Monday, April 16, 2007

No, No, No, I Don't Smoke It No More

The phone rang. “Hey, CG,” she said, “I have a question about ethics for you. You seem up for questions on ethics.”

Sure enough, I’m always happy to consider such. In fact, I pretty much always am considering such. Is it right, or wrong, or does it depend; does it help or hinder or do nothing; are we going to have a party, a big party, or a really big party? In a life that depends on results and not just intentions, it is vital to be able to examine and question EVERYTHING. Sacred cows eat people out of house and home and bring them to their ends in ruin. Blind belief in anything kills.

My favorite quote from Wendell Berry (other than his mad farmer poems that is) is from Long-Legged House:

To make public protests against an evil, and yet live dependent on and in support of the way of life that is the source of the evil, is an obvious contradiction and a dangerous one.
Perhaps because of the constant questioning of everything, I have wondered if there is any right livelihood to be had.

When we made the bulk of our money working for a giant corporation, that wasn’t exactly right livelihood. But we understood that, and didn’t hide from it. The trade-offs, in that we could make enough money to live and invest (afford to build our house, pay our midwife, gather tools, not starve while we gathered skills) in our vision of our eventual life (which we are pretty much at now) and still have the time to do the work of that life too -- those were pretty good trade-offs.

So it seems to me that the real question is does what you are doing (or not doing) strengthen or weaken whatever you are wanting to strengthen or weaken. Well, that’s as clear as mud. But, for example, did our familial participation in a giant corporation further the corporation’s goals more, or our goals more? I’d vote for our goals, with the acknowledgement that it was a land of lotus eaters, seductive in its lucre.

There aren’t too many things in this world that I don’t consider corrupt, and I mostly exist outside of those structures. Money is essential to most of those structures. So spending, and earning, very little money is a form of protest, a form of being the change, a way to force the change. I happen to think marijuana should be legalized, should in fact be a major fiber plant, but to participate in marijuana culture would be to support the corrupt structures that have arisen from its being illegal. Thus the title of this post. I happen to think our tax structure of progressive taxation and hidden taxation and pork spending is corrupt, but if I don’t file my taxes and get that refund on my EIC, am I weakening the government? I think not, and quite likely the opposite.

I think you have to consider what your lifestyle supports, and what it doesn’t support. And also what supports it, and what doesn’t support it. At least if one is going to think of ethics, those things have to be considered. Upton Sinclair said “It is difficult for a man to understand something when his income depends on his not understanding it.“ Well, you can understand a whole lot more if you have very little income and you spend even less.


zane said...


I've tried to post a few comments over the past months and ran into complications, so I will keep this short.

I like this post (and all your writing)--we need to find these ways to step outside our lives, and come to terms with our place in the larger world. I love to hear about how your family and others are piecing together a more integral way of life.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Zane, you know, I don't know about the rest of the world. Mostly I don't think there is much hope for "them". I don't think "education" helps much, and I think doing educating for money creates a conflict of interest in the educating anyway. So I'm left saying, I don't know but I don't know. I think every decision of every person could be argued forty-eleven different ways.

Thanks Zane -- I always get something from your writings on your life too. I'm particularly interested in your cooperation -- something I've found lacking except in extreme independence in my life (that is, only extremely independent, capable people can end up depending on each other for anything). Best to you and yours.

Joanna said...

hello. sorry for being off-topic, but i'm looking for the performer and the lyrics of the song mentioned in the title of your post. would be grateful for it.