A Sly Man’s Exit Strategy: Stage One of Five
G.I. Gurdjieff used a number of profound analogies when describing both the common experience of man and a man’s potential, often drawn from Sufism and Taoism he learned during his travels. His focus was on personal evolution; what a person could do to potentially improve his living experience and be relatively more “free” (a concept that he also points out is not really understood and must be explored). One of the analogies he used compared the common experience of most people to being in a prison. The prison limits our possibilities and defines our behaviors. Though it is a system that protects us and shelters us, it does so through limitations and restrictions at the cost of our individuality, and in my opinion our very humanity. The system is useful until its restrictions on behavior and our modes of thought become so great that self-determination is lost in exchange for security. This prison is the system which I often refer to in other forums and struggle against. It is the system of laws, regulations, traditions, values, and social pressures that artificially define our lives.
Like a prison, if you make an overt or direct effort to escape, this system will respond quickly, decisively, and often painfully to put you back in your pre-defined place. We are each a product of that prison/system, and as such our behaviors in a normal state are pre-defined. We are taught what is expected of us, to value “acceptance” and “normality”. Even our methods of rebellion and resistance are predictable, and manageable when based upon that system. If we realize we are in a prison, and we see an “open door”, the system recognizes and even expects that we will try to use that door. This system will have either safeguards in place to keep us from using the “door” or will have already defined what is beyond that “door”, leaving it open for a certain percentage of the population to use for the benefit of the system. Direct effort against the prison, direct opposition, has the greatest amount of risk with potentially the lowest likelihood of success, because it is what is expected and what the system has been most strongly designed to prevent.
Another analogy used by Gurdjieff is the Sly Man. The Sly Man analogy refers to the man who studies the three primary philosophical/metaphysical processes; that of the intellectual (the guru), that of the physical (the fakir), and that of the emotional (the monk), and uses only what is necessary from each of those processes to achieve his goal. It is considered “sly” because while the process may still take a great deal of time, it combines the essential an effective parts of the other three systems while ignoring the unessential, making the process potentially more effective. A Sly Man develops the talent to see what is necessary and to either de-prioritize or disregard that which is unnecessary.
This analogy of a person who studies a system to find what is essential to achieving his goals, being the Sly Man, is one that I would extend to any system, including our “prison”. The Sly Man recognizes that rushing the walls will more often fail and potentially result in being in a worse predicament than we find ourselves already in. This is a concept expressed in Discordianism; with Order and Chaos being opposing forces, when one force acts against the other, the other force responds with an opposite reaction at least equal to, and often greater than, the original action (causing an escalation of force against force). Understanding this, the Sly Man seeks a way to use the system against itself in order to “slip” free of it, or to oppose the system in a manner that directs the response of the system in a manner beneficial to the Sly Man. Going back to our prison analogy, this would mean knowing the routines of the guards, which work details offer the most opportunity for escape, where the tools are kept and when they would be missed, where the walls are weakest, etc. To escape the system, one must have a certain level of expertise on using that system. This requires a great deal of study.
Just because happenstance resulted in our being born into this system does not mean that as adults we have to accept it. I believe that an indication of maturity as a human being is recognition of this fact and making the move toward self-determination vs. accepting pre-determination.
Gurdjieff’s prison analogy goes further, stating that the likelihood of escape increases when you work with co-conspirators, people working toward the same end and from often different directions. However, this coordination of effort cannot and will not include everyone in the prison… the mass exodus of everyone from the system would be the kind of overt action that results in a drastic response by the system. No, in order to escape, you have to be aware that you are not free, you have to prefer the risk of existing without the prison/system compared to the security afforded by it, you have to be willing to make the effort to escape (even if on your own), and you have to be willing to take the time required to make your escape possible.
Those who do not meet those requirements will only inhibit your own efforts. Most people are content with their positions, or if they are discontent lack the ambition to take action. Indeed, many people are so engaged on that system, so dependent upon it, that they will act on the system’s behalf to erode or oppose your efforts. The system is primarily a prison for the mind, using a person identity to re-enforce its mental bars. When you or I challenge that system, we are challenging the “sense of self” that many have come to depend upon. Those who choose to remain asleep, or remain oblivious to what is happening around them, will pursue and meet their end. There is nothing that can be done for them until they begin to do for themselves.
I half-heartedly proposed the idea of abandoning the system as a form of mass protest in response to a video calling for coordinated effort with no real direction (suggesting as an alternative to demonstrating our numbers and asking for recognition in the system it would be better to abandon that system). One comment I received latched onto this idea of “making a break for it”, but the person who made the comment also indicated that they would join me when I made the push. It is my feeling that none of us can afford to wait on another to lead the charge. Rather, if we have any hope of “escape”, we must already be engaged in our own efforts. My proposal in my video-response suggested a coordination date of 12/21/2012 because this was the date selected for mass protest by the person I was responding to. It is my feeling that you should not wait on a special day to begin making your effort to escape. If you haven’t started already, you should start now. I know this sounds alarmist, but by the time it becomes obvious that you should do something, it will probably be to late.
I am implementing my own Exit Strategy. This post is a description of the first stage of my strategy, already being implemented. This is not a call-to-action. This is not a direction of leadership. If you need either of those things to act, then there is little I think that can be done for you (or, rather, everything will need to be done for you by someone else which is anathema to this ideology). My Exit Strategy involves a carefully orchestrated disengagement from the system, slowly but methodically cutting the ties that bind. This is what I am doing because I have reached the intellectual conclusion and the intuitive feeling that this is the correct direction for me. If you implement your own Exit Strategy, it will not doubt be different than mine.
A major focus in this first stage deals with economics and finances. The system in my culture expresses itself as a quasi-capitalist manifestation, encouraging those within it to chase after the dollar and material possessions for a sense of security and identity. I feel that this energy is something I need to re-direct based on values that I define, seeking not recognition for what I have but instead greater freedom for the need for finances in the traditional manner. The goal here is not wealth in the traditional sense, as wealth by the terms of the system simply means a successful existence within a gilded-cage. Instead, I mean wealth as defined by a fulfilling and pleasurable life of personal growth and satisfaction. Messiah Bey, a fellow writer and philosopher, suggests a goal of true financial independence. Not becoming successfully enslaved by the need for money, but rather freedom from that need through self-sufficiency.
My first step is to begin to limit the impact of the financial demands of that system upon my own resources. Our system requires the fulfillment of our minimum needs within a particular set of parameters in order to be considered acceptable. For example, shelter is a “real” need. The system defines acceptable shelter as housing meeting certain structural codes. I have children, and I want my choices to impact my children as little as possible while also providing them a positive example and keeping the State from taking my children from me. To that end, my shelter is a minimal as possible while meeting those demands. The maintenance of that home; electrical use, water, garbage disposal, all involve steps to minimize the impact on my resources. This has required a shift in my values from convenience and the sense of affluence to independence and efficiency. Other system-required expenditures; food, gas, insurance, etc, are all reduced or (if practical) eliminated.
I pay as little as possible to keep the state out of my affairs by maintaining the minimal standards required. I render unto Caesar only what is Caesar’s, and nothing more.
I am incrementally divesting myself of the majority of my material possessions. The system encourages us to amass “stuff”, baubles and brick-a-brack as symbols to represent some artificial identity. “The things you own end up owning you” (Tyler Durden). I am reducing the possessions I have down to the essentials I need to tattoo, create art, and care for my family. I am using auction sites like eBay to sell these items and collectibles to the highest bidder, often getting a profit on my original investment. Liquidating these things used to prop-up my system-supported sense of self increases the amount of resources I have to direct as a lever to further disengage myself from the system. I am shedding the things I have been taught should be important to me to define my own sense of importance.
My expenditures are either for things I need, for things to act as a buffer between myself and dependence on the system, and for experiences. My needs, as defined above, are tattooing, creating art, and caring for my family (both essentials like food and clothing and non-essentials). When fulfilling those needs, I ignore the systems pressure to expend my resources on brand names, the latest versions, or new items whenever possible. I shop for used or discounted items. I also recycle (in the literal sense) as much of the materials I do use as I can.
All of this results in increased financial clout, whether generating an income, reducing my expenditures, or simply not spending money when I and where I would have in the past. The intent, again, is not to increase my system-defined “wealth”, but rather to reduce my dependence on system-based finances altogether. These changes in my habits and values creates a buffer between myself and the financial pressures of the system; either padding my resources with unspent funds or reducing the impact on my lifestyle due to the failure of that system to continue to provide for my “needs”. The resources previously used to feed the system and its hold on me through my personal identity are re-directed as a lever to create separation between the system and myself.
What expenditures I do make are less for things and more for experiences. Life is for living, and is woefully short. I prefer to indulge in it, to do and see things that normally would not be afforded to me. I make as much use of the system’s means of expediting these expenditures, or I seek out experiences that are outside that systems purview. The point is to live more freely and fully. I seek those experiences that satisfy this desire, and support those endeavors that remind me that I am a free, self-determining being. I strive to give my children less things, and more memories.
I am also engaged in a variety of income streams; tattooing, selling my artwork and merchandise, writing and selling books, etc. While this may seem opposed to the idea of separation from the system (as I am engaging the established economic system), I am establishing means of acquiring resources, with the common transitional medium being the near-valueless green-back. I am converting things that I can do that others cannot do into things I need and cannot produce myself. If I were working for another, I would begin thinking about ways to augment my income through my own efforts while diverting as much of those slave-wages toward the acquisition of things I need (vs. things I want). I would try to shift my perspective from working for another to simply survive toward working for myself with the intent of being free of the need of as salary.
In seeking additional income streams, I would recommend considering all alternatives, even those that include some social stigmas. In the pursuit of our goals, we cannot cater to the value-structures that the system has established within us. I had a friend, John, who was at one time destitute. He had lost his job, had no savings, and possessed nothing of value. He was struggling to find work, and at the time did not qualify for unemployment. While he searched for work, he found other ways to support himself. He sold blood-plasma at a local plasma center. He volunteered for paid medical-studies, He modeled for art classes at the local college (unfortunately, in some of the classes I was taking). He collected and recycled aluminum cans. Through these many efforts, he was able to sustain himself. He wasn’t proud of these activities, but that kind of pride is a value engendered by the system.
If our focus is survival and freedom, our thinking must be “by any means necessary”.
The next aspect of my Exit Strategy involves developing additional skill-sets that could prove advantageous should I find myself in a situation where the system is not available to be relied upon. Primary in my mind are skills dealing with the environment and survival; how to hunt and gather food, what in the wild is edible, how to create shelters and fortifications, etc. I also am learning or refreshing my knowledge in skill-sets that were common to my grandfathers and great-grandfathers; engine repair, farming, brewing beer, making butter, making bread, sewing, carpentry, basic plumbing, basic electrical work, etc.
These skill-sets not only help prepare me for a system-less existence, but also can be applied now to make myself less dependent on the system. The less reliant I am on the system for my needs, the less, control the system has over me and the more resources I have to allocate as I see fit rather than based on system-initiated pressures. This means spending time studying, testing, and implementing many of the things I am learning. This also means spending less time engaged in the frivolity that the system offers as “entertainment” to placate the masses. Boredom is a tool used by the system to drive us toward the meaningless distractions it offers as a means of validation. I don’t want to simply have something to do. I want to do something.
Key among those skill sets is self-defense. This means a little more than practicing a martial art… as a former soldier, in my opinion it means cultivating a martial attitude. I am learning and practicing a martial art; this has a two-fold benefit. Obviously, this aids in my self-defense, making more capable of preventing harm to myself and my family. This also improves my over-all health and fitness, making me less prone to injury and disease and less likely to need the system’s health care.
I am learning and practicing unconventional defense strategies. I am re-learning to set traps, create devices for my defense, use concealment and camouflage, and other techniques taught to me while in the military. These strategies and techniques apply to both the real world and methods that apply to the digital realm.
I am also acquiring, learning to use, and learning to maintain, a variety of weapons. Most of these weapons are duel-purpose; self-defense and for hunting. This allows me to develop a sufficient stock for my needs while avoiding having to register those weapons with the system.
Practice is key in all of these processes. It is not enough to simply know or have on hand these self-defense elements. They have to be ready to use.
One of my concerns is greater restrictions implemented by the system due either to civil unrest (an economic collapse that places the 51% of the US population which is dependent upon the system directly without the social welfare to pacify them) or a natural disaster (with the potential effects of a major solar-storm on our electronic and digital systems resulting in civil unrest). My fears are of my neighbors when the chains of civility are no longer present and the system when they step in to establish order. A more likely scenario is the slow, inevitable collapse of Western Civilization, with ever greater limits on individual liberty. While much more insidious, this third scenario at least offers some time to prepare.
To that end, I am working to prepare for what could be a very long “camping-trip”. I am in the market for a late-model conversion van, something along the lines of a 1970’s VW autobus-camper. I am investing on hunting and fishing gear, camping equipment, and food for long-term storage. I am studying how to store water and food, and what is edible right outside my door. I am reviewing SAS Survival Guides. I am getting into the habit of practicing what I am learning, and looking forward to frequently “getting away from it all” with the family. We are building up a sizable store of food and water for long-term storage.
I am re-evaluating my values. I have mentioned a couple of examples above; becoming less invested in material possessions, becoming more self-sufficient, creating and expanding a buffer between myself and the system, etc. I am looking at all of my value-structures, determining which of these values are for my benefit, and which support my dependence on the system. Something as basic as the food I eat is defined by my society and culture; defining what is an acceptable option and what is not. These limitations shackle us to the system’s authorized sources for the food-items that are considered acceptable. Many of our values, such as the concepts of family and community, have either been perverted to make us feel more isolated or to make us feel that we have responsibilities that we did not choose to have. A re-evaluation of these particular value structures is a key component to the second stage of my strategy. For this stage, my focus is primarily on how I perceive these values and recognizing how they may be artificially inducing some of my behaviors and choices.
Finally, I am engaging in political discourse, but in a manner that requires minimal participation in the systems established channels for that discourse. What I am seeing is movement toward failure in our system. Even though this movement is in a negative direction, it is momentum that can be re-directed and used. My political efforts serve three purposes, often in combination. They strive to change our social values into a form more aligned with my own interests. For me, this means increased personal liberties and responsibilities; legalize marijuana, legalizing prostitution, and stricter controls on welfare allotment are my top three points of focus. Whether I succeed or fail with these aims, the discussion generates awareness of the skewed values and oppressive nature of the system.
That is the second purpose, to call attention to the system’s corruption and to get people to discuss and implement alternatives. Self-responsibility involves the recognition that even the most thorough preparations and efforts by an individual will not withstand a numerically superior force and is always threatened by failure. By calling attention to the system’s eminent collapse and the need to make changes now, I hope to increase the pool of people to engage with in trade and mutual support.
The final purpose is the erosion of the system. By implementing value-shifts, encouraging non-participation, and shedding light on system corruption, the hold that the system has upon us is weakened, and may be eventually broken. The primary means for this is discourse, sharing information, discussing what I am doing, and learning from others as they implement their own exit strategies.
-I recognize that the system is bound to fail, either due to a sudden and adverse internal shift or outside force, or due to its own bloated growth and corruption.
-I recognize that I have a choice; either to be invested and beholden to that system or to disengage from it.
-I recognize that the process must be through subtle but consistent and willful effort.
-I am disengaging myself of economic entanglements; retaining and stock-piling my resources, divesting myself of frivolous material possessions, and seeking means for creating my own resource streams instead of indulging in servitude.
-I am developing additional skill sets which include practical knowledge of basic mechanical systems, survival skills, and self-defense strategies.
-I am preparing for an emergency situation and long-term self-sufficiency.
-I am re-evaluating my value-structure, seeking greater self-determination.
-I am engaged in political discourse and the exchange of ideas with individuals who share a common interest.
I discussed recently with a friend who questioned whether all this preparation is rational. Her argument hinged on the idea that the system collapse I think is coming may not come, and that all the energy and effort I am investing may be wasted. One of the things I am doing is storing water. While my preparations are with the idea that the worst is going to happen, possibly sooner than I would like, these preparations also make me better prepared for short-term issues. Recently, there was a water-main break in my neighborhood, and we spent the bulk of the day without running water from our taps. Having the water in storage meant that I would still be able to flush my toilets, boil water for food, clean myself and even my dishes, etc. Texas, the state I reside in, is in the grip of a major drought, one that may last for years. Each summer, cities in my area have established ever stricter water conservation ordinances. Whether it is a minor inconvenience or a major system failure, I would prefer to be prepared.
These are my “Stage One” efforts. I am interesting in learning from others about their own practices and techniques… what they see happening and the steps they are taking to deal with it. I would like to discuss with others their own plans. I have been intentionally vague on many points simply due to a sense of self-preservation and this being a public forum. Further disucussion will illicit more concrete ideas. This discussion will, I hope, be mutually beneficial, and lay the groundwork for the next stage of my Exit Strategy.