Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Used to be...

...that we were all excited about the concept of a global economy. Global village. Global this, global that. Actually, it is still a tremendously exciting reality. Technology like the internet and cell phones make it possible for us to have a knowledge of the earth like never before.

And it is amazing!

Perhaps the new global depression we're dealing with is somewhat of an outcrop of this. In many ways we are seeing the global economy actualized. And for Americans, that is going to mean less stuff that is more expensive. And its only right. After all, a true global economy SHOULD mean a distribution of wealth throughout the entire planet. Not $125 Nike's made by kids working in a factory for $1 a day.

So in that way, its good, this New Depression.

We had a house of cards for the last decade or two that has collapsed and is crumbling into itself. The problem currently is that all the redistribution of cash has gone to the super-rich. And I'm not sure that can be changed, but it might...perhaps it might.

In the meantime, we all have an interesting opportunity to reverse the biggest trend of the 20th Century! I am sure that many essays have been written about the changes in our society and in our sense of self that have caused us to be focused less and less on local unity and more and more on individualism. First science fiction and now reality, we are quite able to sit in our boxes and survive with little or no human interaction. Wow! You can just plug your code into your computer and just about anything will arrive at your doorstep. Just. About. Anything. I'm like you, I think that is neat. I've bought many many things online. Why not? It's easy, quick and simple. But is it sustainable? I think we are seeing in 2009 that it is not.

In 2009, we are frightened and paranoid about our money. Our friends (and ourselves) are losing their jobs, seeing their rents go up, their house values go down, any savings dwindle and it is scary! What could happen to me? That's the question we ask ourselves. How bad could it get? Have we bottomed out? If not, what could that really mean? Are we going to see loved ones become homeless? We've heard all the stories about the Great Depression. Is today's economy going to turn around? If so, how? Do we need a war to get us out of it? The Great Depression lasted 10 years plus. How will life change if this lasts as long as that?

What could happen?

Well, I have no fucking idea. Although these words are full of fear, and potentially fear-inducing, I am actually an optimist. Why? I don't know. I think perhaps we can help each other, and actual make a difference.

I find myself, in moments of fear, thinking that with family and friends we can overcome anything. Might we have to share a house? Yes. But we could do that. Might we have to share a car? Certainly, and how bad would that be? Not so. Might we have to significantly change our eating habits? Perhaps.

As I process these thoughts, I think about the concept of family and friends helping each other survive, and I find myself taking a further leap to the concept of community and neighborhoods and tribes. Which very quickly leads me to some basic economic concepts that might help us direct the change that we are seeing in our world. Concepts like local spending, sustainable farming, compassionate capitalism.

The way I see it, we have an opportunity right now to decide straight up which businesses survive and which businesses do not. Our dollars are a part of what is going to help make those decisions. It's almost like we need to look around our neighborhoods and ask ourselves what value do we see in having the businesses that we have. And even deeper, what value do we see in having a neighborhood at all?

I live in a pretty special neighborhood. A town in the city of San Francisco, where many people know each others names, and walking down the street is social event where you run into your friends and neighbors. So far, few of the businesses here have closed. I am not sure how long that will last.

My pledge is this: I will spend as much as I can afford at my local stores. When I am thinking about buying something on Amazon, I will see if I can get it from a local bookstore. When I am deciding which food to buy, I will consider buying from a local grower. If I can buy something directly from the maker/grower/artist then I will. EVEN IF IT COSTS A LITTLE MORE. Because that is how we are going to get through this. We can complain about nameless faceless corporate greed, but until we direct our dollars into faces and names that we can learn and interact with than we are missing our biggest opportunity to make a difference.

If you actually read this whole rant, thanks, please understand that I wrote it to try to calm myself and to share my thoughts we the people that I love.

I wanted to tag everyone I knew in this note, but Faceparty wouldn't let me, so I removed all tags.