In the winter of ’09 my life was a spectacular failure in every way imaginable. I was a law school dropout, a call centre dropout and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
In an act of sheer desperation, I decided to attend one of those lame career workshops that the U of M puts on every year. Against all expectations, I somehow managed to wring a drop of utility from that exercise. That drop eventually became instrumental in getting my mind primed to be able to appreciate the beautiful simplicity of The Plan.
One of the workshop activities involved coming up with the criteria for what I wanted out of a career. I was sure that I only wanted the minimal income necessary to live and I also knew that I wanted to help people in a deeply meaningful way. Other necessary elements included being my own boss, having few and flexible work hours, doing a wide variety of tasks to stave off boredom and never having to go back to school. Unsurprisingly, none of the “job dictionaries” they had on hand contained a career that came anywhere close to meeting those ridiculous ideals.
A few days after the workshop, my best friend Jacquie and I were talking on the phone. To be more accurate, I was wallowing in self-pity and she was lending a sympathetic ear. I told her how I only saw one possible option for my life that would allow me to escape the guilt of participating in capitalism: run away from civilization and live on a commune. I had done some research and discovered that there are a number of such intentional communities right here in Manitoba. Most had weird religious elements or compulsory nude yoga sessions, but a few seemed to fit the bill.
Jac’s initial objection focused on the lack of modern plumbing on primitivist communes. Having never visited any of the communes, I couldn’t comment on how advanced or primitive their lavatories were, but I was unswayed. If the pope can shit in the woods, then gosh darn it, so can I!
Next, she brought up the fact that I’m a wussy city slicker who isn’t cut out for the manual labour-intensive lifestyle required for communal living. There’s no way that my lily white collegiate hands would be able to handle the blistering work of all that tilling, hoeing, planting and harvesting. I could barely mow the lawn without having to stop every five minutes for a glass of iced tea.
In a more serious critique, she described the major failing of communes as being their lack of an activist element. Retreating to a commune seems too much like giving up on the human race and leaving everyone else behind to languish. While I would be off enjoying nature, the vast majority of people would still be experiencing the crushing influence of capitalism, an authoritarian state, pollution, poverty, police brutality, interminable wars, starvation, etc., etc., etc. How selfish would it be for me to let my class-consciousness go to waste and abdicate my responsibility to those I might be able to help? Was I just going to continue my pattern of dropping out whenever things got too tough to handle? Jacquie had me on the ropes.
Then, she described an alternative lifestyle that she thought might meet my career criteria even better than fleeing into the wilderness.
It wasn’t called The Plan back then, but all the essential elements were in place. It would require two people to function. One member of the couple would work (preferably at a job with some sort of ethical or social justice element) and earn enough of a salary to support themselves and their partner. The other member would become a full-time activist: spending as much time undermining capitalism and the state as their partner spends propping it up. It was reminiscent of the 1950s single-income nuclear family cliché, but the complete opposite. No mortgage payments, no sexist indentured servitude, and most of all, no filthy children running around sucking up all their parents’ time, energy and resources.
After saying good night to Jacquie and hanging up the phone, I happened to glance over at the sheet of notes I had made at the career workshop. As my eyes scrolled down the list of unreasonable demands, I had my eureka moment. The Plan met every single one of the criteria in spades. I had found the answer to all my problems!
I won’t get into all the gory details, but about a month later, Jac convinced me to do it with her. We also started doing The Plan.
Next time, I’ll get into the nitty-gritty particulars of how The Plan functions on a daily basis, discuss why it is so elegantly compatible with our anti-capitalist inclinations and how, with a little bit of creativity, even getting married can be made into a truly subversive act.
Rob McGregor is not above making papal poop jokes in order to further his goal of destroying capitalism.