Posted by: Scott | November 24, 2010

A Real New World Order, in Three-Part Harmony: Part II – Sharing Over Greed

The biggest shopping days of the year are almost upon us, as well as Buy Nothing Day, an attempt by some to restore sanity to our consumption-driven lives. In  case you didn’t know, Buy Nothing Day this year in North America is November 26th. If you succeed in doing what the name says, I’d like to hear how you managed to buy nothing. It’s not as easy as it seems, but it’s worth a try.

Why do we consume, even when we know we usually don’t have to? Probably, because some really good marketing people have convinced us that we can’t possibly do without that fast food/car/perfume/whatever. (Actually, I can do without the perfume!) And nearly all of us give in to it often enough to keep the capitalist system going well beyond its “best before date”. The people behind the magazine Adbusters and Buy Nothing Day point out that marketers are really good at tapping into our our insecurities, particularly that of going without. Fear, it could be said, produces greed. 

When someone is free of fear, they can follows more creative pursuits. Like art, travel, fostering good relations with family and friends, or writing blog posts!

But, when some people going without, or fear going without, they tend to hoard what they have, and find it difficult to share with others. This of course makes sense with food, but money also affects people this way. My Dad, a product of the 1930’s Depression, is one of those people. And once someone has gone without money, and the ability to obtain what they need or want, they can get mean and greedy. They leave behind a part of their inner humanity.

It has been said that “When you share, you recognize God in your brother.”** What does that mean in a consumption-driven society? By deciding to share, you recognize that that person’s well-being – spiritual and physical –  is just as important as yours. 

Here’s an example. Say a homeless person comes up to you and asks you for change. What usually happens next in our minds is a process of rationalizing why we should not give them any of our hard-earned money. (Don’t worry. I struggle with this dilemma, too.) They might be addicted to drugs, we think, and all we are doing helping them get their fix. That might be true, but do we actually know that for certain? And, who the Hell are we to judge someone else’s behaviour or needs? 

Would it not be proper to put uourselves in their shoes for a moment, and try to understand the world from their perspective; understand how we would feel and act if we were homeless, regardless of how we ended up that way?

If we believe in freedom of the individual, we must also believe that, by judging someone we take away their freedoms, including the freedom to make a mistake. After all, how do we learn but by (often repeatedly) making mistakes?

Back to the homeless person, and the dilemma of sharing. If we freely choose not to share, that is our right, but with that right come a degree of responsibility for that other person’s actions. (As mentioned in the previous post about fear and trust, we aren’t really separate from each other. I’ll expand on this notion in the next post.) By not sharing, we reduce or elimenate the choices, the freedom to choose, that that homeless person has. Homeless people too often end up addicted – when the help of others could have prevented their descent into despair- in jail, or on a morgue slab, all of which cost us in taxes. So you see, by saying “no” to someone’s request for help, we aren’t really letting ourselves of the hook. We are, in fact, merely delaying the onset of our collective responsibility.

Again, I’m not claiming to any angel of mercy here; I struggle with these decisions, too. What I hope I’m saying is that if we really want to act like responsible human beings, we have to acknowledge that our rights bear responsibilities that we too often forget, and that our consumption-focused business, governance and media environment are all too happy to help us indulge.

How do we change? Maybe we could start by helping out at a local soup kitchen this winter, or by giving away some of those clothes that we haven’t worn for… years? Better yet, send a message to our so-called leaders in the political economy by “buying nothing” on November 26th, and sharing some of our earnings with someone truly in need. Let me know how you do.

** Excerpt from message #82 (September 18, 1979), by Maitreya the Christ. Read the full message (and others) at:

http://www.share-international.org/maitreya/messages/message_82.htm

They can make you think of world events in a whole different way!

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