Mad, Maxed Out

I’ve had a bad week, psychologically. My money has begun to dwindle and I have to face the reality; I live as a slave in a hierarchical system. It makes me terribly depressed to imagine myself behind the counter, serving up another latte to another slave as they head to their slave-job.

Let’s define exactly the dilema we all face here. We all know that civilization will collapse (already has started) in our lifetimes. We want to walk away from civilization and live a newer, freer, better life. Yet, to do so we need to learn how the natural world works. We need to build a culture with this knowledge.

Yet, we have jobs that keep us locked away from learning this knowledge, because we need money to feed ourselves because we lack this knowledge. We leave our jobs exhausted and angry and always worried about having enough money. In order to alleviate the psychological and physical pain brought on by civilized jobs (and food), we medicate ourselves with distractions; drugs (perscribed and illegal), television, rock shows, novelty, video games, etc. With out these distractions, we could not continue to do the shit work, and so in a way you can’t separate the two activities, especially because you have to work even more to pay for these forms of entertainment/alleviation.

So with all the time spent working and in my case, drinking, it leaves little time for rewilding. Now on top of that, the time spent rewilding can heal you… but really it amounts to a taste of freedom. This taste can keep you eager for more, yet that eagerness can also ruin you. It makes the job that much more unbearable. To know, to have tasted the freedom, yet not having the abilities to live that way all the time can cause a lot more grief. For me, it shuts down many rewilding adventures, for the rewilding times make my life worse. As a trapped wage-slave, it feels easier to continue to drink and smoke and philosophize and go to the movies than to work on breaking free.

Do ways exist to get paid to walk away from civilization? Or does this present us with an oximoron? Monetary transactions generally only occur when someone (usually the CEO) will get a return on their investment. Investing in walking away will not give you a return on your money, though it could give you an “investment” in a real relationship with the land. But I don’t think most people in this culture feel ready for that. I don’t think Mother Culture will ever allow people to “invest” in another culture… how could she? By nature Mother Culture tells us to continue to invest in this one. Even as this culture collapses, she will still tell people to throw their money at light bulbs and not to build something new, without her.

Obviously I don’t have the skills or community to live outside civilization. So I try constantly to dream up interesting ways of making money. People always tell me to “Do what I love.” That if I keep going, I’ll figure it out. I can’t tell you how many lists I have made over the last few years titled, “How To Make Money As Urban Scout.” Tough I wrote the one below last week, they all have the same things written on them.

Making Money as Urban Scout:
1. Classes
2. Grants
3. Book
4. Google Advertisements
5. Parties
6. Donations
7. DVD sales
8. Camps
9. Pan Handling
10. ???

1. Classes.
This probably works as the best potential way for me to make money. Though I’ve spoken before on how even that makes me feel entrapped, at the least it would feel better than working as a barista again. At the least, I could teach some skills to people and help further others understanding.

2. Grants
This actually frustrates me the most. Grant foundations do not recognize the changes that we need to make. They don’t want to hear words like “Collapse” and “Post-Oil Economy.” Though I feel my project could have great importance to many, it just sounds too “radical.” If I could change the wording, use terms like “future problems” in place of “Collapse,” and say that I teach “sustainability” instead of preparing people for the apocalypse… I could probably find funding. Though, I have no real grantwriting skills and having to put a linguistic disguise on what I do… well I just can’t. I feel I have to speak honestly about the collapse.

3. Book
I could write a book. But that takes time. I need money soon.

4. Google Ads
I could put google ads on my site. Text only, no big deal. But I always feel like those sites with google ads look very “busy” in graphic terms. Part of what I do here has a lot to do with style and aesthetic. I don’t want my site looking ugly.

5. Parties
I could keep running parties like the Nuclear Winter Formal, but they take so much time and energy and I just don’t have the knowledge of getting sponsors.

6. Donations
This seems like the most likely form, aside from teaching. Since grant foundations don’t like my language, perhaps a philanthropist exists who has read Ishmael and sees the need for this work, and would want to kick down some cash.

7. DVD sales
Like the book, it takes time to create good, sellable product. I’ll probably work on something of this sort.

8. Camps
Same as classes really.

9. Panhandling
Seriously, I’d rather panhandle than work a job I hate. I think. I guess I haven’t really ever panhandled much before. It may feel just as taxing.

I always leave a blank spot to remind myself that other ways still exist, though I have yet to think of them. I’d hate thinking these options stood alone.

Of course, I have other, long-term ideas; eco-villages and crap. But the short term anxiety really hits me hard, and makes the long-term seem that much further away. And what of everyone else? What of all the trapped people, dying to rewild but like me, can’t take the psychological mind fuck of wage-slavery?

I once went to see a speaker at Reed College with a friend who went there, and she said to me, “It really impresses me that you never went to college. It takes a lot of courage and self-direction to do what you do.” I thought about what she said and responded, “I don’t think I have more courage than anyone else. I simply cannot sit in a classroom without wanting to kill myself. I can’t take it psychologically. Perhaps I just have a higher sensitivity than most?”

Similarly, I do what I do not because I want to, I don’t martyr myself. I do this because I can’t do the civilization thing without wanting to kill myself. Drugs and entertainment simply cannot take that feeling away.

If you can think of any ways one can make money walking away from civilization, please share.

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13 Comments on “Mad, Maxed Out”

  1. Dear Urban Scout,

    Understand your dilemma.

    Would go with classes, camps and write on the side as time permits.

    You are a wonderful teacher!


  2. I was talking with one of my friends about this kind of thing last week. He’s a horticulturalist and wants to be able to make his living off his talent. Obviously, gardening is more sellable than urban scouting. You can produce food that people can understand as food and sell it in a farmer’s market or something of the like. But then you become a slave to the thing you love because it’s still locked inside the civilized system.

    I think “sustainability” could be a really good aspect to focus on in grant writing–also, just plain “research” and concepts of “local” focus. Can you write something that makes it sound like you want to research the local and bioregional sustainable methods of living noted among the prior hunter-gatherers of your bioregion to see how they can apply to modern living methods in a continually declining economy?

  3. Urban Scout-
    I’ve been dreading the idea of finding a job as well. I think that we could set aside our scout battle to the death for a little while now and work together to try and find a way to not work within civilizations prison walls. You know where to find me… Suburbia.

    -Suburban Scout

  4. Every time I sit in a classroom I am filled with feelings of dread. I wish I could do school, it would make things so much easier in some ways.

  5. I know what you mean about feeling more sensitive. I don’t get how other people do it. I see that they are miserable and tired and hate their jobs, but they still manage do them somehow. I have a very low tolerance for work. Pretty much all jobs suck because they force you to do the same thing way more than you would like to. I’ve quit 3 of my jobs after just a month or two, and the rest ended because they were temporary to begin with, school was over or the field season was up, or I probably would have quit those too. I don’t think I’ve held any job for more than 9 months.

    I was thinking the other day what is one thing I could do for 10 hours a day, 40 hours a week and enjoy it? I couldn’t think of one single thing even among things that people typically enjoy. Sex? No. Drugs? No. Lying in bed? No. Watching movies? No. Dining? No. Browsing the internet? No. Hiking? No. Gardening? No. Some people could probably enjoy concentrating their energy. Heck for one summer I was a crazy self-driven botanist, but that was just one summer. In general I think people just aren’t meant to specialize so severely. It’s bad for the body (carpal tunnel anyone?), bad for the soul and has arisen as a result of civilization and ultimately serves civilization by keeping people unable to provide for their basic needs. Hunting, gathering, cooking, arts and crafts, singing, dancing, swimming, sports, relaxing, raising families, love making. Once upon a time people had time for all of those things, those exact things that now everyone wishes they had more time for.

  6. Me too.. more sensitive.
    I haven’t been able to hold a job past 3 months. I lose myself entirely when I try to participate in this world. To lose my head and heart so completely is not an option.. I’d choose anything else.

  7. Panhandling: Since you’re not a woman with long hair, which seems to be the qualifier for getting the most handouts, you’ll need to round up some children to panhandle with you, but keep a low profile, yk.

  8. I apologize, but this post is just begging for it….

    1. Rewild
    2. ?
    3. Profit

    I suggest you write a book, if only because I’d be interested in reading it. =)
    You’ll still have find something else to immediately remedy your current funding dilemma, but it may bring a somewhat steady source of income in the future.

  9. 1. Classes: I loved being in school. I, like you, have rarely been able to hold a job for long. And I didn’t do well in high school. But college, once I got the hang of it, totally rocked. People sent me money to just philosophise and hang out with lots of people and learn a lot of cool stuff. And it comes with built-in community.

    2. Grants: Using language that other people can understand is an important part of being able to build community. If people need to hear the word “sustainable” in order to understand that you are doing something worthwhile, that’s not lying, it’s speaking a language that other people understand in order to speak your message.

    3. Write a book. Do it. Not only do you need money now, you’ll probably find money handy in the future, whether you need it or not.

    4. Google ads: Think outside this particular box. There are other companies that do ads. Look into AdWords. Also, you can direct sell your ad space, thereby allowing you to format it however you like. I know that my blog traffic has increased significantly since you listed my blog in your Links List. Are there folks out there that would be willing to pay a small amount in order to be listed in a separate list called “Sponsors” or something like that? How about local small businesses that would be willing to pay a small monthly fee to have a business card included in your sidebar? Also, as a sidenote, I think text ads are far more annoying that graphic ads. There is plenty of text on a blog page already, more text looks cluttered no matter how well you format it. Tasteful, non-animated graphics can add an artistic touch, text can’t.

    5. I got nothing on this one.

    6. Lots of blogs out there have a link directly to the writer’s personal PayPal account so that people can donate if they want. Lots of people call them a Tip Jar. You can see one at and scroll way down to the category called “Buttoned Up” on the right hand column. There’s a button that says Make A Donation, and it’s super simple. (I’m not suggesting that her site format is a good one, just showing you how the little donation button looks, in case you haven’t seen it.)

    7.8. I got nothing.

    9. Yesterday I drove by a fairly healthy-looking 20-something guy with a sign that said, “Living Outside, Anything Helps” and it had a little picture of a tent drawn on it. I was really torn about whether I would hand over some cash, as I sometimes do to panhandlers. On the one hand, living outside sounds pretty good to me, especially this time of year. I was tempted to just ask him if he knew about all the salmonberries, huckleberries, nettles, and miner’s lettuce growing abundantly in the park behind him. Maybe he needed some information more than he needed the dollar I had in my ashtray. On the other hand, having read your blog and read about the frustrations of this process, I could see that there’s more to living outside than just finding berries. As it happened, I pondered too long, the light turned green, and I drove past. This is undoubtably what would mostly happen to you. That is, when people weren’t rolling down their windows to yell at you to get a job and calling you a hippy.

    10. Seems to me that your real sticking point is that you are trying to change all of society while holding firm to your rather rigid diet. And as much as I respect your wish to eat in a way that makes you feel really heathy, I would just like to throw down the smallest little call of bullshit. Drinking to the extent that you wake up the next morning with unexplained homemade tattoos on your forearm indicates to me that you have priorities which trump your healthy diet. While numbing yourself to the evils of civilization is obviously a noble cause and all, why not allow re-wilding to trump your healthy diet instead? That way you get to escape the monetary culture, avoid getting a job or panhandling, and in the long run become healthier through a decrease in the need to drink yourself numb to the evils of civilization.

    11. There already exist communities that are working on similiar things to your goals. is a community where I live where they offer room and board in exchange for a certain amount of help around the community. They encourage people to pursue whatever they’re passionate about that fits with the community vision, so if someone wants to help convert the old chicken coop into a meditation hut they can, or if they prefer to catalogue the edible plants growing on the property and create a system for increasing the diversity of wild edibles on the property, they could do that also. I think the Sidhefire’s are a little on the hippy side of the spectrum for your taste, but there are no doubt similiar communities near Portland. Start thinking about trade rather than money.

    12. Think trade rather than money. You do some web design right? I trade web design with my local salvage company in order to afford the wood for some of my raised garden beds. I trade marketing photography for classes at Wilderness Awareness School. Everybody needs more marketing, and most small businesses I’ve talked to would love to trade goods and services rather than pay more money for marketing. My local co-op grocery store accepts volunteers in exchange for store credit.

    13. Find an “In” with the local tribes. When civilization collapses, it seems like a good idea to have some connections with the people who have a legitimate claim to the land off which you hope to be living. And reservation cultures seem a lot more open to barter systems in the meantime. What do you have to trade (classes?) with local tribal schools. Do they have stuff you might want? (skills? tools? information? permission to hunt and trap on their land, which is not governed by Fish and Wildlife?)


  10. Yall are awesome. Thanks so much for your advice.

    DeAnna, Thanks so much! Many great ideas… but do you have to be such a ball-buster!?! Geez. Cut me some slack! …just kidding, I love it. 😉

    Thanks again.

  11. Urban, your first 4 paragraphs more than hit the nail on the head for me. Nearly word for word, you’ve managed to phrase what I’ve had a difficult time trying to explain to those who just don’t understand where I’m coming from.

    I tend to scoff at people who say “it’s about finding the balance between work and leisure”. What balance? There is no balance. There is “civilized, capitalist workhorse” and then there is “free”. Partying it up every weekend in a vain attempt to drown out the previous week’s depressing worldly bullshit is not “finding the balance”; that’s called “fucking yourself up to get away”.

    I couldn’t possibly agree more about the concept of getting that taste of freedom away from work. The reason I wind up quitting my jobs is specifically because of this. I left my last job after attending a ranch and riding horses for 4 days. Aside from the fact that the ranch is also out to make money, it is the closest to being away from civilization I have had the opportunity to experience. Coming back to the city after being out there destroyed me. The symptoms on return are not entirely psychological either; you don’t realize *how much _noise_* civilization creates until you come back from the country and discover you’re getting a splitting headache simply from the usual background noise like traffic.

    PennyScout, you’ve struck the topic that unnerves me about most people. Somewhere along our history’s time line, children began being raised with the mentality that “that’s just the way things are”, “you have to accept the world for what it is”, and “do whatever you have to to get by”. If you try to have a serious conversation with the typical civ-brainwashed person about the world’s problems, you quite literally get a shrug and either “oh well” or “that’s just how things are, you have to deal with it”. It’s horrible how the average person can’t see that they really are being treated like a poor peasant who isn’t worth the dirt they’re standing on, so far as royalty is concerned. The fundamental basics of social castes really haven’t changed much over the centuries — we’re just too fucking dumb to revolt and reclaim our rightful way of life.

    I also agree 10000% that a human being was not designed to do the same task every day for the duration of their entire life. How did we go from being entirely self-sufficient to being dependant on a system that “rewards us” with materialistic things if we give our lives to the system?

    I start a new job August 1. Why? Because I’m realistic. Wait, this sounds familiar…. oh, that’s right! “That’s just the way things are”, “you have to accept the world for what it is”, and “do whatever you have to to get by”. I need to work, because I don’t have the power to change the world. That about sums it up.

  12. This is a good discussion. I’ve been experiencing many of the same internal conflicts over the past weeks…months…years.

    Lately I’ve gone to places which bear no reminders that human beings are on the planet (except for my backpacking gear) – no litter, no footprints, no motor noises, and no speech sounds. I listen to a different language, breathe different air, drink wild water. Then when I return to Portland, it feels like returning to a max security prison after being free. So, it’s good to hear the agony in the voices of others.

    I went back to “school” to become a nurse – a profession which I thought would allow me to do ethical, meaningful work, plus would pay well enough that I wouldn’t need to work much. Right. It’s all about profit for the insurance, health care, and pharmie corporations. It’s impossible to do the kind of nursing and healing I know people need – it just isn’t allowed because they overload us with work.

    Also, although I enjoyed some college classes – in one sociology class we read “Ishmael” – I have to say that college perpetuates the current dominant society by instilling its thoughts and values into the students, promising them, what else, future monetary success and the status to speak authoritatively on the major of their choice – based on the standards of the dominant society. To me, it’s just a con job.

    One thing that kind of bothers me about one tiny part of Deanne’s otherwise well-thought-out comments: being a Native American, I have to say it sounds a teensy bit like we are planning to use the red man for our personal benefit; of course, that would not be a nice thing to do (it’s what the US is founded on).

    Thanks for sharing your experiences U.S. and everyone.

  13. Thanks Sweet Earth Lover, for pointing out a possible misunderstanding in what I wrote; I can totally see how you could read it that way. I meant it more like, “so you think you’re going to just live off the land as if it was your god-given right? Did it ever occur to you that someone else already has a far more legitimate claim to it than you? Start thinking about ways that you can make yourself useful, thereby cultivating a give-and-take relationship with some folks who might, if you’re lucky, be willing to share space with you after civilization collapses. And if it turns out to be mutually beneficial in the meantime, all the better.”

    (See Scout, I DO cut you some slack! Imagine if I had written the whole original comment in that tone 😉 Also, you are not the first person to accuse me of being a ball-buster. I’m not sure whether I’m proud of that or not.)

    Also, I suspect that the college experience has a lot to do with which department you are in. I was in the English Department, where there is absolutely no expectation of future employability, “future monetary success”, or status. It’s one grand ego-masturbation, which you can milk out for a good 6 years, and people will give you all kinds of loans and grants for it. It’s totally a con job, but one that can be worked if you choose to do it.