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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Self sufficiency and freedom

How free are we?  I know that as a wage laborer, and more importantly as a laborer whose wages depend on sales, I am constantly worried about income.  The unpredictability of it all means that I do not know if I will have enough money to play bills at the end of the month, or if a good week or two will provide me extra income for expenses and savings. 
As a wage laborer, I must constantly keep in mind my job, so that I do not put it into jeopardy.  To lose wages means that you can lose your house, lose your family, and possibly even lose the ability to provide food for yourself.  Most of my existence as far as an earner is outside of my control.  Sure I have some control over it, a hard worker who always is on time and strives to do the best they can is unlikely to be fired.  But nonetheless, the control is in my employers hands, not my own.  No worker is perfect, and so any employer who looks hard enough is likely to find cause to fire anyone.
So how does this effect my freedom?  Well, it means that my life becomes structured more around the needs of my employer than the needs of myself or my family.  Sure there are employers who will take family into consideration, and even work with you on the hours you work to try to strike a balance between work and family.  But at the end of the day, an employer will choose what is best for the employer, not for the employee. 
The employee may express dissent with the employer, with politicians, or with any number of issues.  But in the back of their mind, there is always a question.  As long as you rely on someone else for wages, how far can you dissent, how much can you put forward for any movement or to address any issue before there are repercussions.  Business people want their public image to be in their own control, and so are reluctant to allow employees to do things that may tarnish that public image in the eyes of some consumers. 
So the Self sufficient person is more free in this regard.  A self sufficient person still has responsibilities, and still relies on others to a certain extent for income.  But this person has more leeway to change the business to fit themselves.  A self sufficient farmer can take time to think on and address political issues, with little expectation that these issues will somehow harm him.  A self sufficient person doesn't so much fear biting the hand that feeds them, for they feed themselves.
Now this is not to say that a person who is self sufficient  is some kind of superhuman.  No, everyone of us depends on others for income, for protection, and for support.  Humans naturally form communities, and we find it extremely strange for someone to not fit in with any community at all.  We as individuals all benefit from the things that other people do.  But benefiting is not the same as being dependent.  There is a difference between wanting the government to help with security, or with roads, and wanting the government to give money to a cause or to give tax breaks because you do something. 
The more that we can provide for our own needs, whether these needs be food, shelter, or even entertainment, the more we can actually engage with the world.  The more we learn to do things for ourselves, the more we are able to appreciate the things that others do.  It takes a skilled woodworker to recognize the skill in a well made piece of furniture.  Becoming more self sufficient does not mean that we withdraw from society, rather it allows us to engage more fully in it, to address problems and to truly appreciate the benefits.
I am working on becoming more self sufficient, and I know that many others are too.  I pray that some day we may find a path which will help people of all incomes become more self sufficient, and also become more engaged with the world at large.

Live a hands on life

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