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Snipe Hunts All the Way Down


As a kid, I was a star soccer player. I averaged over a goal a game and made the all-star team every year. Socializing was easy because when you’re the top scorer on the team everyone wants to be your friend. 

In fifth grade, a group of parents in the well-to-do neighboring city of Arcadia announced that they were conducting try-outs for an elite traveling youth soccer team that would soon tour China. I tried out and cried tears of joy when I got the call that I was selected. We had early morning practices throughout the summer. I was sure that we were on the precipice of greatness. 

My parents soon grew dubious. A “scouting trip” by the coach revealed cities so polluted one couldn’t see to the next block; the fields where we were supposed to play had no grass and the players wore laborers’ filtered dust masks during the games. There never was a fundraising plan, no sponsors, no budget. It was just a harebrained idea that some parents cooked up that had no possibility of becoming a reality (and if it had become a reality, it likely would have been a disaster). 

Months of practice turned into a year with no trip to China in sight. So the next summer, to stem the rising discontent, the coaches invited the team to spend a week together at Yosemite National Park. It was billed as a bonding exercise that would bring the team closer together.

In the Winnebago on the way up to Yosemite, a couple of teenage boys (older children of the coaches) started discussing, in very authoritative voices, how Yosemite was a great spot for hunting the Western Tree Snipe. They discussed the colors and types, the food that they preferred, and the best locations for finding them. As best I could tell, the Western Tree Snipe was a type of lizard, but then, confusingly, there were some furtive whispers that snipes do not exist, followed by loud denunciations of the doubters. 

Nothing about the situation was appealing to me. I found the teenage boys creepy. I did not particularly want to hunt lizards, at night. And what was all this muttering about them not being real? So the first night while the others went off to hunt snipes I crawled into my sleeping bag and tried to sleep. 

[*For those who are new to snipe hunting, it’s a youthful practical joke that goes back to the 1840s. There is no snipe. It’s just a way to haze the innocent and uniformed. I get that practical jokes could teach one to question authority. But in the case of snipe hunting and other forms of hazing the victimized soon take their place in the social hierarchy as victimizers. I knew none of this at the time.]

Several hours later the boys returned, elated. They had trampled through protected grasslands (Tuolumne Meadows) and maybe caught snipes or maybe they didn’t but it was all somehow fantastic. And in the process of not participating in this ritual I was somehow diminished. Over the course of the week, friendships faded. Scoring goals was no longer the social currency,; what mattered was fitting in to the group culture.

My relationship with the team never recovered from that trip. In junior high I went back to playing AYSO. The China Team continued to play club soccer for another year. The China trip never happened. 

In high school I just wanted to be great at soccer and great at academics. But many of the best athletes and smartest students (along with lots of other kids) wanted to get drunk and experiment with drugs as much as possible. I didn’t get it. Why would I intentionally do something that impairs performance? But for four years the conversation at lunchtime every Mon., Tues., and Wed. was about reliving what happened at the party last weekend and the conversation on Thurs. and Fri. was about anticipating what was to come at the party that weekend. 

It all just seemed so pointless to me. 

In college the athletics and the academics were significantly better, but the hegemonic culture still revolved around drinking to excess. I didn’t understand people who wanted to join fraternities and their culture of hazing. It just seemed like a darker form of snipe hunting, but some people instinctively gravitated toward that. 

As an adult, I could not wait to enter the workforce where I figured, finally, people would take things seriously. I worked for heaps of non-profits but discovered not revolutionaries but a lot of people who looked the part who wanted to do as little work as possible even if that meant routinely lying about everything. 

I got really sick, worked with my dad on church politics for over a decade, and returned to school to get more degrees all while dealing with chronic pain

Imagine my disappointment then when I discovered that huge swaths of the social sciences are just snipe hunts. Furthermore, my own research showed that huge sections of the economy (the pediatric vaccine schedule, the search for “the gene for autism”, and vaccinology in general) are massive, multibillion dollar snipe hunts… that maim and kill children. Entire fields of study are built around elaborate frauds and people gleefully participate, even though there is no beneficial purpose in the end. 

Others have written about cultures built around artificiality. Perhaps the best is Simulacra and Simulation by French sociologist Jean Baudrillard. He argues that we live in a culture where the artificial mimics (e.g. breast implants, simulated wood, video games) are preferred over the real objects they are imitating (actual women’s bodies, real wood, actual adventures). 

But the question that remains is WHY!? Why pursue stupid sh*t (snipe hunts, escapism through drugs and alcohol, temporary adrenaline hits, mediocrity, artificiality) instead of the good sh*t (dedicating one’s life to greatness in all things)? 

I think it’s because most of us do not know why we are here. With the breakdown of the old social order (family, community, connection to the earth, and humility and reverence for the divine) we are left naked and alone on this rock hurtling through space. The fake, the simulated, and the ridiculous become welcome distractions from existential doubts. The fake becomes desirable because we fear that underneath it all everything is meaningless. The fake is thus ‘true’ in this view because ‘everything is artifice.’

Like the ancients in the desert, modern people build countless golden calves to give themselves purpose and a sense of control over the chaos of life. 

As I’ve written before, what’s striking about the Covid era is the artificiality of it all. The FDA and CDC gather “experts” for highly choreographed meetings, lightly “review” rigged data from Pfizer and Moderna that still show that these vaccines kill more people than they save, and then the FDA and CDC authorize them anyway. They are not even trying to hide the preposterousness anymore. 

The FDA, CDC, NIH, White House, and mainstream society seem to celebrate the snipe-huntiness of it all! They revel in the murderous bacchanalia because, as Mattias Desmet points out, participating in ridiculousness reveals that one is part of the club, part of the inside group, bonded together through shared ritual. We are still animals that feel safer in the group, even if that group is participating in fascism. 

Snipe hunts, fraternity hazing, cultures built around addiction and self-harm, academic pretensions, and junk science products including vaccines are a wink and a nod that everything is a lie but we proceed anyway because ‘that’s just the way things work around here.’ Obviously these examples are just the tip of the iceberg as far as the artificiality of modern life — much of allopathic medicine is expensive nonsense, our food is fake, and our wars are just deadly profit machines for the ruling class (I’m sure you can think of plenty of additional examples). 

It just blows my mind that even in adulthood (especially in adulthood!) one is required to participate in absurdities in order to gain access to polite society. If one really wants to get ahead it’s essential to believe in and promote these absurdities. 

The revolution we seek then is about a turn away from the artificial and ridiculous toward the real. That would seem to be the most natural and rewarding turn of all. But the human condition and the flaws in human nature are such that we are always fighting a battle against the temptations of the artificial and idolatrous. Together we must build an entire culture and economy based on cherishing the good, the true, and the beautiful in everyday life.

Reposted from the author’s Substack

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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  • Toby Rogers

    Toby Rogers has a Ph.D. in political economy from the University of Sydney in Australia and a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of California, Berkeley. His research focus is on regulatory capture and corruption in the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Rogers does grassroots political organizing with medical freedom groups across the country working to stop the epidemic of chronic illness in children. He writes about the political economy of public health on Substack.

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