Blood Sweat + Tears: Survival Chic and the Devolution of Humanity

Basic survival is now uber-chic. Human sustainability is now what matters ... even if it's more devolution than evolution.

There is a collective desire for something stripped back and stripped down; a push towards the pared-down parts rather than the complex whole; the core, rather than the skin or flesh; the essential elements of our humanity;  bare with us as we talk this through…

At Stancombe, we have previously detected the not-so-subtle undercurrent of a return to basics. Primarily a ‘devolution’ of life experience, this cultural drive encourages us to strip back our lives and embrace the pure, primal elements of life rather than the excess of its disposable trappings. 

Now we’re not just happy with making our environment a testament to simplicity and austerity, we are turning inward, focusing on our sense of being human and asking a lot of the same questions. 

What are the basic elements of humanity? What lies at the stripped back core beneath our skin and flesh? What is excess and disposable versus what is enduring, elemental and sustainable?

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Helen Macdonald’s falconry-and-grief-driven memoir, H Is For Hawk taps into this phenomenon. The commercial success of television such as Man vs. WildNaked and Afraid, the prevalence of 'survivalist' fitness trends such as Tough Mudder, as well as blockbuster films such as Gravity127 hours, All Is LostWild and the delirious, non-verbal, visceral reboot of the Mad Max franchise, Mad Max Fury Road, are all testament to the fact that there is a growing curiosity around skills & attributes we’ve all but left behind in our specialised modern existence. 

All have popularised the allure of getting back to basics as humans, ridding ourselves of all the superficial/artificial trappings of our more evolved selves and focusing on lower order, base needs – such as food, warmth, shelter, security, safety, as well as instinctive emotions and behaviours. In a sense we’re flipping the Maslow hierarchy. Culturally, we’ve reverted to a more devolved sense of who we are. 

Basic survival is now uber-chic. We’re no longer just chasing the best things in life, preferring instead to dig deep for the primal things that ensure our sustainability as human beings.

Survival Chic

There is a collective desire for something stripped back & stripped down … a push towards the pared-down parts rather than the complex whole … the core, rather than the skin or flesh … the essential elements of our humanity; bare with us as we talk this through…

Recently we detected the not-so-subtle undercurrent of a return to basics (see earlier post). Primarily a ‘devolution’ of life experience, this cultural drive encourages us to strip back our lives and embrace the pure, primal elements of life rather than the excess of its disposable trappings. Now, we’re not just happy with making our environment a testament to simplicity and austerity, but are turning inward, focusing on our sense of being human and asking a lot of the same questions. What are the basic elements of humanity? What lies at the stripped back core beneath our skin and flesh? What is excess and disposable versus what is enduring and sustainable?

The commercial success of television such as Man vs. WildSurvivor ManNaked and Afraidas well as blockbuster films such as Gravity, 127 hours, All Is Lost and The Life of Pi are testament to the fact that there is a growing curiosity around skills & attributes we’ve all but left behind in our specialised modern existence. They have popularised the allure of getting ‘back to basics’ as humans and ridding ourselves of all the superficial/artificial trappings of our evolved selves and focusing on lower order, physiological & safety needs – such as food, warmth, shelter, security etc. We’re flipping the Maslow hierarchy. Culturally, we’ve reverted to a more devolved sense of who we really are. Basic survival is now uber-chic. We’re no longer chasing the best things in life, preferring instead to dig deep for the primal things that ensure our sustainability as human beings.

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This recent advertisement for South Australia’s Barossa region is a perfect example of the celebration of all things pure & primal.  The ad takes a far more stripped back approach to tourism advertising than the glamour and wonder we have grown accustomed to. It goes beyond rustic, into primal territory with shots of earth, fire, sex, death, food and desire set amongst harsh landscapes beckoning to be tamed. What we have here is less focus on the dressed-up product and more focus on ‘getting to the source’, the land and the elements. With Nick Cave as the backing music it doesn’t get much more raw than this. The Barossa is certainly targeting those consumers who crave a ‘real’, unprocessed travel experience by talking to this evolving curiosity around our more basic human drivers.

So what else can we expect in this space? A resurgence in hunting and gathering? Communal living arrangements? Tribal dance & polygamy? Group exercise fads designed to test our physical limits? (Wait, we’re already there with Cross Fit & Tough Mudder). Perhaps here in NSW our Premier had his finger firmly on the pulse in legalising hunting in national parks. After all, it would be wrong to deny us this essential element of our humanity.