Monday, June 23, 2008

Hello Mr, Wolf, won’t you please sit down?

Just a few thoughts.

As we come off the peak of what may well be the greatest period of wealth the world may ever see, it is interesting to see what it is we have gained in terms of standard of living, the hypothetical(if you can afford it)quality of health care, relative(for the moment) security, and a host of marvelous tools, machines, and technological gadgets. Most of these things are good for the most part, and while we can continue to afford them we will enjoy their benefits, no denying.

It is as important as well, to see what we have lost. Many things for sure. Privacy for one, as the same technological gadgets we enjoy aid snoopy meddlesome folk in the extreme. The ecology of the world has all been shot, and the Mother Goose of Nature that laid golden eggs has mostly been slaughtered, to the point where those who are caught up in the Neo-back to the land movement should stop and really consider how viable a vision that is, especially in the face of unpredictable climate disruption. Individual Sovereignty as envisioned by Enlightenment political thinkers has more or less been tossed out, with the State being asserted in most every manner, and with the rising power of Corporate power the individual is more or less powerless in fact to resist even the most mundane of affronts and injustices. Don’t think so? Try to combat an erroneous charge on your bank statement. . .

Still, I think perhaps the most dangerous thing we have lost is a sense of community, and especially community responsibility. That notion perhaps exemplified in the Amish tradition of “Barn raising,” an incontestable display of “take care of your neighbor”--where within the community exists the value that one should be COMPELLED to care for your neighbors, that good neighbors are valuable, and good neighbors in tern will take care of you. Unfortunately, wealth has given many the luxury of independence, and many have never learned the skills of “getting along” in the human community and its many social contracts--even within most families--most relationships and marriages in fact-- the bonds of mutual responsibility are pretty thin. That may feel liberating while things are good and life is easy, but there is quite a skill in people knowing how and that they can rely on each other in hard times that is GREATLY undervalued. Community spirit isn’t so much taking up causes that you value when in your free time--that is simply indulgent dilettante ethics borne of affluence. Community spirit is taking on the causes that are NOT fashionable, nor fun--and taking them on when it’s inconvenient or frankly a hassle.

This may well become a major difficulty here in Hawaii, as there is a fair amount of bad blood and alienation floating around, there are strong racial and economical factions here, there are strong cultural factions as well. We need to get beyond this. The population here is too small, and our location is far too remote from the rest of the world to indulge in the luxury of “not relying on each other.” Self-sufficiency is a myth--and as one who has studied homesteading and frontier lifestyles extensively I will have to say that the single largest cause I can identify with failure is alienation and lack of community support.

As far as I can see we as a world, and as an island face some very very difficult times in the relative near future. We are simply not prepared for resource scarcity and the rising costs that we will be facing in the next 3 - 5 years. Most of the suggestions for short term remedies we see may have been sensible 15 years ago, but today we need real solutions, and those solutions unfortunately are lacking. I don’t believe those solutions exist. Our lifestyles are likely to change radically, and this is going to create a good deal of individual difficulty and outright suffering here--and as one with a lot of skills to share I’d like to be positively proactive in building real meaningful social networks that will allow our area to weather these difficulties in “relative” ease. Hawaii has a lot going for it in many ways, and has a tradition of pretty easy living. So does the grand experiment of Sea-steading. Let’s not let that relative easy lure us into the complacency that may well entrap the rest of the world.


Anonymous said...

I think the nomadic lifestyle has/had a lot going for it. All natives seemed to have a somewhat nomadic lifestyle.
They roots they set down were less material, and more family/community oriententated. The ability to "pack up and go" at a moments notice has a lot going for it.

Derl Miller said...

Yes, having real ability to be nomadic has many advantages. Not least of which is an ease on the environment. Even when every measure appears taken to ensure sustainability on your little plot, that big ole' natural or man made disaster can take it away. Accepting this without fear and moving on can add a lot of resilience.