“People have been very angry and frustrated at the system for a long time and now they are having an opportunity, due to a snowballing effect started by one piece of police violence, to let some of that anger out. It’s not necessarily always in a good way but that’s what’s happening in London at the moment. With a system that is built around oppression what do you expect? How many rich and prosperous looters have you seen on the streets this week?” ~ Alan Buttle
Is it a surprise that there is so much discontent, crime and anti-social behaviour when our primary role models are the rich and famous?
From birth, our society forces people to believe they’ll be happy only if they “have” – excess money, material possessions, a particular lifestyle – that they’re only worthy and will be accepted if they do. So when people don’t achieve this lifestyle they’re made to feel worthless; unimportant; underachievers. When something happens to “prove” their worthlessness (like the death of Mark Duggan, for example, and then being subsequently ignored when they peacefully protest) they fight back. Really, how can this be a shock to anyone?
If, in order to be happy and harmonious, we need to be kind and gentle toward each other why does our society promote rivalry and greed? We teach and reward competition against each other, the biggest show of this being the Olympic Games (which, for the record, I am vehemently opposed to). We’re taught selfishness and greed and then we punish those who steel. When TV game shows give the winner a mountain of cash or material prizes, what message is this sending to us? Why are we not taught by our parents and teachers how to be genuinely content? Contentment comes from inside; to be happy with who we are and what we have.
There’s nothing wrong with being “poor” and having “nothing”; only managing to scrape by – some of the happiest and kindest communities in the world live this way. What is wrong is being made to feel worthless and guilty by a society that values material possessions above community.
Did you know that the last place on Earth to get television was a Buddhist country called Bhutan in the Himalayas where the society was peaceful, content and crime-free until 1999 when TV began broadcasting? Since then, Bhutan has joined the rest of us in our dissatisfaction with ourselves and our material wealth, and our high crime rates. Want truly happy children? Show them what’s truly valuable! Turn off the TV and throw away your celebrity gossip magazines, they’re poison. Let your children experience the simple pleasures. If your child is bored without a computer game that’s your doing. You must engage him; inspire him. Recognise his interests and encourage his talents, but without pushiness. Give him your time and your love, not material possessions. If he doesn’t behave himself that’s because you haven’t taught him how to be satisfied. It takes patience, time and persistence.
When you decide to have a child, you take on the responsibility to raise him. Don’t stick him in front of a screen, spend time with him. Teach him how to take care of himself, how to cook, how to clean, how to sew, how to mend a bicycle, how to paint a wall. This will give him discipline and make him feel valued. Take him on picnics, walks and bike rides, engage him in conversations about wildlife and the world around him to help with his understanding, appreciation and compassion. Give him a plant to take care of or, better still, a small vegetable patch and let him connect with nature and appreciate the fruits of his labour. If your child sees your dissatisfaction with your own material wealth, with your image and with your life this is what he’ll learn for himself, what he’ll help to spread within his peer group, and what he’ll pass down to your grandchildren and out to the rest of society, and so it will continue.
Our society perpetuates the chain of discontentment and so we have the power, as individuals, families and communities, to break it.