Back to basics

Talking about the disastrous effects of our Western lifestyle, our eating, shopping and holiday habits on the planet is never fun. People don’t like to be made felt bad about their choices. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was a student but for same reason I’m certainly not one of those veggies who tells you off about the ‘dead animal on your plate’ in the middle of a restaurant. But by now we’ve reached a point with climate and environmental issues that I’m wondering if maybe we should. Is it really OK when friends announce their fifth mini hols a year by plane? And is it OK to just reply asking if they had a good time and what the weather was like?

I remember earning a lot of money each month as a lawyer and I sometimes I hadn’t got a clue how to spend it. I think many fulltime workers who go clothes shopping on a Saturday often don’t. It seems more of a cultural habit. Sometimes I randomly bought shoes, and then I just threw them in some closet if I didn’t want to wear them, and went to buy a new pair I didn’t really need. It gave me a very empty feeling.

Sometime after quitting this job I left to Ireland with my guitar and ended up on a farm in the wild West. My main concerns were to light the fire in the mornings, to collect drinking water from a well in the mountains (rural area’s often still don’t have access to public water schemes), to do repairs after power cuts and some more very basic life tasks, like baking fresh bread in the morning. Strangely this largely improved my mood and feeling of happiness about life in general.  It felt like for the first time in my life – in my twenties – I lived and worked for what really matters, staying alive, keeping warm and being as self sufficient as possible doing so and spend my little savings on local activities that felt like “really earned”.

Of course I wouldn’t want to project my own experience on society in general. But could I assume that our general Western lifestyle has drifted so far off from a basic self sufficient experience, that knowing ‘what really counts in life’ is just as hard a notion to grasp as knowing ‘what we are doing wrong’ ? Is that why it’s so hard to admit that maybe that 5th mini break away or buying that car to bring the kids to school wasn’t really necessary? Because we really don’t feel anymore what is truly valuable? Because our lives are built around an existence in which we study hard to earn digital abstract credits to buy stuff from, striving for more and more, overlooking if we do really add the same amount of value in return with our work? What is an experience really “earned”? It would be good to leave the notion of money out of this equation now when we judge our own behaviour and what we really deserve….

See you on Friday for the Climate Strike in The Hague!

 

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