It’s been (almots) twenty years that I’m working in computer science. I’ve done a lot of things, from sysadmin to devops, from back to front dev, from freelancer to government to NGO support. I met a lot of people, but I call only few of them friends. I gained a high experience in burning-out and bad management practice — to the point I’m not really sure I’m suited to do computer work or money. I’ve gained exposure trauma while working with formal and informal activism organization, while having some of my most interesting jobs (none of them being paid) and meeting some of the most amazing people one can ever meet (yes telecomix folks, that’s you I’m talking about).
I’ve also been working as a professional activist, which I almost regret doing now. Because there’s not enough questioning of the means and strategies of the organizations, or the costs of doing things the way they’re being done. In particular, I think that focusing mainly / only on the law and its interpretation is not an effective way of changing the status quo. Or that it’s not the way I like doing thing. I need to be busy with stuff to not burn myself. It took almost twenty years for me to understand that.
I’m without a job for the last seven month. Ok, the last two months were weird, due to being locked in and without any real possibility to actually get a job. And I needed some month to recover from whatever mental state I was. I’ve started (and paused) a therapy, with an interesting diagnostics of being probably paranoid (the persecutory delusion kind). I’ve tried to find a job, but most of the company who would hire me are start-up contributing to a world I oppose. Or NGO and school which don’t not really pay well, and generates a lot of stress (been there, done that, got a lousy depression).
So, I have to think differently. And one of the thing I like doing this days, is growing stuff. Spending time with my hands deep into soils, roots, leaves and weeds, thinking about irrigation systems, trying to anticipate rain and weather, preserving (and sometimes failing) plants from those nasty snails who can eat them overnight leaving nothing but roots (and still, people thinks snails are slow. They’re damn effective).
I also think that food, and everything that gets around it (production, distribution, consumption) is one of the key part of society on which we should act — the others being energy production and waste management. The issues around food are tightly knitted into the climate crisis and most of the inequities, and not enough of you knows what it costs to eat what you eat. I always thought that, at some point, I’ll end up in a chosen house with friends, living on the resources we could locally produce, without destroying those same resources.
And this is where I landed during this confinement. I need to get out of the toxicity of the tech industry (the more it goes, the more I think no one can make a positive contribution to society in the tech-startup environment). I need to do something that have meaning and makes sense. I need to make some life changing decision, or go back to be burned again and again until I die (because I won’t last until an hypothetical retirement).
The answer I found, on which I spent a lot of thinking those last two years is to become a farmer. Ideally nearby the place I live, in the suburbs and in places where access to affordable and healthy food is the exception, not the rule. I need t go back to school and to study, to do some planning, to read a fucking lot of paperwork to fill and understand.
But for the last two weeks, since I actively made this decision, I’ve been able to actually plan things. To anticipate where I would like to be in the next few years (which is something I never really done before, or was made unable to), to start communications with local collectivities, to try to figure out the money part of it and understand the nightmarish technocratic apparatus that is the CAP.
And I like it. I’m not really depressed anymore (just regular paranoid, which is nice, I have seen no one but my house mates for the last two month, confinement is fine for me). I can fore-think and anticipate. I can talk about this project with friends. I need it, and so I’ll be a farmer. It’s going to take some time, and it will not happens in the next few month (there’s a lot of bureaucracy involved) but in the next year or so.
It does not mean I’ll stop doing tech. But I’ll do it as I like it : as a hobby. And yes, my farm will be powered by Arduino, because I know how to do it (and well, it wouldn’t be mine if there’s no robots, drones and hacked hardware everywhere). And yes, I’ll be retiring from the internet freedom fighters fronts. Because it broke me and, except very few dear friends, it brought only havoc in my life. That’s why I need to stop. I’ll still dream about a better world, and I’ll work on it from a different angle, but I won’t be doing media work or conferences anymore.
This is the most involved thing I’ve done for my life and myself. It’s a fresh start. It will be interesting, and I’ll see you there.