Book Excerpt: 7.3 What We Can Do

This is likely the last book excerpt I am going to post before publishing my book. (But I’m finishing up an article about the Occupy Movement and a “letter to the 1%” that I will publish soon.) Hopefully, the book will be done by November if my editor can finish it by then. It will be available as an e-book and as a hard copy. Electronic copies will be $11 and hard copies will be $18, and for those who are very poor and can’t afford it, but believe they could benefit from it, I will send it to them for free.

If you like what you read, please follow, share or like this webpage. I don’t have many followers yet, and I would like to get more people involved and excited before releasing the book. I would appreciate any efforts you can make. I’m also going to start listing like-minded, progressive organizations, writers and activists who would like to be listed to promote their good work. If interested, shoot me an e-mail.

 

7.3 What We Can Do

 

We cannot be intimidated or bullied by these power structures. We can remove ourselves from the harmful financial and political systems that many of us rely on, and instead join or create community organizations that provide all of the same resources and services that representative governments and large corporations provide. We do not need them, and if we organize they cannot control us because we outnumber our rulers.

Questioning the value of authority in all contexts, thinking critically, and coming to our own conclusions is always important. People who look like they have opposing opinions sometimes work for the same side unbeknownst to the general public. Therefore, we should try to consider all points of view, seek the most unbiased sources of information and do what we think is best, and not simply believe whatever any one person or organization tells us to believe (including me) without first being informed. No one person has all the answers, and being allegiant to ideologies instead of one leader, party or organization is far more sensible because people, parties and their leaders change. They come and go and they die while an ideology like opposition to the death penalty is a tangible, permanent idea. The issues and the people they affect are most important, not our leaders.

If we ignore advertisements from the largest corporations and stop supporting them, they will eventually go bankrupt. We can also avoid working for these corporations until they become worker cooperatives. Instead, we can create, work with and support small businesses that share our values and provide socially useful services and products. Selling and buying labor does not lead to gratifying relations. Trading our labor and valuing other people as distinct individuals most of all does lead to fulfilling relations, however. Pursuing work we enjoy may be not as easy as working the most available jobs, but it is ultimately so much better for us. Life is currently short, and we can’t waste it doing work we detest.

Those of us who are religious should also consider that religions (and especially their leaders) will not help us in the long-term. We should rely on ourselves and other instead of Gods, wishes and prayers. We ought to put our faith in each other, instead of God because we can all actually hear, see, feel and interact with real people. Real people are usually more reliable as well so long as they are motivated and they care. We should, of course, not discriminate against anyone for their religious beliefs as long as they do not harm or marginalize other people. But I believe we ought to make sensible decisions about our spiritual beliefs.

We have the freedom to believe in anything we want. But it is not sensible to exercise this freedom by stubbornly adhering to certain convictions and never considering alternatives. We still have much to learn, but we can embrace what we don’t currently know and learn everything science currently can tell us. We can all receive comfort from science, because the answers are out there and it is exciting that they may come in our lifetimes. We could see enormous change in the 21st century. Science will likely extend the length of our lives enormously and it may even make immortality possible. Science improves our understanding of the world every day, and it can provide us with so much more than unchanging religious texts.

For religious people who say they receive a great deal from prayer, I would suggest experimenting with a few good alternatives that provide similar benefits, but that do not create the expectation that the future will change because of divine intervention. For example, meditation, yoga, moments of silence, introspection, travel, observing space, connecting with the Earth, learning about Earth sciences, and allowing yourself to voice internal dialogue with or without other people all carry benefits that prayer does. But these benefits have nothing to with God. Praying can just give people time to reflect, look inward, and make informed decisions about their lives.

 

It is important to recognize our thoughts are not always meaningful or significant. Thoughts can be meaningless, pointless, and random. They alone do not reflect on character. It is how we act that determines our character. Believing God can hear our thoughts is very paranoid and an example of magical thinking. But there is no need to ever worry about appeasing God. If there is a God and he, she, or it has a developed sense of morality, your work to help humanity will matter more to God than else.

 

This is a bit of a side note, but I struggle with intrusive thoughts very often that I try to control, but I know these efforts are useless. However, I understand why other people try to control their thoughts and the kind of agony that some religious people go through when they become concerned about “sinful” thoughts. When I was much younger and still religious, I was concerned God could hear my thoughts. But only later was I able to realize how unhealthy this concern was. We all have our own of episodes of “bad thoughts,” but the irony is that the more you stress about specific bad thoughts, the more likely they are to become even “worse” thoughts. So much of our energy is wasted on endless mental battles when we could use our energy so much more efficiently on tangible efforts with measurable, real-world social value, and when we can do this, we can create peace of mind for ourselves and others.

 

If you live rather comfortably and you have had a relatively pain-free life, I would also encourage you to consider the people who have experienced much more pain in their lives. If you give what you can to them, they can empower themselves. (There is a list of worthwhile charities you can donate to at the end of this book. Volunteer work is also a great option.) We can also help by increasing awareness of socioeconomic inequalities and the mechanisms and individuals responsible for them.  

Those of us who have a business or the means to build one (or several) could also help enormously by employing the poorest people of the world and running our businesses as fairly as possible. We can help change the economic system of poor countries and provide fair wages to poor people who need work and food just by changing where we do business.

In most contexts it is also helpful to be mindful of our general behavior and how it impacts people. For example, if you encounter a homeless person on the street instead of passing him or her, you could also get to know the individual. Homeless people almost always have interesting stories, and if you have advice or guidance based on what they share, you could share this and perhaps change that person’s life. Unexpected compassion often goes a long way. Helping to uplift people without homes is much more valuable than simply indifferently giving them pocket change or ignoring them completely. It can also be very helpful to provide homeless individuals with anything that makes them feel more involved in society and increases their chances of finding employment, such as clean clothes, hygienic products, cell phones, job tips and home-cooked meals.

Individuals with different jobs and skill sets also have different opportunities to uphold basic human rights. For example, if you are a doctor, you could consider volunteering for Doctors Without Borders or a similar organization that provides free medical care for the most vulnerable people on Earth. You may make very little money doing this, but you will likely impact and save many more lives than you could in America or another wealthy country. As I have discussed, most poor countries have health epidemics and extensive training is not necessary to make an impact. If you are a nurse or other medical personnel, there are many regions that would benefit from your assistance. If you have the means, you could also open an HIV/AIDS clinic in the portions of the world (like Africa) most affected by these diseases. You could also teach people how to prevent malaria, diarrheal disease and other common, third-world maladies, as well as treat them. Training and hiring locals also helps give them a source of income and it can create a practice capable of treating more people.

If you are an engineer, some great ways to use your skills to increase your social impact are to build wells, water treatment plants, sewer systems, water collectors and water filters anywhere in the world that lacks access to clean water. Engineers are very important, as they can have major effects on socioeconomic welfare. They also play a vital role in building energy efficiency. I believe much more research should be done on efficiency in solar cells (especially ones that don’t require high heat or silicone to produce), wind energy, hydroelectric fuel cells, sea turbines that use energy from waves, and any mechanisms that can harness natural energy that is not currently being used. These renewable sources of energy can be far cheaper than fuel and they can be entirely undamaging to the environment. They can also provide energy to the poorest parts of the world. It would be possible to achieve net-zero emissions in all means of production if environmentally knowledgeable engineers could organize to implement their ideas without the barriers created by the large institutions that use these individuals for their profit.

If you are a farmer or you wholesale food, one great option to improve your social impact is by selling produce directly to consumers and giving food away to those who cannot afford it. Employing unskilled, poor workers is also a progressive option. Several farms can also pool their resources to create grocery markets run by farmers. This can generate more of a profit for farmers and the produce can be cheaper and healthier than the produce available in large supermarket chains. More farmer-run grocery stores, farm stands and CSAs would shrink the large food chains that merely serve as profit-driven intermediaries between farmers and consumers. Supporting these alternatives would also force all food chains to refrain from cutting corners and buying processed, unhealthy foods and instead improve their own standards. Very knowledgeable farmers can also volunteer where there are major droughts and other environmental problems and teach locals about different farming techniques and crops that require little water (like potatoes), as well as donate them.

Whole-earth health is very important to uphold the rights of all life forms, so ecologists, climatologists, geologists, environmentalists, and animal rights activists also play an important role. I believe the key to whole-earth health may be to let evolution take its course and even speed it up by providing the appropriate conditions. We can do this by sustaining and preserving large ecosystems, rain forests,[1] jungles, heavily vegetated areas, and animals and plants at risk of extinction. Farming land without damaging it or reducing biodiversity is also important. Jungle farming, for example, can meet these ends. An expansion of agronomy and farming courses at colleges could also help greatly.

 

Making desert land arable and preventing desertification is also important for whole Earth health. To do this water retention of the soil must be increased. This can be done by covering bare land and plowing it. Sand fences, shelter belts, woodlots and windbreaks can be used to prevent drifting of soil and rapid evaporation of water. Leguminous plants which trap nitrogen can also increase nitrogen content in soil.

 

Whole-earth health can also only be achieved by reducing our carbon footprint as well, and there are many ways we can do this and save money in the process. Using CFLs and LED lights, instead of incandescent bulbs is a simple and easy way to save energy. You can also install your own solar panels, build or buy a wind turbine, add insulation to your residence, use geothermic energy, or do all of these to create a net-zero home. A good knowledge of the effects of architecture, duct framework, and windows on airflow and temperature change can help as well. Walking, (or running), using public transportation or bicycles, instead of cars powered by internal combustion can also help the environment and save money. Recycling or reusing all plastics, paper, metals, glass, and fuels is also very helpful. 

If you are a medical scientist or a biologist, I would urge you to use your resources and knowledge to find cures for the worst diseases like cancer and AIDS, and if you do find a cure, please do not monopolize on it. Instead, give the cure to the poorest countries for free and sell it at a low cost for wealthier individuals. Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine, did just this. When he was asked if there was a patent for the vaccine, he said, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” (If corporations could, they would likely try.[2])

If you are a computer programmer or manufacturer, consider using your knowledge for the most positive endeavors possible. Computer technology has been used to track people and create masses of advertisements to benefit the rich few, and it is made possible by precious which mostly come from mining under very exploitative conditions. However, we can support responsible manufacturers that do not use such metals and develop computers that use less of them, as well as refrain from working for any unscrupulous surveillance agency.

Computer science has the potential to be used for great good. It can connect people. It can spread vital information. It can be used to create artificial limbs that use the brain to function, and it can also be used to create robots that do the jobs that no one wants to do. There is also research on nanobots that can be injected into the body in order to prevent disease. (This technology has the potential to be abused, however, and it could be used to control people. This should be considered by anyone who successfully makes such technology.) If more programmers focused on these endeavors, the effects would be felt worldwide.

Whatever your employment status or job title may be, we can all help in some way. Traveling abroad and simply connecting with people and sharing your knowledge and experience can have immeasurable benefits. Offering a willing hand or a listening ear to strangers also helps build trust among humanity.

If you currently negatively impact humanity, I would strongly suggest you reconsider how people are made. Ask yourself how your conception of identity formation and entitlement was formed. If it was heavily influenced by the number of advantages you have been given and “lessons” you have been taught by biased individuals, then it may be time to rethink these concepts. Even if you have already harmed or even killed many people, it is not too late to change. We can always change ourselves. If we do, we will all live much happier lives as a result.

If you are considering being a part of the problem, ask yourself how many people who major in business or marketing and live for themselves are actually happy. The answer is few to none. Unless your ultimate goal is to help poor people by getting into big business, why bother? Marketing does not have to be a socially negative enterprise. If you are in advertising or marketing you could consider only marketing the most useful and socially responsible products, and not the most profitable ones. Instead of using your powers of persuasion to encourage consumption, you could also use that ability to encourage people to give to those who need it most. Right now most jobs in marketing only increase the wealth of a very small number of people, but that does not have to be the case.

If you are a law officer, I would suggest focusing on crime prevention and always using force as an unfavorable, last option. I would also suggest refraining from arresting drug addicts and other people who are suffering, even if the law tells you to do otherwise. Throw police and military hierarchy out the window. Instead, you can bring your own scruples to the job and give struggling people advice and perhaps make a real difference. You can surprise individuals who only expect to be harassed or harmed. We would not even need police if everyone had equal opportunity, so you could also consider quitting and working towards providing that equality in other ways.

 

If you are a soldier, consider how your actions may perpetuate cycles of violence, and again work towards conflict prevention instead. If you are enlisted in the army now, try to transfer to a non-violent position if you can. If you work in the field of weapons technology, perhaps consider refocusing your efforts or quitting. Weapons are already extremely complex, especially those that are made for massive destruction like nuclear bombs. If your passion is weaponry, I would suggest making small arms, non-lethal weapons, and defensive gear like bullet-proof suits, vests, shields, helmets, stun guns, and so forth. (Veils made of polyurethane that could protect women from acid attacks would also be very useful in many regions of the world.) Any defensive gear meant to empower those at a disadvantage (marginalized minorities, women, handicapped individuals, and so forth) can be very positive. Most weaponry today, however, just gives greater power to the already powerful, so we ought to work on changing this.

 

It would be best to avoid selling weaponry to the military or large police forces, and instead keep them in common control until armies shrink and we do not need weapons at all. If you are a nuclear scientist, you can use your knowledge to create safer nuclear fission (or fusion) plants that can provide cheap energy. (Nuclear power is not an ideal energy, however, because current methods of production create radioactive waste. Working on alternate methods may be worthwhile.)

 

I would also suggest anyone part of the CIA or another covert, cult-like “intelligence” organization to quit and try to expose the real purpose of these organizations. This work perpetuates far more aggression than it deters. Secret societies are kept secret because only a few in the world actually benefit from them. Most people in the CIA are kept from the biggest secrets because these secrets only benefit a handful of people, and anyone entrusted to keep any secret can be seen as a security threat just for having that “privileged information.” This is another reason these organizations can be so dangerous. Officials often have to be extremely distrustful and paranoid in order to keep secrets buried, and significant internal and external conflict results. You may believe you have a permanent place in your organization, but as soon as even one person in the organization ceases to trust you, rightly or wrongly, you may be killed, and your death will likely be covered up, just as the countless murders of covert operatives have been concealed. There is no dignity in dying that way.

 

The CIA and other intelligence organizations need to see how the security dilemma is a contrived concept that they help create and perpetuate. It is a false dichotomy. Threats do not have to exist if we seek to befriend everyone and improve the socioeconomic welfare of all peoples.  We must stop seeing the world as our enemy. The bigotry, greed, distrust and misunderstanding in these secretive organizations only create barriers which separate people and often lead to conflict.

 

Regardless of whether you are a soldier, a cop, a covert official or a serial killer, if killing or harming people are a part of your job, I would ask you, at the very least, not to kill or harm indiscriminately because of “orders” or for money. Instead, first contemplate who you are being asked to harm or kill and why. Think critically about whether or not it is right according to your own conception of morality and general moral standards. Life is not cheap, but the higher ups in the hierarchies of armies, criminal organizations, and governments often treat humanity as if it means nothing. They give orders to their underlings to do their dirty work while they keep their hands clean and generally stay safe at the top, and we have to ask ourselves whether or not this is good for anyone. The foot soldiers follow these orders often because they want to ascend to the highest ranks, but few make it. Most are either killed, captured or damaged irreparably before they ever get there. They are treated as expendable. Only the most amoral, deceptive, adept, and secretive men who are willing to be allegiant to the few men in control ever reach it to the top with them.

 

Some very destitute people feel as though they have nothing to lose because some of them, in fact, do not, (aside from their lives) and the rich take advantage of this misfortune. The rich often recruit the poor to take actions against their own economic interests and destroy their own struggling class. A gang member in a poverty wrecked ghetto can be hired by some political or corporate thug to discredit or even kill someone fighting for economic equality if the price is right. But it is never worth any amount of money or favors to help perpetuate this contemptible cycle of poverty and violence by silencing dissidents.

 

Unfortunately, the silenced masses often are hired to silence themselves, and the rich point fingers at other poor people in the aftermath and internal conflict results. People trying scrape by day to day can see other as enemies, instead of the rich, which is why gang members in most ghettos across the world are shooting at each other, and not at the people who actually create the most wealth discrepancy by hoarding money. Those not shooting at each are often instigated to be violent by corporate armies and corrupt polices forces paid for by the world’s “elite.” Meanwhile, most of us stand on the sidelines of these conflicts unaware that rich, powerful people are pulling the strings. This kind of conflict does not have to exist and it should not. If equal, fair conditions were created for all, violence, war and crime would nearly disappear. Therefore, while I doubt many active gang members will read this book, I hope they do and take this advice, because some are in a position to help themselves and others. They can help stop this senseless violence and uplift their communities.

 

If you are a gang member, instead of selling addictive drugs and harming other poor people who want out just as much as you do, you could use your ability to organize and protest the massive socioeconomic inequality that makes young people in ghettos join gangs. Some gangs, to their credit, have already done this. Average people generally take protests by gangs very seriously and armies of gang members marching in the streets are unlikely to be bothered by police, whereas the usual demographic of hippies and pacifists who protest for peace are seen as easy targets. (Police would likely be rightly afraid to intervene with a major gang protest and they should have no reason to do so anyway so long as they do not break the law.)

If you are active in a gang, it is important to remember who your real enemies are. They are not rival gangs, even if they have murdered or injured several people close to you. They likely have had their share of causalities too, as most gangs have across the world. Our real enemies are the people that perpetuate this unfair economic system for their own benefit. Most rival gang members join gangs for the same reasons and they have much more in common than they do separating them. Therefore, they can fight the common enemy instead of each other. They can fight big business and corporate governments and our crony capitalist economies that perpetuate poverty.

If you are in prison, I would strongly recommend that you organize, fight for your common rights with your words, and know your real enemies. Know that while they may be able to take away your freedoms, they can never take away your freedom of thought. A hell can be turned into a heaven and a heaven into a hell in certain circumstances. It all depends on our minds and the way to we react to our conditions.

While I highly doubt any terrorist will read this book, I would like to offer some suggestions to them as well: Please consider how your actions are affecting you and those you care about. Even if you only care about yourself and your people and the people you want to kill or harm are truly evil, consider what the consequences will be if you follow through. Even if you believe you will be rewarded in the afterlife, what about those left alive? What if your entire community is wiped out in a retaliation attack? This occurs all the time, because if you show no consideration for innocent, random lives, then governments will react with the same misanthropy. Terrorism never results in positive changes. 

When the 9-11 hijackers crashed into the WorldTradeCenter and the Pentagon, they were not just killing Americans. Their actions eventually caused the deaths of many more innocent Muslim people. Of course, the Bush administration’s military reaction to this event was extremely unnecessary and destructive, but it was also very predictable due to Bush’s radical conservatism and lack of concern for human life. The hijackers had to know this, but they attacked anyway. If Bin Laden had not planned those attacks, it is unlikely that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would have been waged and killed so many. The point is that even if some terrorists have legitimate grievances, by killing innocent people they are seriously hurting their causes and making their communities more vulnerable to random attacks.

Finally, I feel I should address the poorest people of the world who have had the most pain in their lives. While I know many of these individuals do not own a computer or have access to the internet, I will try to make this book as available and affordable to poor communities as possible. I hope that as many poor individuals will read this book as possible because I have simple, but important advice for them. This advice applies all people, but it is especially important for people who lack the basic resources necessary for survival.

As I have discussed, one of the most effective ways to improve the welfare of your community is by increasing organization and harmony within it. If the people in your community are mostly in agreement and motivated, they are more likely to achieve their aims. There is always strength in numbers and survival is easiest in larger groups, especially when everyone is looking out for the interests of the community.

You do not need buy food if you live on arable land or near some and you have enough water to feed them. Planting trees, crops and grasses not only increases carbon sequestration, which reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and offsets carbon emissions, it also attracts other forms of life like grazing cattle. Their movements, waste and physical bodies can be used to improve soil fertility, biological diversity and be a source of food (if you choose to eat animals). Raising livestock can be a good option, if not vegetarian, to facilitate independence. If you do raise livestock be sure to use animal waste as fertilizer.

 

Land can be made arable by adding pasteurized animal waste, dead plants, blood, bone meal, greensand, humates, moss, cocoa meal, alfalfa, coffee grounds, food waste, and other naturally occurring substances that can break down into plant nutrients in the soil. These should be mixed with the soil already there to make it arable or left in a compost pile to decompose and then added to the soil. Anything organic and biodegradable can be recycled for compost and used to grow food. Making a compost pile is easy and cheap. Ash from furnaces and fires, sawdust, wood chips, and yard waste can also be added to a compost pile. These piles only require occasional aeration. Compost piles should have a carbon to nitrogen ratio of about 30 to 1. This is necessary to attract and sustain the microbes that cause decomposition. Piles that are too high in carbon will decompose slowly while those with too much nitrogen can create ammonia gas.  Brown or yellow (usually woody) plant matter is high in carbon, while green plant matter is high in nitrogen, so these should be added in the correct proportions to create the ideal carbon to nitrogen ratio.

 

Land fertility can also be measured by several factors like the presence of plant life and fungus around the area. The soil’s humidity, density and ability to retain water affect fertility as well. If you have the means, equipment can be bought to directly test nutrient and PH levels in the soil. These test soils for their acid content and usually the three most essential nutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potash (K). Liquids that are too acidic can kill plants and they are unsafe to drink. Generally any water fit for human consumption is suitable for plants. If you have access to just a few natural resources, (land, sunlight, water, seeds) you never need to buy food. Seeds can be bought or harvested from mature plants. It is best to harvest them from the best crops and breed them to produce desirable phenotypes.

If water is a limited resource, investing in drip irrigators and rain collectors can also be very worthwhile. Water should be saved, but not hoarded or wasted. Water canals can also be dug from clean rivers and endorheic basins (this water has to be desalinated before it is consumed if it has a high saline content) to serve the same purposes. It is very important that water canals remain clean for public health. Wells and canals are sometimes intentionally contaminated by hate groups, so hiding them can help prevent this.

 

Sea water does not rehydrate the body, so it cannot be consumed as I have mentioned, but it can be desalinated. However, this is not very practical for people without access to a good amount of capital. Boiling water is a good, cheap method of cleaning water of certain living contaminants. If you do not have electricity (or a stove for that matter) water can also be heated by fire to disinfect it. The drawbacks are that boiling water is energy intensive and it does not reduce heavy metals or toxic chemicals if they are present in the water. Water can also be chemically treated to remove harmful toxins. Ultraviolent light exposure kills certain bacteria as well.

 

If none of these solutions are practical (there is no rainfall, no soil, no canals), you can also try to access groundwater by digging a well with your hands, a shovel, or a makeshift shovel. However, if you live in a very arid region like Kenya, wells have to be dug with expensive equipment because the water table is so deep underground. Hand dug wells can also be dangerous to build. People have died during their construction. A better solution is to rent drilling equipment to dig a well that can be safe and contained, but that is the most costly solution. For very poor communities, it can make sense to pool just one dollar from each person or family. If 500 to 600 people or families can do this, they will have enough money to build a shallow well.

When sanitation is a problem or water is unclean because of infection from waste, it is important to find out where the waste is coming from. Designating certain areas for waste that are far from water sources (and burying it) can help prevent contamination. (Waste will break down into baser nutrients if buried.) There is no reason anyone should be getting anyone sick from it.

As I have discussed, healthcare, shelter and education are not generally freely shared resources, unlike sunlight, earth, and water (usually), so you may have to invest in these resources. Pooling your resources with those from the community will make this most manageable. Having access to a computer with an internet connection can also be very useful. You can learn almost everything you need to know to survive from the internet for free on certain websites. Aside from these do-it-yourself solutions, you can also rally and protest so that governments will finally begin to treat these resources as basic rights and human dignity can be upheld.

 

 

 

 

 


[1] 40 percent of the world’s forests are currently threatened by mining according to Sierra Magazine.

[2] A Spanish woman named Angeles Duran was the first to claim legal ownership of the sun.

Advertisements

One response to “Book Excerpt: 7.3 What We Can Do

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s