I just re-found this piece of unfinished writing from a couple of years ago. I thought it was worth sharing…
In the past, the model for life has been simple. Obvious. Find a career. Move up the ladder. Get married. Buy a house. Have kids. Move to a bigger house. Sell up and move to country. Retire. Play golf. Leave the house in the country to the kids.
This old model has served our parents well, but it isn’t open to me. The expectation of ever-increasing house prices – of housing as investment – has lifted the value of property beyond what is achievable to low-middle income earners such as myself. The average house price is now too many times the average income, and the era of cheap credit is over. It just isn’t conceivable that I, as a single person with my historic income could buy a house let alone one big enough to raise a family in.
Demographic changes mean that the pension/retirement model is broken beyond repair. There are not enough workers to support the number of retirees, and it is getting worse. The average pensioner is living longer, and couples are having less children. For my generation, a comfortable retirement is only really conceivable for the highest earners. Private pensions funds are becoming bankrupt and the state will increasingly struggle to support the growing number of pensioners, many of them on dangerously low incomes.
The comfortable, financially secure future – the middle class dream – is fast becoming fantasy. It is unlikely that I will earn enough to achieve it. I have neither the capital, nor the job security, to build that type of security.
I have no desire to abandon myself to a life of insecurity, a permanent now of short-medium term jobs, rented apartments, living in the transient ‘communities’ of the bigger cities. I have the same desire for place, for family, for security and stability that our parents and grandparents did.
I don’t see why we should abandon our desires for family life because the models of previous generations have been broken. Instead of tearing our clothes in despair, or resigning ourselves to a life of transience and impermanence we need another model, another possibility of achieving the same aims.
It is easy to decry societal change, financial hardship and the death of the family. It is far harder to come up with a solution. There are some things that are dying that I have no desire to resurrect. I don’t want to spend the last 30 years of my life playing golf and going to the theatre. I don’t particularly feel that society ‘owes’ me anything, or have an expectation that they should provide for me – either now or later. But there will come a time when I can’t work, either for health reasons or old age, and I would hope for some structure to support me.
I don’t know now if marriage and children are possible for me. I have to be realistic. It is not impossible, and it is desired, but such things are out of my control. But I have no desire for an isolated, lonely future. I don’t want to live a life without children in it, whether or not I have my own. I have a desperate longing for family. But family can take many forms.
My hope is that intentional community and collective ownership can be an alternative, an antidote, to the decayed and broken current model. That it is possible to gather together with like-minded individuals and create a space, a home, a sense of family that can be self-supporting and enduring. That a group of people can together own property, create a home, develop a collective financial security, raise children, care for one another in sickness and old age and endure beyond the death of the original members into perpetuity.
I also hope that, beyond this, it would be possible to create something that can have a positive impact on the wider community in a geographic area and even, to an extent, society as a whole. That a community might be able to collectively demonstrate alternatives to the usual patterns of life.
The question, of course, is how you do that. How do you build community over the long term? How do you overcome the barriers of finance and property, especially when money is so easily a source of conflict?
Suggestions on a postcard (or debate in the comments) gratefully received.