Those in power have made it so we have to pay simply to exist on the planet. We have to pay for a place to sleep, and we have to pay for food. If we don’t, people with guns come and force us to pay.
Of course I understand why people WANT to have a description of the sustainable life of the future. They think this would enable them to adopt that sustainable life NOW, TODAY. But social change doesn’t come about that way, any more than technological change does. It would have been useless to show Charles Babbage a printed circuit or to show Thomas Edison a transistor. They could have done nothing with those things in their day–and we could do nothing today with a picture life a hundred years from now. The future is not something that can be planned hundreds of years in advance–or even ten years in advance. Adolf Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich didn’t even last a thousand WEEKS. There has never been a plan for the future–and there never will be.
[E]ducation is a thing you get past and forget about as quickly as possible. This is particularly true of elementary and secondary education, of course…. I began to remember what it had been like: the tremendous excitement of the first couple of years, when kids imagine that great secrets are going to be unfolding before them, then the disappointment that gradually sets in when you begin to realize the truth: There’s plenty of learning to do, but it’s not the learning you wanted. It’s learning to keep your mouth shut, learning how to avoid attracting the teacher’s attention when you don’t want it, learning not to ask questions, learning how to pretend to understand, learning how to tell teachers what they want to hear, learning to keep your own ideas and opinions to yourself, learning how to look as if you’re paying attention, learning how to endure the endless boredom.
We don’t need to have all six billion of us living like environmental saints tomorrow–or ever, for that matter. To take such a thing as our objective would merely assure failure…. We simply can’t, as Gorbachev suggests, wait for ‘all members of the world community’ to ‘resolutely discard old stereotypes.’… These are will-o-the-wisps, vain expectations that keep us rooted in hopelessness, year after year, decade after decade….
Because we don’t expected to overthrow governments, abolish world capitalism, make civilization vanish, or turn everyone in the world into walking buddhas, we don’t have to wait for ANYTHING. But I have to warn you that many people will tell you the opposite, that we have to wait until we have a world that is ALREADY perfect. They feel absolutely nothing should happen until we’ve banished social inequality, racism, sexism, poverty, and every other bad thing you can think of….
People who think like this would wait for the cut to heal before applying a bandage, would wait till daybreak to light a candle, would wait for the sinking ship to rise before getting in the lifeboat.
You MUST have a revolution if you’re going to survive, Julie. If you go on the way you’re presently going, it’s hard to imagine your living through another century. But you can’t have a negative revolution. Any revolution that thinks of ‘going back’ to some ‘good old days’ of imagined simplicity… is founded on dreams. Any revolution that depends on people voluntarily giving up things they want for things they don’t want is mere utopianism and will fail. You must have a positive revolution, a revolution that brings people MORE of what they REALLY want, not LESS of what they DON’T really want. They don’t really want sixteen-bit electronic games, but if that’s the best they can get, they’ll take it…. If you want them to lose interest in toys, then you must give them something EVEN BETTER than toys.
That must be the watchword of your revolution, Julie–not voluntary poverty, but rather voluntary wealth. But REAL wealth this time. Not toys, not gadgets, not ‘amenities.’ Not stuff you can put in bank vaults. Real wealth of the kind that humans were born with. Real wealth of the kind that humans enjoyed here for hundreds of thousands of years…. And this is wealth you can enjoy without feeling guilty, Julie, because it isn’t something stolen from the world.