Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reconciling behaviour

We live our lives in ways that ebb and flow with the times, and it is a true that we are born in a time, and that we must live in that time. Nostalgia and reminiscence are nice and fun, but they cannot take away from the fact that life is lived now, or it is never. This doesn't mean that we accept all of the norms of the time we are in. Rather, the way we view the world must be nuanced and interpreted under the lenses of history and experience, as well as the immediate experiences we go through. Put more plainly, we must learn from the past, understand how the past has influenced the present, and see what needs to be done to avoid continuing behaviour that wreaks havoc on lives and this Earth. But even though we've gained a lot of knowledge over the past two hundred years, we've gained very little wisdom. Wisdom stands the test of time. Much knowledge can be fashionable.

It seems to me that there are two kinds of action or behaviour - those that are fashionable and ephemeral, and those that are true and good no matter what time or place or situation you are in. ("No duh," you might say.) It is clear that many fashionable behaviours, like industrialisation (it's been too long a fashion cycle, you might say!), are those that cause ecological degradation, and those that are good no matter what time we live in, like kindness and respect, are those that seek to preserve and sustain this planet. There is a dichotomy between scales here - industrialisation is a larger scale of activity than our individual lives. Why do many of our collective behaviours directly contradict our individual beliefs? I wrote earlier that the moral fabric upon which they operate is defined through the collection of our moralities. However, in the process of the weaving of the fabric, individual moralities are averaged out, resulting in a destructiveness that was from the outset unthinkable. 

And how do we reconcile what we are doing now with what we should be doing, individually and collectively? I believe there can no reconciliation, other than appreciating the effort that some people and some organisations are making in trying to better this world. More importantly, however, there can be no reconciliation, because the way we behave just isn't sustainable. This is the crucial point; we cannot eat our cake and have it too. If we cannot agree to the sustainability of our of individual and collective lives, then there's no reason to continue behaving the way we do as individuals, and there is no way we should be allowing larger organisations to behave in ways that are against the values we preach as individuals.

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