Friday, November 9, 2012

Veterans Day, Economics, and Climbing

I was curious to find many pieces referring to the military in the current issue of Climbing Magazine-- and then realized that Sunday is Veterans Day. Climbing has a great article called "Invisible Wounds" by Chris Kassar which covers a Colorado-based organization called Veteran Expeditions, or VetEx. (Unfortunately the article is not yet available online.) It states: "At least one million military personnel will return home in the next five years," and "at least one in five of them will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet only 35 percent will seek treatment." VetEx takes veterans on expeditions during which they get to practice some of the survival skills and feel a similar camaraderie to what they had in the military, and they're adamant that "the whole goal has really always been that therapy is a byproduct."

VetEx states on their FAQ page that they:
Don't have a set therapy agenda other than the outdoors. VetEx gets veterans outside into physically challenging, team settings. VetEx is not a wilderness therapy organization. We recognize that in the veteran community, many veterans bristle at the thought of needing healing or needing some alternative activity to begin to sort through the complex feelings of their actions and experiences when they were in uniform. The truth is, and the statistics and our own personal experiences and relationships back it up, veterans are an at risk population, and whether or not you want healing or not, you’ll get a lot out of our trips, simply by spending time with other veterans and challenging yourselves.
Their perspective on healing:
We won’t tell you what you want or what will happen on the trip, that’s your decision to figure out what you want and to create your own experience. What we’ve found, however, is that many of our participants have said that they felt the trip was a ‘healing experience’. This means something different for every participant, which is why we do not have an agenda, other than getting you outside and challenging you in a team setting with other veterans. We hope when you get home, you’ll make whatever positive steps in life make sense for you, and to the best of our ability, we’ll help you take those steps.
Will a second-term Obama Presidency see the United States engaging in fewer military efforts? Unfortunately, that seems unlikely; it seems that warfare is written into the DNA of this country. I think a part of changing that, a part of our evolution as a country, is to change our ideas about growth as a measurement of prosperity. The urge to grow is what sends us around the globe looking for resources to tap in order to feed our behemoth of an economy.
This economy is crazy and poisonous. I am an economist, and I have been fighting against the economy that is taught the way it is being taught and being practiced. I have been fighting it for almost 40 years of my life, because it’s an absurd economy that has nothing to do with real life. - Manfred Max Neef on Democracy Now
The interview I linked to is fantastic. The question is, how? What do we do to change the system we're in, when we can't see any other way? I don't have an answer for that. I have a feeling similar to what my friend Justin Woo describes in this recent post:
Our generation has no workable blueprint for struggle. The oft-imitated, never-replicated 1960s has proven to be an unworkable model – The Iraq War proceeded unabated, and Obama has left many thousands of private contractors in Iraq. The Afghanistan War continues to claim lives, despite rosy predictions to the contrary. ...  
But hey, maybe the lack of blueprint is a strength. You can’t tell us we’re doing it wrong. You can’t tell us that this doesn’t fit pre-existing models – through trial and error, we’ve found that they don’t work. Maybe the key is keeping our moral and intellectual compasses active and engaged. Maybe we just need to keep listening, and trying new things, until we find something that works. And hopefully, we’ll do it before it’s too late.
His post really resonated with me because I've been spending the last few months trying hard to find a way to build a sustainable, peaceful, humane life, and feeling like I keep coming up against a wall of "this is the way the world is." And I keep thinking "but so many people are unhappy, why don't we change it?" I'm still looking for the answer to that. Along the way, I'm climbing as much as I can.

This weekend, I'll be going Joshua Tree National Park for the first time as a climber. I'm attending an event called #JTreeTweetup, co-founded by RockGrrl, whom I met at Malibu Creek State Park earlier this year. I'll meet a bunch of people for the first time, and shortly thereafter we'll trust each other with our lives.

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