Friday, February 12, 2010

Weepy Privileged White People

I was thinking the other night that perhaps one of the things driving me for this sabbatical is that I'd like to have a story. I'm not looking for something to publish and profit from. And I don't particularly care to share this story with people I don't know (why I'm writing in this blog is a question left begging, but I may address that later). Of course we already have a story, and best sellers have already been written about the extra ordinariness of ordinariness. And there will be more. But I am interested in a story I would like to read. I have little ability to tell stories. I am an introvert and a bad communicator. So I just want a story merely for us. Or maybe the kids will write about it after I’m gone and can no longer embarrass them.

But while I think we can do good things here in this hyper-privileged community, I do not foresee great things. Even if I were to elevate my office from town councilman to, say, county commissioner, I don't see much weight in contributing to policy right now. The world is about to be engaged in (or driven by) a fundamental philosophical shift, I think. I'd like to be a part of that process, asking bigger questions and imagining a different future. The struggles here seem weighty because they are what we are struggling with. But life is starting to feel like Whack-a-Mole, with tickets redeemable for crappy merchandise, and still the moles keep popping up. I'd like to struggle with greater stuff (Pop-a-Shot, maybe).

And really, aren't we all sick of the stories of weepy privileged white people? Early on in the recession, I heard a man-on-the-street account of the impacts on National Public Radio. A guy actually said he was now down to Dunkin Donuts coffee, as he could no longer afford Starbucks. This was delivered by the man and NPR without a trace of self-loathing.

So I'd like to find…what, the peppy privileged white people's story? Lots of people ask if there is much sustainability work happening in Ecuador to be engaged in. I think there is. But for one thing, "sustainability" encompasses every human endeavor, so it's not a usefully limiting description for a field of work. And another thing, to go there with notions about what kind of work I may want to do defies the idea of rethinking how we do all the things we do anyway.

I don't know the culture of Ecuador, or even the Latin culture in general. And I don't know what challenges and opportunities exist there. If I were to go there thinking about what work I'd like to do, I certainly see me falling into the same trap of working because I'm supposed to work. Where's the purpose in that?

I could make thneeds. A thneed is a thing that everyone needs.

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