The other day President Obama called for the Congress to begin using “Common sense ideas” to create more jobs. What more “common sense jobs” are there than those who help others stay healthy, in their homes, and empowered? I’m not saying that a sustainable economy will look like the old economy. Is that what we want anyway? Do we want people to feel disconnected from their food supply? following the guidance of corporations who see people as consumers and not human beings? Do we want to continue isolating individuals through personal communication devices while they fail to vote, participate in the community and fail to support the concept of a democratic republic? I don’t want that, and I don’t think most people do, if they think about it.
The thing is, the media and the government have done a wonderful job of scaring people into confusion and a sense of “we’ll take care of it.” I don’t believe that was done totally with mal-intent. As a former government employee I know that the majority of government workers want to help people. That’s why they go into public service. But with the corporate revolving door that happens in many of our Federal Departments, there are others who are not as generous and well meaning. They have found their way to power, bringing their “job in waiting,” corporate partner in the door with them. Not all of the people in guiding office are like that, but many are.
But if we look back at the history of this country, just after World War II, our communities functioned better. Our schools were better, and families had a better idea of how to put food on their table, live within their means and recognize priorities. Since that time “credit cards” created a sense of instant gratification, one-ups-manship, and constant coveting of that next toy on the TV. Entire generations failed to learn the idea that patience is a virtue, earning something was more rewarding than having it “gifted” to you, and that sharing is a critical way to stretch resources.
Part of this is because those people who were “heads of households,” had lived through the Great Depression. They had seen war, and they had seen what selfishness can do to a society. They wanted to give their children a better life, and in their hearts and minds they believed that “easier” was a gift. It wasn’t, and as each successive generation has tried to carry on the tradition that the next generation will have a better life, we have made it worse.
So, how do we go forward? I think, by looking backward. Elders used to be people we learned from; now we put them in assisted living and move away from them. People used to grow their own food, or build connections with people who they could buy food from. Now we have supermarkets, dependent upon oil prices, air pollution, and importation from other countries with lower standards of health than our own. People didn’t always have 40 pairs of shoes, but they had a few if they were lucky, and they kept the special ones for special occasions. Now we so many clothes we have to “rent space” to store them away from home.
What would an economy look like where people made a living by teaching others their practical skills? Would it work if we lowered our health bills by eating healthier, local food, prepared in our own homes, grown in our own gardens, or our neighbors, where we exercised while we planted, weeded, harvested and preserved that food? If we put less pollutants into the air would our subsequent generations have as many breathing issues as our children do now? If we reused old buildings, instead of tearing up vacant lots to grow new buildings, would there be more playing outside? growing local food? less stress from overcrowding?
I want President Obama to help the Congress learn what common sense is, but also, Mr. President, can you help people such as North Country Sustainability Center, to build our local communities, economies and improvement our future environment by nurturing the common sense that still resides throughout this country? It may not be an overnight success, but those are often “flashes in the pan,” anyway. If you could help people care for our families , then we are more likely to look out for our neighbors, and people have a sense of purpose and competency, and a brighter future. It’s not a global game changer when you look at geo-political issues. But it is an earth-shattering change if we look at how this country feels about itself, our place in the globe, and you.
There will still need to be jobs, and structures to help those who don’t have a home to learn in. But it gives a great many people the true sense of belief and hope, which frees them up from the grips of despair, allowing them to offer other “common sense” ways to regrow our economy. Please, Mr. President, can you help us bring common sense back into households around the nation? It will probably be easier than teaching the Congress.