Time to Leave the Country


Following a recent comment on Facebook, where I referred to my imminent escape from the UK, a dear friend asked why I hated the place so much. I think this is worthy of a proper response, which I shall keep as brief as I can (well, it isn't a book on the topic, for example).

I do not hate Britain.  Britain is beautiful with some of the most stunning countryside I have experienced anywhere in the world. I love that there are still people here friendly enough to talk to in passing. I can recall conversations held with people out on the trails, even in the midst of some powerful storms that had sent others fleeing from the hills.  The opportunity to interact and to share the enjoyment of nature - in spite of, or even because of the harsh weather - is time well spent.

What I loathe is the system.  I abhor what life means now to most people around the world, and it is this I seek an escape from, rather than Britain in particular. I see too much misery in the world, and the way out from this cannot be found whilst still being part of the system that perpetuates it. Perhaps some people compare themselves well-off because they have a nice home, a good car, expensive clothes and so on. But have you ever taken a moment to look at commuters in the morning or evening? Do these people look happy to you? The only people who I see that are happy are some students and perhaps retired folk.  The working classes do not appear to be happy people to me. So when are they happy? Do they become genuinely happy people in the evenings before bed, over the weekends, or during their couple of weeks of holiday each year? How much real happiness and joy during the course of the year, and at what cost the rest of the time?

I have worked since my early teens, working more and more the older I became. I have worked in four different jobs during a single week, busy from the early hours until the early hours. I have worked more than seventy hours a week and shifts lasting over twenty hours. I found my work challenging and at times satisfying, and there were roles where I enjoyed working with my colleagues. However, I soon realised that the jobs I enjoyed the most were not ones I could remain in for long, either for lack of career progression or the minimal salary, meaning I would not clear university debts and never afford a home. I switched from work in health and fitness centre management to lecturing work and academia, where career progression and salary improved, but the responsibility and stress was considerably greater, and the enjoyment staggeringly reduced.

Having been out of work since January I am now wondering what I could possibly want to do. I have been rejected for most jobs because I almost have a PhD, and nobody wants to employ someone who might leave as soon as they have it. I could then get another academic role, which I would find satisfying, but it would just be a case of working to pay off debts and to immerse myself in more debt - a home, a car, etc. There must be a better way. I believe I can step outside of this system and dedicate my life to enjoyment, happiness, and a better way of life, in which I will try to show others how science and technology can be used to allow for minimal-cost living with a better quality of life and reliance on 100% green energy.

Whenever I travel into London and see the commuters, whether on the train, on the tube or walking about, I see so much depression. I see and hear people 100% focussed on their work, whether via their laptops or on their mobile phones. These people look concerned, focussed, determined and pre-occupied, and all for what?  They have left their homes to spend most of their waking hours working, and the vast majority are doing work that just does not matter. The middle classes really have very little to offer the world, aside from in education and medicine, and seem mostly engaged in roles that entail moving money around or finding ways to boost business. What does that matter? In 20 years, 50 years, 100 years, what will all that work have meant?

We become nothing but voluntary slaves, accepting meaningless occupations that consume our existence, in order to acquire a home with energy and water, with waste removal and precious little time to spend there. We cannot afford the house though, so we get a mortgage, and with that comes the slavery. By the time we have paid our bills, bought our train tickets or fuel for our cars, bought our food, we have to accept that we will spend decades working to be able to afford that house. We have a self-inflicted addiction to acquiring status symbols and other materialistic possessions that mean nothing, that do not in themselves bring happiness, but at best allow some temporary sense of contentment and satisfaction.  Does nobody else wonder how it is that the average cost of living is so close to the average salary, that there can be no real chance of acquiring freedom from labour?

We might not see the shackles of our slavery, but that is all part of the illusion.  I hear people tell me 'If only I had the money to do that', and 'I would love to do that but I have too many bills to pay', or 'I just cannot get that amount of time away from work'.  The shackles are the mortgage, loan, lease and credit card agreements, and the work contracts we need to cover the payments on them.  We tell ourselves it was our choice; our sacrifice for the life we want.  Really, it is our belief that we are free and denial that it is just one grand and scandalous game.

I see the problem as even more dire than this. We spend our earliest years in childcare, we go through a school system from as early as five into our late teens or early twenties, after which we seek full-time employment. We attempt to continue our employment until we are permitted to retire, an age which increases as the government realises we can still 'contribute', still generate money in taxes to be a 'useful' member of society. We retire and many of us spend our last few years almost a prisoner in our own home or actually moved into care. What kind of life is this? We make slaves of ourselves in return for a couple of weeks of 'holiday' each year, and the promise of healthcare and a pension. These securities are not so great or dependable that I can consider them worthy of the sacrifice. Not for me.  I have lost half a lifetime coming to this realisation, and I hope one day I will have children who I can raise differently.

Why do we think it is even acceptable to have this sort of life? Why do we pre-occupy our lives with this pursuit for money and materialism, for tenuous securities? Why do we think the goal during the majority of our life should be contentment and satisfaction? What thing is this to say on one's deathbed: "I was mostly content", "I was mostly satisfied"?  We are human beings; we can enjoy art and literature, we can experience fun, joy and laughter, we have the ability to live our lives and at the end say "My life was filled with joy, happiness and love, I can regret nothing". Are we living in the hope of an afterlife in which we are guaranteed heaven? Are we hoping that at the end of our life we will hear an electric beep and a 'Congratulations, you have passed. Proceed to Level Two'? I do not believe there is an afterlife, which means this one life is all I have - all any of us have - and we choose to spend it being a pawn of governments. We choose to do nothing with our lives in order to be a 'productive member of society'. When will the majority of the working classes realise that enough is enough?

I used to think people claimed their schooldays were the best of their life, simply because they had forgotten all the horrid things that happen to many schoolchildren - the reliance on parents inhibiting freedom of choice, lack of personal funds, the difficulty of fitting in, trying to define oneself, and the meanness of others, as examples. Perhaps we also like to think that children cannot be as stressed about finances and the need for financial security as adults. I think the best thing about childhood is spending most days surrounded by friends, learning interesting details about the world, making stuff and mucking about having fun. I think the stupidity of modern adults is in thinking that following childhood this all has to end in favour of 'maturity', and that more work and more money makes freedom. Who was it again who came up with that old lie, arbeit macht frei? It is handy for politicians with national finance books to balance, but not for we the people.

I accept that my plan to go elsewhere, to live entirely off-the-grid, is not something that would appeal to everyone. My cabin will be open to friends, who I hope will want to visit me to experience some of my new life and to enjoy spending time in nature. My days will be filled with leisure activities in the wilderness, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends. I will have a little laboratory and workshop, where I will tinker with harnessing renewable sources of energy, building and improving clean modes of transport, such as a car, a quad bike and a snowmachine. I will build a vertical vegetable garden and explore ways to produce sufficient vegetable and fruit crops to see me through a full year, in spite of the challenges of the extreme cold and shortened growing year so far north.

I will write too, and - not requiring money for anything but the acquisition of basic equipment - I will share the success stories in the hope others will follow suit. If this can be achieved in a small town, then maybe it will spread to a larger town, and before long a local government will be able to reduce all costs and have no
need to give over land for harmful industries.  It is not merely a dream, because this is perfectly achievable for me, and I hope others will do likewise. I spent my first 35 years being a slave to a system I never asked for, and I will spend the end of 2013 and early 2014 wrapping up all I feel inclined to in the UK. 

I have had friends comment that I have achieved so much compared with others, and I surely have no right to take issue with the nature of life. But to me this is all just a game, and we all buy into it at first because we think it is right and best for us. When we step back to really look at our place in the world the mists clear and we realise things: we have the capacity to be incredibly intelligent and insightful, we can be resourceful and innovative, we can be kind and compassionate to those around us and to this planet we live upon.

We sacrifice so much to be nothing more than voluntary slaves to our governments, generating money in exchange for those tenuous securities of law, healthcare and a pension.  We rely on alarm clocks, mortgages and loans, we give over huge sums of money and invest our entire lives as payment for living where we do, the way we do. What reward is worth that? To me, at last, I cannot see the benefits anymore, because I have chosen to have ambitions for my life based upon happiness rather than merely satisfaction.  Perhaps had I been born into a very rich family I would never have learned this, and gotten by perfectly happy as someone who only benefits from the system. As someone expected to be merely useful and generate money, I cannot see the loss of my life as worth anything offered by the government. This is not an issue of being British - the earth is nothing more than a resource-filled lump of rock and metal, covered in water - and I have had enough of enslaving myself to a government that takes more than it gives.  

When I am dying I do not want to gain solace from thoughts of a nice house or a successful career.  I want to be thinking about how much time I spent with the people who I felt good to be around. I want to remember being happy and filled with senses of joy and of love. No job promotion, no pay rise, no house, no car or any other material possession is going to be enough. I am not addicted to power or to money, I see no benefit of a job which will mean nothing in 50 years' time, or working for people who will all also die soon enough and having been of no significant benefit to humanity or the planet. Such a life is one of misplaced acceptance and pitiable ambition, to me.

Modern living is nothing more than a game of Sudoku; you know the outcome before you begin, yet you busy yourself with playing it through, becoming satisfied as you pop the numbers in the right places, but once completed the whole game gets discarded as now worthless. In the end, we are special most of all to our families and our friends - they are the ones who should come to our funerals and write the eulogies. Life should be about maximising quality time with those people, not merely being a provider or a distraction for them. Our lives have all the meaning we wish to bestow upon them, but we are held back by tradition and acceptance. I hope more will come to see this, and we prioritise better lives for ourselves and help show others how they can achieve this too.

I have already begun putting the wheels in motion for my new life. Friends have been a huge support to me throughout the last few years, and I intend to make my e-books sufficiently successful to ensure I can still afford to eat and travel before my big move away. When you choose to see that this planet is just a lump of rock, it becomes easy to lose attachment to a particular region of it, not least when the government and the systems do more to restrict you than to set you free. I am satisfied to know I have reached conclusions and set myself on a path to a life I consider right for me, and I plan to make true and lasting happiness the goal, nothing less. Satisfaction alone can never be allowed to be enough.


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