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Digital peasantry

I’m fascinated by the concept of the noble savage and contemplated writing about it every time I got into a new related trend. After years of internal debate, trials, and tribulations I’d like to put down where I’m at. For this, I’ll use one of my favorite topics: Barefoot shoes.

The idea is simple, we didn’t evolve with shoes for the longest time meaning that nature and its millions of years of evolution have, and will always, do the job better than we’ll ever be capable of. The recent biomechanical understanding of the human body has shown that increased support offered by modern shoes is making us weaker in various ways and that this is not a desirable thing (I’m grossly oversimplifying things here). By acknowledging this simple idea, the concept of a shoe designed to mimic the “natural” design we can try to get closer to our “natural” state, a state of proper function and health. That’s the basic idea behind barefoot shoes. No support, just a bit of protection from the elements. It makes sense to me. But reducing our health to just our feet is way too reductivist to be satisfying. - But what are you gonna do dude? hm? - Yeah - I bought mostly barefoot shoes for years because I realized that as a consumer I could only accept or reject that idea. The idea makes sense to me I just needed to buy a product to solve a problem. After years of wearing them, running, cycling, and beating down the pavement I’m realizing that I’m not a primitive human - aka savage. The flip side of the noble savage philosophy is not marketing-friendly. We rarely hear something like - Hey you, wanna live a short and tough life? It’s very different to choose to make your life a bit tougher than having it tough. Realistically everyone who will approach one of those types of situations regarding a lifestyle decision should be able to understand the pros and cons of each side.

I feel most frustrated by the fact that it isn’t a true decision. It's not A or B but “can you live with A because B is out of the realm of possibilities”. If we take the example of barefoot shoes, A would be buying an accessible consumer product and B get more complicated. I believe some don’t even try to picture what this could mean. In this instance, B would mean to make changes to your life that would alleviate your biomechanical issues. This would likely mean, living closer to nature, not wearing any shoes for as much time as possible, prioritizing general self-care and ultimately being open to a whole lot of other changes and discomfort.

I have faced that dilemma many times recently when considering my remote work situation. There are many things I could do to make my life better, from ergonomic improvement facilitated by products and practices like meditations, and focus time blocks… that could help make me feel better about the whole thing. Those are good ideas. I’ve tried them all to end up with the feeling of having deluded myself. Rejecting my own delusion is something that feels dishonest. Since my focus on Plato, I have been subconsciously holding myself to a high standard of what I call -intellectual honesty- which seems to deter me from achieving such a thing. And yet it is very common and accepted around me in the name of kindness. “Be kind to yourself” sounds more like an excuse for indulgent behavior than an invitation to healing. In the case of remote work. Remote is a logistical problem with many possible fixes. Nothing makes it perfect. The real problem is work. Work is a result of the current system we all are part of, namely, capitalism. I found myself coming back to this over and over again when looking at the root cause of the stuff that bothered me. Sometimes I feel petty for complaining about something we are all subject to and wish to build more resilience. But most of the time I feel embarrassed by how much we have accepted this less-than-ideal state and refuse to accept that I too am willingly part of it.

Whatever the topic I can’t seem to escape these thoughts. Groceries, shoes, bed choice, office setup, gardening, skin care, meditation (this one deserves a whole spiel), water, grounding, and side projects… are just the recent ones. All these small facets of everyday life that ask for small and tangible decisions are nagging me to make a big move. So far the big move looks like a mid-life crisis or some sort of primitive retreat to a remote place. While moving and choosing a simpler life sounds aligned with my philosophical beliefs of the moment there is an escapist tone to this proposition that pushed me to think about all the things I could approach differently. And maybe accept with peace, try to change, or even avoid in a less extreme manner. Being a functional pessimist involves a degree of acceptance of both the noble savage mindset and marginal technology-driven gain.

I call this digital peasantry.

← Index / Published on 2021-09-12