Table of Contents

postmodern man person


"Grizzly Man” tells the story of Timothy Treadwell, who has become something of celebrity for spending the summers among the grizzly bears of Alaska. Treadwell pats these ferocious predators, even scuffles with them, and walks away unscathed.

Grizzly Man opens with Timothy in front of the camera and a grizzly in the not too distant background. Treadwell explains how vicious these predators are: “[The bears] are challenging everything, including me. If I show weakness, if I retreat, I may be hurt, I may be killed. ... For once there is weakness, they will exploit it. They will take me out, they will decapitate me, they will chop me up into bits and pieces. I am dead.

But on another occasion, an interviewer confronts him: “This is crazy. This is nuts. These are the most dangerous animals on the face of the earth”. Now, Treadwell responds: “I think [the bears] have been misunderstood.”

This misunderstanding apparently refers to the narrative that bears are good, while humans are bad. If bears are dangerous, then only because humans are to blame.

Treadwell would be the exception to that rule: he is a good human, who respects bears, and bears reciprocate by respecting Treadwell, or even bestowing their friendship on him.

In Grizzly Man, it is phrased as follows: “Perfection belongs to the bears ... everything out there is good, and the universe in balance and in harmony.” Or in Treadwell’s words: “I thank the [bears] for keeping me safe.”

But Treadwell contradicts himself. Either the bears are vicious predators or they are noble animals, but not both. Either the bears will exploit any and every weakness, or the bears are keeping him safe. But not both.

One might say there is reality and there is the narrative, and the twain do not meet. But Treadwell professes them both. He is living the contradiction, and does not seem to be bothered about that.

Living such a contradiction is perhaps all too common. But Treadwell takes it to the extreme. His livelihood and celebrity-status depend on the narrative. In his own words: “It is the only thing I know.”

Now, Treadwell’s narrative is not new. Modern environmentalism is built upon it. The notions of noble wilderness and evil civilization go back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau. And they may be traced further back in time. They resonate with the Christian concept of original sin. And before that, Plato has the notion of a higher unattainable truth which lies in abstraction, not in the base reality of the world we inhabit.

While the narrative is old, it has never been more en vogue than today. Treadwell merely gives it his own, grizzly twist. In doing so, he utterly denies reality. He fails to see the bears for what they are: animals that simply lack a moral sense.

This makes Treadwell a prime example of postmodern man, and probably very much a man of the future. And it puts Treadwell at the forefront of an ongoing fight for public opinion.

We are referring to the struggle between postmodernism and reality, which has been going on for roughly a century and is still far from over. This struggle will determine our future; and it is the subject of this book.