by Sherry Ackerman
I don’t think too many people are going to argue with the claim that the world is in a mess. It’s definitely a time when we need to re-vision our direction and make some course changes … if there is even time for that. The questions loom large. Where will these changes originate? And, how will they be implemented?
There are a lot of “plans” that originate from the top-down and the outside-in. That is, they are formulated by some umbrella governmental agency and work on the premise that the necessary changes will simply be legislated. This is fascism, any way you look at it. It’s the Nanny State. Such approaches assume that people are incapable of self-correcting, through education and consciousness-raising, and purport that government, or some authoritative agency, needs to mandate policy. These plans get churned out by Think Tanks and other talking heads and have insufficient understanding of most of the issues at the grass-roots level.
The solutions, to have longevity, are going to have to come from the bottom-up and the inside-out. That means that local communities are going to have to create their own networking solutions to deal with current problems. It also means that the motivation for the accompanying behavioral changes is going to have to be intrinsic — rather than extrinsically legislated.
Relocalization efforts mean working together, as a community, to find solutions to tough problems—economic, environmental, energy and resource needs. It means becoming sufficiently empowered to believe that local areas can do this without being mandated. We can begin to find solutions without the intervention of a boilerplate, large-scale master “plan.” This means, though, changing the way that we have thought for many years. Slowly, incrementally over the past few decades, we have slipped into thinking that “the government” will fix all of the problems — we have forgotten that we can do something about them ourselves.
I am, admittedly, a Vermonter. This type of thinking is indigenous to Vermont. When I first moved to California, I was shocked to discover that people call County and State agencies to report problems with their neighbors. Where I came from, if you had a problem with your neighbor, you walked over there and sat down to talk about it over a cup of coffee. That’s where community begins — shouldering the responsibility for trying to work things out among ourselves.
It also begins on the “inside” — with a heartfelt intention to try to build a local community where we learn to trust one another enough to enter into mutual searches for solutions to hard issues. It’s caring. It’s believing that, at the core, we all want many of the same things.
Doing it any other way opens the door to totalitarianism. It gives away our power. It asks The Man to change our diapers and give us a cup of warm milk.
This is about growing up. It’s about remembering that this is the stuff this country was founded on and it’s probably about time that we got back to thinking that way.
Sherry Ackerman, Ph.D., author of The Good Life: How to Live a Sustainable and Fulfilling Lifestyle, is a socially engaged philosopher who believes in doing “philosophy on the streets”. For more information, visit her website at www.sherryackerman.com.