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Interdependence Day

An upgrade of Independence Day

Interdependence Day

Before starting any enterprise we must first become free of all our oppressive dependencies. Independence is a necessary first step to healthy interdependence, but it is not an end in itself. This preliminary stage is celebrated in America on the Fourth of July, commemorating its Declaration of Independence from monarchy. But we have allowed the step to become a snare, substituted the means for the end. We have gone overboard about independence, which when taken to an extreme can produce isolation and encourage dominance of those whom we are independent of. Our imagined independence from nature, including many parts of the human race, has abetted aggressive policies sometimes even approaching genocide. Not just in America, but everywhere. It is therefore essential to distinguish between independence and interdependence.

Who of us imagines that we can live without the assistance of others, and that this extends far beyond our immediate circle of friends and relatives? A very small flight of imagination shows us how little we actually provide for ourselves and how vast a treasure trove is flowing toward us from all directions. Goods and foods from every corner of the world are moving our way, produced by people, transported by other people, and delivered to our feet by still other people. People who we will never meet are guarding our security, planning for our future, and building and maintaining our cities. Air and nutrients are being processed invisibly by our cells without our slightest thought. Plants are respiring oxygen so that we may continue to breathe. Oceans are evaporating moisture so that rain and snow can provide humans, animals and plants with year round water supplies. The sun is bathing us in light and warming the planet to a comfortable temperature. It is not even too hard to imagine that the animating principle of our bodies is some form of blissful energy that is almost entirely unknown to us. So our apparent independence comes at the tail end of a long series of dependencies. All of us in fact are totally interdependent entities.

There is a paradox here. The belief in independence encourages selfishness, while awareness of interdependence is expansive. Selfishness looks like the pathway to wealth but it is actually the road to poverty. I often think of the Great Depression of the 1930s, which was a time of building schools, public buildings, roads and infrastructure, and compare it to the boom years of the 1990s, when schools and infrastructure fell into ruins, roads degenerated and public buildings were given away as gifts to private corporations.

Our interdependence needs to be acknowledged, but our mesmerization over independence often elbows it out of the way. Independence has become another form of dependence, a cliche which blocks our understanding. Just as Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter carefully removed the many references to government assistance from the manuscript of The Little House on the Prairie series, we continually reenergize the myth of independence by denying our interdependence. My wish for all you dear friends around the globe is to always remember how much we need every bit of what there is, that by trying to keep it for ourselves we lose it, but by sharing we all gain immeasurably.

Scott Teitsworth