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Wolf, No Wolf
or,
Let's Blame Some Victims!

From Wayan's journal 1996/7/24

Peter Bowen, in his latest novel WOLF, NO WOLF, claims that Montana's under siege by yuppies and ecologists from California dragging in wolves. Halfway through, I started to get mad. In Bowen's previous tales, his Metis hero-narrator felt real, a window into a vivid, little-known subculture. But in THIS book he suddenly sounds like words are being put in his mouth, as if he's a trance channeler for white ranchers who think outsiders are idiots. Every single non-Montanan character is a fool. The narrator draws the line at shooting them--barely--but they're fair game to lie to, cheat, send into deadly danger... why not? They're subhuman.

Bowen never answers the ecologists' argument that wolves were there before the ranchers, and their absence disturbs animal, plant and pest populations. They have a right to be there! So do California immigrants. After all, these "independent" ranchers live off federal subsidies: selling price-supported beef grazed on land they don't own. If they'd truly been independent, they'd not be vulnerable now. The original inhabitants, wolves and Indians, WERE self-sufficient. Few ranches have ever been. I admit capitalism subsidizes much worse leeches than cattlemen--yuppies repel me too. But it's only a difference in degree.

In a market reflecting real costs and without subsidies, what COULD Montana produce instead of becoming a tourist theme park? Peter Bowen blames outsiders, but he's given this no thought--it's Beef vs Tofu. I don't know the answer--slow selective logging like the Hoopa tribe in Northern California, specialty cold-crop farming like ginseng or stump mushrooms, or grizzly-farm gall for rich Hong Kong bastards, or custom machining and hand crafting during those long, cold winters? Probably none of the above, but conventional ranching's in biiiig trouble for many reasons, and the locals have to come up with the answers. But if this book's any example, they're clinging to tradition--the tradition of blaming everyone else in sight (while still suckin' up to the federal trough.)

As a Californian whose home's been flooded with millions of immigrants (some from Montana), retirees, yuppies, and city people who don't give a damn about the land, I understand Bowen's rage rather well. But why's he blame California tofu-eaters? The flood's worldwide--it's a system! The "free" market rewards counterproductive raiders and parasites, overpays white-collar managers, and underpays anyone working with realities like kids, cows, pain, food, dirt... or art like me. Marketers cash in, while primary producers--whether writers or ranchers--get cheated.

After the "free" market steals people's land and takes away real work, then it offers idiotic "jobs" elsewhere--till everyone's rootless, disconnected, ignorant. Bowen just mocks outsiders' disconnection to the land. But Yuppies and suburbanites are REFUGEES--he's mocking the disenfranchised! Those clowns were born somewhere. Now they're exiled, in the interchangeable nowhere of the office, the car, the mall. Did they CHOOSE that?

What will happen to capitalism if those bored, rootless, ripped-off millions finally decide to live somewhere? Really live somewhere?

It may not be wolves that go extinct. Cats are a possibility. The fat kind.



LISTS AND LINKS: politics - economics - wolves - population biology, whether wolf or human - rants

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