Within our current Culture of capitalism having good paying jobs makes sense. We are told that money and stuff will make us happy, and if we aren’t happy, we don’t have enough money and stuff. Believing this, we desire lots of money so we can buy lots of stuff. Good paying jobs provide us with this.

However, I believe our survival is going to require that we move beyond this concept to new cultural norms. What we need is meaningful, useful, and fulfilling work. People need work that they are committed to, and in which they find true meaning. These are the norms that will lead us to true happiness.

We don’t need a huge salary when we are truly committed to what we are doing. What we need is the basic resources – Food, clothing, shelter. There is a quaker saying:

How little from the resources unrenewable by ours hands

Costs the things of greatest value…

Wild Beauty

Peace, Health and Life

Music and all testaments of the Spirit.

How simple our basic needs…

A little food, air, water,

Sun, shelter, warmth, and sleep.

How lightly might the Earth bear

Humankind forever

We desperately need to reduce the amount of stuff we are taking from the Earth.

When we are doing what we value, there is little need for a great deal of money and stuff. Many of us work at what we truly value without being paid, because we truly believe in the work we are doing.

This all sounds like pie in the sky. How will people even get the basic necessities of life if we aren’t working at paying jobs?

This is a valid question when we accept our present cultural norms. But, the truth is, the culture needs to change.

To create a new culture: first, we need to eliminate individualism. It is a concept that is perfect for a Capitalist society – everyone needs everything. We each need a car, a house, washer and dryer, stoves and refrigerators. We each need a lawn mower, appliances, furnaces and air conditioners. We each literally need a lot of stuff.

But what if we looked at the community concept. In a community, many necessary things can be shared – cars, housing, washer and dryers, lawn mowers, etc. The community together can look at what resources people in the community need and can provide for them. This greatly reduces the amount of money and stuff an individual needs, which can free the person to do work that is truly meaningful, rather than having “a job”. (A job is doing the work that someone else values, and in this culture, it usually means making money.)

The meaningful work for some people in the community would be providing for the needs of the community. It could be serving the community by growing food, preparing and sharing food, keeping up the buildings, or caring for children and elders. It could be running a business that provides a valuable commodity within and beyond the community. It could be being involved with Bold New Democracy or the Rights of Nature movement. We desperately need to focus on meaningful work. There is so much that needs to be done. 

Second, we won’t have to work at jobs we hate. Joe Dominguez and Vicky Robins ,in their book “Your Money or Your Life”, speak of most people in our culture actually working for a “dying”, not for a living. If you are working for a living, at the end of the day one should be exhilarated by the day’s work, not totally exhausted, except for some physical work of course. If one ends each day feeling unfulfilled and used, they call this as working for a “dying.” It’s basically doing someone else’s work that you don’t value.

Third, we would be satisfied with things we need, not controlled by the things we want.  Many people have jobs that they don’t like so that they can buy stuff that they want. Then they spend a good deal of time buying the stuff, maintaining and storing it. They are left with little time to truly enjoy life or do work that is fulfilling and meaningful. It doesn’t take a lot of money to buy the things we need. It’s the things we want that demand we go out and get a “good paying job”.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t ever do things we want, it means we look at ways to do them using less resources and less stuff. If one loves to travel, for example, we can use a shared vehicle or public transportation. We can camp with shared gear. We can use Couch Surfing or Servas where we stay with people at no cost. Cooking one’s own meals while traveling also lowers cost. We can travel at very little cost. This is just one example. In so many areas we can reduce our consumption.

As the saying goes, How lightly might the Earth bear Humankind forever.

Underlying these changes is a need to change the basic cultural paradigm. Our current cultural paradigm tells us that what we need to be happy is money and stuff. This has led us to believe economics is primary, and is the subject around which most decisions need to be made. Humans are producers and consumers. We are dispensable in the name of economics. And the non-human Earth community is purely a resource from which we extract our stuff, with no regard to how it affects that community.

Our present paradigm has been effective in bringing us to where we are, with a species numbering almost eight billion, a sign of a successful species. However, this paradigm will very likely destroy our species since it is leading us to attack every aspect of Earth that we are dependent on; soil, water, air and the ozone, along with toxicity, chemicals, and nuclear armament, which could destroy the things we need. In the past, the human species has confronted the need for major change, but at those times it had hundreds of years to make the change. We don’t have that kind of time.

We need to develop a new paradigm that reflects reality. Reality is, the Earth is Primary, humans are one of some 10 million species, and our species utilizes religion, culture, education, economics, etc. The question we must ask is, “Is the action I am taking at this moment going to enhance the Earth?” 

I believe we must commit to and follow the Rights of Nature movement in order to make this change happen. We must recognize not only that the non-humans of the Earth aren’t just a resource, but that our survival is going to depend on our accepting the fact that the animals, the plants, the mountains and rivers, have rights. They have the right to flourish as they are meant to do. This movement is growing globally. Ecuador and Bolivia have put Rights of Nature into their constitutions. A good number of places here in the United States have passed a bill of rights for nature. It will be a struggle to have this concept accepted broadly in our country, but there is hope.

None of the ideas mentioned above require “good paying jobs”; in fact they contradict this notion. We need to care deeply about the Earth, which includes our species. We are honored to be a part of this amazing planet, and it is in this relationship that we’ll find meaning and purpose. This will lead to an awareness that we don’t need a lot of stuff, which can lead to many people not needing or even wanting a “good paying job”.  We will value what we do, not the income we make. And our species just might survive if we can change quickly enough.

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