You’re not special

I am living in the United States for approximately nine months now. Since the beginning of the year, every now and then I find myself in situations that completely take my trust in this society away.

I’m not talking about the government – cyber surveillance regarding civilians, both inside the US and abroad, is a known fact since 2007, so the NSA scandal that involved Edward Snowden’s leaks didn’t surprise me. I’m talking about the way people tend to live their lives in a extremely individualized fashion. I’m going to try to convince you why this individualization process is ruining every hope we can have for the future.

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Let’s start with an amusing presentation from Hans Rosling, the Swedish professor that detailed, in a TEDx event, an extensively known issue but one that we (the human kind) have been tremendously failing to address: fair energy distribution.

It’s a simple concept. There is a limited amount of fossil fuel making up for most part of energy in the world. Rosling says this energy can be divided in 12 equal units being produced everyday. Half of the world’s energy is consumed by a billion people, while the other 6 billion have to fight for the other half. Two billion people, the poorest in the planet, have access to only one energy unit out of twelve. “Well, that a distribution problem. We gotta solve that,” some will say. Wrong.

The real problem is not actually energy distribution or food distribution, it’s not even about policies that make this reality better or worse. The real problem is a type of mindset we nurture and have grown accustomed with. Most people are encouraged to consume more. That’s what we, in a capitalist system, pursue. Everyone is aiming at the top 1% lifestyle: limitless possibilities, everything you can get at your reach, all you need to do is work hard for yourself and you will get there.

That’s actually an extremely selfish way of thinking: conquering the liberty of having things you don’t actually need. For what reason exactly do we do that? I can not get it out of my head that this is based in an extreme individualization logic. Let’s not forget all the propaganda surrounding us everywhere, convincing us to fulfill our personal needs by using their products without paying too much thought to it. The message is: you, the consumer, the buyer, the audience, you are just one step away from being happy – all you have to do is open up your wallet. If we believe the message, then personal frivolities really become first priority.

That’s what makes us accumulate all the wasted energy, all the junk forgotten inside drawers, basements, underneath your bed. But if seven billion people had the consumption habits of an average US citizen, there would not be enough energy to everyone, Rosling’s presentation clearly show that.

But are you really going to give up your first-world lifestyle just for the sake of mankind? Why would you, right?

 

Tulio Kruse

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~ by tkd227 on October 16, 2013.

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