I’ve found recently that my motivations have changed. I used to believe that the inspiration for opting out came from a desire to make the world a better place. I believed that if I could share my journey, I might encourage others to do the same and if we got enough people to make changes in their lives, then capitalism would slowly fade away and be replaced by something more wholesome.
I’ve learned enough to know that this isn’t true: it is neoliberal individualism that feeds me that lie: that I can change the world through my individual actions. Collective actions have an impact, sure, but not so long as they are not the majority and not so long as they are low hanging fruit (which opting out most definitely is not). The collective action that I’m looking for is not just accountability, but radical change in consumer habit and global economic upheaval. These changes aren’t going to come from a few people being inspired by homesteading and unschooling. It’s so obviously laughable but that’s really what many of us are trying to do through sharing our stories.
This doesn’t mean that my actions don’t matter or that I should give up. I don’t need to be inspired to change the world every day. That’s exhausting. However, I am continually inspired to improve my own personal quality of life. We all are, right? But I’d say that my approach to improvement may look a little strange in contrast to most others.
Mother culture tells us that we are rich by the objects we own. I (and many others) see this lie for what it is: a capitalist strategy to preserve the systems that demand more from us. Instead, I’d argue that we are rich when we need less. When we need less, we don’t need to sell our labour or our bodies. When we need less, we can focus more on what heals us, what makes us happy, and what it means to to be human outside of that culture.
Opting out of these oppressive systems isn’t going to change the world, but it is going to change MY world. My favourite dichotomy is that I am simultaneously insignificant and also the center of my own universe. In this vein, my actions are of the utmost importance to me because they constitute my whole world. I opt out because it simplifies my life in a way that makes me more rich. I opt out because opting in is endlessly exhausting and I no longer wish to run that race. I opt out because the promises of colonialism are a lie that harm people and, not only do I not wish to harm others, I do not wish harm to myself. I opt out because I believe there is something better.