Back in march last year I was really interested in alternative ways of life, in trying to live an healthy and eco-friendly life, outside of capitalism, commercialisation, globalisation, pollution, GMO, etc... In short, a simple and happy life as shown in these new hipsters magazines such as Kinfolk. Inspired by this new trend and in search for new challenges, I applied to volunteer in an organic, self-sufficient farm in Arta, a small city in Western Greece, for fifteen days in August.
The farm was composed of a family of three. Dimitri, the father, a charismatic Greek man in his sixties, Kathrin, the mother, a thirty-year old German woman and their six year-old son Theo, born at home without doctors, trilingual since birth and Vegan since... pro-creation.
The WOOFING experience in itself was challenging, but not surprising: I slept in a tent, showered outside and worked six hours on the field picking chick peas or weeding. What surprised me were the strict principles that this family adhered to, their reclusion from the world and let's be honest their unhappiness. The family lives with little money, and only eat what they produce on the field in front of the house. Their whole days and their whole lives are devoted to the food they eat and to their health. Victoria, the other volunteer told me a proverb that describes perfectly how such an obsession for health was too much : 'Eat to live, don't live to eat.'
The first time I realised the family wasn't living the happy life I previously envisioned was on the second day when Dimitri told Victoria and Me: 'We don't like what we do. It's boring. But we don't have the choice.' I wondered how a man who had worked as an engineer in England for twenty years had forfeited his freedom to choose.
The boundaries of free will according to this man weren't money or education, but rather philosophical and religious principles. It took me the whole fifteen days and endless debates to understand the 'logic' behind the way of life.
For example, one of the main reasons for them to live this life, beside health and contempt for society is rooted in religious, apocalyptic fervour. St John, in the Book of Revelation, prophesies that no one will be able 'buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.' (Revelation 13:17). The mark is the number 666, known as the number of devil, which according to Dimitri was obviously present on every barcode. Buying food is not only a sin, therefore, but also makes you a slave (dixit six year-old Theo) and this underpins their motivation to be self-sufficient.
The family strongly believed that today's society, and humanity in general, was corrupted to the degree that they opposed a range of modern day advantages from free health insurance to schooling.
Their son will never receive legal education and will be a farmer. Although, unlike his parents he has thus far not been given a choice.
I tried to argue that society was indeed not perfect, but that past societies did not far much better. They would reply with strong facts of political conspiracy freshly taken from the newspaper. I believe that they have forgotten to look to the world and not simply the papers, by
staying secluded from society and friends they have forgotten how everyday people are nice to each other, try to help each other.
I did admire how healthy they were and I admit I looked very suspiciously at the supermarket products afterwards. I also admired their relation to the environment. I strongly disagreed, however, with the reasons why they were living a life they didn't enjoy, and if they were very kind people, the force in which they imposed their views was frustrating.
I thought alternative ways of life as being simpler, progressive, almost futurist. In this case I realised it was only the result of a sort of 'disease of the century', of a general discontent with society and belief that the past was better than the present.