East and even inside the North East, a lot of it seems cul-de-sacs connected to highways rather than proper neighborhoods.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @leeesq

        I have always lived in areas that were highly walkable, but I’ve always lived between Boston and DC, so I’m not a representative sample. I haven’t seen car culture as the culprit. Read Lenore Skenazy over at Free Range Kids to get a sense of how powerful and detrimental social and legal shifts have been.

        It’s assuredly not an either/or, but a both/and. Even if we can’t change car culture, we can change other factors.

        I should also say I’m not sure I fully understand what we mean by giving free reign to kids. In the neighborhoods you describe (cul-de-sacs and highways), the kids might not be able to walk to a store to get some snacks (a deterrent to autonomy), but they can assuredly set up a street hockey game at the end of the sac. Well, they could, if it wouldn’t get them arrested.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

      Ever slept beside a waterfall?
      Seeing the stars as you go to bed is one of life’s natural pleasures.
      Naturally, you know that one, being jewish. (and a wonderful sukkot to you, wishing you few splinters and many figs!)Report

  10. Avatar George Turner says:

    The African American Hunting Association has some good discussions about the topic of this post.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner says:

      George Zimmerman tried to join that.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

      Good (and inevitable) joke, but they are a real organization. Google the name and you’ll find their main site, plus a Facebook page and a blog. One of the posts on the blog is Why Don’t African Americans Hunt?

      The comments are well worth reading.

      As an aside, Southerners, both black and white, are a hunting and fishing culture, and there really is no stigma attached to it. But when you take Southerners and displace them to Northern cities, their hunting becomes a poor Southern redneck relic and people might distance themselves from it, similar to how many immigrant communities would purposely abandon parts of their culture so they didn’t seem “fresh of the boat” (or FOB).

      Then compound that with the fact that hunters have to find a place to hunt, and that often involves asking permission. I can imagine that an African American fresh up from Alabama, anytime between the 1870’s and 2010’s, wouldn’t have much luck going around asking northern German-Americans (who are anal about property) for permission to wander all over their farm with a big gun to try and kill things – cause dat’s what we do down in Alabama. I would be surprised if more than three of them even asked.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to George Turner says:

        On an episode of “Wife Swap”, the paired a woman who was a staunch animal rights activist with a family from rural Kentucky, where the father hunted for most of their meat. There was a really powerful moment when the mother of the Kentucky family broke down and basically said, “It’s easy for you to oppose hunting. You can go to the store and buy what you need. We can’t. We need to hunt.” I’m not sure it proved particularly moving to the other family… unfortunately.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to George Turner says:

        Kazzy, did the animal rights family eat meat at all? People opposed to hunting tends more towards vegetarianism and veganism. Urban meat eaters might find the idea of hunting amusing but most of them aren’t opposed to it.

        Also, while I realize that we are big country with some rather isolated pockets; most of us live near stores. Rural Kentucky isn’t that isolated.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to George Turner says:

        @leeesq

        I don’t remember all the details. I’m confident the family was vegetarian, if not full blown vegan. The KY family’s issue was not necessarily access (though they lived fairly remotely) but cost. They had two or three sons so dad going out and taking down a dear presumably was cheaper than buying several pounds of meat every week. And that is before you get into the cultural aspects of it.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to George Turner says:

        I presume you mean taking down a deer, not a dear. The latter would probably count as murder. I’m pretty sure that buying meat at a store is still relatively cheaper than hunting it and less time consuming even if its a pretty long drive away.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to George Turner says:

        A deer, yes.

        I honestly don’t know the details of it all. I don’t know the costs associated with hunting. In one scene, the vegan mother didn’t defrost meat for dinner, so the dad walked out of his house with a gun and walked back in relatively soon (who knows how it was edited) with some squirrels to eat.

        I assume if you already own the guns, your cost is the bullets and the time. If you enjoy hunting and can spend a few hours a week providing relatively cheap food for your growing family, it is hard for me to argue with you.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        I’m sure Mike has written posts about the costs of deer and other game. If you’ve already got the rifle and other accessories, deer meat comes out pretty darn cheap if you’re not counting your hours or anything, and who would? But if you go all out on equipment for turkey hunting, it can be the most expensive bird meat you’ve ever consumed.

        Fishing can similarly provide virtually free meat as long as you’re using an old rod and reel and not spending half your paycheck on new tackle. If you factor in your $70,000 bass boat, well….Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to George Turner says:

        Kazzy, its not just hunting an animal. You also need to spend a lot of time turning a dead animal into ready to cook meat. The skin and bones need to be removed and the organs separated. Than you need to cut up the meat into eatable portion sizes. Butchering involves more than simply cooking. So you need a gun and bullets to hunt plus the hunting license, butchering tools to turn the animal into meat, a place to do the butchering, containers to store the meat, and a place to store the meat.

        It makes a two hour drive to the nearest supermarket in order to buy a week’s work of groceries a lot easier.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to George Turner says:

        @leeesq

        It’s possible this family was acting in a way that were against their own best interests. Or were using a manipulative emotional plea to justify their behavior. I’m inclined to believe they best understood their situation and were best prepared to make the appropriate decisions.

        If they say it is cheaper to hunt, I’ll take them at their word. And we can’t necessarily assume the opportunity costs because they may not be in position to earn more money with that time.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        Well, perhaps a related question is how many people buy whole chickens these days, versus packaged breasts, wings, or legs? I imagine there are a whole lot of people in their 20’s or even 30’s who don’t know how to cut up and fry a whole chicken, much less pluck one.

        Oddly, I’ve read that Americans are actually less wasteful of food than most other countries, because we buy so much prepackaged, where just about the only thing that goes into the garbage can is the package itself. By pushing the processing back up the chain of supply, the scraps all go into other products instead of the dump.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        And we can’t necessarily assume the opportunity costs because they may not be in position to earn more money with that time.

        This is where the concept of opportunity costs gets dicey, no? Some people work in order to go hunting.Report

      • “You can go to the store and buy what you need. We can’t. We need to hunt.”

        Eh. I’m not in favor of anyone going hungry, but that claim stretches my credulity as much as the notion that black people won’t go into the mountains because that’s where the KKK is. It’s not that it is provably wrong or even that the speaker is knowingly lying. It just seems unlikely to be the true reason behind the person’s actions.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to George Turner says:

        My sense was that the father would have hunted anyway. But the mom’s breakdown made me think that they really did have issues with food insecurity, or at least believed that they did.

        And she offered it up to a group of people who thought the only words to describe the practice were “barbaric”, “cruel”, “evil”, and the like. They struck me as the sort of family that would all but say people should die so animals can live.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        But the mom’s breakdown made me think that they really did have issues with food insecurity, or at least believed that they did.

        The last line exposes the distinction in play, I think. It doesn’t take many hours working for minimal wages to make enough to feed a family. I think her concern was rooted in an individual or even cultural choice to be self-sufficient which ultimately prevented them (him? her?) from realizing they could trade their hunter/gatherer orientation for food security.Report

      • Did that group have the same views about eating meat from a grocery store? Was it the the participation in the hunting itself the issue? If so, that seems silly. I think killing a deer and hiring a supply chain to kill a deer are morally similar acts.

        They struck me as the sort of family that would all but say people should die so animals can live.

        Meaning they didn’t actually say that?

        Having compassion for animals means having compassion for people too. I’m sure there are some vegans confused on this point, but I don’t think there are as many as many people think there are. (Maybe it is because PETA steals all the headlines while the Humane Society lives in obscurity comparatively.)Report

      • It doesn’t take many hours working for minimal wages to make enough to feed a family.

        Few actually bother to do the math. I’ve recommended Gordon Ramsey’s shows to some of my students because it is an opportunity to how little critical thinking is involved in the decisions made by many companies. E.g., some of the restaurants don’t realize they are paying more for frozen vegetables than they would for fresh vegetables. They had just assumed frozen was cheaper, and never bothered to compare prices. And these are owner-operated businesses. The incentives are all there, but they just never thought to ask the question and make an honest attempt to answer it.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        Few actually bother to do the math.

        You’re probably right. I’m sure in my own case I haven’t done a mathematical accounting-based analysis of my personal decision-making. So it’s something I’m pretty sympathetic too, actually, and would defend to a certain extent. There’s some truth to the claim that an over-examined life isn’t worth living.

        I think the problem I have in Kazzy’s scenario is that food security is apparently a primary concern for the individual deciders, and if that’s the case, then an evaluation of exactly why food security remains an issue seems a ripe topic for over-examination.

        If the complaint is merely that food security is a real concern given our preferred lifestyle choices, then there prolly isn’t much of interest to be gleaned from doin the math.Report

      • There’s some truth to the claim that an over-examined life isn’t worth living.

        Yes, there’s some truth to it. But I think the issue of people living under-examined lives is the tidal wave and the issue of people living over-examined lives is the raindrop.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        But I think the issue of people living under-examined lives is the tidal wave and the issue of people living over-examined lives is the raindrop.

        Can’t argue with that. Especially the imagery.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to George Turner says:

        Lee,
        “It makes a two hour drive to the nearest supermarket in order to buy a week’s work of groceries a lot easier.”
        At $48 each way?
        Lee, most people in this hellhole that we like to call Capitalistic America live paycheck to paycheck. One of the fastest ways to get into debt is driving your car that much (because most people don’t bank money for repairs)Report

  11. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    Do people in Japan like camping like white Americans? They have been wealthy (or at least upper-middle class-ish) for a long time, no?

    As Chris suggested somewhere above, going into the wilderness (or outside) for walks and fishing or a picnic is pretty common endeavor throughout all humans, regardless of culture. However, this isn’t always called “camping.” What we call “camping” follows a very unique set of traditions and norms: go to a park-site, stay there for a day or two (but not a month), cook weiners and dogs and smores, have a campfire, stay in a tent, etc. These specific traditions are actually very unique to a very specific culture (American, maybe Canada too). Asking why they aren’t popular amongst other cultures is like asking why other cultures don’t like hockey as much as Canadians. It is an accident of culture that our group like camping at all.

    I’d also like to note that camping has not always been popular amongst wealthy and middle class whites. Hunting trips, maybe have always been popular. Picnics maybe. Fishing and beach going maybe. (But these in some form are popular world-wide, wherever possible.) But, I do know my grandparents wouldn’t have camped for fun, nor their compatriots, and they weren’t desperately poor or connected to poverty.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Shazbot3 says:

      Do people in Japan like camping like white Americans?

      That is an excellent question, and it’s answer would provide a good test of my theory.

      Having traveled around the US, I can say the Japanese sure seem to enjoy visiting US national parks.

      Asking why they aren’t popular amongst other cultures is like asking why other cultures don’t like hockey as much as Canadians.

      I think that’s very fair. Of course, that won’t stop the Canadian hockey league from trying to get others more interested in hockey. It’s why they exist.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Wilderness areas like Hakone, the area around Mt. Fuji and the wild stretches of Hokkaido are popular vacation destinations in Japan. The Japanese don’t go camping as we understand it though. They tend to stay in inns or hotels and use those as bases for exploring the wilderness.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Shazbot3 says:

      The Japanese have a long tradition of hiking from onsen to onsen. Wonderfully civilised way to enjoy nature.Report

  12. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I went out for a night in the city with friends, staying overnight in the hospital. In the morning, I took a hungover train ride home. But it also happened to be the morning of “Santacon” or whatever it is called. So the trains coming into the city were full of “Santacon” goofs. But where I live is right by a stretch of the Appalachian Trail. So the trains going out of the city were full of urban hippies with their walking sticks and hand knit hoodies and other hiking accruement. When a black woman saw me similarly shaking my head at my compatriots in paleness, she asked what exactly was going on. Upon explaining it, we both just had to shake our heads.

    White people can be really weird.Report

  13. Avatar Murali says:

    There are already toilet seats which wash your but for you at the press of a button. Bidet functionality has been around for quite some time. Having a had that comes out from the side to wipe your ass is not too far off from thatReport

  14. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    This reminds me of the bit in “Cryptonomicon” where the guy’s humanities-professor wife writes a paper about how growing a beard is a display of white privilege–because, like, white people have the option to shave, so when they don’t, it’s a choice, and they’re triumphantly displaying their ability to choose, as opposed to all those silly brown people who, like, just can’t afford razors and stuff.Report

  15. Avatar NotMe says:

    I know this may not be PC, but who cares if blacks don’t go into the woods?Report