Note: I drafted this post earlier in the week but given the tragic events that have occurred in Paris it seemed fitting to post it today. Kindness is the only way forward.
More is not always more.
Much of our media is based on the idea of having more or wanting more. Advertisements, social media, and our social norms indicate to us that our mission in life is to get as much as we possibly can for ourselves and our families. While there is nothing wrong with attracting abundance into our lives, in fact some believe that abundance is our natural state of being, too often we are guided by society to seek abundance in all the wrong places.
The way our industrialised systems are developed our personal abundance often comes at a cost to another being or environmental flow. We buy clothing that makes us feel good about ourselves without knowing that the system that created the item of clothing that makes us happy has cost the happiness of others an our planet. Gandhi famously stated that:
There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.
So regardless of how good you might feel wearing your new clothing, there is a good chance that if you bought it from a major high street retailer, somewhere along the production line someone or something has suffered. While you are a part of the system as a consumer with consumer spending power. The fact that this cloth that you wear as a sign of happiness, abundance and acceptance in your society has caused harm somewhere along the production system, is not your fault. We are a part of a global industrialised system that has normalised poverty, pollution and environmental degradation as part of ‘business as usual’ practice. While there are some gallant efforts by an up and coming many to create socially and environmentally responsible business practice, those that have built their wealth on this flawed system are cautious of making changes that may affect their profit margins.
We often ‘other’ the pollution, environmental degradation and human right abuse of the global economic system to developing countries as developed nations are promoted as ‘having their shit together’ when it comes to these sustainability issues. Much of this facade is created by the fact that we outsource our socially and environmentally damaging practices to developing nations, and the rest is a result of clever marketing and skewed per capita statistics. According to a study by The Australia Institute the top 20 per cent of Australian earners have five times more income than the bottom 20 per cent, and hold 71 times more wealth and the seven richest individuals in Australia hold more wealth than 1.73 million households in the bottom 20 per cent. They also note that while overall Australian earnings are increasing each year, the divide between the haves and have nots is increasing, meaning that the rich are getting more wealthy and the poor are faring worse with each year. With a reported 2.5 million people (equating to one in six children) struggling to fulfil their daily basic needs. So while most Australians are lucky enough to have access to some aid, financial support, and healthcare entitlements, the lower socio economic sector are struggling. While they may not be part of the more than one billion people in the world live on less than one dollar a day, or even part of the 2.7 billion struggle to survive on less than two dollars per day, the struggle to make ends meet is relevant to the economy in which you reside. It can be difficult for those who are living on low income wages to make environmentally responsible choices in an economic system that is geared to making processed and fast food, fashion, and homewares the most affordable option.
According to author Graeme Taylor who wrote ‘Evolutions Edge‘ our global system is…
based in selfishness and exploitation, it is permitted with greed indifference, fear and violence. Fear hatred, anger, conflict, and violence are the natural products of a system where wealth is transferred through interest payment from the port to the rich, large fortunes are mostly unearned (can anyone earn millions of dollars a year by their own work?) and desperate people are constantly reminded by the global media that the lucky few live in luxury. The poor fear destitution and envy the rich: the rich fear the poor will take away their wealth. In order to maintain such extreme inexulisty walls have been built between the rich and the poor. These walls come in many forms: in the regulations that keep poor people from emigrating to rich countries in search of work: in the guarded and gated communities of the rich; in the unequal trade and financial agreements forced on poor countries and workers by rich countries and corporations.
While this is quite an emotive statement from an equally as emotive and convincingly written book, there is a lot of truth to Taylor’s words. The divide between rich and poor is real regardless of the overall wealth of the nation of focus. It creates unhappiness, greed, envy, unequal distribution of power and conflict or war.
For some of us there is no option to vote for the world we want to live in with our consumer dollar. When someone is living week to week or dollar to dollar they may have to choose processed over organic, packaged over bulk food, sweatshop over ethically produced. This is the sad reality for 2.5 million Australians who cannot use their dollar as freely to vote for the world they choose to support as they just cannot afford these kinds of options.
You an abundant source of kindness!
The good news is that no matter how big or small your bank account is there is one source of abundance that comes from inside you, that can change the world immediately, and doesn’t cost a cent. That world changing thing is kindness. Acts of kindness do change the world. The best part about them is that you get to see that change immediately! As rewarding as it can be to donate to charity, support a community fundraiser, or lobby government, the pay off of these actions may not be seen immediately or ever. Participating in an act of kindness can create immediate satisfaction. Be it offering a shoulder to cry on for someone who has had a rough day, carrying grocery bags for a person who looks like they could need a hand, or stopping to chat to a neighbour who you haven’t spoken to. These small act not only make you and the recipient feel great they move us one step closer to a less fearful and somber tomorrow. People who are happy in their lives and are willing to share what they have want and need less. The media operate from a place of fear. By creating a fear of lack, inadequacy, or a fear for safety they can sell us anything from firearms to perfume. While there is nothing wrong with treating yourself from time to time you have to make sure that your purchases aren’t being made to fill a void in your life. If you think you might be buying a new dress because you feel bad about yourself why not spend that money taking a good friend who can’t afford outings due to her study commitments out for lunch instead. You are completing an act of kindness shouting your friend to a meal and by being around others you might just cheer up. If you choose to dine at a local produce cafe you are also supporting the local economy! A win for all.