Posts tagged culture.
Just wrote this on one of my other blogs (it’s part of a class project). Please read it and tell me what you think!!
Everything I’ve read in the past few days for two of my classes seem to relate to one another in one major way (or rather, they all pose the same question): do consumers have the ability to make choices that actually challenge or protest against the corporations producing these commodities, or…
Today in my pop culture class we were discussing a bunch of different things but one topic we spent a great deal of time on is the notion of consumer choice. How much choice do we really have as consumers? Can we ever escape the boundaries of mass culture (or popular culture, which John Fiske thinks is something very different from mass culture)? Does capitalism provide us with more choices or fewer choices? (<— whether or not those choices are good or bad is something we didn’t have time to get into)
Anyway. We ended up talking about the whole local food movement because that’s a very big thing at my school and is important to a lot of people here. The girl sitting next to me (who frequently makes very rude remarks and basically tells other people their opinions are wrong/stupid) turns to me and says (it was sort of in response to something I’d said), “Well that’s all very nice but it’s not really possible to buy local all of the time. For example, what am I supposed to do if I need strawberries in February? I have to go to the store and buy strawberries imported from somewhere thousands of miles away.”
Most of the other students in the class looked confused, appalled, or angry…or some combination of those emotions. I took a deep breath and (very calmly) said, “Well, um, you don’t need strawberries in February. You just want them. And if you decide the importance of eating locally-grown (and therefore seasonal) produce outweighs your need for eating strawberries, you choose to only buy them in the late spring/summer months (if you’re living in this part of the U.S.)”
And then someone else jumped in and said that you could also preserve strawberries purchased in the summer- make them into jam or jelly, or freeze them. The girl who originally made the comment claimed that was unreasonable because “let’s just say my parents both work all the time and I’m in school and doing homework. How am I going to learn those skills?”
The conversation kind of ended there…at least on the subject of strawberries. But seriously? You’re not in school in the summer months. If you’re over the age of, I dunno, 13 or 14, you probably shouldn’t depend on your parents to teach you everything you know in life. And if you care about something deeply enough and/or want to learn a particular skill, there are TONS of resources out there you can use to educate yourself.
I don’t buy locally produced or grown food all of the time. However, in the past six months or so, I’ve become a more conscious consumer. When I buy produce I buy as much as I can afford locally- at the VERY least, grown in the U.S. I stopped buying (most) bananas because my roommate is from Paraguay and she has told me a lot about how badly workers involved in banana-picking/processing are treated. Even the bananas at the natural food store here are from Central or Latin America. I really miss bananas, but I don’t NEED them. And that’s not to say I won’t buy them on occasion. When I was at home I ate at least one banana every day! Transitioning from that to no bananas was a pretty difficult thing for me to do…but I just cannot buy them anymore. Every time I think about it, I just remember everything my roommate has told me, and my desire to not contribute to an industry that treats workers horribly and denies them their rights outweighs my desire to eat bananas.
I guess this raises the question: is it possible for us (as a species) to fundamentally change our food consumption habits to benefit the environment and human beings in general?
I’m actually reading this great book right now that attempts to answer that very question- it’s called Diet for a Hot Planet by Anna Lappe. I highly recommend it.
Moral of this post (haha): choose your words wisely. Needing something and wanting something are two very, very different things. And if you think about what you currently classify as “needs” in terms of foods, and then do some research about how your choices negatively (or perhaps positively) impact the world…maybe those “needs” will cease to exist, or at least become much less important.
this is why i fucking HATE mainstream media. CNN put these two stories NEXT TO ONE ANOTHER ON THEIR HOME PAGE. who the fuck thinks kim kardashian’s wedding deserves the same amount of press as a hate crime?
On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses. The nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Ocean.
no words. i’m on the verge of tears, though.
These are times of fast foods
but slow digestion;
Tall man but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It’s a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.
H.H. The XIV Dalai Lama
realization: sometimes you just have to plunge headfirst into an icy ocean, knowing you will, eventually, remember how to swim. i’m at the end of something, the beginning of this other thing, and it is incredibly liberating. terrifying in its liberation, in fact. i’m on the edge of cliff barely able to make out what lies below to break my fall. i have no expectations; i have hundreds of expectations. i bounce back and forth between assuming the best and worst, drawing conclusions that i know might be proven wrong soon enough.
fourteen days; two weeks; half a month. so different from where i was (mentally) last summer yet not so different at all. the same longing, uncertainty, and overpowering desire to just go, subverted only by a less powerful, but still very present desire to stay. (it’s not going to be easy, being even further away from the one i love, but we both know it’s necessary, and that we’ll get through it, that it will make our relationship even stronger)
i want this place, my new school, my new home…i want it to be everything i’ve dreamed and hoped it will be, but i also want it to be completely unexpected and shocking. i don’t ever want to feel complacent or bored or certain. i want all of my beliefs and world-views and previously held convictions to be thrown out the window, examined without bias, and perhaps remolded into something better. i want something or someone to surprise me every day. i want to be changed, and to change my environment and those who share it with me.
i read many articles today, my first “homework” assignment, if you will. a tiny part of me still can’t believe this is really happening; it feels like the best dream, the one you never ever want to wake up from. i get to spend the next four years drawing connections between everything, figuring out who i am and what i want to do during the rest of my life. i get to question everything, and talk to people who give a shit about something (many things) that matter(s). i get to breathe ocean air and eat local, organic food; i get to run through acadia national park whenever i feel like it. i get to depart completely from the realm of traditional education, and venture into uncharted territory…hopefully obtain what i consider to be a real education- interdisciplinary, constantly evolving, lacking traditional boundaries between disciplines and ideologies. i get to learn, to really learn, not just have “knowledge” shoved down my throat through yet another powerpoint presentation or monotonous lecture hall.
i get to touch, feel, listen. i get to walk instead of just talk. i know i’m going to have to work hard and be completely dedicated to my education. i know i will need to be self-directed and independent- but i already am both of those. for the past few years what i’ve wanted more than anything is to be in total control of my education- i am about to have that, finally. but
perhaps more importantly, i am going to learn what it means to be part of a community, to make decisions that are best for the collective vs. the individual…i am going to witness participatory (vs. representative) democracy. i am going to live in a house with seven other people and i am going to cook with them, talk with them, clean with them…know them.
for once i just want to let go of my desire to plan everything, to make lists of things i want to try during college, places i want to go, classes i want to take. i just want to let things happen naturally, go with the flow more than i ever have before, do what feels right, reject what doesn’t seem to fit me so well. i want to let go of my (sometimes) shyness and phobias about meeting new people and be my genuine self around everyone i meet…and not fear judgment.
i want to be brave, honest, and open. other things too, but those three are the most important. i know quite a few people who’d love to go to this school, who would gain as much, if not more, from this experience as i will. i have to make the most of this, i have to make this time count for something- i owe it to myself, my friends and family, humanity, and the earth. i really am starting to feel like i have a calling; i can’t quite articulate it, but my heart knows what it is.
all i want to do, from now on is follow my heart/mind (i don’t really view them as two distinct parts of myself the way many people do). i always know what i should do, and this is about following through. i know this post is vague, it’s not intentional. i have so much clarity now. everything will fall into place because i am going to walk down the right path for me…though i’m not positive where it will lead, i know where it won’t lead. it won’t lead to a job in corporate america. it won’t lead to material wealth. it won’t lead to an easy life. but it will lead to change, freedom, and love. maybe love above the other two…love for everything and everyone.
the reason i love christopher mccandless so much is because he said this-
happiness only real when shared
just five words. five words that make me cry whenever i write them down or whisper them to myself. five words that explain the why behind everything i want for this planet and all of the life that calls it home. five words that remind me never to isolate myself or believe that i have to endure anything alone. five words that i hope to (soon) have permanently written on my body, because more so than anything else i’ve ever read or heard or seen…they give me hope, and remind me why it’s so important not to give up, not to settle. why selflessness is necessary. why we can’t just shoulder all of the burdens on our own and run away from community, from our fellow human beings- as bad as things might seem, they only become truly wonderful when we can raise each other up and share in our joys and sorrows alike.
lately i’ve been feeling like i’m not doing enough. but truthfully i’m doing a lot more than i was a year ago, and i’m doing a lot more than most people seem to be. and the place i am about to depart for is just going to push me to doing more, more, MORE. i get so overwhelmed but then i remember: small steps, baby steps, one day at a time. small efforts do add up. talking to people and reaching out to them through your writing is not nothing. it’s something. the fact that you (i) changed my younger sister’s outlook on the world, the environment, and civilization is something, largely because she is now changing the course of her life because of her newly-held beliefs.
that is how it starts. a friend mailed me a copy of ishmael and had some conversations with me about the nature of things, about the way he views the world. he helped me give a name to the wrong i felt was plaguing the earth, deep down in my soul. he passed on this amazing gift of knowledge to me, and i feel compelled to share it with just about everyone. it changed my life completely (ishmael, other books, my friend, our conversations). we don’t talk anymore but i can honestly say i do not know who’d be writing this right now if he’d never entered my life.
i’m going to stop writing for now, but attach a much-needed “to be continued…” to the end of this post.
to be continued…
(Note…the poem was included in a packet of reading I have to do for school before orientation. Below is my response to one of the readings in the packet. It’s definitely safe to say I am going to the most wonderful school I could ever imagine)
There is in all visible things
An invisible fecundity,
A dimmed light,
A meek namelessness,
A hidden wholeness.
This mysterious Unity and IntegrityIs Wisdom, the Mother of all,
-Thomas Merton, “Hagia Sophia”
-The “Green Banana” story
One of my first thoughts after reading was that the story is a near-perfect articulation of why it is so terrible to try and assimilate people into the dominant (read: American/Western) culture. Doing so ignores the unique role that place and environment inevitably play in the development of culture- both on smaller, local scales, and larger, national scales. The author visited an area of Brazil in which green bananas, typically viewed by outsiders as inedible and therefore useless, were meaningful. The locals knew these fruits could be used as more than just food; they used them to plug holes in the radiator of the author’s car and in doing so, allowed him to continue his ascent up the mountain. This might sound ridiculous to you if you are reading this from a first-world country, but think about all of the things that play a central role in our daily lives and value systems that have no necessity or value in the lives of others. Cellular phones, ATMs, four-lane highways, toaster ovens…even newspapers, sunglasses, and painkillers. They may be deemed necessities by the dominant (civilized) culture but are not necessities in the true sense of the word- survival. Any attempt to create a dominant culture- globalization, democratization, Americanization- ignores the fact that in many areas across the globe, people have already figured out what they need, and what they don’t need. More importantly, they get the majority of what they need from their landbase; they don’t depend on expensive imported goods from halfway around the world in order to “survive.” They take from the earth but they certainly give back to it, in myriad ways most of us, myself included, cannot begin to imagine.
The other part of the author’s story was primarily about how the inhabitants of this particular village in Brazil considered the tallest rock in a nearby rock formation the center of the earth. The author questioned this statement after hearing it from a man, and later, from the man’s grandfather. He then realized his own grandfather had told them that the center of the world was located in New England. The point he wanted to make was that the center of the world is completely subjective, because the center of a person’s world is wherever their roots are, wherever they call home, wherever they’ve established a connection so deep and powerful it can’t always be explained. This is why it is unacceptable for outsiders to radically alter or destroy a group of people’s center. This is why it is unacceptable for Coca Cola to pollute and contaminate the drinking water in India. This is why it is unacceptable for corporations to push people off the land that is their center. Mind you, I’m only talking about the importance of home and center to human beings right now…quite obviously the same logic applies to most if not all non-human beings. If everyone was living in a way that was truly sustainable, local, and compassionate, we would not need to take away anyone’s center…or try and persuade them the center is somewhere else. The author ended his reflection by emphasizing the importance of the ability of students (we are all students, in my opinion) to be able to travel with open minds and hearts, and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of what makes cultures, places, and peoples unique. Some perspective, if you will…and maybe a green banana or two along the way.
please read this- it’s a bit long, but it is so important. those interviewed manage to articulate some of the things i’ve been trying to express for the past year.
I agree with much of what Hornborg has to say. Except for this part:
How can we, as academics, activists, and concerned citizens, best intervene, as you say, “in the destructive logic of our current economic system?”
First of all by recognizing the dilemma as I have outlined it in my earlier responses. Second by using their political agency (ultimately as voters in democratic political systems) to choose representatives who are prepared to reorganize the economy for the long-term good of all people and ecosystems, rather than for the short-term benefits of corporate interests.
We’re not in a democratic political system (I am referring to the US government). All of the so-called representatives of the people are barely representing the people’s interests…and are CERTAINLY not representing the interests of ecosystems and non-human animals. Why bother voting at all in a broken, useless system?
If candidates eventually emerge who don’t care about “the short-term benefits of corporate interests” I will certainly register to vote, and cast my ballot(s) for them. Until then, you won’t see me at the polls on voting day. There, in my opinion, is not a single politician/member of the US government that does not prioritize corporate interests/accumulation of profit/military spending, etc. above other, more important interests- such as the health of the planet and and all of its inhabitants.
So Facebook deletes anarchist/ activist groups, but this is ok?
I reported it as well… for a minute I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing but then I remembered the nature of (some) humans.
"I have choice!"
I screamed that at my mother when I was 2 years old. She informed it was time to leave my grandparents’ house, and I replied that I wasn’t ready to go. She then said I didn’t have a choice…which, she says, made me very angry.
Independence is not about the choices we make; rather, it is about our desire to make those choices, to possess the ability to make decisions for ourselves. Independence is about having the opportunity to discover what your dreams, goals, and aspirations are- but we are not truly independent unless we have the ability to seek out the things we want to pursue. Is independence different than freedom? It seems like I’m using the two synonymously, but that wasn’t my intention. From my perspective, the word “freedom” is usually used to refer to something we are given, by the government, the president, some other authority figure, a person who believes he or she has power. Whereas independence is more of a state of mind- you can be an independent person in a society that isn’t “free,” for example. But can we be free if we are not independent? Many people seem to think we can’t, but I beg to differ.
For me, being independent means standing on my own two feet, fighting my own battles, taking care of myself. It means that I’m not dependent on another person to bring me happiness or health or peace of mind. I think (for me anyway) it also means I am not dependent on any drugs or compulsive behaviors (still working on the latter). It means I am not dependent on mainstream media, societal pressures, and stereotypes to tell me what I should look like, what I should buy, how I should live my life. It means I don’t need outside influences or sources to make my decisions for me- I can consult them, certainly, but ultimately I choose what is best for me. Not my parents or my boyfriend or my professors or my best friends.
In the U.S., we are told we are free. We are told we should be grateful for this freedom (which implies the government can take it away from us whenever they want, that it was a precious gift they chose to give us…). On paper, we have free speech, freedom to peacefully assemble, freedom to worship how we choose, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment…we even have the freedom to “bear arms,” whatever that means. In reality we do not have any of those freedoms 100% of the time. That’s not what I want to discuss, though. Most Americans believe we live in a free country, that we are a free people. We have freedom. Okay.
But are we independent? Some of us are. Maybe it depends on how you personally define “independent.” But I think many of us are too dependent on our culture, government, and society- we let them dictate our political beliefs, values, religious/spiritual beliefs, goals. We are dependent on the false promise of the American Dream. We are dependent on catchy advertising to help us decide what to purchase (or not purchase). We are dependent on magazines and celebrities and reality TV to show us what we should look like, the “ideal” body we must strive towards. We are dependent on the lies of our culture, of civilization- the lies that help us sleep at night, that help us turn the other way and ignore the truths that we all know, on one level or another.
Let’s take back our independence. Let’s think for ourselves, and only let outside influences we truly value influence our decisions and our lives. Let’s put out the wildfire our consumerist society has become and end our sick obsession with material wealth, with six-figure salaries and luxury cars. Let’s scream, “Fuck your expectations! Fuck your stereotypes! Fuck your unrealistic standards! We don’t need you to tell us how to live; we want to be independent, we don’t need your authority.” Let’s break these chains for good, and show ourselves what it means to be independent- truly.
And once we’ve done that, let’s make a country- no, a world- that actually grants everyone freedom. Independence and freedom may not be the same thing, but they do go hand-in-hand.
This guy makes amazing music about the most important thing in the world- namely, how civilization is killing us, non-human animals, and the planet earth. Please check out his work. You can download his albums for free, too. If you want to interact with him on Facebook his name there is also Zack de La Rouda. Please talk to him…he is one of the main reasons I started to question this sick society..a.k.a someone who knows what’s up and is really passionate about making a huge difference.