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SASM 052: Why Simple is So Complex with Vicki Robin, Duane Elgin, John de Graaf, Cecile Andrews, and Jerome Segal

The Simplicity ForumNote: Don't miss the special written recap section below for all the great stuff you didn't get to hear in the audio.

*****

Do you ever try to chase a rabbit back up a hole?

I rewind conversations all the time to double back on where they started or branched off. But answering how I rounded up Duane Elgin, Vicki Robin, John de Graaf, Cecile Andrews, and Jerome Segal – five simple living all-stars – for a casual conversation took some time.

Before my story, let me give you the tip of the iceberg on each of these amazing people:

How, here's a brief timeline showing how persistence and follow-up plays out:

  1. In December 2013, I asked my pal Joshua Becker if he could connect me with anyone on a list of folks to help shape the vision for SimpleREV.
  2. Joshua emails Duane Elgin on my behalf in January 2014.
  3. I follow-up with Duane in early February 2014 and we strike up an email correspondence.
  4. Duane and I hop on Skype in mid-February to discuss SimpleREV and our collective missions. He recommends I speak with Vicki Robin, a fellow member of The Simplicity Forum, and I keep emailing Vicki until we arrange a chat for mid-April.
  5. Vicki and I have a lovely phone conversation. She also floats the idea of having me facilitate a conference call reunion of sorts with some members of The Simplicity Forum. Of course, I say, “Yes please!”
  6. Vicki introduces me to “the gang” via email on April 17 and, after lots of emails, many of them agree to have me coordinate a recorded call.
  7. On May 14, I host a conference call with Duane, Vicki, John, Cecile, and Jerome. Their experience and intellectual firepower blows me away.

As I continue to follow the simplicity rabbit down, sideways, and up a bunch of holes, I marvel at one fact: I had never heard of any of these dynamic people until December 2013.

Unfortunately, you won't hear Vicki or John's voice in this episode because of some audio issues while recording. And except for when Jerome and I were speaking, everyone had some level of echo that we couldn't do anything about.

So I've added a special section to these show notes below recapping the entire conversation. Don't let the manageable audio issues stop you from listening to this one all the way through. It's worth it.

You're about to Learn …

  • Why you should demand TV broadcasters stop hypnotizing us into hyper-consumerism.
  • How the U.S. is the most inefficient society … ever.
  • Why we all need to be able to walk away from the economy.
  • How many types of simplicity there are (and where to find the cookbook).
  • Why simple living isn't liberal, conservative, or tied to politics.
  • How to opt-out of the “getting” part of the economy.
  • Why simplicity is a freedom movement toward meaningfulness.

Resources and Items Mentioned in This Episode:

Topics

  • [04:36] Duane talks about replacing complex, unsustainable systems
  • [06:16] Jerome talks about replacing complex, unsustainable systems
  • [12:10] Cecile talks about reframing the real issues we face
  • [15:00] Duane talks about reframing the real issues we face
  • [17:50] Jerome talks about reframing the real issues we face

Joel's Written Recap of People's Comments

This is a special section highlighting the essence of everyone's answers to my two core questions:

  1. How do we replace the systems preventing humans from making the simple, sustainable choice the default one?
  2. What actions would you like people to pursue and how do you frame the issues around them?

Here's what everybody had to say (whether it was part of the audio or not).

Replacing Systems to Make the Simple Choice the Easy One

  • Duane Elgin: TV is hypnotizing us every day to have a high-consumption mindset. Tell broadcasters, “You are doing the public a disservice – which you reach on publicly-owned airwaves – with the content and advertising you are putting out.”
  • Vicki Robin: We've worked long and hard to relocalize and create sustainable practices, but we haven't come far. Part of this is due to the corporate takeover of politics. We need to reclaim our economy at the local level and organizations like the Post Carbon Institute can help.
  • John de Graaf: There's an assumption that our economy will collapse without ever-present growth. We need to address and challenge that ingrained assumption, particularly through public policy. For example, in Netherlands, government policy allows people to reduce their work hours and employers must comply with those wishes. People don't lose their livelihood when they do that … they just get a salary cut.
  • Cecile Andrews: We're running around mindless without taking time to reflect. Jerome's concept of time thievery in an article he wrote in Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly makes it difficult for people to enjoy the pleasures of simplicity. “Time thievery,” comes in many forms; often they seem too petty to merit a public policy response, but in truth we have become a society in danger of “being nibbled to death by ducks.” Think about the traffic jam, tax preparation, and health insurance red tape and you're just scratching the surface.
  • Jerome Segal: We should be able to withdraw from the “getting” and consuming part of life to do what's inherently valuable to us (and wholly unrelated to the economy). Basic needs should be thought about in social, functional terms like being able to live in a safe neighborhood or have access to good public schools.

How to Frame Our Big Issues

  • Duane Elgin: “Simplicity” is not a hot topic for Americans today, but he's never focused on this theme based on its popularity. If we don't deal with consumerism, then we are ignoring the key driver for climate disruption. At the same time, there's no cookbook for simplicity. It's a personal path. And that personal path is aided by disconnecting from a strongly pro-consumer mass media.
  • Vicki Robin: She used the term “simplicity” back in the day because it's what people used to talk about their pain and their longing. But now Vicki thinks life is complex and she loves the complexity as a basis of learning and innovation. Simplicity is more of a spiritual promise than a practical one these days. But no matter how you look at it, food is a huge bridge issue for everyone. Food is intimately tied to politics, health, nature, self-reliance, corporate policy, and much more. Let's get people involved in systems that have a human bottom line, not a corporate one.
  • John de Graaf: We need a maximum income as much as we need a minimum income. Also, he believes that President Lyndon Johnson's “Great Society” speech of 1964 is more relevant today than it was fifty years ago.
  • Cecile Andrews: Build community at any level that you can. In clubs, neighborhoods … everywhere. Help people find an alternate vision of what could be; something other than a world where money rules all.
  • Jerome Segal: Simple living isn't liberal or conservative, for Christians or atheists, or for any specific group. It's for everyone. Simplicity is more a movement around freedom and liberation than anything else. But the question is: what liberates you? For Jerome, freedom is an economy that will allow us to sacrifice income to have meaningful work.

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Transcript

The transcript will not be available until I find a new transcriptionist (if you know someone good, let me know).

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