Category Archives: Media

Blinders and Distractions – September 22, 2014

nature02Ultimately, I want to save the world, but who doesn’t? The bewildering array of problems that need fixing would make Gandhi throwing up his arms in disgust. Where does one begin? In the early 2000s, my initial focus took on global warming as it was called in a lost age. Now monikered climate change, a more all-embracing expression, it looms over us like a snake on a hypnotized hamster.

What are we to do? Distract ourselves with some talent shows and YouTube videos? My studies indicate that this is the main source of our psychic problem. This instrument infests the mind with commercial drivel, surrounds us with archaic Madison Avenue graffiti, and wears down our sense of self-worth with unobtainable values. This blend brews a whole lot of discontent, making these people targets to even more invasive material.

How does this relate to climate change? Consumerism. The amount of energy that we waste, namely petroleum, to buy items with tyrannosaurus-sized carbon footprints that are designed to break down or go out of style in a month or two is choking us out. I’m talking about pollution. Not only in the waste which we toss into the landfill, but the resources required to gather and process the materials. Followed by the most-likely overseas transport before trucking it inland, the tally refuses to end. All of it is driven by the commercial detritus that leads us to forsake our character for our appearance.

There’s a purpose to all this. The economy must grow no matter what stands in its way, behaving much like a tumor. The rules are written so that every incorporated industry must grow larger every year. If not, they are fined because pissing off the investors is a no-no. How does it grow? By decreasing the consumer’s willpower, tickling their emotions, and instilling a sense of ‘MUST HAVE.’ This is where the corporate heads turn to Mr./Ms. Madison Ave to create the right lure to pull in the greatest amount of fish. While this once was the basic television commercial, they now have more covert methods to delivering their virus.

Commercial culture has ransacked our values, having us believe that we need to be driving near-illegal sport cars and wearing jewellery that could budget a small village’s needs for a year. The need for bling erodes not only our values, but our bank accounts. Now let’s be clear. Our money is our lifeblood, what we toil our time and lives over. In olden days, our earnings were meant to reflect our legacy. Something to pass on to the children. Now we have let our cars, accessories, and property define us. Are we seeing the problem here?

We’re ensnared in a trap, and it does all it can to keep us from reaching fulfillment. Have you ever felt buyer’s regret? You get home and within a couple of hours or days you’re feeling like maybe it wasn’t the best idea. Then something better comes up and we pounce on it like it was something precious.

In this age of self-gratification, where is there room for community? You know, taking part in activities that are outside of your circle of close associations? There are parts of the world out there that require your participation. The world isn’t going to run itself.

What if, when people thought of you, images of something you’ve done and stood up for come to mind rather than what model of car you have? Half of us can’t be bothered to vote. When’s the last time you volunteered? Offered help? Even something as simple as making someone smile can make a difference.? I’ll let you in on a secret: The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

As I dug deeper into the marketing operations, I found that they were targeting our kids and building up a ‘pester power’ for everything from toys up to vehicles. They corralled in psychologists to determine the best way to push the ‘consumer’ button, and the economy blossomed like a nuclear mushroom cloud. The effects were quite similar.

To make all the consumables, resources must be dug up from somewhere. To put those things together and sell so cheaply, the labor must be even cheaper. Their ‘cost-effective’ manufacturing is often environmentally frowned upon in ‘developed’ countries, but ‘developing’ countries are more than willing to take part in the corporate plunder. Oddly, this is also happening in Canada, and we’re ‘developed’.

While these practices take their toll on the environment, the effects ripple to consequences on our health. We have particulates in our air and water, and chemicals subtly destroying the life below our feet. When these end up on our bodies, either through direct exposure or in our food, the results are dismal. And that’s only from the produce.

Our meat and poultry live lives of misery to appease our palettes. Antibiotics have become a precautionary measure, becoming a part of the animal’s nutritious breakfast (lunch, and dinner.) They still get sick, and that spreads fast when you spend day-to-day shoulder-to-shoulder with your neighbour. The feed is literally garbage, and this practice extends to what we feed our pets. None is properly regulated. Our institutes have failed us.

All of these chemicals and drugs filter to our food, and there is no way to extract it before it sizzles on our grills. Add a side of chemically-drenched vegetables, smothered in chemical concoctions from a bottle. In between, we nibble on artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners that tax the body even further. What does this do to our minds? It’s not pretty.

There has been a movement towards limiting these chemical supplies in our food. I tried some of the improved formulas and they ruined my childhood. When I studied into where these amazing tastes came from, I gagged. Our minds may be saying strawberry, but the internal organs are saying WTF? Why would we have a problem with eating these items? It involves evolution. Our bodies were built up and nourished by natural foods, whereas these chemical additives began the invasion in the early 1900s, starting with refined sugar.

Coinciding with our chemical intake were rising disease statistics. Much of what sickens us comes from our body’s inability to properly synthesize what we eat. Some get stored, and some get excreted, but the whole time our body is confused by this alien entity.

When it gets stored in our bodies, it goes to the liver or fat cells, which itself should be harmless. All these chemicals have been proven safe in a human environment. The problems arise when these chemicals cross each other in the storage units. Chemicals have ways of reacting with each other, let alone that some metabolize into carcinogens when they first take a seat. From this, obesity and disease result.

We’ve been getting sicker from our food and medical miracles, aside from many other lifesaving technologies that have undoubtedly helped. Fortunately, another arm to this chemical culture has come to the rescue. For a price. For every illness, Big Pharma has a fix. They can control everything from our cholesterol to our thoughts. Have you ever wondered what got us to this place? Perhaps we’re taking better pre-emptive care of our vehicles than of our bodies. Why do we so devalue ourselves? Who feeds these standards into our minds?

A large part of the problem begins when those food chemicals scoot past the blood-brain barrier. That barrier’s in place to keep poison from entering our brain, yet our confused body has let some pass. As a worrying aside, other chemicals are out there wreaking havoc on our hormones, and they control almost all of the body’s processes. As for those renegade brain invaders, there are a whole slew of different chemical concoctions to soothe those mental ills. The overall understanding of how the brain operates is incomplete, but Big Pharma feels what they offer is…good enough? I questioned if they really wanted us to get well.

The financial reality told me no. To truly cure the patient is to put a bullet to the head of the consumer. If sales ended because the cure was no longer needed, the whole system would crash. So, what about the institutions that are supposed to be protecting us? These government-funded agencies are like beaver dams trying to stop a glacier.

They were put in place to stop the snake-oil salesmen. They successfully kept their reign on the drug industry. Then the profit motive stepped in. Soon there weren’t enough funds to oversee the thousands of chemicals produced each year. The tables soon turned, and funds were needed from the developers; a fee that soon became the agency’s budget. When you become reliant on your funders, you tend to let certain rules bend. All of this done to the appeasement of the almighty stock holders. Now we have puppet regulations, put together in cooperation with the industries. These rules are supposed to protect the public’s health and well-being, yet the profit motive conflicts with this ideology.

These same industries make billions of dollars by making us sick and then treating us for it. The only time the public becomes aware of a problem is when the media issues a recall. Food tampering, explosive motors, and food-borne bacteria make for painful headlines. Deadly drug side effects, even worse. Sometimes.

Before the public is acknowledged, the accused is obscured behind some public relations fluff, softening the blow to the industry. This fluff is then provided for free to the media, and they swallow it up and spit it back at the public in an either light-hearted or panic-inducing way. The number of deaths matter. Panic is really a big part of the media backbone.

Fear creates doubt, it perpetuates a false sense of urgency, it makes us tuck our heads in our shells, it focuses our hopes on the storm blowing over. There is no plan on what to do after the storm passes. Fear prevents us from taking part in the real world, as our personal hopes for our world are constantly placed in jeopardy and require our constant surveillance. Fear prevents us from stepping beyond our self-contained world, from reaching out and giving what we have as gifts. Rather, we take and hoard our possessions, ‘the meaning of me’, and cage it up in case someone comes and takes it. Call it another symptom of consumerism, I call it paranoid narcissism.

Sorry, that’s getting bitter. What I’m getting at is that this isn’t us. This isn’t the behaviour of a superior civilization. I started off talking about saving the world and climate change. Somehow I’ve gone into the psychological effects of commercialism. How to reconcile this? To start, climate change is the resulting accumulation of each and every one of our actions, and there are seven-plus billion of us inhabiting this planet.

We are wasteful. A light left on by one is hardly considered a waste, but when one percent of seven billion do this, that’s still 70 million lights left burning. And how likely is it that only one percent has this habit? Granted, not all seven billion have electricity and that’s not a good thing either. How grateful should we be for this electric culture we’re in? Sadly, it is nothing more than background noise; a part of modern life. These engrained habits, this loss of wonder, has left us in a state of hyperstimulated burnout. It’s no wonder so many of us flock to the flatscreen. We need the distraction.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not your fault. The food’s been playing tricks on your brain, the drugs to treat that are adding icing to the glazed problem. And the media that we’ve been depending on is in cahoots with the industries that are poisoning us. It’s a tough prison to break free from. You may notice I didn’t speak about politics. I hoped to keep this brief.

So how do I save a world in such dire straits? For one, I stay open to chance meetings out in the real world. I went out and started a group called Community Minds. It didn’t accomplish much, but I haven’t counted it out. Everything’s a process for me.

That’s the second part: Always be open to whatever’s presented to you. Within limits, of course. I’m not talking about anything extreme, but of those moments that peak your curiousity. If your first thought is, I haven’t don’t that before, then try it. On the other end of the spectrum, when you’re worried about something that might be, ask yourself: Is there anything I can do about it right now? If yes, do something. If no, drop it for the time. Don’t waste your energy.

I suppose if I wanted to save the world, I’d would get everyone to eat better. Take back your health. Treat your body with the same reverence you do your car engine. You don’t wait for it to break down before taking it in to the garage. We get tune-ups and oil changes. Our bodies are no different. Clear out the toxins, go on a fast food fast. Drop processed foods from your menu and see if it makes a difference. I’m not saying go cold turkey, because I sure didn’t. But I don’t eat junk food like I used to and I feel great.

So turn off the computer, go outside and find someone to have a conversation with. Help mow someone’s lawn, move furniture. Be a Boy (or Girl) Scout. Eat right. Read good books. Gaze at nature’s beauty. Regain a sense of wonder and the bling will lose its appeal. Life is too short to worry about the future or fret about the past when there’s so much change going on around you. Expose your spirit through the vehicle you’re given, connect with others and build that network of change. Perhaps someday it will intersect with mine.


Connections – August 28, 2013

community04 I have a dream, and hope that I’m not the only one. I see a world reactive to civilization’s events, but lack the conviction, drive and motivation to create the circumstances that would allow us to thrive. On a daily basis, we negotiate three separate realms: The internal and mental machinations; the economy, the lifeblood of our society; and, the culture that we interact with. All affect each other.

Our thoughts, feelings, and instincts come from within. Our brain tells us what we sense, reminds us of what we know, and alerts us to what the body wants. Unfortunately, we don’t always understand what it’s telling us. Worsening the situation, we are knocked senseless by our food and drugs, both becoming more synthetic by the day.

Fuelling our mind and body, food and drugs determine which lens we view the world through and how clear those concepts are. Sadly, our view has become distorted with false and biased information, and we are failing to thoroughly question what’s being presented on our plates and in our prescriptions. Complexity further blurs the path to proper development, to the point where the basics, like eating, can no longer be straightforward and it seems that every bite we take will have dire consequences.

At the external end of the equation, the complexities multiply as the line between needs and wants becomes less obvious. The fantastic is replaced by the mundane, as imagination takes the backseat to bureaucracy, and innovation becomes a childhood dream. Our values are set on an economic treadmill, where our worth is in our bling and our values reflected in our media consumption. Everything we require has a price, making our health, education and social needs anything but universal.

Our treatment to others rebounds in a likewise way. Have you ever had that day when you’re unable to shake off the misery and seem to find it in everyone you pass? The worst form comes as prejudice, a sort of extreme disdain. This negativity feeds upon itself, whereas positivity builds itself in a constructive way. The good day reflects itself as much as the bad.

Our democracy has been pirated by industry lobby groups, demanding payback for the political donations, usually for things that the public opposes. What power can a citizen attain in such a lopsided world? Cynicism breeds in such perfect conditions. What is one to do? Asking good questions is a start.

As we improve our physical and mental wellbeing, we must also attend to how we interact with our culture and environment. As our social strife and the environmental misbehaviour reveal, effects run both ways. What we do to our environment reflects the behaviour back at us. Have you ever failed to notice just how messy your room doesn’t seem until you need to find something? Our attitude towards the environment is very similar, where we are cogs in a much larger machine and our actions are but a ripple in the overall butterfly effect of environmental devastation.

The complexity that binds our mind, body, culture and economy is the natural ecology, where geography informs us when enough is enough and the environment reveals the power of its amplifier feedback. This is a question of international proportions. Whether it’s nuclear power gone wild, or raking away entire biospheres to feed the world’s richest; it’s those who neighbour the devastation, and rarely the culprits, who face the feedback. How could this be destroyed if we didn’t support it? Why do we support them? We don’t need a global economy to survive. There are other options.

This apathy empowers the industries that have the most to lose. As the economic landscape shifts, the older generation who gained the most has started losing ground. Cycling in more ‘political donations’ for them to maintain their grasp and kick away the competition, their fight to maintain the status quo has stifled society’s progression. If the system allows this bullying to continue, the system must be changed.

The mass of society empowers the institutions. Our wages and debt form the economy, and keep the industrial powers at the top. While the banks and corporations reap the rewards, we inject our lifeblood of time, indentured to the end, and sometimes beyond. Being good economic citizens has not improved our situation. It doesn’t need to be this way. We can break free of the dream to ‘make it big’. How about, instead, we aim to make it broad. Rather than becoming iconic, we aim to be effective?

Our culture grows on the structure of its institutions. Education, science, democracy and our values are all based on our interaction with them. Unfortunately we see them as too big for us to have any influence. We have stepped away from the controls and refuse to step back into the command position. The plague of capitalisum has crept in and injected its imperative into our cultural values.

Now we educate to conform rather than unleash creativity. Our education must shift from drone manufacturing into creating imagination machines. The recall of facts has no importance to anyone without effectively synthesizing it into the bigger picture. Rather than climb to heights of innovation, our education forces us into silos to help dig out the reductionist roots.

The economy has helped slant science away from the whole and fractured it into reductionism. The holistic picture becomes ever more complex, like putting together a puzzle where the pieces keep breaking apart. Now they’re unable to figure out why Nature’s results are greater than the sum of her parts. Pride magnifies animosity between specialties, nailed down to a chain of debt, stifling open-minded intercommunication. Life has too many unknowns for reductionists to acknowledge that it exists since it can’t be synthesized.

The first order of duty is to restore your health. Question the food you eat and drugs you take. The only one to look after your health is yourself, and if what you eat is frequently advertised then you may be causing yourself a whole lot of damage. Open a book and research the information. Question your doctor on what you’re prescribed, and investigate dietary changes that have proven very effective with many ailments. Never, however, go cold turkey on your prescriptions as this could do more harm than good. Alternative therapy exists, but tread carefully. And exercise should be a given.

Once the body’s physical inputs are purified, it’s time to put the mental house in order. The best approach is to reach out to others rather than to tough it out, though going alone has certain advantages as well. Though given a recent backlash, spirituality, and not necessarily an organized religion, is recovery’s best backer. Having a belief system in place will help combat the onslaught of cynicism. A belief is not your own, but a trait shared with a group that holds similar hopes. Hope drives us to the finish line, at times opposing all odds of success. With the power of this group, hope is possible. This is your community.

Rather than injecting your lifeblood solely into paying off debts and gadget-hunting, invest it in your community and reinvigorate that sense of hope. Social action and volunteerism are the quickest way to re-incorporation. But being involved must go beyond the cause and have a holistic sense of each action’s impact on the social ecology. This requires co-operation between all of the aid societies and it can evolve the social structure.

The bad news for the capitalist banking system is that sustainability works best with a local economy, not a global one. Local means supporting credit unions, using local dollars, or participating in a time bank system, to name a few. Numerous communities have succeeded and prospered on such alternate systems. A sustainable economy focuses on business conduct, product choice, food security, and responsible development. We must support social entrepreneurism, people and organizations working to better the social landscape through business and political means.

The sense of community requires a close analysis of how we relate to it. How do social conditions affect you? Where do you place yourself against the elite? What sense of interdependence do you feel with the environment around you? What sense of guardianship do you witness? It’s never too late to get involved, whether you stand for justice, a cause or institutional change. There are people out there working on it, and they need your help, be it donations or your time.

The best part is, we can make the changes we want because they are all human creations and we have a whole civilization of brilliance and passion that can make it happen. We can rationalize the complexities, gauge the probabilities, and create the kind of community that we can proudly hand over to our children. Overall, I probably could have shortened this to: Treat your body well, and then the world.

Consumption Gumption – April 21, 2008

“The means by which we have outdistanced the ends for which we live, our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the era of instant gratification, solving our sustainability issue is like kicking the ball forward each time we attempt to pick it up. It keeps getting pushed further down the road. Defeated, the resolve to create a better world is numbed and instead we have focused on ourselves. The commercially-promised happiness is as elusive as the brief satisfaction of ownership.

The cost of consumerism has not been rewarding. We have been mesmerized with unnecessary wants, and relieved with a side order of short-lived consumables. Our consumer culture places blinders on us, preventing any glimpse of hope that exists outside our personal space. Our participation in the ecological havoc has become as harmful as that of the industries excavating raw materials. We are encouraged to make ourselves feel better rather than make the world feel better; this also makes the economy feel better.

From birth to our final descent, our lives are caged in by the insanity of capital growth. We support the capitalists with our life-exhausting dollars, making our contribution to a bigger and more expensive economy. The corporate dinosaurs, already too top-heavy not to tumble, have been living on a tax-subsidized life support system and resuscitated with bailouts. Our social policies are tied to the industries’ will, weakening our rights to economic gains. If we view our spending habits as our vote in the ‘democracy of economics’, each dollar should demand and show support for responsible corporate behaviour.

Nature’s relevance has taken a back seat to this delusion: “Economic vitality will take society towards prosperity.” When the resources run out, what will the growth feed on? Growth without limit is cancerous, and the economy is no different. Our unhindered development will continue until we get our consumptive obsessions under control. The destruction begins with the industry’s extraction, but continues with our support.

Oscar Wilde asks, “What is a cynic?  A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Nature can grow back, but financial growth needs fostering. Our products, created with built-in economic deficiencies, always leave room for improvement to guarantee further growth for the producer. Termed ‘planned obsolescence’, industry growth is based on short-lasting products that are replaced or upgraded frequently[1]. Rather than make products that can be recycled back through the industrial process, more than 90% of our disposables end up at the landfill; a cradle-to-grave cycle[2].

A proper functioning product won’t break down nor need upgrading; this is economically inefficient in the market of growth. As William McDonough and Michael Bruangart state in Cradle to Cradle (2002), “to eliminate the concept of waste means to design things – products, packaging, and systems – from the very beginning on the understanding that waste does not exist[3].” Cradle to Cradle uses the concept of eco-efficiency, where industry and the system of growth replenish, restore and nourish the rest of the world[4]. We must demand what we want for products: clean, sustainable and repairable.

Our energy use, emissions, and global living standards are draining our resources and mutating our atmosphere. Each year the average middle-class family has four million pounds of material moved, mined, extracted, shoveled, burned, wasted, pumped, and disposed of to feed their manic consumption[5].  Even more shocking: To keep up with the West, developing countries are destroying themselves in their attempt to live the way we do. However, their population is frighteningly larger than ours. We must lead by example and curb our unbridled spending. We must show others how life should be, rather than what the West has done.

Our interconnection with the natural world becomes more obvious each day as we are ravaged by earthquakes, floods, oil spills and health pandemics. Our treatment of the Earth has left her no choice but to bite back. The only remedy is to reduce our impact on Nature, and work with rather than against her. With plenty of alternatives for running our world, their current relevance depends on how well they fit with the current economic framework. When industry claims that cleaner techniques are not economically viable practices, then we must change the system so we can embrace these products.

No rule states that smarter production will reduce our selection. In Biomimicry: Innovations Inspired by Nature, Janine Benyus describes this new science as “the conscious emulation of life’s genius.[6]”  Biomimicry researchers are looking for ways to produce our materials without needing a high input of energy. Examining plants, animals and minerals, they are creating materials and processes that, for example, can replace our dependence on petrochemical plastics with biodegradable, long-lasting natural polymers. Biomimetic processes require less machinery and use materials that can either be returned to their place of origin, or broken down and reused in another production process.

In the age of speed, instant gratification is the sole reward of our consumer actions. Occupied by mindless entertainment and celebrity gossip, our hope has relied on our credit card going through. Wading through the glut of waste peddlers, we move further away from improving our social environment. We strive for an unreachable happiness.

How long does something sit on the shelf before the reason for purchasing it is forgotten?  How long have you owned something to be admired before you needed that next best thing?  Emotional contentment will not come through our possessions.

German film director Gottfried Reinhardt is quoted, “Money is good for bribing yourself through the inconveniences of life.”  All this insatiable craving breeds stress and health problems: We work too much, owe too much, and want too much. We are working, on average, a full month more each year than they did in 1969[7]. We’re cutting our vacation time so we can pay for the stuff we have on credit; our stuff is cutting into our fun time, too.

When did the madness begin? When did we forget Nature’s importance and shut ourselves off in our homes?  The Cleavers showed us everything that life could offer; we can blame our consumption addiction on the Beaver.  In Affluenza, John de Graaf reports how, since commercial television’s grand entrance in 1957, the average level of happiness in Western countries has been in a steady free fall[8]. This is what an intellectual diet of fear, conspiracies and one-liners will do to you.

American journalist Sidney J. Harris once wrote, “A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from his past; he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.” We have tranquilized our ambition, eroding a social ravine and filling it with our commercial waste.

Media viewership has rewired our social circuitry. Television is miraculously efficient for the marketing industry, providing twenty-four hour access to that obsessively selfish little nub in our psyche.

The thirty-second commercial spot costs the same amount to produce as the twenty-minute sitcom being sponsored. Spending $10,000 per second producing commercials, companies are luring us to buy all things that we didn’t ask for[9]. The $217-billion-a-year advertising industry has been growing at “a rate more than twice the average rate of the economy as a whole[10].” It pays to mangle our minds. Applying their psychological know-how and technological wizardry, we are dazzled into unleashing our credit.

Philosopher Arnold Schopenhauer (1788-1860) once said, “Man never feels the want of what it never occurs to him to ask for.” The airwaves have mesmerized us into wanting, unsustainable creatures. The marketers’ psychology has manipulated us into believing that the promoted (and unreachable) lifestyles on TV and in ads are the norm that everyone lives; we just have some catching up to do. So goes the race after the Joneses.

By enhancing our vanity, we paint an exterior imitating a person that we wish to be. We have become too good at making ourselves feel better; it’s like going through everlasting adolescence. When most of our vanity objects take a bite out of the environment and chop away at our lifeline, then our self-praise chips away at our future’s certainty. If we focus on enhancing our inner qualities, then our outer qualities are enhanced through natural admiration rather than superficial.

In earlier decades, subliminal messages were flashed into our subconscious telling us to spend money on the tricky vendor’s product. Once caught, they quickly jumped to another, much darker, way to lure us in. On average, we spend of two years of our lives watching commercials, zoning out to the economic glow emitting from our plasmas[11]. These enchanting signals have lured us into isolated close-proximity lives; first was the headphone, then along came Bluetooth. Now we can all walk around muttering to ourselves. In military terms, technology has ‘divided and conquered’ the population into docile narcissists.

Western culture’s fear, paranoia and desire have reinforced our hoarding mentality. We have been led astray, conditioned to these habits of greed and coveting. While we want our stuff to be admired, we won’t display it for fear of theft. Instead, it fills our homes, yards, basements, and storage facilities. The enjoyment of our stuff is put aside by our fear of losing it. Rationalizing this attachment, we have become disconnected from our social environment. We miss the point of happiness and joy: they are derived from sharing, not hoarding.

Swiss philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881) noted, “The man who has no inner life is the slave to his surroundings.” If our personal economic status measures our place in society, then community involvement becomes irrelevant. Looking first to our own needs and safety places our surroundings not as a part of us but as competition. Where is the safety when we can’t trust the people around us? Sustaining communities requires communication; we must step beyond our comfort and draw our neighbourhoods back into our lives. This may require missing your favourite show.

To improve our world, first we must ask, “What shall we become?” We must move past idolizing our possessions; our stuff doesn’t make us, our words and actions do. Regaining our social cohesion requires disconnecting the media’s influence and focusing on our personal relationships.

Gaining a sense of optimism is our first step towards bettering ourselves. We must take back control of our daily lives and become mindful of what our spending supports. To simplify our lives we must stop filling our individual space with stuff, and either find uses for what we already have, or look for ways that someone else could use them.

If a lop-sided economy says we aren’t living up to our full spending potential, how does digging up more debt benefit us? If we question our consumptive impulses and realize that our lack of happiness is not from a defect in a product, then we can seek out the true source of happiness out in our communities. Let time be soaked up with friends and family, not commercials and fiction. We don’t have to buy something to get a smile; we need everybody around to keep it in place.

The moments of greatest happiness should not involve entering your PIN number on the debit pad. Happiness is possible without our favourite shows having to script it for us; it is created from the people around you, not in a room full of stuff. Turn off your television and open your doors. Invite friends and neighbours in rather than talk show hosts and canned laugh tracks. Happiness is built upon from security and comfort, and its cheapest source is outside our front door.

[1] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 148

[2] McDonough, William & Braungart, Michael, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (New York, North Point Press, 2002) 27

[3] McDonough, William & Braungart, Michael, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (New York, North Point Press, 2002) 104

[4] McDonough, William & Braungart, Michael, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (New York, North Point Press, 2002) 78

[5] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 90

[6] Benyus, Janine N., Biomimicry: innovation inspired by nature (New York, Perennial, 2002) 2

[7] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005)42

[8] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 23

[9] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 155

[10] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 155

[11] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 154

Reclaiming the Cookie Jar – August 5, 2008

ImageProsperity, that is the Westernized version, is not all that I thought it was. When our digital fossils are examined, will they reveal a history of wisdom and taste? Our media, technology and medical knowledge should improve our grade, so long as they pay no heed to an episode of Entertainment Tonight. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.” Destroy all copies of Judge Judy and Jerry Springer, now!

As dreary the picture is that the media portrays, there is hope for making humanity act more like humans. Our world will change, and we can direct the process ourselves. However, relying on our keyboards and votes to do it will not suffice. Hope is that rare glimpse of sun on the stormy media seas, the feel-good stories. Our community is the lifejacket that keeps us afloat until the clouds blow away.

Western culture revolves around the monitors. We interface the couch, grab the remote, and let the screen and speakers flicker our emotions. Is this an indicator of what life lies beyond our home? The only timeslot our lives run on is between birth and death, the life in between is anything but scripted. So how can a little boob tube weaken the survival of our community?

Those favorite shows have highjacked our interests and hobbies of time. Squeezed between work and organized play, our creativity lacks the room to breathe. The television’s perversion of reality and rehashed plot lines degrades the imagination, while the bureaucratic rule-following assists in lobotomizing our creativity. Music, literature, and the arts are to be produced and interpreted by everyone; they are the indicators of culture.

Our recliners and remote controls siphon the capacity for action. The television, every living room’s coddled intruder, soothes us in the consolation of ignorance. Our media consumption stifles our lives, leaving individuals and societies unsure how to fit in while watching a world of reality shows and doomsday news. We use a fully-sponsored time slot to nourish our minds with sound bites and commercial enticements.

How can we imagine a better world when accepting what is televised as the only truth? We deserve better, yet do nothing to earn it. We are force-fed the ‘instant success’ of mass-produced pop stars, politicians and moguls sprouting from the mediascape. Our goals are set beyond reach and the returns are devastating.

We learn that the purpose of life is to find happiness, then lose focus and vitality each time it eludes our grasp. Is happiness supposed to be graspable? Perhaps by holding on to it for too long, it dies in our hand. Happiness cannot be delivered through a pill, yet we miss it like an addiction. We try ridding ourselves of it once it starts reeking of depression.

Happiness is not a “blankie” to hold onto for protection, it is a pet that comes around when we need it most, or least expect it. When the symptoms of the other emotions arise, our doctors, dealers and liquor store clerks can, if not make us smile, tranquilize us. When we narrow our focus on perpetual happiness and villainized the remaining gamut of emotions, the depth and meaning of all are weakened.

Assurance of a world not so wearing cannot come from our possessions, ornaments and enhancements. Our stuff cannot provide happiness any more than it can a hug. We know, deep down in our gut, that our wants are not the things bombarding our airwaves and store shelves. Our hopes are for a world that we need not hide from.

History had no Internet nor Blackberry to spread ideas. Now we have amazing social networking capabilities, so long as we see it as a tool and not a solution. Online blogs and texting can nudge us into face-to-face interaction. Without this, when mediated through the liquid diodes, a vital aspect of dialogue and subtlety is lost. Our high-tech note passing permits unclarified assumptions and misconceptions to be taken as fact. Community was not formed over a phone line and, in all likelihood, will not be formed through the media.

The interdependence of society mimics Nature’s intricate tapestry. Everyone and everything with which we interact affects our choices and actions; likewise, the opposite way. To understand where each of us are coming from, the best direction will become obvious. Share and spread each of your ideas, hopes and trials. Once unified behind an idea, the human species has an endless capacity to thrive. We can push away from the cultural inertia, but it involves looking away.

Global problems are solved using creativity and blind faith. A room full of optimism convinced groups and citizens to step into the uncertain, forming countries and democracy. Our ingenuity is revealed in humanities’ greatest creations. Democracy empowers us to form community.

Seventeenth century writer François de La Rochefoucauld is quoted, “If we resist our passions, it is more due to their weakness than to our strength.” Our stunted growth erodes communities, and we have no societal Prozac to make this problem go away. Our digital anonymity cannot be the sole voice of our demands.

Hope is a room in which we must gather, not some elusive destination. Solutions to our dilemma exist, but not while the cookie jar keeps getting pushed out of reach. To take ownership of our community, we must take part in creating it. We must reach a consensus, agreeing on which causes we should prioritize.

Our systems have always changed, redefining our freedoms and traditions as we evolved. An inviting society focuses on their personal lives and their interaction with all life. But that interaction takes on various forms and has a wide array of good and bad implications. In the end, the choice comes to: Which room do you want to live in, the one with hope or the one with the television? And, by the way, I found the greatest prosperity in my relationships.