Culture is a choice

“A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people”
Mahatma Gandhi 

Culture is not inevitable. It is our choice. Our culture is the summation of billions of small and quiet transactions that occur between individuals in the city street, the marketplace and around the family dinner table. Culture is not the actions or agendas of large multinational corporations (or their patsy governments). Culture is owned by the people. It is and will always be about us. How we act towards each other. What we believe is right. What we will accept and what we are so repulsed by that we can no longer explicitly or implicitly sanction.

Transitioning to simplicity is not an instantaneous or dramatic change. Instead it is a gradual migration in the way that we conduct our small transactions. Voluntary simplicity is the process where our transactions with people and nature become harmonious. It’s acting from the base of what WE know rather than what they tell us we know.

Many of us see the unravelling of consumer society before our very eyes, but we see this as a big problem. A challenge too big to change by ourselves. The end of consumption economics will come. We know this is inevitable because growth is ultimately limited by ecology. When, in our foolishness, we have consumed every last droplet of oil the planet has to offer we will be confined by the energy available from the sea, the wind and the sun. While our machines will be come more efficient the energy required for perpetual economic growth will no longer be available and the growth myth with die. There are other signs too. Despite our continual consumption we are not more happy or more fulfilled in our lives. The contradiction is that the more we chase the material the more disillusioned, disconnected and empty we have become. And yet we go with the flow seeing change as too hard (or somebody else’s problem). We follow patterns of expected behaviour and in doing so we reinforce all of the worst aspects of our culture.

But, it is we the masses with the small transactions that shape the planet and control the companies. 

Today I am asking you to choose one transaction and to consciously reshape this transaction in a way that aligns with the ideals that you desire for your culture. Don’t buy the tasteless fake mandarin grown in artificial sunlight, out of season, drowned in pesticides and covered with wax to ensure it looks perfect and then flown around the planet twice. Instead choose a delicious naturally grown piece of fruit that is in season, was grown locally outside in the sunlight and soil. Without pesticide. It’s what our grandparents used to call ‘food’. Perhaps it will be a little smaller or shriveled in appearance, but I am sure it will taste heavenly.

Maybe you will pick one situation and responding as though you expect to have grand children (think better stewardship of nature resources and the environment) or you could chose a coffee that supports fair or free trade and is produced using less water  or by generating less pollution. You could go knock yourself out by making something for yourself or you could chose to buy new eyeware from a non-profit that provides critical eye care to the poorest people.

Just one small change is all it takes.

Sustain it for a lifetime and you have a powerful impact.

You can never predict the ripple effect that the wings of one butterfly may have on the far side of the world. Somewhere in a distant place your small decision to change a single transaction might be the tipping point that changes this world for the better.

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