YouTube is something quite amazing and if you want to personally explore its treasures then find a small child and ask him or her to grant you access to it.
YouTube is the ultimate cookbook, the only repair manual you will ever need and is a never-ending fly-on-the-wall reality show.
It’s the latter content that I will be referring to today but often that encompasses elements of cooking and repairing. The content providers are called YouTubers and while some become celebrities with seven-figure earnings most do it for fun and earn a few pounds to fund their hobby.
It may come as a surprise to know that we have YouTubers here and now in our island. My favourites are Smash Fishing and Inglorious Fishing, who between them must do as much to attract tourists as Visit Guernsey by showcasing our island and creating the impression of a wonderful relaxed lifestyle.
I’ve never been a fisherman but somehow I am attracted to watching Smash and Inglorious living their dream and that dream isn’t of working 9-5 on a building site or in an office.
I find the same kind of dreamers in homesteading YouTube videos. I’ve watched families give up their conventional, urban lives and journey hundreds of miles to places where landed property is cheap because it is miles from civilisation, is totally off grid and probably experiences the extremes of weather that many will not be willing to endure.
They forgo electricity, mains water, sanitation, holidays, schools for their children and live off what they can grow, shoot or forage. They put themselves through all of this for a better life for them and their families. It is their version of the Good Life. YouTube helps them to find the money needed to pay taxes and buy what they can’t source themselves. That’s the eye-opener. Some of these good people have more than a million viewers, with each view earning them a few cents (they are mostly North American) and with many making direct financial contributions as well.
It occurs to me that the viewers envy the homesteaders but just can’t take the leap of faith to give up their comfortable, though environmentally unfriendly, lifestyles and so live the life they would want to live vicariously through others. The Good Life.
Do not confuse these people with the Amish, who probably regard the internet as ungodly and a hindrance to working hard. My homesteaders adopt modern technologies such as solar, wind and water power. They do use modern tools to make work easier (anathema to the Amish) and they do embrace leisure time within their working day. They do use fossil fuel guzzlers when they drive the 100 miles or so to the nearest shop. And of course many have what drew me to their channels in the first place – tractors.
They have adopted a better way of living for them and their children but that doesn’t mean giving up all that the 21st century has to offer. And it doesn’t mean the kids don’t get to go to university but it does mean that when they do they already have the skills required to build a house, raise, grow, forage and hunt for food, as well as drive a tractor.
By using YouTube as a window into their lives it shows others that there is an alternative lifestyle and the rigidity of the Victorian system of home and work is not for everyone.
Covid-19 gave us a glimpse of an alternative lifestyle. Unfortunately Guernsey is too small to let those of us who seek a different Good Life to the 9-5 job, which compensates for giving up our time by allowing us to buy stuff and spend at least two weeks in Marbella, to find a remote place to go off grid. It also provides the funding for all the kids’ activities, which allows us to interact with them for a couple of hours each week as we drive them to and fro.
The Good Life in Guernsey was once a cottage and a few vergees. Then it was a bungalow with a few hundred feet of glass. Now it’s an overwhelming desire to get off the ‘Rock’ as often as possible and damn the polar bears and Richard Attenborough.
We terribly messed up this island but it isn’t too late to make it better. Lockdown gave us a glimpse of how we can live a 21st century Good Life but in a much better way for the individual, for families, for the community and for the environment.
We kept our principal industry running while at the same time keeping cars off our roads. We normally try to get cars off our roads by punishing car drivers with fuel taxes and threats of paid parking. Perhaps now we can see that reducing car usage is for our own benefit. It gives us back the roads for recreation. Hopefully the two hours a day walking habit won’t be lost but I fear two hours walking along noisy, smelly dangerous roads won’t be as much fun as during lockdown.
Have you noticed how the birds seem to be singing louder this year? Well, I suggest they aren’t but it’s just that we can hear them when noise pollution from cars and aeroplanes was almost eliminated by lockdown.
Those of you fortunate enough to have kept earning a full wage during the crisis, have you noticed that you spent less than usual? Did your credit card balance look a bit rosier each month? And perhaps your saved-up holiday money is going to be sitting in your bank a bit longer?
There is a better Good Life to be had and we have seen it and held it in our hands. Times they are a changing and Guernsey has the chance to change back to the vision that Visit Guernsey promotes as reality.