The #2 reason why we need to overhaul our agricultural system is in order to rely more on each other, and less on governments and corporations.

Movements to curb the power of DC and move it into local hands are sprouting up faster than moss after rain.  They seem to cover every sector and industry and I seem to be on every one of their mailing lists.  Among the ones I closely watch: DownsizerDC.org, all things Ron Paul, Slow Money, Slow Food, Food andWaterWatch.org.  I’m trying to forget about the Tea Party, though that’s pretty tough here in Texas.

I really have nothing against Big Government, where it works, and where it’s necessary, at least in theory.  I also feel there is nothing inherently wrong with Big Business.  Or even Big Religion.  My guns get triggered when all of these parties get in bed together.  Who suffers in this great power struggle?  We do, as individuals and communities.

When we stopped growing, and eating together, we stopped really talking together too.  And we have generally started forgetting that these institutions, this system, exists to serve US.  Are they now?  Non-Christians are forced to be at odds or ambivalent with our political system, because it is so steeped in religion.  I personally can’t associate with the right, because when I hear it/say it/think it, I am bombarded only with the huge neon sign flashing Christian Right.  Even as a Christian I would not be able to support candidates who make a hallmark of their religious affiliation:  I don’t want laws or leadership based on the Bible!  I am of the same mindset as our forbearers, who were in their own countries persecuted for their religious beliefs, and therefore suffered for generations hoping to create a country where politics and religion were separated.  I wonder where that country is, because I would love to live there!  I wonder, does that make me un-American, or Whole-Heartedly American?

I’m thinking of two Peace Corps stories now and I hope I don’t bore you with either of them.  The first one was repeated to me, and was probably pretty common, but I don’t remember the exact facts of it.  So here is the gist according to me:  There was a volunteer in a village in Africa who was trying to get a well built in the center of the village because the women had to travel a very great distance to the river everyday for water.  It was so far it took like all day to get there and back.  Of course the women wanted the well, of course the volunteer made it happen.  But low and behold, what unintended results came from this great new well?  When the volunteer went back some years later, the place was in total disharmony.  He asks an elder why that is, who replies, “Once the well was here in the center of the village, the women did not need to walk to the river, where they conversed non-stop about all such things that women converse about.  But when the walks stopped, the conversations stopped, and the women were not getting along, and then everyone became suspicious of each other, and now there are so many feuds among the families.”  And well, now what?

The other one was my own personal experience.  For all the “suspicious” behavior reported and expected by life under Soviet control, the Czechs had incredibly strong family and community bonds.  They worked with and for each other, their pleasures were simple:  weekends at the chata (garden/cottage) with family and friends, cooking and eating together around the fire, playing music, singing, drinking, talking.  Conditions were far from luxurious, and yet I remember these times as some of the most authentic experiences of community I have ever known.  I don’t want to seem nauseatingly nostalgic, but these are uncommon situations for me here at home. Maybe if I lived in a “hip” place with a Farmer’s Market where café-goers chit chat and meet up and hang out.  Oh but wait, I have lived in those sort of places, and it’s just not the same.

Providing for life’s basics with a group of people creates a tribe, a family, a community.  It’s really that simple.  Without that, we become estranged, like the women with no walk to the river together, we just stop communicating about the really important things–not only politics, religion, education, but also about the “simple” things: neighbors, relationships, health, food and water.

When you bring power back to the people, and there is nothing more powerful than food and water, well then I firmly believe the people will step up to take proper care of that power.