The Local is Political (Part 1)

Getting involved on a local level gives us the chance to make a tangible impact. We can enlighten, incite, and entertain, and in turn, be enlightened, incited, and entertained.

For many people, the whole "going local" thing may just be a trend (like "green is the new black," USDA-style "organic," etc.), but for me it's the only thing that make sense.

Since I was a kid I've had politically-conscious leanings, and have gone through a lot of phases in search of things that I could get passionate about and that could made me feel like my existence on this planet wasn't entirely in vain. It took me a while to figure out that the bigger a cause was, the further it tried to reach, the more futile it seemed.

Douglas Adams explains this phenomenon:

"[W]e don’t have to go very far back in our history until we find that all the information that reached us was relevant to us and therefore... any news, whether it was about something that’s actually happened to us, in the next house, or in the next village, within the boundary or within our horizon, it happened in our world and if we reacted to it the world reacted back. It was all relevant to us, so for example, if somebody had a terrible accident we could crowd round and really help. Nowadays, [because of mass communication]... if a plane crashes in India we may get terribly anxious about it but our anxiety doesn’t have any impact.... We’ve all become twisted and disconnected and it’s not surprising that we feel very stressed and alienated in the world because the world impacts on us but we don’t impact the world." ("Is There An Artificial God?")

This is just how I felt. So it was only a matter of time before I drifted toward the local, the communal. This became strongest when I lived in Yellow Springs, Ohio. A village of 4,000, and very community-based, Yellow Springs allowed me to dive right into local living.

I worked at the adamantly village-bounded newspaper that is one of the few remaining independently-owned newspapers in the country. I managed events, art, and music at the main coffee shop/gathering space in town, and hosted many of my own events there. I worked at the local nonprofit art-house movie theater, where I also ran special events as part of the programming committee. Friends and I made short films that screened locally, and theater, which was performed locally. (For me, art is always about community; I've never thrived in places where it's all about competition and being "the best"; talk about uninspiring.)

Other villagers got engaged in the things I was doing, and I was often commended. I was thankful that I finally had a place where I could get involved, and take initiative, without having to go through a ton of bureaucracy, or know the "right people," or take so much time to get established in order to be trusted. In Yellow Springs, you don't have to prove yourself before you get to do things. This is a benefit of living in a community, a small town where you are known. There are no strangers to be wary of, only friends yet to be made.

Ok, that last statement was slightly overkill, and not entirely representative of the truth. But I think you get the point.

Getting involved on a local level—as an organizer or a promoter or an artist or an agitator or a participant or a provider—gives us the chance to make a tangible impact with whatever our passions are. We can enlighten, incite, and entertain, and in turn, be enlightened, incited, and entertained.

And, perhaps more importantly, we can take care of, and be taken care of by, our fellow community members, our comrades, our compadres. We share resources directly, rather than through our bureaucratic, dehumanizing economic system. We make connections with real people, and can maintain our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being, because they're always glad you came. You can see our troubles are all the same. And everybody knows your name.

This was meant to be an introduction to a post about the community I've gotten involved with here. Sometimes when I get going on something, it's hard to stop me. So let's make this a two-parter, shall we?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Joe The Plumber November 16, 2011 at 02:39 PM
I agree that many issues that have impact on our lives are local issues and it is very important to keep informed on these matters. But, we also live in a world where the ability of the Greek goverment to pay their debts will effect the performance of my 401K and thus determine when I may be able to retire and the finacial resources I have in my senior years. Or, the development of nuclear capability in Iran will dramatically influence the safety and security of my grandchildren's lives. These are global issues that have profound impact on my family's personal lives and it is important to us to continually monitor and take action at the local and federal level in order to have an influence on the shaping of their outcome. I agree that certain aspects of our lives are most effectively handled in "the village". We need to be careful however, not to become isolated from the more global issues. However bureaucratic and dehumanizing they may seem, we can still have an impact on their outcome and that outcome can effect our personal lives profoundly.
Vanessa Arnold November 17, 2011 at 07:16 PM
I am not trying to say that global issues aren't important. But Greek economy and Iranian weaponry are two examples of what Douglas Adams is talking about: "the world because the world impacts on us but we don’t impact the world." He may be a little extreme in saying we have *no* impact, but I think he's getting more at the soul, the feeling, of the issue rather than trying to state a simple fact (it's not that simple!). Global issues may not make everyone feel "twisted and disconnected... very stressed and alienated," but they do to many of us. I am placing value on the local, without the intention of devaluing the global. I'm not interested in such dichotomous thinking. We are all called to do different things, none of which are necessarily more important than others--I think it's too subjective.
Joe Richer November 21, 2011 at 09:01 PM
I agree Vanessa that we are called to do many things...but it MAY be that thinking locally without regard to larger consequences is not a sound practice. Greek citizens have voted for larger and larger government...in the hopes that government programs would help their local schools, elders, and fellows...their local thinking now has global ramifications. I think if we all thought and ACTED locally that global problems would be reduced. Many of us while thinking of local problems are in haste to find "wider" or faster solutions and that's the rub...Those among us who want state and federal assistance with local problems are similarly adding to our economic woes. I applaud thinking locally and ACTING locally.
Joe The Plumber December 06, 2011 at 12:48 PM
And this technology we are using to blog is making the global more local.
Small Change December 09, 2011 at 01:02 PM
As a 'child of the 60s' we honestly grew up believing that, if we cared and worked at it, we could make the world a better place. Well you can't. As we learned as we grew older and wiser. But as Mr. Adams suggests, you can't change the world, but you can change the neighborhood. I have a marvelous, caring network in Cranston both personally and centered around my business- a terrific pharmacist, attorney, accountant, physician, auto mechanic- all great people who I trust, who make life better as a 'good people' network. We seem to attract a wonderful set of clients, I'd like to think because our staff treats people well, in the old 'country store on the corner' style. I'll give you an idea of what I am talking about - 15 years ago my kids went to little Oaklawn school. Not flashy, not impressive physically -even the parking lot was unpaved . But they had a truly extraordinary group of teachers. Supporting the outstanding principal Joan Montaquila there was the kindergarten institution Mrs. Handley to get the kids started right, the fabulous Mrs. Remick for the 'honors' program, and a whole host of exceptional classroom teachers. Just from the two small groups of friends surrounding my kids little Oaklawn sent kids to Yale, Cornell, Tufts, Johns Hopkins and Harvard, to name a few. Those kids became physicians, attorneys, and Ivy League academics. So, in 'changing the neighborhood' it could be said that the efforts of those good people DID change the world.
Vanessa Arnold December 10, 2011 at 01:55 AM
Hey S.C., thank you for sharing, that's a great perspective--"a marvelous, caring network" is exactly what I am always searching for, and trying to cultivate.


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