Sunday, February 2, 2014

#128 Leaving the Land of I

Dear all,
A bitterly cold January has me extra thankful for warmth, in all its manifestations.  Farmers say the cold is good for the land and the crops.  I'm glad for that, but I find myself, along with the earth, turning toward the spring.

Leaving the Land of I

It didn’t take a Kansas tornado for us to find ourselves in the Land of I.  Many of us were born there and have lived there all our lives, not knowing any other place as home.  For others our homeland has been transformed so gradually that it’s been hard to notice the change from day to day.  Yet here each one of us is, surrounded by all the bright colors and the glittering promises.

All I have to do to be happy in the Land of I is to make the right choices among all the possibilities and opportunities that are flashing so insistently around me.  What products will give me satisfaction, pleasure and status?  What clothing will show me off to best advantage? What amusements will entertain?  What friends will best fulfill my needs?  What education will lead to the most satisfying career?  What family will enhance my happiness?  What choices will maximize my power and influence?  Even, what good works can I undertake to fulfill my urge toward generosity and compassion?

If I choose well, I can have a good life and perhaps leave my mark on the world.  If I stumble, I can correct and make a better selection.  If I fall, I can hope for the strength to get up and try again.  If I continue to struggle, it is because too many of my choices have been unwise.

In the Land of I, every person also gets a pair of rose-colored glasses—to make the colors and the promises more seductive, and to obscure the hard realities that nobody really wants to look at anyway.  Immersed in the bustle and hype of the Land of I, it’s hard to imagine any other world.  Yet one is there and available to all of us, just a click of the heels away.

This world is quieter. The choices are less insistent. The lights flash less, but burn more steadily.  Rose-colored glasses are nowhere to be found, and we see things happening to others around us that make us grieve.  There are still individual choices, but they are more subtle.  How is my life entwined with those around me at this moment—and the next—and what attitude can I hold, what step can I take that will increase our overall welfare?  In the longer term, how can I orient and equip myself to make my best and fullest contribution to this world, and how can I help others to do the same?

No longer in the Land of I, we don’t have to make all these choices on our own.  In this world, others don’t care so much about the glitter of our clothes or social circles or careers, but they are deeply invested in promoting our gifts, our goodness and our potential.

None of us have to abandon our own center to live here; rather we all get to inhabit it more fully as each person finds a place in the middle of ever-greater circles of “we”.  We get to be for ourselves and for others at the same time.  But first we have to make the decision to leave the Land of I.  If we can take off those rose-colored glasses, turn our backs on the glitter and the empty promises and start claiming our connections, together we can find our way back home.

Imagine--A new economy is possible!
Guaranteed basic income

In March 1973, the governor of Manitoba, Canada, began a $17 million experiment in implementing a minimum basic income:  Mincome.  With a hope to go national, the experiment took place in a small city with 13,000 inhabitants north of Winnipeg.  To ensure that no one would drop below the poverty line, for four years about a thousand families, covering 30% of the city’s total population, received a monthly paycheck.

In 1978, the newly elected conservative government decided to stop the experiment cold. Decades later a researcher discovered the raw data, analyzed for years, and came to the these conclusions about the effects of Mincome:  average marital age went up; birth rates went down; school completion improved; work hours decreased only to give mothers more time with new babies, and adolescents more education before taking work; hospital visits went down (an enormous cost savings); domestic violence decreased and mental health improved.

It’s been said that the big reason poor people are poor is because they don’t have enough money.  Maybe it would be cheaper and more efficient to address poverty by guaranteeing a basic income than by setting up a myriad of services, steeped in distrust, hedged by regulations, and administered by vast expensive bureaucracies. An overwhelming majority in the U.S. endorsed President Nixon’s proposal for a modest basic income in1970.  Maybe it’s time to revisit that idea.

For more, go to:

Some things that have made me hopeful recently:

Thousands of North Carolinians who have been challenging the state government’s antidemocratic austerity agenda for the past 10 months in protests called Moral Mondays, organized by a coalition including unions, civil rights organizations, the faith community, and environmentalist and feminist groups. -

The city of Los Angeles, that is starting the new year out with a ban on plastic bags, requiring shoppers to bring their own reusable bags or pay ten cents per paper bag--the largest U.S. city to have such a ban.

A judge in western Pennsylvania who has ruled, in a case where a natural gas fracking corporation was trying to keep pollution payouts secret, that corporations are not people, and cannot elevate their "private" rights above the rights of the people.

A man from India who has single-handedly turned a barren sandbar into a 1360 acre forest.

More resources

Posts on other people's blogs: 

NEW:  Check out my friend Daniel Hunter's new book, a narrative of direct action campaigning:  Strategy & Soul: A Campaigner's Tale of Fighting Billionaires, Corrupt Officials, and Philadelphia Casinos:

Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  (or just google the title), a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives), a home for all the parenting writing I've done over the past 20 years. START: a way to study and work together with others to create a better world.

For earlier columns, go to  I'm currently posting at

My favorite magazine:  YES! Magazine reframes the biggest problems of our time in terms of their solutions. Online and in print, they outline a path forward with in-depth analysis, tools for citizen engagement, and stories about real people working for a better world: