Off grid. It’s a scary concept for some, but for people like me, it’s an aspiration. Imagine living a self-sufficient life and no longer being beholden to ‘the man’. It sounds quite hippy-trippy-60s anti-establishment, but there is great appeal in disentangling oneself from the clutches of societal expectations.
To truly live off grid means digging a well and a septic tank, setting up a windmill or solar panels to harness electricity, plowing up fields to grow food, and building a pen for livestock. It’s living on one’s own terms, no one bossing anyone about, and no utilities to pay. I get the appeal, but it seems like an awful lot of work, and I’ll be honest – I like a hot bath and a lie-in, which is probably why I’ve never done it.
But what if I could do it in other ways? What if I could stick two fingers up to the man and do things in ways he doesn’t expect? For instance, two years ago, I gave up Facebook. It doesn’t sound particularly difficult or radical, but at the time I did it, most of my pals told me they just couldn’t. It kept them connected to their friends and family in a way they couldn’t match elsewhere. Which is fine – I understand and don’t judge, but that connection, to me, wasn’t worth being a commodity to be bought, sold, and manipulated. I don’t want to play. So I don’t use any Zuckerberg products – no Facebook, no Instagram, no WhatsApp. I’m well aware this doesn’t undo past data damage, but I’m no longer willingly handing over information about myself to folk using it to do things like cheat the Brexit vote or get Trump elected.
Earlier this year, I gave up sugar. Again, not a huge political statement, but hear me out. Big Sugar was a big driver of the Brexit vote. The sugar lobby in the US is responsible for a lot of the Frankenfood being produced there. They target children with sugary drinks, breakfast cereals, and treats. I don’t even need to go into the health risks of a high-sugar diet, which are many and well known. For me, as for billions of us in the western world, sugar is highly addictive. I’ve quit so many times over the years and have yet to make it stick – but perhaps knowing I’m not putting money into the pockets of Big Sugar executives will be a powerful and continuing motivator this time.
I’m also buying less of everything – food, clothes, gifts – as I believe not spending money is the most powerful thing that can be done to help a world being smothered by unchecked capitalism. The easiest thing to stop buying was processed foods. They’re terrible on every level, for health, the planet, and for handing money over to unscrupulous companies. So I don’t do it. The same goes for clothing. I’ve been buying my clothes from ethical and sustainable companies for the last couple of years, but I buy a lot less than I did. I make it a priority to love all of my clothes enough to want to take the very best care of them. I also try to make gifts instead of buying them. I get a lot of joy out of making food for others, and I know the recipient won’t be struggling to find a place for a gadget or trinket. My gift will be consumed and enjoyed, and will hopefully spark a nice thought when it’s remembered.
My next goal is to seek out a way to buy produce directly from farmers and to take seasonal eating seriously. Big grocery retailers have a lot to answer for in terms of plastic, pollution, and displacing our high streets. The less money we reward them with, the less likely they are to continue to do damage. And who doesn’t love fresh food from the farm?
I’m aware none of this is earth-shattering, but it helps me sleep at night. As the world spirals into more and more insanity, it’s nice to grab a little control where you can. If enough of us seized the opportunity, the spiralling would stop – and and the grip of The Man would become a whole lot looser.