Every now and then, you are going to come across a post on this blog that constitutes nothing but my wandering thoughts. Being the uneducated person that I am, they may be hard to follow, but hopefully, they prove a worthwhile exercise none-the-less.
We here in the West, the past three or four generations at least, have been brought up to believe that the individual is god and collective action lies on the periphery with the freaks and weirdoes. That we have the power to mold our own future and if we fail, it is the fault of our own lack of "protestant work ethic" or drive. I feel this constantly in my own life and I know that the majority of my peers feel it as well.
So, what does this have to do with the future of our community? Everything, in my perspective. I know that Windsor will not crawl out of its cave without collective action towards "something", yet the individual is the one calling the shots.
There are many individuals in Windsor who are doing remarkable, progressive things. True, a lot of them belong to groups who are constantly working at changing something. Yet it is the effort of individual action that materializes the quickest that gets noticed. For example, local architect Joe Passa has made "Green Architecture" the focus of his practice. He has accomplished much in the ways of making others see the benefits of investing in sustainable methods of construction, including seemingly immoveable organizations such as the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board. He is a talented individual and his success is proof positive that there is a desire to change out there.
Yet, a green building lying in the solitude of urban sprawl can be considered an anomaly - a distraction. Nothing exists in a vacuum. In and of itself, it will lead to little change in the way our day-to-day life is affecting the health of our society and planet. The same transportation habits will be required to access these schools: those big, yellow school buses will continue to roll and kids won't be able to walk from their suburban raised ranches; partly out of the media-induced fear of strangers, and partly because we've designed their neighbourhood to be unwalkable. It could be argued that we will not move in the necessary directions without shining examples of successful projects, but the necessary next step requires collective action. Is our society ready to take that next step?
Our older, walkable communities offer some hope, yet they are being squeezed as well. With the heavy subsidization of brand new exurban development beaconing, and the crumbling infrastructure that nobody wants to fix in these older communities, can anyone blame homebuyers for fleeing with their needed tax dollars out to the fringe bedroom communities of Tecumseh or LaSalle? It is in their individual best interest to do so. It would be nice to be able to think that these scenarios are out of our control, yet the politicians that each of us individually elected into office over the course of our lifetimes have set the stage for the product we are now forced into buying.
Which brings us back to the theme of this post: Individual VS. Collective Action. Ideally, it is up to the individual to recognize the positive effect of collective action and act accordingly, but are they making that connection? It is easy to blame "them" for making a mess as we go about sleepwalking through our daily routine. What is it going to take to shake people out of their comfort zone - the one that is slowly dragging us down this road in the first place - and have them join with their neighbours in improving our daily existence?
I have always been of the mindset that it will take a revolution before any noticeable changes occur. It is during the tumultuous transitionary periods in history when necessary changed is deemed acceptable. However, today - the French have established a political environment where their government is afraid of the people, and not vice versa as it is here. They will take anything to the streets, regardless of how small and petty the issue seems to us. They don't take any shit, and they have earned the respect of their elected leaders because of it. What was it that made the French make the connection between direct collective action and accountable government without the spark of societal collapse?
So what future episode in Windsor/Essex County residents lives will act as the catalyst towards direct collective action? Our crumbling economy? Our crumbling infrastructure? Our deadly air and water quality? So far, I have seen more revolt over the price of gasoline, yet nothing comes about other than silly little boycott schemes. This leads me to believe that with all these life and health altering issues that we are currently dealing with, that we are in for a long summer of collective abuses that will continue unchecked until that final "straw that broke the camels back" is laid down upon us.
What will it take for us to begin demanding better; in our homes, our communities, our workplaces, our schools and our elected officials?