Monday, January 14, 2013

What is Good for the World

      We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world would be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and what is good for it.
                                                                                  Wendell Berry as cited in Sacred Economics (p.379)

This quote leads off chapter 20 "Right Livelihood and Sacred Investing". I haven't read that yet, perhaps in the early morn of tomorrow. But Eisenstein has been making the case for the past 378 pages that what is wrong with our economic system is the logic that we are somehow separate from each other and from nature. And while this false assumption has been masked for the most part until now as we pushed the costs of the accrued benefits onto the ecological health of the planet and many of its inhabitants both human and non-human. Our sheer numbers and power have removed the facade, so we must decide how to move forward.

Eisenstein seems to have a faith that the sacred economy he believes in is coming, that there have always been cultures and communities that have somehow been vaccinated from the 'happiness is consumption and control' myth. But I am not so optimistic about such inevitability. The hegemonic faith in 'growth' seems to have very few cracks within our political or economic chieftains. Our educational hierarchy is still of the belief that our answer to sustainability lies in simply more math and science education and that the primary reason for a college education must be a job that makes good money, regardless of whether that job is 'good for the world' as Berry suggests.

The dominant world view that accentuates our separateness all stokes the flames of fear. If we just protect ourselves with more money, more education, more guns we can still pursue the attempt to 'have it all.' I remain really puzzled at the absence of religious spokespeople, who cloak their work in 'sacredness' and yet are virtually silent on the disasters caused by our economic system. The irony is a powerful reminder that the power that changes the world comes from the grassroots. From committed individuals who see another path and take it.