Within the Transition movement, there's much discussion about the heart and soul aspects of transitioning to a sustainable life. In many ways, this inner transition is the hardest work of all. Americans are educated to go it alone, be all you can be, personal best, just do it. It's a pioneer/colonist wild west mentality. We are not trained in the nuances of conflict resolution and deep listening but these qualities are exactly what we now need to support in ourselves and others if we have any chance of finding a new and sustainable paradigm for human life on earth.
I'm new at this too. I'm an artist, use to going it alone in my studio. I like to have things my way. But that doesn't seem like a sustainable and productive approach any longer. Our world reflects this bullheaded attitude with growing and seemingly intractable polarization on every front. Here in the desert, I find the perfect testing ground for a new approach. Here we have tea party-ers, John Birchers, new age adherents, astral body practitioners, gung ho military, born agains, UFO abductees, permaculturalists, neo nazis, channelers, sociopaths, PHDs, yoga adepts, meth cookers, shape shifters, the wealthy, the desperately poor...I could go on and on. Sort of like L.A. but packed into a much smaller territory.
If the transition to a sustainable life does not have everyone at the table, then it's doomed to devolve into the same old same old. I don't have the answer about how to bring this chaotic a community of American Eccentrics (me not excluded) to the same table but I do know that there are certain principles in permaculture that may help.
Permaculture Principle #6 - Diversity:
We want to create resilience by utilizing many elements. We can contrast a garden which has a variety of plants in it with a field containing only wheat (monocropping). If you have a drought year or a wet year or if you have a certain kind of pest, all the wheat will probably be susceptible to the same condition or pest and you might lose your whole crop. But if you have a system that's mixed, with a variety of crops or plants, they might not all be susceptible. You might have some plants that are drought tolerant, others that do better in wetter conditions - if you have a drought year you'll just lose some of your plants, but you'll still have others that will do well. So, the idea is that the way to create a resilient system that can survive and get through difficulties is by having many different elements.
So it's like this on a very pragmatic level - if I live in a community of people just like me, we'll all be over-thinking everything and clueless about how to fix a car, weld something, stitch a wound, get a baby born, drill a well. I might need people with these skill sets, regardless of their religious or political views. And they may need me since I plan on growing food in surplus to be able to give some away when times are bad. Sharing skill sets will make us a more resilient community. I will have to get over myself and be willing to find the common ground.
I'm not a Polly Anna. There's always the community sociopath - the character hell bent on creating discord. This may take the community pulling together to work out a nuanced, strategic and creative response. I'll get back to you on that.