What Are You Willing to Offer?
It was only last week I think, that it dawned on me, that things will never go back to how they were before. That this isn't some little interlude, a nice little break from the usual hustle and bustle.
And, thinking about it right now. From the slight loneliness of my private apocalypse, it's also clear to me that I don't want to go back either.
This pandemic has exposed so many flaws in our society. It's been a bit like stepping out from the alternative reality of a Berlin techno club into a stark grey morning.
I'm not sure how most of the world managed to get convinced that capitalism not only is the best system, but that it's the only system. And on to of that, we've let capitalism reign nearly un-tamed, and that in turn has been insanely destructive for the planet.
To me it's always seemed that capitalism has appealed to the darkest sides of humanity. Not too far from what in Buddhism is known as the five hinderances and in Yoga Philosophy is called the kleshas. Desire, Aversion, Sloth (or laziness), Restlessness and Doubt.
Both the practice of Buddhism and the practice of yoga are systems designed to overcome our darkness. Not to push it away, and pretend it doesn't exist, but to hold it with kindness. While working to cultivate our finer qualities, like compassion, joy, kindness, clear seeing etc -- which ultimately will lead to greater well-being for us and for the world at large.
Capitalism has taught us separation. But that is a total and utter lie. The whole world is inter-woven.
Some years ago I lived in New Orleans. It was (and still is) one of the poorest cities in the United States. The divide between the haves and the have-nots was deep, wide and pervasive. And that divide was sadly more often than not coinciding with ethnicity. Before Hurricane Katrina New Orleans' population was roughly 70% African-American and 30% white. The murder rate was sky high.
The city itself is not very big, and rather than having good and bad neighbourhoods, there were good and bad streets. You could be driving down an uptown street peaking through high fences equipped with cameras and alarms, behind which sat gorgeous Victorian mansions surrounded by well-manicured gardens and lawns. Then, just a few blocks away you'd be in a dilapidated ghetto, where drug dealing was happening out in the open.
But it wasn't like the people living in the mansions could completely shield themselves from the misery of their fellow human beings living in those un-cared for ghettos, going to the country's worst high schools, dealing with un-employment, racism, lack of opportunities, and probably the past-down trauma of slavery (for which New Orleans was one of the worst places supposedly). Because people often were mugged at gun point in New Orleans. Even my poor musician friends, walking around in duct-taped shoes often had guns pointed at them. So because of the inequality, the city was a dangerous place for everyone.
Here in Berlin we have to deal with homeless people on the street, asking us for change etc. We often don't want to see this misery, but as long as we don't make sure that everyone has a roof over their head, we too, in some subtle way, have to deal with the 'discomfort' of seeing this people, and have to be confronted by our conscience if we just look away.
Climate change can not be solved by one person or one country. Neither can this pandemic we are currently living in the midst of.
I am way more scared of climate change and capitalism than I am of the pandemic. But I believe they are very much connected.
I also believe that we will have to make HUGE changes to the way we live, if are going to have humanity. It's ridiculous to believe that just changing from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources will fix the mounting problems. No, we will have to ABSTAIN and live A LOT MORE simply.
Last week a friend of mine asked me (as we were having take-away food served in incredibly wasteful single-use plastics) what I am will to offer?
I don't think I presented her with a complete list, and I'm not sure I will here either, but this is an attempt. And some of these things I already gave up a long time ago, some of them more recently.
1. Meat & Fish
2. Trips to Asia
4. Ever seeing friends living on other continents again
5. Spa experiences
6. Being hooked up to the internet 24/7
7. Buying shit I don't need
8. Having heating on in May (which I have now, but still wearing wool socks and wrapped in a blanket)
9. Take Away food
10. Having electricity all the time
11. Television (this is easy -- never even owned one)
12. Avocados, quinoa, strawberries in December etc.
13. Eating when not hungry
14. Dishwashers (never had one), showers/baths (this will be hard)
15. Procreation (easy, never wanted kids)
15. Living in a space that's unnecessarily big
What are YOU willing to offer?