Whether you call it a pandemic or a plandemic, Covid and the responses to it have turned our world upside down. For some unknown but large number of Australians, the division of our country into the vaxxed and the unvaxxed is challenging what we thought was true and good about our country, and created doubt and conflict through our families, schools, communities and workplaces.
The consequent questioning and destabilisation of our faith in our support networks and institutions has caused many to pull their heads in to avoid conflict. Getting vaxxed, whether they thought it was a good idea or not, seemed to be the only way to keep the peace, get by, or even just survive. For some small proportion, with more psychological resources, it triggered a sense of solidarity with the unvaxxed who are fast becoming second class citizens.
For those refusing to comply with what we perceive as collective madness, if not evil, our free choice appears to be the end of the road for careers, homes and even families. The demonisation in the media, workplace and even within families raises the anger and hardens resistance.
Protest has been an outlet for anger, and a focus for political action, sometimes for the first time. The solidarity of like-minded others and radical activism brings the hope of turning society around, the stupidity and evil being exposed, and some form of justice.
Those who find themselves outside the tent, and those on the inside but committed to pro-choice solidarity, come from all sectors of society. They range from blue collar union workers, independent contractors and plain Aussie battlers with very few options through to members of the intelligentsia, and commercial elites trying to work out how to prepare what firepower they can muster to turn the ship around. Politically, the outsiders are diverse from hard-right libertarian to tree-hugging greenies and everything in between. The potential for these groups to come together in new forms of political organisation to reverse the changes of the last two years is enticing, and one way or another these new alliances will be part of the political landscape.
However, just as important are the quiet moves to improve resilience in challenging times. Some of the strategies ordinary folks are pursuing include:
- Downsizing to get out of debt
- Consolidating the household/family castle
- Making a strategic move to regional or rural locations with like-minded others
- Changing jobs, going part time or living on savings
- Reducing screen time, getting fit, connecting to the walkable neighbourhood
- Building skills in growing and preserving food
- Stocking up on essential goods
- Retrofitting the house with solar and water tanks
- Making a natural disaster plan part of the seasonal cycle
- Involving kids in the action and considering home and community education options
- Keeping cash on hand and in circulation
- Investing in cryptocurrencies or precious metals
Some of those already on this path see it as giving their kids some of the good life of decades past, others are motivated to live more lightly on the earth, while some see it as a boycott against the system represented by Moles, Bullies and Cunnings. For some it is a step towards new solidarity economies in the shadow of the corrupt systems increasingly dominated by a fusion of state and corporate power (which was Mussolini’s functional definition of fascism.)
Over the decades, mainstream media vacillated between curiosity and derision of both socially conservative household preppers and hippy self-sufficiency lifestylers on the geographic and social fringes. Simultaneously, a more quiet mainstream interest in the same stuff has been building across our suburban heartland and hinterlands nurtured by TV celebrity gardeners, chefs and DIY experts.
One of the longest lineages of thought and grounded action on both the feral fringe and the social mainstream is permaculture. Typically thought of as a cool form of organic gardening or self-sufficiency, permaculture is actually a design system for resilient living. It has been tried and tested around the world by people in some of the most privileged and destitute places on the planet. Permaculture has always been informed by a dark view of the state of the world, but focused on empowered action to create the world we want by living it every day. Around the turn of the millennium, as the co-originator of the concept, I focused on the creative opportunities to retrofit suburbia to be fit for purpose in challenging futures.
In the mid 2000s I created ‘Aussie St’ to tell a story of the history and prospective future of suburbia. Over the years it grew into a sort of permaculture soap opera to empower people to take control of their own lives and territory. In my presentations around the country I explained you don’t even need to believe in climate change to see the common sense in ‘Aussie St’.
My 2018 book, RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future is the culmination of that work. Printed in Australia (an outlier in the publishing business) and not available through Amazon, this life manual is on the table of more than 12,000 households around Australia, with a growing readership around the world. Despite this success, and a foreword by Australia’s best loved celebrity gardener Costa, RetroSuburbia has never had a review in the mainstream media. Just maybe, the establishment does understand that permaculture is ‘revolution disguised as gardening’. In the honeymoon stage of Covid last year, there was a huge surge of interest in household self-reliance and we gifted online access to our 600 page book on a “pay what you feel” basis, allowing access to thousands more around the world.
As the repressive experiment in mandatory vaccination intensifies in this country, the new excluded are having to get creative to survive, and hopefully, thrive. While political organisation and civil disobedience focus anger and provide solidarity, walking away from the system to rebuild household and community autonomy, which previous generations took for granted, may be an equal strike against that repression. Through these actions, we can build solidarity across previous ideological divides and with good folk inside the system who support freedom of choice.
While I am happy to acknowledge my lineage as university educated, middle class, ex-urban left wing greenie, I have always celebrated the commonalities with friends and colleagues who could equally be described as right wing, working class, libertarian, rural rednecks. Celebrating diversity rather than monoculture is one of the best known permaculture principles. Just as we don’t discriminate between good and bad biodiversity (all plants and animals are part of nature), we don’t judge good and bad social diversity.
Over the last decade I have been increasingly alienated from the growing ideological rigidity on the so called progressive green left and, as a greenie with a chainsaw and a gun licence, willingly accepted that I will always be a fringe dweller, despite the minor fame and respect for being the co-originator of permaculture.
It has not surprised me that Covid has seen most on the green left become evangelists for “The Science” generated by big pharma and big government. However it has been more sobering to witness the struggles of my permaculture colleagues with this issue. While I refuse to judge my peers for their personal decisions, I am equally ready to acknowledge brave and practical folk of very different perspectives and experiences who have found their voice and action in growing resistance. May we offer ‘Aussie St’ and RetroSuburbia, powered by permaculture ethics and design principles, as our contribution to the fertile resistance. Let’s use our common experience to increase both our solidarity and acceptance of diversity, while maintaining our connections to our respective families, friends and peers still working within, or even for, the system that we reject and resist.
Co-originator of permaculture