What Could Be

I’m very tired of living in a city where many people are too scared to look you in the eye. They are too scared to engage with you even in the simplest ways. I’m not sure what they are scared of. But my experience has been that when you engage with other people, they turn out to be other human beings. I’ve not met any monsters or aliens by making eye contact with other people as I’ve walked down the street.

This inability to engage comes over to me as rudeness. It costs so little, in the way of effort, to be polite. It makes a huge difference to everyone involved to when that effort has been made. It can change a really difficult experience into a pleasant one. It can change a pleasant experience into a really lovely one. It is almost always worth the effort to be polite.

People will tell you that manners are to do with respecting other people, but this is only part of the story. Manners are also to do with self-respect. Actually, manners are more to do with self-respect than they are to do other people at all.

How you, or I, feel about ourselves impacts on everyone we come into contact with. People who don’t like themselves can be really difficult to be around. But I’m not looking to allocate blame. The blame game is unproductive and self-defeating. It hooks everyone into staying in the same place, calculating and allocating blame.

Negative ways of thinking seem to be being reinforced by the trash in the media. Blame, fear, bad manners, selfishness, are common place in all aspects of the mainstream media. This is because these negative ways of thinking stop us from realising how unhealthy our culture is, how much we have become lost, where the real problems are.

The real problems are not other people, most other people are just like us, struggling to survive and make sense of this mad world we find ourselves in. The real problems are how the wrong things have become important. Do you know someone who has, at some point in time, lost all their worldly goods and status? Have you ever talked to them about it?

If you get the chance, do listen to them.

I had a student many years ago. A nice man, lovely wife, interested and interesting. One day he told me about how he had lost everything, money, status, his family. He didn’t regret any of it. He said it had made him realise what was important. He had rebuilt his connections with his family, and made a new life that he found fulfilling.

He’s not the only one, I have met many people over the years who have rejected what they were told was important, they built their lives around what they knew to be right. Not because they are selfish, quite the reverse, because they are generous and caring people. These people are the true heroes of our time. They are trying to spread love and understanding. They are trying to live by values that make sense of the world as we should all understand it.

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A Picture of A Different Life

Modern Western society is focused on the short term pursuit of sufficient income to have a “good” standard of living. The longest term anyone ever really thinks about is the life of their mortgage, if they happen to have one. Many people have a severely limited income, they only look as far as their next “pay” check.

We have lived through the time when we were told to “get on your bike” if you wanted to work and there was no work in your area. Families have become dispersed and fragmented. The idea of being rooted in a place is the preserve only of the extreme ends of the economic ladder. The richest, because they can afford to do what ever they please and live where ever they please; the poorest, because they cannot afford to give up the tiny toe hold they have.

Everyone else is almost constantly on the move. Many people commute for several hours a day to go to work. They don’t necessarily live where they want to, but they live where they believe they can afford to live. Many people have holiday homes, where they spend as much time as they can “afford” to, away from their daily grind. And both these groups squeeze those who were born in that area out.

The cost of living in different areas is seldom addressed when people look at moving house. The extra tax of living in a rural area comes in the form of fuel prices. There is seldom any useful form of public transport any more. And anyone not able to drive themselves, for whatever reason, is stuck paying premium prices for everyday goods.

Everything revolves around money. What very few people remember is that money is merely a token to make bartering easier. It has no intrinsic worth. Nowadays new money is created by a bank on a computer in the form of a new debt. And then people wonder why there is a debt crisis. What else could it be?

There are very few people who are happy with their lives the way they are. So then the question becomes “do we have to live this way?”. Well, I don’t think so. But we would have to redefine what is important on a pretty much world wide scale. It’s not so much about creating something new, more about reclaiming some old ways and giving them a new twist and a new shine.

It’s not about abandoning science, we need science. The scientific, analytical mind is a wonderful thing. But we need science that is not bound by where the next “pay” check is coming from. Science that can look at a longer time scale than week to week. We need to think both big (maybe very big) and small (so very small). We also need a science that cannot be bought by the big corporations to give the answers they want; a science that will insist on looking at potential long term effects before even considering the possibility of trying things out outside of the laboratory if there is the least likelihood of ill effects.

It’s about returning to real values, long term values: the value of land; clean air; and clean water. For too long we have been dictated to by the supermarket chains with their illusion of choice. For too long our governments have bamboozled us with assertions of choice where none is wanted, and pretence of concern where none is felt.

People are laughed at for caring or believing. But we all believe in something, even if it is only ourselves. We all care. We sometimes care about the wrong things, but that is better than not caring at all. Most people are thinking, caring beings, but they have been lied to; misled; and deliberately confused. They have been put under pressure and forced away from their support systems so that they have neither the energy nor inclination to question or fight against what is going on.

People are not healthy because this is such an unhealthy way of living. We need to re-embrace healthier ways, both physically and emotionally. We need lives that are full of good food (local food), good friends (local friends & distant friends), time to appreciate things, time to create things, time to grow things.

Ivan Illich talked about deskilling society, that is what has happened. People have been taken out of their environment and thrust into a place of employment, where their natural skills and knowledge are not valuable or valued, so they are vulnerable and more easily manipulated.

For those who remember “The Good Life” with it’s theme of rural living in suburbia, there is probably some part of you that still hankers for that crazy possibility. Rural living isn’t for everyone, but it would work for far more people than the few who realize it. Our roots are in the land. We belong to it. We need it. Without the good earth we all starve.

I’m not rejecting technology, I am rejecting our current culture of greed, I am rejecting money (especially in the form of debt) and I am wholeheartedly rejecting our current political system. There is a better way. It starts with each one of us valuing ourselves and each other. It continues with each one of us valuing the land and the bounty it can bring us.