In her fascinating Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage, [Stephanie Coontz] surveys 5,000 years of human habits, from our days as hunters and gatherers up until the present, showing our social arrangements to be…
WOULD ANY SANE PERSON think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?
Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.
Or let’s talk water. We so often hear that the world is running out of water. People are dying from lack of water. Rivers are dewatered from lack of water. Because of this we need to take shorter showers. See the disconnect? Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings. People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen.
…Personal change doesn’t equal social change.
It’s a persistent canard, particularly in the U.S., to claim that unemployment benefits exacerbate joblessness by creating a disincentive to work — e.g. people will feel less inclined to find a job because they’re getting by just fine on government dole).
Contrary to popular belief, the much-maligned use of the word “ax” in place of “ask” is neither new nor technically an error. The pronunciation can be traced back to the eighth century and derives from the Old English verb “acsian”, which meant “to…
Most Poor Children Will Never Escape
The only thing more tragic than being born into poverty is being trapped in it. Were the United…
Now that I put the crown of kingdom of Iran, Babylon, and the nations of the four directions on the head with the help of Ahura Mazda [e.g. God], I announce that I will respect the traditions, customs and religions of the nations of my empire and never let any of my governors and subordinates look down on or insult them until I am alive. From now on, till Ahura Mazda grants me the kingdom favor, I will impose my monarchy on no nation. Each is free to accept it , and if any one of them rejects it , I never resolve on war to reign. Until I am the king of Iran, Babylon, and the nations of the four directions, I never let anyone oppress any others, and if it occurs , I will take his or her right back and penalize the oppressor. And until I am the monarch, I will never let anyone take possession of movable and landed properties of the others by force or without compensation. Until I am alive, I prevent unpaid, forced labor. Today, I announce that everyone is free to choose a religion. People are free to live in all regions and take up a job provided that they never violate other’s rights. No one could be penalized for his or her relatives’ faults. I prevent slavery and my governors and subordinates are obliged to prohibit exchanging men and women as slaves within their own ruling domains. Such a tradition should be exterminated the world over. I implore to (Ahura) Mazda to make me succeed in fulfilling my obligations to the nations of Iran (Persia), Babylon, and the ones of the four directions.
King Cyrus the Great of Persia, as recorded in the Cyrus Cylinder, 539–530 BC