You can have it all – my Empire of Dirt

A guest blog by social worker @AdamPagett3

A friend of mine took his own life at the weekend, no one knew why, he went to bed the same as any other day seemingly happy and content with his lot.

He woke in the morning and decided that was the day that he would end his life. Questions were asked of why he chose that day to die. Did he feel like his life was not worth living? What had he got? what had he achieved in his life? He was nearing 50, he lived in a friend’s spare room. He had no children. He was single as every relationship never really worked out. He was unhappy with his job, mostly labouring and menial tasks for minimum wage if anyone asked.

He often said he wished he had done better at school, but he spent most of his childhood in and out of care. While we were all young and going clubbing and enjoying ourselves, life was good and we lived for every weekend, enough money to pay board and a few pints with the lads.

But time moves on people go their separate ways, friends for ever starts to fade and people, who were once your besties are now people, you vaguely know, nothing in common with anymore.   They have settled down with good jobs and a family to boot, owning their own home whether bought or rent collecting material possessions as they went. Some friends left his hometown to strike out on their own, a fresh start a new place that they could call home.

No longer in his twenties, only in his mind’s eye, remembering good memories of times gone by.  Did he feel yet again left behind, looking around him counting stock and thought today is the day to punch out on life’s clock? He left with no explanation, no reason why, he chose that fateful day to decide to die.

We live in a society where we feel under pressure every day, that our success and achievements are measured in what material possessions we have and our social standing in society. We worry that we will die with no one to mourn our passing. A funeral with no mourners suggests nobody cares in your death like nobody cared in the person’s life.

Is this an explanation why a person surrounds themselves with possessions, to comfort them, to feel that they have worth but to others they are hording, or maybe they once had nothing living in absolute poverty. And every possession they own create a distance between then and now, making them feel safe.

We look a homeless people with pity, or we say it is down to the choices they made, this dampens the fear in the onlooker that it could be them, providing an explanation that makes sense, why someone is homeless in the 5th largest economy in the world.

Or we attack them verbally and physically, like the school yard bully that can not cope with their own insecurities, after all they are homeless because they are weak, and by showing their strength and masculinity ensures it will not happen to them.

Is society uncaring? I watched a program with my wife called the tribe next door. They took a family from the north of England and rebuilt an exact replica of their home in a village in Africa. The family of 4 then lived for a month with the semi-nomadic Himba people in Otjeme. Who led a very feudal simple life in a small village?

The family retained everything in their house right down to the dishwasher and the rest of the modern trappings and gadgets that we must have in modern society, to the amusement of the tribe.   

At the end of the series the narrator said that everything would be dismantled and taken away as if the family had never been there.

My wife turned to me and said that’s cruel and when I questioned why she thought that, she said it was showing them what we have, when they have nothing and live-in poverty.

Her view then I thought reflected our view of society and our place in it, that to have nothing we have failed. Not recognising what the Himba had and we should be envious of their way of life.

They live in a society where they have a strong sense of belonging and identity. That every single person and child is loved, respected and cared for unconditionally. The children are loved and cared for by all the members of the tribe, keeping them safe from harm being everyone’s responsibility and every person is valued.

There is no greed. No one has more than anyone else, everything is shared equally, no one goes hungry. The elderly and the sick are cared for without question until they no longer need it. They do not fear growing old. No one is homeless, when a person needs a home then the tribe build them a home that is theirs to keep, a true welfare state where they are cared for from cradle to the grave.

I wonder what the suicide rates are within the Himba tribe, do they look at us and pity us, when we consider the society, we live in they probably do.

One reply on “You can have it all – my Empire of Dirt”

Very sad and perceptive post Adam. We live in a fractured divided society, where those without material wealth are stigmatised as failures, while for those who have it, it is never enough. In my lifetime we have regressed in many ways. Thanks for sharing


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