Saturday, March 21, 2009

On Stupid weekends and winning

This weekend, The Age Of Stupid will be screened at theatres across the UK, posing a crucial question to moviegoers: “why didn’t we save ourselves?” I’m not going to delve into what the film is about because, and Mayor Ken agrees, it’s a film that should be compulsory viewing for all 6.7 billion of us! But I will ask: why aren’t we saving ourselves? Is it that we don’t believe we are worth saving?

It’s an interesting time of resonance. Earlier this week, the Affluenza exhibition opened, a project that looks at how consumer values are affecting our emotional health. Consumerism, which as suggested in The Age of Stupid, is the most successful movement in the ranks with democracy and religion. We buy this and that to look ‘better’ and feel ‘better’; we aspire to be like this and that person because they are ‘better’ and we settle for the acquisition of the trappings that constitute their lifestyle. Our consumption facilitates carbon emissions, contributing to our superficial sense of contentment and to climate change!

What if we didn’t look outside ourselves?
What if we valued ourselves enough so that we valued each other? What if by doing so we took away the power of people who play on our differences? Differences that when articulated, amplified and embellished are often the basis of conflict. Conflict that is exacerbated by climate change with devastating results.

Take our beautiful continent Africa. Rare in that it contains all that humankind could want: oil, minerals, fertile land etc. Yet present: gross underdevelopment, famine, disease and war. There is little need for me to shout about obvious connections. The continent’s beauty derives from its diversity and yet, this same diversity is manipulated to exploit and encourage blindness, silence and complicity. Complicity on all sides, people on all sides essentially not valuing themselves and what they have and own.

What if we valued ourselves enough so that we valued the environment? What if we did not bite the earth that feeds? Surely if we valued ourselves enough, we would not want to live in an environmentally deteriorating or devastated world? What if we didn’t choose to hide behind self-satisfaction and claims that our backyards were taken care of and that it was those other places that would suffer? Ultimately, all of us, around the world, are connected through the products we buy and sell, the places we visit, the decisions we make and the actions we take and so on. Despite distance and circumstance, there are often way fewer than six degrees of separation. If we’re not feeling the negative impacts today, we are not exempt, merely asleep.

A, b, c, none of the above
All of this is irrelevant, unsubstantiated and ludicrous! Life continues as normal. We’re all going to die eventually anyway so I might as well enjoy myself as much as I can.

Shit! This is serious. I would like to do something but what can I do? Can anything I do make a difference? Probably not. I better enjoy myself as much as I can and numb the guilt feelings.

Shit. This is serious. I need to find out what I can do to make a difference so that I can really enjoy myself and feel good about doing so.

Could we be winning?
…And improve my quality of life in the process! Many complain about the breakdown of society, of family values, of ‘tradition’. Of people becoming more selfish and individualistic and losing a sense of the greater good and of community. Across history, common adversaries have united the most hostile of folk. Here is a common enemy for us to fight and in the act of doing so, possibly rebuild our fragmented societies and nations.

Indeed, what if we didn’t look outside ourselves, and instead practiced a constructive selfishness? What if we undertook every activity with a view towards truly increasing our individual wellbeing? Not a vision of wellbeing that we’d bought or been co-opted into but one that we honestly delineated for ourselves. An introspective view that would allow a clearer lens for looking out!

One of my uncles has a favourite greeting that takes the place of the rather vague and uninterested “how are you?” He asks, “Are you winning?” Interpret as you will but I see it as a great prompt to focus on a more aspirational way of looking at your life. No more numbness and “fine” – instead: drive and resolution. Ultimately: affirmation!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tip: Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, London

Human Rights Watch gives voice to the oppressed by bringing international attention to violations of thteir rights so what better way to solicit this attention than through that ever-powerful and -pervasive medium – film!

The 13th Human Rights Watch International Film Festival began yesterday in London and runs until the 27th of March. Including a truly international selection of stories covering everything from immigration and the often treacherous search for a home, to the potency of women organising to liberate their country from civil war; from indigenous people battling one of fthe world's largest oil producers, to friendships tested by border lines.

Tip: Affluenza exhibition begins in London

What do consumer values and emotional wellbeing have in common?
The Affluenza exhibition begins in London today (in brief).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's just the women

International Women’s Day (IWD) was this past Sunday (8th March). I know I’ve been extremely busy lately but I don’t believe I live in that inacessible a hole as to not have come across any IWD communications! Correction: the hints I did receive were due to a subscription to a mailing list on HIV/AIDS and following Reuters Women on twitter. Why is it that a day that is relevant to HALF of the world’s population, should not have had more widespread coverage? Why weren’t there events taking place in every locality, making it impossible to ignore? One would have even expected the capitalist engine to be running on full blast, promoting this or that consumable in the same way that Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas encourage. Is the attention given to IWD, symbolic of the vast amount of progress yet to be made in actualising gender equality?

Here are a few snippets and food for thought! Please share voices from around the world!

“Feminists across Europe demand a different approach than patch it up and go on with “business-as-usual.” A gendered analysis of our economies as based on both productive and reproductive work, and how this can and must be coupled with issues of equality, should together with sustainable development perspectives become center stage at a moment where we look for new models for the financial and economic systems.”

Brigitte Triems – president of the European Women’s Lobby
Check out their campaign: 50/50: No Modern European Democracy Without Gender Equality


“I believe that International Women’s Day is an important reminder of the work that still needs to be done and it is certainly a powerful moment of solidarity across time and space … I want to reclaim the day. Reclaim it back from the hands of empty ritual and rhetoric and from those that treat it like another public relations opportunity.

As tax payers in the U.S. are aghast at upwards of $700 billion dollars going to “bail out” the financial system, little is said of the fact that this figure is also the approximate annual military budget of the U.S. Global military spending currently exceeds $1,204 billion dollars annually at 2006 prices. The combined budgets of the United Nations entities working on women’s issues amounts to approximately 0.005 percent of that.

The World Bank estimates the cost of interventions to promote gender equality under Millennium Development Goal 3 (universal access to education) to be $7-$13 per capita. The world’s military expenditure in 2006? $184 per capita. This is the financial crisis. That investing in weapons and war and creating human insecurity is prioritized over investing in peace, development and gender equality. This is what we should be questioning and working to change as we stand together on International Women’s Day. And if the governments and corporations of the world really want to show their support for this day, then ending militarism would be a good place to start.”

Sam Cook – director of the PeaceWomen Project


“In Christian theology, it is axiomatic that God is neither male nor female. Yet persistently over history God has been normalised as male, and men have therefore been seen as closer to God than women.”

Reverend Dr. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes

(Image by Miranda Bergman)