Thursday, December 19, 2019

Uncomfortable Truths (long rant)

If you aren't interested in my thoughts on politics...scroll on.

One of the things I have been working on the past while is to see beyond my perception 'bubble'.

I grew up in a largely 'white' community.  As such I had little contact with people outside of the largely 'white' (European) cultural context.  Part of that non-exposure to other cultures meant that I didn't get negatively indoctrinated about other peoples/cultures.  I took to heart the teaching in Sunday School that 'Jesus loves the little children of the world'.  Didn't matter to me what colour someone was, or their religion, even, because somehow I missed the memo that Christianity was the 'best' religion.  Instead, as a teenager and young adult, I read about other religions and philosophies, noting similarities to the teachings of Jesus. 

On the other hand, because I grew up in a 'white' bubble, I have had to learn how to start to tear down my perceptions. 

I got an early start on this as a child, in large part because I read voraciously, just drinking it all in.  Discovering science fiction at the age of 12 meant even further exposure to 'the other', this time life beyond our earth, cultures that were stranger than I could imagine, finding common ground with other forms of sentience. 

But I still had my perception bubble, my version of 'reality'.

Breaking down that bubble is uncomfortable.  While I would like to think that I'm aware, I have found myself, over and over again, shocked at how other people are treated, even in my own country by my own government, beginning in high school when I first learned about the Japanese internment camps and how aboriginals were treated.

There are many folk who are trying to open the doors that have been closed to them, one way or another.  There are many folk who are trying to work on equitable treatment of all people in society (not just ours, although it is the one I am most familiar with, of course.)

The attitude in North America seems to be to at first deny there is a problem.  Then there is the disbelief that things can be as bad as people who are marginalized say they are.  Then there is the 'not all' deniers.  Then there are the folk who insist that those who have been discriminated against educate the person who has lived in a bubble of privilege.  And finally the segment of the population that throw up their hands and say there is nothing they can do about it.

There may not be anything major that one person can do, but I am finding many small ways that I, personally, can begin to break down the wall of my bubble.  I am a work in progress, and I still find myself bumping into another section of 'wall' I didn't realize was there.  But here are a few things that have worked for me.

Read books written by people who are not of your culture.  I have found books written by Canadian aboriginal folk who tell their story.  It may be painful, but we need to witness.

Read history written from the viewpoint of aboriginal people.  Yes, various aspects of the Canadian government tried to wipe out the aboriginal people in Canada.  Yes, smallpox infected blankets were distributed.  In BC one smallpox infected person was taken to coastal aboriginal villages to purposefully infect the aboriginals.  No, this isn't fiction, there are actual letters detailing the plan.

We watch programs on the APTN network and the BC Knowledge Network.  There are a number of programs that will enlighten and inform 'white' folk.

Lately I have been following aboriginal people on Twitter.  Cindy Blackstock, Paulette Steeves, and others.  While I am not an internet influencer by any means, I can hand them the microphone, so I re-tweet their posts with no comment from me.  They don't need me to interpret what they are saying, they can say it perfectly well themselves.

Paulette Steeves has a book coming out in 2020 which will discuss history and I will be reading it.

While reading The Reality Bubble, I have had to overcome my discomfort on a number of occasions because I am learning things I would rather were not true - but are.  There are things I can do nothing about as a person, but I can at least understand that this is happening.  I can speak out against those people who attempt to obfuscate reality by reinforcing the bias that people live with behind their bubble of perception. 

As human beings, we look always for a level of comfort.  Giving up oil and petroleum products is extremely hard because plastics have become 'necessary' in so many ways to our current comfort in North America.

I remember when people set out to 'save' the trees, replacing paper with plastics.  When I was a child, food came in glass, metal or paper.  Now?  Damn near everything comes with a covering of plastic.  Christmas mandarin oranges came in cute little wooden boxes.  Now?  Plastic mesh bags.  Ice cream came in cardboard boxes.  Now?  Plastic.  Medications came in paper envelopes or cardboard pill boxes.  Now?  Plastic. 

There is a segment of society that is rushing to condemn the use of animal products.  Instead of leather, plastic (vegan leather it's billed as, apparently).  Instead of wool, polyester.  Instead of dairy products, soy. 

Agriculture is now mega farms and soil depletion is a thing.  If our world does climb to a human population of 10 billion (think about how many zeros that number has), food shortages will become even more prevalent.  If climate change is not halted - or better yet, reversed - we will continue to see declines in wild animals in favour of domestic production and ultimately the collapse of agriculture entirely.  It is already happening with biodiversity shrinking and animals like bees and other pollinators disappearing.  I have noticed the lack of migrating birds coming through to eat the mountain ash berries, just in the last 10 years.

Where I live the forests are dying, first because of invasive bugs/beetles, then the standing tinder burns, releasing even more carbon into the atmosphere. 

Australia, Amazon, Africa and other places around the world are on fire - literally.  Sea levels rise as the Arctic and Antarctic melt.  Greenland had a fire this summer because so much of the permafrost had melted, fire was able to catch hold and burn for weeks.

Since I have no children, I can't tell you how tempting it is to throw up my hands and say "There is nothing I can do about this" and let it happen.  But we can make changes.  The oil industry could switch to alternative energy sources.  We as people can make different choices with our purchasing.  We can stop buying crap we don't need that ends up in the landfill (ugly Xmas sweaters?   Made from acrylic, worn once and tossed into the garbage?  We can stop doing that.)

We can define what is 'enough'.  We can tax billionaires as has been proposed by some politicians.  While it is all well and good to see some billionaires donate a tiny fraction of their money to charity, how about they pay their employees a living wage?  Companies like Wal-Mart who hand new hires an application for food stamps know they are not paying a living wage and are making money through corporate welfare.  Amazon (the company not the region) could give their employees better wages and treat them fairly instead of making them work insane hours for a pittance.  (I rarely buy from either Wal-Mart or Amazon - they are last resort options.)

Instead of buying - over buying - things that are not necessary, spending money on more and more and more plastic decorations for various 'holidays', we could just quietly celebrate without making a big splash at every house on the street.  We could have community celebrations instead of trying to out do the neighbours.

There are many ways we could make better choices.  My choices may not work for other people, but we each can at least poke through our bubble of privilege and begin to see what is happening before our very eyes, but that we cannot see because of our selective blindness.

Thank you to Ziya Tong for helping me tear down my bubble.  It's not comfortable.  It is necessary.


Kuelu said...

With regard to changing our use of plastics. Because the whole problem is so huge, I decided to focus on things that I could change. I have solar on my house. I drove a Prius for 10 years. I ask myself what will have to leave if I buy this particular item. I ask where it will be rehomed when I am through with it. I had only two children. I contribute to One Tree Planted that plants trees for a dollar each. I am promoting Macrebur Plastic Roads that mixes melted, then pelletized plastic into bitumen during the process of making asphalt for road construction. The results are longer lasting roads with fewer potholes and it sequesters carbon preventing it from becoming CO2. I am weaving napkins from natural cellulose fibers that will become part of a utensil packet that folks can carry with them to avoid using single-use plastic or paper napkins. Take them home and wash them with your dishes and laundry. I buy a great deal of my wardrobe from Goodwill. I rescue acrylic yarn from estate sales and Goodwill and turn them into hats for Operation Gratitude. Some of this involves using plastic that has already been created. Reuse, repurpose instead of throwing it out. I am trying to focus on single-use plastics and paper wherever I find them in my life. My latest is toilet paper made of 100% recycled paper. (I started to write recycled toilet paper and decided that wasn't a good idea!)

Now that I have written down all the things I do so far, I am rather surprised! My point here is to find little things you can do in your life. Observe yourself and see what you can do differently. If we all do what we can, things will improve. You can only do what you can do. I hope what I do gives you some ideas. Thanks for the opportunity! Linda Morehouse

Anonymous said...

As an Australian, weaver, long timer sewer, veggie grower and lover of native wild life I hear you loud and clear. I am shocked by the mind set of some. Try as I may I am unable to convince my daughter in laws and grand daughters the horrors of fast fashion, slave labour and the general treatment of children, so they may have cheap clothing. We as a world need to see climate change in another form, only then will it sink in. It is Human Abuse of the world. I feel this terminology will bring it back to self, not something for others to fix. That's my rant, thank you for yours.

amyfibre said...

Brava! And thanks for the book recommendation. It's on my list now.