Each one of us is a unique individual. This is incontrovertibly true and totally misleading. We are the sum of our genetics, our environment, and our experiences. Our genetics give us predispositions to certain behaviours and attitudes.

More recently we have discovered that our environment and experiences can “switch on or off“ some of our genes, so even those predispositions can be altered by our environment and experiences.

Our environment is the “concrete” world outside of the filters of our own brain and experience. It is the air we breathe, the building we live in, the water we drink. The food we eat is a slightly different kettle of fish (if you like that kind of thing) we have more control over what we eat than the air we breathe. So it tends to be more influenced by our experiences and expectations than many aspects of our environment.

Our experiences are different even when we are twins in the same family. Timing, mood, other people’s expectations and attitudes all lead to different experiences of the same event. These experiences all help form who we are. It’s easy to look at these issues as being the only factors in making us each who we are. They are important, but we need to look at the wider scale as well.

There are biases out there in the wide world, such biases put us under a systematic (but often conflicting) pressure that shapes our experience in different ways to the micro experiences of home and family (though these external pressures are often also found at home and everywhere else).

When I was young there were two conflicting messages that I could not resolve. First was that I should be a “good girl”, do as I was told, look after other people, put men first, expect to always come second in every relationship and situation. The second was that I should always strive to do my best, be the best, never let anyone look down on me or talk down to me.

Both these messages came from wider society and from within my family. It was difficult to know when which was the most appropriate. I felt I could never relax and just be myself. Now if I found that difficult, how much more difficult must it be when you are on the receiving end of racism?

But part of what is going wrong with society at the moment is that there are so many conflicting messages, most of them being negative and unhealthy, that very few people feel comfortable in their own culture. Some people couldn’t even tell you what their own culture is.

This is not a criticism of immigration or emigration. It is a criticism of the way that we are encouraged to focus on differences and not similarities between us and other people. Instead of revelling in the richness and diversity of our cultural overlaps and interlinks, people feel insecure because they have been told time and time again that everything is “us versus them”, everyone else is a potential threat.

We are humans trying to live together, it is not helpful or healthy to constantly focus of differences. There should be no war of the sexes, no racial division, no separating because of class or creed. We really are all in this together, because there is only one world and there is no planet B.

This divide and conquer is a repeating cycle. It is a cycle of stupidity. It is a cycle we need to get off of.

Taking Control of Our Lives – Part 2

So, we have been lied to and manipulated by the media, corporations, and politicians. So what? What can we do about it?

It’s hard to know what, short of insurrection, can make a difference. And why not insurrection? Well, for me, violence of any sort is an anathema. I will admit there are a few occasions when it is the best option, but those occasions are few and far between. As a general rule I would far rather side step violence and go straight to the negotiations that always have to follow violence.

Too many people get hurt in any insurrection for me to like it as an option. Too often the people who do get hurt are innocents, in one way or another.

But we have a problem if we are going to try negotiation in our current situation. The politicians, and others they have allied themselves with, do not believe that they need to listen to us. And, over time, they have proved repeatedly that they are strangers from the truth. They would say anything to get their own way. They cannot be trusted.

So, what can we do? If we are not to embrace violence and we cannot trust the word of the people whose behaviour is violence by another name?

I think there is something we can do. It is not a solution on it’s own, but it will make us stronger. We can disconnect as far as possible from the mainstream. We can ditch the TV; we can choose not to read newspapers; we can change our buying habits, so that we buy the things we need more than the things we want; we can buy locally grown, and made, food; we can reconnect with cooking and growing our own fruit and vegetables; we can start to believe in ourselves and our abilities again; we can develop our skills and crafts, so that we can make and do things for ourselves and those close to us, rather than being dependent on others who may not have our best interests at heart; we can make good and reliable friends. We can change our behaviour so that we 1) like ourselves, 2) like the things we do in our lives, and 3) we can develop our resources and friendships to help us get through the difficult years ahead… Until we can built a sustainable future together.