Dropping out

December 5, 2006

There’s a fascinating discussion happening on Living in a Van Down by the River about dropping out. It started off with a worrying attempt to define what dropping out was until Devin turned up and reminded everyone that “Dropping out is not a fucking club”.

He pretty much summed up the spirit of dropping out at the same.  Aside from the semantic impossibility of being ‘in’ an ‘out’ club there is also the danger of creating a new ‘thing’ that would merely end up being something else we need to drop out of. It’s something that seems to happen to most ‘out’ groups, often because they are co-opted back into the system but if not then because the whole act of creating the ‘in’ group is such a civilised behaviour.

Ran has talked about the difficulty of finding a phrase to describe how  he lives and acknowledges that he’s uses ‘dropout’ because there doesn’t seem to be anything better. The biggest problem I have with the word which is that it doesn’t reflect the dynamic nature of what we are trying to do round these parts. It’s widely acknowledged that people within the system do their damnedest to avoid change but we all need to be aware that it’s our journey and not where we are relative to others that’s important with dropping out,

The town I live in is considered to be a pretty radical place, full of hippies and other non-conformists but after living here for 5 years it’s become apparent that the hippy style is just that; a style. It’s something for people to wrap their identity around and I’ve become aware that people who I once thought were quite radical haven’t changed the whole time I’ve known them and even worse they give me the same looks that purely mainstream people do if I talk about something that extends them. I actually feel kind of let-down by the situation, they’re just as conservative as right wingers, the only difference is where they started from.

Although I’m wary of creating a definition of dropout I am also being pretty clear that a dropout should be defined by their movement. This means that if (for instance) Casemeau were to spend the rest of his days living in his van and not changing then I would say he was clearly less of a dropout than a corporate paper shuffler who is saving up their money to buy a homestead out of town.

All that aside though, there is a point where ‘dropout’ has even bigger problems which is that it defines us totally in relationship to civilisation. I think it’s awesome when people start to detach themselves from the system and it’s great to see how far they get. My hat’s off to each and every one of you but at some point we need to stop looking over our shoulder and figure out where we actually want to go. Not just because we’d be in a better position to inspire others to join but because it’s something we really need to do – maybe more than anything else.

All through this debate the issue of how we civilised people lack a proper identity is pinpointed as a major issue, we’re aware of how it even threatens to derail the discussion itself. My hope is that the task of building a new culture that properly suits us, preferably with other people, will help to ground our identities. Maybe it’s the other way around – or maybe it’s work that has to be done concurrently.

It’s hard to know how it will all work out but the very act of undertaking this kind of journey will undoubtedly bring us into conflict with inner demons, it’ll be pretty obvious when we need to take our eyes off the horizon and turn inward and fortunately for us there are those who have already trodden this path.



  1. “My hat’s off to each and every one of you but at some point we need to stop looking over our shoulder and figure out where we actually want to go.”

    I have a feeling that many of us have trouble reading this sentence, or will just opt to pretend they didn’t read it.

    Who is going to sacrifice the opportunity to be proven “right” about everything they complain about and see coming?

    Apocalypse = a term applied to the disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the mass of humankind

    Posted by: Ian | 12/05/2006

    It hadn’t really occured to me that people would react that way to that sentence, I was just hoping to highlight the need to inspire people but you’re probably right. The need for constant self-vindication is powerful, I know I have to contantly be wary of it in myself. As soon as I let my guard down I start doing stupid stuff like tailoring blog posts so that they will get a good response – it can be pretty powerful.

    Posted by: Aaron | 12/06/2006

    in the comments on this topic at the LIAVDBTR blog, Marcy made what I thought was the most succinct profound comment there. To paraphrase, she said “we all do what we feel is right at any given moment”. How about “at every given moment?” What else can ANYONE ever do, or has ANYONE ever done, besides what they felt/thought/believed was right at the moment they acted? To glimpse the full implication of really understanding this, even for a millisecond, i suspect would have a profound effect on someone. maybe I don’t really get it, but I have a feeling there’s something very profound there. and maybe I “get” that much, at least. This make sense to anyone?

    Posted by: kyle | 12/06/2006

    Yeah, Kyle. That makes a lot of sense.

    What’s pretty amazing is that from that perspective, there is no room for judgment. People are where they are, people are who they are. We all do the best we can with what we’ve got. Period.

    The point then becomes not convincing other people that they’re wrong or bad or evil and they need to change, but instead sharing your story with them and enjoying the play of a mutual relationship. It’s a pretty fucking amazing transformation, and relationships like this I’ve found to be exceedingly rare.

    – Devin

    Posted by: Devin | 12/06/2006

    If anyone knows how to ‘share your story’ with someone and ‘enjoy the play of a mutual relationship’ without feeling anxious about the differences please let me know. I’d sure be a nice thing.

    Posted by: Aaron | 12/07/2006

    Kyle said:
    in the comments on this topic at the LIAVDBTR blog, Marcy made what I thought was the most succinct profound comment there.

    Hey, thanks Kyle. Imagine that. I’m profound and succinct. :-)

    Posted by: Marcy | 12/08/2006

    marcy…. now you can put “profound and succinct” on your resume’ That alone should get you some good jobs!! But seriously, i think that one statement of yours says a lot, and Devins’ comment above is a nice extension of it. I just remembered that the 1st step of one 12 step group is “realized we were powerless over others”. Funny how we have to get so disillusioned and despairing before we(at least myself) become open enough to understand something like your comment and willing to risk living by it . And Aaron, I don’t know how to do what you asked because I still feel anxious most of the time when there’s serious conflict,still wanting to considered nice, etc. by others. i guess there is no how, or that everyones’ “how” is different and may only work for them, but we can adopt aspects of others’ “hows” that seem right to make our own “how”.

    And I’ll second devins’ comment that relationships like this are exceedingly rare, which may be why there are so few people who are truly at peace. But better to have a clue than no clue at all.

    this has been a good thread, it’s fun to see evryones’ take on it. It helps dispel the feeling of being “out of touch with reality” when I hear others’ validating these things.

    Posted by: kyle | 12/12/2006

  2. […] amazed at how sophisticated this dropout discussion has become since it was started almost accidentally by […]

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