Monday
Aug152005

« Cause For Hope »

A black woman gives an older white homeless woman some pizza in inner ring surburban San Diego and reminds her kids that they "don't know how good they have it."

If this were another time and place, the homeless woman would have been black, the passerby would be white and would perhaps spit on or kick the poor huddled figure, if such an act was worth the effort. Otherwise, total neglect would suffice and be socially acceptable.

America has changed. Or black folks are resiliant and forgiving. I thought after seeing this exchange yesterday that there was not much that blacks have to thank whites for after centuries of mistreatment, continuing to the present day. It takes grace to overcome all those years of history, and to do something so fundamentally right as this. It takes grace to admit that anything you have is good enough to give thanks for. This black woman did not appear to be well off any more than most other hourly slaves who work at WalMart and a million other service jobs in San Diego and across the nation.

One day, America will be riddled with homeless and displaced folks of all colors, shapes, and sizes. The post industrial/post carbon age is dawning upon us and will only get worse. The illusion of individual wealth that defined the 20th century might be on its way to evaporating, leaving a lot of people with shattered senses of self. All the consumerism and individualism will meet its logical end point before long, and people will be reduced to sharing whatever remains of the petro-fueled industrial era. Reduced to doing the good things that never really stopped being fundamentally good or necessary, just neglected. My vision for America in the 21st century is a dire one. I make no effort to hide it. I see some terrible things in front of us as our petro-era balloon deflates, and people find themselves with scraps of what was once a great nation. The scraps will be worth only what they can be used for to ensure survival. A lot of things that now exist for vanity or recreation will fall by the wayside. All the ridiculous things we surround ourselves with will be up for reevaluation if they somehow owe their creation and usefulness to oil or gas, or our idea that even the smallest pissant can live like royalty. Recycling of components and materials will be widespread; money will be next to useless if somehow people can't agree on what it worth. Value will be measured in how well something sustains life.

The coming era could make or break the Christian project. I hope it renews it and I hope that people will be called again to live like Jesus wanted us to live—selflessly even in the hardest of times. I hope people of faith can really be the ones to model the practical aspects of what we now consider charity but will ultimately be the deeds we engage in to ensure mutual survival. I don't think anyone will really be immune to the effects of a widespread petro crash because it will also take the global economy with it, along with the industrialized production of food and most of the transportation schemes in the world. Not everyone will be able to join an intentional community on the edge of civilization, after all. Most of us will have to make the most of what we have around us. And with the dissolution of far flung systems of technical support and transportation, we will find ourselves far more bound to smaller geographical regions and far more dependent on one another within those regions to make our infrastructure and communities work. What choice will we have? We will actually have to trust our neighbor, and vice versa. Now I am speaking like a revolutionary because our present zeitgeist is one of distrusting everyone around us so we can be patriots. Sad.

I advise folks to listen to their grandparents and immigrants and get an idea of how another generation or ethnic group had to live in the absence of all the lazy-making gadgets and habits we now have. Or consult the old folks and immigrants to understand the time and place before individualism was not as rampant as it is now. Individualism is what will wreck America. Hell, it is ALREADY wrecking America. What was once our favorite characteristic will be our Achilles heel if we don't relearn how to cooperate without competition. The corporate dog-eat-dog mentality MUST die, or people will continue to be reduced to nothing from all the competition that pits otherwise good people against each other in a race for bigger, better, faster, more.

I'd like to think if a black woman who had ancestors who suffered as slaves under white rule can bring herself to help feed a white person down on her luck, then anything is possible. It is a reminder that things don't need need to simply kowtow to cultural and historical inertia and that we should never take anything for granted.

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