"Back in 1960, the whole nation came together to rebuild the country. I spent the month after the earthquake, like many university students, collecting money, food, blankets and mattresses that were sent down to the south in caravans filled with enthusiastic volunteers.
"It was a lesson in solidarity that I have never forgotten -- those who were most deprived gave so much, cared so much, sacrificed so much for their wounded compatriots. If Chile is more opulent now, it has also become a more egocentric and individualistic society where, instead of a vision of social justice for all, the citizenry is, for the most part, engaged in a frenzied race toward ever more consumption and subject, of course, to the accompanying stress and anomie."I believe you can replace Chile with America in that last sentence and it would make perfect sense--maybe we don't have an earthquake to recover from, but this sentiment applies even in daily life. We are barely citizens these days; instead we are labeled as consumers.
The good news is we don't have to accept that label. A growing economy does not mean good times for all and consumption for consumption's sake won't help anyone. Instead, we can reclaim citizenship with the help of solidarity, remembering that our own welfare is linked with the welfare of our neighbors and fellow citizens.
If you've been following my blog, you'll know I recommend Colin Beavan's approach (No Impact Man), but there are tons of people, resources, and philosophies to help you think through solidarity and simple living in your own life.