Capitalism isn’t working anymore.
It has brought us some breathtaking advancements in technology and medicine. It has made our lives easier and more comfortable than our ancestors could have dreamed of. But it has also brought a great deal of injustice and suffering to the world.
Thank you SO MUCH for the wonderful things you have brought us dear Capitalism. But humans have outgrown you, and we are ready to move on to something better!
I wrote the following blog post after giving up everything I knew to make a life on the road. Armed with a tent and a woolly jumper, my whole world view was blown wide open.
Remember where you are
When you don’t have a fixed address to refill your water bottle or do a poop, you start noticing how a society based on money works to separate us from meeting out basic needs.
Generally, the problem could be solved with creative thinking and a stiff upper lip, but the lack of free and welcoming spaces to rest, reflect and recharge really struck me when I was first hit the road.
I washed my hair in rivers, water troughs and under cold taps in public toilets. I charged my phone in churches, leisure centers and ferry ports. I sheltered from the rain in bus stops, train stations and even an abandoned seaweed factory.
A rain stained letter threatening closure still placed on the moldy managers desk. (It sat beneath a leak in the collapsing ceiling.) The cupboards still held dusty mugs and a line of rusty pegs still hung salt stained overalls that no one had the time or inclination to collect.
The humble library became a bubble of safety and warmth. To sit among the books and shelter from the rain was more precious to me than shiny rocks or a logo on my shoes.
And yet, I sometimes found myself unwelcome even in the most public of spaces. Something about carrying a backpack and wearing outdoor shoes warned the more judicious of the librarians that I might be a ‘wrong un’ or, god forbid, homeless.
In one community library in Barra, I got the news that my dear Uncle Steve had died. I knew it was coming and yet, like it always does with the loss of a loved one, it felt like a terrible shock.
I started to cry, and the librarian approached me at once. I thought she was going to offer me a tissue or a hot cup of tea, because that was what I would have done in the same situation.
Instead, she crossed her arms and said: ‘Remember where you are.’
I peered at her through fat tears. ‘My Uncle has just died.’
‘OK, but you’re in a library!’
Not sure how to respond to that, and certainly not interested in starting a conflict, I put my book back on the shelf and went into the street to cry instead.
I don’t hold any bitterness towards that lady, and I know she was only handling the situation the best that she could with what she has lived. But it really got me thinking.
As human beings make astonishing breakthroughs in such fields as astrophysics and molecular biology, should a public place to find safe drinking water be such a challenge? A place to dry a tent after heavy rainfall, or boil water for a cup of soothing tea?
To put a bond on the earth
In the 21st century, the land no longer serves the living in return for its protection and preservation.
The land and water is parceled up, poisoned in the name of cheap consumable goods and drip fed back to us in exchange for our cash. Cash that most of us must earn doing jobs that take the best hours of our life and redirect them into an unsatisfying haze lived out under the strip lighting of an office block.
It doesn’t matter that the earth was here for billions of years before we arrived, or that it will be here for billions of years after we are gone. You pay, or you go away!
Whilst we enjoy a luxury way outside the realms of our grandparents’ imaginations, the sensitive among us have a deep and sickly feeling that something isn’t quite right. An extraordinary number of us are medicated against depression, crippled by debts and deeply anxious about the state of the environment.
We know that the way that we are living, filling the uneasy gaps in our lives with new shoes and cheap flights abroad is making us sick, but we feel totally helpless to make any meaningful change.
Meanwhile, the natural world is being obliterated before our very eyes. From deforestation, to ocean dead zones, to climate change, plastic pollution and beyond. We know that it is happening, and it is breaking our hearts.
But as long the pursuit of money is put before the pursuit of human and environmental health, we are condemned.
Condemned to keep going through the motions of working in dead end jobs to buy more dead end things to do more dead end damage to the air we breathe and land we love. Condemned to see half of the world sick from overeating, whilst the other half is sick from hunger.
Condemned to see the money that this social model generates get further and further concentrated into fewer and fewer hands.
How can we possibly make peace with that?!
To live a gentle life
I used to wake up in cold sweats thinking about all of this.
I went through periods of darkness and depression. With every breath, I wished the world would be a different place.
I’ve found my peace now.
It was hard earned, and it was best summed up between a fictional conversation between a wizard and a young hobbit.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”Tolkien – The Fellowship of the Ring
I choose to live a gentle life, and I make peace by focusing on my own sphere of influence.
I don’t eat meat, I don’t take flights, and I don’t buy new clothes. I avoid plastic packaging and I buy local and organic food. I volunteer as a writer for a Marine Conservation charity, and I do my best to speak with kindness even when it would be easier to speak with anger. At night, I take long walks by the ocean to pick up litter that has washed up on the shore.
The thing is, we cannot change the world on our own. What we can do, is live a life of kindness, and know that the world was left a slightly better place because we cared.
It’s hard to accept that we can’t change the world on our own, but it’s also quite a relief! You can lay down the burden of the fate of humanity, and find a balance between caring for the earth and treasuring your precious gift of life.
I used to think it was my responsibility to feel dread and terror about the state of the earth. It was exhausting!
Thankfully, I see things differently now.
My focus has changed from trying to change the world, to trying to change my own journey through the world that I was given.
It’s better for my mental health, and far more effective than despair!
I hope you enjoyed this article!
Here are some awesome books to help you simplify your life and reduce your impact on the planet:
- How to Give Up Plastic: Simple steps to living consciously on our blue planet
- 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste
- The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis
And here are some more of my articles!
- Success: The Great Lie of Our Time
- The Inconvenient Truth About A Life Of Travel
- To travel off the beaten track. (But really though.)
- The Inseparable Health Of People And The Earth
If you identify as a sensitive person, you might like to join my Highly Sensitive Book Club
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Thanks to Florian Roquais for the photos.