Keep Your Hands Off of My Stack

Welcome to our latest issue. This one has it all: history, art, food & lodging, music, rants, raves . . . even Bonnaroo. Seriously, who could ask for anything more? If holding a bona fide, printed-in-the-USofA on actual paper magazine is too old school for you, well, heck, you can read it online or even download a .pdf for later perusal.
     I know how hard it can be to maintain a sunny attitude these days, what with humanity slowly coming to terms with having seriously screwed up the only home it has. It’s as if we’ve been on an industrial age bender and are suffering a hangover of hubris. What amazes me is how desperately people cling to the status quo. The idea of taking a different approach seems to make us soil our collective diapers. Public transportation? Hell no, I’ll die without my car. Sustainable agriculture? Sounds communist. Ridding the beef and poultry supplies of growth stimulating antibiotics? Let the free market decide. Obamacare? The socialists are coming! Government? Who needs it. Climate change? It’s a left-wing conspiracy!!!
     Yeah, optimism is an elusive mistress. I recently read a study that finds only one in three adults in this country can name the three branches of government. Wow. That simply amazes me. The monkeys are running the zoo. Is it any wonder we’re in a pickle?
     When high school students are asked what they want to be when the grow up respond in huge numbers, “famous,” and then are asked, “famous for what?” and they reply, “Who cares? Just famous,” . . . WOW.
     We are all responsible. That’s right, every last one of us is responsible for the la-la land in which we live. China sucks, but I love my iPhone. Do you shop at Wal-Mart? Then never, ever bitch about jobs being shipped overseas. Ever. Did you lose your job during the great recession, but you still have an account with Bank of America? You’re either ignorant, or you’re stupid. Hate customer service at Comcast but scream for deregulation? You can’t have both.
     Celebrating rugged individualism is a national pastime. The old “he started out barefoot and dirt poor and now he’s a millionaire” story is ingrained in the lexicon. I have no qualms with this. I’ve known plenty of people whose attitude is to do their bare minimum in order to get by, just as I’ve known people who have worked hard and surmounted the seemingly insurmountable in order to achieve greatness. I’ve always believed hard work and ingenuity should be rewarded accordingly. The free market isn’t the issue.
     Nor is it self-interest. To deny we all have self-interest is disingenuous. The issue is that we’re asking the wrong questions. We are much closer to agreement than things might appear on the surface, if only the conversation changes from one of ideological finger pointing to one of an earnest search for the right questions.
     For me it’s simple: What constitutes quality of life? Set aside all other arguments and simply ponder this one question. I would argue that, in large part, East Nashvillians have considered this. Furthermore, I would venture a guess that quality of life is a primary reason the East Nashville community has become so popular.
     One of the reasons people have become freaked-out lately about some of the residential development isn’t that they’re anti-development per se, rather, it’s that they’re anti-homogenization. As we awaken from the dream of never-ending growth, we’re realizing the importance of our local communities, our local businesses, our local schools and churches and sidewalks and dog parks and green spaces.
     We realize the importance of our local culture.
     When we’re are willing to become honest with ourselves about what it really means to have a high quality of life — which is different than a high standard of living — we then become willing to assess the true costs of all of our decisions. We realize there is no “out of sight, out of mind.” Everything we do to our environment, we do to ourselves. The resources we consume now mean fewer resources down the road.
     The earth doesn’t need us. If we destroy the environment we destroy ourselves. Geological time is beyond our comprehension, though not beyond measurement. Take a walk down to Lockeland Springs and check out the ruins of the bottling company to see evidence of how quickly Mother Nature reclaims what we leave behind.

Asking new questions. That’s what it’s all about.

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