For the most part, people out here are disengaged from the rest of the rhythms of our larger world. Not like hermits so much, but rather like anti or ambivalent non-consumers, they just aren’t ‘in the game‘.
They don’t buy much. They don’t want for much, they lust for less and they work usually only for the basics. And this tends to disengage them from the larger society who – on the surface anyway – seem more inclined to keep up with the Consumer Price Index folks.
Disengagement manifests in so many ways it is hard to see at first. There is, of course, the obvious eschewal of fashion (or even new clothes) but that is not unique to off-the-gridders. There is also the lack of societal consumer habits from frequenting Starbucks to hooking up with cable, from air-miles to car-miles traveled. From credit card use to regular office-type working hours and from regular upgrading of consumer items to even attendance at regular meetings, our locals just don’t mingle in.
People out here buy less stuff, have few consumer habits and simply encounter fewer people in the course of their day.
Off-the-gridders are, consequently, quite a bit more socially disengaged comparatively speaking. On the negative side, they may even lack for a few basic social skills now and then. Off hand, if I was estimating social engagement on a scale of ten and a movie producer in Hollywood was a ten and a typical Vancouverite was a seven, the local off-the gridder is at 1 or 1.2. Some even less. A few not even on the scale.
The exception to the above observation is their engagement in the environment and all things eco-politics. Ask an off-the gridder about Greek politics and the likely answer is, “I dunno. All Greek to me!” Ask an off-the-gridder about Justin Bieber and the answer is invariably, “Justin who?” Ask them about the Canucks and almost all of them just shrug and say, “Who cares?”
But if you ask them about the Mountain Pine Beetle, fish farming practices, mono-culture re-forestation, Enbridge pipelines or even seaweed and ravens……well…………the ensuing conversation may threaten your schedule for the summer.
They know their stuff on that score and they care passionately about the subject. And, for the most part, they practice what they preach. These people compost, homestead, conserve, preserve and make do. They consume little, drive less, eat local and think globally – as in Gaia not the UN. These people are very engaged on a personal scale with their natural world. The societal one? Not so much.
A wonderful and somewhat quirky side benefit to this lack of involvement/dependency is their tendency to be innovative and creative. They (and increasingly, we) do ‘work-arounds’, make inventions, solve problems and create magic from nothing. They make stuff they need from scrap. Really! One guy a few years back – when his gen set burned out a main bearing – machined one at home from scrap metal! That’s right! The guy made a bearing!
That is not easy.
And the examples are too numerous to mention. In fact, there is hardly any place I can think of out here where the people haven’t shown independent, creative thought and actions. It shows up right in front of you. It is pretty neat.