Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Imagine that you provided (you and your family), not bought, everything you need. That is, everything you really need. For you and your family.

So, you need some shelter, a house. Now see that house as trees standing, or rocks lying, or sod growing, or a shovel waiting to dig into the earth. Imagine taking those things and with only simple tools (like that shovel) turning them into a snug enough house. One that isn’t going to bake you out of it in the summer or freeze you during the winter.

It is awfully nice when that house has some heat, but if you are providing that with your own efforts, well, that involves more than just turning up that thermostat. Most likely it is fire. And that can also cook your meals. But it would also involve, perhaps, making warm, usually woolen, clothing, which would involve sheep and washing and carding and spinning and knitting or weaving or the like.

Imagine that food didn’t come from the grocery store, or from halfway around the world out of season. What would you eat? What would you concentrate on growing? What would you learn about nature and wild foods in your area? What animals would you keep? How would you feed them? And how would you prepare the food, considering that you can’t just turn the stove on and (poof) it is hot? How would you chill the milk, preserve the meat, keep greens and fruit on the table in the dead of winter?

Now, look at what you do “for a living”, what you do for money. Or if you are a SAHM, what you do for your family. And ask yourself this: Is anything I do worth what it takes to meet my basic needs? Is anything I do really worth what it would take for me and my family to make a house, a warm home, clothing, food?

The answer is, No, it isn’t.

And that’s what I’m talking about with material participation.


Hot Belly Mama - taking it all back said...

what a great way to think about things. Right now, I've been thinking about ways to keep my house warm! But we are also thinking of ways to raise chickens and some pigs.

If only the cold did not bother me so....

PocketsoftheFuture said...

I puzzle over all of these questions all of the time and work like crazy towards the few answers I have so far come up with. I look forward to more mastery in the future.

I also think about this same distinction a great deal only I have been thinking of it in terms of "primary labor" (i.e. that labor which produces the necessities of life) and "secondary labor", i.e. that labor which brings in money to pay others who engage in primary labor type activities.

We are a society of secondary laborers, yes? It has made us weak of body and mind. It is perhaps the weakness of mind that is most dangerous at the moment. I would propose that for a democracy to be real or to have meaning, a certain percentage of the populace must be engaged in primary labor a certain percentage of their time. I don't know what those percentage should be but they should be very high - like 80% let's say. (Otherwise the populace is so weak minded that it is easily led astray and mischief dominates the scene.)

That is also something to imagine, isn't it? An educated populace, 80% of which engages in enlightened primary labor for 80% of their working hours. I wonder what those percentages were at the time of the Founding Fathers (and Mothers)?

I am glad you are raising this issue and appreciate your way of presenting it. I think it is of critical importance.


CG said...

Leslie -- I think that is a useful distinction. Direct vs. indirect might be more descriptive but people think "I work for my money" and don't get that that is indirect.

I guess right now I'm glad to know that at least somebody else is thinking about it and not living in Egypt denying that there is anything different they can possibly do.

I have a great model in my grandfather who was a Free Will Baptist preacher. He supported his family being a carpenter. He fed his family with gardens and chickens and pigs and such. And he was a preacher because he had to be, he had the call. He didn't expect to get paid to do it, or at least not paid much. The support of his family was still on him, not on his congregation.

So I think, really, we can all do some version of that. Do what the Nearings called "bread labor", and engage in our "professions" or callings or whatever for . . . well, maybe for free but certainly not for a killing. I don't think we should engage in activities that we want to retire from (keeping in mind, of course, that life does change).

And I think people's minds and bodies are weak in general. And it doesn't have to be that way. But as long as we most value weakness and sorriness and greediness, it will be.

I would like to thank you so much for this comment though. It is a balm to my soul.

Annette said...

I 'work' towards being more self sufficient, while trying to met the bills and wonder, other than the mortgage, what else do I really need to keep working outside the home to pay? We have already begun the move towards self sufficiency; huge garden, canning,and hopefully some illegal farm animals (long story). I would love to hear more on how to make the move from worker bee to being self sufficient.