Category Archives: Politics

One Man’s Valuable Possessions are Another Man’s “Irrelevant Abundance”

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How do you separate that which is clutter from that which is actually valuable in a society that’s trying to rid itself of meaningless objects? This is something I have struggled with constantly while reading material dealing with the issue of our reliance on consumer goods.

I am simply not convinced that all consumer goods are bad.

To be fair, only the extremes of the environmental movement seem to be arguing anything quite that radical. The problem is that the middle ground is always fuzzy, so I’m never sure which of the products I use on a day-to-day basis I’m supposed to feel guilty for using.

I could easily see where some would define those consumer goods which I consider the most valuable as unnecessary wastes of resources that should be done away with: my new laptop, for instance, or perhaps my video game consoles or my iPhone which I carry around with me everywhere.

But to those who would argue that, I would argue that I consider these objects more than just metal and plastic clutter that is taking away from the real sources of happiness in my life. These devices, which may seem so useless to some, are extremely valuable to me.

With my computer I am able to stay informed and connected to the world around me. I can communicate my ideas to others through blogging and express my own creativity with a word processor much more easily than with a pen and paper. I can read the opinions of those different and more knowledgeable than myself. Indeed, without my computer I would be far more ignorant of our ecological concerns than I currently am due to the sheer amount of knowledge available through the Internet.
My iPhone performs a similar function. Not only is it “cool” and fun, providing many sources of entertainment through the applications I can use on it, but it also helps keep me connected with those I care about. Being a couple of taps away from friends or family, wherever I happen to be standing, is something I value highly. Without this phone, or similar computer programs, there are certain friends I would simply lose contact with altogether, which would be a true shame.

My game consoles are admittedly a luxury, moreso than the other devices I have mentioned, and bring up a somewhat different question. When does personal fulfillment spill over into needless consumption?

Does the fact that I am enjoying the use of these pieces of equipment that I could very well live a reasonably complete life without make me a huge part of the problem? Should I dump them in my quest for environmentalism and instead take up meditation as a more planet-friendly route to escapism?

Or is there perhaps actually some value in them?

There is no question these devices use resources in ways that are unsustainable. There is no question that some people would find them completely needless and wasteful.

But at the same time there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that my life has been made more meaningful by these things.

I have met numerous friends whom I hold very dear through my hobby of video games.

I have experienced many emotions at the hands of video games, the stories they tell, and the gameplay the present.

I have always been fascinated by this medium and the new dimensions it brings to human storytelling. I have no doubt that video games are simply a modern take on the campfire story of yore. They may not yet have the same level of popularity or emotional depth, but even the most basic, button-mashing, mindless video game is a form of escapism just like listening to someone tell a good story.

Like music, like movies, like books, like art, and like the art of storytelling that has been around for centuries, video games are another venue of human creativity that I believe should be highly valued.

Yes they are wasteful. Yes they are technically unnecessary. But they are part of that creative spirit which so wonderfully separates humans from other species.

I present these issues not with some grand master plan or all-encompassing theory on how things should be. Rather, I bring up these issues because they are representative of the changes our society is going through in an attempt to finally deal with our harmful effect on the world around us.

One of the biggest reasons we are so reluctant to shift our ways is because we don’t know where the future will take us or what we will have to sacrifice.

This is a sentiment I can fully sympathize with. I am anxious to move the world into a more sustainable future in whatever ways I can. At the same time, I am nervous that perhaps we might go too far and brand those creations that were actually of some use, of some value, with a negative stigma – a proverbial scarlet letter.

Perhaps W, for wasteful.

I don’t want to see a giant W branded on my MacBook, my iPhone, or my Xbox. While my situation certainly isn’t true for everyone, for me these devices truly bring happiness to my life beyond some illusion of happy consumerism and I do not wish to forfeit them in some blind quest for a perfect world. I’m sure others have their own categorical niches of devices which they find just as valuable; just as fulfilling.

Am I wrong? Am I misguided?

What I do know is that I am confused. I do not want to be the chain dragging the world’s progress backward and denying us our better future, but at the same time I don’t want our future to be so irreversibly altered that others will not know of these wonderful products of human creativity and ingenuity and be able to derive value and joy from them as I do.

This is, I suppose, the eternal quandary of a tech-obsessed, ecologically minded individual. Hopefully the path will become clear to me eventually.

In the meantime, I’m going to go stare at a glowing rectangle, sure to have a smile on my face.


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Dear World…

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Photo by infernoenigma

Source: “My favorite picture that I took from the inauguration”

I came across this picture from the inauguration whilst browsing the Internet and just had to share. I couldn’t have said it much better myself, random man holding an awesome sign. And good shot on the photographer’s part, too. Awesome moment.

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Proud

For the first time in eight years, I can truly say that I am proud to be an American.  It’s a pretty good feeling.  One that I sincerely hope isn’t fleeting.  Way to go, America.  You’ve given this hardened pessimist some hope.

barack_obama_logo___hope_circl_by_ryankopf

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Wavering Republicans

What, exactly, is it that the Republican party stands for these days?

I make no bones about the fact that I am a fairly liberal-minded person, but I mean that question in the most sincere way possible. I have managed to completely lose track of what my opposing party claims to stand for.

At one point I thought I had it basically figured out. They were the party of consistency. They wanted things to stay the same as they had always been. They were in favor of a strict interpretation of the constitution that would read it exactly the way the founding fathers had written it, rather than reinterpreting it for today’s climate. They were in favor of giving more power to the states than the federal government. They tried to keep government in general as small as possible.

While I naturally did not agree with most of these positions, I at least knew what they were. I knew what I was opposed to. It made sense.

It doesn’t make sense to me any more.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that I no longer had the slightest clue what the Republican party as a whole is now in favor of. Some remnants of their prior positions are still there, certainly, but a lot has changed recently and I know not exactly in what direction.

I have some hunches as to the path they have moved toward, but my thoughts seem overly cynical. I don’t wish to immediately assume the worst about the Republican party, even if I happen to largely disagree with them.

Still, the more I look at it, I can’t help but see a party that seems to be moving away from the people and toward the interests of big business. I can’t help but see party that is no longer concerned with keeping government small and has instead racked up trillions in debt and lead some of the largest governments in U.S. history. I can’t help myself from beginning to think of them as increasingly self-interested and money-minded.

I am curious as to whether my perception is skewed by the politicians running the party. Maybe they are the self-interested ones while typical Republicans remain more traditional in their conservative views. In a case like this, it’s somewhat hard to tell. I certainly hope that is the case.

Admittedly, the Democratic party could rightly be accused of being a little muddy itself these days, but they at least seem to be moving in a fairly clear, if overly broad, direction. While their individual policies and what the party as a whole stands for might be less clear than in the past, it’s still relatively safe to peg them as the party of the middle class, the party of change, and the party of modernization, among other things.

The Republicans’ seeming move toward the interests of big business disturbs me for a number of reasons. The simplest of these is that I disagree with this approach and think that the average people of this country should always come first. It’s already quite apparent that those with stacks of cash have far too much control over our government as it is, Democrats most definitely included, without having an entire party shift into becoming champions of the elite.

The other primary reason this change disturbs me is that I can’t help but feel unsettled by the undulations of a once clear competitor. Surely there must be other Democrats confused by the movements of their opposing party as well, just like me. Surely there must even be Republicans that are not entirely happy with the apparent drift of their own party away from the ideals they thought it upheld.

Such a change has wider implications as well. The small-government Republicans of old provided a healthy balance to the Democrats. As liberal as I may be, I’m still certainly not comfortable with the idea of the government pushing itself into every aspect of American life or spending itself into an irrecoverable debt, so having the Republicans on the other side was even somewhat comforting. I knew I could count on them to hold my own party back from going just a little too far.

We’ve now maxed out the national debt clock in New York. Our government is bigger than ever. Neither party seems completely willing or able to deal with either of these problems.

A political party has changed and a balance has been lost. I’m not sure where the Republicans have drifted to precisely, but I hope they can soon see past the appeal of the open wallets of the elite and the business class and return to the values they once upheld.

Who would have thought that, in the span of a relatively few short years, the anti-change party would become almost completely unrecognizable from its former self?

Go figure.

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