Waiting... Waiting...It is a strange feeling. I feel like I am waiting for something to happen. Some new stage of life to begin. Of course, at 68 years of age there are not too many new stages of life to anticipate. Yet I feel like I am on the verge of experiencing something exciting. Something that will take up all of my attention, show me new horizons, rekindle my interest, totally absorb me in its flow.
But perhaps I am just dreaming. Perhaps my expectations are just too idealistic. Too unrealistic.
I look back at my life, and wonder. I know that I have been fortunate and privileged to have lived through all of the times that I have experienced. I think of the lives of my ancestors and realise that they had none of the opportunities that I have enjoyed. They lived their lives in relative poverty as farm labourers, gardeners and domestic servants with never a hope of achieving better circumstances. Some of them fought and died in world wars. Some of them did not live past their early childhood years. I suspect most of them received only the most modest level of education, if any at all. I, even at twelve years of age, knew more about my world than they would have learned in a lifetime. Yet I knew little or nothing about how to live. How to obtain the basic necessities of life.
I was there...I was there when there was no such thing as plastic (at least in general use) other than Bakelite, a word that no modern youngster would be expected to know. I was there when the latest toys were skipping ropes (with wooden handles) and spinning tops driven by hand with a stick and a length of string.
I was there when street lighting was still mainly be gas powered. An uncle was what must have been one of the last street lamplighters in the city where I lived, going around manually lighting each individual street light with a flame on a long stick at dusk and turning them off again at dawn.
I was there when the household wash was done by hand in a huge metal tub called a dolly tub and agitated with a wooden dolly using carbolic soap and dolly blue.
I was there when radio was how families received the latest news and few if any had a television set (with pictures in the glorious hues of black and white) in the home. I was there when these things were updated to use transistors instead of bulky globe type valves. Transistors of course are now integrated parts of electronic circuit boards.
I was there when new fads or crazes such as the hula hoop and Yo-yo were at their height of popularity. Simple ideas, requiring a level of skill and dexterity. Before the age of electronics.
I was there when a group of children could enjoy play time out in the streets of a busy urban housing development without fear or supervision, playing tennis, football, skipping, hopscotch or tag games and only have to stop perhaps once an hour to allow a car to go past. There may have been perhaps only one or two houses in the entire street where the occupants owned a car.
I was there when new technologies were introduced to the family home, ostensibly to make life easier. Technologies that were outdated, discarded and replaced by an ever growing list of newer technologies. Technologies with ever shorter lifetimes, such that even my own children know little of their existence and which would be the cause of smirks and ridicule by twelve year-olds of today.
I was there when technology enabled the discovery of vast amounts of never before anticipated knowledge and information and the means to store it in ever more compact form that would have been undreamed of in the years of my youth. Storage technology that would largely foreshadow the death of newspapers and also in time, I suspect, of books. A development we may come to deeply regret.
I have also been there when the realisation dawned (at least for some of us) that the long anticipated and lauded promise of easier living that this age of prosperity, knowledge and technological achievement held out to an expectant world, was just an illusion.
The world has changedThe world has changed beyond recognition in my lifetime. Did all of these phases of new technology make life easier? I have known and experienced simple living in my early years. I have lived through the decades of rapidly expanding technological progress, marvelling and revelling in each new invention and discovery. Enjoying the relative prosperity that such things as the computer age brought with it.
Life has not, in general, been made easier, happier, freer or more satisfying by these things. On the contrary, people heavily engaged in the modern industrial/technological/military system that now powers the global, corporate controlled empire we, or most of us, live in, do so mainly in a form of debt slavery from which there is small possibility of escape. There is little hope or even willingness on the part of most people to pay down the debt that keeps them within the confines of this mega prison system or to adjust their lives to live independently of it. Very few have knowingly and purposefully engineered their escape and those that have done so have been given disparaging labels such as dropouts, hobos and hippies.
Those, the majority, that remain in the system allow their senses to be lulled and dulled by a continuous stream of entertainment, requiring low levels of mental and physical activity in the seemingly fewer and fewer hours that they can think of as their 'own' time. They live for the most part a sedentary lifestyle, even those who perform manual work these days, resulting in lowered metabolism and reduced immune system, further cementing their dependence on the system through an alarming range of new diseases and illnesses that their forbears would never have known of or experienced. Such is the price that they (we) pay.
I have changedFor the most part I have been trying in recent years to live independently of the modern system. While I was working within it I came to the conclusion that things could not possibly remain as they were/are indefinitely. The Global Financial Crisis highlighted the fragility and instability of modern economics. Climate Science pointed the way to places that I saw were not healthy situations and should at all costs be avoided for everyone's safety. Population Growth was also putting us on a path to nowhere we should even contemplate reaching. Over-consumption, pollution and environmental destruction were roads to utter collapse of our living space.
All in all we were in deep shit for as far as the eye could see and in every direction we cared to look.
I needed to ring the bell on the world 'bus and get off at the nearest stop. In the last few years I have been trying to extract myself from the system. I cleared all my debts and retired from work. Of course there is much more to living independently from the system than that and I am by no means free yet. But I am working on it.
Pinnng! (Lightbulb moment!) Perhaps that is what I am looking and waiting for. Another step towards freedom.
(This retrospective and reflection that I have been indulging myself in may not have been a waste of time. I have always said that we cannot know where we are going without knowing where we came from. History has a purpose.)
So, what do I need to do?This raises so many questions that I do not know where to start.
Perhaps I should list my ties to the current system and then consider them for a while.
Yes, I will do that and perhaps end this post at that point to let it all sink into my tired brain and put it on a 'Heavy' soak, wash, rinse and spin cycle to see what comes out at the end.
1. I am dependent on someone else for my living accommodation. Renting a home on 12 month lease. The home is up for sale. No satisfactory guarantees of continuation of lease. I do not want to own property as I consider that dangerous on a number of levels (even if I had sufficient funds to purchase). I will not go into debt to own a home. I could live in a tent (I have three of them of different sizes), a cave or abandoned shack somewhere out in the bush. I could also just go on the road as a hobo or swaggie (swagman for non-Aussies). Not an exciting prospect at my age but something that everyone may need to consider at some stage and in some circumstances that I can foresee. I also have my car, a small LWB Mercedes A160 which I could live in at a pinch or go on the road as a mobile swaggie. But that would entail the suspension of some of my environmental principles and in any case is no long term solution unless I can find a permanent site to occupy. This situation also has implications for my ability to grow sufficient food to adequately feed myself. I have, from time to time, considered life among folk in an intentional community but have largely dismissed that prospect now as being too dangerous and claustrophobic. Such people are generally over-religious, outright nuts or peculiarly weird in some other way. I am myself not particularly 'normal' anyway.
2. I am partially dependent on the government (Aged Pension from both the Australian and UK govts. plus another small military pension). These dependencies, I realise, cannot be guaranteed because as soon as government ceases to generate income through taxes (highly likely at some stage in the future) all government payments will also cease. Therefore, any prospective future living conditions (including the need to eat) need to be conducted without the necessity to pay for them ie. without requiring any form of income to do so. This reduces my purchasing power to things such as personal labour, services and things that I may possess, be able to make or grow, or can by some other means beg, borrow or steal. Again not an exciting prospect at my age but something that everyone may need to consider at some stage and in some circumstances that I can foresee. Living without money is something that I would like to become proficient at. Oh dear, I hope this isn't a case of be careful what you ask for, you might get it. I said 'become proficient at' not 'actually have to do'.
3. I own a car. A petrol driven car. A small but very flexibly designed car that can be used for many purposes including, as I intimated earlier, living in. I try to use it as little as possible, restricting my annual driving to around 7,000 klms (not easy when you live remotely). My preference would be to live in such a way that I would not require a motor vehicle but perhaps bicycle/walk everywhere I needed to go. I am certain that there will come a time when everyone will need to make such decisions for themselves. Petroleum products will either be not available, restricted to government, military or emergency use, or priced above the reach of anyone who is not extremely rich (if such people still exist) for general domestic or recreational use.
4. I have a need to buy food (because I cannot in my current circumstances grow anywhere near the amount of food that I need to stay healthy and relatively fit). I am a vegetarian so the types of food that I need to purchase are not as extensive as the needs of a meat eater. I generally shop for food about once every three weeks, making the bulk of my purchases from a farmers gate shop selling only local (ie. grown not very far away and not imported) produce and a rare eco-store. I consider this in some part sustainable except for the fact that I need to drive my car on an up to 150 klms round trip to shop this way and some of my purchases are not locally produced. I also realise that it may not be possible in the future to make such shopping trips. I also spend a very small amount ($20-30) in a major supermarket on these shopping trips, for certain items that I can't get at my preferred stores. I almost never eat out and absolutely never consume fast take-away food. I would dearly like to grow or obtain all of my food requirements locally without degrading my principles in any way.
5. I use mostly grid-based electricity. No gas, piped or cylinder. I also have an indepentent (self-built and supposedly portable) battery stored solar electric power system providing 2-3 kWh consumption daily. I have chosen to pay the electricity grid-supply rate for 100% green power so I have no regrets on that score but I would like to be in a situation where my power consumption was entirely grid-free whether by reduced consumption or increased solar (or other renewable) capacity.
6. I need to be able to clothe myself. This is not a priority for me as I have fairly carefully planned to meet the need and my needs are fairly simple. I have long discarded the need to adopt fashion as a personal signature. From the days when I possessed a dress suit for every day of the week, for the last ten years I have not owned even a single such suit. I do possess one necktie for old times sake and for when the need arises for something to keep my pants up. My daily uniform mostly consists T-shirts, polos and jumpers, with a range of colours of military style cargo pants with tie bottoms over sturdy hiking boots. Complementing these with sets of thermal underwear, normal underwear, socks, beanies and other headwear, coats ranging from military style parkas to hiking gear to sports tops, I have enough clothing to last for several if not many years. I wear leather belts and boots, something that I do not consider to be against my vegetarian principles. Animal hide makes some very fine clothing necessities (though I am not sure that I would like to or be capable of making them or procuring the material myself) but I see no reason to also eat our animal friends. Especially as to do so is not conducive to good health and may well be detrimental to life expectation. I include this here because there will come a time (I expect) when I will need to replace my current clothing stock. Since I have no means or capability at this time to make my own clothing, replacing it may have to come down to bartering, rummage through abandoned possessions or, in extreme necessity, theft.
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I am sure that there are other issues that I would like resolved and which ought to be included in this list but I will leave it there for now. I may add other points as they spring to my attention.
This is the consideration of my future that I have been talking about in this series.