The Modernity Mindset – Part 5: Food

There’s something very revealing to be found in the way we interact with food which can tell us a lot about our relationship with modernity. Alongside water and shelter, food too is an immediate and necessary need for all men and women, unlike water we don’t take it for granted, at least not to the extent we do with water, we do however have a rather peculiar relationship with food…

Firstly let’s look at what food even is. At its most basic level food is sustenance, it’s the fuel that keeps us going. We are biological ‘machines’ which need fuel to keep us performing whatever actions we wish to perform. On a certain level of communication this is our basic reality, one in which we are an engine which performs functions and needs fuel to do. Now, if you wish to lose weight this is actually the most practical way to think about food, as fuel. However, there are of course long traditions of food as a cultural object or pastime, certain places have certain cuisines which usually represent the temperament of their culture quite exactly. There is also the largely ignored history and philosophy of senses other than sight and hearing, so to simply understand food as some additional extra would be silly, however, our relationship with it isn’t a healthy one, its a quintessentially modern one, in which food becomes entertainment. This isn’t exactly a new idea, but food was perhaps the first example of where the substance of something began to mutate into a different conception altogether.

What I mean when I say that our relationship with food has altered into one of entertainment, is that the very purpose of food has been lost, but I don’t think a return to this very basic purpose has to exclude the beauty of food itself and its historical origins. The attitude towards food within modernity is one which allows it to become a sideshow of existence, one which allows the empire of signs to overtake all faculties and demote food to some kind of existence-filler, something to pass the time. Whereas, in reality, food is something that should be kept at the forefront of one’s mind, especially when you’re consuming it. The phrase ‘You are what you eat.’ is thrown around rather callously as some pithy bureaucratic message regarding personal health, however, when you really begin to think about that saying, there’s more to it than meets the eye – as there usually is with those old, wise sayings.

Because you quite literally are what you eat, in both a physical and metaphorical sense. What you consume is the fuel used to create you and allow you to continue, if you intake bad food, or junk fuel, then your body and you are going to feel like junk. And, metaphorically speaking, if you intake cheap, quick and easy food, you will become cheap, quick and easy, developing an impatience with respect to existence itself. The contemporary attitude towards food is one in which is relegated in favor of an act deemed worthy of one’s attention. There is even a culture with regard to finding good videos to watch whilst one is eating, as if literally fueling one’s body and enjoying the flavors of various foods wasn’t enough. People will obviously state that I’m some reactionary – ‘Oh, you think it’s ridiculous that people might want to watch TV or listen to something whilst eating?’ – well, yes and no. No, I don’t think it’s ridiculous per se, however, I do think it’s done so from a position of privilege. And so also, yes, yes I do think it’s ridiculous, it’s ridiculous that we’ve got to a state of affairs where if one is eating that isn’t the act which is actually primary in their thought. Such a thought process, wherein the food itself is no longer the primary part of the meal, is a great outline for the way in which modernity tends to strangle and control your most basic functions, turning them into something which changes your existence into a fairground attraction.

Everything in modernity must be entertainment, or, must at least be able to be entertainment. Your morning commute to work is filled with radio, podcasts or music, a short walk anywhere is done with headphones in as to cancel our the world, eating dinner is done in front of the TV or with something on in the background, each item of consumption has an addition which makes it in some ways ‘fun’, your work break is filled with biscuits and tea, your most basic functions have been gamified into empty habits for the sake of a dopamine rush, everything is logged, everything is projected and everything is beaconed to the crowds for approval. At all times, one must be entertained, for if they are not being entertained they are having a bad time, and that – within modernity – is a fate worse than death. You’ll notice that all those things I listed, commuting/walking to work, going on a walk, eating meals, taking some time our/having a break etc. these are all the simple pleasures of life which can be enacted for free, and not only that, are actually both free and enjoyable. Modernity, of course, tends to hate this. The idea that one could go out and be fulfilled and content without purchase, or without purchasing something which they then attend to as if it was part of them.

Food is the greatest example of this, this compulsion of modernity to make you believe you never have enough, that nothing is enough until every sense is absolutely overflowing with data and information that you can hardly think. Modernity adores noise, for without noise one might actually be able to anchor themselves, think for themselves and finally attend to that which they actually need/want. We have been removed from everything vital to us, everything which maintains the simplicity is stripped away, for the purpose of trying to prove to us that we don’t want simplicity, but we want complexity, with all its trinkets, additions and extras. And this is what modernity wishes to prove to you with the overarching idea of entertainment, it is not enough to live a simple, quiet and calm life, one must be entertained all the time; one must in constant states of emotional pull and tug, as if to exist contently was a sin in itself, whereas the opposite is the truth. Modernity loves complexity because it’s easy to get lost in it, it’s easy to lose what exactly it was you originally wanted, if anything, and search endlessly for a desired object, other or ism, that accursed thing which will finally satisfy the perpetual itch put upon you by modernity.

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It’s OK to Not Care About Politics

During recent research into the life of Machiavelli something began to become quite clear to me. We weren’t always, universally, socially, communally or even personally, political. That is to say, it’s only recently that it’s become commonplace to declare oneself as left, right, Republican, Democrat, Labour, Conservative, Centrist, Reactionary, Socialist, Red, Blue, x-pilled, y-pilled etc. In terms of human history this way of being – as a political-being, or even as homo-politicus – is extremely new. The very idea of a left/right split/spectrum comes from where people sat during the French Revolution, when members of the National Assembly divided themselves into those in support of the king (right) and supporters of the Revolution (left). Arguably this is one and only time that the idea of a left/right spectrum has ever made sense. Since then both ‘directions’ signal virtue to various camps and striate one into relatively specific ways of thinking. The year we’re roughly talking about here is 1789, that’s round that all up and say – for clarity’s sake – we’ve been political ‘beings’ for just over 200 years. Once again, humans in their current evolutionary iteration have been around for 200,000 years. So we’ve had this political chip on our shoulders for roughly 0.1% of our entire lifetime. Of course, you could argue that for a large amount of that time we haven’t exactly had the infrastructure to allow for what we now commonly understand as politics or political economy, but we have had that for a few thousand years at least, so even going by that metric, the notion of a political-being or of a political-human is still quite new.

It seems to me the reason for the original (non) position, wherein man wasn’t apolitical, nor anti-political, but simply detached from the political, wasn’t due to some oppression (though some would argue otherwise)[1], nor was it really to do with any ignorance; it was largely because in relation to man’s daily life, the specific political on-goings didn’t matter to him. I would argue that this is still true, we’re just all caught up in status and popularity games.

The very idea that within contemporary (Western) society one could be ‘detached’ from politics seems absurd, that’s how tight of a grasp it has on our lives. A grasp which is ever-tightened by the popular rhetoric surrounding politics. Society in general seems to unconsciously believe that they now have some kind of duty to be political, they must be in a certain camp, they must have certain opinions on various matters, and most of all, they must care in a specifically political way. I’m here to say that this way of thinking and being is complete bullshit, and it slowly leads one to misery and submission. There are a lot of factors as to why someone might feel compelled to constantly be political, largely emanating from one’s perpetual attachment to media. The two most heinous forms of media are – of course – social and mainstream. Primarily because, once you actually begin to think about what these terms actually mean, like most things in modernity, they no longer make any sense whatsoever. Let’s begin with ‘social media’.

We all apparently ‘know’ what social media is, which is another way of saying we understand it. I’ll admit, I don’t really understand social media, and I never have. The basic reasons as to why it’s so popular are of course clear, on average humans quite like attention, they quite like having a say and they quite like boasting about their lives. However, I would ask this? If it wasn’t for social media, and its invasive societally pressuring structures, would you actually want to express certain opinions? Would you even have them? Would you have even thought about them? Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn’t, be honest with yourself. If no one was looking, and you had no proof anyone had looked, would you expend energy on the various political and social tasks you do? Ok, so this then begs the question, why the hell do we want to express these opinions? Well, for that you need a mainstream current which tells you the correct, conventional and confirmative way to be. Enter the mainstream media. Such an idea of a ‘mainstream’ is already idiotic. There can’t be such a thing because we all live in different areas of the world, within different cultures, within different families, with different values, within different contexts, and so, the job the mainstream media then is to subsume all of these alternative ways of being and differing value systems into one relatively homogenous lump, which is then there’s to mold as they wish. I’d insert here Ted Kaczynski’s ‘critique’ of ‘multiculturalism’, though it’s less a critique and more of a deconstruction. Kaczynski’s point is that there isn’t really any such thing as ‘multiculturalism’ as it’s sold to us. The overt idea is that multiple diverse cultures live amongst one another, learn from each other and share their cultures for the betterment of all. Kaczynski makes it clear that this is not what happens within contemporary multiculturalism, all that really happens is that every culture is subsumed into the exact same culture of middle-class consumerist aspiration, and perhaps allowed to retain any cultural aesthetic which might be deemed profitable by their new culture of consumerist aspiration. The exact same thing happens with mainstream media. One begins with a variety of views, opinions, values, outlooks, perspectives and contexts which have been grown organically, from their local surroundings and upbringing, these are then pushed through the conformity thresher of mainstream media, cherry-picked for their applicability for submission, and what’s left are deemed dangerous, archaic, bad, fascist, radical, silly, absurd, weird, not-normal, odd or perhaps just too common-sensical for them to remain.

Now, the exact same process happens with the idea of a ‘political-human’ with a few minor alterations. Much like homo-criminalis, or homo-economicus, once the suffix is assumed a priori as a way of being – man can be a criminal, or man can be economical. There’s no longer such a thing as a man detached entirely from criminality or the economy, there is only a man who is not a criminal, or a man who acts within the economy in a different way than what is preferred. The exact same thing happens with political man. Once a political-outlook, a political-perspective or a political-reality is assumed as the given reality, everything is then filtered through politics in some manner. Then there is no longer such a thing as a entirely unpolitical man, only a man who is deemed ignorant of politics, someone who is seen as turning a blind eye or as simply too lazy to investigate that which they should be. The language here is the problem. Foucault makes this point clear with homo-criminalis and homo-economicus, once the ontology is taken as a given, no one is not of it, but simply seen as not part of a certain section of it. Men are not men, they are either criminals or not-criminals, we are not ourselves we are either economizing or not-economizing, either way, we’re still tethered to a way of being we had no say in.

Well I’m here to say that this is complete and utter crap. If you want to go get involved in politics, then be my guest, but do NOT assume that just because I don’t care about a certain topic, opinion or perspective that I am immediately the antagonist of that position. There is a difference between a hostile apathy, in which one truly doesn’t care about the plight of others and a detachment within one simply is not involved. Of course, any involved are going to disagree. ‘It’s your duty!’ they will cry. ‘Do you not care about the world!’ they will shriek. ‘How can you just do nothing?’ they will plead. Actually, I am doing something, I’m not expending my energy on a status game which largely exists to inflate various egos and create jobs. Lest we forget that politicians are workers, to be a politician is a job, and by the looks of it, quite a cushy one at that.

Being detached from politics isn’t not caring about those things you left behind, in fact, it’s arguably the opposite. As soon as a charitable organization, a communal effort or a group event becomes politicized, I am instantly skeptical of its agenda, why? Well, because since when did helping others, loving thy neighbor or creating something helpful have to be seen through a political lens. Call me a soppy-sod, but buying a homeless person some food, donating to a local charity or helping out in a local event isn’t – and doesn’t have to be – a specifically political move or motivation, and if it is, you’re doing so to cater to your own narcissism. What are these acts then? Well, they are what they are. You help someone because they need help, you do something because it needs doing, you create because something needs creating; once sincere acts are filtered through the malicious gauze of politics they are usually lost entirely, abused into a self-congratulatory mutation.

Ok, maybe you’re with me, but you’re starting to think…’Ok, so what do I…do?‘ Isn’t that the point? Up until now, for many people, each and every act they undertook was done primarily from a political position as opposed to the multitude of other (healthier) perspectives that exist. What do you do? Do what you’d like and what you understand to be right.

“Ah yes Meta, but if we ‘do nothing’ as you propose, wont we be simply bolstering support for whichever party is in the running to win?” You’re still thinking politically, why does it actually matter to you? If I support X I’ve entered into a system which is so unfathomably corrupt, confused and rife with personality that I will never truly know what it is my vote is doing. It is NOT an apathy, an ignorance or a superiority. It is a detachment. It is one unclipping themselves from a perspective they never asked for in the first place. The years upon years spent drooling over the latest news reports, the latest facts and figures, and for what? What has it brought you but further misery? Has the world truly changed, or has is trundled along as you thought it most likely would from your specific global context? I’m no longer interested in politics in the same way I am no longer interested in shipping reports…I never was, they are in absolutely no way connected to the way in which my life will turn out, that power and that energy resides in exactly one place, my flesh. If you wish to hand over all responsibility for your life to some vague entity called ‘politics’ go ahead, but whilst that’s going on I’ll be trying to find my way throughout the labyrinth of Leviathan.

“AH! So you DO exist within politics!” Yep. I’m not an idiot, politics will and does effect my life. Certain decisions certain people make will enact changes which will effect my life. How I go on to interact with those changes is down to me. But those changes happen in much the same way a tree falling into my garden ‘happens’, I deal with it when it arrives. I WILL NOT expend my finite energy on various status games and virtuous hiccups for the sake of retaining the idea of a self whose sole purpose is to please others.

There is a great hall within a forest. There are parties in the hall 24/7, the noise never stops, the commotion never dwindles. Many people enter, very few leave. I was born in the hall and assumed its reality as the only reality. One day my eye caught the sunlight beaming in from outside, it was beautiful, sublime. I caught it only for a moment, before an elder lurched and dragged me from the hole in the wall. As I grew all I did was stand by the hole in the wall, looking out into a vague green and light space, a space which was hostile yet inviting. One day I tried to leave. I walked a few meters from the hall, retreating quickly to its comforts our of terror. The elders smirked and welcomed me back. The brief moments I had spent outside the hall stayed with me. It’s all I thought of. Many days I would try to create my own wilderness within the hall, to some degree of success but never exact. One day I left for good, out of boredom. The elders forgot of me. I resided just a few miles from the hall. Dithering here and there, doing as I wished. Some days I thought of burning the hall down, setting others free. But I quickly realised that many had their homes there, and it would be wrong for me to force my opinion on them. And so I moved further away, as far as I could, but every time I looked over my shoulder the hall was always there. I came to adjust to its noise, to work with my thoughts and understand the hall for what it was. Eventually I ventured back, realizing there were some positives to the hall, but it was simply not for me. I said hello to the elders and they were suspicious. I left once more, residing in a camp of my own making just a few miles from the hall, learning to live with its hegemony of comfort. Most days I did as I wished, the hall in the back of my mind as that which I never wanted to become. I lived outside of it, detached from its way of being.

It is not a question of not caring about politics, because to actively not care is to care. It is a question of entrance and exit. You were made to enter a perspective and you have the right to exit it also. To criticize the crowd is to be of the crowd, to criticize consumption is to consume such a criticism, to be apolitical is to be more political than all.

One day I went back to the hall, delved deep into its basement. There sat a lonely old man, spewing bitter vitriol, submissive demands and revolutionary appeals, he never stopped yapping, sordid and cruel. I sat for some days and listened, I took in much data and retained no substance of use. I knew he was there, and I knew through the floor his words echoed throughout the hall, with differing parts protruding into different sections. I left him alone and left the hall once more. I occasionally think of that old man, unchanging, bitter and alone.

[1] What can one say of the man who simply wishes to go about his day, tend to his crops and family, create art, read great literature, fish for his supper, arise to the rhythms of nature and quite frankly go about his day, thinking not of himself, but of his immediate life, of that which effects him, moment to moment. If you view such a man as oppressed, ignorant or apathetic, then I would say that the parasite of the political is deep within you.

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The Modernity Mindset – Part 4: Water

I know what you’re thinking, ‘How the hell is Meta going to pull this off? A full length piece on water, he’s gone too far!’ Well actually, I haven’t. Water, specifically tap water is one the greatest tools in my toolbox to show you just how far modernity has come, how much it has mutated your mind. The way in which we think about water lays much of the groundwork for how we think about food, which will be an even bigger essay due to the various connotations in connected to it. Water, in comparison, seems relatively simple, but it can actually be used as a cornerstone for the presumptions regarding the life of the average modern man.

The more I think about writing this essay, the more I think it might be the one where I finally step into the realms of ‘Well yeah, no shit Meta!’, but that hasn’t happened yet, even though I believe I’ve been writing about some really clear stuff. This is why it’s always best to write by the way, your view may actually be more original than you think. With that said, a word of warning, this essay could de downright obvious.

The problem with water is that outside of shelter – which in most Western countries isn’t truly top priority – is that we absolutely need it to be able to exist. It’s not something which is negotiable, it can’t be replaced in any form and is always, perpetually needed, until the day you die. And yet, we take it for granted to such an extent that we generally forget we have supposedly unlimited access to it. You realize how utterly insane that is? There is something out there which, if we don’t have it for just 3 days, we will die. And what do we do? We forget that we access to that thing, we abuse our relationship to that thing and arguably, we even neglect that thing. Precious, precious water.

Though I’ve already written the short piece on schooling, I did miss something out, the fact that school does actually teach you some lessons, but there always the lessons they didn’t realize they had taught you. We had an assembly one day about being grateful etc. and one of the examples they gave to us was to understand that water coming out of the tap, day-in day-out, isn’t something that necessarily always happens, but is something which has been developed and engineered to do so. Yes, I learnt the lesson of being grateful for resources and lifelines, but I also learnt another lesson, the one they didn’t really want to teach me. ‘What the HELL are we all doing?’. This is the most important thing is all of our lives, and none of us are learning how it works, or why it happens, or who’s in control, or who to contact if it goes to pot, or how we find and develop a new fresh supply of water if the taps stop running. Maybe I’ve always had the collapse mindset, maybe my years of survival and woodland camping made me respect warmth, water and fresh food a lot more, I don’t know, what I did know is that we all had a serious chip on our shoulders.

So this is the point of this essay. Not water in itself, as some nourishing good. Though of course it would be easy to begin mentioning carbon water filters, privatization of water supplies and the health benefits of hydration, I’m not going to, because there’s a more important message at play. Once again, the one of presumptions. We all presume that water flows from the tap when we turn the tap on/off, we all presume that the water will continue to do so for as long as we live, we also presume that if the water stopped running from the tap that something is up, this would be not normal. Well, I have a cold message for you all, water not running from the tap is actually normal. Not having a mass network of filtered and sterilized pipes connected to each and every house is normal. Not having instant access to clean drinking water is normal. If you have running water, you’re privileged and disconnected from reality.

Arguably we’ve had ‘modern plumbing’ since the mid-1800’s, but in terms of the standards we’d expect today, the 1930s is the earliest era one could argue comes close to modern expectations. So, we’ve had modern plumbing and running water for just under 100 years. Let’s say humans have been around in their current evolutionary iteration for 200,000 years, that would mean we’ve had running water for 0.05% of our life time, and yet, it’s accepted as absolutely, 100% normal. It is and always will be the way things are. Anyone who says otherwise is a quack, doomsayer, madman, weird blogger who needs help, right? If it was any other resource it might not seem so mad, but the one and only (in many parts of the world, where climate is less formidable) resource we need to exist is taken for granted? And no one is being taught on a societal level how it’s processed? How to start it running again if it stops? Where to get it if it doesn’t come out of the tap? How to process it when drawn from an exterior source?

But here’s what modernity does in this situation. It creates something which is technically amazing, our contemporary plumbing systems, for instance. It disperses it in such a way that it becomes hegemonic, and anyone not abiding by it is seen as weird and odd. From its generalized societal acceptance as the absolute norm (and anyone who thinks otherwise is weird), it is accepted (along with progress) as absolutely always and forever, and there was never not a time we didn’t have it, and if there was the people of that time were weird.

This hegemonic coverup of course isn’t something modernity ever wants you to think about. To think about the fact that one needs and always will need water, to exist, to live…to not die, is not what modernity wants. Remember, under modernity you’re going to live forever (until you don’t), you’re going to having everything you want (it wont satisfy you) and there’s nothing to worry about (except all the old risks are still there). Modernity wants you to forget that you’re human, and you need very little so that it can maintain its productive control over you. If you’re reminded that you need water, you might also be reminded that you could live without other drinks, you could even go get your water from elsewhere. ‘Hmm, perhaps I don’t need all that stuff.’ Once water is turned into an a priori resource it is no longer revered for what it is, and is simply accepted, making it boring, almost untrustworthy. You drink water? How dull!

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The Modernity Mindset – Part 3: Shelter

Modernity has mutated our thoughts regarding what’s normal and what isn’t, so much so that the very basics needed for our survival have become lost in a world of assumption, privilege and acceptance. I plan to tackle the 4 ‘basic needs’: food, water, shelter and clothing. I’m tackling shelter first, because as many of you may know, in certain places of the world shelter is the primary need. That is to say, you will often die quickest to exposure (without shelter). I’ll be looking at our considerations of these basics and how our current modern state of affairs has altered our perception in rather malicious ways.

What is shelter then? Well, it keeps you dry, it keeps you away from the cold and it keeps you safe at night. We’ve basically forgotten about these and turned ‘homes’ and ‘home-ownership’ into an odd fetish. Note: I’m not against private property rights, in fact, I think they’re smarter than most presumed ‘rights’. Anyway, I’m also starting with shelter because it’s one of the more peculiar alterations of modernity, in that, the way we’ve been taught to modify our understanding of shelter has lead us towards more stress, misery and pressure than ever before.

I’d like to reiterate something before I get into this. If people want to own X, Y or Z house, that’s fine, it’s up to you to make stupid decisions like believing houses are ‘investments’, or getting in a life-long debt because you liked a building. Like I said, I’m not against private property, I am against a generalized/normalized idea of what a private home should be. So what should it be? As stated, it should keep you warm by having good insulation, keep you dry by having good walls and a roof and also keep you safe from potential intruders or threats. Modernity has put such a thick layer of chemical and bureaucratic existence on top of everything, that the bare-bones reasons for many of our undertakings are hidden. But it’s good to remind yourself why we do things. It’s cold our there.

Now, onto the main crux of this piece, what is a home anyway? I don’t want to get too ‘millennial’ about this, but a home can really be whatever you want it to be. And anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you their own will, or their own past mistake. The preconceived notion of what a home is largely sculpted by accepting the idea of a home given to you by society. Sounds like a dumb statement, because this is how our understanding of basically anything grows. Except, within modernity, you’re living within an anomaly of existence to the notion of a home that’s given to you wont exactly fit in with your immediate reality.

The general idea of a home/house that’s given to those looking to buy/acquire one is of a 2-4 bedroom house with a garden, all the amenities and possibly the potential for extension if needed. It’s the absolute ideal of what a lovely Western (Simpson-esque) home should be. Before I get into why this idea in general is complete rubbish, let me tell you some things about contemporary home-ownership, the multiple elephants in the room which every estate agent and nagging authority figure wont tell you about. (UK stats)

“In 1995–96, 65% of those aged 25–34 with incomes in the middle 20% for their age owned their own home. Twenty years later, that figure was just 27%.”

“Mean house prices were 152% higher in 2015–16 than in 1995–96 after adjusting for inflation. By contrast, the real net family incomes of those aged 25–34 grew by only 22% over the same twenty years. As a result, the average (median) ratio between the average house price in the region where a young adult lives and their annual net family income doubled from 4 to 8, with all of the increase occurring by 2007–08”

“Over the last two decades, there has been a 46% increase in the number of young people aged 20-34 living with their parents. Over the same period, average house prices have tripled from about £97,000 to £288,000.”

In 1997 the average house cost £64604. Twenty years later the average house now costs £223807. Houses now cost 3.5 times what they did back then.

CPI inflation over that period is only 1.48 times.

Wage growth is only 1.8 times.

I can hear you, don’t worry. “Stop, stop! Please make it stop!” Sorry to say, it’s not stopping anytime soon, it’s something you’ll just have to get used to. Now, this ‘getting used to part’ is really what this series – on a practical level – is about. The desires, material fetishes and consumption habits of the 1960s-2008 are considered the norm. They’re not, they are absolutely NOT normal. They are an anomaly of history. If you buy into them you will cripple yourself! Now I’ve said that, let me explain what it is I actually mean. As you can see from the statistics, none of this really adds up. In short, you used to be able to buy X with Y, and Y would equate to enough to buy X and live relatively comfortably (anyone telling you otherwise doesn’t understand the difference between inflation and purchasing power). Nowadays, we still believe that we should all be able to buy X (a lovely 3 bed house) and that our Y (wages) are still up to scratch. They’re not. It’s over. 2008 came along and gave us all a harsh reality check, one which pretty everyone seems to have not admitted to. I mean, when you start seeing every other bank, building society and monetary institution handing out grants, loans and ISAs to every young schmuck that comes along, you should be smart enough to see that something’s up. Nothing is free in modernity, you either pay with money, data or time, and guess what, all these loans people are signing up for is just more time they wont get to use as they want to, all because they fell for some dated desire of oh-so-mighty home-ownership.

Perhaps dated is the wrong word, because my qualms about home-ownership aren’t about what people want to buy, but why they want to buy it. It’s one of those cases once again where people seemed to want something, or want to do something, just because everyone else is doing it (abstractly called ‘mimesis’). There are of course varying reasons as to why people would want – or even need – a 2-4 bedroom house: kids, hobbies, pets, relatives etc. However, rarely anyone ever asks themselves (though more people are increasingly starting to do so) whether or not they really need or even want their supposedly self-desired home. What compelled them to want the suburban dream? What compelled them to want a 2-3 bedroom house that needs lots of upkeep and takes away a large portion of one’s time? What ever compelled them to buy into the Western suburbanite aesthetic of pseudo-virtue via owning meaningless, trite nic-nacs? I can’t imagine there was ever some compelling argument to this. When I was younger I distinctly remember having an almost nauseous reaction to ‘homes’ which were full of random useless shit and didn’t seemed to be lived in (a reaction I still get). This is one of the major symptoms of contemporary home ownership, the idea of a home as an extension of yourself. Well, now I come to think of it, perhaps it’s apt then that most modern homes are Ikea-esque multi-builds with no character, no daring and no originality. The reason I feel averse to this way of living is that it always seemed people spent more time tweaking their home than actually living in it. As if one’s favourite hobby was Chess but they spent so much time cleaning the board they never got around to actually playing, and in fact, it’s suspect as to whether or not they actually played chess in the first place. In a world where the majority of people spent as much time at work as they do at home, and then go out on the weekends, why it assumed to be normal to spend the majority if your money on something you don’t really use? Most of the rooms in your average home rarely get used anyway, most time is split between the kitchen, living room and bedroom, with anything else becoming a ornament which you’re paying for over time.

People will often ask at this point “Well, what are the other options? I don’t really want to rent because you’re just wasting money.” Before I get to the other options, I want to address the ‘rent is wasted money’ argument. This argument is based off the prior assumption that I’ve been writing about, that one should – if one can – get a mortgage and purchase a house outright. This is done then for 2 reasons. Firstly, because ‘It’s what you do.’ (as they say) and secondly, because it makes more financial sense. If you’re making your decision in relation to the second decision, you’re already making a few mistakes. Renting seems like a waste because you wont own anything at the end of it, this is true. But, what if you don’t want to own anything? What if you can’t afford the maintenance costs? What if you don’t want to put your time into maintaining a house? What if you have better things to be doing? What if you just want shelter and aren’t too bothered about ownership? What if you don’t want to get stuck with a bunch of unforeseen bills such as various taxes, duties and leasehold fees? When you rent, you aren’t wasting your money, because you get what you pay for. You also get the (potential) freedom to move around far quicker than you’d be able to if you owned a property. It’s all down to personal priorities, and most people have assumed the priorities of the banks and the financial system. ‘Do what’s most financially safe!’ they say, a statement which brings me back to my earlier point about the dumb idea that property is investment. Here’s my take on this: Unless there’s water on the land, the property is not an investment, it’s a punt. People ‘get into’ property because it’s supposedly this ‘safe bet’ with respect to gaining money, 2008 has of course shown this to be untrue. Guess what perpetual peace, perpetual energy, perpetual growth and perpetual progress have in common? They all believe in the idea that something can get better, bigger and greater forever. This is socially, physically and cosmically impossible. If all your housing investments gave you a greater return you happened to invest during a historical anomaly (boomer generation).

Back to the first point, ‘Well, what are the other options?’. The other options are the ones you actually think about, the ones you decide are your own, the ones you create for yourself. People will often turn their nose up at these other options, but that’s only because they believe in a pre-conditioned and presumed notion of what a house should be. Renting, tiny houses, building a house, a condo, van-dwelling, exiting to a more affordable country, rent-as-work (farmhand), living on a boat and digital nomadism are just a few options. I’m sure whilst reading those many of you thought ‘Those don’t seem all that nice.’, once again you’re attending to these ideas from a preconceived notion of what you’re life should be like, you’re trapped in the desire of the other. You believe you should live a certain way out of fear of societal rejection or alienation, you believe you should live this way out of no real conviction but because of an abstract pressure to impress others. Shelter doesn’t have to mean a kitsch suburban 4-bed with boring neighbors and thousands of useless trinkets strewn about the place. Shelter can mean whatever you want it to mean.

Perhaps you don’t really stay in your house much anyway and prefer to travel, what would be wrong with living on a boat? Perhaps you’ve actually never really been fussed about owning a house, because you want to spend your free time doing your hobbies as opposed to repairing a property, well maybe renting is for you? Maybe your job affords you the luxury of working from anywhere (programming), why not travel around affordable countries whilst working from a laptop? Perhaps you just want your house to a base of operation but aren’t too fussed about aesthetics, look into tiny houses? Perhaps you have very few ties in your home country and could live cheaper elsewhere, well, what’s holding you back? The point however, isn’t towards some drastic physical move, but towards a drastic mental move, one in which your very perspective of what is considered a ‘shelter’ or ‘home’ is changed and you no longer abide by the unconscious stress and pressure of ‘becoming a home-owner’.

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