I wasn’t going to write about I-Caveman but I can’t stop thinking about it, so I will.
I-Caveman was a program on the Discovery channel that aired last Sunday. 10 people – 6 men and 4 women – were deposited in Colorado bush for ten days with a few furs and left to fend for themselves using only stoneage technology.
The team was led by Morgan Spurlock of “Super Size Me” fame.
Yes it was a reality show, there were some participants that made you wonder what they thought they were getting into. It was accurate-ish but obviously they were filmed, they were also observed from a tent, and there were no children. They starved for 8 days, moved camp, endured cold, sleeplessness and lethargy.
Finally, Robb Wolf saves them, killing an elk with an atlatl, probably the only person to have killed a large animal with such a primitive weapon in modern times. On film. Billy, the bowhunter, also showed impressive tooling and butchering skills.
The main takeaways I took from this film.
1. The killing of an elk for a television show bothered me but showed me. I was able to reconcile myself to it on the basis that my kids (who have learned basic survival and tracking skills) were watching and we were able to talk to them about the value of the elk to our ancestors (and therefore to us) as well as several other lessons that provided the context for this kill. Nevertheless, seeing this large, magnificent creature die was sad and sentimental as it sounds made me appreciate the way the world operates, the food chain and the value of everything in our lives if we choose to reflect on them. It was moving for the hunters too, no matter they had barely eaten in 8 days.
2. The women with the exception of Manu, a Maori bounty hunter, were embarrassment to their gender. In paleolithic times, women would care for the children and as there were none in this instance, the women were devoid of a significant part of their purpose. However, hunting for small animals would have been a priority as they were without protein sources for days. This would have been carried out by women but all they seemed to do was hang about, keeping the fire burning. It is likely that had their ancestors lolled about complaining serving little useful purpose that I could see, these women would not have had the opportunity to have been in a reality show. Because they would never have been born.
3. The show brought home the precariousness of life in that time and made me marvel at how strong, robust and evolved our species is. It is a technological marvel that we are here on this earth, way beyond anything that Microsoft and Apple have given us. We owe it to ourselves to make the most of our lives just on this fact alone. That we often abuse ourselves and our bodies is shameful in light of the tenacity and will to survive our lineage has given us but ironically that tenacity and ability to withstand harsh conditions is also the reason we can take the abuse and yet survive long enough to procreate and protect the next generation to adulthood.
4. The necessity for a group belonging. Individuals acting alone would die. There was no opportunity to go it alone, think independently or refuse to cooperate. I’m sure there was in fighting, factions and grumbling but ultimately survival was about the team. Whether you liked it or not. The translation to modern day is clear. It is still as a group that we perform best. But it also requires some submersion of individual desires or thoughts. Working for the greater good is less valued today in favor of individualism but is still a large part of our society. Maybe we should be more accepting of those parts that are less than perfect instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater as we often do?
5. The regret of the premature quit. Two people left the group before the end of the ten days. One should clearly have never gone in the first place and provided only negative value to the group. Because this is the 21st century and this was for a TV show she was allowed to leave the project. A rather less pleasant outcome would have likely befallen her had she taken that attitude in primitive times. But the other was Robert, a guy who regularly went out hunting for the group, had his heart in it but kept coming back to camp unsuccessful. Eventually it got to him and he left. The next day, they killed the elk. I bet, if he’s honest, Robert will regret leaving early for the rest of his days. He missed out on the kill, the celebration, the triumph. Another 24 hours and he’d have had a great memory to look back on. Slow and steady wins the race comes to mind. Always a tough call knowing when to quit. When it means starvation and death though, quitting isn’t a option.
Did you watch it? Have any thoughts?