Our society teaches us to seek out “experts”— to fix our cars, heal our bodies, manage our relationships, resolve our conflicts. You’d think we can’t do much for ourselves. We’ve created a “nation of clients.”
Remember the commercial that shows a big-bellied man sitting at the lunch counter with massive indigestion? The message of the ad is not: “People! Pay attention to your body! Don’t eat foods and quantities that give you indigestion! “ Instead, the message is: “Eat that chili! Drink that coffee! Feel bad! Take a hearty dose of our wonderful antacid!”
So how about this: Let’s be more aware of the fact that we really can solve many of the problems that we pay others for. Let’s reclaim the power, authority and legitimacy over ourselves and our communities.
How about we take aspects of our health care into our own hands? How about creating a life plan that includes exercise, whole food, and stress management? If something minor goes awry, find out about “home remedies” (like rubbing a black walnut, a proven fungicide, on ringworm) from our elders.
How about we start to grow some of our own food? It’s healthier and fresher and saves the planet by reducing pollution caused by shipping. Plus, gardening helps reduce stress.
And how about we reclaim some responsibility for public safety and for managing our own conflicts and certain crimes. Talk with your neighbors. If you have a problem with someone, first talk directly to them about it. If that doesn’t work, try a community-based approach: seek the advice of an elder, or use mediation or Community Conferencing (www.communityconferencing.org), free services that give people safe, effective ways to resolve things for themselves.
We’re shaped by the institutions that govern us. But institutions can create dependency, and we often forget or never learn how to do things for ourselves. Institutions don’t know what’s best for us. We do.
People in less-industrialized countries have been found to be happier than we are, for two reasons: They place more value on relationships, and they rely on their own communities for answers to their problems.
So how about this: Fix a bike at the bike co-op, ride it to your community garden, talk to some neighbors, water some plants, have fun, reduce your stress, share a homegrown meal, and if you need it…get some free help for just about anything you need.