I’m not going to lie. We live in a capitalism (a capitopatriarchy, to be exact). And to survive in a capitalism, we must do what we must do in order to get by.
However, I’m all about minimizing the number and amount of things that people must do to get by.
For example: Defecting from a capitopatriarchal job immediately allows for a number of personal freedoms. Freedom from compulsory at-work femininity compliance (which is, for the record, de jure illegal, though I know it is in full force de facto practice). Freedom from spending all of your time in an artificial environment away from sunlight and air, probably squinting in artificial light. Freedom from having zero free time. And more.
These freedoms almost immediately equal an increase in life quality, which can often prolong life expectancy (if that’s an issue; I’d personally rather live a shorter, happier life than a longer, less happy one). They eliminate cognitive dissonances and bring about mental peace.
Of course, that won’t happen if you’re worrying about money. For this, I advocate never having children or a Nigel, and ditching Nigel and building a communal childcare environment for those who already have those things.
I feel pretty comfortable with this advocacy, because poverty isn’t something I’m unfamiliar with. I’ve been poor all my life — as in, “we had the gas shut off again” poor as a child* and “currently living a borderline hobo lifestyle in order to afford to live any kind of quality life and supplementing my paychecks with food stamps” poor now.
(*Having a single mother from the working class will do that, as women typically get little to no support with childrearing and also get paid at least twenty percent less for their work than men do anyway.)
However, my quality of life, in the basic sense, has always been pretty good, and with almost a quarter-century of practice I’ve honed it to damn near an art. I learned to dislike secondhand clothes for a while (children are taught to be vicious to those who don’t conform to capitopatriarchy’s white, middle- to upper-middle-class ideals, let’s call it the Abercrombie Ideal — and oh, are they ever), but there is nothing wrong with secondhand clothes. As hipsters the world over have learned, secondhand and thrift stores are often brimming with treasures. Even after they’ve been picked over (by hipsters, and hipster resellers), these stores often still have a lot of useful, often highly utilitarian garments left over. If one is fighting the patriarchy and doesn’t necessarily care what one looks like, these clothes can work pretty well.
Food can be more difficult to come by, depending on the amount of effort one wishes to put forth, but it’s not impossible. Tons upon tons of food is thrown out in the United States every day alone, much because of mere cosmetic problems (bruised fruit, dented boxes, etc). Although it’s rarer in big cities, many places, especially in small towns, will give their food away or offer deep discounts if one asks nicely (and doesn’t look obviously homeless or intoxicated; yes, class bias).
If handouts have been denied, the next step is to go straight to the treasure trove: dumpsters. If one is worried about eating potentially spoiled food, one can learn to identify spoiled produce and avoid meat and most dairy products, therefore defaulting to a more ethics-friendly vegan diet. (If you absolutely must eat your meat, you can still buy it from the store with some of the money you’ll save otherwise). Many locations are becoming hip to this tactic, and will compact or lock up their dumpsters, but fellow scavengers can show newcomers the best area hauls: dumpster diving is widely practiced, down to a sport and a lifestyle, so one can often meet up with other dumpster-divers to learn the ropes. Voila, instant communal exercise as well.
Speaking of community, communities of other people (whether they are impoverished or ‘merely’ opting out) are tremendously important. Groups of people getting together to round up and prepare food is one of the single most empowering community-building exercises. See Food Not Bombs. The Hare Krishnas also offer free meals in many major cities, and subscription to their belief system is optional (the food is also very, very good).
Problems with living situations can be similarly ameliorated, by building communities of people who have similar goals and can help to offset costs of rent and bills. My personal pipe dream is a radical feminist separatist collective, possibly involving either a farm or RVs. Squatting is a truly radical option for those ambitious enough to pursue it.
The fact that we don’t currently have such communities already in place (and the fact that many of the communities that do exist are not exactly woman-safe or even -friendly, more post/s on that to come) is even more incentive to build some.
I might be a radically anticapitalist primitivist eco-radicalfeminist, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.