I’ve written and re-written this post too many times. I want to talk about living a low income life, but I also recognize that there is an immense amount of privilege in being able to *choose* to live low income and not being forced into it. I’m not sure if I have any right to talk about low income living. But I do think it’s a key element of being anti-capitalist, so that is the lens through which I’m writing.
When it comes to creating social change, people tend to think of individual accountability and state accountability. We talk about personal actions; we talk about big corporations. We usually point angry fingers at each other when placing blame for climate collapse and oppressive systems. But the more I learn about the intersectionality of these issues, the more it keeps coming back to capitalism and the industrial complex: an endless extractive system that breeds inequality. So if we were looking for lasting change to help us through these immense challenges, I think change will need to come from the community level, shifting our consumer culture to a different paradigm: one where we consume less, spend less, and share more.
So how can we help bring about that shift? I think it’s by finding ways to live more simply, albeit imperfectly because we still exist in the capitalist system, and then sharing those approaches in hopes of normalizing low income, low consumption living. If you’re in a space where you can make these changes, here’s some ideas:
- Stop Buying Things: for real. Consumption feeds capitalism. If we stop consuming, the system breaks. For me, this change has been gradual and it’s obviously not 100%, but it’s been a personal goal to try and limit the things I buy to necessity. This helps us to live simply on a fraction of the income that we used to need.
- Source Secondhand: when we choose secondhand, we choose not extracting additional resources from the planet, we choose not to employ additional wage labour (usually slave wage labour), we choose to keep things out of the landfill, we choose a circular economy. From electronics to clothing to building materials, you can almost always source something secondhand.
- Create Community: when we exist in community, we have a safety net of other people that can help meet our needs. We can share labour, share skills, share time, and share things. Community can be people in physical proximity or people who share ideas that might online. I think both are important.
- Support Mutual Aid Networks: if you have the money to give that those who need it, do so. If you need help from others, ask. I really truly believe that mutual aid is the way forward. It doesn’t rely on any governing body, it doesn’t ask from those who can’t give. It doesn’t allocate funds needlessly; it is a direct action providing to those in need.
- Share Your Success: show others that this way of living is possible. Let others know that living with less doesn’t mean being poor but actual makes your life more rich. Tell stories, give gifts, invite others into your spaces. Normalize this way of living so that others can recognize that they can thrive with less consumption.
These are ways that I’ve discovered and they truly do bring me joy. But I know there are other approaches and other strategies to dismantling capitalism and each approach will be individual to the person and situation. Feel free to share your stories, successes, and approaches in the comments.