The Pulse of the World Turning
A human exists among other humans. As someone puts it, we are shaped by our environment and a big part of that environment is other humans. If all goes well, the infant learns how to create a working space with his or her care-giver and the lessons of trust and understanding they gain then will travel with them through their lives. Damage or suspicion developed by neglect or abuse will be very hard to heal later on. A different kind of human will result.
As I was a first child in my nuclear family and a third when considering cousins, with no other children in the households on my street, I did not develop good group skills. Still have trouble with social communities, even the kinds the social media are constantly trying to reproduce on their sites for cohesion and marketing. They scurry to get people into groups, almost returning us to the Fifties ethic of conformity and belonging. Or is it Chinese?
This is at the same time that mainstream congregations are thinning and bars are discouraged by the pandemic, and before this, strict DUI laws. My friend in Alberta tells about sitting on lawn chairs spaced out in the yard to maintain social distancing even from family, since they don’t want to kill each other with contagion. And winter is coming.
Here in this little village of a few hundred people I’m running into a new community of people that’s beyond the Moose/Elk/
Masonic/VFW/Lions clubs, rather formal associations of past years. This one is as strong and resilient as maybe a tribe. They are the tradesmen who serve domestic infrastructure: the plumbers, electricians, carpenters, roofers who deal with houses, going individually to figure out what to do. While leaning on their pickup beds or grabbing coffee in the morning, they spend hours trading info and ideas about where they go and how to fix situations, .
Building where new construction is going up, maybe in groups, is much pleasanter because of new materials, clear oversight, and camaraderie but now that money is tighter, the tradesmen are dealing with old, eccentric, partly rotted, and peculiarly built houses where the old practices have to be reconciled with the new. This is particularly difficult when there are many regulations coming out of the heads of engineers at the state capitol whose ideas have little or nothing to do with century old villages.
For instance, the village recently was told we have to remove the sludge from the bottoms of our sewage lagoons. How do we do that? Where do we put it? Luckily, there are farmers and ranchers who will accept having it sprayed on their fields, but it contains heavy metals and traces of medication. At least scraping and hauling will make money for those who do the work or supply machinery.
City people depend upon bars to form communities. That’s the premise of TV shows like “Cheers,” which my brother used as his surrogate community when his concussion pinned him into my mother’s house. My family did not drink or visit bars, but he needed the connections and promptings of friends. His old art faculty community at a junior college was too far away.
I need an electrician to decide whether my house wiring can support a new hot water heater. This morning at first light, when I had returned to sleep after my usual interval of checking the internet to see whether the president’s helicopter had crashed, I dreamt that someone was banging on my door. By the time I realized the knocking might be real, the knocker was gone. I think it was one of the electricians for whom I had left messages.
Tradesmen here might work out of their homes and maintain grain farms as well, often inherited from parents. I think that out of concern for me facing cold showers, he had come by early, before his day of combining. It took me a while to track him down, since people carry cell phones not in the phone book and neglect their websites — if they have one. They are all aware where the others are working, so one drives around looking for work vans.
Virtual community on the Internet is always on because the community extends around the planet through all the cycles of day and night. But the internet can’t fix your roof. It’s a different community with our usual caution loosened by being far away from each other and sort of anonymous, but linked by common concerns. Access is by finding a code key. For a while I was following a group in Paris that was giving boys the skills to support themselves without resorting to sexwork and while dealing with HIV infections.
For another time I followed sustainable ag farmers across Britain and Alberta, until Twitter suspended me, so now I’ve got to find them again. I want to know how the “rewiggling of rivers” is going. For a while streams were straightened out of mistaken efficiency, but that destroyed the way they worked, like habitat and compensation for seasons. Since the re-wiggling often demanded planting new vegetation and supplying guards against animals trampling or eating them, people came together to do this work, creating new communities.
Gardening and foraging, often group work, are deep in our DNA. I finally found my friend: James Rebanks. He has two books on Amazon. “The Shepherd’s life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape”
These cattle are called “Belties” — you can see why.
A thinker on a talk show was asked about changes in the rule of law that could prevent corrupt and power-mad people from taking over or even developing in the first place. The authority (alas, I don’t remember whom) said he had little faith in any rules, even enshrined in documents. He said that only by developing and sustaining people of good will who participate as citizens can we hope to keep our functional democracy.
This is clearly true. In movies they often show a dramatic graphic of a document or map burning from the middle, leaving a void edged by flame. The way to a healthy future is revealed ironically by the dark and systematic WH destruction of American education, government, agriculture, marketing, and media. Just as the Trumpists follow and reverse what Obama did, we can follow and reverse Trump.
Nevertheless, I’m 80 and remember the Sixties when we were still taught civics, no corporation pretended to be a person, and the mafia was homegrown Italian, not yet romanticized in novels and movies. Those were also times of bloody demonstrations, revolts and assassination even in the face of the major post-WWII realignment of things like the national infrastructure of highways, the construction of dams (now being torn down) and the patriotism that pulsed in all Americans in spite of immigration.
So it seems it goes in waves, these times of deconstruction tearing us apart, and then slowly growing back again. We’d like to participate in the recovery if we could figure out how. An election to weed out the rotten will help. Something better than capitalism or even democracy needs to be invented and approached. It will take communities. What is the infrastructure of healthy communities? What are the affinities that connect us in small ways?
This year fall is gradual. Past my window an intermittent rain of yellow leaves is twirling down. The light is burnished but tarnished by smoke into amber and old brass. It is the season of elections, deliberate change. But the ghastly grin of Jack o’Lanterns is mocking us.
Below is a link to an excellent relevant essay.