Our country is at a historic turning point as we grapple with the fallout of the 2016 election. We can retreat, we can resist, or we can launch a bold counter-offensive – and show the country what it looks like when we build strong communities that serve to bring out the potential in each of us.
Before we can build those kinds of communities, however, we have to fundamentally shift our perspective about what it takes to thrive together. As scientists make new discoveries in the fight against climate change – as they dig deeper into the soil to understand the role of roots systems and microbes and how carbon gets pulled out of the air to feed new life below – they’re realizing that cooperation is just as fundamental to our collective survival as competition is.
Our current basic operating system is based on antiquated ideas like social Darwinism, survival of the fittest, and market fundamentalism. Our current system says that competition will produce the best outcomes for the most people.
We can see how this theory has played out in our own lives as we try to meet our basic needs for education, health care, and a healthy environment. A system based on competition pits neighbors against neighbors, schools against schools, and frontline health workers against for-profit corporate bureaucracies. In the real world, we all lose.
But we can embrace a new theory that comes directly from the scientists who study ecosystems. They say systems are healthy and resilient when they are diverse and balanced – when no one species dominates, and there is a sort of ecological equality, each with a degree of autonomy.
What would it mean to build a public school system based on nurturing children to reach their potential – not to crush the competition, but to build a stronger community?
What would a health care system look like that took care of all of us, regardless of wealth, gender, race, or any other human variable?
What would our ecosystem do for us if we respected its innate intelligence – and partnered with it to sequester carbon in the soil, produce nutrient-dense food, and clean air and water?
If we stick to our values, the answers come pretty easily. Of course, it’s not always going to be as simple to put them into action. We’re in the middle of a transition out of a 20th century mindset – a transition that is coming in fits and starts. But we just happen to be on particularly fertile ground to build this better world.
Western Massachusetts has always been the home of visionaries, rebels and a passionate dedication to direct democracy. It’s in our DNA to think bigger and fight harder so that no one lacks food, shelter, dignity or love. It’s our turn to step up and leave a better world for the next generation.