When Sam was here, we had a conversation about “what comes next”. Sam is from Vancouver and was on a Katimavik program, the LAST Katimavik program thanks to an unfortunate and pervasive worldview that is so focused on survival that it forgets to ask what we are surviving for. Sam is remarkably aware and well-grounded for an eighteen-year old and I can’t help but think that the course of his future and those he connects with is altered by his participation in programs like Canada World Youth and Katimavik.
The nice thing about having people stay in your house, is that you can have conversations that extend of over many days, interrupted by life’s activities and with opportunities to think or learn between each chapter of the conversation. One such overlapping conversation was about What Comes Next.
What Came Before is best illustrated through architecture in as much as it represents forms of governance. It is probably obvious that the concentration of power of any given period in history can be identified by the largest buildings; the clan Chief’s hut, the Church, the King’s Castle, the Parliament House, the Bank. I think what is true in our time, that might not have been true in past times (though it may have been) is that while we can see that the banks are the biggest buildings, we want to believe that Parliament is still the seat of power. So the question is, after banks, as a representation of corporate power, what comes next? Evidently, something always comes next.
I live in an area of Hamilton where there is a lot of talk about folks living paycheck to paycheck, but when I look at how many houses in Toronto cost a million dollars or more, I think many of the folks at higher income brackets are also living paycheck to paycheck. In both cases the people in question are in survival mode, and I have long felt that survival impedes evolution.
It seems to me that we are in a time of transition, between this and what comes next. A time when values are being questioned and many people are seeking meaning. It seems that the legacy of a consumer society is that we are all left feeling like we are getting ahead, but in entirely the wrong direction. If we continue on the path that we are on, it looks inevitable to me that we will see a hardening of separation between us and them, whoever us and them are. In times that came before, accumulation of power has largely been geographically tied, but in a global economy, a global awareness, it seems that this separation must necessarily be vertical, played out in terms of dollars and cents, separating those with more from those with less. Of course, here in Canada, our cents are being eliminated as the absence of them has more value to those with dollars, the the cents do to those without.
At the same time I see a growing alternative to what comes next, a contender, if you will, that embodies values such as local, organic, sustainable, environmentally responsible, inclusive, innovative, creative, community. It is a movement that values living, and not just surviving. I see these values being shared by different groups, each with their own emphasis; some of them are churches, some of them are environmental organizations, some of them are financial trusts and some are municipalities. Luckily, the same tools that make global super powers possible, are also making local-interconnectedness possible. This is what Sam and I discussed during his visit.
As we tried to ponder the kernel of what unifies these groups and movements and differentiates the direction of this alternative future from the path that we are on, I think it could be summed up by the idea that we will only go as fast as our slowest member. Our slowest member might be a person, or it might be the vast tracts of arable land trying to remember what real seeds are. Necessarily then, such a transition is slow, but I believe as relentless as nature herself as each person, each group, sows the seeds of our shared future.