Sunday, 27 December 2015

My Declaration of Independence

The following declaration describes my personal guiding principles for life. Some of these are not yet compatible with the realities of today's societies around the world, which can leave non-compliance with the current establishment as the only option that doesn't require sacrificing one's integrity. As long as you can explain how your disobedience serves more than just yourself and doesn't harm anyone, no one can really argue against it (even when what you are doing is technically against the law). (For some examples of purposeful non-compliance, see the bottom of this page.)

I believe that non-compliance and peaceful protest are important instruments of feedback, to let the system know where its rules and regulations are no longer serving humanity or the world, or simply have lost their purpose. Actions speak louder than words, and this is just as true in politics as in any other area of life. As more people start to live for the benefit of all (sustainability) instead of just the benefit of one/some (fear-based greed), and more people refuse to comply with unjust (or redundant) rules and systems, the easier the path will become. In this way we can co-create a completely different world together.

Therefore I hope that more people will consider living their lives strictly according to their own principles instead of the ones that were handed to them by others, to pave the way for future generations and create space for alternative ways of living and thinking. We can get back to a world where we all fulfill the task of the government together and look after each other and the earth, instead of leaving it up to a few individuals of power (who usually have very unilateral ideas about what the world needs (or rather what they need and want)).

I recommend everyone to make a declaration like this for themselves. It can serve as a great reminder of what is important to you, which can be useful when you are faced with a difficult decision or going through a rough time. Don't worry about perfection - just write a draft (as I have done here) and keep perfecting it along the way. Review and edit it often. It is an exercise in awareness of truth, questioning everything and a way to train yourself to see the many ways in which you impact the world - which also provides opportunities for you to discover more ways in which you can send out positive ripples of change. If you train yourself to be constantly aware of the impact of your actions on the environment in relation to your principles and values, you will always know what to do and never second-guess yourself again. It is therefore also a character-building exercise that boosts your confidence and instantly gives your life purpose and meaning.

The Declaration

[**N.B.: This declaration is a draft of my ideas and not an official document in any way. I may update it from time to time. For now it simply describes some of the core principles that I live by to the best of my ability, and concepts and ideas that I value. 
This article is mainly intended to challenge certain hard-wired societal notions and customs that most people seem to accept as the norm without ever questioning them. It is an invitation to engage in critical thinking and reclaim the freedom of choice in individual and societal matters**]

The following is a declaration of my freedom, independence and sovereignty.

I hereby declare that I renounce my rights and duties towards any government or institution that allows oppression, money and/or power to be the cornerstones for maintaining social order and for determining the degree of access to resources, thereby artificially creating lack/inequality and disorder. I no longer wish to be "owned" in any way by any government, organization or individual of power. I no longer wish to participate -neither directly nor indirectly- in the destruction of the environment in the name of growth and progress and the mindless obedience of the law and authority figures out of fear, lack of trust and as a way to justify certain behaviors/situations and evade personal responsibility. I set myself free so that I can claim back my natural birthrights, while also accepting the responsibilities I have as a being on earth.

***Leading principle (above all else)***

My highest priority in life is my commitment to a balanced, healthy environment on earth, serving all life on this planet. With every decision I make, I solely base my actions on what is best for the earth, which is our collective home. My only task in this is to maintain balance as best I can; creating as little disturbance as possible and leaving little to no impact on the environment through my existence. If I do cause damage in some way, I look for ways to correct this: I plant trees if one has been cut down. And I grow as much food as possible and plant seeds wherever I can, because I eat food to survive.
 "Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints" ~ Chief Seattle
If any shifts in the existing balance would be required, then it is up to nature itself to initiate those (e.g. through natural disasters). Nature rules the world, not people.
In my treatment of other beings (including but not limited to humans), I am mindful that I treat them either in the same way I would like to be treated, or better. I aim to never compromise my integrity, so I let honesty be my guide (even when it hurts).

1. Healthcare and other public services
I no longer wish to hand over my freedom, independence and sovereignty in exchange for access to (for-profit) healthcare and other government-provided "services". I also release myself from all the compensatory duties (such as forced labor) that are intended to fund the existence of these 'services', yet ironically can jeopardize my health. Instead, I want to take back my own responsibility for my health. I choose to learn about natural medicine and maintain a healthy lifestyle, so that I can remain in the best possible shape. I believe that any medicine that the earth provides, unaltered and unpatented, can outperform anything made by mankind when used in the right way, without the adverse side effects of inner and outer pollution. I intend to learn much more about this in the near future and then perhaps someday I can become a resource for others who are struggling with health problems.

2. Freedom to settle
I believe that as an inhabitant of the earth I have the right to live anywhere (and travel anywhere I like) as long as I am not harming anyone, including the earth. This means my natural responsibilities are to travel mindfully (without polluting), to build only ecologically friendly structures (shelters/homes) and to use only natural energy sources. Whatever part of the earth I will choose to inhabit, I will not be using the facilities provided by any government other than the ones that are forced on me for lack of alternatives (due to ongoing destruction of natural environments), such as use of roads where no natural paths have been left, and use of tap water when all surrounding sources of water have been polluted by irresponsible human activity. But I will prefer to avoid these places as much as possible and stick to the wilderness.

3. Ownership
I give up the belief in the myth of ownership. The earth (and its resources) cannot be owned, no matter who lives where or is using what at any given time. We can only borrow things from the earth, but ownership is an illusion. There is no "mine" on this earth; so from  now on "my" and "mine" will simply mean: "that which I have borrowed temporarily". Even time is borrowed. My life does not belong to any government or individual, but neither does it belong me. It belongs to nature. This is why I feel called to live my life in service of the earth and all beings.
The earth is our collective home and shared with all species. Therefore all resources are here to be shared with the collective and cannot be dominated or claimed by anyone or anything. It is our collective responsibility to use resources in a sustainable manner. When this is not happening, or someone is trying to cause destruction - in the name of ownership or for whatever other reason, I have the right (and duty) to speak up. If I do not attempt to prevent destruction, I am silently condoning it and therefore passively participating in it. The solution lies in active support of the earth.

4. Food (and shelter)
Even though resources are shared and ownership does not exist, I do respect natural habitats and boundaries (territory), and will not override others' efforts for (personal) survival, for example by finding my own food instead of taking someone else's food supplies, growing my own food instead of taking the crops others planted and building my own home/shelter instead of trying to take over someone else's (unless it is abandoned of course).
When I am not sure whether an area of land is in use by someone or not, I try to determine whether the food was planted for that purpose or not, so that I am not simply taking advantage of someone else's hard work. After all, independence is one of my main goals. When in doubt, I ask. However, I may simply seek out food that is clearly left behind (such as potatoes that are left in the field after harvest and food in supermarket dumpsters).
When I am foraging for foods, I also harvest with respect for nature. I only take what I need, and I make sure that the plant I harvest is growing in abundance. No matter where I find food for survival -whether I am foraging in nature, finding leftovers or accepting help from others- I always contemplate ways to give back. For example, I can give back to the earth by planting new seeds or by helping existing (native and non-invasive) vegetation grow and spread.

5. Money
I do not believe in money as a leading force for decision making, as the main form of exchange or as a construct with absolute value. Instead of using money to get what I need, I choose to rely on unconditional giving and forms of direct exchange (barter). This would be a much more rewarding structure for communities also, for it builds trust and mutual care. Also, it will force selfishness out of the system naturally, as people who are selfish and do not care about others will simply be ignored as a natural consequence of their behavior and therefore they will be forced to change. Selfishness and greed, which are very much rewarded in money-based societies, will no longer have any benefits, and will even be harmful to someone's social status. Instead, sharing, helpfulness and kindness will be rewarded and encouraged. These traits will be the new adaptive qualities for 'survival', or at least for a prosperous life, in communities that are based on this principle.
In addition, as long as money and rules concerning money do exist, I will not engage in the payment of unjust fees, such as property taxes or building permits for zero-impact off-grid homes / shelters. I also don't believe in forced payments for healthcare, roads, and other shared facilities / amenities when I have no intention of using them and yet have no choice to opt-out (for example, if one is registered as living in the Netherlands, one has to have (and pay for) health care insurance). I think that providing services when they are not even asked for takes away people's natural desire to create, to serve and to develop and innovate.
I am also not worried that if we stop the flow of money, the availability of these services will come to a halt. I think there will always be people who will want to help out and who will try to improve (and maintain) the system, because it is important to them or because they genuinely believe it is necessary. When not everything is 'given', this also stimulates people's personal responsibility and gives them an opportunity to contribute. It encourages a sense of purpose and involvement, because there is a need for creation and development. People will have to take initiative for improvements if they feel that something needs to change; and they will have the freedom to do so (as long as it is not hurting other species or the planet), which creates a healthier mindset and will result in a culture with a more positive general attitude and less blaming and complaining.
If you would be worried that no one will want to become a doctor anymore in a world where there is no money to be earned, then this would also have several benefits. First of all, we would all probably look after our health better. How many people truly look after their health now (with health insurance as a back-up)? How many people eat a 100% unprocessed, mostly plant-based diet? In addition, we would naturally appreciate life more, because there is a greater awareness of death at all times. In other words, people will be much more closely connected to life and death. At the moment I feel like many people take life for granted, and even postpone living because they have lost all connection with death and thereby also with life.

6. Equality of all species
I declare myself equal with all other species. I, as a human, am not worth more -or less- than any other form of life on earth, including trees and plants. All of us have the right to be here on this earth and to thrive, and all of us have purpose. Just because I am human does not mean I can use other animals for my own benefit, but I can enter into an equal partnership with them. When I do, my friendship with them is always my main priority and their collaboration with me should be voluntary at all times. Therefore I will constantly be on the lookout for possible signs of distress or discomfort. I make an effort to understand them, learn their language and communicate with them.
The equality principle is also true for people. Again, I have as much worth as any other (human) being on the planet, and as much right to be here as everyone else. I see no need for hierarchy or power structures, and therefore will not accept them. I do not support any system that tolerates and even encourages people to cause destruction to the environment, to use up more than their fair share of resources and to rule over other people (and other life forms).

7. Freedom from society's roles
I free myself of the made-up roles and labels that society has forced on me, and of the duties that are associated with them; most notably 'employee' (including all possible job titles), 'employer', 'consumer', 'citizen' and 'owner'. I will only adhere to those responsibilities that are naturally connected with the things that I choose to do in my life, and the agreements that I voluntarily make with others (which never span too far into the future). Forced contributions, as invented by man, easily become conditional ways of giving. Unconditional giving, however, is always free and without obligation. It either happens naturally or not at all. And if someone happens to be perfectly happy living their life without ever working or contributing to a society in any way (e.g. living in a cave as a hermit) then that is perfectly okay with me, too. Life is too short to be forced to do anything, especially if it doesn't even serve the planet (which, sadly, is the case with most jobs).
However, I do believe that -in a world without (artificial) obligation or rewards- unconditional giving would come back as the new normal, because it is in our nature to give. Without incentives (or punishments), giving will naturally happen unconditionally, motivated by the internal drive to give. People will continue (and even be more likely) to help each other in the absence of rewards and punishments. Not because of some role or label that society gave them, but because that is who we are. The absence of rewards and punishments also helps to bring sincerity back, which is an aspect of unconditional giving.
Unconditional giving is perhaps even more rewarding for the giver than for the receiver, and most people are missing out on that experience most of the time due to a sense of obligation (because money is involved or because of some role or duty prescribed by society). I have personally experienced this shift towards unconditional giving as I stopped using money. Money is one of the things that can poison the mind if you believe in the value that it has been given.

8. Freedom from insurance (security is an illusion)
I am no longer participating in the madness of insurance: health insurance, insurance of "property", life insurance, etc. Life offers no security and we are all going to die sooner or later. I have made peace with death (which is a good idea, since it is the unavoidable outcome for all of us) and will accept my fate when nature decides it is my time. This does not mean I will not try to heal myself if I get sick by looking for alternative medicine, asking for advice or trying to regain my inner balance when it seems lost. But I see no need to turn to governmental health institutions that operate within the parameters of profit and therefore benefit from sickness.
Many people have lost their connection with death and fear it; they want to avoid it at all costs. This goes against all principles of life and a preoccupation with death in this way ironically prevents you from making the most of life. Alternatively, if you stop living in the future and start living now, you will no longer fear death, because there is no need to extend life when you have not postponed living. Therefore, when it is my time, I will accept it. Meanwhile, I trust that life has a plan for me.

9. No law
Because it is hard to express all these principles in a written text, I also advocate the abolition of the legal system, not in the least because I don't believe in systems that promote revenge and retribution. Instead I would prefer a global system of guidelines and principles (such as this), while encouraging people to write their own. Also, where in the law is the most important rule of all: that we should look after and protect the earth and that we should be mindful of our use of resources?
So the law does not necessarily promote justice for all. In fact, the very existence of the legal system is based on inequality, as it requires authority figures to implement and uphold the law. Also, I don't believe that the existence of laws regulates people's behavior in any way. I think people will do what they do, with or without the law. So I don't think people will get more violent without a law (or less violent with one). Although I do believe they will get less violent in the absence of money (at least once they figure out how to look after themselves). Additionally, in the absence of rules and structures that create power and hierarchy (and thus artificial inequality), I think the world could be a safer, freer and more peaceful place.
The law limits a system's flexibility and forces rules onto people who had no part in the creation and formulation of those rules. It also disrupts the flow of natural behavior, making people fearful of authority and each other. On top of that, it can strengthen a sense of victim-mindedness in cases where one person harms another, or it can be used as an excuse for destruction of the environment or other types of immoral behavior when something is considered 'legal'. Another difficulty with the law is that it does not fully support all parts of this declaration yet (nor would it be possible to translate these principles into specific and all-inclusive rules).
With a system that is based on punishment and retribution, it also further promotes inequality and it even promotes violence by role-modeling the seeking of justice through revenge. For all those reasons, the law seems to be an inadequate and counterproductive component of societies. Again, it will be necessary and beneficial to accept some risk or uncertainty (i.e. that some people may act in violent ways from time to time), because it is unavoidable and the existence of laws cannot change that either.

Short summary: Freedom from the system

With this declaration, I free myself of the following structures that were put on me by governments to keep me a prisoner of the system that I was born into:
* I am no longer property of any state nor do I wish to be registered as such.
* I no longer accept any form of inequality, limits to travel & settlement, or destructive behaviors that upset the delicate balance of our ecosystem (in the name of the law, ownership, or any other excuse).
* I no longer accept society's forced roles, such as that of consumer or laborer (except when freely chosen), which means I free myself of the obligation to "work" in the traditional sense of the word (i.e. as a slave of the state and the system)
* I will no longer trade my freedom for governmental 'services' that offer a false sense of comfort or security (and again, cause destruction).

My natural duties and responsibilities are as follows:
* I vow to do no harm to others (or the planet) and be an honest, productive and contributing inhabitant of the earth and its communities.
* I will follow my own moral compass and take full responsibility for my own contribution to a better world for all beings (not limited to humans).
* I seek out my own ways to contribute positively to others and the earth.
* I do not need anyone else to tell me what is right, because I use the capacity that I have been given to think for myself.
* With the earth and all beings as my highest priority (instead of just myself), I will protect the earth and other beings in times of need.


This is my vision and I promise myself, other beings and this beautiful earth that I will live according to this declaration as best I can.

Examples of purposeful non-compliance:

- building a zero-impact home or shelter somewhere in the barren wilderness (on public land), without disturbing the animals that may already live there, with the intention to tend the soil and improve it for plants and trees to grow there.
- not paying property taxes when you have an eco-home and don't use any city water, electricity, plumbing, telephone connections or other town facilities to do with your property.
- opting out of mandatory healthcare insurance when you are eating/living responsibly and using alternative and natural health care remedies only.
- not having a job and having no intention to find a traditional job, because you contribute in ways that benefit the earth more than would be possible with a regular job (and that is actually pretty easily achieved). Also, you do not require any government money because you have found other ways to sustain yourself.
- not sending your kid(s) to school but instead allow them to learn from and about nature and how to look after it, which is far more important (and strangely enough not part of the curriculum in most schools).
- growing your own food and harvesting natural resources in an earth-friendly manner (such as collecting rainwater) should always be legal (although some reports claim it is illegal in some places - which would qualify as a perfect opportunity for peaceful protest and purposeful non-compliance).
- planting non-invasive, native trees on public land.

The bottom-line is: If it is good for the earth and all living beings and causes no harm, then it is good for us too. And anything that is good for us, should be legal. Let's make it so.

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