Homesteading, Seasteading, Vagabonding, “becoming an off-grid hermit”. In short, rejecting the established ecosystem of society in favor of personal achievement or development. Sometimes in the short-term, sometimes intentionally for the rest of a person’s life. It troubles me deeply.
There’s plenty of internet buzz around the ideas these days, it seems everyone intellectual wants to build a tiny-house and follow a second wave back to the land movement. Homestead off the grid and save the planet! Be ethical and green! Escape the drudgery of societies rat race and forge your own path! It’s an appealing sentiment, especially for smart twenty-somethings who are increasingly facing a lifetime of debt and sky-high living costs in urban centers.
Don’t mistake me, I’ve been following the sirens song for years and trying to get there as soon as I can. I dislike living in a city, especially Vancouver, and I dislike much of our modern social construct. That’s the thrust of what troubles me, though: Is it the duty of the intellectual to try to improve societies failings through interaction? Is it an inherently selfish act to retreat from a broken society instead of working to fix it?
Do we owe society a debt for the time spent in it? Is it our duty to work to keep it running smoothly? Can we just walk away from it with a clean conscience, knowing that there are few cognizant of deeper issues, and even fewer willing to try to change things? Or do we need to put ourselves first, for our own sanity and health. A life has precious little time on this earth, after all, should living that life to its fullest take priority over a ponderous fight against all of the worlds woes?
Is it possible that a “selfish” action in such a daunting context, (such as trading a conventional consumerist role in society, and activism for change, for personal development and the pursuit of personal interests first and foremost), can in fact be interpreted in a positive context and not the traditionally negative one associated with the word?
No matter how “off-grid” a person goes, no matter how far afield they sail or backpack, the vast majority will still be reliant on society, after all. Gear, food, etc, it’s still coming out of the system despite how much you plead to a noble lifestyle.
It’s a hard question to answer, and despite pondering and discussing this theme for years now I still have no conclusions to offer. Perhaps there is no answer.