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The Moneyless Man

October 29, 2010

This is a story of an interesting man. The post comes right after The worthless conversation where “Siddhartha”, the main character in the post wanted to contribute his own verse to the ever flowing poem of life. Here Mark talks about his own original life, a life that is refuted and yet loved by many.

A year ago, Mark was a successful businessman with a healthy bank balance and even healthier prospects. Here is Mark in his own words for you –

In six years of studying economics, not once did I hear the word “ecology”. So if it hadn’t have been for the chance purchase of a video called Gandhi in the final term of my degree, I’d probably have ended up earning a fine living in a very respectable job persuading Indian farmers to go GM (Genetically Modified seeds), or something useful like that. The little chap in the loincloth taught me one huge lesson – to be the change I wanted to see in the world. Trouble was I had no idea back then what that change was.

An afternoon’s session, philosophizing with a mate changed everything. We were looking at the world’s issues – Environmental destruction, Sweatshops, Factory farms, Wars over resources – and wondering which of them we should dedicate our lives to. As we mulled over the issues, I realized that I was looking at the world in the same way a western medical practitioner looks at a patient, seeing symptoms and wondering how to firefight them, without any thought for their root cause. So I decided instead to become a social homeopath, a pro-activist, and to investigate the root cause of these symptoms and this is what followed:

One of the critical causes of those symptoms is the fact we no longer have to see the direct repercussions our purchases have on the people, environment and animals they affect. The degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed have increased so much that we’re completely unaware of the levels of destruction and suffering embodied in the stuff we buy. The tool that has enabled this separation is money.

  • If we grew our own food, we wouldn’t waste a third of it as we do today.
  • If we made our own tables and chairs, we wouldn’t throw them out the moment we changed the interior decor.
  • If we had to clean our own drinking water, we probably wouldn’t contaminate it.

So to be the change I wanted to see in the world, it unfortunately meant I was going to have to give up cash, which I initially decided to do for a year.

I sold my houseboat and set about preparing myself for my new life. I posted an advert on Freecycle asking for a tent, a yurt, a caravan or any other type of shelter and was immediately rewarded by my first taste of human kindness. Asking for a caravan was just a joke; really, I didn’t expect to get one. But this woman had an old one she no longer needed and it was costing her to keep, and so she gave it to me. At least I would have a roof over my head. The caravan was taken to the organic farm where I was to volunteer three days a week in return for space to live and grow my own vegetables. Then a friend made me a cheap wood-burning stove from an old gas can to heat the caravan, and with a few other budget purchases, including solar panels and a trailer for my bike, I was ready to go. My food would be cooked on a rocket stove made from two old catering tins, and I would wash in a solar shower essentially a black plastic bag suspended from a tree, and warmed by the sun. My lavatory would be a hole in the ground screened by a wooden modesty structure to protect the sensibilities of any walkers using a nearby footpath. Then, with my pockets empty (I didn’t even carry keys as I decided not to lock my caravan and start trusting the world a bit more) I was ready to go. Everything was about to change. Even breakfast on the first day would be different, with morning coffee no longer an option, and the ingredients for breakfast beverage now were gathered in the hedges around caravan. I now drink nettle and cleaver tea, sometimes with some fresh lemon verbena when I find it. It’s all very good for you: iron, calcium, anti-oxidants. I also drink plantain tea for my hay fever, and that’s everywhere, even the cracks in the path. But I never got bored and I rarely felt lonely. I’d go for walks, cycle, make a fire.

What have I learned? I have learned so much about food, about nature, about myself. That friendship, not money, is real security. That most western poverty is of the spiritual kind. That independence is really interdependence. And that if you don’t own plasma screen TV, people think you’re an extremist.

People often ask me what I miss about my old world of lucre and business. Stress, Traffic jams, Bank statements, Utility bills. However, giving up money and possessions weren’t the only things I sacrificed – I also split from my girlfriend Clare, 26. She was supportive but didn’t want to do the whole thing with me. So six months into the year I broke it off with her. It was a difficult decision but I want to build my life with someone who’s prepared to commit to this lifestyle too.

People tend to be either very positive about what I’m doing or very negative; I think it’s about 70 percent/30 percent. But I try not to get too worked up about it; its early days and we live in a very money orientated world. There’s no one solution for everyone, and everyone has different needs. It’s about reducing your consumption however that is appropriate for you, and there are lots of small ways people can do that which will benefit themselves and the environment, like car sharing.

I just get up each morning and try and say if it happens it happens. I’m just trying to take life as it comes and enjoy it along the way.

Mark walks through the New Forest at the start of his two-and-a-half year 9000 mile walk without any money to promote the ideals of Freeconomy. The trek will take him through Europe and Middle East before reaching Porbandar, the birthplace of Gandhi. His progress is being recorded at http://www.justfortheloveofit.org

Interested people can see a video on him at How to live a money-less life
Also Mark has written a book The Moneyless Man

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Boyd permalink
    October 30, 2010 01:58

    fantastic post keep up the good work

    Like

  2. Roy permalink
    October 30, 2010 18:55

    Inspired by Gandhi, Mark rises to the principles of Swaraj. Swaraj that Gandhi lived and died for, Swaraj that hardly any (wanted to write none) of us Indians could ever understand or attain. Thanks for sharing this. Delightful read.

    Like

    • October 30, 2010 19:19

      Roy, I was watching Gandhi (movie) as I received your comment. The more I read Gandhi and the more I try to understand the man, the more I am convinced on how utterly was he failed by all his countrymen who revered him as ‘Mahatma’ and ‘Bapu’.

      Like

      • Roy permalink
        October 30, 2010 21:03

        🙂 they say he knew that, they say he was a sad man in the end

        Like

      • Aravind permalink
        October 30, 2010 23:09

        @ Consty : Even in his autobiography, he points out his frustration after every failed Satyagraha campaign : often he says “I had not prepared the people well enough”. But almost everyone influenced by the capitalistic world today find Gandhian Swaraj and Nehruvian socialistic ideas absurd.

        Like

  3. October 30, 2010 23:28

    @ Aravind – On the contrary I think there ain’t too many people who understand what Gandhi meant by Swaraj (which even Nehru had negated. He had differences with Gandhi). And some who understand it are very much influenced by it. I can see it here.

    Btw in case u haven’t I urge u to read “Hind Swaraj“. Its a small (80 pages) book by Gandhi on his understanding of Swaraj

    Like

  4. July 27, 2011 11:55

    There was a article about this man some 2 years ago ..or someone similar to him ..I still have that article …Really amazing, admiring and inspiring

    Like

    • July 28, 2011 08:29

      I think it was him only.. i had also read about him last year and by that time he had already completed more than a year..

      Like

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