Prepare, Sustain, Thrive and Survive Simply
This publication of the Simplicity Institute by Samuel Alexander and Jonathan Rutherford, came to my email, so I read it and was inspired to comment. I value the Institute. It’s great to have a respected advocate for intentional simplicity. They really get it, but in this case, most of the people they cite don’t seem to. In fact, I found their information disturbing for a number of reasons.
The Main Mission
I believe the main and immediate mission for people who think radical simplicity is the best hope for humanity at this time should be to set up functioning demonstration projects of radical simple living, to encourage those already in existence, and to garner as much popular support as quickly as possible.
Overall, I’m concerned that, the language put forth in this paper will have the effect of giving radical simplicity a bad name, therefore arraying more people against the idea and adding fuel to the fire against those already pursuing the lifestyle. I hope the people who contributed their ideas will consider their assumptions and these approaches more carefully.
There is an inherent fallacy in pairing transition to radical simplicity with “deep green alternative.” First of all, I did not see a preponderance of evidence that the people promoting the various ideas herein (with the exception of the eco-anarchists) actually practice radical simplicity. Which leads to my observation that I have known more people living the lifestyle who don’t identify with any green movement. They live simply for a host of other reasons. The aim. I would think is to build the new paradigm, which requires diplomacy and inclusiveness. Relegating the transition discussion to radical green groups exclusive of all others — as if they own it — hurts the mission.
Forcing it down people’s throats: Not good
Also, the idea of attempting to legislate simplicity is counterproductive. It will bring the whole of the freedom community down on the tiny simple living movement. Why? Because libertarians across the political spectrum are waking up en masse to the problems caused by the military/industrial complex consumerist way of life. They aren’t coming up (as a body) with solutions of how to create a successful culture, but I can tell you this: they find repugnant the idea of the state taking ownership of enterprises and planning an orderly contraction of the economy. It doesn’t make a good foundation for which to open a dialogue.
My favorite discussion was about the eco-anarchists. Their approach is to actually live the dream and worry about the politics second. Actually, I have come to the same conclusion about “prefiguring” the new society inside the old, and I hadn’t realized there was an entire “movement” that agreed with me:-)
But the eco-anarchists should understand that their ideas can be helped to reality by partnering with trusted allies from the mainstream and the eco-anarchist label is going to mostly put people off, obviously. Imagine giving a presentation about your great ideas to the local fundamentalist church or Native American Tribal Council and saying, “Hi. I’m an eco-anarchist and I’m here to help you.” It won’t work. Yes, they too are your potential allies and you’ve got to think about how you will attract them, not scare them away. Hah. Eco-anarchists are bristling at the thought, and so we have egoic attachment, pride, and conflict, which always surface in people movements. But get over it. What name do you think these folks would embrace? When you figure it out, that will probably set well with the rest of the culture too — the ones who are willing to consider what’s at stake, anyway.
Intentional Simple Living is the Answer for Today
I am convinced intentional simplicity is the only answer for sustained life on earth. If people can’t be convinced to do it on purpose, whoever survives the resulting cataclysm will be forced into it. Therefore, the only responsible focus is action, now. By action, I mean doing the lifestyle by living as simply and efficiently as possible.
Creating well publicized radical simple living demonstration projects and replicating these with a sense of urgency is more effective than wasting energy on political discussions, which should be relegated to the fire after a hard day’s work. Critical mass is needed that can realize and demonstrate a different paradigm. You’re not going to force, cajole, or bomb people into it. The simple living movement needs to be establishing safe and tangible ways for people to experience radical simple living to sell them on the idea. That takes pulling together money for land, materials, training, and microenterprises, along with the wisdom to organize group decision making and skills to manage interpersonal relationships. The rich and middle class can make the switch now if they choose to. But what about the working class and poor who are struggling along?
In my e-book, The Truth About Simple Unhooked Living, I describe what I mean about a simple living lifestyle and discuss what helps are needed to support it in our culture. I recommend, for one, that no interest revolving loan funds in the form of the Heiffer Project and Habitat for Humanity be set up to help the working poor, people on the fringes, and the downtrodden out of Babylon and get set up in the new paradigm where families can thrive simply. Also, the largest eco organizations should be convinced to contribute to these funds, and to take on the legal cases that will result. Transition Towns, slow food and permaculture initiatives are a tiny drop in the bucket, compared to the grassroots organizing work that needs to be done for simple living to flourish.
Stuck in the old paradigm?
I get the sense that the people who contributed their ideas to the first two modalities are stuck in old paradigm thinking. This statement is a good example of why:
“A contraction of materials and energy would almost certainly lead to diminishing profits for firms and therefore reduced per capita income alongside rising levels of bankruptcy and unemployment. If allocation was left to market forces, lower income groups and unskilled workers would also be hit hardest by rising costs of food and other basic living items.”
This sounds like the dire effects of people still struggling alone against the harsh forces of the old system. The idea is not to contract the economy and hope people deal with it somehow. But rather to help them extricate from the system and get their feet under them so they don’t go without. Rising costs of food and other items will be a minimal concern because people will be growing, producing, creating items themselves or in small cooperatives and trading. They will not be unskilled because they will be trained by peers and mentors to do what they need in order to survive. They will not need nearly the money as before to cover household expenses because they’re practicing radical simplicity and cooperation. The existing system only contracts when they willingly leave it. I think the academics who wrote this stuff are putting the cart before the horse, which makes me wonder if they are more interested in discussing political revolution than practicing radical simplicity.
Elite blowback major problem with moving out of the system
The major problem to be faced when moving away from a growth orientated economy will be the tenacity of the elites who profit by the current system. As Leahy says: ‘How, could we possibly suppose that the capitalist class would not resist radical reformism when it is intended to attack every part of their current power base?” Good question. But, I don’t think of it so much as an attack, but more of a turning ones back on it.
The elites will ignore the movement as long as it is ineffective, then mount a psyopps mindwar against it — belittling, patronizing, eventually demonizing and ostracizing it as it gains steam. Eventually, the police power will come against it through codes, regulations, fines, and finally SWAT teams, all have which have happened and are still happening.
Obviously, it is futile to expect radical cultural change among the power elite. Expect violent resistance because the effect of local networks of autonomous and productive households cooperating in local networks have the affect of depriving the elites of their profits, and they hate that.
As far as public perception, we have in our favor the irrefutable evidence that the Powers That Be have so far been unable or unwilling to manage the planet responsibly, and they’ve had quite a long run at it. Some of the people have the where-with-all to complain about this, but most are in too much of a fog to come up with any alternatives.
Do we have an alternative?
But we can demonstrate a lovely and graceful way to live on earth by actually doing it and inviting others to experience it with us. We don’t have years and years. We can offer a safety net for people who are loosing their jobs, unemployment, and food stamps; for the still working class whose paychecks are shrinking. How many would have the courage to take a way out? How many are up for the sheer physicality of the task?
Suppose we don’t ask government for anything?
Suppose we don’t ask government for anything except to simply protect the new pioneers’ freedom and rights to live and share our vision unmolested? Our energy needs to be focused on demonstration projects and exit strategies from the system, and winning converts to the lifestyle.
No thanks to government-imposed austerity
The idea of government imposed austerity is bleak, even to a die hard minimalist like me, and it will be vehemently opposed by libertarians who need to be won over as allies. Much better not to alienate them with talk of socialism and wealth redistribution, but to find common ground and enlist their help in getting the government out of the way so freedom to live simply can be exercised as a viable choice. The mission is to wake people up and provide an alternative way to live before the system implodes.
I don’t think forcing heavy handed government edicts is fair play, anyway. The battle should be fought on the grounds of persuasion and demonstration, not forced austerity. There are good people who would buy this if presented correctly, but they hate socialism and fear anarchy. Put the shoe on the other foot and realize you hate having a lifestyle you don’t resonate with forced down your throat “for your own good.” That just builds resistance.
We need fewer, not more regulations, plans, and guidelines. All these regulations are already complicating simple living projects and hindering innovation necessary in forming a new paradigm. Anybody who advocates this must never have been a poor person attempting the simple life on the land. If you don’t understand this, please read my book.
An awareness campaign needs to happen, to communicate to the mainstream majority, in a manner they are accustomed to being communicated with, that simple living is an empowering solution to problems from personal to global. Just like any good promotional campaign, the emphasis should be on pathos not reason: enhanced freedom, security, and well being should be highlighted. Higher reason does not move people to action. Even if they don’t care to participate, we need their political will to preserve the freedom of the new pioneers to demonstrate the only viable solution to continued life on earth. This freedom is quickly slipping away.
But the public relations campaign is wasted if not accompanied by demonstrated action on the ground by people who are willing to lay everything on the line and live their vision. Indeed, there are already pockets of them around the world.
No violence please
Violence promoted by Deep Green Resistance will do nothing but sabotage the cause, so they should distance themselves from any mention of intentional simplicity. Their assumptions that their actions of industrial sabotage could bring down industrial civilization are egotistical, unrealistic, counterproductive, therefore reckless. Eco-socialist Ian Angus has a grip on reality when he points out that such groups become the targets of agent provocateurs and key activists end up in prison. Green activists need to get busy building their culture, and that in itself is a culture of resistance.
All these groups should be focusing their energy on pooling resources and setting up functioning radically simple example camps. The socialists “common desire to see a society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community” lends itself well to the simple lifestyle, which is best carried out in cooperation with others. They don’t need to wait to have socialism decreed from above or pushed onto people who aren’t interested. They can do their thing on the grassroots level and demonstrate its benefits right away.
When advocates of the new paradigm of radical simplicity realize how much work is required, they will be sorry they didn’t get started sooner. The system provides most personal needs for the majority of people, even those who rail against it. The responsive action is to get busy building the change you want to see. This is a hard job that requires lots of finesse, allies and good feelings with the people who don’t quite get you. The diplomacy exercised in the community by early members of The Farm comes to mind.
It’s time to move away from all these idealized theories and do the practical living. There will always be those who lean toward political action, and bless their hearts. As for me, I just prefer to take care of the food, make medicine, build things, and such.
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