Supermum Retires

Then, a couple of years ago, she retired. Suddenly, her life changed completely. No more 5.15am alarms. Instead, every week it is Zumba and pilates and afternoons at the local cinema with her neighbour and a large glass of red. It is trips to the Tate, the British Film Institute and the Imperial War Museum. It is walks on the beach with new and old friends. It is attending local council meetings to single-handedly overthrow the Conservative party – but always home in time for a bath and Front Row on Radio 4.

Just like that, the grind was over. And now my chest is bursting [with] relief. Now she is not snatching sleep or time or moments with her children. […] Now time ebbs and flows with her command. […] Her once-furrowed brow, anxiously staring into an arsenal of phone screens and pagers and notebooks, now light with smiles when I arrive at her house on a cold, dark evening, and I am the one who is tired, falling asleep on the sofa. Every time she texts me to tell me she is doing the things she didn’t do for 30 years – a Thursday morning yoga class or watching the 6pm news – I remember the tea bags kept in the fridge to cool her tired eyes. And I think: she is not tired any more.

There’s a lot to think about in this daughter’s reflection about her hard-working Civil Servant mother who, in the 1980s, would fall asleep on her feet during bus commutes.

There’s a bit too much to go into here without offering a fully-annotated reprint of the article, so when you read it, do so while thinking about feminism, millennials, boomers, leisure, the work ethic, and the opportunities available if we can only advance our attitudes a little more quickly.

Please support New Escapologist on Patreon.

Towering Panopticon

Hee! This, from the clever cloggses at McSweeney’s, is great.

Good news! In response to your “concerns” about our current open-plan creative campus, we are pleased to announce our new building: a towering panopticon à la Jeremy Bentham’s eighteenth-century vision of utilitarian corporate efficiency!

In our new office, all team members will work in isolated, transparent rooms called “Cells” on the periphery of a circular tower called “Synergon.” At the center of Synergon, management will reside in “Nest,” a glowing, elevated sphere of omniscience.

We know you have questions, and we want to address those.

I especially like this part:

This sounds terrifying and dystopian. Is it?
No.

Please support New Escapologist on Patreon. (McSweeney’s is on Patreon too).

Demanding the Post-Work Future

We have spoken about Inventing the Future by Srnicek and Williams before. The manifesto within is excellent and this morning I found a nice, graphical summary online (above, click to biggerize). Print it off! Carry it around in your wallet!

It came from this blog (by the way, why won’t Blogger fuck off with those huge and never-vanquishing cookie warnings?) and explains things nicely.

I like the point under Demand 4 that “we all too often valorize work,” which is something we can address individually and immediately with ease.

Please support New Escapologist on Patreon.

Corbyn: a new settlement between work and leisure

UK Escapologists could do worse than support Corbyn’s Labour party. Not only has Corbyn proposed four new bank holidays and begun to investigate UBI, he had this to say about automation in his conference speech this week:

We need urgently to face the challenge of automation, robotics that could make so much of contemporary work redundant. That is a threat in the hands of the greedy, but what an opportunity if it’s managed in the interests of society as a whole.

If planned and managed properly, accelerated technological change can be the gateway for a new settlement between work and leisure, a springboard for expanded creativity and culture, making technology our servant and not our master, at long last.

As far as I know, he’s one of the only political leaders speaking in this way about the inevitable future (and dreary present-day reality) of work.

Here’s the Guardian analysis:

What is fascinating about Mr Corbyn’s speech is its hidden depths, most notably on possible “alternative models” to capitalism. The Labour party sees in the future not just the rise of robots, which might entrench economic feudalism, but also the worry that too many people will remain trapped in drudgery-filled, low-productivity jobs. Although Mr Corbyn did not spell this out, he referenced a little-publicised party report that fleshes out Labour’s view of the new economy. This states that accelerating automation is a key political project. Labour’s goal, the report argued, should be to accelerate into this more automated future “while building new institutions where technological change is shaped by the common good”. Mr Corbyn’s socialism is evidently more intellectually bracing than previously countenanced.

Support New Escapologist on Patreon. Thank you.

Needs

I love quitting things. Possessions. Habits. Jobs. But you know that.

At the moment, I’m trying to overcome a health problem by temporarily quitting things to see what happens: bread, alcohol, caffeine, prescription antihistamines, hot showers. Giving up hot showers has been the toughest so far but the one that makes the most difference. Try it! It’s Hell!

Anyway, all this has led to my marveling once again about the importance of decreasing one’s requirements for life. It’s no fun quitting bread, but who really needs it? It’s liberating to see if you can go without something for a while.

Consistent, back-of-the-mind reflection on what you do or do not need is Escapology 101 and just part of the machinery of living as a free person instead of a worker-consumer — but it really is good to do and it’s worth remembering to do it if you don’t.

It’s also, it seems, suddenly topical.

Leo Babauta has been posting sporadically to his mnmlist blog and his Lowering Your Life’s Requirements entry just plopped into my feed this morning. He’s quitting coffee and booze:

I saw a long line at Peet’s Coffee, and decided I didn’t need the coffee to be awake, happy or alive.

When something becomes a need, a requirement, it locks us in. We have to have it, which means we start structuring our lives around it.

For lots of us, it’s more than just coffee: we need a glass of wine (or beer) in the evening, we need some quiet time alone, we need things to be neat, we need to watch some TV to unwind in the evening, we need the Internet for entertainment and news. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but soon the requirements for a happy life start piling up. What are your requirements, things you can’t do without?

Then I notice that Russell Brand’s been plugging a book called Recovery: Freedom from our addictions. It seems to be a memoir about his personal struggle with drug addiction but also a sort of self-help guide on how to apply the 12 Step Programme to quitting less dramatic addictions like Twitter-checking, pornography and sugar.

And then I find that Mark Boyle, the “moneyless man” I mention in my own book, is writing for The Guardian again. His little essay series, written from the perspective of someone who has completely rejected modern technology, contain such plums as:

most of what afflicts us today – cancer, obesity, mental illness, diabetes, stress, auto-immune disorders, heart disease, along with those slow killers: meaninglessness, clock-watching and loneliness – are industrial ailments. We create stressful, toxic, unhealthy lifestyles fuelled by sugar, caffeine, tobacco, antidepressants, adrenaline, discontent, energy drinks and fast food, and then defend the political ideology that got us hooked on these things in the first place. Our sedentary jobs further deplete our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, but instead of honestly addressing the root cause of the illness we exert ever more effort, energy, genius and money trying to treat the symptoms and contain the epidemics.

Knowledge of what you need and what you don’t need is escapological in that it helps your great escape from worker-consumer culture into the good life but they’re also acts of escape in themselves; the escape from coffee, the escape from tech, the escape from dependencies.

Look around. What can you do without? Would life be better without it? How so? Would it save you some money, save some time, help you to be healthier, make you stronger or less frustrated when you can’t get it? Would it help you move into the good life?

Try escaping something for a limited time at first and then escape it forever if you want to.

Support New Escapologist on Patreon. Thank you.

Long Conveyor Belt

This is ‘The Long Conveyor Belt’ (2007) by Misty’s Big Adventure, a band with the same accent as me.

Support New Escapologist on Patreon. Thank you.

Rules and Freedom

Here’s our great friend DC on the seemingly paradoxical issue of rules that facilitate freedom.

To say “I’m no longer going to let myself do X” can feel like we’re trading enjoyment and freedom for some drab moral aspiration like purity or perfection.

We’ve all experienced the pain of living under unfair or unsympathetic rules, especially the ones imposed on us as children by teachers and grownups. Having our freedom curtailed, often for reasons we don’t understand or didn’t agree to, is painful.

But setting rules for yourself is completely different. Freedom is the whole point. Who’s more free? The person determined to live on significantly less than their means, no matter what, or the person who shops like a “free spirit?”

Support New Escapologist on Patreon. Thank you.

Time = Happiness

From an article at BBC News:

Using money to free-up time is linked to increased happiness, a study says.

In an experiment, individuals reported greater happiness if they used £30 ($40) to save time – such as by paying for chores to be done – rather than spending the money on material goods.

Psychologists say stress over lack of time causes lower well-being and contributes to anxiety and insomnia.

So lets put our efforts, as hinted at by the research, into accumulating time instead of stuff, yeah?

Yet, they say even the very wealthy are often reluctant to pay people to do the jobs they dislike.

Support New Escapologist on Patreon. Thank you.

Footage of a Man Dropping a Potato

I just watched a Channel 4 documentary called How to Retire at 40. Wow. I recommend watching it, not because it’ll tell you how to retire at 40, but to because it’s a useful reminder of how bad regular television can be.

Aside from the occasional digital box set (Mr Robot, Twin Peaks) and cherry-picked YouTube show (Best of the Worst, Binging with Babish), I’ve not consumed much in the way of telly over the past decade. This is because television is WOMBAT and, unless you genuinely love it, a distraction from the good life. There are better, cheaper, more intelligent ways of doing nothing.

In this programme, a trio of grinning, boggle-eyed presenters who speak up-and-down and up-and-down patronise the audience and their interviewees and give something like 10% content to 90% waffle — intros, recaps, rhetoric, point-laboring, commercial break, establishing shots of Wolverhampton and footage of a man dropping a potato. The actual message (that we “super save” or “trend spot” to escape the rat race) is so cursory as to be barely useful at all.

There’s a great moment when one of our gurning tellyfolk asks a young business owner how quickly she made her seed capital through crowdfunding (possibly crowdcube, though we’re never told). The answer is nine days, to which the presenter says something like “I’m really sorry, I’m going! Because this is a waste of my time, working in television!” She says it as a joke when she should have said it in earnest. And then done it.

Never forget the bad old days. Escapologists should try getting a bus during the rush-hour commute every so often or eating at Pizza Hut or, in this case, watching television. Just to remind ourselves that shunning these relatively normal pastimes is far from missing out. FOMO be damned!

Support New Escapologist on Patreon. Thank you.

A Handy Acronym

Stephen King says that FEAR stands for “fuck everything and run”.

That is all for today. Class dismissed.

Latest issues and offers

1-7

Issues One to Seven

A bundle of our first seven issues. Featuring minimalism, Houdini, Leo Babauta, Bohemianism, Alain de Botton, Sartre, and Tom Hodgkinson. 567 pages. £35.

8-11

Issues Eight to Thirteen

A bundle of our last six issues. Featuring Luke Rhinehart, Flaubert, Mr Money Mustache, part-time work, Will Self, home life, Richard Herring, and E. F. Schumacher. 593 pages. £30.

Issue Thirteen

Our final issue. Featuring an interview with celebrity mortician Caitlin Doughty; Matt Caulfield on zen fool Ryokan; and Reggie C. King on David Bowie and Sun Ra. 122 pages. £7.

Escape Everything!

A hardback guide to scarpering. Essential reading for wage slaves and slugabeds alike. Published by Unbound. 230 pages. £12.