Friday, November 05, 2004

Sweat lodges and boomer Xercide

The death of a 37 y.o. man in the South Australian outback was early on unfairly maligned as occurring through a bizarre ritual. As subsequent media reports have made clear (and a quick Google would show, in any case) sweat lodges are as mainstream as alternative medicine and baby boomers – or at least the confluence of these two groups.

That the dead man, along with a 30 y.o. man who nearly died, was not a baby boomer is just one of the unusual things in this story. While it is a stereotype to automatically lump New Age connoisseurs (= those who can afford to travel ~2500km return for an ascetic experience) as boomers incarnate, I would bet anything that the majority of the group of 11 would be aged 41 to 58. Certainly, one of the group whose arrival at menopause was being celebrated during the fatal incident (most likely, Maureen Collier) fits this demographic. As does a second group member, the man pictured in this Herald-Sun story; unnamed there, but with his first name (no last name) given as “David” on last night’s ABC TV news. The final boomer exhibit, Western Australian Dr Ralph Locke was not present at the outback camp, but can be linked to the 11 campers through the auspices of the Spirit of the Earth Medicine Society, a New Age cult/group-of-friends (take your pick) which is registered as a church.

As it happens, I’m pretty sure that the mysterious “David” is an ex of mine. Ewww, and all that – but it was 1987, and David (real name) had drugs/herbs which were both excellent and obscure (I’m talking eye-of-newt stuff, not the latest pastel-coloured pill from Amsterdam). This factor, for a young gay man then just out of the closet, was more than reason enough to go away with him to a New Age camping/ritual thing in the bush outside Melbourne. I didn’t participate too much in the ritual stuff, but nor did I ask any questions when David plied me with some supposedly ritual concoction when just the two of us were back in the tent. Whatever the stuff actually was (dissolved Rohypnol, or some herbal analogue), it had a powerful sedative effect. I’ll leave it to you, my readers to fill in the rest of that night.

Putting two-and-two together then, my guess is that the forthcoming coronial inquiry into teh death of Rowan Cooke (sp. Rowen Cook?) is going to come up with some interesting stuff. The current provisional explanation – that bore water poured over the hot rocks gave off toxic gases – just doesn’t make sense, given that the same bore water had been used without incident for a sweat lodge ritual earlier that day (Tuesday – that time not for a member’s menopause but for world peace), and also because (and here I admit I’m relying on high school science) out of all the sort of “bad” gases that bore water may become when it is heated to boiling point, the chances of it being both odourless (= no bad smell warning) and stupefying/sedating (as per the eyewitness recollection of Adrian Asfar (the 30 y.o. man who nearly died)) are a long shot.

By no means am I intending for any specific conclusions to be drawn at this point – it is possible that ordinary dehydration alone produced the stupefying/sedating effect, and that the supposed bore water gases are a red herring. What is so far completely clear is that (i) a GenXer is dead, and (ii) this GenXer, although described as the group’s “leader” was hopelessly out of his depth on this occasion. Oh, and (iii): as usual, boomers are almost certainly to blame for the whole nasty business – so stay tuned for a particularly juicy coronial inquiry (you ain’t seen anything squirm so much in your life as a boomer in the witness box having even suggested to them the impertinent concept of responsibility for an Xer’s life and well-being).

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