Ok guys time for a ramble!

Well a mental rabble anyway - the subject?? Common man, the term and its relevance.

I was surfing You tube looking at various videos about bits of kit and such and again and again I heard the term common man, even some of my friends are now using the term in blogs etc - which I like. I know the origin of the term comes via Mr Dave Canterbury and thats just fine with me but its "who" the term or "what" the term reflects that interests me.

And for two reason, firstly for a long time bushcraft was popular with a group who I will term the MIDDLE CLASS MIDDLE AGED MALES, of course there are others into bushcraft but in my experience teaching both for Woodlore and then for myself as well as attending various meets and gatherings, this was the majority and most common type .......... secondly because time has taught me that the, "until recently," trend in bushcraft to have the most expensive this and that isnt necessarily the correct path and a common man or more "independant" approach is.

What am I waffling on about??

OK, so what does/is the common man?? Is it the BBC presenter from the public school with his perfect grammar or is it the guy who has had to work hard at his 9 to 5 while using every second of his spare time reading up and getting dirty to learn a subject he loves? Is it someone who went to uni and realised bushcraft was better than working or is it the guy who spent his teens in a baggy green skin with a gun and learnt to love nature inbetween fire fights?

In my book, using the english class system I would equate the common man to the working classes as oppossed to those with more money than sense ......... ") ( i generalise of course as most of the wealthy people I know are tight arses compared to most of the poorer people I know who would give you their all without a second thought - hence why they arent wealthy I guess) but is this correct after all like it or not we all work for a living these days whether we're the Prince of Wales or humble gary wale, so arent we all working class now?? Isnt the difference only what we earn not which type of spoon we were born with in our mouth? If so we must all be common men, but then that remders the term useless?

I realise its a American term but thats my interpretation - COMMON MAN = THE HARD WORKING, SALT OF THE EARTH TYPE OF GUY. Or to put it another way "The terms common people, the masses, or commoners denote a broad social division referring to regular people who are members of neither the nobility (the wealthy upper middle classes) or the priesthood. Following the rise of the middle class in the 19th century, this division is now of mainly historical interest. Since the 20th century the term "common people" has been used in a more general sense to refer to typical members of society in contrast to highly privileged (in either wealth or influence)." (I'm still not sure I'd include upper echealon bankers in this or any other grouping though)

So using that term to denote who we are - what then is the common mans approach to bushcraft?? Is it, as became the fashion all shiny knives, 4 x 4's and everything Ray Mears sells in his shop but without the dirt under the nails or the skills to ID the ten most common edible plants?? Or is it something else?

I hope, and interpret it as something else!

I like to believe that the common man for starters has more sense than to waste his hard earned cash on the brand named, trendy stuff so often seen at various gatherings of people whose whole bushcraft experience is their annual trip to said meeting. (Now I'm not judging you if you meet that criteria infact if that is you I feel sorry for you as your missing out on so much) I like to think the common man is/was a bushcrafter before it got trendy and will continue to be long after the tv guru's and the sheeple have moved on to nature watching or bothering sheep.


I like to think of myself in that group, and if I am not then I ASPIRE to be. MORE so I like to imagine that the common man approach will become more popular and people will go back to learning skills and carrying knowledge rather than over priced or rated kit. (its been a dream of mine for many years)

The public school boy bushcraft king is dead - Long live the common man king!

Waffle over WAKE UP!!


bored adult said...

Hardly surprising bushcraft is to some degree a pastime for the better off. In the UK there's almost nowhere you can legally practice many of the skills unless you have your own land or are on friendly terms with someone who does.
Of course you could go on a course but they're not cheap. I'm not saying they should be cheaper as instructors need fair recompense for all the time and money they've spent honing their skills, just stating a fact about the cost.
Getting on TV and therefore being known as a bushcraft guru to the general public is always going to be easier if you've been to the right school, right university, speak with the right accent and so on.
Posh kids lighting fires is bushcraft; council estate kids lighting fires is anti-social behaviour.
I do hope you're right about bushcraft returning to a less consumerist mindset. Looking at some of the UK bushcraft forums all anyone seems to talk about is what kit they've bought or what kit they should buy or how they've pimped their firesteel. God forbid anyone should stay out overnight without the contents of their 4X4. Don't make something for yourself or even more scary do without; just take a brief stroll to the car and grab some more kit.

Survivall said...

Bored Adult you sound as fed up with the path bushcraft has taken as I am!! Your right of course, with regards to access, we (myself and a friend) often practice what I call tramping - which is in a way the pinacle of bushcraft as in take only pictures leave only foots prints - access that way isnt a problem if your wise to the ways of the woods of course its no good for the 4x4 gear hound but for the common man its there for the "taking"

bored adult said...

I've done some 'tramping' as you call it in my time though not as much as I'd like. Walking for a few days with your home on your back soon makes you realise how little kit you really need; something the modern bushcrafter sadly often seems to have forgotten.

Ross Gilmore said...

I think the term “common man” was first used in this context to speak about affordable kit. I think it was a reaction to what bushcraft has largely become - just another hole where people from all social and economic backgrounds can throw their money; hard earned or not.

I think many of us, on both sides of the pond have become very disillusioned with the sport that bushcraft has become. In too many groups “bushcraft” has become another term for “a barbeque in the local park”, where we can show off our $500 knives, $400 canvas packs and $200 wool shirts (because that’s what real “down to earth” woodsmen wear). If we are not too full of bacon, maybe we can even try to practice some skills that we will never use as we never plan on actually going any further into the woods than the parking lot.

I like the common sense that you are trying to bring to bushcraft. Too often these days people equate simplicity and “common man” gear with retro gear. This inevitably forces people into a specialty market where you spend twice as much for a retro item as you would for a modern equivalent with greater functionality, just so you can appear to one of the “common men”. I call those people bushcraft hipsters.

Survivall said...

Good replies guys - and thanks Ross.

Lets hope the future is more common man and less bushcraft bbq ...........

Karl said...

Gary another great post mate...

I think today bushcraft is kind of like golf, you have to have the latest kit and flash knife just to get through the door, couple that with knowing the right people and you can join the country club... well thats how it seems now..

Few in the bushcraft world are actually living with their skills, they would rather sit down in the car park at the trail head and rub sticks than actuall walk into the forest and live with the reality of what they pretend to be modern high tech bushcraft...

I say get rid of the high tech gear and get back into the skills and lore... don't get me wrong, high tech gear has a place for some environments, but people need to learn to live the skills the learn, rather than just play with them...

Once again great post Gary & I shall post a link on my own blog also..



Abo said...

Common man eh. Well i suppose in addition to what you have said it is another marketing word. I dont think it is a coincidence that when somone says Common man people think of DC. He had excellent self marketing skills, you can deny him that. Not my cup of tea though.

What amazes me most is that his beard seems to change colour with the seasons like an artic fox.

Le Loup said...

Actually I think you will find that the term common man originated in 18th century Living History circles. It is about authenticity, interpreting or emulating the common man.
I went along with this for a long time, but the more research I did, the more I disliked trying to emulate the "common man".
It seems to me that the common man in woodsrunning was not necassarily very smart. I think a lot of common woodsmen died through lack of smarts. I believe that a smart person back in the 18th century could see a common item & evaluate its importance in his everyday life.
So many stories about woodsmen making stupid decisions. Letting their flintlocks get rusty, their flints blunt or loose. Chistopher Gist & George Washington walk off into the wilderness with only one blunt hatchet between them! And they payed for this blunder.
So now I am not sure what the common man is or was. I think I prefere to be not quite so common.
Regards, Keith.

Survivall said...

Keith isnt that what they call the darwin theory ...... lol but yes I agree fortunately I'm not trying to re-enact a time period but as you will see I am likewise not glued to common man either.

Abo - nail on head their mate - it is definately a marking gimmick from DC - but like wise I think he has also identified a rumbling discontent among many outdoors folk who want to experience the nature on thier terms and not the expedition style camp type. Although I also feel that marking or selling gear with the common man tag is a bit perverse as surely the common man should be improvisng and adapting not buying more shiney gear??

Thanks Karl - I feel that the tide is turning, maybe my posts and your neo-traditionalist stuff are the first steps along a path taking folks back to the true basics and away from "commercial" quagmire that modern bushcraft has become.

ALL I think a fresh post and a further exploration is called for for sure!