The Only Gift You Need This Year… the Gift of Independence

|December 7, 2021

Editor’s Note: We invest because we want to build a better life… because we don’t want to live with the status quo. Today, Joel has a different kind of investment for you. It’s one that fights the status quo… makes you more independent… and frees you from today’s turmoil. It’s the most important gift you can give yourself this holiday season. Read on…


From my years on interscholastic and intercollegiate debate teams, I learned not only the art of formal argumentation but also the balance between complaint and solution.

Although debate cases may be organized differently, in general they follow an indictment of something and then a solution to it. Resolutions are always written to change a current system or policy. That way, the affirmative must always be in favor of change.

That change requires two elements: the complaint and the solution. In other words, if the affirmative fails to adequately indict the current system, it loses because reason demands that we change only if change is necessary. Assuming the affirmative adequately indicts the current system, called the status quo, it must then offer a solution and defend that solution as adequate to address the problems at hand.

If the affirmative loses either case (complaint) or plan (solution), it loses the debate. The negative has to carry only one of those elements to win. Reasoned argumentation, logic and rhetoric, the underpinnings of debate for centuries, bear heavily on our current state of affairs.

In logic, we assume that “what is” must be the best unless it can be proven shaky enough to risk change. In debate lingo, this is called negative (status quo) presumption. Change always entails risk. The folks wanting change assume the burden of proof to indict the status quo and present things as bad enough to justify taking on the risk of change.

I’ll give you some real-life examples…

In a trial court, the prosecution is affirmative and the defense is negative. The default position (status quo) is not guilty. Guilty is a change of status.

In marketing, a sales person is affirmative and a potential buyer is negative. The sales person is trying to get the buyer to change their position by acquiring something new. The sales pitch must overcome the buyer’s reluctance to take on the risk of this new item.

A child negotiating for a later curfew is the affirmative and the parents are the negative. The current curfew is the status quo. The child must overcome all the potential risks of a later curfew in order to win the day. If the child wins the case for a later curfew, the plan is the new time. Nobody would grant a later curfew without setting a new time.

What does all this have to do with our cultural situation?

I don’t know about you, but I find a lot of things to complain about.

In fact, lots of people on all sides are complaining. We can make a case that things are bad and need to be fixed.

In general, dwelling on the case is a downer. It depresses me emotionally and spiritually. It robs me of enthusiasm and a positive attitude.

Too many folks have not learned that to carry an argument, you must win both parts: the complaint and the solution. Complaining is easy. Demolition takes less skill than construction.

My challenge to myself and to all of you this holiday season is to resolve to develop plans. To be sure, most of us can’t change the great big things we’d like to change. But we can create a plan to flourish even in dysfunction.

Here are some ideas for plans to create positivity.

  1. Secure your source of food. Find a dependable farmer, build a relationship and become that farmer’s top patron (patron saint, maybe?). With supply chains interrupted and conventional food quality questionable, develop direct supply lines with farmers. They can be local or they can ship, but you need to be on a farmer’s radar as a faithful, loyal patron as part of your food insurance program.
  2. Develop your own food production capability. A solarium on the side of your house, some garden beds out front or hanging PVC pocket containers on the porch all afford opportunities to grow stuff in tight spaces. You can put garden boxes up on the south side of your house and create a garden wall. (It’ll cool your house and fill your belly.)
  3. Install a cistern. In a 30-inch rainfall area, each square foot of roof generates more than 20 gallons of water per year. Catch it. Even if you’re scared to use it as potable water, you can certainly use it for everything else. This plan reduces storm runoff when it rains too much and secures your water if things go wonky.
  4. Put in a wood stove. Even if you don’t use it, having backup heat and cooking available can enable you to ride through crazy times. If you store wood under a roof, it’ll last indefinitely. It’s also just awkward enough to handle that thieves tend to avoid pilfering it. With your wood stove and cistern, you can at least bathe in hot water when power and water are unavailable.
  5. Put in a larder. Canning, freeze-drying and dehydration are preferable to freezing because their outputs don’t require electricity to store. Make a plan to reduce trips to the supermarket. If you currently go twice a week, drop it to once. Just planning like this feeds your emotional soul because you begin feeling less dependent. “I’ll go when I want to” does wonders for your psyche versus, “Oh no, I have to go because I’m out of X.”

I could go on in this vein for some time, but I think you get the picture.

Let’s take all our frustration and complaining and repurpose it on the positive side of our lives. We’ll be more agreeable, and we’ll contribute far more to our communities.

Take the negative energy and invert it. Everyone likes folks with a plan.

Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin|Contributor

Joel Salatin calls himself a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer. Others who like him call him the most famous farmer in the world, the high priest of the pasture, and the most eclectic thinker from Virginia since Thomas Jefferson. Those who don’t like him call him a bioterrorist, Typhoid Mary, a charlatan, and a starvation advocate. With a room full of debate trophies from high school and college days, 12 published books, and a thriving multigenerational family farm, he draws on a lifetime of food, farming and fantasy to entertain and inspire audiences around the world.