My article DON’T SETTLE FOR THAT – where I, admittedly – harshly, condemn our consumerist society, sparked some criticism.
“Why are you so miserable? I love my life, why can’t you enjoy yours too? Yes, you’re right on some points, especially regarding excessive consumerism, but overall, life is pretty good. My job is OK, it pays for everything I need and more, so I really can´t complain. Don´t be so negative!”
Here’s what I have to say:
I am not miserable. Just because I criticize the system we live in, does not mean that I don´t enjoy life. As a matter of fact, if anything, being aware of the issues I laid out, makes me a whole lot more relaxed, which leads to heaps of enjoyment overall.
It is important to think about these topics. It is important to talk about these topics. And it is most effective if you do so with a calm mind, without being consumed by it. The world is as it is. People starve, the environment is being abused, wars are fought. Quite horrible really, and it absolutely demands our attention and, ultimately, our action.
Change happens gradually, however, so, no, I am not constantly worried and sad and angry. What’s the point? Being angry or sad or worried does not do anything except adversely affect your own health. It flushes your body with stress hormones, leading to all sorts of problems – increased risk of heart attack, stroke or simply a reduced well-being overall. For that reason I try to be as calm as possible, as equanimous as possible; I try to not blindly react to all those things that could make my blood boil. Instead I choose to act, to lay out a plan. I do the best I can to change things for the better. Little by little.
Obviously, like every human, sometimes I fail, sometimes I explode, sometimes anger overpowers me, and all I want is to scream and shout.
That’s definitely not the norm though, I love life and am able to relish in its beauty, in all its glory, despite cruel things happening every day. As a matter of fact, I am intentionally working on my equanimity, on a balanced mind, through meditation. It’s a good skill to have and something that takes patience and practice.
I’m sure sometimes many of you feel overpowered by perceived injustices and atrocities. It can become overwhelming pretty quickly. Just remember that your calm and sharp mind is the best tool, so don´t get blinded by anger, hate or fear. It absolutely defeats the purpose.
I’ve had plenty of time to practice what I preach here. I´ve been a vegan in a meat eating world for about 3-4 years now. Fellow veggie friends and animal lovers will understand, it can get pretty darn hard at times (no, not the vegan diet, but seeing injustice and wrongdoing no one else seems to give a shit about). Do I care about millions of animals unnecessarily killed each day? Absolutely. Does it help if I shout out in despair or anger? Not in the slightest. Instead I recognise the wrongdoing and engage in sensible activism or education, yet I can still be happy because I do what I can while accepting the world as it is.
I am happy, I love life and I enjoy every single second of it. But an important part of this for me is passionately pointing the finger at topics I care deeply about.
This goes out to all the people saying that they are happy with their lives as they are, who love their jobs, their lifestyles, those who fully embrace the role society has carved out for them (or which they have carved out for themselves, for that matter).
Listen carefully: I am happy for you. Seriously, good on you. Each to their own, in all honesty. Different chords for different people, so just because I dont find fulfilment in buying stuff doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to.
However, THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU AT ALL. Your protests are only valuable to the extent they don´t steal someone else´s voice.
Imagine someone craps on you. I mean, imagine someone literally sits on top of your life and craps on it. You would probably be like, ahem dude, could you please stop crapping on me? And then this person replies, “No worries, no worries mate. I am sitting comfortably, don’t you worry. Life is good. It could be better, here and there, but overall, I am sitting very comfortably.”
See what I’m getting at?
Chances are high that if you read this you are part of a privileged minority. Lucked out at the lottery of birth, you can easily be content. Again, you’ve got a comfy bed, exotic holidays, electronic gadgets or expensive yoga lessons and retreats. Yeah, I am not entirely surprised that you enjoy your life.
But don’t forget that you are pretty much living on the back of others –those who build your phones under slave-like conditions; those who sew your clothes; those who serve you when you sip a cocktail on the beach; those who suffer under actions committed or endorsed or, at the very least, silently accepted by your government.
Your lifestyle, OUR lifestyle is stained with blood and tears.
Does that mean you should be ashamed, you should feel guilty, or that you should cry or demonstrate all day? No, it doesn’t . The world is as it is for now, and everyone deserves to live a happy live, despite all these terrible things happening.
We should try our best, however, to do the right thing, and while you cant stop your government from bombing other countries, there are many things you can do. You can think wisely about where you spend your money. You can support local businesses and fair trade products. You can hold your representatives (I hate that word) accountable for their actions. There are heaps of things you can do.
Leaning back, saying you are happy with things as they are, is not one of them. Because it gives the impression that all of this is normal, that this is as good as it gets, but it’s actually far from that.
We, the elite, the wealthy minority, we owe the world, at the very least, our voices, our occasional and cleverly directed disgust.
Maybe it’s time for soul searching. Maybe it’s time for outrage. Maybe it’s time for courage. Maybe it’s time for action.