In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, Ch. 5:8, we read: “Woe unto them that join house
unto house, that lay field unto field, until there be no place.” In other words, people
need space to feel human and productive. Most of us have settled for less space than we
would like, but usually see no alternative. Different peoples and cultures require
different amounts of this necessity, but woe be unto those who trespass the invisible
personal territory of another!
So . . . if we are stressed by being pressured together in cities, offices, schools,
etc., why do we tolerate it? Most individuals, if not born and raised in wide open spaces,
are just not aware that crowded conditions aggravate the psyche, ruin marriages, and turn
people, even small children, into angry, resentful, passive-aggressive (get even sneakiness),
depressed beings. If in doubt of this, try the following experiment: Invite four or five
friends and their belongings over to your house for an extended stay of undetermined and
seemingly eternal length.
Several years ago, I invited a sweet, non-rent or utility paying family of five to stay
with us until they could get on their own feet. Having had guests and room renters before,
I thought I could handle it, but after two months, I was a basket case. I found myself
acting quite impatient with their lack of progress toward becoming functional and finding
a place of their own. Impatience soon turned to resentment, and I became depressed at not
being able to handle the situation, becoming a miserable person to be around. We are still
friends, but it is a miracle considering the negative attitude I developed from being
crowded and trapped with no place to go and no definite release time to look forward to.
Repeatedly, scientific tests conducted with rats demonstrate that crowding brings out the
worst tendencies, including aggressive and aberrant sexual behavior.
Since civilization began, the village square, with its bazaar and farmer’s market has
been the center for social activity, but with Wal-marts, shopping malls, and giant food
stores being built on the periphery of population centers, most downtown areas have long
ceased being the focus of community life in towns of any size. Without this center, many
folks feel alienated within their own home towns, rarely seeing their old friends. A good
gauge of whether a town has lost its civic center is when thrift store, T-shirt shops, and
other discount stores replace grocery, fine clothing, and hardware stores. When the post
office goes, it is often the final blow. The increased presence of vagrants, substance
abusers, and criminal predators also indicates a community in decline.
Many sensitive people, responding to the survival instinct, have fled the fast and
congested lane of materialistic pursuit for less crowded rural areas where life moves
more in harmony with the seasons and natural cycles. The mentality of people who retain
an agricultural base is more relaxed, and newcomers are not judged by how much they have,
but by how well they take care of the land, their families, and participate in the community.
President Thomas Jefferson, as well educated and accomplished as any man of his education,
believed farming and living close to the land to be the natural state of man. His example
as both a dedicated agriculturist and international diplomat dispels any belief that
education, cultural sophistication, and intelligence are only at home in the city.
One of the biggest obstacles to extracting oneself from the constant hum and stimulation
of city life with its amenities, old friends, relatives, and comfortable habits is the
mistaken belief that relocation to a more rural area entails a major emotional upheaval
and adjustment. This troubling outlook is not necessarily true. Simply scout out
possibilities 30 to 40 minutes from the edge of your familiar territory, and you will
find plenty of potential havens. Have you ever flown high over the country on a dark
night and looked down at the brightly lit centers of population? Humans do tend to
huddle, but there are many folks outside those glittering pools of light seen from the air . . . and they’re friendly, good natured, and decent. If you do move, you will have to make new friends, but that does not mean you will lose the old ones. You will probably see them just about as often when you come into town for special occasions. Also, with your new home in the country, you can offer your city friends a place of retreat where your visits will be real and meaningful, as opposed to the rushed communications of city life. As for the new friends you will be making, they will have a great deal to share with you, expanding your whole universe in the process. Hint! If you want to make friends fast . . . volunteer to take any extra zucchini your neighbors might grow!
The computer revolution has enabled many to distance themselves from their employment
and still receive a regular paycheck or remuneration for services. With or without a
computer, thousands are learning to rely on their own abilities and talents to earn their
daily bread, instead of being capitalized upon by big business. One person or family-based
enterprises are springing up all over the country and advertising is bringing customers to
those daring entrepreneurs from all over the world. Although I do not own a computer, it is
looming in the future. My children need one just to do their homework and it’s just a matter
of time. I was one of the first in my town to recognize the Internet’s potential and created
a web page for The Gentle Survivalist newsletter that my local service provider posted for me.
If a computer makes life simpler for you, it will be a good investment. If it only complicates
your life, it isn’t worth the mental anguish.
Before grabbing your computer and heading for the country, be aware that folks in the
country are not going to roll out the welcome mat if you bring your troubles with you, for
your troubles soon become their troubles. If you can’t work out your problems with all the
social services and amenities the city offers, don’t think that running away to a rural area
will help you get it together or reform your children. Our small town, like many other rural
communities, is suffering from an escalating influx of move-ins and the negative social
baggage they bring. Maybe a move to interior Alaska or Canada could affect the drastic change
some individuals need, but a simple change of scene won’t help much to change attitudes and
Many people who grew up in southern Utah, but left to find work, are moving back from
Las Vegas, Nevada and southern California. They want a peaceful place to raise their children
and are giving up high paid jobs to relocate. Many retirees are also moving from colder areas
all over the country. This has created a building boom here, and such booms always attract a
transient population of service trade people, some of whom are a little more fringy and take
advantage of trusting folks. An example of this is a sprinkler setter who did not do a
quality job for us. He charged a high price and I later heard he had been sent to the State
Penitentiary for stealing from his employer.
Those people who are attracted to southern Utah for the sense of community stability and
cohesiveness often do not participate in the activities that make it a peaceful community.
They take, but they do not want to contribute. These people are usually from the larger
cities and they often bring children with them who have already been influenced by gang
activities. Sadly, it is often too late to reform these kids. Small communities have
limited resources and their juvenile court systems and social services are becoming
overloaded. Help is available and hope always exists, but these tough kids generally do not
want to fit in with the local kids who are involved in Scouts, service activities and
church-sponsored hiking and camping outings. In a culture where the accepted age for a
first date is 16, these streetwise kids who never really had a childhood just don’t fit in.
They quickly gravitate to others like themselves who enjoy flashy cars, playing loud boom
boxes with obnoxious music, wearing prisoner bandanas, earrings, tattoos, and affecting a
cold rudeness. Drugs and alcohol are also part of the act. These hardened young people,
while a small minority, are not purposely excluded by the local kids; they are simply
drawn together by past gang related experiences and think the locals are boring.
Some adults from metropolitan areas are much the same. They complain of not enough
liquor serving bars and drive to the Nevada state line to gamble and visit porn shops.
Why these folks want to come to a peaceful place and bring all their bad habits with them,
even insist we provide them with access to such family and community destroying vices is
beyond me. Hardly anyone used to lock their doors here, but the rising crime rate is sending
many longtime residents to smaller nearby towns to search for a little pre-boom peace.
A rising population in the southwest means increased demands on an ever-dwindling water
supply, which brings a whole new set of problems and resentments. So if you head off for
parts new or remote, think about the effect your move will have on your chosen destination
whether or not you are willing to pitch in and become an asset to your future community.
Preexistent cultural standards have made your future home look good in contrast to where
you are now, so why try to change them once you get there? It sort of reminds me of someone
who finds the perfect person to marry and spends the rest of their life trying to change them!
Families, the basis of civilization, are under constant attack by innumerable forces,
including employment opportunities in far flung places. Divorce, death and relocation rip
families apart, creating alienated grandparents and orphan grandchildren, separated by time
and space. Historically, family members have depended on each other for wisdom, love, and
financial support. Within memory, multi generational families, tied to a geographical area,
provided a simple, yet effective barrier against over-stress and its accompanying evil twin,
disintegration. Today, grandparents live in Sunbelt condos and siblings are scattered around
the globe like tiny dandelion seeds blown carelessly from their puffballs. That so many are
excluded from the stabilizing effect of family unity and tradition is sad, especially
considering the precarious situation the world is in today.
Today’s generation may never recapture the family solidarity that most often had its
roots in the soil, but that does not diminish this basic need. Society was amazed in the
sixties when the Flower Child generation was drawn from the cities and suburbs for a
collective human family experience in San Francisco and then packed up en mass and went
back to the land, where they started their own land-based communes and other religious-based
When the Beatles burst on the scene singing about love and peace, everything changed.
We wanted more out of life than what our parents had settled for in the wasteland of
materialistic suburbia. The kids on the farms or reservations weren’t as magnetically
drawn to San Francisco or the back to the earth movement because they were already
experiencing land-based community living with extended families— something that was
lacking in most of our lives. There were a few of course, but almost all came home . . .
because they had one.
Today, more and more people are being drawn toward intentional land-based communities,
where like-minded singles and families pool resources for simpler, yet more fulfilling
lifestyles. These planned communities offer gardening, recreation, group travel,
work shops, construction and service projects that promote social interaction and the
opportunity to share one’s knowledge, skills and experience in a meaningful way. Hundreds
of such intentional communities already exist in the U.S. These communities are not meant
to replace family values with a quasi-socialistic system, but to fill the needs of those
who lack family support or a land base where they can feel in harmony with nature.
Native Americans are also finding themselves drawn back to the land, their communities
and reservations. Many such individuals have received excellent educations, training and
experience that are valuable assets to their People. Tribal members who thought their
only hope for vocational or professional success was in the city — isolated from family,
friends and a meaningful way of life, now have hope for a more integrated life. After
obtaining an education and some experience, many are now able to take it home where they
will be better paid in the long run. Gone are the fearful relocation days when the
government gave Indians a one-way bus ticket to the city and a low-paying, dead-end job
in the hope they would be assimilated into the dominant culture.
The same magnetic principle of tribal gathering is manifesting itself among countless
people who share the same religion or world view. Interdependence and community gathering
is occurring on every socioeconomic level and among all races and cultures. The imbalanced
focus on individual achievement has failed to bring happiness and fulfillment to any, but
the most selfish, alienated examples of humanity. The rest of us need a family and a land
base, whether natural, tribal, or value shared.
That the empowering possibilities of community are manifesting themselves so boldly in
face of nuclear war, natural disasters, plagues, biological warfare and global environmental
degradation is hardly surprising, and most probably, the natural order of humanity.|