You and I are both used to fixing things around us. Sometimes it is a broken washing machine that demands our attention, and sometimes a neglected relationship. Whatever it is, we instinctively expect that there will be something “out there”, waiting for us to tend to it and fix it.
With this attitude to fix, let’s turn our attention to the big picture. Let’s not waste our time and look at what really matters.
Right now, the common challenge waiting to be resolved by all the educated, wealthy and well-situated people around the globe is tackling the problems of poverty, injustice and climate change. I am naming them all together as they are a part of one general issue: bringing the world to a state of balance. Social, economic, environmental and political balance.
The ultimate quest is to make the world we live in a sustainable place.
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is that it is the job of governments, NGOs and banks to regulate issues of that size. But whatever steps they would take to tackle our biggest global problems — one thing remains untouchable:
The privileges of the wealthy part of the world. The privileges of the well-situated people with the biggest selection of possibilities on this planet. The privileges that — most likely — you and I share.
Our privilege to travel wherever and whenever we want. Our privilege to wear a wedding dress and hire a photographer to document the special day. The privilege to eat more than we need. The privilege to buy excess stuff and throw it away. The privilege to own as many cars as we want. A privilege to not have to care about where the trash we produce goes.
And so on. We take most of those things for granted. We don’t want to let go of what we perceive as our birthright: the right to consume.
But at this point in our global history — is it possible to bring the world to balance without letting go of at least some of those privileges? I don’t think it is. But to dig a bit deeper, we need to ask ourselves another important question:
Why are we so attached to these privileges in the first place?
I mean, how many of them would you be ready to abandon right here, right now, in the name of making the life of people on the other side of the world a little bit easier? My guess is, not too many. And I am not ready for this either. If we were ready, we would have started selling our possessions a long time ago and shared our resources with those who need them more.
So why are we not doing it? Because our understanding of self-interest is still individual, rather than collective. We still perceive ourselves to be separated from the rest of the word, in the sense that we don’t believe that the well-being of others influences our wellbeing.
For most of the time, we still operate from a very deeply rooted program that values competition over collaboration. The old, reptilian brain dominates our decisions and dictates the survival of the fittest.
Regardless of the fact that the fittest are only so fit because they have a ton of privileges.
I think that very often, we are just not able to distinguish between privileges and actual needs. More or less consciously, we believe that we need the privileges in order to survive. Examples?
We need to possess specific types of clothes in order to feel that we belong.
We need to drive a good enough car in order to maintain our position in the tribe.
We need a certain amount of savings in our bank account in order to acquire a basic sense of safety.
We are emotionally attached to our privileges. And this is what needs fixing.
This is one of the most important reasons why you should do this thing “for yourself” that you have been postponing for such a long time. Go to therapy. Talk about your problems with your friends. Fight that addiction. Work on cultivating self-love.
Because taking care of your emotional needs is not just “for yourself”. How the hell do you imagine being able to solve such problems as world hunger, while struggling to accept yourself exactly the way you are in the first place?!
As long as you and I are depressed, insecure, scared or emotionally needy in any other way — we cannot give ourselves to others fully. We cannot let go of our privileges, for those privileges are the life rafts that we have to hold on to. We need them so that we can fill our emotional void.
Meanwhile, in the big picture, these privileges hold the resources to feed a child on the other side of the world. They are the key to tackling climate change, which is largely a result of our indulgences. They can open ways to cease wars in which people kill each other in the name of rights to a specific piece of land or FUCKING OIL SUPPLY.
Our excessive privileges are where we choose to deposit the real potential to save the world. And we need to recognise this potential before it is too late. Without us doing it on the individual level, governments and NGOs will never have space for introducing change.
We are in the process of making this decision right now. Either we give up our privileges — or our survival as a species.