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The Wild and the Free: Shane, Rousseau, Hippies (Scarlett Letter Book 3)

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The Wild & The Free begins as a series of meditations about wilderness and freedom; about the American frontier in fact and fiction, and its promise of freedom for refugees. But then it draws back to consider Rousseau, Zerzan and the largely negative effects on humanity and personal freedom which stem from the advent of agriculture. Along the way, Donal McGraith considers The Wild & The Free begins as a series of meditations about wilderness and freedom; about the American frontier in fact and fiction, and its promise of freedom for refugees. But then it draws back to consider Rousseau, Zerzan and the largely negative effects on humanity and personal freedom which stem from the advent of agriculture. Along the way, Donal McGraith considers such topics as 'buyer's regret,' which is evidenced by our consumerism and attempts to convince ourselves that we have not lost something of value. And he takes a detailed look at the film Shane whose chief protagonist exemplifies the impossibility of personal integrity when faced by the demands of loyalty brought about by civilization. With his insistence on individual responsibility, Shane chooses to become an outsider, to stand apart from the family, law and gangs that compete for his allegiance. Donal McGraith has written for magazines such as Musicworks and Sub Rosa and his essay 'Anti-Copyright and Cassette Culture' was included in Sound By Artists (Lander & Lexier ed.).


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The Wild & The Free begins as a series of meditations about wilderness and freedom; about the American frontier in fact and fiction, and its promise of freedom for refugees. But then it draws back to consider Rousseau, Zerzan and the largely negative effects on humanity and personal freedom which stem from the advent of agriculture. Along the way, Donal McGraith considers The Wild & The Free begins as a series of meditations about wilderness and freedom; about the American frontier in fact and fiction, and its promise of freedom for refugees. But then it draws back to consider Rousseau, Zerzan and the largely negative effects on humanity and personal freedom which stem from the advent of agriculture. Along the way, Donal McGraith considers such topics as 'buyer's regret,' which is evidenced by our consumerism and attempts to convince ourselves that we have not lost something of value. And he takes a detailed look at the film Shane whose chief protagonist exemplifies the impossibility of personal integrity when faced by the demands of loyalty brought about by civilization. With his insistence on individual responsibility, Shane chooses to become an outsider, to stand apart from the family, law and gangs that compete for his allegiance. Donal McGraith has written for magazines such as Musicworks and Sub Rosa and his essay 'Anti-Copyright and Cassette Culture' was included in Sound By Artists (Lander & Lexier ed.).

38 review for The Wild and the Free: Shane, Rousseau, Hippies (Scarlett Letter Book 3)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rena

    Definitely not a light read, although the thickness of the book will lead you to believe otherwise. As others have mentioned before me, the author speaks about some interesting & thought-provoking topics that is especially relevant in today's climate. However, it is overshadowed by the fact that the author is ranting and detracts a lot from the main points. If you like to be insulted by the author while doing some heavy reading, this book might just be for you! [Disclaimer: Copy received from Give Definitely not a light read, although the thickness of the book will lead you to believe otherwise. As others have mentioned before me, the author speaks about some interesting & thought-provoking topics that is especially relevant in today's climate. However, it is overshadowed by the fact that the author is ranting and detracts a lot from the main points. If you like to be insulted by the author while doing some heavy reading, this book might just be for you! [Disclaimer: Copy received from Giveaway.]

  2. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Halliday

    Donal McGraith has written a very personal book. In the Preface he describes it as “essentially a screed, a rant.” Unfortunately, in many places it is; and it is this aspect that overshadows the interesting points that pop up from time to time in the manuscript. The Wild & The Free puts forth the author’s philosophy regarding society and its effect on personal dignity and authenticity. Structurally, it is not clear whether the different sections are to be read as successive chapters or as indepe Donal McGraith has written a very personal book. In the Preface he describes it as “essentially a screed, a rant.” Unfortunately, in many places it is; and it is this aspect that overshadows the interesting points that pop up from time to time in the manuscript. The Wild & The Free puts forth the author’s philosophy regarding society and its effect on personal dignity and authenticity. Structurally, it is not clear whether the different sections are to be read as successive chapters or as independent essays. This reviewer thinks the essay format, if clearly applied, would serve the book best. Although the author raises some interesting points (I particularly liked his discussion of loyalty vs. integrity) these get lost when the discussion veers into areas with which the author does not seem to be familiar (such as the psychological development of love and the process of psychological maturation / individuation) or areas where he does not make his frame of reference clear. For example, he uses Rousseau’s idea of the Natural Man to contrast with a modern mankind that has been shaped by ownership of property and manufactured goods. Unfortunately, a major flaw in the author’s argument is that he confuses Rousseau’s philosophical construct with scientific anthropology; many passages assume the Natural Man to have been an actual phase of human evolution. In his chapter/essay discussing the movie Shane, he veers back and forth between his discussion of what is presented in the genre of Western movies regarding the hero, the cattlemen, the Indians, and the homesteaders, and the reality of those relationships in prairie society. A clear line here would have helped his argument: is he telling us what the movie genre presented, a story line that shaped and was shaped by our own relationships with society? Or is he telling us about a reality of prairie life? Then there are the occasionally strange and poorly thought out statements such as this: “The Indians are like the Mafia. They incorporate a band of brothers within a family structure with domesticity and specific obligations.” (p. 16). Well, no. The mafia operates as a parasitical subculture, one that of necessity exists within the context of an external, dominant culture which it manipulates to its own end. The Indian cultures were, for most of their existences, independent cultures. If the point was that both operated on a system of organizational roles and strong group identity, well all societies, communities, schools, clubs, groups, teams, armies, etc., create to a greater or lesser extent a feeling of belonging and group loyalty within an operational structure. This does not make them like the mafia. There are a few interesting and thought-provoking ideas in this book, but as the author admits, much of the text seems to merely provide an opportunity for McGraith to vent his anger. (Especially, it seems, his anger at academics; McGraith dropped out of a doctoral program in philosophy, and appears to nurture a resentment to this day.) I have never read a book where the author begins by insulting and showing contempt for his readers while kicking sand in the face of those who are interested in scholarly inquiry and documentation, as in this passage where he explains why he refuses to give a footnote: “I’m not going to reference these jokers, for those of you masochistic enough to want to read this drivel on one hand and neo-con apologist crap on the other, find it yourself! If afterwards you are filled with self-loathing, well I did forewarn” (p. 7). On an editing note, there is no Table of Contents, making return to a particular section more cumbersome. There are also several typos and incomplete or poorly punctuated sentences which can be distracting. The author clearly has an intellectual bent, and has much he wants to say. Letting go of past resentments and spending time discussing or reviewing his manuscript and ideas with a community of peers might have resulted in a different and perhaps more considered book, and allowed the author to make the kind of intellectual contribution to the broader discussion that he clearly hopes to make. [Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway.]

  3. 4 out of 5

    Craig Grimes

    The Wild and the Free is not a formal academic book although it is a very erudite one. It might be likened to a piece of music that states its themes and then variously explores them. The themes of The Wild and the Free are originally stated in the first third of the book in an extended analysis of the film Shane. Shane, we learn, is a film that the author returned to over may years and it appears that each visit spurred a new aspect of it to delve into. The key terms of the film, however, remain The Wild and the Free is not a formal academic book although it is a very erudite one. It might be likened to a piece of music that states its themes and then variously explores them. The themes of The Wild and the Free are originally stated in the first third of the book in an extended analysis of the film Shane. Shane, we learn, is a film that the author returned to over may years and it appears that each visit spurred a new aspect of it to delve into. The key terms of the film, however, remain constant. Shane tells the story of a drifter on the American frontier who comes to work at a family farm. There is a conflict going on between the farmers and the ranchers; the latter want to graze their cattle free from fences. The ranchers constitute a violent gang versus the domesticity of the farmers. (While not appearing in the film, native people are discussed as a third party that existed on the frontier. They had both elements of the gang and of the family.) Shane's personal history remains a mystery, but he was clearly once a violent man, skilled with a gun, who eventually reveals himself to save the farmers. Also, throughout his stay at the farm a sexual tension has arisen between the farm wife and Shane (perhaps, because he is a man outside the rigid constraints of the domestic scene?). In the end, after rescuing the farmers, wounded by a bullet and perhaps more, Shane rides off into the sunset, unable or unwilling to stay. Central to the discussion in the book, throughout, is the importance of the wild as a sort of deep memory; we have a longing for the lost freedom of our species. While this may be the reason for our cultural fascination with cowboy stories and the wild west, McGraith does not see the ranchers, who abhor fences, as representatives of freedom. Neither the farmers or even the natives. All, in their own ways, advance the development of social groups, state law, religion and family. And these are inimical to freedom. The effect of westward expansion has been to make the possibility of realizing the dream of freedom as less, rather than more likely. For McGraith, real freedom would be something like Rousseau's idea of 'natural man'; self-sufficient and independent hunter-gatherers who relied on the land. They were people whose freedom came to an end with the development of farming and civilization. McGraith's concerns are frequently in the area of ethics. He sees the social groupings that evolved during the development of civilization (family, religion, business, etc.) as threats to ethical morality. All groups demand loyalty which comes to be seen as synonymous with ethical behaviour. Alternatively, McGraith sees ethical integrity as the striving to rise above loyalties and do what is right. Such a person is the character Shane, who is defined as an existential man. His walking away from the community is seen as a refusal to allow himself to be drafted into any social group that demands loyalty; the ability to act with ethical integrity demands freedom from these. In one sense Shane, the character, is cast as the hero of The Wild and the Free Discussions prompted by the film also include: the US constitution, John Zerzan, consumerism, love, homelessness, anarchist history, and anti-utopia. It is filled with fascinating insights that are germane to contemporary discussions concerning the environment and the future of mankind.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rodney

    McGraith is one of the most significant anarchist theorists writing today. This book will particularly appeal to those interested in the works of John Zerzan and Simon Critchley.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dana Smith

    I did not like this book. It is very heavy reading, and is, in my opinion, an overanalysis of cowboy culture.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rosina Plumley

    Brilliant!

  7. 4 out of 5

    John Fell

  8. 5 out of 5

    Asya

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Fantom

  11. 4 out of 5

    Julia Conway

  12. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

  14. 5 out of 5

    Betty

  15. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Zitsch

  16. 4 out of 5

    Katie Harder-schauer

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alan

  18. 5 out of 5

    Richard Randall

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  20. 4 out of 5

    Vykki

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

  22. 5 out of 5

    Samar

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mia Redgrave

  24. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  25. 5 out of 5

    Polly Krize

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kat

  28. 4 out of 5

    Skeetor

  29. 5 out of 5

    Adylure

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Colvin

  31. 4 out of 5

    Bacsa

  32. 4 out of 5

    Bert

  33. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

  34. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

  35. 5 out of 5

    Melonie Kydd

  36. 4 out of 5

    Karen Bainbridge

  37. 4 out of 5

    Christina Borgoyn

  38. 4 out of 5

    ApuciKislanya

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