I've been sitting here at my desk for about ten minutes thinking about the title for this essay. I considered "Escape Hatch," but I thought the meaning would not be clear to the readers. I thought about "Global Village," but I found that too dated and overused. Then a lightbulb went off in my head and the words for the title that made you click on came to me clearly. "That's it; that's the perfect title," I thought. But then I thought, "that title looks familiar..." Either way, I'll go with it.
We're facing a lot of challenges. It has taken me a quite some time, but by now I think that the biggest challenge we face is our inability to come to an agreement about the true nature of the social and political dysfunction we are dealing with.
I've written extensively about what I think the root of the problem is, and I usually use words like Corporate State, Surveillance State, corruption, politicians on the take, etc. I'm starting to see that that approach is not quite that effective in my attempt to describe the problems since many people strongly disagree with those characterizations. Heck, there are people who don't really see much of a problem at all.
So I'm going to skip that exercise--of trying to accurately describe the reality we face--and try something different...
I imagine a beautiful valley, with a river that runs through it. We're there (yes you; we're neighbors). We're about 20 families living there. It's a nice little village.
Somehow (maybe by happenstance) we all share certain values and views. In our little village not one person is tormented by extreme greed. In fact, we've embraced the concept of harmonious and sustainable existence, with each other, and with the environment around us.
And even so, we've managed to form a little market. Some of us farm the land; others make clothing and shoes; others are artists; others work on technology; some build houses; there is even a community non-profit bank.
Also, we are so lucky because in our little village, we have developed a strong community ethos based on the proposition that those who have the capacity, talent, and health to work hard, produce at higher levels, and contribute to both, their own livelihoods (able to enjoy the fruit of their labor), and to the community at large will do so proudly.
But also we understand that as a community it is our responsibility to care for the weak, and those who may be ill, or may not have the capacity or capability to take care of themselves fully.
And so we believe that the community will benefit from those who can do the most for it, according to their abilities, and it will also take care of those who can't take care of themselves, according to their needs... Wow, that also kind of familiar. I'll look it up!
Yes, we're lucky indeed. That strong community service ethos has allowed us to strike a balance in life; we consume what we need and nothing more; those who work the hardest get to enjoy the benefit of their labor, but it's nothing excessive; maybe the dwellings are a little bigger, and maybe they have more material possession, but it is all in good taste; it doesn't clash the the community ethos and values.
As people get older, or if someone gets sick, we pull together and take care of them. That kind of love, of care, of commitment, also reassures each one of us that if we ever get sick, or get old, or weak, and can't continue working as we did before, that the community will care for us. We say "I am my brother's keeper," in our community.
And because we've rejected rampant, wasteful hyper-consumerism, we've found that the tons of material stuff we've given up has allowed us to have more time to enjoy life. We value little things; taking a walk with friends; going swimming in the river; sitting on a hammock at night, with a clear sky, and just talk and look at the stars... Play the guitar; sing together.
We feel very lucky that we were able to change the paradigm of what it means to be part of a community, of what is truly important in life.
We've rejected greed and avarice and any need to control and subjugate and manipulate and exploit other people. We respect mother nature and and learn to live in harmony with our surrounding; we don't spoil or pollute the river water; we farm the land in a responsible manner; we understand that we need to leave a better world for future generations.
As I step back to the real world... I know that village may not seem realistic. There are all kinds of external forces bearing down on us; the culture doesn't promote that type of ethos. We are exposed to non-stop messaging that tells us to buy, that is focused on constant "growth," on material possessions, much of it adding no real value to our lives. The delta between reality and that village is large indeed.
But one can think about ways of promoting some of those values. What can I do? Can I find out which companies are paying politicians to act against the interest of the people, and hen boycott those companies. Is it within my power to stop shopping at big-box retailers in favor of locally-owned businesses? Can I always choose to go to a locally-owned coffee house instead of a national chain?
Maybe I can reach out to others who share my desire to find a path of liberation from this increasingly brutal system. Who knows, maybe one day enough people will reject the rapaciousness and wasteful ways of the current system and band together to create an viable alternative.
We can always hope for a better world.