Confronting Western Greed

Saturday, 18th August 2007 at 8:00 UTC 4 comments

I’m really starting to get annoyed by all this nonsense that’s going around about how Climate Camp is interfering with people’s right to take a holiday in peace. What right? Rights should either be universal, or for the protection of a weak minority. Where did we, the rich folks in the west, get this right from?

Worse than this, it seems some people have so immunized themselves against the reality of the world that they only compare their ability to get away on holiday to that of the people shown in the media: the rich and the famous (who are also, generally, rich). What about all those people working in sweatshops with zero days holiday and upwards of 60 hour weeks. Perhaps we should take the ability to simply get out of our own town or city for a couple of weeks at a time without being fired as a miracle in itself.

As to business flights, so many could just as easily be taken by train anyhow, and then we might have enough money to build faster rail lines with bigger capacity. Obviously, we can do ourselves a favor and reassess why we’re doing business in a way which requires those sorts of distances in traveling: is it perhaps because our business models are based on the normalisation of greed. By that I mean that our culture tells us we have a right to expand our business at the expense of others, and lets face it, its rare we can expand business without harming either others or the environment, which comes to about the same thing.

I was somewhat impressed by the shop owners I met in Palestine, many of whom seemed to feel that the important thing in life was to hand over a business that paid for itself and for their upkeep to the next generation. The idea of expanding and opening other stores and employing vast numbers of people was not there. To many in the west this would seem like a sort of laziness, a stupid attitude when clearly these businesses should learn to compete.

Its only when confronted by this alternative, by some kind of system that values cooperation and contentment above greed that we can see our own system, our own culture for what it really is. I was noticing recently how that old phrase “we should live simply that others might simply live” has started doing the rounds in some churches again. How we square that in a world where the simple living of many is back-breaking hours and no holidays, and yet we ourselves are used to having free time, is perhaps a little difficult.

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Entry filed under: Climate Change, Culture, Economics, Environment, Materialism.

The Media Rules Climate Camp: an early reflection

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jonathan  |  Saturday, 18th August 2007 at 8:16 UTC

    On the holiday thing –

    To me the whole issue of “rights” is largely a false one. the bigger issue is, what’s useful? on the one hand are business flights, unnecessary transportation of goods to protect profit, and the people whose flights are simply a consequence of wealth (e.g. people flying to their second homes in Spain three or four times a year) – flights which (IIRC) make up a majority of aviation use in the UK, in the latter case constituting a majority of budget airline use (in spite of the “attacking EasyJet is attacking the working class” shite that comes out of the Mail etc.)

    on the other is the majority of people in this country who simply want to take their one annual holiday somewhere a bit different and, due to factors beyond their control (such as relative pricing of rail and airlines), have fairly limited options.

    why should people be expected to give up their one chance for a break when there’s infinitely more shit being produced by capital? why should we pursue an avenue (no-flight pledges, encouraging people not to fly, blaming everyone who gets on a plane) that’s addressing a minority group within commercial aviation (itself a minority within the wider aviation sphere) and is guaranteed more than any other to create conflict with the people we’re trying to talk to?

    I don’t mean to simply ignore the impact our consumer decisions have on the wider world per se; however I don’t see any purpose in over-emphasising them or making them a key point to organise and publicise around, given the high cost and low benefit.

    Incidentally, I do find it amusing that you rant against people taking flights at the same time as mentioning your trip to Palestine.

    Reply
  • 2. Betty  |  Saturday, 18th August 2007 at 16:16 UTC

    I’ve taken 15 flights this year. The planet hates me.

    Reply
  • 3. Greg  |  Saturday, 18th August 2007 at 21:24 UTC

    How did you manage that? Trips to Russia? I think my housemate probably beats you, though; he spends a certain amount of time each month at CERN for his phd, so he’s flying all the time. (Hi J, if you’re reading this!)

    Reply
  • 4. Helen  |  Monday, 20th August 2007 at 23:10 UTC

    Going on holiday in this country is great. Or at least, going on the one sunny week in August to Derbyshire (mercifully not flooded) is great.

    I have mixed feelings about protests, I realised this recently. I mean, I have to ask myself whether, if I had more money and time, I wouldn’t actually be jetting off to Australia or South America (It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven.) I might as well have a placard saying “You’re rich and I hate you!) On the plus side carework doesn’t pay very well so I shall remain poor and virtuous. Or doing OK and being fairly nice, anyway 🙂

    Though I do hate all that “rights” rubbish. There are some very good rights, such as the right to freedom from torture, but the “right to go on holiday without being scared of eco-protests” is stretching the boundaries a bit.

    Reply

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