What is it that makes most people slaver at the thought of owning their own bit of land and living simply from it? When put like that, it’s obvious. It sounds ever so wholesome. The old school peasantry and the serfs of old would tell you, if they could, how hard it was, back in their day. But we have the advantage of nipping to Tesco for everything we can’t grow. That’s what most land lubbers do. The Diggers and Dreamers Facebook page and the One Planet Council page, are bursting at the seams with people wanting to do what their ancestors before them did. It’s sold as the dream. There are many out there willing to help you achieve the dream.
Years ago, on site, there were very clear societal structures. There were the ones with the big wagons, who owned the sound systems and the tents that the parties were held in. These were, more often than not, “middle class” kids wanting to escape their parents. Can’t blame them for that. And at least they used their monies for good. Then there were the city squatters, and the brew crew, the ones who had nothing, and therefore their status was earned by being the ones with the least, by being the true underdogs, the oppressed. They were the real anarchists. The glue sniffers, grasping cans of Tennants Super like it was their last possession on earth. It usually was. And it wasn’t even usually theirs. They’d blagged it off the bloke with the big wagon and five hundred cans in the back for sale.
The old films of tepee valley show a bunch of people living what some would call the dream. Their accents reveal their backgrounds. They too, are upper class escapees. They remind me of the pioneers of exploration, like George Mallory; the aristocracy who have the time and the means to go off doing mad things like trying to climb Everest in a woolly and hobnails “because it’s there”.
These things grow and attract poor hangers on, and power tensions arise between the ones with the most, and the place gets overrun with madheads and people fall out and sites disperse and whatnot, much like Everest now attracts a massive amount of visitors and you can pay your way to the top, that is, after arguing over dates with all the other expeditions at base camp.
The same seems to be happening now in the world of living the land dream. Some money got together and built an eco-village. They proved it could be done. It’s now sold as the dream, to achieve similar. There are courses, there are open days, and the worst phenomenon of all, there are Woofers.
I don’t even know what it stands for and I don’t care. All I see is the word SERF. The landed gentry need work done on their land. So instead of doing what everyone else does, and getting a man in or doing it themselves, they invite armies of landless workers to their site on the promise of bean soup once a day and a nice campfire. The experience should be enough they say. You’re getting accommodation. They say. As landowners they are able to open their land up for free to any passing stonemason or tree surgeon and hey presto. Sorted.
How many times have I seen ads for people wanting people to come and plant trees? I planted my old site, four acres, on my own. It took time, but that’s the point. It took MY time. It was my land, and it was my responsibility. Why do people who are “living this dream” feel they don’t have time for this? Isn’t that what you’re doing it for? Is it because by doing OPD you’ve bought into the capitalist trick of business, accounts and turning profit? That now you’re doing the desk job you left again, just with a different emphasis? It’s not just the OPDers. It’s anyone with land. I see people wanting all sorts of skilled workers. Very skilled workers. To do very physically hard work. People who, in the real world, are paid many hundreds of pounds a day. And you’re going to let them stay on your land in a tent? How lovely. Is there a bath on this tent? Anyone with those kinds of skills has already learned how to home him or herself, I should imagine.
The fact that people think this is ok is what bothers me. There are arguments about it all the time. But who is coming to do these woofer jobs? Who are our market here for free workers? Here’s who. The homeless, who really need a home, the lost, who just need something, and probably more help than you can offer, and the idle who don’t need to sell their labour power for money because they have other means, that’s who.
In the first case, it’s modern day slavery. The slave owners housed and fed their slaves. They just didn’t pay them. In the second case, big job on your hands. You’re gonna need to hire a psych. The third, then you’re just filling your land with people who are essentially on a jolly. They may work well, they may learn skills. They may make friends. But then they’ll go and emulate what you’re doing, and buy into the weird society in miniature that seems to be emerging here. Or they will go back to the life they tried to escape, because you won’t need them anymore. Exponential rejection.
There will be arguments. There will be fights for power. There will be neighbour disputes. There will be fights. When selling eco villages as the big dream, they leave out the bit where the police get called to them more often that they get called to the Mount Estate in Milford.
There are no solutions being presented here. The ones who want to ban roads all drive around in diesel campers, often made my Volkswagon, done for emissions fraud and designed by the Nazis.
They use the roads they shout against to get to their favourite eco villages to be woofers, and they all have a jolly nice time.
You can all carry on with this. It makes no odds to me. But what you need to do is stop selling it as a big solution. You buying land and offering lentils helps nothing. You getting righteous if someone suggests a real progression to society yet offering no solution further than your cabbage yield helps nothing. Pretending to be saving the planet by being anti-China and pro-Greta helps nothing. Own it.
There are no individual solutions to social problems. Pay your workers.