I reached a 'break through' a few years back in my life (I was initially told that it was a 'break down', but a good friend gave me this much better description just recently). I was questioning the existence of evil, having been spent time watching kids getting blown up during the bombing of Gaza, reading about torture in Guantanamo and massacres in Rwanda. I thought there was nothing that I could do to change the world and felt overwhelming despair and suffocation in the face of such evil. But then during that moment of soul searching I had my moment of liberation, and came to realise that the reason why such atrocities happen in the world is because people who could do something to change things, those people with freedom of speech, good health, education, stability and food on the table (plus access to the Internet!) don't do anything - people like me - so I changed, and my world started to change.
This was me just a few months after my 'break through', finding out that even just one person can spark at little something, and join together with others to make a HUGE difference!
Really, within just a few weeks, starting to take positive pro-active steps to help those around me and speak out against injustice, all my personal issues of anxiety started to subside and I began to feel deep down peace and real love from those around me like I had never really felt before.
Over the next few years life started to make sense, and as I started to look through different eyes I started to see where the problem lies.
Many of you will know the old biblical expression 'The love of money is the root of all evil'. I started to understand this. Note the 'love of' - often removed from the quote, yet it is that 'love of' money that is the problem - not the money itself.
If you haven't watched it yet, make sure to watch this excellent short film on The Story of Stuff and you'll start to get the picture.
In it the wonderful Annie Leonard @storyofstuff mentions Victor Lebow the American economist and his well known words published in 1955:
'Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms. The greater the pressures upon the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more does he tend to express his aspirations and his individuality in terms of what he wears, drives, eats- his home, his car, his pattern of food serving, his hobbies.This is the problem, it is exactly this that is driving us all insane. A world economy that survives driven by a never ending pursuit of increased personal wealth. We are taught day in day out that by getting more 'stuff' in our lives we will somehow find happiness. And its that very same pursuit of wealth (the economy) that is the main (hidden) driver behind the creation of wars.
These commodities and services must be offered to the consumer with a special urgency. We require not only “forced draft” consumption, but “expensive” consumption as well. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption. The home power tools and the whole “do-it-yourself” movement are excellent examples of “expensive” consumption.'
John Stoer quotes John Reed in his excellent article 'Selling war from 1917 to 2012':
"The rich has [sic] steadily become richer, and the cost of living higher, and the workers proportionally poorer. These toilers don't want war... But the speculators, the employers, the plutocracy - they want it... With lies and sophistries, they will whip up our blood until we are savage - and then we'll fight and die for them."I believe this desire for increased wealth has been the real driver behind war after war, and is even now taking place. And whilst wealthy people owning huge corporations plot their next target, hiding behind struggles for democracy, the West watches its own democracy slipping away into the hands of the large corporations, whilst the Western public, who currently have the freedom of speech to take a stand against such moves, are mostly too drunk or too drugged up on anti-depressants, to even realise.
Let me tell you a secret: Money doesn't make you happy.
Let me tell you another secret, incredibly simple, yet actually a solution that people spend all their lives looking for and most tragically never find: Helping other people makes you happy.
The media will never tell you this, because the economy is driven by increased personal wealth, which requires selfishness. And as long as you keep watching all those ads and believing this lie you are going to be increasingly unhappy, working harder towards a goal that will never arrive, whilst the world around you slowly crumbles. Then when your mind starts to tell you something is wrong, you go to the doctors, and instead of the doctors confirming that there is something wrong, very wrong, but it's NOT your mind, instead the doc tells you your mind is sick, you need a pill, and a holiday, so you can forget about the sick world you are living in. Turn off the news, stop reading the newspaper, and most of all, shut down the Internet - and that way you can PRETEND everything around you is fine.
Anyone depressed out there, feeling anxious like there's something wrong with the world, I have news for you. You are NOT mentally ill, you are actually sane, and their ain't no pill gonna take away your sadness. Just start trying to make the world a better place, one person at a time, and you'll find out about deep down happiness because you'll start receiving real love (for who you are and what you are doing - not for what you look like or what car you drive).
This is the secret of happiness. There you go. Dead simple. So stop looking.
My religion is simple. It's based on one sentence that I learnt early on at school: 'Treat other people the way you would like to be treated yourself.' I've also added on a little something that came from experience: 'And do it to the best of your ability.'
And now I've taught you about the secret of happiness, and the best religion, I'll pass on one more observation/solution: a new economy that would change the world.
This new economy would not be driven by the pursuit of wealth, making and acquiring more 'stuff'. it would be driven by the pursuit to solve problems and relieve other people's suffering. Like how to feed the world, how to cure cancer, how to bring about world peace. These are the things we should all be spending our money on, and such a desire, to bring about a better world, would bring about a new kind of politician that doesn't get elected on the promise to make us all wealthier, but one that gets elected on the promise to speak truth and to fight for social justice.
Here's a little experiment to prove my theory:
Go buy two items; one for yourself, and one as a gift for someone else (someone who can't buy you something in return). Spend the same amount of time and effort choosing both items, and spend the same amount of money. Then after you have given the present away and kept the other item for yourself, evaluate which of the two brought you greater happiness. When you are done, make sure to come back and let me know your conclusion.