Monday, November 1, 2010

A Path Toward Sanity

Last Saturday's Rally to Restore Sanity on the Washington Mall, was, of course, an excellent idea. Its need has become intuitively obvious even to the most casual observer. It also begs a rather obvious question, How did we come to lose our sanity in the first place? And now that we've identified this restorative need, what are the shockingly sane solutions that can lead us forward on a path toward sanity?

One thing about restoring sanity as a nation and a culture is that we can't just throw a band-aid or two on a symptom here and there--we must root out its underlying cause. The current cultural course of a better drug or more spectacular distraction isn't going to cut it any more.

From a systems, or an ecological, perspective there's a rather obvious root cause that most people just don't want to think about or would rather deny as being irrelevant. This is the fact that intentionally destroying one's life support system provides a pretty good definition of insanity. And the further fact that we're doing this for no other reason than to support selfish and narrow self-interest makes it even worse.

But, as Thomas Hardy said, "If a path to the better there be, it begins with a full look at the worst."

We could go 8,000 years back in human history, but starting with Enlightenment thinking provides a good enough starting point. The concepts made popular by Locke, Hobbes, and Descartes led directly to the enclosure of the commons and separation from nature and community, the requirement of Industrialism for government debt to fund empire, increasing private debt to fund the growth necessary to pay interest, exploitation of people and planet for private interests, and the clinical diagnosis of the corporate person as sociopathic.

Which brings us to the dire straits we find ourselves in today--catastrophic climate destabilization, peak oil and other depleting resources, biospheric toxicity and other environmental degradations, loss of biodiversity and tearing the food chain asunder, and the ever-widening wealth gap which all emerges from an educational paradigm that no longer teaches how to think but only how to memorize answers and not question authority so we can all become better producers and consumers. No longer denizens of a living sensuous earth, we have become customers at a theme park called America, Inc.

As good a starting point as any on the path back to sanity can begin by demonstrating the necessary leadership at the state level. The states are the main building blocks of the American political system. The national government is one of limited, delegated powers; all other powers are possessed by the states and their citizens. The states empower local governing bodies. This means the states and their legislators must not only be aware of what is happening nationally and globally, but how wider issues affect the legislation enacted at the state level.

The foundation for a shockingly sane solution would be to mature beyond the myth that growth is necessary for progress and prosperity. Humans are naturally inquisitive, innovative, and intelligent--profit is not necessary to be who we really are. We can use relocalization as a practical, affordable process to transition into a sustainable future. We can begin implementing steady-state economies that focus on becoming better instead of bigger. We can support local investment in creating local products, services, and developing local food and energy security. We can return critical thinking skills to our public school curriculum so our students can be prepared for a future that is not going to look like the past. We can protect and restore the ecosystems that are the foundation for our own health and for productive lifestyles, communities, and economies that meet the definition of sustainability.

If you've had enough of the broken promises of a broken status quo, then it's time to vote for a real change, not just hope for a change. Don't settle for more of the same that created today's myriad crises, or that merely curbing the worst of the excesses of whichever party is in power today is the best we're capable of, or that throwing half the deck chairs overboard while doing nothing to change the underlying assumptions of who is sovereign will be sufficient.

I know a systemic alternative to the broken status quo is possible. The only allegiance I owe is to a living planet that can support future generations. If you believe this as well, and find the courage to vote your conscience instead of your fear and elect me as the first independent Arizona state senator, this is the path to sanity I promise to follow.