2. Unite

by Gel Fourtri

As an American woman who spent most of her life in a rock and roll band, I understand the concept of independence. Even after my injury (I dove off the stage and no one caught me, in an ironic manifestation of American isolationism), my inclination was to recover alone, and I spent months of therapy walking by myself. But it wasn’t until I reached the West Coast and, looking out over the Pacific, I saw how I couldn’t walk any farther that I figured out there wasn’t any walking away from anything or anyone.

Nothing is more true in the green movement. We’re either in this together or we’re going to fail. And by we I mean all of us, including our animal brothers and sisters and the trees and the water. I just watched the John Adams HBO miniseries, which begins with images of colonial American flags, the first being the famous snake cut in segments, each segment bearing the initials of one of the colonies. As every former U.S. schoolkid knows, the flag bears the words Unite, or Die (or in another version Join, or Die). I guess it was that kind of ultimatum that the colonists, who were the original independents having left their motherland for freedom of many varieties, needed in order to combine forces and interests.

But today we’re not talking about an American army. We’re talking about interdependence on a wider and yet more detailed scale. Think of these elements as the thirteen colonies that must unite:

  1. Smaller communities organized and designed to reduce the need for driving.
  2. Reliance on local food sources.
  3. Reliance on local, sustainable power sources.
  4. Reliance on small, local businesses run by people known in the community and use of the Internet to select and obtain needed specialized goods (i.e., syringes, prosthetics, buses, books) not available locally (thus concentrating certain types of manufacturing in the communities where they make the most sense from the standpoint of transportation, skills, and resources).
  5. Sharing of resources, from tools to information to arts to skills.
  6. Community-based child care and senior care (including multigenerational family care).
  7. Community investment in and protection of local open and wild spaces, flora and fauna, and water, air, and forests.
  8. Community-based rites, festivals, and celebrations.
  9. Community participation in schools and libraries.
  10. Local volunteerism.
  11. Community-based activism in social issues such as health care, education, infrastructure, and land development.
  12. Economies that are based upon concern for the health of all citizens, not solely for the profits of corporate shareholders.
  13. A broad definition of community that also encompasses the entire planet.

Number 4 is tricky because it can result in manufacturing dead zones where workers sacrifice their health and safety for a manufacturing job that meets the needs of distant others. Once again, such communities must be organized by the principles already stated, with community involvement in facility management.

Number 13 is especially important because the American independence personality trait will turn the community experience into a new kind of independence—my community, self-sufficient and free—that we cannot afford on a small home planet with growing human populations. Our concept of community must be both local and broad so that we do not fail to care for and notice the larger issues that most certainly will affect us all.

Last time we Americans got this message, we required a hard-hitting marketing campaign with a strong visual metaphor and a common enemy: the snake flag, King George. It’s hard to imagine we hardheaded independents won’t need that again. So here we go: Our common enemy is a small, powerful elite that seeks power and/or profit at the expense of the many. For an image, how about a snake in segments labeled man, woman, black, brown, white, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, East, West, North, South, gay, straight, human animal, other animals? The tag line? It worked before, so let’s use it again, only this time not so metaphorically: Join or Die.

©2008 ProgressiveKid

Image by Pete Welsch, 2008, Creative Commons license.

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