Localizing: A Systemic Solutions Multiplier

A few weeks ago I attended an Economics of Happiness conference in which one of the speakers, localization pioneer Helena Norberg-Hodge, laid out the case for breaking free from the corporatized global economy. She pointed out that many social ills today are symptoms of an economic system based on greed and top-down control.

Localizing our economy, she said, offers a “systemic solutions multiplier.”

What do we mean by localizing? It involves bringing small businesses back into communities to produce what’s needed closer to home. It means investing in Main Street instead of Wall Street. By preserving customs and cultures through locally produced goods, we all can live better, says Norberg-Hodge.

rome (1024x768)I purchased a DVD of her documentary, Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, about the arrival of “development” and subsequent breakdown of culture and environment in a traditional community of the Western Himalayas. I also bought The Economics of Happiness, a followup film on reversing the trend. I’ll watch them and write more.

But in the meantime, here’s an eye-opener for you. Did you know that a Swedish energy company is suing Germany for $6 billion because the country decided to phase out nuclear power after Fukushima? And that this suit is allowed under our current trade treaties that prevent governments from inhibiting the profit-making effort of a corporation?


But what does a “de facto world government made up of multinationals” have to do with sexual violence or racism—or the scapegoating of trans people/immigrants/Muslims—or the disrespecting of our earth home? By looking at the broad outlines of structures set up to consolidate power, Norberg-Hodge connects the dots between a global epidemic of depression, a neofascist voting trend, terrorism, domestic violence, disregard of the sacred, and so on.

Insecurity in the workplace, a sense of helplessness and alienation, and skyrocketing costs of living are the direct results of this system, in which multinational corporations wrest control from local communities (often by force).

“When you rob men of their ability to provide for their families, take away their self-respect and livelihoods, you have a recipe for violence,” Norberg-Hodge says. She fingers globalization as the main root cause behind fundamentalism and “othering.” As communities break down, isolation leads to fear, which leads to more separation and suspicion, which sometimes erupts in violence.

The economic system mirrors the cultural story we’ve all been sold. It’s a story that says “reality is physical only” and discounts any wisdom that comes from intuition, heart, spirit. Such a story can make corporations into “people” and people into interchangeable parts of a big machine whose purpose is to turn the natural world into money-making widgets as fast as possible, to make the most money for the privileged few.

Norberg-Hodge points out that the media itself is corporatized and duly invested in keeping people from seeing examples of relocalized power.

Interestingly an energy worker named Lee Harris spoke to a similar phenomenon today. He said the media and power elite don’t want us to focus on grandeur and beauty, on things that would uplift us. They benefit from keeping people depressed, despairing, and impoverished in spirit.

I suggest that it is up to us to maintain our inner sense of agency, in the face of these forces.

Consider Victor Frankl, who survived the Holocaust. He wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread… Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way… Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom…”

Let us not submit!

A Week in the Life, Irvington-style

Last week, I realized how much I rely on my neighborhood for commerce, entertainment, exercise, and other essentials. To wit:

Tuesday morning I took part in the Writing Habit, a weekly mini-retreat for writers put on by Urban Plot in the library of a local church. With two other writers tapping away on their keyboards, I cranked out some verbiage.

Kitley finds writing more taxing than stalking sparrows. Sometimes I agree.

Kitley finds writing more taxing than stalking sparrows. Sometimes I agree.

In the evening I walked two blocks to Dairy Queen (OK, it’s not locally owned, but a business in our own little plaza). My neighbor had called a meeting, sweetening the deal with ice cream. We were there to explore teaming the Irvington Green Initiative and a budding arts initiative with local organizations like Trade School Indy to share admin/event/classroom space sometime in the future. An intriguing possibility.

Wednesday, before sunup, I went to earlybird piyo (Pilates/yoga fusion) at Irvington Wellness Center, my favorite place for yoga and other such pursuits. In the afternoon, I biked over to meet a writer friend at Starbucks (because our old haunt, Lazy Daze Coffeehouse, tragically closed this summer).

I walked from there to Help My Mac Plus, where I found a refurbished MacBook Air with my name on it. A stunning development, given how terminally conflicted I am about gadgets and the resources they require. I had just begun to put out feelers for a lightweight laptop for my upcoming research trip/ writers’ residency. I’m thrilled with my find, awarding myself double bonus points for supporting a local business and avoiding buying new.

Thursday evening it was back to Irvington Wellness for yoga class, taught by another Irvingtonian (I inquired after her hens, as one does here).

Friday evening was the highlight. First we went out to eat with a friend at local eatery Legend, where the owners know us by name and the food is delicious. Then to see Delta Duo and friends perform at Bookmamas in the Underground 9.

JJ plays a resonator slide guitar in the style used by Delta bluesmen of the 1930s. Irina's violin accompaniment is haunting.

JJ plays a resonator slide guitar in the style used by Delta bluesmen of the 1930s. Irina’s violin accompaniment is haunting. Photo courtesy of the Delta Duo.

Two local singer/songwriters kicked it off, after which the headliners laid it down. Delta Duo pairs JJ the Chicago-born bluesman with Irina the classically trained Russian violinist for a sound like none other. Suffice to say this monthly show will be a priority from now on. (Bonus: no cover charge.)

But the weekend wasn’t over yet. Saturday after supper, Judy and I rode our bikes to our new neighborhood ice cream shop Wyliepalooza, then popped in on old friends to catch up.

And Sunday was the farmers market. Judy and I biked over, bought bread and produce, and ran into several friends, including the aforementioned JJ and Irina.

This is the third mention of ice cream in this post. Confession: I actually can't eat ice cream! Wish I could!

This is the third mention of ice cream in this post. Confession: I actually can’t eat ice cream. Wish I could!

In short, it was a great week to be an Irvingtonian. What’s new in your neighborhood?