Welcome to Ask April, a no-nonsense advice column focusing on what it is you can do to correct things that need correcting. While we all know much in life is out of our control, and sometimes, our reaction is all we CAN control- we really do have a lot of personal power, thankfully. Our will is just as important as the wills of others around us, and while we need to be considerate, we also need to make sure others are equally considerate of us. It is my hope that when you write in to me, asking advice, that I can help you make a good decision that somehow improves whatever situation you’ve found yourself in. As with anything I share, I recommend people don’t automatically take my word for anything, but include my advice in with the rest of the things that help them make a decision. I wish you well. Read on.
Every other week, I answer a call for advice, and every other week, I share my views on something I observed- I call this Observational Wisdom.
Today’s column is observational wisdom.
I am starting my article with a quote that some who do not like the idea of working for a living embrace. I will fill readers in on who the man I am quoting was, and why I know he was not advocating what some think he is.
“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living.
It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough
capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing
this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea
that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because,
according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist.
So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors.
The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was
they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”
– Buckminster Fuller
Buckminster Fuller was born in 1895. Although he was smart enough to get into Harvard, he was expelled twice, the final time being for “irresponsibility and lack of interest.”Despite this, he went on to an illustrious career which included publishing thirty books, being a college professor, an inventor, and developer of creative architecture. He was a pioneer in advocating for renewable energy, and got twenty eight patents before his death. He was both an eccentric and a brilliant man. He was not exactly anti-establishment, because he worked within the establishment to try to improve it, but he was absolutely his own person.
He worked hard, paid bills, and took care of a family.
Anti-establishment people sharing the above quote with one another in modern times are unaware this man died in 1983, before some of them were even born. He was NOT talking about 2016 when he wrote because he did not live this long.
Who are these people who are latching on to this quote, and trying to get the world to be a place where the few work hard so the many can just not have to? Some of them crusade against “the man” and want to overthrow everything about human systems as we know them. Some want instead of living in modern cities in homes with running water, to “live off the land”, collect rainwater, and use a composting toilet they want to fertilize their own gardens with. Some of whom have never even planted a garden. Some want to overthrow education and learn only what they prefer. I will find it interesting if this comes to pass to see how we all figure out how to do basic math, and read so we can communicate with each other, and have basic skills so we can get jobs. This attitude is part of why schools in some other Nations are outperforming ours, and they are coming to the States, and getting jobs people here resent them for taking.
Some want to do away with all police and military, but who would rescue them in the event they were brutalized in their own homes if we did not have these public servants to call for help? Some want to abolish taxes and currency, instead relying on a barter system, but currency systems have existed for thousands of years in every Nation. Bartering can only work if you have something to barter that other people want. What if I have hay and you have chickens and while you want my hay, I don’t fucking want your chickens? How are you supposed to get hay?
Some want to banish all cars due to use of fossil fuels they want to do away with, and instead bicycle everywhere. What about going out of state or out of the country? If cars are evil, then so are busses, trains, and airplanes because they burn fossil fuels and synthetics that pollute as well. Are they advocating we go back to horse and buggies? Oh wait- many of those decrying transportation likewise do not believe in exploitation of animals for food OR labor. They see it as evil and inhumane. I guess it is walking, bicycling, or no travel.
If we are going to live off the land, and self isolate for the most part in our small, self-sufficient communities, and pay no taxes, and cars are evil, that means no more electricity, and thus no Internet, Ipods, or text phones so many who are anti-establishment are glued to. This means no sharing of anti-establishment memes and quotes with friends online because online will not exist.
What is going to happen if our entire society is discarded, and we have community of people who live off the land, minus technologies such as animal labor or machinery? Guess where we are going to get the labor to work the land, build the houses, make the clothes, prep the foods from scratch, and get from place to place? Manpower. That means human beings will have to WORK.
Exactly what system do people think can exist where nobody has to work except the few who create technologies that do that for us? Wait…technology as we know it is evil and must be overthrown…so we can’t have that….so we have to work! But wait, we don’t think we should HAVE to.
My husband’s workplace is responsible for some of the printing of political mailings. Right now, with it being election year, all staff is on twelve hour shifts for the next six weeks. They called in temps, and nobody is allowed vacation time right now. My nephew who lives about a thousand miles away is pulling 75 hour weeks right now and says he has a family of five to support, and he’s going to make sure they get the best because they deserve it. My neighbor friend has been trying to quit smoking for about six months now, but is so stressed from the bs at his work, has cheated and smoked every day this week. He can’t even talk about work or he says it is like reliving the hell the day was.
On the other hand, we have a sixty year old neighbor who is going to jail for breaking and entering any day now. He lived with his mother until she died this year, and then he cleaned her bank account out within a month. The condo she maintained for over thirty years now has a tax lien on it because he has not paid the taxes. Speaking of taxes, he is living off of our tax dollars- he gets disability- and he is breaking into our houses and stealing our things as well. He sits outside and takes either his car or his motorcycle apart and reassembles it every single day he is not out riding with his biker buddies or being high on drugs. He does not feel he should have to work and he feels like everybody should pay for him so he does not have to.
I have no respect for people who can work, but announce to the world they feel other people should support them instead.
On the flip side of this are people scratching to get by and working their asses off to pay for people who are sick or disabled and would love to work, but they can’t. You see people like my neighbor sucking up the resources our tax dollars pay that is meant for the truly disabled. I struggle when I see a privileged first world person whining because they have to work for a living, and they don’t understand why they ought to have to, and they share quotes like this and lament it with friends.
There is a difference between being exhausted like my neighbor friend, my nephew, and my husband and his co-workers who are wanting a day off, and then those who are aspiring to find ways to sponge off others so EVERY day is a day off. Despite what some may think, it is important to be a productive member of society. Disabled people who cannot work, or stay at home parents, or people who are retired, or in between jobs can be just as productive as people earning a paycheck. There is always volunteer work, checking on sick or sad loved ones, watching out for your neighbors, or just being nice, and making somebody’s day. Human beings are capable of so much, and to do absolutely nothing because you think others should do it all FOR you when there is no reason you cannot does not make you a revolutionary or a philosopher. It makes you lazy with a sense of entitlement.
Fuller lived and died in a day when if you called a number, a human being took the phone call. You did not talk to a computer. He lived in a day when cashiers at stores were people, not machines. He lived in a day quite different from ours and he would not recognize a society where machines replaced human beings in the workforce. He was concerned that mining for petroleum was bad for the environment, and believed that we could do more with less. He believed we could recycle things, even taking the items and using them for different purposes in order to reduce the amount we extracted from the earth.
He was advocating for us to use our technologies for a more efficient world. He was not saying we should just let the few support the many so they could just not work if they did not want to.
He was an admirer of the people who started communes in the sixties. If you look at what goes on there, it’s a hell of a lot of work. Many began communes, but left them soon after because of how hard the work is. It just does not suit many people raised in modern America. My Priest, who we fondly refer to as an aging hippie, once joined a commune. It was freezing cold in Winter, unbearably hot in Summer, and constant manual labor year round. He left, and never looked back. He does not speak of idyllic romps in the field, or nights gazing at the stars. He said his back was killing him, and that he was hungry, and exhausted. He also said his first wife’s parents lived in, and I quote “The Holler”. They had no electricity. It got dark early there, and was pitch black at night due to no street lights and no city anywhere near. They arose at the butt crack of dawn, when the roosters crowed. He always dreaded the visits there, and was always dying to leave.
Contrary to popular belief, there are active communes you can look into joining. However, I doubt many crusading against modernization and working for a paycheck would conform to being Amish or Mennonite. You have to keep rules, and work damn hard. You also can’t get by with being vegan, or refusing to exploit animal labor, and have to get around in a horse drawn buggy. You get to eat outstanding fried chicken and pies, though…but wait, that’s not vegan! And it is NOT everybody’s favorite fad diet: gluten free!!!!!
I guess some folks are really up shit creek without a paddle, aren’t they? There is no place on earth that can accommodate the impossible standards some of today’s folks are begging for.
As for me, I will keep my central heating and cooling, and unlike some who want to live off the land, but don’t garden, I’ll keep gardening and also eating what I buy at the store. I will hold on to technology and electricity, which means I can keep my cochlear implant, and texting since I don’t hear well via telephone. I’ll keep going places in cars and airplanes, and busses, while playing music on the stereo, and stop to eat at places on the way. My diet will still include the slaughtered carcasses of unfortunate animals who died so I could live, and I’ll eat them doused in gravy made with flour, and finish all that off with a nice slice of glutinous whatever. I will then pee and poop in a regular toilet, and flush it away in the sewer systems my tax dollars pay for. I’ll ride out to Amish country, but I won’t join them. I’ll go back home to electricity and internet, and I’ll use my ignore and blocking options on social media when some of today’s folks decry the fact we have to work for a living.
I realize that I am not required to understand people who are different than me and who view work differently than I do. My problem is not that some people are different than me, and choose a different way of life. My issue is that a lot of people who want to live this way expect the rest of us to also. I do not relate to that attitude in any way. We all have a right to live as we please, but to try to force the rest of the world to do the same is overstepping rights.
I really think this movement to not have to work, to shun electricity and cars, and try to grow all your own food is not a noble effort to be kind to the earth. It is a result of the Recession, and a reflection that people don’t want to spend money because we just don’t have it.
Think about it. The people in their twenties and early thirties watched their parents lose their jobs, and lose their houses. They watched their grandparents who had previously been big earning upper level managers get laid off, and have to go take minimum wage jobs fetching shopping carts. I know somebody who this happened to. Is it any wonder that people think it is pointless to try and afford a nice home? Is it any wonder that some would rather live in a space no bigger than the bedrooms they grew up in so as not to be in debt?
Likewise, we are in an educational crisis. You take out school loans, and then when you get out of college, you go to work. Roughly ¼ to 1/3 of your earnings go to taxes. Of what is remaining, ten to twenty percent of your income pays off the school loans. This may take twenty or more years to pay off, and the interest accrued costs more than the original loan did in the first place. Is it any wonder people are calling for what is called “unschooling” and also free higher education?
Is it any wonder that this generation of people are suspicious of the big businesses that pull millions of dollars of revenue? They see that the CEO’s and owners are very rich, but the little people keeping the businesses running are poor, and have to work sixty plus hours a week to afford the least expensive food, and live in the worst neighborhoods. Is it any wonder why people don’t want to line these CEO’s pockets?
Unfortunately, the desire to boycott everything that costs anything, including trying to abolish currency in general, (yes, I have witnessed these conversations as well) is a knee-jerk reaction to fear and is not a solution at all. So basically, some people are like “This is too expensive, but I will show you guys! I don’t need to buy food, I can grow my own, and I will grow it in my own shit! ”
Going away from society is not the answer, because human beings cannot survive without society. Even on a commune, you have to own land and pay for it, and work together with the others there to keep it going. THAT is society.
The answer is not to create a tiny society within a society. The answer is to REFORM society. Overthrow of everything and living like cave people is not going to uproot the rich and make everything a Garden of Eden.
Modern life has increased all of our life expectancies, and lowered infant mortality greatly. We have things that keep disease in check, and the fact our transportation is so advanced means we can go anyplace in the world and trade with people anywhere. Remember, those who make the fancy “free trade” foods some of the anti-establishment youth is so fond of? No transport, no fancy free trade foods.
Life is dictated by survival of the fittest, and money is the way we express it in this society. To brag that you won’t when you CAN work and give back to those who need your help makes absolutely no sense at all. If you are perfectly well enough to survive well, why not use your abilities to help those who need help surviving?
If you are looking for a revolution, you need look no further than your own neighborhood. If you are concerned about hunger- then find out who is hungry and go feed them. If you are worried about homeless animals, pay to have your local feral cat colony fixed and released. If you are upset by corporate greed, then pressure the government to pass legislation that keeps that in check. If you don’t like your government representatives, vote their asses out and replace them with those you feel are more fit to serve. If homelessness bothers you, get a job at a shelter, or volunteer for one, or donate something to one. If you are worried about at-need youth, then do Big Brothers and Sisters, or foster, or adopt. If none of this is good enough, then get into office and make the laws yourself.
What the world desperately needs is not people sitting at home bitching online and coming up with grandiose plans to live away from human society. What we desperately need is members of the human family going out and supporting the people who need them. That takes work, and yes, we all have to work at something. It is the human way. If you don’t want to, I can’t make you. But I am not supporting your utopian ideal that my husband, nephew and neighbor should go to work and pay for you not to because you want to spend your time griping on the internet.
I will close with a quote by George S. Patton, Jr.:
“Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way- !”