One of the big influences for me when I started personal blogging, as opposed to blogging about education, was Zen Habits. It doesn’t look like it, but it’s one of the most viewed blogs on the web, with more than two million readers.
Babauta explains that he has six children, with four from his and his partner’s previous marriages, and the two they’ve had together. Some have gone to school, and some have been unschooled:
Unschooling is an informal learning that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschoolers learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Often considered a lesson- and curriculum-free implementation of homeschooling, unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child. While courses may occasionally be taken, unschooling questions the usefulness of standard curricula, conventional grading methods in standardized tests, forced contact with children in their own age group, the compulsion to do homework, regardless of whether it helps you in your individual situation, the effectiveness of listening to and obeying the orders of one authority figure for several hours each day, and other features of traditional schooling in the education of each unique child.
The point he makes is a simple one: if children are always brought up to be told what to do next, to be given a path, then how will they find a path of their own as adults?
He doesn’t make the connection explicitly, but my next thought was that this is perhaps why the default option for most people after school / college / university is to get a job in a hierarchical organisation with a boss telling you what to do.
The radical thing to do, and the thing which is much more empowering, is to reject persistent hierarchy and coercive power relations altogether. Instead, approaches such as consent-based decision making are the way forward. No-one needs someone telling them what to do all of the time — including children.
I’ve been reading Paul Stamatiou’s blog since he was an undergraduate. After a couple of startups he’s now working for Twitter. Yesterday, he posted this about his new-found minimalism:
I sold or tossed a ton of stuff I didn’t need, use or wear. I stopped wearing all those free startup shirts I gathered over the years and moved on to button-ups. I use Laundry Locker to deal with ironing them so I don’t spend my Sundays doing this. I buy toothpaste, shampoo and the like in bulk on Amazon so I don’t have to remember to make monthly errands. I moved to a slimmer wallet and carry less stuff with me everywhere. I cancelled unnecessary monthly billed services so there’s less to think about when I see my statements.
This is great. This is something I’ve tried to do. This is something to which I aspire. But the trouble is that it requires money to do this. And I’m guessing Stammy’s new found outlook on life is helped by the fact he’s probably not earning peanuts at Twitter.
People don’t need money to be happy, certainly not. But there’s a level of financial security that allows you to say “screw you” to the world. It’s easy to forget just how soul-crushing money worries can be. Indeed, it’s one of the biggest causes of strife in relationships.
The trouble with minimalism, as others have pointed out, isn’t the message but the messenger. It’s rich, successful (mainly white) males saying “I don’t need all of this stuff to be happy!”. That’s great, but we should be mindful that people not so well-off sometimes need stuff as a just-in-case. They haven’t got the financial resources to just go and buy whatever they need there and then.
I completely accept Leo Babauta’s point about minimalism being a constant critique/mindset rather than a lifestyle. It’s just that two seem to be rather conflated at this point in time. For rich people a spartan aesthetic means iPhones and white furniture. For less well-off people minimalism looks very much like poverty.
Copyright is a “right” in no absolute sense; it is a government-granted monopoly on the use of creative results. So let’s try calling it that—not a right but a monopoly on use, a “usemonopoly”—and then consider how the rapacious expansion of monopoly rights has always been counter to the public interest…
So, how to protect your ideas in a world where ideas spread?
Instead, spread them. Build a reputation as someone who creates great ideas, sometimes on demand. Or as someone who can manipulate or build on your ideas better than a copycat can. Or use your ideas to earn a permission asset so you can build a relationship with people who are interested. Focus on being the best tailor with the sharpest scissors, not the litigant who sues any tailor who deigns to use a pair of scissors.