Sunday, July 13, 2003

Think globally, act locally.

Will and I had a long conversation last night about...well, about a lot of things, but if I must choose a label, I'd say it was a political conversation. One of the things we talked about was how so many people are loud about a cause without actually doing anything useful. Not only that, but so many of those loud people are utterly self-righteous about it, as though they are somehow better than everyone else because they recycle/eat vegan/insert good thing here. Will mentioned a person he saw recently whose car was plastered in bumper stickers with slogans like "Make Love, Not War," "Hug a Child, Save A Tree," and assorted other well-intentioned but somewhat absurd sentiments (I am all for hugging children and saving trees, but that bumper sticker just doesn't make any sense). This person wanted the world to see that they were environmentally and politically concious - in theory, there is nothing wrong with that. But if they are so concerned about the world, they should not have been laying on the horn while the guy ahead of them in traffic, driving the BMW and talking on his cell phone, was waving some pedestrians across the street. I'm sorry, but who is the better person there? I think it's the "asshole" in the Beamer.

People are getting it wrong. They are thinking globally and "acting" globally - by spending too much time worrying, yelling, and gesturing wildly about the world's problems. I agree with them, the world is in a bad way. But the only way to fix the world is to start by fixing the people (and things) around you. Take care of yourself, your family, and your community. If everyone did this, even a tiny bit more than they do now, the rest would have to follow. There is no other logical way that it could go. This doesn't mean that we should put on blinders to the rest of the world and ignore things like war and poverty and disease, but that we should concentrate our energy on fixing the things closest to us. I think that this should include a level of awareness of and involvement in things like our government, but only to the degree that we are able. We should pick and choose our battles when they are outside of our homes, because personal happiness will open up opportunities to help on a grander scale.

One example of this is work. I realized a while back that I simply do not want a job. I came to terms with that very recently, and am now concentrating on figuring out what I do want. I borrowed Unjobbing: the Adult Liberation Handbook from the library yesterday, because Stephanie had read it and was inspired by it. I confess, I didn't like it. This is very likely not the author's fault. He wrote the book with the intention of helping people realize why the current "work" system and economy are harmful to us. Possibly because I already understand those things, I found his writing to be somewhat preachy. I'm sure this was not his intention, and even more sure that his book would be very helpful to a lot of unhappy people. But I am happy, and what I really wanted was a book like The Teenage Liberation Handbook, but for adults. In other words, I crave suggestions of things that I can do instead of consuming my life with "work" that I do not enjoy or get much out of. At the same time, I do need money. The system will not change overnight, even for me, because I like many of the modern conveniences and "advances." So I must find a balance. I would very much like to reduce my life of clutter and do things that are better for my environment. But I also have no intention of drastically changing my lifestyle.

I do, and will continue to do (hopefully increasingly) what I can. I do not approve, for example, of our country's compulsory education system. Therefore, my children will learn naturally, which I will facilitate by not sending them to school. Does this change the schooling system? Not in an immediate sense, but it certainly will make my family healthier and happier. And the more people that do things like this, the closer we will be to a point where the system will have no choice but to change. Imagine, for example, if every family who disapproved of the school system was able to (and did) take their children out of it. The schools would lose so much money that they would be forced, eventually, to change.

I am too realistic in my thinking to consider myself an idealist, but there is no denying that I am a hopeless optimist. I think that is a good thing.