On living an autonomous life

This year, a friend had a wedding or some such in a remote hippie community in Indo-China. We met each other in Tacloban more than 5 years ago in an activism-related event. We talked about revolutions and stuff all night with some new-found friends. From what I gather from her social media, she now practices yoga, talks about moons and spirits and other earthy whatnot. She’s with good people, I think.

Interestingly, two sets of friends have independently voiced out the desire to create or join communes. The first was motivated by the general disgust of city life. The second was full-on hippie with talk of psychedelics and, very possibly, free sex. The first set of friends was quite serious, as it involved us planning how to make our own food, live off the grid, and so on. I just heard about the second one. It sounded more like a ‘trip’ than anything else.

Swamped by a job that means nothing to me except money, the possibility of throwing it all away to live on some farm with like-minded individuals has always been one of my fantasies. This yearning for independence, of living outside society, was for me something that comes out of the desire for something new, for total freedom. I am not interested in ‘communing with nature’ or ‘finding my soul and the meaning of life’ or doing it simply because I was bored with city life. It was, more than anything else, an escape, a withdrawal from society, a resignation letter to Bullshit, an autonomy of life itself.

But at the other side of this is the acceptance that these sorts of things exemplify the ultimate middle-class ‘do what you want’ fantasy. The ultimate middle-class fantasy I think is not about the opulent life with cars or properties or money. It is precisely this willingness to reject these ‘shallow’ things, in one’s own terms,  that completes this middle-class fantasy. Living off the grid condescendingly rejects these things by claiming that they are ‘woke’ enough to transcend these so-called material things, erasing the very obvious fact that it is precisely privilege and ‘material things’ which sustain these fantasies. How do we create a house without money? How do we even go to some far place without any form of transportation? How do we acquire the things which make the ‘autonomous life’ such a ‘liberating’ kind of life, specifically, the good food, the drugs, the fine sleeping quarters, etc, without having some sort of implied connection to the very society that such a kind of life rejects?

Perhaps the most vulnerable aspect of this middle-class fantasy is the illusion of independence, of transcendence, of the impression of having decided for oneself one’s own ‘destiny’ without being forced by ‘society’, materialism, ambition, ideology, hate or impulse.

Still, I am inspired by people who choose to reject bullshit. Some of my friends have had it with Manila, saying that they’d rather go to another and less stressing city. Others have chosen to live in mountains and make art for a living, others have chosen to take up arms. Others have chosen to stay with their friends and live life as it is. Every single one of them continues to inspire me.

As much as I am aware of the limitations of every act of resistance, I am sustained by the joy of seeing others who have made decisions larger and much more radical than anything I have made. These decisions, more than anything, open up the world and shine by simply being there. More than the prospect of an adventure, the possibility of living autonomously gives hope.


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