That’s one of my favorite lines from It’s a Wonderful Life, probably the number one movie on my all time list. It’s delivered by Jimmy Stewart playing George Bailey during a run on his little bank in 1929. He uses the line to get the members of his Savings and Loan, a sort of predecessor of the modern Credit Union, to work cooperatively so they can get through the crisis together. He talks them into withdrawing only as much from the common resource they have in their pooled savings as they absolutely have to to make it through the crisis. It keeps them all from falling even more under the influence of Mr. Potter, the money grubbing skinflint who, at one point in the movie, makes a Congressman wait in the lobby while he ponders his next financial move. It’s a classic tale of the little guy persevering through hard work, a good heart, and the love and support of his family and friends. It speaks to how, especially in hard times-but in all times, really-those of us who want nothing more than to have a good life, are family. It’s an American tale, for sure, full of sappy sentimentality. But sometimes, when you don’t have much, having hope is invaluable.
My parents were border-line sufferers from the Great Depression, and I’m old enough that I remember very clearly how big an impact it had on them and their generation. Probably even more than the war (WWII), it shaped their lives and the attitudes they carried through thick and thin to their deaths. My father always subscribed to the maxim, “Waste not, want not.” And our family was never free of the financial brand that the Depression’s mold stamped on both the parents, partly because we never climbed much above upper lower class during their lifetimes. My father never fully overcame a constant fear that the hard times would return.
Well, finally, the dreaded hens seem to have come home to roost. We can still hope to miss the full-blown assault that a Depression is, of course, for there still may be hope of avoiding the abyss. Not that I think anyone in the current administration has my best interests in mind in the least, nor the cleverness to help me if they did. But, especially if this economy keeps spiraling downward, we’re all going to need to come together, and, most likely, very quickly. More than a lot of people like to admit, early preparation is the best way to respond to truly hard times. Even if the spiraling is halted, we’d certainly do well to recognize the family that like minded people can, and should, be. If we join together, pool our resources, and help each other out, we can still do great things.
United we can stand. Divided we certainly will be pawns of the powers that be. We may be facing the difference between living in Bedford Falls or Pottersville.
We’ve grown very used to living in luxury, each nuclear family all on its own. But if things go the way they appear to be going, that may become a thing of the past. If we can pool our resources, though, we can get through this in good stead. The community that we’ve seen trying to gain purchase around Common Sense for The Third Millennium has many resources at its disposal, if we just don’t panic and let them slip away from us.
CS3rd, which has been incorporated as a non-profit for over a year, just got its federal tax exempt status. That makes it eligible for many sources of grants that most organizations can’t even apply for. There are many guidelines that we must not violate, but within them there’s a lot of room to adjust to the kinds of stress that may be coming down the pike. Each of us has a little money to spare, some more than others, of course, and, if the economy doesn’t right itself quickly, we can expect the individual pools to shrink considerably. But if we can devise a way to pour our resources together, those little pools may be more than adequate.
We know of a ten acre property in Woodfords, currently owned by one of our own, that has the potential of becoming an eco-village, but may be sold soon if we don’t find a way to move on it ourselves. Others might arguably have stronger potential, but it’s hard to overcome the appeal of opportunity knocking at the door in the face of doors being slammed shut. The advantages of living where you can grow your own food and generate your own power would be obvious to my father’s generation, and that’s what an eco-village is largely about.
I’ll be calling a meeting, as soon as I can arrange a space and time, of anyone interested in trying to form a real community to respond to this, and the many crises that will almost certainly descend on us and our offspring in the immediate future. If you have an interest, please respond to this blog entry and/or e-mailing me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org). We’ll be talking about how we can actually do this, so a discussion of real monetary commitments, legal arrangements, minimal expectations both from the participants and the resulting community, etc. should take place. Hopefully, an action committee will come out of it. So start thinking now about what you would be wanting from an eco-village and what you’d be willing and able to put into it.