|Keeping a foot on the neck of normal.|
William James, the American philosopher and psychologist, claimed that the study of abnormality was the best way of understanding the normal. Considering I'm abnormal, I don't have far to go to begin my own study.
Come to think of it, that is what this blog is about - studying the abnormality of living a simple life in order to understand the high consumption, consumer driven lifestyles which are currently considered (by some) to be normal.
Using James' approach, we can look at what is seen as abnormal in order to have a feel for what we choose to accept as common practice.
The following are generally considered abnormal in consumer-oriented cultures:
- Not owning a car, TV, mobile phone, computer, or any of the other standard consumer items.
- Not working full time in paid employment.
- Flying, driving, or traveling less (or not at all) in order to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Taking more than 2 weeks per year to have for yourself and your own agenda.
- Living in as small a space as is comfortable (I have seen 300 sq. ft. per person mentioned as a good place to start).
- Using your fair share (living a one-planet lifestyle).
- Sleeping without an alarm clock.
- Eating low on the food chain.
- Considering the social and environmental implications of everything you buy.
- Spending a lot of time in nature (enjoying it rather than exploiting it).
- Knowing your neighbours.
- Spending less than you make.
- Eating with the whole family together at the table (without electronic devices present).
- Seeking to do what is right instead of what is merely convenient or most profitable.
- Voting or otherwise participating in the process of democracy.
- Being creative through artistic expression. (dancing, singing, drawing, painting, playing an instrument...)
- Following your heart, rather than living according to social convention, or your parents expectations, or whatever pays best.
- Letting your body exist in all its hairy, funky, natural glory.
- Living with less by practicing some or all of the R's. (Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Respect, Repair, Repurpose, Regift, Reject, and Retreat.)
Living simply, which is standard practice for most of humanity, is still seen as abnormal in some parts of the world. But not for long.
In those places that have experienced the gluttonous excesses of the past, excesses which have been normalized by the media, movies, advertisers, and pro-corporate governments greedy for tax revenue, will come to be seen as the rest of the world must see them already - as highly irregular and destructive. As abnormal.
For now we are shackled to the devil of modernity and the view that it is normal. But as William James warned, "the world is all the richer for having a devil in it, so long as we keep our foot upon his neck."