Saturday, October 6, 2012

On Change and Being Stuck

Watched this amazingly inspiring video a week ago, and since then have been thinking a lot about making changes. Changes in my own life, changes in the greater world around me. The message isn't particularly new for me, but really had an impact, and I urge anyone coming across this page to watch it.

So I'm trying to figure out what I'm really going to do. I keep running into this problem of feeling utterly trapped. I've felt this way ever since I came of age, out of the egocentric world of the child and teenager. I guess around age 18, especially after 9-11. Started getting into politics and bigger issues, trying to understand this system in which we live, and trying to figure out my place within it, and finding very few good options before me.

I know I've talked a lot on here about living the change, saying stuff about opting out of the system as it is. But man, how? How can people operate outside of the system? If you don't play by the rules, you don't get to eat. If you don't work, then you don't get to sleep indoors. They got us by the short and curlies.

One example I know I've thrown out there was gardening. Want to grow a garden? Well, you have to own land, but homesteading is so far from what most people are capable of, it's hard to imagine it happening. I mean, for those who can afford to buy land, often they buy it in town near their job. They have a house, not property. A huge building of outsized proportions, a weight around their neck, often, because we've become accustomed to such foolishness. And to really be free of the system, you can't just grow a token garden out back, a few tomato plants and maybe some lettuce, beans, and cucumbers. You need to plant a sizable amount of land (in terms of an acre or more) and have a host of skills that few people really have anymore: food preservation, crop rotation, what to do about plant disease and pests, and maybe tending livestock, among much else. I'm talking about farming, and farming requires a lot of knowledge.

And that's just for food. What about everything else we need? Clothing, shelter, transportation, medical care, etc etc. How to opt out of all that? I mean, they own our lives, whoever "they" is, if there is a "who" besides the inhuman system itself... they own our lives because they own the means of sustaining our lives. I say again: you dont work, you don't eat, you don't sleep indoors, you don't get to go to the doctor, you lose every which way. How can you fight back against such a thing? You can put out your recycling, consume less, you can try to elect better leaders, take your money out of the banks, but in the end, youre going to go to work every day because your stomach demands it, and more importantly, your children's stomachs.

I think often of Grapes of Wrath, which I know is a novel but it's such a vivid image of the Depression, and seems accurate from what I've read. And not just the Depression, but the way the union battles went for decades back then, the brutal fight it was. Brutal not just because Power fights you on it, but because you have to sit there, watch your children cry because they're hungry, while you strike and picket. What a thing to do! Most men would work for the lowered wages, rather than strike and get nothing. The only ray of hope is that, in spite of those horrible stakes, people did it anyways. They fought back, they suffered, but they did what they had to do.

But here we're talking not about just getting more workplace rights, fairer laws and economic practices, but a whole new economic paradigm. We don't have a clear goal, like better wages, the 8 hour workday or the 5 day work week, or an end to child labor. It's hard to even know where we're trying to go.

So I just don't know. I'm constantly inspired by these sorts of videos, books, ideas, but never know how to proceed. The edges of this problem are just out of reach. I can't imagine any way to have a real impact on the sort of paradigm shift I'm referring to, and can imagine even less a mass movement in this direction. I don't want to give into despair, but I feel like I've been stuck for the last 11 years and it just plain sucks.


  1. Thanks for the link. I've actually heard of that video "I Am" prior to you mentioning it. I saw an interview not long ago on CNN with its director Tom Shadyac, and at the time I had no idea who he was, even though I had apparently already seen some of his films. Well I was really impressed with him, with his personality and bearing, he seemed not just relaxed, but so extremely centered and lucid, as well as very humble. I've been waiting to get a copy at the library. I haven't watched it yet, but if I get tired of waiting around for the DVD, I'll check out the online version as soon as I can get onto a bigger screen (I'm on my tiny netbook again, and on the verge going crossed eyed).

    I have more to say to the rest of your post, but I'll have to come back another time, or maybe I'll have to respond with a post of my own.

  2. I look forward to either one.

  3. I met a guy car camping illegally way back in the woods a while back. He was living out of the back of an old SUV and was dozing in the sun with a book on his lap when I came out of the trees. I thought he was a poacher or something worse at first, but the more I talked with him the more apparent it became that he was a modern-day nomad of sorts and traveled around to various places when he felt like it or the weather/law-enforcement mandated a move. He didn't say what prompted his itinerant lifestyle -- I'm guessing divorce/job loss/etc -- and I didn't ask, but he'd been at it for a while judging by the list of places he mentioned. He didn't seem cracked like a lot of "homeless" guys do and, in fact, seemed remarkably happy for someone with next to nothing living by himself in the woods.

    The next morning it occurred to me that the difference between most people caught up in "the system" and miserable and those outside of it who are relatively happy is one of fear. The trick to opting out successfully would seem to be to find some level of balance where your basic needs are met and some modicum of comfort provided and the fear of what could happen to you (where does the next meal come from? where do I sleep tonight? what if I get sick or injured?) isn't so high that all the enjoyment of life is sucked away. The more courage or faith one has (i.e. Daniel Suelo "The Man Who Quit Money") the farther you can opt-out of the system. In any case, I don't think it's necessary to go all the way down to the howling wilderness level to make a difference for yourself or society as a whole. At least that's what I'd like to believe.

  4. Thanks for that perceptive comment, man. I like your term, howling wilderness. I too hope to find a way to be useful to myself and society without living that way, though I've gone that way and found it good, relatively. Probably not long term. You nailed it, the simple life is definitely going to be outlined by fear and discomfort. Find that balance and you're good.

    Part of me feels like I should be doing something to improve society, work for the good, another part feels it's hopeless, another part says that it's not really my responsibility, both because I can't change other people, and because I'm really just a random creature born to live and die and hopefully find some happiness along the way, and maybe it's wrong, that little part of me that hears about your nomad and thinks "how selfish a way of life that is."

    I guess I'm conflicted, is what I'm saying :P