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04/12/2003 Archived Entry: "More on Voluntary Simplicity"

I have become a great fan of Penn and Teller and especially their weekly TV show "Bullshit!" aired by Showtime. I seem to need an extra dose of comedy these days. If you are in the mood for a few jokes, tho' none as sophisticated as P&T-- in fact a bit South Parkish -- click here.

On the Political Front:

Was the statue-toppling rally in Baghdad that was so widely broadcast staged? A wide-angle photo by Reuters suggests it was. I am pleased that the Russian IraqWar site is back, and still translated into English, because its balanced perspective is badly needed.

Israeli interests seem increasingly to sculpt American policy. These are merely three stories I happened upon early this morning. 1) The US is pounding the remote Iraqi border town of Qaim -- the Iraq-Syria border -- in order to protect Israel. "Our goal is to make sure (Iraq) is not in a position to threaten" Israel, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said. He described the U.S. air strikes around Qaim as "preventive medicine." 2) At the same time, Bush is demanding that Syria close its border with iraq, something Syria insists has already happened except for humanitarian aid. Syria's ambassador to Washington said Bush's accusations amount to a US-Israeli campaign against Damascus. 3) Israel is urging the Bush administration to target Hezbollah following the war in Iraq, arguing that the militant Shiite organization threatens the stability of the Middle East and the security of the United States worldwide.

I am dismayed to see Israel playing a more prominent role because, historically, nothing has united the Arab world so surely as its hatred of the Jewish state. To most Western sensibilities...an Arab is an Arab is an Arab. That is our ignorance speaking, of course. Arabs themselves are deeply tribal, divided, and notoriously unable to work together. In a sense, that has been reassuring in the current crisis because an Arab front united against the US -- a union that would probably include some non-Arab nations like Iran -- is a terrifying prospect.

On the Personal Front:

I want to return to the theme of frugality about which I wrote some days ago because it has become a lifestyle choice for me and one that I enjoy largely due to its simplicity. That's why frugality is often called Voluntary Simplicity. As one of my favorite VS sites states, "There are a lot of reasons to practice frugality, and financial concerns is really the least of it, although of course it is the part with the most personal impact on you! I started out trying to save a few pennies here and there, and ended up deciding to make some major lifestyle changes." For me the changes in lifestyle have come gradually as well. I suppose the one phrase that captures its essence of my drift is "substance over flash." At this point, I find it difficult to understand why anyone would spend years at a job they don't enjoy in order to own a home that is bigger than they can use, the upkeep on which absorbs their spare time. The trade-off doesn't make sense. Except for people who really believe that "things" give their lives meaning, that the number of things you own is the amount of your worth. I just don't see the connection...or, more accurately, I don't feel the connection. In fact, an ostentatious display of wealth make me think less of the person who is "flashing."

Voluntary simplicity has acquired a bad rep among libertarians because it is associated with so many dubious political causes with which it has no necessary bond. I always have to explain that I am not anti-consumerism, anti-freemarket, nor anti-technology. I eagerly consume anything and everything that makes my life better, healthier, fuller...I do not enjoy or embrace "poverty" and I *love* technology. I am able to live on a farm down a gravel road precisely because technology allows me to maintain close contact with friends and the intellectual communities that are as important to me as the blood in my veins. And that's not hyperbole. As for VS's compatibility with libertarianism...it is as compatible as any other voluntarily chosen lifestyle, perhaps more than most if only because of its stress on self-sufficiency.

Best to all,

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