Since Michael Bunker’s book Surviving Off Off-Grid was released at the beginning of March, it has sold 1500 copies on Amazon alone, thousands more copies around the world, and emails are coming in from every direction.
He thinks the refugees from “ mainstream religious systems” are adopting his ideas out of “a disgust with the way mainstream religion is going…..a recognition that religion has been co-opted by the same things that have co-opted politics: Big Business, money, self-interest, comfort, I guess a lack of love.”
A new kind of community is beginning to form around the publication, a loose coalition of self-sufficient people from both the religious and non-religious wings. “That’s probably been the most surprising thing,” Michael told me when we spoke ” — the people who would otherwise not be willing to listen to somebody who couches everything in religious terms.
“What I am saying is not only beneficial to everyone (ie whatever their religious background or none) but so many people from a more secular standpoint have been very supportive.”
Bunjker thinks his book may even shift the views of many on the religious right, people whose views he strongly rejects.
“The people who have contacted me since the book come out, have decided , made a life decision that they are going to do this, many of them have been very central to the religious political movement that is the most dangerous – the mix of neo-con, futurist-Christian kind of movement – they are now going ‘OKk that is not what I thought it was going to be.’
“They had a romantic view of trying to return America to its roots, but without any historical knowledge of what those people live like. They thought they were going to return America to the mid-1950s rather than the 1750s when America did have some righteousness and ideals about land that were sustainable and survivable.”
What kind of a community does Bunker think this radical traditionalist movement is this going to become?
“The last 10-15 years there has been this more apocalyptic view — from hardcore survivalism to people battling the new world order, to people who felt that the omnipresent tyrannical government is something they needed to escape, and what this book has done is given them hope there are things you can do, and isn’t guns and butter and bullets, it’s getting in there to the soil, and returning to what it is that has allowed people to survive for millennia.
“That hopefulness applies to people from every background – bankers, economists, lawyers, they can all see that America is not sustainable. So the community I can see developing around the philosophy of the book is a community of power. They don’t have to depend on oil (for example). We are not all competing for resources in a cut-throat business model – it now looks doable that (a small) section of land can produce this much food, and that is more than enough for my loved ones.”
Here is the rest of our Q&A:
Your book is very philosophical yet also very passionate. Why do you feel so passionately about disconnecting from the system (if that is the right way to put it)?
“Passion for me comes from conviction. I think that the first step for me was to see the system for what it is, and to see through the lies that we all have been taught. I’m not just talking about the normal “lies of propaganda”, but actual historical untruths. For example, we’ve all been taught that America was full of poor wretches, and that there was a great gulf between the very rich and the very poor BEFORE industrialism and electrification. Electrification was to be the great equalizer. Well, historically this is not true at all. This is an example of very selective statistical manipulation. In fact, over 90% of Americans were free and landed prior to the industrial revolution. Most Americans owned between 40-200 acres outright prior to the industrial revolution, and most Americans had no debt prior to electrification. The gulf between the real rich and the real poor is much larger today than it was prior to the industrial revolution, by every measure. Most Westerners are now technically insolvent and living dependently on a system that has enslaved them to it by means of applying to their lusts. So my passion comes from a desire to help people see that they have been hoodwinked, and that there is a way out of their slavery. I also think that we all have been hooked on some very powerful drugs (comfort and the dual lies of leisure and time-savings). In a very real sense, people around the world work harder for less than they have ever had, but the five senses are being fooled via some pretty strong drugs like air-conditioning, ubiquitous entertainment, and low nutrient but high bulk foods that dull the mind and senses. These drugs cause the mind to fragment and fracture – it no longer is able to see things in “wholes” but only in parts. I talk about this at length in the book. But my passion comes from the absolute knowledge that freedom is attainable, and is cheaper than our chains.
How would you characterise the main differences between off-grid and off-off-grid? and what do you see as their main similarities vis a vis “normal” life?
“The main difference is in the supply side. Off-Grid living implies that we have separated from the industrial/consumer grid (made up of power lines, cables, etc.) and we are now utilizing an alternative grid to provide all of the same perceived benefits. For example, we may have separated from the mainstream electric grid and now we provide the same or similar benefits of electrification via our own alternative energy grid (solar panels, wind generation, etc.). So Off-Grid living is generally a step removed from the grid, and it can be very expensive to go off-grid, and very expensive to stay off-grid. Since most of the off-grid components are produced and must be maintained in and from the other mainstream grid system, these off-grid systems, while very beneficial and helpful in giving us some level of freedom and independence, are still subject to interruption and failure if the mainstream grid system goes down for a long time – like maybe permanently. I give historic examples of “civilization” and technological advancement breaking down for centuries, even thousands of years, so this is not a far-fetched assumption. But even if the mainstream grid went down for a single year, a whole lot of “off-grid” people would be in big trouble. Battery systems fail, the mainstream fuel system is sketchy at best. So the Off-Grid system is better than nothing, but it still leaves us dependent on a very perilously perched system.
Off Off-Grid, however, is very simply understood. It means living life, and producing what we need, just like hundreds of billions of people did (including all of your ancestors) here on earth prior to the last century of electrification and the last couple of centuries of industrialism. I’m not talking about voluntary poverty or some Luddite pastoral fantasy. The industrial system has had a century or so to cook the books and force-feed us propaganda about how impossible and horrible life was before microwaves. I’m talking about voluntary freedom. And yes, going Off Off-Grid is cheaper, easier, and less complicated than going Off-Grid. It involves enacting and using our most fundamental freedom. The freedom to say NO. As I said in the book, we live in an age when turning off a light is a revolutionary act.
The similarities of the two (Off Grid, and Off Off-Grid) is that in both systems people are required to THINK and to consider how what they are doing effects themselves, the environment, their freedom, and their future. Thinking is always good, and most modern folks have been trained and colonized NOT to think.
In short, living Off Off-Grid is just bypassing the alternative power idea, and learning to live wisely, simply, and sustainably… and comfortably… without the expense of either the grid, or the off-grid life. Neither is the Off Off-Grid philosophy mutually exclusive with Off-Grid. Many of us use Off-Grid components in our Off Off-Grid life. We just try not to be dependent on anything we cannot make, or supply, or bypass.”
What is the moral content to your writings? Do you feel that people OUGHT to go off off grid?
“Well, I think this is an excellent question, and I do want to put some definitions in place. Morally, yes, I think people ought to willfully choose to live off off-grid, because in my opinion there is no real freedom, long-term, in the other philosophies. Those systems are designed to enslave people to their lusts, and to make them “human resources” to be farmed or mined by the power elite. I think the modern left/right (false) political dialectic is a tool in this enslavement. So based on my worldview, I think people ought to want to be free and not slaves, and at the very least they ought to want others to be free. But by “ought” I do not mean to say that they ought to be forced to go off off-grid. Now, in my opinion and based on my understanding of history and the forces that are shaping our current world, everyone is going to go off off-grid in the near future anyway. I know that that is a controversial statement, but I do believe it. I am not one of these people who believe that our little microscopic eight decade experiment in massive tax-supported and government sponsored electrification is a permanent thing. The massive amounts of government intervention, the corporate rape of natural resources, and the overwhelming manipulation and use of debt articles that are necessary to maintain the grid beast are not sustainable for much longer. Japan just taught us what can happen when what was not even a historically massive earthquake happens to an industrialized urban people who do not produce their own food and materials. 1/3 of the electrical generation ability of the nation of Japan is now gone. Worse things are on the way. So without going too deep into the causes and effects of what is likely going to be a massive, global de-electrification scenario, I have to say that Yes, I think people ought to go off off-grid, for their own sake. But I am for freedom, and, with the exception that I must protest being forced to pay for that mainstream grid that I do not use, I believe people should and ought to be free to choose their own way.
Clearly you are strongly motivated by your religious beliefs. Do you think it is possible for someone who does not follow those beliefs to still extract the full value from your book?
“First, to answer your question directly, absolutely YES.
I am unapologetically motivated by my religious beliefs, and I have refused to deny them or mask them in order to sell more books… but absolutely anyone can benefit fully from this book. I don’t think anyone should be hindered from gaining wisdom or skills or knowledge because they are too bigoted or ignorant to wade through someone else’s personal beliefs. I have learned so much from people with whom I disagree on fundamental truths. I can learn to build a table by a Buddhist, or how to build a water catchment system by an Atheist (and I have!). How foolish would it be of me to shut off my brain and refuse to learn something valuable just because the person who knows the information doesn’t agree with me? Many people have said, “Well, had you dropped all of the ‘religion’ and the foundation of your own beliefs, you would have sold a million books and have helped more people”. That may be true, but it wouldn’t have been honest. But I don’t think it is true. I think anybody and everybody can benefit from this book. The question is this: are people going to give me the same credit that I extended to others in order to learn the things I know? When I study any homeopathic remedies, earth sciences, alternative medicines, alternative building methods, etc. I get a huge dose of religions I don’t agree with and don’t support, but I would be an idiot to not learn those things that I need to know just because I find the philosophical or religious underpinnings of the teacher to be offensive. I believe that my God asks me to fairly judge and examine his claims, and I can only do that if I am willing to study things with which I currently disagree. I don’t compromise my beliefs, and neither should anyone – but we would be fools not to learn from one another. I never have learned anything from anyone who only knows and agrees with what I already know. I have to go outside myself to learn anything, and therefore to shut down, shout down, or ignore anyone who has something of value for me to learn, would be stupid and dangerous. I hope people will read my book and take from it what they can. A lot of people of every background have found it to be valuable and insightful. I hope it helps more people.
How do you feel about the reception your book has had so far?
“You know, I am shocked, surprised, and torn. When this book went to #26 on the Amazon bestsellers list, #2 on the “Movers and Shakers” list, and number #14 on the “Hot New Releases” list, I was completely shocked. I didn’t expect anything like that. I am greatly gratified by the huge response, by the success the book has had in sales, and in the overwhelmingly positive reviews the book has had.”
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