Monday, March 01, 2010

What the fuck have you done lately?


I'm not perfect.

Neither is the world we live in.

So I guess that makes humanity a bunch of imperfect beings in an imperfect world.

What I've alluded to in some of my previous posts is how everything is interdependent, inter-related and inter-connected.

We are all one.

This can make living 'ethically' pretty difficult. Did you notice how I put the world 'ethically' in quotes? I think I did that because it's so difficult to actually define what that means. Everyone's ethics seem to be different.

Now I describe myself as someone who constantly questions everything. I can't help it (well I can really...the truth is I'm just enjoying myself).  It's as if I'm hard-wired to take up a contradictory position on things.

To the people who haven't taken the time to get to know or understand me, I seem just seem like a pain in the backside.

I've even been loosely likened to someone who's views are "an all-encompassing straddling of the fence" who "doesn't like exclusive truth statements". Which I actually find quite funny!

That doesn't mean that I don't have a deeper purpose or set of ideals that guides me.

I just find it easier to express what I'm up to by pointing at the absurdities, difficulties and moral dilemmas we find ourselves engaged with every day. This of course happens because life is messy. Which leads back to my initial point about the interdependent nature of everything around us.

So there I am. Being my usual self. Chatting my (non)sense about anarchism, shifting consciousness and revolution. Posing the question that: if there's enough food and water to take care of everyone and the technology exists to get all these resources to everyone - why do people still die of thirst and starvation? The answer is because of greed; the profit motive.

Humanity can't share.

And the root of this is the idea of scarcity.

Scarcity is the very core of economics (a subject I love). It's the idea that there aren't enough resources to take care of our needs. So we're forced into making choices. These choices (so basic economic theory goes) dictate what gets produced and in what quantity. It's the consumer needs and profit motive that dictate our world (according to the basic theory).

So then - one of my colleagues asks me: do I get my clothes from Primark? Here's a company known for aggressive pursuit of profit by exploiting cheap labour in countries far away from the UK.

Guess what? Yes I do. I've bought clothes from Primark. I buy clothes from Primark. I'm supporting a nasty, profit-driven, bottom-line chasing corporate nightmare. The kind I always make fun of.

Does that undermine my whole argument? Yes it does. Very astutely he knew the right question to ask; he knew the answer.

This got me thinking. Living 'ethically' really is a challenge. It's so difficult to separate truth from fiction; morality from fact; advertising from information; enterprise from criminality; message from from white... is one big grey area. At least it seems to be.

His seemingly innocuous comment to derail my argument and shut me up, got me thinking about the way I live my whole life. Probably because I actually attempt to live a life consistent with what I say.

A life of principles.

But here I am - a Teacher. A Middle-Class Male. In a private school. Talking left-wing socialist politics.

And I question myself. Should I go and teach in a 'difficult' school? Should I 'do my time' where the pupils are 'challenging'? Should I be in an 'inner-city' environment with 'inner-city' issues? I question my right, my ability, my choice to teach where I do. I question what difference I can make.

I question if I should have a mortgage. If I should want nice stuff. If I should be typing this on a nice Macbook. If I should aspire to own a larger house.

I ask myself do I deserve the life I have?

After all, it's not impossible to live an 'ethical' life. I could avoid shopping at Primark. I could live according to every question I ask myself. Every judgement I subject myself to. I could. Really. But what kind of life would I have? Would I even be able to function within the system as it is?

Nope. It's the entire system that's flawed. And we're stuck in it. Paralysed slaves on both sides of the rich/ poor divide. I'm still left with: if there's enough food and water to take care of everyone and the technology exists to get all these resources to everyone - why do people still die of thirst and starvation?

Opting out is a possible choice. Making a difference from within is another. I know which one I have a talent for.*

Oh and my answer to all those earlier questions to myself? I start by looking back...and I find the answer.

My parents went through a lot to give me what I have. I've had the privilege of resources, a work ethic, family, stimulating discussion, a great education etc.

I'm not about to piss away all that good stuff.

I don't give a flying fuck where I teach as long as I'm in front of young people getting them to think. I have something - some talent, some skill, some passion for making SOMEthing happen.

That's my gift to the planet and the future. Opening minds.

People question Rage Against the Machine, Michael Moore, and Noam Chomsky (amongst others) and their politics. How does Chomsky - an anarcho-syndicalist square his politics with selling his books in shops that aim to make a profit?

The point is about getting the message out and educating people.

Everything is interdependent, inter-related and inter-connected.

We are all one.

I'm not perfect.

Neither is the world we live in.

But I know why I'm here.

So what the fuck have you done lately?

*I think this is why I love the bands System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine.