“Perhaps the greatest threat to freedom and democracy in the world today comes from the formation of unholy alliances between government and business. … The outward appearances of the democratic process are observed, but the powers of the state are diverted to the benefit of private interests.” – George Soros in Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism.
Well, I’ve been to the Enbridge Joint Review Panel hearings on Haida Gwaii, and I don’t need much more to convince me that freedom and democracy are under threat right now in Canada. (See last post Cry for Canada.)
We have had several decades of “globalism”, and from out here on Haida Gwaii, you know what? … it ain’t looking good. I know, way deep down, that something is soooooo not what it should be in our nation.
As we can see, when what George Soros said has come to pass, and an “unholy” deal has been struck by government and oil patch interests, the profit motive becomes the bottom line.
The rich become very richer and the rest of us become irrelevant . . . total non-entities in our federal government’s scheme of things. We work hard, bend our backs to risk and burden, only to get spit out the other end. In the name of globalization, governments and corporations turn their soul-less gaze elsewhere and move on.
In this scenario, which is happening all around us, we— all of us, all of “civil society”— in our households, and churches and volunteer organizations, our communities, our councils, our schools, our hospitals, our parks— we become irrelevant, a total discount. We can’t be afforded.
Well, I say, NOT SO. What is wrong with this picture?
I have significant respect for “the bottom line.” I live in a modest household, and when the kids were younger, like lots of other households on the Islands, we hit the bottom line every month. Often we hit the bottom line and went sailing right on past it. And that was just for the costs of milk and peanut butter.
I know that economic health and well-being are important. I know that we are living in a world with many more souls and dwindling resources, and tough choices need to be made locally and globally.
But, do we have to become less than we are as human beings to do that?
I don’t think so.
When I look around me on Haida Gwaii, I see people who value our communities and our place on the earth, who are able to help each other generously and lovingly in times of need, who recognize in every moment how beautiful and abundant the forests, rivers and oceans are, who work really, really hard to care for our children and elders, who have a lot of experience in meaning and integrity in community, who have used all their creative ingenuity over generations to bring us all to where we are today.
Those are the values and the gratitudes that people here hold firm to. I know because I am caught up in the nature of this place where I live. I’ve seen it, talked it, walked it, been knocked down by it, been held up by it.
I’ve often been confused by the complexities of life on Haida Gwaii, grumped about being way far away from what I used to know, moaned (only a bit!) about long, grey, cold summer days, and longer winter nights, and whined about the cost of ferry and air fares to travel away.
And, I have also discovered and learned. A good life on Haida Gwaii asks of you resilience, patience, persistence, determination, generousity, respect, appreciation and gratitude. Living in community on Haida Gwaii requires deep and broad respect for national and cultural histories that have been divided and often painful. Like the weather, the best of life here is wild, adaptive, full of creativity and is regenerative of body and soul.
Politics is important. Our Island community as a whole has been admirably innovative in finding co-operative ways of working together. Our elected reps together with the Haida Nation, have come up with some remarkable forms of mutual recognition and governance—models that will serve many others seeking new paths in a more difficult world. Our economies are becoming less corporate, more locally-designed and self-reliant.
But, when you reach back into time, you wonder, how does all that come about. How are new ways of doing anything discovered? How are new ideas cobbled into good work? How do elected bodies make decisions? How are local businesses dreamed up and put together? How is success won? How do we stand up for ourselves, and the land we call home?
Seems to me, when you work your way down to the very basics, it all gets going in a single conversation.
And in simple conversations—whether in village offices, or across kitchen tables, at the coffee shops, at work, or in the grocery store aisles—we bring ourselves aware and conscious. Our lives take shape, and we know who we are and what we will become in every single conversation we have.
We work, talk, hope, argue, discuss, think, imagine, dream, plan and act. Mind you, not always on the same page. Nevertheless, we all find ourselves, still here after these years, living alongside each other on the remarkable islands of Haida Gwaii.
Being who we are and knowing what we know, together we encounter an uncertain future, one person at a time talking to another.
And therein lies our conscience, our community, and our action.