I don’t protest. I don’t demonstrate. I rarely “participate.” I observe. Only now, entering my late 30s, am I able to see how being one that observes IS a form of participation. As i read, watch, investigate, research and experiment I am, in essence, engaging in the changing world. I am trying new ideas on for size. I am scrutinizing my daily routines and making subtle shifts in habit. I am becoming more aware of myself and my place in a new paradigm. This, I think, must count as walking the walk. One need not have given several years of service to community organizations, or work full-time for a non-profit, or have been awarded a grant for innovative new thinking to be a part of the world as we discover what comes next. One must only possess a recognition of the change that is beginning, and a determination to learn more, however incrementally, about what they can bring to the table.
We are living at the cusp of something new. It it undefined. It exists only as vision and a few experiments throughout the world. It is not widespread in action, though clearly in need. It does not have limits. It is, however, most certainly, new. Even as our new world paradigm seeks to incorporate past truths and models of life, it does so with a new understanding. This new understanding comes on the heels of great turmoil that is decades old. This turmoil, in conjunction with our unprecedented connection to the global community, lays a marker for us to strive from. We must gather our strength, knowledge, and resources and work with unrivaled cooperation to bring about the change we hope to see. We are, as Grace Lee Boggs says, the change we’ve been looking for.
As we embark on a quest for collaborative community, we must recognize where we are. We must recognize that we live in a world with seemingly insurmountable challenges. We live in a polarized world of conflicting ideologies. Extremists at all peripheries command the spotlight, giving no room for negotiation and tolerance. Our populations are exploding worldwide, and as they explode, the gap between those that are rich and those that are poor is widening exponentially. We have commodified our natural resources and our worth as human beings. We have privatized profits and socialized the costs. Our environment is suffering from man-made climate change. Children are neglected by outdated and incompetent education systems. Racism and Sexism run rampant. And our food and water supplies are poisoned. Most, if not all of this, is due to the pursuit of profit and economic growth, which fails to recognize the basic physics of a perpetual growth model with finite resources.
Similarly, as this quest begins, we must also recognize that there are people adjusting. There are new models to explore. Detroit offers cogent examples of people taking change in to their own hands and ignoring the status quo. Brasil has implemented new transportation systems to deal with the environment and social inequality. Co-ops and farmers markets are springing up all around us. European style worker-owned factories are taking root in the United States. Energy Think-Tanks are breaking the mold as we try to adapt to Peak Oil. And alternative education models are becoming increasingly popular.
We can no longer look to government, though it plays a role. We can no longer simply give money to our particular causes, as the organizations and non-profits lack the breadth of understanding to tackle something so large as a paradigm shift. We must do this in our neighborhoods and communities. We must listen to each other; inquire as to each other’s needs; seek opportunities to mend the fabric of our society. As we search, armed with the knowledge and resources of those that are already conducting experiments around the world, we must forget the cliched bumper sticker and instead, “Think Locally, Act Locally.”
As I endeavor to answer these questions in my own community, I aim to share my findings, thereby expanding the wealth of knowledge. As the walls of our current paradigm begin to decay, we all have a seed to plant in the rubble. I believe that a garden of abundance is taking root and will blossom in the Spring.