The Challenge of Being Local in Global Times

Here is a thoughtful essay from Mark Mitchell about the distractions of our global culture and the rewards of maintaining a rooted sense of our local identities. via Front Porch Republic


True, localism, as opposed to our globalizing, centralizing, homogenizing ways is, in some ways, an emerging alternative that is only now being discovered and articulated. On the other hand, localists have resources that stretch back into the distant past of human history. Yes, the empire builders have always been among us, but so too there have always been those inclined to think and act on a more modest scale, a scale informed by the standard of human flourishing. Such people cultivate the disposition to think primarily in terms of quality rather than mere quantity and as a result can better distinguish between alternatives. They can speak of the good, the true, and the beautiful rather than merely the big, bigger, and biggest or the new, newer, and newest.

So where does a localist begin? Or, perhaps, how does one become a localist? The answer is, perhaps, all too obvious. The first step is to go home or stay put. Repatriation is an obvious answer for some. Yet, it assumes that there is a place to which one can return. And by place I don’t simply mean a geographical setting. A place, of course, includes a geography, but it also includes a community of individuals as well. If one’s home place remains intact, going home should be a serious option (although there are other considerations that cannot be ignored). On the other hand, for many, a home place no longer exists. The people have moved on, and all that is left are memories. In such an instance, going home isn’t a real option; however, staying put is. One can decide to settle. One can be (in the words of Wallace Stegner) a sticker rather than a boomer. Settling changes one’s perspective from a transient short-timer to a person committed to a community for the long haul. Committed citizens see the world in starkly different terms than do short-term occupants. And this change in perspective makes all the difference in the world. It transforms a person from an opportunist to an investor. From a resident to a neighbor. From a critic to a lover.