Cardboard Castles and Other Amenities...

I am really interested in using different forms of cultural action to help build better communities. Communities are a vital social model, allowing us to tackle problems beyond the ability of individuals with the focus of a defined (usually relatively small) group of people. How do the arts and cultural work in general help communities grow more sustainable futures? If you have a cool website or project or your own ideas on these subjects please let me know.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Green State Requires a Green Mind

I Just read The Fifth Sacred Thing  by Starhawk, which describes a post-apocalyptic San Francisco (Ahh, home sweet home) where an eco-friendly pagan revolution has transformed the city into a bastion of sustainability and witchcraft at odds with the corporate/theocratic totalitarian government to the south (go Nor Cal.)  One of the big tenets of the book is the interdependence and co-creation necessary to make an sustainable city work.  

State-Based Sovereignty Towards Bright Green Governance, explores what it will take to move our conceptions of government into alignment with a sustainable world.  The article proposes a model (See picture) of the historic and future arc of governmental thought (in Western society) from a group consciousness in response to nature to individualism, into the future, back towards a group consciousness in co-creation with the natural world.

The story I am trying to tell here is a cultural journey from society and family of origin (no choice), to isolated individual (no choice), to autonomous individual (chosen), to empowered community, to co-created society.

The article goes on to tell an alternative story of the Maori arriving in New Zealand, to find their new home had a power they could not rule.

… when the voyagers did arrive in sight of the shore they were greeted by a land fully cloaked in red. The Pohutukawa (or New Zealand Christmas tree) that covers the coastline of much of our northern island was in full bloom. In response to the overwhelming statement of sovereignty before them, the Rangatira took off their small red cloaks and cast them into the sea, ceding their authority and that of their people to this new land. 

The American Declaration of Independence is sighted as an example of a document that “…didn"t immediately result in votes or rights for "all men" [or women] (but) it did open a space to have a conversation about those rights. The idea that "we the people" have both the opportunity, and the responsibility, to self govern.”  The idea that at the very least a space is needed within our conceptions of governance to allow for conversations is important.

However, the article fails to deal with how contradictory the idea of a union with nature is in Western society.  Western capitalist society has been built on notions of the individual conquering nature and acting within society for his/her best interest.  Although this is best displayed in American cultural ideas like Manifest Destiny, it can be seen throughout the Western world (think colonialism). 

The shift in the model from group or individual at odds with nature and his/her society maybe necessary, but is going to be extremely hard. It is not only going to take the redefining of success away from individualistic accumulations of wealth, but will also require convincing people that the security that comes with wealth is better achieved through collaborative co-creation.  It means addressing some of the most primal fears inherent in Western culture.  That the forest (nature) is not full of big scary wolves that will eat our children if we do not cut down all the trees and kill all the animals, and that defending the children from real dangers is not best achieved through the individual actions of the father or mother, but through the collaboration of the entire community.  This might be a necessary transformation, but it will not be an easy one.

Finally, it is important to point out that this cultural shift is what western cultures must go through.  Throughout the world (and in reality, throughout Western society) different cultures will have to make the shift to a collaborative co-creative society in their own ways, dealing with their own cultural and historic baggage.  Then these cultures undergoing massive transformations (never an easy thing) will have to find a way to fit together in some way in order to (at the very least) maintain our global ecosystem.  


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