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Celebrate Interdependence Day this July 4th

All societies have days that they set aside as mythologically sacred. We tend to call these days “holidays” (be they national, religious, or otherwise), and we assign each a different name. Regardless of the names we give them, the goal remains the same; to ensure that a particular cultural value is enshrined and revisited every year. In this respect Ramadan is no different from Thanksgiving, and May Day is no different than the Chinese New Year. Holidays serve as an effective tool in cementing cultural mythology in our minds, especially when the day we celebrate them is tied to an important moment in history. The problem is, we tend to continue celebrating a holiday without questioning the validity of the cultural values behind it. Whoops!

In the United States (US), July 4th is probably the best example of a “national holiday”. It is the day when Americans celebrate their most sacred cultural value: independence. There are plenty of other days in which similar ideals are celebrated, but none have even come close to the widespread recognition Independence Day has achieved and maintained. Just take a look at blockbuster movies: you’ll be pretty hard pressed to find an enticing movie about Flag Day, but movies about Independence Day abound featuring air force one, alien fights, and political scandals.

Part of the reason July 4th has gained so much traction is because the day itself represents an important moment in US history. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, an event that kicked off the American Revolutionary War. Historically speaking, it signifies the “birth” of the US: the Declaration explained the conceptual and practical reasons for separating from King George and Britain, and the war formalized this separation. Mythologically speaking, however, July 4th represents the “birth” of independence.  This, of course, is why Americans don’t just call call Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington founders, but “founding fathers.”

The story of Independence Day memorializes the political independence the 13 colonies declared from the British empire, but the message of Independence Day celebrates the independent spirit of each individual American. The message is so culturally potent that to be against anything labeled as free (like “free market,” “free enterprise,” and “free trade”) is often considered unpatriotic. It is also why an effective American political tactic is to label a policy as a restriction (as in “gun control” or “market regulation”).

Utilizing this mythology, the United States has become one of the wealthiest and most powerful societies in history, today’s global hegemon. America:

Generally speaking, mythology remains useful for as long as the benefits that its constructive purpose provides outweigh the problems caused by adhering to it. Societies happily overlook their mythology’s baseless assumptions, unscientific claims, and even illogical conclusions as long as a myth serves their goals. Once problems cross this pragmatic threshold, however, mythology can become a social prison and a last crutch for those who fear the necessary changes implied by a new paradigm. This is the unfortunate condition the US finds itself in today.

Although often celebrated with the best of intentions, Independence Day is actually a microcosmic expression of the roots of many of the serious problems we face. The American Revolution is a radically significant historical moment: it not only formally broke political ties between King George and the 13 colonies but also helped shape global culture for more than two centuries. This separation (or “independence” as Americans like to spin it) set the stage for the bias and exploitation that enabled the culture of consumption we all find ourselves in today. Some of the cultural messages passed along in the ritual celebration of this most American of holidays include:

  • American culture is better than other cultures
  • We should be separate from other nations and cultures; in fact we don’t need them at all.
  • War is a thing to be glorified and, in fact, caricatured

Encouraged by flag waving, parades, fireworks, and chants (USA! USA!),  these assumptions are counter to reality:

At AHEM, examining the facts made us realize how out of sync the implications and messaging of Independence Day are with the reality of our interdependent situation. We’re all about the spirit and power of individuals, but evidence proves that we’re all connected and reliant on one another and our surroundings, so we’re more powerful when we are united, not independent. Compelled by this line of thought and the microcosmic nature of July 4th, we decided to propose an alternative cause for celebration that is more closely aligned with the values that underpin long-term human survival and more closely representative of our current situation.

That is why, on July 4, 2013, AHEM is unveiling its Declaration of Interdependence to the world and inviting all to sign. The story of AHEM’s Interdependence Day memorializes the release of AHEM’s Declaration, a symbol of our global realization that collaboration is more powerful than separation. To complement the story, the message of Interdependence Day celebrates our connectedness, highlights our reliance on one another and our surroundings, and reminds us that we all share the same basic requirements for survival (habitable surroundings and nurturing societies).

We invite our fellow global community members not to recognize July 4th as an American holiday that glorifies the start of a divisive war based on conceptual relics, but to instead celebrate a global holiday that memorializes the start of peace based around our mutual reliance, something far more worthy of contemplation. It’s time we adopt more relevant values and celebrate collaboration.

Let’s enshrine our values of continued human existence, declare our interdependence, and revisit these values every year.

Happy Interdependence Day!


this post was co-authored by Laura Stanik and Chris Blockus, AHEM Founders | July 1, 2013

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It's official. On July 4th, 2013, AHEM opened its Declaration of Interdependence for us all to sign. In addition to the original version, you can also read the complete modernized version, if you're not the 1776 type.

Time to get your sign on...

INTERDEPENDENCE DAY 2013: Celebrate Interdependence Day July 4th

Celebrate Interdependence Day this July 4th with AHEM. No matter where you are, you can get in on the festivities.

Find out how to join the fun...


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