Thursday, June 19, 2003

The Sabbath

Turgon (aka Crak) over at Aquadoodiloop offers up his vision, albeit one timidly (and vaguely) proposed, of what he calls the Human Solidarity Movement. I suspect that he'll build on this when he has either the time or the energy -- he's been kind of mellow these days, so his rants have lost their former bite. (Bring back the bulldog face, man!) Nevertheless, his post got me thinking and reflecting and remembering.

In his post, Turgon writes:

I toyed with an idea for a while that I was calling The Human Solidarity Movement, and it was based around the idea that those of us in living in wealthy countries would attempt to live life in solidarity with what most of humanity lives with. We would stop pursuing materialistic goals, live below our means, and re-direct our excess resources into channels that could help the worlds poor.

I'm not talking about communism. I am simply talking about expressing our commonality with the rest of humanity through choosing a lifestyle of sympathy and solidarity with what the vast majority of the world endures on a daily basis. Its a work in progress.

This is well and good, I think, but the suggestion that seems a bit too nebulous for most people to take serious enough to actually implement. Let's face it 'we' rarely do anything like this; if anything, a progressive 'I' or an odd 's/he' or peculiar 'they' may do it, but I doubt it could become as collective as suggested here. Idealism is fine, of course, and necessary, so I don't begrudge or belittle the sentiment at all -- but right now, remember he says it's a work in process, it's a little too vague to be all that inspiring.

Beginning at around the same ideological observation as Turgon, and I make a quick allusion to this in Aquadoodiloop's comments, is Douglas Rushkoff. The latter, however, moves in a more personally poignant direction -- that of a secular embrace of the Sabbath. Seveal years ago in an essay entitled 'Remember the Sabbath: An Argument in Favor of a Day Off' he wrote:

My radical proposal to combat the contraction of personal time has been borrowed from the book of Exodus, and it's called the Sabbath. What if we all decided that for one day each week, we would refrain from buying or selling anything. Maybe the ancients didn't pick the number seven out of a hat. Perhaps they understood that human beings can only immerse themselves in commerce for six days at a stretch before losing touch with anything approaching a civic, social, or spiritual reality.

Sabbath is a way to reclaim one's time and, as kiddie-television hero Mr. Rogers might tell us, celebrate that we are special, even sacred, just the way we are. We don't need to do anything to justify our existence. Not answer the phone, not go online, and not pull out the Visa card. It doesn't require that we retreat to the back woods, purchase generators, and live off the land - only that we find something to do with our friends or family that's not about money.

No, the ball game and movies don't count. Try playing ball in the park, or telling your own stories, instead. You might notice just how few public parks and community activities we have left.

I don't know about you, but that sounds like a workable, something-I-can-actually-do kind of vision. Rushkoff realises that the religious connotation may cause some people to balk, but adds that one might simply think of this as a 'one-seventh rule' (i.e., take back just one-seventh of your time), and think nothing of the 'spiritual' / religious dimensions we normally attribute to it.

Would this one-day abstinance from consumerism hurt the economy? Well, if Germany is any kind of an example, and it is only slightly, yes, quite likely it would. Nevertheless, such is the nature of the revolutionary paradigm shift that would necessarily take hold if enough of the developed world implemented this kind of lifestyle. After all, recessions need not be 'solved' by a return to the capitalist status quo. However, the economic possibility of all this is, I should think, moot at the moment. Revolutions require the changing of hearts and minds, and that happens individually. That's what makes the beauty of this vision, that it is so deeply personal . . . that it is a call for change, but a change that begins at home: with me first, then you, then her, then him, then they.

Take back your life, one day at a time.

UPDATE: Just found another essay by Rushkoff where he makes a similar point, albeit very quickly at the end. If you're interested all, check it out.