I want to stay away from politics as much as possible in this blog because I don't think that self-sufficiency is a partisan issue and because people tend to say a lot of stupid things about those who might be on the other side of the political spectrum from themselves. What ever your political beliefs, I think we should all be able to agree that there is a certain amount of decorum that seems to be lacking from much of the political landscape on both sides of the aisle.
This is not a plug for any set of political beliefs, this is a plug for self-sufficiency. Many of you may remember the Occupy Movement. People congregating to express their-- for lack of a better word-- "displeasure" with the current system which allows big corporations and the very wealthy to make the rules that shape our lives. To my way of thinking, allowing money to make the rules is a problem.
During the Occupy Movement I came across a site called We Are the 99% . In it there were a lot of harrowing stories from people who were tired of not getting by. And while I can certainly sympathize, after you have read so many of those, it just sounded like so much whining. I think that part of the problem is that too many of us are trying to play by the rules set up by the people with all the money.
That's where self-sufficiency comes in.
As long as we let "Them" call the shots, "They" will always win. If you are on the ball field and the rich kid gets to decide the rules of the game because it is his bat and his ball, then it is time to collect your friends, walk away and play a different game-- preferably one that doesn't require a bat or a ball. If the rich kid wants to play, he will have to abide by the same rules as everyone else.
What does this mean in terms of the real world?
I do think that we need to be involved in the political process, pay attention to what is going on in the world and vote. We should be involved in grass roots organizations for causes that we believe in, etc. But I think waiting for or depending on the political machine to move so that we can live is ridiculous.
We don't need anyone's permission to grow gardens or be involved in our own food production-- and we shouldn't be frightened into believing that we can't be involved. Grow a garden. Grow it in pots and other containers if you have to. Build a small stock pond for fish, or maybe an aquarium. Keep a few chickens for eggs. Rabbits are an amazingly simple and abundant meat source if you are inclined to produce meat. Grow fruit trees. Can fruit. Keep food storage. If you are determined, it can be done.
But it isn't just food. People, especially young people, are lamenting the fact that they can't afford housing. They continue to live with parents, roommates, etc. They are losing hope that they will ever be able to afford homes. But I think that we have been allowing "Them" to dictate for too long what exactly defines "home." What are your requirements for a home? A little outside of the box thinking can go a long way. Could you live in a tiny house or an RV? Could you find a shared living arrangement that meets your needs? Do you really need three bedrooms, a game room and a walk-in closet? How much of your life are you willing to give up to pay for housing? How much housing are you really going to need or be able to take care of if you spend all of your time working to pay for it?
And what would you do with the time that you are not spending at work to pay for heat or rent if you didn't need as much of those things?
What about education? What do you need from education? Do you need a degree? Do you have to go into debt? We all know about scholarships, but what about studying a field that will pay for your education? There are employers who hire students and pay for their educations as they work. There are employers who will pay for your education if you come to work for them after graduation. There are employers who will pay for you to continue your education. There are employers who will accept demonstrated abilities over a degree. There are jobs that don't require a degree. There are ways to educate yourself that may not terminate in a degree. There are alternatives.
The one that is a little more difficult is health care.
There is an extent to which we have control over our health. We all know that the basics of good health are wholesome foods and plenty of exercise. Fresh air, adequate hygiene and rest all fit in to this paradigm. The Amish see maintaining their health as a part of their duty to their community because they don't carry health insurance. When someone is sufficiently ill to go to the hospital, the entire community chips in to pay the bills. (Incidentally, this is also the reason the Amish are master negotiators when it comes to getting hospital bills lowered.) When we are busy working to survive, we often don't have or take the time to take proper care of ourselves.
There is also an extent to which our health is not in our hands. Stuff happens. Cancer, diabetes, heart failure. The list goes on. I don't think health care should be a commodity. It is pretty sick to say, "Why, yes, we can treat your cancer. But you can't afford medical care, so never mind." I don't think parents should have to worry about losing their home because their child has leukemia. Unfortunately, right now, it is what it is. But that doesn't mean we just throw up our hands. The internet and the library are great sources of information and inspiration and they are both free. Learn as much as possible about the illness. How does it work? Are there alternative treatments? Is there a better way? Learn as much as possible about the system to get your bills lowered (the Amish have!). And of course MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD.
In my own mind, the less we need "Them" for food, housing, money, etc. the less power they have. The less power "They" have, the better off "We" are. They don't get to make the rules simply because they own the ball and the bat. If they aren't willing to abide by the rules then we should walk away and find a different game to play. We don't have to ask anyone's permission to study, grow a garden or provide ourselves with shelter. (And, boy, aren't "They" going to be ticked when they can no longer call the shots for those things.) We are the 99% and we need to stop behaving like we are powerless. There are more of us then there are of them so we should behave like we are in charge, because when we do that, we will be in charge. They will have to abide by the same rules as everyone else or they will not get to play. And that is how the system is supposed to work.