KAMPALA – If the responsibilities for the radical change that is necessary for us to survive and prosper as a species cannot be left to those in their cradle of power because their first priority is to preserve this power while change might upset “national interests”, hegemonic power structures and power relations, or the grip on power some individuals have, then who should we turn to but ourselves?
Wrapping up this series, in part IV, I put forward the statement that we are terrible at being responsible ourselves. Partially due to the same reason our authorities cannot address the global crises: we are way too comfortable in our lives, and a revolution might transform all we know. Secondly, the apathy of our modern age enables superficial consumption of ideology that allows us to ease the tension of what we know to be true. A symbolic gesture in the shape of charity, vegetarianism, buying organic food, volunteering (in Africa?!) makes us feel good about ourselves without changing our lives drastically.
I am of course familiar with the phrase that if you want to change the world, you should start with yourself, and there’s certainly some truth in that. Also, every small choice has an impact, so there is nothing wrong with buying organic food an sich. The problem lies with the fact that most people stop there because consumption of an ideology does not demand anything more of them. Pure idealism is comatose, I said.
Perhaps the best way to describe our modern lives is to say that we are trend-based. Our moral outrage is balanced on conjecture that depends on what is currently in the news. I imagine that the public outrage of companies drilling oil in the Arctic circle (in places that used to be nature reserves) has died out about now, with only a small number of activists still caring actively (because that’s what they do). These people, however, are a small minority and are not getting much done precisely because of what they are. Greenpeace launced one of their many in-your-face campaigns to make nature reservation “trending” the only problem being that a trend inevitable gets replaced by the next hot issue. We read some news items about Snowden every now and then, but the information he leaked is not considered important anymore by the public, although enough people care passively about their privacy.
In a way, there are too many issues and developments we should be concerned about, and by extent, care about: lack of political will and failing democracies, environmental disasters and polution, global warming, fresh and drinkable water, food production, population growth, increasing socio-economic inequality, immigration, clashes of cultures, alienation, xenophobia, unequal power relations between states, consumerism, exploitative capitalism, bankruptcy of modern culture, the decay of morality, terrorism, wars, nuclear energy, nuclear warfare, soil erosion, deforestation, intensive agriculture, neoliberalism, neo-imperialism and neo-colonialism, Orientalism, (…), (…), (…) …
There’s a saying that being surrounded by too many trees makes you not see the forest. That’s exactly what has happened, I reckon. Instead, political and public debate limits itself to what are considered fundamental political and ideological items: abortion, gay marriage, weed legalisation and broader drug policies, in addition to gross simplifications of security and immigration issues. In some countries, the most controversial item on the political agenda is universal healthcare (which to individuals who, like myself, were born in welfare states is beyond ridicule).
Although writers like Noam Chomsky have repeatedly asserted that the political realm routinely ignores some of these crises although public opinion indicates that there actually is concern about them, I do think that from the population’s perspective, the majority of people are just fine with not talking about them, especially because of the doom scenarios that loom over every conversation we have.
In actuality, some of these crises are deliberately used to scare people into submission and political and public debates on these issues are not at all solution-oriented. Rather, they instill anxiety and fear and are designed to rob you of your common sense and critical mind. Populist politics cry murder over some of these topics without adequately understanding the complexities or addressing them in any meaningful way.
So, if both the political realm with its power preservation concerns, and the public with their fears, anxieties, and consumption of ideology with superficial symbols, are incapable of being responsible for the future of humankind, then what is there left to do?
If you’re optimistic enough, like visionaries such as Russell Brand, with his increasingly popular videoblogs, are (although Brand, critical and informed as he may be, is sometimes a bit too *out there*), you can believe that people like you and me are courageous enough to move beyond the mundanity of consumerism and modern life, and realise a revolution. We need more revolutionaries, and those we have need to be bolder and more visible without scaring people into preferring ignorance over awareness. I, for one, am positive about human capacity for change, though hopeful about human capabilities, and skeptical about human willingness.
You may very well disagree with my analyses, and I would like to free up space for discussion. Anyone who would like to retort should feel free to do so, in the comment section below or alternatively as a guest blogger to whose post I will consequently respond. Contact me would you be interested.
The next series of blogs that will start soon(-ish) will be about gender relations, sexism, and feminism.