Wednesday, January 5, 2011

On Fighting the System

I see what my problem is. Thank you coffee shops and caffeinated bursts of free thought. It's all about the scale of things. We watch the news, and see terrible problems. We incorporate these problems into our lives, yet we have no power in the sphere of our living to do a damn thing about them; not unless we are hardcore activists, politicians, or involved within the field of a specific reported problem. Generally we donate a bit of money, or sign a petition, to make ourselves feel better, but it's largely ineffectual.

So, there is is. It sounds defeatist: "well, it's too big for me, what can I do? Guess I'll give up." But it's true for most of us, and there's nothing wrong with being real about it. Think how much energy it takes just to get by in life. Most of our lives are on the edge chaos, we can hardly manage them (exaggeration alert). It's good to be involved, but man, to take the weight of global warming, destructive farming practices, pollitical corruption and the swing toward fascism, religious hate, ethnic hate, racial hate, strip mining, clear cuts, and all the rest upon our shoulders... well, there's a reason they call us liberals "bleeding hearts." We must revel in agony, consoling ourselves that at least we feel bad about the genocide in Darfur, though we don't and can't actually do anything about it.

It's silly. Why waste all our energy and emotion on what we can have little or no effect on? I think it's better to focus our energies right where we are, in the scale of our lives. That may include donating money to a club or organization you favor, or being involved in other ways, true; I'm not saying it can't. But I'm all about localism, of "think globally act locally," but I mean really do it. Don't think about the huge global issues then mope around despairing over it. Kick in the TV, cancel the newspaper delivery, and just live your life well. Put your energy to work where it will do the most good: right here. Live at the human scale.

You can't fight tanks by throwing rocks at them. What you can do is take you attention elsewhere, live as if the tanks weren't there, kill them by ignoring them. Armed revolution would likely be a disaster: winning, we'd probably do no better, but we'd probably be crushed mercilessly. But what evil corporation can survive a sustained boycott? What government can survive once deemed irrelevant? The power that sustains these great systems comes from you and me, and nowhere else. And if we break from the trance of the supra-human scale, turn our backs permanantly and return to a focus on what's really here before us, and work simply to improve that, well, the whole will improve as a matter of course.

I mean that. There is no "whole," no such thing as a "nation," "state," "corporation," or "government" -- have you ever actually seen one? Of course not, they are imaginary mental constructs; over in reality, where I want to live, there are only individuals living their lives, via individual decisions. For example, there are no "vegetarians," there's just this person who isn't eating meat at this specific meal. The labels are useful shorthand, but to believe they are actually real is what has gotten us into this mess.

So alright, keep a finger on the pulse of events, but only one finger. Just live better. Starve the beast. Make choices to further your exit from the system. Bring this nightmare vision of globalism back to earth. It only exists in your mind, so stop giving it any mental attention. I believe this is the only peaceful route, and difficult; the beast will fight it like a starving lion. But eventually it will die, if we stay strong.

Eat, drink, and be merry

My other problem has been that I've been far too serious. I've lost my sense of humor about life. I must remember Death and it's great lesson: this too shall pass. Death, transience, allows us to relax in life. Not to disregard the suffering of others, but it puts things in perspective. This is, after all, a passing dream. What good does it do to live in despair the whole way through, over things beyond our control?

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a wrack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158
And didn't someone once say laughter is the soundtrack of the revolution? Laughter is immeasureable, truly a power. Yes, it's hard to find a balance between being concerned, as we are when we hear tragic things, and having a good time, laughing and enjoying life. Keep in mind, wallowing in despair doesn't help the ones wrapped up in the tragedies; they don't need our pity and our tears. What might help is to stop feeding into the system that brings such tragedy to their distant shores. You can only act where you are. I think this guy has the right idea, showing us what can be done, at the human scale:


  1. I like your blog, I have linked it to my own, though you may not like that. I'd like to have you over for tea some day. Chinese tea. Spring-picked Hangzhou tea.

  2. Thanks baroness. I'll link to yours (I don't think I get much traffic though). Tea would be nice, I'll swing by next time I'm in Hawaii. ;)