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Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa on - The Best Documentaries... Instantly On Demand

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‘This community was built on being left alone by the cops. We don’t want your government’ cries Dred as he shoots at a can of petrol. Like many of the people living in this vast, dusty underworld, he went into the military as a teenager and came back a different man. ‘I don’t know anyone who’s come out of a combat situation and gone right back into society. It takes a little time’ explains Maine, a sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder, ‘this is the last remaining land of America. It’s freedom’.

Covering 15 square miles in New Mexico, the mesa is home to around 400 people. All the residents share the anti-establishment feeling of the war veterans. Yet ‘patriotism’ is one of the only tenets here. ‘I fly the flag, I believe in the constitution’ explains Dred ‘I just don’t believe in the government’. There are no official laws but the philosophy: ‘don’t steal from your neighbour, don’t shoot you neighbour’ is rigidly upheld.

There’s no money but ‘if you’ve got pot you can trade for just about anything’. Marijuana is self-medication, whether it’s for post-traumatic stress disorder, gulf war syndrome or general mental illness. ‘It is the largest outdoor insane asylum’ says Mama Joe, a former psychiatric nurse, ‘it’s where you can let your freak flag fly’. Yet the growth and distribution of Marijuana brings increasing police surveillance.

When the police raid the home that Maine built from scratch, anti-establishment sentiment is solidified. ‘It changed everything’ says Mesa elder Robbie ’we have to organise ourselves so this doesn’t happen again’. Then a series of thefts by the ‘nowhere kids’ a group of teenage runaways, push the community’s anti-government standing to the extreme. ‘We’ve got a really serious problem in our community now because we don’t want to call the cops’ explains elder Robbie ‘other members of the community are already picking up their guns’.

Suddenly we realise that ‘this really is the wild west’ until the elders form a council and decide that the ‘mamas’ on the mesa try to reason with the nowhere kids. ‘I don’t think it would have been resolved if a group of men had gone down’ says Mama Joe, laughing. For the community, the triumph is confirmation of their way of living. ‘We’re not renegades down here, we’re not outlaws, we’re not bandits. Democracy is our most valued asset’ explains Dred, ‘I believe in our right to hold this council without involving the government. We are Americans. We have that freedom of choice’.


  • 1.  yonmith 27 Mar 2010 15:34

    Please just check it out

  • 2.  Johnny5eagles 04 May 2014 16:38

    Do you guys know what you have? You have community. That is something that many of us who are prosperous do not have. I am a man who is all alone and I am in pain all the time. And when I had people in the past it was tolerable. Many of those have grown apart or gone away or grew up and there is no one left. I see you have things that I do not. I have been changing some things about my life but this show inspired me. Community is so important. I suspect that our Creator may only set those of us who do have community apart. I pray that those of us who need this will find it. Those of us in too much pain and who are too tired to find it: May You grant it to us who at least have a heart for community to get it. Please.

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