Addicted to civilisation
An addiction is defined as "a physical or psychological need for a habit-forming substance." By this widely accepted definition, I've an addiction to oxygen and food to name just a few. This is obviously ridiculous. I've pondered this and come up with an alternative definition: "any behavioural pattern that persists despite the person being aware that it is harming their physical, mental, emotional or spiritual well-being and/or is killing them."
Therefore, forming a habit of inhaling fresh air, drinking pristine water or making love to someone you deeply love, is not an addiction; in fact, I believe they are extremely nourishing for you. As I'll explain a bit further on, I'd take this a bit further. I feel having a glass of cider you made yourself (from apples you've harvested yourself) every few evenings can be healthy if it connects you to Nature and your place. In contrast, I feel a can of White Lightning (a mass produced UK cider with no actual apples in it!) once a month is much more of an addiction, as it symbolises an addiction and dependency on civilisation, which is harmful to the Earth and therefore harmful to you also.
Similarly: having sex twice a day with prostitutes = addiction. Making love twice a day to deepen your connection to you partner = nourishing.
I don't have a PhD in Medicine, but that feels like a definition that makes much more sense to me. Take an alcoholic or heroin addict for example. Most drug addicts know that their habits are destroying their lives in both the short- and long-term, from their health to their relationships with others. Yet even though they know that their lives would be much better off if they had the strength and courage to break these habits, they feel completely disempowered to do so. They just keep doing it, no matter what people who love them say, people whom their behaviour harms also. Addicts effectively keep refusing to let something much more fulfilling into their lives, probably because they no longer have a real sense of how good life could be without it.
Given this definition, I think it is impossible not to then see civilisation as anything other than an addiction. Let's be clear: civilisation is, at best, harming us on every level. Take our health for example. We now breathe air full of pollutants. We drink water that has innumerable revolutions of shit, piss and chemicals in it; when you take into account research by Emoto and the fact that we're 55-60% water, this doesn't bode well for our collective well-being. We eat food laced with pesticides, synthetic fertilisers and additives, making our bodies a test-tube for a cocktail of toxins that not even Monsanto's 'brightest' lab technicians could even contemplate replicating. Most people will never - and I mean, literally, never - eat fresh food they harvested themselves, therefore depriving themselves totally of almost all of the prana that was originally in their food.
We now drive to work where we sit in offices on our ever expanding asses between nine and five, doing the crap we hate so that civilisation can continue to lure us with the promise of the ever-elusive American Dream. In between the moments of self-loathing that come with eating the kinds of food we ironically call 'treats' (why do we treat ourselves with stuff that does our future selves harm?), we work up some self-discipline to drive to the gym and start cycling on an electric bike in front of a TV.
OK, what Alan Watts described as 'the skin encapsulated ego' may exist a bit longer, but are we actually living if we spend all the additional time that Earth-destroying-technology (and therefore eventually human-destroying-technology) bought us by being entertained by even more Earth-destroying-gadgetry? We've constructed this bizarre situation where we've become dependent on toxic substances to maintain a life expectancy of over three quarters of a century. There are adverts all over US television these days for laxatives - our bodies can't even shit any more by themselves. Talk about dependency on industrialised civilisation!
That's just our physical health. Our mental health is harmed in equal measures, if not even more. A friend of mine once said that if you want to get a true reflection of society, open up all the mental institutions, prisons, hospitals and other dwellings for the unwell and then pass judgement on civilisation. Why is it that, despite the fact we're materially affluent like never before, trends such as crime, suicide and anti-depressant use are all on a massive increase?
Most people now hate their jobs or, at best, wouldn't do it unless they got some inherently worthless numbers added to their bank account every month. Our civilisation depends on this - the whole thing is only possible through highly specialised division of labour, an economic theory which is great on paper but which in reality means lots of boring jobs for the masses of the people (what society terms the working class) on the conveyor belt of civilisation, and other boring jobs administering the whole thing to make sure that each person gets a little bag of notes and coins at the end of their miserable week.
Civilisation demands that most of us live in cities where we're disconnected from Nature and healthy eco-systems and all the social and ecological consequences that go with that. We're surrounded by noise, traffic, stress, schedules, advertisements that tell us we're shit unless we buy their shit, anger, other people who are so unfulfilled in their own lives that they spend most of their time moaning and criticising other people in a desperate attempt to make themselves feel better about themselves. I can empathise with this, but I just don't think it's a desirable way to live.
Yet people, when surveyed, always say that their health is their number one priority. If this is what people believe, then how on Earth can we justify the way we live? As Derrick Jensen points out in Endgame, you can tell people's real priorities in life not by their words but by what they actually do every day.
All of the above are just points highlighting how I believe civilisation is harming us. Yet I'm convinced its not just harming us, but eventually going to do nothing less than kill us as a species (by this I mean your children, or their children). Unfortunately it'll not just be us. Going down with us are 50,000 species every year, species who have to retreat so far from civilisation that they have nowhere else to go other than extinction.
That's 50,000 species who evolved over billions of years in relationship with all other life on Earth, only to come to an end because we want laptops, dildos, magazines, wellies, energy-saving lightbulbs and solar panels. That's what we're doing, right now. Why? Does anyone even know why we're doing it all any more? Does any one even still belief that it'll ever make us happy? By the time it has taken to read this blog another two species will be gone. This time tomorrow 200 more species will have said goodbye forever. How can we live with ourselves?
Here's the key: we actually won't be able to live with ourselves much longer, unless we do whatever it takes to end civilisation and get back to 100% localised - or Wild - living. Not just a system where we get 10% (or even 50%!) of our needs met from a local economy, but 100%. The entire lot. Just like tribal and indigenous people lived for a very long time in the past. I'm aware that there are many really fine, intellectual reasons why a 100% localised, Wild economy is 'unrealistic', but David Fleming said it best when he said "Localisation stands, at best, at the limits of practical possibility, but it has the decisive argument in its favour that there will be no alternative".
For us humans to live long-term we will need a biodiverse planet as a home. Every time a species goes extinct, which is about every 7 minutes, another nail in our coffin is hammered down. Every decade that's 500,000 nails, a figure I believe will grow exponentially when eco-systems start to collapse fully due to the loss of biodiversity. For example, if we continue to kill bees from mobile phone and wireless technologies and industrialised agriculture, expect many other species to leave us stranded here soon afterwards.
Civilisation is killing us. And much of the rest of the community of life we share the planet with. So what are you going to do about it?
Are you going to deny that you are an addict and continue with your habits? That's what most addicts do, until they hit rock bottom where they sometimes experience a sort of bouncing-ball effect. If so, are you prepared to hurt/kill everyone and everything you have a relationship with in order to do so?
Or are you going to decide that you do actually place your health, and that of others, over all else? And decide to put your moneylessness where your mouth is and do whatever it takes to start living on a piece of land to meet your humble needs?
Of course this isn't quite so simple. The societies and culture of civilisation we live within during this period of human evolution doesn't make that very easy, although for anyone who wants it badly enough it still is very possible. So, again, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to just accept this civilisation and all the destruction and unnecessary violence it inflicts on ourselves and the rest of the community of life every day? Or are you going to stand up to it?
I get a lot of criticism - though not as much as three years ago - for what I talk about these days. I appreciate that these are tough, emotive questions that strike at the heart of our very identities, and that they have no easy answers. But it does make you feel like the friend who tells the alcoholic that their habit is killing them, whilst their other friends sit in bars buying them drinks, telling them happiness lies right at the bottom of another pint glass. Its not a popular position to take, I admit. Promoting green capitalism and congratulating ourselves for 'doing our bit for the environment' is a much easier stance to take, because it doesn't challenge the counter-culture/green/alternative movement.
Here's a suggestion: admit to whatever addiction you have (I can guarantee you it'll be civilisation). Once you done that, join others - like all the rest of us - who have them too, admit to your addiction and then support each other in trying to give them up. Be there for each other when you inevitably fall off the wagon, not to criticise, but to encourage.
What's the alternative? Watch species after species - and eventually ourselves - get wiped out so that we fuel our addictions to toilet roll and blue jeans? Just because you don't want to admit to it, doesn't mean it isn't going to kill you. It merely means you're insane, that your beliefs are not rooted in reality now.
Break your own addictions first, come through it, and then use the strength and courage you gain from doing it to go and help take down the entire economic model that is keeping the other 99% in a state of addiction.
To paraphrase Hillel, "If not you, then who? If not now, then when?".
It's a pleasure to be sharing the planet with you all.
Comment on this Post:
Microglyphics comments ...
Kudos to you, Mark. I've been following you for a while. Apropos of your prostitute versus your life partner situation, don't confuse addiction with habituation.
One of these days I'd like to have a philosophical discussion with you. I feel there is somehow something disingenuous in trading for something on which someone else spent money. So whilst you yourself mightn't spend money, the transaction is not exactly moneyless. Nevertheless, keep fighting the good fight.
I see a similar dilemma evident in Buddhism, as a Buddhist cannot kill an animal for food. However, a monk may eat meat as long as the animal was not killed for the expressed purpose of feeding the monk—so a monk may eat meat offered by a gracious host. All of this, however, can lead to semantic parsing to justify a position. I am wondering if these situations are somehow equivalent.
Mark Boyle comments ...
@ Microglyphics - thanks for the feedback and thoughtful comment. I agree regarding trading for something which someone else spent money on - I'm fully aware I am certainly not 100% living in accordance with my personal philosophy at the moment.
However, plans are well under way to creating the next stage of things, which is living 100% of the land where you live. Until that is fully established, I agree with you, I am not living to my ideals 100% at all.
Arya comments ...
I thoroughly respect your position and I really enjoy reading your blog...
For me though, I have a job that I love and I think makes a positive impact... so I think I will continue to work to buy that piece of land where I can try to be self sufficient (and vegan or almost!) and perhaps invite others to join me at some point.
The system sucks but it is there and I think for most people it is easy to feel very powerless when they realise that they are only a little wheel in a huge mechanism that doesn't really need them to continue functioning...
Kristian Edward Johnson comments ...
Any person interested should pick up the "against civilization" book
PassionFruit Jonez comments ...
yes, i am feeling the sickness. it is an addiction and i need help from myself
thewarlesswarrior comments ...
I was gunna say that! Well put my friend. All the best.
Marcelle Nebiker comments ...
hahaha scary all these world junkies eh???? it's all nonsense..makes you wonder with all the 'education' and all the 'intellectuals'...us humans haven't made a good job of 'it' all we have managed to do...is screw it up.....you Mr Boyle have the right idea....:)) carry on..someone may listen to you and change their 'habit'!!! :))
R comments ...
Thanks Mark, a bit of staight talking is good for everyone.
TheWarlessWarrior comments ...
@ Mark - you talk of not living 100% upto your ideals. Acknowledgement of that is useful, but I believe no one who is honestly trying should be too harsh on themselves.
I feel we're edging closer to our ideal(s), volunteering at Lammas has been the first step on a journey i'm recording through my blog www.1nomad.blogspot.com.
An ideal world...if our tribal ancestors could see what we've done, they'd tell us this ain't it!
Antz comments ...
@ Mark - I've been told that big changes in one's life, such as confronting an addiction, should be done gradually so as not to shock the system and risk relapse. It's not advice I followed when I became an 'overnight vegan' and it's been about a month now and I've spent under a fiver. Not quite cold tofurkey but pretty damn close. I have no intention of taking up money again any time soon but I wonder what Mark's thoughts would be on the cold turkey approach i.e. dropping everything and making the fastest possible moves towards moneyless self-sufficiency. Its a very scary idea indeed.
Zephyr comments ...
Well said, I am 70 and have come to the same conclusions
chrissy comments ...
hmm, not convinced it is an "addiction" in the medical sense, although I understand your point. I think it is more a fear of the unknown, we cannot really imagine how a world without money would work, so it can be quite scary. Lots of people think it would mean a world with no technology, I don't agree, but that is another issue.
For some of us it is the fear that our partners would not connect.
But can you just take a moment to imagine how wonderful it woul be if hospitals were manned and run not within budgets of money, but by people who just want to care for other peoples health and are willing to put their own energy and love and skill into that?
And Schools run by teachers who want to share knowledge and help people to learn about the wonderful world around us and how it all works.
Wow, we could even have artists painting and making things just because it looks good...oops some already do all of those, so perhaps not such a difficult concept?
Harald comments ...
Teresa Lewis comments ...
At the end of the day it's not just how much that makes an addiction but the way that you do it. Spending x amount on jewellery is addiction if it's buying lots of pieces from supermarkets or Clare's Accessories rather than the odd fairly pricey piece from a local person who makes jewellery in their spare time at a craft market or farmers' market.
At the moment I'm reading David Boyle's book on Authenticity, Brands, Fakes and Spins.
But I still love toilet paper and use a bit too much. I try to buy toilet paper made from recycled paper though.
Teresa Lewis comments ...
Chrissy, teachers and nurses still have to eat, wear clothes and have comfortable shelter and since they wouldn't have time to hunt for, gather and grow enough food for their needs they need a wage to do their jobs.
Even in a moneyless society people would still sell to those who can reimburse them in kind which will affect their work.
Angela comments ...
The monetary system will have an end and humanity also, but many don't care to leave their comfort zones. Admitting our addictions is the first step toward healing, I am planning to make a list of my own.......our super-egos are the root of our self destruction!
Lila comments ...
Wow. Amen. You rock my world. What am I gonna do? Well, I'm already DOING it. I have been pulling out Mother Culture's tentacles for years now & I really don't have much use for "civilization" any more. I am going out BEYOND civilization (thank you Ishmael) to create a life where ALL the food I eat has never been touched by anyone but ME (or someone who loves me-I love a man who will shuck me a coconut...). Until then I spend every day practicing & preparing for the life I want. I am so very very close...& so very very determined. Thank you, Mark, for helping me to stay focused & keeping my fire stoked! Up until fairly recently I have felt very alone in this, but as Alan Lomax said, "I can live with that". However, making your acquaintance has made me feel much BRAVER. I appreciate you a great deal.
And don't even get me started on those who claim their health is their first priority- they don't even possess an accurate DEFINITION of health! Many people think "healthy" means SnackWells instead of Oreos-they can't bring themselves to EAT fruit & veg, let alone GROW them! So I intend to simply set a better example of what true health looks like. And its starting to work......this "being the change".....
Margit comments ...
Read The Moneyless Man and have followed this blog for a long time. I can't say enough about how much inspiration I've gotten from Mark's writings and the comments of many on this forum. I'm a Canadian who feels that my country's current situation is similar to what is going on in many first world, industrialized countries such as Mark's past references to the Celtic Tiger. I'm originally from the west coast and have seen a real change in the way of life there. People are very driven, very materialistic counting on either the lottery or home equity to keep them financially afloat as they seem to always need uptodate bathrooms/kitchens and new cars. This has been at the expense of building deep family and community ties.
On another topic, would love to hear more detail on your trip from England to Portugal, Mark and how you and your bike made it there in less than a week.
Gary living in France comments ...
Hi all, technical point - it occurred to me whilst reading this blog (and agreeing with most of the ideas) What would we do in a moneyless world for communication? Would we send messages by horse messanger? Would the internet (an intregal part of this revolution and many others) still run? I suppose it could. The people who ran it would be rewarded with food and stuff and the farmers who produced the food would get "free" internet. Would there still be factorys making tools to satisfy these needs? (To build wood cabins etc)
Any thoughts anyone?
Anita Toni Pickering comments ...
Completely agree x
Dean Aggett comments ...
Well said. I like the idea and wish we could all move toward a way of life that is more real. I feal the thing that has most impact on us are the planning laws.I belive any law that stops us from being able to be responsable for are own welbeing hinders us as a species from progress.
Mark Boyle comments ...
@ Antz - good question. Bit rushed at the moment but here is a quick response:
I don't think there is a rule here. For some cold turkey seems to work (also depending on the level of the addiction and what it is to), for others a gradual decline. In 2002 I went from drinking 5-6 nights a week, fairly heavily, to giving it up completely for 18 months to break its hold on me, and that worked for me. For others it may have been better to cut down first, depending on character type.
In terms of self-sufficiency (I really don't like this term btw, as it firstly limits the self to the 'skin-encapsulated ego', and also doesn't recognise our complete inter-dependency on all of the community of live we share this planet/universe with), this is much much harder, mostly because we've been born into an insane culture and an economy where money is omnipresent.
I would say here that you would be wise to make a gradual ascent to living off the land. You need to find land to do it on, learn the skills, put in place truly sustainable infrastructure, return the land to a bio-diverse ecological state etc. Having said that, we don't have much time to turn things around ecologically (and is possibly already much too late).
So my advice - make the ascent as quickly as is possible given your unique situation. Personally, I'm not wasting any time doing anything else anymore, this really is the critical issue of our time.
The good news is that once you do it, it not only means you can live within a 100% localised economy from then on, but that generation upon generation after you can too.
maxine fox-williams comments ...
absolutely fantastic makes sense lets all live in Yurts!
Craig Delandre comments ...
Right on Mark Lad
Derek Dubolski comments ...
Absolutely right-on Mark!
Chrissy comments ...
FAO Teresa, a simple quote, "From each accoring to their ability, to each according to their need," then nobody goes hungry, money not required.
Mark I think you are a great encouragement, I never feel preached at and like i have to do as you say or failure, keep up the good work, thank you. Although I do not intend to give up chocolate just yet, I am learning and recognising when I am "wanting," rather than "needing," it's a start! LOL
Tom Smith comments ...
That's a great blog post Mark, sublime. Great to have a Jensen equivalent this side of the Atlantic. .
Boxy Bell comments ...
Really great essay, made a lot of sense. As always with these, at the end I feel a mix of elation as the answer is plainly staring me in the face, but apprehension and fear in having to fight myself, my partner, my family business is being able to achieve these goals
Phil comments ...
Can't fault anything you have said, and agree 100% that we are... or our future generations are... in for serious consequences if massive international scale changes aren't made wrt our habits and lifestyles.
On the addiction side... yes i am an addict in many ways and have been my entire life and could beat most of them.
My passions are Surfing and Guitar, surfing has been for over 25 years and guitar for past 3.
Both of these would also be classed as addictions as they both support industry and 'civilisation'. Surfboard blanks and glassfibre/epoxy resins utilised in manufacture probably spew huge amounts of toxins into our atmosphere. Guitars are probably from non-renewable forests and i need stable electricity source to plug components into.
What would you suggest in these circumstances?
Cheers and great post :)
Diane comments ...
I'm not sure I agree with the analogy to addiction. I think we're more like a species adapted to a niche in a habitat, but unfortunately we somehow created a bad ecosystem to inhabit. We are so dependent on our bad ecosystem that we can't see how to leave our niches without risking personal extinction. Indeed, we probably can't, which is why we continue to play our roles in this bad ecosystem we created.
At least you are showing a possible way out.
Aldas comments ...
For last couple of days I was contemplating myself about people afraid to admit they have ego and I really have big attachment to computers since early years :/
Overall very nice written, covers pretty much all. Uplifting as always.
Fergus comments ...
Tired of all who come with words,
words but no language,
I jouneyed to the swaying tree hills.
The unwritten pages flapping in all directions!
I came upon badger prints in the drying stream bed.
Language, but no words.
Tired of all who come with words,
Words but no language
I set sail across the wave rolling sea.
The wild does not have words.
The unwritten pages rolled out in all directions!
I witnessed the startling blow-hole erruption of a passing wale.
Language, but no words.
Tired of all who come with words,
Words but no language
I went to the snow-covered island.
The wild does not have words.
The unwritten pages spread themselves out in all directions!
I came across the marks of roe-deer's hooves in the snow.
Language, but no words.
Tomas Transtromer (ish)
Sikh Truth comments ...
Great post, couldn't agree more.
Gandhi said something like, 'Interdependence is and should be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man's a social being.”
Sikhs call it sangat or the people you spend your time with.
Sangat is key to the building of our character, ideals, morals and lifestyle. Even subconsciously. This is because peer pressure isn't just a high school playground problem. We deal with this stuff everyday.
You wanna drop an addiction, hang around with people doing the same thing (like an AA meeting). Same logic applies to 'selfless service' and 'self-sufficiency'. One step is being on this blog and interacting with the commenters etc.
I read a study recently where obese and overweight people admitted they didn't feel like losing weight because their friends in the same boat kept pressuring them to eat more and complained about how thin they were. And hangning around overweight people gave them a warped reality because they didn't feel like anything was wrong. Like a comfort zone.
Also remember (this includes myself) that talk is cheap. Like Mark n Gandhi say 'Be the change you wish to see in the world' because most times - actions speak louder than words. We need to consciously make changes. Even if it's one step at a time.
I hope that made sense, cos it's late and I feel like I'm waffling.
Darryl comments ...
While the spirit of not being addicted to the current civilization is good, I don't agree with the evolutionary and 'sex with PARTNER' (with no boundaries mentioned such as marriage btwn man and woman). STrangely, the Like button cannot be UNliked after it is clicked.
Mark Boyle comments ...
@ Darryl - just to clarify: are you saying that if someone doesn't believe in marriage, or want to get married, that they shouldn't be able to make love to someone they love? If so, why? And who makes up these rules? Marriage is a very human concept, a story, it's not actually real outside of the story we tell about it.
J comments ...
You have obviously just read Jensen's Endgame and whereas I also agree with much of what he says, here is another perspective:
http://www.gordsellar.com/2007/11/29/on-derrick-jensen/ - with current comments from the Author and Readers.
Have been silently reading your blogs as well as many others. IMHO it's almost impossible to firstly, off-grid in the UK and subsequently exist moneyless. Granted there are a small number of exceptions, i.e. You and a few other extraordinary people dotted around the world. The Taxman cometh and always will for the majority of us. Death and Taxes means having to "work" to live and die. Reading between the lines, to get that Land in the first place entails being part of Civi and the System with all it's illusionary trimmings. Once the land is acquired, begins a legal and by-law nightmare. Too much for individuals to comprehend and battle with the Authorities.
So, that brings me to an alternative suggestion.
A National CoOperative Charity running local Charities buying Land, any Land, Brownfield, Woods, Building plots, Farm Land. I think most covenants for Land do not restrict planting Trees and Vegetation (please correct me accordingly). I know you have been looking at Charity status for some of your projects and I am sure some legal justification can be found. The Land acquired to be assigned a Warden/Wardens who oversee re-generation and re-growth, trees, vegetation and food based on local provenance and re-introducing local species. The Land open to all to forrage and simply enjoy, hang out and provide workshops on community sustainabilty.
I am aware of some Charity shops in rural England turning over in excess of 4000 gbp weekly and whereas it will not be a heart wrenching Childrens hospice charity I think Hearts and Minds will be won, once the populace realise that this Land a:) is being kept away from Conglomerates and Speculators and b:) being put to good use.
I see a small snowball that could turn into a vast Avelanche whilst encouraging localised Communites to participate. It will of course involve money but the end result will take a vast amount out of the System.
Enjoy reading your blogs,
Derek Robertson comments ...
In your recent blog the key inference of your solution is getting a bit of land. What also will have to follow is obtaining clean water and food, energy to provide heat during the winter months and the acquisition of basic tools to make a simple sufficient living where enough is enough.
And that is where questions of feasibility arise. If a sizeable part of the population decided to go that way how would they find these resources? If we are to preserve a habitable planet the population here in the UK would mainly have to live out an ethical life in their present homes - I doubt there is the land to relocate to for a mass migration to the country. Similarly the most basic power requirements of a population of 60 million would need something other than rocket stoves and bio fuel - the only feasible green power is electricity and that is very problematic at the moment. The hard headed environmentalist George Monbiot has opted, wrongly in my opinion, to go for nuclear as one prop - he admits to it being a really bad one - because currently the renewable scene hasn't been developed enough to provide a basic level of energy for even simple requirements.
In short, any solution that is going to solve our suicidal/homicidal way of life needs to be something that can be universalised - and presently that means the use of money. The New Economics Foundation is trying to formulate an economic solution that would utilise money as a servant not a master see:
There isn't going to be an easy answer. If the mass of humanity clings on to its addictions, as you say, then it will execute the greatest crime ever committed - the taking down of the Earth's life support systems and the consequent denial of life to future generations of human beings and other species.
I admire the path you have taken. It would be right for all given ideal conditions, but what we have is anything but. The great Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote a profound and disturbing essay on the incalcuable moral danger of committing the crime of ecocide, in this essay actualised through nuclear war. I have copied it out below. Your chosen course of action would certainly absolve you of complicity in the moral responsibility for such an appalling act of destruction should it come to pass. The question is whether a way out can be crafted for other people, enough people, to impel the change we need?
Taken from Thomas Merton's book on peace called Peace.
"...... This brings us face to face with the greatest and most agonizing moral issue of our time. This issue is not merely nuclear war, not merely the possible destruction of the human race by a sudden explosion of violence . It is something more subtle and more demonic. If we continue to yield to theoretically irresistible determinism and to vague "historic forces" without striving to resist and control them, if we let these forces drive us to demonic activism in the realm of politics and
technology, we face something more than the material evil of universal destruction. We face MORAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR GLOBAL SUICIDE. Much more than that, we are going to find ourselves gradually moving into a situation in which we are practically compelled by the "logic of
circumstances" deliberately to CHOOSE THE COURSE THAT LEADS TO DESTRUCTION......
The free choice of global suicide, made in desperation by the world's leaders and ratified by the consent and cooperation of their citizens,
would be a moral evil second only to the crucifixion. The fact that such a choice might be made with highest motives and the most urgent purpose would do nothing to mitigate it. The fact that it might be made as a gamble, in the hope that some might escape, would never excuse it....
The most urgent necessity of our time is therefore not merely to prevent the destruction of the human race by nuclear war. Even if it should
happen to be no longer possible to prevent the disaster (which God forbid), there is still a greater evil that can and must be prevented. It must be possible for every free man to refuse his consent and deny his cooperation to this greatest of crimes."
It is a sobering reflection.
With my best wishes for your work
ana garika comments ...
i've been following what youre doing for a while now, and find your experience very inspiring. i've spent the last 20 years or so exploring community, low impact living, growing and gathering food, raising free range kids, extracting civilization in all its forms from my being. hoping that civilization will implode and soon. helping this process along a little bit. jensen is one of my inspirations too. do you know that there is land held in community right now that anyone can go and be on? i lived on one such piece of land for 14 months til november last year, and now am on a small piece of land with a few more restrictions, where i can just be, living (mostly) outside of civilization. i know you are looking to buy land, but there are those in the past who have already gone through this process and liberated it for us, also housing co-operatives with mortgages paid off, looking for people to come and live there.
tipi valley in wales is one such place.
i'm not money free yet, but i'm increasingly not money dependent, and enjoying giving away more and more of the stuff!
Ben comments ...
Thank you Mark and all the others who posted. I agree with your point Mark and when you think about the number of Species going extinct it is a horrible feeling. An undeniable fact of modern living is that we create a lot of waste and impact our environment and as it stands there are over 6 Billion of us who need to make a transition to a sustainable future, but how? These Cities we live in although unhealthy are practical and to move from their into the wild in a sustainable way needs some evolution in our way of thinking.
And in this way I find some hope. We use a tiny amount of our brain and scientist are discovering that of 3 billion strands of DNA we only use 60 million! Which may mean we have a lot of potential to tap into. Humans although inherently destructive also have the ability to consciously evolve their awareness and experience heightened levels of reality (through Meditation, Yoga, Trance/Shamanic Ceremony).
I believe we are here to move forward and not backwards, that at this time we have an opportunity to learn and participate in real Spiritual change on what ever level that may be - addiction for me is definitely one of them!
SRP comments ...
Hmmm. What timing. I haven't stopped by in a while. Right now I'm at a crossroads, time for a life decision, that sort of thing. Mostly because of a truly crappy job. I've been thinking of quitting, seriously considering it. I'm always drawn to thoughts of moneyless living and homesteading, but to be quite honest I'm really scared to take the plunge. Thanks a lot, Mark, for a very thought-provoking post. I still don't know if or when I'll make the jump, but it's not quite as scary lately to stand with my toes hanging out over the edge to enjoy the view.
Dori comments ...
Inspiring as always and helping me along my journey. I work in an organisation that loosely promotes 'green' living and have just taken on a better paid and more influential job which I often despise. Why did I do it? Because I have dependents and could not see a way out. However I'm trying to get a different mindset and promising myself this is the year it's going to be the change. I've started making small adjustments and although I don't actually see myself as being money free in a year, I'm certainly going to be a lot closer. Your blog on addiction really struck a chord but for me and perhaps many others the biggest difficulty I have is trying to get my family and friends to see that a different lifestyle eg less technology, food and luxuries is the way to go forward for a happier, healthier life. Sometimes I feel I'm on a different planet to everyone else I know. So thank you for keeping me inspired and helping me along the way.
Mark Boyle comments ...
@ Dori - I think it is great you're questioning it all and I can completely appreciate the difficulties in terms of having dependants. The reality is though that if we don't collectively and individually do whatever is required to live sustainably on this Earth, our dependants won't have much of a future, if any. It's much easier for me to say it not having children though, and the pressures that come with that. Not having though pressures though means that I can devote my time to helping create places in the world where people like you can bring up children in a truly sustainable way.
@ SRP - I wouldn't dream of advising you what to do as only you know your situation. Just do whatever feels intuitively right, and as long as you are coming from a place of love and not fear you'll have made the right choice, no matter how it turns out. My one addition would be to do the thing that, when you look back as a 90 year old, will be glad you've done.
Mariemai comments ...
Perhaps what is destroying our planet is not 'civilisation ' itself but the way civilisation is run to day,i.e the 'monetary system' where money is required for everything:food,lodging,services etc. Perhaps there is an alternative 'The Resource-based' economy system,where the sustainibility of the planet is taken into consideration! you may wish to read more about the 'Resourced-based Economy' on the website; thevenusproject.com'
Chris Johnstone comments ...
Thanks Mark for this great post. As someone who worked as an addictions specialist for many years, I share your view that we're hooked on aspects of modern living that fail to meet our real needs and that are destroying our chances of a future.
When many people see our planetary emergency as related to far-off causes beyond their control, the term addiction invites us to question the contribution of our own habits. You've done such an inspiring job of showing how far we can go in breaking free of our dependence on things we don't really need. I don't go as far as you do, but I definitely want to head in the same direction. I'm not yet ready to be moneyless, but I know I can live happily on less money.
On that theme, you might be interested in Action For Happiness, who, like you and me and many of those reading this, are on the road of developing a new story of what the good life involves.
Here's something I wrote for their website:
With you in this adventure
Chris Johnstone, author of Find Your Power - a toolkit for resilience and positive change. Web: www.chrisjohnstone.info
Hannah comments ...
Is it true that you're not setting up a Freeconomy community as you said in your book and are instead moving to Greece?
Alexis comments ...
I discovered the videos about you on Youtube and I eventually found my way here to your blog. I understand that what you're doing is really quite sensible and really the way to go but how do I start? I'm eighteen years old. I have 88 USD to my name (a bit more). I don't mind working hard or going the distance but I have no idea where to start. I figured instead of college I'd start WWOOFing and backpack around. I need to learn skills and that's a difficult task at the moment. You really inspire and push me even further to do what you're doing. I never thought of living WITHOUT money but selling some of my fruit and veggies from my own garden and the like. I really would appreciate any advice or motivation you want to give. It's extremely easy to just pack a small bag and walk out the door not looking back. I don't want to end up homeless and starving. I want to learn trades and skills. I want to be able to support myself at the minimum. Other than WWOOFing or Work Away I am not sure how to support myself or get started right now. I've been thinking about things like this for a year or so. I really do believe in what you're doing and what movement that is taking place in people all over.
arias comments ...
This is an outstanding article. Beautifully written!
As I sist in my office at a desk that is getting too familar, working a job that does not satisty my soul and mind, makes me amire you and some what envy your decisions and choices you have made.
Reagrding the addiction, I think form a young age, influences form our enviroment, we are told and shown through media, schools etc that people have addictions ( consuming unessarry goods, alcohol, drugs etc) with the mind set of this the addiction then finds us, I have had a few "addictions" in my life too but as you say, I feel I am slowly differenciating between addiction and nourshing the soul.
What you have done and and the way you have chosen to live is outstanding. It takes my breath away when I think of this. For me it has been baby steps. I have left London where I was born and bred. I have been living in South Africa for over 2 years. I now live on a farm, in the process of building my own house, totally going solar and wind energy, growing my own vegetables etc and loving having animals around me that I could not even dream of having in London.
I would love to keep in touch with you Mark, send you my updates, pictures of my small project but most importantly ask you opinon and get you advise on certain things.
If you have the time please mail me on my personal email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking forward to your response
"An addiction is defined as "a physical or psychological need for a habit-forming substance." By this widely accepted definition, I've an addiction to oxygen and food to name just a few."
Well no, because oxygen isn't a habit forming substance, neither is 'food', and food isn't a substance.
slurcefluiche comments ...
thehumanpill comments ...
"100% localised, Wild economy is 'unrealistic', but David Fleming said it best when he said "Localisation stands, at best, at the limits of practical possibility, but it has the decisive argument in its favour that there will be no alternative"."
I agree with this, and it's a key point. This ties in with a point a made, albeit tangentially, in the sex sustainability thread. They're are connected, everything is connected. Until we finally accept that we are never guaranteed a future, we cannot hope to have one. As a species, we have a chip on our shoulder that we have to continue. This is a fatal mistake imo. We will leave when it is our time and there will be nothing we can do about it. That time could be sooner than we all think. Everything about our Earth is cyclical. It is not some lone planet hurtling through space. History repats itslef for a reason. We will always orbit our star recurrently, at least in the distant foreseeable future. Large comets and meteorites will inevitably be attracted into our solar system and some will hit Earth..again. History repeats itself in our neck of the woods. The decline of many a civilization can be pegged to these events. As long as we lust after control of our future, without accepting we have no control, we are always turning our back on nature, and God's plan for us. It doesn't matter that Neptune is very far from us. The Sun has enormous influence and interacts gravitationally with Neptune hence Neptune influences the Sun, even though it is so far away. Hence, Neptune is able to pass on her influence to us. Because of our Sun, everything in this solar system is connected, and we have the consequences of everything that effects the sun. I hope there is a salvation for us and people that believe in sustainability can have it. Should we not deserve it? But I don't see it in this solar system. It periodically destroys life.
If there were intelligent civilizations out there looking for life, they could overlook this place. The cyclical repetition of destructiveness is apparent here. I just wish we weren't fed such manure by the elite that there will always be a future for the elect few. The universe and God are the true judges of our destiny, and that will determine whether we come and go or stay around to sustain ourselves.
Celticones comments ...
Well we have come to a place of frugal living after 50 years on this planet
We live simply with small money and would love to live without money ,but can it be?
We grow what we eat (vegetarian) drink rainwater produce our power to write this article, but how do we get online without money? The internet for us because we are NOT NORMAL as they say around here is our connection to others including you.
Perhaps its time to start doing ..
It looks like there are many who are talking and few who are doing in a practical way.
To paraphrase Hillel, "If not you, then who? If not now, then when?".
There is ONLY NOW
Love and blessings
Marney Simmons comments ...
I turned on my radio this morning (21 May 2011, the day after the world was supposed to end) to hear Mark talking about his lifestyle. I realized yesterday that I have reached rock bottom in this crazy, consumtive world. I've been turned inside out looking for a way to explain my dis-ease, discouragement, disillusionment and unhappiness and Marks's discussion of addiction says it all. This hopeless lifestyle full of stuff is making me literally sick. Thank you Mark, now I know what I have to do - get rid of all this stuff that is a form of entrapment, live simply and plant a garden. You are a prophet for all time and I love you for that.
Kai comments ...
Inspirational; and both frighteningly and justifiably challenging.
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Bryan Teague comments ...
I plan on escaping from the chains of modern civilization on July 1, 2011. The only problem I am having is finding a place to live. I would like to find a group of like-minded individuals somewhere in the US that I can join. I'm willing to travel anywhere in the main 48 states. If there are any groups out there I would love a way to get in contact.
Veganita comments ...
Where have you been all my life??
jint comments ...
Hi Mark. Very nice blog! I wanted to let you know about an upcoming documentary that's very much aligned with this blog, called "GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth". It's about how society's addicted to growth and how all of this economic, population and consumption growth is actually undermining our species' (and, of course, all other species') very survival, yet growth is still the number one goal of almost every society on Earth. It's insanity. Obviously an addiction, per your definition. The film will come out on October 25th and I'm really hoping it has a major impact by bringing this addiction to the mainstream audience. Anyways, thank you for sharing your stories. You're very inspirational to many people and sharing your experience is an important part of changing our society's collective narrative. Take care!
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