I was comfortable in my situation. I loved the neighborhood where I lived, and the friends I had made since moving to the city. My job paid well enough to where I didn’t stress over money much, and I enjoyed the work and my co-workers company enough that the weeks seemed to fly by, especially in the summertime. But therein laid the problem.
I saw time passing, and I knew I wasn’t content – with where I was for my age in terms of achievement, and with what I was contributing to humanity (little impact). Ultimately, I knew I would only be satisfied working for myself, and helping others in some manner.
When I had the realization that I had wasted the second half of my 20s getting high and working full-time for a simple paycheck of Monopoly money, I knew I needed to act. It was time to move on.
As much as I wanted a change in employment, I needed a change in scenery as well. Since I had already decided to jump ship at my office, I figured why stop there? I wanted to live more righteously in not only my work life, but also in my home life. I had become disenchanted with the rat race of the city; I saw the effect it had on its inhabitants, how it ironically hardened their souls while at the same time causing them to depend greatly on others. I needed greener pastures, in both the literal and figures senses. Or at least one with different vegetation. I wanted to get back to nature, back to my roots.
You see, I grew up a country boy, and will be through and through. That’s where my heart is. My ideal setting was a place with abundant natural resources, respectable, good-hearted and easygoing people, and as free of wifi and 4G RF waves as possible. I had a friend living in a rural area in the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. The more I thought about it, the more logical sense it made, as that location seemed to meet the criteria I had laid out for my relocation.
A locale with underdeveloped technologic infrastructure, abundant natural resources, and a low cost-of-living were all ideal conditions for achieving spiritual freedom. Free of poisoned, errr, “processed” foods, high-frequency radio waves permeating the body and mind and stressing over money, spiritual metamorphosis can take place.
Thriving Vs. Surviving
For me, the decision came down to thriving vs. surviving. Sure, I had grown over the course of the last decade, and I laugh to myself when I think of the person I was at 20. But my personal growth seemed to have plateaued around 26. For various reasons, I had become complacent as I fell into my role with my employer.
I think it was mostly due to a combination of mental and physical exhaustion from working full-time, and a difficult stretch in which many of my friends and role models passed away. But, besides the garden that I volunteered at a few hours each week, I wasn’t giving back to society, or having to step outside my comfort zone at all. I took the train to work, then home Monday through Friday, and would typically make a few spontaneous trips to downtown or the north side on the weekends, usually for errands or to go to a show. Any service I needed, I had at my disposal, for a price. I wasn’t learning. And that’s not what I wanted. I wanted to start my own business, become self-sustaining, and pick up as many useful skills as I can along the way. Cities of the present day do not provide a good backdrop for any of those things.
You see, the American urban environment of the 21st century values attainment – of status, and material wealth – above people and relationships. It’s a vicious, conniving, dog-eat-dog world. And it’s a ideology that transferred from the corporations at the nucleus of the city to it’s inhabitants. Individuals will stop at nothing to meet their “goals,” even if it means crossing a few friends and making some new enemies along the way.
This disregard for the well-being of others is also well documented in the process of gentrification, in which established corporations and upstart tech firms flocking to the city buy up property in it’s still affordable-but-trendy neighborhoods, driving up rent costs and ousting lower and middle class independent businesses, families and individuals. I saw it happening first hand – at work and in my neighborhood – on a daily basis.
In short, the city breeds chaos. And while some people or businesses can thrive in that dog-eat-dog atmosphere, I’m not one of those people. I knew, as an entrepreneur, I would constantly be in survival mode, and would stressing much more over money coming in as I did as a working stiff. Which, to someone with only a foggy notion of the type of business they wanted to create (like me), this was a stress-inducing enough thought on its own.
I had realized my biggest obstacle to successfully pursuing my vision as an entrepreneur was my environment, from both a business and personal standpoint. There were certainly entrepreneurial opportunities in the city, but they usually presented themselves on someone else’s terms.
Sure, the city in general – and Chicago in particular – can provide many great networking opportunities for business owners in all types of industries. But operating costs, regulation and competition are high.
There is regulation in the form of certification, licensing or permitting in nearly every industry I can think of, all of which come with stipulations. Often times the permits in a coveted industry will go to the highest bidder. And often if you can’t secure one by legally, you can bribe the right person to attain the licensing you need. However, in addition to being illegal, it may end up costing more than if you were able to get the permit through legal means.
Conventional wisdom in the US will tell you that Mexico’s government is corrupt, but maybe the reason for that belief is because there isn’t a facade in place. A lot of Americans in power positions are just as susceptible to bribes, but just aren’t as publicized.
In the larger context of business funding, operational costs and debt are also factors that can be detrimental to a startup based in an urban area. To be sustainable, even a home business with zero overheard would need to generate at least enough revenue to pay rent, which I would ballpark around $700 for a studio (which is on the low end of the spectrum).
In terms of debt, the vast majority of startup business ideas have some overhead costs beyond rent, which are only exponentiated in the city. I for one am not the type to take out a loan, business or personal, but for many beginner entrepreneurs, this would be a crucial first steps toward owning your own enterprise.
Besides having to make loan payments at whatever alarming interest rate the financial institution sees fit, the business owner is beholden to the bank, and whatever contract laid forward. After taking out a loan, in many ways you are working for the bank that has loaned you the money.
And I wasn’t willing to let that happen to me. I chose to not be shackled by JP Morgan or any number of its affiliated bankster institutions through contractual obligations. Instead, I would take my $2,000 dollar rainy day-startup fund and go somewhere I can have total freedom in my pursuits. Oh, and the ocean and magnificent, natural fruits and seeds like coconut, papaya, mango and dragonfruit for less than $1 USD a pop.
And that’s what I did.
In the interest of full disclosure, my distain for the hardships experienced as a result of regulation, bureaucracy and automation is only a fraction of the equation of why I relocated. I think a lot of the distaste I have for these inevitable byproducts of doing business stem from my moral code, which they violate. For various reasons, my moral compass has always directed me to live outside the confines of control systems, such as debt, government permission (certifications) and health care.
Sure, I will (hopefully) eventually have a taxable income. But, other than income generated online, it will – at least for the interim – be outside US gov’t. jurisdiction. And I can sleep a whole lot better at night knowing my earnings are going to corrupt Mexican and Central American government’s officials than those corrupt ones in the United States. At least in this case the corruption is well publicized, so I know roughly what I’m getting. Maybe more importantly, I avoid having my tax dollars sent to finance civilian drone strike deaths in the Middle East.
That’s the crown jewel issue with the federal government. There’s no transparency, and the inner-workings aren’t how they seem on the surface.
I don’t proclaim to know exactly where or what percent of our taxes dollars are allocated to what, but this infographic offers a pretty good breakdown.
Half of the 24% that went to military funding went directly to military contractors like Lockheed Martin and Boeing, while only one quarter (5.9% of total spending) of military budget was allotted for taking care of veterans. More money went to nuclear weapons funding (7%) than to veteran care.
Americans are simply a cog in the military-industrial-complex machine, set on global domination in order to secure the continuation of the petrodollar’s spot as the world’s currency.
Corporate Control, Freedom and Convenience in the New (American) Normal
The prevailing notion is that in exchange for your duties to the government, i.e., state identification, selective service registration, health care coverage and what you pay in income tax, you are provided “freedom” to do as you please, but in reality, this is a stretch from the truth. It is almost like calling industrial-farmed, free-range chickens “free”.
In the eternal words of George Carlin, “Americans are meant to feel free by the exercise of meaningless choices. Paper or plastic, aisle or window, smoking or non-smoking. Those are your real choices.”
In short, Americans have had all the really tough life decisions already decided by them by the corporations that govern their lives. And whether they believe it or not, these corporations dictate their preferences, values and beliefs.
And I’m not just talking about the corporations who control the news, which in many cases are Apple (News, aggregator), Google and Amazon (Huff Post). Other huge influencers include content creators like Netflix, Disney and AT&T (HBO), and the biggest retailers, like Nike. Often times, the news and entertainment companies – which really are two sides of the same coin – create the norm, which is normalized through social pressure, and the retailers reap the benefits in the cultural shift to their desired outcome.
These corporations have used this process to prime citizens for the future of smart objects and the Internet-of-Things (IoT), and sold them on the idea under the guise of convenience. And based on the insights I’ve gathered through opinions online and among people I’ve talked to, most people have bought into it hook, line and sinker.
While there are still a good amount of people weary of AI and big data, the popular opinion seems to be that convenience trumps privacy, and sense of accomplishment. I’ve come across many people who are greatly anticipating the future of automation for its ability to make their lives easier, or who believe “privacy is small thing to give up for safety.”
Consider this except from a March 2019 post about mental health from Medium contributor Eshanthi Ranasinghe:
“There is evidence to suggest that we are just hitting the tip of the iceberg of tech-enabled mental health issues. Twenty four/seven access to information can cause a kind of collective anxiety and helplessness. Researchers using health-monitoring devices found that entire populations’ sleeping habits, heart rates, and distances walked can swing out of sync after large societal events (e.g., Brexit) — and much of this is heightened by a constant cycle of social media and digital news.
We also see this manifesting socio-culturally. Smartphones have disintermediated many in-person conversations. We are talking to each other less and having fewer meaningful conversations which can increase feelings of loneliness and anxiety. Not only are more people, particularly digital natives, craving “IRL” (in real life) connection, but studies have shown that people felt better and more connected during times when they only socialized face-to-face.
This level of social disconnection can also endanger health. Loneliness has been alleged to have the same impact on life expectancy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, with a risk factor that rivals excessive drinking or obesity. A lack of social contact can also speed up cognitive decline, heart disease, depression, and suicide. And, smartphones are methodically killing off boredom, which has a very important role in creativity. The seeds of ideas that may come from idle reflection are being replaced by constant distraction. And constant distraction — which causes dopamine to spike when confronted with newness and novelty, addictive but inherently unfulfilling–does not lead to a healthier mental state. Being creative, however, can.”
Most of these considerations I’ve already touched on here, but the one I haven’t – mental health – is probably the most concerning. With the shear amount of Americans inflicted with mental health issues, which is only projected to rise in the coming decade, I think a lot of my compatriots are missing the bigger picture.
The more tasks the IoT is enabled to complete for you, the more isolated you become. And isolation often leads to depression.
Another root cause of this depression, as the author mentioned is lack of IRL (in real life) connections. When automation and AI create feelings of isolation, the more authenticity that person craves.
Authenticity may be something hard to come by in that future of the IoT. Removed from the smart-grid, I believe my travels will – and have proven to in the past – bring me authentic experiences. I know that my time in Mexico has been dripping with them.
In my mind, comfort really equates to sterile. And the US is well on its way to becoming a sterilized nation. And who wants to live the same comfortable, predictable life day in and day out?
I don’t. Personally, I’d rather be engaging in life-affirming interactions, enjoying lower living expenses for similar standards (minus the IT), boosting my brain’s endorphin levels through gratifying, modest physical exertion, and living free of contracts, obligations and meaningless distractions that suck your creativity and life-force.
I’ve simply come to realize the benefits that organic interactions with others, privacy and mental freedom from the stranglehold of “Big Tech” and government agencies, and a sense of accomplishment can provide for personal growth and well-being. I encourage you to push yourself towards this enlightenment.
See you down the path.