January 29, 2020

Beyond Control, Toward Freedom

Like the anarchist author Jean Weir, I "experienced society like an iron vice from the day I was born." That is the main reason I find living simply so attractive - it loosens the grip of that iron vice.

Since I was young I felt the control and exploitation that I was swimming in constantly. I thought it might drown me.

Because I was born a sensitive, I keenly felt the stings of an obviously unjust and hypocritical system. It was everywhere - in the "father knows best" family structure, at school, the mall, in the playground and on the streets.

I wondered, and still do, why so few could see it. Can fish perceive the water they swim in? Maybe that is the problem.

My desire has always been to be beyond sneaky methods of control used by parents, teachers, bosses, priests and society. That is why I developed a powerful connection to nature and wild places, and honoured my desire to be far, far away from the centres of civilizational control as often as I could.

I wanted to be away from the set of laws that seek to control everyone except the rich and powerful, who are free to do as they please. 

I wanted to leave consumerism, its garish billboards and screaming advertisements, in the dust behind me. These are the rankest forms of control of all, being subtle and based on the best neuropsychology money can buy (over 1 trillion dollars a year now). 

A saner world would see them for the mind control that they are, and resist them at every turn.

The consumer lifestyle lulls us into creating our own gilded cages, then willingly walking into them. The authorities don't even have to monitor us after our initial training, because when we leave our cells to work for our keepers, we go right back to them at night.

The average person prefers the cage to the perceive dangers and discomforts of more natural surroundings. Things, they say, are not convenient in nature. Therefore, it is bad, and must be controlled, destroyed and plundered.

This shows the level of control has been complete and total. When you can successfully tear people from the land you create displaced zombies, ripe for exploitation and prone to suggestion.

So, at an early age I decided I would not work for this sick system if that was ever possible. I had no wish to aid them in their exploitations and predations. I would rather be poor and free than complicit.

I would go on to disassociate myself from the consumer lifestyle as much, and as soon, as I could. A life of buying less would allow me to work less. Working less would allow me to live more freely. 

Time, I thought, is the most valuable resource, and I didn't want to spend all mine working for the man. Or woman.

Living simply is not so much about saving the world for me, although that would be a nice fringe benefit. It is about getting out of that iron vice of society. 

It is about building a real and lasting freedom for myself, and for everyone else.

January 28, 2020

Banksy's Anti-Consumer Art

Banksy's art highlights the absurdity, but also the sadness, of consumerism in pieces that mock brand worship and show the futility of stuff and status.

Moving forward maybe we need fewer protests, and more using our creativity to shine a light in the dark corners of the dictatorship of the capitalist consumer world view.

What if every protester spent their time instead creating an artistic response to the misery and pain created by life based on greed, the hunger for power, fame, and the domination of nature?

Freed from the tyranny of involuntary work to make money to buy things we don't need and often don't even want, wouldn't we all become creators?

If we are going to tear this system down, we are going to have to get creative.

January 23, 2020

On Profit

According to writer Volker G. Fremuth, there are four kinds of people in the world when it comes to profit.

1. Those who want to profit off others without changing anything. 

2. Those who want to profit off others and would try to improve the world in so doing, and

3. Those who want to profit off of others and are willing to destroy the world to do so. 

 Finally, the fourth group are "those who don’t care to profit off others and are the inevitable victims of the other three".

“The trick", he says, "is to know which one of these people you are.” 

January 20, 2020

MLK and Shifting From A Thing-Oriented Society

How important is it that we overcome our addiction to consumerism? MLK highlighted the urgency well in his April, 1967 speech. 

"We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

It would be a different world today if this gifted man was not shot down. Even so, we can all honour his life, and protest his murder, by listening to the wisdom he shared, and implement his transformative ideas in our own lives.

They may have killed the messenger, but they can not kill his message that is being carried by millions. All of us misfits and rebels agree - our "thing oriented" society must change if we are to improve ourselves and the world.

Tiniest Homes

Shoebox apartment in Hong Kong.

In North America, some say that anything less than about 1500 square feet is a tiny home. It's all relative.

In other places, even our tiniest homes look like mini-mansions. 400 sq ft? Luxury. 200? Room to spare.

The tiniest homes I have ever seen are in Hong Kong. Overall, the average living space per person there is 50 square feet, which would still be large compared to the smallest "homes" one can find there.

These tiniest homes are also called shoebox homes, cage homes, bed space apartments, or coffin cubicles. They are a "type of residence that is only large enough for one bunk bed surrounded by a metal cage". 

The tiniest are 20 square feet, and the worst are actual metal cages.

Coffin cubicles often have a communal bathroom and kitchen.
These dwellings are hot, stuffy, and cramped.

But its not just in Hong Kong. Anywhere where income inequality is greatest one will find all kinds of inadequate housing for the working poor.

In Banff, Alberta, Canada, the housing situation is so tight that workers there have been known to pay large sums to rent closets. No doubt these are the smallest, most expensive dwellings in the country. 

Coffin homes in Canada. 

The only way to get even tinier would be to have vertical "tube homes" where one jumps in and sleeps standing up. They could be marketed as square foot living, or "hive homes". 

Fun Fact: You could fit hundreds of thousands of hive homes in the world's largest private residence.

January 15, 2020

Satirical Anti-consumerism Art of Angel Boligan

“Satire is fascinating stuff. It’s deadly serious, and when politics begin to break down, there is a drift towards satire, because it’s the only thing that makes any sense.”

- Ben Nicholsan

During the French Revolution, satire was used in cartoons to convey messages to the people. The French satirists drew from the disquiet created by the huge disparity between the upper crust and those getting by on crusts.

Satire exposes the follies, weaknesses, and abuses of society, and holds them up to ridicule, hoping to change them, for satire seeks not just to expose, but to also transform.

Satire is constructive criticism that often creates humour as it promotes awareness and educates. While it can be funny, it also can give us ah-ha! moments when we can see an issue more clearly. 

The earliest example of satire in literature is from Egypt in the 2nd millennium BC. 

Comedians Bill Hicks and George Carlin are more recent examples of artists who were rather deft at cracking the whip of satirical wit. Their humour tickles both the funny bone and the brain. Often it stings a bit as well.

Back to the revolution, the use of satire in France fuelled the anger and disdain for the rich who, as a result, were no longer viewed as betters, but as the oppressors that they were. 

The times today are as rich as ever for satire to shine its light into the dark corridors where oppressors operate. It can also shine that light back at ourselves when we recognize we are the targets, and that change begins at home.

The best satire creates art that serves up a compelling call to learn in a way that is as bitter, or humorous, as it is effective. 

If this art form can expose the rich for the fakers that they are, and bring down Kings, lets see what it can do for exposing consumerism for the royal fake that it is.

All art in this post is by Cuban artist Angel Boligan. His work confronts consumerism, corruption and hypocrisy. Many pieces also reflect the fallout, including loneliness, vanity and despair.

January 13, 2020

Assassinating Despair

Following deer tracks down into the valley.

Despite ordering a plain old boring new year, 2020 is off to an interesting start. Too interesting.

So far there has been lot of static in the illusion as we kick off a new, yet-to-be-named decade. Judging from the start, it will be something along the lines of The "First-We-Abandoned-Truth-Then-We-Abandoned-Reality Decade". 

Or was that last decade? 

Muffled and magical in the snowy spruce forest.

In a more serene way, Winter brought the Maritimes a delicious dump of powdery white stuff. 

At the time I had a burning desire to assassinate a looming sense of despair welling up deep in my soul.

Snow is a blanket. Fluffy snow insulates the best.

There was nothing to do but strap on the snowshoes for the first snowy jaunt of the year in the backyard sanctuary. My hike was was made more urgent by the forecast that was calling for heavy rain the next day.

It's carpe diem day after day, so I grabbed on to what I could scramble for, and launched myself out the back door.

Nothing refreshes like Nature. Soon, the trees, squirrel, deer, and a porcupine were showing me the Way of the woods. No drama here, just a successful community of diverse organisms all working together to make things work.

I have never met a tree I didn't like. This one provided a nice spot
to stop for a drink of water and a rest.

I returned from my romp in the wild as a new person, ready to face future gripping events as humanity stumbles through the toxic fog of our collective ignorance.

For the time being, my despair has been slain.

January 7, 2020

Experiments In Vehiclelessness

The view of the ocean basin below at the half way mark is inspiring. At that point I needed it.

4 kilometres. 5250 steps. That is how far it is to pick up our mail. Now that we don't have a car any more, we are figuring out how to get things done. Like mail pick up.

The experiment today was to answer the question, "Can I walk to the mailbox and back?", and, "How long will it take?"

The walk is a total of 8 km or 10500 steps. I haven't done that kind of distance for a while, since my hikes into the forest are usually shorter than that.

It takes about 15 minutes to drive to get the mail. I can do the same trip on my bike in about 30 to 40 minutes. So, how long walking? I was so curious that I had to try it and find out. 

Distances seem much farther when walking. The mail box is where the road curves to the left
 in the far distance    w a y     d  o w  n     t   h   e   r   e.

First, of course, I did some research. How long does it take for a person of average health to walk 4 kilometres? About 40 minutes depending on grade, conditions, and fitness level. 

It seemed like a weird thing to look up.

People don't walk much any more. City people tend to be car dependent, and out here in rural Nova Scotia, folks have even fewer transportation choices. 

When one has a car, why would you walk 8 km? You wouldn't. That is exactly the kind of thing a car is made to avoid. If you have a car, you probably never think about walking anywhere instead of driving. I didn't, until we decommissioned our van.

The average person doesn't have enough time anyway, because they have to work. To pay for their car.

But there are good reasons to walk, if you can find the time.

Simplicity, is one, and freedom another. There is no mode of travel more simple and basic than walking. And what freedom! How often does a walker get pulled over by an overzealous cop? 

Nothing at all to worry about as you stroll along. 

No licence, registration, or insurance? No problem.

I certainly did not need to worry about speeding. 

Or running out of gas. 

Or getting into an accident.

Back up on top of the ridge, and almost home. I was wishing I had wheels on my boots at this point.

Here is what I found out in this experiment in vehiclelessness:

- it took me 40 minutes to walk (downhill) 4 km to the community mailbox.

- it took me 50 minutes to walk (uphill) back home.

- it turned out to be, then, an hour and a half adventure. Not so bad, and quicker than I thought.

- another question I should have asked is, "Can I walk the 8 km without injuring myself?" I pretty much knew I could get there and back, but how would I feel after? What about tomorrow? I am doing good so far...

- I actually prefer the pace of walking over biking, with biking being still too fast. When biking I feel myself passing through the environment, while walking feels like I am IN the environment, an integral part of my surroundings.

Most of all, I like the feeling of being totally free, self-sufficient and unsupported (except for my hiking poles that I don't leave on hikes or walks without). 

All in all it was a complete success, even though my mailbox was empty when I got there. I will do it again. 

I think maybe people don't actually "need" a car. I think what people really need is more time.

Stay tuned for more experiments in vehiclelessness when I ask (and answer) questions like, "How will we get large grocery orders without a car?"

Hint: it won't be walking.

January 5, 2020

Life Simply, Flows

Success, attainment, and clinging to what we feel we have fought hard for can be harmful and counterproductive. 

We have aspirational products and lifestyles, but none of them offer any kind of peace or rest. If one has attained the perfect lifestyle with the right stuff through hard work, that must be maintained by hard work.

You have to defend it, secure it, protect it, lest someone take it away from you. And in a consumer eat consumer world, there is always another aspirational being that wants to take it away.

It would be better to have nothing, do nothing, aspire to nothing. Just let it all go.

Then life simply, flows. Just like the entirety of the Cosmos. 

Anyone that sits quietly as a discipline knows this, and avoids the artificial rush, bother, and struggle of conventional lifestyles. 

"Most people don't live; they just race. They are trying to reach some goal far away on the horizon, and in the heat of the going they get so breathless and panting that they lose sight of the beautiful, tranquil country they are passing through; and then the first thing they know, they are old and worn out, and it doesn't make any difference whether they've reached the goal or not.” 
- Jean Webster

It is so simple that it sounds stupid to consumer-trained ears - a simple life of living intentionally with less stress, struggle and stuff offers a better quality of life than the more culturally approved, but less healthy forms.

Consumers have been conditioned to think that the answers always involve "more stuff", always involve "out there" (and always somewhere other than where you are), and always involve a "win at all costs" competition.

The reality is the opposite. Liberation is not getting more, or beating everyone to become a billionaire. It is letting all that go, and surrendering to the bliss found in joining the unregulated free flow of life.

“Hurry, and all that it involves", said Alan Watts, "is fatal". 

That is no exaggeration, nor is it fake news. It is deadly truthful and accurate.

According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death. And those leading causes of death are linked to the battle for supremacy in The Rat Race.

"In a universe whose fundamental principle is relativity rather than warfare", Watts continues, "there is no purpose because there is no victory to be won, no end to be attained". 

"For every end, as the world itself shows, is an extreme, an opposite, and exists only in relation to its other end. 
Because the world is not going anywhere, there is no hurry. 
One may as well "take it easy" like nature itself.” 

For a New Years resolution, one could do worse than, 

"This year I will take it easy, and let life flow."

It is something I will be channelling during my next unhurried 940 million kilometre voyage around the Sun.