activism, sustainability
Comments 26

You are not useless, but the society that tells you so is

I think what makes me the most sad to read on my Facebook feed is not the stories about how corrupt and useless politicians and corporations are. I already know that, most people know that. But to see how cruel and heartless ordinary people can be in the comment fields underneath these stories is depressing.

Our society, this system, is breaking down at record speed. Environmental destruction, economic collapse and massive overpopulation that leaves the value of human life near zero.

You don’t need a fancy degree to understand that a system which leaves this many people in poverty and despair is a flawed one. It is so disheartening to see so many so-called successful people call everyone else that isn’t at their level lazy and entitled. I just read an article about an immigrant boy with three degrees at age 25 cleaning toilets in a foreign land because his own country is in economic ruin due to the game of criminal bankers. And he is only one in millions. Millions. And most of the 200 comments said, “go home, we don’t need you. You are stealing jobs from our own youth,” and “that’s what you deserve for getting three useless degrees. Should have been a doctor.”

I think this level of cruelty and entitlement is a symptom of the decay of the system. I choose to believe that because I don’t want to live in a world in which people are just “bad”. I think people are scared but they don’t know it yet. Animals, including humans, are very intuitive. Sure, we like to hide behind logic but most important life decisions aren’t made from logic, such as choice of spouse and choosing this house over that house. And intuitively, we know that this system isn’t working and when it breaks down it will be every man and woman for him and herself. So maybe this cruelness is a way of preparing for survival.

944448_10151455763512680_697097293_nThe real tragedy is, of course, that we could change all of this in a couple of years. The knowledge is there, the technology is finally ready to unburden us of menial work. Today, it takes one farmer only one day to plant enough crops to feed a small town or village. Then he waits three months for the harvest. In the mean time, we could help each other build houses and learn crafts to enrich our minds. We could still probably watch TV because I know for a fact that most people who work in film love their jobs and would do it without the allure of monetary compensation. We could still have computers because I know a lot of people who build computers from scratch as a hobby, with no financial gain. We probably wouldn’t spend so much time in traffic watching our lives go by or most of our waking hours in a stuffy office that belongs to someone else wondering what is the meaning of life, because I don’t know too many people who enjoy that.

The only thing standing in our way is the collective story that we tell ourselves about how life should be.

We are living by rules set by faceless men who run banks and oil companies in faraway offices. Have you noticed how selective the concept of fairness is to most people? I think most people consider themselves pretty moral. If you commit a crime, like robbing a store or hurting another person, you deserve to be punished. But try to debate the inherent unfairness of land ownership, which is now only attainable through massive sums of money or family inheritance, and people look at you like you are crazy. How fair is it that every acre of this planet was distributed to people hundreds of years before I was born? Through no fault of my own, I was born onto a planet which has no space for me unless I agree to sign away 30 years of my life in servitude so I can pay for a crumbling house in a crumbling economy. That is, of course, after I spent 20 years in school to get an education that old people now like to tell me is useless and I should have known better than to pursue it in the first place.

Collectively, older people always fear younger generations. I think it is natural. When you are approaching sixty and you realize you spent your life playing by the rules in return for your little slice of heaven, whether that is a house, a career or family, it seems fair that everyone else should also play by the same rules while you are finally reaping the benefits of a life well played. Seems fair.

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But then the rules changed and they didn’t tell us. This was very, very deliberate. Other than to the very rich, the economy is an illusion. The value of a house is 30 years of hard work? Please. You can build a very decent house by yourself in six months. People did that for centuries. Sure, it probably won’t have six bedrooms and five bathrooms but unless you live with extended family, you don’t really need that. And if you do, they can help you build it. The value of work has plummeted, the value of playing games on a computer has sky rocketed. A Wall Street CEO recently got a billion dollars bonus in addition to his ordinary salary of tens of millions. For what? Probably not for helping to build houses, or assure access to clean water or maintain biodiversity. You know, the stuff that actually matters.

benlaw4

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So this is my promise to every single person who has been told, or made to feel, as though their existence is “useless”. In the only future that this planet can possibly have, there is a place for you. Your unique talents and skills will be crucial to rebuilding this planet.

Every part of this decaying system will have to be redesigned for the very simple reason that if we do not, we will perish. Whether that end will be natural (extreme weather, disease or starvation due to loss of biodiversity such as bees) or man-made (nuclear disaster, toxic food, pollution or good old fashion war) is hard to say but the solution is pretty simple. Scale back, cut consumption, grow healthy, strong, self-reliant communities wherever you are in the world. Grow a garden. Grow happiness. Grow mindfulness. The more you grow from within the less you need from external sources.

It’s going to be a while for the shopping malls to go away, for people to realize the madness of single-use anything, and for people to stop hurting so much inside that their fear manifests outwardly as cruelness. So until then smart, beautiful people will be forced to clean toilets, work eighteen hours shifts in sweatshops for a dollar a day and millions of hours will be wasted every day while successful citizens sit in traffic.

If you agree with this message check out my guide for 10 Steps to a Sustainable Life.

I would love to hear your ideas and how you try to live more sustainable in the comments.

26 Comments

  1. Shery Alexander Heinis says

    Profound and thoughtful article. I’ve many thoughts on this, but I can’t share all on this very public forum. Indeed, our world is at a crosswords. I think many people believe that financial resources will inure them from the troubles ahead. I will definitely read 10 steps to a sustainable life. I look forward to reading much more of your shared wisdom.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I think by downsizing and living more sustainable a lot of people will find the time for more autonomy in their life – to make their own decisions regarding how they want to live their life. Global capitalism right now has us enslaved in a very specific way of life. Yes, we can choose between 30 types of breakfast cereals but most people aren’t able to afford to choose meaningful work that enhance their quality of life. So hopefully this decline will eventually bring about a positive and democratic revolution.

  2. A post that had so much common sense in it that I reread it and now would like to paste it (enlarged to a large board on my back) and make people young and old read it.
    Life in Ireland at the moment sucks – we spent the first forty years of our lives working hard, saving every penny and now we discover we would have been better off to drink or squander it. Thank you for your post, it gave me hope

    • I’m sorry to hear that life is hard in Ireland at the moment. Seems like it’s that way most places, and if not, they are heading there. I still find it hard to believe that 2/3 of US households live paycheck to paycheck because everyone around me just seems so comfortable, but it’s probably just an illusion. Put the situation in the right perspective and it seems mind-boggling to be living in such an advanced technological age, yet still the old feudal system is alive and well, underneath the small comforts of TV, internet and fast food. The only way I can get through life now is focusing on the change and be part of the change that is coming one way or the other, because history is always changing :)

      Thank you so much for your sweet words in this comment. It really brightened my day to be allowed to share some thoughts with you.

  3. Pingback: Thoughts | Like Animals – Toxicity in People Part 1 | Nothing At All

  4. I’m so glad you stopped by my blog. Each any every one of your posts are so uplifting and honest. You show that despite the rules our society thinks we MUST live by, there is still hope for the greater good in our world. This is the goal I strive for in my life and my work, and it is thrilling to read an article on the topic from a talented writer such as yourself! Thanks for being you!

  5. “Grow a garden. Grow happiness. Grow mindfulness. The more you grow from within the less you need from external sources.”

    THIS RIGHT HERE.

    This article, your spirit, your words, your light. I am so moved by this piece, Joey. This is exactly where my mind and soul are at this moment.

    I am one of the people sitting in very deep contemplation about my place in the world, what I’m giving, what I’m taking, and what needs to be realigned in my own spirit to help the world. I’ve been blinded by society for far too long – wake up time, love!

    I’m humbled you visited my blog and I’m so glad you did!

    It was a welcome invitation to read your inspiring, straight up truthful words, too.

    Peace to you,

    Allison

    • Thank you so much for this comment, Allison! I’m so humbled to receive your words!

      I still re-visit this piece from time to time because I definitely feel useless sometimes since I don’t have a lot of the things that this society place such value on. But I’m actively working on re-writing my story and for the most part I’m very happy with what I’ve got and I feel so blessed to be exactly where I am in life. It’s so good to hear from others on the same journey and I wish you the best of luck. Hopefully we can stay in touch through our blogs :)

      xx Joey

      • I’m secretly on Twitter, haha, don’t tell anyone ;) thank you for tweeting my post, I’m always super excited when my humble blog scores a share on social media!

      • Haha, I totally know what you mean about Twitter! I only just got out there recently and it is such a wild scene. I’m having fun with it and just taking it for what it’s worth, I know it’s a good deal of noise but it’s also a fun outlet for those 140 character thoughts (whatever happens to them I’m not really sure!).

        But I really enjoy sharing articles that move me so I wanted to put your good stuff out there! :)

      • I totally see why a lot of people love Twitter because it’s so quick and easy, but I think I’m just too wordy for it – I can never fit what I want to say in 140 characters! And I’m pretty compulsive and it bugs me that I can’t keep up with my feed so I had to stop trying. I thought internet etiquette was 1-2 posts a day but on Twitter 20 posts in a row is acceptable?? Blasphemy, haha :)

      • Blasphemy, indeed! 100% agree. And it is so great to hear someone thinking considerately about internet etiquette! Good for you for sticking to what works for you – love that. If you wanted to check out a discussion on the topic I wrote a post called “Twitter Feed or Fed Up” – the comments were very enlightening! Don’t you just love how much we learn from our readers? I can tell you cherish yours and that makes it so lovely to be-friend a fellow blogger who honors – and speaks – the truth! :)

  6. Hi Joey! I love your blog- it’s nice to read something refreshing, convicting and uplifting all at once. You’ve made me want to write better posts myself actually!
    I love your focus on inward living and relying less on external sources- that is what I’m trying to do with my garden! :) So much fun!

    • Thank you so much for your comment Michaela! It really brightened up my day – I’m so happy you found my blog.

      Your garden looks amazing! I’m not at a stage in my life where I have my own yet, but since I started studying sustainability it’s become number one on my dream list :) It is such a simple yet fantastic way to take more control over your life and feel connected to all living things. I’m definitely subscribing to your blog to follow your journey!

  7. Katherine says

    This is still one of my all time favorite pieces that you’re written. I’m so happy you take the time to put your brilliant ideas into words to share with the world. I know for a fact you’ve changed my outlook on many topics. I’ve learned so much from you during our friendship, and I’m excited because I know I’ll learn more. I want this to be a model for my life. I want a garden ;-)

    • That means so much to me Katherine! I value our friendship so much and you have definitely taught me to not accept so much bullshit from others and stand up for myself more, and now I feel a lot stronger as a person. I want you to have a garden too so I can come visit! <3

  8. This is by far one of the best pieces of writing I have read in years. A thousand thanks to you Joey. Thanks for continuing to write, sharing your revelations, and providing more light, hope and beauty to a world that is so desperately grasping for it on the daily. Peace, love, respect and happiness always :D

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