Two worlds visited my office this week. Have you heard? I now have an office in Downtown Langley. It’s really a co-working space where I’m renting a desk, but it is effectively mine because I am the only one here almost every day. The world that plays out before me is the life of a tourist town. As I type, restaurant hubbub rises through the floor and an acapella performance provides sweet background music from an outdoor stage on the other side of the glass-blowing studio. Businesses are busy. I’ve also had a few visitors, friends and locals who’ve taken the time to visit and talk about their lives and projects. They find themselves increasingly disassociated from the lifestyle they serve. They enable a relaxed culture, yet can’t participate. Instead, through choice or circumstance, more of them and many others are walking away from the old world and walking towards a new one.
Regular readers know I am open about the normally taboo topic of money. Money has been easier to talk about since I realized and accepted the fact that money has no emotion. (Thank you Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.) Money makes no judgments. Our society does. Our institutions definitely do. Individuals don’t have to. This may be why some people come to me to better understand how they can handle their situations. I listen, try to acknowledge and alleviate some of their fears, and then talk about what they can and want to do with what they have. (I also consult.) In general, those with the most money have the greatest fears. Those with the least have already encountered their fears, experienced the consequences, and are moving on to find other ways of living. Those with the least continue to have worries and concerns, and most accept that money would alleviate a lot of problems, but they also don’t expect answers and solutions from seemingly anachronistic conventional sources. Few are striving to return to conventional lives, except as a temporary facade.
I had a dream a while ago. (Go ahead and groan. Hearing about someone else’s dreams can be boring, but the imagery fits this post and credit should be given where it is due.) A concrete bridge spanned a wide ravine that cut through a coastal hillside. The bridge looked fine, a little weathered, but no worse than most. The idea of crossing the bridge raised a caution, and for some reason, I decided to look under the bridge. The structure was rusted iron and crumbling. Back up on the bridge, I watched as chunks of concrete fell away. What appeared solid wasn’t. It probably could’ve been fixed, but it hadn’t been, and now it was probably too late. (By the way, this dream happened before one of the local Interstate bridges fell into a tidal estuary. Weird, eh?)
My experiences with mortgages (which I haven’t paid in months) and now credit cards (even though I’ve made every payment) are providing disincentives to subsequent mortgages or returning to regular use of credit cards. I’m feeling nudged to a cash or cash-less economy. My friends are feeling similar pressures pushing them away from the old and towards the new. Unless they are young, they’ve given up on the idea of a paycheck job. Unless they already own their house, they’re finding ways to live smaller and possibly more nomadically. Those with multiple citizenships are glad for the options. I know if I got a job offer from (let’s see where this week’s blog traffic came from) Canada, Australia, India, German, Taiwan, or Singapore I’d be happy, and probably ecstatic, to accept; especially, if their country or their offer included health care benefits. My friends’ experiences with money and debt are convincing them to rely more on barter, shared resources, or alternative currencies.
Sometimes it is easy to see a microcosm and incorrectly apply it to the macrocosm. But threads of news found their ways to me this week. Each item sounded like yet another niche that makes a good story but doesn’t amount to much; until I sat down and started adding them up.
Unemployment numbers are never precise, and I know a few folks who’ve given up. I haven’t found full-time work in over 21 months of searching despite an “incredible” resume. I haven’t given up yet, but I can understand their frustration. But, really, how many people have given up? Evidently there are 3,900,000 workers who should be in the workforce who aren’t counted as unemployed. That’s more than 1% of the US population. “Counting them as unemployed would take the unemployment rate up to 9.8%.” – CNNmoney.com
The number of Americans living abroad, some working and some not, is even larger. 6,000,000 live abroad. – Time World
Whether nomadic as a celebration of retirement or frugality, 1,300,000 live in RVs. – MSN Money
Using barter is harder to track, which of course concerns the IRS, but at one web site. there are 450,000 barterers signed up. I’m surprised there are that many. Most probably avoid such disclosures. – Bloomberg BusinessWeek
Technology is even allowing people to disconnect from infrastructure by supplying their own power, water, and sanitation. There were at least 180,000 off-the-grid in 2006, expected to be over 250,000 by 2010. Considering that estimate was from before the Great Recession, and considering the interest in tiny houses, that number may be greater.
The Occupy Movement came from somewhere. Turkey’s catalyst was the possible paving of a small park. I don’t get the impression that Occupy’s recent lack of visibility is a sign of acquiescence. Some small event may create a resurgence.
Even within mainstream America, from people who are employed, living conventionally, using regular cash and credit, are tied into the infrastructure, and aren’t protesting in the streets, 58% are dissatisfied with their jobs and are only likely to try to keep them because of money fears.
One of the more common financial fantasies today is to take the money and run. Luxuries like mansion and cars are losing in daydreams to self-sufficiency, independence, and helping others.
A while back I realized that significant change may happen more quietly than the apocalyptic pundits predict. Millions stepping away from traditional jobs, communities, finances, and governance make much less noise than revolutions captured on video and tweeted real time. Without organization, without challenges to authority, the basis of conventional society may be eroding away, like the rusted supports of a bridge that went neglected to save costs as long as appearances were upheld. People may not march in the street. People may simply walk away from an old world and create a new one. The biggest activism required may be advocating for zoning rights for smaller houses, simpler ways to allow barter, and a general societal acceptance of innovative lifestyles.
We may witness the “Walk Away” movement. No film at eleven.
This week, someone passed along a David Korten snippet from the recently released movie “Money & Life” by Katie Teague.
“The change we need is not going to come from within.”
“. . . walking away from the king.”
“The power of any ruler relies on the acquiescence of the people.”
Do I know this is going to happen? Of course not. I merely watch trends. And here is a trend that is quietly including millions. I don’t know if I’m trying to get to the same place. I don’t know if those millions are even walking in the same direction, except away from an old world view. I don’t know if that conventional bridge from a world of worry to a world of enough will stand long enough for me or others to walk across as we look to stocks and jobs. I do know that I have to keep moving, and maybe that old bridge will get some last minute restoration work, or maybe it will stay up long enough for me to run across, or maybe I’ll find some newly beaten side trail that will get me to where I want to be. I certainly don’t see anyone heading back the other way.