Saturday, July 12, 2014

Henry David Thoreau Was a Jackass

Today is Henry David Thoreau's birthday. Had he not gotten tuberculosis he'd be the ripe old age of 197 today. As happens when an author has a birthday a lot of Thoreau quotes have been floating around the media both social and otherwise. I'll give the guy some credit he had some pretty clever quotes.A lot of people who have read his work love and respect him and are celebrating his life and legacy today. As someone who neither loves him or has ever read anything that he’s written, I am not. 
Pretty Clever

He has a reputation as this amazing conservationist. An amazing conservationist who accidentally burned down 300 acres of forest. That’s some pretty shitty conservation. That’s in fact the exact opposite of conservation. He was more like an environmental squanderationist. He then talked in his journal about how awesome watching the forest burn was. What kind of person claims to love something. Destroys it through his own idiot actions, and then sits and talks about how sweet watching his dumb destruction is. The kind of person who’s a monster that’s who. People never bring that up though. When you talk about Thoreau and nature you always get the hors shit I heart nature quotes like "Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it." That's a ballsy statement for a dude who sat and watched as lives of scores of animals were turned to ash for his own sick (maybe sexual???) amusement. He loved nature the same way George W. Bush loved Iraq. 

Dude was into watching shit burn

I can’t say I’m a big fan of his quotes talking about how not into possessions he was either even though I’m sure it’s true. Everything I’ve heard about the guy says he didn’t own all that much, but you don’t necessarily have to own anything to live a good life. He didn’t own a lot of shit good for him. He’s the kinda dude who didn’t need to be bogged down by the need to have a big fancy house. He was above those kinds of pursuits. He as not going to waste time trying to keep up with the joneses because he was enlightened or whatever. Know who wasn’t above those kinds of pursuits? His good buddy Ralph Waldo Emerson. I’m not saying Emerson was a douche about it, but the guy had some dough and wasn’t afraid to live comfortably. No shame in spending money if you got it. Emerson had previously made a lot of money in the wife dying market. As his first wife proved you can’t take it with you. You’ll never guess where Thoreau spent a lot of time living. It’s easy to forsake all possessions if you live with a dude who hasn’t, and has a lot of them you can use. So he was a fan of saying shit like “Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.” It’s easy to shit on working stiff living paycheck to paycheck if you can just waltz in and raid your buddy’s pantry whenever you’re hungry. The rest of us need to pay the bills. He was against possessions the same way a child can be. He was like a bad sitcom neighbor who constantly takes your stuff, and then has the balls to get after you for working so hard to sustain your lifestyle. Simple living is easy when you're a freeloader. 
Even he paid his own rent. Likes to say the N word though. 

Which leads me to the last thing that pisses me off about this character. Aside from Thoreau’s bullshit conservationism, the thing he’s most famous for is his bullshit civil disobedience. He went to jail and wrote about it. He went to jail for a night. One night he was in jail. That was it. He was approached by a  tax collector who was trying to collect a poll tax. I guess Emerson wasn't around to mooch off of and since he was philosophically opposed to not being a deadbeat he refused to pay. He went to jail for an evening. Then his rich aunt paid his fine and he was allowed to leave. And that was that. He said he was upset about his aunt paying his bill as he wanted to stay in jail. He still left. It’s not like not paying a fine is the only way to end up in jail. If you want to be in jail so much punch a cop or something. That’ll get you back in there right quick and then you can go back to bragging about what a great martyr you are. He didn’t do that though. He just left and forgot about it. Actually he didn’t forget about it. That was in 1846. Two years later he wrote an essay titled Civil Disobedience. It’s about civil disobedience and how important resistance is. That's right, he wrote about how great that thing he did two years prior was. How much of an egomaniac is this guy? He spent one night in jail, then two years later wrote about what an important act of revolution he committed. What kind of person is so enamored with themselves that they write dissertations about how they tried to stop a war for twelve hours once. If he were alive today he'd be the kind of asshole constantly linking to Upworthy stories who thinks there changing the world. 

So happy birthday Mr. Thoreau, but you were kind of a jackass. 

Photo courtesy of the Neckbeard Hall of Fame in Portland


  1. Well said Adam. I was reading Walden and was struck by what an Ahole he was. Then I googled "Thoreau asshole " and up came your article!

  2. Hey, I love this. Do you still know where you got this info? I'm writing a paper on why Thoreau was a bitch, but I can't seem to find the little details about him going to jail.

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