I'm reading
Creating cultural health
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Creating cultural health
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Creating cultural health
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
3 July 2020

Creating cultural health

With places that are alive again, we have an earth that’s alive again. We become alive again too.

Written by Seb Berry

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Discussed in this Story

Alone, and together, aren’t we all quietly asking ourselves some big questions right now? What are we meant to do next? What sort of legacy are we leaving? These are certainly questions to give us pause—to listen for what arises in that space of asking and not knowing.

It’s here that I find myself in a state of reconnection, particularly to place. It’s an invitation to fall back in love with the land.

The land is alive too. It breathes in and out just as we do. It goes through cycles and seasons, waiting for the rains to hydrate its organs and feed its arteries. It is home to countless other organisms with which it lives in symbiosis.

For me, creating cultural health is about rediscovering our sense of connection and belonging to place, and the people within it. It’s about knowing all its stories and sharing in their meaning. It’s our deeply-coded sense of identity, which has in many ways been co-opted by globalisation, mass media, special interest groups and corporations.

“If we are to recover connection to land,” says Charles Eisenstein, “it requires rebuilding a culture. The right relationship to place only happens collectively. One person living on the land can gain part of that knowledge, but not the same way that a culture, a lineage, a community can.”

This means that the health of the global depends on the local. It depends on the social and cultural fabric of our communities, it depends on our ability to be of service.

We have just witnessed the immense fragility of our modern way of life. Now, more than ever, we need to rethink how we make collective decisions while rebuilding trust, respect and social cohesion. We need to find a regenerative approach that takes into account local contexts, existing cultures and the structures we have created.

Since the bushfires began, and in the rolling crises since, I’ve been part of creating a community called Reunion, which gathers around finding a better way forward. A group of impact-focused designers and storytellers, we are asking ourselves: “WTF do we do now, and where do we go from here?” Not because we expect simple answers, but because by asking these very questions, listening and gathering around them, a pathway begins to emerge.

It’s been a journey of deep inquiry with three special humans—Sara Rickards, Matt Kendall and Benny Wallington—who have helped bring the organisation to life, and the community of legends who have gathered around it.

We formed to reinvigorate democracy—to empower and educate Australians on how to Vote For The Planet during the 2019 Federal Election, and discover a new way of interacting in an open participatory organism, with collective intelligence and community at the heart. It was built on the symbiotic understanding that whoever knows what to do next is in charge.

Reunion is collaborating with Resilient Byron to explore new approaches to local governance, infusing many of the lessons we’ve learned into an emergent model for communities to develop their own resilience. Grounded in our philosophy is the belief that a tight community taking on big challenges at a local level creates agency. It is quite possibly also the glue that binds a polarised society together.

We need to hold the principles of custodianship in our actions, in our decisions and in our ways of being—humbly honouring this gift of life, slowing down and asking ourselves to be shown the way forward. We need to develop a culture where people care about each other’s wellbeing and evolution, where they cultivate more meaningful conversations and deeper connections, and foster a sense of belonging with the land and community.

Creating cultural health is also about thoughtfully replacing and redesigning existing systems so that we are re-empowered with our own capabilities, and central authorities have a subsidiary function—performing only those tasks which cannot be performed locally.

Also key is recognising in each community the wisdom of elders, youth, Indigenous and local knowledge keepers; supporting local initiatives, businesses and people; linking to local council frameworks; as well as building equitable sharing and communal economies that reduce waste and increase social cohesion.

With places that are alive again we have an earth that’s alive again. We become alive again too.

Perhaps it’s closer than we think. The first step is taking a moment to contemplate what we’re saying yes to. It’s pausing to let love back in.

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