Commentary – To each his own

Chris Clegg
Of all the reality shows on TV, I enjoy The Last Alaskans the most.

The show features the last four family permit holders who live in seven cabins in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. The show depicts their way of life in the harsh outdoors. The families involved in the show make no bones about how they want to be portrayed. There is no sensationalism about their way of life, much unlike the phony Alaskan Bush People, but not as bad as Yukon Men.

The Last Alaskans probably appeals the least to a TV audience demanding drama. Jerry Springer hasn’t lasted over 25 years because it’s quality programming. Rather, the show features stunning video of the land and the families telling their stories. How they scratch out a living is fascinating.

I’m not sure what the appeal of The Last Alaskans is for me, but it seems to tug at the heart of living during a simpler time. There are no TVs, no power, no running water. One man has a radio he uses to keep in contact with the outside world. Cooking is done with wood stoves. Other than a few bare essentials, the land provides.

There is no thought of sports teams doing well or poor, which has absolutely no bearing on my life whatsoever. It’s the same for actors and actresses. Politics? Let them do whatever they want, just let me enjoy my sunset and fish in a lazy stream.

Perhaps it is the romanticism of the show, the escape it provides. For the rest of us caught in the rat race, we have all dreamed of throwing it all away and hiding away from the calamity in the back woods, to enjoy the peace and solitude only the true outdoors provides.

We have created a world that is so complex, so full of hate and fear, despite so many good people who try to mend the fences. We need only to look around us to see all the good work being done. Yet, coffee shop talk and media bombards us with negative stories, not necessarily because they sell, but because they are important in the web of this huge world we’re all trapped inside.

In the forests of Alaska, there is none of that. There is, however, the simple solitude of a rippling stream, the howl of a wolf, the call of an elk. There is the beauty of the northern lights, the solitude of an oil lamp providing light in evening. Absolute solitude. Absolute peace.

These few people are a vanishing breed. Many hold high hopes their children and grandchildren will continue the lifestyle. There are few who say they will. Deep down, they are not ready to give up their warm home, their cars and trucks, TVs, microwave ovens, and packaged food from the supermarket. They are perfectly happy being a small cog in a big machine.

For me, I can only dream of a simpler life. Like the children of these last special people, I am not ready to toss it all away, grab and ax and gun, and head for the bush. I wouldn’t last long.

It’s still nice to dream about it, though. We have made life far too complicated. For me, The Last Alaskans provides a bit of relief and escape from the hustle and bustle of this world gone mad. At times after a hard day at work, you can’t put a price on that.

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