… Can We Teamwork Our Way Out of Poverty?
(c) 2016, Davd
A man is poor who does not have assured basic subsistence—Food, clothing, and shelter—plus a decent extra amount for mischance. I call myself poor because i do not own a home1, either individually or as one of a solidary group2 … and i do not have enough money to buy one in any place in this region, where an old, old man can live alone without a car. I have an address and a roof over my head, but not a secure home given the possible frailties of old age.
My grandfather was between rich and poor when he was my age (closer to poor, and retired, as i am now). He owned his own home without debt, and had income enough to pay his expenses. His house was located near enough to public transit, that he could get where he needed to go without driving (though at 74, he still drove.) He was far from rich, but he was not poor as i am poor.
His house stood on a city lot, with a small front lawn, a garage, two apple trees, a cherry tree, and an apricot tree. A small garden grew more strawberries than any other crop. He made cider and provided his daughter with cherries to make pies and jam. A modest railroad pension enabled him to pay his taxes and utility bills, buy groceries, fuel his car and furnace, and have a little something left over for fun.
What he had that i lack, were the soundness of his house (he built it; i didn’t build the house i’s camping in), the availability of transit if he became unable to drive, the established fruit trees, and the garage. I probably have more savings, even adjusted for the far lower value of dollars today than when he was my age, but those savings won’t buy me a house equivalent to his, with the access to transit and the food growing trees, that he had.
The reasons he was not poor were that he had spent his wages wisely when he was working, had built his own house—and had not suffered divorce3—but also, that housing cost less relative to wages, and so, social efficiency was less important then than it is now.
It i were a monk in a monastery, with my same income, i would not be poor. My income, in a monastery, would pay the cost of my subsistence at least three, probably more than five times over. The explanation is more the social efficiency of their group ownership of their home, and their co-operative operating of that home, than of the “religious” reasons they became monks.
Those monks are doing something right, and we non-monks should learn what it is and, (whether or not we give more of our waking hours to religious rituals than to any one thing else, as so many monks do); we should apply the genius that makes their cloisters such good and such efficient homes.
Many poor old men could become “non poor” by teaming up and owning housing together. That’s my goal, and unless you are rich or happily married [a condition that a much larger percentage of men enjoyed in Grandfather’s time, than now], you might benefit from making it yours4.
There is a contact page on this website you can use to write in and tell me about your interest, or how you’re doing this kind of household, if you like. This is a much rarer idea than it ought to be, and sharing thoughts and experience should be good for its development. (Some men might meet via exchanging ideas and sharing interest, who become friends enough to form up a household together, this way, and i can’t forecast about that in advance.)
I should mention, that younger men can also benefit from sharing housing and living like brothers. With a shared house and car (maybe a car and a van or pickup), life will cost more for four men than it costs one man alone, but a lot less per man: Four, five, maybe six men, can live co-operatively on little or no more money per year than two of you would spend living alone. Six to ten, can live co-operatively on little or no more money per year than three of you would spend living alone.
Which means less, hopefully no financial pressure to take a miserable job or live with a woman who really isn’t a good match for you. Wouldn’t you be better off, if living with a woman was an option that only the best women could make appealing?
Grandfather became poor shortly after the age of 80, with no significant change in his house nor his income, when he somehow became unable to look after himself living alone—at least, that’s what i was told. I was a university student by then, living too far away to visit him often, so i no longer had the regular observation of his living habits and techniques that i had when i was a schoolboy.
(When i had those regular observations of his living habits and techniques, i can still recall and report some 60 years later, he did all the chores he needed to do. His house was cluttered with books and magazines, with tools and a few unfinished projects—but his bed, kitchen, bathroom and reading chair were clean enough to be livable, and he operated them and himself competently. I watched him cook and less often, do laundry. I didn’t watch him bathe, but i saw him go to and from his bath. And i bother to write that i did, because cluttered houses are often shamed as filthy or unhealthy—which Granps’ house was not.)
If Grandfather had lived in a household of “intentional brothers”, he might not have been sent to what is now called a “care facility” shortly after 80; his share of the work might have remained adequate, in that more efficient situation, to keep him there until (like all mortal men) he died.
Living with buddies like brothers, won’t make you live forever. From what I’ve seen of very old monks and Hutterites, it probably will make your old age happier. It might well make middle age or young manhood happier, too.
If financial stress is unpleasant (as it is for most of us,) and you are not wealthy, it very likely will be a better life than “living alone”, or with a woman that’s less than excellent for you.
1. I do own a wee small house, or some might call it a cabin, which i bought for roughly the market price of the lot it stands on (you could say, for almost nothing) to live in for the spring and summer—while i work toward the house sharing “intentional brotherhood” this blog advocates. It is not a place where an old man can live “alone”, who cannot drive; and my sense of “home” is not solitary; so i call it “camp” rather than “home.”
I should perhaps note that while it seems demographically obvious that there are millions of poor old Anglophone men on Earth, given a strict definition of what a secure home is; the Canadian total might turn out to be in the hundreds of thousands, and less than one million.
2. A co-operative embodying in law, a family or group of good friends; or the monks who live together in a monastery, would be examples of a solidary group, as would the usually larger population of a Hutterite community.
3. 60 years ago, few men suffered divorce if they were at all decent in how they treated their wives. (Likewise, few women suffered divorce if they were at all decent in how they treated their husbands, Today, from what i hear and read, few women suffer divorce if they are at all decent in how they treat their husbands; but men may well suffer divorce even if they are quite decent in how they treat their wives.)
4. To women reading this “posting”: I encourage you to organize parallel households of women. The social efficiency advantages ought to be very similar. There are cloisters of nuns who seem to get along well enough, just as do cloisters of monks.