Personal ramblings on my current place in the Voluntary Simplicity Movement

I’ve been getting a lot of traffic to my Degrowth and Voluntary Simplicity article lately and I want to say that I am absolutely tickled pink. That article was a lot of work and was a complete experiment to see if I could put out something useful while honoring the source materials so I’m really please to see that it seemed to resonate with some of you.

This led me to thinking about my personal journey and the barriers and challenges that I face when it comes to voluntary simplicity and related topics of environmentalism, self-sufficiency, and decolonization. As much as I would love to say that I’m really great at all of those things, the truth is that I struggle just as much as the next person. I don’t know that my personal habits are any better than someone who doesn’t care about these issues at all. I still eat fast food and more meat than I’d like to, I have a job in the intersection of technology and finance which I consider to be two of the most evil industries, I still buy from large corporations, and I’m not nearly as generous as I feel that I should be.

I’m incredibly privileged to be able to spend energy caring about these things instead of just worrying about my own day-to-day survival. So many people that I know are stuck in these cycles of struggling to survive and have to spend so much effort working horrible jobs, putting food on the table, trying to find health care, and learning how to survive and recover from the collective trauma they suffer from supporting a massive and top-heavy society. They are being absolutely crushed under the heel of “progress”.

I know that my own personal limits are real. I understand that no matter how privileged I am, there are physical and cognitive limits to my ability to make change. My job is a really great job, but it still commits a third of my life to really deep thought about subjects unrelated to these personal initiatives and uses up the energy that I would otherwise use for learning the skills that I need to live more simply and the time that I would use to put it into practice. I know that I need to opt out of the corporate system as much as possible but I also know that I don’t know how to do that and learning the methods takes both time and infrastructure. I often feel like a plastic shaman when all I’m trying to do is learn how to heal myself and learn to live better with the resources that I have.

We can call it Imposter Syndrome if we want, but I think it’s more than that. It’s the existential understanding that I am not living up to the ethical standard that I set for myself and having enough compassion for myself to know that the limits I have are real but that I can try to stretch myself beyond them a little bit every day. I can try to grow my own food and use more sustainable and locally-sourced objects which are built to last longer. I can learn to make my own clothes and my own pottery. I can find ways to entertain myself that are less energy-intensive. I can learn about other cultures and how to respect them. It won’t happen overnight – it’s a whole different way of living after 30+ years of learning how to live this life and living more slowly means that everything happens more slowly, even changing.

But I also think that this is why we really need to talk about our struggles openly and honestly with one another. Even as I’m trying to learn personally how to live more simply, slowly and with a more self-reliant mindset, a big goal of mine is also to learn to live collectively. Because there are limits on what we can accomplish individually even for the most self-reliant individuals, we must improve our relationships with one another to make up for those limits. We need to collect knowledge and resources and share them with our neighbors. To do this, we need to know what they need which means that we need to open up and be more vulnerable to let others know what we need. This sort of decentralized collectivism can only happen through immense vulnerability which would allow us to create resilient mesh networks.

Currently, we make up for those limits with a complex system of exploitation and more exploitation happens for every level of complexity. So in order to decrease our levels of complexity, we must also balance that with better treatment of our fellow humans as well as the environment. In every aspect of our lives, we must strive to replace this complex web of exploitation with a egalitarian consent-based system of life. While we will never accomplish this in totality as a single individual as it is impossible to live fully ethically in an unethical society, maybe this is something that we can change together if we can talk about it enough to actually change things.

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