George Monbiot is both right and wrong. Right, in that many (most?) are feeling disconnected and lonely; wrong in that there’s no need to feel such Hobbesian despair. Unless, of course, you like to identify with feeling like a victim. The tone of his essay reminds me of my days as an existentialist undergraduate (1960-1964), when my friends and I would slink around with long faces and a copy of Camus (for whom the only serious philosophical question was suicide) in our green book bags.
George Monbiot: The Age of Loneliness is Killing Us
Yes, factories have closed, people travel by car instead of buses, use YouTube rather than the cinema. But these shifts alone fail to explain the speed of our social collapse. These structural changes have been accompanied by a life-denying ideology, which enforces and celebrates our social isolation. The war of every man against every man – competition and individualism, in other words – is the religion of our time, justified by a mythology of lone rangers, sole traders, self-starters, self-made men and women, going it alone. For the most social of creatures, who cannot prosper without love, there is no such thing as society, only heroic individualism. What counts is to win. The rest is collateral damage.
A.K. again: Well, wait a minute. Do we have agency, or do we not?
Or create your own village, right where you live. All it takes is a change in perception. Admittedly, that’s a huge change! It’s the kind of change that blows the lid right off our limiting world-view that holds the outside out and the inside in and never the twain shall meet.
See the vision and values embedded in our Green Acres Neighborhood Ecovillage (GANE), which we are forming within an existing suburban neighborhood, via scattered pods of two or more nearby homes, which then in the future link up together. We’ve got our first two-home pod, right here where I live, and enjoy growing interconnectivity with folks in four other homes on the same block. Two other pods are forming nearby.
We’ve decided to give this founding pod of the Green Acres Neighborhood Ecovillage a name. I’m leaning towards calling it the “Milkweed” pod since monarch butterflies need milkweed plants to survive, and the name itself contains both the word “milk” (nourishment) and “weed” (hardy indigenous plants others try to get rid of). Plus, milkweed pods themselves are very beautiful. Check it out. Here’s a pod from my front yard. Looks like a lifeboat to me, with people rising up within it on filaments of silk . . .
I’m going to make the case for “Milkweed” at our next pod meeting. Not sure the other five pod-mates will go for it . . .
Hey folks, the point is, in order to regenerate community life, there’s no need to go out and create new co-housing, or, really, to build anything from scratch. No need to scratch up enough money to pay for embedding yet more precious non-renewable energy into new homes. (Except for tiny home communities. I’d call that the one fabulous exception.) The infrastructure for a new way of life lies all around you. Just re-imagine the place where you live.
Wow, think of the village that an urban apartment complex could become! With permaculture on the roofs, the grounds, Garden Towers on patios. . . One apartment on each floor could be the community center, the commons . . .
Wow, how to re-imagine old closed malls? A series of interconnected villages perhaps, with local businesses in some of the store fronts, studio apartments in others. . . The entire parking lot could be permacultured, right on top of the asphalt (since permaculture beds are not dug, but lasagna-layered, on top).
Now that my imagination has been ignited, I can’t help but think like this. Wherever I go, I see the possibilities for both soil and social permaculture.
Oh yeah, and by the way, if, you happen to live in, say, a McMansion, and in your quest to simplify, you decide your house is too big and wasteful, then rather than move out you might want to move over — invite compatible others to live with you right there in community. And of course, they usually have lawns, usually large ones. Great for community gardens . . .
Back in the ’60s, it was after our existentialist phase that we started to move together in communes. Hmmm. Any connection between the two?
I’m now nearly 72 years old. Ever since my husband Jeff died in 2003, I’ve mainly lived alone, rattling around our 1200 square foot home by myself, though once in awhile suffering another’s presence for a few weeks up to a year. But my guests always knew it was my house. I made sure of that.
Now, with my change in perception, I live in the same house with two beautiful conscious young women in their mid-20s, and together we make the rules of how to live here. With that one change in my life, I cut my energy footprint by 2/3, rubbed up against my own personal edges (i.e., started to grow again), and increased my daily exchanges with other authentic human beings. This new intergenerational household feels vibrant, intensely alive.