On Friday I stood in my friends suburban backyard homestead. It had been a busy day of work meetings and daycare. When Bo and I arrived in the mid afternoon we were already hot and scattered from a rather regular suburban day, but I knew that what came next was something that I had been preparing myself for a few hours. It was a matter of communal responsibility.
My lovely friend took our little people for an extended bike ride around the estuary while another friend and I stood quietly in the backyard and planned how we were going to dispatch three cockerels that had recently begun to crow. These weren’t just any old cockerels. These were cockerels that my friends had bought as fertilised eggs and watched for three weeks as they sat in an incubator. They were chicks Bo and I had visited when they were mere hours old. They were more than just cockerels. They were our (communal) responsibility. As much as we are responsible for the little humans that we bring into this world, and for the decisions that we make; to grow strong and connected communities – it is important to remember that we are, in some way, responsible for each other to. That strong communities stand next to each other when things are easy and when things are difficult. That no one should have to shoulder responsibility alone. We are all in this together.
Responsibility isn’t always a pleasant thing. In fact, taking responsibility for the decisions that we make, for the lives that we bring into the world, for the food that we eat in the world that we live in – can be one of the hardest things to do. We live in a world that encourages us to shirk our responsibility a lot of the time. We live in a world where we are more often than not detached from the true consequences that we make in our day to day life – we forget that the household items we mindlessly throw into the trash don’t go away just because we can’t see them, we buy cheap things we don’t need because they are cheap and we don’t care when they break because we never invested much (money, time, energy, thought) in them in the first place. We eat meat and highly processed food without a lot of thought about where it comes from.
We consume without thought. We consume without responsibility.
It’s not our ‘fault’ perse. It’s our culture. It’s something that WE need to change. We the people. We the government. We the world.
Whilst I have very strong values when it comes to consumer consumption and waste, I am also a firm believer in purposeful choice. Eat what you choose to eat. Buy what you choose to buy. Discard what you choose to discard… but do it with a considered, conscious thought for the (hidden at times) responsibility that you have for the decisions you make.
I eat meat. Granted I don’t eat much of it, but I do eat it at least once a week. It’s an ethical dilemma I have been struggling with for a while. How can I continue to eat the way that I do without taking responsibility for the choices that I make… When I lived in the village in Indonesia to eat chicken you had to buy a live chook and watch the process that followed after. For me it was at first shocking, and at the end of three years, it was still a conscious choice. Every single part of the bird that is safe to eat was eaten. In Australia, meat comes packaged in plastic and carefully stacked – the responsibility is removed.
When I recieved a text asking me if I would be happy to help my friend do what he needed to do to take responsibility for the cockerels, I knew I needed to do it. Not just out of responsibility for my own choices, but also out of responsibility for my relationships, my community – I’m trying hard to live by the values that are truest to my heart. I truly believe that when we can do something for each other, something that matters, something that helps… we should make it a priority. Who are we without each other?
So we did what needed to be done. It was clean and compassionate and very calm. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it was a sensitive one – an experience where we were both fully present emotionally and intellectually – at no point desensitised, at all times engaged in the process of communal responsibility not on a widespread farm, but on a small scale, in an inner town suburban back yard, where my friends are reclaiming their rights to live sustainably by building a small and effective urban homestead.
Will I continue to eat meat? Probably, from time to time. Will it be more of a conscious choice once more? No doubt.
We all make choices all the time, and we are always growing. I’m constantly learning new things from the people around me. Better ways to do things. Different ways to do things. Some will stick and stay, others will probably wash away with time as we learn other ways to do things that just happen to work better for us.
We are coming to the end of the project now. In fact, there is really only four weeks left, and then 52 weeks will have passed. I will have bought nothing new and we will have changed the foundation of our lives. Funnily enough, as it’s turned out, this project has really had nothing to do with living without shopping. Living without shopping is really very easy. This project has been about building community. It’s been about connecting with other people and fostering relationships that bring us together not only for human contact and connection (and all the laughter) but also because the reality is we have a hell of a lot to offer each other, and not being connected means we all miss out.
What I’ve learned this past few weeks?
People are awesome. We all have so much to learn. We all have plenty to teach.