Tuesday, 30 December 2008

entire generations living above their means

In the wake of the Second World War, the world was an economic nightmare.

Understandably. So some of the planet's greatest economic minds got together in a room, and after talking about their Ivy league education and how much their shoes cost them, they decided that the best way to rebuild the world's economy (and to make a lot of money in the process) was to fashion a culture where spending money became equal to looking good, feeling good, with our level of consumption generally justifying our place in society. A direct quote from Victor Lebow, one of the 20th centuries most revered economists goes:

"Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life. That we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever accelerating rate."

(I'm not sure if this was advice or critique. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall.)

Anyway, as this culture shaped itself into a massive consumption monster, our economic systems decided that in order to create EVEN MORE money, they would invest their money in stock market predictions that have recently failed to materialise. Banks created credit systems that meant people could have whatever they wanted, instantly - as long as they paid if back at a 35% interest rate, with no real substance to back up the money that they were lending people.

If we now look at the knock on effects of this credit-gone-crazy-we-don't-even-care-if-you-can't-pay-it-back-we'll-just-take-your-home environment, it is close to unbelievable.

Take for example, something as simple as a car. The streets are flooded with them. I'm 21-years-old and I've had three. Second hand pieces of shit, no doubt, but they are everywhere. However - take a look at the cost of these things.

It would not be a surprise for me to see a £24,000 price tag on a brand new, mid-range family car. However, in the UK, the average YEARLY wage falls just short of £23,000. Who do you know who can afford to pay for their car outright? Their home? Their 42-inch-HD-ready-sky-satellite-bluetooth-satnav-mobile television?

The fact is that it is very rare for the everyman to have this kind of disposable cash needed to live in the capitalism pipedream that has become our everyday lives. The basic foundations of Western living are now so expensive that everybody buys on credit - regardless of the amount they are paying back, or how long it takes them.

Because as long as we promise to work 9 hours a day and sit in traffic and watch television and make sure the 27 seperate payments are covered at the end of the month we can have all of the things that society tells us we need. We can look modern, and capable, and able. We can pretend like everybody else does that we can afford this shit. While we live in homes that are not paid for, surrounded by a whole host of bullshit that is costing you a collective £300 a month. Thus creating a society full of people who are living above their means. Just to keep up appearances.

We are drowning in luxury items and complaining that we do not have enough money. We are complaining about astronomic costs of food behind computer screens, over mobile phones, over the front garden fence to our neighbours...despite living in homes full of things that we are paying for that we do not need. It has become a social standard for us all to be spoilt beyond our parents wildest dreams, and their parents wildest dreams.

And the Western world finds the resources to build, sell, and eventually dispose of all of this irrelevant bullshit in the developing world.

It's just another of the things that humans are doing to not only fuck up the planet, but also to keep the world's wealth distribution where it is - at the expense of the environment, and people who are less well off.

But these things are now so far embedded into our lives, how will it ever change? I'm a hypocrit like everyone else.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

it's not about vegetarianism, it's about belief and conviction

Following a discussion about religion and it's various downfalls, the subject soon turned to the rather expansive topic of our lifestyles and why we follow them. My choice to become a vegetarian was immediately questioned when this topic started to take shape, and I was asked the question:

"Why are you a vegetarian?"

I answered the way I always answer. I said:

"If you are genuinely interested, I will absolutely have this conversation with you. If you're asking me because you actually want to know, I will tell you all about why I made the choice that I made. But if you're asking just so that you can make a feeble attempt at shooting me down with the same poorly-researched non-arguments that 90% of the Western population seem to think are valid reasons NOT to stop eating meat, I'd rather we didn't get into this discussion, just to avoid my anger and your embarrassment..."

Hostile, maybe. I suppose I'm just bored of being fed the same misconceptions that I am continually fed by people who seem to take personal offence at what I do not eat. (Seriously, you have so few problems that my choice not eat steak becomes a point of conflict in your life?) Anyway.

The question seemed to be genuine, and I reeled off the various reasons that convinced me to stop eating meat, and cut down on my dairy intake. Well researched pieces of information that are nothing less than fact.

And then, I was told: "As one person, not eating meat is going to make no difference at all. The industry will still continue. Animals will still be bred and killed for food, in the same way that they have been for years.

"Things might not be right, but they don't change. And one person isn't going to make a difference to that."

And that is when I thought, hold the phone.

What if Martin Luther King had thought that? What if Nelson Mandela had thought 'fuck it, this is going nowhere.' What if Issac Newton got bored of being called 'crazy' or 'delusional' and jacked in his research on modern physics and mechanics?

What if any of these monumental people decided that what they thought was wrong was never going to change and instead of taking the first steps in making a real change, they decided to do absolutely nothing?

All of these changes can never happen overnight. It takes generations for any real progress to be made, because of human inability to accept that what we are doing is wrong. It has been 45 years since King made his 'I Have A Dream' speech - and we still have racism and prejudice within the world. But the situation has changed massively because of the conviction of one man, and to dispute that would be flying in the face of fact.

I am in no way comparing my choice not to eat meat to being some kind of world-altering revolutionary. But I am saying that until we start doing instead of just talking, nothing will ever happen. As one person, no, I will not finish off the meat industry. But as part of thousands, in 30 years, things may start to swing in our favour.

Gandhi once said "You must be the change you want to see in the world" and think that there are few things less fitting than that very statement.

The world is moving forward man, it really is. So instead of resigning yourself to complete defeatism, why not try and push it in the direction you want to see it, in your own little way?

Otherwise, fuck it. What's the point in doing anything?

Thursday, 25 December 2008

The War Effort

Something I've written, currently lies here:


Happy holidays, whoever you are.