Outrage, judgement, apathy, sadness, uncertainty, contemplation, solidarity, and reform, are words that are gaining in personal significance, to describe shared reactions to neatly categorised and conceptually organised political, economic, social, and environmental world events. But is this unidimensional structure all there is to the events, or is there something else that elicits in us this range of responses? For me, these events, regardless of categorisation and location, are analogous to a bowl of clear water in which, if I look, I see reflected my own image. Therefore, the reactions.
How can events such as, the farmer protests in Delhi, India, the arrest of Disha Ravi, a 22-year old climate activist from Bangalore, or the burning of effigies and posters of a singer from the United States of America and an environmental activist from Sweden, reflect my image? Unless actively involved, where do I come into sight?
When I looked at the farmer protests, what I saw staring back at me was my judgement: there it was an unpleasant image of me. Rather than giving me a clear view into someone else’s character, the impetus to judge made me see that my character needs to develop in strength.
This realisation and the accompanying agitation made me drop all judgement. I decided instead to take another look at the event and carefully choose my response. I chose not to let propaganda dictate how I apply myself, and I chose not to fall prey to hatred, avarice, and apathy: three friends that, unlike the three wise men, come to pay homage not to a compassionate mind but to a mind filled with ignorance.
I chose instead to understand where in the case of the farmer protests does our collective benefit lie?
Collective benefit is not the underlying goal of modern economics, because if it were then we would not have poverty, hunger, and depleted natural resources. And as part of the human collective, it serves us well to remember this without cynicism.
Collective benefit does not require us to have a homogenous identity. It requires neither nationalism nor globalisation. It requires freedom. Only when we are free will we have the compassion and courage to take individual responsibility that is imperative to developing collective benefit.
This understanding carries us beyond social freedoms to where the mind is free of self-serving ideologies: Rigoberta Menchu, David George Haskell, Yuval Noah Harari, and Banksy are eminent yet unobvious examples of this freedom. And like them are many others less eminent who make our everyday world that much more sane.
So, in context of the protests, you and I can look to the youth of India for inspiration, and we can serve collective benefit by a simple and undramatic act of individual responsibility: We can choose well-being over convenience.
When we choose well-being, we will no longer be manipulated to generate demand for produce that is not seasonal, local, and indigenous (native).
Eating seasonal, local, and indigenous produce will enable natural cycles to steer consumption. There will be no cash crops for traders and corporations to sell at a profit; this would mean no monoculture (cultivating a single crop in continuous cycles, in a given area), no need for unreasonable yields, and no depletion of soil expedited by our ignorance. Without demand trends to spike prices, traders and corporations will have little incentive to be part of this fragile and important sector—fragile because of climate uncertainties, and important because of delicate ecological interdependencies and because of our reliance on life-sustaining nourishment.
This may seem like a simple view of a complex affair, but it is so only if we look through the lens of modern economics or politics. Deep truths lay below the complexity of human concepts, in a clear place where it is easy to see that in choosing well-being rests our collective benefit and our freedom.
Our act of simple, good sense, if taken, may topple the structure of self-serving economic ideologies—the structure on which stand the hatred, avarice, and apathy that we are witnessing in world events. Would ours then be an act of non-violence, or will it be termed as a seditious act of anti-government sentiment?