We are going to have to rebuild the substance and the integrity of private life in this country. We are going to have to gather up the fragments of knowledge and responsibility that we have parceled out to the bureaus and the corporations and the specialists, and put those fragments back together in our own minds and in our families and households and neighborhoods. We need better government, no doubt about it. But we also need better minds, better friendships, better marriages, better communities. We need persons and households that do not have to wait upon organizations, but can make necessary changes in themselves, on their own…
A man (or woman) who is willing to undertake the discipline and the difficulty of mending his (or her) own ways is worth more to the conservation movement than a hundred who are insisting merely that the government and the industries mend their ways.
If you are concerned about the proliferation of trash, then by all means start an organization in your community to do something about it. But before – and while – you organize, pick up some cans and bottles yourself…
If you talk a good line without being changed by what you say, then you are not just hypocritical and doomed; you have become an agent of the disease.
Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. [emphasis mine]
Excerpt from “Think Little,” from Wendell Berry’s A Continuous Harmony.
Gardening is a revolutionary act, says Berry and Will Samson and others. Along Berry’s line of thought above, I wonder what other everyday activities that we’ve farmed out to government or corporations are revolutionary acts in our society. I’m thinking the following would fit into that category – add your own ideas in the comments:
- Buying used instead of new
- Borrowing tools and other household goods from neighbors instead of everyone on a street having duplicate tools in their homes and garages
- Making meals from scratch
- Sewing/mending clothes and shoes instead of tossing out and buying new
- Taking ownership over our family’s health with preventive measures – eating well, staying active (both of which can be accomplished with a garden by the way!)
- Spending locally – local restaurants, local stores, local farmers. Check out the 3/50 project if you need some more incentive to check out local spots. Grant and I made a resolution several years ago to only eat out at local places if at all possible, and we have had some of the best meals and experiences as a result. We see spending at local establishments as a sort of community tithe.
- Eating together around a table
- Ask questions about your purchases – what were the conditions under which this t-shirt was made? where did this meat come from and how was it raised? how far did these bananas travel to arrive on my plate? Sometimes the most important part of being a revolutionary is just asking the questions in the first place – it not only gets you thinking, but gets the question-answerer engaged as well.
- Taking care of one another
- What else?