IN CASE IT HAS SLIPPED BY YOU, the good old USA is in the throes of another election year. For a number of reasons, though, this particular election campaign seems to be more fascinating than usual. The boost is partly because the variety of candidates spans a greater spectrum than ever before, or at least it does as I write this. But even with such diverse candidates the message is still essentially the same: “Things are bad and getting worse, but if you elect me, I will fix all that.” Nothing new there. And like all major news events, the campaign of course has to have a theme. This year the theme is change, although nobody has yet explained exactly what the change might be.
No matter. Change is a good theme. The optimistic, “can do” American attitude tends to equate change with improvement, although we haven’t forgotten that when change gets out of hand, we can turn to the constancy of tradition for safe harbor. Three books support the idea that big changes are in the offing: Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class; Cultural Creatives, by Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson; and Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy. While I have read none of them, I get the idea that all three focus on social changes sparked by an emerging class of individuals who thrive on creativity, individuality, diversity, personal fulfillment and political nonalignment. This same creative class is grounded by an interest in tradition, placing a high value on community, ecology, local economy, organic foods—and a sensibly sized, comfortable home. Estimated by Ray and Anderson to include some 50 million in the U.S. alone, they don’t think of themselves as being part of a movement, but they may wind up helping to save the planet.
One of the authors hits particularly close to home when he asserts that a declining community’s quality of life can turn around sharply when adventurous creative couples, often gay, move in to buy and restore the old but durable houses to a tasteful, livable, even admirable standard and then watch with satisfaction as more families do the same, until eventually the area’s decline is reversed. Sound familiar? It sure does to me. The description fits a lot of bungalow owners and Arts & Crafts enthusiasts I have met over the past two decades. If the culture gurus are right, then perhaps there is reason to expect change in our 21st-century lives—a big, positive change.
Thank goodness we have our election process, two-ring circus though it may be. But while we all want enlightened and effective leaders, campaign promises seldom produce noticeable improvements in our lives. Real change arises from the small, individual decisions each of us makes daily. It is reassuring to think that we have the ability to mold our own future and, along with neighbors making similar decisions, generate enough momentum to produce change in our own communities—and at a national level.
This emerging way of life may now be making its way into trendy books, but it really shouldn’t come as a big surprise. It’s a way of life you have probably known and practiced for a long time without giving it a second thought. By living the way you choose to do you have cast a vote of confidence in bold change—innovation built upon the solid cornerstones of American life that are best preserved.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Click here to return to Publisher’s Letters