It’s much easier to see that other people are acting like assholes, but it is much more difficult to recognize our own selfish, thoughtless behaviors. It’s clear that very few people would choose to consciously participate in the killing of the Earth’s biosphere, yet the destruction is ongoing. Everybody participates in this process whether they like to admit it or not. As individuals we have our part of responsibility in the consumption and production processes which drive the exploitation of the ecosystems and the Earth’s mineral resources. We live in democracies, and as flawed as they are, we need to do our best to use them in order to create a legal system that takes nature into consideration.
Everything that we are involved in has an impact – what we choose to eat and drink, the way we choose to transport ourselves, the clothes we choose to wear, the amount of children we choose to have, the energy we choose for our house, the shampoo that wash ourselves with, the technology we use, the political parties we vote on… What makes us act like assholes is not the fact that we want to have transport, heating in our homes and food on our plates, but the fact that we don’t question and critically examine the way we do all of these things as individuals and as a society.
It feels much easier to keep on doing the same thing that you’ve always done. Doing anything new involves some sort of discomfort, and our brain can block any information that would cause too much trouble. We feel that something is going to be taken away from us, while many of the things that we consume are not a necessity, but rather a “luxury” that gives us some sort of gratification. We pay for most of these excesses with our health or the health of the environment, but most often with both.
I don’t mean that we need to give up all our comfort, and roll back in primitive times. On the contrary we need to take steps that can bring us closer to a future that makes sense. The first step is to recognize which of your behaviors cause the most damage. The asshole inside of you is really afraid of change and will always make you think that you’re not strong enough to change. Once you’ve identified a problematic behavior, step two is to take action. A lot of times one of the things that block action is the perception that you either have to resolve the problem in a perfect manner, or you have to deny its existence. This obsession with perfection and moral superiority can be a real challenge for some people. When we admit that we’ll never do anything perfectly we allow ourselves to try and do whatever we can and improve upon it. When we see that we are capable of committing to positive changes, we gain confidence and start looking for more change and better solutions.
I really believe that people are not inherently bad, and that they truly want to be an agent of positive change. We all have to keep in mind that there is a little asshole lurking in our heads that is sabotaging us by sowing the fear of failure. And maybe it is too late and we’ll fail to save the future of humanity, but I want to know that we did our best to change course.