Behaving Paleolithic is one of the most effective ways to signal you are with it in the Anthropocene.
Over the last decade, in a geological epoch we've decided is so distinctly "human" we appointed ourselves its namesake, we've become enamoured with a story of life 3.3 million years ago. Back when humans were a tiny smear on earth's surface, and no one gave a shit about carbon credits, microplastics, opioid overdoses, or whether modern monetary theory should be taken seriously.
Paleolithic peoples, so the tale goes, spent most of Tuesday strolling under Baobab trees, running their hands through the long elephant grass, and breathing in the sweet dust of the open Savannah. On Wednesdays they carefully chipped away the edges of Levallois blades, swept dust out of the home cave, and snacked on freshly gathered almonds. On Thursdays they gathered into small bands – a hand-picked selection of the finest endurance runners this side of Nairobi – tracked down an elephant, and sprinted after it barefoot for nine hours until the creature – dehydrated, exhausted, and unable to sweat out the excess heat – crumpled into a violently sad face-plant in the hot, gritty sand. Our strapping, supple ancestors jogged to a halt beside it, barely out of breath, to carve up its flesh and bring home the elephant bacon. Later that evening they would break their 36 hour intermittent fast, retire to the lake, and engage in polyamorous affairs.
We know all this to be true. National Geographic told us so. Or rather, National Geographic made hairy clay figurines, arranged them in an imagined stone age diorama, photoshopped mammoths, giant sloths, and glyptodons into the background, and burned that image into the eyeballs of every small child born after 1980.
This vision of life before We Ruined Everything is an alluring fever dream. In a moment where we are tightly tangled in the wicked problems of climate change – a series of widespread human failures that will end in our ecosystem cooking, drowning, starving, and suffocating the most vulnerable of us – nothing sounds quite as appealing as rewinding the clock. Ctrl + Z please.
Paleolithic people of the 21st century are simply trying to get back to
They refuse to join the swath of soft, sensitive, snowflake bodies, hunched over glowing MacBook screens and posting Marxist memes to
This is not meant as an unkind, savage critique. I write this as someone who runs in barefoot shoes and tries not to eat things my great-great-great grandmother