For many people, the whole “going local” thing may just be a trend (like “green is the new black,” USDA-style “organic,” etc.), but for me it’s the only thing that make sense.
Since I was a kid I’ve had politically-conscious leanings, and have gone through a lot of phases in search of things that I could get passionate about and that could made me feel like my existence on this planet wasn’t entirely in vain. It took me a while to figure out that the bigger a cause was, the further it tried to reach, the more futile it seemed.
Douglas Adams explains this phenomenon:
“[W]e don’t have to go very far back in our history until we find that all the information that reached us was relevant to us and therefore… any news, whether it was about something that’s actually happened to us, in the next house, or in the next village, within the boundary or within our horizon, it happened in our world and if we reacted to it the world reacted back. It was all relevant to us, so for example, if somebody had a terrible accident we could crowd round and really help. Nowadays, [because of mass communication]… if a plane crashes in India we may get terribly anxious about it but our anxiety doesn’t have any impact…. We’ve all become twisted and disconnected and it’s not surprising that we feel very stressed and alienated in the world because the world impacts on us but we don’t impact the world.” (“Is There An Artificial God?”)
This is just how I felt. So it was only a matter of time before I drifted toward the local, the communal. This became strongest when I lived in Yellow Springs, Ohio. A village of 4,000, and very community-based, Yellow Springs allowed me to dive right into local living.
I worked at the adamantly village-bounded newspaper that is one of the few remaining independently-owned newspapers in the country. I managed events, art, and music at the main coffee shop/gathering space in town, and hosted many of my own events there. I worked at the local nonprofit art-house movie theater, where I also ran special events as part of the programming committee. Friends and I made short films that screened locally, and theater, which was performed locally. (For me, art is always about community; I’ve never thrived in places where it’s all about competition and being “the best”; talk about uninspiring.)
Other villagers got engaged in the things I was doing, and I was often commended. I was thankful that I finally had a place where I could get involved, and take initiative, without having to go through a ton of bureaucracy, or know the “right people,” or take so much time to get established in order to be trusted. In Yellow Springs, you don’t have to prove yourself before you get to do things. This is a benefit of living in a community, a small town where you are known. There are no strangers to be wary of, only friends yet to be made.
Ok, that last statement was slightly overkill, and not entirely representative of the truth. But I think you get the point.
Getting involved on a local level—as an organizer or a promoter or an artist or an agitator or a participant or a provider—gives us the chance to make a tangible impact with whatever our passions are. We can enlighten, incite, and entertain, and in turn, be enlightened, incited, and entertained.
And, perhaps more importantly, we can take care of, and be taken care of by, our fellow community members, our comrades, our compadres. We share resources directly, rather than through our bureaucratic, dehumanizing economic system. We make connections with real people, and can maintain our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being, because they’re always glad you came. You can see our troubles are all the same. And everybody knows your name.
(Originally posted on Cranston Patch.)
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