An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 3.

Ready to scarper on Wednesday evening, I’ve managed to reduce my entire personal junkstash to a ten-square-foot locker at a Glasgow SafeStore and a single suitcase of functional stuff, which is coming with me for the escape. H

Here are ten immediate thoughts about mobility and “stuff”:

Mobility versus “stuff”

1. I think I value mobility above all else. Mobility is freedom. Anything that compromises your mobility–a house, a grounded job, a possession, an expectation–is another nail in the coffin of your freedom.

2. Most of my “stuff” is in the form of books. It’s telling that my final vice is probably one that most people would overcome before, say, cooking utensils or clothes. I don’t own much of anything. Just a modest number of books. With libraries and broadband almost wherever you go, there’s no reasonable argument for a huge personal book collection so I’m forced to admit to object fetishism. I look forward to the day I’m unsentimental enough to cut loose my ten square-feet, settling to own but two suits, a laptop and a library card.

3. Mobility and “stuff” don’t mix. When people flee the cities in disaster movies, they always fill their cars with as much junk as possible. I love that the image of a killer alien tripod in pursuit of a Vauxhall Astra with a houseplant and a grandfather clock strapped to the roof.

4. “Stuff” calcifies and confirms who you are, not who you want to be. Your personality changes but the stuff stays the same. Consequently it holds you back.

Foucault treeThe Masochism of “stuff”.

5. What I dislike more than anything about jobs is how you have to report to a certain place at a certain time. Such an agreement restricts your mobility, which is of course the idea. “Restrict to Dominate” is Page One of The Sadist’s Almanac–a tome well-thumbed by Government, itself a synonym for sadism. It doesn’t matter what you do in those hours (presenteeism is not a victory of the workers over the oppressors–their time is still owned no matter how it is used) but you have to be there, in that space, in that time, like a good dog. Ruff!

6. The person who hungers “stuff” welcomes restriction. It’s masochistic. Such behaviour is like a plant that welcomes a brace in order to grow straight instead of wild.

Mauvaise Foi versus “stuff”

7. I sometimes think people’s failure to escape humdrummery is solely down to Mauvaise Foi (Bad Faith), but there’s often a physical encumbrance in that they have so much stuff. An escape becomes a schlep and it’s easier to stay put, surrounded by junk and misery, than to act.

8. In the forthcoming Issue 3 of New Escapologist (October 2009), we blame the restriction of “stuff” for the failure to escape but in next year’s Issue 4 we will likely blame Mauvaise Foi. It’s important to remember that both of these things are restrictions–one physical and one psychological–but the blame cannot be put squarely upon just one of them.

9. Who would win in a fight between Mauvaise Foi and “stuff”? It’s like Godzilla versus Mothra.

10. Your house is a bunch of stuff with a cover on it:


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

6 Responses to “An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 3.”

  1. Michael Bush says:

    A couple of really good online resources cropping up of late that have made books a little bit easier to part with – BookMooch (sort of like the world’s biggest, stupidest library, with the more copies of The Da Vinci Code than there are people in the world) and GreenMetropolis are worth checking out…

    Here via Tom Hodgkinson’s blog, looking forward to checking out the magazine.

  2. Rob says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Michael. (BookMooch is a good idea.)

  3. Holly says:

    So you got your tree picture. Nice! Bookmooch is retarded in places, but there are a lot of good books on there too, you just have to search them out. I agree with a lot of this article, but the only problem is that minimalism (if that is what you’re advocating) is boring. Who wants to live in a white box their whole life? Maybe the key is to have a reasonable amount of stuff, enjoy it, but try not to be overly-attached to it. Hoarding is a human instinct. We have taken commodity fetishism to a new level of hideousness though.

  4. Rob says:

    I don’t find minimalism boring. I find it exciting. When you reduce your lot to the bare essentials, they take on a higher quidity. Quidity is beautiful.

    Minimalism is also brave. By clearing away 90% of everything, you draw attention and scrutiny to the remaining 10%. That’s exciting too.

    If hoarding is a human instinct (it’s also a mental illness, by the way), it’s one that derives from fear and is probably an instinct holding us back. Just because its human nature doesn’t mean it’s commendible. Cavemen hoard. Spacemen explore.

    If something is available in a shop, it has been ‘permitted’ and is therefore unlikely to be worth owning. Subscribing instead to libraries and things like your Ubu site make us rich. Owning things makes us financially, spacially, intellectually and spritually poor.

    I treat shops like museums. When I was about 17, The Gadget Shop were selling those singing fish. I laughed when I first saw the fish: I’d never seen anything like them! Brilliant. After a moment’s thought, I realised that owning a “Big Mouth Billy Bass” wouldn’t add anything to the fish experience. By the time I’d seen it in the shop, the joke had been told.

    What would be the difference between the singing fish coming home with me and the same fish existing out there in the world somewhere? This is the question I ask myself whenever I consider acquiring something. (Or rather it used to be: it has become a reflex to no longer acquire).

    You’re probably right when you say that the key is to own a reasonable amount of stuff and I understand that my measure of what’s reasonable is more extreme than some people’s. The rule of thumb is to live deliberately and never dependently.

  5. Nihilist says:

    >>Who wants to live in a white box their whole life?

    I do; I think it would be marvellous beyond all marvels. While many dream of living in a large house with a quadrangle and tower, I dream of living in a series of Japanese capsule hotels.

  6. bamb says:

    Hi there, great blog, Im writting you from the other side of the planet. Same stupid system here, same perverse logic, same problems, same shit, just different language

    I know it is what gets to lock us into slavery. Still, while I do not aim at luxury or shallow spending, there are some things that are hard to break the habit to own. In a better world, one would be content with healthy food, water, health care and lots of free time. What kind of stupid needs a 400 hp flashy car? Some would argue “oh, but a better world would be boring” These people just have no imagination.
    Have you ever calculated how much time you spend “educating” yourself to survive in this stupid system? Have you ever compared that time with how much time you have dedicated to enlighten and cultivate your feelings? Once we become more humane, loving and comprehensive, we will never be bored again. Instead of worrying about getting the last iPod, cell phone or sports car, we will worry for what is important. We will spend our time wandering into our innerselves, and into our loved one’s souls. That can never be a boring activity, but a growing time. It is that we believe a stupid sport car is a mavelous thing. But it is not. The only real wonderful beings are us and to consider a thing more worth than us is to be corrupted and alienated.

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