Oct 9th, 2017, 09:26 PM

How to Reduce Total Dependency on Modern Conveniences

By Amanda Taylor
Have we become sheep? Image Credit: Shutterstock/Krasi
In our age of technological conveniences, self-reliance is slowly being lost.

 “If I became a monster today, and decided to kill them, one by one, they would become aware only after most of the flock had been slaughtered, thought the boy. They trusted me, and they’ve forgotten how to rely on their own instincts, because I lead them to nourishment.” 

I was re-reading Paulo Coelho's acclaimed book, "The Alchemist," and this perturbing passage was only six pages in. The character is a shepherd boy named Santiago, speaking about his sheep. For me, however, it was a strange, eerie description of the potentially dangerous situation in which we find ourselves today.

In the age of technological conveniences, self-reliance is slowly being lost. Knowledge of how to grow food — a practice developed from the cradle of civilization — is now for the most part completely mediated by large grocery chains and industrial farms. Not only do we no longer grow our own food, we have removed ourselves from the act of cooking it thanks to the fast-food industry. According to activist author Michael Pollan, famous for his best-selling food books, Americans not only cook less than people anywhere else in the world, but we spend on average only 27 minutes a day preparing food, compared with 60 minutes in 1965.

Other acts of self-reliance such as making clothes, treating wounds and illnesses, or even basic knowledge for how to make a shelter are concepts that have become foreign, even laughable, to a majority of the American public. Most feel there is no need to know these things since we have the technology and the means to have them done for us. While the  level of convenience that we have achieved is undoubtedly high, what has been left out as a result? Something essential is being overlooked and underestimated in society: hands on skills that have been key to survival for millions of years are slowly being forgotten.

This creates a certain vulnerability in our modern system. With it as our sole provider, living in society is as much a benefit as it is a detriment. Many of us are now dependent on a system that is not indestructible. A word of caution once offered to me: when you give a person the power to feed you, you also give them the power to starve you. This is the situation millennials are being conditioned to accept, as this is purposefully the only way of life being presented to us.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Triff

Let’s say a major natural disaster or war — which nowadays doesn't seem so outside the realm of possibility — caused the internet and entire economy to crash tomorrow. Would people know how to function? How to provide for themselves? Would they be able to travel somewhere without a GPS? People once could navigate by the stars, as this was considered a basic skill to have. Now we see what used to be considered basic knowledge reserved for scientists, specialists, and academics rather than the majority, and this simply should not be the case.

You could argue that we haven't descended that far into incompetence, but it is hard to deny that society as a whole has become more ignorant in general when it comes to the natural environment. This poses the question of how we qualify human progress and development. Shouldn't an advanced society push all of its citizens towards a mastery over their environment, then proceed to move on to technological advances, not vice versa? As humans, we all have the born right to know how to provide for ourselves and our families, outside of a structural system that can be taken from us at any moment.

Even if there might not be a disaster in sight, knowing a few practical skills and being able to not wholly rely on the system can, ironically, make life more convenient. The idea of self reliance began to surface for me when I first moved to France and realized how many things I had been dependent on back home. For example, knowing how to properly navigate a new city without using GPS was something I took for granted. When I first moved to France, still using my U.S. phone service, I found myself completely distraught in areas where my signal wasn’t working.

Secondly, fast food is not something that is readily available here, especially where I live in the 7th arrondissement. This led me to getting into the habit of cooking my own food. The language difference forced me to research different terms and ingredients, something I never took the time to do back in the U.S. As the act of growing one's food can be difficult for students such as myself, I've realized the next best thing to do is, try to gain as much awareness as possible of the ingredients in grocery bought food and the methods used to produce it.

There are many claims that genetically modified foods and pesticides may cause certain health problems, leading to an increased need for pharmaceuticals, which ultimately fuels our dependency on the system. As students, researching what is going into our food along with actually cooking meals not only saves money, but gives us the power to avoid health problems later. Moving to another country allowed me to realize these things, but more importantly, it opened my eyes to see that if circumstances do not force us into these situations, we will simply accept that there is no other way to live apart from what the system has shown us.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/WorSanJun

A system that was created for conveniences has become a system on which we are totally dependent. Being consumers is good for capitalism and our economy, but there is an underlying disservice to us as individuals. Awareness of the sky we are under, awareness of how to grow food from the ground we stand on, and how to create things with our bare hands is essential to the human life experience. This is not nostalgia or a yearning to return completely back to how things used to be, rather this is a call to ponder the exact extent to which we as a society are dependent upon a system which is turning us all into powerless, incapable people.