A student of mine gave an anti-skin cancer presentation today. The motivation behind the assignment was rooted in our study of the the French Enlightenment. They were to start a movement based on the ideas of either Rousseau (man is born free in nature and it is civilization corrupts him), Locke (man can thrive in society as long as he is granted the right to life, liberty and property), or Hobbes (man is inherently bad and needs to form a social contract with government in order to keep him in check).
Although it's my philosophy as a teacher to try to let kids make up their own minds, in this instance I couldn't help but let my bias steer the students to either a Rousseauian or Lockeian perspective. Many did.
The student who presented on anti-skin cancer shared this anti-smoking ad as an example of how his movement's ad campaign might look. I thought it was very moving and a symbol of how idyllic we can be in mind, but how hypocritical we can be in body, action or practice.
This led me to ask a few questions: "What happens to us as we grow up that makes us change into people so far from our childhood ideals?" followed by "Is this change gradual, unnoticeable?" then "Is this change a product of the grind our institutions put us through?" and "If so, then what would a world with another path to choose from look like?"
I can see in my mind's eye a world that still has cities for rat racers and career climbers, yes, but also for artists and intellectuals, spaces dedicated to progress and the exchange of ideas. But I can also see spaces with sustainable forest villages of 150 people or less. I can see houseboat harbors filled with fishing families. I can see more mountain cabins and man-made desert caves that run on the sun.
I can't see why these alternative/intentional communities aren't taking off more than they already are. In general, people seem to be more aware of the ills of the world around them: consumerism as a value structure, superficiality, and a plethora of distractions that add little or no value to our lives. So, does anyone have any clue why more people aren't putting their feet down, shouting "I'm made as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" from the rooftops, and dropping out?
My theory is that unless you get involved in one such communities from a very young age, say late teens to early 20s, your social base, significant other, and family will already be imbedded in a much more established, larger community. And it's hard for many to leave the people they love (and just as hard to convince them to leave with you). I'd love to hear your thoughts on alternative/intentional living, as well as on the change that happens upon reaching adulthood.
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