Guest Columnist #63 - Don't Get Snared


     This was inspired by Mike Antipathy and the anonymous contributor in Slug & Lettuce #61. Though Bert and I mostly agree with them, a few things bothered us.
     Mike seems to be closely following in the footsteps of the back-to-the-land hippies of 30 years ago. That sure beats getting drunk and whining about how awful the world is. But, after a few years of hard-work and hassles, most of those hippies grew disillusioned, and either moved back to cities, or gradually became indistinguishable from other outer-suburbanites who consume even MORE resources and produce even MORE pollution than do city folks, because they must commute further to Jobs - to pay for their land and houses, and for the vehicles they need to commute 1 Why did the hippies' dream die? In most cases, their biggest mistake may have been: BUYING LAND.
     In present-day USSA if you "own" property (and want to keep it), you must not only pay thousands of dollars in property taxes, but must obey thousands of rules promulgated by dozens of government agencies. Furthermore, YOU are responsible for the conduct of everyone who comes onto "your" land, whether or not invited. If (eg) some trespasser plants marijuana and you fail to discover and destroy it before a police informer does, under asset-forfeiture laws "your" land will be seized. So, in essence, you must become an unpaid volunteer deputy cop I
     Buying property may not ALWAYS be a mistake. (Mike seems to know ways to avoid some of the booby traps.) But DO gather much information and THINK VERY CAREFULLY before making ANY big purchase. Ask yourself: What can I really do with it? Will it be useful enough to justify, not only the initial cost, but the upkeep? Is that the best way to accomplish what I want? Be realistic. And, remember, IT AIN'T 1830- You'll be dealing, not with a few "wild Indians" and maybe a fur-trading monopoly stretched thin, but with a government/corporate mega-bureaucracy that's running amok .
     Bert and I, and others like us, also moved to the boonies. But we did NOT buy land. And, though we've not found a Utopia, we did develop a comfortable, low-cost, earth-friendly lifestyle. We have fewer problems than does any land-owner we know, partly because our total expenses (about $500 a year per person) are less than a land-owner pays in property taxes alone I
     Mike made a strong pitch for learning self-sufficiency skills. Fine. But you can't learn and do everything. Nor can a few thousand. Even the Amerinds traded extensively: some items came through intermediaries, from hundreds of miles away.
     Furthermore, what does "self sufficiency" really mean? The Amerinds largely depended on materials taken from or CAST OFF by other creatures or by the earth: wood, bark, bone, sinews hide, shells stones, etc. I could braid a short rope from my own hair. But I can't grow wood. If I need a pole, I must get it from a tree.
     Bert and I use poles and other natural materials. But we also use stuff taken from or CAST OFF by the Industrial System: plastic tarps and other useful items found in dumpsters. (No doubt, most S&L readers know the amazing wealth, free for salvaging, that would otherwise go to land-fills.)
     Though there is much about the Industrial System we don't like, Bert and I regard it as we would a giant bush that has poisonous leaves but nutritious berries. So we try to pick some of its fruit without getting snared by its thorny, toxic tenacious tentacles.
     But, what will we do if the "bush" self-destructs or drastically changes? That we can't know for sure, nor can anyone: the future is uncertain. But (eg) for covering a shelter, if instead of relying solely on thatch we also use some plastic, we save time we can use to gain skills that may make us more capable of coping with whatever comes.
—Bert & Holly • Dwelling Portably • PO Box 190 • Philomath OR 97370