LIVING FOR CHANGE
Spreading “The Grassroots Stimulus Story”
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Mar. 29, 2009
This week I am sharing “The Grassroots Stimulus Story,” an article by Susan C. Strong, Executor Director of The Metaphor Project, which helps individuals and groups find the language that evokes the best American values.
As Marshall McLuhan said four decades ago, “The medium is the message.”
Or, as Confucius put it approximately 3000 years ago, “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion.”
In the media these days there is a lot of talk about the administration’s multi-billion dollar “Stimulus” but little or nothing about what millions of Americans are doing at the local level to live more simply and cooperatively. For example, planting community gardens, walking and biking instead of driving, exchanging skills and services with our neighbors, moving our money from big banks to credit unions, even creating local currencies with local merchants.
Most of these things are being done out of necessity, in order to survive in these hard times. But in the process we are also discovering the power within us to create a new economy that is an alternative to capitalism, based not on money and greed but on caring for one another, at the same time moving our planet in a more hopeful direction.
We not only need to share and spread the stories of these grassroots activities but become part of the movement to build communities and cities of hope. That is the best and maybe only way to keep alive the history-making “Together We Can” spirit of Obama’s presidential campaign.
“As the wheels of D.C. slowly crank out top-down, compromise solutions for our problems, out in the grassroots some people are taking matters into their own hands. When Republicans decide to make life more miserable for the hardest hit Americans, who dares rely on D.C. alone? Some communities are getting more interested in urban gardening, local cooperatives, or trading and bartering events. Others are banding together to assist those who have been foreclosed out of their homes. Add to this the city and county greening projects already going on, far below the national radar, and you have a burgeoning unreported national trend. And these are just a few of the many bottom-up citizen initiatives possible.
“It’s high time the media, online and off, and our government took notice. This could be the biggest recovery story of all. Reporting what’s happening now as a national trend will also help it gather speed. And speed is what we need. Although Washington means to use the economic crisis to jump start a green recovery, we’ll need a lot more than top-down efforts to succeed.
“Fostering bottom-up grassroots solutions is also sound science. Modern ecosystem research shows that collapse can lead to a much healthier order of things, starting close to the ground. Reporting in the latest World Watch magazine (March/April 2009), Thomas Homer-Dixon notes that collapse in nature ‘liberates. . .enormous potential for creativity and allows for novel and unpredictable recombination.’ The emerging pattern is ‘far less interconnected and rigid. . .and far more resilient to sudden shock. ‘It encourages ‘new behaviors and relationships.’
“History shows that human societies follow the same pattern. Our propensity to experiment and invent has always been the key to our survival. But we must actively foster that kind of reorganizing now—before a deeper collapse wipes out what we’ll need to shape a new way of living. We know there are much bigger crises ahead—the end of reasonably priced oil, major global warming ravages, and the onset of serious resource overshoot. Maybe if we get going with a vigorous grassroots transformation now, we’ll be able to ride those storms out too.
“At this point though, the most important thing is the story: collapse can lead to rebirth in more resilient form. Including the grassroots piece of the story is vital. That bottom-up path calls on some of our best national traits too—our innovative, pragmatic, can-do, roll-up-your sleeves style, as we work together, close to home, helping to reinvent a new and healthier economy.”