“I have invented the Blower Bow, a combination of a bow drill and a fan to build a device able to push air into the fire. It can be easily built using widespread natural resources and a primitive technology. I began fanning a fire with a piece of bark, so as to increase temperature. Then, I improved this basic principle, developing it into a project.”
This is the opening paragraph of one of the many articles posted by a new media phenomenon who has – paradoxically – gone back to living like primitive people used to live; he keeps a record of his research project on YouTube, in his personal blog, but at the same time, he shuns the use of any equipment of the modern world.
The “primitive” – who is 30 and lives somewhere in Far North Queensland, Australia, and does not want to say his name – lives in the middle of the Australian rainforest and shows, through video tutorials he records himself, how to create all sorts of things “without any kind of modern tools and materials. You can use sticks to light a fire, forge iron, work the stones, and even build huts with nothing but water, shrubs, and mud at hand. A slap in the face of modernity.
The experiment is interesting, its success is worldwide, but we need to consider it more closely. “The challenge – he says – is to see how far you can get without relying on modern technology.” But building the materials he needs using antiquate tools, the homus australianus uses modern techniques, inventions that appeared only after 1400 (the fan he uses to feed the fire, for instance, reminds some of Leonardo da Vinci’s intuitions); they are certainly primitive if we consider the materials he uses, but we cannot say the same about the logic behind his constructions, since he relies on techniques the human kind acquired over centuries.
This initiative gives us food for thought, even if there are underlying economic interests: “Someday, when I write my book, you will know my name. But now I do not want to see the media or any other people around my neighbors’ houses or my own land, trying to find out where my refuge is.”
His channel, Primitive Technology, was born in May 2015 and has been steadily growing ever since. It has become a phenomenon with over 2 million subscribers and some of his videos exceed 13 million views; having reached such a significant number of followers, he has opened up a channel to receive donations, monetizing YouTube views and – as already mentioned above – he is preparing to write a book, where he will explain the details of his experience.
Leaving aside the question of his authenticity, it is important to ask ourselves why his videos have become so successful. There myriads of requests under every tutorial. Which mud shall I use? What kind of sticks shall I choose? Are these huts warm enough? And thousands of other questions to understand how to survive away from the comforts we are used to: electricity in the first place, which means TV, smartphones, washing machines, dishwashers, and so on. But in terms of reconsidering travelling, bringing it back to a human dimension, that of walking using nothing but “one’s own feet.” Rather than a return to a distant past, it seems to be desire to remember who we really are, where we come from, and what we are capable of, using the only thing that distinguishes us from the animals: our ability to reason.
The experiment is not about practicing manual works, but about focusing on the Man and his ability to reason, which has been abandoned in favor of technology (we do not even remember the phone numbers of our loved ones anymore…)
In the end, whether it is a sociological experiment or a clever commercial initiative, there is one thing that defines the attention it has received: desire for simplicity. In a world that distorts emotions, trimming the dimension of the superstructures is the only way to find ourselves again. And identification with people who decide to plunge back into the Created to enjoy its intrinsic beauty, becomes our vanishing point.