In this intermittently amusing but excessively long sequel to How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto, British author and editor (the Idler) Hodgkinson states upfront that his goal is to present a philosophy for everyday life based on "freedom, merriment and responsibility, or anarchy." Asserting that before the Reformation, "England was one non-stop party," he wants to overthrow modern Puritans and return to an approach to life that is basically "having a laugh, doing what you want"-and he provides alternatives to the many ills of the modern world such as those listed in the book's title. The main problem is that many of Hodgkinson's topics end up being played for easy laughs-in one chapter titled "Forget Government," the message is "Stop Voting," while in another on "Submit No More to the Machine, Use Your Hands," his main advice is "Use a Scythe." When he does try to move beyond laughs and explain how his philosophy can cause "a radical redefinition of human relationships" based on "local needs" instead of "global capitalism," he never quite explores how this would happen in the real world, relying instead on grand statements (in a chapter called "Stop Working, Start Living") such as "A spade, a saw and a chisel, that is all you need to be free." (Dec.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Wasteby Tom Hodgkinson
The author of How to Be Idle, Tom Hodgkinson, now shares his delightfully irreverent musings on what true independence means and what it takes to be free. The Freedom Manifesto draws on French existentialists, British punks, beat poets, hippies and yippies, medieval thinkers, and anarchists to provide a new, simple, joyful blueprint for modern/em>/em>
The author of How to Be Idle, Tom Hodgkinson, now shares his delightfully irreverent musings on what true independence means and what it takes to be free. The Freedom Manifesto draws on French existentialists, British punks, beat poets, hippies and yippies, medieval thinkers, and anarchists to provide a new, simple, joyful blueprint for modern living. From growing your own vegetables to canceling your credit cards to reading Jean-Paul Sartre, here are excellent suggestions for nourishing mind, body, and spirit—witty, provocative, sometimes outrageous, yet eminently sage advice for breaking with convention and living an uncluttered, unfettered, and therefore happier, life.
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The Freedom Manifesto
How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste
Banish Anxiety; Be Carefree
Live merrily, oh my friends, free from cares, perplexity, anguish, grief of mind, live merrily.
Marsilius Ficinus, quoted by Robert Burton in Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Blake, 'Milton', 1804
We don't care.
Punk slogan, 1977
When it comes to anxiety, I'm here to say: 'It's not your fault.' Shed the burden: that dreadful, gnawing, stomach-churning sense that things are awry mixed with a chronic sense of powerlessness is the simple result of living in an anxious age, oppressed by Puritans, imprisoned by career, humiliated by bosses, attacked by banks, seduced by celebrity, bored by TV, forever hoping, fearing or regretting. It—the Thing, the Man, the System, the Combine, the Construct, whatever we want to call the structures of power—wants you to be anxious. Anxiety suits the status quo very well. Anxious people make good consumers and good workers. Governments and big business, therefore, love terrorism—they adore it, it's good for business. Anxiety will drive us back into our comfort blankets of credit-card shopping and bad food, so the system deliberately produces anxiety while simultaneously promising to take it away.
The veritable stream of scare stories in the newspapers about rising crime makes us feel anxious. Newspapers set out toprovide entertainment and gossip, stories that feed our need for shock and horror. They do it well. Flick through the Daily Mail on any given day and you'll find that nine out of ten stories are negative and unsettling. Every radio bulletin and every TV news show, every newspaper and many of our daily conversations drive home the same message: worry, worry, worry. It's a dangerous world out there, filled with crazy, suicidal, bomb-hurling terrorists and murderers and thieves and rotters and natural disasters. Stay home! Watch TV! Buy stuff on the web! Curl up on the sofa with a DVD! In the words of the Black Flag song 'TV Party': 'TV news knows what it's like out there, it's a scare!' As in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, we are told that we are in a perpetual state of war—it's just that the enemy sometimes changes. We are no longer at war with the IRA; we are now at war with Al-Qaeda. Different enemy, same anxiety and same end result: mass powerlessness.
But if we bother to investigate these myths for a few seconds, they soon reveal themselves to be mere convenient fictions. According to the brilliant anxiety analyst Brian Dean, the truth is that crime rates have remained fairly constant for the last 150 years. Dean maintains that our fear of crime is vastly out of proportion to the reality. The truth is that we face far more danger from automobile accidents and heart disease than from crime. Motor accidents kill ten people a day in the UK, and heart disease hundreds, but no one talks about banning cars or criminalizing the stress that puts a strain on the heart. The propaganda of insecurity, for Dean, is at the root of the problem: 'Our beliefs programme our realities. If we believe that the universe is fundamentally unsafe, then we're going to experience perpetual anxiety—which isn't a good way to operate our brains.'Our work, organized into the cursed jobs system, doesn't help, condemning as it does so many of us to meaningless toil. E. F. Schumacher was the great thinker behind the book Small is Beautiful. An anarchist and an idler at heart, he argued that the very enormity, the giant, impossible, dizzying scale of modern-day capitalism saps the spirit. He also believed that this enormity had made work into something pointless, boring, souldestroying, something to put up with, a necessary evil rather than a pleasure. In his book Good Work, he argues that industrial society causes anxiety because, by focusing primarily on greed—or what the medievals called the sin of avaritia—it doesn't allow time for the expression of our nobler faculties:
Everywhere shows this evil characteristic of incessantly stimulating greed and avarice . . . mechanical, artificial, divorced from nature, utilizing only the smallest part of man's potential capabilities, it sentences the great majority of workers to spending their working lives in a way which contains no worthy challenge, no stimulus to self-perfection, no chance of development, no element of Beauty, Truth, Goodness.
I say therefore that it is a great evil—perhaps the greatest evil—of modern industrial society that, through its immensely involved nature, it imposes an undue nervous strain and absorbs an undue proportion of man's attention.
In the current scheme of things, when we're not working, we're consuming. We leave the factory gates and pour our wages straight back into the system at Tesco's. We suffer a strange split in our roles in society between that of worker and consumer, the oppressed and the courted. At least in the nineteenth century people knew they were merely a pair of hands operating a machine and that they were being exploited for another's profit. Therefore, it was perhaps easier to rebel. The contract was straightforward. Certainly, we all know that a vigorous culture of resistance grew up among the workers in the nineteenth century, the era of work and slavery. Now, though, the moment we leave the factory gates and start to make our way back home, we the are serenaded from all sides by advertising. The service culture makes us into little princes surrounded by simpering courtiers eager to curry favour so that we will give them our cash or let them have their wicked way with us. They make us feel important. The world of advertising practises its dark arts of seduction. In The Society of the Spectacle (1967), the fantastically carefree Situationist Guy Debord put it like this:
The Freedom Manifesto
The worker, suddenly redeemed from the total contempt which is plainly showed to him by all the forms of the organization and supervision or production, now finds himself, every day, outside of production, and in the guise of a consumer; with zealous politeness, he is, seemingly, treated as an adult. At this point, the humanism of the commodity takes charge of the worker's 'leisure and humanity'.
How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste. Copyright © by Tom Hodgkinson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>
Meet the Author
Tom Hodgkinson is still doing what he's always done, which is a mixture of editing magazines, writing articles, and putting on parties. He was born in 1968, founded The Idler in 1993, and now lives in Devon, England. He is also the author of The Freedom Manifesto.
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Like his earlier book, "How to Be Idle," Hodgkinson offers a fun and thoughtful read for those of us who want to escape the soul-crushing cube life we've been told we are lucky to have. No we are not. Read them both. Then reread them until you finally are prepared to leap.
This books illuminates many of the difficulties we've fallen into in the modern age. And, it offers solid, if not spectacular, advice on how to extricate yourself from the web of capitalism and marketing. If you have an independent streak, enjoy your privacy, and don't fear terrorism on a daily basis, then read this book. If you worship people of power and money, long to work seventy hours a week for that extra cash, or believe freedom means you have access to luxury items of the twenty-first century, then don't read this book.