Sunday, January 3, 2010
The structure that has emerged in our economic system (and its offspring: the commodification of every aspect of life) is directly linked to how we have been shaped through the trials of surviving in the natural world and early forms of human society. On the most basic level we are dependent on external phenomena for our existence and its survival. If we were to boil it down, that phenomena would be the Sun, depending on how far you were willing to "boil". This reliance on external material for our own survival has developed into an abstraction which has concrete consequences that we are able to see in our everyday interaction with the world. There is no way around the increasing need to be flexible in our own formulated perception of what is now a necessity. One could live as basic as one would like but in some ways that has its own side of a self directed existence. If we are to continue the most noble virtue of humanity, the virtue of compassion and the subsequent acting upon it, depending on the scale of ambition of our actions, we would need to understand the theories for the society currently manifest to find ourselves in a more accepting position to adopt to its conditions and some of its unnecessary necessities. Because of the hardships of dealing with the intangible aspects of human spirituality, no matter what that may mean to any given individual, the seemingly unshakable and concrete nature of greed and materiality is a dead ringer for a more appealing arena to focus one's energy. There are more immediate returns on one's investment, the former denies some pleasures where the later is rooted in them, etc.
One of the easiest of these, what I would like to call "Neo-necessities" (as being a man-made, man-generated, or man-utilized material or phenomena that the structure of modern society as conditioned us to feel is indispensable from any social survival as we are heading towards a single global tribe of humans) is Electricity. This could be easily carried over into many other forms of things that result with the correct manner of processing that leads us to energy which gives us the spoils of living today. Gasoline, coal, etc. are the formidable targets. Just as we are dependent on external phenomena for our own physical bodily survival, the consumption of nutrients from external living entities plant or animal turning these entities into energy which power our own bodies and coming to understand the access to food as a human right or at least as something that we should as a species strive to ensure that everyone is distanced from the burden of going hungry (even though we export food from starving countries by companies owned in the West to feed Westerners), we have developed a similar outlook on the energies which power our machines which we have unending faith in that make our collective lives either easier or more interesting.
The fact is, is that energy as a commodity is entirely too inexpensive. The Industrial Goliaths that provide societies with energy in all of its forms have perfected the state of non-critical awareness of the effects and sources of their products which ensures a production above mainstream interest and a product which taken for granted by the consumer. The ease of flipping a switch to give light to a room is an act whose complexities are rarely contemplated. From the natural resource to how it is processed or used which moved something that was connected to something else that moved around wound copper resulting in the production of electrons, to the copper cables laid from house to house (not even getting into the production of the copper cables, the light bulb or the house that the room is in). Commodification has resulted in our complete resignation to the wills of the corporate and industrial brokers who provide us with environmentally detrimental products. If energy was a reasonable price in relation to its effects on the second most dependent externality which we are inescapably linked, that being Earth, and a higher price of energy consumption is unavoidably felt whenever energy is being used, we may be able to appreciate the infrastructure that we live under, the collective agreement to live in such a way and the effects that it has on a planet that will have the final say in things. We blow smoke in the face of the hand that feeds us.
In and about 2005 or so when the gasoline prices were creeping close to $4.00 per gallon, people, being subject to the behaviors in a modern society based on false economics are capable of, spent most of their time complaining about the price of a substance which simultaneously makes their lives almost immeasurable more convenient and possibly indisputably more interesting than life without it, and pollutes the very environment (most principally, air, another externality necessity of basic bodily survival) that we need. Because of the economic base of society in 2005, this resulted in people not taking for granted their time in their cars as much. Of course this probably did not phase the wealthy for obvious reasons. We (the U.S.) have chosen convenience over compassion. The only reason why the prices were as low as even their highest point is because our tax money is used to subsidize the cost of gasoline, among other things. This is money that could be going towards universal health care, the noble venture of ending poverty, cleaning up the environment, etc. etc., all which are compassionate acts but we have, mostly because we have become accustomed to the convenience that is found in the low price of gas, chosen to preserve our convenient lifestyles. We know how to fix the dire situation that our brothers and sisters within and outside of our arbitrary countries borders, we just do not want to be inconvenienced in doing so.
I heard a study sometime recently that came to the conclusion that when it comes to helping others, if you increase the number of people in need from 1 (one) to just 2 (two) people's willingness to help drops something unnerving like 75%. If the idea of helping out more than one person is enough of a deterrent from helping, we need to find a way to overcome our inability to endure whatever our privileged Western lifestyles have conditioned us to consider an inconvenience and understand the positivity generated within our own being from the feeling of helping out another human being far exceeds the feeling of acquiring the new trendy commodity of the hour.