Essay: Voluntary Simplicity

by Jim Morgan

From almost the foundation of America a counterculture of “voluntary simplicity” has existed. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God preacher Jonathan Edwards left his pastorate to go preach to the Indians. While there is no direct proof that he was tired of the ratrace and wanted a fresh start, he left enough hints in his papers to lead one to believe “downshifting” was one of his reasons. Thoreau moved to the outskirts of Concord, near Walden Pond, in 1854 to live deliberately. We have Edward Abbey working as a park ranger in Utah a hundred years or so later. The 70s gave us the back to nature movement that saw a small migration of tired would-be yuppies to the western US trying to live off the land. Some of Unabomber Ted Kascynski’s motivation for his lifestyle and action was a drive for voluntary simplicity.

Hundreds of good books, articles, blogs and rants exist detailing many good reasons for the flight to simplicity. This author will not pretend that he has anything new or even interesting to add to this perennial debate. It will not take the interested reader more than five minutes on Google to find a few hundred good reasons to simplify.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the consumerist culture is out of control and out of kilter. Working for wages is only about 1/2 a notch above chattel slavery. Only in wage slavery we do not have taskmaster’s whip to fear. Not a one of us is really more than a paycheck or two away from losing everything.

Everything in our world is run on a paying basis. If you don’t pay you don’t play. Advertisers convince us we need all the neat toys that their sexy hawkers show us. We become somehow less than human if we don’t have the latest gadget. So what we end up in the long run is owning the Beatles White Album on vinyl, 8-track, cassette, cd and mp3 because we are hip to the newest thing.

We pay everybody through the nose for everything. Buying a car is bad enough, but then there is gas and maintenance, state licenses, state mandated insurance and the cost of what it cars do to our health and evironment. Then if the car is more than a year old we begin to feel the urge to go buy a new car because the new ones have cellphones built in!

We don’t even work to get money anymore. All of our money is going to someone else the second we get it. We are slave to a big corporate machine that doesn’t give a damn whether or not we are eating as long as we are making at least the interest payments.

The credit industry in this country is the biggest single rip-off in history. If you make the payments as they schedule them you will never be debt free. To add to this thought this author bought a house for $100,000 a few years ago that is only worth about $75,000 and if he makes the payments as contracted he will pay $300,000 for this $75,000 house.

It has got to end. Our desires for the newer and bigger have led us down a shiny trinket filled path to slavery. Our wants are not needs, merely luxuries. Surely there is nothing wrong with having nice things, but at what cost?

Wouldn’t it be nicer to have things work for us rather than us working for things?

Our indebtedness keeps us from taking care of our families like we should. We have to work all the time to fuel our consumerism. This also prevents us from helping our neighbors because the machine is taking all our money to line the pockets of some fat cat suit somewhere on a yacht.

Religion won’t save us. It has turned into just another corporation with it’s hand out. If you believe that politics (right or left wing) will save you then you probably believe the stupidity about Obama’s birth certificate. The government is little more than a tool for the enslavers.

The only thing that even has a remote chance of saving us is choosing to live simply. Pare down those desires. Think about what those two years contracts are costing you. What is compund interest and how does it really affect me? Is instant gratification really a good thing? Do we really need to buy the family hamburgers when we spend some time with the family and cook at home for a tenth of the cost… Oh wait a minute, NCIS is on TV tonight.

Never mind.