172: This is Not About “Them”
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There is a difference between relying on each other and relying on Them. I believe healing and progress will take place in our country when there is more of the first and far less of the second, but in order to have less of the second, we have some uncomfortable questions to answer.
I think this is important to talk about because as the world is going through these challenging times and shifting into whatever is coming next, I hear so many people say, “Screw it. I’m just gonna lock my door and be a hermit.” or “I’m gonna move to the woods and be all by myself because I don’t need anyone else.” And so they shut themselves off from the benefits of community, sometimes because of a misguided belief that we’re not supposed to have to depend on anyone.
But here’s the thing. There’s a difference between learning to rely on each other and learning to rely on Them. Relying on people with a face and a name you know—someone you could invite over for coffee—in a relationship that’s an agreed upon, two way street is completely different than relying on Them, the government or giant corporations/systems.
Each other vs. Them
Surviving and thriving because you depended on each other was normal way back in the day, and is even pretty common in some communities still. (I’m looking at you, Yoder.)
Community and depending on each other used to be the name of the game. If it was 1800 whatever and you were on the prairie, would you give a rat’s ass or probably even know what the government was up to on a daily basis? But I bet they knew what Mr. So and So was up to down the way. They had to. Mr. So and So and Mrs. Whoever and your family were the only ones for miles. You had each other. You didn’t have Them.
Community is give and take. Community is I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine. Community is I’ll help you finish siding your house if you butcher and process my deer this year. It’s bartering. It’s helping each other. It’s following through on your end of the agreement. It’s offering help in ways that you can and knowing other people will help you out when you need it.
I don’t feel that with government. I don’t feel that with the public school system or the medical system or the corporate food system. That’s not community. That’s Them.
And yet there’s a lot of people relying on those things. And when that system starts to break down—as it currently is—we have a lot of struggle and chaos. Because people have been relying on Them, not each other.
This is important to talk about
I hear people in the survival community sometimes spout off the importance of being able to care for yourself because ain’t nobody coming to help you. And while I agree with that, I think some people misconstrue what they’re saying. The way I see it, they’re saying learn to take care of yourselves because They aren’t coming to help you.
But you’d better believe that someone is coming to help you. Your community will help each other, right? You’ve seen this happen in times of struggle, right?
Gosh, I hope so. If not, you need to build that community.
I also think it’s important to talk about because there are people out there who won’t accept help from others because they’ve learned that relying on others is weak. Or that you’re taking a handout. Or that you should be able to fend for yourself. And I think they’ve learned that because of watching others take from the system and everything that comes from that.
Some uncomfortable truths
Now, I want to point out here that I think it’s great that there are food banks and soup kitchens and places for people to get clothing and there are shelters for people who need it. I’m not against assistance. I just know that some forms of assistance are horribly abused by some people. And I think it’s harder to abuse that assistance when it’s not done on a large scale by Them.
But, and this is a huge but, if we’re going to be a people who talk about how it’s not the government’s job to help folks or bail them out of their personal issues or life struggles, then we also have to be a people who are actually going to step up and help each other. Because you can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth. You can’t say it’s not the government’s job to help but then sit comfortably in your house as the world burns and people struggle around you.
Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth.
It’s like people who preach pro-life, but also side-eye the 16-year-old with the baby on her hip.
Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth.
And some of you will say, But we need the government to help because the problem is so big!
Y’all, why do you think the problem is so big?
Fixing the problem starts with you, building your community. And I don’t care if that’s the people who live right around you or people who are semi local that have similar interests or how you do it. But if you start taking care of yourself, then taking care of your family, then building your community… and your community all takes care of each other… and then we multiply those little communities over and over again, then we’ve got a lot less people that need the government to swoop in and fix their problems.
But, and this is an uncomfortable but, Amy, I can’t deal with my alcoholic father who needs help. I can’t deal with my meth addicted cousin who needs help. I can’t deal with my friend who is in an abusive relationship and needs help. Amy I can’t stand my brother who can’t seem to save a dime to save his life and is always in financial trouble and needs help.
Here’s the uncomfortable truth.
Sometimes I think that having the government ready to help others allows us to stay comfortable in our own lives because it means we don’t have to step in.
And I get that we are all dealing with stuff. Stuff we talk about, stuff we don’t. Stuff that’s obvious to others and stuff we keep hidden. And I am huge on personal responsibility and taking care of your life and that it’s your job to make sure you live the best life you can. I believe that at the end of the day, no one can make those changes but you.
But I also know that some folks need a little more support and help to get there.
I also know there are some folks who don’t actually want help. They say they want help but they’re not actually ready to make changes in their life and they want to sit where they are.
I also know there are also leeches that will just suck the life out of you if you let them all under the guise of helping each other.
I also know there are people who fall through the cracks of getting help because of all this red-tape and human nature that works it’ way into the system.
And all of this makes the concept of helping each other really complicated because you have to be able to discern who is real and who isn’t.
And geez, sometimes isn’t it just easier to let the government help?
It’s not all peaches and unicorn tails
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that if we all just build our communities a little stronger than everything will be peachy. There are still people who won’t get involved if help requires a two way street. And there are evil people in the world. This isn’t just peace, love, and happiness.
I’ve talked before about my great uncle who passed away several years back and how he used to talk about living through the Great Depression and how there were people who pulled together and there were people who didn’t.
Everyone always likes to talk about how everyone worked together to get through the Great Depression, but there were people who wouldn’t help. He had neighbors who would not get involved with others, wouldn’t help others, wouldn’t be part of the community, wanted nothing to do with it, and when disaster struck their family, the community was like, sorry. The established community was in survival mode and this family was like “oh hey, now we kinda need your help” and the community around them pretty much ghosted them.
Helping each other is complicated. We have to take into account our humanness.
And geez, pulling the government into it means we don’t have to make the hard decisions.
The really awesome thing about community…
See, we don’t have to be able to lift 1000 pounds individually because we can lift 1000 pounds together. But when They get involved in lifting that 1000 pounds, the entire project changes.
We’re from the government and we’re here to help
It’s like we became this nation where most people all want to live in their own little bubbles and do their own thing and stay completely comfortable because we are our own people, right? We celebrate the individual now, because that’s progress, right? And then when the shit hits the fan in most people’s lives, they don’t know where to turn. Ah, help me. What do I do? And the government is more than happy to step in with their fifteen gazillion programs and say, “we’re here to help.”
But if community is about you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours… if community is about relationships… if community is about both parties in the agreement gaining something… what does that all look like when the government steps in? You get help, sure… but what do they get? How do they benefit?
(And I hope you have an answer for that. If not, stick it in your pipe for awhile and think on it.)
We have to be willing to dig in and get dirty.
Sometimes helping each other means teaching someone to can or answering questions about chickens. Those are the nice easy and exciting things, right?
But sometimes helping means giving someone a place to stay for a week. Sometimes it means sitting on the phone with them for an hour talking them through a tough situation. And I’m not saying you can or even should help every single person who asks you. And I also know there are people in your life that you’ve got a history with that helping them out isn’t in the cards right now because there is so much healing that needs to take place first. I get that. But helping means getting your hands dirty and doing the work. That applies to individual problems way on up to large scale issues.
When I talk about “the state of the world,” I will often have people say, “Trump is going to fix it”. Pardon me if I step on anyone’s toes, but why the hell are we waiting for anyone to fix it? Why are we acting like some white knight is going to swoop in and wave a magic wand and make everything okay? This isn’t a movie. This is real life. We can sit and wait for some savior to say, ta-da! All better now! or we can figure out what we can do to make things better.
Because once again, this isn’t about Them. It’s about learning to rely on each other. Do you want things to be fixed from the top down, or the bottom up?
Food for thought, my friends. What can you do today to make things just a little better? And what can you do today to help someone out?
Note: my audience is from all sides of the aisle, so I am pretty sure some of you will disagree with what I said here and I’m gonna get some spicy emails from some of you. And that’s okay. But just a reminder, I don’t say these things to have the final word—that’s never been my goal. I say these things to make people (including myself) think.
— Amy Dingmann, 11-23-21
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