Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Questionable Answers to Answerable Questions

Q #1 - Do you know whether this has ever been thought of and practised before, via an intentional plan?

A #1 - I have never heard of anyone doing anything like this before. I did some snooping around the ol' internets and I couldn't find any other descriptions of people doing something equivalent to The Plan (specifically, full-time volunteer activism while being financially supported by a partner-in-thoughtcrime). The search terms “full-time activism” and “professional volunteerism” brought up results about how to either earn money while volunteering/activisting or parlay volunteering/activisting into paid work down the road. However, I concede that it is extremely unlikely that what Jac and I are doing is completely unique and original. This seems like a good place to talk about the origins of The Plan. I'll come clean now and confess that I didn't come up with it. In fact, I was openly sceptical and hostile to the idea when I first heard about it. Jac will make a guest post soon detailing the origins of The Plan and why she thinks it can work for her.

Q #2 - The one potential flaw that stands out to me is that one partner gets to do rewarding work while the other has to sacrifice by doing a job they may really not enjoy (or may even hate). It reminds me of the way some partners will work to put the other through school or some such training. But the difference is that what you're proposing sounds like an indefinite arrangement, not a temporary one. It might be more equitable for both partners to work part-time and both to engage in volunteer/social-justice-type work of their choosing. Otherwise, their relationship might be jeopardized by the working partner and the socially-active partner growing apart in terms of interests. Or, the partner making all of the sacrifices -- while initially willing -- might, after years of this situation, come to feel resentment for being the sacrificial victim for the sake of a Greater Good.

A #2 - These are all excellent issues to bring to the attention of anyone who is contemplating doing The Plan themselves or who are questioning whether or not we can pull it off. Jac and I have already discussed the many ways that The Plan could go wrong and have come out the other side with a reasonable amount of confidence that we can make it work for at least the next 11 years (after that, we retire to a commune).

As I mentioned in a previous post, the person who is working a regular 9-5 type job and earning the money required to provide for the basic needs of both members of the partnership has to love their job. It can't be a miserable, meaningless, tedious career where they watch the clock every day and just pray for quitting time to arrive. The fulfilment gained by the wage-earning partner through their support of the work of their activist partner will probably not be enough to sustain their happiness. Their job, by necessity, should also partially fulfil their desire to do “good works” (in a non-Christian sense). And yes, The Plan is intended to be a permanent arrangement.

The problem with the idea of having both partners earning part-time and being activists part-time is that it might lead to both aspects suffering from a lack of focus. By having each partner devoting themselves almost fully to their chosen pursuits, I believe they will be able to make more efficient use of their time and achieve more in terms of advancement/effectiveness. Another consideration is that by avoiding paid work, the activist partner avoids being tainted by the rigid structures that often come with the hierarchical organization of most jobs. Their mind can also be freed from the concept of only doing work for direct material reward. Finally, on a purely practical note, part-time jobs that pay a living wage are much more rare than full-time jobs that do the same.

The risk of having the mindsets of the partners diverge is very real. It seems to me there are two major areas where they might drift apart: political orientation and knowledge/intelligence. It is reasonable to hypothesize that the activist partner might become more politically radical because they spend a lot of time actively attempting to fully comprehend the harsh realities of the world we live in and will constantly surround themselves with other politically radical people. I don't think this will be much of an issue for Jac and me due to the fact that we are already just about as politically radical as people can get (anti-capitalism, socialism, anarchism, vegetarianism, anti-theism, voluntary human extinctionism, etc.). The obvious move to a more extreme position would be from vegetarian to vegan. Jac and I already agree that it makes sense to eventually transition to veganism for ethical and health reasons, so that wouldn't be problematic either.

In terms of intellectual drift, Jac has hypothesized that years of activism and self-education on my part could potentially result in my becoming smarter than her, a situation which both parties would find unappealing. We are starting off at basically equal knowledge levels, although I'll give her a slightly more than slight edge in that department. The development of a knowledge gap will be combated by sharing activist activities whenever possible, often reading the same news articles (which I can help sort through and bring the cream of the crop to her attention), sharing book lists, and frequently discussing political/philosophical/current events issues with each other.

I wouldn't feel right commenting on any feelings of victimhood on behalf of Jac, so I'll let her cover that issue in a future post.

If anyone has any more questions, comments, or concerns, post them in the comments below. I would love to hear from you and I'll attempt to make a careful thought out response to any questions I receive.

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