It’s Christmas time once again. Most people are probably in the full swing of preparation for the holidays and Christmas (especially if those living in the west). Unless of course you are like me. A diehard minimalist.
In the midst of the excitement of decorations, decisions on buying gifts, invitations to parties and lunches and dinners, preparation of many feasts with friends and family, the harried busyness, let’s pause for a moment.
I am travelling through Africa gathering material and shooting for a documentary, I am noticing a lot of malnutrition, hunger and poverty. I haven’t seen a single Christmas tree or lights where I am right now. There isn’t the busyness, the hurried scurrying to buy gifts, nor the preparation for Christmas feasts. Santa doesn’t visit these parts much, except for the very wealthy. The paradigm of Santa lives more in the richer/developed countries.
These are the people who are exposed to the western style of living via media, TV and the neoclassical market economy. These are the people who are desperately aspiring to the western lifestyle. But will they ever reach parity with the western lifestyles?
Here are some global statistics:
- In developed countries the consumption is equivalent to an average of 5 times the planet’s regenerative capacity i.e. we need equivalent of 5 planets to sustain our lifestyles.
- 12% of the worlds’ population consumes over 60% of the resources.
- The average global consumption is 1.6 times the regenerative capacity. We are already in overshoot. And by 2030 it will be twice the regenerative capacity.
Think of it this way. There is a long line up at a buffet dinner. More richer people are at the head of the line. 12% of the people at the head of the line will eat 60% of the food. Those who are at the bottom of the line will most probably eat the scraps or go hungry.
But that is how the socioeconomic construct supported by neoclassical market economy has been created. Due to the limits of the carrying capacity of the planet, the planet is already unsustainable. The poorest two billion people won’t be able to catch up anytime to the western lifestyles.
The reality is that to lift the two billion people out of poverty on a planet that is already living in overshoot will need a massive scale back of the western lifestyles to live within the ecological footprint that is equitable to all humanity.
Our long term wellbeing and that of the planet depends on how far reaching our circle of empathy is. For we are all members of one single human family. When we are concerned for the wellbeing of others, we can exercise greater social responsibility and increase our circle of empathy to include all all of humanity. For are we not members of one single family?
Abraham Maslow clearly expressed it as follows “Self-actualizing people have a deep feeling of identification, sympathy, and affection for human beings in general. They feel kinship and connection, as if all people were members of a single family.”
The only thing missing is that we were never taught these facts, how to be self-actualized, how to live as if al of humanity mattered. Conversations of human dignity, respect and alleviation of malnutrition, hunger and poverty are missing from the mainstream and our education system.
Baba Dioum, Senegalese forestry engineer put it succinctly “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”
And when we really learn and internalize that we are all a single human family, that is when the wisdom to act from social responsibility and empathy become part of our daily lives. It is freedom from psychological and material encumbrances that will set humanity free and become more equitable instead of the current haphazard unplanned growth and wastage of resources.
It is time to break away and be the disruptive power to the status quo. We can put an end to what the great philosopher of the twenty century said:
“We follow, conform, obey, practice what we have been told, day after day, like machines.” ~ J. Krishnamurti.
We need to unlearn that which we have been taught. And learn different ways to live, without regressing the quality of life.
Meanwhile ask yourself: What is your gift for humanity? And how can you do the greatest good possibly this Christmas and Holiday season.
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Here Are Four Steps to Exercising Simple Abundance This Holiday Season:
- Gratitude for what you already have without the need to buy more.
- Appreciation for what others have without envy.
- Being generous with the less fortunate.
- Expand the circle of empathy to include all of humanity and all elements of existence. For we are all members of the same family.