Wisdom tells us that the present is the only reality. The past is gone, the future not yet here. Thus, a snapshot of the present is the clearest truth. The rest is memory or guesswork. Currently, my state of Virginia has just gone into stage 3 of opening its economy, which had been closed by the Coronavirus. Other states are in various stages of re-opening. Yes, the virus is still being transmitted, but the consensus seems to be that if the states do not open their economies, we can choose between death from Coronavirus or death from deceased economies. Most states have added precautionary regulations to their re-opening plans. Some states are more consistent about enforcement than others. Many people are rejoicing, seeing a return to “normal”, or the way things used to be before the virus. Others are reserving their joy, maintaining a ‘wait and see” attitude. There is no consensus.
In true Alice in Wonderland fashion, events keep happening and creating chaos. Given, needed changes can emerge out of chaos. Ending racism, economic justice, and climate change are three of them currently in the news; others, such as restorative agriculture and abolishing war seem to garner less attention now. No one really knows what will happen. The only development with some certainty is that the “normal” of before the coronavirus is gone and will not return. The new normal is yet unformed but will be different than before.
There are predictions by pundits of oncoming catastrophes of one kind or another that will inform the new normal. One such prediction is economic collapse; the dollar will lose its value, there will be massive inflation and disruption to supply lines, creating shortages of foods, medicines, supplements (and maybe more toilet paper). Another is a physical calamity, such as an EMP, or the sabotage of the power grid, or perhaps earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. Yet another is the advent of massive Big Brother type tyranny, and the digitization of everything, even our bodies, so that we and everything else can be tracked. A fourth is the effects of climate change, such as droughts, storms, floods, and dwindling water tables. Each prediction has its reasons, and they can be investigated online. Some may happen, in full or part, and some may not. Or, the other extreme, none of these things will happen and we will somehow attain a utopian society without much effort at change-making. Whatever happens, it will not be the same as pre-Coronavirus.
Many of those who see catastrophes happening are busy preparing silently for the difficulties they foresee. Most of this prepping is done individually by families who prepare for themselves, in as much detail as they can. A few groups prepare together. An underlying theme is that there will be chaos, and everyone will have to fend for himself/his family amidst looting and violence. Cooperation is not the largest goal. The thrust is to have as much of everything necessary or desired for oneself and one’s family and protect that from the envisioned chaos.
There is wisdom in being prepared, and perhaps the anticipated chaos will occur, although that cannot be known for certain. What is missing, so far as I can see, is the element of community, cooperation and sharing. This used to be a part of the lives of our ancestors, whether those in tribes or neighborhoods or frontier homesteads. One cooperated and shared with one’s neighbors and hosting a stranger with generosity was a virtue. We seem to have lost this in modern times. It is not that there was no struggle; tribes and homesteaders fought, and neighborhoods tended to be of people who had known each other for a while. However, the concepts of the virtues of cooperation and sharing were there.
We need to recapture these virtues if we are to create a new normal that is nurturing for people. We need to expand these virtues, extending them to others who are different. We need to combine our skills, wisdom, and energy to create a new normal in which all of us can live with dignity, exercise our creativity, be assured that our world will not poison us and that there will be enough food, shelter, water, clothes, medicine, education and the like for all who are open to receiving it. That cannot be legislated from above. It must come from people changing their own hearts and attitudes and working together cooperatively to create these conditions. We need to recapture the attitude of community.
Communities, of whatever flavor, such as tribe, neighborhood, extended family, intentional community, are self-governing groups of people, from, say, 10 or 15 to as many as say, 50 (there is no set number, other than that which is workable for the group in its entirety) who commit to helping and supporting each other, working together, and who have the intent of staying together over time. They occupy land of various acreages (some are rural, some urban) and are often self-sustaining. They tend to be cognizant of the needs of the earth and the non-human life which inhabits it, and work in cooperation with those needs. Generally, they govern themselves by consensus. This contrasts with what now exists (and is in chaos) such as nations, states, counties, and other large units using forms of governance which are top heavy and authoritarian. Voting still exists, but direct participation of the governed is rare. People usually tend to look out for themselves and their families, embracing an ethos of competition and a race to the top or a sinking to the bottom. Resources are indisputably unevenly distributed; those at the bottom often do not have enough. The needs of the earth and other creatures go unseen or are neglected, following the apparent belief that the entire Earth and its resources are there simply to serve the needs and convenience of humanity. (Some human beings were once held in slavery on plantations under a similar assumption.)
What now exists does not seem to be working very well.
Examples of how a modern community can function exist. These extant communities show that people are truly able to come together and create successful community not only now, but also more prevalently into the future. Like-minded people tend to gather into communities with others who hold similar values. They are also willing to allow other groups their own values and beliefs. Other than not attacking and harming one another, they recognize structures which are different from their own. They also recognize the value and the right to continue living of the Earth and the plants and other animals who inhabit the Earth along with us. Their ability to use communal wisdom enhances their ability to live in general harmony with the Earth and with each other. This is a summary; details can be found online at www.fic.org , for one, and also from many books written on the topic, including a directory of communities worldwide, available through www.fic.org .
We need now to examine how such a lifestyle might be possible for us. Yes, there are difficulties to overcome; they are difficulties inherent in ourselves as people of a dominant and prosperous culture. For example, we need to be less dependent on being right, on being one up on another, of being dependent on having many things, of tending to argue rather than try to reach agreement. We can choose to overcome these difficulties and learn to truly cooperate, or we can carry our current stances into our demise. The Earth will not choose to die so we can continue to be “right” until the end. Even if the Earth did so choose, the death of the world which sustains us is also our own death. Community is our hope; it is people working together, as cooperative units, to learn to heal the Earth and to give value and sustenance to every living being on the Earth. People, is it harder to learn these things, or to continue to struggle with the chaos around us as we refuse to change? Neither will be easy, but I do believe that the former will be exponentially more satisfying.
Let us now, before it is too late, to ponder the changes that need to be made, and the ineffectiveness of top-heavy government to make those changes. We cannot avoid individual responsibility. The struggle and chaos of the virus have given us our second chance. Let us examine the format of cooperative community as a supportive medium in which to make these changes. Let us research websites, read books and talk to those who have already made community, and then talk with each other about how we might do the same. It is time. We need community if we ourselves are to survive. The whole supports the many, and the many support the whole.