Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: We Need Each Other - A Brief Rant by J

Thursday, September 25, 2008

We Need Each Other - A Brief Rant by J

As I'm sure many of you know, there are tons of "challenges" and "initiatives" out there in the blogosphere and beyond. Many of them are in some fashion related to living a more sustainably and socially just life, or surviving something like peak oil or an economic/social collapse. A lot of them focus on personal responsibility and individual action in response to these situations. Many of these challenges/initiatives (though of course not all), with the notable exception of Melinda over at One Green Generation (an excellent blog you all should check out), tend to leave something very important out: creating solid communities and developing relationships.

While ensuring our families well being and survival are of the utmost importance, we seem to forget that we cannot, and never really have been, completely self-sufficient. In this day and age, it really is damn near impossible. We need others to provide the services we cannot provide ourselves. But more importantly than that, we are social creatures, who need the company of others to be truly human. What bothers me is this almost "every man for himself" mentality as a reasonable approach to complex situations. I might remind us all, including myself, that this mentality has a lot to do with the current state of things - how we got in this "boat" to begin with.

What are we going to do? Prepare ourselves and leave our neighbors in the dark? Take turns guarding our possessions with a gun while our neighbors starve? Where is the humanity in that? And what do we do when our provisions run out and we do not have the appropriate relationships developed to provide for our own needs? We must remember that others were necessary for us to prepare for these potential calamities to begin with. I am in no way saying that this is what the hosts of these challenges are implying, but by ignoring community and others, this might well be the end result.

I do not know how to form strong communities. I do not know how to get self interested people to work together for a common good. But what I do know is that none of us can go it alone. We need each other, we need to share what we have, whether it is a skill, or food for a neighbor in need should times get really tough. It takes all of us, and we all succeed or none of us do. I hope none of these doomsday scenarios ever come to pass, but want to throw my "two cents" out there about a vital aspect of preparation that we have largely overlooked.

As always, thanks for listening to (well, reading) my rant.

'Til next time.


jessy said...

how true, how true! community and our fellow neighbors are so very important & vital, indeed! it's true some people believe they can make it on their own - but it may not be possible, it isn't productive, beneficial, or kind. so where's the real good in that?!

supporting local business of all kinds is a great start - and getting to know your neighbors on a more personal level is another way to open up and share the awesomeness! dan and i have learned that our neighbors were in need of a babysitter - so we're always more than willing to watch their child for an afternoon in exchange for some help with a small project in our home. we've got no problem lending out our lawn mower, because we've graciously borrowed weed whackers, special tools, hardware, etc.! and there's nothing more rock'n than sharing some tasty foods - sometimes making a little extra and sharing with your neighbor is not only a way to make them smile, but it brings you closer, too! we love our neighbors - and we love helping them out - and by getting to know those who live around you - you're opening up so many doors with so many possibilities! there are skills that can be taught and learned, materials to be borrowed, and stories to be told & shared.

community is important - so don't be shy - start saying hello to all of those around you in your community!

Jennifer - if you go to this blog: and do a search for "neighbors" - Sharon has some WONDERFUL posts about neighbors and community! if you aren't already familiar with her site - check it out - i think you might love it!

thanks for a great post! :D

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Jessy - Thank you as always for the wonderful comment, and you bring up some good points on how to connect with neighbors. I already support local business, so that one is covered. I guess our biggest problem, in our neighborhood, is also one of my favorite things about it - the diversity. For example, we just got some new Southeast Asian neighbors, we would love to go over and introduce ourselves, but they do not speak English, nor does a good portion of our neighborhood, so we are relegated to smiles and nods. Perhaps we could take some food over there though, I don't think you need to know English for that to be understood!

It sounds like you live in an awesome neighborhood and I highly commend you for doing so much to form community where you are - many of us - myself included - have trouble with the idea of opening up to others, but we need to. It is time I expand my "comfort zone" a little bit. So you know what, next time I see one of my neighbors, I will say hi, whether they can understand me or not. Gotta at least try, right?

I love Sharon's blog - though I have to admit, at times, it is a little frightening. I didn't see her posts on community and such, I will definitely check them out.

I must mention for the record that this post wasn't designed to call anybody out, I just found myself falling prey to "fear mongering" and it was weighing on me. Then Brett said something about local economies in response to my fear that got me to thinking about the pitfalls of the "every man for himself" mentality, and got to looking around and noticed that community and developing relationships with others is often left out of peoples "action plans".

Laura said...

yay for community and love :)
unfortunately, i don't know of anywhere to get plain yogurt in anything other than the large tubs...but i have the same problem with not having much to do with it...i always make big batches of tzaziki if i have a lot leftover! it's soooo yummy! i also use it to make the raspberry blondies from VWAV, because it is one of the few baked good recipes that uses yogurt! luckily it is delicious, too!!!

jessy said...

oh no - you're fine, Jennifer! i totally understand where you're coming from. yeah, Sharon's site is pretty scary. sometimes i can't read it too much or i'll just upset myself to the point of being too damn anxious about the world to do anything productive for much of the day. baby steps for me, right?!

that's awesome that there's so much diversity in your neighborhood, but i can see that as being difficult in getting to know people too. language barriers are hard to work through, i think saying "hi" is a great start, for sure! and while some people in your neighborhood might not speak much english, they may speak some. i bet you'll get some friendly hellos back!

you're right - "every man for himself" just isn't going to work, i hope that people will pull together. 'cause you're better off with a community of people who are all looking out for each other than standing out there all alone.

i think focusing on strengthening community is overlooked, we all get swept up in what we're doing that sometimes we forget about those around us. but if we look around us and start breaking down barriers - we'll get there. i know we will! by supporting local awesomeness you're already doing soooo much. i think a lot of people forget that buying local & supporting local business really means soooooo much! we've gotta pull away from our dependancies on the corporate crap, why not support the people who live around you & make your community stronger? perhaps there are some programs we can volunteer for - things that would benefit our communities! i'll do some more research on communities and making them stronger - see what i can find! there's gotta be a way we can include more community into our action plans, fo 'sho!

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Laura - Yay is right!

That is such a shame, I guess they assume that people who want plain soy yogut want a lot of it? I wish the market was still brimming with tomatoes, I would make falafel and tzatziki and your Moroccan Tangine! I might have to hold out on that one unless I can think of something to do with a huge amount of soy yogurt. I'll have to check that recipe out.

Jessy - I know Sharon is just, well, she's not sugar coating it, but some of the things that are going on are quite scary, and you end up spending the rest of the day concerned how you would make beans if the power and water were out!

I love the diversity of the neighborhood, and yes, I do think they understand hi. We live in an apartment complex and have actually lived in the same apartment for a long time (for apartment standards), most people move out within a few months time, and that makes it difficult too. I think once we have a house, and the make up of the neighborhood is a little more stable, it will be a lot easier. But that doesn't mean I can't say hi and be nice in the meantime.

I do too, I really truly think that in the end, we will only survive if we cooperate. It may be that the only humans who end up surviving are the ones who were willing to work together.

And I completely agree, I don't want to go it alone. There are all sorts of things I don't know how to do that I need others for, and I imagine there is something that I have to offer to others as well.

I think you are right, it is often overlooked because we are trying to figure out what to do ourselves. I also think it is because creating community is hard. We are all so different that it can be difficult to get along. I think it is best to start with yourself, and then try to work your way out and offer what you can to others. There just has to come a point when we try, just try something, even if it is only saying hi, or opening the door for a neighbor coming in with a load of groceries.

Alice (in Veganland) said...

Jennifer, don't you realize that you and other fellow bloggers are already creating a strong community? I think the future will look brighter thanks to a strong civil society that's growing here and now.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Alice - You bring up a good point. We are (mostly) all like-minded folks coming together to try to better ourselves and the world. I guess, at the same time, I see this burgeoning community while my real community falls apart. Sadly I cannot live, literally, in this virtual community, so I need to find ways to make my physical one better as well.

Thanks for the encouragement.

Melinda said...

What a wonderful post! It's so true!!! (And thanks for mentioning One Green Generation.)

I love what you wrote here. I've been thinking about this a lot over the past year, and I've started putting together a guide for building community. I just posted the first installment - would love to know what you think and if it helps!

One truly lovely thing we all have is the internet. It's nice to come together here and to motivate one another. I hope together we can all find the courage to go out into our neighborhood communities and start making them stronger!

Alice (in Veganland) said...

Oh, I think it only starts here :-)

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Melinda - Hey no thanks necessary, I should be thanking you for One Green Generation. It is such a great resource, written eloquently in a way that anyone can understand complex topics, and provides a great wealth of advice. You should be really proud of what you have going on over there - I have learned so much from you and your readers.

I read that post earlier this morning and left a lengthy comment. It was an excellent post that definitely shows folks where to get started in their communities. It made me start to think about the organizations that are already out there, and I have a short list of some that I would like to research.

You are so right. The internet is great and the green/vegetarian blogging community has taught me so much and made me feel a little less like (as Brett likes to say), a stranger in a strange land.

Alice - I know, you are right. I don't want to give the impression that I do not value what I have here in the blogging community. I do more than I can describe. It is the place where I have learned so much, shared what I know, and dammit, I can be myself online. No biting my tongue, no "attaboys", and judgment for the decisions I choose to make in my life. Thank you for reminding me of the great community we already have here online. The value of it should not be diminished.