Occupy Wall Street — Stop Feeding the Beast

Protest SignWhether you agree with the Occupy Wall Street protests that have now spread globally or not, I’m sure you can understand the frustration that has lead to this protest movement. Except for a small percentage of people who live in a state of extreme privilege, the fact is that the promise of “work hard and prosper” is becoming an empty one.

In an attempt to summarize this complex issue I found some very informative charts in this article from Business Insider and this amazing quote:

In the past 30 years, 96% of the growth of average incomes in this country have gone to the richest 10% of the country. And in the past 10 years, the incomes of the other 90% have declined.

This is shocking, and I’m sure most folks can feel this fact in their pocket quite directly.  So the question, what is there to be done about it?

For an answer, first join me as we travel back in time to March 24, 1989. As I was driving home from work I heard on the radio that a major environmental catastrophe had just occurred – namely the Exxon Valdez oil-tanker had crashed into the Prince William sound in Alaska and spilled up to 750,000 barrels (119,000 m3) of crude oil eventually covered 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of coastline, and 11,000 square miles (28,000 km2) of ocean.

Oil Spill ImageI was driving on vapors, when I pulled into the gas station I left my driver door open with the radio blaring while I pumped gas as I wanted to hear every word. My mind immediately flew into action:

“I’ll write a letter to my congressman!”
“I’ll boycott Exxon!”
“I’ll join a protest and hold a sign”
“Something must be done about this!”

Then, in a moment of extreme clarity I realized that none of my voting, my letter writing, or my boycotts had made any tiny difference in the past – so why would this time be different? Then it struck me, like a bolt of lightning – I was angry at a petroleum company, while pumping gasoline – I was literally feeding the beast I wanted to punish.

Filled with a combination of rage and determination I swore that that would be the last time I would buy a tank of gasoline.

Over the course of the next twenty-two years I built and drove an electric car, converted a car to run on natural gas instead of gasoline, designed and built an electric motorcycle (which spectacularly caught fire), then I drove a hybrid and now I’m working with bio-diesel made from waste oil from restaurants. I may not have exactly kept my promise to myself never to buy gasoline, but I did stop feeding the beast — at least as much as I used to.

Now, back to the Occupy Wall Street protests — yes, it would be good if financial melt-downs could be avoided. It would be good if the rich paid their fair share of taxes. That can happen via governmental regulation, sure. But, as you know there are always loop-holes and there are always clever and devious people who do nothing but find and abuse those loop-holes. Remember, there is a law against dumping three quarters of a billion barrels of crude oil in the ocean, but that didn’t stop the Exxon Valdez from doing it.

So the only real tool we have is how we spend our money which is directly related to how we choose to live our lives. Vote all you want. Protest all you want. Write brilliant letters to the editor. None of it will make any difference if you’re still feeding the beast.

This is my message to the Occupy Wall Street protesters — keep doing what you’re doing, free speech and the ability to protest is fundamentally part of what democracy and Americanisms is — but it’s only part of the solution — my message to you — STOP FEEDING THE BEAST.

To big to failAfter the financial meltdown of ’08 I first heard the term “too big to fail”. Then I, like most of us, learned that our government was going to give financial institutions a bail-out to “prevent the economy from collapsing”. Sorry, but my take on this was “Okay, you banks screwed this up royally, many regular people lost much of not all of their savings/retirement/investments, so instead of punishing you, or letting you suffer from the consequences of your actions, we’ll reward you with tax payer money from the very people you ripped off”.

I was furious! Was I going to write letters? Vote for a different politician from a different party? Was I going to to protest? No. I took my money out of a “too large to fail” mega-bank and I put it in a small credit union (a great decision, by the way). I decided to stop feeding the beast.

Banks aren’t the only problem in this situation. It is my firm opinion that part of the problem is that television primarily has become a brain-washing medium who’s entire purpose is to assure that people to become absolutely convinced that they are not complete or happy until they buy the latest gadget, product or service. This keeps people in a constant state of “keeping up with the Jones’s”, because so many new models of gadgets are released so often that people get into an endless cycle of debt. And guess who wins when people endlessly service credit cards? Banks, of course. Banks benefiting from raw, unfettered consumerism.

Buying a high-end iPad on a credit card, and paying it off by paying only the “minimum due” could make the total price of the iPad a staggering  $1,670. Given that the actual cost to build this gadget is estimated at $260 you can see how absurd this is.

Kill your TVSo, as painful as it was, I gave up television (which involved over a month of withdrawal symptoms) in order to stop the brainwashing. I have not watched or owned a television in fifteen years and I can tell you it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s remarkable how your attitudes about news, companies, and government changes when the opinions about them are your own — not those fed to you by corporations.

I also paid off all of my credit cards and even paid off my mortgage. I don’t owe anyone anything. Everything I have is mine. And everytime I need something I have to have the money to buy it before I can. It sounds so simple.

Has it ever occurred to you that it’s a bit strange that you deal with your bank several times a day and can’t function even for a single day without them? Not even fifty years ago banks were rarely involved in people’s day-to-day lives.

Part of this also was the escaping the gadget race. I am a lover of technology so this part was the most difficult. My rule is that I can buy a gadget only if most of these are true:

  1. I expect it will last at least three years — preferably five.
  2. It can be upgraded by me (batteries, memory, software) without sending it out for service.
  3. It can be repaired (user serviceable) and I can make those repairs myself.
  4. I really “need it” in the same way I really need a food or a clothes.

Many people who hear this ask “how can you live like that?!” or “Oh, I could never do that. ” It did take an adjustment, but I live very happily now. And yes, anyone can do it. I promise that my parents and my grandparents didn’t have an iPhone 4S, didn’t work a 60 hour work week, didn’t watch TV for 29 hours a week (the US average), or owe $8,000 on credit cards (also the US average) and yet they still lived good, satisfying lives.

However, the most amazing part of this is not the fact that I’ve stopped feeding the beast, or that if enough of us stop feeding the beast it will starve and die, or that doing that would finally bring us true freedom — the most amazing part is that making these changes has dramatically improved my health and happiness.

I am FreeSince making these changes I’ve lost over thirty pounds without making any dietary changes or increasing exercise. In fact, I eat whatever I want now including fatty and rich foods that I never touched before.

I used to suffer from diverticulitis, obstructive sleep apnea, acid reflux disease and irritable bowel syndrome and I used to take medications to deal with all four of these “chronic” conditions. All are completely gone — again, without any change in diet and I stopped taking any medication of any kind. As far as I can tell, they were all in one way or another symptoms of the stress I lived with on a daily basis living a “normal” life.

But the health benefits are actually secondary to the most astonishing gift of all. I finally discovered that I had returned to me the gift of time. To be specific time to myself — time to do what I want versus what I have to do.

PaintingTime — do you even remember what that is? Time to write a story? Time to spend with loved ones? Time to sing — to learn or play a musical instrument? Time to paint? To draw? To build a project you’ve always want to? Time to volunteer? Time to help out a friend in need? Time to teach someone a skill that you posess — just because you want to share?

I can’t even begin to express what a wonder it is to have time to pursue my dreams, passions, and desires. Cielito Lindo Ranch is the result of this time that I now have — I now have the time to give back. Previously, I had been so wrapped up in the “normal” way of living that time was only a memory from a distant childhood.

Do you want to stop feeding the beast? Do you want stress to melt away? Do you want to stop suffering from stress related illnesses, conditions and anxieties?

Here’s how I did it and I bet it will work for you also:

  1. Don’t buy into the myth that hard work and good behavior will somehow be rewarded later. Do what’s rewarding and makes you happy NOW. There’s no guarantee that you’ll live a long life or that the government or your investments will pay for your retirement. All you really have for sure is “now”.
  2. Don’t learn to do something “that makes money” that you hate, then do it for a lifetime. Do what you love and the money will come.
  3. If you don’t like what any institution or business does, stop feeding it! Move your money/business elsewhere.
  4. Don’t invest your money, time or resources into institutions or companies — invest in yourself. Buy those wood-working tools instead of buying stock. Your stock investment can vanish overnight but that chair you built with your own hands will last a lifetime.
  5. Separate yourself from the brainwashing of the media. Have your own thoughts instead of letting some marketing firm fill your head up with their ideas. Remember their only job is to convince you you need things you really don’t.
  6. Unplug from the ultimately unsatisfying madness of the consumer economy. Living simply, consuming less, and investing in your own “making” rather than “consuming” is far more rewarding and healthier.
  7. Your community matters. Give your business and contribute your efforts to your local economy and local people. People in small towns already know this secret. Be kind and supportive to the people and businesses around you, and they’ll be there for you when you need them. Loyalty to a multi-national corporation or brand is absurd. They don’t give a $#it about you — they only want your money.
  8. Learn to be independent, self-reliant, and frugal. Don’t rely on government or private services or institutions. When times get really bad, you won’t be able to plug something in the wall and have it work. You won’t be able to buy gasoline or buy groceries at a national supermarket chain. You won’t be able to get a stack of cash from your bank. And I promise, the police won’t come when you call. You will be left to your own skills, resourcefulness, and courage to survive. Learn to grow your own food, to make your own fuel, to build your own dwelling, to live off the land. Learn to protect yourself and your property, learn to repair and service your machines and tools. There is no more satisfying or healthy way to live — I speak here from experience.
  9. Be prepared to suddenly have the gift of time. Suddenly you’ll have the time to read, to write, to draw, to paint. Time to voluneer. Time to socialize. How will you use your newly earned gift of time? Will you make the world a better place than you found it?

Sam Palahnuk
Cielito Lindo Ranch, Inc. Co-Founder

NOTE: Cielito Lindo Ranch, Inc. is a non-profit educational organization and does not endorse any political party, politician or political ideology. Our sole focus is to research, document, publicize and conduct workshops on sustainable living techniques technologies and designs, which includes sustainable artistic careers, sustainable environmental habits, and creating sustainable local economies.

This entry was posted in The Vision. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *