“You’ll be the troublemaker.” Arif gave me a sly look as he guided me to a far corner of the restaurant, and I nodded, because surely life is too short for small talk.
There were six of us seated at the table. Four middle-aged women — each one attractive, intelligent, engaging, successful. A quiet-spoken serious young man with a shock of brown hair. And me, wearing camouflage-colored Yankees cap and a few days’ worth of stubble.
This was an “intergenerational dinner,” hosted by the Hoot Owl, a cozy restaurant in upstate New York with a loyal local following. The event was organized around a series of questions designed to elicit discussion.
As someone who enjoys running in the mountains, I find myself drawn to Henry David Thoreau’s vision of nature and wildness. But when you follow in Thoreau’s path, you discover that his admirers include not only outdoors enthusiasts, but also people with more extreme views. Consider the philosopher and writer John Zerzan, a self-proclaimed anarchist and primitivist, who criticizes industrial mass society as inherently oppressive and warns us that technology is leading humanity into an increasingly alienated existence, at the same time that it threatens to destroy the natural environment. To be sure, the anarcho-primitivist movement counts few members, but does that mean it’s safe to ignore Zerzan and his warning?