So if you don’t fit in; if you feel at odds with the world; if your identity is troubled and frayed; if you feel lost and ashamed, it could be because you have retained the human values you were supposed to have discarded. You are a deviant. Be proud.
To seek enlightenment, intellectual or spiritual; to do good; to love and be loved; to create and to teach: these are the highest purposes of humankind. If there is meaning in life, it lies here.
Those who graduate from the leading universities have more opportunity than most to find such purpose. So why do so many end up in pointless and destructive jobs? Finance, management, consultancy, advertising, public relations, lobbying: there and other useless occupations consume thousands of the brightest students. To take such jobs at graduation, as many do every year, is to amputate life close to its base.
You are deprived of the time, sleep and energy you need to see past the place into which you have been plunged. You lose your bearings, your attachments to the world you inhabited before, and become immersed in the culture that surrounds you. Two years of this and many are lost for life.
We have but one life. However much money we make, we cannot buy it back. As far as self-direction, autonomy and social utility are concerned, many of those who enter these industries and never re-emerge might as well have dropped dead at graduation. They lost it all with one false step, taken at a unique moment of freedom.
Consuption can be expected to rise with economic growth until the biosphere hits the buffers. Anyone who understands this and still considers that population, not consumption, is the big issue is, in Lovelock’s words, ‘hiding from the truth’. It is the worst kind of paternalism, blaming the poor for the excesses of the rich.
In other words, when coal, oil and gas are produced, they will be used. Continued production will overwhelm attempts to restrict consumption.
There is nothing random about the pattern of silence that surrounds our lives. Silences occur where powerful interests are at risk of exposure.
You cannot solve a problem without naming it.
There is inverse relationship between utility and reward. The most lucrative, prestigious jobs tend to cause the greatest harm. The most useful workers tend to be paid the least and treated the worst.
If wealth were the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.
You can learn as much about a country from its silences as you can from its obsessions. The issues politicians do not discuss are as telling and decisive as those they do. While the coalition government’s cuts beggar the vulnerable and gut public services, it’s time to talk about the turns not taken, the opportunities foregone: the taxes which could have spared us every turn of the screw.
People with strong intrinsic values must cease to be embarrassed by them. We should argue for the policies we want not on the grounds of expediency but on the grounds that they are empathetic and kind; and against others on the grounds that they are selfish and cruel. In asserting our values we become the change we want to see.
Here you can find my review of How Did We Get Into This Mess?