The "Real" Earthshine (_earthshine_) wrote,
The "Real" Earthshine

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Snippet Of Social Philosophy

I started to comment on a post by lisajulie, but realized it captured enough of my views on society that it might be worth posting. (It also gets me around a comment length limitation, but that's an unintentional side bonus. Honest!)

lisajulie writes:

How can I can live in my lifestyle, knowing that is built upon the labor (underpaid and so on) of others.

How moral is this? I don't have an answer.

My original reply:

I think that by being aware of this, and hopefully looking for ways to change it, you're already ahead of most.

We don't choose into what life we are born. We can't pick our gender, race, starting economic status, birth location, or -- if you want to get more metaphysical -- the time or plane into which we are born. Each of us is born with a different mix of privileges and advantages, some with far far more than others, and we cannot affect this, insofar as we know, a priori.

More to the point, we do not choose the world into which we are born. It comes with baggage, pre-loaded with heavily entrenched, hopelessly complex and often stupid socio-econo-political establishments that cannot turn on a dime, and that will certainly not do so at our will.

What we choose to do within this world, with whatever power and opportunity we are given, is what counts. Are we complacent in our comforts? Are we greedy for those we do not yet have? ... or we do seek to better the world for others when we can?

Of course, the definition of "when we can" is the issue. We must try to figure out what balance of compromising our privilege for justice and sharing best serves the world. We have to decide how to optimize our capability.

Some may decide that the best way to serve the world is to cast off everything they've been given and take on the burdens of the least fortunate of our cousins. Others may seek the way of the "benevolent monarch", trying to amass as much resource as they can to then devote it to the common good on a grand scale. Most, i think, are struggling in their own ways, right alongside their fellows, helping when they can but also trying to hold their own and keep life worth living.

Personally, i think it takes all kinds. I think we need the idyllic extremists who will throw away their material lives and serve as inspiration and examples for the rest of us. I think we also need a bulk of people who will seek enough comfort and stability to keep the wheels -- however crooked and unjust -- turning just enough to keep things from collapsing even further backward into starvation and chaos (within which people likely wont have time to think about service or justice at all). We probably also need some "benevolent monarchs" who can coordinate positive change on a larger scale, assuming they don't get so caught up in their nobility as to forget their dedication. And who knows? -- we may even need the "bad guys", large and small, from Wall Street to dark alleys, to remind us what not to be and how much the world needs us to keep working on it.

Yes, here in America, we live in a country founded on false entitlement, grown on genocide, and maintained on imperialist capitalism that perpetuates the same. I don't internalize the "guilt" part of this for a few reasons. First, i didn't set it up (and, in my case, neither did my ancestors for the most part -- they were eating beans in the hills of Italy when most of this crap went down -- tho i apologize for any part they may have had in the whole "Roman Empire" mess). Second, i'd change it entirely if i could. Third, within the context of my own life and struggles, i'm as much (or more) a victim of it as i am a perpetuator. Finally, and perhaps most important, rather than be emotionally bogged down by the self-loathing or disempowerment of guilt over the terrible aspects of the legacy that grants me whatever privilege i have, i instead strive to be mindful of them so that i look for ways i can change that legacy however i can.

On a final note, when i ponder this in a more philosophical context, i tend to often wind up at a far more frightening (but perhaps freeing) likely conclusion: it will always be like this. There is no social utopia at the end of the road (partly because there is no end of the road). There will always be bliss; there will always be suffering. There will always be those with and those without. We will always be struggling with our world, and (if we do it right) with our conscience and ourselves. In some ways, i think this is the point, because compassion is the point. We're not meant to "fix everything"; we're not meant to find peace and justice and prosperity for all. ... but we are meant to forever keep trying, to keep feeling so passionately for each other and wanting desperately to help, to keep questioning ourselves and doing everything we can within our means, because that is what counts. Doing the best you can with whatever you've got for the good of all -- given your whole mess of gifts and faults, empowerment and guilt, imagination and legacy, blessings and limitations, and a world full of people with endlessly diverse quantities of the same -- whether you think you're getting anywhere with it or not -- is the point.

(... and, most curious of all, it may also be profoundly and unfathomably beautiful.)

Such is my thinking, anyway. YMMV.

Sorry for the super-long comment, but thank you for the inspiration to write it. :)

(Sidenote: I was a little reluctant to make this a public post, given how much it might reveal (or accidentally mis-represent by incompleteness or misunderstanding) my personal views of the world, but i decided i'd take a chance. Here's hopin'...)

Tags: .sec_public, .tpc_blog_lj, .tpc_philosophy, .tpc_piece, .tpc_sociopolitical, lisajulie

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