We have lost our sense of self-reliance.
I’m old enough to remember what the American landscape looked like before was littered with big box stores. I can recall a time when the local grocery store was owned by a third generation butcher who actually knew your name.
Today, our benchmark for quality is the $19.99 infomercial and free 2-day shipping.
Like most others trapped in the matrix, I used to be completely unaware and uncaring about my hopeless dependence on the system.
People hear the word “anarchy” and their spidey-senses start tingling. Visions of left-wing extremists, riots, and Molotov cocktails dance in their heads. That’s not what we’re talking about here.
I first read about American Anarchy in The Anarchist’s Tool Chest by Christopher Schwarz, which details an anti-consumerist approach to living. One passage in particular resonated with me:
“I build things in my free time so I can avoid buying things. And if I don’t have to buy as many things, I don’t have to take on jobs that I don’t like.”Christopher Schwarz – The Anarchist’s Tool Chest
I love photography, but failed to turn my passion into a successful business. I often accepted work I didn’t want to do just to pay the bills. It killed my joy for photography and ultimately, my business.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Taurus and have a natural aversion for authority. Maybe it’s because the older I get, the more I value time over money.
American Anarchy isn’t about burning down corporations or yelling in the face of “The Man.” It isn’t about cancel culture and calling out people who embrace different ideals.
It’s about having quality of life that extends beyond a 30-day limited warranty.
We are bombarded by so many ads, people have developed herd immunity. Millennials in particular seem to be impervious to traditional advertising, so corporations are trying to create an experience economy to counteract buying trends.
Why stay in a swanky hotel when you can have the experience of Airbnb?
Throw in social media’s dopamine-inducing feedback loop, and we’ve shifted from being consumers to measured demographics of lifestyle buyers. We’ve traded keeping up with the Joneses for “Facebook envy.”
The very act of living is a commercial enterprise.
Americans upload millions of photos each day and everyone is rating us on our lifestyle choices – everything from automobiles to bed sheets. In an ironic twist, we’ve been convinced to stop buying products and start selling the best version of ourselves instead.
We are the end product.
The Red Pill
My red pill moment came when I thought about all the junk I owned that was destined to end up in a landfill someday, just like all the previous junk it had inevitably replaced.
After I built my console table, I realized that I would never need another one. It was just right because I made it for me. It wasn’t designed to appeal to a demographic of a million people. It was built to last and someone else will appreciate it long after I’m gone.
These days, I’m much more conscious of who I give my hard-earned money to. I choose to buy local and support small businesses. I seek out independent makers rather than corporations. I want to buy from people who are passionate about the things they make.
These people are out there, and they’re not hard to find.
For me at least, being a full-fledged anarchist goes further than snubbing consumerism.
Clean and simple design is hip right now, but it won’t last forever. History has taught us that the ruling class exists in a constant state of one-upmanship. What is sleek and modern today will be viewed as dull and boring tomorrow, and trends will change. It’s inevitable.
The classic form of this table is timeless. Ask any child to draw a table. It will look just like the picture above. It will be simple. Functional. You won’t find sweeping curves and ornate features.
I have adopted the same approach to tools, buying only what I need, keeping my kit small and utilitarian. My apologies to all the YouTube pitchmen who exist solely to line their pockets with affiliate monies.
This isn’t a manifesto. This is simply refusing to be another cog in the machine.