Although the rise of mega-cities raises disturbing questions about living standards and livelihoods, the spread of city living is not all bad, says Tom Hodgkinson
In various articles and books, I have often praised the old ways. The most recent edition of the Idler is called Back to the Land, and we have taken inspiration from William Morris and the like, as well as the writers on husbandry of old, such as Columella and Virgil. The great radical journalist of the early 20th century, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, wrote, 'we must go back to freedom or forward to slavery'. At the same time, I have attacked projects like Facebook, because of the avowed anti-nature views of its principal backer, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel.
However, something niggles. Well, a couple of things niggle, in actual fact, about this view. One is the phenomenon of the Chinese mega-city. I have been reading about Chongqing, which is one such of these developments. Chongquing is a city numbering over 30 million inhabitants. Yes, 30 million. It's exactly like Mega-City One, the gigantic metropolis imagined by the geniuses behind the comic 2000AD. Mega-City... Read More...
Find the hidden entrepreneur in you to free yourself from slavery to corporate and state authority, says Tom Hodgkinson
It may not sound terribly idle at first sight, but one of the best ways to free yourself from slavery to corporation or state bureaucracy is to start your own business. Indeed, it is the only real way: the idler is an entrepreneur. But to run your own business, you need to put in a certain amount of disciplined toil, and I’m afraid this is unavoidable.
However, the amount of disciplined toil that you need to put in need not be onerous. In fact, there is a new breed of spirited American dropout who are retiring early. Very early: at the age of 30 or before. Through a combination of rigorous cost-cutting—no car, no phone, no television—and ingenuity, they are managing to live very well on just a few hours work each week. So rather than whingeing about government cuts, this is a very good time to grab the reins of your life and reinvent yourself as a dynamic 21st century idler, with a dream in your heart and time on your hands.
Tom launches the Idler Academy to teach us good grammar, sadly lacking practical skills like carpentry and lastly, of course, merriment
Last weekend at the Port Eliot Festival, I launched the début outing of the Idler’s Academy for Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment.
This is a scheme that I had been turning over in my head for some years. I’d read that the medieval school curriculum consisted of grammar, logic and rhetoric, and these three subjects seemed to me to be far superior to the Viking empathy and Diwali awareness classes that get taught today.
My equivalents for the modern age were thinking, doing and partying, and it struck me that in actual fact, these disciplines need to be taught. They are not necessarily inborn.
I also had in mind the Epicurean school of Ancient Rome, where young men retreated from the distractions of the city and devoted themselves to quiet contemplation, study and art. For the Greeks, education was synonymous with lesiure: the Greek word for free time is skolia, from where we derive our word for school.
The point... Read More...
Tom partied in the fields of Somerset last weekend like the best of them, but the commercial and environmental impact of Glastonbury left a sour taste in his mouth
I have just returned from five days at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. Each year this gigantic and spectacular event takes place at around Midsummer Day, which is 24 June.
It was a treat to witness such a spectacular outpouring of creativity, whether it was the musical feast of Gorillaz on the Pyramid stage, the fantastic cityscape sculptures of Block Nine, or the House of Fairy Tales in the Park field, where brilliant musicians, artists, journalists, gardeners and actors helped children make music, put on plays and produce fanzines.
Another treat this year was the composting loos provided by the company Natural Events, whose director Hamish Skermer gave an enlightening talk on what we might call Pooconomics in the Free University of Glastonbury. I now plan to install a composting toilet at home. And this is the best of Glastonbury: it can inspire and motivate outside of the festival walls.
However, something niggles about the whole thing.... Read More...
Idleness usually sees Tom through most of life's trials. But not gardening. Oh no. Nature took one look and ran amok
As part of my research for a new book I have been reading Virgil. For those of you who have forgotten, Virgil was a Roman poet who lived from 70 BC to 19 BC. He is famous for three poems, the Eclogues, the Georgics and the Aeneid. In the Eclogues, Virgil praises the state of noble idleness. The most famous line from the poem is deus nobis haec otia fecit, meaning, ‘God has made this leisure for us’.
This phrase has been widely adopted as a sort of motto. It is, for example, the slogan for the city of Liverpool. It was used by Dr Johnson as the epigram to his first Idler essay of 1758. And Paul Lafargue, Karl Marx’s son-in-law, used the line in his essay ‘The Right to be Lazy’, in order to prove that ‘otia’ or leisure was approved by the ancients.
It was ‘otia’ that I had in mind when I started to cultivate my own garden. I wanted to lie... Read More...
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