The Cult of Commitment

We live in a society that glorifies commitment. The label “commitment phobe” is a put-down. However, what is a commitment? Based on a nearby dictionary, it is “an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.”

An engagement that restricts freedom of action? How is this a good thing? It is my belief then that commitment-phobia is not something we should be ashamed of. Rather, I am a commitment phobe by choice.

Happiness is an elusive goal for many, but many studies show that an important component of happiness is freedom or autonomy. This is why I believe that the formula for freedom is based on commitment or obligation. If you have less obligation, you have more freedom, and more freedom means more happiness.

However, as many people point out, you cannot be completely free of all commitment or obligation. For example, there are necessities like food, water, clothing and shelter. However, necessities are no longer an obligation if it is someone else’s obligation to provide these to you.

This is where passive income comes in. If you hold shares, bonds, etc. then it is the obligation of borrowers or corporations to pay you.

Hence freedom depends on how much obligation others have to you versus how much obligation you have to others. You want to increase the obligations others have to you and reduce the obligations you have to others.

Commitmentphilia permeates society

About a week ago, during a Saturday, I commuted into the city to have dinner with a work colleague named Paul. We went to an Indian restaurant where I ate yellow lentil dahl with roti and basmati rice. I mostly eat a vegan diet, but when going to Indian restaurants I give myself the freedom to eat some dairy because there supposedly a considerably amount of dairy products such as ghee in Indian food. Paul, on the other hand, kept telling me he was on a low-carb diet, so he ate lamb. It was strange because Paul is quite an obese man, yet he was lecturing me on how carbohydrates make people fat, and I am a fairly slim man. Anyway, I didn’t want to come across as a crazy animal rights activist, so I didn’t talk much about his diet. The topic of conversation quickly moved to how I live with my mother.

Paul lives in the city. He rents an apartment for himself and pays about A$2000 (US$1600) per month for it. Meanwhile, I live out in the suburbs in my mother’s house (my parents are divorced). I pay about half the bills, and I commute to the city for work.

Many people try to shame me for living with my parents, and Paul was no exception. His first argument against me living with  my mother is that it would be hard to date women, and I quickly agreed with him on this. My previous dates did not go well, and I am sure that living with my mother did not help. However, I am well aware of this, I accept that women don’t like men who live with their parents, so the solution is to simply not date. I haven’t been on a date in about three years.

My friend then asked me if I would ever date ever or whether I was going to go MGTOW. I simply told him that I do not commit to anything. I am actually open to dating, but I’m not going to make it a priority in life because, based on experience, I find dating to be quite a hassle. I will not commit myself to dating. I also won’t commit myself to not dating.

Paul was perplexed. He expected me to commit to something. He expected me to have my future planned out. He expected me to be clear about whether I was going to date in the future or not, but my position is that if some perfect girl drops into my lap while I’m going about my life, that’s great, but otherwise I am happy being single.

Paul then asked me if I planned to live with my mother forever or if I planned to move out, and yet again I have to repeat to him the fact that I have not committed to anything. I live with my mother now simply because I don’t want to pay for accommodation. I don’t want to rent nor do I want to buy a house because I do not want to be a slave to the banks. It is a purely economic decision based on an assessment of costs and benefits. I have taken into consideration the shame and stigma of living with parents as well as the inconvenience of living with others, and I have weighed this against the money I’ll save by not renting or buying.

I haven’t committed to living with my mother. Currently it is an arrangement that I like. My mother does not micromanage me that much. There are some moments when she treats me like a child, but she has a job and she is out of the house quite often, so I do have autonomy, and I do have my own car, so I often drive off elsewhere, e.g. work, the library, shopping, etc. There are many moments when my mother has annoyed me so much that I simply drove off.

Currently I accept the arrangement, but that doesn’t mean that I plan to live with my mother forever, nor do I plan to move out. I simply have not committed to anything. There is no benefit in commitment. It is better to simply see how things go and adjust if the cost-benefit analysis tells you that you should. For example, if my mother were really annoying me, so much so that I could not avoid it, then I will just move out, and I can easily rent a cheap one-bedroom apartment somewhere for about A$1000 (US$800) per month. Not only that but if I needed accommodation suddenly, there is always Airbnb, and I have performed numerous searches, and there is plenty of A$30 (US$25) per night accommodation out there. There is simply no need to commit yourself to anything when you live off dividends and rent everything you need as and if you need it.

Paul and I then spoke about something else, but then the topic of conversation veered into financial independence. Paul knew that I wanted to save money by living with my mother, but he asked me why in the world I was saving up so much money. He accepted that saving up allows you to retire early, but according to him, he loves his job, and if he didn’t have anything to do then he would be bored, so he would rather work.

Once again, Paul was showing me how brainwashed he was into the cult of commitment. He has committed himself to working in the future, and this was something he was telling himself so that he can rationalize not saving up for the future. Just because you save up money so that you are financially independent and are capable of retiring early, it doesn’t mean you will. You may be a millionaire but you may decide to work anyway. Nevertheless, being a millionaire who decides to work even though he doesn’t need to is better than a broke man who decided to work because he must (and has an incentive, for the sake of his own self-esteem, to convince himself that he loves his job).

Suppose you are broke and you are convinced that you love your work, so you don’t bother to save. You live paycheck-to-paycheck. You may love your work, but in ten or twenty years, will you still love it? Will the passion stay? What if the organization restructures and you lose your job? What if you get a new manager or new coworkers whom you do not like? Just because you feel one way one day, it doesn’t mean you will feel the same way the next day. However, if you are financially independent but choose to work, you have the option to quit. You can quit to try another job, you can retire, or you can simply not work hard. This is my plan. As I save up more and more, I will not work as hard. I may work part-time. I may even ask my manager if I can work remotely. Otherwise, I may quit and simply do freelance work from coworking spaces around the world such as Hubud, Beachub, or Angkor Hub. In fact, my ultimate dream is to travel the world and work in coworking spaces. Saving up is a necessary part of this dream because I will need to convince my employer if I can work remotely from a foreign country, and if I have saved up enough money to retire, I will not be concerned about whether my employer accepts or rejects my offer.

Conclusion

After my dinner with Paul, when I was on the train back home, I realized just how ingrained commitment is in people’s minds. A man is expected to completely commit his future so that everything is set in stone. There is a standard template for how you should live life, and you’re expected to plan everything out and know exactly if you’re going to move out, who you’ll marry, etc.

But I argue that it is simply better to commit to not committing. You do not know what will befall you in the future. Everything changes, and it is better to give yourself the freedom and choice to adjust yourself as things change.

Rational Misanthropy

It’s a Saturday morning now. I woke up at nine, drank a protein shake, and prepared a cup of tea. I’m writing this now on my laptop in a small room at the back of the house (see Why I Still Live with My Mother). I feel comfortable now but mainly because I am by myself. I’ve learned over time that not only am I an introvert who has difficulty being with other people but I am also a misanthrope who dislikes humanity. Google defines a misanthrope as “a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society.”

Especially since I’ve gone mostly vegan I’ve just noticed that people are really cruel and evil, and this applies to just about everyone, even family members and friends. I pretty much limit my human interaction to the minimum nowadays. Rather than try to get along with others and improve my interpersonal skills, I’ve simply given up on people.

I know these are extreme thoughts, but I’ve had these thoughts for a long time. I keep thinking about this too often, and there’s nothing I can do about it. One option is to conform to society, that is, I can just be “normal,” be like everyone else and eat meat, get married, go into debt to buy a luxury car, and so forth, but this cannot be the answer. If I do what other people want me to do, I’m not doing what I want, and I can never be happy following the path other people have laid for me. The only solution then is to do the opposite. Rather than conform and go into society, I become a nonconformist and get out of the society.

I have recently purchased a book on Kindle called Gorilla Mindset, which I hope can help me with how I think about things in my life. Rather than be filled with negativity, I can replace negative thoughts with better thoughts, but I don’t want to replace negative thoughts with wildly optimistic thoughts either because this can be harmful. Rather, I should simply have factual thoughts.

I currently live off dividends, so strictly speaking I don’t need to work, so I don’t need to go to work and be exposed to annoying people. But my dividends are not that high, and I feel like I should be able to earn an online income before I go off and become a digital nomad.

When I’m a digital nomad, I imagine I will be a freelancer. I will base myself in Australia and I will be an Australian for tax purposes, but I will fly to other places for long periods of time, say, three months. This means I don’t need to worry too much about applying for long-term visas. My aim is pretty much to get away from people and do my own thing, and I think travelling achieves this. I can stay at home with my mother, but if she annoys me or if my friends or relatives here keep bothering me, I can just try off to Chiang Mai where I can be by myself.

When I am a digital nomad, I will pretty much be semi-retired. I will have enough dividends to support myself and live a luxurious lifestyle, but I will keep myself busy I will do freelance work via, say, Upwork. I am not too picky about what kind of remote work I do so long as it is remote and allows me to work by myself. Freelance work requires you to deal with clients, so of course that might be difficult, but at least I get to pick the clients I work with. If there is a skill I don’t have, I can easily learn it online.

I have no idea what the pay will be like. It might be lower, but it won’t matter that much because I will already have dividend income I can live off. This is just something I can do to keep myself busy.

The digital nomad dream within me has been strong at times, and there are times when the dream dies. For example, when I went to Bali by myself a few months ago I realized how uncomfortable and lonely it was being there. I have also felt more comfortable in my job lately because I have changed teams and I am working among better coworkers. But there are times when I am around very difficult people at work and it bothers me so much that the digital nomad dream is rekindled.

A few days ago, I met up with some old colleagues who now work in a different areas in the organisation. I mostly don’t see them much, but every now and then when I’m in the lifts, I bump into them, so I meet up with them every few months. I cannot be rude to these people because they technically work in the same organisation as me, but they are often rude to me, so I am thinking of deliberately being rude to them so they start to hate me and get away from me. This is what I hate about work. You have to be so fake. You cannot offend the wrong person and you cannot burn bridges with people, even those people you really don’t like.

I am also tired of friends and relatives who try to get me to marry. I am a male in my early thirties now. Everyone tells me to get married. They will me that a man in his early thirties should not be single and that they are happy to “set me up.” Many people say that this is how Asian culture is so I should just go along with it to appease my parents. But I feel like I should not do that! I should do what I want to do. I am quite tired of tolerating this nonsense. I feel like I need to rebel now. I need to muster enough courage to go on massive MGTOW rants at weddings so that people will get the message and leave me in peace.

Something else I hate about work is how everyone always brags about how important they are. There is so much namedropping and humblebrags. Then there’s all the gossip. Everyone gossips as if they’re in high school. Often when I go have lunch with people or go on a coffee run with them, they’re gossiping about this person or that person. I just find it annoying. I hate the 9 to 5 but I endure it because I need to increase my dividend income.