When I was in grade 8 and 9 my social studies teacher spent a great deal of time teaching us about the facts of life, no not those facts of life, the facts of our political system and economic system. She had us tackle difficult moral questions about the death penalty and whether or not Quebec should be a part of Canada. Most of all, she opened my eyes to the flaws in our political and economic system. I felt angry and frustrated that there were so many problems with the systems that were designed, I thought, to make our lives good and happy and free and safe. Suddenly I learned that the people in charge did not always have my best interest at heart. They were not all morally just. They were not all hard working even. I’m not saying that all politicians are or were this way, but she saw senators, un-elected, appointed men and women (but mostly men) who are paid way more than three times what I will ever make, sitting in the senate and playing tic-tac-toe and sleeping. This and other facts had me outraged.
My friends and I passed notes back and forth about how angry we were about this. Yes, not the typical topics for 13 year old girls I know but we were not typical 13 year olds. Then one day we came up with a plan. We decided we would start our own country. We drew plans for what it would look like, who would do what, how we would survive. We called it Friendshipia. Over our years in Junior High and High School we continued to talk about and develop our plans for Friendshipia. We decided that it would not have a monetary system and that it would be completely off the grid. One of our friends even came up with a design for how to get electricity using sunlight and water and salt. I never understood it but other scientists have since come out with similar devices.
Even in to university, I thought about Friendshipia. I even wrote a story in my first year about how we came up with the idea and how we would go about making it a reality. We still talk about it sometimes when we get together and there are times that I want to make it happen but I don’t know if I could make that step.
I know that it’s possible. I’ve seen something similar in reality. When I was living in Scotland a few years ago, my best friend and I watched a TV show about a place called Findhorn in Scotland. We were so excited when we saw it; there in front of us was Friendshipia! Near the end of my two years in Scotland, my friend and I had the amazing experience of staying there for a week. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
The thing that I loved the most about Findhorn was their philosophy of how everything should be done with intention. In other words, you do what you do with a reason, because it helps others, because it helps yourself, because it helps the earth. And people actively keep that in mind as they go about their work in the community. Each morning we woke up and had the option to go to meditation or prayer or exercise or just stay in bed if we wanted. We ate together in a big hall, eating mostly local food prepared by people who lived or were staying in the community. During our week there we also helped out in the community. I worked in the dinning room, helping to clean up after breakfast, washing windows, vacuuming, whatever needed doing. Many hands made light work and it was never more work than we could handle. Before starting we would gather together and talk about what needed doing and take a moment to just breathe and be together thinking about the tasks we were about to do and why. There was often music playing and talking and laughter, making the work go quickly.
Everyone’s work was valued equally and everyone willingly pitched in to help the community be a wonderful place to live. The care that was taken in every task was so apparent. It was visible in the paths decorated with shells and tiles. It was visible in the beautiful gardens everywhere. It was visible in the wonderful food we shared.
I wonder why some work is valued so much more than others. Why is it that daycare workers often make less money than someone who works in a call centre? Why does someone who cooks food for us in a restaurant make so much less than someone working a desk job pushing papers all day?
Lately a lot of the anger and frustration that I felt in grade 8 has been resurfacing. Every day it seems there is another reason to be angry about the blatant corruption in our government, the broken economic system, the underfunded education system. I know that there are better ways to do things, better ways to live. If my work was valued the same as everyone else’s, if money was not a motivator, would I still be an educator? For sure. I love being a teacher. But I would hope that if all work was valued equally that some of the other issues we face each day would not be there.
What would you do if any job you chose were equally valued?