Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What If I'm Not Counter-Cultural After All?

I've noticed as I've been looking at gardens around Allston, that I'm not necessarily counter-cultural. In my neighborhood, there are bikes everywhere. There are people growing things, everywhere. People walk to their neighborhood parks. There are elders harvesting grape leaves, and people going through the recycling for usable parts. There is seaweed drying on clotheslines. There are clothes drying on clotheslines. Sure, there are a lot of dunkin'donuts cups around the neighborhood. But we all have our vices.

It dawned on me that the young hippy crowd, students, and the elderly seem to do some things in a similar way.

I wonder how important the "counter" in counter-cultural really is to me. When I push up against consumerism and materialism, it gives me little spurts of righteous indignation; it spurs me on and gives me something to rail against. When I studied history, we used the word "deconstruction" to death. We deconstructed this paradigm and that paradigm, until we were left with lots of bits.

But the wonderful thing about the sustainability movement is that it doesn't just reject the system (including consumerism, etc), it embraces something (slow food, recycling, frugality, minimalism). There's something beautiful in rethinking and re-constructing. Something powerful in taking ownership and not just being critics on the sidelines, even as we acknowledge that yes, many systems are both very powerful and very wrong.

In the U.S., the step of rejecting certain things is important. In South Africa, it may be less so: there's a strong culture of reuse, grocers charge for plastic bags, you'll never be offered coffee in a paper cup to go (although Starbucks is coming, apparently), small cars are hip, and so on. That said, Woolworths, the closest thing to Whole Foods, packages their fruits and vegetables to death, middle-class houses are large, and once you've finished reusing, the recycling market is weak. Given these different contexts, what I'm hoping is that I can gain momentum that's sometimes inspired by the rising tide of sustainability around us, but that I'm convicted independent of what's "normal" around me.

Which leaves with original and un-original things I'm hoping for before we leave for South Africa: I'd like to go these last few months in Boston without acquiring any plastic bags, reuse the plastic bags I have, avoid throwing anything useful or recyclable away during our move, and not get any drinks in plastic or paper cups. As a family, we'd like to sell $2,750 worth of stuff to pay for our travel to South Africa.

5 comments:

leah said...

Man, you ain't kiddin! And all you gotta do to get kicked off your raising chickens high horse is to visit a feed store and talk to a real farmer.....

Jo said...

This week I met a mom at the park: Christian hippy, 14 month 1/4 Asian/3/4 white baby boy with Old Testament name, travels a lot, lives one street over from us, baby wears Bumgenius and they tried (are trying) elimination communication, walks to Brookline parks because she got tired of the beer in the Allston parks. I felt like such a stereotype after meeting her (though, naturally, I think she's supercool).

Caryn J said...

Jo, I found this website quite inspiring and challenging. A family decide to eat like a poor but not starving African family for a month in order to give the extra money to help the famine in Africa. Interesting insights gained along the way. Thought you might be interested. http://feedtheworldfamilyfirst.blogspot.com

Jo said...

Thanks for the link Caryn. I really like the website. Have you ever tried anything like that? Or would like to?

Caryn J said...

No I haven't tried it - I enjoy my usual variety of food too much too push myself that far without a particular purpose for doing it (Never mind what hubby would think about eating chickpeas in various shapes and forms daily). BUT, I think just reading about it does remind me how privileged we are. I never want to take that for granted.