Confronting the Challenges of Community: Part I
By Martha Ireland. Republished from Speaking Truth to Power.
There exists today, a trinity of situations that confronts those of us who live in Western culture: global climate change, the peak and eventual end of non-renewable sources of fossil fuels (oil and gas), and economic meltdown. These issues are old news for much of the world. We in the wealthier nations are going to join the global community in attempting to find ways to survive and live amidst enormously trying circumstances.
There are individuals who have been aware of these issues for decades; however, nothing has been done to address them due to the sociopathic nature of greed and lust for power at the highest levels of politics, governance, and commerce. Moreover, the vast majority of the populace has been only too happy to remain in blissful ignorance in order to avoid taking any responsibility and in order to be able to continue to deny that our culture is rotten from within. Apparently, most of us would prefer to watch some fake "reality" television program. We evidently prefer a fabricated reproduction of the real to that which is truly real - rather than face, head on, the truth of life as it actually exists.
The only solution to this trinity of situations anywhere in the world is the creation of sustainable community. There are many kinds of communities in the world, few of which are sustainable, Cuba being an exception.
Sustainable community is critical to the continuation of human life on earth, and many are beginning to rhapsodize about creating local communities. The reality is that the vast majority of individuals in Western culture have absolutely no clue about fashioning such.
This series of articles will attempt to identify, confront, and address the deep challenges of creating and living in sustainable community. It will, of necessity, be a good example of a complex living system. A simple definition of a complex system from Wikipedia states that "a complex system is a system composed of interconnected parts that as a whole exhibit one or more properties (behavior among the possible properties) not obvious from the properties of the individual parts. This characteristic of every system is called emergence and is true of any system, not just complex ones."
This means that, with respect to the emergence of these articles, fluidity, change and chaos are and will be factors as we go along.
The Big Trinity
Climate change is finally making its way into public consciousness and discourse. Increasingly, we will find that our daily lives are irrevocably changed due to changes in climate. Simply put, the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 parts per million. We've already surpassed that number and even if the whole world stopped putting more carbon into the atmosphere this very moment, the carbon levels would continue to climb for a long time.
Clearly, the US, China, Great Britain and India are not about to stop gorging on and spewing non-renewable poison. Coal is the dirtiest of all fuels and coal plants continue to befoul and destroy the planet and the atmosphere, particularly in China and the US. By the way, there is no such thing as "Clean Coal." "Clean Coal" is an oxymoron, and one has to be a moron to believe it.
The US, in particular, rather than creating an all-out mandate for renewable resources, is perfectly willing to engage in endless war. This, in itself, requires enormous infusions of oil. This means that we will be fighting to gain the few remaining drops, and that humanity (not to mention all other forms of life on earth) is in big, deep trouble.
The fossil fuel situation (Peak Oil and Gas) is not understood by the vast majority of the citizenry. That will shortly change, bringing with it tremendous shocks to the public. Everything that we depend upon for life, such as food, water, heating and cooling, transportation, health and medical care, and access to other affordable staples that we have long taken for granted, will become less and less available to the average person.
Economic meltdown is already here - in spades - and the economies of the "first world nations" will never go back to being what they were. Unemployment, the housing crisis, the looming commercial real estate crisis, homelessness, lack of healthcare, increasing costs for food, and lies, greed, and sociopathic malfeasance in the realms of finance, politics, and commerce make daily headlines in primarily alternative news sources. The mainstream media continues its assault on intelligence and reason. Unfortunately, there is not yet a critical mass of individuals that understands spin from truth.
Capitalism is defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary as: "an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital (from Late Latin meaning "top of the column" goods), by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market."
We are now learning that the "free market" has been anything but free and that few citizens have access to "capital" goods.
Why, one might ask, does the foregoing matter? It matters because most individuals in Western culture equate Communism (a political system) with Socialism (an economic system) and have knee jerk reactions to any system other than Capitalism. This is due to a lack of real knowledge and understanding. There have been many people in the past who have warned of the coming demise of capitalism, including the great theologian, Paul Tillich, author of The Courage To Be.
In the years to come, we will all be required to possess a large measure of "the courage to be." The question is: what social form will our "courage to be" take? The human being is nothing if not creative and imaginative, and these new forms of social interaction will be created as necessity demands. More than likely, these new forms will more closely resemble what we think of now as socialism than capitalism and communism. Our new societies and communities, in order to be sustainable, will require it.
The reasons that many people dream of living in some sort of sustainable community are many: they may be sick and tired of politics as usual, power structures, irresponsible, greedy lifestyles, have serious ecological concerns, be worn out with making money just to spend money - for all sorts of reasons based upon their own individual values and beliefs. So many people are starving for an alternative.
The difficulty is that creating a truly sustainable, compassionate, joyful community is anything but easy and requires that we engage not just our heads, but our hearts and souls as well. Absent heart and soul, any community is destined to fail. Western culture, including many of those that dwell therein, is not known for valuing either.
The first impediment to the creation of community, much less sustainable community is that we have no clue as to how to go about doing so. Western Civilization, in its thousands of years' drive for power, control, and wealth, has decimated every indigenous culture on the planet. Western belief systems carry the mantra that "might makes right." Just because we have the power to do something does in no way mean that we should - a fact that we will soon come to realize and confront in our daily lives.
The very people who might have had something to teach us are long dead. Even though there are written remnants of indigenous wisdom that are helpful to us today, reading about indigenous cultural communities is hardly the same as being able to experience them first hand.
What this means is that we are on our own - castaways of our own making - and are completely unprepared to face the tsunami of change that is upon us, due to our unwillingness and inability to face the truth. We in Western culture cannot expect or even hope to avoid the ramifications of our actions and inactions. We have hidden from our own internal personal and cultural darkness and shadows for millennia. The Piper has arrived in town for payment.
In the second installment of this series of articles, we will begin an in-depth discovery and discussion of the primary challenges of the creation of community. Stay tuned.
Posted by rowan at August 13, 2009 5:42 AM
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Martha Ireland is a social entrepreneur, author, poet, educator, public speaker, organizational and social theorist, human performance and business consultant, futurist, and social architect. Visit her website at Sustainable Strategic Solutions. She may be reached at [email protected]