Economic Survivalism?

USA Today ran an article about an emerging trend they call Economic Survivalism:

When the economy started to squeeze the Wojtowicz family, they gave up vacation cruises, restaurant meals, new clothes and high-tech toys to become 21st-century homesteaders.

Now Patrick Wojtowicz, 36, his wife Melissa, 37, and daughter Gabrielle, 15, raise pigs and chickens for food on 40 acres near Alma, Mich. They’re planning a garden and installing a wood furnace. They disconnected the satellite TV and radio, ditched their dishwasher and a big truck and started buying clothes at resale shops.

“As long as we can keep decreasing our bills, we can keep making less money,” Patrick says. “We’re not saying this is right for everybody, but it’s right for us.”

The piece points to growing interest in Stockpiling, Gardening, Canning, Sewing and Relocating as signs of the emerging trend.

I know several people about my age who do some or all of these things, but they’re not reacting to the recession or preparing for 2012, nor are they inspired by much of the ideological silliness that thrives in the green/organic movement. I think the growth of DIY has less to do with survivalism and the economy and more to do with people just wanting to be more prepared, knowledgeable and independent.

My theory is that DIY is growing among younger people because our generation, for the most part, is much farther removed from ‘production’ than past generations. America as a whole has shifted from a manufacturing to a service economy over the past forty years. As a result, we exist in a more technological, customizable, on-demand society than people in most other countries. While I’m sure we all like getting what we want, when we want it, we’re left clawing at the curtains whenever the power goes out or the high-speed cable goes down.

We live in a concrete world, but our jobs, relationships and hobbies take place in a more abstract, virtual world. We’ve gotten to the point where many people are completely asea when something they own or desire needs to be mended or manufactured. A whole generation has grown up in a world of 3-bladed, disposable razors, boil-in-bag entrées and automatic spellcheck. In that world, most vegetables come from cans and all meat comes wrapped in cellophane. They know how to heat marinara and noodles, but not how to make them from scratch. I think that disconnect has generated a common longing for more tangible skills and more control over one’s understanding of ‘stuff.’

We DIYers have more demands than our on-demand world can fulfill. We prefer our stuff to meet our specific needs and criteria rather than settle for whatever’s on sale this week at IKEA. We like to learn and experience how seeds become strawberries, how milk becomes cheese, and how lumber becomes furniture.

I’m not saying we necessarily need to learn how to mine ore, smelt metal and machine parts in order to own a car; I think we just want to be better educated about the world around us and how it works. If you ask me, that doesn’t make us part of a fringe group of “economic survivalists.” It makes us normal. It’s the people who can’t ‘unplug’ and who can’t do for themselves that are strange.

Economic Survivalism?
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