Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

It's amazing what a difference a year can make. Independence Day means something so different to me now than it did the last time it rolled around. Anyone who's been reading this blog knows that I've been participating in Sharon's Independence Days Challenge. For the most part, that challenge is about food independence, but wrapped up and interwoven with that is independence from so much more. When you grow your own food, you're a little less dependent on oil, a little less dependent on others for your health and protection from disease, a little less dependent on the ethical code of others to make sure your food has been properly and humanely treated before slaughter, etc.

All of these things are good for me and my family, and they're all baby steps to help us on our journey to a simpler, more earth friendly, more people friendly, more (w)holistic, more self-sufficient life. But there are things that we don't want to be independent of. We don't want to be independent of our families, our neighbors, our community, our country, the world. Just because I want to grow my own food, produce my own energy, take responsibility for the upbringing of my own children, and reduce my impact on the planet does not mean that I want to close myself off. It does not mean that I want to hide away in my little bit of self-created paradise and chuckle as the world goes down in flames around me. I've heard so many people (including The Husband) voice their fear that growing your own food or reskilling yourself for possible future peril will only mean that you'll be targeted when disaster strikes. People will steal your food, your solar panels, your chickens, your goats, so on and so forth. I don't deny that there are people out there for whom that will be their first impulse, but someone has to be capable and willing to teach others what they need to know, right? I don't need to be free to be FREE. You know what I mean? Eugene V. Debs, American union leader, said it so much better than I can in a 1908 speech:

Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man's business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. Thousands of years ago the question was asked; ''Am I my brother's keeper?'' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society.

Yes, I am my brother's keeper. I am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any maudlin sentimentality but by the higher duty I owe myself. What would you think me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death.

Seek independence from those things which weigh you down, friends, but don't forget to take someone along with you...

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