Surviving Off Off-Grid: Decolonizing the Industrial Mind is an angry book by a man whose ferocious estrangement from modern techno-industrial society burns through every page.
And that should be endorsement enough for those with eyes enough to see the quickening catastrophe in which our polluting industries and booming population explosion has presently mired us. And, while author Michael Bunker’s heated passion for his (frankly, holy) mission can be tedious and even banal at times, there can be no denying that his central themes of resource exploitation, technological dependence, unthinking consumption and a hysterical denial of science embody an uncomfortable, even an agonizing truth.
Bunker attempts to found his arguments in historical analogy, imaging a classical Greece of pastoral democrats and stout yeomen, with Rome a satanic megalopolis of depraved urbanites who actively despise the agrarian “barbarians” (this well-versed author evidently skipped reading Virgil’s Georgics).
Bunker, an evangelical “Christian Agrarian Separatist,” blames the collapse of ancient Rome — and therefore the coming collapse of the contemporary West — on covetousness, of all the deadly sins surely the most apt choice for the destruction of civilization, as we’re privileged to note in today’s public affairs. God, claims Bunker, “commanded man to live simply and be satisfied with food and raiment,” and to exceed this puritanical directive, as the vast majority of humankind does or aspires to do, is sinful, period.
It is this kind of literalist interpretation of the Bible that confounds the non-evangelical reader, even those naturally sympathetic to the general message of Bunker’s propositions and pronouncements.
Cities are not resilient
Bunker certainly does score some inarguable points.
Hurricane Katrina proved, unforgettably, that city dwellers exist in their packed density and enforced conformity to social norms only when their necessities and comforts are continually trucked in to them. When the city’s ability to import its sustenance is interrupted and the rule of law withdrawn, the various components of this tenuous society panic, run amok, and turn on one another. Only massive governmental intervention can prevent the wholesale meltdown of these crowded and antagonistic populations when accustomed diversions and official intimidation suddenly cease to exist.
This author’s fundamental flaw, like that of Marx, is an inability to understand, or at least acknowledge, the realities of human nature.
Bunker curses our pursuit of happiness, or pleasure, as poisonous to the rural virtues he longs for: “I would say that almost 100% of the objections raised against Agrarian Separatism and Off-Grid Homesteading have as their root the inordinate love of COMFORT….” A related assertion claims, against all understanding of supply-and-demand and with an eerie semblance to the pabulum serving as propaganda in the “war on drugs,” that
If enough people were to pull out of the system and begin questioning all technology and rejecting most of it, then the industrial system that supports the massive sale of these addictive drugs at low cost will disappear.
By “drugs” Bunker here refers to addictions in general, whether to cocaine, concrete, the internet, internal combustion engines, or the other detritus of modern life.
How to secede from plutocracy
In his favor, Bunker supplies ample suggestions for those wishing, like him, to sever ties with our increasingly corrupt and unsustainable corporate hegemony.
Chapters detail the nuts-and-bolts of building a homestead, supplying water, growing and preserving food, providing on-site heat and light, and in short rejecting the false promises that consumerism forever dins in our collective ear: that Progress means a never-ending ascent to higher and greater levels of luxury and idleness, attainable through expensive goods that may be had only to those willing to submit their lives to the grindstones of today’s frantic urban workplace.
Cut loose, blast free, and light out for the territory, exhorts Bunker, where thou shalt find thy true calling.
The only problem with this reasonable suggestion is the awful fact that the territory is itself under mortal siege. Our open spaces, rural areas, wildlife habitat and untrammeled land are being steadily annihilated to create yet more housing, factories, roads and shopping opportunities for an ever expanding, ever demanding population base, dead set on having all that there is in the here and now.
–Bill Funk for Transition Voice