This semester is in full force, and with 400+ pages to read a week (plus papers and presentations, and, oh wait, I'm working too), you will probably not see me (the Laynie half of us) socially for the next several months.
So I'll offer a wee snippet of a paper I turned in last semester on what our response should be to the layers of environmental and fiscal crises we see in our world.
Gandhi commissioned us to be the change we want to see in the world, and in the midst of dark times, we must believe change in possible - all other alternatives are simply not acceptable.
We can choose to believe we are powerless and stay paralyzed, or we can garner the power we do possess - our time, our resources - and do what we can, where we are, with what we have. And people will follow because passion inspires movement and all too often, people simply need to be shown the way.
If we wait for the government - or someone out there - to make the needed changes for us, we might be waiting forever. I propose we put down our devices, open up our wallets, and walk into the world outside our front doors.
Anne Frank once wrote,
Riches, power and fame last for only a few short years. Why do we cling so desperately to these fleeting things? Why can't people who have money more than enough for their own needs give the rest to their fellow human beings? Why should anyone have to have such a hard life for those few short years on earth? ….How wonderful it is that no one has to wait, but can start right now to gradually change the world! How wonderful it is that everyone, great and small, can immediately help bring about justice by giving of themselves!....If you follow this advice, within a few generations, people will never have to feel sorry for poor little beggar children again, because there won't be any! The world has plenty of room, riches, money and beauty. God has created enough for each and every one of us. Let us begin by dividing it more fairly.
So what is our response today? We can change our own little worlds as early as this very hour, and we don’t have to wait for anyone else to legislate a law or propose a new plan to do so. We can’t regulate the housing market tomorrow, but we could start a petition to do so from our living rooms. We can let a single mom live in our spare bedroom for a year while she saves up money for downpayment. We can’t feed the hungry people of the world in one day, but we can plant a community garden (and then another, and another). We can put our money where are mouths are and move our money to credit unions, buy less, buy used, not buy at all. We can pay our employees fairly, purchase groceries or cook a meal for someone in need. Kindness and conviction spread. If we don’t like anyone who is running for a political office, then we can run ourselves because no one is stopping us from doing so. There is much to be done and always a place to start. We have no excuse for waiting.
...So let’s not look only at short-term action steps, but also at long-term solutions and all the stages between to get there. None of the things mentioned are a full solution in and of themselves, but they are all advances and leaps in a better direction.
Indeed, ideally, we could start over, rip up everything - roots and all - and slowly build a system that’s set up for success. But no matter how we play our cards, starting with nothing will never be an option - we already have too much of a mess.
...So what do we do? We change an ideology by choosing to live counter-culturally every day - by talking about revolution and then by living it. We make the conscious choice to run, not walk, in the opposite direction of all the greed and selfishness and violence we so loathe in the world. Someone is writing the story of our generation; let’s be those people. We do what we can every single day. Every single day we do something, take even a tiny step in the direction of this existence we crave. We turn off lights and open windows. We don’t buy plastic water bottles, we use cloth bags for our groceries, we compost, we plant trees. We plant more trees, we share what we can. We don’t let capitalism define us. We research, we write articles, we recycle. We slow down, we learn to live simply. We speak up, we speak out. We protest, we march, we don’t wait for charge - we become the change. We grow tired, but we do not give up - not tomorrow or the next day either. It will be exhausting and demoralizing. We will lose friends; we may lose ourselves. But we must keep standing, placing one foot in front of the other, fighting by any means possible for a better world we will likely never see, but must believe with all our hearts is possible.
“A reminder: To get serious about systemic change is to get serious about decades, not weeks or months, of work. It also requires getting serious about large-order processes, not simply elections and policies” (Gar Alperowitz).
The time is here, the time is now. Someone must lead the charge - is it you? Let’s go.