What’s Good For The Goose Is Patronizing The Hell Out Of The Gander

I came across Technomads.net today. Apparently this is a ‘movement’ of people who try to minimize how much stuff they own, and almost religiously emphasize the experience of life over its consumerist detritus. There’s a New York Times article and everything.

This is a really interesting and positive idea, and its good people are questioning the extent our stuff lock us into situations which we wouldn’t choose if we walked into them from scratch. But I can’t get over how self-righteous the messaging is.

The website’s tagline begins ‘BE EVERYWHERE. GO ANYWHERE. GET RID OF YOUR STUFF AND BE HAPPIER BECAUSE OF IT’. The first post says ‘Savoring life starts with a mindset’.

Humans have this built-in mechanism where we mistake our preferences for principles. You want to give up your home in LA and spend a few months at a time living in various awesome cities around the world? Have a blast. But there’s no indication that other people would be happier if they did this.

I’ve lived like a technomad during my time in Copenhagen, not out of any BoingBoingian religious dogma, but just because I’m always subletting apartments. I move every six months on average, so I don’t buy anything I’ll have to take with me. Personally, I really like my stuffless existence. The impermanence removes a lot of the buy-maintain-repair-replace stress I had in my stuff-oriented life back home.

But this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Lots of people would find moving to a new apartment every few months and living surrounded by other people’s stuff a lot more stressful than, say, owning a couch. People pride in their homes and their permanence. That’s totally fine. There’s nothing wrong with creating a warm, inviting beaver dam where you feel comfortable.

There’s no principle at play here, only preferences. If you like being a technomad, go be one. If you’re a nester, do likewise. It’s nice that the technomads are drawing our attention to the fact that we don’t have to own a bunch of stuff, but I don’t think most people would actually  consider a garage sale and one-way tickets to Berlin a recipe for de-stressing.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “What’s Good For The Goose Is Patronizing The Hell Out Of The Gander

  1. Brandon Mayo

    Phew. Glad you walked away from that religion, otherwise I was prepared to fight you over my couch 🙂

  2. elephantwoman

    I have a foot in both camps and feel the urge to nest along with the urge to live a stuffless life. Ultimately, it’s “different strokes for different folks”, right? When I’m living abroad I don’t have much(and the recent burglary meant I lost all my valuables anyway); but on the weekend we found a district selling antique furniture and I kind of wished that I could accumulate some more stuff. I love visiting homes that are full of personal history, reflections of past travels etc.

    But the New York Times and its ilk are always trying to define movements and trends and the zeitgeist — and they always seem to single out a subset of people that are different to 90% of their peers. At the end of the day, I find most people are pretty conventional, and I don’t exclude myself entirely from the 90% either.

  3. I find this “preference not principle” idea can be applied to a lot of things in life, particularly politics. Not all problems and their solutions need be a life and death struggle between good and evil, right and wrong. Sometimes it is just preferences. You like greatly restricted government? Great! You would prefer a Scandinavian welfare state (I live in Norway)? That’s great too! Not right or wrong, just different preferences and values.

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