Friday, 12 October 2007

Generation Less

Exclusive to this blog, here is a DRAFT of my next One World Column (see www.oneworldcolumn.org or http://new.edp24.co.uk/content/commentary/OneWorld.aspx for previous columns by myself and fellow columnists.).
Constructively critical comments welcome! Any help improving what will go into the paper would be welcome.
best, and thanks in anticipation; Rupert.

GENERATION LESS

How do we go from Generation Stressed to what could perhaps be termed Generation Blessed? Since ‘X’, one negative term after another has described the rising generation; how can we break the circle, and at last create a new generation that is… blessed?

That we – and in fact not just children, but all of us (http://society.guardian.co.uk/children/story/0,,1871309,00.html ), are Generation Stressed, is scarcely to be denied (for the uptodate evidence, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6897485.stm ). To verify this, just ask yourself when the last time was that, when you asked someone how they are, they replied, “Yeah, just fine; really relaxed. Totally unstressed.” For many of us, I suspect it was sometime in the 1970s…

I want to propose a way forward. I propose that the way to start to de-stress, is to see that one is actually rich if one has much less than virtually all of us in a country like contemporary Britain have. We can be rich, while living in every sense within our means; and if we live with less, we will have a chance of turning the tide, and showering blessings thereby on our children and their children. We can create Generation Blessed, only by first becoming Generation Less.

‘Generation Less’. At first blush, it can sound negative. But being taught that what we need is more more more is what has made us Generation Stressed in the first place. The cult of consumerism is a treadmill – what used to be called the rat race – that terminally stresses individuals, families, cultures, and ecosystems. I stress “terminally”. The ultimate stress we are under is that cloud hanging over us in the form of a climate that we are changing such that human civilisation itself is under threat. Worse than the threat of non-state terrorism, or of the mushroom cloud, or of the exhaustion of natural resources (according now even to the FT -- see www.thepeakist.com/world-will-face-oil-crunch-%e2%80%98in-five-years%e2%80%99/ -- ‘Peak Oil’, which will lead to an economic crisis and to a speeding up of dangerous climate change – see my http://oneworldcolumn.org/132.html -- may be less than five years away), the abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the ultimate stressor, the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. Our endless more is coming back to haunt us. More: to consume us. With each more throwaway ‘good’ that is produced, we add another brick to the CO2 wall that we are throwing up around our planetary home, and bring terminal over-heat one step closer.

It is the rising tide materialism and consumerism that has brought us to this literal rising tide. Generation Stressed is literally a product of ‘the affluent society’. The way out of stress is through: less.

But less needn’t translate to lack.

Because: Less really is more.

Less stuff. Less waste. Less junk. Less impatience. Less marketing. Less competitiveness. Less working hours. Less travelling. Less carbon emissions. Less fear. Less mental illness. And yes: less speed, and less choice. The speed of life and the amount of choice we are faced with are making us ill and distressed. Just as they make the planet burn.

We’re not talking about hairshirts and deprivation. We’re talking in fact about a better way to live (www.marklynas.org/2007/7/10/a-better-way-to-live ). The convenient truth of the matter is that the very things we need to do in order to stop climate catastrophe are the very things we need to do in order to become happier. Happiness comes not from affluence, not from material goods, but from the recreation of community, security, and simple human kindness. As we relocalise our society, as we reverse the neo-liberal globalisation that has brought us to the edge of catastrophe, we will willy-nilly recreate the seeds of well-being that have been withering since roughly the 70s.

Generation Blessed can come to us. But only if we take the road of Less.

We know that, in the true sense of the words, less is more. So let’s seize the day:

Let’s be Generation Less.

8 Comments:

Blogger Dorothea said...

Totally agree with you here.

Less is definitely more. Sages have known this for thousands of years.

There's also a real positive opportunity here for reconnecting the young and the old.

We are fortunate to still have millions of people who remember a better, simpler life before all the cars, planes, fridges, dishwashers, TVs, playstations and the rest of that consumer nonsense was brought in. Probably some old folks even remember ploughing with horses.

It would be great if us young'uns can re-learn what we need to know before it's too late.

Peak Oil could be the best thing to happen for a century or more. Bring it on!

13 October 2007 at 16:13  
Blogger weggis said...

Ditto, Dot.
But we are not the one's Rupert needs to convince.

Maybe he should translate it into Chav and publish it in Hello magazine?

14 October 2007 at 14:55  
Blogger Jon said...

I don't think you can target any minority (re comment by weggis).

Last week I attended a climate change meeting where it was suggested we have very limited time to act; maybe less than two decades.

In economics, analysts try to discover people's preferences to inform policymakers which policies people would be willing to financially support.

When I see the degree of risk that we are presented with I think that it is time to stop pandering up to people in this way.

My Kung Fu Sifu, also a Muslim, wrote about laziness undermining the heart of society. Whilst I do not share his religious beliefs, I do share his underlying view that superficiality is rife; that it is so because people cannot are too weak to say what they think, to challenge others and to risk what they have now when it may involve personal inconvenience.

It would be great for people not to be stressed, but I can't help thinking that many people are stressed because they expect convenience, and cannot cope when they don't get it. People want to have it their way, because they know what their own preferences are, and in our society preferences are pandered to, sometimes (often?) irresponsibly.

The truth is, as you say, people will have to recognise that less is more. But the process of recognising it will involve (on the face of it) much inconvenience and so will be met with much resistance. There is "status anxiety" on a massive scale in the modern world. Overcoming it is the fundamental challenge.

The reality as I see it is that people are going to have to thrive on inconvenience to make the necessary changes in time to hault the onset of further climate chaos. It is hard to reconcile the desire to put people at ease, whilst weaning them off the expectations associated with a consumerist lifestyle.

A greener lifestyle will be less stressful compared with what we have, but I'm not sure if the transition to it can be (if it is to happen in time).

15 October 2007 at 14:20  
Blogger Dorothea said...

I completely agree with you also, Jon. Unfortunately, this approach could well be characterised as “green authoritarianism”. I’m not sure about “chavs”, who don’t have much say in the world, but the rich and powerful globalised anarchist right; “my right to do whatever I want regardless” neo-liberals and libertarians so well exemplified by Guido Fawkes, will definitely fight you every inch, tooth and nail.

http://www.order-order.com/search/label/green%20totalitarianism

Democracy means you get to choose what colour hand basket you wish to go to hell in.

16 October 2007 at 18:37  
Blogger Rupert said...

yes, dorothea, agreed.
however, i was pleasantly surprised by the degree to which I was able to seemingly convince iain dale of some of this, the other day, on 'Issue of the Hour'. if one can get somewhere with dale (and likewise with fawkes?), then perhaps there's hope?
Check out the interview, see if you agree:
http://doughty.gdbtv.com/player.php?h=51cb01353fd1c176c1e8224e1f0c7242

17 October 2007 at 08:53  
Blogger Dorothea said...

Hi Rupert,

Unfortunately the Doughty Street format is geared towards broadband users, and I'm on dial-up.

I caught some 20 or 30 second snatches whilst kneading the bread. Sounds interesting.

My techno-guru tells me that if you obtained the interview as an MPEG (.mpg) and post it as a you-tube clip, then dial-up people could leave it to download in about 2 hours.

From what I could hear, I am little convinced that you have, or ever will, persuade Iain Dale to care for our environment in any real sense. (But apologies if I missed him promising to give up cars or something like that).

My feeling is that Dale is a very smooth and subtle operator, a bit more committed to following the Cameroonie agenda (at least until the neo-libs get the upper hand again) than many in the "conservative" (sic) commentariat. As such, he must at least pay some lip-service to green issues.

Coming from an ecologically-minded family, participating in this struggle over the last 40 years or so, I’m deeply worried that there is a grave danger that genuine environmentalists are losing control of the agenda, now the biosphere is so unmistakably degrading, due to human greed, incontinence and stupidity. The managerialists are manoevring themselves to take over, promising their spurious techno-fixes like agrofuels, electric cars and suchlike fake “solutions”. These will appeal to the masses who want an easy way out, and real care for the earth and our fellow species will be trampled by the wayside.

Obviously, I hope that the Green Party can increase its credibility over the broad range of issues and demonstrate that genuine low-impact living is not only essential and possible, but more enjoyable than the modern rat-race of materialism and consumerism. However, this will be a very hard fight. If Greens are too fluffy, and assume that we have no real enemies, or that our enemies are only the uneducated or dim-witted, the techno-fixers will obtain the upper hand.

17 October 2007 at 17:41  
Blogger Rupert said...

D; I agree wholeheartedly with your post. You are precisely correct.
best,
R

18 October 2007 at 15:07  
Blogger Dorothea said...

Rupert - you don't get rid of me that easily ...

;-)

18 October 2007 at 18:13  

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Exclusive to this blog, here is a DRAFT of my next One World Column (see www.oneworldcolumn.org or http://new.edp24.co.uk/content/commentary/OneWorld.aspx for previous columns by myself and fellow columnists.).
Constructively critical comments welcome! Any help improving what will go into the paper would be welcome.
best, and thanks in anticipation; Rupert.

GENERATION LESS

How do we go from Generation Stressed to what could perhaps be termed Generation Blessed? Since ‘X’, one negative term after another has described the rising generation; how can we break the circle, and at last create a new generation that is… blessed?

That we – and in fact not just children, but all of us (http://society.guardian.co.uk/children/story/0,,1871309,00.html ), are Generation Stressed, is scarcely to be denied (for the uptodate evidence, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6897485.stm ). To verify this, just ask yourself when the last time was that, when you asked someone how they are, they replied, “Yeah, just fine; really relaxed. Totally unstressed.” For many of us, I suspect it was sometime in the 1970s…

I want to propose a way forward. I propose that the way to start to de-stress, is to see that one is actually rich if one has much less than virtually all of us in a country like contemporary Britain have. We can be rich, while living in every sense within our means; and if we live with less, we will have a chance of turning the tide, and showering blessings thereby on our children and their children. We can create Generation Blessed, only by first becoming Generation Less.

‘Generation Less’. At first blush, it can sound negative. But being taught that what we need is more more more is what has made us Generation Stressed in the first place. The cult of consumerism is a treadmill – what used to be called the rat race – that terminally stresses individuals, families, cultures, and ecosystems. I stress “terminally”. The ultimate stress we are under is that cloud hanging over us in the form of a climate that we are changing such that human civilisation itself is under threat. Worse than the threat of non-state terrorism, or of the mushroom cloud, or of the exhaustion of natural resources (according now even to the FT -- see www.thepeakist.com/world-will-face-oil-crunch-%e2%80%98in-five-years%e2%80%99/ -- ‘Peak Oil’, which will lead to an economic crisis and to a speeding up of dangerous climate change – see my http://oneworldcolumn.org/132.html -- may be less than five years away), the abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the ultimate stressor, the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. Our endless more is coming back to haunt us. More: to consume us. With each more throwaway ‘good’ that is produced, we add another brick to the CO2 wall that we are throwing up around our planetary home, and bring terminal over-heat one step closer.

It is the rising tide materialism and consumerism that has brought us to this literal rising tide. Generation Stressed is literally a product of ‘the affluent society’. The way out of stress is through: less.

But less needn’t translate to lack.

Because: Less really is more.

Less stuff. Less waste. Less junk. Less impatience. Less marketing. Less competitiveness. Less working hours. Less travelling. Less carbon emissions. Less fear. Less mental illness. And yes: less speed, and less choice. The speed of life and the amount of choice we are faced with are making us ill and distressed. Just as they make the planet burn.

We’re not talking about hairshirts and deprivation. We’re talking in fact about a better way to live (www.marklynas.org/2007/7/10/a-better-way-to-live ). The convenient truth of the matter is that the very things we need to do in order to stop climate catastrophe are the very things we need to do in order to become happier. Happiness comes not from affluence, not from material goods, but from the recreation of community, security, and simple human kindness. As we relocalise our society, as we reverse the neo-liberal globalisation that has brought us to the edge of catastrophe, we will willy-nilly recreate the seeds of well-being that have been withering since roughly the 70s.

Generation Blessed can come to us. But only if we take the road of Less.

We know that, in the true sense of the words, less is more. So let’s seize the day:

Let’s be Generation Less.

30. 31. 32.