In my previous post, I quickly detailed a few challenges facing children. To recap, I believe children, to grow up whole and happy, must not grow in a void of our culture, but in abstract to our culture. I believe the goals our culture places on the raising of children (mainly an educated child capable of filling a role in the economy), are toxic and produce unhappy people. That goal, when actualized, is totally destructive to all things on the planet including people, animals, ecosystems and physical resources.
In this post I’d like to focus on how we might structure an alternative culture. I believe we must move past finger pointing to draft real solutions to entire problems, trying out those solutions and learning through failure. I do believe in the power of both hope and change, and believe societies and people can evolve, if we choose.
The first requisite of creating an alternative culture will be the determination to get it right. This will require true gumption. Our world (or any world for that matter) does not favor change, and so change will require focus and energy and a deep seeded belief that what we are doing is good, at least in our perspective. If we only half-heartily try to change, we will surely fail, especially on the scale and complexity that is required. We must be courageous to chase our dreams, and not settle, especially when our hearts tell us to push.
Secondly, we must unhinge our imaginations. Albert Einstein was correct when he said, “We cannot solve our problems by using the same thinking when we created them.” While we certainly can apply more intellectual rigor, more statistics and studies and more peer-reviewed research papers, I believe without dreaming we will fall short. When faced with enormous problems we must respond with enormous dreams.
Thirdly, we must doubt, as far as possible, all things (quote in Brianeese originally from Descartes). Doubt has to some extent gained a negative opinion in recent years, specifically in circles such as the military, business and religion. But, doubt is a potent tool when used truthfully. Doubt is the great cleanser that wipes away all things that are not firmly attached to the heart. I believe we fear doubt because it is like a flashlight in our hearts. But, we need not fear doubt if we can accept truth, as doubt will almost always lead to truth if given enough time and energy. We must doubt and question our society, from the mundane to the monument, to see the truth in each action. Why do we take a day to celebrate Mothers? Why do we send our kids away to be educated by another person? Why did we buy that extra car? In the end, we must question all the way down to the center of the issues we are trying to solve, so when we solve the issue we can build on a solid foundation.
Fourthly, and now more action oriented, we must retract from our society. Practically this means we will abandon the capitalist system outright as unsustainable and unhealthy, and seek to rebuild a society on differing values. In my previous post I mentioned a few values that are crucial to the development of children and society, and they are graciousness, thriftiness, manners, compassion, creativity, freedom, mindfulness and love (and I’d like to add joy and pleasure). I think it is important to note that I am not advocating a lifestyle of extreme rigor where hardships are celebrated- the point is not to punish ourselves, in a sense playing a modern martyr- but rather living in a way that is sustainable for ourselves and future generations while acknowledging this lifestyle may require substantial sacrifices compared to our current standard of living. This perspective does not denote a political affiliation, I’m not saying we need to be Republican or Anarchist- and furthermore I don’t think there is value is making blanket statements about business, corporations, banks and the lynchpins of our economic system- but we need to proverbially put all that we know on the “chopping block.”
Fifthly, we must seek to develop an alternative culture. True, lasting and good change can only happen on the cultural level. We can implement a recycling program, but if we do not have a culture of sustenance, we will continue to waste. We can implement a savings program through a community, but if we do not have a culture of thrift, we will continue down the path of consumerism. This is not to say a recycling and savings program are bad, I am simply saying they are not enough.
There are examples of alternative cultures in the United States. One such culture, called “The Farm,” has been in existence since 1971. Around 170 people exist together in what they call an “Intentional Community.” For those who think these people are lazy hippies, please note The Farm can be credited for a central role in organic farming and a pioneering role in modern midwifery, among many other things. While they have experienced their ups and downs, they exist in a sustainable way, and have done so for over 40 years. This is a wonderful model for an alternative culture. More information can be found here.
These five points are scraps of a dream to exist in a way that attempts to give as much as we take. I’ve attempt to detail a few thoughts, albeit incompletely, and next I will take these thoughts to a more practical level, and focus on communities as the cornerstone of culture.