Sometimes I think it’s me that’s crazy, until that is, I am in the company of those who remember… Those we call the tribe or the community, those working from the bottom up, out of the soil and growing to the high reaches of organic life building. Sometimes I wander as a man estranged, almost alien to the rest of the country, the wider modern world, and an ocean of questions pour through my mind, where am I? how did I get here? where am I going? what am I doing? The same mulling thoughts that drive my every day.
For the latter part of my life, from my late teenage years until now in my mid-twenties, I have always adopted a rather acquainted and old fashioned nature, especially when it comes to my work in the world, and my involvement with our fellow species, both human and fauna alike. I often define true ‘work’ to my friends as a voluntary involvement with a creative output that outlives even oneself, like a higher valued praxis of labor or service to the often altruistic and dynamic function of a collective project, directed towards an aim of success. I see this true work as something that by it’s nature is loved to be done for the sake of the reward and importance it gives and holds, where as the modern day workforce is mostly revolving around survivalism. Not the Darwinian kind of fitness for survival, although that has its use, but work as a means for so called ‘surviving’, which I actually use lightly as a means to; pay bills, rent, insurance, groceries, cell phone, habits, etc. None of these actually truly integral to life itself, and usually usher forth the supply of invented jobs, that are a dead end road, for no expanding purpose other than the profit of a company or to further an agenda that ultimately harms the maker. Since I was sixteen and found my first job selling pumpkins on a street corner in one of Canada’s busiest cities, I have never ventured to far into the world of several tier degree, university scholar level, academic, ‘professional’ workforce. Blatantly because I find this field so incredibly boring, and always leaves me in the same position, combing my whiskers in a rat race, trying to win out against everyone else for who has the most attractive resume, that never gets read, and losing out against someone with a piece of paper that I don’t have. The irks I have with this kind of system, should be evident but I will write a few reasons I don’t see this as a fluent, practical and efficient way of working in the world.
For the past 4 years, I have not used a resume to get a job, and it’s not something I believe in. I see the merit of grassroots work based on personal reputation, codes of honor, representational experience, and personal confrontation. I have traveled and worked my way onto small and large scale farms throughout U.S., Europe, Mexico, the British Isles, Scandinavia and Canada, into the heart of communities, the forestry commissions of Scotland & England, linking with activist groups, gilds, and indigenous peoples, all without a single piece of paper. Nothing more than a few exchanged electronic letters, references of character, photographic documentary of past work, relevant knowledge and experience, and personal encounters. Some of this partnership was in Mexico, I joined the Lemurian Embassy in southern Yucatan, after an invitation from it’s ambassador Guillermo. Some of my work here was to work with those fellow volunteers to build a spiritual community that revived old Mayan heritage and tradition, and used the grassroots archetype to kickstart new growth and innovative systems of ideas into a functional retreat, wildlife refuge, and spiritual nexus of this community ethic. A beautiful work I must say even in my short time here, I did promise to return some day, and continue where I left off. Actually all of my work in Mexico involved traditional, communal, and service oriented roles, from picking coffee in the cloud forest on a family plantation, to beekeeping in the Oaxacan mountains with a collective of young students and veterinarian, to co-running a hostel from the 60’s on a pacific beach and renovating an earthship in Tepoztlan. There is a bloodline of continuity that has run through my work, and I can say the majority of my work I have not received a single dollar, euro, kroner or peso for, though I have kept the hospitality and humble company of farmers of the new and old world, entrepreneurs, small Nordic families, lone wolves, and spiritual charities. I have fond memories of every ‘job’ that has kept me in my later years, something I can not admit from my days working in a factory, mindlessly on a production line, a-socially awkward because of the language difference with the employed immigrants, and feeling greatly unfulfilled with my time.
This brings me back to my window, staring out again at maritime Canada, after a trip through Scandinavia. The myth of Canada’s working nation, bound up in old country tunes, museum plaques, fisherman’s tales, and pure romanticism is almost non-existent anymore. Returning back to old Canada, stationed out of St. John’s, I looked forward to what I might find, on the docks, and in the field, in the country, or on the fringes of the city. There is this outsider view of Canada, and even still to some of it’s residents, that we are all farmers, fishermen, miners, lumberjacks, and stevedores. Well, this is partially true, only I don’t see the individual character within that list. No longer do I find it possible to jump on a ship, and prove your worth at hauling fish, or to merely show your prowess with an axe and timber-man skills, and certainly there are no modestly dressed chaps hauling barrels of whiskey, barley, and sugar onto skippers and schooners at your local wharf. Everything has become industrialized, mechanized, people replaced for machines, or they are sitting behind one pushing all the controls. Talking to the local fisherman here in St. John’s I was gloomily reminded of the ebb of small scale fishing because of the influx of commercial trawling, asian offshore fisheries, pollution, governmental regulations, costs, large scale harvesting, and so forth. Social and environmental factors have immensely influenced the way people make a living. The grief of those whose father may have taught them how to fish in deep ocean waters, down rivers and silent lakes now need endless permits, fees, certificates, training, and constantly updated gear to even pull their dinner out of the sea. The farmers words reek with the same depressing customs on quotas for production, illegal to sell raw produce or milk, code lists for barn building and infrastructure, expensive machinery, competition with big agricultural, and mono-cultural farms. Wherever I go in the so called ‘first world’, there is a heavy hand, trying to control the ins and out of societies breath. This myth of Canada’s working nation, the jobs that built our country; the railroad, fishing, hunting, mining, stevedoring, lumberjacks, farming, and building are hardly recognizable as trade skills, or resemble the grassroots ethics they first operated on. Why is this? Because there are too many people, and the public service sector has replaced all ‘real’ work. Now instead of growing up learning to build traditional log houses for their families, fully qualified men will take a job in an office, or work in city construction instead, and instead of midwifery or child care for the women, they will bartend or takes their clothes off for a living. A lot turn to drugs, because there is money there, and more and more people will sacrifice their soul just to get by. There is a false notion of abundance of work, and there will only be fewer of them as we get more industrial and ‘futuristic’.
All real skills from the trades are becoming lost, or replaced with automation, and everyone wants formal proof to even get anywhere in the once traditional work field. That is, a lifelong skill taught down from the fathers and mothers to their offspring to carry the custom to the next generation. The youth today don’t want to work hard, or even work ‘out’, by that I mean, doing practical field and trade jobs. They choose static, low pay barrista jobs as an excuse for ‘community involvement’. There is a kind of illusion and romance that go together for people like me seeking to merely ‘make a living’ in this modern world. I do not have any degree, or scholarship, no formally recognized documentation of training or certification in a field, no resume or cv, nor do I think it takes a computer to manage a farm, or four years training to harvest a crop. I often find the irony when someone asks what my ‘highest level of education’ is, and they expect a grade or institution where I last studied. I usually answer with saying my education is from life. From real world experience and first hand knowledge. It is not about theory, and potential. What I do have is a range of stories from my travels, of what I have learned, because I have also failed, and learned more directly then. And of witness first hand the variety of methods different cultures use towards working on the same fundamental basics; food provision, shelter building, community involvement, social services, etc. I have the skills to show that I know exactly what I am doing when I am doing it, and if I don’t then I listen and watch someone who does.
Coming back to the Grassroots movement. The experience is becoming harder and harder to actualize, with increasing rules and a rapidly changing economy, where money is the new God, and it is worshiped at the peril of social unity, and quality of life. Attempts have been made, through outlets like ‘kickstarter’ or ‘indiegogo’ to create a sense of communal effort on a project but I honestly don’t see how these are actually functioning in the same way as an organic and cohesive community would in real life. Usually it is the wealthier part of society who don’t have the initiative to actually get involved in such a project who will donate their funds, and feel the comfiness believing they are involved with something heroic, without doing the work of course. And those without the money, the modern peasant class as I sometimes talk about are those who have the skills and the perspicacity of accomplishing it, but lack the funds. I also see a lot of fakes on here just pushing a product or idea of something that doesn’t always come out to fruition the way it was promised. It promotes a quasi-do it together aesthetic, but in reality, there is no dynamic or tribal like connection with those who support it.
People are scared of the sacred, indeed they fear to live, and those who try to preserve or retain a sort of atavistic lifeway into the sphere of now, are looked at as hermetic, outcasts, dysfunctional, and ultimately ignored. But in reality, these are the people building bridges between two cliffs, while others would rather try to jump across, always on the route of the silver bullet. They want to build a world but they don’t want to do the work on the details.
“God told me one time, nobody can bother you if you don’t open the door to let him in. A wise man never reveals his wisdom. And for what purpose other than money does most people exist. And once I don’t want the money, than those people don’t exist. They’re only existing as much as you can buy and sell them. They’re a commodity. And then you say, I’d like to breathe some soul back into your existence. So I have to pretend like I’m from another planet.”
Does good old fashioned hard and honest work even exist anymore? Instead of waitressing, computer programming, and hotel servicing, why don’t we have more jobs focused on bio-remediation? roadside cleanup? habitat restoration? sustainable eco-housing projects? or permaculture farming? You don’t need a degree to pick up trash, and yet there are no opportunities to yet make a living for cleaning up the earth, getting people off the streets, and supplying healthy organic food, there is constant struggle, and you are not supporting yourself off this work, this is where I think there should be change.
“The practice of grassroots bioremediation and regenerative earth work not only involves detoxifying and revitalizing the land by working with plants, mushrooms and micro-organisms; it must also include the powerful work of decolonization that seeks to deeply repair and enliven both the ecosystems and the communities that support thriving natural systems.”~Leila Darwish
All of the work in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and the majority of animal husbandry or sciences like botany and ecology is dying out with the older generations, and the younger folks are becoming estranged and no longer interested with the work their grandfathers and grandmothers did. This epoch must witness a resurgence, starting with your own individual work that cuts to the core of what this world actually needs, not wants, with the division of labor to more appropriate and necessary roles. I know personally from the stories of my elders, of what kind of life they had even five or six decades ago.With the division of labor to more appropriate and necessary roles. Just two generations back, my grandfather was cutting blocks of ice in the Quebec valley, then hauling it 3 hours through snow fields to trade for pelts, my family milked their animals, knit their clothes, cut all their own wood, hunted, fished, and lived in the bush. Today, these people are called ‘hard natured’, but are they really? These are the most humble persons I have met in my existence. We will certainly wither if these grassroots ethics of work of the organic community fails to reach the heights of importance that our world calls for, and those who hear the call to get involved. This is the only way we will thrive, but what do I know?