Tuesday, August 09, 2005

And then it became necessary ...

.... for whatever reason, for me to put these thoughts down.

Primarily, the shift in my consciousness of late has necessitated that I examine every little thing I'm doing. At the risk of blatantly copying Tory's opening message to his "Saving the World" blog ... I suggest you watch "The Corporation" , and also "What the [Bleep] Do We Know?" ... before proceeding.

Read Tory's blog too. Per his request, please pronounce it "b-log" ... if you want to be cool.

I'm making significant changes to my life and my personal impact on the Earth. If I'm fortunate, others will be moved or inspired to make changes and lessen their own impact on this fragile, lovely, powerful place. This might help to clarify: from Ervin Laszlo's The Choice: Evolution or Extinction?

"Our generation is called upon to make the choice that will decide our ultimate destiny. If we fail to make the right choice at the right time, our generation, or the generation of our children, will be the last in history. ... We are forced to choose, for the processes we have initiated in our lifetime cannot continue in the lifetime of our children. Whatever we do either creates the framework for continuing the supreme adventure of life and consciousness on this planet, or sets the stage for its termination. The choice before us is urgent and important: It can be neither postponed nor ignored."

The world is dying. Here is something I wrote in an email recently as this change was beginning to manifest itself in me:

"If I have to stay [in this corporate job] I guess I should try to take some action and make some changes, but this thought fills me with dread. Who would join me. Who would listen. This isn't what they pay me for. They're all profit-focused and that's all they see. I pass them in the hallways and see them at the vending machines and I wonder how many of them think about what they're creating, or supporting. Today I did an expense report for one of my managers. I do these regularly, separating out all the business trip receipts so they get billed to the right place. This particular guy was spending a lot of time in one city and going to the same coffee shop once or twice a day. I thought of those cups of coffee - the paper cups themselves - and how each one ended up in the trash along with its plastic lid. I thought about the line behind him winding out the door, people all ready for their disposable treat, thinking they're being conscientious when they drop those cups in the trash rather than the street. I wish they would drop them in the street! Our problem is we don't see our own mess! We conveniently have it hauled away. We conveniently keep our slave laborers in faraway countries that no one visits. We murder civilians the world over and the government won't show us the photographs or even tell us the numbers. We sit there and allow our elected leaders to talk about drilling for oil in Alaska, where the only ones to witness the rape of the forest will be the wild things with no voice at all. Reducing our dependence on foreign oil, they say. But the ozone layer doesn't care whose oil it is. There are no borders in the atmosphere. ... I want to think we can be part of this planet without destroying it or ourselves. It seems too huge for me this last couple days and I keep getting sucked back into my own drama to avoid it. I'm still making the changes, the cause is still right there under the surface of my thoughts, but I guess I'm grieving the loss of my ability to thoroughly ignore it. There's no going back now, have you had this feeling? Once you allow yourself to be aware, to know that each little thing you do has an impact, you can't un-know it."

Heavy, no? Well, that's how it feels. I am deeply frightened by the rampant, unchecked culture of consumption that seeps into everything we experience in the "developed" world.

Why are people so resistant to others telling them how to live or what choices to make, yet we take what large corporations tell us with little to no resistance - even welcome their messages with open arms? When a company says "This jacket is hot! You need this jacket!" (or shoes, or car, or new carpet, or cell phone, or TV, you get the idea) .... we go "Yeah! I do need that! Here's my $$!" We don't go, "Hey, um, why should I listen to you? Where do you get off telling me how my life should be?" Or, even more to the point and with less expended energy, "I'm not listening to you anymore. Your opinion of my life is inconsequential."

They feed us justifications for our purchases: It is important to feel comfortable in your home. It is important to enjoy good food, to be able to get a text message from your loved one, to have a new coat for the winter, to "relax" on a cruise, to know that your car has the capability of crossing a mountain stream with ease. It is easy to find a justification, or in the absence of that, to be UNable to find any reason NOT to purchase something. Even "I can't afford it" is no longer much of a consideration for many Americans. A credit card is considered cash on hand, and if the feeling of want is there, and the cash is there, what point would there be in NOT purchasing? But my question is, if I had never seen or heard of this item, would I be wanting it? If it was so integral to my life that I felt I couldn't live without it, wouldn't I have already found a way to obtain or create it? The rush of having a new item wears off so quickly. They're counting on this, so that we will soon need that rush again. It never ends, all the way to our deaths. Be sure your loved one is in the most beautiful casket that no one but worms will ever see! Doesn't she DESERVE the best?

For me, this rush of possession has always had a disturbing emptiness. And the further I step back from being a consumer of things I don't actually need (as opposed to food, shelter, water) ... the emptier it feels to me. I still recognize it, and I still recognize my wants and how they are ever-present, but I'm starting to identify with them less and less and find the courage to make thoughtful choices.

Is our financial slavery a result of the advertising appealing to our base natures?

Here are some of the messages I think are the most insidious and destructive, not to mention inescapable in American / Western society:

Eat (buy) this: you DESERVE it.

Eat (buy) this: it will make you THIN/FIT/ATTRACTIVE/SEXY/POPULAR.


Buy this because it's on SALE. You are making a wise purchase because yesterday/tomorrow it would be more expensive. Therefore, you need to buy it IMMEDIATELY. There's no time to think about your purchase, you must ACT NOW.

You are a woman so you LOVE TO SHOP. Being a woman means you DESERVE to fulfill this part of your nature. Shopping is a primary way we DEFINE OUR FEMININITY. Shopping is how we ENJOY EACH OTHER.


Oh god. What have we become? It is in these moments when I see the messages for what they are, when I see how they are everywhere and are absorbed into our lifestyles and burned into our psyches like toxins, it is in these moments I am filled with despair. But what choice do I have but to look, and look with compassion?


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