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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Four nickels - More thoughts on change

I've been having a conversaton with Sheria about change, preceptions, paradigms, and Obama. (I posted a bit about it in my receint post Change - A Pair of Dimes. You can see the beginning of these thoughts there.)

Something that we touched on in the course of this conversation has been niggling at the back of my mind. An important point that I haven’t explored well. While I was mowing this evening (a great form of meditation, almost as good as long distance driving) the idea started to creep out. So, here is an exploration.

I’m bothered by my reaction to Obama. Not for political reasons, but because I have spent a lot of time and effort working on being open minded, particularly with people of different culture or ideological backgrounds. I thought I had pretty well eliminated the knee jerk bias of my youth from my thought processes. To find that I had succeeded only at a conscious, intellectual level is very frustrating. It is a pretty simple change, supported by existing social norms and fairly well integrated into our social fabric. Given that much support, I shouldn’t fall so easily into old ways of thinking. Yet I did.

This failure doesn’t give me much hope for my current project, which involves actively living in ways that are not supported by the culture. What I am trying to do is construct a new paradigm for my self (and by default, my family). I’m not talking about changing a few behaviors or attitudes. I’m talking about changing the fundamental beliefs we all hold about humans’ role in the world.

I was having a conversation on the Bioneers site a while back on population growth and its impact on environmental issues. The conversation started with someone pointing out that population growth had fallen off the radar as far as eco-issues, and we Bioneers, should do something. At some point in the conversation I, from my eco-farmer p.o.v. pointed out that food supply was the single limiting factor in population growth. Increase it and population increases, every time. Decrease it and population decreases, every time. Keep it the same and populations stabilize. It is a natural law. I use it all the time in trying to bring balance to the various organisms living in my garden. My point was, if we want to stabilize or decrease the population we have to stop producing a food excess. The response was interesting. That I had described the classic relationship between food and population was acknowledged and then the question was asked again. “What are we going to do about the HUMAN population problem? In the minds of these eco conscious scientific people humans are somehow exempt from natural law. If you asked them directly they would say of course we are all subject to natural law. But, this fundamental belief about humankind’s role in the world skews their every thought and action. THAT is the paradigm I am trying to change in my life. I want to automatically live as a member of the community of life. Not as some lord with the powers of a minor god, decreeing what shall live and what shall die for my own convenience.

So, I’m a bit frustrated that I can’t even change a simple social perception after 20 years of trying.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ok. You touched a nerve. Limit food and you limit population growth in the natural world. Yikes! Yes, your statement is true, but in the natural world, the population stops growing because the weak, etc. starve. That is unacceptable. People in starving parts of the world don’t have fewer children because they can’t feed them—they have fewer children who survive. Actually they have more children because they need them, and they don’t all survive. Yes, it is survival of the fittest. In your scenario the fittest are physically the strongest. However, in my opinion, a very long time ago, human survival moved away from just being the most able, as an individual, to survive, and physical fitness became less important. Yes, it made us weaker, physically, as a species, but our strength grew as a species because we were cooperative; we had community. We had a society in which all the members were interdependent—even those who couldn’t feed themselves. We valued intellectual strength and beauty, and we developed compassion. The problem with society today is not that we make too much food, but rather that we no longer understand our own interdependence. Our interdependence crosses state lines and oceans. Each person in our society has importance, and we are NOT, nor should we ever strive to be, completely self-sufficient. Every person who I encounter has some role to play in our society, and should have value—and deserve food. Most importantly, we all need to value those who teach us compassion (another topic for another day). Human starvation does not teach compassion. You value your independence from the rest of society. I could name any number of equally superficial traits, in my opinion, that are all detrimental to the interdependence of our world, but I think many would offend you. I am not trying to offend. I recognize that you are trying to make a difference and I applaud your effort. I hope you see that those who chose a different path are equally important in the community. Education, education, education. Turn around the world, one person at a time, but the foundation of what has created the human race, which includes intellectual and artistic endeavors, needs the support (and food) from the rest of us, even if their carbon footprint is bigger.

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