Tuesday, 17 December 2013
Spheres of Influence
I used to think that I would be luckier if I was more like Homer Simpson. Not worrying about how to make things better, just getting on with life and not thinking too deeply. Not worrying, being happy,
I was deeply aware of issues like global warming and terrorism and sort of waiting for the world to explode. The news would go on first thing in the morning, and last thing at night, I knew too much, and at the same time, far too little. Its not that helpful to feel like that. Ingesting information that makes you feel both sad and helpless. It made me feel like everyone else was ruining things and that I couldn't do a damn thing, that any efforts I made would be meaningless.
It's this sort of thinking that pervades our society - the tendency to concentrate on matters so large (climate change, war, famine) that it all seems hopeless, and that leads to a type of paralysis, the tendency to think I can't do anything so I'll do nothing. In fact I think this is often what leads to apathy and hopelessness especially in younger people. Who can blame them for feeling apathetic when there is little chance of good work or owning their own place, let alone spiritual fulfilment and world peace?
The problem is, in my opinion, that we look at spheres outside of our influence. In fact I would go so far as to say that we are encouraged to worry about issues that are out of our control by media and government - fear is a great way to keep people from questioning the status quo. It tricks them into believing that the government is protecting us from the boogie men, from hostile countries and encouraging us to believe that solutions are only able to be carried out at governmental levels. It encourages us to believe that we need big government and things would be worse with less of it. In fact it is far more nuanced in the reality of politics and power games, and lets not forget that pretty much all of the big, bad stuff - like environmental degradation, war etc... has been carried out by government or their corporate partners.
If we begin to view things differently and look at the spheres within our influence, the world becomes less frightening and you feel more empowered to do something about it. When I first thought about this blog, I wrote a list of all the things I'd like to achieve by the end of the year. They were personal goals, they weren't reliant on anything outside of my power, and they were realistic. As it happens, I have not done many all of them, partly because of a lack of money and time, but mainly because of the unrealistic length of the list. That's ok, we just need to keep going in the right direction and try to enjoy it, and I feel better just by thinking of all the cool things I'm going to do.
The list, when I look at it, is all about empowerment and resilience. A longer term list carries the same theme. Building a shack, rocket stoves, growing and hunting food and building community go hand in hand with resilience, empowerment and reducing my exposure to government, mass media and large corporations.
As I tread this path, there becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that occurs. I started to watch less TV because other things interested me more and now I am not so exposed to it trying to sell me stuff, tell me stuff, make me feel inadequate or scare me. The news will focus on the most horrendous of crimes no matter how rare they are, adverts will try to sell stuff you don't want and 'aspirational' programmes will generally peddle the myth that we all have loads of money and perfect lives.
I got fed up with the energy companies so I invested in a wood burner, cut my own wood and turned the central heating off (although shell does turn it back on sometimes).
I learned about how seed companies like Monsanto were behaving, so I saved my own seed, to be shared with whoever is interested
I chose to shop locally and get a deeper understanding of provenance, because the big supermarkets and their business models leave a lot to be desired.
I started to drink the local Ale - in the words of Scotty Garrett, 'swap the Guinness for the Dark Star'.
Using small companies, friends and neighbours wherever possible takes you into new relationships, gives you a familiar face to see in the street, puts money into the pockets of those in your town. It empowers people, and improves your life.
And by the way - you will still see me in a supermarket when I get caught short, just as I'll use the central heating when I have to and I'll watch TV, I'm just saying that we want to stem the reliance on these big institutions and understand them for what they are. The choices I make to ensure that happens will probably not change the world, but they will make my life better. In the words of Muhatma Gandhi - You must be the change you want to see in the world.