27 Feb 2022
The war in Ukraine is leaving me shocked and shaking about my helplessness.
We apparently have no means to control men - and it is almost exclusively men - that by sheer power of their will can unhinge the stability of whole nations and start wars affecting millions of people.
How could that happen? Why have we not found means to identify such individuals and learned to deal with them before they can damage our lives?
We are willing to ignore the most obvious signs on the wall, are afraid of standing up against bullies - be it in Kindergarten, our social groups (sports, church,... ) or politics.
It is always humans that do the damage and most importantly, it is us that are responsible for letting it happen. More specific - it is me, who has the responsibility to act. There is no way I can roll off my responsibility to “the others”, to “they at the top”, to “he, who is the only god”.
It is my responsibility to do the right thing everyday, everywhere! Why? Because it’s the only sphere of influence that I have.
Do not let yourself talk yourself out of the importance of the individual act. You may think “what can I do! What difference does it make?”
It makes all the difference!
Let’s think about it - we have very little influence on the world around us. Even our own kids develop the way they choose to and we can do very little about their individual acts. What can we do about the neighbor who is inconsiderate of the people around him and only looking for his/her own benefit? What can I do against a dictator who wants to bomb half of Europe back into the middle ages?
I can only influence my own acts. And actually my own thoughts as well. I have the power to do - and even more importantly - NOT DO - the things that are wrong. And I am a strong believer that inherently we do know what is right and what is wrong. We humans are not that different in these fundamental categories. We just forget, or were trained or chose to ignore, what we actually know is the right thing to do.
So - we just need to do them!
That thought gives me a lot of strength - over and over again. I always come back to the conclusion that it is my responsibility and opportunity to do the right thing. This is a liberating thought, because it means that nobody has the power to force me to do things that I don’t think are right. No other human, no government, no church, no god. In fact, I believe that what we call GOD is in fact that power that we all have in ourselves to do good!
This means that we have a huge responsibility even in the smallest acts of our everyday lives. This also means that we do not have to overwhelm ourselves with expectations that we need to do big acts of earth shattering importance, but that it is the smallest actions that count and that bring out the go(o)dness in us.
If I choose to leave the car at home and ride the bike or public transportation to work - I have reduced my car exhaust by 20% every day! It is good for the environment, it is good for my health and it helps me to become independent of oil-producing regimes that I wouldn’t want to support in any shape or form (Germany imports 30% of its oil from Russia). Every drop of gas that we do not use, is an act of independence and free will. I hear so many people complain about the traffic, the price of gas, the quality of air, the lack of physical exercise. It can all be changed by simply leaving the car at home. Drop the key back into the basket at the door. Yes, you may even consider selling your car (if you live in a city). But nobody is to blame for the traffic, the pollution, the cost of gas, your body mass index except yourself the next time you step into the car.
If I choose to cancel my subscription for PayTV that sponsors large international sports events, I take away my money from corrupt organizations that need to lie in bed with dictators and authoritarian regimes in order to finance the obscene salaries of their players. I hear so many people complain about the corruption of FIFA, the shame of having a world championship taking place in Qatar, the Olympics being held in Bejing. So - just don’t go there, don’t watch it, don’t spend any cent on it.
Climate Change - another big field of feeling helpless! What do my actions any good? A whole lot I would say. Again, where would we start changing the world if not in our own direct area of influence (that we decided is pretty small!). But what if many small actions would add up to big changes?
Where would the big corporations of our time be without us? Who said we all need a smartphone? Who said, we all need to have at least one car and drive every meter? Who said we need to fly around the globe to lie in a reclining chair for 2 weeks?
We are all doing it by our own choice and we are not victims of any mysterious power that pilots us. We do all of this ourselves and in the same way we can also decide to NOT DO them!
It’s so easy!
The public debate about how to address climate change mostly involves the belief in human ingenuity and new technology to solve the big problems. There may be some truth in this but I believe we simply do not have the time to wait. The single most effective act that we all can take NOW is to NOT DO some of the things that we all know are wrong.
Yes, relinquishment, renunciation, abstinence, abdication - this is what each and everybody of us can do RIGHT NOW to change those things that you and I may consider wrong in this world.
And it is less scary than most of us may think. Yes, it’s not popular, but it may be liberating. Who hasn’t experienced the relief of NOT GETTING immediately, what we wanted, or thought we absolutely needed?
How often do we feel bad because we bought something on a whim, something that we didn’t even intend to get when we started looking (in the shop, online)?
So, at the end of this random train of thought I come to the following conclusions:
- I am not helpless, because my own acts influence the world around me.
- Many small acts going in the same direction can have profound effects.
- Less IS more! By simply NOT buying certain goods or services I can actively withdraw financial support from corporations and regimes that I do not want to support.