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The Heartland of America

The Heartland of America

Last night, there was a really creepy election in Alabama. It was creepy in the sense that things haven’t been this awful in our politics for a long time.

It’s awful because of the way we’ve been treating one another.

Electoral politics has always been an adversarial process, but now that it’s being amplified by social media and ever-more-manipulative marketing technologies it’s become a cancer on the nation’s health. We don’t need much of an excuse to attack someone who thinks differently than we do anymore.

We’re Being Fucked With

It helps to remember that we are all being manipulated by very powerful propaganda forces right now, and we’re not used to this intensity level.

Add to this the fact that many Americans are very, very sick. The opoid crisis, our shit health care system, our designed-to-make-us-sick industrial food system. It all adds up.

And then there’s the jobs.

The best jobs are in the city, but for a lot of people that means leaving the land you grew up in. A lot of people don’t want to live that way, but meanwhile their towns are hollowing out. So what do they do? Who is speaking to their problems? Because fuck the politicians and business leaders who have been lying to them nonstop for 30+ years while their towns have been getting hammered.

My Hometown Is Gone

I grew up in a town that basically doesn’t exist anymore, Pemberton Minnesota (check that link, it’s pretty good! My friend Todd and his family used to run the Pemberton Cafe diner).

There’s nothing left now but a bar, a gas station and a couple of dozen houses. What the fuck do people do if they grew up in a town like this? They drive a half hour every day to work a $12 an hour job with shit benefits, if they’re lucky. There’s no practical way for them to get ahead without moving to the city.

I’ve lived in both worlds. I live in the city now, but I fondly remember growing up in a friendly small town where everyone knew their neighbors. It was a good place to raise a kid. We biked the hell out of the nearby cornfields and played in the lumber yard a lot. I can see why people would fight to protect that way of life.

How We Can Help

In my experience, the best way to help bridge the divide between these two ‘worlds’ is to bring money, technology, creativity and an open mind into the heart of America and ask them what needs fixing.

It’s really that simple.

This means setting politics aside for long enough to make a human connection with someone else before lecturing them on how they’re wrong. It might also mean employing a hardworking, sincere and honest workforce that will give you more value per dollar than you can get in the city.

The bringing of money and creativity into middle America something that I’m trying to do more of with Erik Organic (I’ve been doing it for over 18 years). The effect of putting nearly $1,000,000 per year into a small town is huge. Lumber yards, hardware stores, grocery stores, drivers. You name it! The multiplier effect, as they call it in economics, is especially powerful in small towns. Where else are you going to spend your paycheck?

Right now I’m working with friends with expertise in building and growing businesses, who understand technology and how it can help a company to grow. I’m applying their wisdom and experience to the problem of how to get the story of our beautiful furniture out to more potential customers. Because fuck Ikea quality mass-produced particle board, and fuck the companies that take your money and lie to you. We can do better than this.

We’re also working with locals to establish a nonprofit foundation to assist the Amish woodworking community that we’ve helped to grow and sustain. We’re seeking to improve their quality of life by bringing them more revenue (sales of small gift-sized items that benefit the community) and to allocate some percentage of Erik Organic sales towards a community fund to assist in whatever the community needs done.

The key is “to assist in whatever the community needs done.” No one wants to be lectured to by an outsider on how their way of life is wrong.

The Midwestern Heartland

There’s a reason that the Midwest is called the ‘Heartland of America’. It’s because the innovations that come from the big cities on the coasts often lack a human element, and the Midwest is here to remind us that America isn’t built on the backs of our technologies. It’s built by people putting their heart into their work.

I was reminded of this recently when I saw this video

I was struck by the man’s basic honesty and decency, and I was reminded of why the Midwest is indeed part of the heartland of America when he talked (in a separate video) about how the people of Alabama are good people.

I know what he’s talking about. It’s hard to go wrong in a town where everyone knows each other, and generally look out for each other. You can leave your doors unlocked at night. You can enter into agreements with people without signing a contract. You can take people at their word.

(Is there an underside to this small town neighborliness? Yes, but this isn’t the 1970s anymore. Can we please focus on the positive for just a little while?)

Unleashing Our Inner Awesomeness

My basic theory of ‘fixing America’ is this:

The best way to help bridge the divide between rural America and urban America is to bring money, technology or unique skills, creativity, and an open mind into the heart of rural America and ask them what needs fixing.

It isn’t all about business and entrepreneurship. There are as many ways to help others as there are people in the world. Every one of us is specialist in our own brand of awesome.

I’ve seen how people’s lives can be transformed through a simple formula:

1. Help a person to fix something or heal something that they thought was broken forever.
2. Show them how you did it.
3. Watch their eyes open up to what else might be possible.
4. Encourage their inner awesomeness, whatever that might be.

This formula works for a lot of different things!

So if you want to open someone else up to new ideas (specifically … your ideas), try helping them first. Try being their friend. Leave the preconceptions behind. Be patient. Just be your awesome self, and focus on helping others. The rest will follow.

You may also learn that helping people with an open heart and an open mind is the greatest biohack ever created 😊 Your own inner awesomeness will flower and multiply when you help others to discover their own inner greatness.

PS: I’m pessimistic about the assholes I see around me sometimes, but I’m optimistic that we’re going to find a way to figure this out together. Because Americans are too fucking stubborn to give up. Someone has to show the rest of the world what freedom is all about. It sure as hell isn’t going to be China or Europe.

PPS: I come from the liberal side of the aisle, even though I identify more with anarchism than any other political philosophy. I want to see people be as free as possible, with rules in place only when they’re necessary. The key is to trim down that fucking ‘rule tree’ as often as we can, because that thing can grow out of control quickly when you’re not watching it. Neither political party understands this very well, they both have enormous blind spots.

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