Post by david.
So this is the first post for the perspective project, and it’s about YOU, that anonymous entity that others call ‘a member of the public’. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true – it’s about a specific person; but the nature of the interaction with her was so random that it might as well have been you.
She is a call centre telephone operator for a bank (perhaps a strange ‘service sector’ to feature in a blog post on a site whose authors are rather sceptical of the monetary system – granted). She might as well have been a cashier or a dentist or a sales rep – or you! She listened to my mundane enquiry about using a UK bank account via the internet from the RSA, and when she heard that I am basically moving to a field, the conversation took a turn that I am yet to experience on a customer service call.
She said, more or less, “Take me with you”! It turns out that she shares similar views to me/us, views that can be categorised broadly under the (over-used, but I’ll use it anyway) category of ‘sustainability’. And the reason why she inspired me to write this as the first blog entry for this site is because she works for a bloody bank, yet she is on the same team as I am.
How can this be? Bank employees with souls? This might sound strange to those of us who were marching in the front lines of Occupy groups, ready and eager to point out that banks and corporations are eeee-vylll. And they are! (We changed banks to the lesser of the evil among them last year – let’s just say it’s a cooperative!) This, however, does not change the fact that hundreds of millions of people – you! – work for institutions whose goings-on we do not approve of, because we are at the mercy of socio-political and economic factors that we are born into and which we do not actively choose. So on we slog, forced to tacitly consent because of the seeming lack of alternatives, sceptical of the system in which we work, and hope for something to change.
Exactly a week ago I met up with a South African friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for a while at a pub in St Albans, where I currently live (for about a week longer!). His partner is a young banker who has recently started working in London. She too was expressing views that highlighted just how inhumane the work expectations are, which my friend agreed was the same with his quantity-surveying job, and both agreed that one could only do the jobs for a limited number of years before the proverbial candle would burnt out from both ends. (I was good – I never even raised one critical point about the banking system, which is possibly a first for me!)
A week prior to that, a friend of mine who happens to be a business consultant (also a SAffer – yes, I DO have and socialise with British friends!) called me and excitedly explained his plans to spend until February consulting for his company before he and his wife and child make a move to a more simple life. This from a high profile businessman on a fat salary.
The permacultury people we have been interacting with for the past while are obviously on the same band wagon here – one that is looking for a field to park in, to off-load its passengers to create sustainable ecologically-beneficial systems for people, place and future to thrive. Yet every other person I speak to – i.e. you! – about permaculture, environmental activism, alternative systems, etc. is totally on board conceptually. We all (you!) acknowledge the need for a pervasive change away from the wasteful, purely-materialistic paradigms that promote instant gratification and absolute hierarchical egotistical domination over this one beautiful planet that gives life to very sensitive organisms – organisms like you!
So maybe this post isn’t about you after all; maybe it can never solely be about you, but rather a much bigger picture. That picture, if you haven’t noticed, is changing fast, something that people I encounter – you! – all the time are openly acknowledging. It is obvious that change has been one of the few constants in existence, but what we are encountering is a vastly accelerated pace of change, one which I hardly need to explain because you experience that acceleration all the time.
It is worth pointing out something I offered to our lovely call centre telephone operator, who, remember, is a symbol for you: we are experiencing some major world and world-view changes, with some serious ones just around the corner; we have several choices, among them being the following – we can choose to ignore the changes and latch onto the ‘orthodox’ views of old (which have partly been responsible for getting us into this mess in the first place), or we can be mindful of the changes and make ourselves receptive to updated, organic ways of seeing the world, our place in it, and what we should be doing to carry ourselves into the future.
Our call centre employee, that random member of the public, chose not to follow protocol and speak only of banky matters. Instead, she chose to have 20 minute conversation with me about alternative living and alternative ideologies, about the importance of time and happiness over money, about her children, about her education and the education of her children. She is a symbol for you, and you too have similar choices; I hope that your next exchange with another human being is more than just business-as-usual, as you too might work to increase their hope, which in turn will be passed on to increase the hope and positivity of someone else, etc.