Casaubon's Book

On the Problem of Community

John Michael Greer has a superb piece up about our reluctance to seriously consider real community and organizational strategies. I think it is well worth reading for anyone interested in this question of community – because we have to ask ourselves, if this is the tool we’ve got, why do so few of us want to do the work? Why are so few of us able to do the work?

It’s interesting to speculate about why that took place. I suspect many of my readers have encountered Robert Putnam’s widely discussed book Bowling Alone (2000), which traced the collapse of social networks and institutions straight across American society. The implosion of the old grassroots-based party system is simply one example of the trend Putnam documented. Putnam’s book sparked a great deal of discussion, some of it in the peak oil community, but nearly all of that discussion fixated on the benefits that might be gained by reinventing community, and left out a crucial factor: the cost.

By this I don’t mean money. Communities need regular inputs of time and effort from their members, or they collapse into mass societies of isolated individuals – roughly speaking, what we’ve got now. Communities also need subtler inputs: a sense of commitment, of shared purpose, of emotional connection, of trust. To gain the benefits of living in community, it’s necessary to sacrifice some part of the autonomy that so many Americans nowadays guard so jealously. The same thing is true of those subsets of community already discussed – political parties, for example, or citizens’ organizations, or any other framework for collective action that’s more than a place for people to hang out and participate when they feel like it.

I know a fair number of people in activist circles who speak in glowing terms about community; most of them don’t belong to a single community organization. I also know a fair number of people who’ve tried to launch community projects of one kind or another; most of these projects foundered due to a fatal shortage of people willing to commit the time, effort, and emotional energy the project needed to survive. Most, but not all; some believers in community have taken an active role in trying to build or maintain it; some projects have managed to find an audience and build a community, or at least the first rough draft of one. One of the reasons I don’t dismiss the Transition Town movement, though I have serious doubts about some aspects of it, is precisely that many of the people involved in it have committed themselves to it in a meaningful sense, and the movement itself has succeeded in some places in building a critical mass of commitment and energy.

I think this is absolutely a fair cop – I know a lot of people who want to build community – but only with people like them, who agree with them. I know a lot of people who do seriously want to build community – but are exhausted and overburdened by the job.

What I think Greer leaves out in this important conversation is the issue of time and energy and resources. The absent space of political and social engagement that Greer rightly points out is a result not just of a culture of autonomy, but of a culture of industrialism that demands the labor of everyone in a unified project – and leaves very little space for other work.

Consider how adamantly we are pushed into the professional workforce. We often frame this in terms of freedom and individuality – we form our identities by choosing a career, women are empowered by going out and making money in places where people monitor their bathroom breaks, rather than staying home and organizing their own work. We are allowed few breaks – minimal vacation and that reluctantly. Even maternity and medical leaves are grudging and bare-bones. Children are sent to do the hard work of school and extra curriculars – they are expected to toil in preparation for getting a career. As Juliet Schor observes in _The Overworked American_ only 19th century factory slaves worked longer hours than we do.

I think Greer overlooks this reality in his analysis, as good as it is – American political democracy flourished in part because of a sense of communalism and responsibility that is absent, but some of that is simple tiredness, and the fact that a majority of American women are now absent in the workforce all day. At the end of the day, much of the work that would have been done in the daytime (meal prep, domestic labor) is shoehorned into evenings. Families are smaller, and less likely to live together, and the erosion of community ties create a vicious circle – things we once could get for free from others, we now must work to pay for. The time that was used to make democracy is now subsumed into the workforce – and our livelihoods depend on us not undermining corporate power too much.

I don’t deny that we’re afraid of community. I don’t deny that many of us who try burn out from exhaustion and others just don’t want other people in our lives. I think Greer’s point that we have to be willing to pay the price – to deal with the fact that community doesn’t just mean working together, it means putting in the hours to talk to your boring neighbor and resolving disputes and being the subject of gossip and putting up with people you don’t like much, when it is easier not to. His point is absolutely true. But it is also true that the re-establishment of an American political power requires also that many of us disengage from the workforce – I mean that quite seriously. That doesn’t necessarily mean that this disengagement should occur on gendered terms – if anything, we’ve seen that more men are being laid off than women. But we’re going to have to find time to live on one income – by combining households and reducing costs if we’re to have a meaningful democracy – and this is not easy. I don’t understate the enormous difficulty for people, the cost to their lives. And yet, what is most needed to establish community is time, the hardest single thing to claim.

As I have said over and over again, the version of the women’s movement that succeeded in the US and around the world couldn’t have been more useful for neo-liberal growth capitalism if someone had commissioned a study. There were and are versions of feminism that critiqued this model, and they were largely shunted aside in favor of a world where everyone’s work is co-opted into the growth economy. This is not the fault of feminism, who rightly felt that who got to go out and be educated and professional should not be decided on the basis of gender. But until someone goes home again, and starts taking up the low impact domestic work, and making time for daily communal and political life, the hopes of our imagined communities are fairly faint. This may be the single hardest nut to crack for most of us – because we really do need the money, and indeed, have become dependent on what hurts us the most.

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Claire
    January 14, 2010

    When I was in training to get my PhD, it was communicated to me in many different ways that I would be expected to leave where I was living periodically if I wanted to advance. My high school counselor wanted me to go away for college to *get experience with different people* (by that time I’d lived in 3 different states in 4 years because of my father’s job transfers … I’d had plenty of experience with different people by then). I was expected to go to grad school in a different school in a different part of the country from where I’d gone to undergrad school. If I’d gone on for a postdoc, it would have been expected for me to go to yet a different school for that work. When I worked in industry, I was expected to be ready to go to any of my company’s various locations across the country and elsewhere in the world whenever I was asked. I think all this is *intended* to weaken community, and it sure worked well on me. Every time I moved, I was less likely to want to put in the time to meet and get to care about people – neighbors, co-workers, and community members – because it was so painful to have to lose those connections, and difficult to make new ones. Plus I had to lose all the other less tangible connections to a place – the house, yard, parks, weather patterns, trees – and that was and continues to be painful. I feel like I’ve left ghosts in several different states. And I miss the people I’ve known over the years who have left the area for the same reason I did. Now I am trying to learn how to be a part of a community, and I am not finding it easy, even though both myself and my DH are retired and do have the time for it. It would have been impossible without that time, however; when I was working, after I was done with paid work and all the after-hours professional activities I engaged in to keep up my networks with the other chemists in town, I was too psychologically worn out to pursue any other kind of community work.

  2. #2 History Punk
    January 14, 2010

    “But until someone goes home again, and starts taking up the low impact domestic work, and making time for daily communal and political life, the hopes of our imagined communities are fairly faint. ”

    Who’s going to volunteer for this one? Neither I, nor the blog author are.

  3. #3 Rumor
    January 14, 2010

    Sharon, I think you’re absolutely correct that the increased pressure to be employed as much as possible has taken away a portion of our general ability to be engaged in community, social and political groups, but I also think that “overentertained” or “overdistracted” goes hand in hand with “overworked” to complete the picture of why we have, in North America, pulled away en masse from the sometimes-difficult, sometimes-frustrating task of community engagement for the simpler, easier, more reliable and ever-novel (or, if I may cynical, ever-recycled and repackaged) pleasures of the world of entertainment. Why build and maintain communal ties when we can be pandered to and flushed with contentment by sitting in our home and being made to falsely *feel* as if we’re engaged with the world?

  4. #4 Ed Straker
    January 14, 2010

    “But until someone goes home again, and starts taking up the low impact domestic work, and making time for daily communal and political life, the hopes of our imagined communities are fairly faint. ”

    Who’s going to volunteer for this one? Neither I, nor the blog author are.

    Last I checked, Sharon is an author (and micro-farmer assuming she sells some of her produce) who works at home.

    I do think people should stop making excuses for doing nothing, though. If you have rationalized doing nothing, then you are just lazily playing the martyr. Nobody is going to go out there and do it for you.

  5. #5 Sharon Astyk
    January 14, 2010

    I jumped off the academic treadmill precisely to go home, grow food, and work in my community. I write part time and farm and raise my kids, and haul my ass out to meeting. My husband turned down post-docs and tenure track jobs to work as an adjunct so that we could have time at home and in our community – together it would be safe to say that we could be making 100K a year more than we do right now. So yeah, I think I put my money where my mouth is.

    Sharon

  6. #6 Paula
    January 14, 2010

    I am at home doing the domestic stuff, sitting in an empty suburb waiting for the community to join me…

  7. #7 Microbusiness Independence
    January 14, 2010

    It’s interesting to notice how employment is such a contentious topic — I feel like our society has brainwashed us to believe that if we’re not working a full time job and making as much money as possible, we’re just not doing our part. My husband and I have chosen time over money — we do only enough paid work to fund the basics (which means living just above the poverty line) and instead spend the rest of our time on the farm and our artistic pursuits. To us, it’s very much worth it, but I can feel the pressure from other folks to put that college education to work.

    That said, community is _still_ hard, especially in a rural area. We’re slowly getting to know people, but we’ve been living here for three years and our community is still quite small. I’d love to hear more about how you’ve built community in a rural location.

  8. #8 Joseph
    January 14, 2010

    I am skeptical of a postulated *golden age* when “American political democracy flourished.” When exactly was this? We are a country built on genocide and slavery. More than this, this country has always been ruled by a plutocracy which turned this country into an empire starting with the Spanish-American War.

    As I have tried to point out, the 1960′s was THE greatest flourishing of democracy in the known history of western civilization. True, fossil fuel-generated affluence was responsible for a lot of it, but the problem was (and still is) that we did not use the wealth our fossil fuel inheritance and the fruits of industrial technology gave us to fund the creation of a higher culture, because the power elite do not want a higher culture, they want a system that maintains THEIR privileges (privi lege: private law).

    The 60′s attempted Renaissance was crushed because the few people who saw that this country – and indeed, humanity – was on a dead-end course to disaster – were totally outnumbered and usually had no money to build communities and the new reality outside of a few places like The Farm.

    Unfortunately Sharon, a lot of rural folk are some of the most vicious fundamentalist christian supporters of the very power elite who have destroyed this country politically and economically and they pig-headedly refuse to educate themselves about the situation.

    They never stop to face the fact that their support of these elitists (like, say, Bush)is what has landed us in the situation we are in: our wealth, instead of being used to create community, is being wasted on Empire, an empire I might add, that one cannot criticize without being villified as a traitor by all the fundamentalist *conservatives*, who quite frankly, I cannot take seriously as adults – let alone create community with them – because they live in a religious mind-set fit for a child, and are obnoxiously mean-spirited about it to boot.

    A good percentage of the American people are some of the most dumbed-down, un-and-misinformed people on the planet, and part of the program of transition should be a program whereby people grow up and earn the right to be a part of a democracy and community by being a mature adult instead of a brainwashed child.

    around the turn of the century, people involved with the labor movement and the Wobblies took the time to educate themselves. Today, we have dumb-ass *tea-baggers* who denounce democracy as socialism because they have been brainwashed to do so by Fox News and their churches.

    The greatest impediment to real community is the virulent immature ego and the lack of Self-actualization and a STANDARD of Self-actualization, and the irony is that Dave Greer exhibits the very obnoxious ego that is the problem to begin with. He has a lot of nerve playing judge!

  9. #9 Brad K.
    January 14, 2010

    Sharon,

    I think there is also a connection between individual communication and community. Before newspapers were widely published, and news transmitted in near real time across nations and around the world, most everyone’s communication occurred within the family and community. A penpal (remember those? With real pen and envelopes and stamps) was a major cross-cultural exposure, before national news was taken for granted. The early radio and TV broadcasts were seen as bringing families together, gathered about the TV or radio. But what was happening was giving individuals a visceral engagement with national and international concerns.

    As advertising, especially electronic advertising, began making each individual experience what the advertiser wanted, ties were being formed from individual to “media”. Because advertising and electronic media were actively competing for attention, people stopped paying as much attention to family and neighbors.

    Today we track the dismal 20,000 units sold of Google’s new gadget. How many people read the obituaries, or tracked what couples – and mothers single by circumstance or choice – gave birth this week?

    At the local coffee place, most of the people there are older than I am (58). It is fairly common for discussions to turn to “Do you remember John X? His mother was sister to Henry Y. They lived back over by Wanda G and . . ” And two or three people will reconstruct a genealogy or neighborhood at some period in the past, with ties to various people now in the community. This kind of oral community identification is difficult to imagine – for the family of four that goes to a movie, and three of them are text-messaging most of the show. Myself, I can’t name all my cousin’s children or grandchildren. Sheri moved to Florida, and kept to herself.

    Even though the Internet allows people to make contact from about the world, few of us actually care to know the people we commune with. And you cannot overstate the impact of direct, personal communication via electronic device – game console, TV, telephone, computer, Fax, etc. – as making one feel a part of a vast, barely-known world. This makes the next door neighbor just one more citizen of the world that you know little better than the others that send you email cards, spam, news, and blog post updates.

    I think Sharon, that you are right about the forces at work in the work place. I would state it a bit more baldly. Communities have little place for ambition. If you work for income for what you need at home, that is OK. But if you work because your community needs your service – that builds community. It redefines what you are doing, it mostly disparages ambition. One of the barriers that roles such as housewife and househusband face, is that we are all saturated in – valuing people for the success of their ambition. A housewife or househusband might aspire to a clean house, an efficient or comfortable home – but not an ever ‘growing’ scale of responsibility and authority. Skills develop and grow, but not in terms of modern society’s benchmarks of “excellence” and “achievement”.

    One topic that continues to interest me is the way America forgot why to have babies. What satisfies my curiosity today, is that we were raised from children. If we respect and embody the teachings and values of our parents and community, we will be driven to honor and repeat that process – have children and instill the values, traditions, and rituals – the culture – we call a home.

    Today we don’t select a life partner based on the culture of a home we could build together, to become a unit of our community as a family. That wasn’t always so. Now we pick a date – not even a planned life partner, mere social recreation – often based on their physical scale of “acceptable” to “better than others”. Or sometimes, picking someone because they didn’t bother to reject us.

    I fear community and mate selection are nearly chicken and egg values. You need a community to select a mate that will engage with you, to form a family that will interact usefully with the community – that defines who you should be looking for as a mate.

    Not all communities embrace everyone living nearby – none ever have. Each individual and family must decide whether the community needs their services – and whether the community respects those services. If you look at community service as a gift, then the giver is responsible for giving something useful, and the community is responsible for using the gift in a fashion that the giver does not regret the giving. This is an intimate relationship, to build and nurture a community.

  10. #10 stephen
    January 14, 2010

    I think forming and developing communities for local benefits are great, and can be very rewarding.
    Communities to change the course of our empire, like altering the course of the Titanic, are bound to be frustrated, and fail. If any community really threatened the huge corporations (the money), the intelligence agencies, or organized crime, they would be destroyed.
    So I do think there is a place for ‘communities’ in our society, but it’s not to significantly threaten the political powers.
    Look what happened to John and Robert Kennedy. I do not think they were killed by wackos; they were killed for political reasons.

  11. #11 Mike
    January 14, 2010

    Many good points here and in the comments. Sharon is not the first person to note how cooprorations and governments have elevated the work ethic to its present grossly exaggerated status. Paul Lafargue (Karl Marx’s son in law) pointed this out in his great work “The Right To Be Lazy”, written in 1883, which is available on line here:
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/lafargue/1883/lazy/index.htm

  12. #12 Deb
    January 15, 2010

    My husband and I have lived on one income the entire 25 years of our marriage. Initially he was in college and grad school and I was the one going out every day to earn the daily bread. He did most of the housework and homekeeping since I worked all day and some evenings.

    When the kids came and expenses grew, we switched roles and I stayed home. Money has always been tight which means for us no big vacations, no new cars, no major household purchases without budgeting for it. I take a calculator to the grocery store to stay in budget. On the other hand, we eat quite well and sit down to a meal together at least once a day during the week, the house is comfortably clean without being hygenically sterile and the kids grew up with someone home after school to greet them and ask about thier day. I learned to make food from scratch, to make clothes from fabric gleaned from the thrift store and to knit everything from socks to knee warmers. I learned to mend and darn, to make a casserole from the little bits of food leftover in the fridge, to appreciate the usefulness of a good apron.

    Being home gave me time to stop and chat with the elderly neighbors down the road or to go to school to see the teacher rather than writing notes back and forth. It gave me time to homeschool my daughter when she was having problems at school. It gave us time as a couple to talk to each other about something other than the kids, the bills or the repairs on the house. Family life became the center of our marriage and home is where it happens.

    Deb

  13. #13 John Michael Greer
    January 15, 2010

    Sharon, thanks for a thoughtful response! The one thing I’d point out, though, is that a century ago most Americans in the paid workforce worked 60 hour weeks, and a great many more of them spent those hours in hard physical labor. Those who weren’t in the paid workforce — including most women, of course — worked hours at least as long, and often as hard, in the household economy. Somehow, though, people found time to involve themselves in civil society — to cite only one figure, half of adult Americans, counting both genders and all ethnic groups, belonged to at least one fraternal lodge in 1920. Thus I’d suggest that it’s not a matter of spare time.

    What is it? That’s a complex question, which I hope to discuss in a future post.

  14. #14 Guy McPherson
    January 16, 2010

    “I jumped off the academic treadmill precisely to go home, grow food, and work in my community. I write part time and farm and raise my kids, and haul my ass out to meeting. My husband turned down post-docs and tenure track jobs to work as an adjunct so that we could have time at home and in our community – together it would be safe to say that we could be making 100K a year more than we do right now. So yeah, I think I put my money where my mouth is.”

    And Sharon’s not the only one. I’m doing the exact same thing, albeit without the kids, and I arrived to this point later than Sharon did. Call me a slow learner.

  15. #15 Gordon
    January 16, 2010

    I recently had an interesting (to me) juxtaposition of experiences, returning to the community (“intentional” type, used to be called a commune) where I spent several years, reading “Living the Good Life” by the Nearings, and reading Greer’s posting. The commune, in New York, where I lived for five years, has been in existence for about 30 years now. There have been, at various times, up to 100 people living there (currently about 80), and I can assure you that community living, at this level, is damn hard work. A recent comment I heard, from a community member, was wonderment about why more people didn’t live this way. Of course, he wasn’t involved in any of the hard work, didn’t even seem to be aware of it…and he is living there! The Nearings moved from New York to rural Vermont. Much of their book has to do with the extreme resistance to any sort of community effort (this was in the 1930s to 1950s). They describe a community center started in an old barn…dances, socials, and the like…that foundered and died over the question of alcohol. In this context, Greer’s comments struck me as a particularly vague form of arm waving, but I believe that the Nearings have the right of it when they say (more or less) that it is the capitalist economic structure itself that destroys community. When folks must rely on each other (which might be the post-apocalyptic case), community arises naturally (or everybody dies). As long as “getting and spending” is the order of the day, “community” will be a struggle (at best), or a pipe dream.

  16. #16 Arthur Robey
    January 16, 2010

    The measure that economists use is GNP.
    They insist it must grow.
    Exponential, or Compound growth will have a doubling time.
    2 4 8 16 32….n
    The economic doubling effect sucks our womenfolk into the vortex of industry.
    How?
    With debt.
    98% of the money loaned out is computer digits.
    Ladies, you have been taken by an illusion. A mirage.
    The emperor has no cloths.
    The Wizard of Oz is a con artist.
    Rip aside the curtain.
    Call the bluff.
    Regain control of your lives.

  17. #17 Third Chimp
    January 16, 2010

    Sharon – Thanks for adding this to the topic JMG cracked open. Amidst all the unemployment, current and likely future, I was seeing only hardship. At the same time, I have been feeling rather sad lately that so few are showing up to help out in building a way forward, in my case, by growing food as sustainably as I can manage. But if we put these two things together – it might take long term high unemployment before people stop looking to corporate systems for all the answers, and as you point out, have the time to once again engage in community efforts. I don’t mean to say that the hardship is some kind of bitter medicine, but what else will decouple people from the myth of Progress, so a better myth to live by can be found ? At least, I hope they choose a better myth….

  18. #18 Michael Lardelli (in Australia)
    January 17, 2010

    I don’t think Greer missed the bit about time and resources poverty – it was implied. I’m another academic and I have noticed that a large number of the people who have actually been motivated to do something about peak oil and be active in community awareness raising etc. are retired. They have the time. The rest of us are stuck in the inflation trap – needing two incomes to crawl at least as far up the “success” ladder (as measured by material things) as our parents when only one income was necessary back in the 1960s. Australians apparently work some of the longest hours in the world – second only to the South Koreans – and we are the most personally indebted. As people desperately try to service their predominantly variable-rate mortgages (jingle mail is not permitted here) they do not have time to be engaged with almost anything else and the last thing they want to contemplate is that the world is about to come crashing down around their feet leaving them in financial ruin. Calamity fatigue also plays a role here – we have been warned about disaster so many times that nobody trusts any authority on anything anymore. The Copenhagen mess was the icing on the cake for that one.

    Lets face it – the propaganda victory of the neoclassical economists is complete. This religion permeates our public service, business class and politicians. It will need to collapse utterly before any different ideas can take hold. Even the Greens in Australia dare not mention an end to economic growth – solar energy and electric cars will drive us into a happy CO2-free future.

    The one thing that can seem to take hold and bring people together (other than sport) is gardening – but once again it is primarily the older generations that are interested in this since the younger ones cannot even afford to buy a house (with a garden) in order to start. So they play with their mobile phones and watch cooking programmes on TV….

  19. #19 Sharon Astyk
    January 17, 2010

    One thing I actually think is difficult but also helpful here is the high unemployment rate among youth. This is potentially a recipe for all sorts of unrest. It is also potentially a recipe for a lot of the most energetic citizens having time to do a lot of really good and useful things – but that depends on strong extended family connections and strong social communities among younger people that allow them to live cheaply. The nuclear family model, I think, is dying a slow and painful death – and I hate to say it (since it will not be a fun adaptation) but the sooner the better.

    Sharon

  20. #20 Permavegan
    January 20, 2010

    Thanks, Sharon, for emphasizing the importance of one partner staying at home. It has been harder than I thought to give up my own pursuit of doctoral study to stay home, retrofit the house, grow food and fuel, study the issues, and now start a blog about something most people think is totally nuts (the end of life as we know it)…all while my wife, already with her PhD, brings home the bread and advances daily in a respectable career. Hard, but also incredibly growthful. But this point aside, I have responded to the community organizing thread on Energy Bulletin with my own take – a take that is very, very heavy on land-use planning and veganism for a sustainable global food system, and would very much enjoy a visit and/or cross-blog debate on the points I raise, if that is ever something you would be interested in. Either way, I very much enjoy your insightful writing.

  21. #21 Angel
    January 23, 2010

    I couldn’t agree more re: living on one income. Besides the usual acknowledgment that often the second income is used to buy extras (cars and gasoline, kid sports equipment and purchased-organic food, hi-speed internet AND cable AND date night movies, yadda, yadda); I often marvel at how thoroughly the vast majority of my friends and neighbors just go along with this obviously unhappy and broken system. Even in my own home: (formerly) homeschooling, progressive politics, non-conformists, and I have to fight for the “right” to work part-time so I can pursue CSA farming and building our community’s foodshed infrastructure.

    Praise be for the caffeine…it’s how this mom-of-three keeps it all rolling forward. Final disclaimer; I am also active in our town’s Transition Initiative. I am thrilled to the bone with the possibilities being generated!

  22. #22 RedLogix
    January 23, 2010

    ! The one thing I’d point out, though, is that a century ago most Americans in the paid workforce worked 60 hour weeks, and a great many more of them spent those hours in hard physical labor.

    Mr Greer seems to have overlooked that while both genders did work long hours at hard physical work…it was still located within community. The women mostly worked in the home, alongside other women also at home; while the men travelled usually only short distances to workplaces nearby. Many folk were born, raised and died within a radius of a few dozen miles all their lives. On those occasions when they did travel, it was by train or bus, when they sought entertainment, it was in groups. Community was what people did naturally, much without concious choice.

    Moreover physical work still leaves the mind relatively unencumbered. By contrast the kind of mentally intensive work commonplace in the ‘knowledge economy’ leaves most people drained and exhausted at the end of the working day…even if physically they have exerted themselves little.

    I can do 8-12 hours hiking in a day (often on my own), yet at the end of that demanding day, I look forward to the possibility of meeting interesting people in a hut or camp, who might engage in mentally stimulating conversation.

    The kind of long hard physical hours that people did work in those days, was quite possibly a stimulus to community formation.. not a barrier as Mr Greer suggests.

  23. #23 Kate
    January 26, 2010

    While my partner is energized by her work and increasing her responsibility (and pay) and enjoying herself immensely, I find myself dreaming at my okay but uninspiring job, about expanding our vegetable garden, improving the chicken coop, and finally taking care of the many small repairs that constantly need to be done around our home. Unfortunately, her salary would not pay our bills (especially mortgage) and my spouse is looking forward to having more money to spend on visiting family on the other coast, and other expenditures.

    I would love to work- at home- because there is so much to do there and we are both exhausted trying to do it on the weekends in between going to soccer games and youth symphony practices with our son.

    What I want to know is, how bad does the economy have to get, how many foreclosures before the banks give up and we all just get to stay in our homes and pay less on our mortgage?

  24. #24 schwerpunkt
    January 29, 2010

    Thanks for your short post and deep thoughts. I have been saying for years that feminism in its current form has failed women, men and children. Working in the social services I see all too well how women have left the home – and no one has stepped in to replace them other than paid mercenaries of capitalism (professional child minders, cleaners, fast food prep, etc).

  25. #25 sharecropper
    February 20, 2010

    Reflecting more on the past, I was born in 1945 in a small farming community in Mississippi. Our neighbors were spread out, but 4 neighbors had a child my age and a child my brother’s age. We had community birthday parties where everyone came whether they had or were children. When something major was happening, the discussions took place at our kitchen table over coffee while the kids played outside or in another room. Community meant that the day workers on our farm were “loaned” to neighbors who, then, didn’t have to get out and find workers – a shared resource with common agreement on payments and benefits (water, shade, outhouses, breaks – remember this was the early 1950s). When my father stepped on a fish hook on the back porch in the middle of the night, one neighbor came to stay with my brother and me while another took Mom and Dad to the clinic in town. Someone else came in and cooked breakfast for everyone. I remember community; now I’m retired and I can’t seem to find community again. I miss it.

  26. #26 Schwerpunkt
    April 27, 2011

    Yes, there is no way to get a low-cost “community” if factor in time, effort, and the ability that most of have lost of putting up with our neighbors and friendimies. There was a time when “community” meant church. Congregation. People who thought just like you do. I see nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with saying we have had many golden ages in this nation, but these are not always evenly distributed and have their own flaws. I wonder, what set of flaws are worth more or less over another? IMO one issue was that women became obsolete after the war. Up until then, women worked as men and work as work was more on the farm or in a factory town – there was a certain social mobility for women and spheres of influence they owned (it was never “perfect”). With a lower level of technological input, we humans are just animals bound by our bodies abilities and needs, as well as limitations (childbirth is dangerous business out in the wild). If you believe in evolution, you must accept that we’re just monkeys and monkeys bite and fight and only one half of this equation menstruates and delivers live young. Part of our current situation may be in reaction to post-WWII America when women’s labor became finally so alienated that it divorced from reality. Bread was baked and sliced by Wonder, houses new and cleaned in moments by Hoover, and our children increasingly absorbed by Der State at younger and younger ages (Kindergarten being a Nazi invention we appropriated), TeeVee distracted The Days of Our Lives, we were a consumer nation building up fences higher and higher about our tract box houses. The reaction to suburbia was to assume that male power (again, a modern definition of leaving the home to work). Since then most women make a point to live thinking they’re feminists while all the time judging their lives according to a standard set for (and by) men. “Stay at home” mom or “home maker” is now like saying she’s a “Dead Soul.” This, perhaps, is now breaking down as women have also suffered what the Japanese call the Salary Man syndrome and find themselves worn out in pursuit of hollow goals – many working past their own biological prime and then having to adopt [buy] children from other countries, colonizing their bodies of other women no better than the men who captured and enslaved those nations during the Colonial Era (if you think these foreign adoptions are not run as a business exploiting women, think again). So there is a problem at hand. We cannot resurrect what was in the past – we have tossed traditional gender and family roles under the bus of history. We see the limitations in every Golden Age all too well. We are in a trap where our individualism brings loneliness. However, right now, no one wants to return home.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!