Getting beyond a foolish argument …

One of the distracting polarizations under which we’ve been laboring over recent decades is typically framed like this: big government versus big business. There are a thousand ironies in this. Those against big government are generally for big military, which is government working with taxes and weapons instead of taxes and laws. Those against big business generally depend on it for campaign donations.
But there’s a deeper irony: what if big usually means unaccountable, and what if big and unaccountable are inherent to our problems?
I think it was Rick Warren who said, “Bigger isn’t better and smaller isn’t better. Better is better.” Here’s an article by Dave Pollard (thanks Bob C!) that makes this point beautifully. Prime quote:

So what we have now is a political system (nations, governments, cities, educational institutions, legal regimes) that is too big to work, and too big to be allowed to fail. We have an economic system (corporate oligopolies, industries, health care institutions, banks) that is too big to work, and too big to be allowed to fail. We have not only crop monoculture, we have human monoculture, what Terry Glavin has called “a dark and gathering sameness” all over the world.
These are complicated, mechanistic structures, not the complex resilient ones that nature has evolved. They are fragile and vulnerable, constantly at risk of flying apart.
The latest edition of Orion magazine describes the Transition movement as one that attempts to rediscover community, the natural ‘right size’ of human relationship and endeavour, between the atomized individual/family and the massive, groaning and ungovernable political and economic institutions and systems we have created that currently hold sway over our lives. We need to reframe the discussion away from big government versus big corporations versus libertarianism versus anarchism. The first two are different flavours of the unsustainably large and hierarchical, and the latter two are different flavours of the unsustainably small, narcissistic and atomized. The only structure of human relationship and human endeavour that has ever sustainably worked was and is community.
As Rob Paterson wrote today, “We have to change the prevailing story from ‘its all about me’ to ‘it’s all about us’. The first step is that each of us has to take is to start to live this new story. We cannot lecture. We cannot explain. We have to live it.”
One way or another, we need to facilitate the breaking down of the complicated, dysfunctional and unsustainable hierarchies and systems of civilization culture, and the building up from alienated, atomized, narcissistic individuals, into community-based structures, relationships and endeavours. It is naive to believe that we can do just one or the other; we need activists breaking down the too-big and communitarians building up the too-small, until what we have is organizations of the right, natural size. Rob calls these right-size groups ‘natural organizations’. I have used the terms ‘natural enterprise’ and ‘natural community’. The right size is, usually, dense clusters of about 5-8, networked into larger communities of about 50. It is the only size that has ever sustainably worked, and it worked for a million years.

In Everything Must Change, I paid a lot of attention to Jesus’ references to “the flowers of the field” and “birds of the air” in the Sermon on the Mount. I think Jesus was saying something very similar to Pollard … that we must turn from the Roman Empire for our models and scales for life and work, and turn to God’s creation. Like the old Proverb says, “Learn from the ant …” The natural world – the sacred, evolving, dynamic, beautiful, and wisdom-packed created world – has much to teach us.