Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Independence vs. dependence

Being independent is terribly hard work. In the past, independence meant being able to build your own home, grow your own food, medicate yourself, weave cloth, deliver babies, and all the other things a pioneer or settler was often forced to deal with.

Today few people are called upon to do any of those things. We have become a dependent and specialized society, which has made our lives immeasurably easier in many respects.

We depend on others to build our homes. Rather than cut down logs, let them cure, and build a rough log cabin from the ground up, we go deeply into debt and buy a 3000-square foot home with granite countertops and walk-in closets.

We depend on others for food. Rather than grow our own wheat and milk our own cow, we trot down to the grocery store where we drop a wad of cash at the deli for handy pre-packaged and prepared foods to make our busy lives easier.

We depend on others to medicate us. What I mean by this is, we know there are cures for nearly everything (or so it sometimes seems) so we don’t take care of our bodies as we should. We don’t exercise, we’re overweight (guilty!), we indulge in vices that can kill us (smoking, drinking, drugs).

We depend on others to provide us with virtually every basic necessity in life that our pioneer forefathers obtained for themselves.

Now I’m not saying all of this is necessarily a bad thing. Frankly I have no desire to shear sheep to weave cloth to cut and sew my own clothes. I’m wildly grateful that medical knowledge is as advanced as it is.

But coupled with these remarkable advancements is a remarkable inability to fend for ourselves under dire circumstances. Dependency has meant the critical and basic skills mankind has honed for thousands of years are virtually gone. Dependency means few, if any, people could ever be independent again.

The worst type of dependency is when people depend on the government for everything. People lose the ability to think, act, or do anything for themselves. These are the people who will suffer the most if there is a downfall in the economy, because this type of dependence fosters utter helplessness.

I believe independence is a sign of maturity, but the term no longer means quite what it did to the pioneers. Today, independence is the willingness to be obtain for oneself the basic necessities without asking mommy and daddy for a handout or trespassing on taxpayer programs. But this kind of independent I’ll-do-it-myself mindset is only the first part. Next comes the knowledge of how to obtain the truly basic necessities – food, water, shelter – if those things weren’t commercially available.

Something to think about.


  1. Too many people have no true usable skills anymore. When things collapse, they will have nothing to offer to the community effort for survival. They will either have to learn fast, or die slow.

  2. Yep. Nuff said.

    Just Me

  3. amen. aint that the truth..

  4. I'm one of those odd people that like to raise and shear sheep. I prefer felting to weaving, though.

  5. I've always wanted to do things by myself and wanted to be able to do things that are not so common knowledge anymore. That's how I found your blog even from Finland. You can find pretty much information in Finnish but when you expand to English speaking territory, there's a lot more stuff and often very different approaches. So your blog has been very interesting and informative even though I suppose I'm never going to go that much into "self-sufficiency". It's also good that you live in a climate that's close to us here in southern Finland so many challenges are similar to ours.

    We've built a new home to countryside and that's been very educational (I did significant part of the house by myself). Now we are creating a garden from scratch so there's lot to learn and do.

    - Jaakko

  6. Interdependence in a community is the cornerstone of civilization and is, itself, key to survival. Even the pioneers who built their own houses were not mining and forging their own nails and horseshoes, building their own gristmills, etc. Even nomadic hunter-gatherer societies had specialized weavers, animal breeders/trainers, tool makers, doctors, etc. I see that the problem is so many of us are specializing in skills that are useless without three and four generations of technology to give them value. (not just electricity, but computer/internet/cellphone/microchip/superconductor/fiber optics, etc). Further, the means of production for those basic necessities are also dependent on multiple fragile layers of technology, and centralized to locations far from the people who need them. We trade money and information instead of skills and goods, so our civilization has little resilience.

  7. In Russia, a friend who lives in Odessa on the Black Sea told us they make everything they need in each urban area. They have shoe makers, clothing manufacturers, home builders, food processors, etc. because they don't have the rail systems, semi-tractors or the highways to connect the towns. They have to be self-sufficient.
    When Katrina hit Louisiana, everyone cried for Uncle Same to come in and 'fix' everything.
    In North Dakota (I believe) an area hit by a terrible blizzard lost power and people were isolated. They had no electricity or a way of getting out of their homes to get food or heating. So the neighbors banded together and took care of each other. There was no looting, murders, rapes or vandalism. And no calling on the Federal Govt. to come in and rescue them.
    When the troubles really hit the fan, those who can take care of themselves will be the ones who survive. The ones who can't, will attempt to loot, pillage, rape and vandalize their neighbors. Folks better learn to raise some food, repair their homes and become more pioneer-like or when the cells towers and technology fail, it's going to be anarchy.

    1. In 2005 Katrina brushed past NOLA. It hit southern Mississippi. And the people in NOLA cried for help. 30 days later Rita hit Louisiana. And the people in Louisiana banded together and got things done. In 1803 the US bought Louisiana and the Isle of Orleans. New Orleans is not really part of Louisiana. Two different types of Frenchmen settled the two different parts.Can you guess which part my family settled?