These days, people who are considered successful often move many times during their lifetimes, or should I say their careers. Staying in one place for long, perhaps one’s whole life, is considered retrograde, and the life of constant movement, particularly jetting around the globe a sign of social ascendancy. However, it’s only by staying put that you can experience any degree of community, and community is an adventure like you wouldn’t believe.
Involving yourself in deep, personal and supportive relationships with other people is the greatest travel experience of all time because you are traveling into the most complex, most under-explored, most misunderstood places of all time–your interior self and the interior of others.
We’re sold a dream, the “American dream,” that’s only figuratively white picket fences. Sure, it involves getting married and having kids. But marriage and kids do not amount to traveling into those interior spaces; it doesn’t necessarily amount to intimate relationships in which you help others grow better and better, and they help you. Oftentimes, marriage and kids are about security, status, career ambitions, Facebook photos, making your kids into projects and your spouse into your service-provider (sex, household chores, housing, decor, income, status, child-“fostering”).
Those white picket fences Americans long for, in other words, are plastic and they’re fantasies. We get around to buying them at Home Depot and installing them before we move, to raise our property values. We glue back in place the white plastic squares that sit atop on the inside of our windows pretending to be separate panes of glass. We live in “McMansions”–and they’re fake as hell. That’s if we’re lucky–the rest peer in at this fake hominess wishing they could have even that, but for them the highlight of the day is getting their kid a happy meal with some shitty plastic toy advertising a movie they’ve got to sit through now.
And what do we do to get the homogenized middle class “lifestyle” (it’s not a life, it’s a”lifestyle”)? We put a large part of our energies into a “career” (that is, again, if we have a “career”), spending long hours at precarious jobs that oftentimes drop us, deciding to outsource or automate or downsize, and so we move, and we move, and we change locations and/or patterns. We also go into often massive debt to make this “lifestyle” happen and then we cannot say no to the “economic necessities” that make us change and move and churn for the sake of what we think we want and need.
What if you stayed put? What if you did what it took to find a way to stay, at least in the same community, if not the same job (of course, most often, not possible)? Your rewards would be:
- Deep and lasting friendships that become means of self-exploration, growth, and mutual aid. As many a member of the military can tell you (and all foster kids), there’s no way you can experience real, lasting friendship being moved every 2-5 years. If you think you can, you do not know what real, lasting friendship is. Intimate connections with other people make it very unlikely that you will end up a shallow sort, or an ideologue, because as you love people, you’ve got to listen to them and consider their point of view without malice.
2. Increasing self-sufficiency (liberty) based on the fact that a network of family, neighbors, and friends can do things for each other and in cooperation with each other that make all of them less dependent on the state and the corporations that dominate demand and supply. When that happens, free thinking emerges. Until you actually experience departing from dependence on the government by just supplying your own (and others’) needs, and depart from the consumer culture, even a bit, and until you turn off the 24/7 news, you will never know the incredible liberating effect that allows your mind the freedom to think expansively.
3. As a subset of the point above on liberty, the ability to grow food and, if possible, keep animals, to supply much more of your most basic needs for yourself, is the true source of liberty. The government policies ensure you get cheap but unhealthy food–and keep our supposedly freedom-loving conservative farmers totally on the dole, regulating their every move and using the food they produce as a domestic and foreign policy tool. What would happen if neighbors cooperated to supply even 50% of their own food through a series of backyard gardens and minor animal-husbandry? I say there would be tremendous heartburn in corporate America and in government, and America would become way more free.
I think true freedom comes from true independence, and that involves making an effort to be free from those things that manipulate us. There is no such thing as freedom without mental freedom, and that only comes if you are not completely dependent on others for the food you eat, the water you drink, your source of light and heat, your health, your happiness. The list could continue.
Gardening and small animal keeping, such as my chickens, is not just a hobby, it’s a step toward mental independence, and it’s a step toward becoming human being again and not just a drone for someone else’s commercial and political agenda. You may think that these are small things, or fringe things, but in WWII the “Greatest Generation” we all say we admire recognized that these were the means of independence, survival, power and victory.
Indeed, back in that day we had “Victory Gardens.”
Let’s have “Independence Gardens.” Or “Independence Cooperation.” It’s just one small but significant blow to the power of government and businesses intent on controlling our wills. Let’s opt to focus on our own space and the happiness of our neighbors, and take the plunge into the type of travel that involves inner space. In so doing, we create the conditions for what Foucault referred to as the “technologies of the self” so necessary for political and social independence (more on that soon).