Am I Free?
Written by Darrell Anderson.
A recent blog entry about returning to the corporate world has had me thinking a lot lately. When exactly is a person free?
Before the infamous events of September 11, 2001, I routinely cashed checks at the local mom-and-pop bank and never had a problem. I also had no account. Most of the checks were four figures and occasionally one with low five figures. Never a problem. The tellers knew me and that was sufficient identification.
That is no longer the case. Check cashing these days is challenging and for all pragmatic effects, is a dead issue. As much as I enjoy an uncomplicated life without a bank account, life without an account is becoming increasingly more difficult. And so is basic surviving in general.
I have lived the life of a “ghost” for many years. Loosely, a ghost is a person who “haunts the system, quietly defying, disobeying, planting doubt, monkey-wrenching, and otherwise non-cooperating.” Monkey-wrenching is not my forte, but living on the fringes of the radar screen is where I focused. Prior to 9/11 I seldom provided deep thought about certain pragmatic issues because I was able to live my life without thinking about those issues. No longer. These days, living as a ghost means, as Debra alluded, living as a pauper.
Living a cash-based life means, typically, living a life of sacrifice. Unless, of course, one pursues various cash-based exchanges that are accompanied with a high risk of interference from jack-booted thugs (JBTs). I prefer not to walk that particular route.
Independent contracting within a profession (as opposed to semi-skilled labor, under-the-table “contracting”) has become more difficult because many people these days refuse to contract with a person who refuses to disclose a number, from which there are various paper trails conveniently produced for the parasites. To avoid the number game one could form a corporation or LLC, but that still creates a paper trail. Becoming employed in-house is all but impossible without playing that same game.
This life of sacrifice is a continual process of learning to live without many things. I have lived such a life long enough now and the uncomplicated fact is that since 9/11 I am slowly suffocating to death. I cannot reduce the “simplicity” in my life much further. I now am living at rock bottom. With each passing day I continue to slowly suffocate. Oh, yes, I could stop “operating a motor vehicle,” but at 7 miles from town, I wonder how long I’d last traveling on foot in the middle of a typical winter. I already travel only 30 miles or so every month and only to travel into town for groceries and staples. Although insurance is an expense, I spend hardly any money on fuel. Yes, I could disconnect the phone and internet lines to save expenses, but I’m unconvinced such decisions would be wise. Everything else is a required expense or extortion payment. There just isn’t a lot of “fat” to cut from my budget. At what point is “simple” no longer simple but complicated?
Although not faced with the same issues as Debra, I face some minor health concerns that cannot be resolved easily while living outside “the system.” Additionally, these days I am little more than skin and bones and although basically healthy and feeling healthy, most people look at me and wonder whether I am sick. But I cannot afford to eat like the typical fattened American.
At one time only a few years ago, I was the person in the extended family who liberally shared his money to help others. The opposite is now true and basically I feel like a charity case rather than a human being. I’m not proud or embarrassed one way or another about accepting these gifts, but the psychology associated with such a life is challenging to ignore.
Owning a home is not much satisfaction if one cannot enjoy other facets of life. I am suffocating in a literal sense in that living outside “the system” today means little or no money. Little or no money means something has to give. The moment I stop paying extortion fees and bribes the parasites will steal my home under the color of law. Do I pay the parasites or fill the cupboards and fridge?
Or do I step back into “the system”?
How things have changed in less than six years. I have watched the political and social climate transform the past several years since 9/11 and the effects are pretty much slow suffocation to most people who want to remain outside “the system.” I am faced with the decision of whether I want to live or die. I offer no rebuttals against the latter option. Readers of this writing should spare their words in trying to convince me otherwise. I am existential about life. People are born, they live, and they die. Period. Nobody escapes this process. I have not yet decided to check out, but the thought in no way offends me or bothers me. So please spare your words. Besides, I have not yet made any such decision and even if I did, I would do so without notifying anybody. The point to this thought process is that I continually wonder whether a life in this current world of parasites, stupid people, and willfully ignorant people is worth my energy. A lot of my energy is being consumed by other people, not me. All I want from life is to be left alone, to live a quiet and peaceable life. I want to support myself, to pursue a reasonably fulfilling vocation, to enjoy a handful of extra creature comforts — and to do so without feeding all the parasites along the way.
But slowly and methodically, since 9/11 that has become increasingly difficult. The numerous nannies, busybodies, and parasites in this world will not allow a person to live a quiet and peaceable, self-supporting life unless all the extortion fees and bribes are paid and even then there are no guarantees. These people all insist on regulating my behavior, my actions, and my thoughts. They all insist that I have to feed them. They all insist that minding my own business is not an option. I am expected to be their slave and lackey. I can’t even sell my home because there is not a banker in this land who would cash the check. Deposit yes, cash no. And more than likely, even if I could find a banker who would cash the check, within hours of burying my stash, there would be black-hooded ninjas infesting my life.
Things will get worse as Real ID ramps up to speed toward the target date of 2008. Traveling without the appropriate paperwork will only become more problematic and I expect the JBTs to relish and expand their thug role. Stealing cars under the color of law known as asset forfeiture will increase for people without the “proper” credentials. As the driver’s license becomes the de facto identification procedure, cashing a check at a bank likely will become impossible without an account. Obtaining a job or contracting with clients also likely will become all but impossible. People are already discovering that buying straightforward medications over-the-counter is impossible without signing documents. I foresee no end in sight within the immediate future. Sadly, a majority of people want Real ID.
A few years ago I always was reasonably prepared for various disruption events. I’m not a survivalist in any strict sense of the word. I merely prefer to be prepared as reasonably as possible for ice storms, power outages, and other unexpected disruptions. But with living under the radar and the subsequent related lack of money, preparations nowadays amount to little more than living from hand-to-mouth. That is not my idea of preparation. Am I free? Or a prisoner? At what point did the “unconnected” ghost life become a prison?
Throughout this past winter I have been chewing the little fat I possess, re-evaluating my lifestyle and the decisions I made many years ago. As my best friend often told me before he departed from this wretched planet, my worldview is a wonderful philosophy but impossible to live. That is, my philosophy looks great on paper but is not pragmatic. I always suspected he was correct and these days, as I continually scrape the loose-change jar before heading into town to buy groceries, I have little choice but to agree. I am suffocating, slowly but surely.
I spent many years studying various topics: economics, social issues, history, monetary theory, philosophy, law. I focused on trying to understand why so much conflict exists today. I wrote several books and essays examining the issues. I possess a decent grasp of the root causes. I offered solutions that I believe are doable and palatable. Unfortunately, all of my research was focused on causes and solutions from a global perspective — to make the world better for everyone and not just me. My straightforward decisions years ago to live on the fringes of society worked well for me for many years, but now I have second and third thoughts. The parasites, stupid, and willfully ignorant people in this world are unlikely to anytime soon embrace my ideas and solutions. Perhaps therefore my focus now ought to be how to survive in a reasonable manner.
I am hard-pressed to believe that any person could derive a more inefficient and violent social system. Peter robs Paul and Paul robs Peter, all under the color of law. Of course, there are politicians, bureaucrats, nannies, two-bit tinhorns, and other parasites who demand their cut in this awful process. Various flaws and presumptions with the social system produce an environment that encourages conflict and violence. The current social system is designed to enslave and empowers only the privileged few. Feudalism never disappeared but only changed names. The current system increases social disorder rather than encourage peace. Of course, nobody designed this atrocious system — everything evolved slowly through the past few hundred years.
And so, like Debra, I wonder whether to continue this lifestyle or to capitulate. Perhaps the secret is not belligerently or stealthily securing freedom and liberty, but instead surviving to my last breath in the least resistive manner. Stay below the radar with some things, but go with the flow with others. In the long run we all die. Nothing changes about that and despite all the medical advances the past several decades I do not expect that aspect about life to change soon. The question before me is how will I choose to live my remaining years? I’ve seen a half century go by and statistically, I should expect less than half of that same period remaining. Although, if the genes in my extended family are any indication, I am likely to be cursed with a longer life than most people or statistics predict.
Through the years I have changed my views much. At one time I was a belligerent philosopher holding some people in contempt for not rejecting and resisting more strongly, but no longer. I remain fussy about definitions with respect to conversations and debates, but I’m not at all particular about how people choose to live their lives. My definition of happiness is not the same as others and vice-versa. I have grown (matured?) to realize that the world is filled with a lot of gray and that there are very few black and white issues or answers. What is good for the goose is seldom good for the gander. There are few absolutes in this world despite what many ignorant people argue and believe.
Unlike Debra, I have no dependents and no significant sweetie to consider. I can try to understand her decisions, but I cannot truly appreciate them because I am unable to wear and walk in her shoes. Debra did what she thought the proper thing to do. What she did was right for her. I am not qualified to comment on her decisions. If she is happy with her decision then I am happy for her — as long as she does not trespass against me in my pursuit of happiness.
Nobody should interpret this essay as an opinion about Debra’s actions. This essay is only a collection of my thoughts. Her blog entry only provided me a pivot point through which I collected my thoughts about me.
The basic urge for many people these days is not so much a return or adoption of a “simple” life, but a less hectic life. The question is not always convenience versus conviction. Technological advances have introduced many gadgets and tools into human existence. Most of those gadgets and tools are useful and they do reduce the amount of energy humans must expend to survive. Yet they also complicate life beyond anything our ancestors could have imagined. I’m no Luddite and never have been, but does “simple” necessarily mean total sacrifice too? Many tasks, such as cutting and heating with firewood, long ago lost their charm and novelty for me. Don’t let anybody kid you — heating a home with wood is a lot of work — and dangerous too. Yet the past several years I have heated my home that way because I had little money and I wanted to avoid being held hostage every winter by the propane dealer.
Many people throughout history have gotten by in life with much less than I possess today. Yet I am not going to compare apples to oranges. I am a product of my environment, as is every human who has walked this planet. No human escapes that process. What was a simple life 100 years ago is not necessarily a simple life today. The environment and times have changed and the definition of simple has changed. Within the current environment, I don’t ask for much and I don’t need much. My life the past several years has demonstrated that. Yet I too want a modicum of creature comforts in my life. Some semblance of normality — whatever that might be.
I am oh-so tired these days. Exhausted, both mentally and physically. I no longer possess the energy to fight, run, and hide anymore. I am tired of continually looking over my shoulder. Most days I struggle to find a hint of motivation to pursue the basics of life, chores, and tasks. The words zest and enthusiasm are no longer a part of my regular vocabulary. My only purpose in life these days is mere survival, and from a human perspective, that is not much of a purpose at all.
Like Debra, with similar observations I have questioned what the struggle for liberty is all about. I have come to realize that my quest for liberty essentially has isolated me from other people. With each move to escape “the system” I have pushed myself further away from the essentials of modern life and existence. There was no way for me to predict the events of 9/11 and therefore I will not play the hindsight game. Before that date, however, living at the fringes of the radar was a relatively straightforward process — but no more. After years of study, grappling with social and philosophical issues, I have no doubt my mind is free, but my body certainly is not. Although I concur that life is largely 10% events and 90% how one reacts, to glibly argue that liberty is a mindset while ignoring the physical aspects of existence is myopic. Liberty between the ears is relatively useless if the body cannot participate along the way. Yes, I am and always will be a prisoner to the basic laws of physics. That is, I must eat, find shelter, and clothing to survive. But the parasites, the stupid, and the willfully ignorant have complicated that basic journey beyond imagination. If I could be left alone to live a quiet and peaceable life, I could find a way to provide my basic needs and a little extra. But the people surrounding me in this post 9/11 world won’t allow that. They demand “their take.” When I awaken each morning and notice that I am disappointed that I actually awakened, has the time arrived for me to pursue some serious reflections about my previous lifestyle choices? Am I happy? Am I content? Have I become a prisoner of my own philosophy and past decisions?
At one time in my life I would have wanted revenge — an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth — but no longer. I want only to live a quiet and peaceable life. I merely want the parasites and nannies to leave me alone, to stop stealing from me under their color of law, to stop trying to continually mind my business. A time might one day arrive when I have to play the eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, limb for a limb destructive game, but that day is not today and I prefer to avoid any such day if at all possible. That is the truly sad part of the world today. I and many people like me are non-coercive, non-violent, peaceable people. Such people mind their own business. They are not interested in power or controlling others. They respect the boundaries of other people. But the parasites and nannies will not leave them alone to live their own lives.
I’m not a Type A. I have no Five Year Plans. Yet perhaps the time has arrived when philosophy yields to pragmatism. Perhaps I find a “job.” Get a bank account. Sign papers. Get photographed. Provide people numbers so they, in their stupid puny minds, believe that I actually exist despite what their own eyes reveal about the person standing directly in front of them. Let the parasites take half or whatever they deem “fair” and “just.”
With that route I live another day. Although I cannot completely escape the melodramatics, stupidity, and nonsense of politicians, bureaucrats, nannies, and other parasites, with my humble little home in the woods I should be able to ignore a lot. Shrug about the paper trails, pay the regularly scheduled extortion payments and bribes, get healthy, rebuild the supplies and stocks for “rainy days,” and once again enjoy some spare change to buy an occasional beer or a quart of ice cream. Stepping back into “the system” does not mean I need to report everything, does not mean I need always cooperate with bureaucrats and two-bit tinhorns, does not mean I must accommodate census takers, does not mean I have to condone anybody’s actions or wars, does not mean I cannot continue the simpler life of using cash. And if so cursed through genetics as I suspect, perhaps I’ll live to an old age where I grow bitter, cantankerous, and become a local curmudgeon. The past few years of hardship have already sown the seeds for being bitter and cantankerous, that’s for sure.
Or I can decide that survival is too much work and not worth my time or energy. In the long run, we all die anyway. Sooner or later. The only variable is how we respond to everything in between.
Of one thing I am certain. I am not the problem. I am a far better person that I once was, having spent so many years studying as I have. I understand so much more than I once did. Unlike the parasites, stupid people, and willful ignorant surrounding me, I actually have a clue about root causes and possible solutions. But of course, I’m no ivory-towered pinhead, I do not write my name with a trailing string of letters, I am in no position to puff my ideas to the spin doctors. I am not a glamorous actor or a high-paid athlete. I am, for all intents and purposes, a persona non-grata. That does not make me the problem of course. The parasites, bureaucrats, nannies, and two-bit tinhorns are the problem. Deep-seeded systemic flaws and presumptions with the social system are the problem. The current question, and possibly the ultimate question, is how best to continue life while minimizing the stupendous idiocy and effects surrounding me.
Throughout known history many people have accepted slavery rather than death. Conversely, many people have accepted death rather than slavery. I have not yet decided my path, but I am thinking about my options.