4. Challenges and transitional strategies
Localisation stands, at best, at the limits of practical possibility,
but it has the decisive argument in its favour that there will be
— Dr. David Fleming
People who are interested in the idea of living completely freely will undoubtedly face obstacles which, for whatever reason, they can’t manage to jump over at the first attempt. The most commonly cited are external: no access to land, taxes, the planning permission requirements that come with building a low impact,(60) self-sufficient dwelling, and so on.
Such examples are all major potential barriers, very much rooted in the reality of our world today, and are fairly overwhelming, especially to people who are trying to reduce their engagement with the machine economy, instead of increasing it. The issues around access to soil – such as private property, land prices, permissions and regulations – lie very near the heart of the problem. Yet many of these economic and socio-political challenges originate from the personal, internal obstacles we create within ourselves which prevent us from living a life of glorious simplicity, freedom and adventure. To perceive the land issue to be the ultimate problem is to miss the underlying cultural stories that give rise to such concepts in the first instance. Government policies and regulations are still made by people, even if it is sometimes tempting to wonder whether those who enforce them are actually of the Homo genus, especially when you’re in the process of dealing with them.
Mahatma Gandhi, the world’s greatest Luddite, once said “your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” There is truth in this on both the individual and collective level. Yet it feels too linear, and doesn’t recognise that life and culture move in spirals, not straight lines. If The Great Soul had bothered to consult me before making such hasty, knee-jerk comments, I’d have suggested he rephrased the ending to your values become your culture. Your culture becomes your beliefs. There is no destiny, no destination, just a relentless journey along a spiral.
The government policies that exist today started with a set of beliefs of one kind or another, which over time transformed themselves into many stories, which in turn married each other and created new bastardised versions. Now we have the story that someone can own a piece of the Earth, and then charge everyone else for having to be somewhere on it; there’s the peculiar story of money; the anthropocentric story that some Big Man in the Sky made everything for Mankind which The Latter then has dominion over and can do with as He likes; Cartesian stories, Newtonian stories, Darwinian stories; stories by Smith and Marx and Friedman. There’s the story of fractional reserve banking where our masters – the banks – magically produce money out of thin air and then lend it to us in a way that means that we have to give them not just the capital they invented, but some interest also, using money that was produced by our sweat. Let us also not forget the story that it is now only the birds, badgers and other wild animals that are allowed to make their own little nest out of local materials to live in – the same story that insists that humans must, at all times, be charged, surveilled and regulated in all that they do. This is also part of the story that Freedom is for Nature, and that we are outside it.
These are all myths, starting with beliefs that originated a long time ago, in a period when the stories they spawned may have been useful. Over the ages they have married themselves to other emerging stories, creating baby stories that on inspection are absolutely ludicrous now and make no sense whatsoever for the very real challenges we face today.
Nevertheless, the majority of our species still believe in these stories, making them valid, and we have to find ways to work with them, within them, and sometimes around them. No small feat. But it is to that effect, in this chapter, that I aim to look at some of the main internal and external roadblocks that may impede your journey to a life beyond money, or which simply obstruct the kissing gates of footpaths that lead to money-free transport, food, housing, entertainment and other such destinations. Where appropriate I will offer possible ways around these roadblocks. If I have no solution, I’ll say so, and hope that one of you can in time offer up solutions as you figure them out. Part of this process is what Rob Hopkins, co-founder of the Transition Network, describes as the unleashing of the collective genius of the community.