To stubbornly assume that we should all be entitled to our own individual perception of a commonly shared reality has proved to be the single most detrimental trend standing in the way of human progress. A belief devoid of scientific truth, logical reasoning and a moral campus does not deserve respect nor acceptance.
It seems to me that maintaining political correctness in this area seems to surpass the desperate need for an honest conversation about the short comings of a world that we are all commonly subjected to. The often repeated saying “everyone is entitled to an opinion’ belong only in the field of the arts where what is aesthetically appealing to one person may not be to the next. Instead this phrase is often used to shut down perfectly valid arguments relating to life altering issues that require facts and consideration of the greater good for all.
The addiction I’m refering to is not an obvious one. In fact, on the contrary, it is one that is not only widely, accepted but extremely encouraged. It is one that has seeped so deeply into our consciousness that we barely recognise its there. But it is there, guiding our actions and choices every day and dictating our path in life. In fact it’s safe now to say that most spend their entire lives feeding it without ever recognising they need treatment. It is the silent killer whom, we, in the west have been arming for the last century.
The addiction I’m talking about is almost impossible to avoid in today’s world. It glares from every corner; the television screen when we get home; the smartphone we rarely let go of; even from the innocent by standers on the road. It is so powerful; it inevitably creeps into just about every conversation and interaction we have. It is an addiction that has seen us turn our backs to the values that are most natural to us such as; compassion; understanding; progression; the need to live a purposeful life but most of all to endure and protect each other as well as our precious environment. Instead, like every addiction it has brought out the worst in us; Greed; selfishness; disregard for one another; aggression; psychosis; exploitative tendencies; blind arrogance; ignorance and detachment from our surroundings. (Just to scratch the surface).
Like all addictions, this one is also driven primarily by our need to fill a void; to distract our senses from the life we live in that is an irrational circus at best and an empty deprived existence at worst. It is like any other addiction in that a hit provides temporary relief from a reality where freedom is just another myth among many others. Each time the addiction is fed; we experience the kind of superficial high that makes us feel that we have instantly bettered ourselves; and just as with every addiction, the satisfaction wares of quickly and we jump straight back into the hunt for some more gratifying moments; If you look at the world around us, you will quickly realise that this addiction is the root of all dysfunctions in us as individuals; the societies we a part of; and the world. Unfortunately having grown up in the 21st century, we are all addicts to varying degrees. There is likely not a single one of us that has managed to dodge this addiction mostly due to our intrinsic need to belong and be a part of something bigger. This destructive addiction currently provides the basis for our sense of belonging and expression.
The addiction I am referring to is Consumerism. Never in all the history of human kind have we all been addicts of something so dangerous and destructive. This addiction is unique in that, unless treated will end in our collective demise as well as that of our precious planet. Looking at the world around us, it is hard to ignore that consumerism has indirectly or directly paralysed every single path to future betterment. It has polluted our consciousness and corrupted our values to such an extreme that we have become desensitised to our brothers and sisters in the third world who are dying as a direct result of it. Being a shopaholic is therefore more destructive than alcoholism; drug abuse; and any other addiction put together a thousand times over. It is in fact an addiction that has given birth to all other addictions and must be treated at its core.
So, my fellow human beings, It is now down to you.
I was watching Edward Snowden talk about his incredible journey since he famously leaked a series of classified NSA documents back in 2013. It occurred to me that Edward, along with Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and a handful of others would all be facing imprisonment and prosecution of sorts for the remainder of their lives. Since we can agree that these individuals were acting out of moral duty and deserve to be made examples of; I ask myself if there is anything they could have done to spare themselves from such a bleak future. In an interview for the world press conference, Edward Snowden mentioned that he had discussed his plans with some of his colleagues; but what if he had gone further and rounded up a number of people from this organisation, all willing to share responsibility for leaking the truth out to the world. Would all of them have been fired and facing severe backlash from the NSA and US government? In this case Edward would no longer be a target, but a part of a critical mass of workers who are challenging the operations of their organisation. The answer to this question may solely depend on the number of workers willing to take part. I dare to argue that the larger amount of people, the bigger the impact of the message but smaller the consequence for each individual involved.
When we talk about a revolution, I feel that not enough credit is given to small-scale collectivized disobedience and the robust nature of this action. For example, Say I was in a tram one day with a couple of friends and we decided not to touch on to pay for our trip. The line of people behind me would have noted this and so decided they didn’t have to either. In turn, the people behind them might have noticed and decided they didn’t have to pay either since no –one else was. Soon the amount of passengers that have not paid for their trip grows to 100. On the way, the train inspector comes in and starts to check people’s tickets and quickly finds that out of the 100 people on the tram, barely anyone has paid their fare. Suddenly the train inspector’s authority and power is discredited by the overbearing number of people he is designated to hand out fines to. Let’s take this a step further, say a student or a few note this bizarre event and pass it onto their peers who pass it onto their friends. Suddenly the incident has reached various social media platforms and students have decided that they would all stop paying for their tram fares. Soon an entire student body has decided that they will no longer be paying as there was no consequence following from the first incident. As the trend progresses to more and more people, the law enforcement bodies are now a minority and therefore increasingly helpless to control the situation.
It is at this point that rules begin to crumble, come under questioning and scrutiny and inevitably need to be changed to suit people’s demands. While this hypothetical scenario may be far-fetched, it is only so due to people’s will to participate in what they know is right. For most of us, it is therefore not our moral campus that needs redirecting but our reluctance to participate in organised disobedience in fear of ending up like some of our heroes mentioned earlier. The point of course is that, had there been 20 Edward Snowden’s, Chelsea Manning’s and Julian Assange’s, the grounds for prosecution would have been considerably weakened with each growing number of individuals to the extent that it would no longer be applicable or even relevant. “This all sounds great in theory” I hear you say or think but actually policy changes that have come about as a direct result of civil disobedience are many, perhaps the most notable being the case of Iceland. The small country in Northern Europe that refused to participate in the banking crisis by simply coming together and saying “we are not paying a debt we are not liable for and one we never gave consent to”. While people of countries such as Greece and Cyprus (Who have suffered tremendously as a result) along with most of the world accepted the mounting debt caused by the 2008 financial crisis and continue to sink 7 years later, the people of Iceland jailed their bankers and overthrew their government by simply gathering in large numbers and firmly standing their ground in saying “NO”.
In conclusion; It is therefore not the rules that are imposed by the powerful that keeping us from moving forward but our own persistent belief and upholding of these rules that cement them in place through time. For the very minute we all collectively decide and agree we no longer want it that way, it is in that same minute that the foundations will crumble and inevitably pave the way for something better for all. The best part of collective action is that it can be applied to anything. All that is necessary is that enough people agree and come together. The solution is as simple as that; once this becomes widely adapted into practice, a critical mass will form and the possibilities to a brighter future will be endless.