I’m currently reading Mark Steel’s ‘What’s Going On’ – fast becoming my revolutionary handbook of preference. He makes the point that the idea of profit seems to have taken over everything else. We’ve become obsessed, as a culture, with the money that can be made from things. We devalue the things that have no price tag on them, and if it isn’t making a profit, it goes. When the only value available is profit, how can you protect the habitat of a newt, or suggest that clean drinking water ought to be a human right? What price love, or companionship? What’s the economic worth of not having a shitty day? Who cares? We’re selling our quality of life, and all too often we sell it to the lowest bidder for the least possible return.
Being Green is not just about the politics. For me, the politics are the least of it. Lifestyle, culture, personal change and community are a more important manifestation of the Green agenda than getting bums onto political seats. Not least because a bottoms up approach to things is always better than a top down solution. Imposing things on people is not part of a Green agenda. We have to BE the change.
So I’d like to issue you all with a small challenge, and it goes like this: Every day, very deliberately do something that has no economic value whatsoever. Do it for love. It can’t be online, because of the electricity you use and the advertising revenue your presence generates. That’s all about the money. You can’t pay to do it, and it cannot lead to something you will be paid for doing. If that seems difficult to figure out, it will be a measure of how economically informed your life has become, and this is something you need to know about.
Small gestures are fine. Gaze out of the window for half an hour. Go and sit under a tree. Have a little dance. Sing a song – you do not have to be good, you just have to like singing songs. Rescue something you might have thrown away and turn it into some other things. Even better if those things are sock puppets or of no real utility. Play. Mess about. Turn the phone off and climb into a big chair with something warm and soft to cuddle. Have an extra hour in the duvet. Re-read a book you already own.
We have to stop being good little consumers, and we have to stop letting every part of our lives be turned into someone else’s profit. Or our own, for that matter. We have to stop letting profit be the most important thing, or we are going to trash the planet in the name of GDP. The way to do this is not through top-down politics, but through each of us quietly undertaking to rebel in small ways. Do something irrelevant that you enjoy. Rest more. Play. Practice religion or philosophy. Make love.
If you can get that into the mix once a day, you can expand on it. You can add value to your life- value in a warm, human sense, not in the sense that goes on a balance sheet. You can also do this and be useful – that’s actually easy because many of the things that most need doing, no one will pay you for anyway. Read a book to a child, pick up litter, give away things you no longer need. Contemplate what strikes you as being economic activity, and what doesn’t, and have a look at the interesting grey areas in between. How monetised are your life and perceptions?
And, next time someone tells you it’s all about the bottom line, laugh at them. Please. Laughter is powerful, and this obsession with profit is ridiculous, and destructive. We need to start mocking it as the lunacy it so clearly is.
(For the other side of the argument, about the need for paying fairly for things, there is Creativity for love and money)