Advantage people don’t want to concede

We’re all born into such different situations, all dealt our hand of fundamental realities we have to live with. Society’s structure then determining how things play out; pre-existing cultural ideas and prevailing attitudes shaping any chance of moving much beyond our starting points or limitations.

Idealistically, society would work to even that out: offsetting “fate” somehow to ensure all have an equal chance to thrive and progress despite any obstacles we’re facing. In reality, it doesn’t often seem to work that way. Maybe because people perceive “assistance” as being in someway “unfair”? Maybe life’s moving at such a pace it’s hard for anyone to keep up.

It’s also, perhaps, “natural” that people don’t want to concede an advantage. Individually or collectively, it’s arguably not in anyone’s best interest and seems an unlikely path to take. What’s the incentive? Only loss, I’d imagine: handing back a strong suit or changing the rules of a game they looked likely to win. How many people do that?

We’re probably all quite caught up in the status this world’s offering; enjoying things and counting on them continuing. Personal identity seems so tangled in culture’s symbols and the sense of self we’ve gained through our position in society (Notes One). In the West, particularly, we have such luxury in our freedoms, opportunities and excesses – effectively, we do as we please.

But how much of “that” is based on inequality? What amount of our way of life is founded on pushing others down, even within our own communities? Whether economically or culturally, advantage as much as disadvantage seem like relative concepts: we are prettier, more stylish, or better able to afford a certain lifestyle “than” others. Doesn’t status only exist by way of comparison?

In that sense, it just seems unlikely people have much incentive to improve things. We’ve developed this combative, competitive approach to life that pretty much depends on there being these pervasive divisions (Notes Two). It’s a system that leads, almost naturally, to questioning whether we’ve placed the “right” values at the core of modern community.

Maybe that’s the aim of “progressive” elements: to address such attitudes and provide means for redressing ongoing disadvantages. Asking that we stop and re-evaluate how things are working must be important at this point, as what if we’re ploughing on in ways that lead toward a dangerous building up of social resentment and disconnection? Unless we tear each other apart first with angry idealism. (Notes Three)

Still I just wonder if we can go far enough in eradicating the imbedded inequalities of birth or capitalism. Especially when we’ve built life around profiting from natural endowments and superficial enhancements. Isn’t our culture – our sense of meaning, worth and success – largely based on deconstructing appearances and placing ourselves slightly or dramatically ahead of others?

Is this a way of life that can actually “work” the world over, or does it have limits? Maybe we need new ideas, new ways of thinking about human worth and its value within society.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Culture as what we relate to
Note 1: People, roles, reading that rightly
Note 1: What it is to be human
Note 2: Those who are leading us
Note 2: Where do ideas of evolution leave us?
Note 2: Do we really need incentives?
Note 3: Thoughts of idealism and intolerance
Note 3: Complication of being human
Note 3: What’s not essential

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People, roles, reading that rightly

Can we separate people from their roles? In every area of life – workplace, community, relationships, society itself – aren’t we always playing some kind of role? We assume these parts, act consistently, and, doing so, make up the complex realities of all our lives. “Everything” is perhaps, at its core, an interwoven picture of all the roles we’re agreeing to take on.

Some we’re given at birth – looks, health, early life, socio-economic standing, basic demeanour are just some of the things effectively “handed to us” as we emerge into the world. Others we might adopt ourselves, because they seem to fit or we feel they’ll serve us somehow. Around every human there seem to be all these masks we’re wearing (Notes One).

And the drama of life perhaps just plays out on those terms? Different masks carry with them different degrees of power and status, affording their wearer the delightful advantage of how others then respond to their presence. Whether we’re talking about cultural ideas of beauty and style or the weight of socio-economic realities, there’s this sense in which we’re each assigned a place.

Is it possible to move beyond that, to see it for what it is? Isn’t it some form of illusion? Beneath it all, aren’t people simply people? Isn’t a lot of “this” simply inherited and undeserved? Isn’t “what we make of things” ultimately more telling?

The psychology’s fascinating – how is it we’re taught to feel about ourselves? Society has its history, all these stories and the qualities they supposedly portray, this strange pride or shame at paths each country has followed into the present day. We all carry such “baggage”. All this stereotyping, branding and spin we’re constantly dragging into the present and projecting onto the future (Notes Two).

Isn’t it all a picture of “what we value”? The narratives of economics and culture seem, in many ways, to be a conversation about values in either of those two realms (Notes Three). And certain roles or positions in life are seemingly more valued than others – placed up on a pedestal, deferred to, and given great power within society.

What on earth does it mean, though? Why do we assign meaning, value or worth and relate to one another this way? Maybe, as humans, we need some code or sense of meaning in order to understand reality and apply ourselves within it. But, is this the right one? Is this the best way to be looking at people, judging status and deciding how to act?

Society clearly assigns to some more prestigious roles than others (Notes Four). Those who labour, tend and nurture seem less valued for their work than those who direct, manage or set projects in motion. But aren’t those the roles that keep things going by sustaining environments, relationships and assets? Isn’t it possible we’ve underestimated the value of all we’re bringing to life?

Could we come to see the truth of who we are, what we’re doing, and what it all means differently?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Masks we all wear
Note 1: Letting go of “who you are”
Note 1: At what point are we just humans?
Note 2: Stories that bind us
Note 2: Personal archaeology
Note 2: Seeing, knowing and loving
Note 3: Language and values
Note 3: Mathematics of life
Note 3: Definition, expression & interpretation
Note 3: Economics & the realm of culture
Note 4: Those who are leading us
Note 4: The beauty in home economics

Beyond all this, there are then the perhaps more timeless questions explored in Absolute or relative value & Worthless, or priceless?

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Ethics, money & social creativity

It’s fascinating, and daunting, to think how all our actions are connected. Perhaps they always have been, just not to this extent or with this degree of relative openness and scrutiny. While the true breadth and intention behind the commercial realities dominating global interactions might be difficult to fully grasp, it’s at least becoming possible to attempt to fathom all we’re a part of.

Where community and the transactions making up our lives used to be much more local, immediate and small-scale, modern life’s pulled us into this vast, remote and largely invisible reworking of that. It’s perhaps more or less the same, except we don’t see the consequences or understand the roles people are playing unless we choose to (Notes One).

So much can be happening in life – even quite close to home – without our knowing. Technology has this wonderful way of making us feel overwhelmingly well-informed yet perpetually distracted, with attention spans shaved down to mere seconds. Knowing how to judge, what matters, and where to focus our time and energy may well be our most pressing challenge.

Because all our actions clearly feed in “somewhere” (Notes Two). All of our words and attitudes ripple out to impact or empower others, perhaps becoming part of patterns that really need addressing. Our consumer choices all take their place in trends that push profit in one direction while often inflicting personal, social or environmental suffering elsewhere.

All we’re doing, particularly when it comes to money, surely represents “power” in the real world? We can push ourselves forward or push others back, thinking it’s only natural we benefit from our advantage. It’s a difficult world in which to establish a sense of justice; especially when so much is set in motion from the moment of birth.

Grasping the truth of modern interactions seems so important – what does it all “mean”? What’s the “right” way to act in order to support that which we wish to support and not inadvertently take part in perpetuating situations we’re wanting to eradicate? Getting to the point of understanding these systems well enough to act ethically and creatively within them could be one of our most exciting opportunities.

Not to get caught up in well-worn conversations around capitalism, Marxism or the influence of, say, Protestant ethics on financial attitudes, it’s interesting to consider the power and responsibility we all have in this.

Knowing where we stand and what our choices will mean for others must be fairly essential: given the world is as it is, what are we creating by way of the decisions we’re making? Does the profit arising from letting out property truly outweigh the cost to others of never being able to have the same security? Does cheap, convenient food justify its impact on local agriculture or distant communities?

The responsibility of knowing what our choices actually entail is such a challenge; but using those choices intentionally to truly benefit the lives of others is a beautiful thought for how we might live.

Notes and References:

Note 1: What it is to be human
Note 1: Technology as a partial reality
Note 1: Does anything exist in isolation?
Note 1: Economy as a battleground
Note 1: Interdependency
Note 2: What we create by patterns of behaviour
Note 2: Overwhelm and resignation
Note 2: Any escape from cause & consequence?
Note 2: The power of understanding
Note 2: Life’s never been simpler…

In a similar vein, “Quest for a Moral Compass” raised some interesting questions around our individual and collective realities.

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What we create by patterns of behaviour

When we put together “all that we do” – all the annual seasons of nature, finance and culture, with all we arrange around them – it’s interesting to see how it all goes into making up our individual and collective lives. These daily habits of living that become our patterns of consumption, activity and conversation.

All of our choices effectively coming together into these vast, interwoven systems that now spread through, and far beyond, our local and national boundaries. It’s all so personal and so connected: every decision we actively or passively make rippling out and, somewhere, meeting the shore of another’s life. Perhaps that’s always been the case; but never quite like this (Notes One).

In so many ways, the personal feeds into the collective: habitual responses weaving together to form society, all its struggles and its strengths (Notes Two). Conceivably, every little thing “counts” and adds up to quite substantial differences within that reality. All the subtleties of our awareness, intention and attitude toward one another surely soften the edges of common life or serve to roughen them up?

However we look at it, our choices generally accumulate into discernible patterns on the larger scale. And it seems we’re frighteningly predictable – quickly making almost anything a habit, even if much of it’s slipped in beyond our conscious understanding. It’s like we’re forever seeking this formula for “how to live” through all the systems, rhythms and routines of our existence.

Life may well “be” our patterns of behaviour: the rhythms of the human lifespan, the activities we place within it, then the filtered-down reality of our everyday tasks. Weaving within them, the rhythm of our own personal character and attitude toward it all – toward others, the responsibility of our choices, and the power of influence we’re bringing to bear on the world around us.

As humans, then, we’re perhaps standing somewhere between the strong “pull” of habitual subconscious behaviour and the burdensome clarity of thought (Notes Three). If we were to live completely from our rational mind, life would surely become quite draining? Every decision actively requiring conscious attention might seriously hamper things. But operating out of unexamined habit doesn’t seem that much better.

What is the right balance? Because, given the nature of modern systems, the human, social and natural costs of our actions seem to be skyrocketing – everything’s so coordinated and fast-paced that damage can be done before we’re even aware. If we’re not alert to the dangers or realities of choices we’re making, might we not inadvertently contribute to problems we’d never knowingly take part in?

And many seem to be investing heavily in bypassing our conscious attention to guide those choices. With all the social and psychological research behind technology, whole swathes of human activity potentially become quite controllable. Some of that might “innocently” fall within the realm of manufacturing demand, but that’s not all that’s going on.

A little off track, my point’s really that – aware or not – all our choices inevitably add up to something.

Notes and References:

Note 1: The idea of think globally, act locally
Note 1: Having boundaries
Note 1: Social starting points for modern ways
Note 2: Reading into social realities?
Note 2: Society as an imposition?
Note 2: Right to look out for ourselves?
Note 3: Questions around choice
Note 3: Ways thought adds spin to life
Note 3: One thing leads to another

Alongside all this, “The Tipping Point” very much considers this question of individual power within collective realities.

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Attacks on our humanity

What exactly does it “mean” to be human? Individually as much as collectively, what do our lifetimes entail and create? What “makes” us who we are, and what’s the right way to be going about it all? Massive questions, clearly: we’re all unique, self-aware creatures charting our own individual paths through life, forging relationships and leaving countless impacts in our wakes.

It just seems that we are what we are – the human psyche poured into the world that’s surrounding us. And we “need” that relationship to sustain us emotionally, socially, intellectually, creatively, economically. Human communities must serve so many essential functions; at the core of which, hopefully, is the balanced and appreciative individual (Notes One).

How much is that now the case, though? And why is it so many “parts” of society now seem intent upon undermining, unsettling and criticising us all? It’s almost like we’re turning on ourselves, tearing each other down for commercial or psychological advantage. But maybe I’m wrong to characterise it that way. Maybe it’s all designed to help us be the best we can – by pointing out all our problems.

Modern society just seems this environment of critical hostility, judgement and pressure to conform – our “worth” closely aligned with our ability to keep up financially. It seems we’re all under such scrutiny now, every sign of weakness or imperfection being an opportunity to diminish our confidence, cast people aside or insist on yet another consumer need (Notes Two).

Does the marketplace “need” to undermine self-worth in order to function? Effectively, it must lead to a scenario where large chunks of social activity are directed toward picking away at us all in the name of manufacturing demand. What is it to live in a world that makes you feel bad about yourself so it can offer to make you feel better?

Have human societies ever been set up this way before? Undermining psychological, social and emotional security for commercial gain. Setting us against one another in a never-ending quest for the next essential, self-defining item. Chipping away at limited material resources in the pursuit of what, exactly? How much can a society place in the balance before the whole thing risks crumbling into a neurotic, self-induced heap?

We might hope that something’s there to protect us – that the law, the state, or some overarching moral code would prevent our lives and general peace of mind from being deconstructed that way – but it’s not seeming to be the case (Notes Three). In reality, it seems organisations or individuals are quite free to feed off our very natural uncertainties; perhaps, even, to encourage or fabricate them.

Making people feel incomplete and dependent might be a wonderful economic model, but where does it leave us in terms of individual psychology and social stability? It seems to be a picture of us against the world, of a community feeding off its members’ vulnerabilities and legitimate human needs then justifying it by having converted them to money. Why live that way?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Human nature and community life
Note 1: Economy & Humanity
Note 1: Plato & “The Republic”
Note 2: What it is to be human
Note 2: The insatiable desire for more
Note 2: What’s not essential
Note 3: What would life be if we could trust?
Note 3: Overwhelm and resignation
Note 3: Life’s never been simpler…

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What’s not essential

Of everything that’s happening in life, what really matters? Which things could be very easily left undone and the world as a whole would be none the worse off? Because it’s often seeming that much of human activity could fairly safely be categorised as non-essential; as these essentially frivolous, luxurious or self-indulgent impulses. But does it even matter if what we’re filling our days with isn’t essential?

That’s not meaning things like fun and enjoyment. Cultural and social engagement clearly fulfil many essential functions as well as being valuable in and of themselves: companionship, belonging, the chance to reflect on our lives and the life of society, relief from the pressures and duties of living and all the masks we have to wear on a daily basis.

My point though, I suppose, is about balance. How many of the things we engage with are done purposefully, with an eye to how they enrich our lives, rather than out of addiction, compulsion or release? How much of the non-essential in life is fundamentally some form of self-management to offset the tensions and discomfort of modern life and, perhaps, life itself?

This has clearly taken a turn down a dark alley. Perhaps it’s not easy to ask what’s essential in life. It’s a philosophical question that touches on our belief in society, meaning and the purpose of human existence (Notes One). Does it matter what we do, or should we just enjoy ourselves as much as we can while we’re here? Is there any broader responsibility than simply looking out for ourselves?

It just seems such attitudes, adopted collectively, lead to systems that risk cannibalising the entire planet in pursuit of either greed or distraction. Isn’t our relentless desire for non-essential, disposable items creating mountains of waste and pollution for no good reason? How much of the world’s material and human resources are swallowed up by this kind of activity? (Notes Two)

Beyond that, what does this lead in terms of society? Does all this encourage us to interact wisely and responsibly with those around us and the infrastructures we’re all to some extent depending on? Are we being brought together, inspired to understand one another better, inclined toward healthy and inclusive attitudes? Or is all this making us less human, less caring in our pursuit of self-advancement? (Notes Three)

It just seems that ideas of what’s truly “essential” are shifting remarkably fast. In the past – or, other parts of the world – essential needs might be things like food, peace, shelter, safety, freedom. In the West, minimal standards seem to be creeping up and up; blurring quite profitably with modern commerce. How much of that’s simply “creep”? One thing leading to another until all this begins to seem normal.

Essentials are presumably the basic foundation of life: being healthy, cared for, and ready to engage with the world around us. How exactly that snowballed into what’s now surrounding us is strange to consider; as is the sense of where it’s all headed.

Notes and References:

Note 1: What it is to be human
Note 1: Does anything exist in isolation?
Note 1: What we bring to life
Note 1: The philosopher stance
Note 2: Will novelty ever wear off?
Note 2: Detaching from the world around us
Note 2: Interdependency
Note 2: The insatiable desire for more
Note 3: Do we need meaning?
Note 3: Stories that bind us
Note 3: Reading into social realities?
Note 3: This thing called love

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The insatiable desire for more

Is there any limit to how much we’re after? Any point at which we’ll feel we have enough? It sometimes seems seen as a sign of undeserved constraint: that we “should” be able to have more and, capacity somehow being aligned with worth, we’re worth less if we have less.

The insidious voice of industries built on such thinking’s surely crept into our minds over the years: all these adverts insisting we need something else to be enough. That is what it is, but as a psychological message it can’t help us much.

What is that feeling of needing something to complete us? It must be a form of dependency, of placing some part of ourselves outside our self then feeling we need it. It’s strange to think how much the West might be built upon everyone not being enough on their own.

Is that what this is? A psychological misdirection where we’re seeking our worth in material goods? Because, beyond meeting essential needs, there’s clearly this vast grey area of insecurity where money can be made. Once we’ve conceded to being incomplete in and of ourselves, we must be ripe for many kinds of exploitation.

It’s an interesting picture, the way human physical and psychological needs are woven into society. We’ve clearly developed systems with some degree of fit: our essential and non-essential needs dovetailing neatly into this world of commerce. The need for meaning, belonging and worth finding a place in the arguably economic narratives of media and culture (Notes One).

Because, truly, once you’ve accepted the idea of not being enough, where can you go from there? Won’t you find yourself in some perpetual search for wholeness? Seeking relief from the uncertainty of needing something we lack by looking to relationships, objects, substances, anything that’s able to plug this gap.

That kind of psychological wound presumably does create an insatiable need for resolution. If we’re constantly told we need one thing or another to keep up, fit in and be a valid part of the human community, how are we going to feel?

The idea of our lives holding meaning, finding recognition and respect in the eyes of others may be our most essential need. This desire in our psyche for belonging and worth, not as a luxury but a foundation for knowing who we are as humans (Notes Two).

It must tie into Schumacher’s comments on how “the modern economy is propelled by a frenzy of greed and indulges in an orgy of envy” – this sense in which tapping into the psyche is incredibly profitable but equally concerning when it comes to peace, harmonious coexistence, or overall sustainability (Note Three).

It’s perhaps easy to blame people for being short-sighted to the destructiveness of this way of living, but when our essential needs are so skilfully twisted into this never-ending need for the next thing it’s interesting to ask where such wounds come from and why others might think it wise to play upon them this way.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Language and values
Note 1: Cycles of mind & matter
Note 1: Economics & the realm of culture
Note 2: This thing called love
Note 2: What it is to be human
Note 2: Absolute or relative value
Note 3: “Small is Beautiful”

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The beauty in home economics

Taking care of a home, a space, may not be this dramatic, glorious task. In reality, it’s more often thankless, never-ending, and essentially invisible. As with many “jobs” historically or culturally assigned to women, these are ongoing tasks that might easily become unnoticeable or appear effortless. Office administration being another example: done well, things happen “as they should”.

If those around aren’t aware or someone doesn’t draw attention to what’s been done to keep things ticking over, it might simply pass unnoticed or unappreciated. Which may lead to a spectrum of sentiment anywhere between militancy, resignation, simmering resentment or self-sacrifice – do we insist upon these things being seen for what they truly are or tend toward giving up the battle for recognition?

Surely these are activities society is effectively built upon? From the home all the way up to any collective or commercial enterprise, without some kind of consistent, nurturing provision, forethought and perpetuation it’s easy to wonder where we might’ve ended up. It’s the stuff of life, the details that go into providing for and clearing up after human activity – this cycle of creation, destruction, and starting over.

Not to wander too far down the byways of gender, what’s been seen as “women’s work” is often this very creative, empathetic, selfless effort at building up relationships, individuals and collective endeavours. In a way, it’s a task of love – for people, resources, places, experiences, potential, life itself. This understanding of all that has to go into making things happen that might, perhaps, be characterised as a “feminine perspective”.

Among many other things, this seems an area where society will really benefit from hearing and heeding the voices of those who’ve been sustaining it this way (Notes One). The wisdom of maintaining assets rather than discarding or letting them drift into disrepair. The consideration for others and what’s possible together that can make places welcoming, empowering, strengthening.

While feminism might be fraught with voices pulling in countless directions, the underlying spirit of what’s rising to the surface seems incredibly valuable. This sense for the bigger picture: seeing the webs of relationship and meaning, and where that’s leading; understanding all that goes on behind the scenes. This whole “what we’re doing and why” conversation around personal contributions to shared realities.

Why must one approach be seen as “best”? Life seems to thrive on diversity, on both/and rather than either/or. We all bring something to existence: historically as well as individually we’ve been through different experiences, been guided toward different skills, and have different things to offer. Why set one contribution – one way of seeing or being – against another?

It just seems we’re not quite valuing the less glamorous, more nurturing side of how we might go about things. Not seeing the very real strength and wisdom there. Not listening to the insights, intentions and concerns driving many people. Overlooking what goes into making things work and what those people have to say doesn’t really seem like a long-term solution on any level.

Notes and References:

Note 1: “Women who run with the wolves”
Note 1: Making adjustments
Note 1: How things change
Note 1: Intrinsic value of nature
Note 1: Obligations and contributions
Note 1: What are the true costs?
Note 1: Seeing, knowing and loving

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Right to look out for ourselves?

Are we mistaken, thinking mainly of ourselves? We live in a time of such great individualism and independence – personal experiences, feelings, desires, interests, concerns all vying for attention on our new global stage – but there’s still this collective side to existence, where nobody ever exists in isolation.

And I wasn’t being facetious about personal freedom being “great” as it truly is, in many ways (Notes One). So much good seems able to come from the individualism of the West: possibilities for overcoming limitations and finding new ways, ironing out problems, acknowledging mistakes, then having frank conversations about how best to resolve things and bring these valuable ideals to greater effect in our lives.

But, all that aside, there’s surely a point where thinking of yourself is problematic? Where does it lead if we continue thinking that way? Where will it leave society, its relationships, or the systems we all exist within? It really seems this personal freedom can be a blessing or a curse: we might use it wisely, considerately, constructively; or we might pull against things, creating problems now or storing them up down the line.

It’s as if we’ve really embraced this idea of being an island: each person the ruler of their own domain, free to do as we will, setting our own rules, refusing any notion of guidance, tradition or external constraint. But we still share space. We obviously share physical space – geographically, environmentally – where choices and behaviours have noticeable impacts, but also social space in all those ways our lives intersect.

What does it mean if we’re each insisting on operating independently? Acting, perhaps, out of imperfect understanding or personal woundedness? I honestly doubt anyone truly has a full understanding of everything that’s going on in our world, much as we might confidently act as if we do. Presumably, then, it’s a world filled with flawed but generally well-meaning activities? (Notes Two)

And, as with almost anything, there’s a circularity here that makes answers difficult to find and questions hard to articulate. How should we best manage our independence? What’s the right relationship to form with the various collective systems we also undeniably form part of? What personal choices are we making that might be more problematic than they’re worth? Are we only valuing life now, or also into the future?

Parts of our shared social systems being there to look out for us in that future, acting in ways that’ll create difficulties there might wisely be viewed as problems “now”. Similarly, all the ways our choices feed into or touch upon wider global situations – remote conflicts, socio-economic realities, environmental or climatic concerns – might well be creating imbalances that’ll almost inevitably play out at some future point.

Understanding the complexity of what humans have spun over the planet seems so important if we’re to operate well within it (Notes Three). And we can, of course, choose to focus on our own interests, but I wonder whether people down the line will still have that luxury.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Freedom, what to lean on & who to believe
Note 1: Dystopia as a powerful ideal
Note 2: In the deep end…
Note 2: Living as an open wound
Note 2: Making adjustments
Note 3: Does anything exist in isolation?
Note 3: If society’s straining apart, what do we do?
Note 3: Does it matter if others suffer?
Note 3: We’re all vulnerable
Note 3: Interdependency

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Economy as a battleground

This idea of economics being the management of what we all need – the means by which needs are met through natural resources and human ingenuity – intrigues me (Notes One). It’s this sense that we all, the world over, are plugged into this system of environment and endeavour; all hoping to make ends meet and live lives based around respect for human life and the value of life itself.

But, of course, it becomes more than that. It’s this pursuit of profit, power, influence, control, domination. It’s a means by which many are pushed down while others rise above – a manifestation and continuance of inequality. Because, of course, it has history. There were those who, in times past, held the reins at decisive moments and benefited from what was then in their hands. Like a strange game of pass the parcel.

That might be simply a fact of life, but it’s interesting to see how power’s inherited that way and how that’s justified personally or socially. It does slightly fly in the face of ideas around human equality and worth (Notes Two). Because, ultimately, economic realities are a source of power and a means of exerting it: conditions can be attached, resources withdrawn, access limited, and people feel it.

It’s surely a means of conflict? We might talk of trade wars as essentially economic problems, but they’re also a method whereby those more abstract realities exert pressure on the everyday lives of people. Each country having its own economic life, conditions at the boundaries are as real as geographical or political divides – points where conflict can arise, interests diverge, and lines be drawn.

Then it’s an area where ideology plays a part. It’s a method for hurting other countries, a means of leverage whereby you might create increasingly difficult internal conditions that become personal, social and political problems. It’s essentially putting your own interests before the interests of others, in the short or longer term. It’s us versus them, and the justification of such thinking. As if we’re not all the same.

Historically, it’s often a precursor to tangible physical conflict: those exacerbating conditions having wounded the pride or worn out the patience of populations to the point where things spill out into more overt interactions. It’s clearly this very powerful pressure point that can bring ideological or political differences into the lives of citizens through the backdoor of indirect economic forces.

But without even going so far as the issue of global politics, it’s potent on smaller scales (Notes Three). Economic realities divide us within our societies, carving up the landscape and leaving people on different sides of those fences. Every consumer decision we’re making plays into such complex international arrangements, creating conditions that repress some and elevate others.

It’s spun through all our lives, every action being a means to change or be changed by others. It’s fascinating while also being largely invisible: this incredibly powerful force that’s shaping lives, impacting landscapes, and creating the future we’re walking into.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Cycles of mind & matter
Note 1: Obligations and contributions
Note 1: Points of sale as powerful moments
Note 2: Mathematics of life
Note 2: Worthless, or priceless?
Note 2: What we bring to life
Note 3: Interdependency
Note 3: Would we be right to insist?
Note 3: Relating to one another

Leading on from this, Values on which we stand firm? looked at the idea of what might stand in the place of economic gain.

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