AuthorTopic: Enslaved by Our Stuff  (Read 7540 times)

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Enslaved by Our Stuff
« on: October 31, 2013, 08:35:42 PM »

Off the keyboard of Ray Jason


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Published on The Sea Gypsy Philosopher on October 29, 2013



Discuss this article at the Seasteading Table inside the Diner


We were still … and we were solitary. The wind had been mute for two days. Our only companions were our brethren in the sea and the sky. No other human presence disturbed this deep blue mirror, stretching to the horizon. AVENTURA and I were becalmed but content.


I rigged a shade awning and went below for a cold drink. My tiny refrigerator is powered by a solar panel. A cold young coconut was awaiting me. I opened it with my machete, inserted a straw and savored it beneath the awning. My back rested against the mast and my thoughts drifted as aimlessly and contentedly as my boat. Gradually, the word “contentment” inspired a meditation on what I consider one of the great curses of the modern world … Stuff.


 


*******


 


We have been led to believe that acquiring more stuff bequeaths us greater freedom and happiness. I heartily disagree, and to support my position I will call three wise men as witnesses. Here is Thoreau’s opinion on the subject: “A man is rich in direct proportion to the number of things that he can live without.” Mark Twain had an apt quote on the issue as well: “We have turned a thousand useless luxuries into necessities.” And Bertrand Russell was even more emphatic with this quotation: “It is our preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else that prevents us from living freely and nobly.”


http://www.mommybrainreports.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/walmart-renovates2.jpgIn other words, we are enslaved by our stuff! And it is more insidious and malignant than traditional slavery, because we are not forced to submit to this enslavement, we voluntarily do so. Materialism has become the true worldwide religion. If most people were told that for the rest of their lives they could only go to either the church or the mall, which would they select? They would choose the Temple of Shopping.


What makes this situation even more tragic is that our worship of stuff is not just some innocent, unavoidable human trait. Almost any anthropologist who has spent time amongst the 85 or so indigenous tribes, who still survive far from the tentacles of industrial-techno civilization, will verify that there is an amazing lack of private property amongst these (misnamed) primitives. They possess very little stuff, and much of what they do have is communally shared. So, the greed for things, which consumes modern humanity, is not intrinsic to our nature, it is manipulated into us.


And the exploiters who condemn us to the treadmill of “more, more and still more,” do not do this benevolently. Their motive is to further enrich themselves and to increase their control over us. Does the concept of “planned obsolescence” profit the makers of the products or does it benefit the consumers of these items? After you have answered that obvious question, step back a bit further and ponder how we have allowed ourselves to be reduced to the status of “consumers.”


Our culture programs us so thoroughly and yet so subtly that we do not even perceive our captivity. Just as the fish is unaware of the water that it is immersed in, humanity is unmindful of the severity of its enslavement. Certainly the desperately poor in the world realize that they are captives to the daily struggle for survival, but the more well-to-do have also lost much of their freedom. Consider this downward human trajectory:


http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-R43PIRYz4x4/Tww5KnStd_I/AAAAAAAAAlE/5E07QmoFlc4/s1600/human-evolution-go-back.jpgOur hunter/gatherer ancestors survived independently for over a hundred thousand years using their amazing physical and mental powers in a fairly hostile world. When they encountered a mirror-like pond, they could look at their reflection and see a strong, lithe, smart, human animal that could fend for itself and protect its tribe.


But with the advent of agriculture came the ascension of rulers and priests. These ruthless manipulators swiftly recognized that in order to exploit the human animal, they would need to domesticate it. A person that could feed, clothe, shelter and protect herself or himself, would not consent to subjugation. So the rulers imposed dependency through division of labor. The hide tanner relied on the barley grower who needed the well digger who depended on the tool-maker. Life became compartmentalized and the subtle slavery began.


Shortly after that came a further diminishing of the wondrous, free, and empowered human animal. This arrived with the imposition of political boundaries. People were now designated as Assyrians or Egyptians or Babylonians. Next, came the religious divisions which further reduced human autonomy. So the wild, independent, almost feral, human animal had now been domesticated so thoroughly that they had morphed into a citizen and a churchgoer. What a sad and pathetic degradation.


And as the human caravan continues down the centuries, rulers and priests still dominate us. They constantly rein in our independence as they transform us into serfs or slaves or soldiers or salesmen. And now, without even realizing it, we are suffocating beneath the ultimate indignation. We have been degraded so profoundly that we don’t even cringe when we are called consumers. Step out of the cultural programming bubble and contemplate that. On the one luxuriant planet amongst millions of dead ones, we are the most highly-evolved species, and yet we spend our brief time here … SHOPPING. This is insanely tragic and repellant. It is also why the few dozen hunter/gatherer tribes still in existence, feel sorry for us. And why they do not wish to adopt our “civilized” ways.


 


*******


 


The mandate to “buy, buy and buy some more” is so all-pervasive in our society that it is difficult to even notice it much less escape it. But emancipation IS possible. Through the help of Thoreau, Twain and Russell, I managed to liberate myself. Perhaps, as homage to these wise ones, I can help a few of you to unshackle yourselves. Settle in for a few minutes and let me acquaint you with some of the Evils of Materialism that the consumer culture cheerleaders never mention:



  • WE ARE NOT OUR STUFF – People who wish to get rich by selling us things that we do not need, try to convince us that unless we purchase the hot new item we will be conspicuously inferior to our peers. They are trying to manipulate us into the belief that a person’s character corresponds to the size of their stuff-pile. Things become status symbols. Because my car is pricier than yours, then I am a better person. But only an advertizing-addled fool believes that. For the most successful accumulators of stuff are usually the most ambitious, immoral and ruthless members of society. Almost everyone knows in their heart of hearts that the qualities that are the true measure of a person’s worth have nothing to do with stuff. Character traits like wisdom, compassion, serenity, humor and subtlety of mind will always surpass garish mansions and shiny cars.

  • STUFF-LESS HAPPINESS – I have fewer things than almost anybody I know, and yet on a day-to-day basis, I am happier than almost anybody I know. In fact when people visit my boat for the first time there is often an awkward silence as their eyes glance around the cabin. Then they will sheepishly ask, “Ray, where’s all your stuff?” My honest answer is that indeed, I am poor in stuff, but I am rich in time, friendship, health, adventure, freedom, relaxation, travel, etc. This perspective is reinforced as I watch the nearby Indio kids play joyously with just a stick and a coconut, while the ex-pat kids are cursing at their electronic games because their batteries are low.

  • CONSUMERS VERSUS THINKERS – Those who have gained control of any society do not want the vast majority of the people to engage in critical thinking. If the population did so, they would no longer tolerate the obscene wealth disparity or the ever-growing police/surveillance grid or a reverse Robin Hood economy that robs the poor to give to the Wall Street rich. So the citizenry must be distracted and placated. Stuff is the opiate that the Elites use to defuse any rebellious tendencies. Give them gigantic plasma TVs and iEverythings and the latest violent video game, and they can control them like two-legged sheep.

  • STUFF STRANGLES INTEGRITY – When I was in Vietnam I often tried to unravel the mystery of how anyone could invent Napalm and still live with himself. It took me decades to realize that even that horrendous depravity was connected to our worship of stuff. The thinking runs like this: Since everyone else has nice houses and new cars and the latest HDTVs, then I need those things too, in order to maintain my self-respect. Therefore, if the job pays enough, I will just ignore the consequences of what I am inventing. So even though this high tech weapon causes grotesque tomato-sized tumors on innocent children, I will rationalize that away with the delusion that I am spreading democracy. But if stuff wasn’t so godlike, more people would refuse to accept despicable jobs just because they pay well.

  • CONSUMERISM IS CONSUMING THE PLANET – By worshipping stuff and embracing an extravagant, constant- growth lifestyle we are poisoning the air, fouling the rivers, sweeping away the topsoil, decimating the ocean fisheries and generally wreaking havoc on our biosphere. Those 85 indigenous tribes are not doing this. It is our shop til you drop mindset that is fueling this human engine of destruction.


 


*******


I lost track of time as I pondered these things, and was momentarily startled when my thoughts returned from the real world to this, my preferred world. AVENTURA and I were still becalmed, but as she knows even better than me, the sea is never truly still. The undulating movement is so miniscule and yet so monumental that it seems like the pulse of the planet. It comforts me deeply, because it feels like Gaia is breathing.


http://static.panoramio.com/photos/large/208823.jpg



Offline RE

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Re: Enslaved by Our Stuff
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2013, 09:21:54 PM »
Not to pick nits about Ray's latest essay, which is essentially correct as well as being his usual Romantic self, but Ray himself is Enslaved to some Stuff also.

AVENTURA is a FIBERGLASS boat, laid up with epoxy polymers, products of the Age of Oil.  The Sails are likely Dacron/Polyester, lovely lightweight and long lasting fibers our friends at the 3M Company and Dupont came up with in polymerizing said Oil.  It also likely has a Marine Diesel Engine aboard, since Ray clearly knows how to install, fix and repair this marvelous product of Industrialization.  His photo of himself shows him working on the transmission of a friend's boat I believe.

95% of the rest of the Sailing Yachts out there are either made of Fiberglass, Aluminum or Steel, and for some of the really big ones, sometimes Ferro-Cement.  All highly Energy Intensive Hulls to fabricate up.  There are still a few Wood boats out there, but even they use a whole lot of metal hardware to put them together and make them functional.

Of course, if we had JUST used the vast quantities of Oil laid up in the ground for making stuff like this, and did not BURN it willy-nilly producing electricity, Happy Motoring in SUVs and flying around in Jet Planes, the shit would have lasted a LOT longer.  Sadly of course, that is not how our Industrial Ubermeisters chose to build out the system, so we now are stuck with running out of the substrate and energy source to put together marvelous crafts like AVENTURA.

Not to say also you cannot build seaworthy ocean going boats out of natural materials with Stone Age technology, you can.  The Polynesians proved that.  However, lots of people will have to take the Final Trip to the Great Beyond before we can get back to building them that way, without cutting down every last tree on Earth.  England was basically denuded of Forests building the Wooden Tall Ships of the Colonial Era.  Similarly, Egypt and Rome sent a lot of wooden ships to the Bottom of Davey Jones Locker in the fights between their Armadas in that Era.

Get rid of War, lower the Population a couple of orders of Magnitude, and the Earth provides enough on a Pay As You Go basis for plenty of boats to Sail the Seven Seas.  However, we got a ways to go here before we get to that point again, if we do not exterminate ourselves first.

Once Upon a Time though, it was DONE.  Some Navigator sailing a Cat Rigged Sailing Canoe MADE the trip from Tahiti to Hawaii, and saw on the horizon Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii.  THE LAST PLACE on Earth we brought the INFECTION called Homo Sapiens to destroy and waste a once Pristine Planet.


RE
Save As Many As You Can

Offline Snowleopard

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Re: Enslaved by Our Stuff
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2013, 09:40:59 PM »
Excellent essay.

I totally agree with the concept, and am unlikely to ever acheive it.  I've tried living out of a backpack, and out of a small van, but went back both times to having more stuff;  knowing the more i have, the more it requires to take care of it.

This is certianly not a new concept (see quote below) but i think we need to be reminded every now and then.  How far can we get from the pursuit of stuff and still live well in this world.  Ray's style is a better balanced answer than most i've met.





Quote
Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
 
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
 
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
--- Matt 6 NKJV

I should note that in my few years attending churches, NEVER did i hear the above verses quoted, let alone held up as a model for life.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2013, 09:47:02 PM by Snowleopard »
"A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest." -  Simon and Garfunkel

Offline RE

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RE's LAST POSSESSION
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2013, 10:27:53 PM »
Excellent essay.

I totally agree with the concept, and am unlikely to ever acheive it.  I've tried living out of a backpack, and out of a small van, but went back both times to having more stuff;  knowing the more i have, the more it requires to take care of it.

That is Steve's First Law of Economics:icon_sunny:  The COST of maintaining Surplus.

I have always been into Portability & Mobility.  During the OTR years, I whittled down my Personal Possession to 5 bags/containers of "stuff".  When I moved up here to the Last Great Frontier, I cut it down to 4 Bags, and 2 were much smaller, suitable for Carry-On. I had to divest of stuff like the Thermoelectric Cooler, many 12V appliances, CB Radio stuff etc.  Actual Volume probably half what I packed into the Freightliner each time I went out OTR, which usually was 2-3 Months continuous driving, broken up by 2-3 week "vacations".  Unpaid of course, but I accumulated the time off by driving through all the weekends.  This drove my dispatchers NUTS.  LOL.  They could not grasp why I would take so much time off and not get out there doing Miles for Money after a week off.  I didn't NEED the money.  No kids, no wife, no mortgage.  I was ROLLING in DOUGH!

However, I have had the "Surplus Maintenance Cost" the whole time I am up here on the Last Great Frontier, it is in my Storage Unit in Springfield, MO.  I got rid of most of the Furniture I had accumulated, but my Jeep is in the Storage Unit, Boxes of Textbooks from College Years, Photo albums and assorted historical shit from my life I can neither bear to part with or bother to ship up here and further clutter the Cabin.  It costs me now $80/mo, nearly $1000/year to maintain this Storage Unit.  At total cost since I moved up here, it is at around $7000, far more than the shit inside is worth in monetary value.  It's value to me is the History of my Life Walking the Earth.

Since arriving here of course, I have accumulated TONS of Surplus Possessions I could not fit in 20 Bags now!  The PREPS!  LOL.  Not to mention 3 Bugout Machines, my Mazda MPV, Ford Explorer and Tardigrada, the Tioga RV!

Just trying to figure what I would jam into Tardigrada for the FINAL BUGOUT is tough these days.  Maybe I could squeeze 1/4 of my Preps in, a little more with a Trailer.  I would have to leave a LOT behind though.

Then there is my Bike Bugout Package.  This is just the shit I can load up onto the Trailer I have for my 21 Gear BMX Bike which I can still sorta ride because Bike Pedalling uses mostly the upper part of your leg, not the bottom part.  I do much better on a Bike than Walking with the PAD.  No Lance Armstrong even without Steroids of course, but I can pedal for a while without getting severe cramps.  This is probably 1/100th of what I can pack onto Tardigrada.

Then there is the LAST FREE PACKAGE, what fits into a Backpack and Wheely Bag and Belt Packs.  I have a Belt Pack with a Fast Hatchet, various small tools, Paracord etc as the Final Step in the Free World out in the Bush to try to last a bit longer.

The VERY LAST Prep is my ONE FINAL POSSESSION.  It is one thing which fits in my Pocket I will take with me into the FEMA CAMP, and protect and defend with my LIFE.  Can you guess what it is Diners?

RE
Save As Many As You Can

Offline Petty Tyrant

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Re: Enslaved by Our Stuff
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2013, 05:03:55 AM »
 Who remembers their mother or grandmother having all their clothes in a chest of drawers or two instead of a whole walk in robe? I remember when I could pack everything I needed in a car and move interstate just like that. Then you end up with the things you own owning you. And of course you can never find what you need even though you know you have it somewhere because its hidden in all that stuff.

Mmmm Coconut juice...
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Offline monsta666

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Re: Enslaved by Our Stuff
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2013, 05:13:24 AM »
If one is pedantic you could make the argument that nearly everyone is guilty of holding on to some item they could do without and on that regard perhaps Ray is guilty of this. However what is more helpful is the take home message that the less one possess the richer they are and more important, they are less dependent on the system and thus more free to do what they want. I think the lesson and exercise is to resist the hoarding instinct of accumulating too many possessions that society teaches us to need. I think in Buddhism it is said it is not the items themselves that are bad but our attachment to them that causes trouble. We must learn to let go and do with the minimum possible and while we all have vices and stuff we cling onto the point is to make do with less each year and embrace the freedom that comes from being less dependent on freedom. The pragmatic aspect of this philosophy is that in the coming decades we will get poorer materially so people must strike some means of achieving happiness in spite of becoming materially poorer. If we can get around the idea we will be poorer then it follows that we must place less value in items we don't need because they will be gone in short order. This means items like iPhones, computers and other hi-tech toys that depend on global supply chains while nice should not be something we have heart attacks if we lose access to. It is hard but with less possessions we have more time to think about the stuff that really matters in life.

Offline Eddie

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Re: Enslaved by Our Stuff
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2013, 05:28:05 AM »
Guilty as charged. I have too much stuff. But this is not new information.

I think it was Yvon Chouinard who said that that the hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. I'm working on it.

I still buy stuff. But it is no longer consumer crap. I'm stocking up on food, tools, and durable goods. I haven't watched a TV commercial in well over five years. Is prepping just another way to feed my jones to accumulate stuff? My wife certainly thinks so.

I say "We shall see."
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Eddie

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Re: Enslaved by Our Stuff
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2013, 05:49:30 AM »

The VERY LAST Prep is my ONE FINAL POSSESSION.  It is one thing which fits in my Pocket I will take with me into the FEMA CAMP, and protect and defend with my LIFE.  Can you guess what it is Diners?

RE


Boy Scout Knife?

Pack o' Smokes?

Cyanide Pill?

Book of Mormon?

Number to a Swiss Bank Account?
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Petty Tyrant

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Re: Enslaved by Our Stuff
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2013, 06:35:26 AM »
9mm
.22
iphone or 'palm' puter'
marlboros
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Offline jdwheeler42

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Re: Enslaved by Our Stuff
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2013, 06:58:56 AM »
This means items like iPhones, computers and other hi-tech toys that depend on global supply chains while nice should not be something we have heart attacks if we lose access to. It is hard but with less possessions we have more time to think about the stuff that really matters in life.
I would like to point out an interesting trend I am seeing in the younger generations.  Yes, they are getting more attached to things like smartphones, but they are getting less attached to everything else.  I think a fair number of them could be happy in a FEMA camp with nothing but a smartphone in their pocket, as long as they have a good connection.
Making pigs fly is easy... that is, of course, after you have built the catapult....

Offline Eddie

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Re: Enslaved by Our Stuff
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2013, 07:05:14 AM »
The iPhone is a drug.

My laptop is too, but has a bigger screen that allows me to actually see what I'm looking at. LOL. Nevertheless, it is easy to live in a virtual world, which has little do with reality. This is a concern.

Communication and connectivity seem like good things...but there is a kind of techno-narcissim that is disturbing. That's why I don't do facebook, instagram, or twitter. The diner forum is my only social media site.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Snowleopard

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Re: Enslaved by Our Stuff
« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2013, 08:52:02 AM »
Quote
The VERY LAST Prep is my ONE FINAL POSSESSION.  It is one thing which fits in my Pocket I will take with me into the FEMA CAMP, and protect and defend with my LIFE.  Can you guess what it is Diners?

I can't think of anything useful they would let you have in a FEMA camp.  Likely they would simply take everything and issue an orange jumpsuit or coverall and flip flops.

Of the stuff i usually carry, certianly they would confiscate the radio, solar charger, pistol, swiss army knife, and fire starting kit.  In a hasty camp, they might let me keep the flashlight, compass, dental floss and mini first aid kit. 
"A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest." -  Simon and Garfunkel

Offline Snowleopard

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Re: Enslaved by Our Stuff
« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2013, 09:12:42 AM »
I still buy stuff. But it is no longer consumer crap. I'm stocking up on food, tools, and durable goods. I haven't watched a TV commercial in well over five years. Is prepping just another way to feed my jones to accumulate stuff?

The iPhone is a drug.

My laptop is too, but has a bigger screen that allows me to actually see what I'm looking at. LOL. Nevertheless, it is easy to live in a virtual world, which has little do with reality. This is a concern.

Communication and connectivity seem like good things...but there is a kind of techno-narcissim that is disturbing. That's why I don't do facebook, instagram, or twitter. The diner forum is my only social media site.

I spent a year or two wrestling with these ideas.

Are my preps a way to justify more stuff?  Probably, but i'll have to accept that for the insurance value.

I also don't do TV or any of the facebook and friends media.  My cell is a military grade but otherwise basic phone i seldom carry.

On one level it is tempting to take wilderness immersion survival trainings where the final test is a week or two in the bush with your clothes and a knife.  I might still do that.  But i wont be living in a debris hut in a national forest anytime soon.  Too solitary a path for me.
"A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest." -  Simon and Garfunkel

Offline Surly1

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Re: Enslaved by Our Stuff
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2013, 04:22:26 AM »
This means items like iPhones, computers and other hi-tech toys that depend on global supply chains while nice should not be something we have heart attacks if we lose access to. It is hard but with less possessions we have more time to think about the stuff that really matters in life.
I would like to point out an interesting trend I am seeing in the younger generations.  Yes, they are getting more attached to things like smartphones, but they are getting less attached to everything else.  I think a fair number of them could be happy in a FEMA camp with nothing but a smartphone in their pocket, as long as they have a good connection.

Getting them ready for their certain future, which is a third world lifestyle with iPhones and consumer gaming devices.
"...reprehensible lying communist..."

 

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