Joined: Jan. 2006
There are a variety of folks here so I have a question for you all, well, less "a question", more of a general enquiry. Imagine yourself as the individual target of this enquiry and answer accordingly.
Given that you are aware of current issues in the world, some historical context, some professional or technical areas of expertise, and at least the bare bones of psychology and sociology, how do you function? How do you live a "good" life (whatever that may mean)?
I haven't properly thought this through as a question yet so forgive my rambling, but I'll try to elaborate/explain. Taking a purely personal perspective, I am aware of, for example, my disposable income and its potential utility, or my choices of what to purchase and where. I could buy the "fairtrade" X (assuming the "fairtrade" credentials were as claimed) or the "green" Y (again assuming that the product was not greenwashed), but then I could also give my money to a charity, micro-loan foundation, or some such altruistic cause.
I am in the privileged position to have disposable income to some extent (vastly more than most people on the planet, much more vastly less than a few!), this isn't the case for everyone. I am assuming (perhaps wrongly) that my future is a) relatively stable, b) provided for in some modest fashion and that my current modest-ish-but-more-than-adequate lifestyle can be maintained. Hell, I HAVE a lifestyle, that beats, materially, what ~4 to 5 billion people on the planet have. I am lucky to be even able to consider this issue.
Unlike some of my more socially/politically conservative social circle, and unlike their more capitalist confrères, I can't simply use denial as a tool to excuse my actions. Or even pretend that Keynes never lived, or that trickle down economics actually works in isolation. For example, I accept that "global warming" is a set of processes aggravated by human activity based on the best science I am aware of. Just like I accept the theory of evolution as the best explanation of the development of life on this planet, and the best explanation for its diversity. The point here is not to argue the merits of any specific case, but to answer (I suppose) the question "I cannot unsee what I have seen, or unknow what I know, what do I do next?".
I am aware that to varying extents we are all hypocrites. I know, for example, that many electronic products are made in work environments that are dangerous for the workers. Workers who are paid sub-par wages and exploited to a greater extent than I am. The materials that go into these devices are typically either scarce, derived from environmentally damaging processes or themselves problematic in some fashion. Yet I still own a plethora of nice, shiny, top end devices, feel little guilt (perhaps rightly) for doing so and will buy more in the future.
I'm not looking for the standard knee jerk stupidity of the liberal hair shirt or the conservative denialist. Neither suffices. Nor am I looking for an excuse to continue as I have. I will not be basket weaving an iPhone out of a sustainable placenta and moving to a yurt, nor will I turn the stereo up in my Hummer to block the sounds as I crush the corpses of Chinese sweatshop workers by repeatedly backing over them. I am merely caught in a quandary about how to conduct myself in a world where I am increasingly aware that *I* am part of the problem to a greater extent than I am part of the solution. Whatever either the problem or the solution might be.
It is exceedingly annoying that whoever I pose this sort of question too (in shorter verbal form I confess) falls almost immediately into one of three almost stereotypical camps:
1) The uber-hypocritical (wealthy) metropolitan liberal who thinks that making their own muesli renders them ethically superior (gag me with an ethically sourced recyclable wooden foetus knitter).
2) The denialist capitalist/conservative who thinks the question of responsibility in matters economic is somehow anathema and that I am a commie for even thinking that there may be an alternative (pass me a rifle) .
3) The apathetic.
I almost have some respect for 3). If someone is apathetic or genuinely uninformed, or just stupid, that I have little problem with. Bear in mind also that, whilst I have tried to tune my descriptions to an American audience, I am coming from a very European outlook, so "liberal"/"conservative" etc may have wrinkles that aren't universal to all.
Have at it.
ETA: I think I should probably not mention this, but I will anyway. The issue that got me thinking about all of this, a couple of years ago, was feminism. Recalling epic instances of learned sexism in my past and facepalming myself practically unconscious was a big epiphany. I don't think I'm all the way "there" yet, wherever "there" is, on any issue. But I like to think I'm making the attempt and at least aware of my contributions to the problems as opposed to pretending it all has nothing to do with me.