Only after dinner

About once a day I sit down to write a post about how we could work together and across friendships and neighborhoods and families create our own food systems to potentially feed, house, and employ us all endlessly when the moment inevitably comes that we need.

I’ve farmed long enough to know we could dent the grocery bills of hundreds just making use of our backyards and right of ways and waste space. Hell, we’re already burning gas to keep down the grass. Crops or ruminants may actually be cheaper maintenance.

If we had that sort of back-pocket resource, we’d all be so much more free to pursue our dreams and personal agendas. If we knew we were fed, employed by a few hours of chores and housed, kept, even if no one wanted to take a chance on hiring us or God forbid the economy does what it always does, by design, every decade, recedes. (Considering America has never reached full employment, even at its best, hasn’t our economy been in prolonged depression from initiation?)

I want to write this post, but I know the reply, I know almost no one hears farm and thinks freedom. But I’m telling you, rice and milk was the great epiphany of Buddha, and Christ filled his career with food production and economic analogies and culminated it gathered around a dinner table, where equality is implied, reflexive, no longer good or right, where loving your neighbor is as simple as passing the plate. Equal share. You ever notice this? If you ever make it to the dinner table with a person, how the inequalities and social divides and economic distinctions disappear. No one divvys out portions based on anyone’s net worth.

Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe the answer waits at the end of all these earmarked budgets and policy debates and legalese liturgy. But I don’t feel crazy. And I’ve heard society sputtering ever since I came of age out of it into the world we left out of it. The real world. Universal, base need. Hunger. Thirst. Need for shelter. Starving for the culture that surrounds these things.

So, to sum up, every day I want to write this post that ends in dinner. That dinner becomes our primary goal. Food, the greater movement. All conversations, talks, arguments over divides and distinctions, only after dinner.

Don’t take it too personally.

Specialization has muddied our sense of identity. If you ask how your desk identifies, it is oak. Or has maybe been pining to be a pine again since that first chainsaw struck. The oil in your car engine identifies as a fifty million year old carcass who never got a chance to decompose. So long entombed. Just a spark will make it explode. And all the iron in our little world. Still identifies as the death-stroke of a some ancient supernova.

Specialization doesn’t care for the seed state of things. In fact, it’s primary progenitor, industry, has done everything it can to make the seeds of things contraband. They’re waging a cost-effective war against potential. And specialization is terrified of a healthy imagination.

We all have all of it inside of us. Man. Woman. These were never meant to be strict genotypes. But directions, like on a compass. Generalizations. But if you want to go true north, you might have to be willing to take a step west once or twice. Or even turn back south just to get around mountains and start north again as soon as you can. Genders aren’t categories we fit into. They’re not actually defined strictly enough to exclude much of anything. We just pour out our individual reactions to each expectation, and gender settles like water tables, fluctuating every season. Changing every day.

Specialization doesn’t have time for that. Equal parts. Overlapped behaviors. Weakness where the job description clearly indicated strength. Not showing up in the issued uniform. A distraction to other employees. Endless hypotheticals and what ifs and imaginary pitfalls. They’d have to rewrite the handbook. To us, a company handbook is standard. But specialization, and industry, you see, they are still mourning having had to put together a handbook in the first place. Let alone revising it in any way that increases the complexity and nuance of their employees. They prefer an occupationally induced sense of identity.

I wrote all that, looking for a way to stop, when I have this thought.

Capitalism is reverse psychology communism. All anyone had to do was declare laissez-faire one time too many and people took it on as credit. From then on, the dollar bill and markets of Man have dictated where we end up, our jobs, our deficits, our tax brackets and family dynamics, in ever predictable ways. More and more we have become the same. Industry has consolidated our dreams, given us a meager handful of highly publicized upward mobility icons to mesmerize, and slowly but surely organized a majority of people into tight knit schools with similar salaries and comparable time and familial assets to divest. Like good communists. Lottery obsessed and gambling addicted. People who do the same thing every day slowly chipping away any hope of any change, can’t stop from scratching silver crumbs off card-stock. We feel so trapped in our lives, we invest more money more consistently in lotteries than almost anything else.
The lottery is educating children.

Unfulfilled? Why are we unenlightened? Because of one thing.
Because we’re all doing only one thing.
Because increasingly over the past ten thousand years human beings on a large scale are specializing more and more in highly temporary, fleeting occupations that essentially function as the entirety of our required resources for basic food, water, and shelter access. And when that job goes away, because it always will, there’s nothing. No more one thing. And no time to pivot. You don’t just lose your job. You lose your identity. Your purpose. Every resource you ever retreated into to provide for yourself and your family. You got fired from your habitat. From life.

Capitalism wants us to specialize. It wants you to consolidate your identity. Find where you fit into a category. And smile a little more while you trade the only time you’ll ever have on this planet for paper printed with wrinkled faces capitalism swears represents gold they keep hidden somewhere.

Why specialize? Why not raise ourselves to be farmers, to study water tables, to build houses out of anything, anywhere. Then, once that trinity of basic food, water and shelter access is established in every community, maybe take on a law practice, or a medical profession, or move across the country for no good reason just to tell more people you like to call yourself a writer. What do you do for a living? Well, primarily, I human. There’s a lot of work involved in achieving a simple state of satisfied being. But when times are good, in warmer seasons, I work a little too, just a few hours down the road, because it’s easy, and it doesn’t warp my soul. And if the industry goes, the job disappears like warm summer air just around the outset of autumn, no problem. Food, water, shelter. These are more than habits. These are not maybe-when-they-go-on-sale sort of means. They’re vital. Basic. Essential.
An entire planet of functional environments is required to provide them.
Nothing about it is specialized. There is a diverse, chaotic career waiting in just staying alive. Capitalism, hand in hand with specialization, is not a bad way to organize how we thrive. But when it comes to survival, it is always going to have to charge us a dollar for what it bought for fifty cents. Even charity exists as an expense we need tax incentives just to afford.

Capitalism has no intention of feeding children who do not show up for work. And that is not acceptable. They don’t want any person thinking they are special. Just specialized in some routinized function that can be predicted and mapped out in corporate projections.

The identity crisis we’re experiencing is a natural symptom of this economic system.
We are gaining access to all the resources of our survival solely through a singular occupation. History has shown this time and again is the precursor to extinction.
We are gaining access to all the resources of our only world solely through a single-minded occupation. Governed by the impossibly greasy laws of profitability.

If America was a farm, capitalism is the system we’re using to distribute basic life resources like feed and water and barn access. And guess what. The door is locked on all of us until after we lay an egg. And dairy cows are denied grain until they’re milked dry and their new calf is chained to its bed. We’re being taxed for mere existence. We’re in a barnyard, with no naturally reoccurring food or water sources. And we’re paying a lot of money for basic necessities we require just to exist. Not even to be happy. Just to be. Selling basic life necessities will always be a monopoly. Because we’re not purchasing a product, we’re purchasing sustenance to maintain existence. We’re buying our selves. And we’re the only one of us on the shelf. No option to leave the barnyard. No options outside of financial means, means it is impossible we are free.
It means no one ever abolished slavery.
We just reinvented the shackle.

Farm animals are having crisis of identity. It’s called domestication.
They’re subject to fast-moving bacterial outbreaks, packed too tight in too little space, and prone to violence against one another.

Humans are having a crisis of identity. It’s called specialization.
We’re subject to fast-moving bacterial outbreaks, our populations are too tightly concentrated, and we are currently in an epidemic of violence against one another.

It’s gotten so bad we are taking the beaks off chickens and hiding them in dank windowless hangers. We’ve sawed the horns off the goat and soldered the stumps so they couldn’t grow. And then declared war on coyotes.

It has gotten so bad, we are forcing our children into an educationally induced crisis of identity, simply because there are aspects to them, and to us, we still fail to understand. We are not ready to admit it. So we have been shaping new existences more with our ignorances than with the many difficult-to-tell truths we’ve discovered about ourselves. And when they find out they could have had horns.
Or that we’re the reason they can’t peck without spilling corn.
It won’t be between them and nature anymore.
We’ll send them out into the world asking society what it is they are here for.

Specialization. Domestication. Industry. Breeding in the dark and reproducing offspring.
Consumerism. Capitalism. Be a good citizen. Obey the law. Hold down a decent job. Don’t test the electric fence. Thou shalt not headbutt your neighbor, or your enemy, or anyone for that matter. Keep your callous yellow beak to edible yourself.
Better yet, live forever, in a cage, on a shelf.
Better yet, there was never a life outside of cages.
Better yet, the cage is where you belong.

It really isn’t up to us to change or decide who or what we are.
We’re just being educated into consumers. We’re products.
Actors cast in plays wearing costumes so we can afford
to eat and sleep someplace warm.

We’re upset about our uniforms.
We have issues of identity. Not because of who we are.
But because including all of us took up too much space on a form.

Project Local: How Everyone Deserves Time Out

As children, it is used as a punishment, but once we’re grown, the prospect of time out loses its sting. In fact, it becomes a sort of treasure. It isn’t a matter of being unfulfilled in your career or house or pace of life. People can be perfectly happy where they are, and still desire, time to time, to be somewhere entirely different. We are already doing it. Vacation. Sabbatical. Invaluable time off. Letting escape take us in little moments we purposefully didn’t prepare for.

Project Local seeks to intentionalize this process. To just go on ahead and out loud embrace this new modern breed of being partially nomadic within our domesticity.

Instead of fully transplanting every time, we will reorganize our lives like a vine. Always extending out from a solid, central, local base. An internal sense of home. And the requirements that make it so. Enough space for yourself, mentally and physically. Room to lay down some roots, figuratively and literally. Grow some food. Pursue a local water source or two. Or understand the community infrastructure required to provide any basic, daily, lifelong necessity. A home is not an island. Nor is it a clock whose gears and winding and ticking hands are all controlled, contained in the palm of our hand. The network of infrastructure, pipelines, reservoirs, the bulbous shaped water tanks that loiter our small town horizons, down to the very taxes paid by you and your neighbors, to help share the mutual cost of every shower, every dripping faucet, every dark soil soaked garden steaming in the late evening summer heat.
We can pretend that these things are merely products.
But that doesn’t make it so.

It just so happens, that for all our taxes, all our decades of standardized trial by fire tested education, we don’t actually earn ourselves any naturally reoccurring resources for existence. A human is meant to generate enough value, right off the bat, to pay into someone’s rental business, or be taxed by the acre, or pay monthly into a mortgage, just to have a simple source of shelter. Not to mention a bite to eat. I’d hate to take up all your time trying to explain how much time we have to steal to pay for every meal. And every bill that gets sent to make sure each spigot spits up that hopefully clear, hopefully clean, overly cold sacrament.

There is no time out. Not for these commodities. They make such nice neat little local monopolies. You just have to figure out how to sell someone something that falls from the sky. Or grows from the ground. Or depends on you living near a town.

And what you have then is not simply a consumer, but consumers for life.
And an economic class system, from which there is no longer the threat of time out.