I had a great discussion with a friend about David Orr’s essay, “Loving Children: a Design Problem“. She concluded that the breakdown of education is one of the many results of an unfettered capitalistic economic system. It sounded like the end of our conversation, because, you know, The Economy: what can I do about that?
I almost accepted it as such, but then I said that what Orr and others like him want to bring home most of all is that “an unfettered capitalistic economic system” is not something out there, but something in us. It’s not something that happens to us, but something that we make happen, almost constantly every day, all day long. When we buy something, or watch television, when we turn on the lights in rooms we don’t occupy, dive our cars, etc. We are that economy. And if it is “unfettered”, it is so because we are unfettered: out of control and loving it, thinking we can go on like this for ever and with impunity.
I added that all of this pervades our children’s lives as well. In Orr’s article it shows in the landscape, in our non-sense of place. I added that this “unfettered economy” becomes natural to our children, with dire consequences for child and world.
My friend agreed that indeed our environments have become toxic physically, spiritually, intellectually. But she disagreed that as individuals we can peaceably radically alter the system. That history tells us that blood is usually spilled in such attempts, and human greed corrupts the results.
I said that we cannot peaceably and radically alter the system as a whole. But we can banish it from our home and our children’s environment(s). Not totally, of course (although some people I know are getting close, off the grid and all that). We can at least banish its most corrupting influences, like television and advertisement, the plethora of toys, the plastic throwaways.
And we can model a more wholesome way of life by not wasting food or energy, by showing them, with a little garden perhaps, where food actually comes from and the hard work that went into it. By showing them (right at home) the value of hard work. By not wasting paper towels, by sending less stuff to the landfill…
There are so many things we can do, quite easily, and without bloodshed. It might not change the world, but it will change the child.
But first you have to let go of that nice delusion, that “The Economy is not us.”