Not only is the "how" something most people feel unable to really wrap their minds around, but the "what" seems to stump most people too these days. So here's the thing, the "what" really isn't as difficult as we're making it. What we all really want, deep down, is real freedom, real liberty. We all want to live long, healthy and fulfilling lives - and with few exceptions, we want to do it without our neighbors, law makers and governing officials poking their noses in and making our choices for us. Really, it's not that "strange" of a proposal... Isn't it the ideals of "Freedom & Liberty" that the United States were supposedly founded on?
But today we live in a society where everyone is more worried about removing the rights and freedoms of their neighbor than ensuring their own children have rights left when they grow up. More than that, we've become so worried about giving people who we don't believe deserve things that we've become a society bent on giving to no one. In a country with nearly 50 Million people dealing with chronic food insecurity, we cut food stamp benefits to provide school lunches, all the while spending astronomical amounts of money on a war that no one believes in. Constant arguments over petty, and quite frankly, ridiculous issues like same sex marriage and abortion, have taken the place of real political issues, because we can't stand not having control over what the men & women next door or down the street can and can't do. And worst of all, we've become so accustomed to believing the lies our government feeds us that we happily consume tainted food, toxic medications and chemically contaminated water all in the name of progress.
It seems like for every issue we have to solve, there are a dozen more that seem completely unsolvable. Who cares if we "fix" our hunger issues, there are still going to be school shootings... So what if everyone gets decent healthcare, people are still going to abuse their kids... Clean up our air, people will still lose their jobs... The list could go on and on forever.
But there is a way to fix ALL of these issues! In fact, it's a solution which people have used again and again... It's called community! It may seem like too small of an answer. There are lots of great communities with high crime, lousy schools and more homeless than can be counted. That's not completely what I'm talking about though. When I say community, I don't just mean small introverted communities, I mean community on the large scale. Citywide, Nationwide, Worldwide...
But first, I AM talking about small communities, baby steps. First, I am taking about YOU, your family and your neighbors... Of course the bigger picture is the long term aim, but if you can't fix a small issue, there's no way you can tackle a large one, right? And of course if everyone is doing these "small" things then the bigger issue wouldn't be there in the first place...
So what kinds of things am I talking about? And how much work do they really take? Some things are in fact quite small - others not so much.
One of the most important "small" things you can do is educating yourself on the FACTS surrounding major social and political issues. I'm not saying you need to go to school and study law, but if you don't know what Fracking is, you can't really make a choice one way or another as to if you are going to support it or not. And the same can be said of nearly everything else. So, get educated. In most cases, researching the real facts takes less time than reading all the news stories and blogs on an issue, so go after facts, not drama.
In the mean time, while you're doing that, you can focus on making other simply changes in your own life that, at least in a small way, make the world better. Here are SOME of those things:
- Shop Local & Small Business
- Be aware of what you're buying & how it's packaged
- Refuse to bring items that you don't need home.
- Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle your waste.
- Garden (Grow Your Own Food!)
- Make Your Own (everything - cleaners, personal products, food, etc)
- Reduce your water & energy use.
- Donate things you don't use or need anymore (even if they aren't in perfect shape)
- Stop Using Plastic
- Limit Your Use of Paper
- Learn to Cook
- Switch to a Whole Foods Diet
- Drive Less and Carpool when Possible
Once you have started making "small" changes in your own life, it's time to start working with others. Talk to your friends and neighbors, encourage them to do the things you are doing and help them learn how to do things like cooking, making their own cleaners and gardening. If you have a group of people all working towards the same goals, it's even easier to make things work. For example, if you plan your gardens together you'll be able to make sure you're growing different things, so you can then swap and share. Planning menus together can help too, instead of making ONE casserole, you can make two, and switch with friends - which means you get to cook less!
And now it's time to go beyond your own circle. Once your friends and family (or at least some of them) are on board, it's time to focus on the community as a whole. Get your "group" of like minded friends together and start talking about ways to make your community better. Take these ideas further by heading (as a group) to town meetings and by getting involved. Volunteer at a local food bank together, clean up litter together, volunteer to pick up recycling from others in your neighborhood together... As your "group" gets bigger and more people get involved, you can work on cleaning up local parks, raising money for a safe playground, organize a working watch group, and work on community wide events.
Not sure what types of things to focus on? Obviously it's easy to point out issues like police corruption or violence in the schools. But again, those issues (as important as they are) are bigger than what we're looking at here. Those issues DO need to be tackled, but if you don't have a solid, strong and healthy community, they can't be. So instead, focus on things that help bring the community together. And depending on your area the "how" may very greatly from what people in other areas are doing. BUT, the point is to be working together for a better community, and in turn, a better world.
My local town hosts a city wide "fleatique" (flea market / vendor show) twice a year (in the spring & fall). It's a huge, day long event, where people all over town, small businesses and vendors of all kind come together to sell their wares (or old junk & clothes), and people from all over the state come to shop. It took quite a bit of work to get it up and running, but once the first one happened, it was such a success that we had to add a second event. Does it change lives? No. Not in itself. But it brings the community together. It localizes business and relationships. It gives us a platform for change... Other local events have included our small business "sip & stroll" where all the small businesses in town put out snacks, drinks and samples for people to try. The whole town came out and wondered in and out of store after store... Sales were great for everyone and most people found new or better products than they had before... Events like these, in themselves, don't make huge changes. But they do bring the community together and help make it a better, and safer, town. And things like this could be done nearly anywhere. If you have a local community center, it could be the perfect place to start working with your community leaders to make the changes you want to see, or it could be the perfect place to find other like minded people...
Don't have one? Neither do I. But don't let that stop you. You can easily local group or "club" by using sites like "MeetUp.com" and posting flyers. Involve as many people as you can - learn, teach and grow together. As the group gets bigger, so will the impact you are making. If forming a big group seems intimidating, that's okay, grass roots movements don't with large groups, but in small ones. So work on getting just 3 people to make positive changes and of course make sure you are too...
Don't think helping just 3 people makes a difference? What if I told you, helping just 3 people could change the world? Okay, maybe not. But here's some numbers for you to look at...
- You spend 1 year creating changes in your life... You learn to garden. Learn to cook. Simplify your life. Reduce your waste... ETC...
- Then you form a group. You find just THREE people to join your group (with you there's 4), and you help them all do what you did.
- After a year, you ask them each to bring THREE more people in to the group. Now you have 13 in your group.
- Repeat this cycle for 10 years, know how many people you end up with in your "little group?" Over 59,000! That's 59,000 people who have changed their lives and made the world better in just 10 years. That's 59000 people who YOU have helped! And in fact, it's so many more than that because each time each of these people affect the world in a positive world, it affects those around them. Plus, assuming that these are 59,000 single people without kids or families, you would actually be responsible for changing the life styles of nearly 200,000 people or more (counting partners & kids).
Sounds impossible though right? Well, to some degree I have been idealistic in those numbers. Not everyone will want to grow their own food, eat organic or cook their own meals. But many will. And think about it, if 1 person in every town in the country did exactly what I'm talking about here, in 10 years we could be living in that world that we all really dream of.
A world where fruit trees are planted in public parks and on side walks. Where children know the river water is safe to swim in. And where a deep breath won't make you choke.
The biggest thing about changing the world, is changing how people see it, and themselves. Until we ALL get to a point where we are comfortable with the idea that we are accountable for ourselves and our community, we can not, and will not make the changes we want to see on any large scale. It's up to each of us to change the way we are living and thinking BEFORE we can really change anything beyond us. Of course some changes - on the largest scale - need to be made with a vote rather than a shovel, but even in those cases people who are living positive life styles for themselves are going to be open to making positive choices (in a voting booth) for others.
There are NO simple answers. There is NO quick fix! And more than that, we need to understand that the system we have is broken, simply voting for the opposite party in the next election isn't going to make any real changes. No matter who's in charge of a broken system, it's still broken. We need to throw the system out, but we can't do that without first making LOTS of changes on a smaller scale first... So, that's why I stress making changes in your own world, then helping others, and then going "big" in your own local community...
It may feel like it's you against the world. But that's where the internet comes in at. Facebook, Twitter and numerous other social sites are filled with people who are trying to do the same things you are. Find them, encourage them, and encourage them to encourage others... Learn from one another and support one another and together you can make a huge difference! Remember what I said about helping 3 and them helping 3... Think how big that number could be in 10 years if there were 1000 people doing just that? 3 people may not seem like a huge change in a world of 7 Billion... But what about a world where 5 Million were working for change? Yeah, it may take the rest of your life, or the rest of mine, to really change the world... But guess what, we didn't destroy it over night, and we won't fix it that way either!