It must be something in the air or drinking water, but I am coming across this consumer vs. producer idea more and more lately. Just today, someone posted on Facebook a story about how Cuba, which became an engineering and technological wasteland after the US left and the Soviet Union’s economy stalled, has pulled itself– out of necessity — into the 21st century by a new DIY ethic – one might even say ‘chic.’
The other item that floated to my desktop was that in Greece, whose economy is in dire straits, young people have given up looking for jobs in urban areas and are going back to the land. The reason they can is that, somewhere in their backgrounds, there is a homestead that belonged to a grandparent or other relative, a house and a garden in a village. Romantic? I doubt it. Practical, yes. They are returning to places where they can learn what previous generations took for granted about self-sufficiency and making a decent life without so goddam much stuff. Many are taking up farming or learning to prepare food. They are acquiring survival skills and building community at the same time.
Maybe these are important models for us to study in the post-consumer age we may be entering. Consumers — especially those wired to their electronic ‘friends’ — don’t generally make for great neighbors. But people who make things (or create ideas), have to connect with others: mentors, partners, co-workers, and customers. Producers live in a world of ideas and possibilities that encourages generativity, in the sense of “making your mark” on the world, creating or accomplishing things that matter.
It’s not too late to get our hands dirty, to build things, to maintain and repair the things we have, to share our new found skills with others. In fact, in a future where the cult of go-it-alone individualism is sure to be severely tested, it is about time.