THE WORLD IS BROKEN

That is the starting premise. I am not going to argue with you about whether it is broken or not. It is. If you don’t believe that it is, you need to read more and better things.

I will not argue, and I will not draw out a list of examples, because then anyone who has a different point of view can draw out their list of examples to the contrary, and all that adds up to is a lot of typing and not much of anything else. I am beyond trying to prove anybody wrong. The world is broken. Either you agree, you’ll bear with me for the sake of the argument, or you are done reading this, goodbye.

It is not anyone’s fault that it is broken. And I don’t think it is broken entirely, or inherently. By definition, all problems are finite, infinity is only a concept. Even this generation-defining problem that lies ahead of us, of surviving our cumulative damage to our own life support system/planet, and determining whether the number of future generations of humans can be counted on one hand or not. I don’t think we’re predestined to fail, either as individuals or as a society. I don’t think we’re guaranteed to succeed either.

Oh, no; this might indeed blow up spectacularly. No point in dwelling on it though— waste of mental space. I like to make plans that will work whether society blows itself up or not. And in that regard, one thing that I’ve begun to suspect (feel free to argue with me on this one) is thus:

 

WE HAVE EVERYTHING WE NEED

 

All of it. Everything to live a perfect life. Every bit of useful technology has been invented. Every bit of wisdom already exists. Everything that everyone on this planet needs has been created, or can be with knowledge we have. And we have the means to access any knowledge we don’t.

I’m not just talking about surviving, I mean thriving. A life full of fulfilling work, leisure, and self-actualization. Done in a way that doesn’t dump harm onto others, or pit communities and people against one another. All of the conceptual and mechanical pieces of a healthy world are part of our reality as it exists, today. It is just a challenge of putting those pieces together.

Is this not true? Like I said, argue with me if you don’t agree. Tell me something that doesn’t exist that needs to, tell me a situation to which we have no solution. I don’t think there are any. If we heard tomorrow that no new technology was being developed, that we had to live with only the things that had been invented as of right now, in early 2018, would we be any worse off for it? And if we were told, gun-to-collective-head, that we had to solve the world’s problems with only the tools and knowledge at hand, would we at least try? I think we would.

I am the one telling you. The gun is there, I can feel it on my temple when I look around. This world is broken. But it can be fixed. Right?

 

IT WAS NEVER FIXED IN THE FIRST PLACE

 

We are not trying to go back. There is no idyllic vision of the past to strive for. There has never been a sustainable human civilization on this earth, we’ve just been relatively too small to notice. It has all added up.

There is a lot of idealizing of the past going on right now. Across the political spectrum. Whether it’s some form of the back to the land movement, or people trying to Make America Great Again, we’ve managed to create in our mind a false vision that culture has fallen apart just recently.

False! Things have been bad since the Fertile Crescent. Our species’ history is a tapestry of genocide, abuse of control, and atrocity against one another. We actually live in the least violent, longest life-spanned century humans have ever had. It’s no worse now, it’s just better documented.

Not that we haven’t left things behind— in this age of information, we know more about the world, yet understand our place in it less. While the rights of individuals have advanced, communities have unraveled and eroded. As technology has made our lives more convenient, it has destroyed our relationship with the earth we live on, causing huge rifts in our cultures and economy.

We can’t go back to the past, but we can work to regain the connection to land and our communities that used to give our lives meaning. But we have to do so in a new way, one that figures out how to maintain the good advances of the last century, without the support of a global, fossil-fueled based economy.

Because what real advances have we made if we cannot sustain them? If all of our social and technological advances are based on the existence of a fragile, global food supply chain to maintain order, what happens if that collapses? Do you know what kind of people don’t care about civil rights? Starving people.

And it doesn’t look like we’re going to find a suitable replacement for gas in time, so... when it’s no longer economically-viable for companies to extract gasoline, how do we avoid the same atrocities of our more localized past? Local power now, it means family restaurants, small businesses— just a few generations ago, local power meant slavery, xenophobia, well-poisonings, witch-burnings.

How do we preserve equality, freedom of mobility, the Internet, indoor plumbing, all these new, expensive things worth saving— without subsuming everything into a homogenous global community that is burning the earth’s candle at both ends?

That is the big question I’ve been asking myself. Not whether it is possible or not, but how. And when I’ve been thinking about it, I wish I had a list of all the things a community needed to know to thrive, and a map of all the places to learn those things. So even if it’s never complete, I’m going to start building it.

Write something here if you have a skill or a space to share. Sign up to hear the updates as they occur. And drop me a line anytime at my fancy new email, ben@homesteadteachers.org with anything you have to add.