Saturday, February 4, 2017

Memories Cabins Tiny Houses

'Nostalgia V', Oil, ashes and charcoal on burned panel. 

If the last post was an indicator of what is to come, I can only assure you that what I see on the horizon is not very pretty.  We are living in interesting, if chaotic times, and not only due to the election of reality star and megalomaniac Donald Trump whose track record is the sucking of money out of the environment and culture that supports him and then making the banks, and us who support the banks with our labor and value, pay for it.  To be absolutely clear, former president Obama’s track record is equally abysmal, with the escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan, the bailout of banks and creditors instead of the people, caving in to the corporations and insurance mafia to produce a dysfunctional system of healthcare, that is neither used for health or for care, rather for the enriching of the few providers who now have a virtual monopoly on healthcare in every state, for the continued and growing debt of the student population, that will only get worse with the installment of Trump in office whose entire modus operandi circles around a ritualized belief in the markets and business as the panacea for all national ills.  Why do I mention this?  Isn’t this the absolutely homogenized narrative of the supposed ‘liberal’ media that want you to believe that their way is the only way, or the opposite of this narrative brought to you via Alex Jones, Infowars and the normalized conspiracy theories that more and more reflect the state of affairs as such? What, if anything are we learning by exposing the lunacy of our supposed leaders? I am always of the opinion that if there was a choice between voting for candidate one or two, the obvious choice for me is always option number three, nobody.  I’d rather not be led anywhere.  The idea of a leader is a sure fire way to be led into disaster or oblivion.  But again, why do I mention Trump or Obama when there are literally hundreds of thousands of hours of media regurgitation devoted to this subject?  The answer is simple, tiny houses.  

Some years ago I was predicting that the tiny house movement is doomed before it even begun.  These days the reality of my prediction is slowly coming true.  Ok, I realize I’m not Nostradamus and when I say ‘predicted’ I really just mean ‘inferred.’  I simply saw the idea and movement of the tiny house as untenable.  What I hoped for was to be pleasantly surprised that such a thing would not happen.  Unfortunately, this turned out not to be the case.  I am not at all surprised by the turn of events, but let’s just go over a few examples of what’s been going on.  As you might know the tiny house movement was started by a few enthusiasts that wanted to simplify their lives in the face of the growing discontent and bloating of capitalism.  The movement stood against the marketization and monetization of particular lifestyles.  Inspired in part by Henry David Thoreau and E. F. Schumacher’s book on economics ‘Small is Beautiful,’ the movement eschews all that is sacred to modern capitalism, desire for money, possessions, growth, domination, and instead focuses on a return to a modest or moderate state of being and living in harmony with the surrounding environment.  There are issues with this type of romanticism, but at its core the movement’s heart is in the right place.  Reduce the footprint, reduce the amount of stuff, downsize, pay less, enjoy more, think more, believe more, that is the formula of the endless numbers of little Thoreaus that attempted to live this kind of life style.  The one particular issue that I tend to pick with the tiny house dwellers is that, like the modern so-called ‘minimalists, they are unfortunately taking the issue to its absolute opposite and unsustainable end, in a very traditional American fashion, and in this very traditional American fashion some are not above attempting to sell their belief to the rest of humanity as not just a way to be, but rather as ‘the’ way to be, engaging in another type of emotional blackmail similar to the greenwashing of globalist corporations some ten years ago.  

Consider this, there are tiny homes for sale for the hefty price of $72,000 at less than 200 square feet, actually making the tiny house more expensive per foot than its larger counterpart.  What you get for this price is a ‘luxury tiny home’ with all modern amenities, wifi enabled lights and appliances, high end materials that will leave you wanting nothing of the civilization that you are supposedly leaving behind.  Two years ago I saw a Craigslist ad for a tiny house for rent in the back of someone’s property in Asheville, North Carolina for $1500/month.  There are dozens in not hundreds of architects and corporations working on mass producing and commodifying tiny houses for simple consumption.  High profile magazines like Dwell regularly print articles on middle to upper-middle class families ‘escaping’ the grind to their tiny houses. If Thoreau was alive today, surely he would puke in his pantaloons.  

The problem I see is that among the countless articles and documentaries on the wonderful world of tiny homes and their occupants, there are virtually no longitudinal studies of the effects of long term habitation of small, foundation-less homes on those that live in them.  There is no clear picture here of what will happen to the children that will be one day born and will live crammed in with their parents.  The lives of the occupants are human after all, and with this type of humanity come interpersonal and emotional issues.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with tiny homes, what exactly is wrong with the idea of just a small house?  I’ve studied cabins and cabin life for some time so I think I have a little to say about this phenomenon.  I grew up in a mountain cabin that was shared by my family, but it was big enough to accommodate something like 10 people at a time if need be, thick walls, wood stove and all.  I am a big proponent of simple living but not at the cost having it sold back to me as a commodity.  

Memory is a tough nut to crack.  We don’t remember what generations before us had to go through or endure and that is why we must endure ourselves. We are the cause of our own anguish and happiness, and even if someone from the future travelled to meet us and tell us exactly what we should change about ourselves and our behavior so as to avoid certain outcomes, we would not be able to do it because we are creatures of habit and purveyors of the now.  There present is all there is and the ramifications of the past or the future hold no sway over the actions of the civilized.  The clouds are closing in and as during the Dust Bowl we are able to see them coming but have absolutely no way of holding them back.  

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