Interview with James Mallinson

I hope you’ve been enjoying the recent blogger interviews. While a lot of these guys don’t claim to have all the answers or to have properly escaped yet, they’ve often put more thought into the escape question and ‘how to live’ than the typical person on the street. I should also point out that their opinions are often different from those held in the manifesto of New Escapologist but it all contributes to the discourse around alternative ways of life.

The following is an email interview with James from Part-Time Wage Slave.

Do you believe freedom is the natural state or a modern privilege?

True freedom as defined in a dictionary is impossibly hard to achieve in a modern society, so in that regard it’s a natural state. So, do we really crave freedom? Do we really want to live in a world devoid of regulation and law and obligation? Having to pay taxes is far from the notion of freedom in a traditional sense, but in return we get a police service, hospitals, etc. You could at any time, sell your home and your clothes and go travelling, but you couldn’t go robbing somebody in order to fund that travelling. The modern ideal is then perhaps freedom with fair boundaries or conditions attached in order to have a system that is stable, and in that regard it certainly is a privilege because there are many, many countries out there whose ‘boundaries’ on freedom are vastly more restrictive and anything but fair.

A lot of people seem to be questioning the ‘status quo’ of study>work>shop. What do you think will be the ultimate effect of this, if anything?

It’s good to ask questions about everything, particularly a ‘status quo’ (whether that be in the way our children are educated, the way governments run the country, or the way businesses are run). The result of this questioning may result in nothing, it may result in a fundamental shift in attitudes, but just by asking the questions we put these things under a necessary analysis. At the very least we learn why things are the way they are, or why they are the ‘status quo’, and that alone is invaluable knowledge.

Is it best to learn to make the system work for you (financial, education, etc.) or to simply drop out or smash or ignore the system?

Depends on many factors. It’s okay to drop out if you have a backup plan or a purpose or you believe the alternative will suit you better, it’s quite another to drop out if you’re simply can’t be bothered to put any effort in. Certainly in a stable society it’s much better to tailor the system to work for you. As much as we hate the banks for their recent recklessness, for instance, they have also provided valuable loans to many people which has helped set them up in life. As much as our education system’s methods are outdated, it still provides more knowledge than many other services. It’s much better to take advantage of the benefits of the ‘conventional’ system, and compensate for the flaws with your own initiative and imagination, than it is to try and smash it all up like a wannabe anarchist.

Do people worry about money too much?

Our modern Western society is geared towards money, people need lots of it to stay afloat, to indulge in all the great things on offer and to keep up with the Joneses. So, naturally there is going to be a great deal of worrying about where all the money is going to come from to fund it all. But if you become less dependent on a regular source of income or a high wage, by not shopping all the time, not taking out a massive mortgage, not buying extravagant holidays, etc. then you don’t have to worry quite so much.

It doesn’t help that there is so much pressure put on savings, putting aside money for pensions, using your money the ‘right’ way, matching the spending habits of friends, etc. People fear they are going to have an impoverished future if they don’t do these things, and can spend countless hours stressing about how to make it all work. Fact is, if you’re on a measly part-time wage for example, there is simply no point worrying about whether you can put a regular sum into a savings account each week, or whether your pension contributions are up to par.

Why do people fail to escape the status quo so frequently?

The status quo is safe, you know where you stand with it. The vast majority of people pursue the status quo ideal of life so there is a hell of a lot of advice and feedback on achieving it, and there is a well developed infrastructure supporting it, from financial institutions to education systems. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and for most people it suits them more than traveling all over the place, living on a shoestring budget or any other lifestyle design mainstays. It’s easy to forget with all the romanticizing of what lies on the other side of the fence, that many people enjoy working their way up the corporate ladder, and many of them retire on a healthy pension. But blindly accepting this course without questioning whether it’s really for you is where the problems lie.

As a webmaster, what is the most important thing people do when visiting your site? Subscribe to the RSS? Leave a comment?

Nowadays I appreciate comments more, it gives me a chance to chat with the readers, get feedback on posts, etc. If a person is willing to go to the trouble of leaving a comment then it must mean something about the post effected them and I love reading other people’s opinions. I had a large subscription count on my last blog but it didn’t seem to carry any additional benefits – I didn’t get extra comments, I didn’t get my posts shared more often on social media sites, etc.

Also as a webmaster, how do you attract people to your site and do you have any tips on getting them to stay?
If you have the time and energy, there are a huge number of things you can do to attract people, ranging from optimizing your blog for Google, to submitting your posts to blog carnivals. Reading the numerous blogging blogs out there will regularly show up things you can do to attract that extra handful of visitors.

Nowadays though, I’ve streamlined my focus and I pretty much rely on social media sites, particularly Twitter. It’s certainly not the ideal approach, but it’s very easy to get bogged down with all the methods of attracting people to your blog, and most of the time all they will send you is a couple of new visitors. With my old blog of three years, I became so caught up in that process that it stopped being enjoyable. At least by interacting on Twitter, Facebook, etc. I get something extra out of the experience and I have the time to focus on writing, rather than on visitor hits.

As for getting people to stay? Good content, primarily. If what you write interests people, they will keep coming back, though often a little ‘nudge’ in the right direction can help. Connecting with your audience on social networking sites allows you to engage with them more often than you would if you merely updated your blog every week or so.

Would you like to leave us with a final thought about your personal philosophy?

Question everything. Be curious. Think like a scientist, and don’t just accept what is put in front of you. Don’t just take at face value what you read in a newspaper or see on the TV. Explore different views and perspectives, and rely on the numbers and the research, rather than on second-hand information and hearsay.

About

Robert Wringham is a humorist and the editor-in-chief of New Escapologist.

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