Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reading Material

If you have a chance (and are in the Topeka area), grab a copy of the winter issue of XYZ magazine.

On pages 40 and 41 you'll find a short and sweet article about the rationing project!

--Rational Mama

Monday, December 27, 2010

Victory Meal!

How did we celebrate the completion of our year-long rationing project?

With a victory dinner, of course!

What? You expected something else?

--Rational Mama

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Look What Santa Put in the Stockings


One for each little girl. It will be a very blackcurrant-y holiday.

--Rational Mama

Friday, December 24, 2010

Rational Top Ten

Can you believe it? Tomorrow is the last day of rationing! Since tomorrow will be filled with family gatherings and festivities we thought we'd highlight what we think are the top ten highlights from the rationing year (in no particular order).

Here goes!

1. Realizing, midway through the first month, that we had been allowing ourselves too many blue/green points. Like, 75% too many.

2. The recipes! Without the rationing project as an excuse there is no way we would have even dreamed of making jellied ham loaf or beef heart kabobs. The historic recipes have encompassed the good (nutburgers, victory pancakes), the bad (six layer dinner, full o'bologney, sausage loaf), and the ugly (hot cabbage slaw and...)

3. Liver. Really, even though it's an historic recipe and could be listed above it deserves a solitary mention. Nothing, nothing, we ate during the rationing year made the same impression as liver. If you've never read this post you really should.

Oh, thank goodness we didn't have to try this!

4. After a good four or five years of discussion we finally installed an attic (or whole house) fan. This was critical because of our decision to...

5. Sweat it out during the summer by not turning on the air conditioner in the house. It turned out to be one of the hottest summers in the past decade and even with the attic fan and other remedies (cool baths, oscillating fans, popsicles, etc.) we were miserable. Sticking to your sheets and running out of deodorant miserable. Eventually, we caved and turned on the air conditioner. In the end, this was probably the best decision because...

6. We learned that running the attic fan, ceiling fans and oscillating fans along with the dehumidifier used just as much energy as if we had run the air conditioner in the first place. So I guess you could say that sweating it out over a month of summer heat was a miserable but beneficial learning experience.

7. Local fruit. Man oh man, you just can't beat the fresh blackberries, apples, pears, strawberries and mulberries we munched on this summer. And we even have some extra blackberries in the freezer for the long winter months!

8. When a bottle of ketchup costs nearly half of a week's worth of rationing points, nothing says "Suck it, rationing system!" quite like making your own ketchup. Let's face it - ketchup is not a necessity, it's a luxury. Having the ability to make your own (and control the ingredients) is definitely a guilty pleasure. I don't know if we'll ever buy commercially-prepared ketchup again.

9. Having regular commentators from the all across the United States, the U.K. (especially you, Mr. Graham), Eastern Europe, Canada and visits (per traffic reports) from every continent except Antarctica made Rational Living a truly international community. Kinda seems fitting since the real-life scenarios the project was based on included an international community as well.

10. Even with all the planning required by the rationing project and the huge learning curve experienced in the first few months, no other micro-project during the rationing year was harder that the week we followed U.K. rations. The plan was actually to go two weeks on U.K. rations but the meager servings and food limitations (along with nearly constant hunger complaints from the girls) made us cave at the end of the first week. That week was actually a big turning point for the project, as it really hit home that our voluntary, meager rations (and hunger) were choices for us, whereas plenty on this earth have less than that due to circumstances beyond their control.

And, of course...reader feedback on the blog always made our day. This project wouldn't have been nearly as interesting if we didn't have the helpful and insightful comments from YOU. Thanks for sticking with us through the entire project. This blog will continue on, but we're not quite sure as to the content and form. Stay tuned.

So, are there any other scenarios that we missed that you would have included in a top ten?

--With Love, from the Rational Living family

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review: Meat Me on Rationing Day

Friends, this may be the most controversial post in the long string of posts that is Rational Living.

Eating is, after all, one of the most intimate things we can do - both individually and as a group. People wax poetic over a fine meal, determine a grandmother's worth based upon her bread rolls and will defend the merits of a traditional menu until blue in the face.

We love to eat and we eat to show love. And Americans love meat.

Meat rationing was the most despised aspect of rationing during WWII. As outlined in the original "Meat Me on Rationing Day" post, red point rationing was designed to encourage Americans to eat less meat and, most importantly, to eat lower grades of meat. But Americans then, as now, loved their meat and governmental restrictions regarding meat purchases were met with great displeasure. During WWII, when Americans were polled as to which rationed products were hardest to cut down on or do without, the overwhelming response was meat (sugar was second, but with a considerably less enthusiastic response). Despite the War, Americans still wanted their steak and pot roast dinners. As a result, meat (particularly higher grade cuts of beef) was a popular black market item.

Flash forward over 60 years and you have our family starting our own year of rationing. At the beginning of the rationing year we already ate less meat as compared to the general American public; prior to the project meat was featured in dinners roughly three to four times a week and showed up in about half of the adult lunches). As such, meat restrictions as a result of rationing weren't felt as keenly by us as they may have been for other families. What meat shortages we did face were usually the result of market fluctuations or our self-imposed inclusion of poultry in the rationing program.

That said, we like our meat. Chicken, bacon, pork chops...we all have a strong appreciation for meat.

Which is why it's quite surprising that, at the conclusion of the rationing project we find ourselves a household of vegetarians.

Yes, you read that correctly. It wasn't the jellied ham loaf or the heart kabobs that turned us, it was the environmental and ethical consequences of animal farming.

One of the catalysts for the rationing project was a desire to live a more environmentally conscious and sustainable lifestyle. In one aspect, the rationing year has been an attempt to move beyond the "easy" practices of recycling and line-drying clothes and to dig deeper into ingrained practices and habits that need changing. Our goal was to find changes that could and should be made to reduce our carbon footprint and create a lifestyle that has a less harmful effect on people and the planet.

With that desire in mind, the hard reality is that factory farmed meat is the diametrical opposite of a sustainable practice. The waste runoff, habitat destruction and pollution caused by animal farming contributes more to global climate change than transportation. Think about it: meat production causes more environmental damage than all cars, planes, trains and boats combined - a whopping 40% more. A hybrid car is a great thing, but if your driving it to the local burger joint your doing more damage than you probably realize.

And then there's the ethics of meat production. Factory animal farming is notorious for using (and abusing) undocumented workers - creating workplace environments that constitute human rights violations. Meat processing at break-neck speeds endangers both the workers (meat processors have the highest on-the-job injury rate of any labor field) and endangers the public - E. coli outbreaks are the result of unsanitary practices resulting from factory processing (those bleach baths the meat takes before packaging don't kill everything). Cheap labor and fast processing promotes lower meat prices, but at a cost to humanitarian and health well-being.

Then, of course, there's the animals. I won't go in to the horrors of factory animal farming - there are plenty of available resources to educate you on that topic. And even if you make the commitment to purchase the more expensive, locally-raised meat there is still the slaughter to consider. Because most local slaughter facilities have been purchased ("bought out") by the large CAFO companies the likelihood that even your free-range, humanely treated animals experience a human slaughter is extremely slim.

So the only way for us to feel at peace with eating meat is to make sure the animals are treated respectfully during life and ensure that they had a humane slaughter. In the current system, the only way to guarantee both of those assertions is to have a direct part in both the raising and processing of the animal.

TMOTH and I both have strong opinions about having honest relationships with food: know what it is, where it came from and what it went through to be on your plate. This goes for meat, too, and is why when TMOTH hunts he only attempts a shot that is clear and direct and will cause the least suffering for the animal. It is also the reason why we process the venison ourselves.

But really, why should other meat be treated any differently?

Our new homestead will allow us, for the first time ever, the ability to raise our own animals for meat purposes. Whether we have the fortitude to raise an animal in an intimate setting and then slaughter it for food has yet to be determined. But know this about our beliefs: if we can't raise and slaughter it ourselves, then we shouldn't be eating it. Period.

And even the girls support this transition; even Sissy, the biggest carnivore of the family, has learned enough about factory animal farming to support this decision with maturity and understanding.

We know many, many readers will not agree with this choice. We're not telling you that you should be living by these same standards or judging your practices or insisting that our beliefs are better than yours.

We're just trying to live by our standards of what is right...and encourage you to live by your own.

--Rational Mama

P.S. For a thorough, even-handed examination of the implications of animal farming and eating meat, I highly recommend Jonathan Safran Foer's, "Eating Animals."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Rational House

What makes a rational house?

When this whole house business bloomed in early summer we thought we knew exactly what we wanted in our future house. We wanted at least three bedrooms (preferably a fourth bedroom for guests/crafts), a family room and a rec room, a fireplace or wood-burning stove and a larger yard. All this while managing to stay in the same high school district.

Mind you, we originally had no intentions of moving this year, so our current house (multi-story, American Foursquare) would just have to do. That meant that for a few more years we'd all shuffle routines to make the one bathroom work, the girls would continue to share a room (the third bedroom is quite small while their current room is ginormous), and our gardening dreams would be limited by the urban-ish green spot that is our yard.

But the house that originally got us into the moving spirit had all our above requirements, plus was sporting a flexible timetable and what was, at the time, a very pretty price tag. And so we shifted house-selling plans into high gear and put our house on the market.

But things with the potential house changed; poor communications, misunderstandings and delays. We started looking at other houses for comparison. By the time paperwork was drawn up on the original house it had become glaringly obvious that the asking price was far higher than the property was worth.

And so we did not complete a contract on the property.

What to do? After much nail-biting and lengthy pro-con lists we decided to keep our house listed on the market and (thanks to generous personal financiers) were able to continue looking at prospective houses. Many of the showings we visited during those first few months met our above criteria; bungalows with additions, ranches that stretched and grew. Many rooms, many options, but nothing ever grabbed us in a way that made us think that it was The One. After looking at house after house without getting any further in the process, TMOTH and I started to do some soul searching.

This entire year - the whole point of the rationing project - has been an exploration of wants vs. needs, experiencing what it is like to live our values (or at least give it an honest try). When it came to houses, what would be enough? What would fit our needs? Which of our wants were reasonable? What kind of house would allow us to live more in line with our values of environmental responsibility and sustainable practices?

What was really important?

Reexamining our current house with these thoughts in mind we discovered that, for the way we live, there are several areas of wasted space; we rarely use the kitchen nook, the spare bedroom and the gorgeous (but excessive) grand entryway. But not all space is bad - a large kitchen is important because of the amount of from-scratch cooking and home canning we produce. And a large yard would allow us to grow more of our own produce and possibly provide space for chickens(!).

Sharing bedrooms and bathrooms can be an inconvenience, but heating, cooling extra space can be very inconvenient to your pocketbook. And think of all the cleaning required for that unnecessary space.

After examining our lifestyle and exploring how we really want to live, our 1600+ square foot house seemed...too big. That's not to say that a different family with different habits couldn't justify use of all these spaces. But it became clear that what we needed was a two-to-three bedroom house just big enough for family gatherings but not so big that we would all start living independent lives in separate corners of the dwelling. We needed a big kitchen and a larger than average sized bathroom (to make sharing easier).

We wanted enough of a yard to expand our gardening and raise chickens (but not too big of a yard that would require extra hours of maintenance). We wanted a single-level house to make exterior work (siding, roof, gutters, etc.) manageable and that would be friendly to our future aged and arthritic knees.

And we were willing to go outside of our current school district to find it.

Just before Thanksgiving we found it, quite by accident. The girls and I were headed to a realtor-run open house and passed by a "for sale by owner" property that was also having an open house; a smallish house with a little bit of land. Our intended destination, on the other hand, was a biggish house on smaller land.

The girls and I ditched the original open house for the FSBO and found The One.
New House

At just under 1000 square feet, the two bedroom, one (large) bathroom house is efficiently designed and immaculately maintained. The basement has a finishable area for a rec room and the two care garage includes a small workshop area. The 2.58 acres(!) of land encompasses a dry creek/wooded area, an established garden, chicken coop and pasture land.

Eowyn and the Chicken Coop

And so, all the pretty papers have been signed with a closing date of late February. And now the pressure is on to get our current house sold.

TMOTH and Sissy in the Back Half Acre

We know not everyone will agree with the decision we've made. Downgrading into a smaller home requires compromise, but it also follows historical example; in the 1950's the average size of an American home was 1,000 square feet, whereas today typical new homes are over 2,000 square feet. During the same time period the size of the American family decreased from three to four members down to two to three. So, as family size decreased home size increased. Does this really make sense?

Even with the anxiety of moving and getting our house sold there is a certain peace at the same time. The new house will be our rational house - not too big, not too little. Big enough to hold our love, small enough to wrap our arms around.

Let the dreams begin.

--Rational Mama

P.S. For more about living in smaller homes visit Living in Small Houses, Planet Green or Google "small living" or "living in small houses."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Of Veg and Cheese...and Java Dilemma

In the original "Of Veg and Cheese" post I outlined how, in accordance with life in the early 1940's, we would be limited to seasonably available produce during the rationing year, with the exception of canned and frozen produce which would be subject to ration points and market fluctuations.

So how did it go?

Well, last winter was tough - no bones about it. With just one pound of frozen vegetables setting us back one quarter of our weekly blue/green points, we were forced to work with seasonally available produce. This meant mostly carrots, potatoes and cabbage. And trust me, with all other green, leafy vegetables unavailable you start to appreciate cabbage on a whole new level.

Going without fresh salad for a few months definitely helped us understand how much we really love salad, even if it's as basic as a few green leaves and a simple dressing. Luckily, growing lettuce and mesclun indoors (or in a hoop frame or cold frame) is so easy we were able to get a jump start on our spring greens.

Once early summer came around we had locally grown produce available from our gardens, the farmer's market and our CSA bag. As you know, we had a hard time maintaining our Victory Gardens, and my new work schedule made visiting the farmer's market logistically tricky. And for a second year the CSA bags were a bit of a disappointment (some of the produce was actually of poor quality); I don't believe we'll do CSA bags in the future.

On the other hand, you just can't beat locally grown fruit. This past year we consumed our share of local strawberries, blackberries, apples and pears. Nothing can beat a fruit that was allowed to ripen fully before picking...and then immediately eating it. Really, I cannot downplay the physical and sensual joy of experiencing a local "u-pick" establishment.

As far as cheese goes...well, it's a staple we never want missing from the fridge. The versatility of hard cheese (snack, recipe ingredient, sandwich topper) make it a very useful, albeit rationed, resource. And thank goodness sour cream and cottage cheese weren't rationed - they have frequently been used to bulk up a sauce or soup (the former) or add protein to an otherwise light meal (the latter).

And finally, coffee. As outlined in the post "Java Dilemma," during rationing each adult received one pound of coffee every five weeks, assuming shortages didn't throw a kink into your coffee purchasing week. Both TMOTH and I increased our coffee consumption during the past year, in exchange for shrinking our soda intake. Even with that change, though, we were never in danger of running out of coffee supplies before the next ration amount could be purchased. We even had enough of a coffee surplus to, umm, be creative.

So, what of veg and cheese and coffee after rationing? We plan to continue focusing on seasonably available produce in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the fruits and vegetables we eat. And we'll continue to drink coffee at our current rates and avoid heavily-sugared sodas.

And cabbage...dear, sweet cabbage. You will always have a special place in our hearts...even if you're not as frequent a visitor at the table.

--Rational Mama

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rational Ritual

This past Wednesday night we sat around the table, rolled the die and pulled scenarios from Mr. Bowles' Marketplace Scenario Randomizer...for the last time.

So interesting how doing something once a week for a year becomes such a habit, such a ritual.

Over the past year we've both cheered and boo-ed the die roll, rearranged menus to suit the scenarios and listen to the girls quarrel countless times over whose turn it is to roll the die.

In the end the last scenario of the rationing year was a dud...only half the usual amount of flour was available, but we have plenty in the pantry anyway.

The week before was a doozy, though. Eowyn wanted from-scratch macaroni and cheese for dinner when a gaggle of family was to be visiting to celebrate her birthday. But when we pulled scenarios for that week Mr. Bowles' informed us that only half the amount of cheese was available at the store. The cheese supply in the fridge was not bountiful, so there was no way we could acquire enough cheese to make macaroni and cheese for a crowd of sixteen.

As a friend said, Mr. Bowles' giveth and Mr. Bowles' taketh away.

So, we had to go to Plan B: roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and Brussels sprouts (you gotta love an eight-year-old that asks for Brussels sprouts).

It will be strange, if not liberating, to be able to make a shopping list without consulting the Randomizer. There are several aisles that I think I haven't even stepped a foot in during the rationing year. Everything in the store will be available for purchase. Everything.

And I know that I originally said that I would compost the Randomizer when the rationing project was complete, but now I am (based on a reader's advice) considering holding on to it for a while.

Some habits die hard.

--Rational Mama

Monday, December 13, 2010


One of the best things about having the most amazing library between the Mississippi and the Rockies in your neighborhood is being able to take advantage of their awesome collection and reservation system.

Since we're trying to figure out what eating will look like after rationing I reserved a bunch of ethical eating titles last week. Not surprisingly, most of the titles have been sent my way in the past few days.

I'm not sure I'll get all of this read within the three week check-out period, but that's what the "renew" button is for!

--Rational Living

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Historic Recipe: Nutburgers

What's a rationing momma gonna make for dinner when a writer from the local parenting magazine is coming over to interview the family about the rationing project?

This momma made nutburgers.

In hindsight, I should have made an historic recipe with which I was already familiar; something tried and true like macaroni and cheese or even heart kabobs. But the nutburger recipe (from the most awesome Betty Crocker rationing cookbook) had been floating around on my to-do list for a while. Hence, I latched on to the excuse of the interview to get out of a menu rut and finally make them.

It's really quiet simple: combine a bunch of stuff, let it chill for two hours and then drop spoonfuls of it into a skillet with hot grease.

1 1/2 cups ground pecans
1 cup soft bread crumbs
1 egg (beaten)
1 tsp diced onion
2 TB diced parsley (or 2 tsp dried parsley)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk

I used the food processor to grind the pecans (finely ground nuts greatly improve the texture) and to make homemade bread crumbs. Oh, and be careful to only cook the burgers 4-5 minutes on each side as nuts burn easily.

On a side note, let me say that it's a little nerve-racking to cook with someone photographing you and your kitchen! But the photographer was so sweet that all remained calm and we quickly passed the time with chit chat.

When dinner was ready the photographer left and the four of us plus the writer sat down to the table to see how the recipe fared. Served with green beans and (locally grown) baked squash, the entire arrangement made a pretty plate.

And yup! That's a white sauce on top of the nutburger (per Betty's recommendation).

I can't remember who dove in for the first bite...I think it was Eowyn. She gave a big thumbs up and then the rest of us gave it a try. All of us (sans Sissy, big surprise) made nummy noises as we worked on our nutburgers. Granted, they wouldn't replace a traditional cheeseburger, but the flavor and texture were surprisingly meaty. In fact, all the adults (even the writer) had second helpings - that's how good they were!

They were good enough, dear reader, that as I'm writing this up I'm thinking they need to be on next week's menu. Yum!

--Rational Mama

Thursday, December 9, 2010


349 days in and only 16 more days to go.

We're actually going to pull this off, huh?

--Rational Mama

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: Rationing: The Not-So-Sweet Life?

When writing the original Rationing: The Not-So-Sweet Life? post I bragged that our household limitation of 8 pounds of sugar per month "doesn't seem that daunting to me." Even without the availability of prepackaged sweets and cookie dough from a tube I felt that this was one ration that was completely manageable.

And you know what? I was right.

Maybe it's because our family doesn't keep a cookie jar regularly supplied, as was the norm in the 1940s. Or maybe we ate fewer sweets. Either way, we adapted quite well to the the sugar restrictions. Cookie craving? Better get the recipe book out because you're not getting any unless you put in the effort. And there were several nights when I would have loved a warm, gooey cookie straight from the oven but was too lazy to actually do the work. And that's probably a good thing.

Granted, I did buy the girls Twinkies at one point, since they are a treat that is historically accurate (well, at least in form - I'm not sure if all the same preservatives and artificial colors were used in the past). The girls loved them.

Otherwise, I could go several weeks without claiming our sugar rations and still have plenty available on the shelf. The only time I had to be careful and make sure we had a copious supply was during the summer canning season.

One thing we did fail at was the interest in buying mostly sustainably-grown sugar. That will be something to consider while we make plans for life after rationing.
--Rational Mama

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reality Check

I was at one of those mega-market grocery stores the other night.

That night (and all during rationing) my cart contained basic staples like flour, sugar, butter, cheese, bread, a small amount of meat, beans, cereal, maybe a frozen or canned vegetable and seasonally appropriate fresh fruits and vegetables.

This seems very normal to me.

The person in line behind me the other night had three economy-sized packages of frozen burritos, frozen blueberry waffles (artificially flavored), frozen tater tots, several frozen dinner entrees, a few bags of chips and two flats of bottled water.

I have to admit I stared a little; I was simultaneously amazed at how different our two purchases were and by how little real food was piling up on the conveyor belt behind my purchase. I was very aware that a significant portion of the volume of their purchase consisted of artificial colors, artificial flavors, bulking agents, salt, high-fructose corn syrup and other quasi-food substances.

If that's what life after rationing looks like then I don't want to leave rationing.

--Rational Mama

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review: Rationing is a Gas! Gas! Gas!

One of the first posts about the rationing year project concerned gasoline and mileage rationing. In it, we described how gasoline was rationed during WWII and the issues we were wrestling with in trying to come to some sort of modern equivalent. In the end, we came up with a self-imposed mileage ration of 193 miles per week combined for our two vehicles.'s it been? Well, once we project out an average weekly mileage for the last few weeks of rationing (plus the mileage for a holiday round trip visit to Wichita) and add it to our already documented mileage we will have traveled (in our personal vehicles) roughly 10,007 miles during the rationing year, which is just slightly under the total miles of 10,036 allotted to us during rationing (193 miles per week x 52 weeks).

We're all pretty happy that we stayed within our limit and didn't fall into the trap of going farther (literally) even though we knew there wouldn't be any real consequences for us if we did go over our rationed amount.

In order to stay within our ration we definitely had to be mindful about how and when we were driving. We became pros at combining/consolidating trips and had to be extra careful with miles when the girls had out-of-town swim meets every other week during the summer. Our "vacations" consisted of two short getaways to Kansas City and one trip to Wichita to see family. Our mileage allowance did not permit a more grand vacation even if we incorporated some carpooling and I occasionally walked to work.

And to be honest, we were all feeling the lack of big getaway by the time autumn arrived.
As a family we have to decide how we will handle mileage after rationing is over. All of us agreed that we didn't want to remove mileage off the radar completely, especially once we reviewed the math.

During the rationing year our 10,000 miles were considerably below the national average; the average adult American drives 12,000 miles per year, which means the average for a two-driver household like ours is 24,000 miles per year. By following our rationing limits we drove 14,000 miles less than a comparable family.

Fourteen thousand less miles means fewer gallons of gasoline (and more money in our pocket). Using a very modest estimate of 20 miles per gallon, 14,000 miles equates to 700 less gallons of gasoline. Each gallon of gasoline creates 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, so by travelling 14,000 miles (or 700 gallons of gasoline) less than the average two-driver household we avoided dumping 14,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air.

That's seven tons, or the equivalent of 1,400 10lb bags of potatoes, or roughly four mini-vans! After that kind of a realization, we can't just abandon mileage/gasoline rationing completely.

So we've decided to keep tracking our mileage but give our family a slightly higher allowance so that more frequent weekend trips and a decent vacation (likely to involve driving) can be incorporated. We are also aware that we will likely be using more miles next year for basic errands (more on that development in a later post). Taking all these things into consideration we have decided that our new, post-rationing family limit for mileage will be 15,000 miles combined for the year. This gives use a weekly allowance of 288 miles - nearly 100 miles more per week than during rationing! The trick will be to not squander those miles but to save them up for the fun stuff.

Pondering all those extra miles and the possibilities seems like a luxury. Where will we go first?

--Rational Mama

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Randomizer Breakthrough

This is what happens when you use Mr. Bowles' Marketplace Scenario Randomizer every week for nearly a year.

I used some sticky tape to fix the hole - it will have to do for the final three weeks.

The good news is that the randomizer is completely biodegradable and will be composted after the experiment.

I have to admit, though, that I think we'll miss the Wednesday night ritual of rolling the dice and pulling scenarios. We'll have to find something to fill the void.

--Rational Mama

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


A few weeks ago one of the readers at church read a passage that really struck a cord with me. I thought it was a succinct, well-written outline of some of the thoughts we're pondering as we start making decisions about life after rationing.

I asked the reader for a transcript of the text and I received the following excerpt from Beyond Guilt, by George S. Johnson. My apologies for taking some liberties with the text, as all emphases are my own.

--Rational Mama


Guilt, powerlessness and fear are three dragons that paralyze many people in efforts to move beyond charity toward oppressed people.

The appeal for charity, feeling sorry and sharing our resources is the beginning, a good starting place, but it is only the first step.

There is a saying that helps to explain the challenge to work for justice, not just for charity. “If people are hungry, you can give them some fish and they will live another day. This is called relief, [or charity]. But if you not only give a fish, but teach them how to fish for themselves they will be helped to feed themselves in the future.” This is often called development.

That sounds good, but it can be misleading if it is not followed with the next step.

There is a third part of that saying that is critical to our efforts to move beyond guilt. We must not only offer the fish (relief) and assistance in learning how to fish themselves (development), but we must move over in the pond and GIVE them a place to fish. And, we must stop polluting the pond where they fish … And we must give them a fair price FOR their fish.

This third step clearly has many facets to it. It is called working for justice, fairness. Justice includes efforts to end oppression and unfair practices of the domination system.

Moving from charity to justice is difficult, because it calls for careful listening, increased awareness, and critical thinking about the attitudes and values that have brought us to this current crisis.

To avoid feeling guilty, we may stay at surface-level analysis. Guilt may be preferred to making changes or facing the pain and uncertainty of solidarity with those who cry for justice.

Could it be that, while we complain about guilt, we actually prefer it to enlightened analysis and action?

To get involved may lead to changes we’re not ready to make. Beliefs and values may be challenged. Systems that have blessed us may be examined and found wanting. Our security and prosperity may be jeopardized.

We can surely sleep better at night when we are ignorant of the reality of human suffering and its connection to our acceptable lifestyles.