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Interlocking Problems and Our Role in Their 'Fix'

By       Message Anne Mendenhall       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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The recent Congressional election offers the tantalizing hope of addressing some important national issues in a way that will refurbish our tarnished image and allow us once again to think of our country as America the beautiful. However, one sure-fire path to failure would be to address each of our many issues as if it existed in isolation. Unfortunately, politicians tend to have tunnel vision and to look at issues in isolation. Perhaps it's the nature of the beast. New bills are approved [or not] by specialized committees focusing on a narrow spectrum of the whole picture. This needs to change. Problems do not exist in isolation. Just because Congress is shortsighted doesn't absolve us from viewing the broader picture. War, health care, minimum wage, whatever the concern, it is connected with many, if not all, other issues. All social/political concerns are interlocked, and I use that expression to emphasize how strongly bonded all the issues are with each other.

I can offer an example of this interlocking matrix from my background which is food and agriculture. One of my issues is that we need a vastly improved food supply that emphasizes quality. However, this is not just an agricultural issue. It is a social, and most emphatically, a political issue. Here we arrive at the interlocking matrix. How food is grown and processed seriously impacts many other issues, including our health care system, the environment, water resources, immigration, minimum wage, energy consumption, wildlife protection, educational values, and even our ability to respond to needs with action, which is a measure of our physical and moral energy.

If we dig down one level deeper we can put each of those connections in a matrix of its own. Consider just the health impacts. How does food quality impact our physical being? The list of actual and likely negative impacts is long and includes a huge matrix of items such as pesticide residues, genetically modified foods and yeasts, preservatives, artificial flavors/vitamins/colorings, homogenized and pasteurized dairy products, overly fertilized and irrigated vegetables with cosmetic beauty but no real value, hydrogenation, emulsification, and all chemical imitations of the real thing. USDA research has found that today's food does not have the nutritional content of 40 years ago. Is there any doubt that the result is a weakening of our innate health and strength? Sadly there may be many other influences that are not easily recognized.

I speak as a farmer of about five decades. I did my time with synthetic chemical inputs and then switched to Biodynamic and organic agriculture. I experienced a dramatic difference in my energy level and in the health of my farm. I am convinced that our food is often lacking in life giving energy due to the way it is grown and processed. Our country's attitude toward food has not served us well.

In fact, the enormous cost of cheap food isn't even on the table for national dialogue, but it is definitely there in the background as a crumbling foundation stone of our complex society. It is an issue we need to be aware of, because, as per my opening premise, we cannot divorce any issue and deal with it successfully without seeing it as part of a whole interlocking matrix. We cannot effectively deal with health care without including food quality in the equation. We cannot deal with immigration without also looking at how and where food is grown and harvested.

Each of us has particular issues important to us. Before attempting action on those issues, we need to put the tree back in the forest and look at the whole picture, as I am trying to do with agriculture, otherwise 'solutions' will lead to further problems. Is the environment and global warming your 'tree'? Many trees impact that one, including war and its massive contribution to pollution. After we see the whole forest, we need to broaden the vision of our politicians by informing them that a narrow approach will not do the job.

But wait, there's more that we can do. Before swinging into action or being discouraged by the immense complexity of it all, I want to turn your attention to something we all can do and fairly easily. It doesn't cost a dime, we don't have to join a rally, or even write letters. We only have to approach problems, and each other, with a good spirit. This may strike you as a non-sequitur to the above premise, but in fact it is very relevant. In struggling to decide questions of war vs. peace, a healthy environment vs. a desecrated one, the opportunity for a fulfilled life vs. an alienated life, for all of this and more the attitudes and values we each bring to the table are bedrock.

The Network of Spiritual Progressives [www.spiritualprogressives.org] offers a most practical and hopeful approach to dealing with our social and political dilemmas. It is work that begins at home with us. Their tactic may appear na´ve on the surface, but profundity can live in simple, obvious statements. The NSP's focal point is that finding our way through every social problem depends on our individual capacities for things like compassion, integrity, reverence, acceptance, forgiveness, resourcefulness, courage, cooperation, etc. Not your usual campaign slogans but soul work vital to success if we want to accomplish change.

There is reminiscence here with what Martin Luther King was getting at in stating his six points for social change. At the end of the day, after the dust has settled, he preached that reconciliation must follow. These are wise attitudes from NSP and MLK.

To rephrase an old axiom: every step forward in the public good needs to be matched by several steps in personal growth. If we can model the values we want to see in our country, we will have taken a basic step toward changing the social and political landscape. It's a step with enormous potential.

As we all search for ways to make our country and ourselves better, we can start the process by making a more conscious effort to live values that will lead to the common good. We each need to be engaged, with all the courage and understanding we can muster, to find our way through the matrix of interlocking problems that confront our country. Let the work begin now, and with us.


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I am a retired Biodynamic farmer, a retired farm certification director, and a lifelong community activist.

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