Living without Money

More people are exploring the potential of living without money as they realise that it is the systems surrounding money itself that may be at the root of many problems in our culture. From the ‘60’s ‘turn on, tune, in drop out’ which had ‘hippies’ living on the dole in tents, to the demonised ‘travellers’ and other alternative cultures, people struggle to cast-off dependence on money.

Attempts at improving local resilience by decreasing dependence on money are becoming more mainstream. Now we have LETS (Local Economic Transfer Systems), Freeconomy and Local Freecycles which help people to exchange goods and services without the use of money. With its even possible to travel. People ‘living without money’ are the subject of articles, blogs, books, even TV programmes. You can go on courses to help you decrease fiscal dependence. Wild foods, woodland crafts, survivalist skills and food gardening at home are all swiftly becoming more popular.

Freegans are people who advocate living off discarded food, The Roadkill Chef Fergus Drennan has even appeared on the BBC with his recipes. Green social and networking sites on the internet are very busy exchanging information about free resources and shortcutting consumerism.

It can’t be that hard to live without money, one might think? After all ‘birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it’ to steal the lyrics of a song. Our planet, solar system, galaxy require no money, but for some reason, the system we have ties us into money which is impossible to live without for any reasonable amount of time in our culture. As soon as you appear to live anywhere you need to pay rent and taxes in money. There is simply no option but to disappear from the system altogether, which I suspect many people are trying to do.

Some people achieve ‘freedom from money’ holidays. One of my favourites is the couple who sold up, bought ocean going kayaks and spent their time living wild on the tiny jungle-covered islands off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia in the South China Sea. They lasted 2 years. And they had lots of money to start with in order to set-up the time away.

Daniel Suelo who has lived in a cave in Utah, USA, for nine years explains his reasons: “When I lived with money, I was always lacking,” he writes (in his blog – maintained at the local library). “Money represents lack. Money represents things in the past (debt) and things in the future (credit), but money never represents what is present.” He certainly has a point. If you want a spiritual existence, dependence on money shifts your awareness away from the ‘now’ where everything exists.  He eats what wild food he can find and recycles what we throw away to live – without comfort – in his tiny cave.

Armed with a solar laptop, panel and a caravan, Mark Boyle gave up cash for a year in the UK, to mixed response. He bartered work for food on an organic farm. Some people loved what he did others pilloried his attempts as middle class hypocrisy. But it was certainly an interesting and I think, valid experiment. The Moneyless Man, his account of a year without money, was published by Oneworld Publications in 2010, and he plans to donate the money it makes to create a Freeconomy Community.

From early May 2010 on BBC2, living without money took to our TV screens. Part-time vicar Peter Owen Jones tried to live a simpler and more meaningful life based on the legacy of St. Francis of Assisi. To find deeper meaning and simplicity in his Sussex parishes he lived for eight months without money.

With riots in Athens due to the ‘harsh austerity measures’ only, I suspect, the start of things, it is a good idea to examine your own ‘real’ personal, local and community resources, beyond ‘what you can buy with money’. Experimenting by living without money is a great way to develop personal resourcefulness. Doing this ‘in community’ gives an even stronger basis for local resilience.

One of my favourite ‘quotes’, and I have no idea where it came from, is ‘I have done so much, with so little, for so long, that I am now able to do anything with nothing’. This is a quote about personal resourcefulness and it makes me feel strong. If you want to get something done without depending on money, employ personal resourcefulness along with energy, materials and imagination. Its astounding what can be achieved.

simonthescribe writes and publishes articles, books and websites themed around living a sustainable life in tune with nature.

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