Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Be affected differently

We live in a world of excess and overload, particularly here in the US. We have the bounties of nature converted into objects, pollutants and identities that we use to create images for ourselves and our culture. The excess that we live in is not only the excess of production, but the excess of want. Of course, objects and pollutants wouldn't be produced if we absolutely did not want them to be produced. We would not condone ecological degradation if masses of people thought it wasn't right. This cycle of production and want is self-propagating and self-propelling, and it is pointless to think about what comes first - our desire for the lifestyles that cause ecological harm and social injustice, or the ability of others to convince us that these very lifestyles are meaningful and needed. Yet, as Rock, Paper, Sanity mentioned in her post yesterday, we construct our personal identities around consumption given the stimuli (ads) provided by those who wish for us to consume their produce. What this tells me is that we are affected by these stimuli, and we have been socially trained to be affected. This social learning defines the acceptability of actions and behaviour, but it is plain to see that these very behaviours have proven disastrous for nature. I am also confident in saying that for those who are the producers, the motives move nowhere beyond those of personal profit. What we are left with is cluttered closets, minds with attention deficit and rivers full of contaminants. We are left with overload.

Overload allows us very little time to think and reflect and listen. We don't have the time to adequately consider the gravity of our choices, and it seems to me that those profiting would have it no other way. Overload leaves us little time to fully engage in what it is we are doing. As soon as you sit down to read a book, your Blackberry rings with the coming of an email. Since we are responsive only to socially accepted stimuli, overload can allow us to not fully question what we experience. Therefore, we can allow ourselves not to be affected by these experiences. Overload consequently can lead to a sheltering of mind and spirit that reinforces current norms. Yet most if not all of the meaningful work that needs to be done in the world lies beyond the realm of these norms. How might we be compelled to act if we aren't affected? I propose that we be affected differently. I propose that we open ourselves up to be affected by things that haven't affected us until now. I hope that we can be affected in ways that make us question norms rather than accept them; the advertising Rock, Paper, Sanity talks about in no way affects us in ways that make us question. What is accepted has always changed over time, and it is now time that we take responsibility ourselves to change the accepted.

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