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Money, Get Away.
July 26, 2009 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Nine years ago, in the autumn of 2000, Daniel Suelo decided to stop using money. He just quit it, like a bad drug habit.

Suelo's Blog, Living Without Money. Suelo's website, Zero Currency. All this via Kottke.

Oh, and just because you'll want to know.
posted by william_boot (201 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Suelo's blog, which he maintains free at the Moab Public Library, . . .

Oh for fuck sake
posted by nola at 11:51 AM on July 26, 2009 [28 favorites]


He hasn't quit using other people's money though - which is what powers his blog (Blogspot) his site (Google sites) and his access to both (Public Library.)
posted by pascal at 11:54 AM on July 26, 2009 [34 favorites]


nola: pretty much my first reaction too.
posted by pascal at 11:54 AM on July 26, 2009


I see bottles, shoes, clothes, glasses... and of course he has a blog.

These people exist without money only because other people exist with money. Wake me up when he's farming enough grain to feed himself and wearing only clothing spun from the wool of the goats he herds. Except, that's right, nobody will know about it because he's spending all of his time feeding himself and meditating, instead of being an industrial-age bum.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:56 AM on July 26, 2009 [35 favorites]


VINCENT
So you decided to be a bum?

JULES
I'll just be Jules, Vincent -- no
more, no less.

VINCENT
No Jules, you're gonna be like
those pieces of shit out there who
beg for change. They walk around
like a bunch of fuckin' zombies,
they sleep in garbage bins, they
eat what I throw away, and dogs
piss on 'em. They got a word for
'em, they're called bums. And
without a job, residence, or legal
tender, that's what you're gonna be
-- a fuckin' bum!
posted by paisley henosis at 11:57 AM on July 26, 2009 [33 favorites]


We've a few hundred of these folks living in Ann Arbor, sleeping where they can, using the shelter when weather is really bad (more and more use it year around)...

If he was truly living off the land, I would respect this, but... as mentioned upstream, he's being supported by the system...
posted by HuronBob at 11:58 AM on July 26, 2009


His blog is kind of timecubeish. Just saying.
posted by monkey!knife!fight! at 11:59 AM on July 26, 2009


More Jimmy Dean Bluberry Pancakes and Bacon on a Stick dunked in Baconnaise for me, then!
posted by Flunkie at 11:59 AM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


He hasn't quit using other people's money though - which is what powers his blog (Blogspot) his site (Google sites) and his access to both (Public Library.)

Wake me up when he's farming enough grain to feed himself and wearing only clothing spun from the wool of the goats he herds.


His point isn't self-sufficiency though. He's doing more of an ascetic thing, and there's many long standing traditions where ascetics live at least in part off the charity of others. I don't know that it's a role that has or should have a cultural place here in the US though.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:00 PM on July 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


So he went from actively helping a community to just fending for himself? And that's a step up?
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 12:02 PM on July 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


Before we dissolve into a vitriolic well-o'-snarky-goodness, take a moment. No man is an island. It is possible to live without money, but in a world filled with it, you will be touched by it.

I think he is not trying to make us redefine our world. He redefined his. And instead of thinking of him taking advantage of us, using our money to transmit his message, look at it this way: We built the library, we funded it, to further our knowledge about ourselves, as people. And as disconnected as he tries to be, he is till one of us, and we are interested in his experience.

FFS, we watch Sex and The City, a show fundamentally about entertainment and narcissism. I can deal with a little paradox, irony, hypocrisy, or moral relativism for what seems like a pretty good experiment or spiritual journey.

Even Ghandi walked on roads maintained by the British Empire.
posted by Xoebe at 12:02 PM on July 26, 2009 [73 favorites]


These people exist without money only because other people exist with money. Wake me up when he's farming enough grain to feed himself and wearing only clothing spun from the wool of the goats he herds.

That's a little drastic, I think. Is there no continuum?

Certainly his footprint is much, much smaller than the average citizen. It's not like he's robbing anyone. He's even living out in the canyon, not in an alley or doorway.

Different strokes for different folks. I wish him peace and happiness.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:04 PM on July 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


So he went from actively helping a community to just fending for himself?
If you're talking about his time in the Peace Corps, from the way he describes it, he seems to think that he had a hand in hurting the community, not helping it:
The tribe had been getting richer for a decade, and during the two years he was there he watched as the villagers began to adopt the economics of modernity. They sold the food from their fields—quinoa, potatoes, corn, lentils—for cash, which they used to purchase things they didn't need, as Suelo describes it. They bought soda and white flour and refined sugar and noodles and big bags of MSG to flavor the starchy meals. They bought TVs. The more they spent, says Suelo, the more their health declined. He could measure the deterioration on his charts. "It looked," he says, "like money was impoverishing them."
posted by Flunkie at 12:04 PM on July 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Is this guy some kind of extreme freegan?

I kind of admire his balls. It must take guts to live like that. And if he's happy, then I guess he's happy. What I don't get, though, is how he wants to benefit from societies throw-away's, yet still derides that same society for producing them.

If he wasn't dumpster diving, and actually went all out to live off the land (as opposed to garbage), I'd have more respect for him. As it is, he's just a bum with a blog. He's not really that far removed from society at all.
posted by Solomon at 12:05 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even Ghandi walked on roads maintained by the British Empire.

Touché
posted by nola at 12:05 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Night falls, the stars wink, and after an hour, Suelo tramps up the cliff, mimicking a raven's call—his salutation—a guttural, high-pitched caw. He's lanky and tan; yesterday he rebuilt the entrance to his cave, hauling huge rocks to make a staircase. His hands are black with dirt, and his hair, which is going gray, looks like a bird's nest, full of dust and twigs from scrambling in the underbrush on the canyon floor."

I'll pass.

I admire what this guy is doing, but there has to be a better way that doesn't involve eating grasshoppers.
posted by DMan at 12:08 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the objections to how he's living are grounded in the fact that he's claiming his lifestyle as superior, as a way that should be emulated. Now, this would be fine, if he had a lifestyle that was sustainable across a large population, but he doesn't. He scavenges food, food which exists because of the evil money system he claims to think we should all abandon.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:10 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some bizarrely hostile reactions in this thread: I don't see where in the article he claims he is living with absolutely no contact with "the system". Bottom line is, I'm 99.9% certain this guy is massively less of a burden on society and on the planet than every single person posting in this thread, and he seems to be happy, too, so it's not clear why people have a problem with him. (Because he doesn't live up to his principles as completely as might be theoretically conceivable? Nobody does.)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:11 PM on July 26, 2009 [22 favorites]


Now, this would be fine, if he had a lifestyle that was sustainable across a large population

This would be a fair argument except for the fact that the more mainstream residents of Moab, and of the US, and of the West, do not currently have a lifestyle that is sustainable across a large population.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:13 PM on July 26, 2009 [16 favorites]


In his eyes, he's gleaning from the refuse of the system. Is he using resources that are created for his demand? No, he's picking up the left-overs. Yes, he relies on friends who are part of "the system" to help him through hard times, and he's tapping "the system" to blog and do whatever else online, but he'd just be another bum if he didn't tell anyone about it.

I was sitting in a coffee shop here in town a few years back, drinking something and reading a book. The coffee shop is often filled with college students on laptops, along with the working folks of the town. Sometimes scruffy folks wander in, and I'd assume they're homeless and looking to get water or use the bathroom, and I wouldn't think much about it. They were usually quiet and kept to themselves. But one time, a "scavenger" spoke up.

"I love college students! I live off your trash! Thank you! I love the university! I eat what you throw out!"

And then he walked out. I looked around, feeling a bit awkward, and it seemed some people felt the same way. What do you say to that? Should I say "you're welcome"? "Thanks for making use of my left-overs"? I said nothing, but every now and again I remember that moment, and still don't know if there was anything that would have been appropriate to say.

The article was preachy and set in it's message: money is the root of modern evils, from gold-hungry Europeans invading the Americas to heath problems of modern society. But money doesn't have to be damaging. Drug use becomes abuse when it continues despite persistent or recurrent social, occupational, psychological or physical problems caused by or made worse by this use.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:15 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


This would be a fair argument except for the fact that the more mainstream residents of Moab, and of the US, and of the West, do not currently have a lifestyle that is sustainable across a large population.

And this would be a relevant point, if I were telling him he should live like I do, which I'm not. I'm merely pointing out that his lifestyle can only exist because I live like I do, and therefore, he's not in a particularly good position to criticize me.

He's like one of those fish that follow sharks around and eat the leftovers. Sure, it's not hurting the me(the shark), so I don't really care. It's only a problem because he spends his time lecturing me about killing all those poor fish whose scraps he eats.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:19 PM on July 26, 2009 [14 favorites]


Speak for yourself. I think he's just a free-rider at best. The only reason we don't cut people like him — who are plainly capable of contributing but choose to freeload instead — off from the services they're consuming is because the enforcement mechanism would probably cost more (in actual cost, obnoxiousness to everyone else, general lost freedom) than just letting them do it.

I have no problem if someone decides just to drop out and be self-sufficient, as best as anyone can do that in the modern, frontier-less world. If somebody wants to go up and live in a hut in the mountains, subsistence farming and shitting in a hole in the ground, more power to them. But people who take advantage of charity or public goods while not participating or contributing to the society that provides them those things, insofar as they are able to or plan to do it in the future, are parasites.

Every time somebody pulls a stunt like this, or the group of people FPPed a few weeks ago who were just living perpetually off of unemployment, they're just pushing us towards yet another tragedy of the commons. There are people who look at free-riding behavior and see a reason to eliminate the 'commons' — whether it's free Internet for anyone who walks up at a library, or less-than-stingy unemployment benefits, or even just private charity given in good faith. They are taking advantage of society, and the net result is that society is going to get just a bit meaner for it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:22 PM on July 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Dude is making use of available infrastructure and people are getting pissed off? I can't imagine that people are faulting him for making use of roads, fire services, rule of law, protection from foreign enemies, etc. so it's got to be the library thing, but even there is he really taking anything? Maybe other places are different but my local libraries have had more computers than people using them for at least the last 5 years.

And you know what? Even if his way of living isn't sustainable across large populations, there is something to be said for harnessing some of the insane amounts of wealth that people living 1st world lifestyles waste on a daily basis.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:22 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


He reminds me of the guy I used to work with who quit smoking by not buying them anymore, he just mooched them off everybody instead.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:24 PM on July 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


I think some people are combining their personal concept of "living off of the land" with his concept "living without money" and it's not adding up. There's something quite commendable of what he's doing - taking what society discards and combining it with a life of self-reliance. But I think some people are expecting his life style to be something more along the lines of surviving as if other human's don't exist. But that's not what he's doing here - he's living off of what he can scrounge from a variety of sources including from nature and from the refuse of modern society.

I read this article a few days ago and I keep thinking about it. There's some admiration for his commitment to living with an incredibly small footprint. But I don't envy the homeless people I see on the street, and I'm a bit confused as to why I separate him from the others. Is it because he lives in the woods and doesn't ask me for change?
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 12:24 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


(The 'speak for yourself' was mostly in response to Xoebe, not Bulgaroktonos, and in retrospect was a bit unnecessarily snarky. Sorry.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:24 PM on July 26, 2009


Speak for yourself.
Will do.
The only reason we don't cut people like him — who are plainly capable of contributing but choose to freeload instead — off from the services they're consuming is because the enforcement mechanism would probably cost more (in actual cost, obnoxiousness to everyone else, general lost freedom) than just letting them do it.
Speaking for myself, I find it interesting that you would say such a thing almost immediately after saying "Speak for yourself."
posted by Flunkie at 12:26 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


So basically he's like a Buddhist monk, but with fewer precepts?
posted by mullingitover at 12:30 PM on July 26, 2009


He sure seems happy.
posted by docpops at 12:33 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


>I'm 99.9% certain this guy is massively less of a burden on society

I'm 99% certain you are wrong, since I appear to have spent and continue to spend many thousands of dollars paying for society's infrastructure, and I suspect most others have too.

I have no problem with a guy living the way this guy is living, if that's his choice. What I object to is the evangelism completely blind to the fact that his choice to live this way is only available to him because most choose not to.
posted by pascal at 12:42 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I dunno, I was reading through his website and it seems to me he is speaking the truth about many things. I don't think I have what it takes to live life like the sparrows in the fields.
posted by fancyoats at 12:43 PM on July 26, 2009


LIKE zOMG SUBSISTENCE FARMERS ARE USING THE SUN! DONT THEY KNOW HOW MUCH WORK GOES INTO BILLIONS OF YEARS OF FUSION REACTIONS?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!!!!!!11111oneeleven

Everyone is a mooch. Or as Carl Sagan liked to say, "To make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." At least he's doing something existentially affirming and appears to be happy.
posted by jock@law at 12:43 PM on July 26, 2009 [26 favorites]


Lots of talk on sustainability/scalability of his lifestyle...

Truth is, if there were a much larger subculture of people like him than already exists they would eliminate the waste products of our cities like the good little beetles scavengers can be.

This in turn makes our waste-filled lifestyles much more sustainable.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 12:44 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


He could measure the deterioration on his charts. "It looked," he says, "like money was impoverishing them."

I just logged onto gapminder, and, while I don't have the numbers for Suelo's particular village, the statistics for Ecuador as a whole tell a slightly different story. Since 1987 when Suelo began his PC mission, infant mortality has dropped from 50 to 20 per 1,000 live births, life expectancy has increased by 7 years to 75, and measles vaccination has gone from 50% to nearly universal. Infrastructural indicators improved similarly, with many more people having access to improved water and sanitation.

What do you get, though when you have a population living into their 70s? Cancer, obesity, and diabetes-- that's what. I'll bet $20 that these are the charts to which Suelo refers. Of course his village is going to get fat and cancerous. It's the epidemiological shift in action, and it's a great thing because it means fewer kids are dying from diarrhea. The rise of consumption is inexorably linked to the rise of cleaner water sources and indoor plumbing, and while you'll find no larger critic of Sex and the City than me, where electricity goes TV follows, and I like my stove a lot more than I hate trash TV.

This is what really gets my goat. It's the short-sightedness of these anti-consumption zealots, and it stings especially when they're people with big enough hearts to be doing some real good in their communities. No man is an island, indeed-- Suelo still interacts with society, therefore he remains beholden to it. He's throwing 30 babies per 1000 live births out with the bathwater when he sets his little anti-consumption example.
posted by The White Hat at 12:47 PM on July 26, 2009 [53 favorites]


Err, meant: (that already exists to some extent)
posted by Matt Oneiros at 12:49 PM on July 26, 2009


Speaking of bizarre hostility:

But people who take advantage of charity or public goods while not participating or contributing to the society that provides them those things, insofar as they are able to or plan to do it in the future, are parasites.

I'm assuming what you're really angry about here is that he's not throwing any cash into the mix. This strikes me as an extremely narrow interpretation of participation/contribution in any situation. The guy is blogging after all. How is this not participation/contribution?
posted by philip-random at 12:56 PM on July 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have no problem if someone decides just to drop out and be self-sufficient, as best as anyone can do that in the modern, frontier-less world. If somebody wants to go up and live in a hut in the mountains, subsistence farming and shitting in a hole in the ground, more power to them. But people who take advantage of charity or public goods while not participating or contributing to the society that provides them those things, insofar as they are able to or plan to do it in the future, are parasites.

Oh, come on. Should I eschew using the library here in Chicago because the bulk of the city's revenues don't come from ordinary people like me but from large corporations and the owners of commercial real estate? Should I stop buying things used because I'm leeching off of their original owners who've absorbed most of their cost?

The only reason we don't cut people like him — who are plainly capable of contributing but choose to freeload instead — off from the services they're consuming is because the enforcement mechanism would probably cost more (in actual cost, obnoxiousness to everyone else, general lost freedom) than just letting them do it.

No, the reason we don't cut people off from using the public library because they don't pay any taxes is that its purpose is inherently redistributive and egalitarian and the librarians would riot if you tried.
posted by enn at 12:57 PM on July 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


From his website:
Wild Nature, outside civilization, runs on gift economy: "freely give, freely receive."
I think that someone should freely give him a TV and some electricity, because he's clearly never seen a nature documentary.
posted by Flunkie at 12:58 PM on July 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


>I'm 99.9% certain this guy is massively less of a burden on society

I'm 99% certain you are wrong, since I appear to have spent and continue to spend many thousands of dollars paying for society's infrastructure, and I suspect most others have too.


You're assuming that the only way one can contribute to society's infrastructure is via paying taxes. This is a flawed assumption that posits that the maintenance of a society is first and foremost an economic challenge. It's not.
posted by philip-random at 1:01 PM on July 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


"Bottom line is, I'm 99.9% certain this guy is massively less of a burden on society and on the planet than every single person posting in this thread, and he seems to be happy, too, so it's not clear why people have a problem with him."

Two reasons I think. First he's 99% take and 1% give to society and his friends. He's squatting, probably on public land and harvesting food also from public land. He uses all sorts of public facilities without contributing and his free riding is his goal. Second there is a realization that if any significant number of people were to follow his example the world would be a worse place.

But most importantly he feels the need to evangelize on his beliefs. Few would care if he just kept how much better his life is to himself.

"I can't imagine that people are faulting him for making use of roads, fire services, rule of law, protection from foreign enemies, etc. so it's got to be the library thing, but even there is he really taking anything?"

I fault him for those things. Take law enforcement for example. He's free riding on the herd immunity that expenditures in this area provide. He says "A true test of faith would be to return to one of the most materialistic, money-worshipping nations on earth and be a sadhu there. To be a vagabond in America, a bum, and make an art of it—the idea enchanted me." but one has to wonder how much his decision was motivated by the basic standard of living. Does India have free pubilc libraries with internet within walking distance of wilderness caves?

He talks a pretty good talk but makes a point of saying he could change his mind at anytime. Maybe he has the strength to maintain his philosopy in the face of death from starvation once he is too old or injured to work. If so good for him. But if not and he changes his mind at 65 or when he falls down the cliff outside his home requiring medical care, rehab and assistance to survive he will have frittered away his contribution time effectively taking without returning and he won't even feel guilty because he has given himself he out of changing his mind when ever he likes.
posted by Mitheral at 1:05 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I see this person as having a greater negative impact on wilderness than the average citizen.
posted by Brian B. at 1:06 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


And instead of thinking of him taking advantage of us

*falls off chair laughing*

yeah, here i am living in a wretched little apartment full of cheap entertainment and cheap food when i could be living in a cave eating garbage having bugs bite me while scorpions, mountain lions and bears wander around

this man is exploiting the fuck out of me, alright
posted by pyramid termite at 1:09 PM on July 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


Money Is Law. Law is Money Management.
Gratis is Anarchy. Anarchy is Grace


you are all invested stupid
posted by pyramid termite at 1:13 PM on July 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


I see this person as having a greater negative impact on wilderness than the average citizen. ... who drives a car, has an air-conditioned home, doesn't recycle ...
posted by philip-random at 1:15 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


jock@law: "
Everyone is a mooch. Or as Carl Sagan liked to say, "To make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." At least he's doing something existentially affirming and appears to be happy.
"

Damn, man. Dead-on.
posted by notsnot at 1:17 PM on July 26, 2009


I think the (rightly so) point that people are trying to make here is that articles like this look at Suelo like some kind of enlightened prophet to an over-commercialized world. The reality, regardless of you liking it or not, is that while Suelo has cast off the benefits of a large, cooperative society, he's also cast off any attempts at contributing to it. Yes, he's taking advantage of infrastructure the way we all use highways and libraries and water fountains... you know, that we pay for not only through taxes, but by being a community of people who work and organize to maintain them, monitor them, regulate them, and strengthen them. With the exception of making garbage cans slightly lighter before pickup I fail to see what Suelo is doing to help a society that is passively donating to him, and unlike many of the homeless we see on the streets he is neither physically incapable nor remotely interested in trying to reciprocate.

It infuriates me when conservatives make the kneejerk straw man that "the homeless CHOOSE to be that way;" it infuriates me further when Suelo goes out and actually does just that. There's a line the width of a major highway between being selfless and selfish and voluntarily imposing a so-called minimalist lifestyle that just happens to rely on the goodwill of others does a good job to cleave that.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:18 PM on July 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Money is a tool, it's no better or worse than any other tool. It gets things done in efficient manner sometimes it does great evil sometimes great good. This guy is not getting at the root of the problems he perceives , he is just turning his back on them.
posted by nola at 1:18 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Do you really think that society could function if everyone had your job/work ethic?
posted by Balisong at 1:20 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Adding, when I first read this article what I actually thought of for some reason was that old SaveKaryn.com website- it's effective and kitschy when one personable person does it. If everyone did, it wouldn't really work.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:22 PM on July 26, 2009


What is money but the physical evidence of a set of agreements between people for the control and use of physical resources? To live without money is to live without a way to keep track of these agreements. If we all had perfect communication skill, along with perfect memory, we wouldn't have any need for a system that works to keep track of everything...

Living well without money simply requires cultivating agreements with people. It's a lot of work. Pretty soon you begin to see the need to have a system to keep track of the agreements. Hence money...

Interestingly, the first use of "currency" to keep track of resources was initiated to keep track of livestock. Community members were given a variety of stones that represented the number of animals they were permited to give away to neighboring communities. In other words, it was designed to put limits on individual generosity for the sake of the common good of the community...

Is this notion one of intelligent pragmatism or greed? You decide...
posted by RoseyD at 1:27 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


If everyone did, it wouldn't really work.

The set of things that if everyone did them it would work is pretty damned small. Welcome to specialization.

quick somebody give me an over-under on comments-till-Heinlein-quote
posted by enn at 1:28 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


With the exception of making garbage cans slightly lighter before pickup I fail to see what Suelo is doing to help a society that is passively donating to him

Well, for a start, he's got us exchanging ideas which is never an entirely bad thing.

Do you really think that society could function if everyone had your job/work ethic?

That's the nut of it right there or, as I commented long ago in some completely other context ... As an old room-mate of mine used to say, "Everybody brings something different to the party." Some people bring way more food than they can eat, others more booze than they can drink. Some people are just more generous with their charm, their wit, their compassion. And those that are genuinely not generous in any way, they generally don't get invited back.

I believe it genuinely freaks a lot of people out that their hard-earned cash is perhaps not near as valuable as they think it is.
posted by philip-random at 1:30 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


... who drives a car, has an air-conditioned home, doesn't recycle ...

Wilderness
posted by Brian B. at 1:33 PM on July 26, 2009


I always assumed that I wasn't a burden on society because I give so much back in the form of sarcasm and negativity.
posted by digsrus at 1:40 PM on July 26, 2009 [16 favorites]


You're assuming that the only way one can contribute to society's infrastructure is via paying taxes

I am assuming no such thing. What I am countering is the argument that most of us are contributing less to society than Suelo - which I think can be taken to imply that we are contributing almost nothing.

It's not.

This would be a better argument if you would say what you think it is instead.
posted by pascal at 1:45 PM on July 26, 2009



... who drives a car, has an air-conditioned home, doesn't recycle ...

Wilderness


Are you implying that automobiles, garbage and air conditioning etc have no negative impact on wilderness?
posted by philip-random at 1:46 PM on July 26, 2009


It's not.

This would be a better argument if you would say what you think it is instead.


This is true but it's Sunday and I'm lazy. However, since you called me on it ...

The maintenance of a society is NOT first and foremost an economic challenge,. This is not to say that economics are not a important part of the puzzle; just not the main one. The main concern is a little more nebulous than even economics and thus hard to pin down. It's got something to do with what's going on in the hearts, minds and souls of all those who are taking part in the "great and ongoing experiment", and the degree to which they can see the value in contributing ...

Or, as I just noted ... Everybody brings something different to the party. Some people bring way more food than they can eat, others more booze than they can drink. Some people are just more generous with their charm, their wit, their compassion. And those that are genuinely not generous in any way, they generally don't get invited back.
posted by philip-random at 1:57 PM on July 26, 2009


Are you implying that automobiles, garbage and air conditioning etc have no negative impact on wilderness?

No, I'm clearly implying that one person living in the wilderness does major damage to it by just using fuel, eating wild plants or animals, making trails and stinking up the place. Worse for wear, this guy is probably trudging over cryptobiotic soil while living the life of the vacationer-homeless. No doubt some animals have moved on to elsewhere. The point being that he's doing far more damage to the wilderness than by living out of the dumpsters in town, which is probably not what you want to hear because it wouldn't be interesting. The other point being is that it is debatable whether or not he's actually impacting wilderness more than anyone else. Regardless, there is absolutely no need to excuse this guy or give him extra praise for intruding on wilderness. Only a neophyte to wilderness issues would make the mistake. Ask your local ranger what they think.
posted by Brian B. at 1:59 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Apologies to Mr. Suelo, but modern western civilization is the shit

I am by no means a rich man, but in comparison to most of the world and most humans who lived in any age preceding ours, I live like a king. By the mere accident of birth, I came to live in a country that bombards its citizens with comforts. I woke up this morning and put two cups of fresh, clean water into a metal pan and boiled it on my electric stove. I then stirred in some 7-grain porridge and some raisins and cooked up my breakfast. I didn't have to grow the grains and process them and I didn't have to grow the grapes and dry them into raisins - it all came from the store, packaged and ready to go! From the same store, I also obtained some butter without having to own a cow and some honey without having to put on an apiarist's suit and squeeze it out of a hive. I put the porridge and honey and butter into a ceramic bowl that I did not cast and stirred it all together with a metal spoon that I did not forge.

Scarcely half an hour after climbing out of my bed - that is, a queen-sized mattress supported by a boxspring and a metal frame, covered with flannel sheets that I did not and could not weave - I had prepared myself a delicious, nutritious breakfast. And I know how long it took because of the digital alarm clock sitting on my bookshelf - a bookshelf that is packed out with volumes on a wide variety of subjects which were written by learned men and women from all over the planet. Were I to pick up one of these books, I would find pages filled with words in clear, uniform type on smooth, machine-pressed paper. Their spines are sturdily bound and some of the covers have absolutely beautiful art or photographs printed on them. I could read it on my sofa while an electric fan controlled the temperature in my apartment and better see the pages by way of an electric light if I found the sunlight streaming in through my double-paned windows wanting. Fucking. Awesome.

Instead, I decided to watch a DVD of Flight of the Conchords while I ate. A DVD player built in Taiwan streamed images of a sitcom filmed in New York, built around the act of a guitar-playing folk-satire duo from New Zealand into a cathode ray device built in China, all for my amusement. Once upon a time, only nobility got to be so entertained, and only then if they shipped in live performers. Today, a machine on a shelf above my television used a fucking laser to extract entertainment from a paper-thin disc, all because I pushed a few buttons on a small, infrared transmitter called a "remote control." Wow! No Pharaoh ever had it so good!

I looked at Mr. Suelo's site for as long as I could stomach the sanctimony and noticed a number of quotes from luminaries of ages long dead. These quotes make for good copy, but I don't know how good a job they do of decrying our age and our currency, given that these people never saw it and never spent it. Is Suelo absolutely certain that Thoreau wouldn't have loved microwave popcorn? That Lincoln wouldn't have wanted the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy? He did fancy a play from time to time, after all. St. Augustine's piety was never, ever tested against central air conditioning or drive-thru burger joints.

The folks who lived without money and modern comforts in ages gone by did so largely for lack of any other choice. People crave comfort and safety - greed is naught but an extreme expression of these universal needs. The average Roman legionnaire would have gladly killed to know the comforts of a Victorian and a Victorian would have done the same to enjoy the leisurely life of a modern American, same as I would to vault into the 24th century, where waste-processing nanites keep my large intestine clean and translator microbes in my Broca's region enable me to speak with anyone in the world as if we grew up with a common language. I'm aware that greed and sloth have us in a bit of a mess right now and I'm confident that greed will lead us back out. The energy problem won't be cracked because we all come together and build non-profit solar power co-ops. It'll happen when some greedy son of a bitch decides he wants in on the ground floor of The Industrial Revolution, Part Two - Green Electric Boogaloo.

The modern world absolutely teems with marvels. In a couple hours, I'm gonna hop on my bike, a miracle of a machine with a fiberglass frame and rubber tires, and ride on paved, light-controlled roads to a job where I help disabled folks manage their lives. These guys have disabilities that would doom them in a fortnight in Mr. Suelo's ideal world. But thanks to modern medicine and machines, these men may live for much longer and in much more comfort than they ever could before. I know what a lucky bastard I am, living in the twenty-first century United States. I'm thankful to live in such a place, where a man with cerebral palsy can have orange juice whenever he pleases and even folks who elect to live in a goddamn cave get to wear sturdy boots and maintain a blog that the whole planet is welcome to read.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:00 PM on July 26, 2009 [778 favorites]


Do you really think that society could function if everyone had your job/work ethic?

The only person in this conversation who doesn't understand this point is Suelo.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:03 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like people who experiment with their lives, who make their lives into experiments, but those experiments are of no value except to the experimenter unless the experimenter tells others about them. A free blog written at a free library terminal is about as minimal as you can get and still publish your thoughts. No one said you have to have a job to use the library.

The guy lives in a burrow and feeds on waste and carrion, for Christes sake, so he's not exactly a great burden to anyone. If he has an environmental footprint, well, what living being doesn't? Is yours smaller than his? He's a thousand times less annoying and damaging than all of the people I see and hear puttering away in traffic jams and chattering away on cell phones every day.
posted by pracowity at 2:04 PM on July 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Even Ghandi walked on roads maintained by the British Empire.

Exactly. Which is why Ghandi gets no respect around here. Bloody bastard, using up all those public resources, just to kick out the people who provided those resources in the first place! Pish-posh and balderdash, I say! Pish-posh and balderdash and a good day to you, sirrah!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:09 PM on July 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


It infuriates me when conservatives make the kneejerk straw man that "the homeless CHOOSE to be that way;" it infuriates me further when Suelo goes out and actually does just that. There's a line the width of a major highway between being selfless and selfish and voluntarily imposing a so-called minimalist lifestyle that just happens to rely on the goodwill of others does a good job to cleave that.

C'mon, man. Our whole system is , literally, based on selfishness - read Wealth of Nations.

And this guy has a home - it's just more grungy and ephemeral than yours. Relying on the goodwill of others is really no different than going to work everyday and expecting to be paid, either.

Oh, I know, your contribution is valuable and his isn't. That's really the crux of the argument. I submit that not everything (and probably not most of what's important) can be monetized.

(And by "you", I don't mean you personally, I mean people who are personally offended by this guy and his "freeloading" ways.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:09 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


A recent related thread (complete with a response by the creator of the website featured in the FPP)
posted by hippybear at 2:17 PM on July 26, 2009


Second there is a realization that if any significant number of people were to follow his example the world would be a worse place.

Correction: the local area might be a "worse place" by your metric. The world, on the other hand, would probably be a better place. You, and every single one of us on MeFi, have the lifestyle we do only because we complete fuck over third world citizens.

You do not get cheap fuel, cheap food, cheap computers, cheap clothing, and etcetera because you're pulling your weight in this world. You get it because others are purposely deprived so that you might benefit.

Enjoy your child slave labour manufactured Nikes and iPods while you shit all over Suelo's lifestyle.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:17 PM on July 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


> Pish-posh and balderdash, I say! Pish-posh and balderdash and a good day to you, sirrah!

And an extra point for being clever!
posted by bjrn at 2:21 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


five fresh fish: 'Enjoy your child slave labour manufactured Nikes and iPods while you shit all over Suelo's lifestyle.'

...because before the first world got there, there was never child labor in the third world and everything was hunky-dory.
posted by mullingitover at 2:23 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Would that it were, bjrn!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:24 PM on July 26, 2009


They sold the food from their fields—quinoa, potatoes, corn, lentils—for cash, which they used to purchase things they didn't need, as Suelo describes it.

So he's upset they didn't use their money the "right way". Yeah, whatever, I'm sure he knows what's best for those poor African people, who can't be trusted with their own money.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:34 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Or, of course, the South American people, since that's where he was. doh.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:36 PM on July 26, 2009


Or, as I just noted ... Everybody brings something different to the party.

I think it's arguably true that Suelo does "bring something to the party" by inspiring some members of society to examine their consumption, but he’s not living a life free of money. It’s interesting that the things we know Suelo takes from public infrastructure--computer usage, wi-fi and electricity--are fungible utilities fueled not by creativity (the "charm and wit" to follow your analogy) but by money ("taxes"). Suelo's life, as represented, does involve money and it is difficult to reconcile this disconnect.
posted by applemeat at 2:44 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


You do not get cheap fuel, cheap food, cheap computers, cheap clothing, and etcetera because you're pulling your weight in this world. You get it because others are purposely deprived so that you might benefit. Enjoy your child slave labour manufactured Nikes and iPods...

If you think things are so simple, I'm betting you haven't read Kristof or Krugman on the topic.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:47 PM on July 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Me: [reads article] Huh. Well, I generally don't look to self-righteous old codgers for life lessons. Moving right along.
MetaFilter: AS A TAXPAYER [...] !!!
Me: Moving. Right. Along.
posted by wreckingball at 2:54 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm merely pointing out that his lifestyle can only exist because I live like I do, and therefore, he's not in a particularly good position to criticize me.

His lifestyle is limited to scavenging because he lives in a society where property is universally presumed the best system. I imagine his ideal world would consist of some kind of Rousseauian pre-society, where people peacefully hunt & gather as needed in the wilderness. Since he lives in the modern world, he has to "gather" in the modern world, instead of simply with his kin in the wild. But that doesn't mean he depends on us - he accepts what there is, and it seems pretty clear from the way he lives that he is not looking for contemporary comforts.

What do you get, though when you have a population living into their 70s? Cancer, obesity, and diabetes-- that's what.

obesity? Yeah, that one definitely doesn't fit. And I doubt the population lasting an average of 7 more years really explains a 38% increase in diabetes either, especially when obesity is already listed as a concurrent issue. If the population is eating more refined sugar, as the article said, then that's a much more likely explanation. (And there are other theories about the cancer too, though texaco disagree...)

Thanks for the article.
posted by mdn at 3:03 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you think things are so simple, I'm betting you haven't read Kristof or Krugman on the topic.

OH SNAP PUNDITS
posted by enn at 3:12 PM on July 26, 2009


I think I'm behind Suelo on almost all of this, if only for the fact that he managed to get a lot of people thinking about their footprint in the world. In exchange for that, and for the fact that his footprint is very small, I'll let him kick a bobcat and a few scorpions out of the cave that I'm a 1/304,059,724th a stakeholder in.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:14 PM on July 26, 2009


Have you people been to a public library lately?

Their current raison d'être, it seems to me, is to give homeless people a place to blog. What in the name of fuck is wrong with that? Even before the internet, they weren't much more than a roof, a restroom, and free reading material; a moocher's paradise. And hooray for that.

Are you people sriously suggesting that poor people (even poor-on-purpose a-holes) shouldn't be allowed access to free services? I don't know what you think you're paying your taxes for, but, um, that's what.

Seriously, you all sound like those childless dickheads who wonder why they have to pay for the public schools--whose services they gladly received for thirteen years without ever paying a cent.

O NOES SOCIALIZM RUN AMOK!!!
posted by Sys Rq at 3:15 PM on July 26, 2009 [16 favorites]


I think I'm behind Suelo on almost all of this, if only for the fact that he managed to get a lot of people thinking about their footprint in the world.

The romantic's guide to feeding the homeless.
posted by Brian B. at 3:34 PM on July 26, 2009


I read this when it was in the print magazine. It's an interesting experiment, and I sort of think the thing that sets so many people off is the fawning tone of the writer and not really what Suelo is doing.

He's pretty clear that he's not trying to be super pure in any way other than living, personally, without cash. He lets friends feed him and (I think) clothe him and give him some things. He's pretty clearly a little grubby and bug-bitten. He's not moping that the ladies don't love his cozy cave. He's doing a thing because he believes in it and along the line someone in the media thought other people might find his thing interesting. While part of his thing is a critique of capitalism, he's not looking, I don't think, for a primitivist utopia where the caves would get crowded and he'd be in danger of bigger anarchists stealing his cave. His system only works if there's a surplus in the larger society and it doesn't seem to me that he's unclear on this point. I find stories like this to be much more of a Rorschach test than anything else. The comments in this thread are fascinating.

And he used the library, yay.
posted by jessamyn at 3:35 PM on July 26, 2009 [22 favorites]


I'm thankful to live in such a place, where a man with cerebral palsy can have orange juice whenever he pleases ...
posted by EatTheWeak


Eponyhysterical?
posted by jayder at 3:36 PM on July 26, 2009


In all these alternative lifestyles or alternative energy or alternative diet discussions there is always a contingent of "This is not (an answer, a solution, a moral way to live, etc) because not everyone in the world can do it simultaneously, forever". You know how stupid conservatives look when they say "If everyone were gay, the human race would die out", well...
posted by 445supermag at 3:48 PM on July 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


In all these alternative lifestyles or alternative energy or alternative diet discussions there is always a contingent of "This is not (an answer, a solution, a moral way to live, etc) because not everyone in the world can do it simultaneously, forever". You know how stupid conservatives look when they say "If everyone were gay, the human race would die out", well...

Those are often examples used in arguments about sustainability, in that if everyone in the world lived like we do in the US, we'd run out of resources quickly.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:52 PM on July 26, 2009


Are you people sriously suggesting that poor people (even poor-on-purpose a-holes) shouldn't be allowed access to free services?

No. Personally I believe even straw men should be allowed access to public libraries.
posted by pascal at 3:52 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


His system only works if there's a surplus in the larger society and it doesn't seem to me that he's unclear on this point.
Really? Maybe not from the article itself, but his website does make it seem, to me, that he's unclear on that point.

I have nothing against him or what he's doing; more power to him. But when he says things like this:
Wild Nature, outside civilization, runs on gift economy: "freely give, freely receive." Thus it is balanced. World civilization runs on consciousness of credit and debt (knowledge of good & evil); thus it is imbalanced. What nation on earth can even balance its own budget or environment? Gift Economy is Faith, Grace, Love - the message at the heart of every religion, though rejected by virtually every religious institution. The proof is inside you: Wild Nature is your True Nature, crucified by commercial civilization.
That sure sounds to me like an advocation of a position stronger than simply "I'll try to personally live without money".
posted by Flunkie at 3:53 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The modern world absolutely teems with marvels.

I will be over here, worshipping EatTheWeek.

Those of you who long to live in "some kind of Rousseauian pre-society, where people peacefully hunt & gather as needed in the wilderness." are welcome to join the libertards in Somalia, and can report back to us on how it feels to watch your children starve to death when you have a bad year.
posted by rodgerd at 4:07 PM on July 26, 2009


VINCENT
No Jules, you're gonna be like
those pieces of shit out there who
beg for change. They walk around
like a bunch of fuckin' zombies,
they sleep in garbage bins, they
eat what I throw away, and dogs
piss on 'em. They got a word for
'em, they're called bums. And
without a job, residence, or legal
tender, that's what you're gonna be


-- a fuckin' bum! a human being suffering from mental illness?
posted by francesca too at 4:11 PM on July 26, 2009


Maybe not from the article itself, but his website does make it seem, to me, that he's unclear on that point.

Good point, I sort of got overwhelmed by Whimsical capitalization and Didn't Read that part. I enjoy the thought experiment of money's value being grounded in shared belief. I'm less keen on the more hand-wavey aspects of the whole deal (the way he'll accept medical help if the doctor gives it to him freely, while I get it, doesn't seem consistent, but then who among us is really consistent?) and I notie that he grew up in an Evangelical household which may explain a little about his somewhat preachy tone.
posted by jessamyn at 4:13 PM on July 26, 2009


Hahaha, this thread is hilarious. It's so painfully clear that you're projecting your own insecurities about the fact that your shitty webdesign job contributes nothing whatsoever to anyone's wellbeing onto this guy, which momentarily helps you deal with your gnawing feeling of failure. As long as no one steps out of line, no one looks bad! Burn him!
posted by nasreddin at 4:34 PM on July 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


The fact is, each and every one of you is a net loss for the human race. The thousands of pounds of garbage you produce and barrels of oil you consume every year will lead to global catastrophe and to the partial or total obliteration of the human species, Waxman-Markey or no. "Contribution to society" my ass.
posted by nasreddin at 4:41 PM on July 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


We have people who live for zero dollars a day in our yard... we call them raccoons.
posted by Artw at 4:46 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hahaha, this thread is hilarious. It's so painfully clear that you're projecting your own insecurities about the fact that your shitty webdesign job contributes nothing whatsoever to anyone's wellbeing onto this guy, which momentarily helps you deal with your gnawing feeling of failure. As long as no one steps out of line, no one looks bad! Burn him!

Projection would be more in line with people suggesting that he's living the ideal life. They hate their jobs, their lives, and they admit this by thinking this guy has figured out an escape. Similarly, others in this thread have projected their belief that he's happy for not being in traffic jams, or that others are complaining about him as if jealous, because "not everyone can do it." Others just think he's a poser, obviously.
posted by Brian B. at 4:58 PM on July 26, 2009


So would everyone prefer he just continues paying into the system, retires at 65, and then lives off of medicaid and social security for the rest of his life?

Because I think he's probably put in enough time and tax money to be able to use the public library in freakin' Moab, Utah.
posted by shownomercy at 5:03 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know who else was into wild nature?

I'll admit that I'm disappointed in someone who, contrary to my expectations before clicking through, really hasn't come up with any sort of idea of how a moneyless economy (an idea that has intrigued me since I came across it in Miracleman) might actually work, but is rather a freegan without acknowledging the larger movement (he mentions "freegan" exactly once in his FAQ, under diet). What he's really about is being a hermit, which is cool but not nearly the world-changing idea that he thinks it is. Even Jesus had a posse.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:07 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


So would everyone prefer he just continues paying into the system, retires at 65, and then lives off of medicaid and social security for the rest of his life?

I can't speak for anyone else, but I want him to be homeless in Moab, where be seems to commute back and forth to, rather than glamorize living off the "gifting" landscape he knows nothing about. It's the same entitled attitude that steals the petroglyghs, pottery, dinosaur tracks, and endangered species for cash.
posted by Brian B. at 5:14 PM on July 26, 2009


retires at 65, and then lives off of medicaid and social security for the rest of his life

See, I think he's probably going to do this anyway.
posted by maxwelton at 5:28 PM on July 26, 2009


I just find it fascinating how his past life included things like:

1) thinking about becoming a doctor
2) joining the Peace Corps ("monitoring the health of tribespeople in the area, teaching first aid and nutrition, and handing out medicine where needed; his proudest achievement was delivering three babies")
3) working at a woman's shelter for 5 years

Unquestionably a positive, helpful person. Then something changed inside of him - it's never clear what, aside from the pretty weak "He wanted to help people, but getting paid for it seemed dishonest" - and then he crawled inside of himself, and stopped doing good things. The article also says he spent some time in a Buddhist monastery. Did he really learn much there? The Buddha himself tried and ultimately rejected extreme asceticism.
posted by naju at 5:34 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]



He may be using scraps from the money system. But methinks this guy could/would make it on his own without said scraps if he had to. Me? Not so much.
posted by notreally at 5:44 PM on July 26, 2009


Seeing this story made me feel better about shoplifting the copy of Details it was in.
posted by klangklangston at 5:53 PM on July 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


The fact is, each and every one of you is a net loss for the human race.

The fact is, the human race is a net loss for the universe itself, and that we are ravenously tearing our home to shreds looking to eek out that last bit of oil or tungsten to keep the machine going for a few more days.

And the more I think about it, the more I realize that there really is no alternative except mass extinction. So I pop a Xanax, throw some more books on the fire, turn down the lights and go to bed.
posted by Avenger at 5:57 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"It looked," he says, "like money was impoverishing them."

No, consumerism was impoverishing them.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:01 PM on July 26, 2009


Flunkie: "Speaking for myself, I find it interesting that you would say such a thing almost immediately after saying "Speak for yourself.""

That was in response to Xoebe saying “We built the library, we funded it, to further our knowledge about ourselves, as people. And as disconnected as he tries to be, he is till one of us, and we are interested in his experience.” And, as I said in a followup comment, it was unnecessarily snarky of me.

I don't think anything I said beyond that was particularly controversial. The places you see the free-rider problem are with "public goods," which by definition are things that either can't be given out selectively, or aren't given out selectively because it's less costly (and again, I mean 'cost' in a more broad sense than just the financial aspects) to just allow the occasional free-rider than to try and prevent it.*

Different societies have varying amounts of tolerance to the amount of free-riding that they'll accept, and to the onerousness of the enforcement mechanism that they'll employ to deal with it. In the US, we typically lean towards very little tolerated free-riding and stringent enforcement mechanisms. In other parts of the world, it's been my experience that sometimes more free-riding is tolerated in exchange for less onerous enforcement. But the same balance is being struck, it's just that the factors are weighted differently.

When free-riding increases, demands for enclosure of the good in question — in the form of access restrictions — increase as well. If we want to prevent enclosure movements (in the form of elimination of public services or outright privatization), it's important to use 'soft' social sanctions to prevent free riding behavior, or at least to encourage the people doing the free riding to keep a low profile and not encourage it in others. Since the subject of the post seems to be doing the exact opposite — going so far as to create a whole philosophy where what he's doing is okay, even admirable — I'm not a fan of it.

* If you wanted to get picky, you could probably get into an argument over whether these latter things — things we give out freely because it doesn't make sense or isn't cost effective to meter them — are truly 'public goods' in the most formal sense of that term. That seems like wanking to me , but if it bothers someone, maybe it's less objectionable to think of them as "de facto public goods" as opposed to "natural public goods" or something like that.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:02 PM on July 26, 2009


The fact is, the human race is a net loss for the universe itself
What? No we're not. We're part of the universe; what is left after we die will be the universe. Do you think the universe cares whether oil is burned? Whether plastic exists? Whether rain forests are chopped down?

The only sense that we could be thought of as a "net loss for the universe itself" is that we are net entropy increasers. But there is nothing that is not.
posted by Flunkie at 6:10 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think anything I said beyond that was particularly controversial.
I think you'll find many people who will give a thumbs up to allowing everyone access to libraries, regardless of whether it would be easier to disallow access for certain arguably non-contributing people.

So, I think that when you make a blanket statement that the only reason that "we" don't cut this guy off from library access is because it would be too hard, I think that you should instead speak for yourself.

Moreover, I think this regardless of whether you bind your statement to "Speak for yourself". The fact that you did merely makes for an interesting juxtaposition, but it doesn't change my opinion.
posted by Flunkie at 6:15 PM on July 26, 2009


And the more I think about it, the more I realize that there really is no alternative except mass extinction.

Expansion to gain control over increasingly more resources to put off the inevitable for as long as possible. The universe has a lot of untapped resources in it; find and exploit them all. Survival of the species at all costs.
posted by prak at 6:29 PM on July 26, 2009


Are you people sriously suggesting that poor people (even poor-on-purpose a-holes) shouldn't be allowed access to free services? I don't know what you think you're paying your taxes for, but, um, that's what.

No, I think the point is that when you say "I live without money," it's a little annoying to use resources paid for by money to say it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:44 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Even Ghandi walked on roads maintained by the British Empire.

So is that a point for the British Empire or a point for Ghandi?
posted by binturong at 6:46 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Expansion to gain control over increasingly more resources to put off the inevitable for as long as possible. The universe has a lot of untapped resources in it; find and exploit them all. Survival of the species at all costs.

Holy shit, I just realized that The Borg are, like, a metaphor.
posted by cortex at 7:04 PM on July 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


No, I think the point is that when you say "I live without money," it's a little annoying to use resources paid for by money to say it.

The funny thing is that no one lives without money not even this guy. Using the library to post on a blog is an example of him being deluded about the state of things.

We are all connected and money is one of the ways we are all connected. Even if he really tried to live without money he would still live inside the bubble that money affords.


The fact is, each and every one of you is a net loss for the human race. The thousands of pounds of garbage you produce and barrels of oil you consume every year will lead to global catastrophe and to the partial or total obliteration of the human species, Waxman-Markey or no. "Contribution to society" my ass.
posted by nasreddin



So living in a cave is the solution? Or are you saying there is no solution? In that case why live in a cave?
posted by nola at 7:05 PM on July 26, 2009


And I'll also note that not all of what the guy is doing is objectionable; dumpster diving and creative reuse of what would otherwise be waste is totally admirable, and I salute him for that side of things.

I think you'll find many people who will give a thumbs up to allowing everyone access to libraries, regardless of whether it would be easier to disallow access for certain arguably non-contributing people.

I've never met anyone who has held, nor do I think a reasonable person could actually hold, that position in the way you're stating it, as opposed to perhaps placing a very high value on open access and being willing to tolerate a lot of free-riding behavior (however we want to define free-riding in the context of a library) in order to achieve that.

Library cards are direct evidence of this tradeoff having been made. A library where anyone could simply walk in, pick up a book, and carry it out the door would be convenient from the perspective of a user, and would also lack the administrative overhead of one with cards and checkout systems. But it would be prone to abuse and a tragedy-of-the-commons situation fairly quickly. So instead, there's a whole system to limit access to people, generally, who have some sort of stake in the library. (Typically by being a member of the community that pays for the library via taxes or tuition/fees, or paying for a card outright.)

So right there, most libraries already exclude 'arguably non-contributing' people from having the same access to services than someone who's thought to be contributing, based on giving them the benefit of the doubt and looking only at where they live or that they go to the right university, has. Typically these restrictions aren't ironclad, and I'm not suggesting that libraries aren't (in most cases) good examples of openness, but that openness exists in constant balance with a need to prevent abuse by people who would take more than their fair share.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:06 PM on July 26, 2009


I'm reading this using stolen found in a dumpster wifi.
posted by HuronBob at 7:06 PM on July 26, 2009


The discovery of the existence of cave guy has triggered quite the detonation. This guy's getting a free ride? His ideas aren't workable? My God, how FUCKING tedious.

I may go live in a cave.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 7:15 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would like to bring in a bit of the response of the 'whywork' founder:

"I started CLAWS because it had always bothered me that pretty much everyone in the culture of my upbringing was expected to take jobs for pay – usually 40+ hours a week – for most of their lives. I hated living like this. I didn’t mind work per se – in fact, I’ve always been a largely self-motivated worker whenever I’ve been able to exercise some measure of choice and control over the work I’ve done – but I hated how much time and life energy it consumed, and how little it paid in return for my efforts. Almost all my time was devoted to preparing for my job, doing my job, and recuperating from my job…and my friends and family were all in the same boat. It seemed we were always too busy or too tired from our jobs to devote as much time as we wanted to building healthy relationships, enjoying leisurely meals with family, gardening, arts and crafts, and other activities that didn’t pay much but were essential for our health and well-being."

The labor market is, ostensibly, based on free exchange. I offer you x dollars to perform service y for z hours a week. There is no moral compunction to accept any such contract; if the terms are unattractive to you, then you shouldn't take the job. If service y isn't my cup of tea, I should look for work elsewhere. Likewise if x is too low or z is too high.

In theory, this contract should be negotiable. If z is too high, why can't we reduce z and x simultaneously? For some reason our culture has glommed on to the idea that a 40 hour work week is essential in any kind of serious work. And there's a simple reason for this: employers have an easier time regulating a small workforce. So if every employer demands a maximal amount of work, then there is no opportunity for slackers like myself to find a 20-hour a week job that pays my minimized bills.

I believe Alan Watts once said that institutions are always arranged for the convenience of the people who run them. The hospital certainly isn't set up the way it is for the good of the sick, who are exposed to a hundred further diseases the second they walk through the doors. Likewise, the labor economy isn't set up for the good of the laborers. It is arranged so that the shareholders can get the maximum return on their investment, which necessarily means paying as little as possible with as little flexibility in arrangements as possible to the laborers.

As such, the supposedly free exchange of labor all too often becomes a choice between selling the best years of one's life in their entirety, or opting out completely. In other words, I blame the system, not Suelo. He's found his ideal labor contract.

I live a middle way, myself. I minimize my monetary costs as much as possible. I'm in a graduate program, in which there is plenty of good, stimulating work to do, and only the occasional application of soul-crushing pressure from above. In a couple of years I will graduate and be compelled to find a real job. Which I might or might not do, according to my preference. An ideal job would involve teaching half-time and having the rest of the time free for whatever I find most interesting.

I consider myself extremely privileged to be in a position to make such decisions and to have the clarity of perception to see the problems in the system.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:15 PM on July 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


Guy gleans from people's trash, uses the library, stinks up a cave just like a bear, and everybody's in a tizz??

I mind the people who used the shoddy banking system to make oodles of money, and I'm going to pay for this recovery a) with my taxes, and b) by dealing with this #$%$#$& recession.

I mind corporations who make huge profits on health care and fund the anti-health care reform ads with their profits. And give big old campaign contributions to legislators, too.

And litterers. I mind litterers.
posted by theora55 at 7:16 PM on July 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Buddhist monks live "without money" by begging for alms. Franciscan friars (traditionally) the same thing. Hindu Jains absolve themselves of all worldly goods. Living without money is not the same as advocating for everyone (you) to do the same. Why all the hate? There is a role and place for people like this in our culture, this guy is a modern take on a very ancient and global human tradition.
posted by stbalbach at 7:17 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


So living in a cave is the solution? Or are you saying there is no solution? In that case why live in a cave?

Yeah, I'm saying there's no solution. We're all conductors on a train hurtling into the abyss. The point is that it would behoove us not to be dickheads when someone tries sitting on the roof instead of buying a ticket. There's no reason to do so, specifically--but there's also no reason not to.
posted by nasreddin at 7:18 PM on July 26, 2009 [13 favorites]


I don't see anything in Suelo's blog that outcrazies the fact that we'd need about three more planets to support the global population if everybody consumed like the United States.

So who is the leech here? If the shit ever hits the fan, I bet every Moab MeFite makes a beeline for this guy's cave.
posted by Camofrog at 7:20 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


So instead, there's a whole system to limit access to people, generally, who have some sort of stake in the library. (Typically by being a member of the community that pays for the library via taxes or tuition/fees, or paying for a card outright.)

How common is it for a public library to refuse membership/cardholder rights to someone based on their lack of local residence? I suppose we could suggest that since federal funds go to libraries, every US resident is a member of "the community that pays for the library", but that's blasting the scope of the notion of a local community so wide as to become nearly meaningless.

Or to take it on another way: security and cardholder limitations at a library would probably be described by library folks not as a means to limit access to only those with some arbitrary stake in the local community. They exist as a pragmatic measure to make sure the library can minimize the damage done by theft/abuse of the system, etc—for the sake of the library's continued viability in general, not to stick it freeloaders or whatever.

There are significant difficulties that come with the fact that a library is a public place, but I gather very few librarians think that the problem is the homeless people so much as that it is the weird circumstances of crappy planning, funding and execution of services for the mentally-ill-and-hence-homeless population that as a result end up living out of these buildings on a daily basis. None of whom are, for that matter, required to have a card to hang around.

A parallel notion: Metafilter charges a fee for membership as a means of controlling the growth of the local population in context of our resources available to manage the site. This isn't something we do to punish folks who lack bona fides, whatever that means in this sense, but a practical measure to keep the community afloat for its own sake. Someone who can't pay via paypal, or just can't pay at all, can drop us a line and work something out when they have the enthusiasm to want to bother.
posted by cortex at 7:23 PM on July 26, 2009


I think you'll find many people who will give a thumbs up to allowing everyone access to libraries, regardless of whether it would be easier to disallow access for certain arguably non-contributing people.
I've never met anyone who has held, nor do I think a reasonable person could actually hold, that position in the way you're stating it
Are you serious? Everyone you've ever met feels that as soon as it is easier to stop giving library access to indigent people than it is to allow them access, we should stop giving them access?
as opposed to perhaps placing a very high value on open access and being willing to tolerate a lot of free-riding behavior (however we want to define free-riding in the context of a library) in order to achieve that.
What makes you think that I was saying anything other than this? I never said nor implied that there was no theoretical limit to the possible goodwill of a library. And to remind you, I was responding to someone who was directly saying that the only reason "we" don't cut this guy's access off is because it's easier not to. Not "because it's not a significant drain on the library's resources"; because it's easier not to.
posted by Flunkie at 7:25 PM on July 26, 2009


Eh, I've got no beef with this dude. He contributes a bit. When you throw food away, the top-of-the-line city bums pick it over. Then this guy comes and snags on THEIR rejects, and saves the city a little fuel carting whatever it is out to the dump. He is a kind of garbage-oriented efficiency-enhancer. He uses roadkill calories for power instead of oil or gas too. All-in-all, if it makes him happy, it's cool with me.
posted by jamstigator at 7:32 PM on July 26, 2009


How common is it for a public library to refuse membership/cardholder rights to someone based on their lack of local residence?

For library cards it's standard in bigger systems, if you don't live or work in the town/city you pay a fee for a borrower's card. However, with very few exceptions, anyone can go in and use the library (read a book, use the bathroom, attend a program) without showing any bona fides for anything. Internet use falls somewhere in-between for the most part, some places limit access for non-cardholders, but most libraries in the US that I know of let anyone on the internet.

I suppose we could suggest that since federal funds go to libraries

Not to be totally dweeby but in some states (like mine!) there are no federal funds that go directly to libraries. Often there are funds that go to the state department of libraries who may decide to allocate some of that to library services, but in my state each library fully funds their operating costs from town tax moneys supplemented with grants.

In any case, yeah, the homeless-in-the-library thing is an interesting topic, btu I'd say that cortex's assessment is more right than wrong.
posted by jessamyn at 7:32 PM on July 26, 2009


For library cards it's standard in bigger systems, if you don't live or work in the town/city you pay a fee for a borrower's card.

Generally a nominal, one-time fee (assuming you don't lose your card subsequently and need a replacement), yeah? Not nitpicking, just realizing my characterizing of "[refusing] membership/cardholder rights" comes off as too strongly implying that the fee for out-of-regioners would be a hardship. Charging someone a dollar or five for a lifetime membership is very different from implementing a significant and recurring fee-structure, and is in my opinion functionally equivalent to "free"—the process of doing the signup process (and putting yourself on the books as collateral against your potential future abuse of the system) is the real impediment.

Does the fee even cover the cost of processing the new membership? Certainly it doesn't seem like it'd be a source of significant revenue, anyway, but I may be underestimating the impact of some of these microeconomic library cashflow things.

Anyway, it's extra sloppy on my part to have failed to make that clear when I was intending to play that as an explicit parallel to the mefi-fee notion.

Not to be totally dweeby but

DWEEEEB
posted by cortex at 7:44 PM on July 26, 2009


Generally a nominal, one-time fee ... yeah?

In VT, it's an annual fee and equivalent to what a taxpayer would pay. So, it ranges from $18 to $60 or so at the very few libraries that charge. I think almost all of VT's public libraries are free to everyone and maybe ten aren't?

DWEEEEB

Do you even have a library card?
posted by jessamyn at 7:50 PM on July 26, 2009


In VT, it's an annual fee and equivalent to what a taxpayer would pay. So, it ranges from $18 to $60 or so at the very few libraries that charge.

Interesting. I should look into the Multnomah County Library fee structure, I wonder if it's significantly different or if it used to be when I was younger or if I'm just misremembering from the get-go.
posted by cortex at 7:52 PM on July 26, 2009


And yes I have a library card and I am one of those people who manages to significantly subsidize the library on occasion because I'm terrible about returning things on time. On the other hand, I've gotten miles of use out of the OED and JSTOR access that my otherwise-free-aside-from-my-tax-dollars membership pays for, so, hey!

And while I've rarely gotten much use out of the local internet terminals, I've got a friend who as of fairly recently is both unemployed and without a working computer and the library net service has just about saved his (nonetheless extremely first-world, white-collar) life. It's been interesting seeing that become a really meaningful public service for him.

posted by cortex at 7:56 PM on July 26, 2009


I think I missed the part where we find out what's wrong with money.
posted by Jon-o at 8:09 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's the root of all evil.
posted by 445supermag at 8:32 PM on July 26, 2009



Unquestionably a positive, helpful person. Then something changed inside of him - it's never clear what, aside from the pretty weak "He wanted to help people, but getting paid for it seemed dishonest" - and then he crawled inside of himself, and stopped doing good things. The article also says he spent some time in a Buddhist monastery. Did he really learn much there? The Buddha himself tried and ultimately rejected extreme asceticism.

The buddha rejected extreme asceticism, but that meant he wasn't fasting for the sake of enlightenment or not killing plants. He still believed in a life of moderation, stopping one's desire, and so only using what was necessary. There are still plenty of buddhists who live on very little and beg for food (like theraveda monks). This guy isn't living in extreme asceticism - he's using whatever's available as it comes along, enjoying the moment rather than saving up for the future. And he's okay with letting go when it's time to let go. Seems pretty buddhist to me.

As for whether he used to be positive and helpful and he changed, he explained pretty clearly his position - he wanted to do good things, but many of the seeming benefits of the modern world were not benefits in ways that mattered. Having more money didn't actually make people happier. That is very much out of buddhism - unhappiness is caused by having desire for what we don't have - and that really is all money is, the representation of that desire for things we don't have at the moment.

But I never said the pre-society world was my ideal - just that it is presumably Suelo's. Personally I don't really know where I stand - I was interested by this guy's perspective, but I liked that the writer talked about feeling two ways, enjoying a couple days out in the wild, but eventually all to make money on an article about it. The idea of getting back to nature appeals to me, and living on less would go along with that, but a cave without soap and other people's trash seems unnecessarily uncomfortable. Something like having a little cabin with kerosene lamps /etc could be a good way to spend some time, though...
posted by mdn at 8:35 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Certainly his footprint is much, much smaller than the average citizen.

Which footprint are we talking about here? An environmental one? Sure, undoubtedly.

But besides that? He's fending for nobody but himself, not creating wealth, and not subsidizing other people the way we're subsidizing him.
posted by floam at 8:53 PM on July 26, 2009


I find it interesting that there's any focus on or criticism of him blogging this. He's making a go of this outside of the system, and then having the decency to try and tell us his story through part of the system (the internet.) Of course he's blogging; we can't all visit his cave, and he wants to reach people, so...

Just to link back to a previous mention of Gandhi. When he wanted to draw attention to the horribly restrictive British salt taxes, he didn't just call for a march and hope people showed up. No, he actively recruited people from his previous non-violent protests (satyagrahas), and met frequently with many members of the press in order to get them to cover the protest more fully (which they did.)

What I'm getting at (ham-handedly) is that in order to change a system you can't work completely outside of it.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:17 PM on July 26, 2009


Uh, for the people who say he isn't contributing -- I assume that google doesn't give away blogger for free as charity. He is producing content for them which generates ad revenue, and it similarly enriches the world, even if it just produces a few minutes of second thoughts about people's consumerist lifestyle.

He doesn't have to be 'right' (whatever that means-- he seems to be happy, isn't that enough?), but even if he's 'wrong', I'm glad there is someone out there like him putting words into action and talking about the results-- "You want to drop out of the system? This is what your life will be like, eating grasshoppers and living with mice and bugs in a cave in the desert."
posted by empath at 9:18 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


...and here's the link to the info on satyagrahas that should have been a few lines up.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:19 PM on July 26, 2009


the way we're subsidizing him.

Oh, shut up. The libraries are free for a reason. He's taking TRASH that other people throw away. No one is subsidizing anything. He's no more subsidized than your average raccoon.
posted by empath at 9:20 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


empath: I guess it didn't come out right. I was specifically replying to the remark about a footprint. I'd say a your analogy about a raccoon could be pretty spot on and I'd still be making the same point — most people create a lot of wealth, more than they use, but instead he's stagnant, and actually ever-so-slightly negative.

I don't have any problems with him, of course, or what he's doing, or what he's blogging. I enjoyed it myself. It was just the assertion that he is less of a drain than somebody that works that buggered me.

I think we can generate a lot more wealth and better the world a lot more than raccoons if we try!
posted by floam at 9:27 PM on July 26, 2009


... not subsidizing other people the way we're subsidizing him.

Okay, but you (and me, and everyone) are being subsidized in turn, as pointed out above. You are a recipient of charity. When people do work for less remuneration than they need to live, they are involuntarily extending welfare to society.

Now, whether those people happen to be factory workers in China or illegal immigrants working as day laborers, or servers in American restaurants on casual contracts, or (arguably) any employee who cannot afford decent health insurance in the US, they are still subsidizing many of the things you take for granted. That isn't your fault, of course, but it seems odd to look down your nose as this fellow for something which you do every day.
posted by Ritchie at 9:43 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


most people create a lot of wealth, more than they use,

Given that you offer no data to back this up, I feel compelled to respond with a blunt, "No they f***ing don't."

It was just the assertion that he is less of a drain than somebody that works that buggered me.

It depends on what the work is, doesn't it? I can think of any number of jobs that do not, in the final analysis, benefit anyone other than the employee getting the pay check and, more to the point, the BOSS who profits from the employee's labor. Start with the fast food industry ...
posted by philip-random at 10:11 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


This dude could chart verifiable deficits in Ecuadorian villagers in his short Peace Corps stint and link it to having money to buy essentials. Thank god this boob doesn't hold any positions of power.
posted by tarvuz at 10:11 PM on July 26, 2009


phillip-random: I don't really have any sources for that, but it's basically a major premise for a wealth-generating country like ours of most economic thinking since the 1700s, from Adam Smith to today's economist nobel laureates.
posted by floam at 10:47 PM on July 26, 2009


Floam and phillip-random: you both, for different reasons, may be interested in John Michael Greer's recent series of posts on primary, secondary, and tertiary economies. The wealth we "create" is utterly dependent on the primary economy of natural resources provided by Earth. Classical economics as it is commonly practiced fails to take this fully into account.

The Wealth of Nature

Nature, Wealth, and Money

The Anti-Ecology of Money
posted by spacewaitress at 11:21 PM on July 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


it's basically a major premise for a wealth-generating country like ours of most economic thinking since the 1700s, from Adam Smith to today's economist nobel laureates.

So you're positing the status quo. Fair enough. Daniel Suelo would no doubt take issue, as would I, though not as emphatically. I certainly have no immediate interest in living in a cave. As I see it, the problem with "most economic thinking since the 1700s" is that it's got us into precisely the mess we're in. Not just global economic meltdown (yadda-yadda-yadda) but, far more harrowing and genuinely apocalyptic, the toxic state of our physical environment.

As David Suzuki put it a few years back: "Until we take into account not just what it costs to bring a product to market -- extraction of raw sources, refining thereof, manufacturing, shipping, advertising etc -- but also what it costs to return the product to the ground in an environmentally sound manner (ie: a reverse of the shipping, manufacturing, refining, extraction process) then we are not living in a realistic economy."

Or words to that effect.
posted by philip-random at 11:29 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


So you're positing the status quo.

I indeed am, I'd hope what's taught in basically every macroeconomics 101 course in the country is fair game.

Anyways, despite the points you brought up, there's no disputing that we are creating wealth. There's a lot to be said about the negative side effects of this and where the wealth really comes from, but I completely reject your 'No they f***ing don't."' And even without having to put the current global economic situation, unfair distribution of wealth, and other problems aside, we're a very, very wealthy nation.
posted by floam at 11:37 PM on July 26, 2009


I'd love to do this for like, a week.

But I wish him all the best. He's not hurting anyone, and he's not pissing in your Cheerios (at the table you bought from IKEA).

Reminds me of Thoreau, actually. It's no secret that he frequently "took dinners" at Emerson and other friends' houses.
posted by bardic at 1:27 AM on July 27, 2009


Someone upthread said he might be suffering from some kind of personal trauma, and I can imagine he might have chosen a lifestyle like this one out of purely being sick of trying to engage a society that refused to engage his own values. That would also explain his being preachy about it, and trying to explain it as an ideological stand; he's probably trying to rationalize getting away from his own tragedy. I have no idea if I'm right, or even if this way of dealing with things is unhealthy. It sure seems a lot less harmful than trying to actively take his rage out somewhere in the system.

But as a moral stance, I like it too. Minimalism has a lot of psychological appeal, and I think the broader point that a lot of ascetic/self-denial philosophies make is that we really need to question whether we're happy with more. There's a point past which more accumulation is just a detriment to our lifestyles rather than helpful. I can tell you that after moving to an apartment twice the size of our old one and then needing to reorganize all our stuff, I'm pretty much sold on the idea that I DON'T need more stuff. My piles of stuff have all but taken over my life for 6 months, caused a lot of needless fights with my wife (should we or shouldn't we keep this/how should we dispose of it), cost me a lot of money to buy and arrange places for, and made me think a lot about how I want to reorganize my life.

One thing it's done for me, though, is really made me appreciate why sometimes, you just want to mooch, or at least set up a public infrastructure/commons so that you don't have to deal with all this shit yourself. Seriously, how many fucking blankets can a person have? How many books? I just want to give up, donate them all, and buy them again as needed. That's more appealing to me now than having to wash/dry/fold/dust/buy shelves for/keep track of them all. I'm getting closer every day to going off and living in a cave myself.

A society requires some amount of labor and a medium of exchange to exist. But we really don't need as much as we have. Really. Take a good, hard look around yourself and ask how much of your life is dominated by the stuff and money you take care of. It should be the other way around.
posted by saysthis at 3:17 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, this was so disappointing. I was hoping for something cool and interesting, like building a web of barter or somesuch. Instead all I get is a bum with a superiority complex and nasreddin channelling a toxic mix of the worst of quonsar and jonmc on a bad day.
posted by rodgerd at 3:27 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cortex obliquely implied that Suelo could get a free membership here, but I think someone should make an explicit offer. Daniel, if you're reading this thread and would like to comment, I'll pay for your membership. E-mail me at painquale@gmail.com.
posted by painquale at 3:33 AM on July 27, 2009


So a man decides that he is never going to pay for anything ever again as long as he lives and has no need for money. What a cheapskate. He is still part of the system. He still need the system to live. If we disappeared he would die. Grant it the lesson is you really don't need a lot to live but at what point does someone tell him to get a job hippy and add to the collective structure that he needs.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:53 AM on July 27, 2009


Minimalism has a lot of psychological appeal, and I think the broader point that a lot of ascetic/self-denial philosophies make is that we really need to question whether we're happy with more.

Going to the other extreme is, arguably, the same mindset: "I can't have everything so I'll choose nothing." And it's based on the idealism of worldly renunciation too. This is bound to appeal to the disappointed and the bitterness found in a failed grab-it-all culture. Moderation was never very American because we mostly started out as Puritanical extremists.
posted by Brian B. at 7:16 AM on July 27, 2009


"How common is it for a public library to refuse membership/cardholder rights to someone based on their lack of local residence?"

It's pretty common in Canada. Victoria and Calgary's annual non resident fee is several days of minimum wage labour.
posted by Mitheral at 7:53 AM on July 27, 2009


Some great stuff in this thread, thanks.

Here in Sherbrooke, QC, last time I checked it was $50 per year for non-residents, and that had to be paid annually. I cheerfully admit it's been years since I last looked into it, though.
posted by Shepherd at 9:10 AM on July 27, 2009


Speak for yourself. I think he's just a free-rider at best. The only reason we don't cut people like him — who are plainly capable of contributing but choose to freeload instead — off from the services they're consuming is because the enforcement mechanism would probably cost more (in actual cost, obnoxiousness to everyone else, general lost freedom) than just letting them do it.

oh no some guy is eating trash - FOR FREE! - jesus fuck how dare he eat trash for free we should lock up the trash so it rots no one better eat the rest of my bloomin onion that i had two bites of or there will be hell to pay

Every time somebody pulls a stunt like this

living in a cave and eating wild berries and my discarded chicken satay and using the library what an asshole let's put him in jail where it will cost us $40,000 a year instead of $0.00

They are taking advantage of society

he is eating stuff no one wants and using the library the way it is intended

and the net result is that society is going to get just a bit meaner for it.

don't try to blame "society getting meaner because of a trash-eating guy" for your own moral failings
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:19 AM on July 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


Where cortex lives we looked it up, it's $135/household, annually if you don't live in the region.
posted by jessamyn at 9:28 AM on July 27, 2009


Yeah, I think I was clearly just plain wrong about the scale of typical non-region fees.

Again with the distinction that you don't need a library card to walk in the door, just to walk back out again carrying books that don't belong to you, but as far as cardholder-specific services go it changes my assumptions about some of the local/non-local aspects at least.
posted by cortex at 9:36 AM on July 27, 2009


Wow. Thanks for posting. I used to live in Moab and new this man as well as many of his close friends. The dude is a legend in Southern Utah.

Its really hard for non-moabites to get how this guy can get by. I doubt it could happen anywhere else in the country. The entire town is supported solely by tourism, and nothing else. No one even has jobs during the winter (off-season). But in the summer, there are many fancy pants cafes, etc. And there are people who go around and collect what food would get thrown out because the tourists from NYC won't eat it, but which is still perfectly good, and use it to offer a free meal in the evening for anyone who wants it at least three times a week. Its good food too. And people share it willingly and joyfully.

All of these arguments about him being a leech on society would never make sense to moabites. They are an inclusive, caring community that believes strongly in working together. Moab is a culture that really is removed from the general economy. It operates on a whole other level. It is where people go to drop out, and most of them love it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:02 AM on July 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


He's fending for nobody but himself, not creating wealth, and not subsidizing other people the way we're subsidizing him.

He isn't stealing anything, so there's no reason to suggest he's a drain. To say we're subsidizing him is unnecessary if all he's taking is our refuse, and he's only taking it because that's the environment that exists - if we would live off the land like he does, I'm sure he'd be happy to live a more traditionally tribal life. But since the modern world hardly has room for the pre-economic style of living that he prefers, he has to improvise a bit & adapt to the world as it is.

And to say we all subsidize each other is pretty much a fantasy. What subsidizes us is, number one, the earth's resources and number two, cheap labor in foreign countries. Some sectors of our economy make a difference, but most of us make money in industries that are pretty optional. Obviously we like them, enough for the economy to keep them going, but to suggest that that's how we stay alive is ridiculous. That's how we maintain a modern lifestyle and keep the agreement of contemporary society running. But it isn't "fending" for anyone. Being a web designer isn't a more honest way to earn the food you eat than scavenging for it. It's just a more socially intertwined way.
posted by mdn at 10:04 AM on July 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Give me a break. A bum with a philosophy (and a blog!) is still a bum.
posted by adjockey at 10:06 AM on July 27, 2009


The comments in this thread make more sense when read in the voice of Jeffrey Lebowski, the millionaire.
posted by nasreddin at 10:10 AM on July 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, just to be clear, the argument that he's reliant on the system he disdains is based on a total confusion. Since "the system" exists, and since the vast majority of people and resources are channelled into this system, he doesn't really have many options except a) conform and b) live in a non-conformist way that in some respects relies on the system. What's the other option? That he personally bring down the entire money system? That's just silly.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:19 AM on July 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


"You do not get cheap fuel, cheap food, cheap computers, cheap clothing, and etcetera because you're pulling your weight in this world. You get it because others are purposely deprived so that you might benefit. Enjoy your child slave labour manufactured Nikes and iPods..."

If you think things are so simple, I'm betting you haven't read Kristof or Krugman on the topic.


From the first link:

Two Cheers for Sweatshops: They're dirty and dangerous. They're also a major reason Asia is back on track.

Am I the only one worried by this line of reasoning? Back on track for what, exactly? Why do these people need jobs? What did they do before factories were there to give them jobs in the first place? What happened to their prior self-sufficiency? Good god! If we want to help these people, we need to answer these questions first!
posted by symbollocks at 10:22 AM on July 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Metafilter is worse at talking about class than any other subject. Do you guys hate the wealthy or the poor more? It's hard to tell.

nasreddin is being awesome here.
posted by painquale at 10:55 AM on July 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Give me a break. A bum with a philosophy (and a blog!) is still a bum.
posted by adjockey at 10:06 AM on July 27


This is an important point and should not be overlooked. The worth of a man's ideas - indeed the very worth of a man - is directly proportional to the size of his bank account. The reason that we should not listen to Suelo is simple: he has no money, as he has freely but foolishly admitted. Similarly, the homeless we see every day in our crumbling cities are not human beings but leeches, disgusting vermin who should not dare to speak their minds or even to look their rightful masters in the eye.

My personal hero is Silvio Berlusconi, because he has taken this simple, remarkable idea to its very end: the richest man we can find should be the all-powerful head of state; he should control the media; all other voices should be mere whispers compared to his. Bravo, and boia chi molla, adjockey!
posted by Mirror-Universe Optimus Chyme at 10:58 AM on July 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


And those that are genuinely not generous in any way, they generally don't get invited back.

I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. We get to kill people that eat all the devilled eggs?
posted by electroboy at 11:03 AM on July 27, 2009


Bravo, and boia chi molla, adjockey!

Don't be too quick in your praise there, Mirror Optimus Chyme. You don't know adjockey's net worth.

For that matter, if you turn out to be poor, I'll be faced with a liar's paradox.
posted by painquale at 11:23 AM on July 27, 2009


And those that are genuinely not generous in any way, they generally don't get invited back.

I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. We get to kill people that eat all the devilled eggs?


Or, you could just not invite them to your next party.
posted by philip-random at 11:27 AM on July 27, 2009


Hindu Jains absolve themselves of all worldly goods.

Not me.
posted by anniecat at 11:49 AM on July 27, 2009


It is interesting that this post serves as a follow up to this guy, who I read about recently in a book published in 2000 (well, originally 1999, but the paperback was in 2000). He's in the book Culture Jam, by Kalle Lasn, the founder and editor of Adbusters. The quote that people have glommed onto from the blog is actually how he is referenced in the book (the thing about working in the Peace Corps and how "consumerism" made the people effectively sicker than before it was introduced to the culture he was observing). While I haven't totally decided on how I feel about Culture Jam or Adbusters as a whole (I like their ads, and I think the ideas presented are perfectly valid criticisms of modern life and the problems we, as a society face), I think people jumping on this guy reinforce a lot of the negative aspects of people who have bought in to "The System" (yes, it's a stupid way of referring to society in general, because it doesn't really reflect that it is only part of life that we have created, not some monolithic juggernaut). Most people are scared of him because he represents someone who they feel threatens their lifestyle and the independence. Yet he is more free and uninhibited and worst of all (sarcasm) happier with his life than they are. To a lot of people, he appears deranged, not willing to accept that he _has_ to conform to society or else he is immediately classified as "other" and should be shunned, attacked, degraded, and treated as a threat. Anyone who thinks what he does is fine is also immediately lumped as "other" and should be watched, chided, browbeaten, and forced to conform.

At least that's my observation.

I'm trying my hardest to decide whether or not I want to be a Culture Jammer, or not. The more people decide that people like Daniel Suelo are a threat, the more I want to be able to stand next to him and say "FUCK YOU, YOU CAPITOLIST CONSUMER FUCKS! EAT A DICK!"
posted by daq at 11:53 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or, you could just not invite them to your next party.

So then it wasn't a metaphor?
posted by electroboy at 12:19 PM on July 27, 2009


So then it wasn't a metaphor?

All is metaphor, Grasshopper.
posted by philip-random at 12:37 PM on July 27, 2009


The worth of a man's ideas - indeed the very worth of a man - is directly proportional to the size of his bank account. The reason that we should not listen to Suelo is simple: he has no money, as he has freely but foolishly admitted. Similarly, the homeless we see every day in our crumbling cities are not human beings but leeches, disgusting vermin who should not dare to speak their minds or even to look their rightful masters in the eye.


It was a joke--get off your high horse.

But the fact is this man could contribute to society in some meaningful, material way (he has the education and the intelligence to do so), but chooses not to. That's very different from society's marginalized who are homeless because of addictions or mental illnesses.
posted by adjockey at 12:38 PM on July 27, 2009


All is metaphor, Grasshopper.

Oh, I see. Just not a good one.
posted by electroboy at 1:43 PM on July 27, 2009


But the fact is this man could contribute to society in some meaningful, material way...

If he convinces others to do or not do certain material things, he is contributing to society in some meaningful, material way. If he fails, he still tried.

Everyone buys a hill of useless crap. Look at all of the piles of derelict electronics, stacks of stupid magazines, junk yards full of cars, etc., many of which never had to be bought in the first place. So suppose, for the sake of argument, that he convinces just a hundred people to buy 99 percent of the usual hill of crap that people buy. That would be just an incremental change per person, but it would still eliminate one little hill of consumer crap. And that money would go somewhere else. Things would have changed a little. Sometimes people make a positive difference by not doing things.
posted by pracowity at 1:45 PM on July 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


But the fact is this man could contribute to society in some meaningful, material way (he has the education and the intelligence to do so), but chooses not to.

This is the super-duper fascinating part to me. Because as soon as you loko at one peerson and say "not working up to potential" it somehow starts opening the floodgates to comment on the potential of everyone else [maybe excepting those who cannot in various ways help themselves]. I am not saying you are doing this, adjockey, though you may be. As someone who has been a disappointment to many people because of not working up to potential in various ways in the past, I have to say that it's a really subjective thing to say w/r/t other people espevcially bevcause of how few ways there are to be appropriately working to potential and how many cultural preconceptions there are, as far as what is good enough or appropriate for whatever our potential is.

So to take it back to MetaFilter.... I have a vague idea of the demographics here. Is raising a family a better example of contributing to society than being a coder for a video game company? What about joining the Peace Corps as opposed to staying int he US and processing paperwork for a health insurance company? What about working for Ben & Jerry's as opposed to Lockheed Martin? What about being a stay at home mom or dad and doing without the extra income? What about sending your baby to daycare so that you can have two incomes so that you can... what? Which choice is being a better contributor? Which choice is okay or not okay such that we can examine the little we know about other people's choices and express our disdain for them?

As I hope is clear, I think a lot of this is relative so I'm not trying to castigate (in this instance) anyone's personal choices. But it seems, for example, like Suelo has done some "save the forest" activism, which I'm sort of happy about since I am too busy and too far away to do any myself. He's part of a system that includes too-busy-for-forest-activism like me as well as not-hungry-enough-for-all-their-food people who help feed him and buying-Details-magazine-and-reading-ads people like many of us and day-job-having and fuck-the-man and somewhere-in-between folks. Working for five years in a women's shelter is probably more directly useful people-helping than my computer classes or my occasional MeFi paragraphs. It's a pretty slippery slope you head down when you decide that someone's not contributing meaningfully for only some values of meaningful.
posted by jessamyn at 1:53 PM on July 27, 2009 [13 favorites]


EatTheWeak's post has proven so popular it seems almost pointless to make a counter-argument against it here, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, the experience of modern life is wonderful in many ways- I don't deny it. But there's nothing sustainable about it, we have become completely dependent on it, and one day, I'm fairly sure, (suffice it to say that I don't find "greed will get us out of it" convincing) it will end in tragedy. And it's not like that tragedy will be only a human one. To most of the other inhabitants of this planet, it's already happening. Sixth mass extinction, anyone? I guess most people, including most of those here, would feel that the loss of all those innumerable species was and is a price worth paying for all our modern comforts and wonders. But in the end, I don't, myself. I realize most don't see it this way, but I see the fate of the biosphere as something horrible and tragic beyond the ability of words to express. And that's not even getting into what our own probable fate will be once the resources start running out, and it's also not getting into all the exploitation of other people required to sustain the lifestyle of an affluent citizen of the first world. It's not that I don't appreciate what modern medicine, for example, has done for us- it's just that if the price for our current period of comparative bliss proves to be the loss of over half the species on Earth, along with all the horrors that await our own species once our current way of life can no longer be sustained, I just don't really see it all as having been worth it, in the grand scheme of things.

Suelo's motivations for doing what he's doing don't seem to be quite the same as mine would be, but given my views of modern life, I can certainly see where he's coming from, and I think I can see what motivates actions like those he's taking. The criticism of him in this thread that he depends on what society produces is true- but what can someone with an outlook like his do that won't be open to such criticism? I mean, I have my own ideal, and I know it's almost certainly impossible to achieve, either on a societal level or an individual one. I will be a hypocrite no matter what I do, even if I were to take heroically difficult measures to live up to that ideal. But how could I possibly avoid that hypocrisy? Stop caring about the environment? Become a nihilist? Tell myself comforting stories about how the market will fix everything and try not to think about it? Mostly I just try to do the best I can as best I'm able, which I feel isn't very much at all. But what could be? Honestly, the conclusion I've come to is pretty much the same as nasreddin's, above. But when it comes to living according to his ideals, Suelo's going farther than most, and certainly a lot farther than I am. It may not amount to anything in the long run and have a certain degree of hypocrisy about it, but that applies to pretty much any action one with his views might take- so, I say more power to him. Defiance seems to me to be nobler than acquiescence.

(And in response to those who feel he's just being selfish- I think he is trying to contribute to society, in his way. He disagrees with a fundamental premise of that society, so by providing an example of an alternative outlook and way of life, he hopes to cause more people to call the mainstream view into question, and so perhaps lead to a better, less consumption-oriented society. As the reactions in this thread illustrate, it almost certainly won't work, but I don't think it's selfish.)
posted by a louis wain cat at 2:10 PM on July 27, 2009 [15 favorites]


All is metaphor, Grasshopper.

Oh, I see. Just not a good one.


Ok, electroboy, you hooked me. The original "metaphor" (which was more of an analogy actually but I'll keep using the M-word), was offered in the context of justifying how Mr. Suelo might be contributing to society after all, just not with cash:

Everybody brings something different to the party. Some people bring way more food than they can eat, others more booze than they can drink. Some people are just more generous with their charm, their wit, their compassion. And those that are genuinely not generous in any way, they generally don't get invited back.

To which you commented, I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. We get to kill people that eat all the devilled eggs?. Which struck me as a rather absurd and psychopathic extrapolation (ie: somehow assuming that "don't get invited back" is somehow a license to "kill people") ... so, like any good social worker, I tried to tiptoe things back to a more rational realm (ie: corrected your extrapolation by steering you back to the original metaphor).

To which you responded, So then it wasn't a metaphor? ... and so on.

I'm left with two possible conclusions. Either, A. metaphors confuse you, or
B. you're f**king with me.

Either way, thanks for your time.
posted by philip-random at 2:44 PM on July 27, 2009


To which you commented, I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. We get to kill people that eat all the devilled eggs?. Which struck me as a rather absurd and psychopathic extrapolation (ie: somehow assuming that "don't get invited back" is somehow a license to "kill people") ... so, like any good social worker, I tried to tiptoe things back to a more rational realm (ie: corrected your extrapolation by steering you back to the original metaphor).

I don't really agree with the analogy in the first place, but here's the problem I think electroboy was having. "The party" here means "society," right? And you're talking about people who don't contribute anything to society? So what exactly do we do with them? There's no way we can "not invite them back" to society unless we kill them or imprison them or whatever. If it's just a matter of cutting them off from services, then this guy has more or less already voluntarily uninvited himself. (And the people who harp on his library usage are unbelievably petty. Besides, I'm sure he would be able to give that up if it became necessary.)
posted by nasreddin at 2:59 PM on July 27, 2009


Thanks, nasreddin, for the clarification.

I would clarify one point. Yes, the party is society. No, I don't think of Mr. Suelo as "uninvitable". Sure he may not bring any booze or food with him but there's also value in charm, thoughtful conversation, or maybe just politeness and some help with the cleanup.

As for the "uninvitable", well that's a whole other thread, something to do with prisons, asylums and places like Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
posted by philip-random at 3:20 PM on July 27, 2009


As for the "uninvitable", well that's a whole other thread, something to do with prisons, asylums and places like Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Do you realize that this analogy is quintessentially fascist (or, I suppose, Stalinist)? The primary characteristic of both of these ideologies is that society is seen as an organism, and the value and dignity of each human being is evaluated in relation to how he contributes to that organism's functioning. This means that being targeted for repression or extermination doesn't necessarily have anything to do with actions an individual might have taken (say, robbery or murder), but rather depends on a judgment of that individual's quantum of social contribution. A healthy organism must purge itself of non-productive tissue--hence, the extermination of the disabled (and given a particular ideological slant, homosexuals, Jews, and Trotskyites). I'm not saying you or anyone else in this thread is a Holocaust supporter. What I'm saying is that as soon as you see prisons, slums, and asylums, normatively speaking, as quarantined areas for the socially useless instead of places of cure or rehabilitation, it's not a far stretch to suggest that we should save ourselves the expense and just kill them off.

I'll go further: any view of society in which an individual is judged according to his contribution to that society (rather than not judged at all or judged according to inalienable rights and inherent human dignity) is only a quantitative step away from fascism.
posted by nasreddin at 3:36 PM on July 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


You know what money buys? Decent web design. Jesus, even if I thought he had a shred of credibility, you'd never know it by looking at his web page.
posted by crossoverman at 5:40 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying you or anyone else in this thread is a Holocaust supporter. What I'm saying is that as soon as you see prisons, slums, and asylums, normatively speaking, as quarantined areas for the socially useless instead of places of cure or rehabilitation, it's not a far stretch to suggest that we should save ourselves the expense and just kill them off.

Ummm ... I agree with you, without qualification. Which begs the question (which requires another thread), how do we humanely resolve the social problems that prisons, asylums and places like Vancouver's Downtown Eastside clearly do not solve (ie: deal with individuals who, for whatever reason, be it addiction, extreme poverty, dysfunctional upbringing) cannot function in, for lack of a better term, "normal society"?

I'll go further: any view of society in which an individual is judged according to his contribution to that society (rather than not judged at all or judged according to inalienable rights and inherent human dignity) is only a quantitative step away from fascism.

First of all, judgment sucks. Period. That said, judgment exists, everywhere. And one thing people are quick to judge is the degree to which other people contribute (or not) to the so-called greater good (look no further than much of the commentary in this thread). Does this mean that we're only a quantitative step away from fascism? Maybe. But if so, then it's always been the case and, I suspect, always will be barring some sudden evolution of the human psyche.

Welcome to the "human problem" which, in my experience, is only exacerbated when the f-word (fascism that is) gets tossed around gratuitously.
posted by philip-random at 5:45 PM on July 27, 2009


I wonder if this "live without money" ideal is mainly a single guy thing? That is, how much of the "Wow dudes, we should all like, reduce our ecological footprint to zero" is from people who would have a comparatively easy time of just dropping everything and taking off? I can just imagine my wife's reaction to living in a cave without money would be: some choice words about Maxi Pads and condoms, and the inadvisability of recycling such. And suggest going without birth control? " I am NOT going to give birth on the dirt floor of a cave! We spent 10,000 years getting away from shit like that!"

I wonder how the response to Mr. "No Money" would change if he was dragging a wife and a kid or two along with him? Given how MeFiers react to the parents who refuse to innoculate their children, I can imagine the response to a person who extolls bringing their kids up with none of the products or services we take for granted.
posted by happyroach at 6:01 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


nasreddin's got it. you don't get to "uninvite" people from society without something pretty unpleasant happening.
posted by electroboy at 7:05 PM on July 27, 2009


nasreddin's got it. you don't get to "uninvite" people from society without something pretty unpleasant happening.

And yet it's happening on a massive scale pretty much everywhere. More people in prison, more people in asylums, more people heavily medicated, more people just plain living on the streets. And yes, it is unpleasant.

So how do we go about realistically inviting them back?
posted by philip-random at 7:14 PM on July 27, 2009


"Wow dudes, we should all like, reduce our ecological footprint to zero"

I don't think that's what he's trying to do. This anti-money thing is much closer to Christian-Buddhism than environmentalism. I seriously doubt one could become environmental by reading the Bible every night in a cave, ostensibly waiting for the world to end. I noticed that he thought that taking money for a job in a woman's shelter was somehow wrong, because it wasn't a pure form of "help." He was offering his soul for eternal reward, not his physical assistance for minimal earthly subsistence. The potential irony would be that the women were cashless, but somehow needed his cash-hating help. My theory is that they rejected the messenger too.
posted by Brian B. at 7:51 PM on July 27, 2009


There comes a time in a man's life when he drops his pants and takes a big crap all over his youthful idealism. That's middle-age: youthful idealism buried under a pile of crap. Welcome to the burbs.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 8:34 PM on July 27, 2009


Apologies to Mr. Suelo, but modern western civilization is the shit

Wow, this even got sidebarred. I thought you were being ironic, basically because all the things you list are the shit of western civilization. You carry on like Thomas Friedman: a list of perishable gadgets - landfill-in-waiting, essentially - and your relationship to them. This is what people like most about western civilization?

Who cares about your alarm clock? If in a thousand years time our infatuation with rubbish has reduced every human being to subsistence living that would make Mr Suelo look like Croesus, are we still to be impressed with your DVD player? And if not, if we do all end up in a Greg Eganesque future where we are all virtual creatures in a server buried in the Siberian tundra (I really hope so), are we not to find your sentiments horribly embarrassing?

What make western civilization great is not the junk that accumulates around it, but the ideas it has produced. These are our wealth, not our flannel sheets.
posted by Ritchie at 9:15 PM on July 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


I would clarify one point. Yes, the party is society. No, I don't think of Mr. Suelo as "uninvitable". Sure he may not bring any booze or food with him but there's also value in charm, thoughtful conversation, or maybe just politeness and some help with the cleanup.

Really, no one is bringing booze or food. All the booze and food is already there - all natural resources are found in the earth. People at the party are helping out with pouring and mixing drinks, and moving things around to other rooms. In fact they are spending their entire evening at the party running around checking on everyone, trying the latest recipes, etc. This guy is saying, let's just relax and not worry about having such fancy-ass cocktails.

I'm not saying one way of having a party is better, but it's silly to hold it against him for preferring a more low key vision.
posted by mdn at 9:26 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


It became quickly obvious that very few people actually read the articles.

From there, he made his way to India, where he found himself in good company among the sadhus, the revered ascetics who go penniless for their gods. Numbering as many as 5 million, the sadhus can be found wandering roads and forests across the subcontinent, seeking enlightenment in self-abnegation. "I wanted to be a sadhu," Suelo says. "But what good would it do for me to be a sadhu in India? A true test of faith would be to return to one of the most materialistic, money-worshipping nations on earth and be a sadhu there.

I think the world would be a better place if a few more people would choose this lifestyle.

And what is the big deal about contributing to society? The majority of the 'contributions' that are taken from me by the government are used for purposes that I highly object to and most of the work I have done has produced more consumer garbage. I am pretty sure most of it has already made its way into a landfill somewhere.

I am glad that he is out there doing it. I value his opinions far more than the talking heads that I see making triple-digit paychecks selling fear on the corporate media.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:15 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


triple-digit paychecks selling fear on the corporate media.

Wow, they're damn near volunteering their time.
posted by floam at 10:24 PM on July 27, 2009


What make western civilization great is not the junk that accumulates around it, but the ideas it has produced. These are our wealth, not our flannel sheets.

Ideas are produced by those who are healthy and wealthy to spend time thinking this shit up. Ideas are disseminated by books, the internet and our televisions. Ideas that once were only shared amongst the elite of society are now spread across the globe.

Sure, it should be the message, not the medium. But hell if I can think of any way your precious ideas are better off without modern Western civilization, where people are also healthy and wealthy enough to listen to these ideas, discuss them and enrich our cultural language.

Okay, we don't know if consumerism will lead to some kind of dystopian future, but it's not like Suelo's alternative is particularly utopic.
posted by crossoverman at 11:35 PM on July 27, 2009


I don't think you really mean that, but it's an interesting idea to play around with. What bauble, what gizmo, what creature comfort could ever induce you to withdraw your allegiance to a simple, workaday concept like, for example, 'innocent until proven guilty'? No mattress is that soft.

I'm still a little stunned, I guess, by the amount of support eattheweak's post has gained. This is considered wisdom? This is where people's confidence lies? Comfy sheets are the acme of an enlightened society?

No. People don't think that way. If they did, that would mean they had succumbed to a profound disillusionment.
posted by Ritchie at 12:35 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


You think the pinnacle of our society is "Innocent before proven guilty"? Basic human and civil rights? That was hundreds of years ago. Those were the basics. We've improved the lives of humans a lot since then.
posted by floam at 1:04 AM on July 28, 2009


Did I say it was the pinnacle? No. It's a fairly modest idea, actually. But it shits all over the DVD player, don't you think? I'm pretty sure it will last longer, too.
posted by Ritchie at 1:20 AM on July 28, 2009


Well, it clearly shits all over the DVD player, but you're looking at things differently than me, I guess.

You think DVD player apparatus, I think hundreds of thousands of cinematic pieces of art available to be viewed at the home. You say plastic netbook bound for the dump, I see the fucking information superhighway.
posted by floam at 2:38 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wonder if this "live without money" ideal is mainly a single guy thing? That is, how much of the "Wow dudes, we should all like, reduce our ecological footprint to zero" is from people who would have a comparatively easy time of just dropping everything and taking off?... I wonder how the response to Mr. "No Money" would change if he was dragging a wife and a kid or two along with him?

...And your point is? Your "wow dudes" sarcasm implies you think of Suelo's choice as a luxury available to the childless. But childlessness is a choice anyone can make. Maybe even (I'm not arguing this here, but maybe) the more responsible one. It makes no sense to suggest "ah, but we wouldn't be endorsing his choices if he weren't childless" when childlessness is part of that choice.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 2:57 AM on July 28, 2009


To speak up for the childed, there is a raft of choices between getting your kids inoculated and buying them $100 worth of Ben10 plastic crap. My kids would get pretty sick of living in a cave (maybe not as quickly as a lot of the commentators upthread) but it doesn't follow that they must then be raised as thoughtless consumers.
Last year when camping with friends my daughter said she didn't like McDonalds much. Our friend's child said "but you get a toy with the meal." My girl replied we get our toys from a toy shop.
Living in a cave is pretty extreme, but rejecting it doesn't mean having to embrace the more wasteful, indulgent practices of consumerism on offer.
Mindlessly buying shiny shit is just taking your subsidy from the earth's natural resources,instead of the way this guy does it, and is likely many times more negative.
posted by bystander at 4:44 AM on July 28, 2009


I don't think you really mean that, but it's an interesting idea to play around with. What bauble, what gizmo, what creature comfort could ever induce you to withdraw your allegiance to a simple, workaday concept like, for example, 'innocent until proven guilty'? No mattress is that soft.

What don't you think I mean? Where do you think I said that creature comforts trump ideas? I didn't. But there is nobility in the way information is disseminated these days. Hell, look at Wikipedia - available free on the internet.

I think you're fundamentally drawing a different argument than eattheweek was making. And you've certainly misconstrued what I said.

Because it's not ideas versus consumables. It's what modern Western culture (note the word modern) has allowed us to have versus your insistence that the only way our consumer culture ends is in a dystopian hellscape filled with our refuse.

Nothing trumps basic human rights, but do you really think vast media culture can't change our world for the better? You think Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech would have had half its impact if it wasn't recorded and televised?

It's easy to bemoan consumer culture; we're fucking up the world ten ways from Sunday by over producing and over eating and over polluting. But the answers - our precious ideas - might also fix those problems because we have a way of communicating previously unknown to us. That one thing is called the internet - look it up.

Even the subject of this post understands that.
posted by crossoverman at 5:32 AM on July 28, 2009


I'm not bemoaning consumer culture - I'm firmly embedded in it. I have a fucking flatscreen tv and and playstation and a media center and all the rest of it. But I don't fool myself that these things represent anything other than luxuries. They're nothing to brag about. They're nothing to celebrate.

You must know this, which is why I don't think you really believe what you say. You cannot fail to be aware that consumer culture is not found solely amongst liberal democracies. They have the internet in China, too. They have TV in Iran. Authoritarian regimes can have all the same junk the West can. Where would you rather live?

If you're going to make an argument, as EatTheWeak does, that western civilization is the shit, why would you focus on those aspects which are ubiquitous to just about every modern civilization? Why wouldn't you focus, instead, on the things which the West does differently? What is true in EatTheWeak's comment that wouldn't also be true if he lived in, say, Singapore?

There is no inherent nobility in Wikipedia, but there is nobility in the concept of freedom of speech. There is no nobility in a bookcase full of books, but there is nobility in the fact that you can read whatever you want and not go to jail for it.

The problem is that once you accept that Western civilization is a civilization of ideas and not things, you have to accept that Suelo is contributing to it. I grant you he's got kind of a smug, grating attitude, but that doesn't automatically mean he's wrong.
posted by Ritchie at 8:11 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nothing trumps basic human rights, but do you really think vast media culture can't change our world for the better?

But we pretty clearly accept that the cheap production of consumer goods trumps basic human rights for people in the rest of the world. You can't just separate the internet from the production of the devices that make the internet possible. While cheap, networked computing is undeniably a good thing, we can't just ignore the network that creates and delivers the physical equipment.
posted by ssg at 9:24 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


The problem is that once you accept that Western civilization is a civilization of ideas and not things, you have to accept that Suelo is contributing to it. I grant you he's got kind of a smug, grating attitude, but that doesn't automatically mean he's wrong.

I don't think he contributes meaningfully to it anymore than someone becoming addicted to Oxycontin in their mom's basement, or committing suicide in their ex-girlfriend's car, but that's not the point, and neither is conserving energy. I don't even credit it as purposeful, but a probable train wreck. It sounds like depression and denial being thrown against a perceived guilt of success, and that's what makes it so contemptible, because most of the world lives his way in some fashion or another, and there's no good reason to sanctify it beyond recognizing its simplicity. We don't need to apologize for running water and natural gas, they are moderate features compared to limited fire wood and polluting streams with human waste. The way to avoid extremes and excesses is through the notion of prudent good taste, which also challenges the imagined purity of this guy. When dozens of comments imply that living is mostly a sin that this wretch can atone for, while out in nature no less, then they display their own sense of guilt and poor judgment, and no one else's.
posted by Brian B. at 5:12 PM on July 28, 2009


I love that my society has tried to make clean drinking water, electricity and natural gas cheaply available to as many people as it can. I think that's a great achievement - engineering coupled with noble intent.

My argument is not that Suelo is right, but that he is indeed 'pulling his weight' as much as anyone commenting in this thread by means of his ideas and his example, and that one way to overlook that is to reframe western civilization as an accretion of manufactured marvels. I think you're now demonstrating another way of overlooking it - by asserting that he's crazy.
posted by Ritchie at 5:49 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


The basic argument here, as I've been reading it, is 'what good is civilization?' I find this to be an extremely interesting question; a few thoughts follow.

As I see it, the primary non-tinfoil* objective of civilization is to provide stability. We want to know that our assumptions about today will be true tomorrow. This knowledge saves a great deal of work - if I think that things will be fundamentally different tomorrow, then I need to prepare to the changes. Two examples. First, if I don't know that I'll be able to eat tomorrow, then I'll have to scope out new sources of food. Second (more relevant to many modern lives), if I don't know that my internet router will be working, then I'll have to get directions from Google Maps now, before things fail. As civilization progresses and things become increasingly stable, it becomes increasingly possible to try and discover new things. Once I come up with a new thing, it eventually becomes stabilized, and voila, we have netflix - now I can rely on the internet to provide me entertainment via the mail in an extremely reliable fashion. We end up with more civilization.

We can observe now that stability is synonymous with the ability to make assumptions about one's environment. And indeed, the stability offered by modern civilization is available to the extent that one accepts the assumptions of modern civilization. And this is the tricky thing about stability - while it offers opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable, it can also lead to an overly stabilized system that is a real fucking drag to be a part of. Like a cubicle farm, for example.

Civilization seeks to maximize stability. For extremely mathy reasons I won't get into, maximization in the long run requires the challenging of assumptions. Radical ideas are occasionally required for noticeable improvement to happen. This is beautifully contradictory, since it means that to improve civilization, one must step outside of it. If I accept the same assumptions, I will reach the same conclusions.

In this sense, people like Suelo are actually necessary for the proliferation of civilization. Not every challenge will succeed, of course, but it is absolutely necessary that challenges happen. Otherwise, your DVD players would still be VHS.

*A more-tinfoil objective might run along the lines of 'to get as many people as possible working for the betterment of a select handful of people.' YMMV.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:18 AM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sympathetic to the argument, but nature can also be stable (although 'equilibrium' might be a better description). If predictability is the primary motivator of civilization, why not live as close to nature as possible? Civilization takes advantage of stability as much as it feeds into it. The ancient Egyptians built a substantial civilization based around the predictable flooding of the Nile, for example. They didn't cause the Nile to flood, and they had no rational theory for why it did so (if I remember Herodotus), they simply took advantage of it. But civilizations also give rise to tensions that lead to revolutions and war with other civilizations, which seems to be evidence against your argument.

I think civilization does provide stability of a sort, but not so much against tornadoes and interruptions to my internet connection. The main promises it makes (and the reason why I participate in it willingly) are to do making sure I am not at the mercy of the caprices of my fellow human beings. The labor movement in our society, to take an example still being fought over, tries to alter the rules such that employees are not wholly subject to the benevolence or otherwise of their employer.

Also, if you ever read the comments made by Dee Xtrovert, the things she describes from the time when she was besieged in Sarajevo are enormously instructive as to the true value of civilization, because she lived through an environment in which civilization had almost completely broken down. All bets were off, all promises rescinded. She could be raped, she could be killed, she could suffer any one of a hundred calamities at the hands of the Serbs. Survival from one day to the next was a matter of luck.
posted by Ritchie at 4:06 AM on July 29, 2009


EatTheWeak: The modern world absolutely teems with marvels.

The modern world != the capitalist monetary system. Suelto has a blog, and Richard Stallman lived in his office at MIT for years.
posted by koeselitz at 10:54 PM on August 1, 2009


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