Feeling sad, empty, and alone? Well, you are perfectly normal.
Any creature on a planet with “Thing Orientation” would feel a tad anxious and alienated. Soon we will all be tagged and added to the Internet of Things (IoT). Thing Orientation is when things are more important than human beings or animals or the planet itself.
We live in The Land of More
We find ourselves at the apex of insanity as a species and we know this can’t end well no matter how much technology we throw at the many crises that keep popping up unless we are able to change the structure of our culture to guide that tech in the right direction.
That is why we are always stockpiling stuff, just in case something bad happens.
We live in a human culture that trains us to go out and gather more.
It is no surprise that we are hoarders. We even have TV shows and specialized books about hoarding.
It is no surprise that so many of us are overweight while being simultaneously malnourished, under-funded, under-loved, and never fulfilled. Oh, and the diet industry is thriving by the way.
Americans have a surprisingly low rate of savings and high rate of debt for such a wealthy nation. Most of us couldn’t scrape together an extra $250 without resorting to a credit card.
We live in the mindset of scarcity where there might not be enough; so we had better over-spend, over-buy, go out and forage and stock up endlessly.
How did this little manifesto come about?
I have Mike Sowden of Fevered Mutterings to thank for the idea for this essay on how to divest from the beast we call capitalism.
He generously offered to talk with any of his readers who wanted to at half-hour intervals during the pandemic. Just to, you know, have conversations without any agenda. Weird right?
But it was wonderful. We talked about life like normal humans and it wasn’t weird at all. Toward the end of our chat across the pond I said something like:
“Remember how it used to be before the internet? I used to spend a whole day reading a single book instead of grazing through 20 or 30 topics and sites and videos and podcasts.”
He said something like: “Wow, to spend the day like we used to before the internet instead of jumping around from topic to topic all day?” He mused. “I Like that, I have to think about that.”
Mike is great. If he is still doing his chats you should do one (though I suspect he has stopped by now since the pandemic is winding down for the summer, but maybe he will start up again during the fall pandemic wave).
He also gave me his storytelling course for FREE, back when I was living in my car and couldn’t afford to buy it.
Our conversation got me thinking about our predicament as a species engaged in this lemming-running off-a-cliff thing that we can’t seem to stop.
How we do business is one example of the lemming-run:
Business is about encouraging more spending
If you’re in business you are trained to figure out ways to “create a need for your product” and “manufacture urgency so they will buy now instead of later.”
If you want to succeed in business it feels as if you cannot be honest, or you will not survive as a business. You have to make your audience think they need your stuff. You know the drill. We all do it.
Billions of hours of brainpower go into creating the perfect SEO-long-tail phrases, and ads, and irresistible landing pages to get people to buy more stuff, more courses, more products, more and more and more.
The notion that we must constantly produce and sell more things or more content, just to sustain our lives is ridiculous when we live in a world of too much food and too much stuff and too much information.
Scarcity training starts early in life so that we will keep consuming more and more even though things have changed in the last century and now there is too much of everything.
Capitalism wasn’t perfect but it was better than everything else that had gone before
But this capitalistic experiment is failing.
Capitalism/technocracy wasn’t quite as horrible as colonialism or some of the other isms. It sort of worked in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when there were less than 3 billion people on the planet. But with the slavery and child labor that it took to build what we have I wouldn’t call capitalism a success exactly, but better than the middle ages!
Amazing inventions and businesses were created by the capitalist structure. Capitalism helped us get where we are today from toilet paper to Smart Phones. And I for one wouldn’t want to go without either of those things. And I bet there is a culture we could create where we could still have that stuff without all the insanity.
The way we are doing things now just doesn’t scale after a while. what worked for 3 billion won’t work for 10 billion.
The earth and our habitat are being destroyed exponentially. We are of losing thousands of species every day. Topsoil is being turned into a desert with the depletion of tons of topsoil per acre every year on every continent where food is grown.
The world is being rapidly transformed into cement, plastic, humans, and caged and tortured farmed animals.
We have taken a good thing too far and it is time to think up something else that works better when you have 8 to 10 billion humans on the planet.
We need a sharing mindset based on abundance
I know it sounds airy-fairy and too good to be true. But we have more than enough resources for everyone. We can share out everything that everyone needs and still have too much. We could feed every animal, including every insect and earthworm with what we are producing today and have obese earthworms if everyone had access to what they needed.
It’s all just too much.
There is no reason for a few of us to hoard everything anymore while the rest of the world is being destroyed.
Consumers need shiny new packages right?
We are throwing out 30 percent of the food in the USA because stores cannot give the expired goods all away to food banks fast enough.
There just isn’t the infrastructure to pick up all of the day-old bread and slightly expired fruits, veggies and packaged goods that end up in landfills every day.
You have to keep customers happy. You have to keep up with the ever-rising standards of “the consumer” which is a very strange term for a human being. The word “consumer” replaced the word “customer” in the 1970s.
You cannot sell stuff that isn’t in its prime. It just isn’t done. God forbid people should eat food that doesn’t come in shiny new packages.
I worked for Amazon prime during the COVID-19 Pandemic helping process orders at a Whole Foods grocery store the size of a football field in Silicon Valley, CA. To punch in for my shifts I had to walk by a huge trash compacter that grinds up the wasted food they must throw out every day.
Businesses often discourage dumpster diving by locking dumpsters or grinding up all their perfectly good merch before putting it in the dumpster. If people could just reach in and dumpster-dive who would shop for new stuff in the store?
Retail stores need to make a profit to survive as a business.
I get it.
But taking perfectly good resources and grinding them up because you can’t sell them is crazy and unsustainable. Food waste is one of the biggest controllable sources of greenhouse gases in the world!
We are all caught up in doing bad things just to survive
I don’t want to drive a car and burn fossil fuels to go and work at a stupid job where they throw out 30% of the food but I haven’t saved up enough to get a diesel vehicle to convert to waste veggie oil diesel yet so I am stuck with what I have.
I don’t want to pay taxes to a government that spends most of the funds on dark ops, military, factory farming, and a broken medical system that I can’t even afford to partake in.
I hate watching US health statistics going down the tubes. In the US the infant mortality rates is 170 out of 225 which is pretty far down the list considering the amount we spend on medical care. Medical spending here is the highest in the world.
Public schools in poor neighborhoods go without books and equipment while my taxes kill kids on the other side of the world.
It isn’t a good feeling at all to support The Beast. But we were born into a decaying system we didn’t create and don’t know how to break out of.
I do all these harmful things like paying taxes and eating food grown on dust-bowl-fake-organic-land and driving a gasoline engine car because I don’t like the idea of going to prison for not paying taxes.
No safety net for humans who are really just things that feed The Beast
I keep buying into the system because I’m terrified of being homeless and having to sit on the street eating the day-old bread from the food banks while other Americans rush past me on their way to the lemming-run.
There is no safety net for any of us if we allow ourselves to fall behind even for a week or two. We all know instinctively that we will be mercilessly trampled by the system we were born into if we don’t keep up the pace.
Oh, and don’t get old or unwell because there isn’t a lot of care set up for that sort of thing.
Perhaps we will create a Soylent Green style dumping place to take care of those of us who fall off the treadmill, (I mean something besides the prison system in the US that houses 25% of the world’s prison population even though the US population is less than 5% of the world population).
This is an insane machine we just happen to be a part of because we were born here
We are stuck in a system we didn’t create that has taken on a life of its own. Like an insane machine, our industrialized beast of a system drives us to go out and get more here in the Land of More.
Whenever we get information or objects or food we don’t stop to enjoy any of it. We don’t appreciate what we already have and work with what we already have.
We never process or digest our experiences.
We are in a constant state of fight and flight to get more stuff to consume just like the Pac-Man game character from the1980s.
In the information age, this leads to too much information that isn’t relevant or helpful. We constantly flit from thing to thing.
When we find a brilliant video or a teacher or website or a course online; instead of savoring and enjoying what we already have we think we must go out and get more good stuff because we might miss out on something.
There is this fear that there will never be enough.
This happens with food too. We keep right on eating after we have eaten. Piling more food on top of what we have just eaten so that our stomachs never have time to empty out. Snacks are all around us telling us to eat again every few minutes.
But is this the best way to distribute goods or live our lives as human beings?
The cure is higher quality and less of everything
So what can you begin to do to get out from under the Land of More with its frantic run-off-the-cliff to extinction?
There are many groups that are finding ways to divest and build something new alongside the old crumbling artifice of our capitalist culture and you can start even though it seems impossible.
The good news is the solutions do exist. All it takes is education…
Start small with stuff that is easy to do and then graduate to more radical expressions of divestment.
Small things you can do to divest from The Beast we call capitalism:
- Go through your files in the cloud and on your devices and start throwing stuff away. Do this monthly to get the mental cobwebs out.
- Get rid of old apps, and PDFs and expensive courses that are no longer relevant to who you are. They are outdated, or they just don’t fit you anymore.
- Go through your kindle books and real books and get rid of stuff that is irrelevant. Delete free samples from kindle that you will never read.
- Take books off devices that you have finished.
- Go through your kitchen cupboards and get rid of all the junky old food you don’t want to eat anymore and start eating good local food from local farmers whenever you can.
- Go through the closet and let go of clothes that looks terrible on you or that other people like, but you hate.
- Get rid of the stuff you have not worn in a year or that doesn’t fit. If you love it so much you want to keep it forever, make it into wall art or do something creative with it, like making it into a pillow. Don’t just let it fester in the closet.
- Do this again and again every few weeks until you have winnowed it down to just what you need. It is ok to get new stuff but get quality stuff that fits the new you that you are right now.
- Do this type of culling every month for half an hour.
Bigger steps toward divesting from The Beast
- Go on a plant-based diet and boycott CAFOS (concentrated animal feeding operations), and ocean dead zones to the best of your ability.
- Stop buying junk food and cosmetics made with palm oil to boycott deforestation.
- Support regenerative farming to preserve topsoil and improve human health.
- Read Food not Lawns by Heather Jo Flores.
- Take the free permaculture program with Heather Jo Flores and learn how to build a new world.
- Grow your own food and stop supporting big organic farms that use toxic CAFO waste on their crops.
- You could get rid of your car and ride a bike.
- You could get a diesel car and convert it to waste veggie oil. (Don’t do biodiesel because that just produces more pollution by growing and transporting crops on land that should be used for food or returned to the wild habitat for carbon sequestration).
- If you own a home you could sell your home and simplify or you could build a tiny house in the backyard and live in it and rent out the front house so you can quit your job and do what you want to do with your time.
- Or you could live in an RV, truck home, step van, or skoolie.
- You could buy some raw land and start an ecovillage or a homestead.
- You could join an ecovillage or travel around doing work-stays at different places through workaway.info.
- Visit Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage to get a feel for how these places can work.
- Check out Rob Greenfield who took minimalism the logical extreme.
- John Francis became Planet Walker and took it to the farthest extreme. He even stopped talking.
- You could join Climate Healers and contribute ideas or start your own organization.
- Visit the Venus Project and learn how to build a new society. They have the blue prints all figured out.
- Learn about cohousing to make your footprint smaller.
- Off Grid World has lots of ideas for divesting from the hive.
- You could start your own local currency system or help those who have already started.
There, that ought to get you started in your escape from The Beast that we call capitalism. You can’t do it alone and it won’t happen overnight, but someone has got to step out of the race and start pulling people from the lemming run. So it might as well be you.
Do I walk my talk?
So… you might be wondering if I have checked off the many homework items I have proposed that you do…
Well, I have not gotten off the grid yet, but I am working on it. I have gone vegan and started growing some of my own food and I am saving for a skoolie short bus, diesel, naturally. I am volunteering with IDA, an animal rights group so I am starting to devote more of my time to things I value.
I am planning to join a community or build one from scratch once I have traveled around and learned more about permaculture, regenerative farming, and homesteading. Read about my journey to get out from under the beast.