Viewpoint
Comforting Certainties

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

 

 

Richard Johnstone

In a world awash in change, it’s comforting to know that the man-made principles underlying cooperative businesses are as strong as the natural laws underlying the turning of the seasons.

A small rectangle of plastic and circuitry empowers us to send messages, and receive them from, around the world. Amazing. It gives us access to unlimited information. Unbelievable. It enables us to take and send photos and video, instantly. Incredible. Oh, yes, and almost forgotten, this small tablet that began life merely as a phone … is still one.

Such marvels, though, are doomed to obsolescence. Like geological strata of soil over sandstone over rock, techno prototype becomes leaf mold as it’s buried by version 1.0, which disappears under 2.0, which is overtaken by 3.0, blanketed by 4.0, soon to have 5.0 cover it like topsoil, this rich bed then growing 6.0, whose quick decay grows 7.0, and on and on. And on.

In this world contrived by human minds and hands, the natural world becomes more than mere diversion; it serves as soulful elixir.

Nature’s seasons remind us of a larger purpose … a greater power … a comforting certainty. Spring’s pale-green leaf wisps spread slowly then sprawl into summer’s deep-green canopy, later lighting the landscape in pastels for a few precious weeks in autumn, winter’s onset then bringing down the curtain on another growing season, leaving tree limbs to stretch, dark and bare, against the sky.

So it has been. So it is. And, thankfully, so it will be.

Your electric cooperative tries hard to be a reliable, comforting certainty in your life as well, by following seven core principles. In October, cooperatives around the world will celebrate Co-op Month. We’d like to kick off that celebration early, by sharing with you a brief description of the seven principles that guide your cooperative every day.

#1 Voluntary and Open Membership

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.

— Henry David Thoreau, 19th-century American writer.

Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all who are able to use their services and are willing to accept the responsibilities of being a member-owner.

#2 Democratic Member Control

As democratic organizations, cooperatives’ member-owners have equal voting rights — one member, one vote — and elect a board of directors to set the policies for their business.

#3 Members’ Economic Participation

Gather the gifts of earth with equal hand;

Henceforth ye, too, may share the birthright soil,

The corn, the wine, and all the harvest-home.

— E.C. Stedman, 19th-century American poet.

Members contribute to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. Any margins are later returned to the member-owners when the financial condition of the cooperative permits.

#4 Autonomy and Independence

It is a blessed thing that in every age someone has had individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions.

— Robert G. Ingersoll, 19th-century American writer.

Cooperatives are autonomous, independent businesses controlled by their member-owners.

#5 Education, Training and Information

Cooperative Living magazine is one example of your co-op’s commitment to keep you informed. Co-ops also work hard to provide continuing education for employees and board members, to keep them up to date on best practices.

#6 Cooperation Among Cooperatives

Swing the shining sickle,

Cut the ripening grain;

Gather in the harvest,

Fall is here again.

— Traditional folk song.

Gathering in the harvest is a collective affair, as is operating a member-owned business. When practical, co-ops work with other co-ops, to minimize costs and maximize effectiveness.

#7 Concern for Community

I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.

— William Faulkner, 20th-century Nobel Prize-winning American author.

Cooperative businesses are locally owned and locally controlled. They work to serve their members’ needs every day.

ower across the land.

 

 

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