Saturday, May 13, 2017
Living on the edges
What do you do when life doesn't work for you anymore? We are supposed to go to school, graduate, then go to school some more. By the time we are in our mid-20s we are supposed to find a good job. Then we get married, and have 2.1 children. After that we work until we are near death then retire. Sounds bleak when laid out that way, but for many people it wasn't that bad. People got to eat on a regular basis. They had a roof over their heads to keep the weather off and a place to raise a family. If your job was a grind, at least you had the weekends.
That model, while it wasn't great, had a certain predictability and comfort to it. It never was all that simple, but it was considered what was normal. Normal was good. In the '60s and '70s many young people attempted to break out of that mold. They tried everything from communes, to mind expanding drugs, to free love, to alternative religions. Eventually, most of them cut their hair, got a job, and dropped back in. Not all, but enough for it to look like a failed experiment.
Now we find ourselves at a new societal crisis. Young people with master's degrees are waiting tables. Not just Liberal Arts majors either. Many young working age adults have completely dropped out of the job market. Low skill jobs have been exported, automated or both. Even high skill jobs have gone that route. In their despair, many have turned to drugs and alcohol to get through their days.
Housing? For all too many that means living with mom and dad. Kinda hard to raise a family under those conditions. Social Security and retirement is seen as a scam. If you are a Millennial it may well be.
So how do people for whom the old models not longer work, yet have not given into despair, live?
Well, if can't earn much money, you can learn to live with a lot less. Minimalism has become quite popular. People give up things for freedom and experiences.
I've met people with part time minimum wage jobs who live on old sailboats out on anchor. Some don't even have any sort of real job at all. They live as street musicians, making jewelry, arts and crafts, and as writers.
People who live in recreational vehicles follow the beet harvest or work seasonally at an Amazon warehouse. A few months of work provides all they need to live the rest of the year.
There are digital nomads. It's hard to make enough to live a “normal” life working remotely on-line. The hours can be long and income is uneven. That makes it hard to scrape up cash for car payments, the mortgage, and groceries. However, it's not all that hard to scrape up a few hundred dollars on-line. The trick to living as a digital nomad is to find a place like a third world country with decent Internet. Thailand is very popular. Living is inexpensive, the country is beautiful, and there are many other digital nomads allowing for co-working and a sense of community.
Some folks just grab a backpack, stick their thumb out, and go full vagabond.
People are searching for adventure and meaning in life. Many find it in my previous examples. Others are searching and testing out different ways of living.
One thing they all have in common is that none of those lifestyles provide the excess taxable income the elite have come to depend on. No wonder alternative lifestyles are frowned on by the powers that be. If enough people find ways to live free and easy, they starve the beast.
I'm not sure where it will shake out, but it certainly looks interesting.