Not too long ago we had an interesting discussion about the term sustainable. I'm interested in your opinions on something else, although my questions might not be what you'd assume. Let me use an example to explain.
When I used to homeschool, the predictable question by non-homeschoolers was, "What about socialization?" Not once, in the hundreds of times I was asked that question, did anyone mention academics. It was as though the number one reason for sending kids to school was "socialization," not learning and not life preparation. I put that term in quote marks because, properly, socialization is the acquisition of cultural norms, values, customs, ideologies, etc. I think what folk were really referring to was social interaction, with the assumption that homeschooling amounted to locking up one's kids in a closet.
My introduction to the term "self-sufficient" was in the 1970s during the back-to-the-land movement. It was one of the goals we hippies strove for in our communes. What we wanted was to not be dependent on The Establishment and all its failings. At the time I knew of several groups of young idealists, all working together as a commune to become self-sufficient. We would get together with other groups from time to time to help one another with things like wheat harvest, but that never negated each group's goal of self-sufficiency.
The back-to-the-land movement has long since faded away, but the homesteading movement has grown out of a similar concern. Most (not all) homesteaders seem to have a similar goal, i.e. to not be dependent on the consumer system or the government to meet needs. Their reasons vary and I discuss that in other posts. Yet, when the term self-sufficiency is now used to describe such goals, there is a rather overwhelming assumption that the term refers to isolationism. One of my questions is, why? Why do folks assume self-sufficiency refers to a social condition, when in fact it refers to an economic condition? The question is addresses is how are our needs being met? Are we dependent upon the industrialized consumer model to provide everything for us? Or are we knowledgeable and skillful enough to meet some or most of our needs ourselves? To put it another way, if someone or something pulled the plug today, how well off would we be?
I think the number of homesteaders who reject a community of like-minded folk are minute. Most of us would love to have a like-minded community network, and absolutely do not feel it's a contradiction to our goal of self-sufficiency.
The key is being truly like-minded. The most common points of division within groups are politics and religion, i.e. belief systems. A more insidious problem is work ethic. Some folks are givers, some are takers. More than one shared work agreement has failed because one party or the other does not hold up their end of the bargain. Another important agreement must be on values. Some of us are willing to trade and barter, even give things away, on a needs basis. For others, it's all about making a profit. Some of us are working toward material simplicity, while others love their technology.
What do we do if we cannot find this like-minded local community? Some may accuse us of being isolationists, but what is the alternative? Give up and follow the crowd because that's what everyone else is doing? Or do we have the courage to stand alone in our conviction in what we're doing? As my mother used to say, if everyone else jumped off a cliff and broke their necks would you? It does take courage and strength of character to stand alone, especially when there is criticism and pressure to conform. It's a risk, but are you willing to take it?
Okay, the floor is yours. Speak!