One day, the local TV news told the story of Lucky, a dog whose life started out badly, but turned out just fine. Lucky (so named by the Human Society when they rescued him) was left behind when the family of an alcoholic and abusive man fled to a social services ****ter, a 'half-way house' that didn't allow dogs. Neighbours say Lucky was beaten several times by this man, and left outside in all weather, but steadfastly refused to run away, and even came back to more abuse after the man told neighbours that he'd driven the dog a mile away and abandoned him. What earned Lucky his name was his discovery, a month later, flailing weakly in a country ditch fifty miles away, by a caring couple who found him, bruised, emaciated, feet tied together and nearly dead. Nursed back to health by the Humane Society with the help of an outpouring of local donations from citizens, Lucky had over a hundred adoption offers.
The reporter covering the story raised the issue of why Lucky didn't run away, and kept coming back for more abuse from this man. They used the words 'brave' and 'loyal' to describe this behaviour. It obviously didn't occur to the reporter that Lucky came back for more abuse because that's the only life he knew. He couldn't have survived in the wild, and couldn't have known that another, better life could be had in just about any other house, as part of any other family.
We are all, in a real sense, like Lucky. Most of us, all over the world, struggle every day, and put up with a huge amount of stress and unhappiness in our lives. Compared to the hunter-gatherers who lived for millions of years before modern civilization, we work much harder and longer to make a living, we face much more physical and psychological violence (in our neighbourhoods, in our workplaces, in our war-torn world, and sometimes even in our homes), we suffer from many more physical and psychological diseases and illnesses, we live in crowded, polluted, mostly run-down communities, in constant fear (of an infinite number of things, most notably not having enough), and we are oppressed with hierarchies, laws, rules and restrictions that would have driven our ancient ancestors quite mad.
Why do we put up with it? Because it's the only life we know. We are not told that, even with today's massive human population, everything that would be needed to provide very comfortably for the basic needs of everyone on the planet could be produced by having everyone work just one hour a day or one day a week. Instead, we live in a world of unfathomable manufactured scarcity, staggering inequality and waste, and ghastly imaginative poverty.
I can hear the choruses of ******ion:
* * * "But economies don't work that way -- we can never achieve anything close to perfect distribution of wealth". Well, we could if we wanted to. Inequality is built into the capitalist, corporatist system. It is terribly inefficient, but it is not the only system. All we need to do is replace it with a better system. Not an old, failed system. A completely new one.
* * * "But that's not human nature -- if people weren't motivated to work hard, they would become lazy, criminal, depressed". Well it's interesting that all the other creatures of this world, none of which work as hard as we do, seem to live very happy, healthy lives, as did we before we decided to introduce this 'motivation to work hard'.
* * * "But that model won't scale -- there are too many of us now to go back to a pre-civilization, pre-capitalist, pre-political lifestyle". Who said anything about going back? The answer is to move forward to a fairer, more equitable, healthier, more sustainable and ecologically responsible culture. And even if there were too many of us now to effect change (which there aren't), part of the answer is perhaps to reduce our numbers voluntarily, to make the task easier.
* * * "But that speed and degree of change is impossible -- the world's too big, and people are inherently selfish and change too slowly". Well, that's what those with a vested interest in the status quo -- the politicians, the capitalist elite, the preachers and the kings and the 'leaders' who have most of the world's wealth and power -- would have you believe. But it strikes me odd that every creature of other species on this planet looks after the needs of its community before its individual needs -- are humans really uniquely selfish on this whole planet? And all species, including man (e.g. after the last ice age, and in the years leading to the Industrial Revolution) show a remarkable ability to change very quickly when there is an obvious need to do so. It's really just the brainwashing we get in the education system, in the workplace (the economic system), and through the media (the handmaidens of the political system) that has prevented us from realizing that 'there is an obvious need to do so' now. And that there is a better way to live.
So we have two options. We can go on being like Lucky, putting up with the abuse, violence, fear, poverty, sickness, pollution, inequality, waste, and oppression, and leave a legacy of much more of the same for our children and grandchildren. Or we can walk away, and insist on and help create a better life, a better world, a better way to live. If enough of us understand that we need to do something, and believe it is in our power to do it, we can do it. We can, for the first time in thirty thousand years, do anything we want to do.