Sunday, November 8, 2009

Self-sufficiency and Happiness

It seems to me that self-sufficiency is not only reasonable but probably the best solution for turning away from a North American modern life structured as work to consume then work in order to consume even more ad infinitum. It has come to a point where even governments do not refer to their citizens as citizens but as consumers (i.e. you must consume in order to get us out of this recession!).

If we take into account graphs such as the one above which demonstrate, by association with production, trends in consumption, you realise that we've been consuming at an exponentially increasing rate. This, it goes without saying, is unsustainable. Not only will we achieve a point when we simply cannot produce enough stuff and find places to dump it all (see the satirical movie Wall-E...not just a cute robot movie) but unless you're the one selling the crap, the vast majority are not gaining anything and only paying with the destruction of our environment which, in case you hadn't noticed, is the thing we rely on for life itself. To prove that we're not gaining anything from it, there is a graph in the book Managing Without Growth which demonstrates that in the US, though the "real income per head" has risen from a bit below $15,000 per head in 1945 to almost $40,000 per head in 2005, people haven't reported being anymore happy; to be a bit clearer, about 30% of people are "very happy" at a level of $15,000 per year regardless of increased income above this level. So, why must we embark on this exponential path?

Regardless of the questions of corporate greed and infiltration of government, we all have one advantage over any "power that be"; we are decentralized communities who can be self-sufficient. We don't need their stuff. We don't even need that much government beyond the local. People lived perfectly content lives before the advent of Wal-Mart and the microwave. I believe that simple and comfortable lives are the keys to happiness; excess has nothing at all to do with it.

So what do I mean by self-sufficient? I mean a community of people who, despite almost any calamity, can fulfil their food, shelter, water, clothing and social needs. Think of a rural community before the Industrial Revolution; everyone had a trade which they could barter with in order to provide them with the necessities of life. Nowadays, we've exploded past the necessities and have ventured way too far into the unnecessary excesses. Because regardless of what you may think we only need food, shelter, water, clothing and a community. And, depending on which area of the globe you live in, you may not even need clothing ;)

In September 2010, I'm going back to university in order to become a teacher. I'm doing this because I need to have a decent paying job in order to pay off my student debts. Yes I enjoy working with youth. But I wouldn't have to work with them in the school system if it were not for the debts I'm a slave to. I am not going to be a teacher in order that I can buy myself a lifestyle with the very comfortable salary teacher's make. And once the student debts are gone, I'm reevaluating and deciding whether or not I want to say in the school system. I will have a choice which will not depend on debt; it will depend on what I want to do in order to be happy and it will factor in the minimum of funds I need in order to achieve that simple goal. Whatever the case, it will be a life which is as self-sufficient as possible.

1 comment:

knot gifted said...

i sign off having read this entry to mull over til i doze off.

really like the thoughts you've brought together here