Saturday, September 16, 2006

Escape From Wage Slavery

by Skald

The Corporate system that currently dominates the world is set up to make most of us wage slaves. This form of authority and control is usually far worse than the political repression we compain so much about. With the exception of the "Drug War", most of us are repressed far more at our jobs than anywhere else.

Employment (and prior to that, school) is what degrades us, what regulates our lives, what squashes our passions, what sucks out our souls.

Escape from this slave-system has been my overwhelming obsessions for many years.

I've had some success. I've lived in a car, and later, in a van. I've travelled a fair amount abroad. I've had long stints without any work whatsoever... living happy and free.

But always the money runs out, and I go slinking back to an employer-- hand outstretched, dignity in tatters. I'm well and truly sick of that.

I used to think that maximizing the work to free time ratio was the best approach. I hoped to work less and less while having more and more of my own time.

But that's not enough. I don't want partial freedom, I don't want just part of my life-- I want it all.

So what are the options? There are a few.

One can be seen on the sidewalks outside my apartment-- full time homelessness- begging on the streets. Of course, many of those folks did not choose homelessness- and their lives are truly wretched.

Others did choose homelessness, or they chose drug/alcohol addiction which locks them into homelessness. Some appear to get by. There might even be a few that remain fairly clean and healthy. But they live by begging, and that, to my mind, is a horribly wretched way to live-- especially if your mind and body are capable of something else.

Freedom without self-reliance is not very free.

Another choice, perhaps, would be to join some kind of commune. That's never appealed to me either. Such places tend to be filled with new age nuts, social retards, or the outright mentally ill. Plus, these places invariably are rife with rules, regulations, power struggles, and other bullshit. You replace the corporate master for a communal one. No thanks.

After much thought, I think the best answer, given the current circumstances, is Gandhi's. Gandhi envisioned an economy based on "cottage industries". In other words, every household would be its own little "business"-- its own little "industry".

The cottage industry (or freelancer) idea is promising, and the possibilities are endless. A simple example are the people you see at musical festivals and rennaisance fairs. These folks make art, or jewelry, or food... drive around to festivals... and sell it to the people attending. They are small scale, doing what they love, and making a living from it. No bosses. No regulations. And usually, no taxes. Another key distinction-- these people rarely think like corporate businessmen-- they are almost always participants in the festivals as well-- part of the community.

This seems to me a much nobler way of life than either begging or employment. What's more, it offers an economic model of freedom that is doable for most people. You've just got to find your niche, your passion, your bliss--- and go with it. None of these people are going to get rich-- but thats not what they want. Freedom, and an economically sustainable way of life, is what they're after.

So this is the path I've decided to pursue. What's my passion? My bliss? My niche?

For me- its travel, engagement with other cultures, meeting people from other countries, and languages.

And so I've finally developed my cottage industry plan. I am starting a website for English language learners. In the recent past, I was focusing on getting private students and teaching them in my apartment. But this approach had several weaknesses for me:

For one, it could not sustain my nomadic lifestyle. What happens when I leave San Francisco? All those students, and contacts, would vanish. I'd have to start from scratch every time I moved (and I move a lot)!

Second, it was wearing me out. To be economically sustainable, I had to teach a lot of private students. Too many, in fact, for my tastes. Even when I'm doing "work" that I love, I prefer not to do it more than 20 hours a week.

Third, private tutoring imposed a rigid schedule on me. I had to make appointments and keep them. It felt like a time cage.

The website is a much better approach for me. I can manage it from (almost) anywhere in the world. I can move anytime, to anywhere, and still keep my students. I can work on the website at any time of the day or night-- whatever suits my whim or energy level.

Its an ideal solution for me.

Next week, I will launch the "Beta" version of the site.

After that, I'll start checking in at Hobopoet more often. I think this is a genuinely useful experiment in self-reliance, freedom, and nomadism.

I intend to share the challenges, strategies, and triumphs-- with the intention of helping other hobopoets develop their own, individual, sustainable cottage industries-- and live a life free from wage slavery.