Sunday, December 30, 2007

before the revolution

today was such a weird day. there were so many more crazy people than usual at work...thankfully, a few of them were insane in a good way. like this one woman i was helping at the cutting counter. she acted like she knew me—like i was her best friend and she hadn’t seen me in months. which freaked me out, mostly because a lot of my parents friends shop where i work and they recognize me but i don’t recognize them, and then i feel awful about it—and she looked like she was about their age, mid-fifties-ish. but i’m almost certain i’ve never seen this woman before. anyway, at some point i said something that was not even marginally funny and she laughed, and was like “ooooh, emily.” umm, crazyperson? i complimented her on this really awesome coat she was wearing, and she flipped out about it, then ran over and told her husband “emily likes my coat!” i’m pretty sure she was not actually on any drugs, but i could be wrong. she didn’t bother me at all, though—i would so much rather deal with people who are crazy in an overly-friendly sort of way than the entitled, irrational, ignorant psychos i deal with regularly.

i’ve changed so much since i started working…i never used to be quite this negative about my own species. a few days before christmas i was walking from my car to the store and the parking lot was extremely full, there were people piling huge mounds of shit into their cars, and i felt so completely revolted. disgusted and pissed off and just generally horrible. what the hell is wrong with us? i don’t exempt myself from this at all, i’m definitely part of the problem. the whole everything is fucking fucked, and i’m too angry to even try to be articulate about it.

how do we change all this? i don’t know what to do. i’ve tried being an activist—i used to do protests and demos and all kinds of things when i was in high school, in my idealist days, but i’m sure it never did any good. occasionally i would encourage one of my friends to not eat meat anymore, and it would last a month or so, and then i would find fast food paraphernalia in their car, and that would be that. when will i accept that the only behavior i can change is my own? should i accept that?

i’ve basically thought myself into an aggravated stupor at this point. very few of these thoughts have actually translated themselves into words, which is how i know i should stop writing. the following passages were written by the slingshot collective, and they give me hope.

we need to figure out why so many folks assume that centralized control by the few over the many, permanent poverty and inequality, structural violence and war, intolerance, ugly, soulless cities, and environmental destruction for every human function are ‘normal.’

daily living forces everyone to make constant decisions: to decide whether you’ll compromise and conform with ‘the way things are’ or do your best to live what’s in your heart and your imagination. those individual daily decisions eventually add up to your lifetime. each decision seems minor—each compromise and conformity can get rationalized as ‘necessary’ ‘realistic’ or ‘inevitable.’ but if you imagine a different world—a world with cooperation, sharing, equitable distribution of resources and sustainable environmental choices—why do you think that some moment in the future will be the right moment to start living according to your vision? …if you think about it, there never will be a moment when it is more ‘convenient,’ ‘acceptable’ or ‘appropriate’ to begin living in a different way. it will always be deviant, an extra bother and an isolated act in a world that goes on in the old ways.

from “tips for modern simplicity”:

here are some tips about how to minimize our entanglement in the industrial capitalist machine that is destroying the environment and enslaving people across the globe. it is true that lifestylism—spending most of one’s energy changing your own individual behavior rather than working to smash the system—is not the solution for complex social problems like capitalism and industrialism. however, it is equally true that it isn’t good enough to say ‘i’ll change my individual behavior after the revolution.’ if we’re all waiting for everyone else to change first, or for some great movement to tell us it’s time to change, we’re missing the point. change happens on all kinds of levels in complex ways. revolution means change on a structural, mass level—in ways far outside of our isolated, individual hands—and it also means millions of individual people simultaneously changing their own lives and behaviors in private, invisible ways. participating in movements for change is crucial to change the structural, mass level, but our daily life choices are important too and are solely up to us.

that’s why a lot of us are switching teams—devoting our life energy to non-hierarchical alternatives to the system and avoiding participation in the heavy resource consumption mainstream economy every chance we get. in figuring out how to live more simply, it is often useful to ask ‘how did people live 100 years ago’ and/or ‘how do people live in places that haven’t yet been industrialized?’ living simply focuses on quality of life, not standard of living. we’ve found that by learning how to live simply and farther outside the system, our lives are full of richness, excitement, creativity and fun.

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