Musings on Self-Reliance
Recently, a friend who is interested in The Self-Reliant Community, asked me how does this thing work? He wanted to be part of the Self-Reliant Community but was equally concerned that he and his family not become a target of those who knew he had prepared when they had not. I tried to explain the community in a way that would resolve his concerns. My friend’s comments stuck with me because I had similar concerns in previous years. Reflecting on this matter a bit more has resulted in this week’s post.
I have recently started reading The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour. In the first edition, published in 1976, Dr. E. E. Schumacher wrote,
"We can do things for ourselves or we can pay people to do them for us. These are the two “systems” that support us; we might call them the “self-reliance system” and the “organization system”. The former tends to breed self-reliant men and women; the latter tends to produce organization men and women. All existing societies support themselves by a mixture of the two systems; but the proportions vary.
"In the modern world, during the last hundred years or so, there has been an enormous and historically unique shift: away from self-reliance and toward organization. As a result, people are becoming less self-reliance and more dependent than has ever been seen in history. They may claim to be more highly educated than any generation before them. But the fact remains that they cannot really do anything for themselves. They depend utterly on vast complex organizations. … Why can’t they help themselves? Generally, the answer is they would not know how to; they have never done it before and would not even know where to begin.”
The concept of a self-reliant person and an organizational person is key to understanding our view and attitude toward self-reliance. Self-reliance has been a topic that has been on my mind, a lot, over the past 15-20 years. In that time, I have come to view the topic very differently that I did at first. My early ventures into the topic were focused on my well-being and the well-being of my family. As I have travelled the path less taken, I have discovered that it is really very impractical and probably impossible to succeed with such a narrow focus. After years of thought and research, I am convinced that self-reliance cannot occur in a bubble of my own making. This is the great fallacy of the prepper movement. It is really just impossible for most people to cover all the issues that must be addressed to be an isolationist. Even most off-the-grid folks would be forced to admit that they really need the organizational part of society to allow their lifestyle if you really press the matter hard. Prior generations of off-the-grid folks were known as mountain men. They died young because the lifestyle destroys the body.
Recently a teacher of primitive living skills conducted an experiment with several people who were well versed on living off the land. Seventy-five percent of the participants washed out in the first week. The instructor and her daughter toughed it out but learned that they could not survive long-term. Regardless of her knowledge and conducting the experiment on her own turf, she was never able to advance beyond consuming the stockpile she had when the experiment started. She was never able to build a surplus. The experiment was in summer so building a surplus was required in order to survive through the coming winter. She later observed that she could never progress to a self-sustaining lifestyle because she had to do everything herself.
Recognizing this “do-it-myself” weakness in the prepper concept is the key to the Self-Reliant Community. Long-term self-reliance is only possible when there is a community of people who work together. Such a community can possess a variety of skills, knowledge, tools, and resources that enable the community to flourish when a single family would fail.
I have spent twenty years trying to understand self-reliance and trying to prepare tools, skills, and knowledge to become more self-reliant. Even with all of that, I still like the comfort and ease of the “organizational lifestyle”. However, if you have read some of the other material on the website, you recognize that I believe that those complex systems that support the “organizational lifestyle” are on the verge of failure. (This belief has very little to do with politics; politics is mostly noise in the channel that prevents people from seeing what really matters.) When those systems fail, if we do not possess the mindset, skills, and tools to live a self-reliant life, the results will be catastrophic. Unfortunately, I fear there will be many who succumb to the catastrophe.
It is a lovely occupation to sit pondering on the virtues of a self-reliant life; it is splendid fun and quite entertaining. Bu I strongly believe that the organizational systems we presently rely on will fail and when that happens the time for pondering and preparing will be past.
I am hopeful that more people will become members of this community (not just subscribers). I am trying to share what I have learned and what engages my attention on the topic. I continue to read on this topic almost daily and am trying to share what I learn. But I am hopeful that there are many more who have and are spending time and work on this matter and that they have insights to share. I am hopeful that some will have questions that can be discussed openly to help us all better move toward self-reliance. The Self-Reliant Community website takes only a member’s email address and a name you want to provide. There is nothing in the record that will expose your location. If you join a group, you will divulge that you live in a geographic area but even there, the site does not have specific information about any member to identify a person or an address. If members want to contact one another, they can do so with personal email to make whatever arrangements they desire. Ultimately, I hope that members in a geographic group will become personally acquainted and have knowledge of particulars of location, skills, tools, etc. within their group. This will enable members in that area to form a more useful geographic community. But the decision to share personal information is still left to the individual.
Regardless, I hope that the site will help members and subscribers to consider the nature of their lifestyle and determine to move away from hard dependence upon organizations and strongly toward a self-reliant life.