The Ethics and Philosophy of "Local"
“Do I buy local produce only, or do I support local bakeries and such as well?” A question such as this takes local to the heart of the matter: what is it about “local” that I support? and why?
Buying local, to me, signifies a couple things:
1) My belief in small, local government;
2) My hopes for a return to small, local everything - from the school system to insurance and neighborhood communities;
3) A vote in favor of “terroir”. Terroir - one of my favorite words. In fact, it stands for most everything I believe in!
4) My faith in the common man. Buying local = trust.
I’m not convinced that just buying local produce in the summertime is enough. The far-reaching fingers of Corporate America have left their mark seemingly everywhere: the cars we drive, the homes we live in, even the water we drink. How far are we willing to go to “buy local”? - Not just “go” in terms of miles... but in terms of effort? Is going local the answer to today’s rampant materialism? If not, what IS the answer? Where do we start?
It does have to start somewhere. Most likely, we need to fight fire with fire and take that stand with our own two hands, our pocketbooks, and our families. Local isn’t just about food; it’s about relationships. A good relationship with your neighbor is something no government entity can touch. And THAT, my friends, is my number one reason for supporting local - everything.
Voting with Your Two Hands
If you can, do it yourself. This applies to everything from the toilet to the garden. Though self-sufficiency folks like John Seymour may have it right in some ways (by publishing the books they publish and living the lives they do) it’s really only part of the answer. No man is an island - there’s a tenet that America (even in Colonial times) seems to wish didn’t exist. Yet the truth is, if corporations crumble and supermarkets close, we couldn’t get by without a little help from our friends.
Self-sufficiency is only one side of the coin: if you learn how to do it yourself, it makes you able to be of service to your fellow man in learning how to live without relying upon the given commodities of today. Can you learn? If you can, then you can teach. And if it’s something you can’t learn, let’s hope that others have learned it, so they can share with you - as you will with them.
Voting with Your Pocketbook
How can government withstand small business bartering and trading? They try, but we still have our freedom. We still have the right (the God-given right) to grow vegetables in our own backyard; to can them and swap them with friends and family. That’s the little seed of trust that will one day sprout and grow into a big tree - a tree of lending, loaning, sharing, trusting and genuinely living together.
Every time I think about the “local dilemma” I try to picture ourselves without internet, cell phone, or car. How would we do it? I know I personally wouldn’t be able to Google-map the directions to the local coop; I wouldn’t be able to drive (let alone walk!) the distance necessary to make it to the farmer’s market. Though it would seem that self-sufficiency be the answer to all that, it’s really only a part of the whole. How could we do it if we didn’t have community, a local network to rely upon - a social form of give and take?
Enter community: those fellowmen of ours in this our life. It’s a gold-mine as yet untouched by big government... (though they haven’t really needed to touch it, as it was abandoned by our own choice in favor of TV and internet... but I digress.)
I’ll gladly eat at a Mom & Pop diner any day before I set foot in an Applebee’s or McDonald’s. Perhaps diner food isn’t organic, or perhaps it isn’t even local produce (ahhh, we all have an ideal, don’t we?!) but we’re giving our wages to support the honest efforts of someone competing with nationwide chains - and that, my friends, is worth it to me.
The next step in the local chain is getting to know the Mom & Pop behind the diner: their story, their family. And letting them get to know you as well. It’s these relationships that foster the ground upon which education can commence; one family against the sea of commercialism won't be enough. Word of mouth still has power - it always will.
Voting with Your Families
If you don’t share with and educate your family, friends, and neighbors, how will the return to the land, the movement for local, ever thrive? We can’t keep silent about it. We have to prove it by our words and our works.
Perhaps the following idea may seem wild and “out there”, but I propose as well, that we have children - many of them. We’re drowning in a sea of amnesia; folks all around us are ignorant to the ways of nature, the ways of the land and of our forefathers (we’re not even going to address the great role technology has had in all of this...) - but children! Ah, if you can give them the appropriate environment in which they can healthily grow; if you show them by example and by effort how to live the conscious life; if you teach them, gently, in a dedicated way, how to pass on what they have learned... then, and only then, my friends, will the return to what we have lost really take hold.
Fightin’ that Fire with Fire
The heat is excruciating; the temptation to give up extreme. And yet we fight. It’s all we have left, really. We can put our money into our gardens, our farmer’s markets, our local community - and yet the heat of consumerism threatens to engulf us. We have to protect ourselves from it all - and how better than by our own fire? I say, stand up for your life! If you sit back, you’ll be letting your life be run by others. This is where the fire of self-sufficiency and self-education can really be hotter than anything else. If it burns within your heart of hearts, if your reasons and motives are deep and all-encompassing, then nothing can withstand them.
Learn! Read! Practice! Fight! Even if it’s an inch a day you gain, that’s an inch more than yesterday’s. Reach out to others; don’t let human fear stand in your way. Don’t just buy from farmer’s markets - talk to the sellers. Engage in friendly chitchat. Return the next week, and the next. Maybe offer a tasty recipe using their produce; maybe ask gardening hints or tips... you’ll never know what you can learn - or what friends you'll make. Use your backyard fence again; hang clothes, plant seeds, get out there. Play with your kids in the dusk and twilight - don't be afraid to say "hi" to a passing neighbor. And above all, don't be afraid to take a stand for what you believe in. Sometimes all it takes is a little neighborly convincing to get just another fellow on your bandwagon.
I dream of a homemade home, of small community, of “walking distance” and good friends to work alongside. I dream of going to bed early, genuinely tired but happy from a long day’s work; I dream of getting up perhaps even before dawn, shedding my rose-colored glasses, and putting my - ahem - butt to work. If future generations are going to survive, their life depends on the work and efforts we make today.
So, get out there! Don’t be timid! Fight for your rights - community, collaboration, and change - believe in that change of heart both for ourselves and for our fellow men!