WE MIGHT PAY CASH
Several months ago Michigan Land Trustees initiated a new project
designed to promote more community self-reliance and local economic
vitality. We call it "trickle-Up economics" and our first task is
to establish a Local Exchange Trading System--LETS--in the neighboring
small town of Bangor.
FOR YOUR VISION OF THE FUTURE!!!!
If this pilot project is successful in the economically-depressed town
of Bangor it .could work anywhere to help people recognize alternatives
to the formal jobs-and-money economy.' It represents a paradigm
shift from exclusive dependence on the market economy to a balance
between it and the household economy, a homecoming of economics as it
were. For unemployed persons it represents a Third Way beyond
dependence on a job or welfare.
One of our members saw the potential value of this project but felt it
could be promoted more effectively. Toward that end he provided
funds for a couple of naming contests.
"A new age is birthing," he wrote. "It needs a
new name, a new poetic mythology. This new economics, or
economics in general, needs a new name... In the good old American game
of baseball, some strike out, some get a hit. The object is to
get the hitters HOME. So there may be some poetic savant out
there who will come up with a divinely inspired mythological message
and hit us HOME."
A $100.00 prize will be awarded for the best name of this new economics.
A $200.00 prize will be awarded for the best name or myth for the New Age implied by the new economics.
To enter the contest, write or see Dr. Kenneth Dahlberg at 3051
Friedmann Hall, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008 for a
packet of background information and contest rules. Entries must
be returned to Dr. Dahlberg before March 31, 1993.
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY
The demands of the market economy constitute the greatest stress
on the family and is the greatest threat to its survival. Higher
prices demand higher wages which may not exist ten years into the
future. As the market-the formal economy-attempts to supplant
more and more of the home's services, the family must either have more
money to pay for these services or be willing to diligently resist the
market's influence and intrusion into its activities. By taking
creative and perhaps daring measures outside of the formal economy the
family can be assured that its needs will continue to be met.
"Two or more persons related by blood or adoption," is the legally
recognized definition of a family. The traditional nuclear model
consists of married parents and children aged from birth through early
adulthood. For much of the United States, the nuclear family is
still the most common unit for raising the young and for nurturing its
individual members. The extended family, common to our old world
ancestry, has been replaced by the nuclear family's friendship
extensions Friendships have replaced kinships as family supports.
Looking at the variations of the word "family," "familiar" more
accurately invokes the essence of the current model. Smaller
families also mean fewer people for kinship; a more diversified and
mobile population has created different family bonds from previous
generations. People create supports based on common interests and
experiences out of the basic human need for interrelatedness. Due
to our mobility and diversity we base our choice of support on like
needs rather than the pioneer necessity of relying solely upon one's
own family. From this basis we might move away from our cultural
priority of independence to a more realistic interdependence of
Families need not fit the traditional model. They may be of
several generations of unrelated adults; they may be a collective of
the homeless or of a certain religious or spiritual practice or of gay
or lesbian persons. In reality, "family" is not narrowly defined.
Nevertheless, a great many people may not fit into any family model
given the fragmentation and individualistic structure of our society.
To support our families (however they may be defined) in the coming
times of financial need and resource depletion will require movement
towards a more cooperative society not only for our physical needs but
for our need to be connected to one another.
Ironically, our present material wealth is also a major threat to the
unity of the family-eroding the family's ability to meet its needs
outside the formal economy. Self-sufficiency is undermined by the
conveniences offered by the market. The family is bombarded with
slick manipulation by advertisers selling us on the latest convenience.
Unfortunately, nowhere in our culture are we being sold on the very
real need to be able to rely on oiir own gifts and abilities-to provide
for ourselves. The schools socialize our children for ease of
and acceptance of, industrial society. Media images foster the belief that no real alternatives exist.
To counter this, parents can encourage children to think creatively and
offer different views of subject matter or social issues.
Libraries are excellent resources for parents who wish to expose their
children to other points of view than those which may be offered in the
schools. Television, likewise, needs to be balanced with a healthy
skepticism-- if it is to be utilized at all-and is probably the first
item you will want to trade away in exchange for your neighbor's
clothesline! Parents can become more involved in their children's
schooling from more active participation in local parents' groups to
deciding to educate the children at home.
The market economy also threatens families by the time demands made on
those who participate in it (leaving aside discussion of how difficult
it is not to participate in it). The amount of time spent working
for money-most employers do not usually have a flexible arrangement
geared to the needs of the employee-predetermines the amount of energy
and time one can spend of freeing oneself from it, and on the needs of
family and personal nurturing.
Given that it is our dependence and reliance on a monetary system which
most threatens family survival, planning our withdrawal is of immediate
concern. Money is a very real and constant issue. Landlords
do not barter for rent, nor are mortgage companies interested in shares
of the garden's bounty. Some alternatives include house sharing,
commual living arrangements, building one's own home (much cheaper than
to pay someone else to do it), and passing on the family home from one
generation to the next.
Traditionally, large families and kinship groups shared dwellings.
Shared living space was only one aspect of the society which shared
many of the risks, tasks and joys of life. Today, groups of
people could divide household expenses into more manageable amounts
than can the nuclear family freeing its members to devote more time to
their own nurturing and'the nurturing of the household. Many an
old farm house and neglected Victorian-era urban home can be come by
inexpensively. Since this is such a sound and practical solution to a
most basic problem (and many others as well) why so few people in the
United States choose this lifestyle deserves examination.
One possibility may be that not only are we an individualistic society but we are a disturbed individualistic
society. Great social fracturing and change has occurred within
the last 60 years. Some of this change has had its roots in an
earlier, rigid conformity-demanded for the unity of the group.
Conformity demanded at the total, or near total, sacrifice of the
individual will ultimately fail. This rigidity and insistence
that the needs of the individual be subjugated to the needs of the
whole may have sent many of its members off to the freedom of a more
autonomous culture. Ironically, a society whose members make no
allowance for the need for interconnection with one another is equally
sick. Therefore, in our endeavors to restore and promote
unity--to more closely share in each other's lives-we are challenged to
allow both the individual and the group to flourish.
The family's withdrawal from market economy enslavement can be
furthered by itemizing where income (our umbilical cord to the formal
market) is being drained away and where a non-market (informal)
function can take the place of the "bought" item or service.
Gardening and home canning not only saves money but is satisfying both
to the taste buds and the spirit. Both activities can also foster
family unity. Energy conservation measures pay for themselves
quickly, and even the truly broke can winterize with cheap or free
materials (newspaper is an excellent insulator for drafts, door jams,
etc). Household energy savings can be achieved by simply no
longer wasting it (the basics of turning off the light when you leave
the home, dressing for the season, etc). Clothing and other
household items are easy to acquire at garage sales, flea markets, and
thrift stores. Cars can be shared just as homes can. In
fact, car sharing is probably a more realizable goal
for our individualistic society than is mass sharing of our dwellings.
Automobile costs are exorbitant-everything from their actual purchase,
to mandatory insurance one must acquire to own one. Repair and
fuel costs have and will continue to skyrocket. In a society or
community which seeks to remove itself from the world made by the
formal economy, the need to rely on the auto and the desire for private
ownership of it will decrease,paving the way (no pun intended) for
neighborhood sharing of cars just as we might share lawn mowers.
Families need to take stock of their non-monetary assets and skills--
the informal economic strengths of families. Most households
contain many goods which contribute to the household's
self-sufficiency. Home canning equipment, the sewing machine,
cooking facilities, construction and home maintenance tools are only a
few of the many implements families may. have which enable them to
provide more and better for themselves.
Households contain a wealth of such goods purchased to provide self-
service, in direct opposition to the market economy which asks families
to instead buy service.
Family skills include carpentry, canning, gardening, parenting, crafts
(knitting, crochet, sewing, and wood working), and animal husbandry.
Homes are places of charm and nurturing for their members, or"at"least
they have that potential. Yet, as Scott Burns states so
convincingly in The Household Economy,
such activities are not recognized for their true value, since no
dollar value is attached to them. Families can begin to think in
terms of providing for their needs without the use of money.
Perhaps the childless household may wish to provide occasional child
care for the family next door in exchange for labor to help repair
their dwelling? Not only is service provided for each, but lives
are enriched by the personal interaction.
We all have skills and abilities which we may share with one another to
our mutual benefit and growth even though we are not used to thinking
of ourselves in this way given the dominance of the market
the long shadow it extends across the culture. One aspect of the
long shadow of industrial society concerns the government's intrusion
into the home. Zoning laws, burial regulations, birth control
issues, and prohibitions against domestic livestock are some
examples in which government has sought to control the family.
Individuals and communities need to work with local governing
bodies to assure that groups of unrelated adults who have similar goals
will not be excluded from the neighborhoods of"single family dwellings"
or from governmental benefits bestowed upon the latter.
Where we once experienced all the large events of living within our own
homes, from the births of our children to our last moments on Earth,
these have now been taken over by institutions and regulations
situated in faceless and impersonal buildings. We can
instead discern our own personal and spiritual needs in the bringing in
and sending on of the living and, based on that, communicate our
choices to local governments
and hospitals (where legal obstacles may exist). Families can
again control these crescendo experiences of our lives. Midwifery
is a very practical application of the desire for a more
family-centered birth, without institutional in intrusion. A
midwife attended birth is also less costly and, in many cases, less
dangerous than a hospital birth.
Perhaps no one in the family has known as much institutional intrusion
in its life as has the baby. The family has a multitude of
abilities to provide for the care of this new person without reliance
on the numerous gadgetry offered by the corporate world. Breast
feeding is the ideal nourishment. Cloth diapers replace the
artificial need for prompt disposal of anything remotely untidy.
Baby food can easily be made at home. Family unity and
satisfaction have the potential to increase when the family provides
for the care of its newest member in such direct and self-reliant
Likewise, the hospice movement has begun to return to the dying their
dignity and allows loved ones greater access to the terminally
ill. It has also helped to shape our individualistic society into
something more humane and compassionate; and it enabled death to come
back into the focus of society—not to be shamefully hidden away
as an event we don't want or need to deal with.
In order to encourage and utilize many of the family's skills, family
units must be egalitarian in nature. Tasks need to be shared, not
isolated to whichever gender the culture has deemed suitable to its
accomplishment. Traditional roles need to be relaxed. In
the ecological household we are all consumers and producers; we are all
bread winners (bread bakers?) and devourers of the bread.
The greatest change which must be made for the family to begin its
adjustment to a regenerative society can only come from within its
individual members. Informal discussions of our hopes and dreams,
finding out what others have said and done about such changes through
the local library, and a willingness to go where no formal institutions
will lead are the tools families may use to accomplish this endeavor.
Ultimately, the family's survival depends upon its awareness of what is
truly threatening to its unity and what is truly supportive of its
tasks, and that we maintain the ability to overcome the subtle and not
so subtle institutional inducements to remain in ignorance.
Dear MLT Newsletter Editor,
It was good to hear that neither Southwest Michigan nor Palm
City, Florida have gone completely bonkers and have yet to be fully
consumed by the dominat paradigm. I was beginning to think there
were no signs of "intelligent" life left in those areas. Not that
humans are overly intelligent anywhere. But who am I to sit here
in front of the same stupid computer terminal as George and Joe and
spit and sputter some irrelevant nonsense about saving the planet
Earth? I consume the same crazy electricity, burn the same fossil
fuels, eat the same overly processed shit, shit the same overly
processed food, and flush it down into the same overflowing
Earth. Volcanoes will spew it back to us.
We will get rained upon, snowed upon, and pissed upon from the bowels
of the Earth. The Earth will purify itself, cleanse itself of its
human pests. We will be shaken from the Earth as a dog shakes
fleas from its body. I am just as guilty as you, George. If
anything, I have become more mainstream over the years. I grow
very little food. I drive a foul beast of a car more than I ever
did. I make more money than I ever made. I am more in debt
to the consumer world than I ever was...
Is optimism blind? Whose reality is not an illusion?
Perhaps those of you who are able to create a positive reality will at
least save your own asses! Visualize health, happiness, a sense
of purpose, a "New Age." Some of us are unable to create this
reality; we need anti-depressants, counseling, therapy groups... "Sally
used to play
with hula-hoops, now she tells her problems to therapy groups. Oh
my..." I wish poetry made a difference Joe and Mike. The written
word fades into oblivion while the grass still grows on the
hillside. But I suppose poetry does do the individual some good,
both as a means of expression and as a way to learn from others.
With that in mind, I would like to participate in your contest, Joe:
1. "New Worldly Odorousness"
2. "Visualizing Industrial Collapse"
Palisades Watch, the grassroots citizens group formed to stop
the proposed high-level waste dump at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant
in Covert, Michigan, will be holding a series monthly benefit dances on
the first Saturday night of each month through June. The events
will run from 9 pm to midnight at the Park Trades Building on Kalamazoo
Avenue (across from the Goodyear Tire Co.) in Kalamazoo. All
proceeds go into opposing the intended on-site dry cask storage system
for spent nuclear fuel rods.
The Southwest Michigan Greens meet at 7:30pm, at the People's Church,
1758 N. 10th Street, Kalamazoo on December 28th, January 25th, and
February 22nd. Contact Maynard Kaufman for more information.
The next meeting of the MLT will be on Sunday, January 31, 1993 at the
home of Ken Dahlberg. The 4 pm meeting will be followed by a pofcluck,
and-as always-all are welcome.
Well another year has passed. Hopefully next year will bring
fewer frosts and a bit warmer growing season. Thank you to all
who contributed to the newsletter over the past year. Thoughts,
comments, essays, poems,
and any other submissions are always welcome. Dcn't forget about
the contest. (Since the irony of an MLT cash prize may not be
lost on some of you fine folks, in lieu of cash the MLT could offer
poultry, firewood, or hay of equal of greater value to the
winners.) Also, for many of you it's about time to renew your
membership. The minimum membership fee is only five dollars (or
five dozen eggs). Thank you for your support and happy holidays
to you all.
--Michael Phillips, editor
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