Sunday, April 26, 2009

Searching for Meaning

Over the last week or so, it seems as if a lot of material has come my way that really challenges and examines the way things are. Like asking and answering the big questions in life.

There was a family celebration on Saturday and of course when there's a few of us together the conversation inevitably turns to politics and the state of the world address...aka D'Souza Parliament. We covered economics, politics, the developing world and all that.

Of course, everyone has an opinion, and we're all good at expressing it. The way the conversation twists and turns with cheekiness and wind-ups; listening and not listening; altering viewpoints and standing one's ground - the whole thing - makes for an interesting hour or two.

One of the questions that I've thought about since I started studying Economics (what a wonderful subject!) is about how stuff gets shared around. That's basically what Economics is about. At the core of it all is the principle of scarcity: the idea that there's not enough of anything so we have to make choices about how we allocate our time/ money etc.

So as I've got older, I've come across so many ideas, philosophies, political standpoints and religions that it just seems overwhelming. Everyone seems to be in a big fight to prove the 'truth'.

But I'm still left with a question. My question. Well I think it's my question. It doesn't have an easy answer...and when I posed it during D'Souza parliament, everyone's version of the truth made itself heard (including mine).

So my question is this. There are enough resources to ensure everyone on the planet is taken care of. There exists the technology to get all these resources to everyone who needs them. So how come people are dying unnecessarily all over the world?

To put it more simply: there's enough food for everyone, but how come there are people dying of starvation?

Now I know there's no easy answer to that question, and that everyone's particular viewpoint is going to have something to say about it, but it's something that makes me think about humanity.

I don't think I'm the only one who thinks about these things, but I get the distinct feeling that people who do are in the minority. I mean I don't think about these things purely for the sake of a philosophical exercise (i.e. pointless navel-gazing) but much more from how it affects me in my life. Especially given current circumstances.

First bit of material: I watched an internet film called Zeitgeist last week. It's a very interesting, informative film that challenges our current paradigm. It actually challenges the fundamental economic idea of scarcity. (See Economics is wonderful!)

And was slow off the mark on this one. I just can't believe only one person I know told me about it! There's four-hours worth of stuff on there!

Second bit of material: I also watched a dvd (again at the encouragement of someone) of Michael Moore's film SiCKO - all about the US health service. Interesting - the NHS comes out well. At one point in the film, Michael Moore has a very insightful conversation with Tony Benn. I found it interesting learning about how the NHS was created in the aftermath of World War 2 - to benefit everyone at all levels in society.

It's even more interesting that someone I know who's a strong advocate of the capitalist system works for a socialist-based institution like the NHS. From each according to his ability to each according to his need is a tenet of the NHS. Now where have I heard that before? Oh yeah it was popularised by someone called Karl Marx.

Third bit of material: Evil Empire/ Nightwatchman. Now people that know me, know that I love my heavy music. What some of those people don't know is my love of old-school hip-hop. In fact, before I picked up a guitar it was hip-hop that I was listening to along with the pop music of the day. I think I've always had a fascination with the beat.

So when I first heard Rage Against the Machine, I was an immature 16-year-old who had barely picked up a guitar. Their sound and ideas completely passed me by. It was only later that I understood their genius, their politics, their anger.

Anger is a gift right?

The Nightwatchman is the wildly inventive guitarist from RATM doing his own thing - including singing. His material most closely matches the kind of songs I'd like to write: me, a philosophical/ political idea, and an acoustic guitar. A bit like folk music really.

I'm also really slow off the mark on this one too.

What the fuck have I been doing?

Anyway, on the inside cover of the RATM album Evil Empire, there's a picture of a load of books - it is in effect a reading list presented in an artistic way. The books outline the band's ideals, but also like their music - provides an call to arms: musically and intellectually. I guess RATM and SOAD just took what Bob started and shoved a rocket up its arse...

Fourth bit of material: a Louise Hay book. So I'm sure I've mentioned her books before...they frequently get written off as new age nonsense by most people, but I happened to flick through it and look at some stuff that proved to be illuminating. It flat out states that scarcity is a myth...and that the universe provides everything we need in abundance.

Riiight. Not too much of a shift to my paradigm...

So these media: the internet, film, music, and books have presented me with material that supports my quest(ioning). It supports my way of thinking. It supports my attempt to make sense of what's going on around me, at a time when the circumstances are challenging.

Some people say when the student is ready the teacher appears.

Other people say there's no such thing as coincidence.

Yet more people say God is always talking, but no-one's listening.

Perhaps the Force is telling me something...