Many people now realize that the world is largely insane. However, every day these “sane” people continue their lives as best they can. Since so many aspects of our dominant culture and society are ruled largely by insane principles, these “sane” people can’t help but support (and thereby preserve) the insanity as they go about with their lives. To give some examples of what I am talking about, I consider the following “every day activities” as critically contributing to the continuance of our cultural insanity: buying “normal” (non-local, non-organic, “free” trade) food; using electronics and communication systems which are ruthlessly toxic in so many ways; watching mind-numbing entertainment; following mainstream news (which focuses almost all of our attention on the insanities in our world, but does so in such uncritical ways that it only normalizes the insanity it covers); paying taxes (which we know largely supports subsidies for unsustainable and inhumane practices including the jumbo-sized military and prison system); putting our money in national/international banks, investing in blue-chip stocks, or using credit-cards (all which directly support the insanely unequal distribution of wealth that exists); and, promoting consumeristic values (by adorning ourselves with material goods containing subtle or in-your-face advertisements, such as, a “F-I-L-A” hat or CK jeans, or having “bling-bling” qualities, such as, a diamond ring, gold necklace, faux fur, or Rolex watch).
For many of us these activities appear very normal and even mundane. Some reading this may in fact be quite annoyed at the insinuation that these are “insane” activities. However, the harm that they do (by perpetuating a materialistic, profit-at-any-cost system) is immeasurable. Then, if they are so harmful, why do the vast majority of us continue to do them? And what might be done to make us stop? These questions cut to the core of whether our society will endure or collapse (through war, disease or climate catastrophe)? I don’t pretend to be an expert when it comes to answering these questions, and I am not sure such experts exist, given that so few of us seriously consider changing the way things are. In this vein, I offer some thoughts to stimulate discussion in these largely ignored areas.
First, why do so many of us continue to act in ways that are insane? Well, some of us do so because we don’t have any other choice. Poverty is at epidemic levels in the US (the “richest” country in the world—how insane is that?) and income inequality continues to grow. In my community, over 60% of children are granted “free and reduced” lunch (and breakfast) because the government recognizes how desperate things are (hungry children lead to very angry citizens). A recent national report documents that more than 1/5 of children nationally suffer from food insecurity during the year. As tragic as this is, the poverty that affects so many has a paralyzing effect. Living day-to-day (paying this or that bill, deciding between dinner, a car repair, or a bus ride home) makes it nearly impossible to act outside the norm. (Interestingly, when you hit rock bottom, such as homeless people, you often must do things outside the norm (such as dumpster diving) to survive. In this sense, these folks are one of the few that aren’t perpetuating the insanity.) Even middle-class folks in the US have limited options. Although they may have some money saved or invested, they recognize that they are often one life challenge from losing their home/apartment, their car, or their educational dreams. Thus, they too work tirelessly to stay one step ahead—the system tells us all that as long as we work hard enough, we’ll be alright, and this satisfies our anxiety enough to keep moving on the “treadmill”. Many are also told that “we could be the lucky ones,” and this belief leads to many low- and middle-class people buying lottery tickets with the little that they have; in my community, over $6 million a year (~$200 per head) is spent now in mini-slot machines that have begun dotting our cultural landscape over the past few years. Our insatiable thirst for entertainment (500 cable channels, social media, sports on “steroids”) represents an escape from the realities of the world—a relatively innocuous escape compared to the many destructive vices that many (people of all economic classes) engage in for the same effect. Also, just as most industrial farmers are trapped by huge unpaid loans (for their mega-machines) and rising annual seed and pesticide payments, middle class people are trapped by their rent/mortgage, health care, car payment, cell phone, and cable bill. Then, you have the upper classes and the rich and it is pretty obvious why they perpetuate the insanity. They benefit from it, at least relatively, so they have no motivation for changing it, though they have the most power to do so. It should be noted that some thoughtful “wealthy” people assuage their guilt or fear (from the horrors of “poisoned” food and chemical-laced pillows) by purchasing hybrid cars and organic briskets. Unfortunately, while these acts are more sensible than other options, their contributions are not yet significant enough to overwhelm the “insanity” that dominates other components of their lives (such as, their many flights & ginormous homes and lawns) and other’s lives.
There you have it. The system of insanity continues because a few benefit from it while the masses can’t really see any other way.
Okay, so what might compel us to stop acting insanely? Does it have to be this way? You can comment your thoughts on this (I hope) and/or you can wait for my next blog 😊.