The Anti-Career Manifesto #4473
of bourgeois, Adam Smith misquoting, moderate investing, Must See TV watching
No, the Poet-Superhero-Hobos will have no Career. And in its place, they will have Life. Real Life. An existence outside of the acceptable spectrum of American culture, because when culture is out of balance with humanity/nature, one cannot exist in balance with both.
But how will you possibly manage not to starve?!? The Capitalist Vampires of the University have difficulty imagining survival without indulging in the feeding frenzy of the dollar economy - rooted in the neo-colonial pillaging of the brown black yellow peoples. But within bartering economic circles there exist many people who farm, or write, or work with wood, and do so trading local a currency - one without interest, inflation, or collusion with the Globalized Monetary Worldorder.
this I say. And I will live out my days basking in spontaneity with low-impact
technologies and manual labor. I will roam free over the wide-open landscapes of what was
Digging Out the Roots
Tim Desmond & Rebecca Reeder
left six months ago on a journey that has taken us from one side of
So we packed our things, and we hit the road. We traveled across the country from east to west hopping from organic farm to organic farm, through an organization called WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). We have been staying at each place anywhere from a week to a few months, trading a good days work for three square meals, a place to sleep and an incredible experience. In fact, we have been able to live without spending or earning nearly any money living almost completely outside of capitalism.
first farm we arrived at was in
Furthermore, composting is not only environmentally sound - it can also be a remarkably Spiritual endeavor. American culture is a throwaway culture. We create more trash per person than anywhere in the world. So it was deeply moving to realize that there is really no difference between garbage and anything of value. Everything has its beginnings in the Earth. In fact, everything is the Earth - it is the Earth transforming itself into countless manifestations, always changing from one to the next. Nothing is born or dies, because every thing is merely a unique and transitory formation of Earth and energy.
This is all very apparent on a farm where the soil turns into a plant - part of which is eaten, and the rest is thrown into a bin where we watch it become soil again. It is then returned to the field to become a plant once more. In order to complete this cycle, composting human feces becomes necessary, so that the portion of the plant that you ate is also returned to the field from which it came. From this perspective we are able to see everything, including peoples bodies, as deeply interconnected parts of this cycle. There is no part of your body that did not originate as soil, and there is no part that will not become soil once again. When this idea sounds beautiful, life becomes a miracle, because you can really see yourself as part of a larger whole.
not all of our experiences in
the farmer who lived there, would constantly invent projects for the farm. He had a grand
vision of how his place should be - an example of perfect environmentalism, completely
self-sufficient for all basic needs, and a community arts center where people would come
from all over the country to learn traditional
We would stay up late at night and talk about how we hoped that we would be able to enjoy our lives. We asked ourselves, when living and working are synonymous, how do you know when to stop, relax, and take time for yourself, especially when youre on a farm where there is always something that can be done? We felt pretty pessimistic until we realized that never being finished was the reality of farm life and any life where you were deeply embedded in the Earths cycles. Each year there is planting and harvesting to be done in the same way that each day there is food to prepare and eat. Living with the Earths cycles became beautiful to us when we gave up measuring ourselves by the amount of goals we had completed. Repetitive work has usually been associated with women and undervalued; however, living on the farm helped us realize that these kinds of work are what sustain life. We began to believe that the lifestyle we were trying to find was much more encompassing than we had first suspected. From that point on we decided that how we will work should be just as important as what we will do.
next stop on our journey was in
For the ten days we spent there, we mostly helped them build their houses, but these were not houses of the conventional sort. The walls were made by stacking up whole bales of straw (normally a waste product of growing grains) and covering them with a plaster of mud and clay. Straw-bale houses, as theyre called, not only require fewer resources than walls using wood beams and fiberglass insulation, but they are also remarkably well insulated so that a house can be kept at a comfortable temperature year-round with almost no heating or cooling. This becomes quite understandable the first time that you see one, since the wall of a straw-bale house is nearly one meter thick. However, the most significant aspect of building this type of house might be that it does not require very much physical strength or skill, so a whole community can take part. Most of the people working with us on the house were young women who had never before even picked up a hammer. Yet because they were willing to explore new ways of engaging old problems, they were able to take part in building their own house. When we all danced in a pool of mud and clay and water until the plaster was just right and then smeared it in huge globs until the whole wall was covered, the line between play and work completely disappeared.
It was also at Dancing Rabbit that we learned about renewable energies. We learned that just as every-thing comes from the soil, all energy (aside from nuclear) comes from the sun. Even fossil fuels like oil began as plants taking in energy directly from the sun; later the plant was eaten and became part of a dinosaur (which might have been eaten and become part of a larger dinosaur), who died and decomposed under enormous pressure, to turn into oil, which was drilled up and burned to release the energy that originally came from the sun. The only problem is that this is a pretty roundabout way to use the suns energy, since it takes millions of years for a plant to become oil that is burnt up in a matter of minutes. Burning wood is slightly better, since it may only take 100 years to grow a tree that would burn for a whole hour. The good news is that solar panels, windmills and small-scale hydroelectric turbines (the kind that do not require damming) are able to produce electricity in ways that do not harm ecosystems. They are unique because they can use the suns energy without really interfering with the suns light, the wind, or the river (again, only hydroelectric systems that are far smaller than the river do not cause large-scale damage).
Although Dancing Rabbit was able to live with such a small impact on the environment, there were also some problems. Many of the full-time, long-term workers had developed tendonitis, a chronic pain in their arms due to overworking. They too had a very definite idea of what they wanted their eco-village to become and so they worked long and hard in hopes of getting there quicker. But because their bodies were not yet ready to handle such physical stress, they ended up with bodies that couldnt work at all. One young man was not even able to brush his own teeth or wash himself because of the pain. And after a few long days of construction we began to see clearly how that condition arose. We were told that tendonitis is something that just seems to happen all of a sudden. One moment youll feel fine; in another there will be a deep pain, and at the point it is too late. You have already developed the condition.
We heard someone say, I try to listen to my body but it doesnt speak the same language I do. We also saw ourselves trying to control our bodies and willing them to do what we wanted them to, until we began to realize that we too had not been listening to our bodies. At Dancing Rabbit it was almost as if the mind and body were in opposition to one another, with the mind dictating what the body needs to be capable of doing. Even when the body did successfully communicate a message, the mind would quickly, almost unconsciously, rationalize that message away, saying that it shouldn't or couldn't be tired, thirsty, hungry, sick or hurt. It was then that we starting working six-hour days and we felt proud that we were able to trust the messages that our bodies sent us. And while we made sure that we were contributing more than we were costing (in food, etc.), we also made sure that the experience was enjoyable, or at least pain-free.
leaving Dancing Rabbit we stopped at Bountiful Earth farm on the opposite side of
was the spitting image of the stereotypical American farmer - six feet tall, 300 lbs., and
the words BIG MAC printed in red on his denim overalls. He spent most of the
day riding a huge green tractor which spit black clouds of exhaust into the sky, and from
that tractor he sprayed poisonous pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers onto nearly
every one of the plants he grew - there must have been millions. We could not believe that
poisons and oil made up most of what was sprayed on food crops in
Before too long, Cindy and Dan started treating us more like their employees than volunteers. They began asking us to work harder and faster by giving us at list of chores we couldnt possibly complete in a day. At times they would even give us orders. It seemed that they were taking volunteers because they could not afford to hire regular workers, rather than any desire to share their lifestyle. After a little while, they began to act as though all they cared about was how much work we would do for them. Amazingly, the relationship we had constructed felt just as oppressive as the traditional employer/employee relationship. Although Cindy and Dan had no real power over us (they were not paying us), they were acting like our bosses, and we were obeying them. We even found ourselves looking to them for approval, because we felt unable to decide for ourselves whether we were doing a good job. Once we recognized what was happening, we decided that we should do something to transform this relationship. When we began to decide for ourselves when and how much we would work, there were a few confrontations, but with clear communication we were able to reassert a relationship of partners. After that, their entire tone changed, and they began to invite us to go work if we so chose. So we decided to go on our own free will, at our own pace, in our own time and without the pressure of an overworked mentality. Suddenly, the experience of being outside again became grounding and joyous, like it should be. No one was anyones boss, we were all partners.
Paul lives alone, a five-mile hike from the road. He begins each day by waking before dawn and practicing yoga and tai chi. He then takes his breakfast and proceeds to fumble around the land for a few hours. Nothing that he does receives any sort of special effort, or even any forethought. He just responds to what he feels the land would like him to do. Since his farm is in the middle of a desert, most of his work is irrigating, using the water from a small stream that runs through his property. All together Paul has over 100 fruit trees, an acre of grapes, an acre of raspberries and strawberries and a small vegetable garden. Despite all the food he is growing - or rather, all that is growing itself where he lives - Paul does not sell any of it. He plants without effort, by merely throwing seeds onto the ground (sometimes covering them with clay so that birds wont eat them). Because of this, he can easily plant far more than he needs, allowing birds, bugs, and any other guest to help themselves. As long as one quarter of his crop survives, he will have enough. This allows him an incomparably leisurely lifestyle; he works only about three hours a day and spends the rest practicing meditation.
The reason why there was so little work on Pauls farm, and so much on all the others, was that Paul trusted Nature. He told us that whenever he tried to control something, whether it was a tomato plant or a child, they would always resist, and he would have to react to whatever new direction they tried to go. However, when he started just leaving things to take care of themselves, he found that not only was there no work to do, but things ended up turning out better.
Pauls farm, we learned what it meant to truly live in community. Upon our arrival,
Paul told us about his schedule. He said, I get up when its still dark.
Im over by the
And it was here that we finally were able to truly relate to our work in a way that felt fulfilling. All the small and seemingly insignificant chores - shoveling horse manure, moving the irrigation pipes, untangling the grapevines - all began to add up to make the whole. And thats the significance - to be working in harmony with the land and with each other. No important goals to accomplish, nothing to prove or control. Finally we felt like we had found what we were looking for. This felt like Swaraj, because not only were we not dependent on anyone else for survival, but we felt free from the struggle that has characterized work in industrialized cultures.
We have come a long way from the values and aspirations of our culture, and we each have our own story of how we came to start this journey.
clearly remember the time in my life when I first began exploring different sets of social
rules and other possibilities for existence. It was my freshman year at the
I was able to study abroad in
was one small school that taught math, science, reading and writing as well as some social
studies. These were the same subjects that I was taught when I was younger. And although
some people believe that more education is the answer to solving world problems such as
poverty, disease, and violence, I was beginning to feel that at least in this village, the
school was the problem. I found a social
studies textbook from 1974 donated by an American missionary group on the shelf. When I
opened it up I saw pages upon pages of pictures with the corresponding English word. There
was a picture of a large white house with a picket fence that said Home, a
bunch of giant gray skyscrapers that said City, and a group of Caucasian
people that said People. None of these images reflected life in this village
at all. They lived in small grass huts, were very far from any kind of populated area, and
they were all dark in skin color. Yet they were reading and learning this as a textbook.
While I felt this to be completely inappropriate for these young children, what seemed
even more shocking was the chapter on money, because I couldnt see how what it said
was appropriate for any environment. It said we need money to give gifts on
birthdays and other holidays to show our love to our family and friends. It became
clear to me what the values of
There was another school I went to, in a different village, which stood in contrast to the first. There I began to learn about the issues that another group of the same tribe were facing. These people, who had traditionally lived a subsistence lifestyle, were relocated to an infertile plot of land so that some major corporation could drill for oil underneath where they had once lived. Of course, the profits from this oil were not for them. Instead they were forced into producing oranges as a cash crop, because this new land could not take care of their subsistence needs, thereby entering the monetary economy. Living in this new way was very difficult for them; suddenly they were poor and uneducated in ways necessary to thrive in a business economy, which contained a corresponding mindset of shame and inadequacy. There was a family I ate dinner with who told me that their stove, the same kind of stove I had seen in many villages before, was shameful. They wanted a new, more modern stove - the kind you buy in a store.
people in the village could not make enough money off the orange crops, and became ill
from working harder and longer to try to meet their needs, while others went hungry.
Crimes began to take place when they never had before. These people had become the
so-called bottom of the ladder by the standards of mainstream society. Since
they were now poor and uneducated, they spent a lot of energy
trying to make up for these newfound inadequacies by trying to become part of Western
society, with its values of money, materials, and education. This was a perplexing
dynamic, for in a sense, I had what some of these people wanted. I encountered the belief
I returned to the
I spent a good deal of energy trying to figure out how to best articulate these views to the widest possible audience so that I could convince others to adopt a worldview that respected people and the planet. But I soon realized that I was only trying to transplant one ideology for another. As long as small groups of people are leading the masses, they will never be thinking for themselves. I also began to notice that people are not merely rational beings who change upon hearing new facts. Never have I won a factual argument that changed someone from the inside. And although I dont believe that it is impossible if the person is ripe for that sort of information, people are complicated, emotional beings and there are a wide variety of influences, experiences, and circumstances that relate to who they are and how they grow. A peaceful world must consist of peaceful people who respect difference, and so I sought to become such a person. This naturally led me toward finding a way to live that was peaceful, and being open to sharing my journey with others while not imposing my perspective on them.
peaceful world must consist of peaceful people, and so I sought to become such a person.
This is a process of growth and self-discovery that I plan to be engaged in my whole life.
To me, a peaceful person is synonymous with a mentally, emotionally and spiritually
healthy person. And by this I mean someone who adheres to basic principles of nonviolence
and has respect and reverence for all life, including many people who have different ways
of knowing, perceiving and being from our own. Such a person cares after the well-being of
self and others, communicates openly and honestly, cooperates and has a free thinking
creative mind uncontrolled by the masses. If we cannot care and respect our children, our
neighbors, or ourselves then I cannot imagine a way to create a more peaceful world.
These inner values of peace and health naturally led me toward finding a way to live that was also peaceful, and being open to sharing my journey with others while not imposing my perspectives on them. I have no interest in trying to convince or prove anything to anyone, because I respect their right to have different perspectives. Instead, I am committed to speaking my truth, which means taking a stand against violence and letting my voice be expressed. It means engaging others in dialogue about issues that concern me, and supporting what I believe in and boycotting what I don't. It means living in harmonious interaction with myself, others, and the Earth, remaining true to myself and listening and trusting my creative inner voice. And it also means opening my home and my heart to anyone who cares to see, and sharing my vision.
Where I find myself today could be traced back easily to the conditions in which I grew up. My mother was intelligent and successful at whatever she attempted, yet we were poor because the work she loved was not financially generous. Since that time, I have rethought what poverty means; however, what is important to my personal development is that I felt poor at the time. Although our home was more than adequate shelter, it was very small and old compared to most of the houses in our town. I remember feeling embarrassed of it, and resenting the richer children for laughing at me. For most of my life it has been just my mother and I in our little household, and her strong beliefs in human equality - specifically in womens rights - influenced me deeply. When I was young and would ask her questions, she would often ask me what I thought. And no matter what I answered, she always told me that I was right. I believe that this support provided me with a sense of confidence from an early age.
I feel like I have been able to escape the prison of pop culture and trying to be cool. Although I had a very lonely early adolescence, by the time I had graduated from high school, I was very popular and felt secure that I could be accepted by my peers if I acted out my cultural stereotype. The Media/Corporate/Entertainment machine teaches that American men are supposed to be tall, emotionless, and clean-shaven. They should treat women like objects, and defeat their opponents in all sorts of sporting events. They are to be defined by the brand names that they wear and must, without exception, exhibit pure testosterone. It is not an easy thing to conform to such an unnatural standard, but I did it.
I entered college I had proved to myself that I was capable of achieving
coolness, and I found myself longing for something more. At this point I
needed a role model, someone who I felt had lived a life that was meaningful and
good. And being from the U.S. the first person to come to mind was Martin
Luther King, just as it may have been Gandhi for an Indian or Nelson Mandela for a South
African. For the next two years of my life, I spent most of my time reading. I studied
Kings writings and his life. I also learned about the person whom King said had
influenced him most, Gandhi. These two great martyrs caused me to think a lot about my own
life, personally, socially, economically, and politically. Both of them felt a strong
desire to live peacefully with others, and they each believed that participating in
violent systems made them somewhat responsible for that violence. I immediately thought
about my own government, the most violent institution in the
world, and all the ways that I cooperate with it. I knew then that
found from reading such authors as Noam Chomsky,
that my countrys military actions are nearly always based on strengthening the
American economy, with little evidence to suggest any other motives, such as valuing
democracy, human rights, or even the safety of American citizens. In fact, of all the
numerous American bombing campaigns since World War II, none have led to establishing a
meaningful democracy, and the image of the U.S. as the global bully has made the lives of
Americans much less safe than those of Canadians, for example. We are more likely to be
taken hostage or become victims of terrorist attacks than our less violent neighbors. Yet
military campaigns continue in any area in which instability could hurt the American
economy (i.e. the
this time of research and reflection, I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Bernard
Lafayette, someone who had worked closely with Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights
Movement. He was offering training for people who would like to train others in
Kings philosophy of nonviolence. I received this training, and learned about
conflict resolution and the importance of not only external nonviolence, but of not
wishing violence upon another - something King would call Nonviolence of the
Spirit. Dr. Lafayette and I talked a lot about capitalism and poverty. And he
convinced me that Gandhis emphasis on voluntary simplicity was unnecessary to
achieve peace. He told me that rather than becoming poor myself, I can help others become
rich. He said that what
wasnt until my junior year in college that I began to really question capitalism. I
remember the day that the newspapers began broadcasting some confusing adventure happening
on the other side of the country. For an entire week, the city of
a few weeks after hearing these new ideas, I went to study in
important lesson I learned in
I imagined two shopkeepers that lived next door to one another. One night the white shopkeeper broke down the brown mans door and stole everything. The next day, he apologized for what he had done, but insisted that it was all in the past that that the only fair thing to do was to continue competing. I havent taken anything from you today. How dare you say that I owe you anything? Of course, the man who was left with nearly nothing to sell could not compete with his neighbors abundance, so he goes out of business and begs his neighbor for a job.
is not a thing of the past. Western-owned Multinational Corporations have become more
powerful than governments and are using both international monetary institutions as well
as direct military force to maintain total dominance over both the international economy
and people in general. For example, Shell Oil Company displaces Nigerian people from their
land in order to drill. Shell was also responsible for bringing about the execution of Ken
Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian activist and playwright who had been
trying to fight for his people. The CIA of the
anything that is bought and sold in the
Through all of our travels, our plans and dreams about the future have changed almost continually. Someday, we hope to have some land of our own, and allow food to grow wild. We hope to get everything we need from that land, so that we do not need to work for money. Then we will be able to open up our home and lives to anyone who is interested in pursuing another way to be. We would host summer camps for children, both rich and poor, black and white. During the school year, we would run an alternative school where children would be in charge of their own education. We would also host workshops for every demographic group - teachers, parents, doctors, manual laborers, etc - that would be unstructured and open to the needs of the participants. Every service will be free of charge, because we will have no need for money. Yet no project will be started unless it can be done in a spirit of joy, without strain or stress.
In order to actualize such a lofty goal, we are prepared to earn enough dollars to buy some land, if we fail to get it by way of grants or gifts. We could earn our money in the fields of health, alternative education, or working for a Non-Governmental Organization. And once we have some land, we could supplement whatever we cannot provide for ourselves with responsible purchases, and work part-time to afford them. Eventually, the day might come that we could secure all of our needs from our land, but whether it does or not, we plan to devote most of our time to providing the free services mentioned above.
want to change the world. But that means something different to us than lobbying
governments and huge institutions, because we believe that their ills are the symptoms of
a complacent and thoughtless society. We are moving toward more nonviolent and sustainable
relationships with people, animals, plants and minerals. And we hope to share what we find
with others in an environment that encourages dialogue. In
This poem was written by Tim Desmond in response to the assignment of writing a
career goal statement for his senior seminar at the
 Organic farming means growing food without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
 The Humanure Handbook can be purchased at http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/humanure.html or the text is available online at http://www.weblife.org/humanure/default.html
 Tai chi is an ancient Chinese practice analogous to yoga in many ways. It is simultaneously a moving meditation, an exercise and a form of self-defense.
 A nursing home is a housing complex for elderly people who can no longer take care of themselves, and whose family cannot or will not take care of them. It is staffed by professional nurses, and is often a very sad place.
 See What Uncle Sam Really Wants by Noam Chomsky.
See Killing Hope: