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The Barracks Hotel

I guessed I teased the last post a little, so with this one, I should just get right into it.

I'm opening a Boutique Hotel at the Barracks.

Allowing "strangers" through the imposing rusty iron gates of The Barracks was always going to be something that I did slowly and cautiously.

For the first 18 months, I was here alone with time to think, time to grow into the soul of the new place. I knew the long-term aims of the Barracks from the start, I needed to figure out the path, and I needed to be undisturbed.

I was fiercely protective of the barracks and our location while we (the space and I) grew together and got to establish a vocabulary, an understanding of how we worked together.

I allowed two journalists to come, and made them both sign NDAs. They wrote lovely things about the place. A very small number of friends made the trek here, and I am grateful to them, not only for their company, but also for helping me to figure out the rules of engagement. To decide under what circumstances, and in what relationship I wanted Other People to be here.

In the second year, I opened up to volunteers. All of them turned out to be incredible young people with visions and opinions that challenged and enriched my own. We also got cracking with quite a lot of work.

These amazing young people have been born into a world of climate catastrophe. They already know that their lives are going to be immeasurably different, unimaginably harder than their grandparents'. Listening to them, and trying to answer their questions as best I can has been a challenge and a privilege.

Journalists looking for stories and young people looking for answers. Why do they come here?

Recently, I have started to understand not only why they come, but also why I am here.

If you read my previous post, you will know that I have been struggling to express the purpose of the barracks beyond Not Dying and Self Sufficiency.

I've never had any doubt about doing this. And I know intimately in my bones why I am doing it - abstracting myself from society, removing myself entirely from capitalism, lowering my life-footprint to zero - but I can never know my own thoughts on a subject by writing them down. I need to converse, to be challenged, to have questions asked, and to listen.

I realise that when there is something terribly wrong, it is my responsibility to occupy a radical position and build inwards from the edge. I am reductio ad absurdum incarnate.

If I am comfortable in a place beyond where most people would be, and I believe that the periphery is more desirable than the centre, then how can I not go there?

Would I rather be earning the big bucks in a job I loved in Zürich? Doing my morning Mysore class, going to the cinema and on Tinder dates? Of course I would. But the universe conspired to show me that that wasn't going to be my immediate future, The Barracks were going to be. I would have been a dishonest fool not to take the path.

I mentioned in the last blog post looking into the world of useful literature to try to find inspiration. I did. I re-read Peter Singer's The Most Good You Can Do.

This book is more-or-less required reading for any vegan. It's the theoretical / philosophical argument for Effective Altruism (EA).

I met a bunch of EA's in Zürich and I don't really agree with the way that they conduct themselves. I believe there is a contradiction in what they do. The starting point (of both EA and veganism) is that we are animals, but capable of making rational arguments, of empathising outside of our own species, and of being altogether more complex that the rest of the animal kingdom. I believe a part of this includes elevated sensory delights, and allowing ourselves things like "food" as a pleasure (as opposed to the more time-efficient drinking of formulated shakes) is inherent to our being and must be enjoyed. But that is by the by.

The more fundamental belief of EA is that the sum total of your ethical life is more important than the individual components. Or, it is better to earn the big bucks working for Evil Corp, and donate as much as you can to the most efficient charities you wish to support than it is to earn nothing, but do no wrong.

My desire to leave capitalism behind is still very much present, but after re-reading TMGYCD for the umpteenth time, but the first time since landing at the barracks, has filled me with the joyful idea that opening a hotel here:

Brings me an income to feed the piggies

and rescue more animals

and fix more of the buildings

Which means more activities

which is more contacts and conversations

and more learning

and more teaching.

Teaching is research.

And it is research and teaching that I want to do.

Society is going to collapse. You are not doing anything about it.

I need to be able to use the experience of The Barracks to help construct a post-collapse toolkit, and to do that I need to meet more people, have more conversations, try more things out, and get more people involved.

Bookings are open now.


The grand opening (well, first day of bookings) is for August 1st 2021. It seems a bit weird posting photos of the rooms, on account of not having yet put in rugs and carpets, done the wall treatments, hung lights, or even got running water up there!

In other words, the rooms will probably look a little ropey until the night before that. I'm confident I'll get everything done by then, but early birds might have some teething problems. Heh.

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Feb 16, 2023

Hey Ben, I Just ready the article on you and your Project in the Guardian. I'm impressed and inspired (and Jealous!) of what you are doing. I'll try and get down sometime to visit from Berlin. Congrats on setting Up the place and keeping stuff growing. Keep well, Hope to meet you one day. Best regards, Paul ps. If you're Up for a conversation, here's my Email.

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