Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review: "Surviving Off Off-Grid, Decolonizing the Industrial Mind" by Michael Bunker

"Just because the human mind is capable of devising it, and it can be marketed as time-saving, efficient, or necessary, does not mean it should be automatically accepted."
~Michael Bunker

 I came across this book in a post on Nourishing Days. The author of the post, Shannon, shared reasons her family and her where moving towards an agrarian lifestyle. Her writing immediately struck a cored with me as I have been contemplating much of what she wrote of. Besides sharing her own thoughts she shared information about Michael Bunker's book, Surviving Off Off-Grid. The book further intrigued me and after leaving a comment to Shannon's post, Michael was so kind to send me his book for free.

I began reading it almost immediately and found it captivating from the get go. This book will definitely push the mind to think outside of the box the world thinking would have us in. There is no doubt in my mind, just how passionate Michael is about living an agrarian lifestyle. He feels convicted by God's Word in the Bible to live in a way that is reliant on our Sovereign Father, instead of reliant on man and the grid system which he has built.

Along with the passion, Michael doesn't water down his thoughts on why Christians should move towards this lifestyle. I am sure there would be plenty of people who would pick-up this book and be flat out insulted by it, but that is only because people today (generally speaking) are insulted at anything that contradicts what they believe to be true or pushes them out of their comfort zone.  In the end, no matter where you stand on Bunkers straight forward writing style, one must give him credit for some of the valid points he makes about the need to be less reliant on a system that is crumbling around us.

In the first chapter, Bunker covers some of people presumptions about off-grid living and technology. He shares,
"The natural response by the colonized mind when confronted with Agrarianism as a philosophy is to question why anyone wouldn't just as a default, accept technology as good, beneficial and acceptable. The challenging idea that all technology may not be beneficial runs completely counter to the training present in the colonized mind. People will ask, 'So, am I supposed to get rid of my cell phone and my computer?' Others will say, 'God gave us a mind. If we use our minds to create time-saving technologies aren't we just doing what we're supposed to be doing?'"

Further on in the chapter he writes,
 "Technology is not universally or inexorably good, nor is it naturally morally neutral. It cannot be considered outside of its purpose and use, and purpose and use cannot be morally neutral. Some of these presuppositions intertwine. There is an assumption made by most colonized minds that technology is fundamentally good. Some people believe that in the very worst case, technology is morally neutral. In reality, every technology exists for a purpose, or is used toward an end. Every technology must be considered and judged as to whether;
a)...its intended or actual use is morally positive towards our philosophy and worldview, and is conductive to our Christian survival, success, and happiness.
b)...the reasons and logic used to determine that a thing is 'good' or not is true and biblical. We do not want to produce 'false positives' by assuming that a thing is good just because it enables some result or action that is presupposed to be good. 
c)...the results promised are actually the results received. 

"Saving 'time' is not always 'good'. In fact, in very real terms, there is no such thing as saving time. Time may be reallocated, but never 'saved'. Some technologies promise to be 'time-saving' when in reality none of us using that technology have any more time available for spiritual pursuits that we had before the use of the technology. In fact, we quite often have less time, because we have to work to pay for and support the technology. The concept of 'time-saving' assumes that 'work' itself is not spiritual, and is a bad use of time." (page 47-48 of Surviving Off Off-Grid))
The book as a whole is not telling how to actually live an agrarian lifestyle, like a how-to manual, but instead is an encouragement to break free from the thinking of what we believe we must have in order to survive. It's about restructuring your entire thought process and opening the door to the possibilities that the current way we live is not the only way or the best way. God gave us these amazing minds, there is no reason we must keep them limited to the familiar or assume that we are on the right path.
"Each generation is taught that the previous generation was poor and miserable, and each generation watches the next generation grow more selfish, more miserable, and more arrogant, with ever increasing moral weakness. Each generation seeks its own success and comfort, and each claims to be doing it for their children and the grandchildren. The grandchildren have more all right: more debt, more stress, more diseases, more pharmaceuticals, more divorces (it comes impossible to even count them all), more step-relatives, more wickedness, more modernism, and well... they just have more. They have less of God and true religion, less character, less freedom, less practical intelligence, less integrity, less moral uprightness, and even less probability of surviving the slightest of disasters. Less is more, and more is less. Somehow, if we ponder on it long enough, and if God gives us enough light, and if we are humble enough to believe the truth, we can see the most apparent irony... people who had less, had more... and those who now have more, have less..." (Page 83 of Surviving Off Off-Grid)

Bunker shared a story that I felt inclined to share as well, because I feel that it accurately describes, in its own way, the state many of us are in today and can give us something to think about. The story is attributed to Steve Washam and is based on a telling by George Gordon.  

The Wild and Free Pigs of the Okefenokee Swamp
Some years ago, about 1900, an old trapper from North Dakota hitched up some horses to his Studebaker wagon, packed a few possessions, especially his traps-and drove south.

Several weeks later he stopped in a small town just north of the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. It was a Saturday morning-a lazy day-when he walked into the general store. Sitting around the pot-bellied stove were seven or eight of the town's local citizens. The traveler spoke, "Gentlemen, could you direct me to the Okefenokee Swamp?" Some of the old-timers looked at him like he was crazy. "You must be a stranger in these parts," they said. "I am. I'm from North Dakota," said the stranger. "In the Okefenokee Swamp are thousands of wild hogs," one old man explained. "A man who goes into the swamp by himself asks to die!" He lifted up his leg. "I lost half my leg here, to the pigs of the swamp." Another old fellow said, "Look at the cuts on me; look at my arm bit off!"

"Those pigs have been free since the Revolution, eating snakes and rooting out roots and fending for themselves for over a hundred years. They're wild and they're dangerous. You can't trap them. No man dare go into the swamp by himself." Every man nodded his head in agreement.

The old trapper said, "Thank you so much for the warning. Now could you direct me to the swamp?" They said, "Well, yeah, it's due south-straight down the road." But they begged the stranger not to go, because they knew he'd meet a terrible fate. He said, "Sell me ten sacks of corn, and help me load them into the wagon." And they did.

Then the old trapper bid them farewell and drove on down the road. The townsfolk thought they'd never see him again. Two weeks later the man came back. He pulled up to the general store, got down off the wagon, walked in and bought ten more sacks of corn. After loading it up he went back down the road toward the swamp.

Two weeks later he returned and, again, bought ten sacks of corn. This went on for a month. And then two months, and three. Every week or two the old trapper would come into town on a Saturday morning, load up ten sacks of corn and drive off south into the swamp.

The stranger soon became a legend in the little village and the subject of much speculation. People wondered what kind of devil had possessed this man, that he could go into the Okefenokee by himself and not be consumed by the wild and free hogs. One morning the man came into town as usual. Everyone thought he wanted more corn. He got off the wagon and went into the store where the usual group of men were gathered around the stove. He took off his gloves. "Gentlemen," he said, "I need to hire about ten or fifteen wagons. I need twenty or thirty men. I have six thousand hogs out in the swamp, penned up, and they're all hungry. I've got to get them to market right away."

"You've WHAT in the swamp?" asked the storekeeper, incredulously. "I have six thousand hogs penned up. They haven't eaten for two or three days, and they'll starve if I don't get back there to feed and take care of them." One of the old-timers said, "You mean you've captured the wild hogs of the Okefenokee?""That's right."

"How did you do that? What did you do?" the men urged, breathlessly. One of them exclaimed, "But I lost my arm!" "I lost my brother!" cried another. "I lost my leg to those wild boars!" chimed a third. The trapper said, "Well, the first week I went in there they were wild all right. They hid in the undergrowth and wouldn't come out. I dared not get off the wagon. So I spread corn along behind the wagon. Every day I'd spread a sack of corn."The old pigs would have nothing to do with it. But the younger pigs decided that it was easier to eat free corn than it was to root out roots and catch snakes. So the very young began to eat the corn first.

"I did this every day. Pretty soon, even the old pigs decided that it was easier to eat free corn, after all, they were all free; they were not penned up. They could run off in any direction they wanted at any time. "The next thing was to get them used to eating in the same place all the time. So, I selected a clearing, and I started putting the corn in the clearing." At first they wouldn't come to the clearing. It was too far. It was too open. It was a nuisance to them.

"But the very young decided that it was easier to take the corn in the clearing than it was to root out roots and catch their own snakes. And not long thereafter, the older pigs also decided that it was easier to come to the clearing every day. "And so the pigs learned to come to the clearing every day to get their free corn. They could still subsidize their diet with roots and snakes and whatever else they wanted. After all, they were all free. They could run in any direction at any time. There were no bounds upon them.

"The next step was to get them used to fence posts. So I put fence posts all the way around the clearing. I put them in the underbrush so that they wouldn't get suspicious or upset, after all, they were just

sticks sticking up out of the ground, like the trees and the brush. The corn was there every day. It was easy to walk in between the posts, get the corn, and walk back out. "This went on for a week or two. Shortly they became very used to walking into the clearing, getting the free corn, and walking back out through the fence posts.

"The next step was to put one rail down at the bottom. I also left a few openings, so that the older, fatter pigs could walk through the openings and the younger pigs could easily jump over just one rail, after all, it was no real threat to their freedom or independence-they could always jump over the rail and flee in any direction at any time.

"Now I decided that I wouldn't feed them every day. I began to feed them every other day. On the days I didn't feed them, the pigs still gathered in the clearing. They squealed, and they grunted, and they begged and pleaded with me to feed them-but I only fed them every other day. Then I put a second rail around the posts. "Now the pigs became more and more desperate for food. Because now they were no longer used to going out and digging their own roots and finding their own food, they now needed me. They needed my corn every other day." "So I trained them that I would feed them every day if they came in through a gate and I put up a third rail around the fence. "But it was still no great threat to their freedom, because there were several gates and they could run in and out at will.

"Finally I put up the fourth rail. Then I closed all the gates but one, and I fed them very, very well." "Yesterday I closed the last gate and today I need you to help me take these pigs to market."

One thing I would like to note is that Michael Bunker is a professed Christian, however, I think it's very important that just because a person claims the "christian" title, we must recognize that this does not make them truly a follower of God, nor does it mean that they must know what they are speaking of so we should blindly follow. There are far, far too many false profits, teachers and believers in existence today. It is of vital importance that each and every Christian is prayerfully seeking the Lord and in His Word regularly so that they can have the discernment to know what teachers to listen to and what ones should be left by the waste side. I have just begun to listen to Michael's sermons (he is a pastor) and I'm still sorting through what he believes and just how biblical based the beliefs actually are. It doesn't matter that he claims his beliefs are biblical, it's still my and your responsibility (if you read his book or follow any of his other writing) as Christians to check them out for ourselves in the Bible. Bunker has some pretty harsh things to say and he does it in a very direct, in your face sort of way. I can certainly see that this approach would not be for everyone.

I'd also like to add that although I think there is some true validation for living an agrarian lifestyle, each of must recognize that we are not all called to the same life, to the same roles, nor are we convicted in the same ways. The majority of us are so tied into the current system that to free ourselves from it would certainly take a miracle, for some financially speaking for others it would require a complete change in thinking. This miracle can certainly happen, because our God does work in the lives of is children is some amazing ways. If you are feeling led to break free from the ties and restraints our society has put on you, seek the Lord. Learn to restructure your thinking and especially think outside the box of familiarity. At the very least, consider where we are at today, consider just how bad things are getting and just how much worse they will continue to get. Consider that the days we are in are foretold in the Bible and through those foretellings we know that things are not going to get better, but only worse. This doesn't mean as Christians we must roll with the waves, grabbing hold of whatever comes closest to us, just hoping to not drown. No, instead, through the Lord we can rise above what is going on around us and more agrarian lifestyle is just one way of doing this.

I'd recommend picking this book up and giving it a read and see where it leads your thoughts. I'd also recommend tuning into Nourishing Days and following Shannon and her families journey towards an agrarian lifestyle. This little exert from one of her posts strikes home for me.
"Self-sufficiency is a popular term, but agrarianism, to us, is more about depending on God for our needs and seeking the spiritual lessons that come from working with our hands and leaving the results up to God."
 ~Shannon from Nourishing Days
I will keep you all tuned in to what my own family is doing to move in this direction. We don't know yet what the Lord has in store for us, we only know what we desire, which is to be less reliant on a systems that is governed by those who do not have our best interest at heart.

A video clip for Surviving Off Off-Grid


  1. Thank you for sharing this thoughtful and thorough review. I'm also interested in living a more agrarian lifestyle, and I would love to pick this book up. I hope you are having a blessed week, my friend.

  2. I am being called ever so strongly to be more natural in all things, closer to God and his creation. This was certainly helpful

  3. Beautiful I am being strngly called to this!

  4. Yours is the most thoughtful review I have read about this book. I really appreciate that in your review, you caution us to read our Bible and pray about these matters before deciding if this is what God is calling us to do. While I haven't read the book yet, the excerpts I have read are certainly thought provoking. While I strive to eat real food, avoid chemicals, and be a good steward of all that God has provided for me, I am not sure we are all called to this lifestyle. I also am concerned about our country and government and pray for our country's leaders. I don't want to be dependent on a government system to survive, so I have been praying about what steps my husband and I should take when I retire and we return to the states in two years. I enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  5. Thank you for the wonderful comments. I love hearing from people. It's especially encouraging to read that others feel the same as I do.

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