'If you don't design your life, they will design it for you' – Jack Spirko, July 2014.
The premise of the above being that unless you take control, really take control, then governments and corporations will step in and make decisions that will directly affect your lifestyle.
I heard Spirko talking about this and it really struck a cord with me. We are all following a path designed to serve others, mostly those running large corporations and governments. From an early
age we are trained and encouraged to form part of a larger machine, one which is sold to us as the 'right path' – study, get a career, save for a pension, consume, retire. As long as you work hard, you can do what you want. But as always, its more nuanced than that. I wanted to merge this thinking with a psychological model I was familiar with.
I came across Maslows hierarchy of needs at University. Its a model in psychology, showing base needs right up to self actualisation. The theory being that the basic needs have to be met in order to achieve stuff like love, respect, etc... If you look at Maslows hierarchy of needs, there are 5 levels;
A Physiological level – Food, water, warmth – In order to fulfil these needs, its never been easier (at least in our comfortable western world) Most of us would supermarket shop, turn the tap or hit the thermostat. I do, but less and less. If there is no design or movement towards self sufficiency ( at least a bit more of it ), then we are constantly in the hands of enormous corpotocracies, companies enmeshed within governments, just doing what they want. One thing is clear from the constant scandal, criminality and subsequently the enormous power they hold - these people and their machines do not care about you. The fact that it is so easy to carry on using their services is the dangerous part. If you don't think about it, then life is easier, at least in the short term. Think about what happens if you carry on using the same provider. Your gas and electric prices will RISE, you are actually paying THEM for not shifting supplier. Same goes for all utilities, loyalty is not respected, the exact opposite to when you are using a local, small supplier. Think about what happens if all you do is eat cheap food from the supermarket for 30 years. Yeah, you'll have some clubcard points, but you will have fuelled and been a part of the industrialisation of the food chain, the marginalisation of small suppliers and the subsequent health risks. I remember when we used to say 'one day we'll wake up and it'll only be supermarkets left' – well we're there folks, and we overslept, most of us are still asleep and even you and me are hitting snooze. They are ALL like hypnotists. 'Shhhh now, sit back, you don’t want to think about this boring old stuff, we'll auto renew you/do your shopping for you/give you our best deal (delete as appropriate) so you just sit back and relax. Go baaaaack to sleep'.
It takes an effort to find local, ethical alternatives, to extract at least a portion of your physiological needs from the hands of these vast corporations, but plan. Find a butcher, swap your energy supplier, put in a water butt. It takes energy to do these things, but its part one of your design, and once in place it'll afford you more time, money and quality of life.
It took around a month for the BBC to report that extra fracking licenses were being granted, and that a major reason was the Russian/Ukrainian war. Greater energy security was needed because of the horrendous skirmishes on the edge of Europe – its a home run for our great leaders. Our war machines (The UK are world leaders in selling arms to horrendous regimes throughout the world – what a great bunch of guys!) helping to create a new common enemy AND an excuse to make lots of money with fracking. A questionable at best technology. Security is very interesting at the moment. The current situation feels just like Orwell's 1984 – Eastasia and Eurasia – the two interchangeable enemies designed to keep the people in fear, and thus, controllable. Isn't this Iran, and ISIS, Mujahadin and Al Qaeda. The freedom fighters we nearly waded in to help in Syria are now ISIS. Iran are now potential allies. You aren’t meant to understand – it is designed that way – so that governments can be the only ones to provide you security, and hence you vote for them again and again.
Shelter is also at stage 4. I'm not sure about the US or the rest of the world, but here in the UK, a shortage of housing has made it near impossible for anyone to get on the housing ladder. If you want to live in London, you have to be seriously wealthy. The system is broken for anyone under 30 and if I was 20 again? I would learn how to sustainably build. To take on a mortgage (death pledge is what that word actually means) means you are paying vast sums back to the bank for around 25 or 30 years. You are the banks bitch! Your shelter is in the hands of the banks. I don’t need to expand on how worrying this is surely, suffice to say the guys that design and run the banking systems will be alright, always were and actually control the politicians. Still. Even after the last 6 or 7 years. I don't know what the answer for me is here, but if I ever make any money, or find a sugar daddy (open to offers, my mum says I'm pretty) then I would be overpaying that mortgage. The sooner we are free the better. If you are never going to be free, the sooner you square that in your head the better.
So once you've realised that you are a cog in the design, you are halfway to freedom, and you need to make that step to get to stage 3 – belongingness, affection, love from workgroup, family, friends, and romantic relationships. Surely they have no hold on this right? Well it depends on how you look at it. If we shop at monster shops, check out in those little self service things, order from Amazon for everything, overspend, and consequently overwork (I am guilty of the last one) then you are jeopardising stage 3. The system sends out messages. It advertises to you stuff that you don't need. It supplies you with easy credit (again), it allows you to carry on spending without any human contact whatsoever. It has never been easier to enslave yourself to stuff. If you find yourself here there can be a problem. I have spent years overworking, seeing too little of my family and friends and am designing myself out of that trap by minimising our exposure to debt, not by working harder, but by using all available resources (permaculture principle klaxon!) and renting out the spare room. Pay it off, walk away and give yourself a chance at actually having disposable income and a life.
Esteem needs – Achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self respect and respect from others. Holy moly – its as if Maslow was a self sufficiency guru!
Now please don’t get me wrong – I am not preaching as some sort of expert here – all I am is a fella on a journey to greater self sufficiency – and believe me I am nowhere near my goal, but I have been fired up by a few people, a PDC (Permaculture Design Course) and some good friends. I do know that to be a generalist, to try the new stuff, to build, grow, understand, gives you an enormous amount of satisfaction, and therefore self respect. Foraging and growing as opposed to simply buying, making as opposed to simply buying, building as opposed....... you get the picture. Gives you self respect. That ALWAYS (unless you are a knob about it) leads to respect from others.
Self actualisation needs – realising personal potential, self fulfilment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences – Now I'm sure there are ways of getting here without doing what I've been talking about, but I cant think of a better way. To go on this journey, to wrestle back control, to know yourself intimately – your strengths, weaknesses, capabilities. To have helped others on your way and thus created a real community on the journey, and to know that its been YOUR design, not theirs. To know that you did it despite them, to give yourself the power to design the unwanted from your life and support the wanted – holy shit - that’s a design for life.