Lacking a sense of purpose or mission, many of us flounder and get depressed or retreat into purely private endeavors. Let’s talk about this.
In a recent correspondence, my 86-year-old father said he had resigned as chair of his regional 350.org chapter and was now wondering what useful role to pursue at this stage of life. Influenced by PROUTist thinking (he has been reading After Capitalism) he is frustrated by the lack of alternative vision of environmentalist organizations and the fragmentation of issues-driven movements. He observed, “Little causes with no real, coordinated effort that connects the dots required for full and hopeful success of a continuing world.” He is inspired to search for opportunities for community dialogue that goes beyond exchange of opinion to shared understanding and enlightened vision. At the other end of the age range I speak with many college students and out of school young adults with optimism and energy who seek meaningful opportunities to make a difference.
Three levels of action
I think there are three levels of action we can take depending on our inclination and scope of power or opportunity. First, of course, we can improve our personal practices and relationships. Second, we can work locally on issues that make a difference in our own community. Third we can join movements that apply pressure to the power structure (government and corporations). Number one is a given for all conscious people. The time is now to step up to number two and to push that arena further to network with other communities to build globally connected cultural change. Option number three is not necessarily a better strategy.
I think that local projects, which create visions of possibilities, models for the future, connect with like-minded efforts elsewhere, and challenge our inter-personal resilience, are the most promising. (See for example PROUT’s SEED model). There are ample opportunities for community activism. Solutions to the problem of housing and healthcare for all, developing food forests and community gardens, non-toxic restoration of natural environment, sustainable and cooperative employment…are a few of the projects that arise.
How do we choose projects that are part of a larger vision, that “connect the dots…for a continuing world”?
My friend, Nick, says “grow food.” He believes this activity transforms persons, place and planet physically and spiritually. There is lots of evidence of this (see for example, West Oakland urban gardens) His suggestion moves from identifying a need that is shared across social divides and that has the potential to create opportunities for people to work together. Growing food in the rich Willamette Valley connects us with the ex-prisoners in Oakland, California who are also growing food.
Band-Aid projects are not solutions
The trick is to not get sucked into Band-Aid solutions that are not connected to a larger vision and strategy. Projects in which we invest our life force need to go beyond charity to create the changes we want to see. Banging your head against the bureaucratic bricks upholding the old social order at city hall is also not a rewarding vehicle for social change except maybe to hold public servants accountable and to raise consciousness.
Going forward we need to cultivate the experiences people have of the inter-relationships of all things. We need to deepen expression of humanity – the joy and love and pain of being. We need to broaden our capacity for generosity of spirit for those people we just don’t get. We need to develop resiliency among our friends, families and communities to respond to change with flexibility and collaboration rather than fear and individualism. Deep culture change is needed to rise to the multiple global climate and economic crises.
This is a partial checklist of criteria for “what to do.” Deeper thought on this is forth- coming in a new book on PROUTist revolution by Ronald Logan.