Thursday, 23 February 2012

Turn on, Tune In, Opt out.

It’s funny to me how many times I act in the way I do because of social pressure.  I long ago stopped thinking I could actually Drop Out of being a social animal, because other humans had pretty well locked up the habitable areas of the planet by the time I arrived, so to survive as a recluse seemed a very ambitious move.

The ‘hermit in a cave’ model works better if you have a society who feels it a duty, or perhaps consider it a valuable investment in their karma (say) and a privilege, to provide you with the basics.

So although we can rarely completely separate ourselves from the human community, we still retain some options within those parameters. 
They forced free milk on me as a child in post-war Britain, even if it made me feel ill. Nowadays I would be considered lacto-intolerant, and offered an alternative.   Many people do opt out from what many others consider ‘staple foods’ – Coeliacs can’t tolerate grains (no bread or beer), diabetics have to avoid sugar, we have now identified all kinds of allergies to nuts, strawberries, etc  and encourage people to opt out of them. 

As a child people considered me very odd, growing up as a vegetarian, The first veggie restaurant I remember had the name "Cranks" (which gives you a clue). Most people in the UK in The Fifties still associated that diet with strange belief systems, or sentimentality – although the ecological virtues of a smaller meat intake have started dawning on many, now.  More people adopt it for a while, but it still strikes many people as odd.
I opted out from meat, early on, and stayed that way.

It made it easier when I later decided to avoid sugar.  In spite of the social pressure to indulge a sweet tooth at (for instance) Christmas time.

Similarly, I opted out of credit/debt as an approach to money.  I found, early on, that I couldn’t avoid negotiating for food and shelter with the humans who got here first, and had staked their claim, but I tried to stay in a cash economy (or trading 'in kind') so as not to find myself obligated, addicted or enslaved.   My ‘voluntary poverty model’ did not extend to the minimalism of a Buddhist monk, but only because such a social option did not seem to exist at the time (I had no desire to become a Christian monk!) This did keep me out of property owning, however.

I also opted out of car ownership (although cars were not considered a universal necessity in my childhood). As I grew up, they became harder and harder to avoid.  This did create some restrictions in my lifestyle, my working opportunities, etc – but I stick to it as a choice (option).

I don’t opt out of all progress, developments and luxuries. I feel like a relatively early uptaker for internet and computers.   We all choose the places where we make a stand against the common herd, and all draw the line in different places.

The important thing, to me, is having the right, and the will, to actually choose how you want to spend your time, where you want to invest your energy, and what you consider unnecessary (or even harmful).

Turn on, Tune In, Opt OUT.

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