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Commitment and Inverse Reminders by Albert Kaufman

I’ve been thinking lately that if things stay the same much longer, everything’s going to change. We’re reaching the tipping point after which the balance will shift rapidly—and I don’t think our society is ready/prepared for what’s coming.

Given that we’re heating the planet, losing species at alarming rates, going through a nasty worldwide economic depression, living in a country where 45 million people have no health care, and 15 million are unemployed, fighting two outrageously expensive, dangerous wars halfway around the world, and having the body of our national government dysfunctional, I wonder just how much more stress the systems we rely upon can take.

The traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers, networks online) all point blame at one culprit or another, and none of them ever encourage you, the viewer/listener/reader, to take a single action beyond possibly changing a light bulb.

I read a lot of the left press. Whether it’s Counterpunch, YES! Magazine, Adbusters, The Nation, or our local offering, Alternatives, that’s where I get most of my news besides the local paper. And the story you get from this parsec of the media galaxy paints a radically different picture and provides much more coverage of people who refuse to wait for Obama, the US Senate, the FDA or some local governing body to make things right. Like Jon Stewart, the news from these sources is generally true, and worth paying attention to. I’m with them. If we wait for someone else to correct the problems, we’ll continue to watch our street/ neighborhood/ city/ county/ state/ country/ continent/ planet deteriorate—until it’s uninhabitable.

We’ve been fed a story by corporate media in recent years urging us to make personal changes to save the planet—recycle cardboard and glass, change a light bulb, plant a tree, bring cloth bags to the grocery store. These are reasonable personal actions to take, but they offer micro solutions to macro problems. So I have a big favor to ask of you. Here goes:

The next time you hear some media “voice” telling you to take personal action regarding your shopping habits to save the planet, think about industrial hog farms instead. Think about the over $700 billion that we’re spending on our military every year. Match up each thought of a personal action you can take with a directly proportional thought of an action our society must take if we are to restore the balance. The next time corporate America encourages you to think small (turn down your thermostat at night), let that be the inverse reminder to think big and to FOLLOW THE MONEY—and note that mountain tops are still being blasted off the map forever in West Virginia to provide us with “clean” coal to make “green” electricity. Next time you try to decide what fish to buy for dinner because you’ve heard some species are over-fished, think about all the plastic dumped in our oceans by corporations, killing fish and other wildlife by the millions.

Then, take pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, voice to telephone, and let someone know how you feel. Whether it’s the local paper or your electeds, it’s important to be talking about the big issues, the big numbers, the big effects of our communal (generally corporate) actions. And, if that doesn’t satisfy, figure out if there’s a group that’s trying to positively address what you’re concerned about, and join their ranks, or at least send them a donation. There’s a lot of great people doing a lot of great things out there, and they need our support. If that group you want to support doesn’t exist, create it. Feel free to get in touch with me, we’ll work on it together.

We’ve all been told repeatedly that we are too small to effect any change. It’s not true. Yes, our current economic system is set up so that money talks and the environment has no voice. But we can change that. We have to change that. You want to remove ugly billboards from your roadways—you can do it! You want to save a species and its habitat? It can be done! Remember the saying, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”. It’s true.

I can understand why people watch the superbowl or do a thousand other mind-numbing things rather than raise their voices, raise our voices, in protest—but it’s time, people.

For inspiring stories about people making a difference, read one of the news sources above. My current favorite is Counterpunch. And thanks for taking any action and working to try to save this place. It can’t save itself without us.

Albert Kaufman is a committed musician-artist, activist-pacifist, worker-philosopher living in Portland, Oregon.

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