I’ve been watching a lot of the Discovery channel recently, and in particular a couple of survival shows have been piquing my interest. This has got me thinking on a couple of things based around such programmes.

Firstly, I wonder to myself just why we are so enthralled with watching people put themselves through some of the worst and most hostile environments known to man – these men and women do things that are repulsive by common, civilised standards, as well as partaking in various life-threatening and perilously dangerous activities, seemingly just to be filmed at their most desperate.

The obvious answer to why we love these shows is that as human beings, people are generally arseholes to each other – we might not be outwardly mean, but for some reason we revel in the suffering of others. Most humour is based on poking fun at someone else, after all.

This ties into what I think is the second answer to that question, which is that people want to be better than they are right now, and unless they regularly throw themselves into the nearest desert the average shmoe isn’t going to be a survival expert. However, people are also lazy by nature – we want something for the least amount of effort. Thus, these shows provide us with the psuedo-experience of survivalism without us having to leave our chairs and our microwave meals.

So that’s the first thing I got to thinking. The second is just how many people have actually used skills they have learned from these shows in real life. Mostly, I imagine that average shmoe I mentioned early will grimace their way through these shows and come out none the wiser to survival in harsh environments, and that’s fair enough – none of us ever really expects to be thrown into one of these places that warrants such knowledge. But every once in a while you see evidence of amazing survival stories and you wonder where they got the know-how from to keep themselves going.

I’m probably not alone in this, but in my every day paranoia I try to remember all the most useful points I can from these shows – water is in many places you don’t expect, shelter is important, food is good, all the real vital bits and stuff. But if there really is one thing to take from survival programs, there is one bit of advice to take from every single one.

If in doubt – drink your own piss.

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