We attended this dinner last year. It was a wonderful evening, and among other joys, I learned about Conscience Canada, a war tax resistance group. For more on what members of Conscience Canada do and what they work for, I encourage you to read this older post.
Shortly after that, I found that wmtc post linked on the website of a US tax resister. David Gross, who writes The Picket Line combines tax resistance with a more general resistance to consumerism, acquisitiveness and capitalism at large. He has withdrawn his support for the military-industrial killing machine by deliberately living below the threshold for paying taxes.
Like most Americans, I supported the government and its wars — I can look at an old W2 form to see just how much. I didn't want to support the government, but my opposition was only an opinion while my support was in dollars and cents.
Finally I decided that refusing moral support isn't enough. To follow my concience I have to put my money where my mouth is.
When the invasion of Iraq began, I stopped paying federal income tax and started working for my values instead of against them. I quit my job and deliberately reduced my income to the point where I no longer owe federal income tax. I transformed my life, concentrating on what really matters, so that I can live well and securely on a lower income. (I actually found that my lower-income lifestyle was more fun, fulfilling, and interesting than the one I had been leading before.)
I have such tremendous admiration for this. It's something I've always wondered about and been attracted to, but don't know if I could ever do.
Compared to the dominant culture surrounding me, I'm not very materialistic. I don't shop for recreation, I don't buy more than I can use, I don't buy for the sake of buying. I don't want a big home or an expensive care. Beyond what's necessary, I couldn't care less about 95% of the consumer goods that are constantly pushed in our faces.
On the other hand, I like a comfortable living space, with separate work areas for me and my partner. I like filling our home with books and music and movies. I want to be able to take care of our health - whether that be expensive supplements or higher quality food - and I have a commitment to the health of our animals. And of course, I want to travel. I hesitate over that word "want," as travel feels more like a deep need.
In my 20s, when I was struggling to create a life that would allow me time to write, I wondered why I couldn't live closer to the bone. If I could be satisfied with earning less, I could have more time to write. I knew people who did that, and I admired them, but I didn't follow their path. On the other hand, I didn't choose a path of potentially much higher earning which would have precluded writing, such as law school. Eventually I stopped beating myself up about it. I realized that I had a basic comfort level, below which I wouldn't be happy, and that being unhappy wouldn't make me a better writer.
So I made peace with it. But I still wonder about a simplified life, and I still envy people who are able to strip down their life to the basics.
One of those people, David Gross, has written an excellent How To on tax resistance and an faq about his own brand of tax resistance. There's also a best-of that's well worth reading.
Our tax resistance took the form of leaving the US. It is one of the great joys and accomplishments of my life that I no longer financially support US imperialism. Of course, I know my taxes in Canada support the war in Afghanistan, and it galls me, and it's my duty to help bring an end to that.
But my taxes also support health care, and libraries, and social housing, and day care, and so on - although not enough of any of those. I'm not opposed to paying taxes. If we all paid our share - including the very rich, the banks, and the corporations - think of what an excellent society we could create.
* International Human Rights Day banquet with music and a silent auction
Benefit for U.S. war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Kim Rivera
When: Friday, December 10, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Friends House, 60 Lowther, Toronto, 416.596.7328
Admission: $20 to $50 donation