Saturday, October 15, 2011

Corporate America can kiss my pastured pig!

Wall Street is broken beyond repair. Every time the government comes up with a new regulation, a team of corporate lawyers simply figures out how to get around it. And the Supreme Court is not helping us at all. I really can't imagine how the corporate system can be fixed, so we simply need to opt out.

If you're wondering where all of this is coming from, I had a book signing today in Champaign, and it happened to overlap with an Occupy Champaign march. Some people came to the book signing following the march, and when others at the bookstore heard about it, they said they wished they'd known so they could have attended. Now I feel like I should have connected the dots sooner, but at least it all finally came together for me today.

I have been supremely annoyed at the fact that we bought a furniture set for our deck a year ago, and this summer it completely disintegrated. I'm guessing that maybe those folks in China forgot to spray the UV protectant on it or something like that, so it just started falling apart after less than a year -- half of which was spent in the shed (winter) where it was not even exposed to sunlight! And the paint is peeling off of the metal parts. Basically, it's garbage -- and it was not cheap! But like most people, I've been kind of whiny about the whole thing. Well, today I've decided that's the straw that broke this camel's back because I'm not supporting Corporate America any longer.

Over the past year, ever since I started on the adventure of writing Homegrown and Handmade, I've been meeting a lot of very cool people. One man today was talking about how his family wanted to grow their own food, in part to simply opt out of the corporate scene. One of the families I visited in Chicago last winter was talking about how our society needed to abandon corporations and go back to the idea of small businesses serving local communities. If you are a local business owner, and you make things that don't last, your business does not last.

Of course, a lot of people will say that we can't do this in today's world, and of course, Corporate America wants you to believe that. They've spent the better part of the past century convincing Americans that "you deserve a break today," and that your time is too valuable to do things like cook, clean, or build or grow things. As you know, I opted out of the industrial food system a few years ago. I didn't do it overnight though. Lack of instant gratification paralyzes a lot of people. They think it's all or nothing. Well, if that were true, then nothing would have ever been accomplished in this world, because everything requires practice, patience, and persistence. My first vegetable garden did not yield any edible food, but I kept trying, and today we grow most of our own produce.

So, no more whining -- and I'm including myself in that admonition! I've been whining about that furniture set that's falling apart on my deck, but no more. Whenever I decide to replace it -- and it may be a really long time because we don't NEED it -- it will be built by someone I know. If Mike doesn't have time to build one, then I'll get a local craftsperson to do it. Surely there is someone around here that knows how to use a saw and a hammer, and I bet they'd be willing to do it for about the same amount of money I paid for this "Made in China" set that fell apart after less than a year.

I'm drawing the line in the sand right here and right now. I'm not buying anything else from Corporate America if there is any way to get it locally. I don't have all the details worked out yet, but the important thing is to get started. Whenever I find myself thinking that I NEED something that is made by a corporation, I will ask myself (1) do I really NEED it, and (2) can I find someone to make it locally? If my only choice is a corporation, was it made in this country?

A year ago I had my friend Mary make some clothes for me, and she did a beautiful job, so I have a source for most of my clothes. And seriously, how many more clothes do I need? We can also shop at garage sales. You know who gets 100% of the money you spend at a garage sale. Thrift stores may support a good cause, and again, one person's trash is another person's treasure, so you may find what you need there.

I certainly don't have all the answers, but I'm hoping to start a conversation on how we can all decrease our dependence on corporations that don't care about anything other than their bottom line. So, rather than occupying Wall Street, I think we need to desert it and start to occupy our own backyards. Taking control of your food is one way you can declare your independence. (I spent 270 pages talking about how to do that in Homegrown and Handmade, so I won't get into the details here.) Start a garden, get a few hens for eggs, or plant a couple of fruit trees. Barter if you have an apple tree and your friend has extra eggs from his or her backyard hens. Dust off your knitting needles or sewing machine. Rediscover or teach yourself woodworking. And stop watching 2.4 hours (or more) of television every day where advertisers will just convince you that you need to buy more stuff from them! I know this is only the beginning and would love to hear your ideas on how we can all become more self-reliant and declare our independence from Wall Street!

What else can we do? A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. What's the first thing (or the next thing) you can do?


Donna OShaughnessy said...

Could not agree more Deb. We stopped shopping at malls year ago, we use local folks (and in Chatsworth it is limited) to repair our vehicles, tractors. We pay MORE but because these folks are our neighbors the quality is always better. Yet still, 80% of our own farm store customers come from 2-3 hrs away. Very few locals shop at our farm but we'll keep trying...

theacademe said...

Farmer's markets and craft fairs are one idea. Garage sales, rummage sales, yard sales and estate sales all offer alternatives (Reuse, that second 'R' in the Three R's).

Also, check out this blog post entitled "What We Learned From Our Year Without Groceries".

LindaG said...

I tried to find a copy of your book at the Barnes and Noble (2 hour drive) and they didn't have it. They said it was coming out in paperback in a week and they could order it. I decided to wait. I'll look at amazon.

But I agree. We need to do away with corporations. The problem is, so much of what we used to be able to do for ourselves has been sent overseas to make things more 'equitable', that I don't know how much we can do for ourselves any more.

Anyway. We have planted pecan trees here and at our retirement property. We have planted fruit trees. I have a few more trees I want to plant (if we can get rid of the Johnson grass!) and we will have chickens. Not here, can't be done. Has been tried by many. And we want some pigs and guineas and -- you get the idea. ;-)

We love farmer's markets and hope to find one near the retirement property until we are growing our own.

I've been saying for a couple years now that instead of welfare or unemployment, they need to find a way for people to be able to grow their own groceries - but that's not easy to do with apartments and snow, I guess.

It won't be solved in a day, but we should certainly start somewhere.

Anonymous said...

We're trying to work towards this ourselves. Our living room furniture is all 40 year-old hand-me-downs. And, although the cushions have been recovered, it's not heirloom-type stuff. I'd love to get a new couch, but I can't bring myself to do it with what we could currently afford. I'd rather wait and save and get something at least Canadian-made if not locally. We don't have a big- (or flat-) screen TV, although we do still watch it a bit more than we should.

We've been able to barter our cheese for some goods & services, including childcare, soap, and partial payment of a herding dog that we need.

I have an almost 2-year old and I haven't purchased her any "new" toys since last Christmas. She has received some hand-me-down toys, but she's also more than happy to spend her time climbing all over whatever is around. Maybe it's a good thing we have 40year-old furniture:-)

We do get some flack for this. Up until I quit my professional job when my daughter was born, money was not tight. It is now, especially with starting a new business, but we're still not exactly struggling, just having to be very, very careful. And some friends and family members don't understand why we choose to live the way we do. Why would we move out to a farm and work so hard when we could have stayed in the city and lived in a big fancy house and had lots of stuff?

So we're trying to live the way we think is right.

Michelle said...

Amen, sister! There is little we "need" in the way of acquisitions (okay, a newer tractor with a front-end loader and a working three-point hitch would be REALLY nice); we need to appreciate what we have that ISN'T material, like our family and animals and gardens and flowers.

Mother Clare said...

There is a beautiful documentary coming out sometime very soon called "The Economics of Happiness." Check out a trailer online and make sure to see this to start getting into how and why it matters to build small economic communities. Show this movie in your community to help everyone get together and brainstorm.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. I was recently in Gettysburg, visited Gallery 30, and ALL products were American made (most by local artists), as opposed to what I had found (made in China) in Lancaster County years earlier. I told the shop owner that I appreciated them selling and supporting American made arts and crafts. I have not been in a Walmart or Kmart in probably over 5 years, and stay away from the big box stores. When possible, I always buy local. Recycle, repurpose, and be responsbile.

stephen rouse said...

My suggestion for starters would be to vote for Ron Paul, a Libertarian. There is basically no difference between democrats and republicans.

Anonymous said...

What about appliances though! My daughter Anna has had to get a freezer, frig, stove and dishwasher because of breakdowns that weren't worth fixing. But the bad thing is the new stuff just keeps breaking down from the beginning or shortly after warranties give out. It seems everything made is made so poorly or never works right. And it is hard to get it fixed in a timely manner by the company. Oh well there is my rant for the day.And I can completely understand your blog entry. Blessings from Abiga/Karen

Barb J. said...

Love it! Especially the line about deserting Wall Street instead of occupying it. This wont' be an easy road for you, but I know you can do it. And you'll be an inspiration to us all!

Kate said...

I'm glad you mentioned thrift stores. This is something I just started doing. I think it's a wonderful practice to re-use other people's cast-offs while supporting good causes and diverting stuff from landfills. As a bonus, the stuff that ends up there has generally had at least some wear, so you have a chance to see how it's aging. You probably would never buy the stuff that's disintegrating on your deck, precisely because you would see the poor quality so obviously and so quickly.

I'm right there with you on opting out of corporate business. I can't say I've absolutely drawn my line in the sand as you have, but I'm headed more and more in that direction.

dixiebelle said...

I just wrote a blog post about that:

Jenni @ RainyDayGardener said...

Today is my first visit to your blog and I'm so happy I found it! I've been feeling the same way about how to stop purchasing from corporations and to be very thoughtful about purchases that are made. #1 It helps stop those impulsive purchases that can ruin our need to be frugal and #2 it makes you realize that you really don't need most stuff, especially if you can't get it second hand or bartered for.
To local craftsman in your area, try out and shop local. It's a great resource. Cheers!

Becca Posselt said...

I'm glad people are shifting back this way. I'm learning a lot about American History right now and it seems that Americans transformed very rapidly in the last 100 years. Not only has the native people of America and nature been destroyed over the last couple hundred years, but I feel we also destroying ourselves and the pride that comes with creating good quality work weather it's our own natural food, cloths, and furniture.
I think a lot of people desire to climb out from the hole
America is in and do things on their own which will bring back a sense of American pride for good work. Sadly, this turn around is also in part by the fact that thousands of workers are loosing jobs and loosing faith in the system. Thanks for writing the book and I'm putting on my x-mas wish list.


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