The Minimalist Menufesto
How to Save the World by Saving Yourself
Americans aren’t free. We’re slaves. Owned by the man in the Big house; the Big house is Big Oil, Big Auto, Big Food, and Big Banks, you know, the ones that are too Big to fail—Big Companies; the people we work for who spin our energy, creativity and sweat into gold for themselves.
They give us a paycheck to help them milk the wealth from our land in the form of fossil fuel, minerals, raw materials and food; pay us to process it into pretty, Twinkie-packages of stuff that we ‘just can’t live without’, and then sell it back to us and others at a profit that puts them on easy street.
They’re clever masters and don’t use shackles that can be seen. You feel them on your spirit though, don’t you? If you do, read on. If not, get back into your harness, look down, and pull. I have a vision of a column of soldiers of the Wicked Witch of the West’s. They’re outside of her castle marching in across the draw bridge uttering that haunting, lifeless marching chant of the zombie cadre, “Yo ho, yo oh e oh.” That sound slowly mutates to a drum cadence increasing to ramming speed.
Row well and live
We need to get more than uppity; a revolution for freedom is required like they did in Tunisia, Egypt and in an America I read about as a kid. America has become the company store. Do you ever feel like your paycheck is company script? Owe your soul to the company store? Do you ever see yourself as a Joad family member like in the Grapes of Wrath, picking peaches until you drop, and then spending all your earnings in the company store to get a little food for enough energy to do the same thing the next day? The twelve labors of Hercules were trifling compared to this Sisyphusian task, for there were only a dozen, and had an end.
Look up! Hear that distant sound, a moan in the wind? It’s time to look for the Underground Railroad to freedom. Waiting for government to lead you to freedom won’t work, it’s owned by Big companies. That train coming is the internet and social networking. Maybe it’s time to open up a can of civil disobedience on the Bigs. Want to be a little Thoreau-ish with me? Some people might say you’re out of your mind.
We need to be. Our minds put those shackles on. Changing your mind is the key that unlocks them. Big company’s advertising snapped them on us with thought controls that we’ve been subjected to for years on TV, print media, movies and radio. It’s not a mere random cultural convention that we just happened to be the uber-consumers of the world. No wonder foreigners see us as the Ugly Americans; if their main view of us is our corkscrew tails always squirming to get at an always higher Madison Avenue contrived teat.
Bigs hypnotize us to buy their cars, and widgets, eat their junk, sign their mortgages and IOUs. Then they own you. We try to keep up with the Joneses even when they’re heading off a cliff. Time for a paradigm shift.
See where they’ve led us so far; a few vanity pounds, or a lot overweight, behind on the car note and/or the house, and/or the credit cards; too tired, too busy selling out to the man to exercise like we know we should. Always too short of time to be creative and follow our dream? Are you too harried to be with the people you love, and doing the things you love to do? Even if you’re not there, can you see it coming?
You have lots of stuff, right? Make you happy? Our stuff owns us. Just like they wanted, the Bigs have got us by the medulla oblongata. Reprogram yourself. All we need is a few new synapses to override the existing mindset. You need a guide, a map, and a nudge in the right direction. The Minimalist Menufesto may be it for you. It’s a plan and a goal. It’s absolutely free.
What’s to stop you? Social pressure? Be clear, it’ll be there. We’re social animals. It’s hard-wired into us. Peer pressure is powerful stuff. In a psychology course in college, I studied an experiment where people got onto an elevator with eight people already on it all faced the wrong way, the opposite direction from the only door. Most of the time the new, ninth person on the elevator, would turn around and face the wrong way with the other eight. Herd mentality! Alan Funt of Candid Camera did a segment on the phenomena. It’s funny and scary at the same time. I wonder if we would do it on an escalator. Yes, going against the crowd isn’t easy.
The most serious pressure comes from those closest to us. That makes sense because they’re the ones whose opinions we give the most weight. It reminds me of the story of David and Goliath. Not how he overcame the giant, but how he got into the position to fight him. He came down from the hills to see what all the commotion was about. He had been watching over the flocks for his father and had killed with his slingshot a lion and a bear that had threatened the family’s stock. He asked his older brother, who was a soldier with the Israelis facing the Philistines, “What’s the reward for the man who defeats the giant?” The older brother ignored and belittled David. The shepherd boy turned from him to another and repeated the question until he got a straight answer. Overcoming the brother was huge! I think we each have to face that relative, or friend somewhere in our lives.
Jumping on the Underground Railroad to freedom isn’t for sissies. Here’s a hand! Reach for it! If you’ve read this far you have a chance to change your mind. Come on!
Did you ever feel like part of you is out of step with the masses? As if there is some archetypical, recessive gene in you that is a rebel and marches to the beat of a different bongo; maybe even has a little revolutionary DNA? Lend an ear to that part of yourself now, wherever you read this. We need you, brother and sister, to change the world.
The theme of this site is about your freedom and how to reclaim it by avoiding what Thoreau called the “superfluities” of life. Today we refer to “leaving a big carbon footprint.” Really, it’s just being wasteful. We have to avoid waste, declare war on it, and become minimalists like Henry David.
I think there is a little ‘liberty or death’, Patrick Henry, in all of us. I hope so. I’ll talk about, the Minimalist Menufesto, writing, entrepreneurship, financial independence, and sustainability. I’ll have articles posted about the average American’s three main uses of money:
1. Housing about 20-30 % of total income.
2. Food about 15%
3. Transportation about 15%.
Everyone doesn’t have a house and a car, but everyone eats, so, let’s start there with the Minimalist Menufesto. My goal is to help you by sharing what I’ve learned, while hopefully, entertaining, surprising, or at least making you ponder. Welcome to the revolution!
The Walden Food Plan
In dreams I hear voices. In the Alpha state, the time between fully asleep and awake, there’s talking in my head, and sometimes visions. I’ve read about other people having them, you know, sane people, so, I wasn’t too worried. When they repeat like a TV rerun, I pay attention and write them down.
The visions I try to draw. They’re cartoons. Even though simple stick figures have always been a real stretch for my skill level they turned out surprisingly well. It felt as though someone else was drawing, just using my hands. That someone else wasn’t ready to do chapel ceilings but cartoons were okay since they made me and my wife laugh.
The voices told stories. Sometimes an entire story and at times only a title or a first line like, ‘If you’ve never had a sixteen year old blind girl that’s in love with you feel your face, you should,’ which was the first line of a story I wrote called Ones for Tens. Other times I could hear dialog, characters talking to each other, and I would wake up in the middle of the night and write it down like I was a secretary or court reporter. For fourteen months I’ve been writing short stories and drawing cartoons this way and submitting them for publication in magazines and literary journals. There has been, to date, forty different editors publish them and I’ll share them with you on this site.
Then a voice told me to save the world. It wouldn’t go away. That’s what this blog is about, saving the world. Help save the world, one bite at a time, one person at a time, starting with you.
Written and spoken voices have a signature, a style that is unique. You can tell who it is. Ask the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, and his brother, they’ll tell you. The voice in my head was Henry David Thoreau; easily recognizable if you’ve read Walden, which I had. The resonance was unmistakable. I argued with it for a long time. “Who am I to save the world?” I whined.
“Excellent question; Pray, tell me who you are.”
“I’m Connley (Lee) Landers. My wife and friends call me Lee, not being able to handle two entire syllables of my birth name, and it’s much better than ‘Con’, sounding like an ex something-or-other. Anyway, ‘lee’ I looked up—it means, ‘the side of the boat away from the wind.’ Better, but not world saver.”
“I’m a short story and novel writer. Attending the University of Oklahoma in 1966, and for the next eight years, gave me twenty-four consecutive, including summers, full-time semesters. As a professional student, struggling to retain my student draft deferment and avoid Viet Nam, I acquired 270 hours of college credit with a BS in Physical Education, a Master’s degree in Food and Nutrition, twenty-seven hours in accounting, and forty hours of psychology. Also, I acquired a large mountain of student loan debt, a wife and a small mound of kids.
My last job was as the Associate Director of the Department of Nutrition at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and Medical Teaching Hospital in Oklahoma City. I saved money while I was a nutritionist and invested it in rental real estate where I made enough to retire early and start writing. I owned several businesses along the way; a used car lot, a telecom equipment brokerage, and don’t feel a bit like a world saver.”
“Start now, with what you have, right where you are.” I tried to ignore him.
In Pulitzer Prize winning author, Thomas Friedman’s book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, he said, “The big issue on the planet is not just the fact that we’re going from 6.7 billion people today to 9.2 billion. It’s the number of people living an American lifestyle, eating American-sized Big Macs, living in American-sized houses, driving American-sized cars….” He was talking about the three areas with which I had been professionally involved during my life; food, housing and cars. Thomas Friedman’s voice resonated with me as had Thoreau’s. It struck me that he referred to the issues on ‘the planet’ as opposed to Manhattan, Philadelphia or Texas, almost as if he considered our problems from the point of view of an Extra Terrestrial rather than as an American. He may be an Alpha Centaurian.
In Walden Thoreau said that people were “over-housed, over-fed, over-clothed and over-heated.” That’s when I realized that Friedman had gotten a “talking to” from Thoreau as I had.
The world can be saved if we learn to use less before we are forced to by circumstances. A change is needed. If you change your mind you will change the world.
It all gets back to energy. If you’re breathing, fogging a kitchen knife blade even a smidge, you’re using energy. There are almost seven billion of us drawing sustenance from the resources of the world, mostly in the form of water, food calories, using fossil fuels and non-sustainable activities like constructing SUVs, McMansions, and McBuildings.
One of my goals as a nutritionist was to plan meals that were well balanced with all necessary nutrients while at the same time keeping the cost down. From my research I’ve found out that the middle class American, if he’s thrifty, spends about three hundred dollars a month on food. Some a whole lot more, although very few spend much less. Many people don’t know how to formulate a nutritious meal plan, especially one that is economical. Thoreau says to, “Simplify, simplify, simplify” and, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” In the following there will be proposed a very simple meal plan, a Minimalist Menufesto, that leaves a lot of things alone, and is, therefore, rich, although not in a cook’s meaning.
The plan was formulated with the thought in mind that nearly one half of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars per day; and half of that half on less than a dollar a day. Everyone has probably heard those statistics, at one time or another. The two dollar figure is for everything, not just food. Would you be amazed if you could do that? You think—maybe they can do it in Bangladesh, Lesotho, or Mumbai; after all, stuff is cheap there, but not in America.
Try a simple, Walden experiment and sneak-a-peek at how the other half lives. If someone were to give you, dear reader, a million dollars reward if you could spend less than two dollars per day, and you could spend it all on food, for a total of sixty consecutive days—could you do it—without cheating (stealing, begging, accepting freebies, scavenging, foraging, road kill, or lawn clippings), getting sick, or dying? Not for a million bucks? How about if your life and your children’s lives depended upon it? What if the existence of our civilization depended upon it? I tried to do it for sixty days. Here’s what I learned:
1. Comparison shop at discount grocers, Asian and Mexican food stores. The more time invested in hunting for good prices, the cheaper they get. Search online, flyers and newspapers.
2. Take advantage of sales and loss leaders.
3. Buy in bulk, close to home, as infrequently as possible and store carefully.
4. For fruits and vegetables pay no more than fifty cents per pound, on average (that means, for example, some @thirty cents/lb., some @seventy cents/lb.)
5. Take a broad spectrum multi-vitamin/mineral supplement every day.
6. Prepare meals for several days at one time and freeze, refrigerate or store.
7. Eliminate eating out and red meat.
The foods most difficult to find were protein foods (meats, nuts, cheese), fruits and vegetables. It’s challenging to find proteins and pay as little as a penny per gram for good biological value protein. We require about sixty grams per day. We need five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables per day and they are expensive, mostly over a dollar per pound. Here are the best prices I found close to my house on March 15, 2011:
Beans, pinto, dry $ .33/lb
Wheat, berries, hard winter .45/lb
Green peppers .50/lb
Daikon radish .33/lb
Nopales (Cactus leaves) .49/lb
Tomato paste/diced tomato .028/oz
Vegetable oil .041/oz
Eggs, large .08each
Milk, 2% 1.69/gal
Condiments, salt, pepper, etc .05/oz
Vitamin/mineral tablet .03each
1. I averaged forty cents a pound for the twelve fruits and vegetables, all fresh produce except the tomato sauce.
2. Wheat and oats were purchased from the local Morman cannery store ( you don't have to be Mormon). Wheat was ground to flour with a hand cranked mill.
3. On your window sill sprouts can easily be made with the wheat, pinto beans and soy beans to add vegetable nutrients and variety.
Here is a typical daily consumption for a two-hundred pound man who lifts weights and/or runs for an hour per day.
7- one qtr. lb. serv. fruits/veg. @ $ .10ea. .70 560 cal. 7 gm. protein
One quarter lb. beans, dry wt. .08 300 23
One quarter lb. cornmeal .10 400 8
One half lb. wheat flour .23 800 20
Two oz. oatmeal .08 300 10
Two cups milk 2% .21 200 20
One half lb. potato .10 100 2
One egg .08 100 6
Two oz. soybeans .14 300 14
Vitamin/min. tab. .03 0 0
One oz. oil .04 250 0
One qtr. Cup sugar .03 200 0
Condiments and spice .03 0 0
Totals $1.87 3510 110
This plan is low fat, moderate protein, and high fiber.
Caution! Beware of possible side effects:
1. Increased awareness of what you shove into your beanhole.
2. Reasons aplenty to call your beanhole a beanhole.
3. Confusion as what to do with the extra money you have at the end of the month.
4. Bewilderment of not leaving much of a footprint on the earth—partially because your butt is smaller as a result of letting alone fast food, soft drinks, ice cream, booze and chips.
5. Contagion! May infect other minds who witness your example.
6. Permanent effect on shifting tectonic attitude plates is possible and consequent change in behavior. Changing mind—may change the world.
1. I made salsa (the dip, not the dance) from the onions, jalapeno and tomato sauce and used a half cup per day. Great with beans and corn bread! Oh well—go ahead and dance!
2. Nutritionist consider one half cup of most fruits or vegetables to be one serving. I was counting one quarter pound as one serving. As it turns out a quarter of a pound is often more than one half cup. So, this regimen is higher than the minimum 5-8 servings per day—a good thing.
3. You don’t need to use the same fruits and veggies I did. There are others, still below the target average of fifty cents per pound, that you can and should use for the variety
4. Best bang for your buck—the real nutritional/economic power of this scheme is in the whole wheat that you grind yourself, cornmeal, and beans. As you can see from the list, a corn meal serving costs $.10 and provides 400 calories and eight grams of protein. The beans and wheat are similarly packed with energy and necessary nutrients. Those three are the foundation of the program. Alone they provide 1500 calories and 51 grams of protein. With some of their sprouts you could live for a long time on the combination alone. Please don’t challenge me to do it! The bean protein amino acids consumed with the corn or wheat amino acids complement each other and yields a complete protein that compares with meat protein in its ability to grow and repair tissue in our bodies. I like to thank the American Indians for sharing corn with the rest of the world. The world gave them measles and mumps in return. I hope they don’t take it back.
Thoreau said, “Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.” Friedman said the same thing in a different way; that the traditional, American way of living will doom the planet.
Americans spend an increasingly larger percentage of their food dollar at restaurants, fast-food joints, on convenience and processed foods. Yes, the Walden food plan does require more thought and planning. The world seems to follow us and copy our worst habits. The developing countries are cloaking themselves in the American dream, eating more meat, more fast and more convenience foods as they are imitating us and buying cars and houses; making more money to buy more stuff. Is it a path that leads to lives of quiet desperation? Thoreau warned, “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes,” and, “Men have become tools of their tools.”
The purpose of using the Walden food plan is not to live cheaply, but to live consciously, “close to the bone”, in regard for the planet that sustains us. I went to the Walden plan because I wished to live deliberately, to eat only the essential nutrients of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that my waste cost so.
Q. I’ve never even been in a Mormon canning store, ethnic or discount grocery store. Is it really necessary?
Ans. It’s necessary if that’s where the best prices are. Send your chauffeur in to get your stuff. This regime is about overcoming previous unfounded prejudices. Start now, where you are, with what you have.
Q. I’m not a 200 pound, physically active man, but a 134 pound, sedentary, office gal. If I eat 3500 calories per day, won’t I soon look like Akebono, the sumo champ?
Ans. Except fruits and vegetables, cut the listed program quantities for everything almost in half to give yourself approximately 2000 calories per day and put your sumo-esque fears behind you, or should I say ‘away’. Do a set of ten deep-knee bends every hour while at the office. Don’t let the man keep you down. Start slow and easy with just two sets of ten the first day, so you won’t be so sore that you can’t walk. Over time, increase to ten sets of fifty. Tell your opened-mouthed office coworker, Mildred the Seated, that you’re training for a slam-dunk contest. When you reach ten sets of fifty, have a butt firmness contest with Mildred and start some office gossip.
Q. I noticed that you didn’t have any meat on your list. Are you advocating vegetarianism?
Ans. The Minimalist Menufesto is about eating lower on the food chain. The inefficiencies of feeding grain to livestock and then eating them is well documented. World shortages are inevitable as both population and meat consumption rise together—an unsustainable combination. Let the example I provided speak for itself.
Q. What’s all the fuss about the cost of food? I don’t see what the price of it has to do with eco-friendliness. Are they really connected, or is it hooey?
Ans. It’s hooeyless. The cost of a product does reflect how much energy went into it in the first place. If a product requires a high energy input, direct or indirect, of fossil fuel (to transport, prepare, package, process, grow, etc.), or time in the form of the someone’s labor, then it’s going to cost more and leave a Sasquatch footprint on the planet.
Q. I don’t have a mill to grind wheat. Do I really need to get one?
Ans. You can buy whole wheat flour directly, but you can't grow wheat sprouts or wheatgrass with it. You can also use it to grind soy and whole corn into meal. Where there’s a will there’s a mill. They’re inexpensive. Get an electric one if you don’t have arms. You could use a coffee grinder or pepper mill if you want. You can use a fingernail clipper if you want. Indians used two stones. See what I mean?
Q. Yeah! Why not try this? What’s the worst thing that could happen?
Ans. You might have to buy new clothes. If you’re overweight, you’ll probably lose some fat. If you’re underweight, you’ll probably gain. At least you’ll have some extra money to buy the new threads.
Bye, now. Thanks for coming into my yard and playing. Love you more than the cool, sweet watermelon wedge I dropped in the sand and made that four year old me cry until my brother washed it off in the sink. Later, Lee Landers