In college we talked about how we were gonna change the world. Coffee shop revolutionary bent, some ideas, very little practicality. The world has grown so large and complex that it is nigh impossible to offer solutions that will fit the whole. We’ve been taught to believe that bigger and more efficient is better. I would argue that smaller and simpler is more elegant, and more likely to contribute to meaningful social change because of greater accessibility to individuals. We’ve been taught that individuals don’t make a difference, and as a society we’ve been shrouded in the belief that easy is good and responsibility should be left to someone else. As a people, we need to start assuming responsibility for ourselves; for our food, clothing, shelter and energy. We are very much peons of the large multinational corporations, meekly (or voraciously) consuming. We’ve abdicated true control of our lives for the ability to go to the store and purchase cheap Chinese junk that will break and need to replaced soon enough. I’m no less guilty of consuming than anyone else; the point isn’t to point fingers. The idea is that if we can, as a people, start to do SOME things for ourselves, we’ll move the world to a much better place. Nothing happens all at once, but If we each did one thing this summer to be more self-sufficient, it would be a step in the right direction. Plant a tomato plant in a big pot on your deck and eat fresh tomatoes all year. Plant some lettuce or herbs or other greens in planters on a balcony or in a windowsill. If you have a lawn, for goodness’ sake, tear it out and start gardening! Get a couple chickens and stop putting your food wastes into the garbage for crying out loud. Realize that our profligate, wasteful consumption actually has consequences; limit yourself on the useless crap you buy. Don’t buy things that won’t last; make your purchases count by acquiring quality goods from reputable manufacturers (or better local craftspeople). Buy only what you NEED, not what you want. Free yourself from the trap of mindless consumerism and realize that getting more stuff isn’t gonna make you happy. Get connected with the soil; putting ones fingers in the dirt is incredible therapy for all of the ills caused by the current American consumeristic ideology. Above all, realize that the revolution will not be televised; it will be grown in backyards and small farms all across this country.
Hard work and determination are some of the founding strands of our national ideology. As a nation, we used to know that if something was worth having, it was worth working hard for. Somewhere in the last fifty years, something changed. Now, we want it cheap and easy, and we want someone else to be responsible for it if it breaks. They call the newest generation of adults “generation entitlement” because they expect to have the world handed to them without having to work for it. It’s always the tendency for elders to bemoan the failings of the youth, but I have been utterly stunned by my encounters with people in this country. Living off-grid in a very rural area tends to require a skill-set that the average city dweller knows less than nothing about. As a farmer, it’s difficult to have to teach people “how to work”. Not how to do some specific task, but how to do work in general. We’ve losing our national ethos of the “Protestant Work Ethic” (see Max Weber) in favor of a national mantra that goes something like “gimme lots for nothing”. We’ve misplaced true priorities like quality of food and surroundings for gadgets and glimmer. I’m no Luddite. I’m writing this diatribe on a laptop while listening to music playing on Pandora. The point isn’t that we should all go back to the Dark Ages, it’s that we should prioritize the things that actually matter in this world. Clean, healthy food, clean air, not being exposed to toxic materials all day everyday; these are things that matter. We need a different measure of life than GDP. We need a happiness/healthiness index; things that make us happy and healthy have intrinsic value and should be evaluated as such. Things which are destructive and negative should be devalued accordingly. If we prioritized feeding people quality food, caring for our elders and creating products that would fill our needs but won’t damage the environment, we’d find ourselves in a totally different world. Both the military and the food-industrial complexes have been created to keep people in check and participating in the corporate oligopoly. All we have to do is stop playing the game. If we stop funding war machines and chemical agribusiness with our tax dollars we could use the money for all sorts of other things. Even better, we could just leave it in people’s pockets for them to use to start their gardens or build new fences for livestock. I’ll be goddamned if I’ll fund a war machine so our poor people can go shoot poor people somewhere else. Life is beautiful, and it’s for living. Get outside and remember the truths that we used to know as a species. Value the things of true, intrinsic value, and leave the rest by the wayside. Sift through and figure out what’s truly important to you by tuning out all the bullshit. Get your fingers in the dirt and use them as antennas to hear what the soil is saying. It says you’ve come home.