Friday, 4 December 2015

Integrity, culture and service

Not so long ago I returned to Vancouver Island and North American culture from an extended time in Europe and Africa. My partner and I moved onto the land at OUR Ecovillage  to contribute our experience and wisdom into the mix of people there who have come to learn and grow.  It was a bitter sweet reconciliation for me. Back among both new and familiar friends, family and flora I was eager to apply what knowledge I had of land stewardship and husbandry to assist in the creation of new ways of being. After being away it was refreshing to know the trees, see connections and recognize an ecosystem’s elements. It was exciting to fit in so well, sharing accumulated knowledge with open and receptive minds.
After some time I became discouraged. Not because of who or what is possible or imagined at the ecovillage but by the forces that would prevent or discourage those changes, those possibilities. I  saw through a different lens the incredible amount of energy, resources, time and mental space necessary to live in North American culture. The racism, sexism, ageism and blatant disregard by those with all the money or power, was if not in the best sense of the word enlightening, incredibly disgusting and stressful to me.
 In order for this society to exist as it is, millions, billions of people live in abject mind numbing poverty. Every time I got in the truck to drive somewhere, out on an errand or for some recreational activity it came to me. How easy it was to justify. Except I don’t recall previously needing to justify it. Like virginity, once the experience has happened there is no return. I have knowledge and experience that affects my perspective forevermore.
 I had conversations with myself about my personal integrity. Reflecting on the folks in Cameroon whose income could be measured in pennies to our dollars.
At one point I saw a souped up 30’s roadster painted bright orange cruising down the highway. What I make up, is that some (likely male) individual has a hobby restoring these things, then drives around  to show it off or whatever. They have privilege, partly due to hard work creating income and a comfortable life, but also thanks to a system set up to encourage promote and sustain growth and consumerism. For the rest of the world who all seem to want this “success" unaware of the consequences, there is a massive disparity of value. I see it tied to the incredible complexity of modern societies. Something, someone has to pay for this. The levels of bureaucracy,  the myriad relationships to manifest all those “affordable" consumer goods,  the employment opportunities,  the communication networks and the endless disposable “toys”.
 My time in Cameroon and Tanzania opened my eyes.  We are all under the influence of the corporautocracy. I call it corp-hypocrisy.  I don’t like the direction things are going politically in North America.  It seems out of control and everyone (for the most part) is like the frog in the frying pan, the heat slowly rising.
 From a distance and on social media many are saying it has to change, the end is near, read this etc. Having an opinion is great but posting isn’t enough. I need to put my words and actions in alignment and motion by living what I believe, being the change.
I get that flying in airplanes contributes to climate change, after all, everything is related.  I’m willing to make that compromise in order to do  service in Bafut Cameroon, where I feel more in alignment with living from a permaculture perspective; contributing my wisdom and experience while being challenged and learning from the environment and people there.
 Maybe I’m delusional. But the shadow of that is that I believe most North Americans ARE  delusional, thinking their rate of consumption is sustainable or has no impact. And the reality is that the small things we do pale in comparison to the mega projects creating mass pollution from the petro chemical  plastics industries, throwaway cellphones and non-stop production of new vehicles to name just a few.
 There are 7 billion people and counting on the planet. In various places in the world due to an inherent desire for more, people are dying in civil wars, they are exploited, enslaved and abused, used up and thrown on the trash heaps of our societies. I don’t feel comfortable or in integrity with that cultural construct.
Living in harmony and balance is ultimately the goal, at least for me. Sharing the surplus, taking care of each other and  creating no waste are all part of this. Applying and living with these ethics goes a long way towards an equitable existence. My observation skills improve in application; everything is related, every function in every ecosystem supports the whole, supporting the planet. Working WITH is easier than altering existing systems. Patience pays off in allowing the systems to express themselves. The diversity of the edge is where things are really transformative and greater possibilities exist. I  can apply this understanding in all earth based experiences and possibly mechanistic and technical situations. I can change the world, along with supportive community where ever I find it.

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