Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Call to Action - Be the Change

I saw a link for this website the other day. Remember the OWSers? It was like that, only a bit more organized, but the same idea. The website was a call to action with the stated goal being to shut down the economic and political systems threatening our survival. There was a lot of rhetoric about overthrowing "white supremacy" and community action. They had posters and the hope was to have local and regional people organize their communities with a bunch of forums and protests.

Okay .... And then, what?

We all know that I'm not a fan of the way things are. I've been accused of being a Luddite (and I actually had to look up the word to see what I was being called ... I was flattered). I'm not a Luddite, although I prefer hand tools to power tools, and with the exception of my computer, which I depend on for my job, and the refrigerator and freezer, I could live pretty well without technology (and I could live without the computer and the refrigerator, they just make things much easier). Oh, and I like hot showers in the winter. So, hooray for my water heater.

But, that's actually my point. I hear the frustration these people are feeling, and I wholeheartedly agree that something needs to be done, but my concern is, if they are depending on the very systems they are hoping to overthrow - for communication, for instance, to get the word out about their movement - the people who need to hear them won't, because those people will be looking at these guys in the same way those in power looked at the OWSers - kind of like the hypocrites at the temple. Criticizing the government that builds and maintains the roads and then using those roads as if one is entitled to them is the very definition of hypocrisy.

Great, let's overthrow the government. Let's kick corporate America in the gonads and send them slithering back into their holes. Let's kill Monsanto and their ilk. Let's stop fracking and coal mining and drilling for oil and urban sprawl.

And, then, what?

What are we going to replace those systems with? Because we don't quit a habit, we replace it. I quit smoking nineteen years ago. Just. Like. That. But initially, I didn't just give up cigarettes and go on my merry way. I replaced the cigarettes. I started eating sunflower seeds and peppermints. After a while, I stopped needing those, too, but at first, I needed something to take the place of the cigarettes.

We can talk all high and mighty about overthrowing the government, but it's not just going to cease to exist and then, we will all live in this flowery utopia with Monarch butterflies repopulating the milkweed and honey bee colonies pollinating the apple trees. This government will be replaced with something else, and while I like the idea of smaller government, it's still government. So, there's that.

The fact is that most people still need electricity to stay warm. They still need the grocery stores to stay fed. They still need what our society offers, and until we can convince other people that life can be better without those things, this movement is going to be just another OWS movement, just another 1960s Hippie movement, and just another 1970s back-to-the-land movement in which a few people benefit, but the world continues to lurch forward to whatever dark future is ahead of us when the resources run out.

There is a very famous man who wasn't born to be famous, and perhaps, during his life time he wasn't as revered as he now is. He is most noted for advising us to be the change we wish to see in the world. He lived a very simple and modest life, and by refusing to buy into the systems against which he protested, he showed others what was possible.

In short, he lived the change he wished to see, and he practiced civil disobedience. He passively ignored the law when following it did not benefit him, and he encouraged others to do the same.

So, maybe I don't like paying taxes on beer and cigarettes. I can brew my own beer for my personal consumption. I can also grow my own tobacco, dry it and smoke it. It's perfectly legal ... as long as it is for my personal consumption, and I'm not selling it. I guess my point is that there are ways around the laws that aren't around the law, but following the law without succumbing to the penalties (taxes).

I don't disagree with what the OWSers did, and I'm not saying this new organization is wrong, either, but I feel that if we really want to affect change, we have to be willing to live the way we want the world to live. We have to be willing (and able) to give up those things we abhor. We have to be the people who can survive without electricity, who have food stores enough to eat well for a month at the end of the winter without depending on the grocery store. We have to be like Robin Speronis from Florida, who decided she was going to live off-grid in the middle of the city. We have to be like Hiedemarie Schwermer, who has lived without money for sixteen years, or Mark Boyle who lives off the land and off the grid.

Instead of taking to the streets in protest, I suggest we quietly begin taking back our lives.

If we don't like capitalism, don't engage in it.

If we don't like corporatism, don't work for them, don't give them our money (I hate Wal-Mart, and I've been boycotting them for half a decade. I haven't suffered at all from that choice, and I've never wanted for a thing).

Instead of protesting against corporate agricultural and the continually rising costs of our food, start growing our own. If you have a yard, plant food. If you don't have a yard, find someone who does and offer to plant a garden for them, if they will share it with you. I'm surrounded on three sides by older neighbors who don't have the time or energy for gardening, but any one of them would be THRILLED to have a young person who would plant an organic food garden in their space - even better if that garden included lots of perennials, like berries and fruit-bearing trees.

Instead of having climate change forums where there is a lot of talk and little action or paddling kayaks (made from fossil fuel by-products and transported using gas-guzzling vehicles) across the water to surround a single oil platform in an Alaskan bay, drive less, use alternative heating sources (and/or learn to live with the temperature just a little cooler than most people are accustomed to), don't use air conditioning and instead get acclimated to the heat, reduce electricity usage to that which is absolutely necessary for safety and health. These are very simple steps that anyone can do, and yes, it takes a lot more effort, but the pay-off can be huge. If there is less demand, there will be less need to supply, and eventually, perhaps, fossil fuel use will go the way of disco dancing.

Everything I do in my lifestyle is perfectly legal. Homeschooling, my garden, the chickens in the backyard. The thing is, even if it weren't, I'm committed to these things, and I would find a way to do them legally. If I couldn't be just a homeschooler, I would form a private school. If I couldn't have the kind of garden that I have, I would do some fancy-looking landscaping with all edible plants. If I couldn't have chickens outside, I would have something different that was legal (like quail or pigeons, which are not considered livestock in most places). Or I would figure out if it was something I could happily live without. Some things we have available to us aren't really necessary, even if we think they are.

If we want to make a difference, we have to be the change. We have to live the way we want to see everyone else living, and we have to show - through our actions - that our lifestyle choices are good.

Actions speak louder than words, so they say. If we want change, we have to make sure that our actions are sending the right message.


  1. I love this! I wish it was on the news and everyone was reading it. These are all of my thoughts, but put together in a way that makes sense (with a lot less yelling from me!). Thank you!

  2. Hear, hear Wendy. I absolutely agree 100% with every word of this post. I have that 'Be the change' quote on my refrigerator, and I looked at it for years before really starting to realise that if I want anything to change in the world, I really have to start right here at home and in my own life. So I am subversively beginning with tiny baby steps to divest myself from dependence on those institutions that I find ethically troubling. Like you, not shopping in big box stores was one of my first actions this year. I can't tell you how wonderful it is not to go into them any more..