View Full Version : Interested in living "off the grid"?

24th April 10, 03:49 PM
You should totally watch "Off the Grid: life on the mesa"

It's on netflix

or availible here online:


It's about what you might call an "interstitial community."

They aren't quite squatters, they aren't quite building a town. They just live, in the middle of nowhere with "total freedom." Some of them are veterans, some of them are runaways, some of them are drop outs from the east coast.

It's very very interesting.

It's a full length but I'm genuinely interesting in your opinions about it.

It's strange to see what technology they use and don't, how they adapt and fail. I'm personally deeply fascinated by how they police, for example how they react when a group of anarchists comes to the area.

It's also interesting to see how people rear children in this environment.

But it confronts certain interesting things: When you try to live "off the grid" you do tend to find out that certain things are so fundamentally easier on the grid you don't turn them down.

These people take their pensions and benefits and they patronize food banks...are they "hypocrites" when this is weighed against their talk of freedom? Or are they living as free as they can?

I was raised and now work in a way that I would flourish in this environment. These people were mostly not, and I spent much of the film worrying about many of them. In fariness, the documentary focuses on mostly white, mostly recent drop-outs - the mesa in question is home to lots of more resourceful people, who have more developed habitation and the jobs and careers to sustain it, but many of them are hispanic, and the editorial critic in me thinks maybe those images weren't quite as interesting to the film-maker because of his ideas re the perceptions of the audience.

Where is the line between independent and mentally ill? What can society, in the neighborhood and greater sense, do for people who don't feel they have any option but to hurt themselves to find peace?

One reason I come down so hard on the "Galt" movement in this country is because to me, it is a "greener grass" movement - when the stresses of everyday life confound you, you unfolded your well worn fantasy of a swiss family robinson life somewhere/somewhen else.

But I grew up living in that treehouse, and I work in it today. I know what it's like to really not be able to dial 911. I know what it's like to drive with two spare tires, an alternator, a fuel pump, plugs, an electrical kit, a full socket set, a coffee can full of nuts bolts and a jerry can rattling around in a milk crate in the back.

I know what it's like to need to catch a fish instead of getting to maybe a catch a fish, and it fucks up your enjoyment of the activity.

So for me, waking up in an (overpriced! Think of the cost of living) apartment in a city, doing a quick lap of my neighborhood and coming back with one day's groceries, trying to cook something I've seen on the food network, doing 8 hours of paper work somewhere, and going to a gym for excercise (My dad on gyms: "Those assholes should just take one year's membership and by an axe and a wood boiler for their house. That'd fix that, savee?*")

I do feel the romance of my parents lifestyle. But I've always kind of known it wasn't for me. In truth, it's not for them - my parents are retired veterans and their off the grid lifestyle is thus layered with quite a bit of safety and security.

For them, it's about privacy and loving nature and quiet and doing as they please with carefully chosen friends and neighbors, it's not about any political ideation - they aren't politically or philosophically militant people, they just have taken "a quiet country retirement" to an extreme, making it a fulfilling and deeply integrated, serious hobby the way some board members have with martial arts.

I don't know if that will happen for me. I don't find society so terribly loud that I want to move to a mountain top. I find mountain tops damned inconvenient, actually,

*old cowboys say "savee" all the time. It has nothing to do with "Being savy" but is a corruption of the spanish, "Sabes," which means "you know?"

24th April 10, 04:54 PM
They seemed like a group of bums to me. They just wanted to screw off during the day instead of doing anything productive.

24th April 10, 05:00 PM
I think it's a little deeper than that with some of them, but you're definately right about some of them as well - like the jody and TC they open on

I will tell you - I work in spaces just like that. I've worked in that very one, in fact. There's something weird about it. Above and beyond even other unsettled places.

24th April 10, 06:40 PM
The lazy hedonist fraction aside, I think most of the politically motivated ones are acting out of a distrust and rejection of the current system of government rather than seriously wanting to live without community or modern infrastructure. It's more of a movement against something, rather than a real desire for pre-Modern subsistence living.

*old cowboys say "savee" all the time. It has nothing to do with "Being savy" but is a corruption of the spanish, "Sabes," which means "you know?"

Both words from the same Latin root. 'sapiō', to know or experience. As in the French Savoir

25th April 10, 05:21 PM
To me "off the grid" means not being in any database and only dealing in cash. Nobody can call you, nobody can look up where you live.

The main reason for having "the grid" is to make our lives easier. There are risks involved, such as people gaining private knowledge they shouldn't have, but for the most part it makes our lives easier. I like having a bank account instead of hiding all my shit under a mattress. I like having a credit card instead of walking around with cash. Hell, PayPal is one of the best inventions on the internet I think.

Having fingerprint databases makes it easier to catch criminals. Now, I also understand that it can be used to frame someone or find an innocent person guilty of a crime they didn't commit. How often does that happen, though? We see movies about it all the time, but when's the last time the government framed someone for something? I mean, one of its own citizens, not some foreign leader or whatever.

25th April 10, 06:18 PM
when's the last time the government framed someone for something? I mean, one of its own citizens, not some foreign leader or whatever.And got caught, you mean.

Truly being "off the grid" in the sense of not being on databases is hard - you'd have to start at birth and avoid a birth certificate. Once you commit like that, it gets really hard to get an education (it was mentioned in another thread that even illegals need an address for school). Support a family style earnings would be hard too. How would you register for flea markets? Or get a business started? A lot of libraries require some sort of login now - so you'd have to register for access to the internet. If you manage to get a side of the road selling blankets business going - will you only deal in cash then? PL just said how wonderful it is to not carry cash anymore.

25th April 10, 06:33 PM
And got caught, you mean.

The government is so incompetent, it can't do anything right, remember? So if they had done that more than once, there's a good chance they would have been caught. Hell, they have been caught doing all sorts of stupid shit and trying to overthrow governments in the past.

25th April 10, 06:41 PM
How far are we going for "govt. misusing the database?" Do warantless wiretappings count?

25th April 10, 06:47 PM
Of course. But you don't need a database for that as far as I understand. It would still be possible without phone books and manual telephone operators.

25th April 10, 07:42 PM
I was thinking less of deliberate framing for crimes, and more stampeding through procedure and cops ensuring a gut feeling is right. But that's not really needing a grid to be off of either.

25th April 10, 08:21 PM
there is a difference between a single individual trying to live off the grid and an organized (and skilled) community wanting to live off the grid.

Their outside ties to modern society might allow them to do some normal things (education, start a business). Or maybe its only something you can do once you're a certain age (an adult).

I can't imagine them not using modern technology to survive. The convenience of things like solar panels and computer controlled systems is too tempting.

I'm not opposed to the idea of local currencies either, I think its good that little experiments like this are going on.

I thought of the Amish straight away when I saw this thread.

26th April 10, 12:38 AM
Can't you be off the grid with solar panels? Once you have them i mean.

EDIT: I know you need a shit load to power a whole house, but who knows wehre this technology will go in the futaaa!

Dr. Socially Liberal Fiscally Conservative Vermin
26th April 10, 03:33 AM
I know people whos only power source is the wood they cut and solar panels. Works just fine due to their location.

Most of the communittee I have been eiether involved in or visited have some sort of link to mainstream society at some level. Wether thats where they buy their stuff from or where they sell their stuff (or get their biosurvival tokens from)

I like the modern werstern standard of living so wont be opting out again for a while but who knows, come the apocolypse I might have to. Although it is nice having friends and family who have, makes for cheep holidays.

Spade: The Real Snake
26th April 10, 11:45 AM

have you seen the Off the Grid with Les Stroud documentary?