So . . . what is social sanity?

First, briefly, let’s establish that the current mass society is insane. Among the million indicators of such, let’s choose “ghosting.”

We hired a contractor to do a bunch of repairs and maintenance tasks over a period of time. He met with us to get the job and he showed up on the first day of work. After that we mostly saw his underpaid undocumented immigrant workers, but occasionally we saw him (especially, of course, on the check-writing days). Then he ghosted us. One of the tasks was left incomplete and several others that had been scheduled were left undone. After that we could not reach him by phone, text, or email.

We knew his name and contact information. We had gotten references. Other than that he was anonymous to us. As are 99% of the people we deal with, interact with, supposedly depend upon, etc.

That’s insane.

The locus for imagining social sanity is the EcoVillage at Ithaca writ large. Writ full-scale. On their 175 acres they originally had aspirations to build five neighborhoods of thirty units each, for a total of 150 houses, condos, and apartments. 350 people, intergenerational.

That’s not quite enough as to manifest a full community life. A full community would be able to provide most (not all, of course) needed in terms of interdependent support and cultural enrichment. My guess is that 500 people (400 adults over 16) are the minimum needed. Several hundred such communities (ranging in population between 500 and 10,000) within a bioregion could constitute a full-scale economy, providing almost all of the necessities and comforts and indulgences. A small amount of some trade for some essential commodities and some exotic items would then be comprehensive for sustenance and a fine quality of life.

Ten thousand would be large. Townships that size would effectively be urban-like centers. There is a place for such. There might be several centers within the typical bioregional commonwealth. (Though the cultural diversity exhibited among bioregional peoples will mean that you’d figure to see all kinds of configurations. Some may prefer to live in a generally more urban-like way.)

Anything urban lacks some elements of sanity. I guess there can be appealing trade-offs. But most of the villages would be notably communitarian and I think most people would choose to live that way. Five hundred or a thousand or even two thousand people can be familiar or just a degree away from direct familiarity. Within that context:

There is a small business of colleagues who do household repairs and maintenance tasks. You have a feeling of assurance. They are local, known, and either familiar to you or familiar to someone you know. The idea that they could ghost you is inconceivable. Something like that is an insane characteristic of impersonal mass society. When such is not possible (not even conceivable) you have social sanity.

A co-editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a Green movement activist for almost thirty years.