decentralize the centralized to realize the real lies
and you just might see with real eyes (couldn't resist)
Before getting into this week’s essay, I’d like to pause for just a wee moment. I have an ask of you. I’m returning to my once weekly Substack offering next week as I dedicate more time to complete my real, paper and pen efforts at completing my book.
My Substack account has grown steadily since I started it in September, 2021. I came here not knowing what to expect and I was met with support and meaningful engagement in ways I didn’t know were possible from behind a screen. Thank you. I spend a great deal of time and effort in sharing meaningful, useful information and honest essays with you all. Having you read my words is an honour I don’t take lightly.
Here’s the ‘ask’ part. If you’ve considered going paid, now would be a great time to do it. I’m closing in on the 20,000 subscriber mark (whoa, Nelly!) but my paid subscribers are holding fast at 7% ish. Substack says that 5-10% is the norm for paid subscribers so I’m in there, but I’d like to go for the 10%.
As I move forward with my work here, my one week (instead of two) essays will also include some of the other round-ups and resources I often share on Saturdays. It will now just all be in one post. Chats will continue during the week and Q&As will still be offered intermittently. But most of my content will be reserved for paid subscribers with the odd entry shared with all. Please consider a paid subscription if you’re able. If not, I will continue to post some content accessible to all. And, if you know someone that you think would enjoy my content, please share. I’d love to see that 20,000 membership number pop up on my screen, free or paid.
One last bit. Over the last two years I have given away free subscriptions to dozens of people. I have never turned anyone away that asked for a free subscription. That said, if there are those of you out there with the financial means that are willing to donate a subscription, that goes a long way. I have to cap things somewhere and it works out nicely when I have a little reserve tucked aside to draw on when those that want to be here just truly can’t afford to be.
Thank you for your ongoing support and engagement. And now, onto this week’s essay.
When I was but a wee lass living on the Canadian Prairie, I was surrounded by all of the things a small community needed. We had a little steepled church across our dusty gravel road. There was a garbage dump and a doctor. We went to the Mennonites and the Hutterites to buy down filled quilts and pillows, honey and hams. The school bus was filled with me and my cousins and the kids living like satellites around our local small town. My dad used to bring me into a little bakery in town to buy cream puffs, made fresh every morning. They were his favourite. The owners of the bakery used to comb through their offerings and pick me out the cream puff with the most cream.
When we were building things, my father went to the small, locally owned hardware store. When we got gas, we fuelled up at Robinson and Sons fuels (or something like that). The first (and last) time I stole anything was from a little stationary store my parents were perusing. I loved stickers back then and the big black one of a cigarette with a red slash over it was too shiny and cool to resist. I was so proud of it that as soon as we left the store I slid it out of the back pocket of my Levis and showed it to my parents. I was immediately marched back into the store to make my sobbing confession to the store owner. He thanked me for my honesty and then sternly told me to never take what wasn’t mine again. Horror of horrors! I never did steal anything again.
Everything we needed was in our grasp. Our energy was dispersed and maintained by smaller, local companies. Our municipalities were many, each with their own concerns and focus governed by neighbours and community members. The news came to us through local newspapers and the AM radio station. And while we were slowly but steadily marching towards centralization, we didn’t yet recognize it.
Over time we have seen schools amalgamating into mega-schools. Energy companies were bought out by bigger ones. Shell signs started popping up on little mom and pop gas stations. Department stores got bigger and vied to be your one-stop-shop. Hamlets were combined with villages which were folded into towns, all to make them bigger and easier to govern. Today, we have vast areas and businesses all lassoed together.
Every last thing in our lives has come under the purview of centralization. From libraries to healthcare to our food supply. Somewhere along the line the powers that be saw in centralization the ability to standardize, to save money, to make money. They saw efficiencies. As a result, there’s been a continuous eroding of decentralized economies ever since.
Wikipedia explains centralization thus:
Centralisation or centralization is the process by which the activities of an entity or organization, particularly those regarding planning, decision-making and control of strategies and policies, become concentrated within a particular group, sector, department or region within that entity or organization.
For decades we’ve all been asleep at the wheel as they’ve offered us convenience after convenience. So interwoven into our fabric of reality that we hardly know how to exist without them. We’ve been assured that costs would go down as the efficiencies of centralization were made manifest. We were told healthcare would get better, the cost of living would decline while the quality of our lives would increase. The more streamlined the offerings, the better for all.
Now it takes nary a fraction of a percentage of brain power to see how “centralization” feeds into the hungry globalization monster. How ever did we get to this place where the WHO and UN are drafting policies that allow them to govern countries when they determine it’s necessary? How can we all swallow our leaders signing away our autonomy and sovereignty as countries to foreign bodies? There was a time that would be called treason. Today it’s called progress.
Now that we’re the living embodiment of the mighty centralization monster, it seems like a good time to look around and take stock. Medicine has been completely taken over by the pharmaceutical companies. That started a hundred years ago or so with Rockefeller changing the whole way we approach health (well, he did need to find a use for his petroleum byproducts, and certainly did with pharmaceuticals). Today, the pharmaceutical companies have infiltrated the schools that teach, the journals that review, and the very practice of medicine itself. If you think your doctor has the right to prescribe or treat at their discretion, you are wrong. They are mandated to follow the “standard of care” - a recipe written for them by the centralized pharma companies that stand to profit. We say “side effects”, pharma says “future earnings”.
An equally obvious example of the destructive results of centralization is our food supply. You don’t need a PhD for that one. Just go to an economically depressed area or even your local gas station where people buy their lunches. Our meat supply is mostly owned by a few huge players. JBS SA is the biggest of those with abattoirs around the world providing most of the world’s meat supply. They’ve recently announced that they’re getting into “cultivated meat”. Their growth at all costs model, the same model shared by all centralized entities, is no longer providing the profits they desire. But, whaddya’ know, the “climate crisis” has opened the door of possibilities. They can make food from nothing at all - genetically engineered yeasts and fungi, and rake in the dollars still.
There is no end to the greed and perversions of the rulers of centralization. There is no end. There is no waiting for governance to fix anything. It’s up to us to decentralize. It’s our responsibility. We can’t defeat that type of power and influence with protest or complaint. We have to build parallel systems. We have to reclaim the hamlet mentality if our children and grandchildren will inherit anything at all. Or maybe we just coast along while we’re here (we might just make it out before everything snaps) and let our descendants deal with what it is to live as a meaningless pleb, consuming what’s on offer.
The fine print on the great centralization sell is obscured so that people will buy in initially. Once sold, and the governors are governing, it becomes increasingly difficult to pull back those powers. In Canada, we have a little something called “supply management” for our dairy farmers. What started as a way to ensure dairy farmers were given a fair wage has turned into a monopoly that shuts out young and small farmers. It’s exactly why there is nowhere in Canada where you can buy raw milk. We will never be able to legally buy raw milk unless and until the milk board finds a way to make it profitable via licensing and commercialization. Some things just don’t work well when you try to make them fit under a megalithic monopoly.
Medicine is the same. We know that when we see a doctor they will prescribe the medications of the big pharmaceutical companies. It really is the primary, and in the case of most general and specialist doctors, the only tool in their toolbox. When we go to fill our prescriptions, we expect the pharmacist to fill what the doctor has ordered. And in this model, a framework of thinking is sold that pervades our very selves. We have become mechanized and isolated into parts.
I thought it might be an interesting experiment to take a close look at how much of our lives are governed by centralized forces vs. decentralized ones. In order to do this I sat down and took a close look at our budget. I’m not buying my meat from JBS SA, but I’m buying energy and gas and clothes. There are all sorts of areas that we can dig into to hold ourselves accountable. And what better way to get a good visual of where we’re at than with a handy dandy pie chart? I decided to use our budget as a map to our spending which, of course, is what we’re supporting.
Within each slice of the pie is a story that we can dig into. Let’s start with “energy”. We have electricity that comes to us from our electric company, Hydro One. That’s the only option where I live. Hydro One was once owned by our province, but was sold off in chunks to private investors. Since that time, electricity has gone up exponentially. I’ve explained before why we have chosen to stay on the grid until there is no more grid. Instead of solar (which has it’s own problems), we’ve invested that money into other systems that don’t rely on finite resources to keep them going.
So, there are variables we can and can’t control here. Electricity is coming from one source, but what about the rest of our energy sources? We get propane delivered here. There is no ‘natural gas’ piped to homes where I live. We can buy our propane from a large, national fuel company that is a subsidiary of a mega gas/oil company or we can get our propane from a small, local company. Other than wanting to support smaller businesses, the relationship we’ve built with the smaller company has allowed us to keep a propane tank without “signalling technology” that tells the company how much you’re using and when, and has them automatically come out to fill your tank. Ahhh.. sweet convenience. No thanks. Our little propane company gave us an old fashioned tank. Every spring we talk to our fella’ in the office and they give us a locked in rate for the year based on the year’s best pricing. We’ve saved a lot of money that away. The other company has AI bots that tell you nothing.
It’s the same with our gas stations. Yes, we can buy from the big gas stations in town, but we’d rather support some little station that still pumps our gas for free (or at least just does things to support the community like buying team jerseys for our hockey team).
A main source of our heat is wood. My husband, Troy, chops both our wood and the tinder that gets the fires going. We have enough wood in our forest to keep us in good stead for many lifetimes. But we also buy half of our wood from a neighbour. He’s such a character and my husband has come to really enjoy their visits. He comes here with a dump trailer and I can always hear the two of them laughing and chatting away from a great distance. When he has access to interesting wood species, like walnut or butternut, he brings us whole logs for my husband to mill. We’ve bought whole truckloads of pine logs from him for the same reason. We don’t need home depot for wood, we mill our own.
So within the wedge of energy costs there is centralized and decentralized navigated as best we can. Within there’s degrees of nuance. When we buy gas from a small, independent gas station, it’s obviously coming from the same place as the bigger gas stations. There’s a few big players distributing gas. It’s the same if you’re buying solar panels or propane. But within our power is the ability to direct our dollars into people and businesses that are actually still existing that haven’t been swallowed up by bigger corporations quite yet.
Another example of this is food. For us, eating from our own farm, things are a little different than for those of you that buy your food. But how you buy your food is probably one of the most important places you can choose to direct your dollars.
Covid seemed to be the first time in recent history that people woke up to the idea that food was finite and that grocery stores might not always have their shelves overflowing. I remember seeing images of snaking lines at Costco extending out into the parking lot as people waited to buy food. That is centralization in action. That is dependancy.
You know what I’m going to say. Decentralizing our food supply is not a nice little label slapped on an apple that says “local”. Decentralizing our food supply is connecting and nourishing, yes, but it’s also survival. If we do not do what must be done to encourage and support our small, local farmers now, there will be no small, local farmers. Look what’s happening to farmers in the Netherlands and other parts of the world. If you don’t think there’s a reason these big food corporations have decided to put their dollars into fake meats and synthetic offerings, despite the demand not being there, you’re simply not understanding the situation. Where there is nothing on offer, but what they want to offer, you will eat the soylent green.
Decentralized food may mean you have to go to one farm for eggs and another for milk. It may look inconvenient, and you can choose to view it that way if you want. Or you could also choose to get involved and see it as a way to learn and build relationships. When we used to buy raw milk, I spent a morning every week working on the farm that supplied our nourishment. I would wash bottles and shovel shit. I started a distribution hub so I could add a dollar or two onto every bottle of milk to cover the cost of the gas I used driving the three hours round trip to pick up the milk. I made friends in our distribution group and got to chat with people of like mind when I was feeling pretty isolated in how we lived. What would the convenience of a bottle of milk from the grocery store have gotten me (other than inflammation from the dead/pasteurized stuff)? Well it’s mindless and easy, but there’s always a price for those two things.
One of the areas we’ve gotten very serious about is cash/investments. Within that piece of the pie is a story of much discussion and learning recently. Everywhere there are warnings about centralized bank digital currencies. Our money is numbers on a screen. And then, in parallel, murmurings of cyber attacks and internet collapse. How assured we are of the safety and permanence of this digital world. I’m not. It’s why we also collect books and put things on paper. It’s nice while it’s here, but we can already see how the march towards censorship and regulation is likely to change things altogether. I sometimes spend a little brain power on how I will navigate such things and I come up with mailing paper newsletters one day. That might just be quite nice. But I digress…
Cash and money in the bank. We use cash as much as we can use cash. We use cash to save cash otherwise it will be gone. The bank and the government need not know every last dime I spend and where. When I pay in cash I have autonomy. But what to do with cash in the bank? We all know those numbers in our bank accounts are not based in reality. There’s no money there, it’s just a symbol of some transaction, but that money is long gone, shuffled off somewhere to make the bank rich. Well, I don’t want to invest in the things the bank does. I don’t want my money going to Black Rock or Monsanto. I also don’t trust that my money is safe in those accounts.
Look, I’m no financial guru, I just read and learn from them. And I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone else how they should direct their funds, but we’ve decided our comfort lives in the tangible. No surprise there, it’s how we are in all facets of our lives. We’ve used our money recently to build a root cellar and stock ourselves with the tools and supplies we need when these centralized systems fail. We’ve put our dollars towards aggressively tackling our mortgage. We have bought our cars in cash. We don’t want loans or liens. We want paper deeds and ownership. Is it full proof? No, of course not, but it is what’s in our power to do.
To that end, we removed money from any sort of government savings vehicle like RRSPs (I’m not sure what they’re called in other countries, but it’s the same idea of investing to protect taxes owing until you withdraw the funds and then pay tax when you’re making less income as a retired person). Years ago we also took out our money from mutual funds. We each have a small military pension for as long as that lasts. We use that as cash. We buy gold and silver with our savings. We also buy other commodities that we think will be valuable as barter and trade in the future.
In Canada, our socialized medical system has shown the folly of centralization for a good long while. But let’s not deceive ourselves. Whether you live under socialist medicine or not, we can all see how the model of allopathic medicine has been controlled by the pharmaceutical companies since, well, since it’s inception. Somehow, everyone has agreed that the model of “mainstream” medicine on offer is THE medicine we will all be subjected to. No, not participate in, they want us to now abide by it. Other modalities are quackery. Science is god, even when that science is manipulated.
Our government takes our taxes and directs them where it wants to. I have no say about how much of our money goes to the behemoth, ravenous sick care system. I take what’s left of the money they’ve plundered and direct it to the real life healers in our midst. I buy books from healers that teach. I give money to healers that heal. I want to keep this underground world alive and thriving. So in the health category, is the money I can’t control and the money I can. They take my money whether I use that broken medical system or not. We don’t use it. Word on the street is that soon they will have digital IDs under our health care cards. That means I won’t have access to health care even if I wanted it because I’d sooner eat shoelaces than get that card.
From the clothes we buy to the toothpaste we use, everything that we spend money on can fall under the deciphering lens of centralized/decentralized. Centralization has manipulation bred into the very model because there is dependency there. There is faceless humans prioritizing profit and efficiencies over life and relationship. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do about some facets of our monetary exchanges, but sometimes, just backing up a step or two, we can make small choices with big impacts. Maybe we drive a few minutes out of town and buy our lumber from a small, independent mill. Maybe we find a craftsman to build our windows instead of ordering them from home depot. Maybe we trade in the grocery store for the farmers market or a CSA box. Maybe we buy our clothes from small companies either online or in person.
I recently purchased some wool from a local woman who raises sheep. She regaled me with stories about a lamb she recently nursed back to health. She told me about the plants she used to dye the wool I was buying. She experimented for a good, long time to come up with just the shade of brown in the wool I was holding in my hands. It was a purchase with a smile and a conversation. I asked if she would be able to make wool in a similar shade but lighter. And then, just like that, it was a purchase with a customizable option, both of us excited by the possibilities.
We can do that with most of our lives. From socks and butter to knives and candles. Some of the things we get will be closer to the source, some will be further, but there are still options to explore. And while we have those options, we need to be using them. In every purchase, the consideration of whether we are moving ourselves closer to dependancy or sovereignty. It seems a handy, honest metric to me.