Sunday, January 27, 2008

So the thesis of my book is maybe that voluntary simplicity is one of the most important movements of our time. Westerners have had plenty of time to enjoy the excesses of materialism. Now it’s time to mature into a new paradigm.

In most cultures that have Westernized there does seem to eventually be a backlash against at least some aspects of the Western lifestyle. Indigenous people initially want all the Western goods and comforts and are eager to leave their traditional lifestyles behind, but eventually they start to realize that something great has been lost...e.g. the Indian Pride movements that have emerged in South America, after quite a spell where people would deny their own origins, embarrassed by their “backward” heritage; returning to the old traditions and rituals; trying to preserve nearly extinct languages and lore; taking a keen interest in protecting their traditional lands from further exploitation by outsiders. All of these things seem to re-awaken eventually.

And among those of us mostly-Europeans, who were indoctrinated into the paradigm of progress and materialism longest ago and have therefore forgotten the most, even some of us are awakening from the dream.

Returning to simplicity and harmony as supraconscious beings--what a beautiful thing! And yet I still can’t get around the twin issues of overpopulation and urbanization. If everyone got the urge to simplify and return to the land, there just would be no room. The impact of people scattered and dispersed everywhere would be so much worse than their concentration in cities.

Population growth needs to be stopped and even reversed. Empowering women is the key to that—they automatically tend to limit family size as their opportunities improve. As they escape from grinding poverty too and become somewhat educated and self-aware they’ll be better able to reflect on what’s truly important in their lives and in their communities and hopefully one day return to simplicity. It’s bound to be a long slow process if we can even pull it off at all—if we don’t destroy ourselves in the meantime.

But even if the most affluent third of humanity could re-awaken now, or very soon, it would have a huge impact on the environment and it would set an example for the rest of the world, so that maybe the pace of transformation could be quickened.

Somehow this line of thinking has me feeling a little more hopeful today.

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