I’m obsessed with the survival show ‘Alone.’ The reality show airs on the History Channel and features ten contestants, all survivalists, who are tasked with surviving in a remote location for at least 100 days. Contestants are dropped off in a remote area of wilderness, typically in Alaska or the Canadian Arctic somewhere. They are divided by mountains or other impassable geographical markers so as to make sure none of them accidentally run into each other. The participants can choose ten survival tools to take with them for their over three-month challenge. Those things can include extra clothes, blankets, wire, specialized sleeping bags, etc. The goal is to survive with what you land with and nothing more. Once they are dropped off in a location they are truly alone, with nothing but their cameras and a radio to signal for extraction should they choose bow out.
It’s an addictive pleasure. With no slick production, no professional camera crew lurking out of sight to the viewers, and no gloss or glamour, it is a window into not only how much effort goes into survival, but how far we’ve been removed from the concept of providing everything for ourselves. I’m always struck by the sense of satisfaction each contestant exudes. The work is hard, and there are hungry days and nights, but everything they have is by their own hands. The pure joy on the face of a famished woman who has just caught her first rabbit in a week is wholly irresistible. It’s enough to make the viewer feel empty inside.
We chase these creature comforts in the hopes that our desires for pleasure will be satiated but nothing ever seems to come close to what Contestant X is feeling when he notices his fishing net is stirring. There is something innately right about being the master of your destiny, for better or for worse.
Forgive me if this is a clumsy analogy, but I’ve got this show on the brain, and I’ve been looking at life around me through this lens for a while now. How much have we weakened ourselves as a nation with our constant and relentless pursuit of creature comforts?
We have become so dependent on our global rival (that would be China) that we’ve stopped providing for ourselves. The glory of capitalism is that it provides solutions to the problems of our comfort and progress. The curse of capitalism is that it can drive an insatiable hunger, and lead us to forget roots and duties in the pursuit of the ethereal “more.”
We have tied our financial comfort to a nation that despises us, and sees us an entity to conquer, not partner with. They have become skilled at using our capitalistic drive to ultimately crush our patriotism. It’s working better than we ever imagined it would.
When anyone suggests that we begin breaking ties with China, the Smartest People In The Room™ like to shout about how much more expensive things will get, and how Americans are too lazy and too inept to give up their cheap electronics for true independence. Perhaps they’re right to an extent. Perhaps it won’t be an easy road to ask Americans to pay more for their modern comforts and favorite movies.
But it can be done, and Americans will do it. We already agree to pay more when we vote for politicians who raise our taxes and foster inflation. We (the Royal We) do so understanding that we’re paying for “the greater good” or “better healthcare” or “better roads” or whatever lies we tell ourselves about where all the money will end up. Americans agree to pay more for things every day. Why do we think if China suddenly pulls out of the market that our mentality will be any different?
It’s just a lame liberal argument to keep us linked to their favorite communists.
Breaking away from Chinese money will certainly be difficult. Like those contestants in the remote wilderness, it will mean we will have to make our own efforts at survival – or in this case, comfort. Our access to cheap and quick goods may shrink. That is a reality. But also like those contestants, we will figure out how to provide all the things Americans want because that’s what we do here. When a roadblock is thrown up in, Americans will always beat a new path.
There are other options. President Trump began the very smart business of partnering with other Asian countries to provide manufacturing. His “America First” agenda also encouraged business to stay in America through tax breaks and other incentives. He is no longer the president but that doesn’t mean the agenda shouldn’t move forward.
I understand we now have leadership that is explicitly trying to keep us entangled with China, but we will be coming up on another election very soon. Americans with any common sense left need to be pressing their representatives to disentangle with China. The only thing that speaks more loudly than Chinese money is the prospect of losing their jobs.
It’s time for America to suck it up and head to the wilderness. We will be stronger for it, and we will relearn the satisfaction of independence and providing for our own with our own hands. We will enjoy the exhilarating freedom of being beholden to no entity, no nation that has only our demise in mind. There will be cuts and bruises and maybe even a few hungry days…
…but we will be free.